Joining me on this episode of Accelerate! is my guest David “DFish” J.P. Fisher, a sales expert, professional keynote speaker, and best-selling author of the Networking in the 21st Century series of books. David is also the Founder of Hyper-Connected Selling.
Among the topics that David and I discuss are how his early experience selling Cutco products influenced his career in sales and sales training, the reasons why networking is an investment in relationship building (and not a sales call), and the secret to being the most interesting person in the room.
What’s your most powerful sales attribute?
My desire to really understand the prospect’s perspective, and solve their issue, or to help them find a way that they can.
Who is your sales role model?
A lot of them, but when I started at Cutco, Marty Dmitrovich, who ran the Midwest Region with an amazing ability to be competitive, to work hard, and to be warmly human.
What’s one book that every salesperson should read?
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book), by Don Miguel Ruiz, and The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life, by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander.
What music is on your playlist right now?
Lucky Chops (a brass band from New York), Salsa musicians Héctor Lavoe and Oscar D’León, and some Hip Hop.
ANDY PAUL: It’s time to accelerate. Hi, I’m your host, Andy. Join me as I host conversations with the leading experts in sales, marketing, sales automation, sales process, leadership management, training, coaching, and any other resource that I believe will help you accelerate the growth of your sales, your business and most importantly, you. Hello and welcome to Accelerate. Joining me on the show today is David JP Fisher. David is a sales expert, professional keynote speaker and best-selling author of the Networking in the 21st Century series, which we’ll talk about. He’s also the founder of Hyper Connected Selling. David, welcome to accelerate.
DAVID J.P. FISHER: Thanks for having me here, Andy.
AP: So, you like to go by the name “D Fish.” Doesn’t Derek Fisher take offense?
DF: He can’t because I had it first. If you want to go into a legal dispute, I’ve got the proof. I played in a band for a long time and would actually rap every once in a while, so my bandmates jokingly called me Emcee D Fish. That was a long time ago. We’ve got the albums so we can prove it.
AP: Just the fact you call them albums means that you have an example. Alright, well, welcome to Accelerate. Take a minute, introduce yourself, and tell us how you got your start in sales.
DF: Sure. I actually got my start in sales the old school way. I started selling knives in people’s kitchens. AP: Cutco!
DF: Cutco, you got it.
AP: Lots of people on the show started on Cutco.
DF: That’s because we’re everywhere, you know,
AP: It’s good basic training and people find something that they’re passionate about.
DF: Yeah, you know, it’s a great product and it is just amazing training. In fact, I paid my way through Northwestern University selling knives. After I graduated, I ran their Chicago office for about five years. That was not only my start in sales but also in sales training and sales coaching and sales management. I had the opportunity to train almost 1500 young, enthusiastic college kids to go sell in people’s homes and it really was an amazing way to get started in the sales world. As I tell people, if you can sit across the table from Mr. and Mrs. Jones and sell them $1,000 worth of knives, you can sell just about anything.
AP: Yeah, I mean, first of all it is a good product. I’ve got Cutco knives and the Cutco kitchen scissors which I’m sure they can cut through the chair I’m sitting. They’re indestructible. Yeah, good product.
DF: Yeah, they are and really that was one of the first real lessons I learned there: as long as you have a good product that you can stand behind, that goes a long way to doing most of the work for you when you’re in sales. That’s how I got my I got my start. I continued to run that office for most of my 20s and then transitioned into running my own company doing coaching, training and mentoring for over 10 years now. It’s been a wild ride, and I’ve loved every minute of it.
AP: Well, you’re still very young if I do my math correctly. So you’ve written a series of books about networking in the 21st century. What was the inspiration for that?
