In a field as competitive as sales, earning high commissions is top priority. Jeff Lipsius is the president and founder of Selling to the Point, which is a sales training and consulting umbrella platform. He developed Selling to the Point sales training during his 30 years of sales training experience. Back in the late ‘70s, he pioneered inside selling for the natural foods industry, successfully training the first sales force of this type in that industry. As a result, Jeff’s sales model is now being used by many natural food industry brands. Learn how to cultivate great relationships and enjoy your career as a salesperson – the Jeff Lipsius way.
Our guest on The Successful Pitch is Jeff Lipsius, who is the author of Selling to the Point. He has some great insights about internal conversations and internal confidence and internal choices and internal clarity that need to happen because most people are so focused on the external. He says, “What’s going on is they can’t hear you over your sales pitch,” and the best way to stop pitching is to start listening. Once you start listening, you learn by observing and when that happens, you get less distractions and your performance soars.
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Selling To The Point With Jeff Lipsius
Our guest is Jeff Lipsius, who is the President and Founder of Selling to the Point, which is a book and a sales training and consulting umbrella platform. He developed Selling to the Point sales training during his 30 years of sales training experience. Back in the late ‘70s, he pioneered inside selling for the natural foods industry and trained the first salesforce of this type in that industry. As a result of that success, his sales model is now being used by many natural food industry brands. He’s trained over a hundred sales people, both inside and outside, as well as sales trainers throughout his career, and the sales people that have been trained by Jeff are some of the highest commission earners in their industries. They are also able to cultivate great relationships and enjoy their career as salespeople and having been a former salesperson myself, I know how important it is to enjoy what you’re doing in order to be successful. The thing that stands out for me is that the salespeople who’ve been fortunate enough to be trained by Jeff have cumulatively sold over a billion dollars worth of products. Jeff, welcome to the show.
Thank you, John. Thank you for having me.
I’m always interested to ask my guests to tell us their own story of origin. You’ve been doing this for quite awhile and you weren’t always a sales expert. Would you mind taking us back to the days when you were working as sales and marketing manager for an allergy research group and how did you decide that you are going to become who you are?
Way back when, even in college when I was discovering who I was, the real theme would have to be applying conscious awareness to performance. These days a lot of people are talking about mindfulness and conscious workplace practices, but I was a little ahead of the curve. When I was nineteen years old still in college, I was pursuing a way to be able to be more conscious on the tennis court and play better tennis matches. I was a college team player and what I found was that as I became more conscious, in other words, as I put my state of mind in a more aware place, I was able to play better tennis and actually practice my state of mind to get mentally tougher on the court. Later, in my professional career, I decided to try the same thing. What if I was consciously aware during my sales performances, during my interactions with my customer? It was a mindfulness approach because I’m a mediator. You put the ego mind aside and focus on the customer and the interaction as it was rather than the distraction of, “Is this going well for me? Is this not going well for me? Do they think I’m smart? Do they think like me?” They were all distracting from what’s taking place in the interaction I discovered.
What that revealed was a second conversation taking place at the same time I was talking to my customer. It would affect the relationship. This second conversation is the internal buying conversation between my customers ears and as I would say one thing which is you could say conversation A, my external conversation with my customer, the customer would hear something uniquely different. They would assign a meaning to what I’m saying and come up with a whole different interpretation that I needed to know. Putting my distracting thoughts aside and really paying attention to the customer, I could begin to discern how the customer is receiving what I’m saying and lo and behold, I felt that was much more important because the goal of selling is buying.
[Tweet “Ask intriguing questions to get attention”]
Nobody’s going to give you credit for, “That was an incredible presentation, but nobody bought,” is what you’re saying there.
You, as a salesperson, don’t get a sale unless the customer decides you’re going to get that sale. It’s really the decision process that determines the salesperson’s success. The way I put it is a good salesperson is going to pay more attention to their customers buying performance, their salespersons’ selling performance.
In the world of startups, for example, if you’re pitching an investor and you’re trying to get that investor to “buy your vision and invest in your company,” then you would be smart to do what Jeff is suggesting, which is to look at what other types of companies that investor has “bought into and invested in.” When I was selling ads for Condé Nast, I would call on brands like Lexus and I would look at where else did Lexus by so that I can get a sense of what their past buying performances is as a criteria that might help me decide, “They liked that. If I can come up with something similar to that, then that might help me with their criteria to buy from me.
That helps when you have a background in the prospect’s buying performance, buying patterns, but I’ll take it one step further. You might have all that background and see that there is a certain type of buying style that this customer has, which is great. What I’m saying though is don’t be wedded to it. Don’t try to steer the conversation to mimic what you’ve learned because who knows? Maybe they had a bad cup of coffee that morning and they’re in a horrible mood. They’re not going to act today the way they normally would under other circumstances. You don’t know that until you begin paying attention at the moment to exactly how things are as it is and the awareness is going to allow us to modify what we need to do in order to make what we have to say well-received.
