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Thinking Right Side Up About Sales, with David A Fields [Episode 458]

David A. Fields, speaker, consultant, and author of The Irresistible Consultants’ Guide to Winning Clients. The customer is always a priority, but sometimes we can lose sight of that in sales. In this episode, we consider how to avoid that trap.

Key Takeaways

  • An irresistible consultant is one whose clients say, “I need to have you. I want you to help me solve my problem.”
  • David discusses how the heart of becoming irresistible is discovery.
  • We hear about listening all the time, but we are not particularly good at it. David shares a case study about thinking right side up in a meeting.
  • To succeed in sales, focus on the customer’s needs. This is a skill that can become a habit.
  • Right-side-up thinking means putting the customer first. David suggests developing one or two habits at a time. He gives an example of a right-side-up behavior.
  • David warns not to deflect customer invitations to talk about your company or product. Leave your agenda behind. Respond simply and appropriately. Say something like, “Here’s the problem I solve. These are the people I help.”
  • David speaks of responsiveness, relationships, and agendas. The value of relationships can be monetized.
  • The prospect has anxiety not only about their problems, but also about the risks and potential mistakes of the buying journey. You can address these anxieties.
  • It helps to be interested in other people. Cultivate this if it is not natural for you. As you become more interested, you will find it easier to pay attention to them.
  • David lists the six pillars of consulting success. The emotional pillars are built by paying attention to the prospect. Paying attention builds connection.
  • David uses 2X3 charts rather than quadrants, to map where the need is, or ‘where the fish are.’ Don’t try to create demand. Find the demand you can solve.
  • It’s easier to sell what people want to buy than to find people who want to buy what you’re selling. David shares a case study.
  • Most consultant skills and expertise are transferable between industries. You can pick up skillsets; you cannot create client problems. If you are trying to reach the wrong industry, find one more in need of your services.

Episode Transcript

Andy Paul  0:00  

Hi, this is Andy. Welcome to Episode 458, where I hold, as you know, in-depth conversations with today’s leading experts in sales, marketing and leadership six days a week. David Fields, welcome to the Sales Enablement Podcast.


David Fields  2:50  

Well, thank you so much. I’m delighted to be here. 


Andy Paul  3:29  

So how do you make yourself irresistible? And I know we’re gonna go through some steps in the book but in general?


David Fields  3:35  

Well, that’s a good question. The heart, I think of being irresistible, can actually be summed up in one word, and that’s discovery. And what I mean by that is, consulting is not about the consultant. I tell consultants constantly. consulting is not about you. It’s about them, the clients and as long as you make it about them, client as long as you’re constantly discovering what they need, paying attention to them, attending to them, discovering what their concerns are, you become irresistible when you know the client better than anyone else, perhaps better even then the client knows themselves. They want to work with you. So I think that’s the heart of it.


Andy Paul  4:23  

Well that applies to us because we have a large sales audience and we’ve got consultants and we’ve got you know, broad range people listening but we do have sales professionals and consultants fit that mold as well. But that is something that we keep talking about. Know being a customer first. And, you know, it’s about them not about you. And interested in your opinion. It’s why we’re having to keep reinforcing this right. I mean, you think by now, mail in sales. This is just bizarre to be inculcated, right as it’s not about you. It’s about being of service to someone else. It’s not about pushing something, it’s about being of service.


David Fields  5:04  

Right? We hear it all the time. But that doesn’t mean we’re good at it. It’s actually if you think about the core of discovery, then it is listening. So if discovery is the core of becoming irresistible, then you know, drill down one level more. It’s listening. We’ve been listening and talking like you and I are doing right now. Basically all our lives, but that doesn’t mean we’re particularly good at it. Often we practice bad habits. I was actually out with a firm, not last week, the week before we did a full day on what I call rights out of thinking, which is putting the customer first and listening. That’s all we did just those two concepts the whole day, and they would happily on another day. Because it turns out, these are actually very difficult skills. Thinking right side up, meaning putting someone else first it is difficult, that’s not natural.


Andy Paul  5:55  

It’s not a skill or a habit.


David Fields  5:58  

I think it’s something that you can learn and practice. And when you learn it and practice it, it becomes a habit. But there’s always pressure, there’s always tension. Because, for instance, salespeople have, they need to make a number. They’re rewarded for driving business. And so there’s a pressure to start thinking about themselves. What’s my number? What do I need to do? What am I trying to accomplish here? What do I want to say? What are my objectives for the meeting? Right? So all that my language is very normal. It’s very natural, frankly, it’s healthy. But for salespeople, and especially for consultants, which is where I play, that’s, it turns out to be backwards. 


Andy Paul  6:49  

Yeah, no, absolutely. I want to dig in. We’ll start with thinking right sign up because it’s, as you said, sort of the core but before we do, I do want that I really liked the stick figures in your book. Thank you. And I’m a big fan of Hector. We just had Dan Rome on the show this week. And he was written down. Draw when is his latest book? Yeah, and so on. And I know he would love your book as well. I mean, he did a great job with that, um, for my next book, I’m working on him. I’m practicing trying to do those types of drawings. 


David Fields  7:28  

it will be scary. It’d be so for someone who’s completely devoid of artistic talent like myself, I had to learn how to draw a stick figure. But I do draw all of those. And they’re, they’re fun and readers may enjoy them or may not but frankly, that I enjoy them. Some of them crack me up and as an author, it’s important to enjoy your own work.


