There’s an old way, and there’s the new way of selling – which side are you on? It’s about time you raise your standards and get intentional with your sales. In today’s episode, host, John Livesay, is joined by Mark Evans, author and Standard Sales Company founder. Mark talks about the significance of building systems into your sales process and salespeople. He also deals with the subject of fear of rejection, the four types of people you interact with, and how to do follow-ups without being pesky. Discover how sales is not something you do to somebody and how to ask the right questions to start meaningful relationships that close the deal.
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Raise Your Standards With Mark Evans
Our guest is Mark Evans, the author of Raise Your Standards: The Definitive Guide to Building Seven-Figure Sales. One of the things that Mark is known for is his energy. People call him one of the most enthusiastic people you’ll ever meet. His love of sales and the game of business is infectious. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to have him on the show. He believes that in its very core, sales doesn’t have to be manipulative or sleazy. He thinks it’s the greatest job in the world and he helps companies and individuals reach the seven-figure sales mark and beyond. Mark, welcome to the show.
John, thanks for having me. It’s a treat to be on here.
You are welcome. One of the questions I always love to ask my guests is to tell us your own story of origin. Were you born happy and enthusiastic? Did you love selling as a kid? Take us back as far as you want and tell us how you get to become you.
I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My parents are both entrepreneurs. My wife and her side of the family are all entrepreneurs. My story started back my parents, when I was a young boy probably 3 or 4. They had always been a part of other family businesses and that worked out okay, but they decided to risk it all and start their own business. They moved my entire family, my three sisters and I, about four hours away to a town they had never been in, to a city that they didn’t have any connections with to buy this business. From a young age, I was working with them and that’s where I got my first exposure to realize that sales is critical. It’s the lifeblood of all organizations, especially small and medium-sized businesses. At a young age, that was drilled down into me. It wasn’t just sales for corporate earnings or for a private jet. We weren’t close to that at all, but sales were what led to our family vacations and the tuition to my little parochial school in the town where we came from and basketball shoes. That’s where I got started and fell in love with sales as a young kid.Don't just show up without preparation. Be like a chef. Click To Tweet
I’m fascinated that you grew up with entrepreneurs and you married one. Sometimes for couples, it’s challenging if one is an entrepreneur and one is not or doesn’t have that background. They don’t understand the ups and downs, and the lack of a steady paycheck. It can be a big challenge for people to adjust to. What was your first sales job once you got out of school?
My family is in the printing industry and when I graduated, it was the week where the recession hit. I remember there was a Newsweek article or there was some news publication that probably isn’t even in business anymore that said, “Now is the worst time ever to get a job.” I remember thinking like, “This is something great to see after our graduation ceremony.”
To be clear, this is not the 1932 crash, correct?
Correct.Use video in your emails. Click To Tweet
I’m guessing this was back 2008?
Yes. It’s the 2008 Great Recession. I may be balding but I’m not that old. I graduated and I went to work at a company. This is the start of my new book that’s coming out. I went to work for a commercial printing company and within three days of me being there, they laid off 40% of their workforce. In that same conversation said, “Don’t worry. Mark is here. He’s going to help us.” I said, “Is there someone else here besides me?” That’s where I started and that’s where I got the idea of two types of different companies. One that have and build systems into their sales process, where they’re systematic and intentional with their approach, both in their systems as well as with their salespeople. Those that are scattershot, are showing up and throwing up all over the place, whether it comes to their sales systems or their salespeople in general.
That concept, the old way of selling, “Let’s just throw a bunch of spaghetti up against the wall and see what sticks.” It doesn’t work well anymore. Let’s talk about the three things that you have of mindset, the preparation and the actual work of asking the right questions and getting the yes. Let’s start with the right mindset. Many people, especially if they’re professionals, architects or lawyers, you name it, they don’t like to think of themselves as salespeople. How do you help people who have that mindset?
There’s an old saying that I’m sure you’ve heard as well as the rest of the ones have heard, “If a tree falls in the forest and nobody’s around to hear it, does it fall?” The same thing can be said for companies. If you have a product, a widget or service and it can’t be sold, do you have a company or do you just have a hobby? That’s where I like to start the conversation off with people that say, “We’re not in sales.” You’re in business. I hate to break it to you, but sales are going to be the lifeblood of your organization. It’s going to be critical to everything you do. That’s where I start the conversation off. My book goes into four parts of what I consider the standard sales models. The first is mindset. You have to build your house on rock, not on sand. If you don’t have the proper mindset, whether it’s going to be in sales or whether you’re in any career, you’re not going to have a successful life and I truly believe that. The next part is prep work. John, are you familiar with a concept called Mise en place, a French cooking technique?Curiosity is a lost art. Click To Tweet
I’m not since I don’t cook American, let alone French.
