From her website:
Julie Steelman’s credits read like a Who’s Who of big-name corporate giants with Apple, Microsoft, Toyota, CBS, Sony Studios and Universal Pictures in her rolodex. She has generated over $100+ million in sales during her 30 year sales career. Julie is known as The Entrepreneur’s Selling Mentor.
Her heart-centered selling strategies make her the go-to guru for entrepreneurial business owners who want to master the art of selling and maximize their bankability. While selling with sincerity may not be the norm in Corporate America, it’s standard practice for this maverick.
Now retired to her personal paradise in Hawaii, living debt-free, Julie developed the easy-to-master “Effortless YES! Selling System”™. She spends her time helping business owners overcome their aversion to selling in an honest, transformational and interactive style.
Julie is the author of The Effortless Yes! Demystify the selling process and discover:
- Your selling archetype
- Your natural asking style
- Your bankability
After our conversation and reading her book, I am not sure that the copy on her website does her justice; it may be understated.
We talked about her book, her solutions and how those solutions can help you get to that Effortless Yes!
Julie, thank you for being up so early this morning to talk with us!
Absolutely. It’s my pleasure to be here.
Thank you for writing a great book. I take it that this is your first book.
Thank you for saying that. I appreciate and value that acknowledgement.
I’ve wanted to write a book now for a very long time. But, I needed sorta the time and space to do it. This is what I did for so many years. This is what I wanted to write about.
Now, you're living in Hawaii...
...a veritable eden, I’ve heard. Life is good. But you decided to write a book! Who were you writing for when you wrote this book? Describe the reader you had in mind.
I’m really writing the book for, mostly, women. There’s an incredible amount of men who have gotten a lot of value out of it as well. But, the person who doesn’t have the opportunity to get really good, thorough, sales training from the some of the top-notch experts. The person who is extremely passinate about their business or cares very much about the product or service and how it helps the customer and to help them succeed at business...
You know, when I left corporate American and I retired, I thought:
“All these entrepreneurs with these incredible inventions and ideas including small business owners and some of them are still my clients today. And it’s like they struggled with the selling process because they just really didn’t have the bandwidth to understand the power of the opportunity that was available to them. I wanted to give them a little leg up. I wanted to stop seeing these really smart, talented, people fail. "
That’s excellent. I think, again, in your book you have done that. So, again thank you so much.
My friend, Erika Andersen coined a great phrase in her book Being Strategic. Her phrase is reasonable aspiration or hoped-for future. And she asks:
What is your reasonable aspiration or hoped-for future?
What was your reasonable aspiration or hoped-for future with writing this book?
Now you’re digging into the secret!
You know as much as I enjoyed my career in corporate America, there were times I didn’t love the experience. My hoped-for future is the small businesses of today, the entrepreneurs of today, the artists and artisans of today, the passionate heart-centered people of today will become the leaders of the future big business and corporate America.
It’s really that simple.
Being a good salesperson, I know you’re familiar with metrics to measure your success. What are some of the key metrics you’ll use to measure your success?
One of them is to watch the business owners that I have insight into. One of the key metrics would be to see the number of small entrepreneurial women-led businesses failing...decrease significantly. Right? Like, I can’t change that by myself. That would be one metric.
The other metric would be to watch a significantly higher number of people get into the 6-figures, get into the 7-figures, with their business.
Another metric would be... you know I think that would be the two metrics I would look at in terms of a global metric.
Excellent. Thank you.
I think the foundation for your book was what you wrote on page 23:
The relationship between buyer and seller is sacred and precious. It deserves to be nurtured and held in high regard. Leading with your heart when selling is acting with honor and respect, never forcing another individual to do anything.
I love it. It rings true. On the other hand, I know a lot of people, maybe a lot of sales managers, who would ask:
Where did you get such a crazy idea?
So, where did you get this idea and what does a noodle have to do with it?
Oh. You’re going to ask me the noodle question.
For many years I tried it the other way. I tried this:
“I’m a smart sales person, I got all the information, let me tell you all the benefits, don’t you want to buy.”
But it wasn’t as effective. And I was utilizing a lot of time and energy and not having the same result when I later discovered that if I would actually sit down and I wasn’t on this side of the fence and trying to get you to do something. Because then there’s an immediate defense in there. You know it’s like a football teams at the 50-yard line and I’m going to beat you and you’re going to beat me and let’s see who’s going to beat whom.
