Joining me on this episode is Ryan Stewman. Ryan is the author of Hard Core Closer, and other books, as well as a motivational speaker, consultant, entrepreneur and podcaster. Among the many topics that Ryan and I discuss are the mistakes and challenges he refused to let define him, how to find your inner passion, the core habits of successful salespeople and how to talk with alpha personalities to win the sale.
What’s your most powerful sales attribute?
His sales script, from which he never deviates. It is a series of ‘Seven Magic Questions,’ that lead the prospect to being a client.
Who is your sales role model?
What’s one book that every salesperson should read?
Influence, by Robert B. Cialdini, PhD.
What music is on your playlist right now?
Anthrax, “Sound of White Noise.”
ANDY PAUL: It’s time to accelerate. Hi, 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, 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. I am really looking forward to talking to my guest today. Joining me on the show is Ryan Stewman. He’s the best selling author of the book The Hardcore Closer as well as a couple of other books. He’s a speaker, consultant, entrepreneur, podcaster, and videographer. Ryan, welcome to Accelerate.
RYAN STEWMAN: Hey, thanks for having me, Andy. I’m excited to be here and for us to get to know each other and talk a little bit today.
AP: I usually ask people to tell me how they got their start in sales. It’s oftentimes not a very direct route, but yours is a little bit more of an indirect route than most. You had a lot of challenges that you’ve dealt with when it comes to getting to those points. So maybe tell us a little about how you got to where you are today and sort of some of the things you had to go through.
RS: Well, I’ve been through hell and back, you know. I’m sure there are people on the planet that have been through worse stuff than I have. There’s always somebody worse off than you, but I’ve been through a lot. I’ve always been in sales though, like I remember I was like eight years old and working at a car wash. I had been labeled with the typical ADD or whatever they call it these days. My parents didn’t like me hanging around in the neighborhood that we lived in because I was always raising a ruckus with the other neighborhood kids that were a little bit older than me and stuff. My stepfather, he worked for this carwash organization, and they would take me there and make me wash cars. Well, I noticed the person that sold car washes didn’t have to vacuum or wash cars, like the greeter fellow. That was the moment that I knew sales was for me. I can just use my mouth and not have to actually use my hands and all this like sweating and everything else that is involved with being in manual labor right? I knew that I wanted to be a salesperson as opposed to a manual laborer but it didn’t dawn on me at that point that it would be something that lasted me my entire life and got me here. And at this point in my life, I’ve sold a lot of stuff. I’ve sold mortgages, real estate, car washes, drugs, sales training to people that have sold drugs – like, I’ve done all sorts of stuff at this point.
AP: Let’s talk about that last one. You’re pretty open about the fact that you had addiction issues. You ended up in prison, but you’re saying you gave sales training to people that were selling drugs?
RS: Well, a few years back when the green rush was in full effect, I started training a lot of the dispensary people on How to upsell people when they come in. Just like McDonald’s like “Hey man, you can grab two extra joints for five bucks.” If you don’t ask them, they’re not going to spend the extra five bucks. If you do ask them, nine times out of 10 people just drop the extra five, especially in a dispensary where they’re probably a little stoned anyway to begin. They were for-profit organizations but yeah, technically I have sold sales training to people who sell drugs.
AP: So upsell the THC gummies.
RS: Dude, you’re gonna be really hungry after this, you’re not going to want to lose your high, just take some chocolate chip cookies, man, you’re going to love them.
AP: So I mean, you’ve had to confront being homeless at some point, in addition to addiction issues, prison, and divorce. I mean, one of those is hard enough for most people to get through. What kept you going?
