Believe it or not, in whatever job we have today, there is always sales involved with it. This episode’s guest aims to bring a better reputation for sales. Known far and wide as The First Lady of Sales and the author of Every Job Is a Sales Job, Dr. Cindy McGovern believes that it is a life skill, not a job skill, that has to be followed up with gratitude. With a negativity attached to the term, Dr. McGovern aims to change the way we look at sales. Coming from a place of abundance herself, she shares some tips on how we, too, can have that similar mindset especially when we feel nervous.
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Every Job Is A Sales Job with Dr. Cindy McGovern
Our guest is Dr. Cindy McGovern who is known far and wide as The First Lady of Sales. She has a doctorate degree in organizational communication and a Master’s degree in marketing. She earned her reputation by building and rebuilding the entire sales program from the bottom up. Dr. Cindy, who is the CEO of Orange Leaf Consulting, has helped hundreds of companies and individuals throughout the world from small to huge create dramatic and sustainable revenue growth. Dr. Cindy is an expert in the areas of sales, intrapersonal communication, leadership and change management. She can quickly figure out whether an organization or individual needs to be more successful. Her knowledge of many industries helps leaders implement new behaviors needed to succeed.
One reason for her success is she serves both as a teacher and a coach, working together with individuals regardless of the role or where they are in their career to co-create their future. She doesn’t tell her clients what to do. She listens, learns about their success and challenges, and helps them create strategies designed to be effective long after her visit has ended. As an in-demand speaker, Dr. Cindy has presented both national and international conferences on the topics near and dear to me. These are sales, management, leadership, interpersonal communication, organizational change conflict resolution and collective bargaining. Dr. Cindy, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for having me. It’s an absolute pleasure to be here, John.
Let me ask you about your own story of origin. You can take us back to your childhood, high school, college. How did you know you wanted to get into communication and sales in the first place?
The funny part of that is I didn’t want to get into sales. In fact, I railed against getting into sales for quite some time because I thought it was icky. To go back to my story, I grew up in Florida and went to Florida State Communication School for my doctorate and went to be a college professor. I thought that’s what I was meant to do. I wanted to help people. I wanted to teach communication. I felt like that was the lacking skillset in a lot of folks that we don’t get to embrace that. We learn math, we learn reading, but we don’t get to embrace the communication which is what we do all day and every day. I thought, “This is going to be my life’s mission.” I got into it and started consulting in the summer. I realized I could help adults, too, not just the 18 to 24-year-olds and I started doing that. Fast forward, I went into consulting full-time.
A few months into my consulting career, I was put into a sales role and I totally flipped out. I was like, “I’m going to get fired if I don’t figure this out.” I started trying to figure out how to make sales work for me. I couldn’t do the old school sales approach and the pushy sales thing that was my definition of sales. When I started to look into it, I realized that’s not sales at all. That’s manipulation, that’s conning, that’s not sales. I realized that sales are simply uncovering what someone else needs and being able to find a way to solve that. When you tell the story around whatever you have to offer is going to fill the need that they have. When I figured out that there was a kinder gentler way sell, I started doing it and I started getting awards. I woke up one day and went, “This is no different from what I’ve done in my entire life. I just didn’t call it sales.” That led me to create a career around helping non-salespeople sell more effectively.
You and I speak the same language for this concept. In fact, your book is called Every Job is a Sales Job. A lot of people have such resistance. When I was hired to speak to Anthem Insurance, they said, “This audience is a group of nurses and MBAs. None of them want to call themselves salespeople and yet we need them to sell. We don’t need them to get the contracts, but they need to sell the doctor on the data that we have versus the doctors trying to keep people from being readmitted to the hospital. When they get an objection, they don’t know what to do.” I thought, “Let’s ask them to be storytellers instead of salespeople.” That was the secret way in the door of allowing people to do that. Dr. Cindy, you have so much knowledge, both in the classroom and in the field, selling has been in the sales force. What is that causes people not want to think of themselves as a salesperson? Why do sales have a negative connotation for so many people who are either doing it or not doing it?
I nicknamed it the Ick Factor. It’s the manipulation tactics that we’ve been recipients of, unfortunately. It’s what’s stereotyped in the media. If you see sales in a movie, it’s rarely the heroine. We think of sales as time-share sales, used car sales or this thing where we’re going to push something on you versus what it is. We have transactions all day every day. Every interaction is a transaction of some sort. That’s where the idea of the ick factor comes from, its stereotype of it. You and I know this, having been in sales for so long, even salespeople don’t use those tactics anymore.Sales is a life skill, not a job skill. Follow up with gratitude and always be curios. Click To Tweet
It doesn’t work. When I was on the field, it was, “Throw a bunch of stuff up against the wall and see what sticks.” What a crazy way to run your business.
