Donald has a belief that “anyone” can sell if they have the desire. Early on in his sales career, Donald struggled with sales, but through proper training and coaching, he became a top performing seller.He has since taken it upon himself to “evangelize” the message of effective selling to struggling entrepreneurs, salespeople, and anyone looking to improve their sales hustle. Donald hosts a popular sales podcast called “The Sales Evangelist.” The show has over 2.3 million all-time downloads and is heard in over 150 countries. Donald and his podcast have also been mentioned in Entrepreneur Magazine, Forbes, Inc, and HubSpot as a top B2B sales podcast.
In the interview, Donald shares his insights on the shift to virtual sales, as well as some actionable tips on how to be different in a world where everyone is trying to be different.
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Alright. So I am Jake Page, for those of you who are not familiar with me, a sales manager in the US for Ciara and I'm here with a very good friend of mine, Mr Donald Kelly the host of The Sales Evangelist Podcast. Thanks for coming on here, sir.
Jake, I appreciate it. Thanks so much and big shout out to the folks over at Ciara, you guys are doing some cool stuff in the industry, man.
So, I wanted to have you on today– You know this is apart of our ongoing series we call 'In Conversation with' and what we're trying to do is talk to industry experts, thought leaders, in sales and customer success, and kind of all those areas that Ciara touches and really just kind of glean– You know we want to steal a little bit of your expertise, is really what this comes down to. So the topic I wanted to talk to you about today has to do with the transformation from, or I should say into, virtual sales, right? You know, obviously some not great things have come out of the last year and a half with the pandemic and that sort of thing, but also one of the shifts that we're seeing, that's been accelerated by that, is sales teams switching to virtual. A big transformation.
Yeah, it's huge. I've seen it. I talked to some clients and some of them have been hiring sales teams, and one of the things that they are discovering is that sales reps want the option to be able to work remote, or to have a hybrid work situation. And I think that's very interesting.
There's a guy I was talking to on Monday, we did a podcast interview, and they spoke about that their whole office now has gone remote, and they gave them the option, "Would you like to come back?", and most people said they will they want to stay remote. So they're really, really downsizing their office because. There was one person who prefers coming to the office because they have a small kid who is at home with the babysitter. So in that case, it's a challenge for this person to work at home, so she wants to come to the office. And it's cool that you have that option, but the critical piece is that you are giving people the opportunity to work from home because it can still be just as productive. And we asked them, "Did you see any decrease in productivity compared to prior pandemic?" He said there's no difference in productivity, it didn't decrease. So I thought that was fascinating.
That is fascinating and I see that brought up all the time, right? There's some debate about productivity and especially in our industry, right? How do you coach and support virtual salespeople who weren't virtual last year, or before the pandemic and that sort of thing?
Their whole life.
Right, right. And so that's probably a great question to ask here. So, with managing a virtual sales team, it's different, you know?There's no ride-alongs. There's no some sales manager calling you to the office reviewing your calls. A lot of that's changed, right? So what advice could you give to sales managers maybe, who are coaching virtual teams for the first time, kind of what would you say to help them navigate that?
