B2B Sales Hacks: Interview with a Thought Leader Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an international speaker, bestselling author of two books, and a sales leader. Anthony graduated from Capital University with a summa cum laude dual major in Political Science and English Literature. He then attended Capital University Law School on the Dean’s Academic Scholarship. He also attended Harvard Business School, completing their Owner President Manager Executive Education program. Anthony is internationally recognized as a thought leader in sales and leadership, with his award winning The Sales Blog being read by 65,000 people each month with 110,000 subscribing to the feed. His Sunday Newsletter, “While You Were Sleeping” reaches 80,000 people each week, and his podcast, In the Arena is in the top 40 on iTunes. Anthony has been named one the 50 most influential people in sales by Top Sales World. He was also named one of the 25 most influential people in sales and marketing by Open View Partners. Global Gurus has Anthony ranked number 2 in the world, behind Brian Tracy. In addition to writing daily at The Sales Blog since 2010 and posting a daily vlog on YouTube, Anthony is also a contributing editor at SUCCESS Magazine and he also writes an occasional column for Selling Power Magazine and Forbes Magazine. Anthony’s first book, The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need, released in October 2016 is a national bestseller. His second book, The Lost Art of Closing: Winning the Ten Commitments That Drive Sales was released on August 8th and immediately shot up to number 1 in new releases in sales and selling. His third book, Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition was released on November 6th, 2018. Anthony’s books have already been translated into two forms of Chinese, Italian, Polish, Arabic, Turkish, and Indonesian.

1. Recently you’ve released a new book “Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition”. How do you detect who stands to gain the most from a company’s product?

I tend to look at this through specific length. And the length that I use I call The 4 Level of Value Creation. Basically, what I’m looking for is what is the value prop designed to do. So, if I sell something, what we’re looking for is who are the kind of people that we can help them generate enough that they are willing to invest their time, money, and resources. So whatever your value proposition is for CRM I would look into that world – who would benefit the most from what CRM is supposed to look like and how it is supposed to operate. The people who care about user-friendly CRM, that would be one thing that person is a dream client. On the other side, you might look and say; people who care about actually connecting it to enterprise resource planning system and all the other things, they might care more about something like Salesforce.com, and they are not really worried about user experience. It’s what do they value the most. And you have the ability to give people what they value the most. So that narrows the field considerably, which means your offer isn’t for everybody, it’s for everybody who cares about what you care about, and that’s going to benefit from your view of the world.

2. In September you wrote a blog post about cold calling. How to organize cold calls to catch the positive attention of decision makers? Would you recommend using sales scripts in conjunction with CRM software?

If you’re going to get the decision maker, the first thing is that you need to have something that is worth their time and attention. You have to have something that’s worth their time. For me that normally means that you need to have something worth talking about, something that they can say: “Yes, it’s absolutely worth my time to spend talking to this individual about that thing”. So in your world, if you say something like:
  • You know, I would love to talk to you about CRM.
  • Well, I already have the CRM. And I don’t really want to talk about changing right now, because I’m not up for change.
So, that’s where we come in, and we think that the product is the reason that someone should change. But they really want to change because they need a new strategic outcome. So if you say something like “Listen, I’d like to talk to your about how you can increase the engagement of your employees and use the CRM to create a competitive advantage and actually displace competitors and win new business”. Now, that’s interesting. So you recognize, that as for a sales leader, the CRM is around helping me to make sure that I create and win the opportunities to reach my goal. If you say “Our CRM is easy to use” – well, I don’t care about it’s easy to use. I care about people doing what they need to do in the CRM to create and win the new opportunities that they need in the way helpful to them. So the reason for “it’s easy to use”, is because if they use the software better, then they get better results when it comes to winning new accounts. What are people really using the CRM for is to manage relationships to make sure they can win the new business they want. So, the more strategic you can be about how you help someone, the more interested they are going to be in having the conversation with you. Everybody has superstitions about the right time to call. Some people say, Monday is a terrible day, while other people think Monday is the very best day. And there are other people who think – or the research shows – Thursdays are best days. I can tell you the truth. So, the truth is; the best time to make a cold call was probably 90 days ago, and the second best time is right now. And, I think if you operate with the second best time right now, it doesn’t matter what the day is it. But two things that salespeople do: one – create new opportunity, that means you need to have the prospect, and the second – win new opportunities, which means you need to sell effectively after you create that opportunity. I believe everybody is already using a script. They just don’t have a great script, because they haven’t spent time to think about it. And, I think that if they would think deeper about it, they would write a better script. Most people say something like this: “I’d love to stop by and introduce myself, tell you about my company and learn a little bit about you”. That’s the script, and they say the same things over and over again. But the better script would sound like: “Valeriia, I’d like to share with you the four trends in how companies are using CRM to drive new sales. And listen, I’m going to  give you a slide deck into some questions that we’re looking at to help our clients to make better decisions and produce better results. Even if it’s not a next step for us, you’ll be able to make some decisions and changes, that will have a positive impact on your business even if we don’t do business together. What does Thursday look like for a 40-min executive brief where I can share this information with you? And I’ll leave you with the deck.” It’s a choice about how are you going to enter into that conversation. People generally say the same thing on every single call. So you need a script written in the most effective language to use.

