How to Close Sales Without Manipulating Buyers, with James Muir [Episode 364]

Joining me on this episode is James Muir, sales trainer, speaker, coach, and author of The Perfect Close. Among the many topics that James and I discuss are why bad sales practices still abound, essential questions to help advance your buyer along their buying process and how facilitating the buying process builds trust.

Key Takeaways

  • James wrote this book to help sales professionals that are uncomfortable asking for commitments in manipulative ways.
  • A majority of meetings with prospects conclude without the sales professional asking for a commitment. You need to go into any encounter with an idea of what you want the outcome to be. Use advancing questions, such as, “Does it make sense to X?”
  • Andy makes the connection to Neil Rackham’s Spin Selling, and asks if the prospect today still needs to be prodded from stage to stage.
  • Asking, “What’s a good next step?” may reveal internal procedures that need to occur before anything external. That tells you where they’re at in their buying process.
  • 50–60% of qualified opportunities end in no decision because sales professionals make assumptions without making a compelling case to change the status quo.
  • Advancing questions show at each step if more justification is needed before going forward. Complex sales, particularly, may slow from insufficient justification.
  • Endowed progress means that the closer one is to achieving a goal, the more one accelerates toward the goal.
  • Commitment consistency is a propensity to sustain commitments, based on the psychological need to maintain internal coherence. Robert Cialdini addresses this in Influence.
  • James tells about a client who refused to work with a sales rep ‘with commission breath.’ Closers who serve themselves are not serving the customer. Be a facilitator.

More About James Muir

What’s your most powerful sales attribute?

People share stuff with me.

Who is your sales role model?

Mahan Khalsa, author of Let’s Get Real, or Let’s Not Play.

What’s one book that every salesperson should read?

Consultative Selling: The Hanan Formula for High-Margin Sales at High Levels, by Mack Hanan, or Amp Up Your Sales: Powerful Strategies That Move Customers to Make Fast, Favorable Decisions, by Andy Paul.

What music is on your playlist right now?

Virtuoso guitar players of all different styles. Today it’s Joe Satriani’s, “Surfing With the Alien.”

Episode Transcript

Andy Paul (0:35)

It’s time to Accelerate. I’m your host, Andy Paul. Join me as I host conversations with the leading experts in sales, marketing sales, automation, sales process, leadership, management, training, coaching, any resource that I believe will help you accelerate the growth of your sales, your business and most importantly, you.

(1:57) Hello and welcome to Accelerate. I couldn’t be more excited to talk with my guest today. Joining me is James Muir. James is a sales trainer, speaker, coach, and more pertaining to the point of what we’re going to talk about today, author a great new book out called, The Perfect Close. James, welcome to Accelerate.

 

James Muir (2:17)

Great to be on here, Andy.

 

Andy Paul (2:18)

So, take a quick minute, introduce yourself, maybe tell us how you got your start in sales.

 

James Muir (2:24)

Well, I’m actually an accidental salesperson. I started out as an operations person in a family owned revenue cycle management business. And I would often go out and help sales reps. And then we acquired a business in another region. And we needed an operations person who could also sell. So, I got drafted into that done. So basically, I was this technical person in sales, and you can only imagine what that might be like. And I was very anal process oriented. And so, I literally created this schematic diagram that of the sales process. And I would say, “oh, the customer is going to do this, and I’m going to do this.” And literally, I would give that thing to customers. That’s how anal I was. And that did not go over well always so. But that gives you a little feel for the way I was at the beginning.

 

Andy Paul (3:16)

Well, we all start somewhere, right? I mean, I’m one of these people, huge believer, as you probably know. If given a choice to hire a person who has no technical background versus a person who had a technical background, give me the technical background every day.

 

James Muir (3:31)

I agree with you on that. I heard you ask somebody else that earlier today. And I think it’s easier to teach a technical person how to sell because it’s a simpler set of things than the domain knowledge that you get. So, you and I are in agreement on that.

