Paul talks with Andy Paul about selling on your own terms and avoiding those “salesy” behaviors.
“Selling out means you, as the seller, putting your own interests ahead of those of the buyer. That leads to ‘salesy’ behaviors.” Andy Paul
“If the products are identical, what is the difference? You!” Andy Paul
Why you? This question gets to the heart of being that customer-focused seller.
If you can demonstrate to the buyer that your motivation is based on their wants and needs, you’re going to have more business than you know what to do with.
“Your job, as a seller, is to listen to the buyer, understand what’s most important to them, help them get that.” Andy Paul
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How Do I Sell Without Selling Out? with Andy Paul
(Transcribed from podcast interview)
“So these are all the computer salespeople that have come and called on me in the last year. And I haven’t bought anything from any of them.”
“Is that so?”
“Mr. Paul, tell me, why should I buy from you?”
Paul: Hello, everyone. On today’s episode of The Q and A Sales Podcast, we have a very special guest. Andy Paul is going to be joining us. Andy just released his new book, Sell Without Selling Out. It’s a guide to success on your own terms. It’s a wonderful book. I’m about halfway through it right now. You know, there’s a lot of insight in this book on what it means to sell in and what it means to go against the grain and focus more on the buyer than focusing on yourself and even the quota that you need to need to hit. I agree with a lot of what Andy has to say in this book. It’s wonderful. So I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did. It’s an absolute privilege having him on the show.
So before we get into the interview, just a reminder, we are facing some tough times. You know, we’ve got some signals happening right now that that may mean we are heading into a recession. And I’m not a doomsday guy. I’m not telling you we are, but we have the inverted yield curve, which happened a couple of weeks ago, we’ve got rising interest rates. We’ll take a look at the other indicators, but a recession could be on the horizon. So now is the time to pick up your copy of Selling Through Tough Times. As it’s been said many times on this show, the worst time to dig a well is when you are thirsty. Dig that well now. Pick up your copy of Selling Through Tough Times and prepare to sell through any challenging environment. Alright, let’s get to the interview.
Paul: Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of The Q and A Sales Podcast. And it is, indeed, a privilege to have Andy Paul joining us on today’s episode. So Andy, how you doing?
Andy: Paul, thank you for having me. I’m doing great.
Paul: Absolutely. And in the tradition of this show, we like to answer questions that salespeople have running through their mind. And I know one thing salespeople are always thinking about is, “How can I go out there and sell without being salesy?” or “How can I sell without selling out?” which it’s an appropriate topic, given our guest today, Andy Paul, who just wrote the book on how to sell without selling out. The title is actually Sell Without Selling Out. I love that title, and also, the subtitle, A guide to success on your own terms. You and I both interact with so many sales professionals. We know that there are different paths to success. So it’s wonderful to read that—that you can be successful on your own terms. There’s no one way of doing it.
You know, to kick this off, whenever I have sales authors on this show, I love to just know about their sales background. So would you mind just sharing a little bit about your background with our, with our audience?
Andy: How much time do you have? (laughing) You get to my age, that’s a long background. Yeah, I started off my first job in sales, not professional sales, but was selling women’s shoes at JC Penney. (Paul: Oh, okay.) In high school, that was my first dive, or dipping my toe into the sales pool, if you will. But professionally, I start work after school with one of big tech companies of the day—that company at that time called Burroughs—now UNISIS—selling big computer systems to companies. The type of things that filled rooms full of—, with metal. But for accounting applications, I focused on construction. Did that for a handful of years, got promoted to management pretty quickly. Got that first management experience. But then we started running into, we were selling these systems that, in today’s dollars are quarter-million-dollar type computers and running into people buying Apple at the time, or Apple IIs to do the same work. So for, you know, $2,000 computer for, instead of at the time, a $60,000. So I decide, “Yeah, I should go see what’s happening there.”
So I actually went to work for Apple in the early days. Spent some years in the startup world, after Apple, with various other PC startups. And then moved eventually, at one point, the last startup I’d been with—sort of a glorious failure. They imploded on a Friday suddenly, and I was out of work—as startups sometimes do. And, I saw an article in Fortune magazine about this company that was revolutionizing the satellite communications business. I knew nothing about satellite communications, but it looked really interesting. Talked my way into a job interview with the VP of sales, got hired, spent the next 15 years selling large, complex satellite communication systems to the biggest companies in the world.
And primarily working for startups. So, that’s sort of first person in the door, leading sales teams on several of those, carrying a bag, basically myself as well. And developed this expertise of selling large dollar systems for companies that had no track record, no brand name, competing against big companies. And took that expertise, said “Hey, I’ll start a company.” Started advising other companies about how to do that.