DF: Well, the inspiration actually came from the way that I built my business, which was through networking. Like many freelancers, I hung a shingle and then sat down at my desk and said, “How am I going to get people to hire me?” The one thing I knew how to do was go out and meet people, so I started going to networking events, joining chambers of commerce, and really just started building relationships. I realized that there was a lot of skills that I had developed in my sales career that I took for granted. Realize that we’ve been around for over 10 years and I’ve never really marketed or advertised, it was always through relationships. I had people asking me to help them. Specifically with networking, I was starting to do keynotes and workshops, specifically on building relationships. I was like, “I’ve got to start writing some of this stuff down.” A couple years ago, that’s what I did. I was like, “I’m going to write my first real book.” That was Networking in the 21st Century: Why Your Network Sucks and What to Do About It. That was the main book and then people were still asking me for specific ideas or tactics or tools that were relevant for their industry or their groups. So, then we have one for millennials, one for people who work within corporations, one just on LinkedIn, and one for sales professionals. So that’s how that all came about.
AP: Very cool. So your subtitle in part is Why your Network Sucks. Why does it suck?
DF: Well, quite simply because humans aren’t designed to be networking machines. It’s really interesting networking. Whenever I tell people that I speak and write and talk about networking, almost everybody goes, “Networking. Ugh.” It’s either because they don’t like it or because they don’t like it but they know they should be doing it, or they just find the whole process frustrating. The reality is human beings are not designed to know thousands of people. We’re designed to know a very small group of people and know them really well. The science also shows that networking is most effective when we have a broader reach and we have what are called ‘weak connections.’
AP: Well, we’ll get into that. I think one of the other issues you raised – and I think this is what you see most frequently in sales reps is this trade off? Is networking worth it? I’ve got a choice. I can go bang out some calls, which is where my incentives lie, or I can network. You make the point in your book that salespeople don’t really understand networking.
DF: Right. I actually think that’s a false dichotomy that most salespeople create in their head. It’s either “I’m going to do something that’s going to get me sales, help me get that commission check, hit my quota, do all those great things right now; or I’m going to go and network which is nebulous and probably a waste of time.” Of course, they’re not going to invest any energy, time, effort, or attention into networking. Then of course, they’re going to have a horrible network, and it’s not going to be useful. It’s self-fulfilling. One of the things that I talk to a lot of experienced salespeople about is the fact that most of them get their business through their relationships. They’ve gotten very involved in their industry. They’ve gotten to know their prospects and their customers really well. You look at that veteran in the sales team, they do things so much more easily than that new person who is just banging out phone calls. I think there always has to be a balance. I’m never going to tell somebody “Oh, all you have to do is network and you’ll be successful.” That’s not true. You do have to put in the effort and you have to do the outbound calls. You have to go knock on some doors metaphorically to make things happen right now. If you can keep investing in your future, keep planting those seeds, the benefits and the payback is going to far outweigh the effort in the long term.
AP: Yeah, I mean, when you described the linear sales processes and the old fashioned sales process, networking was good if it produced prospects. When people start looking at it from an investment standpoint, they really don’t have the patience.
DF: I think you’re right. You know, one thing that I talk a lot about in the book is that the sales world has changed. With the internet and social media having an impact, there is no longer this linear path to sales. We talked about my start when I was selling Cutco knives, almost 20 years ago. You could literally just sit there and make phone calls and you would work through referrals and all that good stuff. We knew that if we made X number of phone calls, talk to y number of people, we could get a certain percentage of sales from that. That’s great for a linear, simple world. For most salespeople today, we live in a world of complexity. If we keep striving for this past that doesn’t exist anymore, we’re going to fail and we’re going to be very frustrated. Realize that networking for prospects is great, but it’s also for partnerships and opportunities and information and finding ways that you can provide value to your prospects. It is much more complex, and human beings always like complexity, right? That’s the point that I’m trying to make to salespeople. You don’t have to give up the simple activities that feel good, but if you just do that you’re going to eventually fail. Figure out some ways to add in some of these other networking activities. They’re going to help you plant seeds and help you find opportunities in the long term.
AP: When it’s a complex sale, you have a diverse number of stakeholders that with different perspectives. Networking is a way to help you engage with them, find the resources to help them, educate themselves about their product, find out their problems and how you might be the solution for it.
