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Anthony Iannarino on Sales Mastery & The 4 Levels of Value Creation

Anthony Iannarino on Sales Mastery & The 4 Levels of Value Creation

Today, I’m talking with Anthony Iannarino, a bestselling author and internationally recognized thought leader on sales, leadership, and entrepreneurship. His three privately held staffing firms serve some of the most well-recognized brands in the United States and generate annual revenues of $50M.

As if that wasn’t enough, Anthony is also the creator of The Sales Blog, one of the most respected online sales resources with over 60,000 readers each month.

In our chat today, we’re going to go deep into the mindset and skills you need in order to succeed at sales.

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Topics covered:

  • (01:01) – Background leading up to today
      • (01:06) – Anthony tells us about his first job in sales.
      • (02:24) – Describing his sales empire as it stands today.
      • (03:10) – Anthony shares details on his sales philosophy.
        • (03:30) – His unique differentiators.
        • (04:40) – Level 4 Value Creation.
          • (05:00) – Level 1.
          • (05:10) – Level 2.
          • (05:28) – Level 3.
          • (05:36) – Level 4.
          • (07:16) – What differentiates companies from each other within this ranking ladder.
            • (07:46) – Psychoactive framework.
  • (10:12) – Productivity and Mindset for Salespeople
    • (10:26) – Anthony discusses the mindset he had when he first got into sales leadership.
      • (12:41) – What kept his confidence high as he spent time building his audience and expertise.
    • (14:34) – The essential skill set of a successful sale person.
      • (15:42) – Mindset.
      • (17:19) – Closing skills ie. Commitment gaining.
        • (17:42) – Business acumen.
        • (17:55) – Change management.
        • (18:03) – Leadership.
    • (18:21) – Attributes needed for a successful sales organization.
      • (18:44) – Commitment to transformational change.
      • (19:37) – Maturity as it pertains to values.
    • (20:53) – Anthony’s opinions on the priority of sales and marketing within organizations.
      • (23:21) – What small businesses get wrong.
    • (26:05) – Action steps
      • (26:41) – Anthony’s guidance on where a small business should start to go pro with sales.
        • (26:46) – Components of a sales process.
        • (27:51) – Necessary methodologies.

Rapid-fire Questions:

  • (29:43) – What strategic sacrifices have you made in your life to achieve your goals?
  • (30:47) – What’s the biggest sales deal that you’ve ever lost and what did you learn from that?
  • (32:50) – What’s the best sales book that wasn’t written by you?
  • (34:02) – Which individual sales mentor has had the biggest impact in your life?
  • (35:32) – What was your number one takeaway from Harvard’s OPM program, and would you do it again?
  • (37:21) – What’s your number one piece of advice for someone thinking about writing a business book?
  • (39:35) – Are great sales people born or bred?

Resources mentioned:

Where to learn more:

To find out more about Anthony and stay in touch, check him out at his highly popular site, The Sales Blog.


Jordan: 0:00:00.0 Welcome closers. Today we have another episode of The Profitable Property Management Podcast coming at you. This is Season Two on sales.

I’m your host, Jordan Muela, and every week I interview world-class property management entrepreneurs and industry experts who share actionable insights to help you grow your property management empire.

0:00:17.5 Whether you manage 100 units or 1000, this broadcast is designed to help you see the big picture and give you the tools and tactics that you need to get to the next level.

0:00:25.9 Today, I’m talking with Anthony Iannarino, a best-selling author and internationally recognized thought leader on sales, leadership and entrepreneurship.

0:00:35.1 His three privately held staffing firms serves some of the most well-recognized brands in the United States, and generate annual revenues of over 50 million dollars.

0:00:43.2 And if that wasn’t enough, Anthony is also the creator of The Sales Blog, one of the most respected online sales resources with over 60,000 readers each month.

0:00:53.7 In our chat today, we’re going to go deep into the mindset and skills you need in order to succeed at sales.

0:00:58.9 Welcome to the show Anthony.

Anthony: 0:01:00.2 Thanks for having me.

Jordan: 0:01:01.6 Anthony, I want to start here. What was your first job in sales?

Anthony: 0:01:06.1 You know what, I had a lot of time to think about that over the past couple years as I’ve been writing books.

And I really thought that it was when I went into the family business at 19 and I was told to make cold calls to find new customers.

0:01:18.4 But the longer I’ve thought about this, the more I remembered that when I was a kid – I was about 15, and I got a job for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and my job was to cold call and to help people set up a bike-a-thon to help raise money for Muscular Dystrophy.

0:01:36.6 And I didn’t particularly love that job. I didn’t hate it either. I made calls, I followed a decent script and when I quit I went to work at a skating rink.

0:01:46.3 Which, at 15 years old was a lot more fun than making cold calls. Just because everybody there was my age and we had a really good time.

0:01:55.3 But about two weeks after I started that job I got a call back from the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the group that I was making cold calls for, and they said, “We would like to ask you to come back and we’re willing to offer you a pay raise to do that. Of all the people that we’ve had here, you’re the only one that has two bike-a-thons going on right now.”