So I start a new chapter in my career just about 10 years ago when I published my first book. It’s now led to three books and a podcast with nearly 1100 episodes. And, yeah, here I am today.
Paul: Awesome. Andy, well, that’s great. What a background in sales. I mean, the diversity of the companies that you’ve worked for. I think about the rooms that you’ve probably been in working on these large deals. And that is really an exciting element of sales is working on those large, monster deals with complex decision-making processes. That’s exciting when you win them, I should say. (laughing)
Andy: Yeah. And well, the trick is to win a high fraction of them, right? If you’re going to, especially a small company, you know, we’re startups, we’re underfunded. In some cases, we are self-funded, bootstrapped companies and we were closing deals that were equal of our revenue, if not greater. So, you really couldn’t afford to work on a lot of them at one time. It took so much resources. So, you had to be good, but you also had to qualify the hell out of them to make sure that, you know, you really had a good chance of winning.
Paul: You know, what a great segue into our first topic here, which is, you know, selling without selling out. And, you know, I think about what you just said, what was at stake when you’re working those deals, right? Some of these deals equal to your yearly revenue. I mean, these are deals you had to close a high fraction of them. Many salespeople, when they get put in that type of selling environment, the pressure to close the deal we put on ourselves is so high we tend to take the focus off of the customer and we put it on ourselves and our needs and all that. So, maybe we could use this as a way to step right into, what does it really mean to sell in versus to sell out? Because that was something that I grasped from the book right away.
Andy: Well quickly, just to summarize selling out: that’s when you, as a seller, put your own interests ahead of those of the buyer, just as you said. And once you do that, then that opens the door to the types of behaviors that I talk about in the book called salesy behaviors that our buyers instinctively resist.
And, there’s a whole host of people in sales that somehow think that that’s the way you need to act if you have a quota, if you’ve got pressure-hitting number, “Well, I have to, I have to act bad, right? I have to indulge in these behaviors.” And it’s like, well, no, actually it’s the opposite. But somehow, we’ve reached this point in sales. This is not new. It’s been around forever. But I think it’s, I think it’s become amplified by the technologies that are available to us now, is that, if we’re going to hit a number, yeah, we—I’m trying to use the right language. (Paul: We can bleep it out.) But it’s like, you know, we have to indulge in s#!%y sales behaviors. It’s like, no. This is the whole point. And there’s so many counter-examples to that. But it just sort of seems to be part of the culture. And I think that’s one of the things that, that I’m really intent on changing is that it doesn’t have to go that way. You don’t have to be manipulative. You don’t have to be pushy. You don’t have to be— this idea about controlling the sales process or the buying process. Like, we can only control ourselves. But when you think you’re trying to control something, then again, you’re going to default to these behaviors that buyers instinctively resist. We continue to train sellers that that’s what they’re supposed to be doing.
Paul: Yeah. That— it is amazing how this idea that focusing on ourselves and, and just having the sheer will and that activity level and using manipulative techniques is going to lead to success in the long run. It, it—. I don’t see how it works. I don’t see how some companies are still in business with that approach. Maybe it’s just because, sometimes you just get lucky. When you make enough calls, when you make enough (Andy: Exactly.) appointments. And I’ve been in those situations where I didn’t particularly like the salesperson. I didn’t really care for their product, but I had an immediate need. They had a solution. Alright, I’ll stomach it and buy from them.
Andy: Well, I, I do think—and I write about this in the book—because I do think that, in a very large percentage of cases, and this is just, it’s anecdotal, but I think when you look at the data in terms of how buyers perceive the value they get from sellers is that, oftentimes, buyers make the decision, just as you did, to buy from a seller in spite of the salesperson—not because of them. And that’s really one thing that I was trying to change with this book. I say, look, you need to become the reason they buy from you, because we look at the data from Challenger, from Gartner, and Forrester and others is that in the mind of the buyer, when they’re getting ready to make that decision, given that the products they’re evaluating these days are so often perceived to be identical, right? Oftentimes, if you look at a softer product, if there’s one entrant in the market, there’s two dozen in the market. The difference becomes you, the seller, the individuals. It’s their experiences with you as a person that make the difference.
Paul: Yep. There’s no doubt about that. In fact, we did some research on this. This would have been now probably about eight or nine years ago, and a— just a top-achiever study. And we interviewed over a hundred top-achieving salespeople. (To be in that category you’ve got to be in the top 10% of your organization.) As part of it, we also interviewed 600 customers who then worked with these top achievers. And we asked them essentially, “Why do you buy. Why you buy from that company and all that—what goes into the buying decision? And it turns out the product represents 57% of the reason why they buy. So they have to buy a product, right? The company represents 18% of the reason, but the salesperson represents a full 25% of the reason why. And if two products are the same, right, then that means that the salesperson could make all the difference in the world.