DF: You’re right on the money. Sometimes networking is just knowing who all the people who are involved in the sales process are. How do you develop champions? There’s a lot of things out there about how to do better sales, but what it really comes down to is how do you develop the relationships that are going to help you be successful, no matter what your particular sales process is. As you said, there’s a lot of stakeholders, right? How do you develop relationships that get you to that internal champion or that help you meet somebody who might actually have a disproportionately large impact or influence on the sale, even though they’re not directly engaged in it? There’s a lot of business intelligence that can be gained by knowing people and, instead of fighting that, I think we should harness it and use it to our advantage.
AP: Okay, do you have a definition of networking? Because I think that really speaks to what we’re talking about here.
DF: I do I do, and I figured you might actually ask me, so it’s in the first book on page 19. Networking is building a web of relationships with others for mutual support and finding Business Solutions.
AP: To better yourself, right.
DF: Right. By the way, I don’t think that’s the end all be all definition. I just think it’s a good working definition. For most professionals, especially for most sales professionals, it’s the idea of developing relationships with people. Sometimes I think salespeople, we have this tendency to go, “Is this person going to help me right here and right now and if not, then I’m not going to pay any attention to them.” I think that’s a mistake we often make, right? The idea of somebody at the networking event, you know, you’re talking to them and they’re scanning the room for somebody better to talk to. What’s really interesting is we scan the room thinking, “Oh, is there a better prospect I should be talking to?” We don’t realize that the person that we are talking to may not be a prospect in the normal sense, but their husband is at company XYZ and would be a great prospect, right? It’s a much more complex world. I look at that definition as just this idea of networking as a tool to help everybody be successful. I really think that a rising tide raises all ships. So we hear in sales a lot this idea of building value, and I love it because nobody ever says what value is, right?
AP: I ask that question all the time in interviews. It’s interesting all the answers you get.
DF: Yeah. One of the things for me that I think is important is just this idea that building value is giving somebody information that helps them accomplish something that they’re trying to accomplish. Again, most salespeople if they’re doing it, it’s because they’re trying to help other people succeed. So, it’s just taking that idea and going, “Okay, if I have this network of people, it’s not just what is in it for me, it’s how do I give to the collective? How do I put energy out there?” I often say that when networking is done right, it’s like this big ball of energy. The more you can put into that big ball, the more you’re going to get back. You don’t know where it’s going to come from, or how, but it will come to you. It’s networking karma. I have a conversation with many people and say, “Tell me about the significant things that have happened in your life, whether that’s professionally or personally, and look to see if somebody helped create that. Was an introduction to a spouse, or a friend suggesting you to a job that helps you change careers. More often than not that’s the case. So I think, when we’re looking at using networking to help in our professional world, we’re just looking to get that serendipitous happenstance to happen more frequently, and with more regularity, and a little more intentionally.
AP: Yeah, well, I mean, it’s very similar. It builds on a whole process. Give to get. Books people have written on the subject, such as Cialdini Influence, talk about this idea of reciprocity built into us as human beings, so a version of networking is built in.
DF: It’s really interesting seeing the science, the behavioral economics and all the neuroscience behind this where we are actually wired that when somebody helps us, we want to help them back. This is really just a matter of harnessing these things that are happening in human nature, and just being more intentional with them. And I think a big part of that too is this idea of, again, helping other people and being okay with accepting their help in return, right? I mean, because we are trying to help everybody’s business life – including our own – but looking at it not as being a leech on other people and hoping I can get something from them, but really realizing that networking is collaborative. How do we all get farther along on the paths that we want to be on? That’s the goal.
AP: Part of that is that you have to have something to give. Right. So that requires intentionality.
DF: Absolutely. I think one of the hang ups that we often have is that we think that all we have to give is this amazing introduction to the right prospect that person needs to talk to, or we have to have this brilliant idea. Those things are great if you have them. Something that I’ve always tried to do is start conversations between people in my network. That’s great when that happens. I think we get hung up thinking that that’s all that we have to provide. I actually think that you can provide value sometimes just in a conversation. It might be just an insight, or sometimes it might even just be encouragement, right? There’s people that I have in my network that have been in my network for years, it isn’t always a business ideas or advice when we interact. Sometimes it’s “Hey, how are things going in the office?” The person shares that they’re frustrated with something and I offer advice or just an ear to vent. We engage socially with each other. I was talking with somebody who’s in the millennial generation and he was asking me how do I provide value for somebody who’s been in the business world for 20 or 30 years already. I was like, “Well, part of the value you have is in your insight. You’re a digital native and they’re not, so even just your insights and your perspective has value.” The biggest thing I caution most people against is feeling that they have to have this really amazing value added proposition that they can share before they go out and network, which is not the case.