What you’re saying here is that this conscious awareness, being out of our head, we’re worrying about whether we’re liked or not. Trying to figure out what we think they might want, we can do all the due diligence in the world and preparation, which is great, but in the end we should be present in that moment to be able to zig or zag according to what that person is feeling and giving us this feedback.
Don’t let your preparation be a distraction.
Unfortunately, the majority of salespeople don’t even prepare. Let’s not discount the importance of practicing your pitch or your preparation or your sales presentation or whatever it is you want and what you can do to get your confidence up, but we can add to that of now that you’ve prepared almost like an actor. They memorized their lines, but then when the cameras start rolling for a movie, they are in the moment with the other actor and not wed to what all the rehearsals were, but they still rehearse.
That’s a good analogy. That nails it on the head what I’m trying to articulate. The connection between awareness and performance is learning. What you could say is we perform by learning and we learn by observing, by awareness. If we are less distracted, we’re going to be better observers, which will make us better learners, which will make us better performers. This is true in any performance activity, not just selling, but I’m using selling as a metaphor, and this is my greater purpose, is to be able to show people examples of how conscious awareness could be benefit in the workplace and in our performance so that more people can see the value of living life more consciously, ultimately will be the message I’d like to get out there.
Let’s say you as a salesperson are prepared and you’re in the moment and you’re not distracted and you’re willing to learn and perform at your best, what do you do or what suggestions do you have if the person you’re talking to is distracted? They’re constantly checking their phone while you’re talking. They’re clearly not interested in what you’re saying. What tips do you have to counter someone who’s distracted? Even if you’re playing tennis with him, if your tennis partner isn’t present there’s only so much you can do I suppose. I’d love to hear it in the sales analogy.
The main thing is to be asking questions. Salespeople need to be learners, not the teachers. Salespeople need to be great inquisitors, asking good questions because you see, the buying process that customer’s decision making is an internal process. The salesperson doesn’t know that conversation going on inside the customer’s head, but when you ask questions, that’s the salesperson’s window into getting insight. What is this customer’s decision process or what mood are they in? Like you said, in your example of the customer, it just looks distracted. If a customer’s distracted, it indicates that they’re disinterested, it indicates that for whatever reason, you haven’t established value, the value of paying attention to you. As soon as the customer starts paying attention, they’re no longer distracted. What you want to do with a question is steer the customer’s attention into something that’s going to be relevant to the decision to buying your product. When you ask a question that’s intriguing enough, the customer’s attention is going to shift from their iPhone on to you. How do you ask an intriguing question? You learn the customer’s values and priorities and beliefs and that will allow you to create the kinds of questions that are going to direct the attention.
Going back to the Lexus analogy, I knew from my research that Lexus was trying to get people to perceive Lexus as an emotional buy like they do a BMW as opposed to what they currently had, which is Lexus was rational buy. If I was to ask them a question about if we could show you a way to get people emotionally engaged with Lexus like they would BMW, would that be something that would be useful for our conversation? They’re like, “Now you’re talking about something that’s important to me and now I’m going to pay attention to that because that’s what I’m tasked with doing.” In order to ask smart questions, in my opinion, you have to do your research and be in the moment. Ask intriguing questions to get attention. That’s going to be one of the tweets from the episode. That was great. Let’s jump into this wonderful book Selling to the Point. You have a chapter they are called, “They can’t hear you over your sales pitch.” What a great title and since this is all about pitching for anything to get hired, to get people to buy from you, what have you, tell us what’s going on there when you wrote that? What’s happening when people can’t hear us over our sales pitch?
The first thing I want to say overall about my book is consistent with what we’ve been saying so far. My book is one of the first selling books in the form of a fiction novel story. It’s got a plot with romance suspense. The reason I made it a fiction novel instead of a how-to book is because I want to show salespeople how to learn from conversation. I said salespeople are the learners, not the teachers. Where do sales people learn? They learn during the course of interaction, from dialogue. The customers will reveal their beliefs, their values, their priorities, their frustrations. As a salesperson learns his, the salesperson’s able to respond, and of course learning requires awareness, which is getting back to the original skill that I’m saying we need for our performance is good observation, good awareness.
