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How to Achieve Remarkable Sales Results Every Time

How to Achieve Remarkable Sales Results Every Time written by Tosin Jerugba read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed Ian Altman, renowned sales expert and author of “Same Side Selling.”

Ian grew his prior businesses from zero to over one billion dollars in value. He has since built a reputation for helping others build a culture of growth achieving remarkable results.

For 5 years in a row, he has been recognized as one of the world’s top 30 Experts on Sales, and his Same Side Selling Academy is repeatedly rated one of the top 5 Sales Development Programs globally. Ian hosts the popular Same Side Selling Podcast and you can read hundreds of his articles in Forbes and Inc. In this episode, Ian shares invaluable insights into the essential components of a winning sales process.

Key Takeaways

With an emphasis on consistency, alignment between sales and marketing, and the wise utilization of technology, Ian Altman underscores the importance of a well-defined sales process. By implementing a common process and language, businesses can navigate meetings effectively, overcome common obstacles, and shift the focus from price to value. Collaboration between sales and marketing teams ensure a cohesive approach that attracts and engages ideal clients, while leveraging technology enhances efficiency without sacrificing the personal touch. With these strategies in place, businesses can achieve remarkable sales results consistently, driving growth and success in today’s competitive market.

Questions I ask Ian Altman:

[01:27] What is the sales process?

[03:00] How important is a repeatable sales process?

[03:45] What are the core components of a repeatable sales process?

[05:37] As a Sales Guy, what do you think about Marketing?

[06:50] How important is the role of marketing in getting a prospect to pick up that first sales call?

[08:03] How do you effectively combine the culture of a sales process to the ultimate goal of closing a sale?

[09:59] How do you appropriately employ the use of technology in a sales process?

[15:13] How critical is ongoing training to better master the sales process?

[16:54] How do you make roleplaying effective?

[19:24] What are the common pitfalls beginners usually fall into when creating a sales process?

[21:37] Where can people learn more from you?

More About Ian Altman:


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John (00:08): Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Ian Altman. Ian grew his prior business businesses from zero to over 1 billion in value. He has since built a reputation for helping others build a culture of growth, achieving remarkable results. For six years in a row now, he has been recognized as one of the world’s top 30 experts on sales. And his same side selling academy is repeatedly rated one of the top sales development programs globally. He’s also the author of a book named Same Side Selling Podcast, is called Same Side Selling. So Ian, welcome back to the show.

Ian (00:51): Thanks so much, John. It’s almost like that duct tape marketing theme where everything’s named the same. I don’t know how we come up with these things. I just attribute it to a lack of creativity.

John (01:00): Well, I’d counter that by saying that the market responded well to same side selling, and probably you then said, well, why don’t I call everything that it’s kind of branding 1 0 1, right?

Ian (01:14): There could be some truth to that, but it could just be that I was too lazy. But I’d like to think it’s better branding, but I’m just not a great branding and marketing guy like you. So for me, just I call it just blind luck.

John (01:25): Alright, so we’re going to talk about sales process, not just closing or whatever, one aspect of it, but the entire process. So maybe let’s start with defining what that is, what the parts of it are, because I think that’s a term that a lot of people will mention, but what is it?

Ian (01:45): And it can be different for different types of organizations. So depending upon what people are selling, you can define it differently. But fundamentally what it comes down to is how do we earn the attention of our ideal clients? How do we differentiate and stand out from the competition? Then how do you navigate meetings to help people make a decision faster than they might otherwise? And how do you shift the focus from price to value and results? And it sounds simple and it can be simple. It’s just not easy. And the reality is that I think where many organizations fall down, many individuals fall down is in every other aspect of their business. They have a defined process. Here are the steps that we follow. Here’s the language we use, and in sales, we just make it up. And that’s one of the biggest gaps. And so over time, we’ve discovered different steps that no matter what methodology you’re using, doesn’t have to be same side selling. If you follow these core components, you can be pretty darn successful.

John (02:45): So I know a lot of what you preach, you’ve kind of shadowed it a little, foreshadowed it a little bit. There is a repeatable process, but sort of the myth of the, oh, I’m just like a natural born salesperson. Probably butts with that a little bit, right? So how important is a repeatable process that says step one is this, then we ask for this, then we do this.

Ian (03:08): Well, so here’s the thing. When you have different people on a team and some follow a process and some don’t, what we find that the people who outperform others tend to be the ones who follow a consistent process. And if you’re managing a team of multiple people and you don’t have a consistent process, you don’t have a consistent language and you get different results, then you’re left guessing. Is it the individuals? Is it the process they’re following? Is it their approach? But if I have the same process for everybody, that becomes less of a mystery

John (03:40): How important we’ve talked about, I mean, I think we’ve high level said the importance of a sales process, but are there specific components that go into creating such a process and refining and evolving? I mean, is there a follow-up component? I know I’m going to cheat a little bit because every business is a little different, but are there kind of core components?

