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Studies In Selling: One On One With Weldon Long

I spoke to sales guru and New York Times bestselling author Weldon Long about his best advice

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?

Weldon: That’s a great question and goes to the heart of my story. From 1987 – 2003, I spent 13 years behind bars. I was a high school drop who lived a life of poverty, desperation and incarceration. In 2006, while I was in prison, my father died and I made a decision to change the course of my life. I spent the last 7 years in prison learning how to create a mindset for success and prosperity. I studied business and sales. I changed my core value system.

In 2003, I walked out of prison to a halfway house without a dime to my name. Nevertheless, I had the mindset and skills to succeed. In 2004, I started a company and grew it to $20,000,000 in sales in just 60 months. In fact, in 2009, my company was selected by Inc. Magazine as one of America’s fastest growing small companies. Since then I have written three books on the Prosperity Mindset and my Consistency Selling process and have trainied thousands of sales professionals on the mindset and sales principles that changed my life.

Adam: What is the single biggest sales mistake you have ever made and what did you learn from it?

Weldon: Believing a prospect was actually going to call me back. There is no Santa Claus. There is no tooth fairy. And prospects rarely (if ever) call back. I learned that sales success requires that we do everything in our power to get our prospects to give us a “Yes” or a “No” while we are with them – even if the answer is “No”. A “Yes” is best, but “No” is a perfectly acceptable answer. In sales “No” won’t kill you. It’s the “I don’t know, call me backs” that will undermine sales success.

Adam: In your experience, what are the key pitfalls to succeeding in sales and how can you overcome them?

Weldon: Failing to anticipate objections and obstacles. We sell whatever we sell everyday. Customers only buy it occasionally. We should know what the prospect is going to object to before they do. Moreover, we should know EXACTLY how to handle it. Far too many sales professionals trip up on objections, despite hearing them virtually everyday of their professional lives.

Adam: What are your three best tips when it comes to selling?

Weldon: 1) Build high trust through demonstrating high character and high competence in a systematic fashion.

2) Expect a successful outcome by developing a Prosperity Mindset that is designed to thrive in the face of adversity and obstacles. The Prosperity Mindset is the key to the kingdom.

3) Rely on a sales SYSTEM rather than “winging it” on a sales call. Consistent sales results come from consistent sales activities. Random sale results come from random sales activities. It’s not rocket science.

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?

Weldon: I keep things super simple because I believe the confused mind says “No”. Show me a complicated sales process and I’ll show you a sales person who isn’t using it. Every sales process can be broken down into what I call the RISC process.

1) Build a RELATIONSHIP.

2) IDENTIFY the prospect’s problems

3) SOLVE the prospect’s problems using your company’s solutions

4) Bring the sales presentation to a reasonable and logical CONCLUSION

We can’t close every sales opportunity, but we can bring every sales opportunity to a reasonable and logical conclusion. One of the most important things that leads to sales success is not leaving ourselves with an overwhelming number of loose ends. Extend yourself 100% emotionally and professional to your prospect and take your best shot. When you’re done, move on to the next opportunity. Don’t get caught chasing down phantom deals and make believe sales commissions.

Yes, there are different strokes for different folks. Part of being a successful sales professional is having the skill to read people and respond accordingly. There are lots of formal methods to read and react to your prospect (i.e. a DISC analysis or using NLP to “mirror” your prospect). When I am selling I try to use a variety of communication tools to connect to prospects whether they learn through listening, touching, pictures or stories. Sooner or later I’ll find a way to connect with them.

Adam: What sets your approach apart from others in your industry? Describe your industry and your best tips specific to selling within it.

Weldon: Most sales programs give students one part of a three part puzzle. What I mean is that they give the sales person the sales process but they fail to deliver two other vital components to success: The Prosperity Mindset and Consistency. Without those two bookends the sales process is another tool that won’t get used. Transformational sales success comes from Getting your Mind Right, Getting your Sales Process Right, and Getting your Consistency Right. Without all three you are taking on Rocky with one hand tied behind your back. Good luck with that.

I train in virtually every industry, including transportation, logistics, insurance, financial services, automobile, banking, home services, etc. The same three components are necessary to succeed in all of them.

