Recently I was invited to join John Jantsch on his Duct Tape Marketing podcast to talk about Sales Prospecting in a digitally centric world. We covered a ton of ground and I wanted to share the podcast and transcript (for you folks that prefer to read) here on the Converse Digital Blog.
Questions we covered:
- Why do people dislike sales prospecting so much?
- What is propinquity and what does it have to do with sales prospecting?
- How do you get better at conversation?
What you’ll learn if you give a listen:
- How being fully present can help you win business.
- Why content should feel like it was written for an individual vs a category or industry.
- Why you should see a sales prospect as a relationship rather than a deal.
Transcript of my Duct Tape Marketing interview with host John Jantsch.
Hello, and welcome to another episode of the “Duct Tape Marketing Podcast.” This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Tom Martin. He’s a speaker and author. In fact, Tom was on when his book, “The Invisible Sale,” came out. You can go back. In fact, we’ll have that in the show notes. He’s also the founder of Converse Digital, and he’s got a new course that he’s been working on called “Turning Conversations into Customers: The Sales Prospecting Method for People who Hate Sales Prospecting.” So, welcome back, Tom.
Tom: Hey. Thanks for having me back. And thanks for saying the name of the company correctly. I think you are one of the few people. Everybody always says it like Converse, like the tennis shoes. So thank you for that.
John: Well, I do love the tennis shoes, so maybe that’s why I made sure I studied it. But let me ask you this, though. I mean, who doesn’t love sales prospecting? I don’t understand if there’d be a market for this even.
Tom: Well, you know, I’ll tell you, there is actually… It is interesting that some of the research I was doing, they recently had a study that came out that actually, 43% of salespeople are afraid to make a cold call. And, you know, I think in general you have, you know, people like myself who are maybe introverted or shy really don’t like the idea of prospecting. And maybe not so much they don’t like it. It’s just really uncomfortable. You know, they really have a hard time at a conference or a trade show or a networking event. They really have a hard time just walking up to someone and sticking out their hand out and saying, “Hi. I’m Tom Martin,” and starting a conversation. You know, they tend to be that person that’s, you know, got way too much email to do on their mobile phone, you know, at the side of the room like an eighth-grade dance.
John: Well, and in case it wasn’t obvious, I was being facetious. I mean, I don’t know anybody who likes prospecting to tell you the truth. And I think…
Tom: I don’t know. I’ve seen you work a room…
John: Well, that’s true.
Tom: I’ve seen you prospect, so I don’t know. I mean, I’ve seen it in action.
John: But I do think a lot of people’s dislike or disdain even for it is because of the way they’ve been prospected, I mean, what we think of as cold calling today. Would you agree?
Tom: Absolutely. And actually, this whole course came out of… I gave a talk this past fall here locally in New Orleans, and it was one of those where I was not getting paid. I was doing a favor for a friend, so I thought, “Well, you know, a perfect time to try out some new material,” and basically gave an entire talk about, you know, just that, how people hate prospecting because the way we explain this concept of sales prospecting is really… it’s really in a way that’s very selfish, and it’s self-serving, and it’s… people don’t like that. That’s not what we’re taught to do when we’re children.
And if you reframe it, that it’s not only fun, but enjoyable and it works, and I was blown away by the audience reaction after the talk. And I was like, “Okay. Wait. I think I might be onto something here. I think I might not be the only guy in the world that doesn’t like to do this.” And so, you know, I’ve been really scoring a lot of these thematics in various talks and blog post and different things and finding that, you know, there really… people are…they’re, kind of, hungry for… I know, especially entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, freelancers, you know, people like that, you know, they know they have to prospect for a living. I mean, they only eat what they kill, right, and they just… they’re really searching and looking for someone to show them a way that is palatable and maybe even enjoyable versus, you know, some seven-step process that, you know, has them sending out cold LinkedIn invites right after somebody connects with them, which is, you know, everyone’s favorite thing in the world to receive.
John: You know, it’s interesting. I mean, I think anybody who starts a business… You talked about freelancers, solopreneurs, I mean, an accountant, a lawyer, I mean, you know, they start their business thinking, “This is great. You know, I’ve got my website up. You know, here we are. I’m in business,” and then come to realize that, “Gosh. Fifty percent of this job is selling.” So I think those people come to the realization, sort of, kicking and screaming, you know, and then they have to go out and figure out how to do it. And I think that that maybe isn’t… in some ways, sort of, the reluctance that, you know, it seems like they’ve gotta learn this whole new skill. What would you say, you know, to those folks in terms of, you know, how they should frame this idea of, you know, everybody sells something?
