Sales has a bad reputation for being unpleasant while for those who do them, sales can be a terrifying task. Tackling those things in this episode through his book, Take the Icky and Scary Out of Sales, is guest Hugh Liddle. The sales wizard at Red Cap Sales Coaching and Elite Sales Academy, Hugh imparts to us his almost 50 years of experience in the field how we can create a brand that helps us stand out. He shares the right mental preparation you should be doing when having a sales conversation and gives his insights about why people buy based on what they want, not what they need. Allow Hugh Liddle to teach you how to become a great salesperson so you can sell with pride.
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Take The Icky And Scary Out Of Sales With Hugh Liddle
Our guest is Hugh Liddle, who is the sales wizard at Red Cap Sales Coaching and Elite Sales Academy. We can learn to make selling easy, fun and profitable. He specializes in helping chiropractors and other service-oriented businesses dramatically increase their conversion ratios, sales, and revenues. Hugh’s sales training and coaching come from almost 50 years of in the field sales and sales management experience. You get real-life experience from his teaching, not something out of a textbook. He is the author of Take the Icky and Scary Out of Sales, which is available in paperback in Amazon. He’s also the radio talk show host of his show Sales Chalk Talk which is also available on iTunes. Hugh, welcome to the show.
John, it’s a pleasure to be here and thank you for that lovely introduction. You read it exactly the way I wrote it so that was good.
I always like to ask my guests to take us back to their own stories of origin. You can go back as far as you want. You can go back to where the red cap came from or something else that led you to your wonderful career.
I got out of the service out of the Air Force in 1970. I had 5 or 6 job offers and one of them was a sales job. I liked it the best because there was no ceiling on income. I thought I would laugh my way to the bank every week and everything is going to be great because I’m a good talker. What I found out is that there’s a lot more to it than being a good talker. It was a real process for me to learn what I needed to know in order to be successful. I’ve been selling for the last 50 years or so. Years ago, I decided it was time to start my own business and start teaching other people the things that helped me be successful after I learned them. Things have changed tremendously in selling over the years and especially in the last few years or so. There have been a lot of changes and I’ve never had so much fun in my life as I’ve had to teach other people how to sell.
The red cap is a fun story. I was in a networking group in Colorado when I first started my coaching business. I was going to people’s offices to coach and I wanted to have a little uniform so I had black slacks on a red or a black shirt with logos of opposing colors. I went to a networking meeting one day and there was a guy by the name of Santa George, who was another member there. Santa George who was a professional Santa Claus in season and a magician offseason. He was wearing a red cap and I thought that it would go great with my uniform. I said, “Santa George, where’d you get that hat?” He said, “At Estes Park, Colorado,” and I happened to be in Estes Park a little bit later that month.People buy based on what they want not what they need. Click To Tweet
I went to a couple of shops with my wife to shop and found a stack of red hats. I bought some and started wearing them all the time. About a month after that, another member of the networking group asked me to have coffee and he’s a marketing guy. He said, “If you showed up at a meeting with a different colored hat or no hat at all, nobody would know who you are. You need to take that red cap and brand it.” We renamed the business Red Cap Sales Coaching and I’ve worn the red cap ever since then. My wife makes me take it off when I go to bed but that’s about the only time I don’t have the cap on.
I never realized what a powerful brand that was until I went to a Get Motivated Seminar in Denver. There were 25,000 people in the Pepsi Center. People came up to me during the breaks. People I knew and I didn’t know were there but they walked up to me and said, “We saw you right away when we came in all the way across the arena and we could pick you out immediately.” If the purpose of marketing is to be noticed and remembered, the red cap is a real winner. It’s been a great brand for me and the only challenge is when I go out to speak someplace, sometimes people come up to me and they don’t recognize me, they recognize the cap. I have no idea who that is or who they are. Sometimes that’s a bit awkward.
One of the key challenges everybody faces in sales is, how do I become memorable? Especially when they’re pitching against other people. Sometimes it’s within the same day and the buyers start to blur together. There’s nothing memorable about the person or what they’re saying and they go, “I guess we’re going to go with the best price.” You’ve got this red cap to make you stand out against all the other people that are talking about how to take the icky, as you say, out of sales. You talked about in your book, “What if I am a salesperson and people can learn to sell with pride.”
So many people that I talked to, whether they’re architects or lawyers, they know they need to sell. Lawyers, in particular, is a relatively new thing for the industry for the last 10 to 20 years. They now have to sell and not only to get referrals. Many people don’t want to consider themselves salespeople and yet they need to sell. How do you help people like that? What is your philosophy of selling that allows people who are doctors, nurses, MBAs, or didn’t go to school to be a salesperson and yet have to sell?