Ian (04:01): Yes. In fact, there are, and there are three components, and we can walk through ’em one by one. But the three components that I have found, let’s do and keep in mind in our same side selling academy, these were not necessarily things that we started with. And then we figured out, well, why are some people having success? Some aren’t. And then we added stuff and all of a sudden it’s like, oh, when we combine all these together, this works really well. It wasn’t like, oh, I knew all these things were going to work, and we did that in version one. No, it was over time we realized, oh, here’s what we’ve been messing up. Now that we’ve figured it out, I just want to share it with others. So the three components come down to the first is a common process, not only a common process and language, but how do we teach that common process and language internally and reinforce it?

(04:47): Then it’s what we call a playbook for obstacles. So many businesses will have a small number, maybe a dozen of the most common obstacles they come up with, and their team kind of invents the answer each time it comes up, even though it comes up almost every single day, which is silly. And the last part that most organizations overlook is that they don’t place enough emphasis on weekly role play or practicing coaching feedback and things like that. And those three components, if we can step through ’em piece by piece, are what I find are the difference between the top performers and those who are doing just Okay.

John (05:27): I do want to come back to that, but I’m going to throw another topic out. I’m a marketing guy, so I get the salespeople greatly. Those idiots can’t close. Well, that’s probably true. Now you are a sales guy. What do you think about marketing? That’s

Ian (05:40): Probably true. So the reality is that, and you and I have talked about this and we’ve got many friends who the big gap for many organizations is this lack of alignment between sales and marketing. So oftentimes the sales organization looks as marketing as top of funnel creating, and then it’s off to sales. And the reality is, throughout the sales process, there are questions that come up. There are issues that come up that marketing could provide content that will support the sales process. And too often there’s this wall between the two. They don’t talk to each other enough, and then you don’t get that multiplier effect for the organizations where sales and marketing has joined at the hip, that’s when you get the multiplier effect because you say, okay, the leads you’ve been generating, some of them are great. Some of them what we think we can refine the message to attract the ideal customers. Great. Which it’s all marketing wants. Marketing doesn’t want to create bad leads, they want to create great leads, but you have to work collaboratively to make that happen.

John (06:39): Yeah. Yeah. So I think increasingly today, and you correct me if I’m wrong on this, I mean a lot of trust has to be built before I even want a sales call. I mean, because there’s lots of ways for me to avoid sales calls. And so how much of the role then, does marketing really play in establishing the trust high enough to where I even want to pick up the phone or have you set an appointment with you?

Ian (07:03): Well, a lot of it comes back to this notion of disarming. So it’s the notion of if someone comes to your website and feels like you’re just telling the person who landed there, look, we’re the greatest thing in the world. You just don’t know it yet. They’re like, Hey, yeah, we’ve heard this before. Say from a marketing standpoint, here’s who’s a great fit not, and if you think you might be in this category, it’s a great fit. Here’s some questions we ask to make sure that we can deliver the results for you. And if you’d rather talk to one of our team members who can help figure that out, that’s great. The client ultimately has to feel as though, and you can’t fake this, that their outcome is more important than the sale. And once that happens, the guard comes down and people say, oh, you know what? These guys actually, they want to ask questions to make sure they can deliver what we’re asking for. They’re not just looking to pitch stuff at us. They want to see if we’re a good fit. Okay, now I can have a conversation.

John (08:00): That’s a brilliant point because I was going to ask you about the idea of culture. I mean, how much of what a prospect experiences from a brand, obviously some of it’s the website, but how much of it then is the culture of the sales process as well? Because there are definitely brands that want to be very consultative, very educational, not pushy at all. I mean, so how do you marry that?

Ian (08:24): Well, I think nowadays, if you’re not focused on the client’s outcomes, you’re missing the boat because it used to be 30 years ago, you could drop the ball and the person who you disappointed might tell their closest friends today, they’ll tell a million people they’ve never even met before. So we need to make sure that the good news for the marketing people is that when there’s a lack of alignment between sales and marketing and they get a different message from marketing, they do from sales, they assume one of them is lying. Usually they assume it’s the salesperson. So the marketing people are safe. But ultimately, if you’re trying to get a better outcome, the idea is if every message from beginning to end says, I’m more concerned with your outcome than I am the sale, then your customer can relax and say, okay, they’re asking me questions about success that the other vendors never even brought up, so I’m better off working with them than somebody else.

(09:16): But part of it is how do you get people to ask those types of questions? And when you talk about the culture, the top performing organizations that we see through our academy and through the clients I work with comes down to businesses where if you talk to them, their culture says nothing is more important than the client’s outcome. And if we don’t think we can deliver it, we’re not taking their business. And these are companies that went from 5 million to 50, from 17 to a hundred, from a hundred million to 700 million. I mean, we have example after example of businesses that have grown dramatically following these three core steps and focusing entirely on the client’s result is more important than us making the sale.

John (09:57): I love it. Alright. Used to be sales technology was a mobile phone. Now of course, so we’ve got AI bots and we’ve got all kinds of automation and all kinds of follow up. What’s the balance between using that for good and using it for not so good?

