How to Entice, Disarm, and Discover Your Clients, with Ian Altman [Episode 301]

Joining me on this episode of Accelerate! is Ian Altman, Founder and CEO of Grow My Revenue, best-selling author of two books, Same Side Selling: A Radical Approach to Break Through Sales Barriers, and Upside-Down Selling: An integrity-based Sales Approach to Avoid Being Predictable. Ian is also a sought-after keynote speaker, an expert in sales leadership and business growth, and author of articles featured regularly in Inc. and Forbes.

In this episode, Ian and I discuss understanding the problems your product solves for the customer, how to qualify your customer by enticing them, disarming them and discovering their needs, and how to preserve the integrity of your sales process.

Key Takeaways

  • Ian’s single most important piece of advice — you have to have a complete understanding of what problems you solve for your client, why they would buy from you, and why they wouldn’t.
  • Ian identifies the one behavior salespeople should master in the context of qualifying the customer.
  • When you get an inbound call, don’t start selling. Instead ask, “Wow! What inspired you to call us today?” They will tell you the problem they need solved, you don’t need to guess.
  • Ian says that in an outbound situation, clients are used to being lied to, so instead — Entice, Disarm, and Discover.
  • How Ian entices by sharing applicable problems his company has solved with dramatic results.
  • How Ian disarms by acknowledging that not everybody is the right fit for his firm.
  • Finally, how Ian discovers by asking, “If solving that problem is important, then I’m happy to learn more about your situation, to see if we can help.”
  • In summary, this process frames the situation to the 2 or 3 areas you can help, disarms the idea that you’re only there to sell, and triggers discovery to learn more about their situation and see if you can help.
  • Sometimes salespeople think every opportunity is good, and they get concerned by rejection. But not every opportunity is good. Less than half the people Ian meets are a good fit for him.
  • Ask yourself, if you were the customer, would you rather speak to a subject matter expert or a salesperson?
  • How do integrity and sales fit together? The salesperson with integrity understands they have the duty to tell the client if the product is not the right fit for them, even though they need the sale.

More About Ian Altman

What’s your most powerful sales attribute?

Disarming honesty.

Who is your sales role model?

One looking out for my welfare, as a physician does.

What’s one book that every salesperson should read?

Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers, by Jay Baer

Steal the Show: From Speeches to Job Interviews to Deal-Closing Pitches, How to Guarantee a Standing Ovation for All the Performances in Your Life, by Michael Port

What music is on your playlist right now?

Podcasts, and Van Halen or Billy Joel.

Episode Transcript

Andy Paul

Hello and welcome to Accelerate. I am excited to talk with my guest today joining me is Ian Altman. He’s the founder and CEO of Grow my Revenue. Best-selling author of two books, Same Side Selling, a radical approach to break through sales barriers, and Upside-Down Selling, an integrity-based sales approach to avoid being predictable. He is also a sought-after keynote speaker experts, sales leadership and business growth and articles featured regularly in Ink and Forbes. Ian, welcome to Accelerate.

 

Ian Altman 

Andy, thanks for having me here.

 

Andy Paul

Gosh, when I do introductions for people like you, I feel so inadequate.

 

Ian Altman

Well, trust me you’re far from inadequate. I’ve listened to the intro and go, “man who is that?” And then I’m surprised in the end that it’s me.

 

Andy Paul

It’s you!

 

Ian Altman

No one’s more surprised than me.

 

Andy Paul

Well, so fill out the holes in that introduction for the audience.

 

Ian Altman

Well, so I started my first company in 1993. It is funny actually, the way I started my first business I’ve been working for this mainframe-based company, and I saw this huge opportunity in these PC-based solutions. And I kept going to the company saying, “look, we should pursue these”. And they said, “no, because we’re a mainframe company. We don’t want to deal with that stuff that like you know, a few hundred dollars a pop, there’s no money in that.” Which of course, we all look back now and laugh,

 

Andy Paul

And were you working for Dec? Is that who you’re working for?