What I was wanting to get across to the salespeople is that you can say whatever you want. If you’re talking to an unreceptive customer, it’s of no use. You could go through all kinds of training at the home office and get your pitch down and talk to the customer and relay all the selling points that you were trained and memorized and got them all out. If the customer is not interested, if the customer’s unreceptive, you haven’t accomplished a thing. Maybe one point that you might consider to be minor or almost irrelevant, you just happen to mention on the side of the customer really grabs on to that. In their own beliefs and values, this is very important. It’s not your pitch, but it’s how your pitch is being heard that’s going to determine whether you get the sale or not. I wanted to get that across in this particular chapter. The best sales pitch is a pitch that’s well received.
That’s also I think with the benefit to the readers of your book is instead of another how to book, you’ve put it into a fiction, so we are entertained while we’re learning as opposed to just learning and that makes it much more interesting and engaging and that’s the main reason for doing this. One of the things in your book and the story along the line is a character, Martin. He writes down that customers make the best buying decisions when they have the three C’s, Internal Confidence, Internal Choice and Internal Clarity. Let’s take a minute and go through each one of those. What is the emphasis on the word ‘internal’ around these three C’s?
The three C’s are what customers need to possess in order to make the best decisions. As a salesperson, you need to be skilled in decision coaching because sometimes you could say all the right things, but the customer still doesn’t buy because they might not be the best decision maker or they have a decision style that might not be optimal for this type of decision. They need to go into a coaching role. You need to shift from salesperson to decision coach, and if you’re going to be a decision coach, you have to gain a higher level of trust, which comes from letting the customer know that your goal is to help them make the best decision. That’s important because usually sales people’s goal is to get the customer to buy the product. The customer doesn’t share that goal. The customer’s own is to make the best decision. If the salesperson and customer are on the same page, then they work together as a team and you can have a coaching relationship.
One of the best things I’ve ever heard people say in the sales conversation is, “This may or may not be a good fit for you, let’s find out together.” That automatically goes, “Then you’re not so attached to me having to buy, that may not be the best decision if you find that I can’t afford it or it’s not what I need or whatever.” That also removes a lot of the pressure.
It does one more thing. It turns the conversation inward. You’re asking me what do I mean by internal with the three C’s and you gave a great example. If the salesperson is urging the customer, “You should buy, because I know this is a great product for you,” that’s outward. That’s about the salesperson’s point of view. If the salesperson says, “I don’t know. Let’s explore this.” Then it becomes more about the customer’s point of view, which is more inner. I’ll give you an example, I’ll start with internal confidence, which is one of my three Cs. If I ask any salesperson about confidence, they’re going to say, “Very important, confidence.” They try to get that, “With every sales call is to have the customer trust me. Customer is confident that what I say is actually what’s going on.” That’s external confidence.
Internal confidence is the customer’s self confidence in their ability as a decision maker. This is primary because the customer’s not going to trust the salesperson unless the customer first trusts themselves to decide if they’re going to trust that salesperson. What I’m trying to get sales people to do with this book and with my courses is turn your thinking around from external, which is about me and my performance to internal, what’s going to make the customers have the best decision performance. If you’re a coach and you’re coaching a customer and that customer has self-doubt in their ability to make a decision, then you’re going to have a compromised buying performance. For example, the customer may make an inappropriately conservative decision because of their self doubt and a salesperson skilled in asking the right questions can prevent this from happening and have the customer make a better decision. That’s internal confidence.
I was talking with someone who was thinking of hiring me to help them as their business coach with their pitch and modeling and they’re in this buyer’s remorse type of thing and it’s exactly what you described. They don’t trust themselves enough to make a good decision because they’re so afraid of making the wrong decision. They said, “On a scale of one to ten, I’m at a nine.” I go, “I’m going to feel so relieved if I get you to help me but then my internal monkey mind kicks in and I’m like, “How do I know he can help me and how does he know he can help me and on and on and on and on.” They just start spinning their wheels in such a crazy way. I have my own way of trying to help them calm that down, I’d love to hear your thoughts on that because that happens so many times no matter what you’re selling.
Ask a coaching question. For example, you could ask the customer, “If my services worked out well, what would you notice happening that would indicate that? Get the customer to start thinking about, “I would have this occurring and my people would be working more as a team with each other and there would be a better communication.” “Really, better communication, how would you measure that? How would you know the communication is better?” Getting them to focus on what they can know. From the scenario you’re describing, that customer is like, “I don’t have a crystal ball.” They want a crystal ball. If you bring it back like a coach would to a tangible, observable things, they realize that, “I can make this decision because I have a handle on the different indicators that would show me if it’s working out well or not.”
[Tweet “Shift from a sales conversation to a decision coach by building trust.”]