0:02:14.2 And I didn’t know that that happened. I had no idea. But there was absolutely no idea I was leaving my much more fun job at a skating rink to go back to making cold calls. 0:02:22.5 So that was my first job.

Jordan: 0:02:24.2 Alright. So you got started in the non-profit sector. Fast forward to today, can you describe your sales empire as it stands today? What keeps you busy?

Anthony: 0:02:33.3 A lot of things. And I still help run and manage the family businesses at Staffing. I have a speaking business where I spend a lot of time, you know, travelling around and speaking to generally large sales organizations that are trying to move away from being transactional to being more consultative.

0:02:53.0 I do some work coaching consulting in that particular area. I write books. I do a podcast. I write a blog post daily. 0:03:02.3 I’ve got a YouTube channel called, Every Day. 0:03:05.4 And I’ve got three kids, so I’m continually busy taking care of all of those things.

Jordan: 0:03:10.1 I believe it. So, can you – for our audience who doesn’t know, can you just kind of describe your background in terms of philosophy of sales?

Just give us a little bit of the feel of like, the overall sales landscape and where you fit in it. In terms of B2B, B2C, vertical, how you approach things. What’s unique about your sales philosophy or perspective?

Anthony: 0:03:30.0 Well, I mean, I think probably the thing that makes me most unique in my particular space, is I’m a practitioner.

0:03:36.2 And there a lot of people that do research and there are a lot of people that have ideas and opinions and they write about them as it pertains to sales, but they’re not running a sales organization.

0:03:46.1 You know, they’re actually doing consulting and doing those things without actually knowing what it’s like to sit across from a client or help people who are sitting across from a client everyday. 0:03:56.3 That’s I think the huge differentiator.

0:03:58.8 A couple other things that I would say differentiate me – and I’ve got a couple friends that are like this too. Jeb Blount’s like this and Mike Wineberg’s like this.

We worked for businesses where you were already commoditized. 0:04:11.1 You’re in a competitive displacement business, which means for me to win business, you have to lose your client.

0:04:16.6 And that means that there’s a certain amount of value creation that has to happen for somebody to say it’s actually worth changing and I’m going to go ahead and take that activity.

0:04:25.8 So I think that my particular view has been shaped by competition. How do you win? How do you beat larger, better resourced, better financed competitors? How do you go after the largest companies in the world and take them away from their current supplier?

0:04:40.6 And that’s probably what’s defined the philosophy. And the philosophy, if I had to give it a name, I would just call it, ‘Level 4 Value Creation’.

0:04:48.4 Because what I’ve figured out is that the reason that sales people and sales organizations struggle generally, is because they don’t create a compelling differentiated value.

0:05:00.2 And Level 1 just means I have a commodity. So I talk about features and benefits, I show you a slide deck with my company’s history. 0:05:06.2 I tell you about me and what I want to do and I share products and services with you.

0:05:10.9 So Level 2 builds on that and it says I’ve got good services, good support. So I can give you a good experience, a better experience than product alone. Both of those two are not a high enough level of value anymore. 0:05:24.1 And it’s why mostly we get ignored when we call and ask aspects for their time.

0:05:28.3 Level 3 is where we’ve been selling for about 30 to 40 years. It means I can get you tangible business results and I can prove an ROI.

0:05:36.1 But Level 4 means I’m strategic.

And so, my philosophy is that I have to come in and already occupy the space of trusted advisor. 0:05:43.7 I have to be able to create a preference to work with me because I have a better and a clearer view of your future than you do or my competitor does right now.

0:05:52.5 I have the ideas and the insights and I know how to actually move you from where you are to a better state.

0:06:00.0 And that’s my philosophy, is that you really have to come in from that level of value. You don’t try to grow your way to that value, because when you show up as a 1, people immediately think you’re a commodity and they say, “I know what to do with you, talk to my purchasing people.”

0:06:11.5 When you come up and show up as a 4, then people have to deal with you. They have to say, “What is it that you’re saying? What is it that needs to change? How are we supposed to do that? Why do we have to do this now?” 0:06:23.9 You’re answering a much higher level question.

Jordan: 0:06:26.2 Gosh, I love that. So, what’s notable to me here is that what you’re talking about is not a tactic or a thing to do to people, it is a way of being that actually delivers on the reality.

0:06:39.8 By being at that Level 1, it’s not that people perceive you as a commodity, you are effectively a commodity. Fair to say?

Anthony: 0:06:47.3 Because you’re behaving like one, you are one. Yeah. 0:06:48.7 And so you’re leading to the other thing that I say continually, and that’s selling isn’t something that we do to people, it’s something that we’re doing for people and with people to help benefit those people.

0:07:00.6 And that really is the heart of why we come in where we do. We’re change agents and we have to help people change. 0:07:08.1

And when you believe it’s your job to help people change and produce better results, you just have a very different approach than if you think that you have to do something to people or make them buy something.

Jordan: 0:07:16.6 So, just ignoring the ‘how’ for the moment – of going from Level 1 to Level 4, what have you observed as the common thread of the ‘why’ of why organizations tend to be higher or lower up on those – that ladder that you described?