Tom: Well, what I try to explain to folks is that they really don’t need to necessarily learn a new skill. So one of my… You know, one of the things that has really, kind of, come in vogue is this whole concept of social selling. But, you know, I hate the term because it’s really de-bastardizing that people talk about social selling as, “Oh. how do I sell using LinkedIn and Twitter and Facebook, these platforms? It’s very platform, sort of, training, selling theories. And what I do is when I talk about it, I say, “Look. Here’s the thing. Social selling is actually great.”
But what you have to understand is what social selling really means is that you sell by being social and that you know how to do. You know how to do social. You know how to have a conversation with someone, to engage them, to try to find, you know, some common ground that you both can stand on, and from there continue to have a conversation and continue to find things that you know about each other or that you have in common, etc. That’s how you sell. You create this connection between you and that prospect, and then that connection point there, you know, what you do professionally will come out. Maybe not in the first conversation, maybe not in the second.
At some point, they’re gonna find out and figure out what you do for a living. But because the basis of your relationship with them is that you’ve formed this connection, this little bond if you will, that gives you something you can build on. And then when they need your service, you’re the top-of-mind preference. You’re the person they want to call, and they’re pretty sure they want to do business with you as opposed to just do business with somebody, and that’s how you prospect.
And that’s how you build this little flywheel of leads that, you know, it takes a while to get it going, but once you get it going, you know, the leads just kind of, come in because you’re that person that people enjoy being around. You’re that sales prospecting that they actually welcome into their life, you know, versus running screaming away from buying technology to avoid, etc. And when you help them see that, a little light bulb goes off. And it could be a little more strategic than just talking, but, yeah, more or less that’s the core. Be social. Be someone people want to talk to.
John: Well, and I think that that’s one of the things that really is the promise of social media. Again, as you said, a lot of people have ruined it, but there’s so much data there. There’s so much information to help you derive a sense of… oh. Dang. I blew it.
John: Propinquity. That’s only the second time that word has been used on this podcast. And the first one was when I interviewed you for “The Invisible Sale.” It’s getting a long day. I’m tripping on my words. I had that one queued up, too. So explain that concept because I think it’s just what… I mean, it is what you’ve just said. And I was surprised you didn’t use the word.
Tom: Well, you know, nobody can ever pronounce it. They love it. It’s a great conversational word. But it’s really the science of how relationships are built, and it’s really like dating. You know, when you met your wife for the first time, you met her. You learned a few things about her you liked. And you had another date. You had more conversations. You found more things you liked. Propinquity is all about that. It’s about making sure that there is a connectivity between you and the person you want to do business with.
And that connectivity might be you in person, it might be you as content. It might be you as you’re on a podcast, and someone listens to it. It might be you as social media touching, but you wanna create a proximity between you and your prospect where they can continue to learn new things about you. And that’s the key. They have to be always learning something new about you because what they’re doing is they’re filing all these things away. And, you know, maybe let’s say half the things they find out about you, they actually like. Well, at some point, mathematics takes over, they find enough things that they like about you that they decide, “Yes. This is my preferred provider,” or in a social world, “This is a person I wanna be friends with.” That’s the way it works in life. That’s how it works. I think it works the same way in sales and marketing. But, you know, the key is you gotta… you can’t just have that proximity. You’ve gotta be present, like, in those moments.
And I think probably the biggest thing that trips people up is that they just can’t be present in the moment while they’re having a conversation or, you know, while you’re being interviewed on a podcast. Be wholly present in what you’re having, this discussion you’re having, with the person interviewing you versus thinking about, “Oh. I’ve got this other thing going on. I gotta do this client call later or you know.” And that part is key. If people can get to that, where they can truly be present in that moment, truly focus on, “How can I connect with this individual? What is our common ground,” and there has to be some common ground, that’s when the magic can take off, and they can really, you know, A, be very successful [inaudible 00:09:40] feeling like, “Wow. That was really fun. I enjoyed that. I really like that person. I don’t just like them as a prospect. I, kinda, like them as a person. That’s, kinda, cool.”
And as soon as you can get people to understand that, like, then they’re like, “Well, oh, I don’t mind sales prospecting.” Click yes. You don’t. You just don’t like it the way you were taught to do it because the way you were taught to do it feels just, sort of, self-serving and selfish. And, you know, when you were a kid, your mom told you to share. You’re like, “Let’s not keep them all to yourself.”J
John: Well, so, obviously, you know, a central part of this is what you just said, kinda that proximity, kinda having some common ground. I mean, that’s probably not hard for people to get, but are there some consistent, sort of, core activities then that you have to surround that with so that it does ultimately lead to, “Hey. This is a smart person,” or not just a smart person, but, “This is a person that can solve my problem”?