 

Andy Paul (3:46)

Yeah. Well, most people aren’t so, we got we’ll be in violent agreement about that. So, let’s talk about your book, The Perfect Close, which as we’re speaking is sitting at the top, or near the top of Amazon bestseller lists for what category? Sales Marketing?

 

James Muir (4:03)

Yeah, Sales Marketing.

 

Andy Paul (4:04)

Excellent work. So, it was a very excellent book and you did a great job on. So, what was the impetus to write the book?

 

James Muir (4:11)

Well, as a manager, I discovered in some salespeople, and a lot of non-sales executives, that there was a problem. And I could relate to that problem having been drafted into sales, like we talked about, and that is that they were uncomfortable or just didn’t know what to say when it came time to get a commitment. So, the net effect is they were either saying the wrong stuff, or they basically weren’t asking for any kind of commitment at all and their meetings. And so, the approach which, you know, is just a simple two question process, it’s no pressure, 95% effective, it’s either going to advance the sale or we’ll get to close on.

 

Andy Paul (4:48)

Okay, as you are aware, there’s no shortage of new sales books that are written every year. And there’s hundreds of not thousands of sales blogs. There’s I’m sure some a large number of sales podcast, of course, the only one to listen to is this one. But what is your take that’s so different? How do you stand out in this crowded field? It’s great that you’re getting sales now. But let’s say a month from now, when the next one has come out, what’s going to keep us front and center for people? What are you saying that’s new and different?

 

James Muir (5:28)

Well, I think that there’s this core set of very dysfunctional closing techniques that just keep circulating around and around. And this is very different than that. In fact, I think it may have named the book wrong because I can’t even tell you the number of people that have written me and said, “you know, when I bought this book, I thought it was going to be a cheesy closing book. And it turned out to be something totally different.”

 

Andy Paul (5:51)

Which raises the question, if they thought it was going to be a cheesy closing book, why were they buying it?

 

James Muir (5:57)

Well, I think the need is definitely there. I know for myself, students and from the people that I’ve worked with, the need is definitely there. But just to go for the title, I named it that way because I thought that’s how they’d find it, they would be looking for something like that. But the truth is, is very different. I cover a number of different types of closes that are in there, and there’s definitely some mess but most of it, literally in the 95% range of the standard, if you were to do a Google search on closing techniques, literally 95% of them are going to be manipulative in some fashion, it’s going to be an alternate close or an assumptive close or, or something like that. And there’s maybe contexts where those work, but if people aren’t comfortable with them, then they don’t ask them. And statistically, that’s exactly what happens. Between 50 and 90% of all sales encounters, no commitment question is asked at all. So one of the needs that it’s addressing is we’re creating a way to advance the sale in a way that’s congruent with the person, whether it’s a salesperson or whether it’s an entrepreneur, whoever it is, we’re making it easy and repeatable in a way that just makes it natural for them to do it. So that’s not the only thing it solves, but that’s a major thing that it solves.

 

Andy Paul (7:09)

Yeah. I’m glad you explained that, because that’s really the truth of the book. It’s really not about getting that ultimate commitment to an order, but it’s really about how do you work with the customer to keep advancing through their buying process with a couple of really simple common-sense questions. Interesting, in your first one, which I’ll preview them here is a quote, “doesn’t make sense to…”, whatever that next step is. It’s funny, such a simple, powerful question. I heard a speaker about a year ago, guy named Tim Wakil. I don’t know if you know Tim. He uses the exact same question. And for so many people, I was listening to him give a talk about it, and people’s eyes light up. It’s like, “that’s it?”, it’s sometimes revealed wisdom that is really right there in front of you all the time.

