Talk to them as if they’re the person you want them to be — I love working with people who can see opportunity in adversity and have the courage to create their life instead of being a bystander letting life just “happen to them.”
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 Aleasha Bahr.
Aleasha is a sales and marketing expert also known as The Client Whisperer. She sold millions in revenue in the corporate world, but got tired of the BS and transitioned to running her own business coaching solopreneurs and sales professionals with her unique sales & marketing approach. She firmly believes you don’t have to be a “bad person to be good at sales” and has the results to prove it.
Thank you for doing this with us Aleasha! 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’ve been a digital marketing sales strategist from the beginning. My job was to create custom online strategies that generate leads and sales for businesses — and sell it to businesses. I worked in-house, for radio stations (not great online marketing capabilities) and newspaper (incredible online capabilities).
Eventually, I was frustrated with the corporate companies I worked for not keeping promises we made clients — so I started my own digital ad agency. A one-man band with a trusted network of contractors to do the things I didn’t. I loved helping clients succeed through the often overwhelming and confusing world of online marketing. I launched national brands, increased sales and generated leads/revenue for dozens of businesses.
Eventually, I missed sales and missed not working all the time. So, I’m now a sales and marketing coach specializing in helping people develop a CUSTOM sales and marketing strategy they can use for life for an authentic approach to their personality, product and audience that closes a lot more sales.
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 clients I had when I ran my digital agency was a fairly eccentric multi-millionaire and serial entrepreneur, addicted to creating and selling businesses.
I love characters — the unexpected people. They really spice up life and he was a great example of that. He often had me laughing without meaning to be funny.
We were discussing a logo/brand for his newest company which is something that many owners often have A LOT of strong, emotionally (vs. data) driven opinions about.
This guy did not at all. Instead, he completely defaulted to people who specialized in that area and had absolutely no issue admitting he was wrong. He would literally say “I don’t care if I’m wrong.”
His complete lack of ego and focus on success was SO refreshing! And made it so much easier for everyone around him to do their best and win for him.
It was the first time I worked with someone who’s decisions were not driven by ego and I learned that was the kind of leader I wanted to be and the kind of leaders I wanted to work with.
Because when the only motivation is to do a high quality job, that is when you will make the best decisions and see the most success. It was definitely a big secret to his success.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m creating my first digital course that breaks down the topic of this article in a simple and implementable way — How to Easily Close Over 50% of Your Sales without Being Salesy. It’s all about how to customize the sales process to you — something I’ve never seen any other sales expert show others to do and it makes a MASSIVE difference in sales results.
There seem to only be one-size-fits-all approaches available for people right now. So, what I typically see is someone using one of these generic approaches, not closing sales and thinking it’s because they’re bad at sales or not implementing the strategy correctly.
If this is happening to you, it’s probably not you — it’s highly likely the sales style you’re attempting to use.
There are many ways to sell something and you need the one that fits you like a glove — and often it’s a mix of multiple approaches and styles.
One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give is if it doesn’t feel right AND it’s not closing sales — stop and try something different.
I’m so excited to give people the confidence and tools they need to be good at sales — whether they’re an introvert or an extrovert (introverts actually often make the best sales people!)
Because sales is a skill that truly benefits every area of your life.
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?
Everyone I’ve ever known has contributed to my success and knowledge in some way — even if they were an anti-role model.
The most recent person I have to thank is my business coach, Gary Barnes. Not long ago I was in some scary debt and things weren’t growing as fast as I hoped. I thought of quitting and even considered going back to corporate with my head hung in shame.
Gary told me, please trust me and just stay in the game — not giving up is half the battle. The next month I doubled my income and it’s been uphill ever since.
Sometimes you just need someone to believe in you and all of a sudden you can do the thing you always could do all along.
For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit why you are an authority on the topic of sales?
Experience, personal results and — most importantly — the results I’ve helped others get.
Many people can do something well themselves but it’s a different thing entirely to show others how to do it well also.
I’ve been in sales and marketing for over a decade and sold over $10 million to every kind of category and business you can imagine. Real estate, small business, national business, international business, automotive (rough), education courses, retail, eCommerce, etc.
As a result, I’ve dealt with almost every kind of customer you can imagine. Although customers will continue to surprise you in sales (one of the things I love about it) there are some definite patterns and reliable tools you can use to sell regardless of the scenario.
Since going into sales and marketing coaching, I’ve helped dozens of clients and teams at an absolute minimum — double their sales with a repeatable process.
Sales can be a rollercoaster but I take pride and joy in smoothing out that ride for people so it’s more steady, stable and predictable highs.
