How To Get ATTENTION In Sales (By Selling With Insights)

Michael Harris is an experienced sales trainer and the CEO of Insight Demand. On today’s episode of the Salesman Podcast, Michael shows #SalesNation how to deliver insights to customers so they can break through the noise in the internet age of selling.

You'll learn:

Sponsored by:

Featured on this episode:

Host - Will Barron
Founder of Salesman.org
Guest - Michael Harris
Experienced Sales Trainer

Resources:

Transcript

Michael Harris:

I think the most important thing that sales winners do is they can help a customer buy, and I think what customers are looking for, today more than ever, is they're looking for a guide.

 

Will Barron:

Hello, Sales Nation. I'm Will Barron, host of the Salesman Podcast and welcome to today's episode. In today's show, we have Michael Harris, who is the CEO over at Insight Demand and I had an absolute blast record with him, and what we'll talk about today is insight selling, what that means, very literally, we drill it down and do the five-year-old explanation of it because it's super important that we embrace it and understand it, and then we level up of what that means to the prospect, what that means to you and how you can implement it in your day-to-day sales role. You can find out more about Michael and his book, Insight Selling, on Amazon. Everything else we talk about is in the show notes over at salesman.red. And with all that said, let's jump into today's episode.

 

Will Barron:

Hi, Michael, and welcome to the Salesman Podcast.

 

Michael Harris:

Thanks for having me, I've been following it and you've had some great guests on.

 

Who is a “Sales Winner” and What Do They Do Differently? · [01:35] 

 

Will Barron:

I appreciate that, mate. You are going to be added to that list, I'm sure. I'm going to dive into insight selling as your kind of brand and book title, but I want to nail that down, drill it down to what we can do to separate ourselves in the world of B2B as individual salespeople, as experts in the industry and then differentiate our products and there's a whole range of topics we can dive into with this, but I'm going to start with, again, using your word specifically, sales winners, let's start with them. What do sales winners do differently? And with that, I guess, if you can help define what a sales winner is, that'll add context to the conversation and we can perhaps work backwards from there.

 

Michael Harris:

Well, we do our best with this, don't we? I mean, we take three grains of sand and we call it reality. So I'll take my three grains of sand and say what I think sales winners are because I'm always suspicious when people say this, because if you've ever sat on a sales desk and looked around the sales desk, you can see, out of 12 different people, there's 12 different personalities and there's 12 different approaches.

 

Will Barron:

Yep.

 

“The most important thing that sales winners do is they can help a customer buy and I think what customers are looking for, today more than ever, is they're looking for a guide.” – Michael Harris · [02:27] 

 

Michael Harris:

But I have seen some consistent themes that I think different personality sets can apply, and I think the most important thing that sales winners do is they can help a customer buy and I think what customers are looking for, today more than ever, is they're looking for a guide. They can get a lot of the information that they want online and if they could do that perfectly, hey, they just click and they'd buy.

 

Michael Harris:

But in complex sales, you can't do it perfectly so a salesperson is needed and I think what they're looking for from that salesperson is what I call sales wisdom, and that's where you blend product knowledge with customer knowledge so that the customer comes to you with what their needs are, and I think you also have to have a genuine concern, empathy and compassion for the customer as well and they need to feel that because they need to think, “Can I trust this guy? And is he competent?”

 

Michael Harris:

And one of the ways to trust, “Is he competent?” Is, “Has he cared enough to really learn not only about his product, but about me as a customer and what my world looks like? Can he see patterns in my world that maybe I'm not quite seeing yet so if I can go online and learn this superficial information and come to him with that, can he start making connections and seeing patterns that I didn't see before and lead me to the top of the mountain and help me find the best path?”

 

Michael Harris:

That was kind of a long answer. Sorry about that. It's kind of a passionate topic of mine.

 

How to Help Your Customer Make an Informed Purchase Decision · [03:50] 

 

Will Barron:

I get it. I get it. Anyone watching on video will get it as well. And I want to ask you, you've touched on it then and I want to ask you a question specifically to push you down into narrowing it down and perhaps we can give some examples on that as well, but it seems obvious that we want to help our customers buy, because clearly, if they buy, we are incentivized on the back end of it with commissions and everything else and if we love our products and services, it's the right thing to do if it's the right product for the right customer at the right time.