 

James Muir (8:06)

It is one of those things where when you read it, you go “oh, yeah”, right? Like it’s obvious, but yet you weren’t doing it before. And we can talk about the whole thing if that’s what you want to cover. But I think it’s important, regardless of the approach, you need to go into any encounter with an idea of kind of what you want the outcome to be, it doesn’t mean we’re going to try to manipulate our way into that, but just your idea of “well, what’s the ideal events that could happen here? And then what are some maybe alternates that we could go with?” And then that frames up that question that you just gave, “it doesn’t make sense to X”, we’re just going to insert one of our advances in there. And if that’s the one that they like, great, then we’re off to the races, we got it. If not, then we use that second question, which is, “okay, what’s a good next step?” Or we could use the suggestion where we say, “well, other people at this stage tend to do X, doesn’t make sense to do that.” And it’s just that simple. It’s so obvious

 

Andy Paul (9:00)

Well, use this term “advance”, coming from Neil Rackham and his work. If people don’t know Neil Rackham, he wrote Spin Selling and a number of other really excellent books about sales. But the thing that’s sort of interested me as I read through that, it’s not that I disagree with that idea of an advance, but I wonder if somehow this concept is beginning to become a little bit outdated. And that, presupposes that the prospect needs to be prodded to move from stage to stage. But I just wonder whether this is something that’s still relevant because I’ll give an example, I just finished reading this book called Absolute Value by two authors, Itamar Simonton and Emanuel Rosen. And the subtitle was, “What really influences customers in the age of nearly perfect information”. And really, the source of success. Takanammen and Amos Tversky, those guys wrote about decision science and so on is that people are really perfecting the art of gathering information, evaluating information, synthesizing information, that they don’t really need to be prodded. That they’ve embarked on this buying journey and they don’t need to be moved from stage to stage, they’re moving, sometimes we need to catch up with them.

 

James Muir (10:28)

And I would agree with that. Actually, I’m a big fan of behavioral economics. So, I got to go get that book that you just suggested. So, let me make a confession. So, there’s five variations of The Perfect Close, and the fourth one is called “the reverse”. And the reverse is where we ask that second question first. So, “what’s a good next step?” is the first question instead of the second question, and for most of my career that’s exactly the question that I used. So, I think in the context that you’re giving me here, if the customer has good knowledge, or the perfect knowledge we think they do, we don’t need to be so prescriptive and what we think the next step might be, I think we can just leave it open; it definitely makes them feel a lot more in control, it makes us feel more like facilitators, and they see us more as consultants.

 

Andy Paul (11:14)

I thought we were going to argue about it. I think there’s still value in that question. Circling back to my point before is, so many of the sales books that are written it’s just rehashing same old stuff. You want to make sure that what we’re talking about has real relevance to the sales, how buyers are gathering and evaluating information. And to me, I think the value of those questions are, even if you’re not as prescriptive for the customer, it’s how you as a salesperson understand where the customer is.

 

James Muir (11:50)

Well think about it. If we asked them what’s a good next step? That is a very wide-open question, right? So, when they start to cognate on it, they might think that the next step is something that you do but it’s very likely that it might be something that happens internal to that organization, and they’re going to reveal that to you. And then that tells you where you’re at in their buying process. So, of all the options, it’s the one that I use the most. But I’ve worked with a lot of salespeople over time, and they like the idea that they go in with an idea of what they might suggest, and it’s perfectly okay, because we can always just fall back to the what’s a good next step and then pace it. But no matter what model you use, it’s really comfortable for the customer, because we’re moving at the rate that they’re trying to move at, we’re matching it. So, I think that’s what makes it better.

 

Andy Paul (12:36)

Well, I think one of the key things about what you suggest with these questions is, “yeah, does it make sense to whatever that next step is, and what is the good next step?” Is that you’re unveiling where they stand, right? And you want to become a habit, as you sort of talked about in the book, and I believe this is your core behavior, for salespeople is to be able to ask these questions every meeting. Because it’s not necessarily about commitment, it’s about understanding. And that’s where we operate as salespeople, we operate with so much assumption at all times, right? If you look at a standard pipeline, and for this environment, you should read the statistics that people listening to the show are probable tired of hearing this one is, 50 to 60% of deals, qualified opportunities, end up in “no” decision, the dreaded “no” decision, the worst possible outcome you could possibly get in my mind, and part of it is because they’ve got people, these prospects in the pipeline, and they’re just assuming what’s going on without really knowing.