RS: That’s an interesting question. Just to give you a quick timeline, I was adopted at age seven. I dropped out of school at age 15, got a GED at 17, overdosed on drugs and basically died at age 19, went to prison at age 20, got out at 21, worked at the carwash again until I was 23. Then one of the customers at the carwash offered me a job in the mortgage industry. I took her up on the offer and ended up becoming one of the top mortgage people in the country. Year after year, I did a tremendous amount of mortgage loans, helped a lot of families out, and then in 2007 got in trouble with the police again. They thought I was selling drugs because I was making a lot of money from mortgages and I wasn’t. They kicked down the door to my house, they just made a mistake, and instead of owning up to their mistake, they charged me with felony possession of a firearm. I ended up going back to prison for another 15 months, got married before I went in there, ended up getting divorced, then got out and started all over from scratch. No wife, no family, nothing like that really to rely on and I got a job back in the mortgage business. I worked there from 2008-2010. Then they passed a law called the Dodd-Frank Act and I lost my mortgage license and I had to start all over again. I’m like the king of starting all over. That’s what’s led me into this, which is really the longest I’ve ever done anything. For the six or seven years now that I’ve been doing sales, training, and internet marketing. I don’t know that I really had motivation. I have this innate ability to continue to move forward and just shake stuff off. I’m not really good with emotions. I don’t deal well with this stuff. I’m kind of a callous person, which hints at how I got the name “Hardcore Closer.” Because of that, I’ve always just been so future-focused that I don’t have time to deal with the past or what happened. When I got sentenced to prison, I didn’t go walk through there and just want to play this victim. Obviously, I was very much taken advantage of and shouldn’t have been there. I said, “Hey, you know what? I got 15 months. I’m going to read every book I can get my hands on. I’m going to come out of here and I’m gonna be even better. I’m going to show everybody that doubted me. I want to be an example that you can go to prison twice and get your life together. The second time, honestly wasn’t my fault. Had I known that the ATF had a different set of rules than the state of Texas, I wouldn’t even had that in my house.
AP: So, you know, they say we’re all a sum of our experiences. So how did that experience shape your sales philosophy? You’ve got this booming, thriving coaching business where you coach a lot of sales professionals on how to become more effective and efficient at what they do.
RS: Well, mainly because I’m able to deal with alpha personality types. I’m not over here training rookie salespeople. I’m training people that are already making six and sometimes seven figures a year. You know, I’m assisting them and getting to multiply that exponentially depending on how much they want, right? So what I’ve learned is if you’re going to deal with alpha personality types, you have to learn how to have an alpha personality type without getting into conflict. That’s a very delicate process, and that’s really something I learned in prison. You gotta learn how to be a tough guy without saying you’re too tough, because then somebody will beat the crap out of you and prove that you’re not. If you look at the crew that I coach and the clients that we have and stuff like that, they’re one percenters man. They’re people that aren’t just going to take advice from some guy that, goes to church every Sunday and has this perfect life. He’s only been through one marriage and hasn’t had a life-altering incident in their life. They’re not going to take advice from that guy. They’ve been looking for someone like me and so I also have the ability to connect with people who didn’t have a connection before. Like I said, most sales trainers wear a suit and tie and they do the corporate thing. While there’s nothing wrong with that, there’s plenty of those people out there. I wanted to come into this industry and be myself, which is something completely different from that stereotype. I wanted to show people out here “Hey, you know, no matter if you’ve been through divorce, no matter if you’ve been through prison, no matter if you’ve been homeless, on drugs, or adopted, we can connect, I understand your pain. I’ve been through it. Let me show you how I’ve continued to push through it.”
AP: Okay, so the people you work with are already acknowledged successes. So what are you working with them on? What are the problems they have?
RS: That’s that’s a good question. You know, that’s morphed a lot over the years, and we’re constantly growing and developing, but the main thing that I’m working with people right now on is the scalability of their business. I have a good group of people that would be considered a solopreneur or somebody with one employee, and I’m teaching them how to lower their costs. A typical person right now that’s working with me is making a quarter-million dollars a year. They’re using direct mail or some kind of billboard advertising or some kind of old school advertising that costs a significant amount of money. Maybe they’re buying leads from an online source like Zillow or something like that. But, they’re online advertising and they’re trying to lower and reduce those costs while also scaling a team in place to where they can duplicate their efforts. So a lot of the people that I work with, they come to me about a year after we work together, they’ve got five or 10 employees that they’ve delegated and taught their business to, and their business has exponentially grown. I have plenty of sales training material that we sell as e-learning products. I have a lot of lead generation stuff that we sell as e-learning products. The people who come to me and pay the $5000, $10,000, $30,000 a year to work with me don’t need that. These are the people that are already somewhat significant and successful and they already have a business in place. They’re trying to grow that business without making some of the same mistakes that I have. I’ve got 12 people that are on retainer working with me on my team. Last month in August, we did $442,000 in sales for the month. Most of my team’s actually tech support too, so we only have six salespeople. We’re out there pushing it. I’ve been able to scale that team within the last year and a half, so I’m teaching these guys that are going through the same transition I went through.