It’s future pacing them into things that they can measure, which then allows them to have more confidence in their internal decision process. Let’s jump into this internal choice. Let’s create a scenario. You and I are both keynote speakers. In this situation where the agent has said, “They like what you have to say. They’re just about ready to schedule a time to have a conversation with you before they decide but they think they like another speaker better and if they want to talk to that speaker first and if that doesn’t work out, then they’ll talk to you.” You’re like, “Their internal choice process is not really working in my favor. I have to hope that somebody else’s as opposed to let me get in the game.”
You have to take a little bit deeper dive into, “Why they feel compelled to listen to that person, the next presenters, and as a matter of fact, why don’t they want to hear three presenters, five or six? What’s going on? Typically, the low internal choice is the result of a self-limiting belief. When a customer has a self-limiting belief, it lowers the amount of options they feel they have at their disposal. You say that salespeople are selling options, selling choice. We’re selling solutions that the customer hadn’t previously considered. A lot of the times, it hasn’t been previous considered because there’s a self-limiting belief. An example could be somebody’s going to a company and looking at the org chart and they’re wanting to talk to the highest-ranking executive because they have the most choice, they have the most decision ability. Every salesman knows to do that. You get in front of this VP and start talking to them who extensively has the most choice because they’re ranked so high in the org chart and you hear them say, “I’m pressured by the board and I have regulators are getting in my way now and people are after me so I can’t make any mistakes, the shareholders are angry at me from last quarter so I really don’t want to make any decisions right now.” They have low internal choice even though their external choice, which is their positional power is very high, their internal choice is very low and you’re not going to get the sale.
It was almost like, “My hands are tied.” That’s a low internal choice, right?
Very much so. The self-limiting belief was when the executive said, “People are after me right now, people are wanting to watch me screw up so they could blame me for something.” It’s a self-limiting belief. They feel they don’t have options to choose from when it finds time to look for solutions. Internal choice is also very important to instill in a customer in order for them to make the best decisions. A customer with low internal choice is the most frustrating for salespeople because those are the customers that really liked the product, they really want the product. They think it’s the greatest product, but they won’t buy it because they don’t think they have the option to do so, even though they liked it so much. We all know customers like low internal choice.
Any recommendations on what to do when someone’s who’s got this? Maybe I don’t want to talk to a lot of salespeople. I get overwhelmed by all the choices or what to say?
That’s a perfect lead into my last and third C, which is the most important, which is what I call internal clarity. Internal clarity, if I talk to a salesperson about clarity, “You got to let the customer know about the products, all the features of the product, what it’ll do, how it’s better than the last model we made, and really make them clear.” That’s external clarity. Internal clarity is the customer’s self-awareness. Does the customer know what they need? Are the customers a clear on their goals? Is the customer in touch with priorities and values? If the customer doesn’t know what they need, how in the world can they figure out if your product features will satisfy that need?
I remember helping a real estate agent not waste his time with a bunch of potential buyers who was showing them endless amounts of houses and he hadn’t gotten them to define what would be the ideal house and when they saw it, they would pull the trigger because they didn’t have a criteria. They just go, “They always found something wrong with the house.” I’m like, “We’ve got to figure out the three things that when you see it in one place, you’re going to say yes to.”
The customer has to be clear and the salesperson can help customers get clear. I was talking to a financial planner and he had all these products that he wanted to present to me, but before he did anything, he goes, “What are your needs going to be after retirement?” He started asking me what’s going on with me? Then based on what I said, he was able to pick which product to present. That’s internal clarity. You could be lost, like lost in a mall or lost in a park or something and be looking at the most accurate map. If the map doesn’t have a, “You are here” mark, you’re still lost. You need that internal clarity in order to be able to work with the customer and getting back to your other question, internal clarity also increases internal choice.
It’s all connected. Jeff, you have a special gift to offer the audience. Would you please share that?
Anybody that wants to hear more about what I have to say about this, I will have a free fifteen-minute consultation with you over the phone. You can reach me at Jeffrey.Lipsius@Gmail.com. My Twitter is @JeffreyLipsius. You can reach me anyway. I’ll be glad to talk to you and have a fifteen-minute conversation to see if I could give you any tips to help using the Selling to the Point method.
Who is your ideal audience that you love to give keynote talks to and workshops to?
All kinds of sales, but especially when salespeople have customers that reorder products, reusable products, or the relationship between the customer and the product is really important. That seems to be the sweet spot in terms of companies that really flourish hearing my keynote.
The renewable relationships, not the one-offs. Jeff, I can’t thank you enough for sharing your wisdom, your generosity, and most of all just helping all of us get better with realizing we need to shift from having external thoughts about confidence and clarity and choice to internal and that when we become conscious aware of what’s going on in the moment, it’s going to improve our performance.
Thank you so much, John, for having me on.
- Selling to the Point
- Selling to the Point – book
- @JeffreyLipsius – Twitter
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