Ted Olson – author of Feel Good About Selling.
Buying has changed. Traditional sales & marketing techniques are out of date. Few buyers want to talk to sales people – even sellers (and marketers) are tired of the “tactics” that feel inauthentic and fake. This session takes a deep look into the three key areas that make or break sales & marketing efforts.
Ted’s approach helps today’s sellers to lead with empathy and professionalism. His unique three-step sales approach rejects all high-pressure tactics and rigid sales methodologies, focusing instead on building trust and confidence (in the buyer’s mind), ultimately leading to more business. Selling is helping. And it should feel good.
Welcome to PitchLink Sales & Marketing Lit Fest. Before I go in and give a quick introduction to Ted, I must say it is so critical that we don’t forget that finally selling is essentially a very social human-to-human activity. And a lot of stuff that we talk about, tools, including stuff that we are building, the human element cannot be eliminated. It’s not about roles. So don’t mix it up with whether SDRs will exist and BDRs will exist and all that stuff. I’m not talking about that. I do see that there is a prediction that AI bots will buy from each other when it becomes commodities. So people may not be required to buy toilet paper, for instance, for organizations. That will be negotiated and bought by bots. But for the rest, I think we will still need to be human.
Ted Olsen has trained thousands of salespeople from all different backgrounds and industries. He uses his sales experience to help individuals and organizations with sales enablement, sales training, demand generation, and marketing. He has built sales teams that have broken every record at their respective companies.show more
He has created a unique sales framework and methodology called PEP, which stands for Positioning, Exploring, and Presenting. PEP offers a flexible approach based on core selling principles for anyone in sales, whether they like selling or not. He is the author of “Feel Good About Selling”, a book written to help people feel good about selling and to avoid the bad habits that hurt sales. And that’s what this session is all about. Ted, welcome.
All right, great to be here. Appreciate you, Subhanjan, and yeah, let’s jump right in. So I want to start with a story. So this slide, “How to Sell When Everything feels Upside Down,” came from a conversation with a group of sales and marketing leaders. And one of them said, “Everything we’ve tried is not working. All of the old things we’ve done no longer work. It feels like everything’s upside down.” And so they asked me, “How do you sell when everything feels upside down, when everything’s changed so much?” And that’s what I want to talk about today. And my hope is for you to walk away with three things. I want to give you three things. Number one, a new foundation. We need to rethink selling altogether. Number two, a new definition of sales. Number three, a new paradigm. So new foundation, new definition, and a new paradigm. That’s what we’ll cover in our session today. So let me just move along here. I don’t know if anyone’s in the chat, but if you are, when somebody says, “Hey, what are the ABCs of selling?” What comes to mind? So when we think of the ABCs, we’re thinking of the core fundamentals.
These are the building blocks. This is what selling rests on.
“Always be closing”. There you go, Neil.
That quote is from a 30-year-old movie, and it has infected the sales community, the marketing community for decades. It’s a great quote in a movie. It’s a really poor sales strategy. So it’s toxic, it’s outdated, and I want to give you a new one. I want to give you something that you can replace— stand on a much more solid foundation. It can’t always be closing. This is what leads to aggressive tactics, overly assertive coercion, manipulation, sleazy, salesy. Nobody likes that. And it comes from this mindset that has been perpetuated by the media, by sales teams themselves, by leaders, by VCs.
Push, push, push, go, go, go.
And it’s actually having the opposite effect on selling. Now, I have the good fortune of working with top consultants in the world. These are consultants who sell small coaching engagements to multimillion-dollar deals. So I watch them and I learn from them, and I now train them in the soft skills of selling in a little different way. So we need to move away from this dominant mindset.
But how do we do that? How do we get out of this? Well, we have to go back to basics. So let me click my slide here and ask the question, what is sales? If you have an idea of what sales is, feel free to type it in the chat.
