Sales Strategy: Here’s the one thing that all successful sales reps do when prospecting.
Ready to improve your sales strategy and start successfully prospecting? But not exactly sure where to start? Pop open a cold one and join Scott Cassidy as he talks with Tom Stanfill and Marc Lamson on how to “read your sign.” Listen here:
Scott Cassidy: Welcome back to another episode of sALES with ASLAN. I am so excited about this topic today because Tom and I were talking in the break room cause we have one of those, a nice break room, nice break room. And you had been mentioning this, this number one trait that all successful sales reps have. And I am so curious to hear about it and dialogue about it cause I know everybody out there in the audience wants to know what that thing is. But before we get started, let me intro our guests for the week and crack a couple of cold and frosty ones. So today I’ve got Tom Stanfill, our CEO, I’ve got Marc Lamson, our president, and we have three beverages we want to talk about. So, uh, why don’t we start with Tom. That looks very interesting.
Tom Stanfill: Scott, I’m super, super excited about this. I am going to enjoy a Thimble Island Coffee Stout. Now Thimble island for you, for those of you that are not familiar with the Northeast is out of Branford, Connecticut. So that’s near New Haven, which of course you guys all know I’ve been to Yale. It was a t-shirt thing. I wanted to get a t-shirt, but I’ve been there. It’s a nice campus here. It’s kind of near there. It’s, I probably enjoyed it. So I want to crack that open.
Scott Cassidy: You can crack that open. Let’s hear the pour cause that’s rich, looks chocolatey.
Tom Stanfill: I think it’s going to give me a little pick me up or for a Friday afternoon.
Scott Cassidy: I don’t want to at the risk of insulting the brewer. I, you’re going to need to spoon with that and that’s, that is some thickness. Wow. Okay. Marc, what do you have next week?
Marc Lamson: A recent find local brewery touting my Whalers Brewing Company from Wakefield Rhode Island. If I taught them in there. How many times do you think I have to tell them to get like a 10% off a six-pack coupon? I’m hoping for one. I put something on Facebook and I didn’t get a response.
Scott Cassidy: I’m going bigger than that. I want him to sponsor the whole podcast.
Marc Lamson: This is a Whalers Brewing Tortuga…caramel and blood orange aromas grace this unique white wheat. You know what I’m most interested in? You see it up in the top left there, 9.5% alcohol by volume. So I’m going to crack it open and a pour slowly and drink somewhere in a moderate pace for our, uh, what do we have 20 minutes to go?
Scott Cassidy: Yeah, and I thought maybe you were going to say responsibly because that’s someone’s ad campaign.
Tom Stanfill: I just realized the surgeon general has a warning about my beer.
Scott Cassidy: Your beer? Are you pregnant?
Tom Stanfill: No.
Scott Cassidy: All right. I am going to, I realize I’m a little bit of the dud in the show. Sometimes I, I go to the straight and narrow and this time I’ve, uh, I’ve selected the, Amstel Light. It’s out of Holland, out of Amsterdam. I’ve been in the airport, but I’ve actually never been downtown. Um, I don’t know what the alcohol by you have a lot of coffee shops there. They do. Yeah. And some other sorts of shops. So I’m gonna pour that and I’m going to get us focused and started on this great topic that, uh, I am super excited to hear about.
Scott Cassidy: So Tom, in the break room, as I mentioned, we were talking about a study that, uh, that both you and I had read, which was called flawed self assessment. I believe it was in the early 2000s that David Dunning, Chip Heath, and Jerry Soules came out with this study, which really talked about, you know, this, this single trait that makes people successful, specifically salespeople. Um, and there was a statistic in there that I know kind of will get people, 95% of professors think they’re above average. Now I’m not a math major and we have one. I know you’re an engineer, but, um, how does that work?
Tom Stanfill: The study fascinating me because it, it confirmed what I’ve, I’ve always believed is that we have a very, it’s very difficult for us to see the reality of our, to see ourselves in, in a realistic way. I’ve always believed that, I think the number one trait of successful salespeople, they all share this trait. And I think it’s true for all successful people is they’re passionate about seeking feedback, right? They, they know, as the study talked about, we, we, we can’t really honestly see ourselves. We all have some level of self deception. And unless we get feedback right and, and seek the truth about ourselves and what our gaps and how can we improve we’re not, we’re going to be limited. Our success is going to be limited. We’re going to have flaws and gaps, and we’re not gonna be able to dress them because we don’t know that they exist.
