The business of selling has many fallacies, like sales people are born and not made, and selling is all about cold calling. The reality is that if you want to sell with measurable, consistent results every quarter, then you have to put into place a step-by-step process in order to be successful. In this episode, our guest is Rich Isaac, Founder of Sandler Training center, one of the most prominent and successful sales consulting practices on Long Island. Rich advises business leaders on strategies to increase their revenue and profit. He is a recipient of the David H. Sandler Award, and has been recognized by organizations such as Hauppauge Industrial Association of Long Island and local press, including the Long Island Business News. Listen in as Rich shares his insights in how you can level up your selling process. Whether you are an independent professional or a business owner, you will learn the right way to ask a customer for a referral, how to change your mindset to be successful, how to expand business opportunities, and more. Join us as we discuss what you need to know to master the art of selling so that you can scale and grow your business.
Click to read transcript of this episode below.
Welcome to the Biz Money Podcast hosted by Lee Korn. Lee is a financial advisor and principal at Opal Wealth Advisors. Each month Lee and his guests share their path of success and how they broke through to get to the next level. This podcast is available on our website at opalwealthadvisors.com/bizmoney. To receive updates on new show releases, you can subscribe on our podcast page. Now, here’s your host, Lee Korn.
Lee Korn 0:29
Welcome to the Biz Money Podcast. I’m your host Lee Korn. On behalf of my colleagues here at Opal Wealth Advisors, we’re excited that you’re able to join us.
Rich Isaac 0:44
When we think about individuals and companies improving, it’s always a combination of three things. It’s a combination of attitude and mindset, or it’s behavior, which means doing the things you need to do, or it’s technique, learning different approaches.
Lee Korn 1:00
Our guest today is Rich Isaac, Founder of Sandler Training center, one of the most prominent and successful sales consulting practices on Long Island. Rich advises business leaders on strategies to increase their revenue and profit. He is a recipient of the David H. Sandler Award, and has been recognized by organizations such as Hauppauge Industrial Association of Long Island and local press, including the Long Island Business News. On a personal note, I’ve known Rich for over a dozen years. My partners and I have taken his Sandler sales training course, and I’ve been on a number of organizations with him. Welcome, Rich.
Rich Isaac 1:34
Hey, thanks, Lee. It’s great to be here. It’s good to see you.
Lee Korn 1:37
Awesome. So we’re here to talk about sales. Something I think you know a little about?
Rich Isaac 1:41
Little bit, let’s hope.
Lee Korn 1:43
All right, awesome. So I’ve heard you say this quote many times, but you know, there would be no GDP if if there wasn’t sales, because right, anytime something is transacting, someone’s buying it someone selling it. Correct?
Rich Isaac 1:56
Lee Korn 1:57
Great. So I, we talk to lots of entrepreneurs. Actually, the audience for this podcast is entrepreneurs. And if you think about the journey of someone starting a business, usually, you do something great. You either work for someone, if you think about the book, The E Myth, you’re a baker, you’re a great baker, you decide to start a bakery, and the first thing you do is you decide to get the word out, right? So you start, you hire a marketing company, like our great marketing company. And you start blasting, whether it’s advertising digital, social, the new world today. And many business owners do that. And then they expect sales to start running in the door, right? And there’s a natural relationship between marketing and sales. I wonder if you could just talk to us about the difference and the need to marry the two together?
Rich Isaac 2:44
Yeah, 100%. They certainly are very important, coordinated efforts. But marketing, which I think is better referred to as marketing communications, that’s typically what people mean. It’s intended to do one of two things, or both to create awareness of our products and services, or to generate leads for our product and services. And it depends on whether it’s a business-to-consumer type of product or service, or a business-to-business type of service. But notice, they’re both at the very beginning of the process. It’s important that people know about us. And it’s great if our marketing, whether that’s advertising, or whether that is social media advertising, can actually generate leads, which means people are want to talk to us. But the sales starts when we’re actually talking person to person, unless you have a product or service that people will simply buy through a website, which is certainly applies to many products or services. Any product that requires a conversation, that’s when sales begins. And doesn’t end until that business closes. And as we say, the check clears.
