Episode 337:

As agency owners, we tend to view sales as a necessary evil. Even when we love what we do, believe in how we do it, and have proof that we do it well, having to put on our “sales hats” can still feel, well, gross. But…maybe we’re going about getting those sales in the wrong way.

Nobody likes sales…except for David Priemer. David loves sales. In fact, he loves sales so much that he opted to leave his non-sales background to deconstruct the traditional sales approach and develop his own methodology based on consumer science, research, and psychology.

David has built a wildly successful career around his methodology: Cerebral Selling. And lucky for us, he uses it to help other business owners revamp and rethink their sales process to make it more efficient, effective, and most importantly, more human. I’m so excited to share our conversation with you so that you can start loving sales too — even if you hate selling.

As the Founder and Chief Sales Scientist of Cerebral Selling, David’s unique science and empathy-based approaches to driving revenue and talent growth have been published in the Harvard Business Review as well as Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Inc. magazines. Often referred to as the “Sales Professor,” David is also the author of the Bestselling book, Sell The Way You Buy, and an Adjunct Lecturer at the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University and the London Business School.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Agency Owners

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How to sell your business even if you absolutely hate sales
  • What it means to “sell the way you buy”
  • The biggest mistakes agency owners make when trying to sell their business
  • How giving people the opportunity to say “no” can win you more “yesses”
  • Why your CTAs might be scaring your customers away — and how to fix them
  • The one thing that customers buy 100% of the time (yes, 100%)
  • Why your sales pitches should be focused on problems, not solutions
  • How taking the pressure to sell off of yourself will take the pressure off of your customers too — and why that’s a good thing for both of you
“Even though we love our businesses, sometimes when we try to put on our sales hat, it kind of feels like it doesn’t fit well.” @dpriemer Click To Tweet “A lot of times, we don’t think about the pathways and mechanisms by which we make purchasing decisions.” @dpriemer Click To Tweet “The science underneath it all is really just to be human.” @dpriemer Click To Tweet “No one really cares about your proprietary process. What they care about is the outcome.” @dpriemer Click To Tweet “When you give people the opportunity to say no, it’s more likely that they’re going to say yes.” @dpriemer Click To Tweet

Ways to contact David Priemer:

Resources:

Speaker 1:

It doesn’t matter what kind of an agency you run, traditional, digital, media buying, web dev, PR, whatever your focus, you still need to run a profitable business. The Build a Better Agency Podcast presented by White Label IQ will show you how to make more money and keep more of what you made. Let us help you build an agency that is sustainable, scalable, and if you want down the road, sellable. Bringing his 25-plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McClellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey everybody, Drew McClellan here from Agency Management Institute. Welcome back to another episode of Build a Better Agency. I think you’re going to love this one, some interesting conversations around sales. But before I tell you more about my guest and why I think you’re going to find him so interesting, couple of things, number one, we are at the end of the first quarter. And so I’m wondering, where are you at? Where are you at with your numbers? Where are you at with your goals? Where are you at with your staffing? Have you promised yourself that if certain things didn’t change by the end of March, early April, you were going to make some changes? Are you happy with where you’re at?

This is a great time to take stock and really think about how the first quarter went. And for many of you, the first quarter is soft. So if that was your experience, know that you’re not alone in that. Also, probably a good time to reflect on why it’s soft and if that’s something you can fix for 2023. But give it some thought, where are you at? What changes do you need to make? Do not wait too long into the second quarter to make changes. That might be admin staff, it might be trimming staff, it might be shifting people around, might be firing a horrible client, might be changing your rates, which by the way, has been a hot topic lately amongst the peer groups of how are agencies handling, changing their rates and are agencies doing that?

So this is a great time to be thinking about all of those things. So I just want to put that little bug in your ear. Another thing I want to talk to you about is, as you might imagine, we are coming up on the Build a Better Agency Summit that is May 24th and 25th in Chicago. And I got to tell you, I am so excited about this lineup of speakers. We have amazing keynote speakers, breakout speakers, round table speakers. If there is a topic that you want to cover in terms of being an agency owner, or leader, I promise you, there’s going to be somebody at that conference that’s going to be talking about it that you can engage with, and that’s going to be sales. It’s going to be about building your wealth outside of the agency, it’s going to be about taxes, it’s going to be about how to sell when you can’t get in front of people anymore.

We’re going to talk about how to create thought leadership that really launches your position of authority. We are going to be talking about how to build a community around your agency that helps you sell faster and easier. We’re going to be talking about leadership and what that really looks like in today’s world and how do you show up as a great leader? We got it all covered. We’re going to be talking about succession and getting your agency ready to sell. We’re going to talk about buying agencies, all the things, we have got it covered. And so I am hoping you’ll join us. As you know, we are capped at 300 attendees. We have about 50 tickets left. So I would love it if you were able to join us and take one of those last 50 seats.