The first thing I'll tell you is have a process in place for a system for the timing. And the reason why I say this, it's very easy when you're in office to just, you know, sales rep come by, you say grab a minute meeting, and then it turns into a closing call. And you may not have those planned, but you if you were to be asked by your director or the VP of sales at the end of the quarter, "Did you meet with the sales reps throughout the quarter?" You'd be able to say, "Yeah, you know, I met with them." But it's a little more challenging when it comes towards being non-remote. If the salesperson doesn't have the capacity to do the independent work by themselves at home, they have no reason working for your organization because we want to make sure, and you want to make sure that, that person, that they don't have to have that 'big brother / big sister' over them. But there's a difference when it comes to accountability, and I'll give you a quick example of this. When I worked in software sales, I had this manager and she did coaching with us once a month. It was fantastic. She knew that we were trying to buy a house and all this cool stuff. So she was able to follow up on that.She knew my 'why' and was able to tap into that and guide and coach me like a coach, like any athlete. When I left that– So the company started doing a little well and had a little bit more opportunities, and things change up a little bit, and she started to not take our appointments because she was doing selling – she was a selling manager as well. So she started to miss those appointments and then eventually cancel them. And it wasn't because we were slackers or anything like that, but there was a gradual decline in our performance as a team because there was something missing when it came towards that accountability, or that pump up, or the guidance from your leader. So, yes. Salespeople they should have the ability to independently work on their own but there's something about having that time to be able to coach and to motivate and to let them know. It's like, a kid gets something done and they feel so happy. Your kid comes home from school, Jake, and they have this beautiful painting. I mean they did the painting all by themselves while they were at school, but they want to show it to someone who could celebrate it with them, or someone who can say, "This is so awesome. I love it. Let's put in the frames." To help them with something that they can't do on their own.I could have closed the deal but there's other pieces that I need help with and that's where you come in as a manager – or my parents, so to speak – to help me to finish that off or guide me. And there's power in that. So when it comes towards it I say: make sure you have the plan, make sure you have those times scheduled out. You can take advantage of technologies, right? You can use tools like companies that use– Like you guys. Use tools like yours where you can track and see how sales performances are doing, look at the CRM. You can use like Gong or whatever, some of these AI software that can listen to the calls and be able to help you and to be able to coach your reps in that moment. But I think when you can take advantage of things like that, it makes it so much more effective for the seller to be able to feel the confidence, and then also to be able to have the guidance. So, the planning, take advantage of technology –because if I'm planning to do my team meeting every week, and then I'm meeting with my sales rep once a month, and then we have a Slack channel going on. I mean, if the sales rep is going to slack off, they're going to slack off in the office either way. But the key is you have those good structures and then the right technology. And then the final piece that I would say is, to make it fun.What culture do you have? Are your sellers excited to be there with you, to be a part of this team? Or are they just there for the money and just for the kicks and giggles? If they love it, they want to be there every single moment, then that means they're going to perform every single moment. And you can create a great environment like that. Whether that's like you know you give out birthday things, you use a pleasant surprise when they're remote –send them like an Uber gift card or Uber Eats or something like that.
There you go.
Keep contests going on your leaderboard – you can still keep that leaderboard and everyone can see the digital leaderboard and you can just see how people are doing and just give shoutouts, random shoutouts to people. Like, you know, in Slack I might say, "Man, Jake killed it this morning. Closed three deals or got two appointments. Big shout out to Jake." We still have the camaraderie and that culture that we probably didn't have when it was only when we were working remote. So, I mean I went on there for a little bit but, those are my top three things off the top of my head.
No, that's great. And so, you bring up an interesting point too. By utilizing technology, both for communication and for coaching, it really should be easier than ever then, right? Because we now have more ways to communicate than we ever have through, Slack and Discord and as well as email and any of the other options that are out there for you. So, if anything, there's more opportunities to connect, more opportunities to kind of touch base and keep people motivated than, you know, when you were out in the field before.
Yeah, 100%. They keep popping up left and right. I mean, every time you look you see there's a new tool that you can add to your sales stack that's popping up. And those, they're not going to go away. They're just going to keep coming because it's going to make the work more efficient. However, I think they come to a point when you have too much tech that it can become cumbersome, right? So you just want to make sure you have the right tech tools, in the right place, and you utilize them to the best of the capability to do what you need to do. Anyways, there was this guy that I was talking to and he said some of the top performers in the world, a lot of them still use pen and paper to write down their notes. You know they can do that for so much, but it would be easier if you had a tool that can jot it down for you. But the cool thing is just, yeah they still use their CRM, they still use the tech tools, but there's sometimes you just like the basics as well. So, anyways.
Sure, yeah, good note taking. I know somebody that can help people with that, so thanks for bringing that up. So, one of the things you mentioned from a sales manager's perspective was having a plan in place, right? So I want to switch to kind of then like your sales reps' perspective.One of the things that I know that– You know I haven't been outside in the field for quite some time now, but one of the things that I miss about being in the field is that you can't hang up on somebody when they're standing in front of you, right?
Kind of hard.
You know that's the best part for my outside salespeople out there, or maybe you were outside sales and now you're selling virtually, it's a different beast, you know? The cold calls over the phone is much different than just showing up in someone's restaurant, or their office or whatever, and standing there until they throw you out. So, I don't know if you could just kind of give some advice on there. How do you stay resilient during that transition process if that's what you're used to?
Yeah. So, if I make sure I understand it correctly because this is something that came up with another team that we're working with. The sales rep, they typically go out and visit with clients but now they can't do that.They're working remotely...
...calling those clients, and it's a little bit different.
