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Tim Hurson - Never Be Closing

How to Sell Better Without Screwing Your Clients, Your Colleagues, or Yourself

Never Be Closing-TotalPicture Radio interviewTim Hurson

Everyone knows that the first rule of sales is "always be closing." There are thousands of books written on the topic of how to close the sale by sales gurus like Zig Ziglar. But what if the less time you spend trying to close, the more time you can devote to helping people solve problems and seize opportunities? And what if following the new rule of sales, "always be useful," results in more business?

That's the premise of our guest today, Tim Hurson, co-author of Never Be Closing How to Sell Better Without Screwing Your Clients, Your Colleagues, or Yourself, just published by Portfolio - Penguin. Welcome to a Career Strategy Channel podcast on TotalPicture Radio, with Peter Clayton reporting.

No matter what you do, the goal is always to convince people to give you what you want. Often, no one has a harder time accomplishing that than a recruiter, trying to convince a passive candidate, perfectly happy in their current position, that they NEED to consider the "opportunity" the recruiter is presenting to them.

I recently moderated a panel discussion on Sourcing Strategies at Quirky in New York. This was sourcing from an attraction and engagement perspective - one of my panelists, John Hassett Senior Sales Manager Search and Staffing at LinkedIn shared an InMail one of his top performing account executives received from a recruiter. The content was a poorly written job req the recruiter had copy/pasted, and sent. This is lazy selling. Which, of course, received the response rate of nothing more than a laugh.

TotalPicture Radio Interview Transcript Tim Hurson "Never Be Closing"

Everyone knows that the first rule of sales is always be closing. There are thousands of books written on the topic of how to close the sale by sales gurus like Zig Ziglar. But what if the less time you spend trying to close, the more time you can devote to helping people solve problems and seize opportunities. And what if following the new rule of sales, "always be useful," results in more business?

That's the premise of our guest today, Tim Hurson, co-author of Never Be Closing: How to Sell Better Without Screwing Your Clients, Your Colleagues or Yourself, just published by Portfolio Penguin.

Welcome to a Career Strategy podcast on TotalPicture Radio. This is Peter Clayton reporting. No matter what you do, the goal is always to convince people to give you what you want, right? Often, no one has a harder time accomplishing that than a recruiter trying to convince a passive candidate, perfectly happy in their current position, that they need to consider the opportunity the recruiter is presenting to them. We'll discuss this and more today on TotalPicture Radio.

Tim, welcome to the show.

Tim: Thank you Peter. It's a pleasure to be here.

Peter: To borrow a concept from your book, you're the stranger in town, partner. Most people listening to this podcast know who I am. So who are you?

Tim: I like that. My name is Tim Hurson. I've been involved in marketing and also the innovation space for a very long time. My background, ages ago, is in marketing. I had a small boutique agency and certainly became interested in the whole sales process and concepts of sales and marketing at that time. But I moved into the innovation space because I was the creative director of that agency and I was always interested in that.

What I discovered actually to my surprise, though in retrospect, why would it be, is that the processes that are involved in innovation and creativity overlay almost perfectly over what I would consider to be an ideal sales process. And it came as a revelation to me but once it came, it seemed so obvious and I had to write about it.

Peter: You are part of a company that's called ThinkX, is that correct?

Tim: Yeah. ThinkX, it's a company that offers innovation services, coaching, training, innovation thinking to global companies.

Peter: I think the term innovation is much abused in many corporations today. Would you agree?

Tim: Oh my god, yeah. I do a little test with people on some of my talks and I say, how many times a day do you hear the word innovation? And people raise their hand when I say 1, 2, 3, but people still got their hands up when I say 5, 6 and 7. And yet, most corporations that I'm familiar with pay lip service to the concept and don't really do it, because it's not easy.

Peter: Absolutely, it's not easy and it breaks the mold and they run away from it as fast as they possibly can.