Scott Cassidy: Yeah. Yeah. And I know I just referenced professors, but mark, I know when we were talking, you’ve seen it in, in other aspects of life too.
Marc Lamson: I mean, you know, I was just, we were talking the other day about our Men’s Health subscriptions because was that before or after we were working out, I can’t really remember. But on the back of Men’s Health. They have the little study that says, you know, the little like Men’s Health by the numbers and there’s all these little data points. 82% of men believe they’re above average in strength. And again, maybe they’re not quite as grossly over rating themselves as professors, but still we just are not honest with ourselves about where we really stand and where we really, we don’t calibrate where we are.
Scott Cassidy: We’re not wired to be that way. Probably we’re not wired to be self reflective. And so I think this is another example of a choice we have to make. Right? So, so I know in one of the stories we were talking about was a, was famous coaches and others that are, you know, famous for a lot of reasons, but still self reflective. You had a great example.
Tom Stanfill: Yeah, I was watching, I think it was a 60 Minutes interview with Pete Carroll, you know, who won a Superbowl for the Seattle Hawks, and I don’t know how many national championships for USC, and he hired a new coach. Uh, it actually was one of his, it was one of his children. And he just, uh, come out of college and you know, here, here’s his son joining the team. And so what do you think Pete Carroll would say to his son after attending his first professional coaching or staff meeting? You know, I would, I would think that p Carol would go, here’s what you needed to have learned and hopefully you saw this and you, the first question he asked his son is like, how I do? Yeah. Could I have improved? I was blown away by that. And then it was like that, that really woke me up to like people even at that level, you know, and I remember reading an article about the CEO of Medtronic and most successful medical device companies in the world.
Tom Stanfill: He wrote a book about one of the most important traits that he embraces is seeking feedback, seeking the truth. He calls it true north. You really don’t know who you are until you invite people into your circle and say, tell me and what I call, tell me. Tell me what’s on my sign. The way I think about it is we all have a sign above our head and we can’t see it. Right? And unless we invite people into our lives and say, tell me what’s on my sign, these are my blind spots. I don’t really know. You know, I don’t really know myself fully. And so until I asked people and invite them in, I don’t know what’s on my sign. And the longer you ignore your sign, the bigger it gets. Yeah. So that keeps us from successful. But if you invite people in and you can, you can learn about it.
Tom Stanfill: You Go, Oh, you know, I can improve that. One of the things that was said to me a couple of years ago, uh, by a potential client who was an executive with a company and we’d met for an hour and he looked at me, he goes, why are you folding your arms? I was like, what does that, is that, is that a problem? Why he’s, the reason I fold my arm is because I have a neck problems in a car accident eight years ago and it’s in my, it makes my neck feel better when I support my body. He said, well you seem closed. Interesting. And so I was like, I had no idea that was on my sign. I had no idea that this guy is looking at me going: You don’t like what I’m saying? And I’m like, no now. So ever since then I now I’m aware of that right till I received that feedback. And then I’m now managing my arms differently in meetings and I’m, and I’m waiting. I looked across the, to one of our sales reps and I said, is that true? And he goes, yes, you always fold your arms.
Marc Lamson: Well, when you talk about sign, you know, we’ve, we’ve represented, uh, in some exercises assigned being literally Post It note, take a Post It note and imagine it’s on your forehead. What does that mean? It means everybody. Everybody else can see it except for you. Yeah. And the reality of it is the longer that sign is there, the bigger it gets. It creates the biases. It’s, it’s just, you know, we all have our signs. Uh, I know you’re the, you’re the host. You are the host. And you asked me with the most beer, you asked, you asked the questions, but can I ask a question please? Because another important trait of good sales people is ask clarifying questions to Tom: What truth did Pete Carroll seek after he decided to throw the ball on first and goal a in the super bowl against the patriots, into the hands of Malcolm Butler. Instead of running the ball, what, what did he seek there was the question.