That’s okay. You’ve probably experienced it. Whether you’ve gone out to a great restaurant in LA or you’ve gone to waffle house, not that it’s not great, but let’s call them two different restaurants. Both of those restaurants are using a technique called Mise en place. If you have an 8:00 PM dinner reservation, the chef didn’t show up at 6:30 or 7:00. They’d been in the kitchen all day. They’d been there since 9:00 AM or 10:00 AM prepping, cutting vegetables, getting the meat ready, and getting the sauces right. When you come and experience the restaurant, you get this amazing experience where the dinner service flows and you have a great meal. Many salespeople and many sales-driven companies are showing up and throwing up. They’re showing up with no intention and with no schedule. If we can do this in a restaurant and if restauranteurs, chefs and servers can be intentional with their approach, then why can’t we do that in sales? The second principle that I talk about is all about making sure everything’s in its place before you start reaching out, start emailing, start cold calling or whatever you’re going to do to make that happen.
The tweet will be, “Don’t just show up without preparation. Be like a chef.” People will get that because everyone knows a chef, if you’ve hosted any dinner party, don’t show up when people are arriving to eat. That analogy is fantastic. Going back to the mindset, I want to get your thoughts, Mark, on rejection. People have such a fear of rejection. Since that falls under mindset, any tips that you have in your book or in life on that?
I saw this study back a couple of years ago or so. I believe that about 90% of all the prospects that you meet, at any given time, aren’t ready to do business with you. Only 10% are ready to do business now. I was having this conversation with a client who was putting all of this weight into every single meeting. He was psyching himself out, to be honest with you. He’s trying to change almost his entire business model because 1 or 2 people have said no to him. We had this conversation, “Not everybody’s going to be ready that day to sign on the line that is dotted, especially the higher end and the higher level of service, widget or product that you provide.” You know this better than anyone, John, when selling luxury goods. Not everybody’s ready to drop six figures on something.
The next part of this is the actual selling and there are a lot of different steps to that. Do you reverse engineer it? Do you think to yourself before you even start building rapport, “How can I create a win-win?”
In creating a win-win and creating that type of scenario, you’ve got to have that in your mind. You’ve got to go in with some intention, but I caution salespeople to come in because I’ve been in situations where what the salesperson thinks I’m coming in for and the solution that I want are apart. We’re almost like train tracks where this person is going in one direction and I want to go somewhere else or we’re completely apart. I do a little reverse engineering, but honestly, I just want to be curious in sales conversations. That curiosity is a lost art and a lot of salespeople could benefit from being curious about the other person across the table, the company, the solution and where that company or person is trying to go.
I love a story, so I’m guessing you have a time where the buyer and the seller had a different track, then you had come in for something. Give people a story so that it locks in, whether you’re buying a car or matches.
I’ve made every mistake when it comes to sales, so I’ve got lots of horror stories if you will. I believe that there are about four types of people and I consider them to be either bowls. If you’re type A, you go get them and take no prisoners type of people. You’ve got your party people, that’s someone like me, energetic. We usually got cocktail parties. You’ve got your fact folks. Those are usually your CPAs and your engineers. The I’s are dotted, the T’s are crossed, and then they want to show you the math behind all of it. Your people pleasers are the type of individual that even if you eat their lunch right in front of them, they won’t say anything. They just want everybody to get along. How we interact with those types of people can be successful in a sales conversation.Sales is the lifeblood to all organizations, especially small and medium sized businesses. Click To Tweet
One story that comes to mind is I was trying to sell someone who is an electrical engineering manager. It’s almost the definitive individual when you think of fact folk. I saw his garage 1 year or 2 later and it was like you could eat off of it. It was impeccably clean. For the better part of a year as I tried to sell a high-end engineering solution to his company, I was constantly going up to this individual and there’s a way to build rapport and relationship. I was offering him tickets to a local sports team and front row seats. I offered him these great events where we’d have a table where he could network with fellow engineers and fellow people. I didn’t realize that and it didn’t dawn on me until a little bit later, that this person going out in public and trying to meet someone who is a complete stranger is a nightmare scenario for this guy and for this individual. He said, “Mark, I don’t want to be in a crowd. I don’t want to be around people socializing and networking. That’s a nightmare to me.” It was only when I said like, “Yeah.” Instead of trying to push these tickets on them, how about I just provide the facts and the figures that he’s asking for? As soon as I was able to do that, the business became a lot easier. We formed a great relationship.
