Age old principles of sales hold true even in the era of social selling. Just with traditional selling, it is all about being creative with your presentation – a feat that can only be achieved by knowing what your client needs and building a relationship of trust with them. Joining John Livesay to talk about this is, Mike Montague, Global Head of Content and a Certified Trainer at Sandler Training. Mike is author of LinkedIn the Sandler Way, a groundbreaking book that documents some of the best practices of social selling from Sandler graduates. He also hosts the How to Succeed Podcast. In an in-depth conversation, Mike delves into the world of social selling, dispels the myths and misconceptions surrounding it and gets clear about the principles that really matter.
Listen To The Episode Here:
Social Selling And Making Creative Presentations With Mike Montague
Our guest is Mike Montague. He shares with us his expertise on what it takes to use LinkedIn for social selling. He talks about how to have opportunities, people, and build relationships around that. He also talks about how to avoid sales malpractice and the way to do that is to ask the right questions. He said that the best presentation is the one that your prospect will never see because they don’t need to because you’ve done a good job of connecting with them. Finally, he says negotiate terms, not dollars. Enjoy the episode.
My guest is Mike Montague, the Global Head of Content and a Certified Trainer at Sandler Training. He’s also the author of LinkedIn The Sandler Way, which talks about social selling, as well as the host of How to Succeed Podcast. He’s got a lot of creative ideas he’s going to share with us from his days as a DJ. I can’t wait to hear his own personal story. Mike, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me.
I teased out a little bit about you. You’re an expert in helping people ask better questions. You’ve got a book out about social selling, but I want to start with your creativity background. You and I before the show talked about your days as a DJ and how you’ve come up with all creative ways to grab people’s attention. If you don’t mind, take us back to your childhood. Were you a magician as a little boy? Where did you learn all this creativity?
I did do a little bit of that. My family has a term called Creative Nerdery and I own it. If you want, you can to go to CreativeNerdery.com. What that meant for us was being our authentic natural child self of nerding out and geeking out on something or entertaining the family. We would do fake radio shows, we swim across the pool and then interview how it feels to be the winner and do those weird creative projects. I have a cousin that’s a podcaster, interesting designer, rock musicians. My brother did stand-up comedy and we all nurtured our creative artistic side.
I loved music and I found deejaying in college. As soon as I turned 21, it was a cool way to make money and meet girls instead of paying money and sitting in the back, not talking to anybody. I did that for twelve years, made it all the way up to the top 40 radio station here in Kansas City. I was on Mix 93.3 as Romeo because of my last name there. I think entertaining and getting people’s attention and having fun brings interest to whatever you’re doing, but even sales pitches.
This concept of creativity and even a little bit of magic, you hinted that you did something with time travel to entertain people. Tell us that story.
That was the presentation that I did in Orlando right before everything shut down. We set it up as a video pitch for the launch of a new Alexa app that we have. We have a My Sandler skill on Alexa. We did this Alexa Powered Time Travel thing where I did the evolution of dance type of video, but I did it live. We went back to the 1960s. I was a salesperson in the 1960s, and then I was a salesperson in the 1980s and a salesperson in the early 2000s. I changed wigs and changed clothes during the presentation and had to run from stage-to-stage. It was a whole lot of fun. I also thought an interesting way to tell the story and get people’s attention rather than say, “Sandler has been around for 50 years. While you might think we’re old, we have a new voice-activated Alexa app.” That’s great, but that’s boring. Instead, we got some good laughs and had some fun.When selling don't try to get married on the first date. Click To Tweet
Tell us a little bit about what the Sandler Training is. I know that you had mentioned to me the importance of asking the right question because you and I talked about you’re going to have a great presentation, but if it’s in the wrong room with non-decision makers or people who don’t see a need, it’s throwing your pearls before swine. What is this premise of the training that you specialize in at Sandler?
David Sandler himself started many years ago and he passed away in the 1990s, but he had a rule that the best presentation you’ll ever give, the prospect will never see. What that means is if you do a good enough job of asking the right questions, understanding their needs, talking about how they’re going to make decisions and how your solutions might fit, there might be a chance that you don’t even need to give a presentation that they go, “That sounds great. I’ll buy it.” You don’t do this formal dog and pony show and break out the PowerPoint because they trust you to continue to do what you say, work with them on crafting the solution and you move forward.