Ian (10:14): Well, generally I think what we do is we see some level of automation like ai, and then in most businesses, we figure out a way to mess it up and make it worse. And I’m a big fan of taking the IS s approach, which is we want to do things that are incrementally less stupid than they were last time. And so if you can take an incremental approach, and for example, we use AI tools for audio transcription and summaries for phone calls and video calls, and that way the system can draft a summary. Now if you just copy and paste it and don’t review it, shame on you. But if you take something that used to take you 40 minutes to summarize, and now you can edit it down in five minutes and send it over, that’s great. I think that the mistake that people make is rather than using this technology to assist, they try to use the technology to replace and then they’re all of a sudden not human. As soon as the client figures that out, think about it. We’ve all used a chat bot that we’re like, man, I can’t tell if this is a chat bot or a human. And then it reaches a point where you can tell it’s not a human. And now you go from being, this is cool, this sucks. And so you got to figure out where you intercept it and hand it off to a human.

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Ian (13:03): And it’s that I remember overuse. It’s that overuse. It’s that overuse of automation that becomes a problem where people say, oh, well, okay, they said this, so I’m going to route ’em to this situation. I had a situation with a flight recently where the airline lost the luggage, and it wasn’t that they lost the luggage, it was that I had better technology than they did. So I had an RFID tag, so I knew where my bag was. They didn’t, and I’m talking to the gate agent and I said, look, my bag’s over there, but I’m over here, which means my bag isn’t making on this flight, and we have an hour and a half and you guys get on, we’re fine. The AI bot at the airline says, oh, in a baggage issue, it’s like, look, I don’t care that baggage didn’t get delivered. I care the people in the airport didn’t do anything and had 90 minutes to fix it, but an AI bot goes, no, he mentioned baggage. So we route ’em to this box, and it’s like, no, that’s not what you want to do. Yeah,

John (13:56): But there are definitely places where, for example, if I want to schedule an appointment with somebody, just being able to click on a link and schedule it without interaction is a better experience. It removes the friction of me having to go back and forth. So definitely we’re, I know you’re not anti-technology.

Ian (14:13): Not at all.

John (14:13): It’s just the poor use of it.

Ian (14:16): And keep in mind when John, even that example of the calendaring, if I just send you a link and say, Hey, pick this thing. Your perception may might be, this guy’s lazy. If I send you a link and say, Hey, John, let me know what’s convenient for you. In fact, if it makes life easier for you, here’s a link that has my availability. You can pick from that, and if nothing shows up at a time that’s convenient for you, just fire us a note and we’ll find a time that works for both of us. Nine times out of 10, the client’s going to just click on the link, and now they don’t feel like it was lazy. It’s like, Hey, I’m just trying to minimize back and forth for you. Oh, and me, but for you. So how do we do that? So part of it’s how do we couch that in a way that doesn’t sound like we’re lazy,

John (14:59): Right? So I remember when I first started my career out of college and it was essentially a sales position, and so they sent me to a two day workshop how to be a better sales person, and then they never mentioned it again. So how critical is the ongoing training?

Ian (15:18): Ongoing is the key. It’s like anything else in life. If you took a golf lesson, never practiced that swing and never got reinforcement, you might be worse rather than being better. And it’s like in anything else, but in sales, people think that’s okay. So it gets back to those three components, which is if I’ve got a consistent language and I reinforce it with my team, if I say, here are the most common dozen things that come up, how do we overcome those? And now they’ve got a formula for how to deal with those. And then every week we have a formula for how we coach people. That’s when we get those high performing teams. And the funny part is that I’ve had clients reach out to other people like, wow, these guys, they grew from the prior three years. They’ve gone from 14 to 17 million after implementing this.

(16:00): They went from 17 to 109. How they do it, they reach out to the client and the client says, yeah, so we practice for an hour a week. And he goes, well, so in a year, how many times do you do it? And my client says, well, my calendar is 52 weeks, how about yours? It’s like we do it every single week. It’s not like, well, we say every week, but sometimes we don’t all in. This is something that we just do and we create a way to make it fun. I remember I had the CEO of the same company. He says, yeah, I mean, we’re growing like crazy, but people are doing the same sign and improv role play thing. And I don’t know, it’s like when I go over there, they’re just all laughing and having a good time. I’m like, okay, so that’s good. They’re actually enjoying it and they’re crushing your numbers, so they don’t have to be miserable. They can be having a good time, which is why they’re happy to do it every week.

John (16:50): So set that up a little bit. Give me a little explanation about, because everybody talks about role playing and we’ve all probably experienced really painful role playing. So how do you make that effective? And one of the things you said, consistency is probably one of the keys, but how do you make that effective when it is practiced, but it’s not in a real live situation?

Ian (17:11): Well, so I’ll break it down into first how we set it up, how you create variability, and then how you give feedback, because those are the three things you need to have. So first, in terms of the setup, we have three characters. We have a salesperson, we have a customer, and we have an observer. The observer is purely observing and taking notes because they’re not in the moment. So they actually learn more than anyone else in each round of role play.

John (17:36): Their wheels aren’t turning the whole time.

