Energize Your Sales Abilities With These 7 Expert Tips

Interview with Anthony Iannarino

Episode Description

Are you in a sales slump? What if I told you the reason for your lagging sales isn’t the fluctuating market? Neither is it your product or company. It’s not even the competition. Top sellers across various industries and companies prove that sales performance isn’t situational.

The key to sales success is you.

This is good news because you can start making money right away with some key adjustments to how you sell. By learning (and applying) the behaviors, attitudes and a few vital skills of the aces in the industry, your revenue stream will skyrocket.

Sales expert Anthony Iannarino joins me this week on the Building a StoryBrand podcast. As the author of The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need, Anthony reveals the secrets of star salespeople who consistently outperform their peers.

First, Anthony teaches us about the behaviors and attitudes of top-sellers which he calls mindsets. When we understand why big performers consistently win, we’ll be able to evaluate ourselves and lay the foundation for skill development.

Then, Anthony gives practical advice about selling from opening relationships (prospecting) to closing (gaining commitments). He also touches on other powerful tools such as business acumen and (my favorite) storytelling.

If you’re tired of wasting time at the office and are ready to become a true sales pro, listen to this podcast episode and take your sales abilities to the next level.


Mindset #1: Self-Discipline

If you’re skimming through this article, stop. Don’t blow past this section.

This mindset is so fundamental, so indispensable, that if your time is limited, this is where you should focus.

The essential element you need to win big in sales is the ability to manage yourself.

The essential element you need to win big in sales is the ability to manage yourself. Anthony calls it “me management”.

Many of us struggle with self-discipline. But perhaps it’s because we view it as a lofty virtue.

Anthony simplifies self-discipline to routine behaviors. You might have heard how top athletes like these Olympians have a set of rituals they follow. You can rely on rituals to launch you to the top of your sales game and help you finish first.

Some of the rituals of an effective salesperson are:

  1. Prospecting. Block out 60-90 minutes first thing in the morning for initiating relationships. You never want to go a day without checking the box: Created New Opportunities.
  2. Following-up on existing opportunities. In the afternoon, write thank-you cards or send emails to keep up the relationships you’ve started.
  3. Booking face-to-face appointments. Set up times to personally get to know your prospects so you can discover the best solutions to their problems.

“It’s not the one thank-you card that matters. It’s not the one prospecting call. It’s the fact that you’re consistently doing these things that build the competencies and the work,” Anthony says. “It’s the consistency over time that delivers the results.”

In Anthony’s words: People don’t fail because they can’t do something. People fail because they’re unwilling to do what it takes to succeed.

Self-discipline sets apart the best performers in any endeavor, whether you’re a writer or a professional athlete or a salesperson. If you develop the rituals of an effective salesperson and routinely do them, you’ll outperform your toughest competition.

Action step: Block out an hour one morning this week to focus solely on prospecting and then follow up on those connections the next couple of weeks.

Mindset #2: Caring.

If you were trained in sales during the last three decades, you’ll probably need to throw a lot of the things you learned out the window.

Salespeople used to be taught manipulative tricks such as tie-downs, aggressive language and to always be closing.

“Those are the exact things that will make you a terrible salesperson,” Anthony says.

High performers are less interested in telling their story and more interested in finding out how to help their customers.

This old approach was self-oriented. In the world of selling today, the best salespeople are other-oriented, Anthony points out. High performers are less interested in telling their story, pitching their product or showing their slide deck about their business and more interested in finding out how to help their customers.

Rather than be a hard-nosed closer, you need to be a trusted advisor, he says.

Anthony jokes about an overly simple two-part recipe to be a trusted advisor. You need trust and advice.

To earn trust, prospects must believe you’re more concerned about achieving their outcomes than making your commission.

To give valuable advice, you need to educate yourself about who your customer is and the choices available to them. Understand the trade-offs they’ll make if they follow your guidance. (We’ll cover this more in Skill Set #2: Business Acumen).

Anthony again: A successful sales career is built around customers who believe you care about them — who recognize that your top priority is their gain and not your own.

Action Step: On your next call with a client, pay attention to how much you talk about your agenda/product vs. listening for your customer’s problems.

Mindset #3: Resourcefulness

Most of us would agree our present world of work is not the same as our grandparents’.

Our parents and grandparents had jobs where they showed up, put in the effort and got the desired result.

But Anthony points out that the world we live in is constantly changing. We can no longer rely on established protocols to inform us. We must solve problems we’ve never encountered all the time.

This means we need to depend on our creativity to get us through.

The old proverb says: Necessity is the mother of invention.

In sales, this means that by finding innovative answers to your customer’s needs, you’ll stumble on some pretty ingenious ideas. If you’re willing to try something different to get the attention of a challenging prospective client or to search for a new solution to a problem you’ve never seen before, you’ll succeed in an ever-shifting playing field.