I’ve asked this to thousands of sellers, and everyone gives me a different answer. They say, “It’s a transaction. It’s about making money. It’s about finding pain and providing a solution.” If you hear my voice crack, by the way, I have a little head cold, so bear with me. Finding pain, providing a solution, all that stuff that we know. And the problem is it’s not necessarily wrong, it’s just incomplete.
“Drive customer success” is another one, another definition. Potentially, but here’s what I want you to think about it. Take it or leave it, roll around in it, see how you feel about it. But I think of sales as a process of helping someone make a positive change. Here’s where everyone gets tripped up in allowing them to own it.
So sales is very much a process. It might take seconds in an internet transaction, or it could be an 18-month long sales cycle. Sales is about helping someone make a positive change. It’s not about manipulating them, forcing them into something that doesn’t feel right, doesn’t feel good. And the last one, there’s more here, but I’ll just give you three.
The last one is freedom of choice, allowing them, changing our language, changing the way we think about selling in such a way that the prospect is taking ownership for their decision because it is their decision. We have it in our heads. We’ve been taught and I’ve been taught that we’ve got to push the sale. We’ve got to push the close. Always be closing. No, what we have to do is something a little different, and I’ll unpack it as we go.
So here we go. If you can’t remember that definition, remember that selling is helping. That’s the simplest way that I like to define selling. It’s really about helping. And if you look at this image, let’s just say this was a movie, and the movie is called “The Woman Crosses the Street.”
Now, in movies, there’s often a hero, a villain, and a guide. This is a universal story architecture that’s been around since 1871, at least, probably older and probably goes back to the Greeks.
Hero, villain and Guide. If you look at this picture, who is the hero in this movie? Is it the woman on the left or the woman on the right? Anyone want to stick that in the chat? Yes, it is the woman on the right. This is the hero of the story. She’s on that journey. Just like our prospects are on a journey to a better place, she wants to get to that better place safely. The seller is the woman on the left, the guide, who is guiding that person to a better place. The villain in the story. It could be a number of things. The villain could be old age. The villain could be dangerous streets, crowded cities, any number of things. And this is really important because I talk about this with sellers and marketers, and they agree with it. But then I look at their copy, their message. I listen to the tape, I listen to their calls. I’m like, “You’re making yourself the hero, or you’re making your prospect the villain.”
You’re mixing up roles. Don’t do that. That is going to hurt sales. That’s going to hurt your marketing efforts. So let’s keep going. If that’s the case, if selling is helping, well, why do prospects hate salespeople? If selling is helping, it doesn’t make any sense that prospects hate salespeople. And the reason is simple, and you know this reason— salesy, aggressive, pushy, in your face, talkative. Number one complaint from prospects— sellers talk too much. They don’t listen to me. They didn’t really understand what I was trying to do. So the new paradigm I want to talk about, we’ve talked about a new definition— short answer— selling is helping. Here’s the new paradigm. Trusted advisor. Buyers do not want to talk to salespeople. Everyone wants to talk to a trusted advisor. A trusted advisor is someone who knows how to create a safe space, who knows and understands things like empathy, asking good questions, active listening, leading somebody, solving complex problems. There’s a whole skill set that sellers need to develop that they don’t have. So yes, I’ve trained thousands of salespeople, but I don’t actually call it that. I don’t train salespeople. I train sellers and business owners and entrepreneurs and consultants to be trusted advisors because that’s what people are looking for.
That’s the new paradigm. So new definition, selling is helping. In a new paradigm, not this salesy, sleazy stuff, but an advisor, a guide, someone you can trust. Yes, there is a trust deficit— 100%.
So let me give you the new ABCs of selling. This is a new foundation. Always build confidence. A- always, B- build, C- confidence. Always build confidence. This is what buyers are craving. They want help. They want to be confident in their choices, in their decisions. And I am encouraging sales teams, marketing teams, business owners, leaders to say, look at the world, look at your buying process through the lens of always build confidence. Are you building confidence? Not in your sellers, that’s important, and we can train them for that. But are we building confidence in the buyer’s mind? Are we de-risking the decision? Are we making it simple? Are we making it easy instead of just talking, talking, and overwhelming them?
