how to close a deal successfully

Need Help Prospecting? Here’s What a Sales Rep Would Do to Successfully Close the Deal.

Here’s an idea: What would happen if we learned about our client BEFORE we pitched our solution to them? And we don’t mean what you can find out from their website, but things that you can only learn after a conversation with them. For example, what challenges are currently on their whiteboard. 

This week on our podcast, we talk with CEO and Cofounder Tom Stanfill about why so many sales reps are failing to make a strong connection with a prospect, and ultimately why they’re losing the sale. Listen in for real-life examples of how to close a deal successfully and become a great sales rep by overcoming your mindset, and scoring more wins. 

sALES with ASLAN® Episode 21: The Number #1 Mistake Sales Reps Make 

Scott: Welcome back to another episode of sALES with ASLAN, your weekly therapy session here with Tom and Scott from ASLAN.

Tom: Scott, you sounding very, you’re very broadcast-y today. Very excited.

Scott: I am, and I feel good.

Tom: I feel like maybe you’ve been working the circus.

Scott: I feel good. I feel good. So, Tom, we have got a great topic today. We’re going to talk about the number one mistake and how to close a deal successfully.

Tom: Number one.

Scott: The number one mistake people make when prospecting, and we have so many good examples. I just can’t even wait to get to the potential humor that we’ll uncover, but before we do that, Tom.

Tom: Yes?

Scott: Given the name of our podcast, let’s break into something cold and frosty. What do you have there?

Tom: Cold and Frosty. Okay. I’m pouring myself a nice frosty glass of Scofflaw Basement IPA. A Basement IP, 7.5 ABV.

Scott: Oh, my heavens.

Tom: Is that how you say it?

Scott: It is.

Tom: I think I’m saying that right. I love their IPA’s, so this is probably my favorite IPA. Its a Georgia company in Atlanta, so here’s to you.

Scott: Yep. All right. You dig into that while I get going on a… This is an interesting story that I’m sticking to some of these Rhode Island Breweries and this company which is called Grey Sail Brewing out of Westerly, Rhode Island. That’s a little bit south of where I live. They got in concert with the Mystic Aquarium and developed what is called the Gray Seal Ale. And so it’s about Louie the seal, and I have a cat named Louie, so I was drawn to this. So I’m going to drink this and see what that’s like.

Tom: So it’s got a nice story. The question is, is the beer any good?

Scott: It is excellent. It is very good. I am so pleased with that selection.

Tom: Nice and crispy. Crispy.

Scott: Crisp and clean. Excellent. All right. So welcome back and today’s topic, I think, will resonate with a lot of those that sell for a living and maybe even those that help those sell for a living, the leaders, to just build maybe a better arsenal of ways to get people’s attention, whether it’s through email, voicemail, or actually when you actually when you catch somebody on a call.

Scott: I think how we position and how people actually do this is a little bit of an art. I know you’ve given this a lot of thought because both you and I get a lot of phone calls, right?

Tom: Right.

Scott: Yeah. So tell me, what’s the challenge or what’s the issue that we should really be trying to solve for?

Tom: Well, and I like the way you set this up. It really is the number one mistake, and it’s not just because we get calls, right, in our role. We get a lot of prospecting calls and emails, which we’re going to share some today, but we’ve also spent years working with sellers to see what works and what doesn’t work.

Tom: I think the number one mistake that we see when people are prospecting, whether it’s inside of an existing account or they’re making cold calls or sending cold emails, is really is the position, their central position or how they answer the question, why should you give me your time, your most precious resource? Why should I stop doing what I’m doing and talk to you? Right? So we believe that where you start, regardless of how you’re going to reach out, whether, again, it’s a call, it’s a LinkedIn, it’s an email, it starts with a position, and I think crafting a position or poorly crafting a position, is really the number one mistake.

Tom: I think if you get that nailed, right, if you know you can answer that question, why should I give you an hour? You’re a stranger. I don’t know you and you want me to give you an hour. Why?

Scott: Yeah. Yeah.

Tom: And so how you answer that question is really the key.

Scott: The critical.

Scott: What follows, which we can talk about in later podcasts, are obviously important too, but that’s the number one mistake.

Scott: Yeah. Yeah. And so we could probably put these in a few buckets to make it easy to consume. Like you know, we always get, you know, on LinkedIn you get that, “Oh I went to your school,” and you know, you’re trying to build a relationship first. And that’s interesting, and that might work in a certain percentage, but let’s put these in buckets. Why don’t we start with what we might call solution-centric or a solution dump where you just kind of, I don’t know, show up and throw up what up you’re going to what you’re going to talk about.