Anthony: 0:07:31.7 I would tell you that most of the people listening to this had no idea before I said that there were four levels of value, that there are four levels of value.

0:07:38.5 So they don’t know that that exists. 0:07:40.7 And no one’s ever told them, “That is Level 1. This is Level 2.”

0:07:46.6 But what I’m offering when I say that is called a psychoactive framework. 0:07:51.0 So, as I’m saying this, if you’re sitting here and you’re a thoughtful person, what you’re doing is you’re saying, “What level am I at with these particular perspective clients I’m calling on now? What are they perceiving me as?”

0:08:00.6 And when I say something like, “Jordan, I’d like to stop by, introduce myself and my services, tell you a little bit about my company and how we’re helping people like you”, what that other person on the phone heard was,

“Ok, you’re going to tell me about your company, that should be an interesting way to spend 25 minutes. And then you’re going to tell me about your products and services and hope that I see something there that I like. And then you’re going to ask me what’s keeping me up at night so you can try to illicit some sort of dissatisfaction that you can say, ‘You should change and we can help you’. I’ve already done that 30 times with 30 different sales people and it’s never been a good experience for me. So I’m going to say ‘no’ because you’re trading way too little value.”

0:08:41.6 But nobody has told anyone this because no one’s really laid out this case for, “Look, there’s four levels of value and where you start matters.”

0:08:49.1 But now that you’ve heard it, you’re starting to think this way because I infected you with a healthier belief than, “I should talk about myself and my company.”

0:08:57.2 And instead, you should talk about what should be driving change for this particular individual or this particular company. And you’re starting at strategy, because it’s the most interesting place to start the conversation.

0:09:07.1 Ultimately, you’re going to have a product and a service. You’re going to develop a solution, you are going to produce tangible results, but it’s which order we talk about these things that matters at the beginning of the process.

Jordan: 0:09:19.9 Wow. You have my attention. So let’s talk about the concept of advantage being competed away.

Market efficiency always taking the slack out of the market. Some of the things that you talked about – the way that a typical sales person might approach the interaction, are honestly still regarded as a value add. 0:09:35.0 “We’re going to be focused on you, focused on benefits”, etc.

0:09:40.2 Let’s talk about that from a marketing perspective. Content marketing is a classic example. People intuitively get it to, “Hey add more value before you actually ask for the sale.”

But what I find, is that the way that is done still tends to be fairly exploitative, meaning it’s really ultimately focused on what I’m going to get from it and that’s manifest in the govern – in how I govern how much content I’m willing to create via a blog post, podcast, etc.

0:10:07.5 In your career, in talking about sales, you have effectively become a master content marketer.

0:10:12.4 Can you talk to me a little bit about the mindset that you had when you initially approached getting into sales leadership and how long you had to lean into that before you actually saw any rewards coming back from it?

Anthony: 0:10:26.7 It was December 28, 2009 and I sat down with my wife and I suggested to her that I was going to make a massive adjustment in my life and how I spent my time.

0:10:39.5 And I wanted her to be aware of it. And I explained to her that I’d been watching, particularly Seth Godin 0:10:45.2 and the work that he was doing with his blog, which is exceptional. 0:10:49.9 And he’s been blogging far longer than I have.

I decided that I was going to blog daily and I told her,

“I’m going to write a blog post daily. I’m going to share all of my insights fearlessly. I’m not going to withhold anything, any idea, any concept, anything that would create value for other people. And I’m going to start describing to people the world that I see and what it means for people. And I’m going to do this without regard for whatever happens on the other end. 0:11:17.1 But I intend to be speaking at major conferences.”

0:11:19.7 And I gave her a financial number that I thought I was going to get for speaking at major conferences.

And I said, “I’ll be doing that within a year of starting this.”

And I’d literally changed my alarm clock from getting up at 6:30 in the morning and I started getting up at 5:00 in the morning and spending the first hour and a half on content marketing specifically.

0:11:42.4 And, within ten months I got the first call. And the first call was, “We’d like you to come and speak to our sales organization and keynote our sales kickoff meeting.”

0:11:50.8 So, it didn’t take me a year. Actually it did take me a year. If we’re being technical, it was exactly a year later that I spoke on that stage. A year and two weeks.

0:11:59.5 But it took ten months before I started to get the results where people started to recognize what I was suggesting and started to engage with me around how we could do something together.

Jordan: 0:12:09.1 Wow, amazing. Ten months. So ten months either sounds like a lot of time, or a little time depending on the associated reward. And maybe that’s a big part of the difference.

0:12:19.4 If you’re perceiving some kind of an incremental 20%, 30% bump in business as a result of content marketing, then that’s really going to – let’s just call it value creation in general. 0:12:29.1 That’s really going to limit the degree to which you invest in that.

0:12:32.2 As opposed to, in your case, you were framing this as a life transformation kind of situation and therefore, maybe ten months didn’t seem so bad.

0:12:41.5 However, in the stretch of that ten months, did confidence flag at any point? Other than getting a speaking call ten months in, what kept you going for that long?