So all you have to do is go to agencymanagementinstitute.com and right in the upper left corner in the navigation is it says BABA Summit, Build a Better Agency Summit, click on that. You can find the registration link. Really, really want you to join us. The attendees that were there last year raved about it, they’re coming back. And what they loved about it, not only was the content, but the community and the connection and the communication. Everybody felt like they got to know some other agency owners and they had some really great candid conversations that were helpful to them. They took back a lot from the speakers, for sure, but they also took back a lot from the other participants. And I would love that for you too.

And I want to meet you if we haven’t met in-person, that would be great for you to join us. So head over to the website, grab your ticket before the prices go up, because you know how that is, the closer you’ll get the conference, the more expensive it gets. So don’t waste any time, just grab your seat or grab a few seats and I will see you in Chicago. All right, let me tell you a little bit about our guests. So David Priemer, he’s a fascinating guy. He’s a sales consultant and a sales coach. He comes out of the sales arena, but his background was not sales, it was research and engineering. And so early in his career, he applied a very different methodology and a very different philosophy to sales, which he has now turned into a very successful career.

He did well when he was working for other people, and for the last four or five years, he’s been out on his own, helping other people who are like us, who don’t really want to sell, nor we have to, weren’t trained to sell, don’t want to feel sleazy about selling, but still have to get it done. And so he wrote a great book called Sell the Way You Buy. And his whole selling methodology is built on research and science and psychology. So I can’t wait to get it into this with him on your behalf and on my behalf, frankly, because I’m really looking forward to the conversation. So let’s get to it and welcome him to the show.

David, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining us.

David Priemer:

My pleasure Drew, great to be with you here.

Drew McLellan:

So you like sales, which nobody likes sales. So tell people a little bit about you and why you have this alter-friction.

David Priemer:

Well, it’s true. People don’t like talking to sales people, sales is not everyone’s most fun thing to do, but for me, I started my career as a research scientist over 20 years ago. And it’s funny with sales, no one gets into sales on purpose, everyone gets into it by accident, so everyone has their own story. And so I got into sales by accident at the turn of the dot-com boom, joined the startup, and my background was in science and engineering. So I just fell in love with sales, because it was all these complex variables and outcomes and it was like an engineering problem almost that you needed to solve. So even though I didn’t like talking to salespeople, I was really enamored by this profession.

And of course, it’s not one of these things that they tell you in school that you can do when you grow up. So that’s where it all started, and me just picking apart the world of sales almost like a bit of an engineering problem.

Drew McLellan:

Which led to several other jobs and leadership roles and sales, which led to you then stepping out on your own, correct?

David Priemer:

That’s right. Yeah, yeah. I was a B2B technology startup guy, I was part of four high growth tech companies. Three of them ended up being acquired, one which was acquired by Salesforce in 2012, landed me there for five years where I used to run at the end small business sales for the Eastern US. So I got to seek how the sales machines were built operationally and culturally at scale, lots of young, enthusiastic sellers, again, who liked the idea being in sales, but sometimes felt a little, if I can call it emotionally conflicted about being in sales.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I think a lot of people, you and I were talking before we hit the record button, I think a lot of agency owners shy away from sales because they don’t really know how to do it without feeling yucky. I think that’s a technical sales term, yucky?

David Priemer:

It is, absolutely. Well, I coined a term for this, and I call it my book, I call it experience asymmetry. And so it’s this idea that when you have, let’s say, a younger, newer, less experienced or I say less experienced, like you could be an agency owner and you love what you do, but you’re not experienced in sales. And sometimes you’re calling on a senior level, more experienced buyer, maybe whose job you’ve never done, and it creates this imbalance. And I actually, the way I describe it i, with my kids, I have three kids, two are teenage, one’s nine. When they come to me and they’re about to hit me up for something that they think I’m going to say no to…

My daughter, the other week, she’s like, ‘Dad, can you take me into my volleyball practice at 6:30 in the morning?” imagine how that sounds. It’s like, “Dad… ” I can tell immediately. Just by the way they approached me before they ask the question. And so I talk about that because in our business, even though we love our business, whenever we try to put on our sales hat and it feels like it doesn’t fit quite well, we go out to our customers and we say things that they can tell we are emotionally conflicted about, it’s hard for us to disguise it. So that’s what I refer to it as experience asymmetry.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. And so all of that led to your book, Sell the Way You Buy, which again, you deconstruct, I love that you apply science and research to sales, but you deconstruct the sales process and how we actually like to buy, to think about how we should sell, right?

David Priemer:

That’s exactly it. Yeah. Because a lot of times we don’t think about the pathways and mechanisms by which we make purchasing decisions. And even if you’re you’re an individual out there, well, individuals, think about something that you spend money on that another person would look at and say, “Well, that’s ridiculous. I don’t understand why they got to go for this round of golf or they got to go on this vacation or this close,” or whatever it is, we all have things that we buy in pathways that influence how we make purchasing decisions. And yet, when we get into our business, we think very linearly and like, “Oh, I got to force this on them or use this tactic.”