The higher-level mindset of resourcefulness is key to making money in today’s working environment.

Action Step: Consider one of your client’s problems. Blend your imagination, experience and knowledge to come up with a unique solution.

Skill Set #1: Prospecting

If you have a business, then you’re a sales organization.

As a sales organization, you need to a) create opportunities and b) capture some of those opportunities.

In other words, you need to prospect.

Anthony describes prospecting as asking and answering a series of questions.

First: Who are the kind of people or the kind of companies that have the kind of problems that I can solve?

Next: How can I find them?

Finally: How do I initiate a conversation with them to discuss how to get a result that they can’t get without me?

The more time you spend prospecting, the better your business does. Conversely, the growth of your business is limited by your efforts to find new clients.

Make prospecting a priority and increase your sales.

Action Step: Spend 10-15 minutes answering the questions from this section… Who are the kind of people or the kind of companies that have the kind of problems that I can solve? How can I find them? How do I initiate a conversation with them to discuss how to get a result that they can’t get without me?

Skill Set #2: Business Acumen

Remember the other half of the two part recipe for a trusted advisor?

The first part is earning trust; the second part is giving valuable advice. To offer valuable advice, one of the things you need is business acumen. Anthony says we shouldn’t just be knowledgeable about our product. Salespeople need to understand the general business landscape and common business terminology.

Anthony shares a personal experience about building his business acumen. When he was first starting out in sales, he called logistics companies and asked them to explain “throughput.” Unsatisfied with learning just a conceptual idea, he sought to gain a deep, realistic grasp of what it was and why it was important. Then, Anthony used that knowledge to better assist his clients in that industry.

He says, “You can’t be a trusted advisor without the vocabulary and knowledge.”

That is a big charge. You must learn more, study more, and ask more questions to stay ahead of your clients.

Action Step: Choose a podcast, book or other publication to build your business acumen.

Skill Set #3: Change Management

For the longest time, closing has meant the final ask — when you ask your customer to sign a contract. At StoryBrand, we say this is like asking the girl to marry you.

Now, closing has morphed into change management. You’re inviting your client to make a series of commitments that will bring about change.

It’s more like dating.

Here’s a typical sequence of commitments to gain from your customer.

Commitment #1: Will you spend some time with me?

Commitment #2: Are you willing to explore whether change is necessary and why it might be so?

Commitment #3: Will you collaborate with me to build something that’s going to work for you or your business so you can get these results?

Commitment #4: How can we build consensus and bring your team together around these ideas?

Change isn’t easy, Anthony reminds us. Whenever you ask people to change, they get nervous as you go down the stretch.

Instead of having a “sign-on-the-dotted-line” mentality, look for ways to begin and build relationships through a series of commitments like collaborating, building consensus, and resolving concerns.

Action Step: Outline a series of commitments you can ask of your clients. Imagine ways you can add value each step of the way.

Skill Set #4: Storytelling

As you probably know, StoryBrand helps you understand and use the language of story to communicate with your customer. Humans have been telling stories for thousands of years and our ideas are derived from these best practices.

So I love that Anthony talks about storytelling as a skill set in sales.

Anthony agrees that storytelling captures our minds and that’s why it’s so important. But he points out that we’ve not always chosen the right stories to fit our clients’ experiences.

Salespeople have usually told simplistic stories in relation to the customer and product. In Anthony’s words: boy meets girl, boy falls in love with the girl, boy marries the girl, and they live happily ever after.

The problem with this story is it’s not very realistic when we’re helping people change, he says. Instead, the story should be more epic.

Anthony again: Your customers begin a journey. They encounter many difficulties and hardships. There’s a giant dragon. It’s too strong to fight. They have to change who they are to overcome it. At the end, they’re a different person than when they began.

Remember, what you’re really selling is a story of transformation.

When you tell a story that makes the journey look easy and omit the real challenges the clients will face, you’ll lose trust.

When you tell a story that makes the journey look easy and omit the real challenges the clients will face, you’ll lose trust.

On the other hand, when you talk about the major obstacles and give them the tools they need to overcome them, you’ll engender trust.

Honest storytelling engages your clients because they can actually see themselves transforming. When they trust you to help them change, you’ve begun a relationship that will help your customers and increase your revenue.

Action Step: Outline the plot points of your customers’ stories. List all the obstacles and difficulties they will face in the process of their transformation.

So are you ready to get out of your sales slump?

Anthony covers a total of 17 attributes in his book, The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need. But I think if you apply even the seven things we talked about here, you’re going to see a huge increase in sales.

As Anthony points out, selling is a process of framing your mindsets and building your skill sets. Take this knowledge to your sales team or your planner and I know you’ll make powerful connections with your customers and grow your revenue. Listen to the full podcast episode to get much more advice from Anthony Iannarino.

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Executive producer: Tim Schurrer
Additional production and editing: Chad Snavely

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