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?
Anxiety is something I’m very familiar with and I feel for people who might be experiencing it for the first time during this pandemic. One of the most important things I learned since entering the entrepreneur world is the #1 most important factor in success is mental strength. You have to grab control of your mind or your mind will control you. There are incredibly smart and talented people who never succeed and more average individuals who do simply because they had a mental game of steel.
That absolutely applies to what’s going on with COVID too. Your mental strength will directly apply to how you come out of this on the other end. My main pieces of advice are:
- When you feel happy — stay in that moment of feeling good for as long as you can. Snuggling your pet, enjoying sunshine, the birds chirping, that song, your child’s laugh — no matter how trivial. Revel in it for as long as you can without your brain tugging you back to a state of upset. Because you can not deny that when you feel good — good things seem to happen. And when you feel bad — all the bad things seem to start piling up. So, try feeling good, soak it in like a sponge as much as possible, for as long as possible and see what happens.
- Celebrate your wins. A new client, a successful project completed, getting a job interview, working out, showering today, a day without getting upset once — no matter how small of a win it is…celebrate it with a REWARD. The reward is key. Make it something meaningful to you. It could be a walk outside, a day or a few hours off, a little something ordered online you’ve been eyeing, splurging on a good meal, a dessert, a cocktail, getting food delivered instead of cooking right now, a nap, reading a book, etc. It’s important to SEAR that payoff into your brain with a reward. Because aside from the simple fact that you deserve it and it feels great…you need to train your brain to want it again and again and essentially become addicted on a subconscious level. In other words, the more you celebrate — the more success you will continue to have. And the less you celebrate it — the less success you will have.
- The next time your mind starts pushing you down negative rabbit holes — distract it IMMEDIATELY. Call a friend to small talk, read a book, look up cute pet videos, funny skits, solve a puzzle, build a project, etc. Distract yourself with something that literally demands your mental attention to focus entirely on something else that feels better. Quickly, with some consistency, your mind will naturally go down less and less negative thought spirals.
- Give yourself some grace damnit
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?
That is a fantastic question I’ve never been asked. I think the question extends to why they don’t teach budgeting, credit, general people and communication skills, etc. It really seems to be an outdated system for today’s modern world. Isn’t the year still mapped around when children needed to be out of school in the Summer to farm for their families? You know — when people had 10 kids just for the benefits of free labor? It’s time for a sorely needed update no doubt.
Public education is our future and the lack of funding, lack of applicable curriculum, lack of pay for our teachers who are shaping our country’s minds is extremely upsetting to me. I’m guessing it’s one hairy issue that’s easier said than done to update and that’s causing the delay as well as a lack of agreement on what exactly would improve it.
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?
The main reason being salesy or pushy is to be avoided is because it doesn’t make anyone want to buy anything from you.
There’s a saying “consumers hate being sold and love to buy” and it’s spot on.
Outside of it being an unpleasant experience for everyone involved, if the goal is to make sales and being pushy/salesy doesn’t get you what you want, it’s important to look at other approaches.
Some people can go TOO far in the other direction by feeling ashamed they’re asking for money in exchange for a product or service — which also results in no sales.
I’m all about being transparent — there will be an exchange of money but it’s about so much more than that. The sales process is about two people coming together to solve a problem and if (and only if) one of them can solve it, money is exchanged but it’s the bi-product of a solution occurring.
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?
Personally, I feel the “presentation” part of a sales pitch — at least the way it’s traditionally done isn’t as effective. Usually it ends up sounding a bit like a sales monologue. This cues the customer the “selling” has begun, the guard goes up and the eyes glaze over. Instead, I’ve found it’s much more enjoyable and effective to weave your “presentation” in bite size pieces mixed with empathy during the discovery (the part where you’re asking questions in the beginning of the call). This approach makes the conversation an exchange instead of the usual “pitch”.
For example — a prospect is interested in working with a digital agency to generate online sales for their company.
Salesperson: What types of marketing have you used to generate sales before?
Prospect: Well we tried SEO but it took a really long time so we stopped. We also tried social which got our business “likes” and “followers” but — no sales.
Salesperson: ah yes — that’s a very common experience and can end up feeling like a frustrating waste of budget (empathy). One of the great things about paid search is you start making sales within a few days and it only improves with time (bite size selling). Have you ever tried anything you felt like successfully moved the needle? (next question)
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?