And that’s not how we buy. So if you want to be successful in the modern world of selling, you need to understand how people make these purchasing decisions.

Drew McLellan:

Let’s start with the science behind how people buy, talk us through the facts of that. Because again, I think we think of this as, “I have to make an emotional connection and they have to like me and I have to spin sell or this way of selling.” There’s all these sales techniques. So what’s the science underneath it all?

David Priemer:

Well, the science underneath it all is really just to be human, it’s not about your methodology or your 10-step question and answer process of how you’re going to get to A, B and C, it’s just to be human, because at the end of the day, that’s what people are going to detect. But imagine there’s something that you really love in your personal life, maybe it’s like a vacation spot you went to, or a tool, or a prized article, something you have and a friend of yours said, “, “Hey, so Drew, tell me about this thing. Is it good?” And you’re like, “Oh my gosh, David, you have no idea. This thing will change your life.”

You manifest this very authentic human conviction. And at the end of the day, the number one thing that humans buy, first and foremost, 100% of the time is feelings. You talked about the emotional connection, we buy feelings 100% of the time. And yet, we get into sales and we start talking about business case, return on investment, all these kinds of things, which are not bad, but it’s funny, do you ever put business cases together for your clients, Drew? Or is this something people talk-

Drew McLellan:

No, but I see the case studies, they put together all the time.

David Priemer:

Yeah. They’re like, “Oh, if you invest this money with us in our agency, then we will either make more money for you or will save you money, whatever it is, in return.” But the funny thing about a business case, going back to this question about feelings is that it doesn’t really matter what you say. The only thing that matters is that your customer believes that what you told them is going to happen. They have to believe it’s going to happen, they have to believe not only in the nuts and bolts of what you’re are going to deliver, but you and your agency have the organizational capability to deliver that. And the last time I checked, I believe it was the subjective feeling and not an objective statistic. So really aligning with those emotional pathways is critical.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and it’s interesting because in advertising 101 that we all went through in college before we got into the business, before we owned our agency, we would learn that all decision making and all buying is emotionally based, and then people use the facts that we feed them to justify that emotional decision. But somehow we forget it when we’re the one doing the sales.

David Priemer:

Absolutely. We’re subject to all these cognitive biases. And to be all like, this needs to be subconscious to us, otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to function as human beings. We all operate on this impulsive, emotional scale. And yet again, when we’re thinking about selling, we somehow get into this different mode. So emotional selling, human selling, that’s where it’s at.

Drew McLellan:

Why do you think we as agency owners immediately forget that and go to the ROI and the value, and it’s not that you shouldn’t make the business case because even the emotional buyer’s going to have to justify their purchase to someone. And so part of those facts I think are pertinent, but why do you think we naturally go that way when we know better?

David Priemer:

It’s because it’s what’s close to us, it’s what we do. It’s like, “Oh David, what do you do?” “Well, I train sales people.” And you help agency owners. And as an agency, we help people unleash their creativity or whatever it is, we fall in love with what it, as we do, and yet, our customers don’t walk around saying, “Oh, what I’m really looking for is someone to do this or do this.” They’re not looking for tactical needs, they have problems. They walk around every day thinking about their problems, and to the extent that you are, if I can call it a pitch, your pitch, your narrative, is focused on their problems and not your solutions, you’ll be in a much better position.

And again, oftentimes because there’s so many agencies out there, there’s so many, never going out there, we think, “Okay, well, how are we going to differentiate ourselves?” And we’re like, “Well, we have this special sauce and we do it for this and it’s made with organic flour,” whatever it is.

Drew McLellan:

Everyone by the way in the agency world has a proprietary process.

David Priemer:

It’s true. And no one really cares about your proprietary process, they care about the outcome. What is the certainty that you are delivering? What are the feelings that they’re buying when they buy you? If for example, I’m sure there’s a whole spectrum of agencies, some charge more, some charge less, some take a quick time, some take a long time, some do everything in-hous, some people outsource, whatever it is. And those properties give you a construct, there’s a certain competitive advantage that comes from these properties. And at the end of the day, when you’re trying to position the value of what you do, you need to basically focus all those properties on what the customer cares about.

So the customer is in a pinch where we focus on doing high-quality work and a third of the time is everyone else, or we take our time, but we work on those projects that absolutely need to succeed. Each of those things is different ends of the spectrum, but it’s still an emotional sell. So trying to figure out how you position on that spectrum, it’s critical if you want to connect with your clients.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and I know you talk about describing what you do with emotional clarity. So is that what you’re talking about?