Tim: Oh, absolutely. One of the things that I say to people is that - and I think this applies to the new work on sales too - anytime you create something new, whether it's a product or a process, a way of thinking, you're actually destroying something old. That's really threatening to people because people like what they're comfortable with. So you're going to get a lot of pushback, a lot of resistance.

Peter: Absolutely. People really resist change. A number of years ago, I made a film for Citibank for a group of traders in San Francisco who were literally moving across the street into a brand new trading facility that was built from the ground up specifically for what they did. They were in a junkie old office, and they were resisting, literally across the street.

Tim: They hated the idea.

Peter: Yeah, yeah. Never Be Closing: How to Sell Better Without Screwing Your Clients, Your Colleagues or Yourself, great title, first of all. So much of your new book is based on what you call Productive Selling. Can you explain to us what this is and how is this different from other sales strategies out there?

Tim: First of all, the first part of Productive Selling as it is with productive thinking is to follow a process. One of the things that we have discovered and it's not new, but we do so much better, human beings, when we have systems, when we have tools, when we have structures to follow. So one of the basic premises of productive selling is that there is a step by step, by step process. In fact, depending on how you count, there are either 11 or 15 steps.

I know that sounds like a lot, but these are things that have to be in place in order for you to ultimately get to where you want to go. And if any of them are missing or any of those links are weak, you're going to have a problem in terms of where you want to complete the process, how you want to complete the process, even if you'll be able to complete the process. So that's the first part, is this notion of structure.

The second part is the notion of truly, truly being productive both for you the person who's got something to offer, whether it's a product or a service, a new way of doing something, and for your client.

One of the things that we say in the book is that if you were an archer and you were trying to hit a bull's-eye at 100 meters out and you aimed your arrow dead center into that bull's-eye, you would fail because gravity would pull your arrow down. The only way to hit the bull's-eye is to aim above the bull's-eye.

It's the same with sales. You go into that meeting and you think, I've got to make a sale, I've got to make a sale, I've got to make a sale or I've got the best product, I've got the best product, or I've got the best product, you're going to fail. You have to aim above that, to the relationship. You have to aim above that, to the concept of being useful, truly useful to your client or potential client. And then like an archer, your arrow is going to arc up. It's going to then smoothly curve and hit directly into the bull's-eye.

So the idea of productivity is the idea of productivity not only for you, but productivity for your client.

Peter: I think this concept of being useful is so important. A large part of my audience are corporate recruiters who often have a very hard time trying to convince passive candidates, i.e. people who are currently working and perfectly happy in their current position, that they need to consider the opportunity the recruiter is presenting to them. But they just launch right into their pitch without giving this potential candidate any reason to listen to the pitch.

Tim: Yeah, it's true. Peter, when I was in small business, I mentioned that I was in a communication agency for a while, we were really proud of our work. We loved what we did. The design was great. The creative was great. The strategy was great. And when I would go out to a new client, I would by dying - DYING - to tell them about all this great stuff that we had to offer.

Huge mistake, they're not interested. What are they interested in? They're interested in their own issues, their own problems, their own frustrations, their own challenges, and the last thing they want to hear is from me.

So one of the problems people like recruiters, people like me used to have is that we were so excited about what we did that we couldn't wait to tell them. But it was exactly the wrong thing to do. Exactly the wrong thing to do

Peter: So what is the right thing to do?

Tim: Basically, it's to listen. It's to listen. Think of it this way. You walk into somebody's office or make a phone call or an email, it is hugely to your client's or prospective client's advantage to disqualify you as quickly as possible. Why? Because they're busy. Not because they don't like you, not because they don't want your product, but they got other things to do. We all have other things to do.

So if I can disqualify you and know that I will never have to see you again, never have to talk to you again, that's a benefit to me. So the last thing that I should be doing is giving somebody the opportunity to disqualify me.

What I should be doing is beginning by finding out what it is that person is interested in, what it is that that person is trying to accomplish. I may even try to make some personal connections, if it's appropriate within a particular environment.