 

Ian Altman

No, but that would be funny. Right? No, it wasn’t Dec, it was a public company, however, and the guy worked for at the time, this guy Bob, Bob says to me “well, what are the opportunities?” And I lay them all on this whiteboard in my office. I said, “look at that.” There’s like, easily half a million dollars in revenue over the next year we can get; Bob says, “well, what do you need in order to pursue those?” It is just permission? I mean, I can sell it, I can actually do the work. It’s just no one will let me do it. Bob says, “o then why don’t you do it?” I said, “no, because management won’t let me do it.” Bob goes, “no, I’m not saying here. I’m saying if the company has no desire to do this, and you’ve asked, and there’s a need in the market. You’re a single guy, you don’t own a house. You don’t even have a dog, just do it.”

 

Andy Paul

What is the downside, right?

 

Ian Altman

So, 1993 I started my first company, we became a Fast 50 Company by 1998. I think it was about 1996, I hired Bob to be my COO. I called him up and I said, “Bob, listen, I got a job for you.” He says, “what’s that?” I said, “managing me.” And he said, “oh, I don’t know if I’m up for that again.” And so, we became a Fast 50 Company by 98. We then built a software company and grew that. And by 2005, a group of investment bankers approached us and said, “look, you got this blue-chip client base.” They acquired my company for cash and stock. I served as managing director of the parent company. And we grew the value of that business from $100 million to about $2 billion in a little over three years. And then I decided that I was totally burned out and I didn’t need to do that anymore. And I did absolutely nothing. I realized quickly that I enjoyed growing companies more than I enjoyed running them. That’s what I get the pleasure to do now is just help other people with strategies and how to grow their business with integrity.

 

Andy Paul

Right. So, let me ask you some basic sales questions before we jump into sure one more depth. So, what’s the single most important piece of advice you’d give to a salesperson today?

 

Ian Altman

The single most important piece of advice is you have to have a complete understanding of what problems you solve for your client, and why they would buy from you and why they wouldn’t. And the reason why is because, I’ve done a lot of research into how executives make and approve decisions. And too often we think like marketing people and think features and benefits. But in the research I’ve done, we find is that the first question someone asks when approving decision is, what problems to solve and why do we need it? And if you don’t know the answer that question, then you’re relying on your clients figuring it out, which rarely happens.

 

Andy Paul

That is the common “mo” (method of operating) for many salespeople.

 

Ian Altman

Exactly. As most people tell me, “wow, I get this great thing”, and they’re relying on the customer figuring out why they need it. And instead, if you start from the perspective of, “what problems do I solve, and why do people need it”, then it opens up a whole other angle of discovery. And that way you show up as someone who’s there to solve, not someone who’s there to sell.

 

Andy Paul

Okay, so, the flip side question of that, what’s the one behavior salespeople should master that would make the biggest difference?

 

Ian Altman

That the one behavior really comes down to qualifying, what I mean is, it’s the behavior that positions you as somebody who’s curious, seeking for your costumer to commence you, they have a problem worth solving. So, it’s kind of a loaded answer, and I appreciate that it is. But what it comes down to is that what most people walk in thinking, “okay, how do I convince the customer to buy my stuff?” And instead, the skill that you need to develop is to walk into a meeting saying, “this person probably isn’t a fit for me, unless they can convince me otherwise, unless they can convince me they have a problem we’re good at solving, unless they can convince me that problem is worth solving for them there’s no reason for me to even present a solution.”

 

Andy Paul

Yeah, so this sort of fits into this model you use like, the elevator pitch—

 

Ian Altman

Sure.

 

Andy Paul

I really liked the approach. So, you have three components of this. This is for an initial connection with a potential prospect, and you break it down into entice, disarm and discover. Let’s walk through that, because I think that’s three pieces people should really pay attention to, take notes on this part because this is really a great way to open up a conversation. So let’s start with “entice”.

 

Ian Altman

You don’t even need to take notes on the rest of it just this part, ignore everything else. All the rest is all just useless. Now so there’s two things. So, just to be clear, entice, disarm, discover, when you’re reaching out to somebody is perfect. Before I get to that, let me just tell you that one of the mistakes I see salespeople make is when they get an inbound request. So, someone calls up and says, “oh, I talked to Andy, he said, “I have to talk to you.”” Most salespeople then jump into their pitch and say, “oh, let me tell you how great we are.”