 

James Muir (13:47)

You’re right on the money. If we think about that, why do we lose the “no” decision so much? Well, it means that the “why change” question never got answered.

 

Andy Paul (13:56)

Well, we never gave him a compelling reason to just say “yes”. The investment risk reward ratio outweighed the benefits of staying with the status quo.

 

James Muir (14:05)

We never dealt with that at the very beginning. And if we skip that step, you can invest a ton of time in a deal that’s going to go nowhere. Because ultimately at the end, when they have to justify whatever you put out there as a proposal, if they didn’t do it at the beginning, why change? “Oh, there’s a costly problem here I need to solve”, then you go through your whole process. Well, at the end, they take the step where they justify it. If they haven’t done that at the beginning, and they do it at the end, and they go, “oh, man, I don’t know.” So, if we’re not answering the “why change” question at the very beginning, then you lose to “no” decision, you’re not losing to a competitor, they just decided, “you know, we will just stick with what we got.”

 

Andy Paul (14:41)

Well, I think the reason that I think your questions become so interesting and need to become a habit forming is that you’re going to learn at each step of the way whether you need to continue to justify. That to me, justification changes from the beginning to the end. The act of selling to the prospect changes their needs, it should change their needs. If it doesn’t, you’re doing a horrible job of selling to them. So, by definition, your justification is going to evolve over time. If you don’t get a good answer to your questions, it doesn’t make sense to whatever the next thing that you think makes logical sense to do. You’re going to surface that hopefully very quickly.

 

James Muir (15:19)

Agreed, and it’s going to come up. And in that way, we’re just helping them navigate this process. Because we asked that question today, but two weeks from now, after several meetings, and whatever else has happened, some change in the economy, we could get very different answers. And that’s why I think it needs to be continuous like you say.

 

Andy Paul (15:35)

And also, what you suggest doesn’t make sense to them, they may never have thought of it. I mean, the reason why make sure you get in the habit of asking, because you might have in mind some sort of next step, some sort of commitment to the next step they need to take. And, I can think of many times in my career where I’ve asked my customers like, “why are you suggesting that?” And it could be because I had a sense that we hadn’t really justified, perhaps the investment that they needed to make based on the ROI that they could get. So, it was an opportunity to go back and go through that.

 

James Muir (16:13)

And there is a chance there to add value, because especially with very complex purchases, in some people’s cases, a client may make a decision like that kind once in a lifetime. They’re not good at it. And as professional salespeople, we experience it on a regular basis. So, we see the process that other clients go through a lot more frequently than a client may see, that only happens once in a lifetime or twice in a lifetime. So, when we suggest a possible advance or a thing to do, we’re potentially adding value at that moment, because the path is not as clear to them as it is to us.

 

Andy Paul (16:52)

So, let me ask a different set of questions that also came to mind as I was reading the book, and not just yours, but others as well, but really crystallized because you had such a clear and easy way for sales reps and sales professionals to ask, “what’s going to happen next?” And, “what should happen next?” Is the sort of supposition that salespeople have a hard time asking for commitment. And I know that’s sort of the legend that we also hold, but is it really true?

 

James Muir (17:24)

I don’t believe that myth at all, actually. I’ve actually got a special report on the website. It’s seven deadly myths. And that’s one of the myths, is that salespeople fear asking for commitment, but they don’t. They don’t fear asking for commitment nearly as much as they fear damaging trust in their report, that’s the real concern that they have. So, if we can address their concern about damaging trust or damaging rapport, they’re all too ready to ask for commitment, because they’re asking for the commitment. We’re coaching the customer essentially. Maybe I can just zoom out for a second and say– if you think about when we’re trying to make a change, we would love to have a coach help us move forward at our pace, whatever paces is appropriate for us. Well, we’re helping them do that, right? The key is just to give a little thought, as to what might help this client get there. And then we might suggest those, and while we might not get the pacing right, exactly, just the preparation helps us do that. And, and so the client is engaging us because they’re trying to make some positive change out there, they’re expecting us to be that coach. And they want us to guide them through each of these little commitments that takes to reach their ultimate goal. And so, in my mind, advancing the sale is much more than selling its leadership. We’re guiding them. And most salespeople could do a lot better job of coaching and serving their clients and they’re doing today, and that’s the challenge. Really, the book is, be a better coach, be a better problem solver, be a better teacher, so we can serve clients better.