But we think of the sales conversation as a 3-act process. It kind of is almost exactly the same as the 3 acts in a play or a movie or a book that you might read. There was a great version of this that one of the directors, I think it was Billy Wilder said; he said Act 1 is where you introduce your character and put him up a tree. Act 2 is where you set the tree on fire, and Act 3 is where you get them down.

In a sales conversation, it's a little different. Act 1 is where you earn the credibility to ask the probing, meaningful kinds of questions that are going to start to reveal what the client's needs are. Once you've done that, you move immediately into Act 2 which is asking those questions. And they're not easy questions. They are often difficult to answer, in fact, some of them don't even have answers. But it's exactly those kinds of questions that get your client starting to think about his or her situation in a new way.

And you ask, and you ask, and you ask and no matter how much you're dying to tell them what you've got, the best thing to do is keep asking, keep asking, keep asking, until a certain point that we call the catalytic question. That's the question that begins to shift everything, that begins to change everything. You can actually see it happening. You can see when you ask a question, you can see when a client, or it doesn't have to be a client, it could be a friend, and they start thinking in a different way because you've asked a particular type of question.

And at that point, you launch into Act 3, and that's when you talk about the various benefits that you might be able to provide. So that if you have this 3-act structure, you can actually go into every single sales meeting - and this is not an exaggeration - every single sales meeting and ultimately come out with success. It doesn't mean come out with a sale but come out with a success in terms of moving towards a productive relationship.

Peter: A lot of your book really focuses on the importance of creating scripts for each one of these situations that you're describing. So can you give us some pointers on what's the best way of creating the script for getting into a situation?

Tim: The most important use of a script would be in that Act 1. There are some uses of scripts in Act 2. But Act 1 is where I said you have to develop credibility. So the question is, how do you do that?

A lot of people call scripts elevator speeches and so on. What we say a script has to do with a number of things. One, it has to be short and we mean really short. It's a minute or less. Longer than that, and your client's going to start to sleep and there's that disqualify thing I talked about before as well.

Two, the script should be - there are two types of scripts. One is a general script that you would tell somebody, anybody, about who you are, what you do, why the service that you offer is useful, how it's helped others and so on and so forth. That's a general. The other one though is based on a little bit of research. How does your issue, your background relate specifically to this client? So there's the researched one and then there's the general one.

It has to be personal. It has to tell a story. Scripts are not about facts and figures and abstract things. They are literally, they're about people. They're about stories.

Next, it should always - I don't want to go too deeply because we don't have a whole lot of time, but one of the key things is every script has to end with a question. You have to punctuate your script with a question, and the reason is twofold. One is important for your client to have the opportunity to start talking, obviously. Number two is every time you do that, you're kind of testing the waters a little bit. Am I now ready to launch into Act 2 where I really can ask some meaningful, useful, probing questions. So always, always, always end with a question.

Short, relevant, personal, end with a question.

Peter: I want to kind of key in on this personal piece because I think it is so important. One thing, Tim, that continues to just baffle me in this age of instant access to everything is people don't take the time to research before meeting with someone for the first time where they're in a sales kind of a process. It absolutely baffles me.

Tim: It's a two-edged sword Peter. I think one of the things that happens, you Google anybody. I Google you, you Google me, we're going to get 10,000, 20,000, 100,000 or more hits. So where do you start? One of the problems with research today, although there's so much available, is that there's so much available. It's kind of this wall of material. Where do I start? What do I know?

I agree with you; unless you walk into a client, knowing enough about who that person is and what that business is, we were talking about credibility earlier, you're not going to have credibility. You're not going to get it, clearly.

So one of the things you have to do is you have to find a way to refine and cut down that research process. We said that there are essentially two things that you can do. Number one is, don't start with the web. Start with your colleagues, your friends, your community, people who might know something about the person or the business or even the industry that you're starting to research. Start to get a frame so that you have a sense of where you want to go. Don't just do the internet search because it's going to be too much.