The old Glengarry Glen Ross does not apply any longer.
What are the favorite things you had to sell? What are the favorite products or services are you most passionate about or you love doing?
One of the things I love to sell is what we do at my consulting firm which is helping people to make more money in their companies by getting their non-salespeople selling. That’s my favorite thing. For the salespeople reading, I love you, too. I love taking the insurance underwriter to use insurance on something and getting them to realize that every conversation they have is a sales conversation. Every opportunity to make that person’s day with physicians, with nurses, with health grades these days and patient satisfaction scores. All these interactions matters, but rarely do these folks see themselves as salespeople. I go into an organization and they come in. You see them come in with arms crossed going, “I don’t need sales training.” I’m secretly in the corner going, “Yehey,” because I know I can help them. More importantly, I can help them get more of what they want in their career, too.
Your book, Every Job is a Sales Job, is broken up into two parts. Would you mind taking them in and describing what those two parts are for us?
The first part is the ick factor and addressing why we feel this way and helping people to realize that they do sell every day. They have been selling and to make sales out of the boardroom and put it in the life classroom. I don’t think it is a business skill, I think it is a life skill. I think sales should have been taught in high school and we’ve gotten gipped. I am truly on a mission to change the way people look at sales. By the time I am done with this, we might need a new word for it. I want people to see it differently. Part one is helping to empower the reader that it’s not this horrible thing that I thought it was, too. I share my story in the book saying, “I am you. I didn’t wake up from the womb selling. In fact, I resisted it and I was one of the worst resisters.”
Part two is teaching you how to take the skills of sales professionals to get ahead. If you are a manager reading this, it’s going to teach you how to get buy-in from your team so you get those non-salespeople selling. If you’re the reader, entrepreneur, solopreneur or the CEO reading this for yourself, it’s going to help you realize how you can get ahead at work. I’m going to teach you how to get a raise. I’m going to teach you how to get the promotion through my five steps which are plan for opportunities, establish trust, listen to the other person, asking for what you want and following up with gratitude. Gratitude is a big part of my sales process. I know you feel this way, too. I am grateful that I get to wake every day and do this. I get paid to fly around the world and help people make more money and get what they want. That’s a pretty sweet gig.
You’re living your passion, you have a purpose and you’re getting other people to get inspired and think of that. The old-school way of selling was, “Follow-up. Don’t let those leads get cold.” This concept of follow-up with gratitude is something I have not heard anybody else say before. I would love a story of either how you’ve done it or someone you work with has done it.
I’ll tell you one of mine. You follow up with gratitude whether you made the sale or not. What we forget is every interaction we have, even you are in a sales conversation, you’re leaving that person with an impression of you, your company, your product or your service. You want to leave them a good commercial to tell. So often, even salespeople go, “They didn’t buy from me, they’re not my customer.” That’s called a prospect and they still are. They’re going to tell your story so make sure they have a good one. One of my favorites was there was a regional manager for a company I had met at a conference. We had a wonderful conversation, but it wasn’t the right time. It was clear to me that he wasn’t buying anything. That’s fine. I sent him a handwritten note, that’s one of my things. I thanked him for his time and for the opportunity to even explore whether we can work together. I wasn’t pitching anything in the thank you. It was truly the gratitude of saying, “Thank you for giving an hour of your time to learn about your company and your passion and what you guys do. If things change, I would love to continue the conversation.”
Continue to follow-up, but with gratitude. If I found something that felt appropriate for him, I would send it. At the time, he was living in Tennessee. I would see things from time to time and send it, but always from a grateful place of, “I appreciated the fact that you and I got to have a conversation.” A couple of years later, my phone rings. He says, “We’re ready.” That’s all he said. I was like, “Who’s ready? Who is this?” He said, “You’ve shown me that you practice what you preach, that you weren’t just selling me.” “No, I’m not going to sell you something you don’t need in any way shape or form.” Nor do I want the readers ever to do that. My way of following up with him, it was a no. He ended up sending me business in those couple of years. He knew other regional managers who were ready. It was creating these minions out there selling for you but in an authentic way. For me, I was who I am. I wanted to help him and send him some cool stuff about Belmont Basketball.