3. Which tools do you think a successful sales manager should use today,  and why?

The best tool for a sales manager is not an electronic tool. The best tool is to have a coaching process. The first thing is a good coaching model. They need to know how to get the best of every individual in their team and they need a strategy for coaching people that allows them to identify if the person really needs help and then to help them improve. And the second thing is, how often do you do pipeline meetings, opportunity coaching and how frequently are you doing sales coaching. That’s the most important thing. If you want an electronic tool, I mean a CRM, so you know how many opportunities they are creating, the value, and you can monitor how they’re doing and producing those results – that would be the electronic tool. But the most important thing is to have a coaching model.

4. In your book “The Lost Art of Closing” you mentioned proven tactics and useful examples of closing. Which pushy sales hacks did you use in the beginning of your career, and how would you transform them now?

The hacks that I used in the beginning of my career was to always have my calendar sitting on the customers desk when I was talking to them, and opened up to the monthly view. I always started every conversation by saying: “In the end of this meeting I’m gonna ask you for an opportunity to come back and talk to some people on your team, just to make sure we have a full understanding of what you are doing. Is there anything you would like to add into your agenda?” In the end of the meeting I asked them for another meeting. And I had my calendar opened, and I asked for another meeting. So the hack was, to go from meeting to meeting without interruption, without somebody going dark or disappearing. So that was my primary hack: I always made sure that I had a calendar there and I was talking about what comes next in the process, so I tried to get a commitment to do whatever comes next. It worked really well for me. I think it works well for a lot of people. In the beginning of my career, I used to think if I got the decision maker, so I would get generate results, because the decision maker wanted results. It took me a while to figure out  that there were the whole bunch of people whose help I needed inside those companies. I need other people to say YES, and other people to be engaged and do these things with me. And, I sometimes failed because the clients people didn’t make the changes they needed to make on their side. It took me time to figure that out. If I could do that over again – when I was younger, early in my career – I would have spend more time with the people whose help I actually needed and giving them onboard time. It took me time to learn that. You can do everything right, and still fail because of the client.

5. Nowadays more and more companies are moving to reduced working hours, i.e. 6 h instead of 8 h. What is your opinion about this?

It’s a bad idea. Human beings have been on the planet for a long time, and everybody starts in the very same place: you’re a baby, you’re nothing, your parents take care of you, and the idea that working less would help you produce better results – I don’t believe that’s true. I think we work less hours than most people in history, people who needed to take care of themselves without all the tools, and all the things that we can do. Your results are made up of 2 parts: the activities and the effectiveness. And what do people think when it comes to fixed hours ? They are more effective when they are here, and there is some truth to that. But, I think more people would produce better results for their companies, families, themselves – it’s actually work harder and give more hours. I think too many people spend time on the internet, looking at things that don’t matter, answering emails that don’t matter, doing work that doesn’t matter, and if they were really doing the right work and they were passionate about it then the hours would really matter to them. I think everybody should work more hours than they work. I work something close to 16 h. It’s a lot, but I love what I do, so it never feels like work.

6. In many of your interviews you mention self-discipline, and how it’s important to keep to your commitments. Entrepreneurs and sales leaders usually have several projects they work on simultaneously. How do you determine if a project has no more possibilities and it may need to be abandoned, or maybe you just don’t have enough self-discipline to finish the project, or is it something else?

I tend to do this on a weekly basis. I do a weekly review where I look at all my projects and tasks. These are called value-based decisions. I think what happens to people is that we get trapped in our to-do lists and tasks, but we don’t spend enough time thinking about “Is this the right place for me to put my time right now, or should I be doing something else?” A few months ago I was doing this at very high level, looking at everything that I do, and I just deleted a bunch of projects and tasks. I looked at them and asked: “Is this aligned with my long-term goals, purpose and meaning? Is it going to contribute in some meaningful way?” I abandoned them and said: “I’m not doing this because in the big scheme of things they are not going to give me what I want. They are not the right things to do.” You have to look at it through value: “Is it my purpose? Is it giving me meaning? Is it the most important project that I should be working on?”. If it’s not going to contribute to the results – can I get rid of it and do something else instead? It’s a really important thing for people to decide what’s the most valuable use of their time. Not, “What is the most urgent?” or “What’s in my inbox?”. You need to learn to say NO to things that are not really important. That’s difficult for people, because so much of it shows up in your inbox, or somebody asks you for something and you want to be polite, say YES, but ultimately for the sake of your goals, you need to say NO to things that are not aligned with them. If someone else has already done it then I don’t really need to do it at all. For example, my friend Mike Weinberg wrote a prospecting book, so I don’t need to write a prospecting book, because really good books are written already.