Lee Korn 3:49
Great. I’ve heard you say the word process a number of times, right? So typically, we hear the word he or she is a natural born salesperson, they walk into the room and the room lights up. Yet many people don’t see all the things that are underneath it, right? And as you’ve taught for many years, there is a process to sales. Can you talk a little bit about that process?
Rich Isaac 4:12
Yeah, you know, the idea that salespeople are born not made is in our opinion, a fallacy. Yeah, there are some natural born folks. They probably are following some process, but it’s so their own that they couldn’t even describe it to people. Our perspective, especially as we’re growing sales, growing a sales organization looking to expand our sales. If we don’t have a process in place, and a step-by-step approach that everybody follows and people are just winging it, it’s extremely difficult to scale a business. It’s so interesting, because imagine if somebody you just hired someone in your accounting department, and you said, well, we’re using QuickBooks and they said, You know what, I’m just gonna do it the way I’d like to do it. Is that okay? It would sort of be laughable. But somehow in sales, we bring people in who say, Look, I know how to sell, I don’t need to follow a process. It doesn’t mean it can’t work, but it’s extremely inefficient and extremely hard to scale.
Lee Korn 5:11
And often, you get an owner of a business, he’s there. He’s the chief salesperson, right? He was very good at selling, he went off on his own, yet, being able to sell something, being a great salesperson, saleswoman, salesman is different from building a sales organization, right? Hiring salespeople, managing salespeople, identifying, you know, the traits that are important for salespeople. Could you talk a little bit about that?
Rich Isaac 5:39
You know, it’s interesting, especially when I work very often with multi-generational businesses. And very often the mom or dad, grandparents who started the business, they did it however the heck they did it, but they never put those processes and systems in place. And they have what we refer to as non-transferable skills, so it doesn’t create any type of ongoing process. You know, similarly, a lot of times we’ll find sales organizations that will take their best salesperson and put them into the position of being a sales manager. And they’re really different skills. They’re interrelated, and it doesn’t mean you can’t be both. But the idea of recruiting and hiring and coaching, and training and mentoring—that whole sales management process—it’s simply a different set of skills. That is also learnable and trainable, but they are completely different skill sets,
Lee Korn 6:35
Assuming they can get that sales training at Sandler Sales?
Rich Isaac 6:39
Yeah, I certainly, of course, there’s lots of different programs out there. I’ve been fortunate to be involved with Sandler now for 25 years, you know, we’re a worldwide franchise-based operation. I mean, it’s a little self serving to say we have the best stuff in the world. But it’s most important that people go find consultants and trainers that they trust, whether they’re talking about increasing their sales capabilities, business development capabilities, or sales management capabilities. And one thing I just want to add there is that we work with a lot of organizations, and some of your listeners may fall into this category that don’t think of themselves as salespeople. Don’t want to think of themselves as salespeople. For example, we’re working with a professional engineering firm right now, and a couple of law firms and accounting firms. And they don’t like the word sales. They don’t want to be that traditional typical salesperson, yet they have to bring in business. So they come up with other words for things, like rainmaking.
Lee Korn 7:37
Often, sales is a four letter word in many organizations.
Rich Isaac 7:40
I can understand why, you know. People didn’t go to those professionals, professional careers, to be what they envisioned, because they don’t know any better. To be that, you know, quintessential used car salesperson. They might not be all that outgoing. They might feel that sales is pressure packed. And they’re right in that they’ve experienced that so many times. Our perspective is that’s sort of the worst kind of sales and you can be a great professional, and be effective at business development in a very non-threatening way. And I’m sure we’ll have a chance to talk about that a little bit.
Lee Korn 8:21
Now, many people are so reluctant to just pick up the phone and have a conversation.
Rich Isaac 8:25
Well yeah, I mean, I think that that’s one of the greatest fears is reaching out to strangers, reaching out to people we don’t know. You know, there’s a part of our brain that doesn’t know the difference between any kind of discomfort. Calling someone who might hang up on us feels to our brains like we’re stepping out of the cave when we were cavemen, and we might get eaten. I mean, we don’t want to underestimate the discomfort that people have in it. The question is, how can we help them overcome that and find sales and prospecting methods that work for them? Because you don’t necessarily have to be making cold calls to be successful in sales, right?