The truth of the matter is that everybody on the planet is in sales. Everybody sells every day. They don’t know that that’s what it is but that’s what’s going on. In fact, if you stop and think about it, when you were a baby, as soon as you came out of your mom’s tummy, you started selling. You gave those people an opportunity to take care of and love that little person that they created together. When you were hungry, you cried. When you were wet, you cried. They took care of those challenges and they picked you up and they loved you. They made sure you had everything that you needed.
We’ve been selling since we were little babies. If you’re married, have children, work for somebody, somebody works for you or have friends, you’re selling all the time. You’re simply having conversations with people. You’re asking them to participate in some things that are important to you. Sometimes they say yes, sometimes they say no, but you’re always selling. I have to tell you the story about my wife, Priscilla. She would be the first one to tell you, “I’m not a salesperson. I don’t like sales and I don’t like salespeople.” How about that? I’m a sales coach and my wife doesn’t like salespeople.
She’s got the icky attached to it, doesn’t she?
Yes. She’s had the unfortunate problem of dealing with some icky salespeople in the past and that’s part of the reason she feels that way. My wife convinced me that it was a great idea to move from Colorado to Florida. I don’t like heat and humidity but she told me about all of the wonderful things that would happen when we moved to Florida. I wouldn’t have to drive in the snow anymore or shovel it. She’d make me a beautiful home down here and the weather would be nice. There would be green on your lawn and it would be awesome. She asked me for the sale. She said, “I’m moving to Florida. Do you want to go or not?” I said, “Yeah. I would like to go.” That is a good example of somebody who thinks they can’t sell and is awesome at it.
I love the assumptiveness of it, “I’m going.” There was no fear in asking that closing question there, was there?
Not a bit.
She also painted a picture of what your life would be like. She used storytelling a little bit about, “You won’t have to shovel snow. Imagine how great that’ll be.”
You asked me about my philosophy of selling and how I respond to people who said, “I don’t feel comfortable selling.” Here’s the philosophy. It’s not our job to get people to do what we want them to do. That’s not sales from my perspective anyway. Our job is to get people or help people do what they want to do. Selling is a process of asking people questions and finding out what they want. It doesn’t matter what they need. People don’t buy because of what they need. They buy because of what they want. They generally want a result of some kind. I always tell chiropractors that the only reason people are sitting in your office is that they want something in their lives that they don’t have yet. They do almost anything to get that thing or there’s something in their life that they don’t want at all and they do almost anything to get rid of it.
That’s true not only of chiropractors but of any type of business. Your customers or your clients have something that they want. It’s not necessarily even that they need it. In some cases, “I don’t need a new car. I’d like to have a new car. I want one.” If I went to talk to a car salesperson, they might talk to me about, “You need a new car.” My response would be, “I don’t need one because my car gets me where I want to go. It starts every morning, so I don’t need a new one. I’d like that new car smell, the new car look and I’d like the way it feels when I’m driving around. I’d like some of the new technology.” I want some things but I don’t need them. If we can find out what our prospects want and why they want it, sometimes you have to go a little deeper than I want this. Why do you want it?
Let’s talk about this in terms of chiropractors. Typically, I would assume most people go to a chiropractor because they want to get out of pain but they also need to get out of pain.
The chiropractors that I work with, most of them don’t treat symptoms anyway. They treat the underlying cause of the symptom so people can have optimal health where they function well, they feel good all the time, and they never anymore.
The difference would be, “I need to get out of pain now so I can turn my neck without pain, but I want to stay healthy. Therefore, that’s why I would keep coming even if I’m not in pain.”Be present with people to be successful. Click To Tweet
The want is more important than the need when it comes to the sales conversation.
You talk about that mindset is key to success. You have a chapter on it, Let’s Get Ready Preparing to Sell. What do you think is the right mental preparation you should be doing?
When you’re having a sales conversation, your focus needs to be 100% on the other person, what they think, feel, want, need, and their situation is, all of those things. The part of the middle of preparation is letting go of everything that’s been going on in your life before you show up to have that sales conversation. If you’re thinking about the disagreement that you had with your significant other before you left for work, that’s on your mind, that’s not where your focus needs to be. The focus needs to change. If you’re thinking about the stack of bills you have on your desk that you can’t pay and sales haven’t been that great this month, you’re thinking about that while having the conversation. One of my buddies who’s also a sales coach is Gene McNaughton and his favorite phrase is, “Your prospects can smell commission breath five miles away.”
I like that commission breath. I haven’t heard that before.