Anthony: 0:12:52.5 I’m too pig-headed to be dissuaded by ten months. I mean, there’s nothing, I mean, there was absolutely no way that ten months of effort was – with no call or no request for me to do anything for anybody, was going to stop me from doing what I was doing.

0:13:11.3 I had a long-term intention and a long-term plan. And this was the effect of me deciding what I want to do and how I create value for other people and then living that. So there was no way that I was discouraged at any time.

Jordan: 0:13:28.3 So can you just clarify the ‘why’ that you had at that point? Aside from just pig-headedness. The ‘why’ that you had at that point that was enough to keep you going.

Anthony: 0:13:38.2 Because I wanted to do what I was put on Earth to do.

Jordan: 0:13:40.8 I see.

Anthony: 0:13:43.0 And I realized that there was something that I was here for that was outside of what I was doing. And so I was dissatisfied with that part of my life and I decided to change it.

Jordan: 0:13:51.6 So it was an alignment issue. You got in alignment with what felt like was your calling and therefore the work just became – I guess the work became in and of itself a form of what you were trying to accomplish. Irrespective of any short term gains.

Anthony: 0:14:09.7 I wouldn’t say it was what I was trying to accomplish as much as it was me aligning with who I am. And I think the ‘who’ matters a lot more than the ‘why’.

I know the Simon Sinek that everybody’s out looking for their ‘why’. 0:14:24.0 But I would tell you that it starts deeper than that. It’s about your identity. Who are you? And the ‘why’ is a reflection of who you are.

Jordan: 0:14:34.3 Alright. I think I hear where you’re coming from. So let’s take off of this idea of pig-headedness and dive into the essential skill set in skills.

0:14:42.0 Regardless of B2B, B2C, vertical, what is the common thread of what makes a great and effective sales person?

Anthony: 0:14:50.6 I wrote a book about this. The first book that I wrote is called, The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need, which is a rather unfortunate title for a person that has a two book deal with an option on a third book.

0:15:01.7 And they’d already bought – Portfolio had already bought the second book when they bought the first book, so they knew it was a sales book on closing, so there wasn’t a – the title wasn’t exactly accurate.

0:15:13.4 But when you sell a book to a publisher, they get to title the book and they had strong feelings about it.

0:15:17.9 And the reason that they named it, The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need, is because if you were to say, “We have a book that’s a competency model for sales people”, people would yawn. 0:15:29.4 You know, who cares about a competency model. But it’s essentially a competency model and in that book I laid out, sort of two big halves of what this looks like.

0:15:37.9 The first half I call, ‘Mindset’ and the second half I call, ‘Skill Set’. 0:15:42.6 And mindset for me always proceeds skill set, because if you have the right mindset and the right attributes and the right character traits, selling is really easy.

0:15:50.6 And if you’re missing those things, then even if I give you all the second half of the book, you’re going to struggle.

0:15:56.0 So, the 0:15:55.4 [Inaudible] tends to include a lot of things that give people a lot of heartburn. Self-discipline. Can you keep your commitments that you make to yourself so that you have what Steven Covey called, ‘private victories preceding public victories’.

0:16:10.2 Do you have an optimistic future-oriented, empowered attitude that allows you to go out and help people make the changes that they need to make? Are you caring? Are you ‘other’ oriented? Are you somebody that looks to help other people? Are you competitive, resourceful, determined? Do you take initiative? Do you have good communication skills? Are you willing to be accountable for what you sell? 0:16:32.9 All those things precede the skill set in my mind.

0:16:35.3 So the first half of the book is made up of nine attributes that literally spell success in any endeavour, but particularly sales.

0:16:43.8 Because sales is the only game that we play in business where we get paid for winning and we get the penalty of not getting paid for losing.

0:16:52.7 So these attributes tend to be an enormous differentiator. They’ll help you in any role you are – in any role you possess in business.

0:16:59.9 But ultimately, in sales, they tend to come to the forefront more. 0:17:02.9 Are you resourceful? Can you come up with an idea that allows you to succeed? Do you take initiative? Are you showing up and challenging your customer to think about what comes next? Are you determined? Are you willing to be pig-headed and persist even though you get a no? 0:17:15.0 So those are the first half of the book.

0:17:19.8 The second half is closing, which is really commitment gaining. Because there’s not a single close anymore. There’s a series of commitments a client makes.

0:17:27.7 Prospecting. Are you disciplined enough to do that work?

0:17:31.9 Storytelling. Can you present a good story and a case for change?

0:17:35.8 Can you negotiate to claim some of the value?

Can you diagnose to come up with a good solution?

0:17:42.1 And then the three that I think are the dominant new skill sets for sales people over the last decade are going to be business acumen. 0:17:51.0 Do you have any idea how to help somebody else run their business or make good decisions?

0:17:55.7 Change management. Do you know how to build consensus and work with a diverse group of stakeholders to get them to do what they need to do on their side.

0:18:03.6 And then, finally, leadership. Those are all the things that I think sales people need to have now to succeed.

Jordan: 0:18:11.0 Wow, that was a mouthful. For those of you listening, you definitely want to check out the book. There was a lot of detail there. We’re not going to be able to go into all of it.