Lee Korn 9:05
So Rich, let’s say you are that business owner, you’re getting ready to hire your first salesperson, you’ve never been a sales manager. You identify someone who you believe can communicate your message and actually get clients to buy your product or service. What are the things that you should be doing? You know, what are the metrics that you should be tracking? How frequently should you be coaching, having that conversation?
Rich Isaac 9:28
Yeah, let me take a step back to the first part of your question, which is, you think they may be good in sales. So the question I would first ask, and this is often true, we work with a lot of technology companies. We’ve worked in market research and many other industries where sales is not sort of their bag. Their thing entrepreneurial companies that developed a product or a service, whatever it might be. So they will very often find someone who has sales experience and that person will often ask for a pretty big starting salary with the promise of bringing in business. And it just rarely works. So I would characterize it as they’re not very good judges of figuring out whether someone’s going to be successful in sales. But the first thing I would comment on is, if you’re not an expert in sales, find a consultant. And there’s lots of them. And you know, all over the place in sales and business development, obviously, including Sandler people, but there’s lots of others who you can count on to help provide you a process and potentially even help you hire that first salesperson who understand the criteria of what it takes to be successful and assess those people. People are often extremely bad judges when they bring people on, who’s going to be successful in sales and business development, based on sort of gut feel. So first things first is have someone help you do that if you don’t have that expertise. Once you do, then you can certainly learn a process for keeping them on track and making sure that they’re successful. You mentioned about KPI system. Clarify that question for me so I can comment.
Lee Korn 11:12
Sure, you know that there are leading indicators, lagging indicators, you know. Some sales managers will just ask, tell me how many calls you made, or tell me how much you’ve sold this week. And then there are some that believe it’s the actions that lead up to the sales, and that’s more important. You cannot control the ultimate end result on a week-to-week basis. But if you’re doing the right activities, on a month-to-month, week-to-week, you know your basis, eventually you’re going to get at bat and then you’re going to win.
Rich Isaac 11:44
Yeah, I you know, I think that the way you just described that was more sophisticated than most people think about it. As you said, most people manage their people by the numbers. Hey, look, it’s almost the end of the quarter, and you haven’t hit your numbers yet get to work, as if the person doesn’t already know that. But that’s what you would characterize, as you mentioned, as a lagging indicator. You don’t know that till later. So we believe that there’s three levels of keeping track of, you know, key performance indicators, KPIs. There’s the beginning, which is the behavioral side—am I doing the things I need to do? We can talk about the list of those things. It’s not that big a lesson. Sales is probably only five to eight things that you can even be doing in terms of behavior that’s intended to lead to opportunities. Then you can measure this intermediate result, the most important being, am I adding things to the pipeline? Am I setting appointments with ideal prospective clients that’s trackable? And then there’s the end results, which of course, we’re going to track. So our opinion is the most important indicators are those intermediate ones. If you’re doing the behaviors, you’ll pretty quickly see that you’re getting the appointments. And then of course, you can then track your closing ratio on appointments and improve that over time. But it’s that three layers of tracking that we find is the most important and is often just unknown to people and or ignored.
Lee Korn 13:07
Great, thanks Rich. You know, there’s a concept you talk about often called leaky pipeline, right? It can apply to the individual salesperson, the organization, you know, I’ve been guilty of it. At many stages in my career, where you have an opportunity, you put it on a list, you look at it as possible, and then you just leave it on there. And you never want to get to, you want to get to a yes, but you never want to get to a no. And it just stays on there. And your pipeline grows and grows with all this possibility. But it never ends up happening. Could you touch on that?
