When you understand the client’s pains and motivations, there’s no need to sound salesy as you’re simply an ally helping them to a better state. They may need you to clarify or highlight some of your offering, but the talk is simply about how you can help what ails 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 Jason Chan.
Jason is Rakuten Super Logistics’ VP of Sales and Marketing. In this role, Chan directs the company’s sales/marketing functions to grow RSL’s market share and drive revenue.
Prior to Rakuten Super Logistics, Chan ran CenturyLink’s West Coast marketing and nurtured his entrepreneurial spirit, owning several businesses including car washes, an energy drink company, and a real estate investment group. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Honors College.
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’ve been an entrepreneur since grade school. From tutoring and selling candy to fixing computers and selling parts, I’ve always had a knack for business. Once I graduated UNLV, I went on to have a successful real estate career, became a part owner of an energy drink and water company while also owning car washes, a bar, flipped houses. I “retired” right before having my first son and got recruited to see if I could apply the successes I’d had in small business to a Fortune 200 Telecom.
While I had a great ride there and loved the work I did, a friend of mine was the VP of Ops at Rakuten Super Logistics and convinced me to join the team. Between the growth of the eCommerce industry as well as the brand strength and infrastructure Rakuten had built, it was clear the company was poised to explode. I joined just over 2 years ago and we’ve been doing double digit growth annually.
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?
I mentioned my entrepreneurship starting early. In high school, I purchased a pallet of 21” monitors, yes the huge 150 lbs ones that were all the rage in the 90s. I bought them for $300/piece when retail was typically closer to $1500 at the time so I was prepared to make a killing. When I plugged the first one in, I quickly learned they were black and white. Again, I’m around 16 years old and have my money tied up in worthless inventory. After a few head scratches, I added a tuner card to them so they could be used as video camera monitors and sold them to a security company for my cost. Crisis averted.
I use this as a simple example of how life will throw you curveballs, but what defines you is how you react to them. I continually make the best of my situation no matter what it is.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Everything I do is exciting! As I oversee both the marketing and sales departments, my brain is constantly bouncing between the two. On the marketing front, I love the creativity and execution of campaigns that prospects will react to. I then put on my sales hat to give clients back their time.
Our typical client is either self fulfilling or with a poor competitor and is seeking relief as well as cost savings. They are so happy to chat with my team and me to show them how we can help them scale, save their time, and provide theirs customers a better experience at a better price that is all backed by our US based client service department. Being able to save people time, help them deliver on their brand promise, and help them save money all at the same time is a very rewarding experience for my clients and me!
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?
One of my mentors from college was originally a teacher and then went on to own her own events company for 30 years before selling it and retiring. Although she was in a different industry, she taught me how to be bold, memorable, and to work hard to achieve success because no one will give it to you. Further, no matter what I did, she was always a cheerleader who gave me ultimate confidence which literally allows me to accomplish anything!
For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit why you are an authority on the topic of sales?
I’ve sold, I sell, and I will continue selling. 20+ years of doing business and transacting hundreds of millions of dollars means I’ve been around the block many times. Regardless of the product or service, I’m confident in my ability to deliver fantastic experiences for my clients.
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 first step is to simply recognize we are in an unprecedented and abnormal situation. There’s nothing remotely close within any of our lifetimes. There’s also no right or wrong way to react to this ever changing situation.
The next step is to make the most of it. Sure, we’d all rather be back to “normal,” but the fact remains covid-19 exists and “normal” is gone for now. As such, we all simply have to (1) survive it and (2) make the most of our time until it’s gone. For me, that has meant many zooms, texts, and phone calls to still make those bonds with the people I love and care about. We also need to create joy however and wherever we can as the news would otherwise tell you everyday is doomsday. This outlook has resulted in a lot of ice cream nights with my kids which always brings us joy!
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?
I’m sure there’s course work showing it wasn’t seen as a necessary school when curriculum was created to prepare us for farm and factory work, but I’m not an educator and couldn’t speak to that. However, I will say that we are taught the art of salesmanship as kids. Kids innately know how and when to ask for what they want. They’re not taught that. They simply read the room and go for it. Sure, there are some nuances of negotiation that come with time, but everything from making friends to school presentations to class office all involves a bit of salesmanship that is within all of us.
