No matter which career, business, or industry we are in, we become a salesperson. Whether we sell products, services, or ourselves, it is imperative to be able to grasp the best approach to selling to your ideal clients. In this episode, host Michael Zipursky guests mentor and sales growth advisor, Ari Galper. Ari is experienced in trust-based selling and shares with us some valuable tips about increasing and growing sales to your valued customers or clients, and also maintaining a level of trust between you as a seller and your client.
I’m here with Ari Galper. Ari, welcome.
Thank you. Glad to be here. I appreciate it.
Ari, you’ve been featured in the likes of Forbes, CEO Magazine, Inc. Magazine for your expertise in sales. You’re a bestselling author. You have clients in 35 countries. Your sales methodology, which I’ve experienced first-hand when I was in Sydney, I got a little taste of it at a workshop that you’re putting on. You’ve helped many companies to transform their approach to sales and the results that they get from that. Take us back to your early days. How did you even get into sales?
Believe it or not, it started when I was selling advertising at university to pay my way through. We used to sell the little coupons, like an auto shop where you can click a hole through it and they give you an oil change and check your battery. I go door to door. From there, I sold advertising into what was back then called the mobile Yellow Pages. It wasn’t online. It was a physical book in your glove compartment in Seattle, so it was like a mini Yellow Pages. I’d go to businesses there. I remember I created something called a pizza close on my own. What that meant was before I met with an owner of a business, I looked at their ad in a normal Yellow Pages ahead of the meeting. I created a free mini ad for them for our book, which should be a small size, medium-size, and a large size like a pizza. That’s how I go in there and tell them what we do. I say, “Here’s what I recommend. You can choose one of these options here to start and give it a try and see how it goes, a test. I lay out all three sizes. They choose medium every single time. They used to call me Ari, the pizza close guy because it was medium. That was fun in the early days.
That’s classic psychology right around the pricing and anchoring of three options that a lot of people still aren’t using. They should because it can be highly effective. That’s how you got your early start in sales. How did you progress from that into becoming a consultant, coach, speaker, and author in the area of sales? What did that progression look like for you?In sales, it's not about how many contacts you make; it's about how deep you go on each conversation. Click To Tweet
To help frame everything here, I have a niche specialty and that is called trust-based selling. I’m not a generalist in any way around selling. I’ve been a unique category of one about this, but the unique IP around trust-based. There’s a story behind this that happened to me that woke me up to this area. I investigated for many years and got good at doing. Here’s the story. Many years ago, I used to be a sales manager of a software company where we managed about 80 people underneath me. We launched the first online website tracking data collection tools to collect website behaviors, now called Google Analytics. You’ve probably heard of that. We first launched that product and a lot of interest in the offering and my job were landing large accounts.
One company had contacted me for a demo. I got to lead myself. It was a big opportunity and if I close one sale, we’ll double turnover to the company in one go. You’d recognize the name of the business quite large on websites. The whole team was excited because if I close one sale, we’ll get a bonus for the year. That’s how big it was. A bit of pressure on me, but I was calm about it. We finally scheduled a call for a demo. I’ll never forget that day. It was probably at 3:00 in the afternoon and it was myself and our director in a conference room. On the conference table was this big speakerphone with three legs on it, the corporate speakerphones. I closed the door behind me and I dialed the number that my contact gave me and the phone rang.
There’s my contact. It’s a nice guy named Jim. I said, “Jim, how are you? Are you doing good?” He says, “I’m glad you’re here. Let us tell you who else is on the phone with me. You’re in the conference room at our end.” I was like, “There are more people there. This is good.” The next thing I hear is, “My name’s John. I’m CEO.” I was like, “This is a good person to have a sales call.” “My name is Mike. I’m the head of IT.” This is even better. “My name is Julie. I’m head of marketing.” Everybody on this conference call was essentially a decision-maker. This is the call we hope as often as possible because we know if they’re all together, we’d get an answer. I was excited about this. After they introduced themselves, I introduced myself. I described what we do.