David Priemer:

Yeah. Again, people don’t really care about the nuts and bolts about what you actually do, they care about the problems you solve. I’ll give you a simple example. The simplest messaging tactic that I teach my clients when they say… If someone say, “Drew, your agency, what do you do?” What do you say? We get asked, “What do you do all the time? What do you say? So my advice is, do something very simple. People love this idea of anchoring their emotional state on enemies. We all have enemies in our business, like, “Oh, we’re trying to do this.” Or, “This is too expensive, this is whatever.” So what you would do is you would describe what it is that you do using the words, love and hate in a sentence. And basically what you’re doing is you’re focusing on your customer’s enemies.

So for example, for you might say, “David, cerebral selling, what do you do?” And I’d say, “Well, look, I work with sales people and agencies who realize that people love to buy things, but they hate talking to sales people.” Now, in that little statement, I didn’t really describe the nuts and bolts of what I do, but I did throw out this emotional hook to say, “Okay, if you believe what I believe, people love to buy things, they hate talking to sales people, you’re going to lean in and say, ‘Tell me more.’” That’s one way of anchoring people emotionally.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Well, and I love the idea, so often in a sales pitch or whatever, we try and pack about five pounds worth of information in a one pound bag. And so I talk a lot about, if you’re in a roomful prospects and you could only say one sentence to them, that would get them to lean in and say, “Tell me more,” what’s that sentence. And you just gave us a great example where someone’s like, “Okay, that’s interesting. I think I agree with it, but I need to know more.” Right?

David Priemer:

Yeah. Look, people in the creative field, the purpose of a headline is just to get you to read the first sentence of the article, and then the first sentence is to get you to read the second sentence. So a lot of times, especially when you cold call, when you’re cold calling a customer, they feel the need, you answer the phone, it’s the telemarketer. He’s like, “Hello, David’s speaking.” And they unleash the one-minute pitch because they don’t want you to get a word in edgewise, they need to convey the sum total of what it is they do. That’s not what you need to do, it’s a hook to get them to lean and say, “Tell me more.”

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. And I would assume that your premises, if they don’t lean in and say, “Tell me more,” they were never going to buy from you anyway.

David Priemer:

Oh, absolutely. Well, in fact, that’s the beauty of what I refer to these polarizing messages, because if your enemy is my enemy, you’re leaning in. If it’s not, you’re like, “You know what, I’m not interested.” And I say, because I’ll tell you, when I train professional sales people, we talk about their metrics and their sales funnel. I have data that proves that salespeople spend way too long with customers that will never end up buying anything in the end. So on a scale of one to 10, if let’s say they need to be an eight before they buy your thing, if they come into your sales funnel or sales processes as a six, that’s okay, I’ll sell you up a couple points. But if you’re like a two, if you don’t believe in what I’m doing, that’s a lot of work. I don’t want to do that. I’ll sell you up to a five and you still won’t buy anything.

Drew McLellan:

Well, it’s a lot of work for very little odd, it’s not just going to play well for you most of the time.

David Priemer:

Yeah. Well, and think about the scope of what you just said, play well for us, what we’re going to have is we’re going to have a difficult customer, an unhappy customer.

Drew McLellan:

Even if they buy, it’s not going to play out well, right?

David Priemer:

Well, I ask this to companies all the time, I’m like, “What would happen if you sold your product or service to anyone who was willing to give you money for it?” Because there’s a lot of those, especially it’s funny, I was in a conversation the other day with an organization that has a money-back guarantee. And there was this debate about should we offer a money-back guarantee because then we’re going to get a lot of riffraft that are coming in and sampling the goods. But they actually find that with people who take them up on the guarantee and renege and move out of the product or service, it’s actually good because those are the people that you didn’t want in the first place. But the polarizing messages definitely help polarize and keep the good customers and bad customers out.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and as I’m listening to you, I’m also thinking that one of the reasons why people don’t like to sell is because they hear no so often, but if they started with the polarizing message, they’d never hear no, the person would just go, “Oh, that’s really interesting. I’m going to go get another drink now.” So you’re not even in the sales process yet, your natural success rate would be higher, and at least the conversations, even if they don’t buy would be closer to a success, which would make you more confident and more comfortable and actually be more willing to get out there and have those conversations.

David Priemer:

What’s interesting, it’s along the lines of what you just said, sometimes I’ll speak to reps and they’ll say, “Hey David, I’m doing all this stuff you said, I’m on video calls with my customer, I’m getting out there to see them, I’m listening and they’re not biting.” And what actually happens is there’s a thing we refer to in sales and marketing as well, the call to action, the CTA. What are we asking you to do after we give our pitch, whatever it is? And one of the biggest problems, and I actually did a Facebook live in my free Facebook group, which I’ll mention at the end, about this a little 15, 20-minute mini-training a couple weeks ago, and it was called, Are Your CTAs Scaring Your Customers Away?