Ian (17:39): And so what we do is we say, okay, first you need to have an objective. So you need to say, here’s the scenario, here’s the background of this meeting, et cetera, because you can’t just jump in the middle of it. And usually it’s for the salesperson, okay, who’s this customer? What’s the background? Now what we do is we then create something we call in same side improv. We call ’em secret cards. We do it all digitally now, but the secret cards are a series of dozens of different scenarios. So it’ll say, for example, for the customer, they pick one or more of these cards and it might say, you’re afraid to lose control or headcount, or you’ve had a bad experience with a prior vendor, or you don’t trust, or your existing vendor, or you are using this meeting to leverage your favorite preferred vendor, or there’s executive pressure to solve it.

(18:23): Those sorts of things that often come up that people don’t know about. And then the person playing the customer plays that role. And so we’re trying to advance the meeting to achieve certain objectives. And that’s all very well defined at the end. What I tell people is the first person to get feedback is the salesperson and the salesperson’s supposed to say, what did you like? And what’s the one thing you would’ve done differently? Then we ask the person, who’s the customer, what are the things that stood out that were especially positive for you, and is there one thing that you would suggest that they do differently that they haven’t already mentioned? And then we do the same thing for the observer. So what happens is everyone’s giving positive reinforcement of, this was good, this was good, but here’s the one biggest thing that you might want to do differently. And I’m giving the salesperson the opportunity to share something that, no, because if I can do now, it’s like, okay, I can get to something that no one else has gotten to.

John (19:20): So one final question. We’ll end on the downer. What are the big mistakes that you see people falling into the pitfalls that when they’re trying to set this up and get something like this going when it hasn’t existed before?

Ian (19:33): So either there’s a few, I wish it was just one. One is that they say, oh, yeah, we should do this. But then they don’t really enforce it. It’s like in our academy we say, here’s the process to follow. Well, we have a dashboard that shows the individual what they’ve done. It shows the leader what people have done. So if you set deadlines and people aren’t actually following through, you need to hold people accountable. The second part is that when they’re doing coaching, the biggest mistake is either the leader, which sometimes is the CEO, sometimes as a sales leader, often feels their job is to ride in on the white horse and save the day. And the reality is that their job is to coach and mentor their team. And then during the coaching session, they look at it as an opportunity to beat the other person over the head instead of say, Hey, you did these things really well.

(20:22): Here’s the biggest thing that I would change this one thing, because you can’t change 75 things at a time. But if every time they had a role play session, they got one thing better in the course of a month, they’re going to be dramatically better. And what I love is that we take people who were never in sales before and six weeks into it, all of a sudden they’re the top performer in the company. Everyone’s like, what happened? It’s like we gave ’em a simple process they can follow. We told them how to deal with the most common objections that come up, and then we’re coaching them so they can develop those skills on a weekly basis. And surprise, wow, now they’re doing great. And it’s not that hard. It just requires that level of discipline.

John (21:03): Yeah. I like what you all said. The main thing too there is we probably tend to over complicate things, and by having a simple process to follow, we’re going to do it.

Ian (21:12): Exactly. I think there are a lot of great systems that are so complicated, no one’s ever going to follow ’em. And so what I present in same side selling and what I find attractive in just about every system that works is a level of simplicity that says, here are these really complex concepts. We’re going to make it simple enough that people will actually do it. And that’s what I think moves the needle. Yeah.

John (21:34): Awesome. Well, Ian, I appreciate you stopping by the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. You want to tell people and where they might find out more about what we talked about today, same side selling and your academy,

Ian (21:43): This is going to be a great shocker, but if they go to same side, they will find everything they want. And of course, you can find me on social media just at Ian Altman, I-A-N-A-L-T-M-A-N, but same side will get you to me also.

John (21:57): Awesome. Well, again, I appreciate you taking a moment to stop by. Hopefully we’ll run into you one of these days out there on the road soon.

Transcript of Getting Salespeople and Prospects on the Same Side

Transcript of Getting Salespeople and Prospects on the Same Side written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

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John Jantsch: Hey, this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast is brought to you by We do all of our transcriptions here on the Duct Tape Marketing podcast using And I’m going to give you a special offer in just a bit.

John Jantsch: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Ian Altman. He is a leading authority on accelerating business growth and sales. He’s also the co-author of the best selling book, Same Side Selling: How Integrity and Collaboration Drive Extraordinary Results for Sellers and Buyers. So, Ian, welcome to the show.

Ian Altman: John, thanks for having me back.

John Jantsch: So, let’s just get the title out there, there are a lot of sales books, lots of sales methodologies, what does Same Side Selling kind of bring that’s new to the world of sales?

Ian Altman: Well, it’s really a modern approach. If you think about it, almost every sales book that’s ever been written either uses a game metaphor or a battle metaphor. And in a game, you have a winner and a loser. And in a battle, the loser dies. And then we wonder why we end up in this adversarial position between buyer and seller. And the model that we put forth in Same Side Selling is a puzzle metaphor that says, “Look, with your client, you have a bag with puzzle pieces in it. They have a bag with puzzle pieces in it.

Ian Altman: Unless we sit down side-by-side at a table and put our pieces on the table, we don’t whether or not we have a fit. So it’s not about persuasion or coercion. You can’t coerce somebody if they’re puzzle pieces don’t fit your puzzle.” And so, it’s much more even-handed. It’s not a beauty pageant, “Pick me, pick me.” It’s more, “Do I have something that’s of value for you? And can I help you better than somebody else?” And if so, we have something to talk about. And if not, may not be worth our time.