 

Andy Paul

Let me tell you where we are founded.

 

Ian Altman

Yeah. What they need to do is stop. When the person calls in and you get an inbound lead, it’s a simple question, which is, “wow, what inspired you to contact us today?” And let them talk about their situation. You don’t have to guess. Now, a lot of your opportunities aren’t going to be inbound. They’re going to be outbound. And so, the outbound, the notion is that idea of “entice, disarm, and discover.” Now, the reason why entice disarm discover is important, and I’ll go through the steps of it, is that our clients are used to having other salespeople lie to them, and they’ve probably lied to them for a long time. So, when we come across as someone who sounds and looks like a stereotypical salesperson, our clients have been trained to shut down and not be honest with us.

 

Andy Paul

So, when you say lie, I mean, you talk about stretching the truth about what they can do? I mean, what are you–

 

Ian Altman

Stretching the truth is a nice way to say it, but most of the time, it’s outright lying. So, for example, someone will say, “oh, I’m not selling you anything. I’m just doing a survey.” Right? My response to that often is, “oh, that’s a shame, because I was hoping to make an impulse purchase, but if you’re not selling anything, I guess we won’t get there.”

 

Andy Paul

Yeah.

 

Ian Altman 

“Wait, no I am selling something.” “In that case, you started our interaction with a lie, I don’t trust you. I can hang up now.” I mean, these are all different little scenarios. The idea is that they’ve often been either misled or it’s just– there’s enough information like, when you walk into a store, and the salesperson says, “may help you”, we’ve been trained to believe that actually, with a salesperson saying is, “oh, good afternoon. Is there something I can sell you?” Because they’re not really trying to help me, they’re looking out for their own interest. And so that’s kind of the scenario. So, if we know that, if we know that people have this preconceived list of bad adjectives about salespeople, we need to figure out a way to not show up like a salesperson early on in the process. And so, the idea of “entice, disarm, discover” follows this sequence, so the idea was just to–

 

Andy Paul

Just to clarify, with “entice” your point is not show up like a salesperson, but you’re not hiding the fact you’re selling.

 

Ian Altman

I’m not but actually what I’m doing is, I’m enticing by sharing problems that we solve with dramatic results. So, the formula is, I entice by sharing problems that we solve with dramatic results. I then disarm by acknowledging that not everyone’s the right fit for us. And then I trigger a discovery phase to learn more about their situation. Now this is going to fly in the face with a lot of sales professionals have been taught because they’re taught, “well, no, first you start with discovery. So, you ask the client questions like “hey, what keeps you up at night?”

 

Andy Paul

One of the worst questions ever.

 

Ian Altman

Right? So hey, what keeps you up at night? And your prospect says, “oh, my dog licks himself.” Like that. “Now, what do you got? You got a solution for that? Oh, so you got nothing?” And the reality is that instead, if you said, “you know what? I’m going to pick the two or three things that are most likely to really resonate with the person I’m speaking with”, and I entice with those, then it would be a matter of, for example, my business; it might be something like, look, organizations typically selling business to business come to me when either they’ve got a great message that falls on deaf ears. They’ve got clients who despite the value that their company provides their clients tend to focus on price versus value, or they have sales forecasts that if they were in the library, it’d be filed under fiction, rather than nonfiction because they’re just totally made up. So that would be kind of the entice part, right? For the right organizations. They tell us that we deliver amazing value to reverse that trend. So, their clients are truly buying value versus price, and their forecasts are accurate. And they really earn their customers’ attention with their message. And now here comes the “disarm”. But the way we approach that isn’t the right fit for everybody. So, I don’t yet know whether or not would be a good fit for you. But if solving that is important, and here comes to “discover”, that I’m happy to learn more about your situation to see if we can help. In that way, I’m framing the context with the conversation in the two or three areas that we’re good at solving. I’m disarming the notion that we’re just there to sell something by acknowledging that not everyone’s a good fit. And then I trigger a discovery phase to learn more about their situation and see if we can help.