Tom Stanfill: I’m sure he’s, as he knowing, knowing, based on how he answered the question on 60 minutes, I’m sure he, he realized that he made a misstep.
Marc Lamson: That probably wasn’t on his side, that was probably obvious. He chewed the gum was on his clipboard and the gum stuck to the clipboard and he lost the play.
Scott Cassidy: So again, this is sort of where we got into a little bit of why this is important to a, comprehend it and, you know, understand what it all means. Anything else that, that people on the line that are, that, that do this selling thing for a living should be aware of in terms of why this is important to be aware of it?
Tom Stanfill: I mean there’s another, there’s a positive side to it. Not only, not only are we going to, you know, understand or learn things about ourselves that will improve our performance. There’s also, there’s also hidden talents that we have, right? We also need to know what we do really well. What do you need to leverage? Right? You know, we’re in all of this lack something, right? But we all have talents. You need gifts. So, so how can we leverage our gifts? And so sometimes we don’t know, hey, on our sign is like you’re really, really good at something. And so a lot of people live their entire life and no one really tells them. And so and so we need to, you know, we need to seek that as well. So that’s, that’s also, um, I think an important,
Scott Cassidy: Well, and the opposite could be true of the professors and the workout guys that, that, you know, maybe people undervalue themselves and, and those people need, um, the sort of feedback that may, that may be in a positive way to improve their, uh, their outlook in their careers as well.
Marc Lamson: But whether it’s, whether it’s weaknesses or whether it’s strengths. Here’s the truth. We have blind spots. That’s the bottom line. You drive a car, you have mirrors, you have cameras, the cameras go up, the cameras go down and everything. There is still a little spot when you turn your head where the corner of your car blocks the car and you can’t see it. And in our lives and our professional lives and our personal lives and our selling lives, we have blind spots. A lot of people say, I have coached. A lot of salespeople I’ve been coached, we all say myself included, say, well, no one’s more critical of themselves than I am.
Marc Lamson: And that’s true for the things that we see for the things that we know, right? And over and over and over again, there are things that we just don’t notice. And that’s your sign. And the number one trait of successful salespeople is they seek the truth. They seek that blind spot. As painful as it may be.
Scott Cassidy: Do you think now it would be a good time for you to tell me mine?
Tom Stanfill: No, I don’t thing this a good time. I mean there’s not enough time.
Marc Lamson: We only have 12 minutes left.
Tom Stanfill: And this sounds maybe sounds a little negative what we were talking about. Oh, we got blind spot actually. It’s really, it’s a really great opportunity. I heard someone say this one time, you said the information that you need right to, to get to the next level, to reach your full potential is available to you. Like that kind of blew me away. Like, like I think of things that I need to improve on or you know, what’s keeping our company from going at a faster pace or, which keeps me to be, you know, you know, close more deals, whatever I’m working on. And the idea that the information is available to me to get whatever I want in life. You know, we all want something, we all want to be the best. So I think, I think some of us have said, you know, I’m not going to be the best, so I’m not going to try, you know, I’m not going to try cause I’m, you know, I’m kind of whatever, I’m just, I’m, I’m just going to get by. And then some of them are like, no, we’re really into it, but we all really want to reach our maximum potential. And at the idea that someone will tell me what I need and it’s available to me. It’s pretty motivating. Yeah. And just for the asking it, so let’s just say somebody knows somebody knows what I need. Yeah. And all I gotta do is ask them and they’ll go, now it can be a little painful. Right. But then I got to do something with it.
Scott Cassidy: Well, and as we talked about earlier, you can, you’re asking for it so you’re a little more prepared for a negative response than you would be if someone just said, I need to talk to you about your performance, or I want to talk to you about how that went.
Marc Lamson: Regardless of the feedback that the, the, you talked about, why is this important? The, the interaction is so positive in so many ways that I would challenge everyone listening. The next time you’re at a restaurant, when the manager comes over at the ends of the meal, Ha, you know, how was it? And you sell fine. But eight times out of 10 it probably wasn’t fine. There was something wrong. Something was late. They put tomatoes on my salad. I hate tomatoes on myself, just can’t eat the raw tomatoes. I really can’t, but someone, something’s wrong.