That analogy keeps going back to that big decision that everybody has to make of whether you think the world is a friendly safe place. Do you believe in a place of abundance? Do you believe in a scarcity mindset and have a place of fear on how you respond and act in the world? Those people who come from a place of abundance typically are the ones that share and look for things to be grateful for.
I definitely come from a place of abundance, but I didn’t always. It was a learned mindset.
What tips from Dr. Cindy in what I can do to shift into a more abundant mindset when I start being nervous?
Pause and look around. It’s that easy as that. So often, especially in sales, we get on the hamster wheel and when we’re trying to hit quota, trying to hit goals or, “I have to make this many calls” or whatever it happens to be, you get stuck in that treadmill. It’s pausing and going, “There are seven billion people on the planet. I have seven billion people to sell to. I’m not going to run out.”
This episode is an example of two people who have an abundant mindset. They could choose, if they chose not to, to view each other almost as competitors. In fact, we have a lot of similar people we know in common like our mutual friend, Judy Robinett, who has been a guest on this podcast. We’re using the same publicity firm and our books are listed together on the 47 books that sales teams should have on their shelves. You kick it off on your releases and I’m right behind you. I love that co-branding that is happening almost unplanned. It’s choreographed together that we were meant to connect and know each other. Nothing makes me happier than to promote another speaker and author who is out there helping people not have the ick feeling around sales. That is thrilling to me, to see this co-branding, co-support going on. If you’re going to say that, “Sales doesn’t have to be icky.” “How are you going to demonstrate that?” This is a classic example of us working together to promote your book. A lot of people ask me, “If sales have an icky factor and I have to get people to trust me, what can I get people to trust me?” What are your tips, Dr. Cindy?
That’s number three in the book is establishing trust. A lot of it has to do with listening. In particular, salespeople feel like they have to talk, show, present and speak. That’s not it at all. Most of my sales conversations, I do little talking. I simply ask questions. It’s Always Be Curious. That’s my ABC. Not Always Be Closing but Always Be Curious.Sales is simply uncovering what someone else needs and being able to find a way to solve that. Click To Tweet
Mine is ABK, Always Be Kind.
That’s 100%. The simpatico between you and I are both doing and being able to help people out there, that piece of establishing trust is important. I know that this is something you live as well. I want them to trust me because whether they buy from me or not isn’t the outcome. My job in that sales conversation is to understand what they need and see if I have a fit for it. In order to do that, I have to ask the right questions. I have to help guide the conversation so I get enough information. It’s the diagnosis at the doctor’s office. It’s Dr. Cindy, I’m diagnosing.
I was speaking to Redfin which is a technology real estate company. They were telling me part of their challenge is with the sales team, especially those on the phone. Even though someone’s called in to ask about the potential house they want to buy, they’re afraid to ask questions. When you go to the doctor and the doctor asks, “How long has that knee been bothering you, John?” I don’t feel like that’s intrusive. Yet, sometimes salespeople feel intrusive. If your secret to building trust is to ask questions and stay curious, how do you help people who feel intrusive asking questions or they haven’t earned the right in their head? Any tips on that?
That’s one of my steps in planning. You have to plan for the conversation in a different manner. There is a huge difference between visits and meetings. Salespeople go on a lot of visits with clients or prospects, but that’s not a meeting. A meeting is a conversation to uncover what else you need that I could be servicing whether that be a current client, a growth client, a potential client or a referral source. When I talk about going into a true meeting, you have to set the pace for the meeting. If you don’t do that, then it does feel invasive. You can feel the other energies resisting you. They are racing for the pitch of, “What are you trying to push on me?” versus opening it to dialogue and starting the conversation by saying something like, “I am excited to talk to you and learn more about your business. We’re about to get real personal real fast, but whatever we talk about it’s going to stay here. Are you cool with that?”
Automatically, your likability factor is off the charts. People will trust you for that because you’ve been real and authentic. That’s what I work with people on. Don’t ask people questions like, “How’s your day going?” It’s not relative to the conversation. It doesn’t feel authentic like you’re interested. It’s a cliché question. These questions that you’re talking about require effort on the salesperson’s part to prepare. Ask smart questions that people don’t resent answering because it shows that you’ve done some homework.