 

Will Barron:

But, and again, super open-ended question here, Michael, how do we help our customer buy versus the old-school mentality of sales of shoving our pitch down people's throats until, eventually, they give in after 55 voicemails, 25 emails and you banging on the bathroom window when they're trying to have a shower in the morning and shouting “buy, buy, buy” at them. How do we help them? Are we helping them make the decision to buy? Is that what we're trying to do?

 

Michael Harris:

I think part of it is a mindset and I don't think people really focus on this topic enough in sales, and it's something that probably my next book will be about, but often, when I write a book, I don't think of a persona for the book. I'm a flawed individual and I'm always trying to work on myself and improve myself, so this is something I'd like to work on more within myself.

 

Michael Harris:

My first book, Insight Selling, was really based around, “How can I not take that aggressive approach? How can I help influence the customer in a respectful way?” And I found doing that and delivering insights through stories was a good way to do that instead of using a didactic approach and telling them, because I find telling someone something isn't really respectful and I don't find it's a kind approach. I think it's much better to tell them a story, because you're not jamming your conclusion down their throat, you're merely presenting a scenario and allowing them to form their own conclusion.

 

Michael Harris:

So it's more of an organic conversation, but I think what really differentiates is salespeople have to have that sense of curiosity. I know, when I've gone to every single sales job that I've had, I've always thought, “How could I set up my own company? How could I set up my own shop tomorrow? What would I need to learn?” And by taking that curiosity, knowing more than just the product knowledge, but the customer knowledge, by going out and visiting a customer with a sales engineer and pumping them for information constantly about, “What are some of the challenges customers are facing? What are some of the big insights that they're delivering right now?” And incorporating that into your experience bank, that's what I think you can draw on when you're with a customer.

 

“When you're with a customer, I think things happen so quickly that you can't think your way through a sales call, you've got to feel your way through.” – Michael Harris · [06:44] 

 

Michael Harris:

I think things happen so quickly that you can't think your way through a sales call, you've got to feel your way through, and so what you need to do is drop into your experience. You can only drop into your experience if you made the effort to acquire that experience.

 

The Skills and Experience You Need to Excel in Your Sales Role · [07:03] 

 

Will Barron:

Okay, so let's get super practical about this, Michael. How do we know what experience we should acquire? How do we know how much time and effort to put into it? Because, obviously, we want to get a return out the other side. There's no point in being the industry expert in mugs when we only really need to know how they feel, the shape and the colour of them and then anything beyond that, you get a lesser return on the information and the knowledge that you have on that industry. For everyone listening on the audio, I just held up a mug as I said that, to give context, but how do we know… And I don't know if there's an answer to this, how do we know what we need to learn, who we need to learn it from and how much of it we need to learn? How can we pull that trinity of things together?

 

Michael Harris:

Everyone is always looking for a hack. I don't know if there's necessarily a simple hack towards self-mastery. I think mastery is something that you have a passion for and you either have that passion or you don't. Hopefully, you do have that passion and you want to learn as much as you can about your product in terms of how it helps the customer. You want to really be able to articulate for the customer and help them do a risk analysis on remaining with the status quo because they're already looking at all the risks of change. You want to be able to shine the light of insight on unrecognised value, and one of the rich places to find that, I think, is to shine the light of insight on what the risks are for staying the same. What's the cost of the absence of value in terms of what your offering brings? And I think that's what you're helping the customer see.

 

How to Help Your Customers See the Value of Using Your Product or Service · [08:40] 

 

Will Barron:

Okay, let me stop you because I don't want to gloss over these, I want to get real practical with each of those three elements you just gave because those three things are, a lot of the time, given to us as salespeople, as marketing messages, versus what I think you're alluding to here is we should be engaging with our current customers so that we can give and share insights of the industry as a whole to our potential nuance. So I just want to touch on this. So you said, “How it helps the customers through our product or service.” How, practically, again, do we do this? Is this just interviewing our best customers and finding out how we add value to them?

