“Why you should listen.” With Mitch Russo & Andrea McCrea

Handling Objections is difficult simply because we are human by nature and therefore, have delicate egos. The best thing you can do is train your brain to not take things so personally as they relate to business. It’s easy to become invested in every potential deal but not everything is going to work out because […]

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Handling Objections is difficult simply because we are human by nature and therefore, have delicate egos. The best thing you can do is train your brain to not take things so personally as they relate to business. It’s easy to become invested in every potential deal but not everything is going to work out because that’s just the nature of life. You can’t help everyone. Focus on the successes and realize that failures are a part of that.

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 Andrea McCrea.

Andrea McCrea has been in the financial services business his entire career and currently serves as the Vice President of Business Development for Bluebird Companies. Andrea is adept at sourcing potential Bluebird customers, identifying their financial needs and goals and establishing relationships with them as long term customers Bluebird. Prior to joining the Bluebird team, Andrea was the founder and CEO of AJM Consultants, a full-service financial solutions firm started in 2007 that offered a variety of services from loans and mortgages to business management solutions.

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?

Growing up, I had aspirations to become a lawyer but, when attending Temple University, I worked at a group home for non-educated youths where I was tasked with representing them in court. The experience led me to realize that a career in law wasn’t the right fit for me; however, it did show me that I enjoyed helping people and working with others to achieve their goals. Plus, I’m good at talking to people and I love to negotiate so, what could I do? My mother was a banker in Society Hill Philadelphia and, growing up, I was amazed that she knew everyone no matter where she went. She was always talking to people and making friends. I thought, Wow, I could do that. I wanted to find a career that I could be myself while still helping others. I wanted to be Clark Kent, not Superman. Clark’s still Superman, he just doesn’t wear the cape.

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?

Early on in my career as a Banker, I met with an esteemed businessman I was trying to close a deal with. I was using all the right words and saying everything I thought he wanted to hear. As we were talking, he said to me, “You think you’re so great, but I can see right thought you. If I were you, I would spend more of my time understanding the business, not just talking about it.” The lesson he was trying to convey is that your people skills can only take you so far. You have to learn the business of what you’re selling. It’s easy to see through pomp and circumstance. It’s more important to be authentic. Admit what you don’t know and be emphatic on what you do.

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

As a result of COVID-19, at Bluebird we’re currently working on a plan to provide struggling landlords and business owners with bridge loans and programs that will help them pay their bills. The goal is that, by removing some of their financial strain, it allows them to be easier on their tenants, who are also struggling.

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?

I’m blessed to have surrounded myself with amazing people, especially strong women like my mother and my wife. I am eternally grateful to my mother, who was not only an inspiration to me career-wise, but for stressing the importance of remember who I am and where I came from, both of which are so important in life and a career. My wife is my voice of reason and encourages me to stay strong and positive. Like many people, I’ve had ups and down in my career — especially when dealing with a career in sales — so having someone at home to remind me of what I’m working towards has been invaluable.

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

I’ve had such a diverse career in sales that I believe it has allowed me to understand the business from so many different industries. I’ve worked in banking, consulting, customer service and now, on the lending side of finance and sales. While they may have all had different services or sectors that I was selling, I’ve been able to build a blueprint for what works and what doesn’t work that I believe can be easily translated across all industries. At the end of the day, if you know how to sell, it doesn’t matter what it is.

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 to do is to be more mindful of the content you are consuming. Limit the amount of time you spend watching the news or scrolling social media. I believe it’s important to be educated on what’s going on, but you need to balance it with things that can improve your mental health and wellbeing. I am a huge proponent of having a daily meditation practice, which I have had for many years. Close your eyes, take ten deep breaths and remind yourself that it’s going to be OK.

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 versalite topics, is totally ignored?

In my opinion, the best way to learn sales is through experience. Training is beneficial when focusing on a specific industry or product you’re selling, but communicating with someone, picking up on their verbal and non-verbal cues, forming a genuine connection — all of these elements you need to experience outside of the classroom.

This discussion, entitled, “How To Be Great At Sales Without Seeming Salesey”, 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?

While I don’t believe that being “too salesy” is necessarily a bad thing, I do believe there needs to be a delicate balance — and knowing which way to lean is what makes the difference between being too pushy or good at your job. Sometimes, you work with people who already know exactly what they want, and all you have to do is give it to them. Other times, people are teetering on the edge and you’ve got to give them a little nudge in the right direction.

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?

I love the Follow-up stage. To me, there’s no better feeling than hearing that someone is happy and that everything has worked out. It’s what gives me the motivation to continue on and drives me through the tough times. I have always prided myself on being a friend to everyone I work with, even if we’ve never met before. I make it a priority to make them feel comfortable, listen to them and understand their needs and then work together to give them the best deal. People don’t want to feel like they’re being “sold to” outright, they want to feel as though someone is helping them find a solution that going to make their life better. My secret sauce

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 believe in building what I call a “Center of Influence”, which is a core network of people that I interact with frequently who also interact with a lot of other people. Two examples for me are my barber and my bartender. Whenever I see them, I make it a point to keep them informed of what’s new with me and what I’m currently working on. Because they speak to so many different people every day, you never know when they’re going to have a conversation with someone that could remind them of a conversation we’ve had and could lead to a connection. I have had incredible success in sales just through my own personal network. It never hurts to put yourself out there.

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 simply because we are human by nature and therefore, have delicate egos. The best thing you can do is train your brain to not take things so personally as they relate to business. It’s easy to become invested in every potential deal but not everything is going to work out because that’s just the nature of life. You can’t help everyone. Focus on the successes and realize that failures are a part of that.

‘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.

(1) You need to listen. It’s easy to go into a meeting with a script and assume you have all the answers, but people want to feel heard. So be prepared to listen and make recommendations from there. (2) Ask questions, even difficult ones, to get a better understanding of why they think they may need your product or services in the first place (3) Offer a solution you have to fit their needs and don’t divulge from that. It’s to get carried away with an upsell but doing so too soon could overwhelm people and give them cold feet. (4) Listen to their feedback after presenting a solution. This can include both verbal and nonverbal cues. It’s important not to take it personally if what you initially offered them didn’t resonate, you should be prepared to have a backup. (5) If possible, be prepared to scale or offer alternative solutions. Make suggestions for ways you can still serve them while finding a mutually beneficial centerground. If that’s not a possibility, don’t be afraid to end a meeting on good terms. You always want to make a good impression on everyone you meet. While you might not necessarily work with everyone, standing out because you had a good, positive attitude could always lead to referrals down the road. People want to do business with people they like and trust.

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?

Right after I meet with someone, I send them a “thank you” email within two hours. Then, I’ll wait two days for a second follow up, typically by email again. If I haven’t heard from them after two weeks, I’ll reach out a final time with a phone call. This rule of 2–2–2 keeps me top of mind without being overwhelming.

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?

While I don’t necessarily think there are bad ways to reach out to anyone, some methods are more preferable to others. To me, it all comes down to the relationship you have with the person you met with and how you believe the initial meeting went. I recommend that immediate follow-up should be done by email and then, as time goes on, if you still haven’t heard from them, make the effort to create a more personal connection and give them a call.

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 would love to inspire the movement of ‘Knowledge of Self’ or encouraging people to be their most authentic. I believe the world would be a better place if everyone accepted who they were and celebrated one another for their differences. The process of self-actualization is not an easy one — we’re all works in progress — but even beginning the road to knowing you who are can lead to a lifetime of inner peace.

How can our readers follow you online?

Connect with me on LinkedIn.

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

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