Rich Isaac 13:42
Yeah, one time we were, my colleague and I, were visiting a prospective client, and he had a big whiteboard. And it had, if I’m not mistaken, about 26 different things listed. And we’re like, so what’s that? They said, this is our active deals. I said, really? So how long have, what do you mean active? Well, we’ve sent proposals to these people. What’s the most recent one? This one was last week. What’s the oldest one? This one was probably six months ago. It became very clear to us, in fact, we said to them, you’re going to reach out to those people, especially the ones that are more than two months old. And you’re going to ask them, by the way, we’re just curious. Your proposal is will no longer be valid after the next couple of weeks. We’re curious if you’re even still interested in talking to us. And what you will find is half of them will ignore you because they don’t even remember. And something like 20% will be like no, no, hang on, we’re still interested. This is not unusual for us to, you know, we don’t we’re afraid of hearing that No thanks. You know, it’s interesting. I’ll ask this question. If someone’s not going to do business with you, when do you want to find that out? And everyone says right away, and that’s the right intellectual answer. But emotionally, people don’t like to hear no and so they hope that this thing is going to actually pan out. So our perspective is they don’t have a process. They don’t have a mindset for getting someone to say, okay, as we move this along, we’re either going to move it forward to No thanks, which is fine. Or we’re going to move it forward to clear next step, which is often missing, or we’re going to move it forward to Yeah, we’re signing the deal and we’re moving forward. And without that, as you said, the pipeline will just grow and grow and have a lot of noise in it, which will keep you from doing the work, you know, you think you have a lot going on. But you might only have a handful of things that are real. But we need to understand what our optimal pipeline looks like and make sure that it’s what we call a clean pipeline. Our recommendation to your listeners is to determine what’s an ideal pipeline look like in our business where we’re doing sales and business development, training, coaching and consulting. We know that for each of us, you know, we have three people in my little firm that are doing sales production. That for us each to have approximately 10 active deals in our pipeline at any given time is about the right number. If it’s 20, there’s probably noise. And if it’s three, it’s certainly anemic.
Lee Korn 16:14
Pivoting to the last year, COVID, people working from home. Those who are never comfortable on Zoom or digital, everyone’s comfortable in Zoom and digital now. SEO, digital marketing, you name it. How important is that? How has that impacted the sales process? How has it changed it? Has it not changed it?
Rich Isaac 16:42
Yeah, I think there’s a perspective that this has completely changed sales. I agree with that. I think it has completely changed sales. I tend to be an optimist to look at the bright side of things. I do definitely think that there are certainly some downsides in which we have to deal with, and I’ll chat with you about them in a moment. But sales has become dramatically more efficient. It used to be so free, we’re on Long Island, but we do a lot of business in Manhattan and other places in the country when we’re referred there. So for example, if I had a potential opportunity in Manhattan, it was usually a 15 minute phone call. And then All right, let’s get together in Manhattan, which for me taking a train into the city and spending a couple, an hour or two, and then taking a train back would pretty much blow a day. Now people are so used to the face to face, the Zoom. In fact, I virtually have very few phone calls. Now it’s almost all face to face. And this is true for many of our clients. Now we’re like, let’s go and spend five minutes, 10 minutes, in that first call, let’s set up a Zoom. And I can do my hour long Zoom meeting, and have seven more hours to work that day that would have been blown if I had had gone into the city. So the fact is, there’s actually more face to face selling, it just happens to be remote, which is you said thank goodness people are used to and it’s not it doesn’t bother them. We’ll have six people sitting in a conference room, and we’re talking to them as if we were sitting in the room with them. So people are just finding that when you do get together with people, it’s sort of a real special event. Obviously, trade shows, and business conferences can be a big part of people’s businesses, and those will slowly come back. But clearly, that’s something that people miss that ability to, to see 100 people in a day that was put on hold for a while. So that was certainly problematic for some people whose businesses is dependent on that. But I see the bright side of it. Our business and many others, after an initial shock to the system, don’t get me wrong, we struggled like other people did as we tried to figure this whole thing out. But it has come roaring back for ourselves and many, many of our clients. So I’m highly optimistic about it. And I think there’s huge advantages that have come from this calamity as well.
Lee Korn 19:00
New business is not tethered by geography anymore. You could deal with someone in Oklahoma or California.
Rich Isaac 19:05
Yeah, it’s quite remarkable, you know, for us, for the most part, if if someone is a local business, and we will refer them to the local Sandler folks, you know, in Kansas City, or wherever they might be. But many of our clients, like I’m sure many of your listeners’ clients, you know, have multiple people in multiple locations now, especially as people have been working from home. So that has really expanded the business opportunities for many, many people.