It’s absolutely true. Even if you’re thinking about after work, “I’ve got to go down and have a few with my friends down at the pub,” your focus is in the wrong place. Everybody that’s ever bought anything from a salesperson has had this experience at some point. The salesperson does a good job of explaining the product or service. It’s something that you want and the price point is okay. They ask you to buy and you get this feeling down in your gut, “There’s something wrong here. I don’t know what it is. I can’t put my finger on it, but I don’t feel comfortable. I’m going to tell him that I want to take a little while to think about it. I’ll call him if I decide I want to do it.” They’ll never call. What is almost always going on when that happens is the salesperson is focused on something besides helping the person get whatever they want. Their focus is someplace else. There’s an energy that passes between the salesperson and the prospect. If that energy isn’t clean, if they don’t feel like you want to help them and that you’re focused on their wants and their needs, they won’t buy from you.
It sounds like the fight or flight response has kicked in and it doesn’t feel safe. You don’t know why it doesn’t feel safe. Part of it is that person is not 100% present.
It’s important before you have the sales conversation to get your focus in the right place. I have a friend out in California who has an evergreen tree by his front door. He’s a great salesman. Every morning when he walks out of the house, he reaches out and taps the trunk of that tree. It’s an NLP thing. What it means to him is forget everything that’s gone on up until right now and focus on helping as many people as you can in the next eight hours. On the way back in the door, he taps the tree again. That’s his cue to forget everything that’s going on in the workday and focus on your family, resting, recreating and getting ready for the next day. I’ve had other salespeople that I’ve managed who actually had to sit in a room by themselves for 30 or 45 minutes to get themselves in the proper mindset to go out and sell. Most of us are between those two extremes. It’s not immediate. It’s not tapping the trunk of the tree and we’re ready to go. It’s not sitting around for 30 or 45 minutes to get ready. All of us need to go through that process before every sales conversation.
It’s some mindset or ritual, it sounds like it’s what you’re recommending. Hugh, do you feel that that’s the most important skill for a salesperson to develop? Is it being present or is it something else you recommend?
The answer to it is most people think that the most important skill that a salesperson needs to have is being able to talk, “She has the gift of gab. She could sell iceboxes to Eskimos. She’s great at talking. She’d be great at sales.” No, maybe not because the most important skill in selling is listening not only with our ears but with our minds and hearts. There’s more going on in a conversation than the words that are said. It’s the way the words are said, it’s the emotion behind what’s going on. I mentioned that there’s an energy that passes between a salesperson and a prospect. The salesperson has to be queued in to what that person is saying, how they’re saying it and what their body language is if they’re able to see them online or in person. The body language that’s going on, and the emotion that’s behind what those people are saying. If you can train yourself to listen carefully, if you can build that skill, people will feel appreciated. They’ll feel like you want to help them. They’ll buy from you if you’re a good listener. If you talk and talk, my wife would kick you out the door after about five minutes of that.
You and I are definitely on the same page about energy. When I was up for speaking engagements to speak to a sales team. The speaking agent called me back after they interviewed me and the other two speakers and they said, “Congrats. They picked you. They liked your energy.” People don’t realize that they liked your energy, enthusiasm and passion. It’s not the fact that you have a book. All those things got you into the final three. When it comes down to who do we want to spend time with? They feel good after hearing me talk and they assume that the audience is going to feel good. What you’re saying is so important. You talked in your book about how to not take rejection personally and not feel like you’re being pushy and aggressive. I’m guessing that’s one of the steps in the sales process you teach. I’m specifically interested in those two issues because many people do take rejection personally and feel pushy. Can you talk about how you help people with that?
First of all, it goes back to the mindset that you’re not trying to get people to do what you want them to do. You want to help them do what they want to do. That sets the tone as you go into the sales conversation. When you get to the point in the conversation, where you’ve asked questions and you know what they want and why they want it, you’ve explained to them that they can have what they want. They can have the result that they’re looking for. If they work with you, they can achieve that, they can have that result and you ask them for the sale. Your responsibility stops right there. If you’ve done all of the early steps in the sales process, you’ve done a great verbal agreement, asked good questions, done a good job of communicating value to them and you’ve asked them to buy, that’s the end for you. Unless an objection comes up, your job is to help them move past the obstacle that they’re seeing in their way to having your product or service.It's our job as salespeople to get people do what we want them to do. Our job is to get people or help people do what they want to do. Click To Tweet
I love what you said there because I want to underline that and take a moment and make sure everybody got that before we go on. Many salespeople are afraid to ask for the order because they fear rejection. You gave us great insight. This is your job. If you were getting on a plane to fly from LA to New York, and the pilot makes the announcement, “We’re now landing.” No one stands up and goes, “What? We’re landing?” It’s expected that it’s his job to land the plane. I say it’s our job as salespeople to land the plane, also known as asking for the sale. You’re not doing your job if you’re not doing that. That is crucial what you said, I love it.