The things that I would say that you do in a situation like that is that you think outside the box. When it's all said and done. we're all human beings. How can we tap into the human needs?
So I'm a plant manager, you can't come to my plant, my plant is shut down – I'm making this stuff up – but you can't get inside the building, you can't go past. If we have an appointment, it's going to be over Zoom and you're trying to get a hold of me and I'm on the floor of the factory all day long or running around. How in the world are you going to make it happen now?
So one of the things you might want to realize is: yes, the phone is going to be – You can still do phone calls and leave the phone calls, you're still going to need to do emails, but I want to break through the monotony. My client manager may not necessarily sit there and check emails all day, but everyone has a computer in their pocket. So what I might do is try to use video so I can stand out amongst all the different emails that he's got coming in. So I'm going to try to use video. The next thing I'm going to take advantage of, and this is something that may be revolutionary, but it's truly not. It's something that's really, really old. Go back to what worked – thank you, Ben Franklin – and that is the postal service. So send them something physically in the mail. Because if I know that this plant manager is going to be at work, there's a way that I can get into them, so I might send them a gift card – whether it's a Starbucks or maybe he is a Dunkin' Donuts guy or gal. I might say, you know, "Hey Dave, I wanted togo ahead and introduce myself. I'm the new Account Manager for xyz (your account) and I wanted to set up a time to jump on a call. I know you're busy but I would love to take a coffee break. I will even pay for the coffee. I just sent you, here's a Starbucks gift card, a 10 dollar Starbucks gift card or 10dollar Dunkin' Donuts gift card." Whatever, maybe he's not even into coffee like I am, I'm not into coffee. So maybe something else that you find out that he might like or she likes, send that to them. But that way, it's inexpensive – ten dollars and the gift card.
This is going to be for people who are going to be highly potential clients, not just any anyone. But that way, ifI send them a video email, they open a video email, hasn't responded yet, I will send that gift card to them. Now I'm going to get another opportunity to be able to get in front of them because now that's physically going in the mail. It's going to stand out. Not everyone's going to be like that and that might lead to me meeting with them outside of the plant, right? Maybe to go fora Dunkin' Donuts, or it is to do lunch next time, because now I've broken through. But those are some things that I would take advantage of. And then the other piece to it, the next example that I would give when it comes to words, something like that, you can't physically get there with those clients and you want to be around them – one of the strategies that I've seen to work is the 'lunch and learns'. So what I've done with this is we need to do a demo – maybe I'm trying to show them some of my plant products. I tell them, "Hey, we're going to do a lunch and learn," and I get like three, maybe one of my clients, to jump on that demo, pay for their lunch, and have them talk about our products as well. And then I get two of these plant managers to come in, make it almost like a networking opportunity and I pay for their lunch – and I may spend, you know, like 20 bucks on each of their lunches, so maybe 60 bucks.But is that 60 bucks going to lead to a half million dollar machine sale? Then it's kind of a moot point.
It's totally worth it. Absolutely
So it's working smarter, being more effective, being creative, thinking outside the box, and recognizing what humans need – that humans want to feel recognized, they want to feel special that you sent something in the mail for them, and they're going to need food. So, why not use those things instead of having to make the phone call over and over and over and over again and it's not going through.
Absolutely, and it is. It is special getting something in the mail, right? I mean, ask my wife, you know? Amazon shows up every day, right? So, clearly, I know that it's a good feeling when you get something in the mail like that, but it is. So you have hacked the personalization game a little bit because, you know, the last question I was going to ask you today–Or the topic I was going to ask you about was, so with so many people selling virtually now, it's not going away, right? I'd say it's the future but it's already here, and one of the components of virtual selling in a lot of – certainly in our – industries, in the software industry, marketing, and certainly in any industry where you're selling B2B, social selling has become a big part of this, right?
Or what people call 'social selling' which, most peopleI'm sure have heard this term but, how would you define social selling?
It's the ability to use social networks or social platforms to be able to engage with potential customers, just as much as I would have done that with the traditional methods such as phone and just basic email.
Right, and now it's done at a scale that's much, much bigger through LinkedIn and all that stuff. But you touched on this a little bit with the postcard, the letter in the mail, because that's obviously gold and now that I think about it, I've heard you say that before. So, in a world where everyone then is getting on, or trying to get on board with, social selling, and everyone's strategy is 'be different' and personalize things, how do you be different in a world where everyone's trying to be different?