I began to give a live demo over the webinar of our product to show them how if we can collect their data on their websites. We chose one of those events as a prototype and showed them what it looked like live to see everything going through. As I’m showing this to them, I started hearing noises on the phone call like, “This is fantastic. This is great. What he uses here.” They’re asking me all kinds of questions. “How does it work? How do we install it?” It was almost like a love fest on the phone. There’s much chemistry going back and forth. I say to myself, “This is good.” I got the high-five from my boss in the corner of the room over there. He is giving me thumbs up. I’m relaxed.
I’m doing my thing. There are few objections and they’re asking me all kinds of questions. I got all the answers. There was so much chemistry on this phone call. It was fantastic. After an hour goes by, I’m happy, they’re happy. They said to me, “Ari, this is fantastic. I can say we can use this. Thank you so much. Give us a call a couple of weeks and follow-up from there.” I said, “Great. I’ll be happy to. Thank you so much for your time.” I said my goodbyes, I took my arm and I reached for the phone, hit the off button with my finger. As I’m reaching for the off button on the speakerphone, by complete accident, I hit the mute button instead of the off button and a small click happened and they thought I hung up the phone.
In that split second, a voice inside of me said, “Ari, go to the dark side. Be a fly on the wall. Listen to me. You got nothing to lose.” I did it for a couple of seconds. I put my thumb back, they thought I hung up the phone and they started talking amongst themselves. You can imagine what people will think they would say after a call like that would be fairly reasonably positive things. Let me share with you and your readers what they said verbatim, word for word. I’ll never forget it. That’s why we’re here now. What they said was this. They said, “We’re not going to go with him. Keep using him for more information and make sure we shop someplace else.” Ouch. Knife and hard twist. I was in a state of shock. I could not believe it. After all of that? I finally snapped out of it, hit the off button, looked at the wall and I said to myself, “What did I do wrong?” I was professional. I was friendly. I was competent. The first thing that hit me was this. Somewhere along the way, it has become socially acceptable not to tell the truth to people who sell.
A lot of people resonate with that. They have that feeling of sales being uncomfortable and think of the used car salesperson. It’s the whole mindset around sales that a salesperson is sneaky and persuasive and isn’t being forthright or doesn’t have your back and isn’t there to serve you. They’re there to serve themselves.
My main realization was I asked myself, “Why were they afraid to tell me the truth?” I realized that moment that somewhere along the way, it has become socially acceptable not to tell the truth to people who sell. It’s okay to say things like, “Sounds good. Send me information. I’m definitely interested,” without having any intention of buying. I asked myself what’s going on. I realized the reason why is there is a subtle flow of pressure underneath every conversation you have presale with a potential client. You can’t see it and they can’t see it but you can feel it. If you don’t consciously remove the pressure from the sales process, they’ll never feel comfortable telling the truth up front. You always have to chase them to the end hoping you get the deal. That’s when I used to realize that moment there’s a whole new way of looking at this. I created a whole new mindset concept where the idea is to no longer focus on the end goal anymore but to focus only on the truth of whether you and they are fit or not upfront. Build enough trust with them so at the beginning you create enough openness so you know where you’re standing. You’re not chasing what are called ghosts. People who say, “Sounds great,” and you keep chasing, assuming chasing is part of the game. That became a whole premise behind what we call to unlock the sales game concept.
Before we get into that because I want to dive deeper into the trust-based selling, the Unlock The Game and everything that you’ve built up over the years here, which is quite extensive. Take us back to that time where you’re working on a software company, things didn’t go well and fast forward a little bit. How did you go from a technology company to now starting to take this realization that you had and build a business around it? Who was your first client? How did you get into that space?
I’ll tell you the journey that flowed from there. After that experience, I quit my job and I said to myself, “I was lucky. I’ve got to build out this concept more effectively.” I created a little eBook. It was twenty pages long and I had a website and I sold it for $1 a page. That’s how it justified it. It was $20. It was all about how to sell that with trust and not to chase people. People started buying it. It was that early days online and it wasn’t getting enough traction. I decided to add, which back then was innovative, a live chat button. The button said, “Chat with Ari now.” It was me. I was live behind my computer waiting there and someone would click the button and they start chatting with me and they go, “Is this really Ari Galper?”If you don't consciously remove the pressure from the sales process, clients will never feel comfortable telling the truth up front. Click To Tweet
I’m like, “Yes.” They’re like, “How do you have time to talk to someone like me?” I’m like, “What else should I be doing than talking to my clients?” That’s when I began to realize back then that there is a way to develop your positioning and to be perceived as an authority, as a category of one with different approaches. That’s where I began to get an understanding of authority and positioning. I built everything out from there. I did my first workshop in a local mall. I got a few clients. I started on the path of becoming a world-class expert around building some books and getting smart around becoming what I call a trust authority.