Andy: You are the tiebreaker, you are at the tie breaker. I think that this has been the case for a while. I think it’s become increasingly the case. Example I give is, take a software category, let’s say like conversational intelligence, right? So, recording calls, analyzing calls, using AI engines and so on to help coach up sellers. Two years ago, maybe there were ten companies that had that product. Now it’s close to three dozen. There’s going to be more because people are finding the technology is readily available. They can integrate into their products. Well, if you’re a customer and you’re looking to evaluate and purchase a conversational intelligence package, what’s the difference?
Paul: Right? The salesperson, or price? That’s something to look at as well. You, as the salesperson, you can, you can overcome that.
Andy: Yeah, you are the difference. You are the tiebreaker. Think about, in that perspective and I like to ask sellers, “So, tell me. On your last deal that you won, what was your margin of victory?”
And they sort of look at me like, “You mean how much cheaper was I?”
And I say, “No, no, no. How much did you win by? Well, it’s like were you 1% better? 2% better?” It’s virtually impossible to quantify. (Paul: Right.) But that difference, if the products are basically identical, what is the difference? It’s basically you.
Paul: Great question. Gosh, in hearing that, as a seller, that would prompt me to want to go back to the customer and ask them, you know—once the deal is inked and once you are the winner—just asking them, “So what did, (Andy: Why.) What did make the difference? Why? And just hearing what they have to say.
Andy: But so few companies do that as I’m sure you’re aware, right? So few sellers and so few companies do it and you, we are stuck sort of in this way of doing business in sales where I’ll talk to sales leaders, and they’ll say, “Well, you know, we’re hiring. I’ve got these open recs.” And certainly, the case today, everybody’s got lots of open recs.
“So, what are you looking for?”
So, you know, they list a list of attributes. And I say, “Interesting.” I say, “So have you ever talked to any of your buyers about what they need from your salespeople?” There’s always this dead silence.
Paul: Just like I gave you?
Andy: It’s like, “Uuuuh.”
“Because, you know, it’s their experience with the sellers that make all the difference. Have you ever asked them?”.
“Well, we do won/loss analysis.”
“Okay. That’s a start. That’s not quite the same.”
Paul: You know, it is interesting. What do buyers want from sellers, you know? And I think, in the book, you speak to that. One story I found especially powerful—and maybe you can shed a little light, add a little color to the story here. And it’s based on, okay, what is the one question buyers want you to answer? And you share the story about how you just happened to—you know, I don’t know if get lucky is the right word—you were able to meet with an executive. (Andy: Yeah. Yeah.) And this executive, and, if I remember correctly, it was almost like a cold call or you just kind of went in.
Andy: It was, yeah, early in my career, selling computers, selling to the construction industry, selling counting systems to the construction industry. And there had been this large home builder in my territory, their office actually was relatively close to my branch office. And it’s one of those calls you make early in your career when you really hope they’re not there. (laughing)
Paul: I know what you mean. Every seller knows what you mean when you say that.
Andy: Yeah. I called on the CEO of this company, and to my shock and somewhat horror, the receptionist said, “Well, yeah. He’ll be right out.”
So he was very courtly gentleman, very well dressed in a very casual—, expensive/casual way. And takes me into his office. Got this huge desk that’s of, at the time, you know, the sign of an effective executive was a completely clean desk. And, yeah, he sort of gives me permission to start talking. I sort of start my pitch and he listens for a sec and holds up his hand and motioning me to stop, and reaches into the top desk drawer of his desk and pulls out this stack of business cards about two inches high, bound by a rubber band.
He takes off the rubber band and sort of fans them out, like a deck of playing cards, and said, “So, these are all the computer salespeople that have come and called on me in the last year. And I haven’t bought anything from any of them.”
“Is that so?”
“Mr. Paul, tell me, why should I buy from you?”
And (chuckling) I had no freaking idea what the answer to that question was. But what hit me at that moment was that, oh, he wasn’t talking about why I should buy from your company, he was saying, “Why should I buy from you—Andy?” And that was just an amazing eye-opening moment for me, you know, like in the first year and a half of my career is like, “Oh. So this is what it’s all about.”
And I was fortunate. He knew I had no idea. But what he was basically saying is, “Why you,” right? And this is a question I talk about in the book, that we get asked, in many different aspects of our life, every day by people: you know, why should I trust you? Why should I work with you? Why should I give you my time?