 

“We need contrast in order to change. No one really knows what love is until we know what hate is. No one really knows what honesty is until we know what dishonesty is. No one really knows what the value of your product is until they know what it isn't.” – Michael Harris · [09:50] 

 

Michael Harris:

I think, in sales, I think, in change, when do you change? When do you go on a diet? We spoke before the show and you were drinking a green smoothie with spinach in it and a whole bunch of awful stuff, and yet you're voluntarily putting that down your throat. Why do you decide to do that? Do you decide to do that because it's healthy or did you walk by the mirror one day and you didn't pose quite the right way and you saw that you were out of shape and that motivated you to do something? It motivated you to change. And I think we need contrast in order to change. No one really knows what love is until we know what hate is. No one really knows what honesty is until we know what dishonesty is. No one really knows what the value of your product is until they know what it isn't.

 

Michael Harris:

And so I think if you go in with a salesperson, you just go in with your marketing sheet of the three biggest advantages of our product, most customers aren't going to get inspired by that because there's no contrast and what you need is contrast is to help the customer with one of the things… The problems that they have is that they think their baseline is too high. If you ask people, “Are you a good driver?” 93% of the people say that they're great drivers. “Why?” Because, “Hey, you got to be positive to get your way through life.”

 

Michael Harris:

But one of the things the salesperson can do is shine the light of insight on the customer to let them know that maybe their baseline isn't here, maybe it's five feet lower and then suddenly the customer isn't ankle-deep in problems, but they're drowning out in the middle of the lake. That's when they're ready to believe in the viability of your offering. That's when they're ready to see the value. If you tell the customer that your product is going to improve the results by 30%, they're going to call bullshit on you on 97% of that so you've only got 3% to work with. You're not going to be doing a deal there. To get the other 27%, I think you got to respectfully show the customer that they're not doing it well today, and I think that's a really ripe area for insights.

 

“You've got to help them see the problems and cost of their operations in the absence of having your unique capabilities, and most salespeople can't do that because that requires more than just product knowledge.” – Michael Harris · [11:18] 

 

Michael Harris:

So you've got to help them see the problems and cost of their operations in the absence of having your unique capabilities, and most salespeople can't do that because that requires more than just product knowledge. They need to share a story or an insight about a customer who wasn't doing it perfectly and they need to make it concrete, to make it feel real. They need to show how a real customer is dealing with a real problem in the absence of having your capability so that the customer doesn't just know it in their head so that they feel it in their gut and it's like battery acid burning a hole in their stomach and they think, “Oh, I get that. I feel it and I feel the need to change.” And that's a big differentiator, and most salespeople can't do that because they don't know their customer well enough.

 

Will Barron:

Let's take a step back here a second. What you're saying is perfectly true. Everyone who's listening is getting fired up because I'm getting fired up from this conversation so far, Michael, and I can see… Everything you're saying is perfect, but then you're clearly super engaged and it seems like you're bothered about this. It seems like you are concerned for the audience that they are not doing this correctly, but I want to take a step back of how do we uncover these insights?

 

The First Step to Selling with Insights · [12:25] 

 

Will Barron:

Again, step by step, if possible, because a lot of the salespeople listening to this, they're going to feel like they're on their own in this little bubble and this conversation of their marketing team aren't giving them data or insights, the sales manager is doing one thing and it isn't tying the conversations with customers and dropping knowledge like this onto the sales professionals to share with their customers, so a lot of people are going to be thinking, “Well, I've got to do this myself.” How do they uncover these insights that can be shared? And we can talk about what insights are best, where to get them from and that kind of thing, but where's the starting point for all of this?

 

Michael Harris:

I love salespeople. I think they're amazing people that just go out into the world each day with a zero beside their name and at the end of the day, hopefully, they raise the game and they're quite motivated. I think a great place to go is a couple of places.