If you think about not getting people to buy, but offering them the opportunity to take advantage of what you sell, you’re offering them an opportunity. When you ask for the sale and if you do it the way that I teach it, you give them three different options that they have available to them and ask them which one they think is the best fit for them. Once you ask that question, you shut up. You don’t say anything until they respond. Your responsibility has ended there when you ask for the sale because it’s up to them to make a decision.
Do they want this product or service and the result that it’s going to give them or do they not? Are they willing and able to invest the time, energy and money that it takes to take advantage of the service or the product or do they not? It’s their decision. If they say, “No, I’ve decided I don’t want to do this. It’s too much money and it takes too much time. I want to think about it. I’m not going to even think about or consider making a decision right now.” That’s not anything that you’ve done wrong. It doesn’t make you bad.
If somebody tells you, “No,” it doesn’t say anything at all about your value as a human being, the value of your company, your product or service. It says volumes about the prospect. For one reason or another, they’re not willing to do what it takes to take advantage of your product or service. If you can keep that mindset that you’re offering this to them and not attached to the outcome, there are loads of people who want my product or service. If this person says no, that’s not the end of the world, and it’s not the end of my business.
One of my favorite things about your book is you said, “Stop saying we’re closing the sale because it means that something is ending.” Talk about that. Do you think that’s the most difficult step in the sales process, is closing? If that’s not it, can you tell us what you think is?
I don’t think it’s the most difficult thing. In fact, the easiest thing is asking for the sale, if you’ve done the first four things right, built rapport, done a good verbal agreement, asked good questions, and communicated the value and result that they can have. If you’ve done that, asking for the sales is like falling off a log. It’s easy. The hardest part is probably answering objections effectively. That probably is the most difficult part. The only reason that it’s difficult because the science of it is having a script and knowing what to say when you get a particular objection.
There’s an art to it, though. The art to it is, which question am I going to ask first? How am I going to proceed through this chain of questions that I asked when I get money or time objection? I want to think about an objection or I need to talk to somebody first objection. How am I going to respond to that? There’s a science and an art to being able to do that. That’s the hardest part. The idea of asking for the sale and the reason I call it that instead of closing is because the relationship with your prospect starts at the point where they tell you, “Yes. I want to take advantage of your product or service or no, I don’t.”
It’s not the end of the process no matter what they say. If they say, “Yes,” you’re going to deliver the product or service and you’re going to follow up, going to upsell, and you’re going to do a lot of different things there. If they say, “No,” you still want to follow up and stay top of mind because no doesn’t necessarily mean never. It means not right now. If you stay top of mind when they are ready, they’ll come back to you to buy. They won’t go someplace else. That’s why I don’t call it the close. I call it the opening, the commencement or the beginning, one of those words.
Speaking of an offer and a close because you’ve been generous, you said that anyone who’s reading can get a free strategy session with you about determining whether the Red Cap Sales Coaching could help them. You don’t even charge people. Certainly, people can tell from talking to you, there’s no pressure because you come from such a place of energy, respect, and confidence that what you have to offer is valuable. You’re not trying to pressure anybody into doing anything they don’t want. I can speak firsthand about how friendly and fun you are to talk to. Do you have any last thoughts you want to leave us with about how we can continue to get rid of the icky and scary part of selling?The most important skill in selling is listening, not just with our ears, but with our minds and our hearts. Click To Tweet
First of all, I want to clarify that the conversation that you mentioned, isn’t a sales conversation. It gives the people who have the strategy session, the opportunity to talk about their business, their sales and ask questions and get some tips, ideas, and strategies that will help them. It is a strategy session and they’ll find out whether continuing coaching after that. There’s no charge, there’s absolutely no pressure at all and no obligation to do anything. It’s a fun and friendly conversation. To answer your last question, the biggest thing that is important in having success in selling is to have a great script for each step of the sales conversation. To memorize, practice and role-play it until it’s a part of you, a part of the way you talk. Somebody could call you up at 3:00 in the morning and wake you out of a dead sleep and say, “Have a sales conversation with me.” You wouldn’t even have to think about it. You go with it. Everybody who sells has a script because you’re going to say pretty much the same thing every time you talk to somebody. It’s a matter of whether your script is effective or whether it’s not. Get a good script.
Hugh, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and your insights on how we can take the icky and scary out of selling.
John, thank you so much for having me on the call. It was fun.
- Take the Icky and Scary Out of Sales
- Red Cap Sales Coaching
- Elite Sales Academy
- Take the Icky and Scary Out of Sales on Amazon
- Sales Chalk Talk
- iTunes – Sales Chalk Talk
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