 

Andy Paul (18:59)

You use the term which I use. I had an episode about two weeks ago; sales leadership, in my mind starts with the salesperson. You need to inspire; your job is to inspire your prospects to take that journey with you.

 

James Muir (19:17)

It’s selling a service. We’re helping them. That’s the way I see this whole thing, they’re trying to get somewhere, but it’s not clear to them how to get there, because if it was clear to them, they wouldn’t need us, right? They wouldn’t even be there if they could figure out how to get where they want to go.

 

Andy Paul (19:32)

And the book I talked about, The Absolute Value, increasingly they are, right? So, one of the things that they talked about, and they talked about from both a B2C and B2B standpoint, is that studies have shown, and they did some of this work, is that information that the buyer proactively develops or gathers, spurs them to act more quickly than if they’re on just the receiving end of information. So, they’re doing this calculation. I talked about it on my books about calculating this return on time invested in this particular task. So if they’ve practically gone out and gathered information, as increasingly they can do, and filter it, and sort it, and find out exactly with a much greater degree, the customers can understand what it’s like to use your product or service before they ever talk with you, or talk with your salespeople. Yeah, they’re more likely to act. And so another great reason to make sure that every time you’re interacting with those prospects you surface the questions that you recommend is that you get the understanding where they are, you understand if you’re still in the running searches. Which is really important because, they could be moving much faster than you are, and they could be moving faster with your competitor than they are with you. And asking questions is going to help you understand where you stand.

 

James Muir (20:54)

Bingo, that’s right. We’re right back to that pacing, we want to move at the speed of they’re ready at. Interesting thing, and I don’t know what they call in your book, but there’s a phenomenon called “endowed progress”. And that is, the closer that a person gets to a goal, they accelerate their efforts to get to move. If you think you’re getting closer to the outcome that you want, you tend to ramp up your efforts to get there even faster. And so that’s why this question is very relevant, because as we get closer, maybe it’s with another vendor, and they’ve mentally moved to another stage that’s faster than we might anticipate. Keeping up with the questions obviously, lets us know “oh, we need to ramp up our efforts to help them out.” And of course, the flipside can happen too, if something jumps in the way and we have to take a step back because the other environments changed or something.

 

Andy Paul (21:44)

Well, you bring up an important point, you talked about to two concepts from a psychology standpoint. Cialdini talks about these in his books on influence, the consistency principle and then the sent-out progress. So, want to spend a minute and talk about those.

 

James Muir (22:01)

The commitment consistency is where once you make a commitment to something, then there’s a strong propensity to want to maintain or sustain that commitment.

 

Andy Paul (22:12)

Well, psychological need to maintain psychological coherence within yourself. That’s where consistency comes from. If you’d read Cialdini book on influences, it gives an example of prisoners of war, suborn American prisoners of war in Korea, suborned by their Chinese interrogators to write letters, sort of saying, “the war was unjust.” And, when they got home after the war, they did a study and found out that many of them still sort of maintain that attitude just because of that need for consistency.

 

James Muir (22:44)

And then that the flip side of that is, “endowed progress”, that we talked about. So, once they decided they’re going to move forward, and then we explained to them “well, you’re making progress”, then it creates this virtuous cycle where one tends to feed the other one. An interesting little sidebar about the endowed progress is, the perception of progress is as effective as actual progress. And a really simple example that you may have experienced in your encounters is, if you go to a store of some kind, like Starbucks, and they give you a reward card, and it has 10 holes on it, and they punch five for you, even though you didn’t buy five drinks. And so, what they’re doing there is they’re making you feel like you’re closer to that 10th one. And so, you’re more likely to continue to use the service. Very simple example of endowed progress. We can do the same thing.