Rich Isaac 19:32
Lee, do you mind if I share with you I think what would be helpful for the viewers is a little bit of stuff related to technique, because we talked about that old traditional sales methodology that some people are afraid of. I think it might be helpful just to hear some different ideas.
Lee Korn 19:45
Rich Isaac 19:46
One of the things that I find is that sales is presumed to be a somewhat aggressive and even somewhat pushy, not that whoever your listeners are that way, but that’s what people perceive sales is about. We believe that if you can approach a conversation with grace and humility, and not, this is going to be hard for some people to take. But I mean, quite literally, if you want to make this sale, if you’re thinking I have to get this sale, if you’re trying to get the sale, you think that sales is somehow about convincing someone, that other person is going to feel it on the other end of the phone, or the Zoom or face to face. If you can approach it this way—I’m trying to figure out if there’s a good fit between what I have my products and services and what they need. And I am really thinking about our mutual best interest, is this really a good fit? And if there is, if for whatever reason, it isn’t a good fit, it’s not a problem, we shake hands, and we part friends. If we can own that concept, and we can approach people that way, we’ll say things like this, You know, so Lee, let’s just chat and see if we might be able to help you. I’ll certainly ask you some questions. And you can ask me some questions. But what I find at the end of our first meeting like this is typically one of two things. We’ll come together, you know, to the conclusion that there might be a good fit here, and we should schedule some more time, possibly get other people involved with the conversation. But we also might find, for whatever reason, I might find, you might find we might both find that for whatever reason, the timing isn’t right, the fit isn’t perfect, and we just shake hands and part friends. Is that something you’re okay with, and you just watch people relax. Now, if that’s some kind of a clever technique to try to disarm someone, then sort of shame on us. But if you can own that, and believe it, it just has such a profound difference in terms of the way people perceive you. And if you can really own that you’re not there to convince anybody of anything, but to find out about them, they can make a huge difference. If people are uncomfortable when they’re sitting across from you because they perceive that you want this business, then as we say in Sandler, we have all these quote Sandler rules. This was all developed by a brilliant gentleman named David Sandler many years ago, and it’s been modified and enhanced over time. But he used to say, there’s no bad salespeople, I’m sorry, there’s no bad prospects, only bad salespeople what he meant was, don’t blame them. If they’re pushing back on you, you’re probably causing that pushback.
Lee Korn 22:27
So let’s, let’s take it a little forward. Let’s say the sale is done. One of the things that I’ve seen over the last few years increasing in popularity is reviews. Everywhere you go, every time you finish either a sale or a service call, they’re saying you’re going to have a review. Hang on, please give me a five. How important is it? And, you know, what’s the best way to ask for that review?
Rich Isaac 22:57
You know, it’s interesting, when you were talking about reviews, I think that in the kind of market business-to-consumer in particular, less so in business-to-business, but certainly it’s relevant there is, you know, when you’re talking about as a marketing function so that people will see positive things about you. And I think that’s totally relevant. First things first, just to answer that question directly, I think there’s a question of saying, Listen, as we work together over the next few weeks or months, depending on what your product or services, I’m hoping that we’re going to find, of course, that you get great value from what we’re doing. Question for you, of course, we look to get people to, you know, share their opinion, especially when things are positive. Assuming things go well, would you be comfortable if we sent you a survey that you might be able to respond to? So notice, I didn’t even ask for the review. I said, If things go well, is that something you would consider? So it takes all the pressure off, because we’re not asking for something right now. But I would like to take that one step further into the sales function, because that, in my opinion, is building our marketing awareness or marketing presence, a positive thing in the marketing communication side. But I think in terms of the more direct approach, which is ultimately asking for introductions and referrals to other potential prospects, the same broad approach applies, which is, we always say don’t ask for a referral at first, ask for permission to ask for referrals when things go well. So it would sound like, By the way, if this goes really, you know, obviously, our goal is to have you become a very satisfied prospective, satisfied client. A question for you. If in fact, we’re able to deliver as of course you’re hoping and we know we can. So let’s assume it’s a few weeks, a few months down the road. I don’t know if anything will come of it. But we would love to sit down and maybe bounce around some ideas. have other people you might know, who potentially could benefit from our services. Now it’s too early for me to ask that now, we’re just getting started, is that something you would consider? Now notice I immediately and intentionally took them off the hook. And quite literally, you only get one of two answers to that in the real world. Sure, no problem, or Well, let’s see how it goes. And I would say, of course, if they gave me that latter answer, I would say, Well, of course, then, of course, we have to see how it goes. By the way, everything that I’m sharing in terms of things we would do, or what we’re teaching our clients to do, and what your your listeners can do. It’s sort of setting up for referrals first.