The other part of that is there is this old stereotype of the salespeople need to be pushy, that they need to be convincing and they need to jump up on tables and make a lot of noise to get people’s attention. You and I both know that’s not true. That sometimes the best presentations that you give are ones that they don’t even recognize as a presentation. Like in your book, a great story doesn’t feel or look like a presentation. That person doesn’t feel or look like a salesperson. They never even see it coming when you do it that way.
I wanted to ask your opinion around this because my belief is that the premise of people has to get to know you and then they might like you and eventually trust you is all wrong. We’ve heard that phrase, you got people to know like, and trust you. I remember in my days of competing against IBM, we were trained. You have to earn the right even to ask a question. My premise is that people have to trust you first before they will even let you ask them questions. What are your thoughts on that?
I think trust is the keyword in that know, like, and trust. Sometimes people will buy from people they don’t like if they trust them more. All things being equal, people still do like to buy from people that they like. They have to know that you exist. All of those things are relevant, but sometimes they do give the wrong stereotypes or they slow down your sales process because you think, “First they have to know everything about me.” No, that’s not true. They need to know that you exist. They don’t need to know your company history and your background. What they need to know is that you can solve their problem and that they can trust you to do what you say you do. You’re right on there. That’s also a lot of what we do at Sandler is talking about, “Before you give this pitch, how can you thoroughly understand their needs so that you’re solving the right problem?” A lot of times, the problem the buyer brings you is not the real problem. They’re bringing you a symptom of something else. If you pitched that symptom, you’re not solving the real issue and they’ll give you a, “Yeah, but,” answer.
It is much like a doctor who has to ask the right questions to figure out what’s causing the symptom and not just deal with the symptom of things are slow here or there’s no engagement.
We use that doctor analogy a lot because it’s a great one for a good professional salesperson that you can trust. They’re going to ask you, “How long has it been hurting? Does it hurt when you do this? What have you tried to do to fix it?” “Are you taking any other medications?” Those are all great questions as salespeople too. We need to know the whole scope. Otherwise, it is the sales malpractice. You’re guessing at the solution and you’re prescribing an answer before you know what the problem is.
I’ve never heard that combo before. I like that a lot. I want also to ask you about your book. This concept of social selling and that LinkedIn is a platform where that probably works, people run ads on Facebook. I see it now, a lot of sponsored things on Instagram. This concept of social selling, tell us where the concept came from. What’s a big mistake people make when they’re trying to sell on social media platforms?Avoid sales malpractice. Click To Tweet
There are two things. The first one is that we wrote this book with LinkedIn and I teamed up with a guy named Koka Sexton at LinkedIn. It’s authored by Sandler and LinkedIn and you can get it for free at Sandler.com/linkedinsecrets. We wrote it because there’s so much stuff out there about social media marketing. When people hear social selling, they think the wrong thing, they think making sales pitches or blasting out a tweet or update posts that people click on and they buy from you. That’s not what we’re talking about here. I’m talking about salespeople in the sales profession and people that need to build relationships and they want to add more information about a current relationship. I know you did a lot of enterprise selling. If you’re selling to Coke or Pepsi, you’re not going to send out a tweet and have them send you a $1 million advertising contract.
You’re going to need to build that relationship, but you can find out so much more information about the organizational structure of a Coca-Cola by going on LinkedIn. The other thing people don’t do is they don’t listen. If you go on social media to look for opportunities and you see what the other people, your clients and buyers are posting about, that’s where you can find a lot of gold, not worrying about what you’re going to post. That was my way of flipping the script on traditional social marketing and talking about how salespeople can use it as a tool to make headway and get more deals in their pipeline because that’s what we’re all trying to do.