Tom: That’s the most common. The most common approach is because of what we know, because we always default to self, right, that’s what we’re familiar with. We have a whiteboard in our office, and we know what’s on that whiteboard. We have goals. They may may be written down. They may be just in our head, but we all want something and that dominates, right? That dominates our thinking.

Tom: We know our solutions. We know we want to sell. We have, again, our numbers we want to hit, so we just naturally lead with us. We lead with our solution, which, by the way, works great if they woke up that morning and said, “Man, I am looking for” By the way, here’s an email I recently got.

Scott: Yeah, yeah, yeah, let’s hear it.

Tom: If I woke up this morning and I said, “Man, I need some expertise, right, in delivering cutting-edge solutions for design, web and mobile, using modern technologies like RoR, React, GraphQL, Java, Swift, Node, et cetera.” This is a company that apparently wants to be my technology partner, and if I woke up and was looking for that, then I might go, well, I should give “blah” a call or maybe respond to his email. But here’s the thing. I don’t know what they do, but I didn’t wake up looking for that.

Scott: You don’t wake up thinking about technology.

Tom: It started off saying, “Hey, we’re an enterprise brands around… We help enterprises develop, improve, their technology needs, and it gives a list all this stuff. So I’m like, I don’t know.

Scott: So if that guy hits the right prospect, maybe that does have value, but if that’s coming to you, he’s not micro-targeting very well, is he? Because you don’t have that on your whiteboard.

Tom: Well, and I will say, here’s the reality. I’m sure that there’s a problem that I have that this guy can solve because technology runs everything. I mean, we have apps we develop, we have a lot of employees and consultants working on our network. I’m sure there’s gaps that ultimately could lead to something on my whiteboard, but I’m not familiar how with GraphQL or React or RoR, now again, this guy’s fishing and who cares and he’s throwing it out there and maybe, but either way this is what people do. They list their stuff.

Scott: They kind of show up and give their credentials to a problem you may or may not have.

Tom: Again, if there’s a small… here’s the number, right, it’s like point… I think it’s 2% to 3% of the people will actually respond to emails. So those are the people that are looking for what you… you just say, here’s my stuff. Those are the people. If you call, it’s 0.3. 0.3 is cold calls engage, so it’s low, so it’s not working, which is why everybody hates to prospect. You want to play a call? Would you like to play a call?

Scott: Oh, I would love to. This would be awesome. Is this funny? Is this good? How should we be prepared? Should I be sitting, standing?

Tom: Let’s see. This is, hold on. Let me pull this up. Scott, you-

Scott: Let’s see. So are we still on the solution-centric version?

Tom: Yeah, you started with solution-centric, which I was thinking we’d start somewhere else, but we can flex. So here is a call, and we can just kind of listen to this call.

Scott: Let’s see how good this guy is.

Phone Call #1: “I hope all is well. I’ve been doing some research on ASLAN and the training development programs that you offered, and I wanted to reach out and see if you might have some time to talk about how you’re currently recognizing people who complete your programs. I’m interested to see the methods they’re using. I actually do something called digital credentialing and would love to discuss things further. Please give me a call back at 914-“

Scott: So that’s interesting because he does know a little bit about what we do. He’s gotten your attention a little bit with digital credentialing, maybe, and rewarding people that go through. So he’s got some thought behind it.

Tom: I would challenge you. Just because he knows that we’re a training company didn’t get my attention.

Scott: Okay. That’s easy to find.

Tom: He says, “Hey, I know you’re a human, therefore I have a car.”

Scott: Are you saying the inner web has something to do with the way he prepared that?

Tom: That did not get my attention. He was interested in seeing if I wanted to talk to him about his digital credentialing. So again, if I’m looking for digital credentialing, which by the way, I don’t know really what that is. I think I might have an idea, but I have no idea how that’s going to help me accomplish what’s on my whiteboard, right. What’s my goals? How that’s aligned with me.

Scott: So, he’s trying, he’s reaching for something that might feel Other-Centered®, but he’s not quite getting there. He’s getting part of the way down that path.

Tom: Yeah, exactly. He’s like, okay, I know you’re in training so I have this digital credit. Again, if I’m looking for digital credentialing, and this is what people do is they throw something out that, again, if it’s exactly what we’re looking for, it creates interest, but that’s very rare. It’s just not a high percentage.

Scott: Very cool. I mean, so a couple of great examples of what we would just call solution-centric prospecting. But let’s talk about another one that I think both you and I get all the time, which we just kind of categorize as the mystery person. I mean, they don’t give you a lot of detail. They just kind of say, “Hey, Scott, call me.” And you know, this happens in consumer and business-to-business, and I’m not exactly sure why these people think we should call them back. But let’s talk through this.