Marc Lamson: And so someone comes over and they say, was everything okay? And we say, what? Yeah, yeah. We say, yeah, I would challenge the listeners the next time you have something that’s not perfect. And someone says, how was everything? You say, well, would you like, like since you’re asking, I have something and watch what they do. And if they’re a successful restaurant and a successful manager, they’re going to say, thank you so much. I had no idea. We did this suddenly last year at a restaurant, we go to something about the wings, something about something that had changed. He said, I had no idea. Thank you very much for telling me. So that’s a positive thing. If you’re a sales leader, if you’re a sales leader, seek feedback from your reps about you and you’ll find they start seeking feedback about them from you. It’s just so there’s a lot of positive.
Tom Stanfill: You’re bringing up a really good point, Marc, because I think it really clarifies and reveals your motive when you get feedback, especially from a client. If you’ve your, if you’re in a situation where you potentially could get feedback from a client, yeah. It really reveals your motive. If you’re saying, thank you, I want to get better then it reveals the, that is really your good. Do you want to get better at serving your customers? But if it’s like, well, uh, you know, that, that’s not something I really want to hear because it makes me feel bad. It reveals that you really have a self-centered motive. We had an opportunity with a large, large opportunity recently, and it turns out that the person that brought us into this opportunity to present our solution was a friend of mine. We had it and they brought me in anyway. Right. Good question. And it was, it was myself and another rep and they brought us in and we didn’t win the deal. And, he offered to give us feedback. Right. So how I handle that feedback really determines is my goal to serve them or serve our clients? Or is it like, well, I don’t like the way that makes me feel, but it was interesting. There was some things on our sign in and not have learned a lot by hearing from this person. And we grew from that, you know? But, but, um, it was just another example of, of why this is so important.
Scott Cassidy: So if we, if we all believe in agree that we don’t want to just be okay, that we want to strive for better. Um, and it’s like that ad that’s on TV now with AT&T t where the doctor walks in and he goes, yeah, yeah, oh, hey, guess who’s back off a rehab or whatever. And you’re nervous. Yeah, me too. Well, we’ll get through it. Like, “okay is not good enough.” You know? So I think a lot of people are starting to think about that through the national advertising right now, but if people are interested in getting better, it’s motivating for all of us. Why is this so hard and so rare that people would actually do this? I mean, one of the things that Ben Franklin said in the, in the study we looked at was: There are three things that are hard: steel, diamonds, and knowing oneself. Why is it so?
Tom Stanfill: You think about, we can all think of the person that we hang out with, right, that we go to and they, they’re the “Me” monster and they talk the whole time and they don’t know it, right? They just, they don’t. And I think the reason that we don’t give feedback is because I think it’s painful. Like you really think about it, you know, it’s like, it’s so much easier to say, well, it’s somebody else’s fault, right? Or it’s so much easier to just deny it. But if we say, oh, that’s true about me, that hurts. And our instinct is to avoid pain. I mean, our whole, everything about this is survival. And so that’s counterproductive. That’s where our instincts do not support us. Um, it’s counterintuitive to say I’m going to seek the truth and it’s going to be painful.
Tom Stanfill: But here’s the cool thing. If we seek the truth, it actually is less painful, right? If we say, hey, how can I be better? And I’m inviting feedback, the feedback you get will be much gentler. And, and it’ll be, we’re, we’re, we’re, we’re, we’re, we’re getting it on our terms. We’re not surprised by it, you know? So, um, but I think it’s pain. I think that’s the, I think that’s the, I think it’s awareness, which we’ve talked about. People don’t know it, and it’s also painful. So we just rather think, hey, it’s very great, hey, you know, the reason we didn’t win that deal is because we didn’t have the lowest price, or the product isn’t, well, that’s not my fault. And that feels pretty good. But if it’s like, oh, well, we said something in the beginning of the meeting that communicated that we weren’t prepared. That’s my fault. That hurts. And that’s painful. It’s just easier to believe it’s price.