Adam: What do you believe is the hardest step in the sales process and how can it best be navigated?

Weldon: The single hardest step for most sales professionals is directly and specifically asking the prospect for the order. To succeed we must overcome the fear and anxiety of asking. That is a Mindset issue. Everybody knows the words. Only the most successful sales professionals actually use them.

Adam: What are your best tips for improving your close rate?

Weldon: Ask for the damn order! The answer is always NO until we ask. I have a signature close I use and teach that helps sales people have more closing success. Once you understand all the prospect’s problems, make a specific recommendation to solve the problem and then use the four most powerful works in sales, “Will you trust me?”

If you can’t ask that question naturally you haven’t worked hard enough or taken enough time to EARN your prospect’s trust.

Adam: What is your best advice around making the ask?

Weldon: Many sales people fail to ask for the order because they are afraid they are going go annoy or frustrate the prospect. I teach students to imagine their family with them at the moment of closing and ask themselves who they would rather disappoint – their prospect or their family. If I fail to ask I am failing my family by not providing at my true potential. Listen, no one is going to close 100% of their leads. That includes me. But I can promise you that I’ll never go home to my wife and kids and say, “Hey guys, money is going to be a little tight, so there is no vacation or private school because daddy is too big of a chicken shit to ask prospects for the order.” That’s never going to happen.

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?

Weldon: Good words: Agreement, investment, authorization.

Bad words: Contract, cost, signature.

Most important words: “Will you trust me with my recommendations?”

Adam: On a scale of 1-10, how important are ethics to succeeding in sales? Explain.

Weldon: Ten.

First of all, I’ve tried it both ways and there is always a consequence to cutting the corners. As my friend and mentor, the late Dr. Stephen Covey, taught me, you can’t break the principles of fidelity, faith, honor and honesty. You can only break yourself against them. Ill gotten gain has a strange way of slipping away.

Secondly, successful sales is a reflection of earning a prospect’s trust through high character and high competency. You can fake those things short term, but time will expose or promote all of us. Compromise your ethics and your own peril.

Adam: What is your best advice on how to best manage and stay on top of leads?

Weldon: A CRM is critical to ensure leads are falling through the cracks. But the most important thing to me is having a simple metric to measure sales productivity. For some that might be close rate or average sale or success rate. For me it’s average sales revenue per lead. It’s a combination of close rate and average ticket. I consider it the “gas mileage” of a sales lead. How much am I getting out of each sales opportunity?

Adam: What is the single best piece of sales advice you have ever received?

Weldon: No is a perfectly acceptable answer in sales. The only unacceptable outcome is uncertainty. Bring the sales call to a conclusion one way or the other. It’s the loose ends that undermine sales success.

Adam: What sale are you proudest of? Walk through how you made it happen and its significance.

Weldon: It was a $2,000,000 training program sale I made to a billion dollar U.S. manufacturer. I am most proud of that one because when they first called me they told me their budget for the program was $500,000. Even worse, they wanted me to send a proposal over email. I am dead set against sending proposals via email. If a prospect is going to say “no” to me, they are going to say it to my face.

To appease them I did send a proposal, but the proposal was for $10,000,000, twenty times their budget. It was all I could do not to laugh when they called me back to discuss. On the call I pointed out several issues they had overlooked such as ongoing training to ensure CONSISTENT implementation of the sales process. About 30-minutes into the conversation they said the magic words, “Mr. Long, you’re going to have to come down and meet with us and explain this proposal.”

I never expected they would accept a $10,000,000 proposal but I had to use that to get a face to face.

Over the next few weeks I had several face to face meetings, including a final meeting with the Japanese leaders of the company who were the decision makers. I closed the deal for $2,000,000, four times their initial budget.

The best part of the story, however, is that at a dinner that night, one of the sales leaders leaned over to me and said, “You know what we were all thinking when we got you down to $2,000,000? At least it wasn’t $10,000,000!”

In their minds they got me DOWN from $10,000,000 not UP form $500,000. He who laughs last laughs best.

Adam: What is one thing everyone can do tomorrow to become better at selling?

Weldon: Haha. Read The Power of Consistency and learn how to create the Prosperity Mindset necessary to excel at sales. Then ask for the darn order!

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