And what I found was the reps who are, let’s say, not great at the CTAs, often asked their customers for too much. So I go through my whole pitch, I’m like, “Oh, it’s $10,000 and we do this and we do that, we do this, what do you think?” And the customer is like, “Whoa, that’s a lot of stuff.” And so when you think about your pitch or what it is that you’re doing when you’re reaching out to customers, one of the pitfalls people fall into is they ask for too much and they go too far. Meanwhile, if all they asked was they laid out their enemies, they had their high-level pitch, whatever it is, they focus on the emotion of their customer.

And they just ask the customer simple question, does this sound interesting? Are you interested in learning? I’m just asking you if you’re interested in learning more? We haven’t even talked about price, just like, “Is this resonating? Because if it’s not, I don’t want to have to go through my whole pitch. In fact, my whole pitch could’ve scared you off. So this idea of taking a very measured approach to your call to action, especially after you’ve given a pitch and you’re an agency, you’re in the creative field, can be very effective, just getting another person to lean in.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and again, it sounds to me what you’re saying is you need to slice and dice the process into more granular pieces. And your whole job is just to get me to go from A to B, not from A to Z or A to M, because A to M scale me, but A to B, can I check back in with you in about an hour? Whatever the thing is. That’s like, “Oh, okay. I’ll buy that.” Right?

David Priemer:

Yeah, absolutely. Getting the person to take little micro steps to just oh, the eyebrows are up, they’re raising their hand, they want to learn more. And when they say, “Yeah, I’m interested,” now, they’ve made that emotional commitment to at least wanting to take that next step versus like, “Oh, here’s the whole shebang of something you need to commit to, which is very scary. This is actually why in Chris Voss’s book, Never Split the Difference, he talks about this concept of going for the no. ave you heard of this?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah.

David Priemer:

Going for the no. Because when people say like, “Hey, would it make sense? You want to schedule an hour, we could do a deep dive into it?” People are afraid to say yes. It’s like when you walk into a clothing store at the mall and you’re browsing something and a salesperson comes over and he says, “Oh, excuse me, sir, can I help you find something?” What do you say?

Drew McLellan:

No, I’m good.

David Priemer:

No, I’m good. Because I might say yes, then I’m giving you consent to do all your sleazy sale stuff to me. So even though I need help, I’m like, “No, I’m good.” We’re always afraid of saying yes to things, so if the yes is small, like, “Hey, would you to learn more?” There’s less of a commitment there.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Well, and it is funny because you’re right, you say no and then 10 minutes later, you’re looking for that salesperson because now you can’t find something or you can’t whatever, and then you’re like, “Okay, now I will let you help me.”

David Priemer:

It’s true. And in fact, they’re very clever. I read this article, which makes total sense in the retail space. Because imagine you went into a store and the salespeople are sitting there at the front, in a state of readiness just to pounce on you when you come in, it’s very off-putting. So what do they do? They put someone at the front of the store, folding t-shirts, just folding. Why do they have to do that at the front? They don’t need to do it there. And what do they say? They’re like, “Hey, welcome to the Gap. Hey look, I’m David, if you have any questions, I’m right here.” They don’t ask you like, “Hey, is there something I can help you fine?”

And sometimes they even make the little excuse of, “Oh, I got to go in the back room and just get some more shirts, so I’ll be back in a couple of minutes. But in the meantime, look around, if you have any questions, just let me know.” They do that on purpose to remove the sense of a fear that they’re there to just to serve you and pounce on you. I think it’s brilliant, but there’s a lot of psychology there.

Drew McLellan:

Oh yeah. I’m going to start watching for that now. Sneaky.

David Priemer:

Well, look, and what is it? These are young kids working up the mall folding the clothes. It’s not like they’re high pressure sales tactic getting you to buy something.

Drew McLellan:

A pair of jeans.

David Priemer:

Exactly. But it’s the same thing. The moment we feel pressure, and the pressure can be, “Hey, is there something I can help you buy?” Or it can be in the car dealership or say, “Hey Drew, is there any reason why you couldn’t move forward with the purchase today?” They find that when people, and this is again, this is science typically proven, when you give people the opportunity to say no, it’s more likely that they’re going to say yes, because when people feel their ability to choose freely is being restricted, they lash out. And it could be something as simple as a sign on the wall that says wet paint. When you see a sign on the wall that says wet paint, what do you want to do?

Drew McLellan:

You want to touch it.

David Priemer:

You want touch the wall. That’s right, because the signs says I couldn’t.

Drew McLellan:

And you know what, the pain comes off, it’s fine.