I was up for a speaking engagement for a high-tech medical company. It was between another speaker and me. People don’t realize the irony sometimes of being someone who gets hired to train salespeople or be a speaker at an annual sales meeting is you have to sell yourself to get the job in order to train salespeople. You’ve literally been in their shoes. During that process, one of their regional vice presidents reached out on LinkedIn. I accepted the connection. I took it a step further and started looking at some of the articles he had written or posted, and not only liked them, but commented on them. He said, “That’s what I’m trying to get my sales team to do with the doctor’s posts.” The fact that you organically did it means you’re the right fit for us because you’re doing it. I’m not asking you to teach them something to do that you’re not doing. I wanted your thoughts on that of building the relationship through something. When I say make a comment, I mean not a good job or interesting. Make a thoughtful comment, show you’ve actually read it.
I think even likes and shares do count there. You went above and beyond by making a thoughtful comment. The way I explained it is there are millions and millions of people on social media begging for someone to pay attention to them. If you’re the one that’s paying attention, you’re the one that’s valuable on social media, not the people trying to get attention. What you did is by commenting on their stuff or replying and making messages is you get to start a conversation about sales things and about stuff that’s important to them versus trying to be the one broadcasting messages and hoping that somebody sees it and it starts a conversation with you. It’s a lot more proactive. It’s what people want. They’re dying for people to listen and pay attention to them.
I also have experienced this and I see other people complaining about it. As the expert around this, do you see it? What are your thoughts? Someone that you don’t know invites you to connect with no real reason. Supposedly, if you put a note with your request to connect from your desktop versus a mobile where you can’t make a big difference. When you say yes and then the next thing you get from them is, “Do you want to buy X, Y, Z?” No relationship building at all.
It’s the trust factor. They’ve immediately destroyed the trust because they’re pitching right away. Would you like the other tweetable comment? The other thing we call it is, “Premature presentation syndrome.” Prematurely trying to sell something before you understand if that person has a need, if they have a budget for the year solution and if they have decision-making authority over it, all of that is trying to get married on the first date. What we want to do on social media is that’s the bar scene. We want enough interest to get a phone number, enough interest in a phone conversation to get a face-to-face appointment or a Zoom call, and then enough interest there to get a second one. Eventually, somewhere down the line, we’ll get married. I know that sounds like a lot of work and it sounds like it will take a while, but that’s the only way successful relationships are built. Everything else is transactional.
It’s also interesting that I’ve noticed, Mike, is that a lot of people don’t spend a lot of effort on their LinkedIn profile. They’re like, “I’m not looking for a job. What do I care?” I tell you as a speaker and an entrepreneur myself, I have found that the time I’ve spent making sure that the visuals on my LinkedIn profile are strong, that you instantly know what I do. Seeing me speak in front of a crowd, detailing that I had a sales career, where it was, what accomplishments I had there, that helped me get this speaking engagement. This was between another speaker and me.
The guy said, “You have been in sales. I wanted a speaker that’s been in salespeople’s shoes.” The other speaker just looked like they wrote a book on it. I thought to myself, “That’s not the case in the other candidate, but the other candidate didn’t make it clear. It was buried in a paragraph that they’d done sales. It wasn’t detailed, ‘Here’s the company,’ or anything like that.” What are your thoughts on the importance of a LinkedIn profile and making it clear where you got your credibility from?Negotiate terms not dollars. Click To Tweet
A lot of tips here and you can check out a bunch of these in the book. The first thing is to have it filled out and make it look like you know what you’re doing and showing up. The way I relate this is to in-person events. You don’t show up in a T-shirt and shorts if you’re trying to get booked as a professional speaker or somebody in financial services that are always wearing a suit. The old dress for success. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. I think the LinkedIn profile is the same in what you said there, but also a lot of times people fill that out backwards in retroactive looking and we encourage people to make a forward-looking profile about your customers.
When you fill in your job description and your summary, talk about who you help and the problems you solve for those people versus your background, your track record, your history of success. Those things are all great, but nobody cares. What they’re looking for is, “What can you do for me?” If you put that front and center on your profile, I think you’ll have a lot more success. That’s talking about the job you want, not the job you have, even if that job is working as a speaker or as a salesperson for that buyer.
It’s like a good elevator pitch in your LinkedIn profile. I don’t have to work that hard to understand who you help and what problem you solve to decide whether that’s something I might want.