Tom: Yeah. So why, yeah. Okay. So here’s an example of a mystery call.

Scott: Yeah, let’s hear one.

Tom: Listen to this one.

Phone Call #2: “Tom, hey, good morning. It’s Becca with Insperity. Hey, looking for a brief opportunity to connect at your convenience. We’ve got two or three minutes. Feel free to give me a call back then. My phone number is 678-“

Scott: And so it’s super friendly. Right?

Tom: Super friendly. Their personality… I don’t know who made this popular, but this became a thing, became a strategy, that people are using. They just call all the time. It’s like, “Hey, listen, I’m with a bank and so I need you to call me.” So I’m like, “Oh, well, there’s something going on.” No, it’s just a guy that’s wants to try to get my account at their bank or they’re just, “Hey, I got to call you because, or they just say, this is Bob,” and we just need to know. And the way that works, is the brain wants to solve mysteries, so I think people are on to the mystery call. And so I don’t think it works anymore, but that is a popular approach.

Scott: It is. And I’ve had these where it almost sounds like we’ve met before. They’re so conversational that it’s like remember… and even if even if I didn’t meet them at the show or at the conference, they make it sound like I did, and you do want to search your brain for like, “Oh, yeah, I did talk to a lot of people. Did I maybe talk to this? Did I commit to something?” There’s the human side that might bite on that, but I think to your point, yeah, I’m not so sure that’s-

Tom: I think the reality is everybody’s on to the gimmicks. Right? If you don’t tell somebody while you’re calling, they know it’s a sales call.

Scott: A little bit like our blindfold principal. When I don’t know where you’re leading me, I’m probably going to assume the worst. Right? So it’s a little bit like that. So I don’t know, any other mystery, I mean that’s kind of clearly one that knows.

Tom: I think that’s a little bit, I think solution-centric is the number one approach. “Let me tell you my stuff.” And some people are better at it. They can do a better job of differentiating, some people, but it doesn’t what we call activate the RAZ. The RAZ is the part of the brain that decides what messages get through. We get 10,000 messages a day, believe it or not, so the brain has to filter through all that and there’s two things that the RAZ will decide that will get to our conscious brain. The RAZ acts like this filter and it says, “Well, what message is going to get through?” Two things. One is something I know I need. In other words, it’s on my whiteboard. It says, I need to solve this problem.

Scott: You need digital credentialing.

Tom: Yeah. That’s key, so it’s something I know I need. So successful messaging is about saying something that they need. It’s about alignment. It’s not about selling. It’s about saying, “Hey, this is what you feel or believe that you feel like you need or believe that you need.”

Tom: The other thing that gets through, right, the filter of the RAZ is something you don’t understand, which is why people tried the mystery thing, but now they understand what it is. Oh, that’s a prospecting call. So if it’s something you can, you have some information that I don’t have about how to solve my problem? Those two things are really what’s critical about developing an effective position. And we call that, what I would call just an Other-Centered position, not as solution-centric position, but an Other-Centered position.

Scott: Which I mean, and you and I’ve talked about this, I got the most unreal experience about a month ago, where Janelle from a company called Helium just happened to catch me on the phone, which by the way is rare. I don’t usually pick up. So for whatever reason, I answered the call.

Tom: Which, by the way, is why you still should make phone calls.

Scott: Well, it’s a good point. It’s a good point. Yeah. So for whatever reason, I pick up the call and she says basically in one sentence, “I am not calling to bother you. If you just tell me your top three competitors, I’m going to produce a report for you that I think will be very helpful. Is that okay?” “Sure?”

Tom: Yeah, right. So your RAZ was activated because you’re like, what?

Scott: What?

Tom: And it’s about you. Right? So that’s also, you need a report.

Scott: Right. So, literally I name a couple, you know, companies. She literally sends a report the next day. It shows, predictably, that I’m in trouble against my competitors. And I’m not saying she cooked the books or anything, I’m saying it literally looked pretty bad. And so now I’m really interested.

Scott: So what did she do? Before she asked me for anything except three names, she was already delivering value to me. So she knew what was on my whiteboard somehow. Research, you know, knows I run marketing for a sales training company and gets me some information that’s really interesting really quickly. Of course I’m ready for the next level of that conversation. She totally, I mean she just flung the door wide open to have a conversation with me by being extremely, in my judgment, Other-Centered. She picked something that made sense to me.

Tom: And so this is a really good example of really what works, right? So if you think about developing an Other-Centered position versus a solution-centric position, there’s really two key phrases that that will help you center on the right position. One is if you can start the sentence with, “because you,” right? Now, you can only do that if you’ve done a little research.