Rich Isaac 25:37
And then when it comes to the time to ask for referrals, I would say that the vast majority of people ask like this, and on a scale of one to 100, being very effective, one being not very effective, this is about a three. And it sounds like this, Hey Lee, now that things are going well, do you know anybody else who could use my services, and the person will say the following, I can’t think of anybody right now. But if I do, I will let you know. And as we typically say, the only person thinking about it after that is you, because they completely forgot about it. So it’s not a bad way to ask, it’s just not going to get very many results. So our perspective is, depending on your business, you have to have a methodology of asking that is likely to, as we say, open the file cabinet of names and opportunities, you know, in their in their brain, or we have to do more of the work. As an example, I have a gentleman who was an old client of ours who’s looking to break into an industry. And he went into my LinkedIn profile. And he knows, he and I know each other very well. And he saw somewhere around five different connections to that industry. And he reached out to me, he said, Hey, listen, I’m trying to break into this industry, I see that, you know, and he named five different people. I don’t know how well you know them but A, Do you know them well enough, and B, Do you think if you might be able to make an introduction for me? So he did the work, looking at my contact list, which is the magic of LinkedIn. And back in the day, we used to have to look through people’s, you know, business card files. Notice that he asked in a very, very specific way and did the work. And of course, if it’s somebody I would recommend then it was very easy for me to help him out.
Lee Korn 27:32
Well, we’re coming to the end of the the interview or conversation. And I’ll leave you with this last question. So you’re counseling a business owner, who’s launched his business. He was the top salesperson. He now has hired a person—we’ve talked about KPIs and managing—he’s had the foresight to send his salesperson to Sandler Training. So he’s Sandler trained. What is the one thing that you would recommend that they do above and beyond getting your sales training? What, you know, could make the greatest impact if their goal is to increase business and increase revenue?
Rich Isaac 28:13
When we think about individuals and companies improving, it’s always a combination of three things. It’s a combination of attitude and mindset, or it’s behavior, which means doing the things you need to do, or it’s technique, learning different approaches, knowing what to say and saying more effectively. While all three of them are more important, at the top of this thing we refer to as the success triangle, this attitude, behavior and technique, is attitude, is mindset, is belief in yourself. So understanding that you and your people have a true belief in themselves, their products, their services, their industry. If I had to pick, and of course we can work in all three areas, that’s the area I’d work on, is finding those people who have the same mindset you do in terms of growth and success, and are willing to do what it takes to be successful. And that’s a mindset that is a combination of things that you come with, and things that can be enhanced. So if I had to pick one, I would say, find people and work with people on their belief in themselves and your products. And that’s going to be the predominant driver.
Lee Korn 29:24
Well, I’m certainly a fan. And I’m sure many others will be when they get a chance to work with you. So that being said, if someone does want to learn more about Sandler, learn more about working with you, how can they get in touch with you?
Rich Isaac 29:38
The best way to do that probably would be through our website, which would be legend.sandler.com. And there’s a lot of information about who we work with, how we do things, some of the challenges we help people solve. And we’d be more than happy to speak to some of your listeners.
Lee Korn 29:56
Awesome. Thanks for spending some time with us Rich, and have a great evening.
Rich Isaac 30:01
Thanks, Lee. It’s my pleasure.
Lee Korn 30:02
All right. Thank you for listening. If you have any questions about what we’ve discussed today and how it might affect your own situation, feel free to call me at 516-388-7980 or drop me a note at Lee dot Korn at opalwealthadvisors.com. We’d love to hear your comments and answer any of your questions. I also encourage you to subscribe to our podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher. Sign up at opalwealthadvisors.com/bizmoney to be kept in the know on what’s coming up in our series. Thanks again for joining us and we’ll see you next time on Biz Money.