AP: It’s being present.
AP: Jason Trike mentioned a question he uses during a networking opportunity: “What are you working on right now that’s really important to you?” A follow up question is, “What can I do to help you?” I love it.
DF: I would even say if someone you’re talking to was a prospect, that’s a great question. I think one of the biggest things that people get really freaked out with when they think of networking is what do they say. We’re always so worried about being brilliant and interesting so that people will like us, the most valuable thing I’ve ever found from being somebody new is the best way to be interesting is to be interested. Right? Right. So I’ve actually had people tell me, you’re such a good conversationalist, and I had nothing Exactly. I just asked questions and got interested in them and you meet lots of fascinating people. And to bring this back to our point about finding opportunities and connecting with with possibilities. If you keep somebody talking for a while, you might actually find out Oh, wow, they actually know people that I would really like to know. Or Wow, this person is a prospect or they know a prospect or, hey, they know somebody who’s really involved in this buying decision. And, you know, now they like me a little bit more, so maybe they’ll feel comfortable introducing me,
AP: You say that weak connections are the ones that are the most valuable over time. Some people I know alternately call them loose connections, but if you think about the context of your second and third level connections on LinkedIn, those are the ones who are more likely perhaps to refer somebody to you.
DF: Exactly. I think one of the biggest things that we as salespeople have to understand is that one of the most scarce resources people have these days is attention and time. This is a conversation I have with a lot of salespeople where, again, they want to go pound the phones, right? I go, “Hey, you can make as many calls as you want, but when was the last time you picked up your phone?” The answer is they don’t because they’re so busy. What happens if you actually have a conversation with somebody so that you can build some trust and goodwill, and then ask for an introduction to that second or third level? I mean, that’s the power, right? There’s so many people I know that if I could reach out 20 times and some 20 emails and they’ll never talk to me. If I can be introduced through a friend though, through something that they trust already, they’re going to give me five minutes of their time. I know that’s the exact same way with me. People try to sell me stuff all the time. Getting through my email filters is pretty tough. But, if my friend Ian Carswell calls me up and says, “Hey Dean, you should talk to this guy for five minutes, I think he can help your business.” Guess who’s getting five minutes of my time. That’s what we’re really looking to do with those weak connections for sure.
AP: I guarantee that if you spent your time meeting someone, asking questions and doing follow-up question, then even if you’ve never said anything about yourself, that person is going to walk away thinking, “What an interesting person I just talked to.” They’re going to remember because you will have said something about yourself at some point, but it’s mostly just going to be them talking about themselves. They’re going to think that you’re the most interesting person in the room.
DF: Exactly. I would much rather have somebody ask me about myself than me trying to tell them about myself. By the way, this isn’t to manipulate people, right? We’re trying to create a relationship, we’re trying to create that rapport, that bond. Instead of me just saying, “Hey, you should be really interested in all of my books that I write and all the speaking I do, and blah, blah, blah;” if I can be interested in them very naturally, it’ll be like we had a first date. You know, if you were on a first date with somebody and you just told them how fantastic you were, that would not work at all. If you spend the whole time going, “Hey, tell me about yourself. Tell me what makes you tick. What are you interested in? Why do you like those things?” It would be a very natural segue for them to say, “Wow, I really like traveling to these countries.” That’s what we’re really trying to do is get that reciprocity flowing as fast as possible.
AP: You need to talk about the importance of dress and grooming, body language, small talk, sense of humor, listening. So, let’s just quickly run through those. I think there is a sense that what you wear doesn’t really matter, but it does, because we’re talking about perceptions.