Tom: Well, I think that’s where, you know, for those of us who are trying to, you know, prospect, especially if we’re trying to prospect outside of our local geography, you know, that’s where content can really play a really big role. Both your own content that’s resident on your own site, the internet, and the world via, you know, podcasts or guest posting on relevant blogs or, you know, third-party media platforms, speaking at the right conferences, things of this nature. But in that content at the same time, you know, you have to build that content where, again, you’re finding that common ground. You know, you’ve gotta build content that someone can read and say, “Oh, this was written for me.” Obviously, you didn’t write it just for a single person. That wouldn’t scale very well. But it should feel like, you know, that, “Hey, this was written for me. This person understands my pain point or my frustration or my hurdle. Like, they get me,” you know?
And when you can do that and… You know, look. I wish I could say I was the greatest person in the world at that. I’m not. If I was, I’d be even more successful. But that is the key. Like, if you can do that, that’s you, kind of, having that connection with them even before you’ve ever met them, right? And that to me is like if you can get to that… and I know some people that are really good at it. If you can get to that, the sky is the limit. You’ll always have prospects.
John: So I wrote a book called “Duct Tape Selling.” And, essentially, I was encouraging salespeople and anybody who had to sell that it really is marketing in a lot of ways. Obviously, there are some, you know, core belly-to-belly, you know, kind of things that were not included in there. But in terms of how you raised your expertise, became, you know, the welcomed guest, and I went out and spoke on that book, you know, quite a bit. And I would have a lot of sales people and folks in the audience that said, “Yeah. That’s great. But that’s a lot of work.” And I’m sure you hear that all the time too because we’re talking about building a long-term kind of pipeline here, you know. What do you say to that person that says, “Yeah, I’m just trying to sell something today.”
Tom: Well, I say you can look at a sale prospect in one of two ways. You can see them as a transaction or you can see them as a relationship with a person. And if you see them as a transaction, then, yeah, you’ll close a deal today. But that means, that you gotta go close another deal tomorrow and another deal tomorrow, and it’s always with new people. So you’re spending all your time meeting and finding new people, which that’s a lot of work, too, frankly.
You know, instead, if you can build a relationship with a person, you can see them as a person and realize that this person can be a relationship and that relationship can be a series of deals and not just deals between you and that individual. You know, if you can find somebody who you can convert into what I call a social agent, somebody who not only refers you, but is… takes actually like a vested interest in you. Like, they wanna refer you, they want you to be successful. They’re, kind of, passionate about how they refer you, holy crap, like, that is gold because with those people, now you’ve got an army of people out there doing your heavy lifting for you. They’re not just referring you. They’re basically telling the person on the other side of the conversation, “You would be a damn fool if you didn’t hire this gal or this guy.” And, I mean, that’s… God. What is that worth over the lifetime of your business, you know?
But, yeah, you gotta invest in that. Nobody is just gonna step up and go, “Hey. I wanna sign up to be a soldier in your little social agent army.” You got to invest in those people. You gotta be present in those conversations. You gotta find that common ground. You gotta make that connection, and when you do, it’s beautiful. But, yeah, it’s all about… for me, it’s all about long term. Like, I wanna create deal flow for years, not just today because, man, that’s really hard.
John: So if I’m listening to this, and I’m thinking, “Okay. The ideas of this sound great,” do you wanna, kind of, lay out what they can expect in looking into the course, “Turning Conversations into Customers?” How is it constructed?
Tom: Well, what we’re gonna do with the course is… I’ve built it a little bit different. I’m building it… now I’m starting not being able to talk. I’m building it a little bit differently. I’m building it… Now, I’m starting to not be able to talk. I’m building it as a series of small video classes. So they’ll come in. They’ll have, you know, a short video class. It might be five minutes. It might be 15, but something that’s relatively consumable for the launch or whatever like that to make it easy, right? And then with that will be some additional, you know, reading or homework or other things they can read to round out that course module. And then they’ll come in, and then they’ll move on to the next module, the next module, the next module, so forth and so on.
And then they’ll also be able to come into a private Facebook group where they can not only ask questions, meet with other people who are, kind of, going through the same thing they’re going through, struggling with the same struggles they’re struggling with, and they can, kind of, be a community, but also where we’re gonna do some live, like, you know, one-to-many coachings, and, you know, where they can, you know, kind of, explore further. Like, “Hey, you said this is what you really mean.” And it will give me an opportunity to… if they have got the question, chances are everybody else on the call has a question, too, or at least a bunch of them. So we can do that sort of coaching, and everybody can learn. And then if they really wanna go down the pipe, they can sign up for more, like, individualized-type coaching in smaller master-class-type programs that we’ll offer. But those will probably trail the initial launch of the course. In the summer of 2019, we’ll launch the course work, and then the rest of the stuff will probably come in fall of 2019.