We’ve talked a little bit about the challenges that a lot of people have when it comes to sales. Let’s go now a little bit deeper into the trust-based selling, this whole area that you’ve spent your career on. Maybe by starting and identifying some of the most common mistakes people make and then how to approach it in a more effective way. Even one or two common mistakes that stand out there for you and that you see all the time. How have you found a more effective approach to solving them?
What might help to couch that premises around typical myths. A lot of consultants still have that at the back of their minds because they’ve been conditioned the old way. One common one, which is sales is a numbers game. That’s a common myth and most consultants grew up within their old sales life. The concept behind that is the more contacts you make, the more clients you get. That’s the concept where we are discovering this economy now. It’s not about how many contacts you make, it’s about how deep you go on each conversation. How good you are in trust-building, not how good you are at making more contacts, expanding your networks. That’s the whole shift. Are you effectively building trust with people or are you selling something to them? That begs the question because if you are trying to sell them to somebody that you can create an on cusp perception of yourself as selling them. As a consultant, you don’t want to lower your positioning around that. That’s number one.
Before you go on, I want to play the devil’s advocate for a moment. My Spidey sense is going off. Ari, if I’m not thinking about sales, if I’m not thinking about making an offer, then how can I generate business? How can I provide only value and only serve and only try and help? Aren’t people going to take my knowledge from me and then not engage me? What can you offer in terms of maybe a practical response to that? If you’re not going there with the idea of selling to someone, then what should people be doing?
We could use even LinkedIn as an example. A lot of people nowadays will think it’s all about a numbers game. You need to reach out as many people as you can, use automation tools, all kinds of stuff. It’s sending the same message to a whole bunch of different people. Hopefully, one of them raises their hand. You’re saying, “No, you need to be much more targeted than that. You need to invest in the relationship.” How do you go about adding value in building the relationship if you’re not thinking about sales and selling to that person?
In your question, you have tons of roads, but let me try and condense this. Number one, you have to know exactly who your ideal client is. An ideal client I define as the one that you deliver your value with the least amount of effort and the highest margin. That’s the happiest client ever because they appreciate the most. You’re making the most from them and they’re the happiest with you. The other thing is if you are thinking about the sale when you’re engaging somebody, either on LinkedIn or live on the phone or an email, you’re not being 100% present on them and their issues.
That’s the problem. It’s a total mindset shift and it’s not easy to let go of the end goal because here’s what happens. Here’s a classic example. A consultant connects with someone on LinkedIn who could be a potential client. They get on the phone with them and this potential business owner or clients are describing their problems and the consultant says, “I can help you with that.” Do you know what they do next? They do what I call free consulting. “Let me tell you how I can help you. I’ve got models. I’ve got assessment tools. I’ve got examples. I’ve got ways.” They start jumping in and pitching their IP and solution pre-sale.
My number one rule is do not give away your IP pre-sale because we paid for that post-sale. Rather than giving stuff away and doing what certain people do, which is pitching what you have to offer, you shift instead of focus on going deeper on their issues, not jumping to their solutions too fast. When you go deep on their issues, they may say to you the magic phrase, which is, “How can you help me solve my problems?” You do not have permission to talk about you or how you can help them until they say to you that magic phrase. You won’t get to that phrase unless you focus deeply on their issues rather than your solutions.
Can we talk about the word that you probably dislike the most in a sales vocabulary that starts with an F? Can we talk about the F-word here for a moment? I was in Sydney, Australia with my family and you graciously invited me to come to your workshop, which was fantastic. I enjoyed it. It was a lot of learning for me in many different ways. You talked about the F-word, which is not what everyone is thinking. It’s follow-up. You said this is a word that people need to remove from their vocabulary. I’ve shared this with some of our coaching clients and some of the other things that you imparted, but talk to everyone about why the F-word, follow-up, is the wrong word to be using.