 

Michael Harris:

#1, to become self-aware and ask yourself questions. Where do they think the gaps are over the last six months, over the last year, between the customers who bought and the customers that didn't? What did the customers believe that bought, and what do the customers believe that don't buy? And then how can you develop an insight to take them through that?

 

Michael Harris:

Then I would interview top salespeople and maybe some of the less successful salespeople and get their views as well. I think you can get that by engaging with other people. And then I would be speaking to some customers as well, and you do go customers visits and you ask them why you bought your product and then ask them, “Walk me through a day in your…” I've always wanted to do videos like this, a day in the life of the customer and what it was like before they bought your product and if it was slow and prone to error, walk me through, get me to do one thing that you were doing where it was slow. Show me one thing you were doing where it was prone to error, walk me through those steps, and then let me contrast that with what your life's like today.

 

“Just like the exercise commercial, you’ve got to have the fat guy in order to sell the skinny guy. You've got to have that one day in the life of your customer dealing with a problem to contrast that with how great life is after they buy your product.” – Michael Harris · [14:35] 

 

Michael Harris:

And it's those pictures, just like the exercise commercial, you know? You got to have the fat guy in order to sell the skinny guy. You've got to have that one day in the life of your customer dealing with a problem to contrast that with how great life is after they buy your product. And it's getting those. So #1, it's finding out not what the objections are because objections are… It's more, what's the belief behind the objection? What's the customer have to believe for that objection to be true? And then what do they need to believe to get beyond that objection? And I think those are really ripe areas.

 

How to Crank Up the Value of Your Product or Service in the Eyes of the Buyer · [15:16] 

 

Will Barron:

Should we be talking about the grey area in between the current status quo or picturing the worst-case scenario or making people aware of that versus the end result and the exceptional quality of life after the fact of buying your product or service? Should we ever even bother talking about the grey area in between? Because I think we probably spend more time doing that than what we realise.

 

“When you crank up the contrast, you crank up the value. If you want to create value, create as much contrast as plausible. If you take it beyond plausibility, then you've lost credibility.” – Michael Harris · [15:49] 

 

Michael Harris:

I think, contrast. When I heard this, I thought, “Hallelujah.” I had a total epiphany. It was an insight. And when someone said, “When you crank up the contrast, you crank up the value.” So if you're in the middle, you're in kind of No-Value Land. If you want to create value, create as much contrast as that's plausible. If you take it beyond plausibility, then you've lost credibility, but I think you want to crank up the contrast and that's how you crank up the value.

 

How to Use Contrast to Drive a Buyer Into Making a Purchase Decision · [16:10] 

 

Will Barron:

Good. Okay. So something else you mentioned out of these three things was a risk analysis. Talk us through this, Michael, I'm assuming we're talking about getting the… Putting the status quo on the table for the prospect who is being unaware, they're being consciously oblivious to the mounting shitstorm that's going to happen if they don't make a change, they're just… They consciously know it, but they're kind of putting it to one side. Is a risk analysis bringing that to light and then using contrast to show the difference between before your product and after your product?

 

Michael Harris:

I think that's exactly what it is and you have to be very careful the way that you do that because you don't want to call their baby ugly. I think that's one of the dangers of the challenger sale. I think it's great. There's lots of things about it. I like the book. It doesn't mean it has to be either/or. I just think it's one of the risks that when you're shining the light of insight on that, on the risks of staying the same, because they're going to look at the risks of change.

 

“People are more motivated to avoid a loss than to achieve a gain. So unless your benefits overwhelmingly outweigh the risks by five times, it's going to be tough to make a sale.” – Michael Harris · [17:35] 

 

Michael Harris:

You know they're going to look at the risks of change, but because the status quo has already happened, it's like they hold that close to their heart and they put your product up on the evaluation shelf and that's where they're looking at the risks of change and the positives of change. And those risks are going to outweigh the positives because they feel more emotional and people are more, two times motivated to avoid a loss than to achieve a gain, so unless your benefits overwhelmingly overweigh the risks by five times, it's going to be tough to make a sale.

