Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your best sales advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. How did you get here?
Ali: Great question – I would have to say that I’ve got an awkward journey, but it’s likely true for most sales professionals. I was moved to Canada as a refugee with my family when I was 6, grew up there, went to school to be a lawyer. But realized that I didn’t have the patience to read that much case law. Switched to a Commerce degree and majored in Marketing and HR. After first year of business school I needed a summer job and decided to sell insurance with a friend of mine. Well I got quite good at it and went full time and accidently got kicked out of school. That was fine and for the next 4 years I sold insurance door-to-door. Made a great income, $200k+ at 21 while living in my parents’ basement. Well, my ego got the best of me and I said some things to my supervisors and got myself fired. So I was once again at a crossroads and decided to start up my sales firm because I knew I couldn’t work for anyone else. The first few years went great, but I knew if I was ever going to hit my true potential, I had to move to the states. So that’s what I did. When I was 26 (in 2015), my wife and I sold everything we owned and moved our company down to Atlanta.
Adam: What is the single biggest sales mistake you have ever made and what did you learn from it?
Ali: Hard to narrow down one mistake, but the most memorable to me was a time when I was selling our services to a client of mine. He kept giving me objections and I kept the conversation going by giving him rebuttals because I knew that I could close him. Eventually, I wore him down and he said yes. I was in great spirits. He signed the deal and everything went through as planned. However it wasn’t until the 3rd month of our engagement when he started acting weird and I realized that he while his company was growing, his marriage was falling apart. He went started going through the divorce proceedings and the growth halted. That day, I realized that just because you can sell someone, doesn’t mean you should. Every situation has it’s own personality and must be handled accordingly. Regardless of B2B or B2C, all decisions impact all parts of our lives and must take everything into consideration, It’s important not to get tunnel vision. Adam: In your experience, what are the key pitfalls to succeeding in sales and how can you overcome them? Ali: People give up too easily and think that people will make the logical decision. That is absolutely untrue. Having sold for over a decade and over quarter billion dollars, most of those decisions were based on emotion and justified with logic.
Adam: What are your three best tips when it comes to selling?
Ali: Build the excitement first, hook them and then understand why your prospect would buy. Forget your solution, focus on if they said yes, why would that be. That’s part 1. Part 2 to that is understand all the reasons why they would say no. Explain that those are poor reasons to say no and in fact those reasons are irrelevant to the decision or actual reasons to say yes.
Adam: Describe your sales methodology. Have you found that different types of prospects are responsive to different to types of styles, and if so, do you adapt your style to the type customer you are selling to?
Ali: My sales methodology is simple. I’m not a great presenter or a great negotiator. What I am great at is finding problems. In boxing, they have what are called “Counter-Punchers”. Arguably the 2 greatest boxers of all time were counter-punchers (Muhammad Ali and Floyd Mayweather Jr.). I’m not great at chasing you down and selling to you, however, I can lure you into a conversation, ask a great deal of pointed questions. Questions that you didn’t think to ask yourself, and when you are ready, I will show you how you can move forward out of the fog. That is my close. While this is my overall style, the style needs to be adapted with how quickly or gradually I move from each phase depending on who I’m speaking to. Also, the type of questions will also change and may be more or less forward depending on the rapport I was able to establish with my earlier questions.
Adam: What sets your approach apart from others in your industry? Describe your industry and your best tips specific to selling within it.
Ali: Most people in our industry come from a business background or a tech background. They learned sales as a way to engage in what they are passionate about. While I am reversed. I didn’t give a care about insurance, I learned to sell because I couldn’t afford not to. I only learned how to run a business after I became an expert at my craft. I don’t employ the refined or academic techniques that everyone thinks make you a great salesperson. I don’t care about adding value or being “authentic”. That is some of the worst advice out there. It’s like when someone tells you to act natural. Well, any change you make now, likely isn’t natural. For me, sales is all about asking pointed questions, having a conversation and driving to a decision. Nothing else.
Adam: What do you believe is the hardest step in the sales process and how can it best be navigated?
Ali: By far and away, most people struggle with closing a deal and asking for money. People shy away from it. The easiest way to overcome it is by telling the prospect what you’d like to do next and then shut your mouth and see what they say.
Adam: What are your best tips for improving your close rate?
Ali: Start closing earlier. Don’t wait till the end. Make sure you have done your test closes. It not only conditions the prospect to start making decisions and ushers them to the close but also it gives you a pulse on the conversation and lets you know where to go with your close.
Adam: What is your best advice around making the ask?
Ali: Just ask. Don’t build it up. It makes it awkward because the prospect can see the ask coming and anything you do to ‘soften’ it will simply make you look unsure and will undermine your authority.
Adam: Language is obviously very important throughout the sales process. What are key phrases or words you have found have helped or hurt your chances of success?
Ali: I hate when people call me (set meeting or cold call) and one of their opening discovery questions are “tell me about your business”. What? You don’t know enough to lead the conversation and are simply now buying time and trying to get me to give you talking points.
Adam: On a scale of 1-10, how important are ethics to succeeding in sales? Explain.
Ali: 0 or 10. Its either important to you or not and it’s judged by the individual themselves. I hate that salespeople try to put the sales profession on some sort of pedestal and act like we are saving lives. The truth is we are overpaid cashiers… Do your job properly and anyone who is sitting there preaching about ethics is clearly trying to justify for a guilty conscious.
Adam: What is your best advice on how to best manage and stay on top of leads?
Ali: Log it in your CRM, ask them when you should follow up and then follow up on that day. Not sooner and no later. It’s as simple as that…
Adam: What is the single best piece of sales advice you have ever received?
Ali: Sales is sales. Don’t matter if its B2B or B2C, people are irrational creatures driven by selfish desires.
Adam: What sale are you proudest of? Walk through how you made it happen and its significance.
Ali: One of my proudest sales is my first ever sale when I was selling insurance. I did everything that my manager told me to do and it worked. Since then, I’ve realized there is a million better ways to close a deal, but it was the first time I didn’t overcomplicate the sale, kept it simple and closed my mouth. Sales isn’t magic, it’s easy, most people talk themselves out of sales before the prospect has a chance to say yes.
Adam: What is one thing everyone can do tomorrow to become better at selling?
Ali: Questions, questions, questions. The better your questions the higher the regard your prospect will hold you in. Anything you tell your prospect, they may or may not believe it because you are the salesperson. But a prospect believes all the words that come out of their mouth, so your job as a salesperson is to simply ask the right question to get the prospect to sell themselves.