 

Andy Paul

And the disarm. Especially if you say it correctly as you did it. It is very authentic. People might think, “okay, that’s kind of a technique we’re using”, but it is actually authentic because you’re not a fit for everybody and you have to be authentic and sincere when you talk about.

 

Ian Altman

Exactly. I mean, often in my keynotes, I’ll use a clip from Dumb and Dumber. That horrible movie with Jim Carrey that–

 

Andy Paul

You can call it horrible, but it is funny.

 

Ian Altman

Exactly. It’s, it’s horrible and funny. I love it. And with my 15-year-old son, it’s like a great movie because it’s all bathroom humor, right? And, and so, he’s talking to this woman, and he says, “well, so what are my chances?” And she says, “not good.” And he says, “like one out of 100?” She says, “now more like one out of a million.” And there’s this long pause, and he goes, “so you’re telling me there’s a chance?” And it’s the same thing. Sometimes salespeople think every opportunity is good. And when salespeople come to me and say, “man, I deal with a lot of rejection. How do you handle that?” What I say to them is, “look, you’re looking at the wrong way. You’re going at it as everybody I’ve talked to as a potential client. And what I want you to think about instead is not everybody is a good fit for me.” And less than half the people I meet are actually a good fit for what I do. So, my job early on is to figure out which opportunities are a good fit and worth my time and which ones aren’t. So, it’s not a matter of me getting rejected, “wow, the prospect and I just discovered that we don’t have a good fit right now. Okay. Wow, I saved myself a bunch of time. Now I can talk to the next people. Maybe I can help them.”

 

Andy Paul

Right. Yeah, it says different people are sort of hesitant to go that way, to acknowledge that prospect may not be a fit. And it really puts the traditional confrontation out of it.

 

Ian Altman

Yeah. I mean, a lot of the same side selling book is about these adversarial traps that happen between buyer and seller, I co-wrote with a guy who spent two decades in purchasing a procurement, Jack Quarrels. And so, Jack and I, his last name Quarrels, you should as a procurement guy, right? And you would think that we would see the world very differently, but in reality we see things from very similar perspective, which is on the procurement side he’s trying to find somebody he can partner with, he is focused on results for them rather than someone just trying to sell stuff. And the notion of “entice, disarm, discover” sets it up so that we’re just trying to see if we can help. Our primary objective is not to sell something, our primary objective is to see if there’s a fit, where we can deliver results.

 

Andy Paul

So interesting when you wrote that book, Same Side Selling with Jack, as a salesperson, what were the two key takeaways you came away with? Having worked with him for that period of time?

 

Ian Altman

Well, the first thing was that a lot of us in sales believe that the purchasing and procurement person, that they’re single number one most important thing that they focus on is price. And if you ask most salespeople and you say, “well, what’s the biggest fear that procurement has?” They say, “oh, they’re going to overpay for something.” It’s actually not true, I said “look, sure they want to make sure they’re getting the best value.” But their biggest fear is that they guide the company to spend money on something that doesn’t work. Because that’s how procurement people lose their job is they buy something that doesn’t work, that not only will they get a good deal or a bad deal, if they don’t get the results, it was a bad deal. The second misconception was this. I said to “ack, “listen, I know how your procurement people work. And half the time you put something out to bid. You guys already have a preferred vendor.” So, most of us would say, “yeah, it’s totally true. I know how that works.” And Jack says is not true. He said 100% of the time they have a preferred vendor. And if you don’t know who it is, it’s not you. And so, the idea is that at any given point along the way, the client has a preferred vendor. And if you don’t recognize and appreciate that you’re a supreme disadvantage.

 

Andy Paul

Absolutely. Couldn’t agree more. I just gave a talk on that. As a matter of fact, I taught a presentation I gave about how do you win the sale before you win the order, which is about just that? How do you become the preferred vendor before they make their decision?

 

Ian Altman

Yeah.

 

Andy Paul

So, you’re coming at that situation, you’re dealing with a sales rep, you’re coming and talking to procurement. How do you find out whether you’re the preferred vendor?