Secondly, we've got this amazingly cool tool called No Wonder. It's the simplest thing in the world but it is so powerful. What you do is you create a kind of a T-square on your piece of paper. On the one side you say, Things I know. And on the other side, the other column you say, Things I wonder. You write down all the things you know about this client, this industry, this opportunity from your point of view on the left hand side. On the right hand side, you start to write down things that you don't know but would be pretty important or cool or interesting if you did. Those are the things that you now start researching.

So what you've done is you start to focus down on an area of research that might be important or relevant or interesting to you.

Third point, is one of the primary purposes of research is not only to get to know a little bit about overview, who the person is, who the industry is, but to come up with somewhere between 3 and 7, and we generally say 5, key questions that you're going to use to actually structure your sales meeting. In other words, those 5 questions that become, in effect, the agenda for your sales meeting. These are questions that are not yes or no questions, they are those deep, probing questions that I talked about, that can serve to open up information, open up relation and ultimately open up the possibility of transaction.

Peter: As we all know, Tim, it's almost impossible to call someone today and especially in a corporation, get them to actually pick up the telephone and answer it. Often, it just goes right into voicemail. So what's the best way to get a meeting with a prospect or a candidate or a potential employee?

Tim: Yeah, tough, tough, tough question. The world has changed from that point of view. You don't call people up in the same way that you used to. So we say that you want to try to set up a situation where you know you're going to get a yes to your request even before you make it. It's kind of like that Art of War thing; you've got to know you're going to be a victor before you even step into the battle. So how do you do that?

I talked earlier about using those personal references or those personal relationships in terms of research, but you can also use them in terms of finding out a little bit about the person. Now the best, obviously the number 1 thing that you can do is to get somebody to refer you. If you and I know each other, Peter, and somebody wants to get in touch with you and they know me, and they know that I'm going to drop you a line and say, "Peter, Bob Jones is going to call you. I really think it's going to be worth your time" obviously that's number 1, the best thing to do.

But the second best thing to do is of course for me to call you or email you and to say, "Bob Jones referred me to you." So any kind of a connection that you have is something that you should try to exploit, and I don't mean exploit - exploit is one of those terms that is often used in a negative way. But I mean really leverage in a positive way. If there's a personal connection, if there's a community connection, if there's an industry connection. Those are the kinds of things that open the door, just a crack, for you to get in and begin to talk, begin to make now a real connection, a personal connection.

Peter: I think that is so important because if you look in the world of recruiting and who gets hired within corporations, 33% of people getting hired today are through a personal referral. So what I always recommend to a job candidate is don't apply for a job using their applicant tracking system and pasting your résumé in that. Find someone within that organization who you know or who can refer you to someone within that company, to create a personal relationship so it can be a referral situation because you're going to have a far better chance of at least getting an interview if you have that referral.

Tim: Yeah, also different. We talked about the problems of the internet and this wall of information earlier. The other side of it is, there are a variety of mechanisms. There's LinkedIn, there's Facebook, where you can be in touch with so many people who may know the person. It's amazing how often this happens, who may know the person or know a person who knows the person that you're trying to get in touch with. Those are the kinds of avenues that you should use. That's the kind of research you should do on a personal level in order to make that first inroad. Use that stuff.

I mean, anybody should just put themselves in the phone call recipient's shoes. Am I going to receive this phone call? Do I even want to hear another word from anyone? No, I don't. I'm too busy.

Peter: That's right. That's so important because let's face it, everyone today in these corporations, they're multitasking, they're doing four things at once and at the beginning of our conversation, you told me it's very rare that you're in Toronto. You're always on a plane. You're always going somewhere. That is so true today.

Tim: We're always doing four things at once and unfortunately, not very well. There is a lot of research on multitasking that suggests not so hot.

Peter: Something else at that, you spend a lot of time talking about in your book that I think is so important that people really don't pay attention to, and that's the debrief. Can you talk to us a little bit about that because again, I think if you don't take the time to do this after you have an important meeting, you're going to be making the same mistakes over and over again.