0:18:21.4 Let’s get the same, kind of, list of attributes on an organizational level. What are the things that you can quickly spot when you start a client engagement with an organization that tell you what you need to know in terms of what’s working and what isn’t at an organizational level?

Anthony: 0:18:33.6 There’s a couple things. At an organizational level, when it pertains to sales, specifically, there are a few things that tend to be critical.

0:18:44.8 The first thing that I would look for is the commitment of leadership to make transformational change.

0:18:52.1 And here’s how I can tell immediately whether or not that’s true, Jordan, when I’m speaking to an organization.

0:18:58.0 When I walk in to give a keynote, if the senior leadership leaves that keynote to have a meeting because they’re all together in Florida and they’re not going to listen to a speaker talk about sales because they think they know enough, I’m 100% confident they’re not engaged in a change process.

0:19:16.9 Because without leadership being committed to make their changes first, then the organization isn’t going to make change.

0:19:24.9 It’s a leadership problem more than it is a sales mindset or sales skill, because ultimately, if leadership leads that, they get what they want. If they don’t, they don’t. 0:19:35.6 It’s basically that simple.

0:19:37.2 The second thing is, I think that there has to be a maturity level to the organization as it pertains to values. How do we treat people? What are the rules of communication? Is there psychological safety?

0:19:50.3 Because I’m going to ask people to believe something different and I’m going to ask them to behave differently.

0:19:56.7 And if that doesn’t exist, if it’s a fear-based culture, if there’s a “my way or highway” kind of approach, there’s either “do it or get out”, that kind of value base there, then it’s very, very difficult to make change because those behaviours, again, will prevent people from being willing to take new action. And it will prevent change.

0:20:17.3 So there’s basically a whole bunch of rules for transformation too. Rules like, you have to be able to explain the burning platform to people so they understand why they have to change.

0:20:27.8 You have to go first and demonstrate those changes. So if the leadership team isn’t willing to do that, it’s not going to happen.

0:20:33.5 You also have to be able to establish new non-negotiables. “This is how we act now and anything else is now forbidden because this is the action that is going to lead us into our future.”

0:20:46.5 So, there’s a dozen or so of those rules that you can look for to say, “Are we prepared to make this kind of change.” But that’s what I’m really looking for.

Jordan: 0:20:53.7 So let’s talk a little bit about the organizational priority of sales. What it typically is, what it should be.

My general philosophy – I happen to work in the property management industry but whether or not you’re talking about property management, real estate, insurance, my general philosophy is that the best sales and marketing organization is the one that wins, not the one that is the best at, insert whatever the good or service is.

0:21:16.6 And yet, what we consistently see, particularly with small businesses, and maybe this is the same at scale in an enterprise setting as well, but particularly for small businesses, the sales and marketing function tends to be one of the most underfunded, non-professionalized, non-operational equivalency type aspects of the organization.

Meaning, the core skill set of producing the widget is viewed as being the primary skill set, the determiner of long-term success, and somehow sales and marketing is a little bit of a – is viewed as maybe as a novelty or a nice add-on.

0:21:52.6 It’s not given the same level of comeuppance in terms of being a part of the operational organization.

0:22:00.6 Have you experienced and seen the same thing? And if so, what’s your rationale for why that would be the case in light of the fact that it’s probably the single biggest driver of economic success for any business?

Anthony: 0:22:12.5 It’s not probably, it is. And it’s regardless of the quality of the product or service or your ability to execute. 0:22:21.3 And I call a lot of those people secret agents. I mean, you’re great at it, but nobody knows because you don’t sell and you don’t market.

0:22:28.3 So the reason that your business is small – the reason you have a small business is because you behave like you behave right now.

0:22:34.8 I didn’t say this, Peter Drucker said this, but he said, “A business exits to create customers.” That’s why a business exists. He didn’t say a business exists to do accounting work, or whatever their function is. The business exists to create a customer.

0:22:50.4 He also said there are a couple primary things that a business does and they tend to be innovate, and market. Those are the two things that businesses do. That’s what causes growth.

0:23:02 Innovation. So, can I create value than someone else in the market? And marketing? Can I go out and get in front of people with that message and acquire customers.

0:23:12.2 That’s Peter Drucker, probably the greatest – and I don’t think there’s any argument about this, the greatest management thinker of all time.

0:23:21.2 What small businesses get wrong, is they want to be an operator. And if you want to be an operator, that’s fine, because that’s your skill set, but you have to understand that it’s not the best operator that wins business, it’s the best sales force that wins business. It’s the best marketing that wins business.

0:23:39.8 So, if that’s not your skill set, then you have to find somebody who has that skill set and you have to give them the time and the resources, including money, and the energy to be able to do that work.

0:23:50.2 Because there are invariably – I’m going to try to say this in a way that makes sense to people that are listening to this.

0:23:57.9 So here’s how I would say this to you. There are people who have an inferior product in an inferior market with extremely – in extremely difficult headwinds that produce amazing results because of their salesmanship alone.

0:24:17.8 And then there are people with amazing offerings in a virgin territory where there’s a high interest in what they’re doing, who don’t succeed because they’re terrible at salesmanship and marketing.