So when you rest your sales foundation, your sales and marketing foundation on the ABCs of “always building confidence”, it changes the game. It changes everything. Suddenly, your talk script doesn’t work anymore. Yeah, always build confidence versus always be overconfident.
Yeah, the cockiness of sellers, the assumptions of closing. Buyers aren’t putting up with it anymore. They don’t have any patience for it. And routing that out of sales teams, even out of marketing teams is a journey. It’s going to take some time. And to do that, we need to have some new paradigm.
So number one, a true definition of what selling really is. Number two, a new paradigm of what a seller is, a trusted advisor. Number three, new foundational building blocks, not always be closing, but always be building confidence in our prospects. How do we do that?
Let’s focus on that and watch what happens. This changes the game. So I’m not here to train somebody to be a little better seller. I’m here to help revolutionize the sales industry and marketing industry. And I think we can do it. There’s a big movement. There’s a lot of people picking up on these ideas and moving in this direction. Again, I want you to think about it, roll around in it, see if you like it. But let’s keep going.
So Subhanjian mentioned my selling system, which is PEP, stands for positioning, exploring, and presenting. Now, positioning, you all know this, positioning is the umbrella.
And under the umbrella is the message, the unique selling proposition, the value proposition, the story, inbound, outbound, prospecting. What happens with positioning is everyone gets it wrong. By everyone, I mean pretty much everyone, meaning they focus on them, their product, and their company. But that’s not what the buyer wants. The buyer is asking the question, “Hey, what’s in it for me?” Aristotle said, “People are persuaded by considerations of their interest.” That’s today we call that “wiifm”. “Hey, what’s in it for me?”
And we’re not telling that story. What we’re doing is we’re talking about ourselves. We’re making ourselves the hero. What we really need to do is tell that hero story. What’s the problem? What’s their problem? What keeps them up at night? What drives them crazy? Why does that matter? What’s at stake if that problem isn’t solved? What can they do about it? That’s positioning for me because I think a lot of people don’t get it right. What they do is they just tell sellers to start pounding the phone, but they don’t have the story right. They’re just trying to book an appointment. So we have to flip that script and we have to become trusted advisors.
We have to tell our prospect the story of that journey that they either are aware of or not aware of. They may not even be aware they need to make a change, and that’s part of our storytelling. I heard somebody mentioned storytelling early. It’s making a comeback in sales, thankfully.
Now, the second is exploring. So this is typically called discovery, lots of different discovery methods. I don’t necessarily want to talk about that. What I want to talk about is what’s missed. So in discovery, in exploring the need of a prospect, we never get below the surface. We never get down underneath to find out how this is impacting the business. What key metric is at stake? How is this impacting strategic initiatives? When we don’t do that, what happens is we become a commodity. We became a tactical service that one of the speakers was talking about.
“Oh, it’s not critical. Let’s get rid of it. Budgets are tightening.” But if you are exploring in such a way where you tie into the strategy, it’s very hard to get out of, very hard to churn out of that because it’s tied into the mission and vision of the organization.
Exploring requires another flip of the script. Instead of going in there and plowing them with questions, often intrusive, on the nose, yes-no questions, even rude questions— you haven’t earned the right to ask that question— number one, how do you create a safe space? That’s what I’m trying to help sellers do. It’s like, “Hey, before you can even ask me any questions, do I feel safe with you? Can you lower my guard?” That’s a skill that most sellers don’t have. Because when you create a safe space, when you lower your prospect’s guard, guess what? They open up and they tell you what’s really going on. And now from there, we can move forward with a plan. We can collaborate and move forward.
And now presenting, this is what everyone thinks of selling, right? The persuasive presenter who can talk a dog off a meat wagon, right? Sell ice to an Eskimo, right? Persuade, present, go in and crush it. Do that killer demo. And I take an opposite view because what happens in most presentations is you show up and you talk about you and your company and your products. And I don’t mean you or anyone listening to this.