That’s a different sort of vibe you put out. The buyer has defenses vs when you actually sit down with your customer, side-by-side, elbow-to-elbow, and you listen to them. And you hear more clearly qhat their need is and your more able to tell a story of how what you offer solves the need in the context for how they would use it.
The whole thing changes. Especially in a tough economy. Buyers are especially skeptical. There are too many messages about the lack of money so people withdraw and pull up tight. Businesses start cutting budgets, don’t want to spend as much or they are very difficult to make a decision.
That’s how you create that endearing bond with people. It is:
“I’m putting what you need over...it’s more important you get what you need than I close a sale. “
That shifts the relationship. And it’s much more of a heart-centered approach.
So, what does it have to do with a noodle?
I had been looking for a job and I had been told about this really great recruiter. This was in LA. She’s from New York. She used to work for Helen Gurley Brown and she’s a top sales person for Cosmopolitan magazine and she has all this high-fashion on. And I’m thinking:
“ I’m so not in this woman’s league. “
And she starts talking to me and we’re talking about sales. She says to me:
“ Julie you never, ever, push a noodle; you pull a noodle.”
And I said:
“ Huh? “
And she said:
“ I’m not going to try to explain it to you what that means.”
What she means is you need to be kind of inviting and enrolling and have this conversation, like we just described with that customer, that pulls them in, that attracts them to you, that endears them to you, because you’re solving their problems and they lower your defenses and they like you and they respect you. And you do that by showing up as someone who cares about them more than you care about making the sale.
The difference is when you push a noodle. That’s by force. That’s that manipulative stuff. That’s the scripted, psychological, “I’m going to let you wait, time’s running out, the price is going up in the next minute...” like all that kind of stuff puts pressure and force on people. That would be pushing the noodle. Sometimes it works. But it’s very exhausting.
The pulling the noodle works much more effectively especially in this type of economy.
Excellent. That ties into our next question.
Some sales managers will say:
Demystifying the sales process is really no mystery. Just make
more calls. It's all a numbers game.
What are these managers missing?
I used to be one of those managers that was told:
“Well, it is just a numbers game.”
At the end of the day, it is how many people that you talk to. But, I’m more interested in effectiveness. I’m more interested in, and I think this goes back to sort of a more heart-centered approach, I’m more interested in that you talk to 5 people and you are super-effective, than you talk to 25 people and you’re 10% effective.
Because we’re going to have better customers and we’re going to have repeat customers.
So, I think a manager that says "it’s all about the numbers" doesn’t really know how to manage. And I’m sorry to say that and I hope I’m not insulting anybody.
But, I think it’s about more than that. I think it’s really about understanding what the customer needs and how you can best deliver it. And making sure your team knows how to tell that story in a way that that customer can hear it. And it’s about much more warmth and caring.
When you go into the mode of "it’s just a numbers game-get on the phone-you need to make 10 more calls today or I’m going to have to fire you”, what you in effect did was put your closing ratio and percentage above your customer’s needs. And that’s when things get really hairy.
I don’t think it’s effective to use that type of strategy.
Thank you. Thank you for saying that and outlining what’s missed by taking that approach.
You describe 3 buying personalities. What are they?
Well, the first is a “Crystal-Clear Buyer”. It’s what it sounds like. Someone who’s done their research; they’re not going to tell you they’ve done their research. They’re savvy, they’re smart, they’re educated. They’re aware of what’s going on around them. And when they know they want something, they’re pretty quick to make a decisions. And then they’re going to go find the best solution for that.
The 2nd type is the “Ruminating Buyer”. And that’s someone who just doesn’t have an easy ability to make a decision. If it’s an individual, they may be that way because they’ve made a decision in the past and it didn’t turn out so well. So, they don’t trust their decisive abilities.
If they’re someone in a company, they may be influenced by or have to answer to someone that they’re not confident about that relationship so they don’t feel as clear about making that decision. Or they don’t feel empowered to make that decision.