John Jantsch: So, I’m picturing the person who just got their quota for this quarter who is listening to the show saying, “Yeah, but … Yeah but … I …” Right?

Ian Altman: Sure.

John Jantsch: I mean, so how do you get that person to think … Because this is probably a long-term approach, right? I mean, you’re saying there are times when you have to say, “We shouldn’t be together. We shouldn’t play together.” So, how do you get that person who’s being driven to make a number?

Ian Altman: Well, so here’s the interesting part. We have all these case studies in the second edition of Same Side Selling that profile companies that achieved extraordinary growth, while actually pursuing fewer opportunities. So, old school was a sales and numbers game. You just have to make so many phone calls. And our approach is, it’s not about … If you recognize that it’s not about persuasion or coercion, it’s about finding the best fit, then instead of just saying, “I want to speak to anybody with a pulse.” You say, “You know what? These are the three problems that a business … as a business, we are really good at solving.”

Ian Altman: And if I can find people who are facing those challenges. I’ve got a pretty good chance of capturing their attention. And these are problems that are significant enough, they’re likely to spend money to solve them. As opposed to the old school was, “Let me get anybody with a pulse. And now that I’ve got them with a pulse, let’s hope that maybe I can get them to slip into a coma and they’ll accidentally sign a contract.” And it’s just a futile way to go about trying to grow your business. So, in many cases, it’s about narrowing your focus, rather than broadening your focus.

John Jantsch: Yeah. I’ve been saying for years that I think a lot of times the company that can explain or communicate the problem the best, is probably the one that’s going to get invited. But what about … I mean, I do also know … Like I get calls all the time, “I have a broken website, come out and fix it.” Well, that’s sort of the problem, but it’s not the real problem. You know?

Ian Altman: Yeah.

John Jantsch: And a lot of times our clients don’t know what the real problem is. They just know where it hurts.

Ian Altman: Yep.

John Jantsch: So, how do we define where it hurts in a way that ties back to what we can do to bring value?

Ian Altman: Well, so for example, let’s say that somebody offers IT services to law firms. So, they could say, “Well, we help businesses that have problems with their IT services.” And the problem is, everybody who does IT service is going to say the same thing. But what’s actually going to move the needle for the law firm? Well, what’s really going to move the needle for the law firm is once they recognize that they’re losing billable time, once they realize that their technology issues are impacting their ability to attract and retain younger associates who they want and need to grow and have succession planning.

Ian Altman: It’s understanding that they might be impacting their firm’s reputation when things don’t go well. So, I wouldn’t say, “Oh, I fix IT issues.” If I was them, I would say, “Well, our clients come to us.” And this is something we refer to in the books as a Same Side pitch. “Our clients come to us when they’re facing one of two or three major problems as a law firm.” One is that they’re having IT issues that’s causing them to lose billable work and billable time. So, they’re partners and associates are getting frustrated because they’re spending time on something. And then it gets lost. They have to recreate it.

Ian Altman: The second thing that causes is, all of the sudden they now miss deadlines. They potentially could lose those clients longer term. And the third thing is that man … because they have all these IT issues, the newer and younger associates they’re trying to attract say, “Man, you guys aren’t relevant. How come I can’t just access this stuff from anywhere, anytime? That’s what we’re looking for?” So, for the right firms, they tell us that we’ve got a solution that streamlines all that, so those problems go away.

Ian Altman: But the way we approach it, “Man, it’s not the right fit for every firm. So, I don’t yet know if we can help you. But if that’s something you’re facing, I’m happy to learn more to see if we might be able to help.” And the whole idea is that at no point am I really talking about the technology.

John Jantsch: Yeah. The fact it’s almost still relevant, right? I mean, if you could fix those problems, I don’t really care how you do it.

Ian Altman: Exactly. If my solution was, I have 1500 gerbils in a back room. You’d have two questions. One is show me 20 other firms that are getting results from that. And the second is, is it legal? Right? And if both of those pass muster, you’d be like, “Dude, you don’t even want to know how we solved it. But our IT is humming.”

John Jantsch: So, one of the kind of core foundational elements of this book or your approach. Is this idea of finding impact together. So, you want to unpack that idea?

Ian Altman: Yes. So, the idea of finding impact is that we used to have this notion of always be closing your ABC, made famous by Alec Baldwin and Glengarry Glen Ross. So, always be closing. And instead, we want to think about finding impact together. Meaning, if let’s say, and using the same example, if someone at a law firm said, “Oh, we have IT issues.” “Well, yeah, but is that really causing enough angst in your firm to make it worth solving this?” So, what we’re trying to do is uncover, is that issue driving enough impact?

Ian Altman: Is it important enough to solve, to make it worth our time to help them find a solution? Because there are some things that people face that are kind of a nuisance, but they’re never going to spend money to try and fix them. And the most frustrating thing in a business is when somebody appears to be interested, and you spend weeks or months working with them. And you lose to a non-decision. And they just say, “Nah, we’re going to stick with what we have.” And you think, “Why did I waste my time with these people?” So, finding impact together is a series of questions that we ask to figure out, is this problem likely something that they’ll spend money to solve?