AP: So do you assume that your stuff works for some business to business sales?
RS: Yes, our stuff works for business to business, too. You know, one of the first things people say is, “Well, does this work for b2b?” Yes, it works for b2b. I have a guy that sells inspections and he doesn’t sell to homeowners but he sells them to good brokerages like Keller Williams or REMAX or something like that. It does very well. It’s all a matter of positioning yourself. That’s my expertise. I can look at your business and say, “Okay, that’s really cool, but if we sell it this way, we’ll sell more of it.
AP: Got it. So let’s start with an article you wrote because, again, we talked about a lot of sales and CEOs’ basic habits and you have an article you wrote called, “If you’re not losing sleep over it, it’s not that big of a deal.” I thought was a really interesting article. You’re about overcoming stress, right? How do you make a habit out of how to overcome stress. You talked a little bit about it in terms of just you know, putting it behind you and becoming effective. What are the other core habits that in your mind that you see that characterize great salespeople?
RS: You know, the public perception of a great salesperson and the actuality of a great salesperson are two different things. The public thinks you need to be some fast talker or smooth. You know, it’s some Ari Gold type individual, right? Well, Ari was an effective salesperson on “Entourage.” The people that I see that close the most money, do the most damage, are the quiet guys – the ones that ask questions and get their prospects to talk the most. Really, in the modern marketplace that we live in, being able to ask questions that basically solicit from them the answers that you are already looking for are basically fishing questions that get them to go ahead and draw a logical conclusion. We live in a time where people have probably researched your product pretty heavily before they reach out to you. All those old school push-pull tactics and stuff may work but they’re not as effective as letting the prospect draw a logical conclusion to their need. One of the things you mentioned was if you’re not losing sleep over it, it’s not that big of a deal. You know, one thing about that article that is rubbed off really from prison is there’s been plenty of nights that I’ve been sleepless in there and realize what a big deal it is. When you’re in prison and you find out that, you know, your multiple six-figure savings is going to be gone and you’re going to be single and no longer married, you realize what stress really is like. I’m lucky I have my hair. I realized what losing sleep over something really feels like. Now, out here, I had a contractor steal $32,000 from me last month on a remodel in my house. It’s done now, the dude took the check, freaking hit the bricks, it’s a whole debacle I’m dealing with, but am I going to lose sleep over that? That’s a little stressful. 32 grand is a lot of money, I don’t care who you are. I definitely didn’t lose any sleep over it, though, because I’ve had that experience of losing sleep over some real stuff that I couldn’t control.
AP: Right. So lose sleep over things that are really, really important. Yeah, $32,000 isn’t all that big in the big scheme of things. You talk about other sort of core behaviors that – again, I just love this core behavior stuff – are waking up early exercising, staying hungry, having a belief in higher calling. I mean, those are all important aspects. I mean, how do you integrate that into what you do?
RS: The higher calling is definitely there. I’m not a religious person, I’m just Ryan. I do believe that we’re here and whether some aliens created us as a game for amusement or whether we’re here because we have a divine creator, the fact is, we’re here and I believe that we’re all programmed. You know, they discovered that each strand of DNA is different in each person, right? So we all have our own little unique operating system in that I believe that people that find success on this planet – not necessarily money – are people who are tapped into that operating system that was programmed into their DNA. I just got weird on you, but just hear me out for a minute. My family always told me to be a preacher, but I wasn’t a fan of preaching because I don’t believe in that stuff. My family always said, “Hey, you need to be a preacher. You have this ability to motivate people and everything else.” Then I discovered motivational speakers. I was like, “Well, this is cool. This is something that I can do.” I’ll never forget that in 2005, I finished reading this book called The Law of Success by Napoleon Hill. It’s like a 1700 page book, you know, and I was so proud of myself, because at the time, it was the biggest book I’d ever read. I remember jumping on the coffee table in front of my then-wife and saying, “Listen, one day I’m going to do this motivational thing, and I’m going to teach people to do something. One day, we’re not going to communicate the way that we do now. We’re going to be able to communicate through like airwaves” – at this time, text message wasn’t really a thing. It was still mainly email. We didn’t even have Blackberries, yet. It was still flip phones, right? I was like, “We’re going to be able to communicate through different stuff!” Now here I am, you know, 12 years later, and I’m doing that. I’m following the voice in my head. I didn’t become this motivational person, I went back to work as a mortgage broker. The the universe knew that