0:24:30.9 So if you have to err on one side of those things, you’re better off being a great salesperson and a great marketer.

0:24:36.7 And if you’re not those things, then you need to find it. Because otherwise you will absolutely have a small business.

0:24:41.5 When I was at Harvard Business School they said this once and I wrote it down and I’ve kept it, “The way to have a really good small business is to just buy a big business and wait” because that’s all you have to do. 0:24:55.1 If you’re not growing then all you have to do is wait and you’re going to shrink. 0:25:00.0 So you want to over-index on the things that matter most and client acquisition is the key to growth. 0:25:05.8

Jordan: 0:25:05.9 Wow. Guys, we could end the interview right there and I’d be content. We’re going to keep going to dig in more, but really, I think that was the nut and the sum of it.

0:25:14.5 The priority that you give to sales and marketing is determinative on the overall growth of your organization.

0:25:20.5 If you’re listening to this podcast, it’s not just that you’re really into the operation side of things, it’s because you’re turned on by sales and marketing.

0:25:29.1 In terms of the proof of whether or not that is actually an organizational priority, that’s going to be manifested, obviously just starting off and whether or not you have any labour working in that capacity.

0:25:39.9 If you don’t have a BDM or you have no interest in hiring a professional sales person, you’re just relying on outsourced lead gen, outsourced marketing, it’s likely that you’re not that committed.

0:25:49.6 If you hired a BDM but you don’t train them properly. If you don’t take the comp model seriously. If you’re not thinking about the efficiency with which how they function. All of that is proof of the level of commitment that you have and the commitment is the first seed that all things come from.

0:26:05.0 I want to move on to the actual action items, Anthony. If somebody has that commitment and they want to actually put that into practice, can you talk to me about the difference between 0:26:13.7 sales– I’m sorry, the difference between 0:26:16.8 sales systems versus soft skills and how context impacts the priority of either.

0:26:25.0 Meaning, should I focus on my funnel and my CRM and speed to call? Or, should I focus on the offer? Scripts and dialogues. What’s your guidance for a small business on where to start in going pro with sales.

Anthony: 0:26:41.4 I’m a person who just – I reject all mutually exclusive choices just on principal right out of the gate.

0:26:46.4 So, it is – what is important? Is it having a sales process? Yeah. You have to have a sales process. And I would tell you, for a small business, if you look at how you’re winning business now and you reverse engineer that and say, — basically, if I wanted to just roll these up into a couple big categories for people who are listening here who may not be sales nerds yet.

0:27:11.2 You’re going to want to understand what targets look like and how I’m going to engage with them. So that’s one thing you have to deal with.

0:27:17.9 Then, you’re going to have to look at what makes someone qualified. So how do you make sure you’re not spending time with people who you can’t create value for. Who aren’t going to perceive the value that you create. One or the other.

0:27:27.3 And then, what does a discovery call look like? How do I understand their needs enough to know how to help them? That’s a big bucket. 0:27:34.4 How do I develop the right solution? How do I present that solution? How do we negotiate to capture some of the value that we create?

0:27:43.5 And then, how do we negotiate a contract and how do we close and win business? 0:27:48.4 So, if you just think of those things, that’s a process.

0:27:51.7 You also need methodologies though. So, there are methodologies for asking questions, like SPIN Selling. That’s a great methodology. There’s a methodology for thinking about insight. So you could look at Challenger Sale.

0:28:05.8 My book, The Lost Art of Closing, is a methodology for asking for all the small commitments, the lower-level commitments that lead to the final ask, which makes it very easy to get the final ask.

0:28:17.2 Because, if you do all the things that you need to do before that, it’s really, really easy to get that. 0:28:21.2 So, you need some methodologies.

0:28:23.0 You absolutely need playbooks that describe how does the conversation generally go. How do we open that at Level 4? How do we help people understand the case to change and how do we get them to commit to go through this process with us?

0:28:34.8 And so, everything is important, but I don’t want to scare people here to think about all the things that you’re missing. One always comes before two. And progress is always going to be better than perfection because there is no end to the work of developing what you’re doing in sales and marketing. 0:28:51.5. You’re going to continue to change it.

0:28:54.4 So, you start with one piece and say, “I’m going to start by outlining what we think our process looks like”, and don’t worry about it being wrong. It’s close enough for rock’n roll, you’re going to ahead and start, put it into action, you’ll make adjustments.

0:29:06.2 Pick a methodology, like Spin Selling for questioning. Do a little bit of work with that. Draft up a playbook, sort of based on how you think the conversation goes when you’re at your very best. And then later on you can start adding additional resources.

Jordan: 0:29:20.7 Wow. Love it. That was a really quick overview of basically the scope of levers that you have to manipulate.

And yeah, the dichotomy was a false one. All the above and more than that, as well.

0:29:34.9 I want to transition now to the rapid fire section of the interview. I just want to get some guttural answers from you on a series of questions.

0:29:43.0 And the first question is this: Anthony, what strategic sacrifices have you made in your life to achieve your goals? What are the things you’ve given up?