Here’s one of my number one rules. You don’t want to use any behavior or languaging that connects you to the negative salesperson stereotype and image. We have it conditioned in our minds. Those are behaviors, we don’t even know it. One of my number one rules is that all my private clients, it’s never again using the word follow-up in a phone conversation, on an email. I bet you, probably your readers are cringing. I’m sure somebody has called somebody and said, “I’m giving you a call to follow-up.” The problem with that is the only industry that uses that primarily are salespeople. The last thing you want to do is send to somebody the message that I’m calling you to move things to the next step towards my goal, the sale. It’s a common thing people are unconscious of. The other ones around that too, as you probably know, things like, “Let catch up,” or, “Touch base.”Build enough trust with clients at the beginning so you create enough openness and know where you're standing. Click To Tweet
Check-in, that’s the C-word. The C-word is no good either. You cannot use check-in.
You got to remove all the languaging that attaches you to the stereotype you’re trying to avoid. What you say instead is this. You say, “I’m giving you a call to see if you have any feedback on our previous conversation, on our pre-proposal, on our previous meeting.” Because feedback is going backward, not forwards. Because your goal here is not to create momentum forward, which is contrarian because most sales coaches tell you your goal is to move the client forward. I’m saying to you no. Do not move them forward. Be present with them and go backward, which is like, “What?” Because that goes to our concept, which is the sale is lost at the beginning of the sale, not the end, which is the opposite of everyone else out there who teaches you to focus on the sale. Here’s the problem with that. What consultants don’t realize is they’re losing their opportunities at hello, not the end. Here’s how I do it for fun. If someone calls your office and you heard, “Michael, my name is, I’m with IMA and we do.” What goes through your mind in about 3 seconds?
It’s going to be a sales call and they’re going to offer me something.
It’s a sales call. The guard goes up and now they’re not telling you the truth anymore. The game begins. I’m not suggesting that your readers do cold calling, but I would suggest that at the entry point of their process, they are losing their best opportunities at hello, not at the end.
You mentioned cold calling. This is a point of contention. There are lots of controversies and people have different perspectives. What’s your take on it? Do you believe that there’s a place for cold calling in the consulting business? Should this be avoided at all costs?
It works, but I wouldn’t make it your first priority. If you have no other medium to use, social media is not working for you, you’re going to networking meetings and nothing’s working, but if you do it the right way, it’s effective. If you do it the wrong way, it’s hell on earth. It depends on how you do it.
Let’s talk about something that is working better and especially better for you. You do a lot of workshops. You make it intentional to get in front of the audience that you want to serve. Talk about that. Break down why you use workshops and let’s start with that.
First of all, it’s about positioning. Because when you are on stage or in front of people, they assume you must be good because you’re physically standing there. It’s the fact that you’re in front of them speaking. That’s number one. Number two is you have a chance to connect with them and build trust. When I teach my private clients my consulting or who I work with, do not over-educate what you speak. That’s the first mistake almost all consultants do. What happens is they leave the audience full. Only a few people come forward and say, “Here’s my business card. We should catch up,” and the rest walk out the back door. I’m like, “What are you doing? This could be your whole year in one talk.”
What should they do instead?
What they do instead is they have to architect their presentation. It’s arranged around the core issues that the clients are having and they unpack the issues with some direction and some ideas of how to help solve them, but not give the full solution because inappropriate to earn the relationship. At the end of the call, you offer them a complimentary consultation with you, but you don’t keep it casual and say, “I’m happy to offer you a chat with me. Come on over and see me.” No, it’s got to be systematic. You saw me at my event. I offered everybody a chat with me and I gave them my book as a gift.An ideal client is the one that you deliver your value with the least amount of effort and the highest margin. Click To Tweet
When those who registered and the whole room, once they got up, I went back to the table with my staff there. They got in the line and my staff scheduled them in my diary with the invite that second and no one left there unscheduled. There was no chasing. There was no follow-up, there was no drop-off. Everyone showed up. That was a massive inbound flow of revenue from that one talk because it was architected in advance to give a lot of value without giving away the IP and moving to a next step, which they all enjoyed doing.