Tim: I am so glad you brought this up, Peter, because in our view, it is one of the most significant things anyone can do, whether you're in sales, it doesn't matter what business you're in. It doesn't matter what field of endeavor. If you don't do your debrief, you are not going to improve as much as you could. And it's so simple.

So really quickly, there are two types of debrief. Number one type is the content debrief. In other words, I finished my meeting, I'm going to have some follow up activities that I want to do. I want to send a letter to this person. I want to send them some information, whatever it happens to be. Content debrief.

Second kind of debrief is the process debrief. What actually happened in this meeting? How did I behave? How did I perform? What were the results of that behavior, the results of that performance? Now obviously, if people do debriefs at all, they probably want to start with the content debrief. Why, because it's immediate. It's the next thing I'm going to do. I'm going to write the email. I'm going to send the information.

Big mistake. As soon as I start doing that, I'm going to forget about the process debrief. It's just going to be one of those really nice things to do that's going to take a little bit of time, in other words, translated into things that we don't do.

So what we suggest is start with the process debrief. Go back to that meeting in your head and ask yourself three simple questions. What happened? So from as an objective point of view as possible, try to describe for yourself what literally went on in that meeting, from minute 1 to minute 60.

Secondly, so what? In other words, what did the things that I said, what did they mean to the client? What do they mean to me? What reaction did they create or provoke? How about the things that I did? How about the things that the client said and the client did? In other words, what is the meaning of all of that description I gave earlier? So there's what, what happened, so what, what did it mean?

The third one is, now what? So based on this, what is it that I can do to improve to change? What do I have to keep doing that worked well? What do I have to stop doing because it really, really threw a monkey wrench into the whole system, and what is it that I'm doing okay but I've got to do better?

You do those three things - what, so what, now what - after every single meeting, absolutely 100% guarantee the next meeting will be better and the next meeting will be better, and the next meeting will be better. There's only one thing that differentiates a professional from an amateur. A professional is just an amateur who kept getting better and better, and better. And the way you get better is by doing that debrief.

Peter: I think that's some really terrific advice. Tim, I really appreciate you taking time to speak with us today on TotalPicture Radio. This has really been a terrific conversation and I strongly recommend Never Be Closing: How to Sell Better Without Screwing Your Clients, Your Colleagues or Yourself, published by Portfolio Penguin which is on the bookshelves now.

So Tim, again, thank you very much for taking time to speak with us here today.

Tim: Peter, thank you and have a great day.

Peter: You too.

You'll find this podcast in the Career Strategy Channel of TotalPicture Radio. That's totalpicture.com. While there, sign up for our newsletter. It's free, easy and fast. Connect with our TotalPicture Radio group on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter @peterclayton and @totalpicture. Follow Tim on Twitter @tim_hurson.

I'm happy to connect on LinkedIn with TotalPicture Radio listeners. Please be sure to include in your invite that you listen to the show when sending the invitation. Thanks for tuning in today.

If you sell (and let's face it, we're all in sales), and if you aim to sell better, you need to know about the stranger's dilemma. A stranger doesn't have the leverage of instant credibility. So it's not surprising that a wide range of sales tactics, tools, and closing techniques have been developed as a substitute for credibility. Their purpose is often to wrangle a commitment to buy, even when buying may not be in the best interests of the prospect.

The approach advocated in Never Be Closing is designed to overcome the stranger's dilemma, but in a very different way. Never Be Closing is a comprehensive strategy that starts with a well-researched process for identifying and solving problems. It shows you how to access your creativity to establish and maintain relationships that will be truly useful for both you and your clients over time. In a very real sense, this book will show you how to become less of a stranger.

Never Be Closing expands on the principles of Tim Hurson's first book, Think Better, by offering a simple and repeatable Productive Selling framework to make the most of new opportunities. From getting your foot in the door to delivering the perfect sales pitch to debriefing after a meeting,

Peter Clayton

About Peter Clayton

Peter Clayton, Producer/Host, is an award-winning producer/director of radio, television, documentary, video, interactive and Web-based media who has created breakthrough media for a wide array of Fortune 100 clients.


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