Anthony: 0:29:52.0 Well, the first thing I gave up was negativity. I mean, probably the most important thing to eliminate and unlearn is a set of beliefs that have been imposed on you by your parents, by your school system, by the media and now by social media.

0:30:07.7 So, the first thing that I got rid of was negativity. So I sacrificed all of the reasons and excuses to be distracted from what I’m here to do.

0:30:17.3 I watch one hour of television a week. So, I’ve given up most entertainment for education and for contribution and a commitment to what my work is supposed to be.

0:30:34.5 I’ve given up a number of things like that. But all of them, I can tell you, I don’t miss at all.

Jordan: 0:30:40.4 The results were worth it.

Anthony: 0:30:42.5 Absolutely. Worth it and more. I would pay more for what I have.

Jordan: 0:30:47.9 What’s the biggest sales deal that you’ve ever lost and what did you learn from that?

Anthony: 0:30:53.1 The biggest deal I ever lost? The biggest deal I ever lost was $25 million dollars. And it was an RFP and I knew I had a very, very low likelihood of winning it. And I engaged in it anyway.

0:31:10.1 But what I was confused by, was at the time, the purchasing manager said, “We want you to invest more in the relationship. And we want you to create greater value for us outside of reducing your price. That’s not what we’re looking for.”

0:31:28.6 And I pushed on that to make sure that that was actually true. And in the conversation I had, it appeared to be true and I built a solution that would have helped this particular customer tremendously in that particular world at that particular time.

0:31:43.9 And they went with the lowest bidder. So, I – even though I thought that I was hearing something that made sense, you know, it didn’t.

And I should have known better. And I think that the one thing is – the lesson that I would tell you, and I’ve learned this lesson probably five times in sales.

It’s one of these things that I continue to have to relearn. 0:32:05.5 Is, no matter what you’re hearing, no matter what it sounds like and no matter how much you believe it to be true, you have to go back and really push on that.

0:32:16.1 And what I should have said to that purchasing person at one time is, “If I increase the price of this for you by something close to 12%, but I reduce your costs by something closer to 25%, will you make that investment or will you go with the lowest price bidder? What’s your answer?”

I should have done that and I wasn’t as direct enough about it. 0:32:37.8 Because if he would have said there’s absolutely no way we’ll take a 12% increase over where we are now, then I could know that they weren’t serious and I would’ve spent my time somewhere else.

Jordan: 0:32:46.3 Wow. Love it! Love it. Great answer. 0:32:50.2 What’s the best sales book that wasn’t written by you?

Anthony: 0:32:55.1 There’s a lot of books that are better written than mine. There’s a lot. Let me tell you the couple that have had the biggest impact on me.

0:33:05.8 The best sales book that you can read, if you want to stick with mindset, on the first half of The Only Sales Guide, the only mindset book for me was 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

And it’s not a sales book, but it will probably do more to produce better sales results than most of the other books that you could read.

0:33:26.5 On sales, the books that have probably had the greatest impact on me have come from Neil Rackham. SPIN Selling, not because of the SPIN model but because it taught me about the advance and it allowed me to move from meeting to meeting to meeting, always gaining commitments and always moving a deal forward. 0:33:42.5 Which was transformational to my results.

0:33:43.5 But the second one that no one knows is called, Major Accounts Sales Strategy. And for B2B sales people, that book is spectacular. It gets none of the recognition of Spin Selling, but I would call it even more important. So, that’s the one that I would point people to.

Jordan: 0:34:00.0 Love it. We’ll definitely link those up in the show notes. 0:34:02.9 Which sales mentor? Which individual sales mentor has had the biggest impact in your life?

Anthony: 0:34:09.8 Which sales mentor? Ah, my mom. I worked for my mom in her staffing business.

She raised four kids by herself, she was petrified of making cold calls. Used to call time and temperature to avoid having to call clients and ended up being the number two sales person where she was and then started her own business.

0:34:31.6 And she was an example for me of two things. One: impossible to outwork. And there was no way – she got up and started working at six in the morning and worked until 10:00pm at night raising four kids by herself.

0:34:43.3 And I saw her do that every single day. So she infected me with her work ethic and her commitment to family. I got both of those from her.

0:34:50.4 But the second thing was that she developed the deepest relationships of trust to where she had an absolute right to every order and every single event that a prospective client or a client might have. And by doing that she had lifetime relationships, and still does.

0:35:09.5 Specifically because she had both the insight, the ability to help people and she had the relationship. 0:35:16.3 And so much of what creates a preference are intangibles, but she had all the intangibles and I got those from her.

Jordan: 0:35:22.4 Wow, I love it. So, truth be told, you had a little bit of a competitive advantage in terms of what was modelled for you.

Anthony: 0:35:28.1 Oh I had a great model. I mean, I had the best model I could’ve had in that regard.

Jordan: 0:35:32.1 I love it. 0:35:32.9 Alright, next question is, what was your number one takeaway from Harvard’s OPM program and would you do it again?

Anthony: 0:35:40.8 I would love to do it again. Many years later. Only because of the growth that I’ve had.

The number one outcome that I got there is a tougher question for me because there were different outcomes in different classes that I sort of took away.