David Priemer:

That’s right. You don’t need to put your whole face in the wall. It’s like a sign that says, “Don’t walk on the grass.” You’re like, “This must be some pretty awesome grass that they’re telling me I shouldn’t walk on it.” So it’s this idea that we trigger this in the minds of our customers by accidents all the time. So this idea that if we can just back off, add value, sell people emotionally, but make it okay for them to say yes, then they will say yes more often. That’s what the science and the data proves out.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. It’s interesting. One of the things, there are certain levels of membership or activity level inside AMI, and people will say, “Well, how do you sell that?” And I say, “Well, actually I don’t want to make it really hard to do.” Because if they want to do it that badly, they’ll jump through the hoops, and then I know they’re going to stick around for a long time. And that’s what I want. So I do exactly what you’re saying, which is, I say, “Well, I don’t know. There’s a lot of hoops. You got to go to this, you have to do that and do this other thing. You let me know if you want to do it.”

David Priemer:

Well, look, I want to go into a next level, deeper of the beautiful nuance of what you just said, because that’s a tactic, this reverse psychology tactic. Hey Drew, this isn’t for everyone, what we do is not for everyone. And if it’s not for you, that’s okay too. So that’s a really good tactic because it basically you’re giving the person out, like, “Hey, look, if it’s not for you, that’s okay” And this is where I love it is that that’s the kind of tactic that we teach sales people. But what we don’t teach them is how to execute that tactic with the right tone, the right approach. And I’ve been on the receiving end of many customer satisfactory, we call them CSAT calls, but customer satisfaction calls from clients who’ve had reps use these tactics on them with the wrong tone, and it makes you feel a jerk.

I’ll give you this example. Let’s say I’m a personal trainer and you come into my gym and you’re looking for personal training stuff and I say, “Hey Drew. Hey, look, we went through A, B and C, so here’s the deal. It’s going to be 1,000 bucks a month and you got to come in four times a month or four times a week to do this training.” And you’re like, “Whoa, David, that’s a lot of money and a pretty big commitment.” And I’m like, “Hey, look, Drew. I get it, man. It’s okay. And you know what, this personal training, it’s not for everyone. It’s only for people who care about themselves, care about their families and want to be there for their families for a long time. But if that you, that’s okay too” I sound like a jerk.

Drew McLellan:

Don’t want to be a fat slob.

David Priemer:

But if you want to be a fat slob, that’s okay. The guy sound like a jerk. And so it’s not just the words, it’s the ton, it’s the approach. Saying, “Hey, look, we’re not for everyone.” And maybe someone says, “Oh, I worked with this other agency and they’re half the price of you.” And I might say, “Great, why don’t you go work with the other agency then jerk ass?” That’s not the way I would say it, but that’s the way it can sound.

Drew McLellan:

Sure. That’s the tone that it comes out in, the tone.

David Priemer:

Yeah, absolutely. So tone is important, and not just with that particular situation, but in sales in general. I talk about when my kids come to me and they’re about to hit me up for something that they think I’m going to say no to, I can tell just by their tone, just by the way they approach me. And so I ask you and all the people listening out there, when you talk to your clients about what it is that you do, do you think they can tell if they don’t believe if you don’t and what you’re selling and what you’re talking about? They can tell, they can feel it. And so we have to pay just as much attention to our tone and approach as the words that we use.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely. Maybe even more so. I want to talk a little more about how to get clients to open up and to share more with us, but first, let’s take a quick break and then we’ll come back and we’ll talk about that conversation.

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Head over to agencymanagementinstitute.com and look under the Membership tab for key executive network. All right, let’s get back to the interview.

All right. We are back with David and we are talking about sales, but from sort of this, is a science, a little research, a little psychology. It’s been a whole mash of different ways of thinking about sales. So before we took a break, I said I wanted to talk a little bit more. So one of the challenges, certainly in the selling before they’re a client, but even after they’re a client in agency world is getting clients to tell you the stuff you need to know, like what their budget? What’s their timeline? What are their constraints? All the things. And you would think they would want to tell you all of that, because that would allow you to be better at your job, but they don’t.

So how do we get people, whether it’s whether someone signed on the dotted line and it’s new client discovery, it’s during the prospecting stage, how do we get some of that information that we need pretty desperately to do our job well?

David Priemer:

For sure. I can give you a bunch of tactics. I’ll tell you the simplest thing that I teach is a tactic I refer to as the simple reasoning phrase. And it’s this idea that when you go and you’re doing client discovery and you ask them questions like, “What’s your budget? What’s the timing like? What’s the approval process look like?” These are normal questions that will help us serve the client, but they can also be sensitive, embarrassing, and none your damn business. So the idea is that if we want customers to open up, like if I said, “So Drew, at your agency last year, how much money did you make? What were your revenues?”

And you’re like, “Whoa, that’s a super personal question that maybe I don’t want to share.” And one of the reasons you don’t want to share it is because you don’t know why I’m asking or what I’m going to do with that information once you give it to me. So the way the simple reasoning phrase works is very simple. After you ask your question, you append it with a phrase, “The reason I ask is because,” and you give them a reason. “How much revenue did you do last year? The reason I ask is because I specialize in working with agencies that are in this revenue range, so I just want to make sure that you’re in that band.”