This concept of setting the pace, I want to double click on that. I talk about it in terms of landing a plane. When we fly from LA to New York and they make the announcement that we’re landing in New York, no one stands up and says, “What? We’re landing?” Everyone knows we’re going to land. Salespeople need to land the plane. You know exactly how long the flight is going to be before you get on. Being a co-pilot with your buyer is important. That is exemplified by what you said about, “Let’s set the pace so we know how long this is going to be.” The conversation is going to be this long. If you decide to work together, the typical sales cycle is this long.
When you are talking about what you do for companies in this collaboration across divisions, which is what I heard you say, is important. Another guest of the show, Tim Sanders, wrote a book about this called Deal Storming. You’re doing what he’s doing, what I’m doing. It’s all about trying to help people realize that you need to work across departments and not be cycloid. Not only is the old way of selling not work anymore, but the mindset also has to change, that, “That’s not my job. I don’t care.”
There are many things I want to ask you about. The thing that jumps out about this is you talking about how kids are the best salespeople on the planet. If anyone is a parent or an uncle or aunt, they know that to be true. It reminds me of that great book a long time ago, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. My sense is that kids don’t take rejection personally, but I would love to hear your thoughts on why kids are such great salespeople and what can we learn from them.
They are resilient, nothing affects them. What I think is so amazing about kids is they’re clear on what they want. They have a plan. It’s like, “I see those Oreos. I want them and I am going to have them whether you tell me I can or not. There will be five of them in my belly before dinner.” The plan is clear and nothing is going to derail them. As adults, we get distracted with shiny objects, “That’s my plan. Look, a squirrel.” We start looking everywhere and we’re not focused on the goal. The kid is focused on the goal and it’s a singular goal. They are lasered in on it. That is the first thing.
The second thing is they don’t take it personally. Somewhere along the way, we get hurt by rejection What’s funny is we get told no all-day-everyday. It’s just in different ways. One of the things I do in my workshops when we start talking about no is I’ll ask everybody, “Who in here has been told no now?” Every hand goes up. “Thank God you survived. You’re fine. It’s okay.” It’s something for them to realize that it’s simply a word. It’s a response.
This brings up a topical conversation which is the premise of, “How do we not lose our identity when we get rejected?” That’s what’s devastating for many people. I talk about it in terms of, “I never reject myself just because somebody says no to me.” I used to or somebody else could have gotten me, yes. Maybe they’re right, my product isn’t as good as the other one they were going with. I just went, “What am I doing? I’m rejecting myself.” There was a Dodger’s pitcher that didn’t pitch a great game and they still managed to win. The reporter afterward says, “Do you ever lose your confidence after throwing so many bad pitches?” He said, “No, I never lose my confidence because I know who I am.” I thought, “I can’t wait to talk about that with Dr. Cindy.” That fits both of our philosophies of not only do we fall off the floor because someone said no to us, but we don’t lose our confidence. What do you think of all that?
I want to meet him. I couldn’t agree more. What I think happens is we attach our identity to the success or failure of that moment. That has nothing to do with who you are. If somebody doesn’t want to buy my services or hire me to speak, that means I’m not a fit for that circumstance. That’s okay, that’s fine. I talk about it in the book, it’s a no for now. I know you know that term, too. If I’ve done a good job of figuring out what they need, maybe that’s a referral for you. Nobody does this life alone. I talk about that in the book, too. We all help each other. We are on a similar mission, similar paths like others. I send business to other consultants because what we do is narrow and deep. We grow business, period. That’s it.
It’s the same thing with speakers. I’ll often give a good talk and someone says, “You’re great. Next year our theme is this and we never have the same speaker back. Who else should you think we should talk to? You know us well now.” That’s gold. “You need to talk to Tim Sanders, you need to talk to Dr. Cindy.” “Fantastic.” To get on that radar is the key. The other thing you talk about is how we can apply your five-step sales process to unemployment. I was laid off from Condé Nast. I felt like I lost my identity a little bit. I had to regroup, reinvent myself and back on the noose. Andrew Luck, the NFL player, decided he doesn’t want to keep playing, much to the shock of a lot of people. Michael Phelps, when he stopped swimming in the Olympics, he stumbled a little bit. Whether we choose unemployment, where we’re not going to swim in the Olympics or not going through that cycle of injury and rehab or we get laid off. What are your tips? How can we not lose our Identify and be resilient?