 

Ian Altman

Well, it’s a simple thing. Part of it is initially you start asking questions like, “so, how are we going to measure results of this? How are we going to know if this is successful six months down the road?” And when procurements says, “well what’s your price going to be?” Say, “look, my guess is no matter what we deliver, if we don’t achieve your results, it’s probably not a good deal, right?” Yeah. Okay. So how would we measure success and what would make it successful? And they tell you that. Okay, what would stand in the way of that? It may have nothing to do with us. And now you’re having a discussion where you sound and look more like a buyer than a seller, because you’re looking for risks, and that gives you more of a comfort level. One of the other things you can do is from a competitive standpoint, you can say, “look, I realize you guys are going through a bidding process. And we’re really big on if for some reason we don’t feel we can deliver or if we’re beyond capacity will tell you that and that’s not the case yet, but, you know, depending on when you guys make a decision, that may be the case, we always need to get a sense of maybe we’re not doing that other people are that we should be doing. Can you tell me some of the things you like about the vendor you’d be leaning towards if we weren’t in the mix?” So, it disarms initially, because if I just said, “tell me about the vendor you’d be leaning towards, if we weren’t there”, then it’s like, “well, why do they want to know that?” And they’re going to get a little resistant. If instead I say, “well, look, I want to get a sense of what other people are doing that maybe we’re not. That would be important. If you tell me some of the things you like about the vendor you’d be leaning towards if we weren’t in the mix?”

 

Andy Paul

And these are questions that are not just people listening understand, it’s not solely what you ask to a procurement person, these are questions you ask your prospect.

 

Ian Altman

Exactly. And so, we asked that question and they say, “oh, I like that they do this, they do that.” “Okay, great. What else?” And you just get an exhaustive list. And then you say, “well, if there were one or two things you could change about them? What would those be?” And what you’re in essence getting is a roadmap that says, here are their priorities, and here’s what they feel the current leading vendor has or doesn’t have. Now, by the way, if they say, “I don’t who would be if you guys weren’t in the mix”, then you’re probably it. But the idea is you’re trying to get that information so that now you can compare and you do a little self-assessment that says, “okay, so here are the things they like, how do we match up against that? Here are the things they wish they could change. How do we match up?” If we’re not well aligned, we say, “look, based on what you told me, I don’t know the word the best fit.” And that might make people really nervous. But if they’re not the best fit, you want to know that early on.

 

Andy Paul

Absolutely. One thing to follow along with that is procurement. At least my experience has been is that procurement really has, especially if you’re in a bid situation, they have no incentive to tell you you’re out of the game practically.

 

Ian Altman

No, in fact, they want to tell you, “oh yeah, you’re in it towards the end.” And what most people say is, “well, why’d you lose the deal?” And they say, “oh, well, our pricing wasn’t good.” And here’s one of the other things I learned from Jack, he says “look, let’s say we’ve gone through a bidding process. And we picked vendor “A”, do you think we call up vendor “B” and say, “hey, by the way, the reason we didn’t pick you is we think you suck.”” No! They call them up and they say, “oh, man, it was really tough because you guys were a good competitor, it is just the other people came in, it was a better value.” And we translate better value to “oh, the other guys were less expensive.” And the reality is that their decision probably has nothing to do with price. But they felt they were going to get a better return per invested dollar with someone else than with you. Now the reason they tell you, all the other guys had a better proposal, their pricing was better was because the next time they come to you for a proposal, they’re hoping that you sharpen your pencil and cut your own margins and start competing against yourself. That’s what they’re looking for. So, they have every incentive in the world to be “a little bit” misleading. I say a little bit in quotes. They have every incentive in the world to not necessarily be transparent because that what they want to know is, “hey, look, if these other guys don’t work out. Can we still come back to them? Yeah, probably. All right. Well, let’s try and set that up so that we’re well positioned, if we ever need these guys in the future”. People want options or alternatives?