John Jantsch: So, I can hear Alec Baldwin, “Sit down, coffee is for people who find impact together.”

Ian Altman: Yeah. That’s right.

John Jantsch: Something like that. Anyway. So, one of the … As a fact, you dedicate an entire chapter to this, this idea of finding people that are sufficiently motivated to invest in a solution. Because I think they’re … It’s really easy to find people that are leaking oil. That part’s actually pretty easy. But how do we find the difference between those people that clearly need us to help them and the ones that are motivated to invest in a solution?

Ian Altman: Well, so it’s simple questions. It’s things like … So, someone says, “Yes, we’re having this IT issue.” And you say, “So, what happens if you don’t solve that?” And what you’re trying to do is be curious to see if they can convince you that the problem is really worth solving. So too often what happens is someone says, “Oh, I’d like to solve our IT issues.” And people come back and they forecast it at 90% because someone said, “Oh, they contacted us about IT issues.” But if you ask the question, “Well, so what happens if you don’t solve it?” “Oh nothing, it’s been going on for years. And no big deal.” “Huh, okay.”

Ian Altman: So, that’s a big challenge that if you don’t have these sorts of questions, you can be chasing rainbows all day long. So, you were talking before about, what does the person who’s got a quota, deal with? Well, the reality is, that that person who’s got a quota, needs to recognize that you can … What if they could double their growth rate while pursuing 40% fewer opportunities? And we have case studies of companies who have done that. So it’s just about narrowing your focus to the people who matter the most. And having a method for doing it. Because candidly, the way most people evaluate a good business meeting today, doesn’t really give you good insight. And it’s kind of funny how people do it.

John Jantsch: Well, it’s funny. Again, I go back to my example that happens to me every day, is you know, people will call us and say, “Yeah, we need a new website because the old one’s really outdated. But we’re not probably going to pay that much for it because we don’t really get any leads from it anyway.” You just want to like go, “Well, I know why you don’t get any leads from it.” But you know, that’s one of those cases where I’d rather not even pursue that person. Because even if we … because I think the …

John Jantsch: Of course, a lot of the folks you’re dealing with are sales folks and sometimes they … you know, once the contract’s signed, they walk out the door. But in my world, where maybe we are going to actually deliver as well, the worst thing we can do is sign a client who doesn’t have the proper motivation. Because they’re going to be a pain in the butt.

Ian Altman: Yep. Well, and keep in mind, what you could do is when that person calls up you can say, “So when people call us, they’re usually looking for a solution at one of three levels. At the basic level is ‘Hey look, we know exactly what we want with our new website, we just want someone to be able to execute exactly what we want.’ And that’s what we call the Effective Level. The next level, we call this The Enhanced Level. The Enhanced Level is someone who’s going to introduce some new ideas to you, some new concepts and maybe some new technologies to bring your website to the next level. At the highest level, is what we call The Engaged Level. This is where somebody is tied in with your business goals and objectives. And will recommend digital marketing strategies that can help achieve those results that are measurable and repeatable. So, which level are you looking for?”

John Jantsch: We call those in my world, Build, Grow, and Ignite.

Ian Altman: Yeah.

John Jantsch: Exactly what you just described.

Ian Altman: Yeah. So the idea is that then what you’re doing is say, “Well, so what are you looking for?” Because guess what? The person who just wants billed, probably doesn’t matter. Right? The person who just wants effective, may not be your ideal client, but they may be great for somebody else, just not for you.

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John Jantsch: So, another significant change I think in the world of selling is that because the buyer, in a lot of cases, has access to a lot of information. Some of it’s really good. Some of it’s misleading. But nonetheless, they feel like, in a lot of cases, they’re pretty educated. So, how does a salesperson now, bring their value up by teaching?

Ian Altman: Well, so there’s a couple concepts behind this. A lot of it comes down to helping the client understand, not only, what the other impacts could be to their business of not solving this. But also, how other people may be seeing results that may or may not resonate with them. And so, if we can give people a structure for these meetings, it works really well. Like I said, what happens historically is, somebody comes out of a meeting, and we’ve all heard the sales rep who’s excited about a meeting they go, “Oh, John, I had the best meeting. We had scheduled to talk for only 15 minutes and the meeting lasted for an hour. And oh my god, man, the two of us, man, we got together and we just clicked. We connected. It was amazing. It was magical. And we’ve already agreed that next week, we’ve already set up a time to meet again.”

Ian Altman: And the problem with that is that it would be a fantastic way to summarize a good meeting if it had been set up on an online dating site. But it’s not a good way to evaluate a good business meeting. And so, one of the things we added to Same Side Selling is this notion of something we call the Same Side Quadrants. And in the Same Side Quadrants, the idea is that it’s a method for taking notes in a meeting so we can have mutual understanding with our client about what might be important.

Ian Altman: And the idea is, on a blank sheet of paper we draw a vertical line down the center of a page, horizontal line across it, creating four quadrants. In the upper left, we take notes about the issue that they were interested in talking with us about. And that might start by just saying, “Hey, what inspired you to meet with us today?” “Oh, you know what, Johnny, we’re just thinking about getting a new website.” “Okay.” And you might ask questions like, “How long’s this been going on? What have you tried in the past? What’s working? What isn’t? Great.” And then we ask this great question that says, “So, what happens if you don’t solve that?”