Marc Lamson: Yeah. Yeah. Well, and that’s the reason we’re, we’re, I think we’re sharing this message is it’s painful at first. It’s, and then if you can get over the pain, right, if you can get over the pain, right. It’s all gain afterwards. Uh, now I’ll share a personal story of my pain and gain in my seat. Uh, I came to ASLAN 13 years ago, sat down with Tom, your office, what’s it going to be successful and I’m going to do this and sell that and I’m going to crush that number. I wasn’t hitting the numbers, but I thought I was doing a pretty decent job and trying to work hard. And I thought ASLAN had some problems that prevented me from making my number. And uh, I sat down and I was with Tab. Tab is one of our cofounders and I was with Tab and he’s been on some podcasts and I said, so Tab, you know, what do you think, what do you think?
Marc Lamson: And I, I think I might’ve had a 9.5 abv beer in me or two. And I was kind of hoping, I was kinda hoping for good news, but I said, what do you think? And Tab Norris — and Tab If you’re listening, I still love you. But Tab Norris said, I’m disappointed in Marc. I’m disappointed. That crushed me. So that was painful. Yeah, it’s painful. And you have two options. You can say, well because, or you can say, tell me more. And we said, tell me more. And I ended up sitting with Tom and figuring out that part of my sales process was, it was doing something that I should’ve been doing more presentations over the phone. I started doing more presentations over the phone and I tripled what I was doing from a revenue perspective. So yeah. And a lot of good things happen, but that’s successful prospecting.
Tom Stanfill: It would’ve been to blame the company.
Marc Lamson: That’s right. Blaming the company instead to myself, keep drinking beer and just kind of keep moving on down the road. And, and, and, and we all have done that from time to time.
Tom Stanfill: We worked with a large computer manufacturer, uh, about five or six years ago and Dell was beating them pretty significantly, cause the Dell could deliver a server and it may have been 10 years. Dell can deliver a server and you know, a couple of weeks and it took them two or three months. And so I said, well, we can’t be successful here because of that, that fact. But the reality was there was a lot of reps that were there that were successful, but it was easier to blame the company than say, well, you know what, there are, there are a lot of reps here that are successful because they find people who don’t need a server in two weeks. Yeah. Right. Yeah. But it was just easier to say, well we can’t be successful.
Scott Cassidy: Well I want to bring us home with some, some ideas and some application of how, uh, you know, people can leverage this. Um, so, so, so take us through if you have any other examples, um, or ways that you can sort of have applied this and what it led to.
Tom Stanfill: Well, I think if you know, to give, to bring this down to being very practical. Yeah. Um, you know, there’s some things that we can do right, to, to begin this process of seeking feedback. I like to use like, like use the weight example here, you know, like, cause that’s kind of painful to think, oh, I’m not gaining weight. My, my, my, my pants have shrunk, I’m not gaining weight. But you know, if we really, if we really want honest feedback, the first thing is we go, you know, I, I may not have an accurate assessment of my weight, so, right. If I really want to get better, I want to get healthier. What do I do?
Marc Lamson: If you go to the scale at South County orthopedic, it’s definitely ways lighter than the one in my house. You use that scale, right? Yeah.
Tom Stanfill: Well, I might not really be accurately assessing my, my weight here. So I step on a scale, right? We get feedback, we get, okay, well then the scale says, yes, I’ve gained five pounds. So what’s our instinct? Scales wrong.
Scott Cassidy: Well, I’m wearing a lot more clothes. Right, right.
Tom Stanfill: So if I really noticed, you know what, and you know what, you will get feedback that’s wrong. Yeah. Sometimes some people will tell you something that’s not true. Like they will give you feedback. So what do you need to really do is calibrate, let’s weigh on it if we really want to know the truth about ourselves. Let’s find several scales. And if you get on multiple scales and we all say the same thing, then there’s a gap there. Right? So I would say calibrate, find some trusted people and I think that’s good. You choose who you, who you want to get feedback from. Like that’s something I go to Marc with. I mean Marc and I have this seek meeting almost annually or on a consistent basis where I go to mark cause I trust him and I say tell me. And he gives me feedback. Right? And it’s not that painful. I trust him and I do that with several other people. And um, if I calibrate, then I’m going to say I’m starting to get some consistent feedback. I used to tell my children. I said if one person tells you a horse, ignore them. If three people tell you you’re a horse, buy a saddle. So, so that’s the, you know, yeah, yeah.