You also talked about the fourth thing being follow-up and most people don’t do it. I know in my own career, it’s a big key to my success. How do you suggest people follow-up without being pesky?
A lot of people don’t want to be that “used car salesperson” where they feel like follow-up is something scary. They don’t want to be a pest. If you have a solution that’s providing value to someone, it’s in your best interest to follow-up with them. You can change their life if you follow-up and have a good consistent follow-up process. There’s a stat that I read that said something like 20% of salespeople are following up more than 3 or 4 times, whether by call or by email. That same study said that only 80% of all buyers will only respond to or buy something after the sixth or seventh connection attempt. We got this massive difference between salespeople that are stopping at three connects and people that are only buying at 5 or 6. John, for example, how many emails do you get in a general day?
I don’t even know anymore. It’s a lot. I can barely keep track.As a salesperson, your one voicemail or email is not going to make a difference. Don't be afraid to follow up. Click To Tweet
Probably north of 100, 150 or 200. The average executive gets over 250 emails a day. If you, as a salesperson, are out there thinking that your one voicemail or your one email is going to make a difference and reach out, that’s not going to happen. People are busy. They have lives, kids, spouses and parents that get sick or they get busy going on vacation. I always tell people like, “Don’t take it personally. It’s not up to you. It’s not about you, so don’t be afraid to follow up.”
You’re also a keynote speaker. Who’s your ideal audience?
I try to speak to companies that are looking to go to becoming sales-driven organizations. Maybe in the past, they’ve had a couple of salespeople or not professional sales organization and they want to be proactive when it comes to the sales process. That looks like a variety of different industries, whether it’s software as a service, professional services like CPAs, commercial real estate or realtors. It’s about those individuals and those entrepreneurs that want to grow their business, but they just don’t know how to get to that next level, especially when it comes to becoming sales-driven.
How did you come up with the title of your book, Raise Your Standards?If you have a solution that's providing value to someone, it's in your best interest to follow up with them. Click To Tweet
I struggled with a title for a couple of weeks and nothing was coming up at all. I liked the Raise Your Standards part. I have a business coach. His name is Craig Ballantyne and he is out of Canada. He’s a New York Times bestselling author for 3 or 4 times and he’s a great guy. I was beating my head up against the wall for 3 or 4 weeks and within five minutes of one of our first conversations, he said, “It should be Raise Your Standards: The Definitive Guide to Building Seven-Figure Sales.” After explaining what I do and how I help a lot of sales companies, I loved it, but at the same time I was like, “Craig, how could you do this to me? You’ve figured this out right away.”
That’s what good people who have experienced do. I figured it out quickly, but it was 30 years of experience that allowed me to do that fast. We talked that your book can help people not feel pushy, sleazy or even difficult. Is there something in the book using these standards that takes it from feeling complicated or sleazy?
The core thesis of the book is that sales is changing. There’s the old way of selling and then there’s a new way of selling. John, I love your perspective on the new way of selling and you preach an intentional type of sales process. What I’m talking about is your personal interactions. Sales don’t have to be something that you have to do to somebody. You don’t have to use manipulation and kitschy techniques in order to close a sale. All you’ve got to do is ask some good questions, build some great rapport, and understand where that person is trying to go. If you have a solution, a product or a widget that can help them, then it’s your duty to make that pitch to make that ask of them. The sales approach and the sales genre that I’m trying to preach is that you don’t have to change and be the guru in front of a private jet or in front of a Lamborghini. You can work with someone else in order to get a win-win and to create a good long-lasting relationship.
Mark, what do you think makes a good question? We all know the difference between a close-ended question, yes or no or an open-ended question, but sometimes people feel awkward asking people a question. They don’t want to feel intrusive. How do you help people ask good questions?
When it comes to asking questions, that’s the core element of a good sales meeting and a good sales approach. The questions are where the magic happens. The level of depth, level of intention and level of thought that you put into your questions reflect on how you are approaching and how you are respecting your client or your prospective client. The framework that I like is thinking about what’s in it for the other person. Everybody’s tuned into the most, “What’s in it for me?” They’re trying to think of, “Where are they at currently? Where are they looking to go?” Those are the questions I tried because I firmly believed that if you can articulate the problem that your buyer or your prospect is having, better than even they can, they’re automatically going to think that you have some answer.