John: Yes. So depending upon when you’re listening to the show, summer of 2019 or fall. Let me ask you one question and I’m sure you get it. I don’t know if it’s a great place for us to end or not. But there are people that just aren’t good at conversation. I’m not that great at it, quite frankly. And I’m sure that there are people that are, you know, truly not great or not practiced at it. You know, how do you get better at that aspect, you know, which is central to what you’re talking about?
Tom: You know, it’s interesting because I’m really bad at it. I’m, like, the worse networker in the world. And I actually tell a story at my workshops that I was at a speaking gig, and some people came over, and they just wanted to meet me. And I actually stepped backwards and removed myself from the space, so that the circle of people standing next to me would close and, kind of, shield me. And I didn’t even… it was completely subconscious to me. I didn’t realize I did it, but the people next to me all noticed it. And one of my colleagues who was traveling with me was like, “Seriously? I mean, they wanted to talk to you, and you… what’s wrong with you?” And basically, I will tell you, this is what I’ve had to do and… is you just gotta step up to the plate and do it. And you just do it, and you just keep doing it, and you just keep doing it. And what I’m finding now is it’s getting easier to do it.
I’m still not nearly as good at it as some people, but what happens is, you know, you do it, and what happens is you end up having a good conversation, not always a sales prospect. There’s plenty of people, you know, that you meet that there’s no opportunity for anything. But, at least, you had a nice conversation, and you did it. You, sort of, broke the ice, and that’s all you gotta do.
I think it’s just like a hitter in baseball who’s in a slump. There’s no way to fix it, except get back in the batter’s box and take another swing. And that’s what you have to do here is, you know, just make it a point at every event or every… Any place where you are around people you don’t know everybody, whether it’s a party or a networking event or conference or a trade show, make it a point to just say, “Hey. I’m Tom Martin.” Get comfortable doing it with two people. Go for four. And it sounds silly, it sounds simplistic, but it works.
John: Yeah. And I know, you know, especially people that it’s not natural, and in fact, maybe they’re even, you know, a bit uptight in that kind of situation. I always find that having a plan going in, you know, ahead of time, thinking, “Here is what I’m going to do,” so that when the moment hits you, you’re not, you know, just, sort of, flustered.
Tom: Yeah. And if you’re going to… now, if you’re going to, like, some sort of, like, especially like conferences where maybe you can, kinda, see who attendees are or if not attendees, at least speakers. Go find all the speakers. And use social media and LinkedIn and stuff to create a little mini dossier that you can put in your phone, like, in your contact, in your address book and take a picture from the web and put it in there, so that you’ve got their face. And on the airplane ride or the car ride to the event, you know, kind of, study it a little bit. And what will happen is when you’re there, you’ll see those people. And then you can go, “Okay. Oh, John wrote a book called “Duct Tape Selling.” He likes this. He likes that.”
And then you can, kind of, get yourself there and say, “Hey. How you doing? I’m Tom Martin.” And you, kind of, already feel like you know them a little bit. And you already know some things that, like, even if you’re not a great conversationalist, you know, you can find a way to work the conversation towards subject matter that you’re pretty sure they’re interested in because you’ve already read it about them or whatever. And, you know, that will get them more comfortable, and so they’ll start to talk a little more and then once they do, you’ll feel more comfortable. And listen, I’ve used it really effectively at lots of conferences, and I’ve taught a lot of salespeople this trick. And it really works really well, especially if you aren’t going strategically to prospect, do it to the people you plan to prospect. But even if you don’t know anybody, like, just do it to the speakers because speakers are notoriously introverted, believe it or not. You know?
And especially if it’s at a conference where it’s not really their core industry, like, I recently went to a conference in the sailing industry. I didn’t know any of the other speakers. I didn’t know anybody at all in the whole conference. So, you know, if anybody came up to me, I was like, “Oh, thank God,” you know, “Somebody to talk to.” And there are a lot of speakers who do it. And it’s great because then you get to meet the speakers and learn something, and it’s amazing how that can just create other conversations. So a good, easy, little trick to use, you know, especially for conferences and stuff, but even, you know, networking events or parties.
John: Speaking with Tom Martin, author of “The Invisible Sale” and a course that’s coming out summer of 2019, Turning Conversations into Customers. So, Tom, thanks for joining us, and hopefully I’ll bump into you out there at one of those conferences.
Tom: Well, thanks for having me, and I definitely hope that we do.