that wasn’t what I was supposed to do. It knows that I’m a hard head. So it rewarded me with prison and was like “Okay, we’re going to make you get out of this.” Then my little hard-headed self went right back into the mortgage business again. They passed a law – literally an act of Congress – that kept me from doing mortgages again, which finally made me say, “Maybe I should just listen this voice and take this route.” I’ve never made as much money in the past two years, and I made a lot of money doing mortgages. I’ve never been able to serve thousands of people on a regular basis and do what we’ve done. The most successful people feel like they have that voice and I feel like I’m 100% in alignment with the operating system that I have been blessed with. I feel like I’m 100% of alignment with that voice in the back of my head that’s been guiding me what to do all along. I think that’s why I’m having success, a good home life, and nice things. You know, my sales team and I were discussing yesterday how we’ve been doing this for six years, we’ve had thousands of clients, and we have zero complaints. We just got funding from a big bank that will finance people that want to be in our programs. They said, “Normally, we don’t take these kinds of people, but with 320,000 search results of your name, there’s no negative data out there anywhere.” That’s because we deliver, right? So when these people are showing up into my funnel, it’s like, I know who they are, they’ve been through some of the pain that I have, and I’m able to help them and change their life. We get excited every time we make a sale, because it’s not the money, man, but we know somebody life’s about to change.
AP: Well, and you bring up a really important point, though, which is that you can’t ignore what your gut is telling you. You’ve got the voice, you can’t ignore it. That’s something you need to pay attention to. I mean, maybe it helps you make the right decisions, makes you take a risk that you might not otherwise take but has a big payoff in terms of Unicode today. You know, instead of going back to mortgages or wherever you’d have gone after mortgages, you know, you start your own thing and it’s turned out. I think so many people ignore that voice and they become sort of satisfied they’re living with comfort instead of living with discomfort or seeking out discomfort.
RS: Well, it’s strange because I mentioned that at age 19 I overdosed and died. It was my first time in the multilevel marketing world and multilevel marketing didn’t happen as fast as I wanted to, which happens for a lot of people, especially for younger people. The older people that you thought would be super interesting, you come to find out they’re not. I went back into selling drugs which is what led to me going to prison and everything else and it’s like you know, I’ve had this voice in my head all along that I was supposed to be leading people on some level or another and every time I ignored it, dramatic things happened. Obviously I’m the worst case scenario with prison and stuff like that. I literally believe that was the universe realigning me. So here’s what I like to tell the audience: “Are you getting realigned as well? If you keep running into the same relationships, you keep getting into the same toxic relationships, you keep getting the same jobs that don’t pay you what you want, you keep taking the same thing, it’s because that’s not meant for you, that person is not meant for you. That job’s not meant for you. You’re not listening. We’ll spend our whole lives doing drugs, drinking alcohol, partying, having sex, all these other things to avoid that voice in the back of our head, even though that voice is like – let’s say you’re over here selling plumbing material – “Hey, you’re supposed to sell microphones so that you can help make people’s voices beautiful. You’re not listening to the DNA code that we gave you.”
AP: Yeah, yeah. People don’t listen. And then maybe another word for that is that’s how they discover their passion. It’s that passion that becomes that inspiration and the motivation to do what they were meant to do.
RS: Yeah, we’re born with passion for a reason. That’s for sure.
AP: Yeah, yeah. You say you believe the last thing most salespeople need is more sales training. So why is that?
RS: I honestly believe that most salespeople, if they’ve been in the business for at least a couple years, they know what they’re supposed to do. They don’t necessarily need somebody to say “Okay this is what you do for this.” While it helps, that’s really not what they need. What most salespeople need is some sort of accountability and some sort of duplicatable system to fall into. Salespeople don’t necessarily need me to come in and fire them up. That’s not what companies hire me to do. There are other guys out there for that. What they do is they want me to come in there and teach them a technical system that they can deploy. My definition of sales training is probably different than most people because I believe the sale starts the second the prospect sees you, and most of the time the prospect sees you somewhere else besides in person before that process starts. It could be in an online ad, in a newspaper, a social media post, whatever. I don’t think that we necessarily need more training because we know how to follow up on what we’re supposed to do. We need somebody to customize this stuff for us and hold us accountable to doing it.
AP: If you’re talking to companies, aren’t their managers holding them accountable?