Scott: Right.

Tom: Right. But if you can start, another way of saying that as you lead with what’s on their whiteboard, right? So you can say, “because you,” and then you say something about what’s on their whiteboard. Because you’re expanding into Florida, or because you’re trying to grow your sales organization from this to this, or because you just redesigned, in this case, because you just redesigned your website and you’re new and you’re in a marketing position of leading ASLAN’s marketing initiatives. Right. I would like to do this for you. You’re like, and here’s the way to think about it. As long as you show people a picture of themselves, they will look at it.

Scott: Well, that’s a good point. Yeah. And so she knew a little bit about me. She talked about me, and she was delivering value to me in a problem she knew I had or thought I could have. Maybe she didn’t know I had that problem, but it was very possible, given that our website went through a big change. So that’s a great example. A great example.

Tom: I want to be clear that some people might be thinking, well, what if I don’t know what’s on their whiteboard? In that case, you think of the phrases, “are you,” right? “Are you,” right, because you don’t know what’s on their whiteboard.

Scott: Provocative questions.

Tom: And again, you don’t have to start the position that way, but in your mind, if you start the sentence with, “because you” or “are you…,” then you’re on the right track because you’re talking to them about them. Now, the best way to come up with your “are you” position is to think about the role. The better that you know the role, like you’re head of marketing, therefore you care about your search engine optimization score.

Scott: Absolutely.

Tom: Right. So now, are you interested in knowing that and you say “no,” then that was a shot that she took. And if it doesn’t work, right, this is your best opportunity to come up with the most effective position. If it doesn’t work, just change the position but stick with the key elements, which is start with what’s on their whiteboard because you are you and can you say something about how you will address that problem in a unique way that, again, activates the RAZ?


Yep. Yep. And people always react to things that are going on in their industry, so there’s lots of different places you can poke as a researcher and then as a sales person. People in your industry are doing this, so is that an issue for you? You can probe around the things that are important. What are my competitors doing? What is the guy across the street doing? Those are things that are close to me that might activate my RAZ.

Scott: So very good. This is a really interesting topic and you’ll start to notice we’re talking a lot more about prospecting because we know that’s what is on the minds of a lot of the sales managers out there and a lot of the sales reps out there. And so hopefully these are very, very important topics that are helping all of us get better.

Scott: And again, please feel free to drop a comment down below in whatever way you’re listening to the podcast and give us ideas, talk to us on Linkedin, talk to us on our website of ways that we can address more and more topics that are helpful to you.

Scott: Tom, any other parting pearls of wisdom on this topic of prospecting and specifically this terribly awful number one mistake that people make when they’re trying to connect with us?

Tom: I think one last thing I would say is, you know, because I’m sure some of the listeners are thinking, well, I do need to talk about my solution.

Scott: True.


Right? If they have a problem, you need to be able to somehow communicate that you do have a solution. So when you talk about your solution, think about it as describing the benefit of what it does, right, in a way that communicates is different than what they might expect.

Scott: Right.

Tom: Right. So don’t get into the details of what it is.

Scott: Right.

Tom: Right? So you can give it a label. They need to have it like, hey, we offer this service. They don’t care that does… Whatever you fill in the blank, don’t worry about, when you fill in that blank, you put something in there that, again, is unexpected. It’s a benefit.

Scott: And it may be unique to them. Like it’s a benefit to anybody, but why is it different for you?

Tom: Why is it different for them? So, again, it’s about creating interest. Not tricking them, but they don’t want to know all of this, the list of stuff that you can do. They just want to know, hey, if you’re doing this, we have… Like, let’s look at your marketing firm. If you’re interested in improving how ASLAN shows up when people are searching on Google, we have a service. We have a solution with a service that can increase that and a way that, and again, I don’t work for that company, but it would be something you go, I have not really thought of that before.

Scott: Right. The overall approach was amazing, and the result is we’ve been in discussions for awhile, which is what you’re trying to do as a sales person. Just get me to the table, give me a chance.

Tom: Right. Beautiful.

Scott: What was it in Dumb and Dumber, you’re saying there’s a chance, so very good. All right, great topic. Hope you enjoyed it. Hope you enjoyed the beer, and we’ll look forward to seeing you in another week on another episode of sALES with ASLAN.

If you haven’t already subscribed to sALES with ASLAN, you can on both Apple Podcasts and Anchor. As always, if you have any questions about prospecting, becoming a better sales rep, or even the beers featured on today’s episode, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’d love to chat. 

As VP of Marketing at ASLAN Training & Development, Scott’s passion is to share our solution with those in need and those who seek sales transformation. Find him on: Facebook | LinkedIn | Instagram

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