That’s exactly what you should put in your summary is your 30-second commercial. The other one to note is that the headline area, a lot of people get way too cute with that. They start using resume speak and it’s like, “I help companies increase their revenues and decrease their costs.” I still have to click on your profile to find out what you do. I don’t even know what you’re selling there. I like to position company, industry, major keywords that you’re looking for there, make it simple to know that people found the right person and that you’re a salesperson. There’s one stat that it’s people that have sales on their business card and on their LinkedIn profile sell more than those that don’t. They’re confusing the issue like, “I’m a territory executive representative.” People don’t know if you’re looking to buy, would you contact the territory manager or would you contact a salesperson?
All of these buzz words like I literally have virtual sales keynote speaker, not hiding it, not trying, my title, Better Selling Through Storytelling. I embrace the word, selling, and many people in sales, I’m biz dev, I’m this, I’m that. I’m everything, but a salesperson, because of all the negative connotations around it. My whole premise is, if you embrace it through storytelling, it’s not such a negative stereotype. How about the concept of recommendations on LinkedIn? Another, I believe overlooked key element, what I love about these recommendations are that person has to write it. It’s not something that you can say, “Here’s what so-and-so said about me.” This is something right from their LinkedIn that they have to take the time and it’s a little bit of effort. To me, that makes it even more meaningful.
It does for everybody else too. We’re seeing social proof becoming more and more important in the sales process. Whether that’s Google reviews, if you have a retail establishment, LinkedIn reviews and testimonials and enterprise sales that use G2. I think all of those are great when they’re written. Just a thumbs up or five-star on Amazon, “That’s great. We’ll take it.” When you get that personal testimonial and you can see that they will recommend and speak on your behalf to people, I think that’s when it gets powerful and it means something. You don’t have to go out and get hundreds, but I encourage people to get at least five and at least overwhelming support. Whatever that is, you want, ten times more good ones than you have bad ones on whatever reason for review side.
Is there a tip you have for someone who wants to say, “I don’t know that I could be as creative as Mike with the time travel and change the costumes and wigs, but I would like to do something creative maybe. I don’t even know where to start to think creatively.” What recommendations do you have for people?
I think the easiest way to do something novel is to combine other stuff. When we combined the idea of the evolution of dance video with the history of Sandler, it became something that nobody’s ever done before. An example I have given speeches a lot to is if you think about stormtroopers, stormtroopers are a dime a dozen in Star Wars movies. If you think of the idea of a circus that’s been around for a couple of hundred years and not popular anymore. Either wouldn’t even be particularly creative, but a stormtrooper circus would be something that nobody’s ever seen before. If you take 2 or 3 ideas and combine them together, you’ll have a lot of fun. What I did, we did a masked trainer contest in the middle of our virtual sales kickoff.Sales malpractice is guessing the solution and prescribing an answer before even knowing what the problem is. Click To Tweet
I put the COVID mask over our presenters from our last meeting and had people guess who was in the picture and we did a trivia game there. It’s easy to combine a trivia game with relevant content to them, anything like that, or you can do a fill-in-the-blank or a word search or other things like that to have people pay attention and listen to your presentation and actively participate. It makes it much more powerful than, “Let’s hear what you got. I’m going to sit back and sleep for the next 30 minutes.”
Our mutual friend that introduced us, Mark Olsen, talks about in terms of mental real estate and that the premise of, “You’re The Pitch Whisper.” “I know what a horse whisper and a dog whisper is. What’s a pitch whisper?” I moved to Austin and I asked somebody, “Is there a place around here to get your shoe repaired?” He goes, “There’s the shoe hospital.” I’m going just for the name.
You remember those things and it’s proven by human memory that the more connections you make, the more memorable things are. If you tell somebody something they hardly ever remembered, if you tie it to one of their favorite childhood memories of eating a cold popsicle on a hot day, they know what their favorite Popsicle from the ice cream man is when that song starts playing. You run it by and you go, “I’m going to bon bon or I’m going ice cream sandwich.” You know what your favorite is and when you can tie those memories together, those make permanent long-lasting impressions.
My advertising background and jingles and music and emotional connections, that music evokes an emotional connection. You and I had a conversation around the a-ha moment for many people that people buy emotionally, and then back it up with logic. Let me hear your thoughts on that.