RS: You would think but no. The managers are usually doing TRO reports and crunching numbers, right? They call them managers, but really what they are is glorified bean counters in most corporate environments, and they’re not necessarily leaders. In my jobs, I’ve never had a manager that felt like a mentor, somebody that would hold me accountable. I’m self-accountable anyway, which most of the people I work with are too. They just need somebody to customize their stuff. At the same time, you know, your manager is somebody that you work with, they’re there every single day. When you go out and you hire a coach or consultant or something like that, they’re not there every single day and you’re invested in them, right? So you know that your sales manager gets a little override on everything you do but when you’re paying somebody direct, you know that they’re directly invested in you and the returns that you get. So it does change things a little bit.
AP: Yeah. And I imagine you have a coach she’s talking about you bought into coaching groups or mastermind group. Lots.
RS: Yeah, lots and over the years I’ve spent, I know for sure I can say at least a half a million and still be super safe by FTC guidelines, but maybe a million if I’m stretching it. I’ve spent that much in coaching, masterminds, plane tickets, hotel rooms, travel, just to be a part of the masterminds or seminars and books and online programs. I’m a leader, man, I do what I say. If I’m asking people to invest in my programs, I’ve got to make sure that I’m investing in other people’s programs too, because basically my job as a teacher is to be a purveyor of information. So I’ve got to always be on the endless quest for the latest and greatest and best and newest and most implemental information, you know.
AP: Yep, absolutely. So, Ryan, we’re moving to the last segment of the show. I’ve got some questions I ask all my guests, and the first one is a hypothetical scenario where you’ve just been hired as the VP of sales by a company whose sales have hit the skids, stalled out, flatlined, and the CEO is anxious to get things turned around. So what two things would you do your first week on the job that could have the biggest impact
RS: Well, the first thing that I would do is I would interview every single person there individually. I would find out who the top producer is and I would interview them first. Then I would interview everybody else sub so that I could get an idea of who’s actually doing the work, and maybe fill the holes for the people who aren’t. Second thing I would do is I’ll get rid of the people that didn’t fit the culture that I was trying to build. So that would be the reason for the interviews, but I would basically start hiring and firing.
AP: Okay, so now some rapid fire questions. You can give me one word answers or you can elaborate. So when you’re out selling your services, what’s your most powerful sales attribute?
RS: The fact that I do the same thing over and over. I have a script I follow. I use that every single time, I never deviate from it and the metrics don’t lie with it.
AP: What’s on your script?
RS: It’s a series of questions. I call it my seven magic questions and we sell it in our sales training stuff. It allows the prospect to logically draw the conclusion that they need my stuff. It’s almost as if I’m interviewing them and it’s like, “I might let you buy my stuff, but first, let me ask you these questions.” It’s positioning, right?
AP: Excellent. Okay. So next question: Who is your sales role model?
RS: Elon Musk. He’s closed the world, right? He’s sold his way to investments and growing companies and inspiration and cast his vision across four different multi-billion dollar markets. He’s my idol, period.
AP: Excellent. Okay. So other than your own books, what’s one book you recommend every salesperson read?
RS: Influence by Dr. Robert Cialdini.
AP: Great book. All right. So last question is what music is on your playlist?
RS: This morning was Anthrax, the sound of white noise.
AP: All right. All right. Excellent. Good choice. Well, Ryan, I want to thank you for joining me. Tell people how they can connect with you and learn more about your services.
RS: Yeah, absolutely connect with me on Clyxo and while you’re there, sign up, it’s absolutely free. It’s clyxo.com/closer. If you go there, you’ll see all of my social media profiles so you can connect with me on whatever social media that you’d like to hang out on. I’m pretty active on all of them. That’ll give you my programs, my website, all that other stuff as well. And again, while you’re there, sign up because it’s a lot easier to say find me at clyxo.com/closer than it is to give you 15 million places to try to track me down. That’s the sales in me.
AP: Perfect. Perfect. All right, again, thanks for being on the show today and remember, friends, make it a part of your day every day to deliberately learn something new to help you accelerate your success and an easy way to do that is to make this podcast Accelerate part of your daily routine, whether you’re listening during your commute, at the gym, or as part of your morning sales meeting. That way you won’t miss any of my conversations with top business experts like my guest today, Ryan Stewman, who shared his expertise on how to accelerate the growth of your business. So 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