This is someone who is just not as easy to make a decision. They need a lot of information. They need a lot of hand-holding. They kinda go back-and-forth. Their going back-and-forth is how they resolve the ability to make a decision. It’s how they resolve to a decision. And you'll know this person because they will take you on a roller-coaster of "yes-no-yes-no-well, maybe"; they’ll do all that kind of stuff.
The 3rd type is the Indecisive Buyer. They tend to rely on indecision as the way to guide them. They are very self-protective. It’s difficult for them to ever arrive at a decision.
Unlike the ruminating buyer, the ruminating buyer will eventually arrive at a decision. The indecisive buyer? You really have to walk them through that final phase to say "yes".They really need to do that, making that "yes" decision in partnership; they cannot do it by themselves.
Excellent. I’m just scribbling. Your descriptions are so clear I’m reminded of different people. Myself included.
Which personality is most ignored in today's selling processes?
I think the Ruminating Buyer is. I think more people who may have been Crystal-Clear Buyers are becoming Ruminating Buyers because of financial pressures on them and they just feel like they are at a time when they can’t afford to make a mistake. So, they’re going to be more thorough and do more research. And go back and forth, weigh lots of options, more than they used to.
I think the Ruminating Buyer gets most ignored because the sales person gets tired of being on the roller-coaster ride, and/or, they don’t know how to handle it and recognize this and they bail; they bail too early. If you work through this, if you work with A Ruminating Buyer and go on that ride with them and keep answering the questions they have and understanding where they get tripped up along the way, even if you have to do it 6-7 times, then you will have a loyal customer for life. It’s really worth the time investment to go back and forth with them.
I love how in the process of selling and addressing their concerns, many of them more emotional than possibly financial or product quality and features, then you develop that loyalty and trust which in turn translates into more referrals and more up-sells and more cross-sells.
I think their oversight of that personality arises from some misaligned element of their sales process. What would be a common misalignment in today’s sales force that would encourage them to ignore the ruminating sales person?
I think something like pressure from a manager that says:
“ You need to make more calls. It’s a numbers game.”
So, they would say you’re spending too much time with that person and it’s precluding you from getting to more people. So, you need to drop this person to get to more people.
Love it; love it!
Sorry, I’m just being frank.
No. I love it.
Your descriptions are so clear, I’m just having borderline flashbacks when I’ve worked with managers like that or seen sales teams built around both approaches. The teams with the highest sales was with the manager who took the time to encourage their sales staff to get to know the customer. And over time they generated the higher sales from referrals and word-of-mouth and up-sells and cross-sells.
You know it’s so true what you just said.
I built a reputation on never wasting someone’s time and not running my sales agenda when I walked into a meeting.
Let me tell you something. They all talk to each other. So, they’ll spread the word about you. And if someone’s had a hard time with you in a sales meeting, the word’s going to get out on the street and it is going to be a bit harder to get the next meeting.
I think that’s such a great point. Everybody talks. We all talk with each other. Now with Twitter and Facebook, in an instant those doors can be opened or closed.
Now, I think the answer for the next question is obvious. But it’s such a common problem, I want to belabor it a little bit.
How do companies correct this? How do companies correct this institutional bias against the Ruminating Buyer?
I think that they have to understand. I think that sales managers and companies do a really good job when they understand and they teach their teams that there are different types of decision-makers. And to look out for, recognize and understand the difference between those decision-makers and the different things you can do to handle those decision-makers.
You could call a Ruminating Buyer a skeptic. The woman I referred to earlier, the woman how told me the noodle story, she had what I called the “My Skeptic Emergency Kit” in her pocket.
I thought this was a great idea and I want to pass it along. One of the easiest things a company can do is to create a fact-sheet with testimonials, facts, case-studies. When you get a Ruminating Buyer or someone who’s going back and forth, you whip out the fact sheet and you walk them through it and say:
“ Look, here’s some of the experiences our customers have when we get involved. Here’s the difference that gets made.”
And have what she calls her Emergency Skeptic Kit so you really have the answers to all the unasked questions they are not asking. And go look:
“I know it’s really hard to make a decision. It’s a tough economy; your boss is putting pressure on you; budgets are tightening up. But let me just walk you through the statistics.”
But what you are doing is giving them the reason, the sales points, to go convince other people on their team to go buy your products or services.
Part Two of this conversation will be published Friday, September 16.
Part Three of this conversation will be published Monday, September 19.