 

Michael Harris:

So I think what you have to do is counteract the risk of change with the risk of staying the same and how you do that, I think, is critically important because I think you have to be very careful that you don't, at the risk of challenging the customer's thinking, you end up challenging the customer and pissing them off. [inaudible 00:18:10] that could happen.

 

How to Challenge the Customer’s Thinking Without Necessarily Offending Them · [18:12] 

 

Will Barron:

How does this look in an actual conversation? So my background's medical device sales and there's clearly lots of risks of changing supplies and parts and products and risks of using poor quality surgical tools versus the… I've only ever worked for the best companies in the industry, so, you know, statistically kind of thing, so I was always very confident in having those conversations, but from your perspective, Michael, what would a conversation look like, even to narrow it down, to give you a platform here, between a medical device salesperson like myself and a surgeon talking about equipment that they're physically using in a patient? How would you frame that conversation up?

 

Michael Harris:

So would you say surgeons are the most humble people you've ever met?

 

Will Barron:

They're very… So I've got friends who are surgeons still that I still hang out with, but there is a stereotype of a surgeon and a lot of them fall into that stereotype.

 

Michael Harris:

I have a friend that's a heart surgeon and humility isn't really something that she experiences on a day-to-day basis, and I think buyers can be like that as well and I think they're wary, so I think it's dangerous going in with the commercial teaching and teaching to them because it can feel like preaching sometimes. Some people do it well and they have the social intelligence to do it and God bless them, I wish I had more of that emotional intelligence, but I stumble across that sometimes and then sometimes it feels like I'm pushing my views and it starts to become a battle of wills and reality is going to be whatever the customer says it is, at the end, when I walk out of their office, and so if I've pushed them a little too hard in one particular area, I don't know if they're going to be returning my calls.

 

Michael Harris:

So there might be more of a velvet glove approach to tell them a story about someone else, because I'm not attacking them directly, I'm just telling them about someone else. And then I have to be very careful the way I phrase how the customer's life wasn't perfect before they bought our product. I can't make them out to be the loser of the story and our company is the winner. You know, something along the lines of, “Oh, you'll never believe this, Will, I dealt with Dave down the street. What a loser that guy is. He was doing this, this and this and then we came in and saved him and made life wonderful.”

 

Michael Harris:

No, you have to make the customer that you're talking about the hero of the story. They're smart, they're intelligent, but you need an external villain and the external villain is they were using old technology, they had made a good decision once upon a time, the marketplace had changed, the competitive landscape had changed, regulations have changed and they were struggling, and even if you came and taught them the new way of doing things, I might massage the truth a little bit and say they were looking for a change, they were hoping something like this would exist and then we came along and we provided it for them and then they were able to change. I think that's the type of story that I think works quite well.

 

The Foundational Elements of Leading With Insights in Sales · [21:20] 

 

Will Barron:

Yeah. I love it. So how specific does this need to be? And I guess that could be determined by the surgeon in our scenario coming back and saying, “Well, who was that?” Or, “What company was that?” And you can choose to tell them more details or not. For it to be effective, does it just have to be a story with the context that goes into the surgeon's brain or the prospect's brain, and it's turning all these cogs and working their subconscious, or does it need to be real in their mind, if you get what I'm saying? Do they need to…

 

Michael Harris:

I think it needs to be both. If you just hit them with facts and figures in a story, I don't know if that necessarily works, especially if what you're selling is complex, because I think when you're selling to someone that's kind of the C-suite, seasoned executives, what do they have? They have experience. And I think, often, what they do is they drop into their experience and ask themself, “Does this feel right to me? Does this feel real?”

 

Michael Harris:

And I think one of the things the story does is instead of just giving someone the conclusion, it walks someone through the steps that someone went through to change their mind. It's experiential. It's almost like you take that person and you put them into a buying simulator and they strap themselves in and they actually experience it and feel like they were there and so they can drop into their experience and say, “Yeah, that story is very similar to something I'd go through.” And it's almost like they're transported in that story and they come out of it the same way and hopefully change their mind as well.