0:35:55.8 I learned a lot from Max Bazerman in negotiation. Just in an exercise that he did at the beginning of the class where he auctioned off a $20 bill with a few rules.

0:36:04.6 The rule was you have to bid in increments of a dollar and the highest bid wins and the second highest bid pays whatever their bid was to Max Bazerman, the person running it.

0:36:16.6 And I learned a lot about sum costs within about 15 minutes, because the $20 bill was sold for $167 dollars and the number two person had to pay Baszerman $166 dollars. And he had made something like $17,000 at that point.

0:36:32.1 And I realized how much of the challenge that we have in business is all wrapped up in our ego. In our unwillingness to say, “I’m going to lose here so I’m going to bow out and I’m going to do something else where I can win.” And it was transformative for me.

Jordan: 0:36:49.2 Wow, that’s amazing. So, basically, the entirety of that bid between $20 and $167 was ego based.

Anthony: 0:36:56.9 It’s 100% ego based. And sum cost. So, if I give up now, I have to pay $19 dollars for a $20 that I’m not getting.

But you can only get worse from that point forward. There is no way to recover any money. And it took all the way up to $167 dollars for the number two person to recognize that it can only get worse from there. It can’t get better.

Jordan: 0:37:21.8 Wow, amazing. Next question, what’s your number one piece of advice for someone thinking about writing a business book?

Anthony: 0:37:30.3 The only thing I can say to somebody that’s thinking about writing a business book is, just understand that the editing process is a certain level of hell that you haven’t yet experienced.

0:37:46.4 And I spent the morning right before this call doing this, so I know. That you write something and it makes total sense to you and you think you’re delivering something that you’re not. And an editor asks you two well-placed questions and you go back and realize how much work you have to do to actually teach somebody an idea. 0:38:03.8 And to make it useful for them.

But I’m a practical, tactical guy so when I’m writing – what we’re writing is something that somebody can immediately put to use in their life. And the bar’s really high when you do that.

0:38:14.8 So I would just tell you to – for me, the joy of writing is unbelievable. I’m a writer, I love writing, I can’t imagine not writing everyday. The editing process? Exactly the opposite.

Jordan: 0:38:31.2 Got it. Ok. Noted. In terms of ROI, is it just obvious to you that writing a book was the write move? What’s been the outcomes from that? Have you seen pretty significant impact in terms of audience, etc.?

Anthony: 0:38:44.6 I think so. I mean, the first book and the second book together certainly did that. But I would tell you, the reason that you write a book is because you have something that you need to share with the world that you can’t live with yourself if you don’t produce it. 0:38:59.5 That’s the reason that you write a book. Everything that comes from that – I mean, if you write a book because you think, “I’m going to get this certain amount of credibility”, or “I’m going to get this certain amount of attention”, you’re going to be disappointed. 0:39:12.5 It’s a very, very – how do you want to say this?

Jordan: Labour of love?

Anthony: 0:39:18.1 There’s a lot of voices all talking, so it’s very, very difficult to cut through the noise with a book or an idea.

So you really have to be in love with the idea. And if you’re in love with the idea, that’s going to show more and it’s going to sustain the book better than deciding that it’s a way to get new clients.

Jordan: 0:39:33.7 I love that answer. 0:39:35.4 Final question of the interview. Anthony, in your opinion, are great sales people born or bred?

Anthony: 0:39:41.4 There again, you just gave me the mutual exclusivity there. And so, I have to reject that.

I will tell you that there are sales people that are born with so many of the intangibles that selling is extraordinary easy for them. They’re not afraid of people, they love other people, they’re deeply curious, they’re interested in other people.

They’ve got great personalities, people want to be around them, they generate a lot of trust and they were born that way. 0:40:09.8 And they develop that way through their whole life.

0:40:12.3 At the same time, there are introvert engineer types who don’t have those same intangibles but are very smart who engender a certain amount of trust and who can learn to execute a sales process who over-index on results.

0:40:25.4 So, there’s a couple things and again, we’re back to mindset and skill set. You can be taught and you can develop a certain set of attributes that make you easy to prefer in a contest when you’re competing for sales.

At the same time, you can have some of those that you were born with that you can just execute better than other people.

0:40:45.0 In addition to that, you can develop such a high level of business acumen and situational knowledge and understanding how to help buyers that you can also succeed in. I reject the idea that you should do one or the other.

0:40:58.8 My friend, Jim Keenan put up a video that you shouldn’t worry so much about being liked, you should worry about being credible.

And his point is, it matters that you have business acumen and that you give people good advice. But I push back on that because you should be likeable and you should have the business acumen and be credible at the same time. You shouldn’t try to choose one or the other because you’re being measured on all of that.

Jordan: 0:41:18.3 Wow. Fantastic. Nuanced answer. I want to thank you again for coming on the show. Guys, if you want to learn more, check out TheSalesBlog.com. Fantastic domain by the way.

Check out, The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need, as well as his most recent book, The Lost Art of Closing, and keep an eye out for, Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from your Competition. Thanks again for coming on the show.

Anthony: Thanks for having me.