Or, “Based on your revenue, there are certain plays that I might recommend that we execute, but again, that all depends on where you feel you are in the range. So that’s the easiest thing, is getting customers to open up. I refer to this as the science of self-disclosure. The number one reason, tell them why you’re asking. I can go on and explain more if you like, but that’s the easiest thing you’ll hear all day.

Drew McLellan:

I will say, I think a lot of agencies do this. I’ll say, “So we can prepare the proposal that is going to be in the ballpark of your budget so that we can immediately get to the work. It would be helpful to know your budget.” And the clients often will say, “Well, I just want to see what you come up with.”

David Priemer:

Yes. Well, look, it’s walking into a car dealership and the car salesperson says, “What’s your budget for cars?” And you’re like, “Shoot, I don’t want to say because I don’t want them to low ball me or high ball me, whatever.” But if they said, “Hey, look, I need the range, because I don’t want to show you something that’s out of the range.” I think that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do. And if the customer doesn’t want to open up, by the way, if they’re like, “Oh, I don’t know. Why don’t you come back and tell me.” Then they’re going to get what they deserve at the end of the day anyways, they’re not really going to get the personal experience.

And maybe it’s a good signal to you. It’s like, “Oh, you know what, this is bit of a difficult customer maybe. Maybe I need to work with them a little bit differently or not work with them.”

Drew McLellan:

Right. Yeah. When you work with your clients and they’re going through their discovery process with a prospect, how do they develop that question set?

David Priemer:

How do they develop their list of things that they’re going to ask?

Drew McLellan:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

David Priemer:

Yeah. No, it’s a good question. So with me, I always like the question. So first of all, let’s go back to science. What are the types of questions that people love answering the most? Because sometimes we get questions about facts like, “What was your revenue last year?” Sometimes we get questions about like, “So Drew, what would your boss marry? What do you think she’s really focused on at the firm?” And then we get questions about opinions, like, “So Drew, why do you think this has been going on for so long? Or why do you think your firm’s been struggling to do this thing?”

People love answering questions where they’re asked to give their opinions on things more so than anything else. That’s the way humans interact. So to the extent I can ask you questions that allow me to not only get the information, but do it in a way that allows you to express your feelings on certain things, I’m going to be in much better shape. Now, I say, take a step back. One of the little exercises I have people go through is they say, “When you get on a discovery call with a customer, what are the things that you absolutely need to come out of that discovery call with? Budget, timing, approval process, whatever it is, problem you’re trying to solve.”

I say, “Make that list.” Actually, I have a bunch of free content on my website, I bet this. Make that list. That’s step one. Step two, take that list of stuff that you want to know, assume that you’re not going to get most of it, and start prioritizing. What’s the most important thing? So now you have your prioritized list of what you want to get out of that conversation, so that’s step one. Step two is then, “Okay, great. What questions am I going to ask that feel human, that allow the customer to express their own opinions and feelings, that allow me to get at that thing?”

So for example, one of the main things that people want to get out of their discovery conversation, and I say this is true in classics sales as it would be with your clients, is like, “What’s the problem where I’m trying to solve for you here? Because if there’s no problem, none of this makes a difference. It doesn’t matter how much it costs or how long it’s going to take.” So I want to know what the problem is. And then I want to know how bad the problem is. So I might ask you a question like, “Okay, so Drew, what, why are we talking today? What Drew you to me? What prompted you to reach out?”

You tell me, you say, “David, I have this problem.” And then I’m going to say, “Okay, great. I want to dive deeper into that, like, “If I were to ask you Drew, on a scale of one to 10 and with 10 being this problem is the number one priority at our business and it’s been going on for way too long, and one being it just came up and it’s kind of important but way down there on the priority list, where would this be for you?” And you see what I’m doing here. I love asking these one to 10 questions where it’s completely 100% opinion based. It’s whatever you think, it doesn’t matter what you say, it’s 10, it’s one to three, it’s going to be fascinating to me.

And so step one is, figure out what you want to know, and then craft a list of ideally opinion based questions that are fun, engaging to get at that information.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I like it. All right. Last question for you, I think, as we wrap up, what’s the biggest mistake we make? If we could eliminate one mistake from our current sales repertoire that would make the most difference in, not only our success, but maybe even more importantly, how we feel about selling, that would actually get us off our butts to do more of it, what would that be?

David Priemer:

Well, I think the number one thing with professional sellers, I’m sure with agency people, it’s just that it’s the time pressure, it’s the feeling that if I don’t do this, then I’m not going to be successful. I’m not going to hit my number, I’m going to fail, I’m going to miss my quota. My agency is going to go down the crapper. And a lot of this comes down to my… I wouldn’t say it’s a mistake, but when you get into that mindset, you start to act differently. You start to forget and you start to act less human. You become more pushy, you fall back on these older school tactics that actually turn customers off.