DF: We’re absolutely talking about perceptions. I think what’s really important to remember about any business relationship is that it starts as a human relationship. It’s a relationship. So if you think about the way you navigate the world and how you navigate the social spaces that we’re all in every day – whether it’s going to get a cup of coffee, hang out some friends, going to a restaurant, going shopping – we interact with people. Those human relationships are going to impact our professional relationships. Just the idea of the way that I dress is going to impact how people see me, right? It’s going to influence whether or not they trust me. I love talking to people who think they’re so successful that it doesn’t matter how they dress. Okay, if you’re Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, sure, you can get away with it. But that’s about it, right? Most of us are going to be judged on how we come off. We’re going to be judged on how we interact with people. I remember talking to a very young salesperson. He had been doing very well, but he was struggling. I was talking with him and I was like, “Hey, you’re abrasive. Just as a person. You don’t listen other people, you’re just pounding people with your opinion versus listening to theirs. They don’t like you as a person. Maybe if you work on your likability a little bit, you’ll find some more success.” I’ll give him credit because he worked hard. He was like, “Okay, I’m going to be quiet a bit more and not try to be as arrogant.” People responded to that. If you’re not able to build that human relationship, people aren’t going to want to do business with you. It’s the old know, like, and trust idea.
AP: Exactly. One of the things you bring up in that list of five attributes was small talk. In the last month or so, there was an article I read about the importance of small talk and building relationships. We tend to think that in sales it all has to be right to the point, right to business, don’t waste the customer’s time, etc. I mean, there’s training materials that tell people don’t ask a personal question, don’t talk anything except business with the prospect. The research is fairly conclusive in that if you’re not doing a lot of small talk, you’re losing an opportunity.
DF: There’s actually great research on this. Of course, I’m completely blanking out as to what they call it, but there is a term for the idea of how small talk lubricates the beginning of a conversation. Just imagine if you came home at the end of the day, and your significant other was there, and instead of asking how their day was, you just jumped into specific things like, “What time is it? When are going to the Smith’s?” We know that doesn’t go well because we’ve probably all done that. We’ve been tired or frustrated, and that never ends well. In the same way, if we don’t know somebody, we have to let the conversation warm up. I’ll always start with something personal, because I want to make sure that the foundation is there for communication. Again, whether we’re networking at a networking event, whether we’re having a networking cup of coffee, or I’m sitting in a sales presentation, I try to connect on a personal level as a human knowing that’s going to make my business conversation that much more effective. I think all these ideas are foundational. You have to take that into account just as much as saying the right script.
AP: So a question for them becomes is, “How do you network virtually?”
DF: You take the same tools that we’re talking about and go online with them. Whether it’s on Twitter, or LinkedIn, or blogs, or whatever it might be; there’s still another human being on the other side of this interaction. One of the things I talk about a lot in all my books is the idea that I don’t think there’s true online only networking. I think 21st century networking is actually the enmeshment of the online world and the offline world. For example, I know you did some research before our call today, but so did I. I was able to find out all about Andy from your LinkedIn profile. We both were history majors and where you went to school and all this good stuff. That makes this offline interaction that much better. Moving beyond our conversation today, as we continue to build a relationship, there might be a time in two months or three months where something you post is relevant to me or vice versa. Then, maybe we have another offline conversation where maybe we’re both speaking at a conference together. That conversation will be that much more powerful because we’ve had this long train of light touches over time. That’s really where social media and virtual networking has a ton of power, and actually makes up for a lot of the challenges that we have with the fact that we’re not wired for networking.
AP: Great. Now we move to the last segment of the show. I’ve got some standard questions I ask all my guests. The first one is a hypothetical scenario in which you have just been hired as VP of sales at a company whose sales have hit the skids. The CEO wants to press the reset button and get things turned around and you’re in charge of that. What two steps would you take during your first week on the job that could have the biggest impact?