 

Michael Harris:

Because I think… You know, some people say, “Oh, you've got to add emotion to your story.” Really? What am I going to say? Things like, “Oh, we got frustrated.” Or use emotional language? That's not the way to do it. I think the way you create emotion is you make your story concrete, about real people dealing with real problems, and you lead them through the change process, and then they'll feel the emotion because you showed them, you didn't tell them and they'll drop into their experience.

 

Michael Harris:

I was working with a CFO who was kind of like the chief operating officer of a company and he said, “You know, Michael, I read your book and it took me a day and a half to read.” And I was thinking, “Really? A day and a half? Like, it's only 20,000 words. It's a hundred-page book. It's pretty simple to read. It only takes most people like an hour and 40 minutes.” And he said, “Yeah, but I had to keep stopping and asking myself, ‘Would my salespeople do this?'” He was dropping into his experience.

 

Will Barron:

What this reminds me of, and this, I'll explain it, and the first explanation will probably make sense to about four people who are listening to this show and so in chemistry in science, if you have a reaction, you have to put so much energy into the reaction to be able to get more out the other side, if that's what you're trying to achieve.

 

Will Barron:

So you have an activation enthalpy, you have to put in so much vibration through heat and energy to get something out the other side and it seems like a lot of sales conversations, you've got the status quo, which is here at this energy level, and you've got to probably have a little bit more pain and disruption and changing things around and meetings and everything else that goes along with the buying process that we probably don't see as a negative or as a pain point, but it probably is in the eyes of the prospect. They have to go through this little bit of pain to then drop, and you get all this release of energy, all this release of stress and pressure, and then the end point is lower down on this graph than the starting point and their life is easier, we're making them more money, we're saving them time, whatever the end benefit of the product is.

 

Will Barron:

And this reminds me of that, and when you use a story to guide them past that first little hump, you are giving them context of the whole big picture and so they can embrace it as the big picture versus when you traditionally just offer your product and your service and you give the benefits, there's a whole big gap in the middle and all they're seeing is the beginning of the hill and not the big dropoff of free energy out the other side. It just reminded me of that as you were speaking there, Michael, and it seems a story ties it all up together as one solution versus lots of little steps of pain that prospects might be considering before they get to the end result, which might be holding them back in the first place.

 

Michael Harris:

Who would've thought that your BComm from Bangor University wouldn't come in use. There you go.

 

Will Barron:

First time in seven years of selling that it's been useful in any… I worked in chemical sales in my first job, and I basically got let go, slashed, sacked from that role, I didn't use my degree in that role either, never mind in medical device sales or the podcast, so yeah, that was four years at university well-spent to clarify that one point. I'll link to this in the show notes as well in the episode so everyone can kind of visualise what I'm talking about here.

 

How to Help the Buyer Uncover the Unrecognized Value of Using Your Product or Service · [26:12] 

 

Will Barron:

But this leads nicely onto the next point which you made right at the beginning of the show, Michael, and we'll perhaps wrap up with this, and that is unrecognised value, I think, was the term and the phrasing that you used. How do we, when we have helped the customer make the decision by guiding them through a risk analysis and showing them stories and getting them on board and showing them the end result and package it all together so they can comprehend a complex sale, how can we then stack value on top by uncovering value that maybe we didn't even know was there in the first place?

 

Michael Harris:

I think a lot of this came about from myself. I worked on Wall Street for 12 years. I worked on a graduate degree in finance. You're a bit insecure when you come into that environment so you defer to what you know, which is your financial training that you learned, you don't really have a lot of experience, and so I was trying to use facts and figures to convince people to do things and I didn't find that it was very effective.

 

Michael Harris:

I felt like a rescue boat salesman trying to rescue people that were only ankle-deep in problems and that's really hard because they keep clipping you at the knees with objections and you think, “This is really hard.” And then it kind of feels antagonistic too, where you'll just pull out your sword of logic and you'll battle with them and slay them and then walk away with the deal. But it doesn't work like that. And so what I found was that instead of trying to beat them over the head with logic, if I just took the time to really get into the customer's world and share a story or ask some really provocative questions that help them realise that they weren't ankle-deep in problems, but they are really drowning out in the middle of a lake in problems, then they were ready to believe in the viability of my rescue boat that could take them safely back to shore.