The first thing is creating your plan around what you are going to do. If your plan is to golf every day and do nothing, great. That’s a great plan, go do it. Have a plan regardless. That’s where people, especially unemployed or between jobs whether by choice or not, flounder a bit. You had a routine before now and it stops overnight. You were going to an office, to the field to practice and all of a sudden you wake up and go, “I don’t have to wake up at 5:30. Now, what do I do?” Your identity was tied to that. The steps are the exact same. It’s creating that plan of what you want and looking at what’s going to be next. If it is being fully retired and living an abundant life in that regard, fantastic.
I talk about this a lot with the gig economy. If you are in the gig economy, every job is a sales job 24/7. You have to be constantly looking for that next gig. That’s a planning tool. You’ve got to have a vision for that. For entrepreneurs and start-ups, it’s interesting because they have this plan of an idea. Do they have a plan of launch? Do they have a plan beyond the headlights? If I am working with start-ups, I want them to look at, “How are we going to this transition and then the next transition? If you hit that plateau, because you will, how are you going to punch through that?” I’m making sure that they have those plans for not just today, but 90 days from now or six months from now. I am a plan-a-holic, I love to plan.
That’s great sales training, make a plan and work it. You can’t work it if you don’t have it. How did you get the name of being the First Lady of Sales?If you are in the gig economy, every job is a sales job 24/7. Click To Tweet
Whoever was the first one to say this, please contact me because I don’t know where it came from. It was one of those nicknames that stuck. I remember I was giving a speech in the south and somebody said something about, “This little lady is going to speak next.” One of the people in the room goes, “She’s not some little lady. She’s the First Lady of Sales.” Someone in that room had said it again later and it snowballed. I thought, “That’s pretty good. I’ll hang on to that.”
I think you need to trademark that if you haven’t already.
I did. It’s mine.
Our clients give us the copy we need to identify their pain points and even help us brand ourselves. That is a classic example of that. When I was back talking to Anthem and I said, “What else is happening after my keynote?” “We’re going to do a role play at the end of the day. We’ll have people shout out objections and have people try to answer them.” “I’ll stay and do that part of the workshop and whisper in their ear if they get stuck.” Some of the things I said in the keynote since they’re not experienced with handling a lot of objections. When I did that, people are like, “You’re the Pitch Whisperer. Can you be in my ear in the field?” I mentioned that story to Inc. and they said, “We’re going to quote that.” The stories of origins, I can never get enough of them. Dr. Cindy, who is your ideal audience to speak in front of? Who is your ideal avatar? Who eats this up more than anybody?
While I love the salespeople, I like the support folks. I like the folks who do not see themselves as sales. I want your engineer, your underwriter, your admin team. Those are the untapped resource within your organization.
Any particular industries and insurance you mentioned, any other kind?
Insurance is where I work on quite a bit, real estate, title, property and casualty insurance. I’m getting into the medical space and law firms. Those are the areas where I do quite a bit of work. We’ve worked with manufacturing companies out of Taiwan. It’s usually where a company is in transition. They want to break through that plateau, they’ve gone through a merger or they’ve got their first round of funding. They’re ready to go to that next level. Part of what we bring into the table and what I want to empower them is to make sure everyone in their organization is telling their story of who that company is. They’re walking advertisements. When they walk out of that door at night, from 5:00 in the evening until 8:00 the next morning, they are a walking advertisement. Got to make sure they’ve got a good story.
I’ve seen this time and again even with an architecture firm I’ve worked with. The support staff knows they didn’t win a particular bid to redo a law firm. They ran into one of the partners at a bar that picked another law firm. They said, “We heard you went with someone else. Bummer.” I cringed and I said, “I know you’re a Millennial, but we might want to work on how you express that in a way that makes it feel a little more personal.” Getting everybody on the same page is a definite need to do. If you have one thought to leave our readers with, either about your consulting or your wonderful book what would it be?
My goal is that we change the way people look at sales. The one thought I’d like to leave everybody is the fact that you do sell every day, you can sell every day and you’re already successful at it. If you’re employed, you’ve sold successfully at the job interview.
You got yourself hired.
That’s what it is. I want people to realize that they can do this. It’s not this horrible thing. I want my book to help you be able to do it more effectively, to get more of what you want. You’re good at sales, hear that.
The book is called Every Job is a Sales Job: How to Use the Art of Selling to Win at Work. Who doesn’t want to win at work? Dr. Cindy, thank you so much for being here.
Thank you for having me, John. It has been a pleasure.
- Every Job Is a Sales Job
- Orange Leaf Consulting
- Judy Robinett – past episode
- 47 books that sales teams should have on their shelves
- Tim Sanders – past episode
- Deal Storming
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