Ian Altman: And now we move from taking notes in the upper left quadrant of issue, now we move over to impact and importance, which is the upper right quadrant. And that’s where we’re trying to quantify the impact of their organization of not solving the problem. And also try, and discover how important is this compared to other things on their plate? So, we’ll get information about that. Then, we have to acknowledge, and I know that you speak about this as well, that just because you pass money, doesn’t mean it’s successful.

Ian Altman: So, what can we measure together? What are the tangible results that would be meaningful? So, that we know we’re successful. Because gee, if at the end of the project I want to have a high-five moment with you. I want to make sure that you and I both agree that it’s high-five worthy. So what does that look like? And that’s in the lower left quadrant. And then the lower right quadrant, we take notes about who else might need to be involved. And of course, sales people have been taught to ask the worst questions on the planet about who else needs to be involved.

Ian Altman: Because they ask a question like, “Well, who’s the decision maker?” When you ask that question, it’s kind of like saying, “So, John, I realize the company wouldn’t possibly entrust that this to you. So, who is the decision maker?” And it creates this instant adversarial tension. Instead of … But what if instead, they said, “So, John, who else would have an opinion about the impact of the organization? Who else is most directly impacted by this problem? And who else would have an opinion about how we measure this? And who might think we’re totally crazy for measuring the things you and I already discussed? Who might chime in at the 11th hour, we haven’t heard from before?”

John Jantsch: Yeah, because a lot of times there are people in companies that maybe don’t have to approve a deal, but they can sure kill it, right?

Ian Altman: Exactly. So, those people, to know who they are. And then ask a simple question which says, “So, what’s the best way for us to include those people in a way that’s comfortable for you?” And so now what we have is we have this sheet of paper that … We actually produce these journals that people can use, these Same Side Quadrant Journals. And the idea is that people can take notes in all these quadrants and at the end you have what amounts to a concise business case for that client that determines whether this makes sense to move forward or not.

John Jantsch: Yeah. And I’m guessing you also advise. I know that I’m sitting here thinking, if I was going to go through that process, I would make sure that that was in a proposal as well. That we agreed on these things. And that’s why …

Ian Altman: Absolutely. Yeah. It’s what we call a concise business case. There’s a whole template and a format for it that we tell people. So this is what you send to the client afterwards, which is all their words. So, it talks very little about your solution. It talks, almost exclusively about here’s what you shared with me. And the funny part is, that the client will often say, “You know, we had never thought about it that way before. But, man, you guys totally get us. This is awesome. We can’t wait to move forward.”

John Jantsch: So, you’ve already provided value, maybe more so than anybody else that’s tried to sell them anything?

Ian Altman: Exactly. So, in terms of educating them, you’ve now helped them understand why this problem is worth solving. Now, keep in mind, you educated them using their own information. But now, they walk away, because here’s the thing, they’ve just convinced you that this is a really serious issue. And guess who else they convinced? They convinced themselves.

John Jantsch: You know, and what’s interesting when you talk about that impact, you know, sometimes you get somebody to see that the impact of growth revenue and profit and whatnot. But we work with a lot of small business owners that are getting the life sucked out of them and if they could solve a marketing problem, maybe they could actually sleep better at night. And I think we could … Sometimes we underestimate the value of those intangible things that have impact.

Ian Altman: Absolutely. I mean, people who are wealth managers, for example, most of their message, because they can’t guarantee a return for people. I mean they’re precluded form even talking about returns. But what they can do is say, “Look, people come to us because they’re just … today they don’t feel like they have a plan.” So, it gives them a lot of angst. They’re looking for peace of mind.

Ian Altman: They want to know that they have a plan laid out that they can count on and rely on. And, “Gee, so zero to 10, how well do you feel you’re positioned for that today?” And it’s like, “Oh, I don’t know, like a five.” ” Okay. Why five?” “Well …” Right? And now the waterworks start. “Well, because I can’t do this. I can’t do that. I’m not sure if my kids are going to be able to go to college. And blah, blah, blah.” “Okay” Now, we got a real conversation.

John Jantsch: So, one of the things that I’ve certainly discovered over time doing this, you know, I have no problem asking hard questions now. Because the opposite is terrible. But somebody starting out, sometimes they may not feel the posture to be able to get in a conversation about impact with somebody because “Hey, I’m just theoretically here to sell you XYZ. Do I have permission to ask about impact?” I’m just suggesting that that’s probably a problem that people feel. Is that?

Ian Altman: Well, so here’s the thing, if I tell somebody your job is to go out there and sell this stuff, whether people need it or not. Then, I’ve just created my own problem. If I say, “Your job is to determine first and foremost if these people have a problem worth solving.” And you can be totally transparent with the clients and say, “Look, we just don’t know whether or not this is going to have enough of an impact for you to make it worthwhile. And if this problem is significant enough to make it worth solving, so, I just want to ask you some questions. Because the last thing we want you to do is spend money and buy something that isn’t worthwhile for you.”