 

Andy Paul (23:39)

I think it also brings into play the reciprocity principle too. We have the psychological need to repay people for favors they did for us. By giving us the extra ones, they are basically also cementing our need to reciprocate.

 

James Muir (23:53)

Exactly right. Very interesting

 

Andy Paul (23:56)

I think the other thing too, I think in in concept of “advance”, I know it came from Rackham. I don’t know if you’ve read David Allen’s book about time management. But he’s got this concept in there about the very next physical action that needs to be required. And to me, this is always a great way to frame it for salespeople, is to think about, what’s the very next physical action the customer needs to take at this point in time? And once you identify that, then that fills in that blank and your question, when it makes sense to– what’s the very next physical action that you want them to take?

 

James Muir (24:35)

Yes. And that’s the whole point of the planning process that we go through before you go in there to have your conversation. We’re not asking for a long planning session, just a little bit of time to think, “okay, well, what’s next?” Like you said, “the next most immediate step for this client.” And that doesn’t mean that’s the one we’re going to go with, but it’s the one we’re going to suggest because it’s the logical one, right?

 

Andy Paul (24:57)

Yeah. So, let’s talk a second about– you acknowledge traditional closing techniques are ineffective. But yet, there’s still wide swaths of our profession, the sales profession, where managers are still hiring sales reps to these outdated stereotypes, “I need to get a closer”, right? I mean, look at the growth of inside sales. A perfect example especially a lot in the tech industry, we have our sales development reps and we have closers. This is what they talk about, the count execs being the closers, right? So, “we need to hire closers.” And yet, many of those industries, the close rate are abysmal, at least by standards that I would consider acceptable. So, why are we still clinging to this vestiges of the same sort of stereotyped quality salespeople should have? When overwhelmingly the research is saying that they just don’t work anymore.

 

James Muir (25:56)

My personal opinion is that most of your managers are uneducated, they don’t know those facts. As someone who has hired many salespeople, and had many interesting experiences trying to find the ideal person, right? Is it a closer is not? In fact, I’ll tell you an interesting story I had with a “closer”. I had a client called me up and said, “I don’t want to work with this rep anymore. We want another rep”, and I said, “well, tell me what’s going on”, and he says, “well, every time I talk to this guy, he has–” and I will never forget this phrase, “he has commissioned breath.”

 

Andy Paul (26:33)

That’s in your book. Great expression.

 

James Muir (26:36)

In my mind that completely captures it, right? So here we had this closer, but he wasn’t thinking about the customer or trying to help the customer, he was thinking about what was in it for himself. And that backfired, right? He no longer had a client he could service after I received the call from this client, “I don’t want to work with that guy.” So that’s just a completely outdated perception of what is needed out there. And in fact, those self-oriented approaches to closing, they do backfire. And there’s plenty of data on that, I supply plenty of that in the book. And there’s more that I didn’t even include in the book.

 

Andy Paul (27:13)

Yeah, and there is, for reasons we’ve mentioned earlier, there is new research that’s coming out. In that book I mentioned, The Absolute Value, customers become more self-sufficient and independent in the way they gather information about prospective purchases. The power of the conventional closing techniques or tools of persuasion are “diminishing”. And they’ve done studies and tests with people and so on to show that that is absolutely the case. Not that their value is completely gone, but they are diminishing bit by bit, and some cases faster than people expect.

 

James Muir (27:51)

I think the new role for salespeople is more as facilitators and helping clients take where they’re at from a knowledge and a domain understanding, and converging that with maybe a tool or a service or something that they’re not as familiar with, and how to get from point A to point B, I think that’s the role of the new salesperson. They don’t need people to force them to make a decision or try to manipulate them into a decision. Those things actually proved to be counterproductive after the sale anyway. I think over time, attrition will probably cause those bad practices to go away.