It doesn’t have to go long. If you’ve ever had an argument with your spouse or child about what they want. You can tell that they want it because they want it. The rest of it becomes a reason why that’s a good idea. There’s also been a lot of psychological and physical studies about how the brain works and the chemicals in the body. Basically, we make a lot of our decisions on gut instinct and on our buyer feelings. Our brain works to make that true. That can happen in a lot of different ways when we’re talking about goal-setting and what you want for your future is to decide first and then work out the details later.
Even when we’re buying in a short impulse purchase is when you’re walking through the checkout in the grocery store and you see the Snickers bar over there, your body is already decided it wants the Snickers bar. From there, you’re going, “Did I work out today? How can I logically justify the Snickers bar?” I don’t know about you but for me, it’s like, “I had a rough day, I have the extra money in my pocket, I worked out hard or I’m going to be working out this weekend.” You can stretch those reasons far.
It’s true that the voice of justification one way or the other, whether it’s getting us off our goals or keeping us on our goals. It’s important to be aware of how loud we are letting it become. I know a big part of your focus is helping people become better salespeople through The Sandler methods. One of the things you also talk about besides asking great questions so you don’t waste your time, anybody’s time is also you have a lot of focus on how to be better negotiators. I briefly want to get a little snippet to entice people enough to want to know more about your tips on negotiation.
You’re trying to talk somebody into something or talk them out of something, the same rules apply. What we were talking about is when you want something, you will intellectually justify it. If somebody doesn’t want to buy your stuff, there’s no negotiating or talking them into it. We have a gumball analogy. If you think back the old big gumball machines when you were a kid. If you want a green gumball, you put your quarter in and you crank it. If you get an orange one, you can’t get mad at the gumball.
You can’t get mad at yourself. There wasn’t anything you did. There’s nothing you can do to talk that orange gumball into being a green ball. I would say the first step would be you got to get really good at disqualifying and not try to negotiate on bad terms and bad footing. You have to have a willing partner and you have to have somebody that has a problem that you can solve and that wants that problem solved and has the budget and everything. Even when that comes down to it, the other subtle stuff that we were talking about does play a huge difference that you probably again happen with a spouse, a business partner, a child where if they say, “Do we have $100 to go to dinner?” If you say yes too fast, that ask becomes $200. They go, “I should ask for more,” all of a sudden.” There is a little bit of gamesmanship and psychology in this that we work with in Sandler.
We don’t think about it manipulatively or taking advantage of anybody, but sometimes people are going to try and take advantage of you. We think about judo and karate. How do you have defensive moves when people are trying to cut down your price so that you can have equal business stature and maintain the profit level that you set, not take advantage of people, but get your price and make that non-negotiable and negotiate terms instead of dollars?
How can people find out about your book, about Sandler and about following your creativity?
If you want to learn more about Sandler, our sales management and customer success programs, go to Sandler.com/sell. There’s a ton of free resources. You get a year’s worth of access to thousands of podcasts, videos, webinars and stuff that we’ve done from people like Bob Burg, who wrote The Go-Giver, Olympic athletes, the drummer for Pink and cool stuff in there. If you want to get the free copy of my book specifically, go to Sandler.com/linkedinsecrets. My side project, the personal passion thing, is CreativeNerdery.com. It’s a private social media site for people who are trying to be more creative, be more authentic and their real selves and not hide that nerdery passion topic, whatever it is for you, if you like to geek out on stuff, it might be for you.
Any last thought or quote you want to leave us with?
My favorite quote is, “Whatever you are, be a good one.” That’s Abraham Lincoln. To follow that up would be Steve Martin, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” I think those go hand-in-hand that if you’re trying to give a presentation or you’re trying to be a salesperson and you’re upset and frustrated that people aren’t paying attention to you, the question is not what’s wrong with them. It’s what you can do to make yourself more interesting and worthy of being paid attention to.
What a great note to leave it on. Who could have ignored that time travel opening that you gave? Thanks for showing us and not just telling us.
- Mike Montague
- Sandler Training
- LinkedIn The Sandler Way
- How to Succeed Podcast
- Better Selling Through Storytelling
- The Go-Giver
- My Sandler
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