How do you be different in a world where everyone is trying to be different? My philosophy is always to zig when everyone else is zagging. Typically, what will start happening is – especially you saw it with the rise of social selling and people using social media – that you're going to find people who are going to do things wrong. If you were to ask 10 people,"When it comes to social selling, what's your play?" Most people will say I connect with people and then I send them like an offer, you know I pitch them about my product and service – which is not cool. So that's zigging.Everyone is zigging, so now I'm going to zag. So I'm going to figure out, what does Jake want? So I might say, "Well, you know, Jake is a sales manager and Jake wants more sales. He wants his team to perform because he needs to hit his numbers. So if you hit their numbers, he gets his bonus." So I will target that in my stuff and I would make sure to go back to human things – I want Jake to feel good. So I might say, "Hey, Jake," this is a perfect example, "I'm doing a podcast interview with sales managers who are really killing it, would you be open to jumping on a call?" Now Jake has my attention for 30 minutes, or I have Jake's attention, and then he has that ability to do that. The second thing, if you don't have a platform to be able to do something like that, is just to highlight them and just to kind of make them feel good again. "Jake I'm recognizing sales leaders and I'm trying to get some tips from them, can you give me one of those tips that standout to you as a sales leader?" Take that, put that together in a – you know, from 10 sales leaders –, put that on LinkedIn in a LinkedIn post and now they're being recognized amongst their peers for having interesting insights and you're highlighting that. The other piece to that too is just to make sure he feels good again and help him with what he wants. So I would target that.Most people are going to send you a LinkedIn text, so I'm going to use aLinkedIn video because people are uncomfortable with video. So I'm going to do that again and send because– The reason why I said do a post, let me back up there, only 3% of LinkedIn's 790 million users actually post things weekly onLinkedIn. So, not a lot of people are posting on LinkedIn weekly. So if it's 3million, think about all those other people standing on the side-lines. So when you post, you're being 1 in probably 1,000 within your network, because most of those people are not going to post. So you post content regularly – tailored to the ideal customer, the pain that they have –, you're going to be seen as a thought leader. So if I send a post, I highlighted you and I put you in this post, this micro blog, on LinkedIn? Now every one of your peers are going to see that. Then the next thing I'm going to do is maybe share a little tip I might find. Ask, "What are the top 10 questions or issues that I get that my ideal customers have, or that they typically ask, or a challenge they face?" And maybe it's like getting their sales team to perform. So I might do a micro blog, "My sales team suck," and I'm saying grab the attention, all caps at the top. "'My sales team' suck was one of the things that I heard from someone recently in the industry and they had such a hard time trying to get their sales team to perform. What he or she did to fixit, though, they started to do 'this and this and this' and it really transformed their sales. They started to take investment and take time and wanted to be a part of it and blah blah blah blah blah... And I'm sure this could help you as well. Out of curiosity, for you, what's one thing that you've seen to help your sales team not suck?" And now I'm doing engagement.People are seeing me as a thought leader now. Am I making sense with that there?
And now where everyone is zagging, everyone is zigging, they're sending you a message, "Hey, my name is 'so-and-so' buy my productor service," I will send you a voice message because not a lot of people want to hear their own voice, much less to send a video. So on LinkedIn they give you that capability, so I would say, "Hey, Jake. It's a pleasure to meet you. I just saw that you had a birthday recently as well, congratulations on the role. I just want to put a face to the name and thank you so much for interacting on my post the other day." Boom. Now you're going to respond to that,"Hey, Donald. It's a pleasure." Now the conversation starts to be a freaking human. Say like, "Jake, we're doing– We always do webinars every once in a while, and share content pieces, and also rely on industry experts to share their tips. Could I tap on you one of these days to be able to share a tip or maybe jump on one of our blog or webinars?" "Yeah, Donald.Anytime." Maybe let the conversation go and then maybe another day,"Jake, out of curiosity, you guys are finding some things that's working right now. A lot of people are having challenges, what's working for you and your team right now?" "Well, this is working for us." And the reason why this conversation might start is because we already had a conversation, so he's more prone to continue to respond. "Any majorchallenges you guys are seeing?" "We're seeing some of these things blah blah blah." "Well, we have a blog post on that. I can share that with you if you're open to it. Better yet, if you're cool, maybe you could jump on a call for five to seven minutes and I can talk to you through it?Cool." 'Five to seven minutes', I use that one and now everyone's going touse 'five to seven minutes' now. It's not ten minutes, that's too long. Five minutes is too short. But when you say, "Five to seven," you're like,"I can spare five to seven minutes to hear what this guy's saying about the pain that I particularly have."