 

Andy Paul (28:34)

It depends who’s being reduced, I guess. You bring up and you make reference to I believe, Amy Cuddy and work that she’s done. Her new book Presence talks about, when people evaluate other people, and they form the first perceptions, there’s really two traits they evaluate. And you call it warmth, I’ll call it trust and competence. And trust really comes first, before people evaluate competence, they got to make sure that they trust you. And if your default mode of operation is perceived to be all about yourself, to be self-centered to be all be about the close, when we get this done, so and so on so forth, that trust is never going to be developed.

 

James Muir (29:27)

Yep, it backfires. And it’s especially pointed in selling context, right? Because, they’re judging these two things. We’ll use your term, they’re judging trust, “can I trust this person?” What’s their intent, right? And then, “does this person have the capacity to do what they want to do? Do they have the ability to actually produce a result?” Well, when it comes to buying something, because in most cells, it’s almost impossible for a customer to get a complete understanding of what they’re buying, it’s that complicated. There’s no question that the salesperson could potentially take advantage of the customer. And for that reason, the customer knows that. That’s not a secret. And because of that they way trust far higher in selling situations than your capacity, your ability. So, if you’re banking on getting your sale, because you have the ability, or the competency that you have to solve the problem is king, you’re in for a rude awakening. Because even if you’re the one with the top competency, if they don’t trust you, the deal in most cases is going to be off.

 

Andy Paul (30:34)

In addition to which, they can they can independently assess competence, right? you go the website, you will go to LinkedIn discussion groups, you go to review sites, you go to a number of places, your own social networks, and tap people that worked with you. Lots of ways for people to assess your competence. Trust will require some interpersonal skills, interpersonal behaviors to start with that, if not present, as you said, no matter how competent you are, your odds of winning the business are diminished pretty substantially.

 

James Muir (31:13)

Yeah. And I got to thinking about applying that to this sort of wave of automation that we have coming into sales. And it’s why I don’t think that automation will completely replace salespeople, because you can’t get that trust components of those two things from a robot. Right? In fact, if you can get anything from a robot, you know that its job is to probably make a profit. That’s probably the only thing you could assume to be true. So, I think that that trust being such an important factor, especially in complex sales, bodes well for salespeople having careers, even though there’s a lot of people predicting that we’re all going to be out of work soon.

 

Andy Paul (31:54)

Yeah, I got the piped study from IDC saying by 2020, 20% of business to business sales reps will be out of work or, you know, doing some other career. I agree with you, I think that, “A”, it’s overstated. But “B”, if there’s a danger of it happening though it’s our own fault. Because it’s not just about trust, that’s certainly a big component. If you’re so self-centered, and we’re not service oriented, and we don’t have that ability to engender trust, then yes, that’s going to be a problem for us. And secondly, is if we don’t have the ability to add value and deliver value to the prospect now through domain expertise, insights, a long list of things that can constitute value. If we don’t continually try to improve ourselves to be able to deliver more value, then we’re also going to make ourselves vulnerable. But if we master those two things, those are uniquely human sales behaviors that maybe at some point in time, IBM Watson and other AI stuff can replicate, but it’s not going to happen within the next five years.

 

James Muir (32:59)

I think it’ll be tough. We didn’t spend any time talking about, I stole a little piece out of your Amp–, about yourselves adding value to every encounter. You and I see things exactly there. We’re training our customers every time we meet with them as to whether or not we are trustworthy and whether or not we can bring value. And now it’s important that we’re consistent and that happens every single time that we meet. And again, I don’t think computers, at least at this stage, are capable of doing that.

 

Andy Paul (33:30)

Yeah. All right, James, I know you listen to this podcast on a regular basis. So, no surprise what’s happening now. I’ve got my standard questions I ask all my guests. And the first one which you probably haven written out an answer for is hypothetical scenario. You’ve just been hired as the VP of sales at a company whose sales have stalled out, the CEO wants to hit the reset button, get things back on track. This has to start somewhere, you’re in charge, what two steps would you take your first week on the job that can have the biggest impact?

 

James Muir (34:02)

Well, the irony of this one is I had a friend at another group called me and asked to do this exact exercise not long ago. So, I’ll tell you what we did.