This is what I see on a daily basis. And we show up and we throw up. We talk about features and benefits without actually tying it to how this helps them move forward to their strategic aim. And we don’t allow them to take ownership of it. Instead, we say, “Isn’t this great?” Rather than getting them to say, “Isn’t this great?”
If you read my book, I teach you how to do that. It’s just changing the question. We have to ask questions in new and fresh ways. We have to be comfortable enough to put ourselves in the position of them saying no. And that requires a different question. It requires giving them freedom of choice. It requires giving them the dignity to make that choice. Because when you give people dignity, they respond positively. When you pressure people, they respond negatively. Their guard goes up. They start to close off. And then the meeting ends with, “Hey, we’ll let you know”, or “Yeah, we’re thinking about it”. And then you’re in Ghostville and you’re chasing them forever. So that’s a little bit about how these new paradigms would fit into the sales process.
Let’s tell their story. Let’s understand their story and let’s present a solution that gets them to where they want to go and allow them to own it. So if you want to make it even simpler, because I love simple and I love things in threes— all selling and marketing is— you’re talking about a problem, you’re offering a solution and there’s some next step in action.
So brand new sales conversation. First time, identify the problem. Is there one or not? High-level discussion on the solution and maybe the action is to set up a full discovery call or whatever. Maybe it’s a demo. Who knows? So let’s go into discovery, exploring. Well, what are we going to do? We’re going to really dig deep into that problem. We’re going to get under the surface and find out how this is impacting the business, the individuals you’re talking to, etc. And then we begin to collaborate on solutions. And then there’s the next step. It might be bring more people in. It might be review a proposal. It could be any number of things.
And then presenting, you’re going to bring that problem right to the forefront.
Again, here’s why we’re here today. We’re talking about this problem that’s been driving you nuts. And now you go into the solutions that address that problem. And what’s the next step? Does it seem like a good solution, or have I just wasted your time? Let them say, “No, this is great. How do I pay you?” When you do it right, you will have customers saying, “How do we get started? How do I pay you? What’s next? Let’s get going.” We just need to change our paradigms. So a couple more things as we close out. The old paradigm, this is dying really fast, but it’s like the Titanic. It’s just something that’s just hard for it to turn. This doesn’t feel good. This feels like pressure and manipulation, and that hurts people. It hurts their fundamental right to freedom and integrity. People don’t like that. And if we can become trusted advisors, this is the new paradigm. People will seek us out for our opinions, for our expertise. We want to be able to provide.
Challenger told us this, I don’t know how long that book came out. People were looking for commercial insights. 10 years ago, 12 years ago, however long that book came out.
They want trusted advisors. People are going to help them think differently. People are going to make them aware of things they might not be thinking about because you know their problem so well. You know their industry, their market. You’re not just in there trying to book an appointment, but you understand, and you understand who you’re talking to. Is it a CEO? Is it a CHRO, CFO, director of HR? Is it a manager? Is it a mid-level leader in the organization? Understanding their story and their perspective. That’s what a trusted advisor does.
So ABCs are “always be closing”— no— “always build confidence”! This is what’s going to make you stand out. People will seek you out. They’ll find you. But it requires a different approach. It requires new tools. It requires leveling up and upskilling in soft skills, active listening, communication, empathy. These are things that can be practiced and taught and listened for. Feel free to check out the book. It’s doing great. Whether you buy it or not, totally up to you. What I really want you to do is sign up here at ConsultingAcademy.com. I want you to see what professional selling looks like in action.
So we’ve developed a Netflix-style newsletter that comes out every Wednesday at 3 PM and shows a little bite-sized clip of what a top world consultant sounds like. What does it mean to speak with confidence to a CEO? What does it mean to set expectations that set you up for success? What does it mean to put people at ease? We’re doing this in real-time role plays, and you get to see it every week. And the videos are anywhere from two to four minutes. So in two to four minutes a week, you can level up your sales skills, your marketing skills. We talk a lot about marketing as well. That’s it. Hope this was helpful. Hope I didn’t waste your time.