That’s the a-ha moment for many people. The better you can explain the problem, the better they think you have their solution, which in my mind requires some homework and some empathy. It’s not just, “It sounds like your problem is this,” but put some feeling behind it. “It must be frustrating to struggle with this particular problem and never figure out how to solve it or the same thing keeps happening and all that.” That is what makes people think, “You get me.” You have something where you say, “The first objection is not a real objection.” That intrigued me, Mark. Let’s say a couple goes into therapy and they said, “We’re here because we’re having trouble with our sex life.” The therapist is like, “That’s what you think is the problem, but there’s something underneath that.” How does that work in the sales world where you say, “Your first objection is not the real one.”
I had not heard that part but I liked that. That’s true and it’s an a-ha moment for me. John, if you’ve ever gone into a store even if you’re busy and even if you’re looking for someone and that helpful clerk comes scampering around and says, “Can I help you with anything?” Most people’s first answer is, “No, I’m just browsing. I’m just looking.” People naturally love to buy, but they don’t like being sold to. “I want to buy a new car. I love the thought and the thrill of driving off the lot, but I don’t like being sold at all.” That first objection often is real, whether it’s that therapy case. We put up these guards and barriers because we don’t want to let people in. We don’t want to be vulnerable and answer some questions. You’ve got to break through that.
Are you considered a Millennial or not?
I still fly into that, but I watch a lot of old movies and old books. I’m an old soul.
You’re what’s considered a digital native which is someone who grew up with computers as opposed to older people who had to learn it. You have whole expertise around how to stand out using video email. A lot of people don’t even know you can do it and they don’t even know what video to put in an email. Because this is your digital native, can you give us some tips on that?
One tactical that anybody who’s out there that is cold prospecting or trying to book appointments or book meetings with about anybody can benefit from is through video email. The average executive gets, let’s say 200 plus emails a day. Most of those are all text-based. One way I’ve found and my clients have found that’s effective in standing out in the inbox is a video email. The system that I use is called Vidyard. There’s a paid version and a free version. I use the free version, to be honest with you. I record a simple and easy video that can be converted into a GIF of me waving or me holding something up where I hold up my book and say, “John, it’s Mark. I’m an author of Raise Your Standards. I’d like to talk to you about X, Y, Z. We’d love to do this. I’d love to make an introduction.”
That little video stands out in people’s inboxes. Every time I send this or every time one of my clients starts using this practice, we see their conversion rates immediately jump. We see conversations come out of it. I use this to schedule a bunch of different appointments at a conference that I was attending, a big industry event. I was reaching out to different CEOs and executives and I became almost like this little mini-celebrity at these events. People are like, “I got your video. I loved it. It was amazing.” I’m still seeing the puddling effects or the ripple effects from that.
Give me the name of the service that you use.
There are two. The first is called Vidyard and the second one is a Wistia product called Soapbox.
Do people know that it’s a video in the email with the subject line somehow or you still got to get them to click to see the video?
They’ll see it when the actual video uploads. You can load it directly into your email, especially if you have Gmail or Outlook. In the email itself, there’s a little thumbnail like you would see any thumbnail. It almost looks like a YouTube box and you can turn that into a GIF. There’s motion like I’ll wave in it, I’ll move around or I’ll hold a sign up of that other person’s name. It will say like, “John, watch this video.” People naturally want to click. It’s clever. People can’t help but click on it.
What can sales teams learn from sports teams since you’ve written about this?
There are a ton that they can go with. Let’s start with the CEO, the entrepreneur who’s the head coach. I see a lot of CEOs who are the head coach and also trying to be the quarterback, the linemen, the person popping popcorn and the guy parking cars out in the parking lot. These small and medium-sized business owners are trying to be everything for everybody. The first thing is to start getting a team. Get your star performers and also start getting a good set of other coaches that can help you level up the entire team.
The book again is called Raise Your Standards. Any last thought or enthusiastic tidbits you want to leave us with?
In the end, sales are one of the greatest crews you possibly can be in. It doesn’t have to be something that’s manipulative. It can be a great career and at its core, it’s all about helping someone else.
Thanks for being with us, Mark.
John, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
- Raise Your Standards: The Definitive Guide to Building Seven-Figure Sales
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