Paid advertising is the best but not everyone can afford that. If you don’t have budget for leads, I personally hate cold calling. If you do too, here are a few less painful strategies:
- Attraction marketing — post value-first content that represents your take on things (bonus points if it can give someone a little win or a-ha moment!). Once you have some consistency with this, people will come to you that like your style and approach. It takes a little time but this is one of my favorites because it repels the wrong person and attracts your ideal client.
- Providing feedback or ideas relevant to the company you’re calling. Ex: email, direct message or voice note suggestions to improve whatever they’re doing — small tweaks to increase your video conversions, fun idea to promote upcoming event, etc.
- Networking events
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 difficult for people because they’re doing it after the fact — when it’s a stated objection — and trying to push it back up a hill. When you’re coming from a defensive place, there is a power imbalance, the prospect is expecting you to disagree with them/try to overcome it and as a result it’s not compelling.
Instead, uncover as many objections as possible throughout the discovery process and address them in a genuine way. Truly dig into what the issue is and if it’s a valid issue for the person, help them solve it or respect it and weigh whether the pros outweigh the cons in their particular situation.
Any time you try to “convince” or “persuade” you will lose the sale — especially if it’s at the end of the call and presentation when they’re guard is up the highest. An honest discussion to identify if a solution is a good fit for someone, coming from a genuinely helpful place, will close more sales every time.
‘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.
- Painting the after picture for them — Ex: I can’t wait for you to have so much more time, less stress, etc. [whatever their goal pain and challenges are] This time next week you’ll be able to breathe so much better and focus on the xyz you need to. Imagine how different things will be in 3 months.
- Giving a 48 hour incentive or scholarship to build in some urgency and explain we offer this because we find if we don’t give a reason to move, people will end up in the same spot 3 months from now and I don’t want that for you.
- Talk to them as if they’re the person you want them to be — I love working with people who can see opportunity in adversity and have the courage to create their life instead of being a bystander letting life just “happen to them.”
- If you don’t do this, do you have another plan to achieve your xyz goal?
- Let’s do this — I’m so excited to work with you!
- Bonus — if there’s no reason to say no or let me think about it other than fear of doing something new I like to say “Sometimes doing nothing can feel like the safest thing but it’s actually the riskiest because it’s a guarantee you’ll stay in the exact same place you are now.”
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?
Follow up is insanely important and should not be underestimated or undervalued.
Statistics consistently show more sales are made through follow up than anything else.
One of the salespeople I worked with while at corporate told me something about follow up I’ll never forget. He said “you need a valid business reason — one that actually brings value when you follow up beyond “Hey, are you going to buy our thing?”
Other options are:
- Testimonials in general work the best — especially if the person/situation is very similar to them
- Just got off the phone with our client doing [this thing you really said you wanted] and I can’t wait to hear you say that! Have you made a decision yet?
- Creative, out of the box ideas specific to them and what they’re trying to achieve
- Relevant articles or stories that bring them valuable insight
- A funny meme of a ghost or “come to the dark side” GIF
- Something happening in their town, industry, etc. asking how they’re doing
Whatever you send — keep it SHORT!
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?
Email is the most passive and the easiest one for prospects to actually miss, pretend they missed or simply put off responding.
If you’re in America, phone calls usually scare people when it’s a number they don’t know. We’ve been so spammed with telemarketers here. In other countries, I’ve found they will often answer. If you’re going to call — I would definitely text first to get a better results. Ex: Have an update for you! Are you available in an hour?
Hands down texting a video is the best way to follow up in my experience. Once your face is there talking to them, they remember you’re a person and they should respond. You’re able to communicate so much more personality, intention, tone, etc. and they can’t ignore you as easily. Apps like BombBomb and Loom will alert you when you view them so you can follow up in a timely way.
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. 🙂
“The most amount of good to the greatest amount of people” really raises the stakes!
This may be a bit controversial but I would love to see some more education around best practices for raising children.
In sales you encounter every type of human and the truth is, the majority of our positive — and negative — behavioral patterns come from the way we’re raised.
It could be a test you take when you’re pregnant like getting a driver’s license, more exposure and shared knowledge or mandatory classes from the doctor.
As long as it covered the basics, at least in a general sense, of what many experience, the best ways to handle things in a way that creates quality humans, etc. that would be hugely beneficial on a grand scale.
For a few reasons:
- Raising a child is hard and there’s no manual (I’m a mom)
- Contributing a human to this world has a MASSIVE impact on the world we live on. That human will go on to touch countless lives, who then touch countless other lives and so on
- It’s our future
How can our readers follow you online?
www.aleashabahr.com — to sign up for daily sales tips
Thank you for the interview. We wish you only continued success!