 

Michael Harris:

And so I would often ask myself, “Where are they? Are they ankle-deep, knee-deep or over their head?” And if I can only get them knee-deep, then maybe they're not the right customer and maybe they're not right for the product or maybe the timing isn't right and I can respectfully come back to them later. But that's really what I think salespeople should be trying to do with insight is help the customer to really get a full understanding of what their problem is so that they end up with the best solution instead of the cheapest suboptimal solution that's off the shelf that I think customers naturally gravitate towards because they didn't do a proper risk analysis and so they end up going down the road of commoditization and discounting, and that's where the customer doesn't want to go because they'll get a suboptimal solution, and that's where the salesperson doesn't want to go because they're not selling margin that can then be reinvested in the business to do all the wonderful things that you can do to really help your customers.

 

Why Salespeople Should Stop Using Marketing Content to Influence Sales Conversations with Prospects · [29:06] 

 

Will Barron:

So, clearly, it takes expertise and industry knowledge and pattern recognition on behalf of the sales professional to uncover these uncovered truths about the prospect, but do you think salespeople in general are too quick to just embrace the marketing messages that they're told that their product or service does, “X, Y, Z, these are the problems it solves.” And so do you think that we then only search for customers that fit that criteria and qualify against that criteria versus actually taking the time to have a conversation with a prospect and finding out what their specific, across the whole industry needs, wants and desires are so that we can narrow down our pitch to make it less markety and more what sales should be?

 

Michael Harris:

I think that if you ask anyone in enterprise sales who their biggest competitor is, it's no decision and it's precisely for the reasons that you're talking about and I think the top 10% of the salespeople to maybe the top 15 can do it and the rest struggle with it, and so I've kind of got out of the training business and I'm in more of the peer-learning business because what I'll do is I'll go to those top salespeople and I'll find out what they think the top 5 insights are and then I'll interview them in an interview like this and I'll find out what stories they're sharing and then I'll double-check some of those stories with product marketing and some of the other people within the company, and then make short little two-and-a-half-minute videos of those and put those into peer-learning that the salespeople can then use, and those are the type of tools I think that really work because what you're doing is you're trying to share the sales wisdom of the few with the many, and I think that can be a very, very effective approach.

 

Want to Become Better at Sales? Start Hanging Out with Top-performing Salespeople · [30:56] 

 

Will Barron:

So I think you've just answered my final question that I was going to ask you here on this subject, Michael, and that is, how can we accelerate this process? Rather than saying, “Well, you just need to be in medical device sales for five years, then it'll all come together.” Is the best way to accelerate this to have a internal mentor, to spend time with them, but to proactively ask them these questions versus just hoping it's going to sink in by osmosis?

 

Michael Harris:

I think that's exactly what you want to do, and that's why, sometimes, the best salespeople, at least from content, maybe not with the psychology of selling, but at least with the content, to have these type of conversations, because they're two separate things and that's a separate discussion that maybe we could have some time, but that often comes from people that have worked in customer success and then they can take these stories back. Because I think the better you are on the back end of the transaction, the better you are on the front end, because you can take all that knowledge from the back end and share it with the customer on the front end and they feel that knowledge and experience and they know that you're going to be that guide that's going to guide them safely through the dangerous buying process or at least they're looking at it as dangerous because hey, it might not work, they've been lied to before in the past, it cost money, there's a whole hunch of risks that they've got and that knowledgeable person could be their safe guide.

 

Should Salespeople Be Creating Content? · [32:15] 

 

Will Barron:

I'm going to ask you one final question on this and I've got one question I ask everyone that comes on the show, and so feel free to give it a yes or no answer because this brings up a whole can of worms and it splits my guests that come on the show, the industry experts, the practitioners, it splits them 50/50. So if sales professionals, if one particular professional listening to this now, to narrow it down, to build a persona, they've been working in the industry for a number of years, they know all these stories, they know that they work well, should they be either writing them down, creating videos, should that salesperson be creating content about these stories that they can then pass on both internally, but I'm thinking more from the external side of things and pass on to other customers and other people within the industry to improve their personal brand? Should salespeople be creating content of this nature?