DF: The first thing I would do – strangely enough – is examine all of our training material and our basic processes. I think that human element’s important, but you’ve got to make sure that your process is good. We talked about Cutco before and during Cutco training, I learned process is king. The next thing I would do is actually talk to as many people in our organization as possible. I would definitely talk to all my main players and ask them why they’re there. We would actually have one of these conversations that we were talking about earlier where I’d ask a lot of questions and figure out what they were there for, what they were trying to accomplish professionally and personally, and make sure that they’re in alignment with what we’re trying to do with the organization. If they are, fantastic! If not, find a way for them to exit, so we’ve got people who were all pointed in the same direction.
AP: Okay. So find out their why.
DF: Find out their why. Exactly.
AP: Okay. All right. So I’ve got some rapid fire questions I ask. You can give me one-word answers or elaborate if you wish. When you are out selling your own services, what’s your most powerful sales attribute?
DF: Besides my stunning good looks, the biggest strength I feel that I’ve brought to the table for years is my desire to really understand where the prospect is coming from and to understand their perspective. Then I connect what I have with solving whatever issue they have and if I can’t fix that, I instead try to help them find another way to solve that problem,
AP: Okay, who’s your sales role model?
DF: I think that one of my first and still probably most impactful sales role models is a guy named Marty de Michalowicz. When I started out in Cutco selling knives as a young kid, he ran the Midwest for Cutco. He started out as one of a family of 10 kids in the Upper Peninsula of Wisconsin, and worked his way up to basically being one of the top executives in the company. Even at that point, he had just an amazing amount of grit and perseverance. He actually unfortunately passed away due to pancreatic cancer, which he fought for eight years. There’s so many reasons why I respected him, but he has such an amazing ability to be competitive and really work hard and just, you know, put the effort in. At the same time, he was incredibly human, incredibly generous and warm. I’ve actually never seen an executive cry so many times at award ceremonies, but he was just so grateful for the people around. Especially when I was young, he made a huge impact. He showed that you can go out and really work hard to try to achieve your goals, but it’s really so important that you recognize the people around you and value them and be grateful for what you have.
AP: Okay, excellent. All right. So, besides your own books, what’s one book – sales book or non-sales book – every salesperson should read>
DF: I’m going to say two just because I’m a cheat. They’re older books. One’s called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and one’s called The Art of Possibility by The Zanders. I think every real, truly successful salesperson I’ve ever met just has a really good sense of themselves and who they are and just are emotionally and psychologically centered. I think that these two books are really valuable because they help develop that sense of being grounded that allows you to put all of the skills and competencies of sales on top of them.
AP: Excellent. Last question then. So what music is on your playlist these days?
DF: I’m a musician and a DJ, so there’s so much. The stuff that I’m really excited about right now is a great brass band out of New York called Lucky Chops. They got their start in the subways of New York, and I recently saw them because they’re touring and they’re amazing. Actually, I’m a big salsa dancer, so I’m going through a lot of old salsa music like Hector Laval and Oscar De Leon and loving that stuff, too. There’s some other hip hop in there. There’s just everything.
AP: No, I like that. Very diverse. very eclectic. Good. So do you do salsa dancing regularly, like performances of anything?
DF: I don’t perform but I do still go dancing. In fact, that is where I met my wife. We met on the salsa dance floor.
AP: Very interesting.
DF: Yeah, yeah, it worked.
AP: There we go. Networking through socializing. Okay, good. Well, David, thanks for joining me today. Tell people how they can connect with you and find out more about what to do.
DF: The easiest way is davidjpfisher.com. That’s got my articles, all my resources, and ways to reach out to me. Of course, I’m on social media at D fish Rockstar on Twitter, and I am D fish on LinkedIn. I also run a podcast called “Beer, Beats, and Business” which you can find at beerbeatsandbusiness.com calm. Of course, all my books are available on this little site called Amazon. Just search Networking in the 21st Century, and you’ll get all that available for your purchase.
AP: Excellent. All right, well, again, thanks for being on the show. Remember, friends, make it a part of your daily routine to deliberately learn something new to help you accelerate your success. One easy way to do that is to take a minute and subscribe to this podcast, Accelerate. That way, you won’t miss any of my conversations with top business experts like my guest today, David JP Fisher, who shared his expertise on how to accelerate the growth of your business. Thanks for joining me. 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