Scott Cassidy: That’s an awkward analogy. I’m really not sure where to go with that. Well, so in, in, in one last point because what if, um, what if someone gives you unsolicited feedback? Right. I mean, that’s a good point there. There’s a chance that happens in our daily lives, our spouses potentially from time to time. How should we treat that? Is it any different? Do we still have a choice of how we react to that?
Tom Stanfill: Yeah. I mean, I, the way that’s funny. This happened to me recently, so I just, someone I didn’t even know, came up to me and started giving me advice and like, and my first reaction was, well, who are you like, well, who are you? I don’t know you, why are you giving me this feedback? I don’t trust you. I don’t know you. That’s really not the right question. The right question is you should say, is it true? Yeah. If someone gives you feedback, there’s just only one question you should ask, is it true?
Scott Cassidy: And then go ask Marc if he notices the same thing.
Tom Stanfill: Yeah, then you calibrate. Right? Is it true, and you know, it might be, it might be true, or it might not be true.
Marc Lamson: Well it’s about considering their motive, but people say things so they’re trying to manipulate or do something or they just giving you the truth. Maybe it’s not deliberate in the way or the time that you’d like, but there’s, there’s truth in there. And so you successful reps, successful people pull that truth out there. They were seeking that feedback. They’re seeking that truth. I interview sales reps, we, we, we interviewed as sales reps the other day. And at the end of the call, she said so and any, any, anything that concerned me was she was soliciting feedback that she just does, that she’s been successful. I can tell that asking the question makes her stock go up in my mind. Right. And so I gave her feedback, I gave her feedback on the call that I learned and I said, these are things that concern me.
Marc Lamson: And she, she said, thank you. I’ve heard that before. That’s helpful. I’m going to work on that versus, because when we’re talking about application, you have to have a motive that you want to help yourself versus, you know, just kind of go through the motions. Your motive is, I want to help myself and then you have to be prepared to accept it. Yeah. Except feedback versus defended versus explain it versus reasons just to accept the feedback. And she did. And, and that’s, that’s, that’s she’s just successful sales rep.
Tom Stanfill: This reminds me of a, something that Oprah Winfrey said recently. She said, everybody that’s on my show, every single person on my show asked me at the end of the show: How’d I do? And she said it wasn’t about like, tell me I did well. It was like, did it, did I do okay? Could I get, could I be better? Yeah.
Scott Cassidy: Very telling.
Tom Stanfill: I want to leave here with a quote though. I read this the other day and Anne Lamott’s book, um, it’s, it’s a, it’s actually a book about prayer, but it, it said something, she said, tell me, at the end of the book, she said, if you want to know only what you already know, you are dying. Great writer, Anna Lamott. I love that quote.
Scott Cassidy: That is a great quote. When do we, I’ll tell you this, this has been a very interesting topic. I hope everybody got good value out of it. Just to summarize that we have this sign on us. We have these blind spots that we’re not able to see. We need to seek feedback, we need to ask others to help us with those blind spots. And it’s not easy. All right? So this is going to be difficult and it’s a choice. And so, um, you know, uh, learn how to, to, to get that as a habit and then you know, how to apply it in your own personal life, in your professional life, and I think you’ll have great success.
Scott Cassidy: So if you like the podcast and hopefully you do, please help share these sales strategy tips with your friends. Like us, literally like us with the like button rate us, uh, subscribe and to help us go viral with this podcast and maybe even get sponsored by a great beer company.
Marc Lamson: Tell us how we did. Yeah, we wouldn’t play. Please. How do we do? Are we missing something? Are we low? We enlisted them to me.
Tom Stanfill: I just would rather get feedback on you, Scott. Would be great if just a host, just feedback on the host.
Scott Cassidy: I’m a lowly plebe in this whole thing just to upon in this game. So thanks so much for everybody for listening and have a great week everybody.Not yet subscribed to sALES with ASLAN? Check out our other podcasts here, and sign up for our newsletter to keep up to date on our latest episode, industry news, and more.
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