 

Michael Harris:

Yes.

 

Michael’s Advice to His Younger Self on How to Become Better at Sales · [33:47] 

 

Will Barron:

Good. Love it. That's a conversation for another time. I'm glad you said yes, otherwise you would never have been returning on the show. I'm only joking. There's different people, different people have different thoughts. Some people think salespeople should be on the phone closing. Other people think that, which is my thoughts, sales is going to evolve into this bigger, slightly different, higher-paid, less people doing it role of mini thought leadership within a specific niche of an industry and clearly, all this insights is IP that you, whether your company owns it legally or however you want to be kind of contracted in on this, but you own it because you've written it and you can retell those stories, so I'm glad you said that yeah, we should. I think we should document them. And with that, Michael, I've got one final question, mate. Something I ask everyone that comes on the show. And that is, if you could go back in time and speak to your younger self, what'd be the one piece of advice you'd give him to help him become better at selling?

 

Michael Harris:

Wow. I guess the advice I'd be looking for is I think when you first come into selling, you're a little bit insecure, you don't have as much product knowledge as you'd like, you don't have as much customer knowledge as you'd like and I think one of the biggest things that I'd like to tell myself is just relax and drop into that feeling of discomfort and try and do the right thing for the customer, because then, you will be able to really listen to the customer and trust that you'll know what to say when they finish speaking instead of trying to think about what you'll say while they're talking so that you don't end up looking stupid, and I think that would be a really, really good skill.

 

Will Barron:

Let me just finish on this. You've had many hats, author, different roles, sales background. Does this feeling of either, whether you want to call it imposter syndrome, feeling slightly out of your depth, if you're progressing your career, every three or four years, you're taking that next step, whether it be more senior sales or bigger deals or whatever you're doing or management or whatever it is within the sales world that we all live in, does that feeling disappear or is that a positive feeling that we should acknowledge, embrace and move on and know that that's a feeling of growth, perhaps?

 

Michael Harris:

That was a really insightful question.

 

Will Barron:

Thank you. Every now and again, it happens.

 

Michael Harris:

I think with the intelligent question and the insightful question, it shows that you're really listening and you're doing everything that I want to do, and I think you always have that feeling and what you have to do is just grow beyond it so that it becomes smaller, because if you try and fight it, it'll only grow bigger.

 

Will Barron:

Amazing.

 

Michael Harris:

And so I think you just try and become better.

 

Parting Thoughts · [35:50] 

 

Will Barron:

Mm-hmm. Definitely. Definitely. Well, with that, Michael, tell us a little bit about the book and then where we can find out more about you, sir.

 

Michael Harris:

Okay, well, I have a book, Insight Selling, it's all about delivering insights and how to do that through stories and questions. My business is Insight Demand. When you refer to me as a sales expert, I do a certain few things fairly well and this is one area that I do well, but I look at myself as a salesperson because I'm out selling, each and every day, my services, and so that's where you'd find me, at insightdemand.com.

 

Will Barron:

Amazing.

 

Michael Harris:

One of the things I'm really interested in right now is peer learning and going to the top people within a company and disseminating their sales wisdom. I think it's really exciting because if I was in sales, that's what I'd want to hear from. I don't want to hear from some stranger, I want to hear from the best people within my company.

 

Will Barron:

Definitely. Definitely. With that, Michael, I want to thank you for your insights on this. You're more than welcome to come back on in the not-too-distant future as well. I think there's a tonne of…

 

Michael Harris:

[inaudible 00:36:54] I really enjoyed talking to you.

 

Will Barron:

Oh, man, I appreciate that. There's a tonne of stuff to go at here. I think we've only scratched the surface of… Even, I've got in a big bubble here, “risk analysis”. I think we've only just scratched the surface of that. We could do a whole episode, just getting real practical with it, so appreciate your insights, appreciate your time and I want to thank you for joining us on the Salesman Podcast.

 

Michael Harris:

Oh, thank you very much.

 

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