 

Andy Paul

Sure. Well, this creates the environment I was talking about, which sort of laughingly is that, especially driven by CRM systems is, you get to the proposal stage, that means we’ve got a 75% probability of winning the stage, winning this deal. And there’s, you know, five other vendors that are bidding on the same deal. Not everybody has a 75% chance of winning.

 

Ian Altman

It’s the new math.

 

Andy Paul

New math, right.

 

Ian Altman

You carry the one it all works.

 

Andy Paul

It all works on them. So, following same trend on Same Site Selling, you had an article in Ink about avoiding outdated sales methods that kill your business.

 

Ian Altman

Yep.

 

Andy Paul

What are these outdated sales models?

 

Ian Altman

Well, a lot of it is the overinflated expectation, “we’re the best, we’re the great solution, our solution is perfect for you. By the way, what did you need again?” You know, it’s like, “we’re the best. We’ve got it.” We’ve got a presidential candidate.

 

Andy Paul

That came to mind. This is huge. This is great, it’s going to be the greatest.

 

Ian Altman

Yeah, I’m the biggest, I’m the greatest. By the way, we have another candidate, “I’m honest, trust me.” I mean, it’s kind of funny. I could write an article every day just about this stuff. But I steer clear of it, because I have a strong opinion about the fact that with 360 million people in this country, this is what–

 

Andy Paul

It’s getting down to these two, right?

 

Ian Altman

That’s a whole other issue. I think if you and I ran right now would have a shot.

 

Andy Paul

Land of opportunity.

 

Ian Altman

Exactly. But part of it is this notion of constantly pushing for the sale and asking questions that have to do with the decision rather than the results. So, for example, the age-old car salesperson of, “what’s going to take for me to get you in this car today?” Is very pushy, that triggers an adversarial response. As opposed to, if you’ve done your job well and the client sees you have a good solution, you say, “what would you like to do next?” And they say, “can I buy it?” Now I just bought a vehicle. And when I look at it, I closed myself.

 

Andy Paul

Yeah, me too. I just did a couple months ago.

 

Ian Altman

Yeah. “What do you think?” They said, “well, how do we order it? How long is it going to take to get in?” “It’ll take about a month.” “Okay, do I order it right here from home?” “All right here” “Okay”. It’s like, and people said, “well, did you negotiate?” I’m like, “well, I don’t think that was really an option.” I think Elon Musk made sure that’s not really on the table.

 

Andy Paul

For Tesla, right?

 

Ian Altman

Yeah. So, it’s like this is not going to happen. Okay. So, the biggest thing is come down to that. That pushiness? And “wow, I’ve got the solution, and the notion that everyone’s a fit for me they just don’t know it yet. No is just a delayed Yes.” And all those, you know, the old ABC, always be closing. It’s fun for a movie, but it’s not realistic. Go watch Glengarry, Glen Ross and then forget everything you learned.

 

Andy Paul

But we have whole segments of the sales business that are still increasingly sort of segmenting themselves into– I’ve got I need hunters I need closers. This is a word they use in their aggressive, outgoing, extrovert that they need in their job descriptions when they do job postings.

 

Ian Altman

Yeah, and I would argue that there are three personas in sales. So, there is the order taker, there’s a salesperson, there’s a subject matter expert. And I’ve written about this as well in my column. The order taker is the person where someone calls up and says, “I need three of these two of those, how much is the price and when is going to arrive? The salesperson is the person who believes their job is to sell the customer stuff, whether they need it or not. And the subject matter expert is the person the client would actually be willing to pay to meet with because of their expertise. Now the bad news for the order taker is that there is this little company called Amazon that is pretty much replacing all those people. Because they can do the order taker thing way better than most of us. With my dad in an assisted living facility, we’re getting a big screen TV for his place and one of my brothers says, “oh, we got to find a store and this and that.” We’re driving out to his new place and I said, “no we don’t.” I pull up Amazon Prime Now, this Los Angeles area, I pull up Amazon Prime Now, find the TV click on “order”.

 

Andy Paul

Deliver tomorrow.