The other thing that I witnessed that you do well is weave stories into your presentation. You’re not just giving tactics or ideas. You’re illustrating them through stories that become real, easy to grasp, and easy to remember. I thought that was powerful. Talk for a little for me a moment. How do you think about using stories or how do you approach building out that presentation with stories?
The way I see doing talks is a trust-building opportunity, not an educational opportunity. I educate people once they onboard as a client. Pre-sale, I build trust with them. Essentially, the concept is that you have to understand that in the presale process, your audience or potential clients are not trying to judge how you solve their problem. What they’re trying to determine is, are you the one to solve the problem? They don’t care where you’re at, what your models are, all your frameworks and your tools or how you solve their problem. What they care about is can they trust you enough enter you into their world? I use stories around the problems they’ve got so they can resonate with those issues and they can say to themselves, “This guy totally gets me. It’s almost like he works here in my office.” That’s the key. You have to step into their world. Don’t move them into your world.
You mentioned the ideal client, which we both know is critical in all aspects of the business, making decisions, pricing, and marketing. When we were in Sydney and we were talking after your event, you shared with me several things. I want to hit on one of them specifically here, which is your marketing and your targeting. You’re not doing what a lot of people are doing. You’re not trying to go wide and broad and global necessarily. You’re investing in your local market and you’re thinking of proximity. That again is a bit counterintuitive. It’s contrarian. It’s a different approach to what most people are thinking about these days. Talk to us a little bit about why you made that decision.
I believe in the concept of making money in the dark. What I’m trying to say here is what I mean by that is to be invisible to everybody else other than your ideal clients. I don’t want to be available to other competitors. I don’t want to be on social media. I don’t want to be where all the minnows are swimming in the big ocean. I want to be the fish out of a pond where there are whales and somebody else already steered the whales from the ocean into the pond, spent the money, and spent the time. I believe in taking the path of least resistance to acquire the ideal client. My model is low-volume, high-margin, not high-volume, low-margin. Most consultants say to themselves, “I need more clients. I want more clients. I want more volume. I feel much happier if I had full capacity.”
I’m like, “What?” You should never be full capacity because you need time to think, to create, to select your ideal client.” To go to where you were going with me, I want to triangulate where my ideal clients are congregating. For instance, I’m working on a new book called Engineer the Sale. That’s going to be targeting more corporate clients. I know that my ideal client in that market is typically an entrepreneur or business owner who has a business anywhere from $10 million to $15 million in revenue a year. That’s my ideal client, an entrepreneur still involved with the business, still selling. I know that it turns out that the profile of the entrepreneur buys Porsches. Porsche’s market for 911 is that ideal client. It’s quite a match.
I investigated. I drove down to my local car dealership and I walked around and I said, “Do you do any marketing at all to your customers?” They go, “We have this magazine that goes out every quarter to our Porsche customer.” I said, “How many people is that?” “About 2,500 in the local area here.” I’m like, “What’s the profile?” “Entrepreneurs with businesses from $10 million. “I’m placing an ad for my free book offer in the Porsche Magazine first quarter of the year because one, there’ll be no one there except for me who does what I do. I won’t be on social media and where everyone else is ordering my stuff. Golfing Magazine has a survivor list here and I did an EDM blast to them with my book offer. By the way, it’s not written yet. I did the ad anyways to see how many would order. We had a blowout of 100 people and they were all ideal clients and I said to myself, “This is my whole year in one email blast.” I believe in pinpointing and targeting your ideal client and building out a system behind that. It builds trust without me having to sell myself at the first meeting.
Ari, I appreciate you coming on and sharing some of this with us. I want to ensure that people can learn more about you, about your work, and about your book Unlock the Sales Game and Engineer the Sale. Let us know where the best place for people to go is?
The best place is to go to UnlockTheGame.com. There is a free test drive there. You fill that information out and start getting my video clips and the rest is with you under the video clip. There’s a chance to have a one-on-one chat with me. We can talk through your situation and look at your plan and see if it incorporates enough trust in what your model is and if you’re chasing people or figure out some ways to solve that problem. The free test drive is there on the homepage. My books are there and we’ll take it from there.
Thanks, Ari. I appreciate it.