That makes sense and now you have an appointment. Don't blow it.
So to your point too, I hope everyone does use this because you've hacked it, my friend, and I'm not surprised at all. That's exactly what I was referring to. So you've found a way, again, to be disruptive in a place where people are all trying to be disruptive, right? I mean I can picture it. And I'm not calling anybody particular out, although I'm sure some people are going to see this, but I mean I can spot the 'hard space' LinkedIn posts, you know? It's a phrase, and there's a space, it's another short phrase, and you're led down the rabbit hole, right? Where I click the "next"button and then I finish your post. And that's exactly where that question comes from is, how do we go back to being human now that we're all keen on the phrasing in which people will read your LinkedIn posts? But I love what you said specifically about LinkedIn's millions, hundreds of millions of users but so few people post. That's such a different landscape than almost any other social media site, right? So, I know my big takeaway, and I'm thinking a big takeaway for everybody that's seeing this, is going to be if you're in the B2B space and selling over LinkedIn? That, to me, is a good reason to double down on this social selling strategy right there because you're absolutely right.You're 1 out of 1,000, or 1 out of 3,000 and those are, as we know as salespeople, those are better odds than we normally are up against on just about any other platform.
Go back to human behavior, Jake. I just want to hit that before we finish up here. You know, if you think about human behavior, no one wants to look like an idiot. No one wants to expose themselves because if you do that, if you put yourself out there and it doesn't work? Then you have jeopardy of being kicked out of the 'tribe' so to speak. Maybe that goes back to our caveman days like you don't want to be alone, you want to be a part of something. You want to be with others. So then now, if I were to take a risk and I look stupid? I don't want to look stupid amongst the tribe members either, right? So most people are going to be like, "Well, let me play it safe and just stand back here." But right now, the crazy part about that is like, who cares if you do mess up? I have posts that flop all the time, it doesn't go anywhere. But I have posts– Like my Mark Cuban post is over like20,000 views and 500 interactions and all these new people are connecting with me from it, and that's cool. I got an opportunity to meet Mark Cuban and I utilized that to share one of his quotes. It engaged my community and they put me in that same calibre with Mark. So the point I'm trying to get at is that, people are just afraid, and if they're afraid, I'm going to capitalize on that. You can be afraid and stay on the wall. If you goto the dances – again I love using this as an example – a kid that's, back in the days, going to a dance, or if you're going to dances remember in the middle school days? You probably had a few kids that were out there on a dance floor, same idea. They didn't care about getting kicked out of the tribe or what the tribe thought about them, they're like, "Screw it." Then some of the other people they were way too cool for school, so they just stayed on the sidelines and just talked, and the girls were on the other side and just over here playing and drinking the Kool-Aid and just standing with the boys and hanging out, because they don't want to go out there and look stupid. "Oh, look at that guy out there dancing," but that guy is the one dancing with the cutest girl because he wasn't afraid of taking a chance. Similar idea – too many salespeople are sitting on the sidelines of LinkedIn and saying, "Oh, we like that. That looks cool, let me do that," as opposed to just getting out on the dance floor and say, "You know what? Screw it. I'm going to break a leg or something. I'm going to have some fun." Those people grab the attention. Now you don't want to just post random garbage to grab attention because that's going to quickly be seen. You want to make sure it's going to bethought-provoking content, things that really can help out. And this is why I say identify what are the top 10 questions your prospects have or the top 10 issues and answer those because you're doing it on your demos, you're doing it on your discovery calls, you're doing it every single day. Even use a tool, like Ciara and transcribe that darn thing and just take that answer and share it.
Copy and paste, let's do it.
There you go.
Wow, yeah. Thank you. I appreciate that so much. That is absolutely, I think, key for differentiating yourself. You're saying get out there and don't be afraid to make it happen, to embarrass yourself – you're probably not going to, but that's good stuff. I am so grateful to have you share your expertise with us and this. You know, we're very lucky to have so many talented and smart people on this channel, and there'll be more to come after this too. So thank you so much, sir, and I will talk with you soon.
Thanks, Jake, for having me. Appreciate you guys.