 

Ian Altman

No, forget about deliver tomorrow. This is Amazon Prime Now. So, it’s like real time that they deliver. I think the standard delivery is within two hours or something like that. So literally, we’re driving out we stopped for lunch, we get to his place, we get him into his unit, and then the phone rings and it’s the delivery guys who got the TV and delivered it right into where we were. They take it out of the box. He’s, “do you want me to take it out of the box?” “Yeah, please.” That was it. Done. Now, if you’re an order taker, that’s a pretty tall and tough thing to be competing against. Anywhere, it can be delivered same day. Like, I don’t know how you beat that unless you’ve got the kind of infrastructure that they do. So, the salesperson, it doesn’t matter whether you think you’re the salesperson on the subject matter expert, you have to ask yourself, if you were a customer, who do you want to deal with? The answer is the subject matter expert. What I believe over time, is that the real value is going to be subject matter experts who understand a sales process, understanding the approach to help the customer reach a buying decision, as opposed to your stereotypical salespeople.

 

Andy Paul

I agree. Yeah, I wrote about that in my first book. I call it, Selling with the Sharp End of the Stick, put your subject matter experts closest to the customer.

 

Ian Altman

Yeah. Because they are the people the customer is actually going to trust anyhow.

 

Andy Paul

Exactly. I mean, there’s a Gartner survey. I think it was Gartner. Now I could be misquoting the source, but basically the finding was that 80% of CEOs found no value in meeting with sales reps. But subject matter experts, it was 80% that they found value in it.

 

Ian Altman

Yeah. Well, they don’t want to meet with 80% of the sales reps. They also know they don’t want to meet with the other 20% of them.

 

Andy Paul

So, things got to be of value, you’ve talked about the customer being willing to pay to meet with you. And I think that becomes the ultimate goal. As your first sales rep, you’re in sales– And I write about this, if you’re sick, you go see a generalist or a specialist; and if you got a heart condition, you go see your internist or you go see your cardiologist?

 

Ian Altman

Exactly. Like no one says, “oh, man, Andy, I get the best generalist. This guy is like mediocre at 35 different things. Dude, you got to meet with him.” No one– that doesn’t happen.

 

Andy Paul

I wrote a post about, which got some interesting feedback about the one question or customer will never ask you, which was, the customer is never going to pick up the phone say “Ian, I really like your rep over here but he’s just not salesy enough. Could you send over somebody who’s more salesy?”

 

Ian Altman

Exactly, this person just doesn’t quite have enough hype. What else do you got?

 

Andy Paul

Right. We’ve come to the last segment show, I’ve got some standard questions I ask all my guests. Now the first one is a hypothetical scenario in which you Ian have just been hired as VP of sales by a company whose sales have stalled out, and the CFO and the board are anxious to get things back on track. And yeah, turnaround doesn’t happen in a day. Your first week on the job, what two steps could you take that would have the biggest impact?

 

Ian Altman

First two steps. One would be that notion of defining clearly the problems we solve in our customers words, so that all of our messaging is centered around what problems we solve for our customers. Because then we can describe it in a way that is going to matter to them and quickly identify the right opportunities. And the second piece would be to implement the appropriate tools so that our team is properly skilled at qualifying those opportunities that we minimize the time we waste on bad pursuits.

 

Andy Paul

Got it. Great answer. Love it. Very concise too. Alright, some rapid-fire questions.

 

Ian Altman

Sure, that wasn’t rapid fire?

 

Andy Paul

That was good. But these are in more rapid fire. You can give me one-word answers. You can elaborate as much as you wish. So, the first one is, when you Ian are out selling your services. What’s your most powerful sales attribute?

 

Ian Altman

Um, just disarming and honesty. It’s my first thought is always, “I don’t know if I’m the right fit for this opportunity.” And that leads to very open and honest conversations.

 

Andy Paul

You’ve written a book, pardon as I digress for a second– about integrity and selling.

 

Ian Altman

Yep. Two words rarely found together.

 

Andy Paul

Exactly. So how are you defining integrity and selling?