John Jantsch: Yeah. And that should right off the bat, let somebody put their, sort of, salesperson shield up, down, right?

Ian Altman: Exactly. Yeah, because it’s something we refer to as … So, the Same Side Pitch follows the model of Entice, Disarm, and Discover. So, in that example before, when I said, “Well, gee, our clients, these law firms come to us when they’re facing these issues.” Notice that after I describe the problems that we solve with great results, I said, “But, not everyone we talk to is the right fit for how we solve that.” And allows someone to say, “Oh, so you’re not like all those sales people who just swear that ‘Oh yes, we have the perfect solution for you. What’s your problem again?’”

Ian Altman: It’s kind of like if a surgeon came to you and said, “Hey, John. Listen, I can get you a great deal. I can get you in next Tuesday for this tennis elbow surgery.” You know, like, “Well, I don’t think I have tennis elbow.” “Okay, what if I discounted it? What if I can get you in on Monday instead of Tuesday?” And I mean, it’s like, “But I don’t think I have tennis elbow.” “What if we did both arms for the same price?” And it’s like, “Dude, I don’t think I have the condition that you treat.” “What if I got your spouse involved too?” It’s like, you know, just … That’s what it feels like. It’s awesome.

John Jantsch: But I think one of the things that you’re saying and I’m not saying it’s implied. But I think it’s worth reminding people. Is I think we have to have a good handle on what it is that we’re actually good at. What problem we solve, the right situation. I know, again, after years and years and years of doing this, you know within … Excuse me. Five minutes or so I can sort of say, “Yeah, this is going to be a good fit or it’s not. Or we can really help this person. Or we can’t.” And I think that comes over time. But I think that that’s something that people really have to spend some time wrapping their head around. You know, a client that’s not a good fit is probably not going to be profitable, it’s probably going to turn into a detractor at some point.

Ian Altman: Sure.

John Jantsch: So, how do people … This is a simple question but I think, you know, how do you advise that people get a real handle on what they’re good at solving?

Ian Altman: Well, it’s funny you say that. It’s one of the most challenging questions that I ask people. So, I’ll say this to one, “So, give me one of the problems that you solve?” And most often, their response is the description of their service. So for example, if I said to someone, and it wouldn’t be on your team because your team understands this. But if I said to somebody who did digital marketing, “So, what problems do you solve?” “Well, we build websites and social media campaigns.” “Okay. I don’t think that’s a problem. That sounds like a service that you offer. But what problem does that solve?”

Ian Altman: And so the example that I give people is using a term that a buddy of mine Bob London coined called an Elevator Rant. So, the idea of the elevator rant being the upside down version of the elevator pitch. Is that you get on an elevator, the doors are about to close. Right before they close someone sticks their arm in, the doors spring open. Two people representing your ideal client get on the elevator with you. The doors close. What would they be complaining to one another about something that when you hear it, you think, “Man, we can solve that better than anybody else. In fact, they’re lucky to be on the elevator with us. Because we can really help them.”

Ian Altman: And so, if you put yourself in that context, they’re not going to say, “Oh, you know, I need a digital marketing firm because I google digital marketing and nothing came up.” Right? That’s not going to happen. But the might say, “Man, I’m sick and tired of spending all this money on advertising and marketing. But it’s not affecting how many people walk through the door and how many people buy our products.” Or, “I’m tired of spending money on stuff. But I’m not sure which stuff is working, which stuff isn’t. So, I feel like we may be spending money in areas that don’t matter and not spending enough in areas that do make a difference.”

John Jantsch: So, Ian, tell people where they can find out more about your work and Same Side Selling. And you’ve mentioned a couple tools and I think you have those on your website as well.

Ian Altman: Absolutely. So, if you visit you’ll hear all about the book. And there’s the bonus material and case studies and the like. And then, I’m impossible not to find on social and online @IanAltman. So it’s And on just about every social media platform it’s Ian Altman.

John Jantsch: Well, Ian, thanks for joining us. And hopefully, we’ll see you out there on the road. Or maybe, somewhere in the Midwest even, soon enough.

Ian Altman: Oh, let’s hope so, John. Take care.

Getting Salespeople and Prospects on the Same Side

Getting Salespeople and Prospects on the Same Side written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with Ian Altman
Podcast Transcript

Ian AltmanOn today’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast, I visit with B2B strategic consultant and sales expert Ian Altman.

Altman created, built, and sold his own business-services and technology companies over two decades. Since then, he’s turned his attention to researching how customers make decisions.

His revolutionary approach to sales is outlined in the book Same Side Selling, which he co-authored with Jack Quarles. In this episode Altman and I discuss a new approach to sales: one where you position yourself as being on the same side as your prospective customers, rather than framing it as an adversarial relationship.

Questions I ask Ian Altman:

  • What does same side selling bring to the world of sales?
  • What is the concept of finding impact together?
  • How do companies get a handle on what they’re good at solving for their clients?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • How to identify prospects that are motivated to find a solution to the problem you solve.
  • What the connection is between selling and teaching.
  • How to use your prospect’s own words to sell them on your solution.

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Ian Altman:

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

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