 

Andy Paul (34:10)

Well, make sure he listens to the show. We’ve got 300 answers.

 

James Muir (34:14)

Yeah, we’ll give him credit. So, what we did is talk to the existing customers to identify what the company’s real value proposition. My friend was a new guy, right? So, he didn’t know really what their solid value prop was. So, the key was just to go visit the customers and say, “okay, well, what do you say it is?” And then at the same time we did that we turned those particular accounts into reference accounts, because they were telling us where the value was and where they had received value. That’s the first thing. And then the second thing was, after getting some feedback from the existing sales reps, we crafted a messaging campaign around what we learned from the clients and then turn that into a campaign to a similarly targeted model.

 

Andy Paul (35:00)

Okay, great answer. All right. So now some rapid-fire questions. You can give me one-word answers or elaborate if you wish. So, when you James Muir are out selling your products and services, what’s your most powerful sales attributes?

 

James Muir (35:15

Just that people will share stuff with me. That doesn’t sound very powerful–

 

Andy Paul (35:18)

Building rapport.

 

James Muir (35:21)

Yeah, absolutely. Even in big groups I can get– usually when a group gets about 20 people, they stop sharing stuff with you. Yet they’ll still share stuff with me. I’m sure at some point they will turn off, but I have a good ability to get info. I personally think if the customer is not sharing the important info you need to solve the problem, then the whole buying process becomes really dysfunctional if they’re not sharing the information you need to solve the problem. So, it’s been very beneficial for me.

 

Andy Paul (35:51)

Okay, who’s your sales role model?

 

James Muir (35:54)

Without a doubt Mohan Khalsa, to whom the book is dedicated to. He is the one that taught me, and he is the author of Let’s Get Real. Let’s not play.

 

Andy Paul (36:03)

And so, other than that book, and other than your own, what’s one book every salesperson should read?

 

James Muir (36:09)

All right, other than Let’s Get Real. It’s an older book, but a fantastic book. It’s Mack Hansen’s book called Consultative Selling. Although I don’t mind telling you, I’m a big fan of Amp Up Your Sales, which is why you’re quoted in the book.

 

Andy Paul (36:27)

Thank you. Okay, last question for you, what music is on your playlist these days.

 

James Muir (36:33)

Well, I’m a guitar player. So, I listen to a lot of virtuoso type guitars.

 

Andy Paul (36:38)

Tommy Emmanuel?

 

James Muir (36:40)

Yes, absolutely. All different styles too, because I’m a player. So, I have probably eight different guitars from classical to electric. But today, it’s Joe Satriani, Surfing with the Alien.

 

Andy Paul (36:52)

Yeah, I remember listening to his first album. I had a friend who was really big into him back in the day. Yeah, I’m a huge fan of Hawaii Slack key guitar. That’s my part my write by.

 

James Muir (37:08)

Yeah, I love it I lived in Hawaii for two years. So, I have a ton of that around here.

 

Andy Paul (37:13)

Very good. Well, good. Well, James, pleasure to talk with you. How can people find out more about you and your book?

 

James Muir (37:20)

Well, probably the best way is just go to the website, which is puremuir.com. I’m very active on LinkedIn. I post four or five times a day. They’re also welcome to reach out via Twitter. And of course, if they’re interested in the book, it’s on Amazon, in paperback or Kindle.

 

Andy Paul (37:40)

Well James, again, thank you very much. And remember, friends, thank you for spending part of your day with me, and make it a part of your day, every day, to deliberately learn something new to help you accelerate your success. Some easy way to do that is take a minute subscribe to this podcast, Accelerate. That way you won’t miss any of my conversations with top business experts like my guest today James Muir, who shared his expertise about how to accelerate the growth of your business. So, thanks for joining me and until next time, this is Andy Paul. Good selling everyone. 

Thanks for listening to the show. If you like what you heard and want to make sure you don’t miss any upcoming episodes, please subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or stitcher.com. For more information about today’s guests, visit my website at andypaul.com.