 

Ian Altman

What I mean is that if I truly don’t feel that I’m the best person to help solve the specific issue for that client, it’s my job to tell them that. Even if I needed the business, even if I wanted the business, it doesn’t matter. If I’m not the right fit, it’s my job to tell them. And it means that your client’s interest goes ahead of your own, which may sound counterintuitive. But once your client sees you doing that, it’s remarkable. I’ve been told the story where I was speaking an event and I tell people– I deal with businesses that are not commodity driven, where they’ve got a certain level of differentiation. And so, this guy comes up and says, “yeah, we’re in brick manufacturing.” I said, “well, that’s great.” He says, “we want you to come speak to our company.” I said, “well, it’s kind of a commodity item. I don’t think I’m the best person to help”, and the CEO says, “I see what you’re doing there. No, how do we get you to come out?” I said, “okay, no, actually, I don’t think you should spend money with me because I’m probably not going to help you as much as someone who focus on commodities.” And it took like, 20 minutes for them to realize that no, I wasn’t going to show up. Like, they weren’t going to hire me.

 

Andy Paul

You weren’t going to go help them.

 

Ian Altman

Exactly. It was just kind of funny. Then the guy says, “well, what if we paid extra for you to learn about our industry?” I’m like, “no, no, I’m not the right person for you, find somebody else.”

 

Andy Paul

Yeah, good example. All right. Next question. Who’s your sales role model?

 

Ian Altman

My sales role model? That’s a good question. I don’t know that I necessarily have a sales role model. I almost look at my sales role model as a good physician, who is truly looking out for the patient’s best interest and doesn’t have anything to sell. So, my best role model is Dr. Patel, my internist who has never tried to sell me anything but it’s just trying to look out for my health and welfare.

 

Andy Paul

I love it. Okay, so besides your own book, books, plural, what’s one book you’d recommend every salesperson should read?

 

Ian Altman

Man, there’s a lot of them. There are a lot of great books out there. I think in terms of customer experience, Jay Baer his latest book, Hug Your Haters is a great one talking about the customer experience side. I think that when it comes to how do you present in front of your customers; Michael Porter latest book Steal the Show is another great one. There’s a lot of great books out there on sales and selling and certainly neither you nor I have cornered the market on great sales books.

 

Andy Paul

No, no. Yeah. How many new ones come out every day?

 

Ian Altman

You know what, a lot. It’s funny when Jack and I wrote Same Side Selling, Jack had a book in the purchasing and procurement section, on Amazon. And so, it was like a number one bestseller for three months straight called, How Smart Companies Save Money. I said, “man, that’s awesome. You must have sold a ton of books.” And Jack said, “actually in the three months, I’ve sold fewer books than we sold in the first hour in the sales category.” And obviously our book was number one, but it didn’t sit there for three months in number one, it was there for a few weeks, but not for a few months. And his was there for months because the category is so small in comparison to the sales category.

 

Andy Paul

Alright, last question for you. This is a tough one. What music is on your playlist these days?

 

Ian Altman

What music is on my playlist? I’m embarrassed to say that there isn’t a lot of music on my playlist. There’s a lot more podcasts on my playlist. I still listen to old podcasts from Seth Godin. Still listen to stuff that Jay Baer and his team put out, Marcus Sheridan, I tend to listen to a lot of that. And then it’s kind of funny because if I’m at the gym, it all depends on the kind of workout I’m looking for. There could be Van Halen playing or there could be Billy Joel, just depends on how intense I want the workout to be.

 

Andy Paul

All right. Good answers. I love it. Ian, thanks for joining me today. How can people find out more about you?

 

Ian Altman

Well, the easiest way is ianaltman.com, which is my website. Obviously, my podcast also, the Grow My Revenue Business podcast. And I’m always looking for people to throw out different topics or guests they’d like to have me on. But, ianaltman.com or @IanAltman on Twitter, and people are always amazed– in fact, just before we got on, someone had sent me an email saying, “well, I’m sure you’re very busy, but I have this question.” I live for that stuff. So—

 

Andy Paul

Me too.

 

Ian Altman

I personally respond to them all. And people may think I’m crazy, and someday, maybe I won’t be able to do that. But for now, I can still pretty much respond to them all.