7. Recently HBR wrote that corporate team building activities is a waste of time and money. Which activities do you recommend using to build relationships in the team and improve collaboration? What is your favourite method of team-building?

Bad meetings are a waste of time while good meetings are critical. It allows you to have conversations where you can share you bleeds and remind people why we’re doing what we’re doing, developing relationships that allow you to understand how better to work together. Human beings sitting down together, communicating with each other is how things gets done generally. Sure, some meetings would be better written in email, but leaders and managers need to spend time with the people [around them] to deepen their relationship. It’s how you actually build a team that can function well together, and can go on to create results. The best investment is the meeting where you share ideas, purpose, meaning, moving obstacles out of the way, and helping people to better work. Any time when people can sit around the table and talk to each other is great. My practice is meetings within small groups, where they ask questions and we solve problems together. I also like big meetings, as you can share with a large group of people at one time, but small meetings with fewer people tend to be more impactful. I prefer lunch or meetings with 2-3 people.

8. How do you keep yourself updated in your profession? Do you use social media, TV, radio, news outlets?

I do read a lot of blog posts from friends and other people in my business. But I mostly read books, and I tend to read books that are nonfiction and things that help me to gain a better understanding of the world. So, I tend to read things like evolutionary psychology, philosophy, and things that help me understand how people think and operate. I have a lot of favourite books. If you want to understand humans you might read a book called, ‘The Lucifer Principle’ by Howard Bloom. That book is about how we come up with all our cultural beliefs, and how we got there. I listen to quite a few podcasts. ‘Under the skin’ with Russell Brand, ‘The Joe Rogan Experience’, ‘Waking Up’, with Sam Harris. I have a pretty eclectic taste, I like lots of different things. I read HBR, the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Economist. Those are primarily what I read, just to keep up with the news.

9. In your Linkedin post you put to shame those salespeople who made connection requests and immediately pitched. In your opinion, should we sell our products or services on LinkedIn? What, do you think, successful LinkedIn social selling should look like?

No, it’s not a good place to sell products and services. Because the people there are not looking for your products and services in most cases. It’s a place where you can share your ideas, what your company does and why you think it matters, it’s where you can go to teach people how to think about problems, it’s where you can share your insights and your experience… But just pitching people and saying: “Because you connected with me, you must want to buy my product”. It is a dumb starting point, because not everybody is your prospect. If you don’t know who your prospect is, then everybody is your prospect and nobody is your prospect. Your product or solution wasn’t created for everyone on Earth. It was designed to serve a certain population, tackle a certain problem, and lead to a certain outcome. The more clarity you have with what that is what really matters. If you connect with people and say: “If you ever need anything in my space, I have ideas that might help you, I’m going to send you something… If you need me in future, feel free to reach out” – that would be a literally better approach than writing 8 paragraphs on why I should buy your service. It’s about having clarity regarding what the person has agreed to. I’ll give you 2 views on this: If I call and get you on the phone, and I really want to get a meeting with you, but I start doing a discovery talk immediately: “Valeriia, tell me about what you’re doing right now, tell me about the problems that you’re having…” You didn’t agree to have a discovery meeting with me and talk about your business! When I connect with you, I didn’t agree about the conversation, or about the solution you can offer to me, yet. Prospecting is not an event – it’s not a single call or email. It’s a campaign. So you’re going to try multiple times in multiple areas, and try to get into a conversation where you can do discovery. This is where the people that pitch you on LinkedIn are wrong. They think you’re automatically interested in knowing what they are selling and that you care about it, but you don’t! However, after a discovery meeting, when you find out, “Yes, this person does care and does need help”, – that’s different because now you actually have a discovery conversation, because they are willing to have a conversation and engage with you. We just need to be sure that we present things right to the buyer.

10. Do you have a good work-life balance? If so, which activities help you to keep that work-life balance?

What I tend to do is that I track all the things I do in a database. I track how much time I spend on certain tasks. And, I spend a lot of time just keeping track how much time I spend doing the most important things – that works for me. But I also track how much time I spend with my family. So, the two things for me regarding work-life balance really comes down to; Am I giving the right project the right amount of time? And at the same time, Am I spending time with the people that I do all this work for? In the first place – my kids. So, I tend to have a really good balance, because I’m either working or I’m probably with my family. That’s probably how I make decisions, and it’s pretty easy that way for me. I’m doing one, or I’m doing the other. I read a lot and I write a lot – I don’t have any hobbies outside of that. Regarding sports, I do bodyweight exercises.   Have more questions for Anthony? Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn, subscribe to his Youtube channel or visit The Sales Blog.

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Chris Gulbinovic

Chris is a marketer and a growth hacker here at Teamgate. He writes everything about sales management, online marketing, awards and the best new features coming out.

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