And the answer to that question isn’t one that you verbalize, but it’s one that you answer through the way people experience you. When you show up for meetings, are you prepared? Do you make a good first impression? Are you deferential to a point, but are you challenging? Are you able to offer insights? [Inaudible] good use of their time and attention? All these things, it’s all about why you. And so you’re constantly having to be intentional about answering them. This is the part that drives me nuts with so many sellers is they’re just so robotic. And unfortunately, in many cases are encouraged to be a little more robotic, because you have managers saying, “Well, look. It’s all about the process,” right? “Execute the process.
Paul: Systematizing sales.
Andy: Systematizing. Frameworks are great. We need frameworks, but we need to give people the autonomy and the agency within those frameworks to make good decisions about how they sell. Then you start to teach them about being intentional, about creating good first impressions, intentional about being prepared and being ready to have the conversations they need to have. And that’s how you answer that why you question. Because, ultimately, at the end of the day, I believe, as do many other people, that’s the basis on which the customer makes the decision.
Paul: Yeah. Why you? What a great question. You know, it gets to the heart of I think also being, being that customer-focused seller that is going to focus on what that customer truly needs and wants and the outcomes they’re trying to achieve. If you can demonstrate, as a seller, that that is your primary motivation, you’re going to have more business than you know what to do with. It’s about demonstrating that. And I love how you said they experienced that through, through you as the seller.
Andy: Well, to your point you just made is that it’s really important for, for sellers—and I stress this in the book—is to understand really what your job is, right? Because most sellers, I believe, if you ask them, and I’ve asked this to groups when I speak in public and so on is, “What’s your job as a salesperson?”
And it generally falls along the lines of, “My job is to persuade somebody to buy my product.” Well, to me, that’s selling out, right? Because it’s all about you at that point. You’re putting your interest—because I want to persuade you to buy this product. Whereas, your job as a seller is really to listen to your buyer, understand the things that are most important to them in terms of the challenges they face and the outcomes they want to achieve, and then help them get those. That’s your job: listen, understand what’s most important to them, help them get that. Well, that’s going to lead you more to what I write in the book and “selling in,” which is one of these innate, human attributes that we all have that we can all master to become the best version of ourselves.
Paul: Well said, Andy. So we’re getting ready to wrap it up here, although we could talk about this topic all day long. (Andy: Probably.) I would like to ask one favor. You know, for The Q and A Sales Podcast community that’s out there, you know, it continues to grow. It’s been downloaded in 85+ countries. What is one universal selling principle or tip or idea that you’d like to leave the audience with? If they could execute on this one thing, each and every time, it would lead to their success eventually. Does anything come to mind? [Inaudible]
Andy: (Laughing) Well, I think that if I were to default to anything it’s, it’s about being curious about the other person—sincerely curious. It works on so many levels. You know, I talk about the four pillars of selling in: connection, curiosity, understanding, generosity. Curiosity is really part of all of it, right, is how do you make yourself, when you make a connection with someone, how do you make yourself interesting to them? Be interested in them? And you demonstrate that by asking questions about them. So that’s letting your curiosity go. How do you understand the things that are most important to the buyer? Ask good questions. You know, it all boils down to being more interested in them and it’s that putting their interest above your own.
Paul: Well said. And that curiosity piece, that was one of my favorite pillars. Generosity was the other one that we briefly talked about before we hit the record button. But gosh, really great stuff.
So Andy, where can we get a hold of you? How can we get a hold of the book? Share with us just some ways for our folks to get a hold of it.
Andy: Well, the book you can get anywhere you buy books: Amazon and online as well as in physical bookstores all over: Barnes & Noble, airport bookstores even. So yeah. I encourage people to check it out. Learn more about me. Start on LinkedIn, because I have a presence there. There’s a fair amount of content there. Connect with me on LinkedIn please. Message me on LinkedIn. That’d be great. And then yeah, you can connect with me at andypaul.com. You can download a free chapter of the book while you’re there. Or just want to send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paul: Excellent. Andy, well, thanks again for being on the show today. Thanks for sharing some insights from your new book, Sell Without Selling Out. We’ll have links to all the resources you mentioned on the episodes show notes. So thanks again, Andy,
Andy: Thanks, Paul. Thanks for having me.
Paul: Alright. That is today’s episode. Everyone, make sure you visit TheQandASalespodcast.com while you’re there, you can ask me a question. I’ll turn it into a future show. Make sure you hit that follow button, share this with your colleagues, but most importantly, make it a big day.