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?
I understand the sentiment as we can all spot someone who sounds salesy. That typically is a sign the person is either trying too hard or isn’t listening to the clients needs. When you understand the client’s pains and motivations, there’s no need to sound salesy as you’re simply an ally helping them to a better state. They may need you to clarify or highlight some of your offering, but the talk is simply about how you can help what ails them.
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?
The best salespeople I’ve ever met are truly good at all of these steps. My first reaction to the question was closing as I see that as what I do most often. However, as I thought through how I do it, I start by learning as much about the prospect as possible so I can prepare, approach and present to them successfully while handling their objections and going for the close. I then follow up for signature and I truly believe that you have to be able to do all steps to be successful.
I wouldn’t say I have a secret sauce, but I aim to be a good lunch date. Forgetting business and food, this has to do with having a personality that people want to be around and a wide range of conversation topics to make everyone feel comfortable. When we like each other, we will find a way to do business together.
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?
We kiss a lot of frogs in our industry, so we’re constantly looking for new and better sources for leads. However, one of the biggest problems with e-commerce is that many of the companies are new and may not have been around years so they don’t pop up in a database or convention list. This means that we have to constantly be on the hunt for where they may be, provide content that will attract their attention, and create real solutions that help grow their businesses.
As we sign more clients, we focus on providing a fantastic experience so we can go back to them looking for word of mouth referrals as well as to serve as testimonials for prospects. The combination of having a good product, promoting that product in the right places, and then getting prospects interested in the content you’re creating is our general winning strategy.
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’?
I think they haven’t spent enough time in the prospects shoes. When you are in their shoes, you know there every hesitation and objection as well as what they’re looking for. By being client focused, you can provide the solution in a way that will ease their fears and convince them you have the right solution for them. Not the right solution for everyone, but the right solution for them specifically.
‘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.
Ask for the business. They wouldn’t have gone through discovery, a proposal and negotiation stage if they weren’t interested in doing business. Sometimes, it’s as simple as asking for the business and you get the signature. Other times, a new objection comes up to prevent signature, but that just gives you another opportunity to share how you have the right solution for them and then ask for the business again. If you’ve done your job up to this point, the prospect is expecting the close so go for it!
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?
Always follow up. Most people are bad at it. Sometimes it’s a text, other times it’s an email, and yet other times it could be a gift card to a coffee shop. Do what is appropriate and works for your business. Further, use technology where possible to automate these steps and time your cadence so you don’t become an annoyance. If now isn’t the right time, be respectful, but continue to try to provide value and knowledge to the prospect so you’ll be top of mind when they’re ready to make a decision.
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 may be old school, but I prefer in person as that’ll give me a read on where I stand. During Covid, a Zoom is next best and then I’d say a phone call is a much further 3rd. My reps aren’t allowed to simply email or text proposals and pricing. You’re basically trying to avoid the prospect misinterpreting anything about what you’re proposing. It’s almost like dating or even marriage. If it’s serious enough that we’re going to be together for a while, a text probably isn’t sufficient.
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. 🙂
I think society is could be even more efficient at matching non-profits and the populations they serve to those who are able to help in unique ways. People are good and will generally help when and if they can. I’ve personally help raise over $4M for West Coast Food Banks by making the ask as a volunteer, not as a professional fundraiser. The problem is people often aren’t asked and if they are, it might not be the right ask.
All too often, non-profits are asking for either money or volunteers. Do they need it? ABSOLUTELY, but the money may be used to buy say office equipment or to pay for web design. The volunteering is also typically low skill tasks.
On the other hand, Dogooders may not be able to donate at that time, but may have unused office equipment they’d be glad to donate or real business skills like web design that they’d be happy to donate. There should be an app that connects the two while gamifying the interactions to make giving and volunteering competitive while also providing social awareness of these random acts of kindness. I envision a future where all the news I read daily is about the good things people are doing to help each other out.
How can our readers follow you online?
Find me on LinkedIn or drop me a line at [email protected]
Thank you for the interview. We wish you only continued success!