This was great, Ted. I think it’s also important to keep talking about the paradigm shift, to keep talking about the fact that buyers are not buying the way they were buying 20 years back. That’s the fact of life. Change started in the early 90s, actually, if we go back in history. And by the way, Challenger Sale book came out in 2013. Yes, it is 10 years since those ideas were actually documented and presented. And obviously, things have changed from then as well. But I think you cannot not pay attention to the fact that you cannot sell the same way that you are selling. And it pains me to see in LinkedIn and elsewhere that so much talk is about saying, “No, it’s all fine. You just need a good script and you need to be this smart and you need to be dominating and you need to be this.”
Sure it works 1% of the time like everything else. Nothing is zero. Cold calling will work. Cold mailing will work and so on and so forth. But things have changed. Anyway, thank you for the lovely session. I think we have one question. We want to take that. There it is.
Yeah, it’s a great question. I have a thought. I would have, obviously, as a salesperson, I would have follow-up questions to it, but I know we don’t have time for that. But let me give you a quick tip, see if this helps. So what often happens is from sales leaders, they say, “Oh, bring them back to the beginning.” And I think that’s just dumb. Meet them where they are. And it might sound something like this. Because, hey, typically when I’m talking with folks like yourself, they’re pretty far ahead. They’re pretty far along in the journey. They’re thinking about this, this, and this. Is that your experience or am I off base? And let them say, “No, that’s exactly where I am.” Actually, no, I’m just beginning. Well, now you know where to start. That’s what a trusted advisor will do. Don’t assume, find out with a simple question. Typically, folks are thinking about this. They’re probably here on their journey. Don’t assume, which is why you would say something like, “Is that your experience or am I out in left field?” And they’ll open right up. Hope that was helpful.
Absolutely. I think we have one more question and we’ll… Oh, that’s great. Yeah.
What are we doing wrong if we are already following, say, AIDA or BANT? Or is something missing in those frameworks? Yes, humanity is missing in those frameworks. I listen to calls where a buyer… So sellers don’t know how to have a business conversation, and that’s a problem. I’m not a fan of this model of, “Hey, get this, get this, get this, and get this.” I am a fan of creating a safe space. And this is what I cover in-depth in my book. I have four different discovery methods, and none of them are BANT, none of them are AIDA, nothing like that. It is all about having a business conversation, creating a safe space and allowing the prospect to engage so that I’m not just plying for information. So what BANT does, the literal model is what it does is it takes a young seller and says, “go get this. Go get this information so we know how to sell to them.” And I’m suggesting that we have a business conversation to see if and how we can help them. It’s a subtle shift, but it makes all the difference in the mind of a buyer.
Wonderful. Thanks, Ted, again for coming and presenting. I’m really thankful that you made time. And we’ll end this session, but be here because Ashley is waiting and she’s going to come and talk about something very interesting, design thinking in sales. About her book. So just be there. We’ll be back in a bit.
Appreciate you having me.
Thanks, Ted.show less
Ted Olson is the founder and CEO of Consulting Academy – an organization that helps independent coaches and consultants market with clarity and sell with confidence. Ted is the best-selling author of Feel Good About Selling – a book written to help sellers avoid “salesy” and become authentic, trusted advisors instead. He has built his proprietary sales and marketing system for consultants, coaches, and entrepreneurs.
Ted is continually rated “5 Stars” for his training and speaking events. He’s built record-breaking sales teams. He is certified in Talent Optimization, The Predictive Index, and a master NLP practitioner. For down time, Ted writes, is active on social media, and practices martial arts. He homeschools his four kids with his wife, Nicole. They have two dogs (Oatmeal and Honeybee) – his kids wanted him to mention the pets 🙂