You ask for too much, and you’re asking for too much of a commitment. So this is actually one of the hardest things to do, but at a high level, what you want to do is you want to put yourself in this mindset of the healthy skeptic. The independently wealthy, they say, the independently wealthy individual, “Your firm is already successful, you actually don’t even need this business.” And you’re just doing this for fun because you love helping people and you’re passionate about what you do. And again, customers can feel when that pressure comes off. And if you’re just a human… It’s like you’re trying to convince a friend to go to your favorite restaurant. It’s like when you go to the restaurant or not, it doesn’t matter to me, I’m just talking about this thing because I love it, I’m so passionate about it. That’s the mindset you want to put yourself in.

This is going to be a horrible analogy, but you remember the movie Talladega Nights with Will Ferrell?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

David Priemer:

When he is driving in the car with the cougar?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

David Priemer:

He’s like, “If you’re calm, that magnificent beast will be calm too, but if you’re fidgety, it’ll eat you with a smile on its face.” So I feel like it’s the same thing. When you’re in a call with a customer and you’re calm, and you’re confident in your abilities and you ask good questions, it just feels natural and human and it doesn’t feel to either of you like there’s any selling going on. That’s it.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I love that. This has been a great conversation. I knew that we would hit on some interesting topics and we certainly have, so I appreciate your time and willingness to share your expertise because this is the pain point for a lot of my audience. They know they need to do it, but they don’t love it. In fact, a lot of them hate it, they loathe it, and they want to hire someone to do it because they don’t want to do it, and if they could just embrace it and feel better about it, which I think you’ve helped them do today. So I appreciate it.

David Priemer:

Oh no. My pleasure. Thanks for having me on the show.

Drew McLellan:

David, if people want to find the Facebook group, find the book, I know you’ve got a YouTube channel. Tell them all the ways they can keep learning from you.

David Priemer:

Yeah. Well, you can generally find everything on my website, which is cerebralselling.all one word, cerebralselling.com. My YouTube channel is the same, my Instagram is the same, cerebralselling. And the Facebook group, which is a free Facebook group, it is called The Cerebral Selling Sales Lab. And you can just find that, join it up. I do free live training. And the book again is called Sell the Way You Buy, which you can find it on my website, but you can also find it on Amazon or wherever you get your books or audio books.

Drew McLellan:

Beautiful. Beautiful. This was awesome. Thank you very much. I am sure you’re going to see a lot of traffic from this because I think you make sales very practical and makes everybody feel like, “Oh, I could do that.”

David Priemer:

I know. Well, look, it’s my pleasure. And you know what, here’s the thing, I love sales, but the problem is when you have people that… And by the way, bad sales people are not bad people, they’re good people. They’re just going out there and they’re doing these things that are turning people off. And so I believe if we can get more people doing sales the right way, then it’s going to help everyone because when you do it the wrong way, it ruins it for everyone, it makes it harder. When you do it the right way, when we basically train our customers to get excited when they hear from us. And look it may not happen in my lifetime, but at least if we do the right things the right way, then we will slowly but surely change this profession for the better.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I love it. Thank you very much.

David Priemer:

Pleasure, Drew.

Drew McLellan:

All right guys, this wraps up another episode. So David gave you all kinds of really practical, tangible things to weave into your next sales conversation and maybe even more so, this self-talk that you get into before you go out and have a conversation with someone. So take all of these nuggets and start experimenting with them because I think what you’re going to find is that one or more of them is going to just begin to ease the anxiety you feel around sales and having conversations. And as you know, I’ve often talked about the new way of selling today, I believe is helping. And so by being helpful and teaching and putting your stuff out there, when those folks come in, you have a different confidence level.

You have the ability to say, “You know what, I’m just going to keep helping them.” It’s sort of the Gap’s store, “I’m going to be helpful at the front of the store while I’m folding the shirts and sooner or later a subset of them are going to come back and ask me a question to buy a pair of jeans.” I think it’s the same thing in our world too. So I want you to experiment with this stuff, and I know David and I would both love to hear how it’s going. So for sure, reach out and tell us that. Before I let you go, couple of quick things. As always, a huge shout out to our friends at White Label IQ, they’re the presenting sponsor of the podcast, so they make it possible for us to hang out with you every week.

So head over to whitelabeliq.com/ami. And as you know, they have a special deal there for you as a podcast listener, if you want White Labeled PPC design or dev work. They make the lives of many podcasts listeners and AMI agencies a whole lot easier. So I can tell you from personal experience, good people and they do good work. Also, I will be back next week with another guest. In the meantime, you know how to track me down. I’m Drew McClellan on pretty much all the social channels, and you all have my email address, [email protected], which I think is the longest email address, no demand. So there you have that.

Again, you have to want it bad, you have to spell all the words right, and that’s part of the whoops, I guess. All right. I appreciate you listening, I am looking forward to being with you in a week or so. In the meantime, reach out if you need me. All right. Talk to you soon. Thanks for listening.

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