Andy Paul  7:51  

But I think for people that are listening on the attempt to go out and buy your book it helps any other reason you do these two figures it helps communicate the message and and Yeah, you did it. With that, so, thank you so, alright, I just had to say that so, alright, you lay out six steps to become irresistible. Yes, step one you much before think right side up. Yeah. And let’s talk about that because I do want to talk specifically about how you make that a habit right now how do you put the other person first? Because you and you read about how people change habits, right there’s there’s habit changes a process a habit. And so there’s, there’s a trigger there’s, there’s a process that you follow after the trigger and or, you know, some sort of psychic reward that happens to be tangible even but So, in the case of saying, look, you know, as a consultant or as a salesperson, we go in and we, you know, we talked about herself the whole spray and pray type approach. 


David Fields  9:05  

Well, I think that it’s interesting because the idea, right, set up a customer first. And all of that is very, it’s a very sort of broad concept. And you know, a little bit of morphus, a little bit of hard to get hold of, but what do you do with it? Which I think is sort of your question. And I’m a big believer in taking things to the very practical level. And really, the way you do it is just one or two habits at a time. So as for instance, when you walk into a meeting, saying, Mr. Prospector, or client or whomever, what are your goals for the meeting? What would make this successful for you? I have a couple of thoughts about where I’d wanted to go, but I want to hear what you want out of the meeting. Okay, that’s a very simple practice. And if you do that every time it starts to become a habit.


Andy Paul  10:03  

And I would say in that case, you know, you’ve got I’m doing very practical, as you said is, at the start of a meeting. So I have a call, usually the customer, or the client says something, right. So what do you do? Or, you know, what do you want to tell me? that then becomes a trigger? Because for a lot of times with salespeople, they think, oh, they’re inviting me to talk about myself? Right? We’re really what the best response is just what you talked about is to turn it back and say, well know what, what would you like to achieve? In this meeting? Or some other you know, question that’s appropriate for that situation?


David Fields  10:36  

People don’t love it, if they actually don’t feel listened to, if they say so what do you do? Well, I’ll tell you about that. But first, tell me what you do. Right. That actually doesn’t work so well. Because right, that shows you’re not listening. Oddly enough. That’s not being right side up. You went in with an agenda. Your agenda was I want to ask the questions. That’s what makes this actually so hard and takes so much practice if you do have to leave your agenda behind. And if the prospect says, Well, you know, tell me a little bit about what you do, then it does help to offer not to go into some long soliloquy and 15 minute explanation. But one line, here’s the problem that I solve. And here’s the type of people I solve it for. Well, that explanation of what you do is actually right side up, you’re saying, here’s the problem, I solve, not what I do, but the problem that people I work with have. And then the person you’re talking to him will either say, Hey, I got that problem. Maybe you can help me. Or they’ll say, I never had that problem. Then you say, well, that’s, that’s terrific. Let’s talk about just having a nice conversation and then we’ll go on our merry ways. 


Andy Paul  11:49  

Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great approach. It’s very, very simple, right? I think that the phrase says, you know, leave your own agenda behind because I’m sure consultants sell and they get in their own sales training business development training salespeople certainly is, if you’re told you have to have an agenda for the call. Right? Which is, as you’re saying, is the absolute wrong thing to do, you got to be responsive to the client.


David Fields  12:16  

And in our business especially, you had to build relationships. And that is a place where I diverged, I think from a little bit, just in terms of emphasis from some approaches, because I’m all about the relationship. And so I see if we have a conversation, if you and I were to talk, and all we did was touch base and and talk about, you know how you’re moving from, you know, Lower Manhattan to Midtown or or Upper East Side. To me, that’s a success, because we built a relationship. Now, maybe that will turn into something, maybe it won’t. I’m not overly concerned about it. But what I do know is that relationships themselves have value. Therefore any conversation where you’re focusing on the other person, and building that relationship creates value. Ultimately, you need to monetize that. And there are ways to do that. But if you’re sweating the agenda, if you’re pushing the business as opposed to building the nurturing relationship, it makes our jobs much, much harder.


Andy Paul  13:26  

We had a really good point and in that section in the book about self confidence, which again, was a different different perspective on it. And you say that this I think might be a quote, but you say you boost your self confidence by reflecting less on yourself and more on the targets problems and aspirations. Yes. And that, you know, is a very different way for people to look at it from a sales perspective is to say, Well, I think I can boost my self confidence by increasing my knowledge about what we do. But it’s really the opposite right?


David Fields  14:04  

That’s exactly right. I mean, I’m sure all the therapists and psychologists will take me to task, you know, because they teach all about introspection and being in touch with yourself and how you are to build your self confidence. And I think that’s all completely backwards. It’s thinking about yourself, that takes away your confidence, just focuses on the other person, just focuses on what your prospect wants. That’s all you need. And you can be confident in that, if you pay attention to what they think of you, and most of the time, we’re harder on ourselves and other people are. So if we, right so we talk to our clients and clients are saying, I love your work. I think you’re outstanding, or I love your products. That’s where your self confidence is. You don’t need it internally in practice 10 In fact, you tend not to trust it internally. So yeah, I’m sure from a psychologist standpoint that’s backwards. But from a sales standpoint, a building business building standpoint, it’s absolutely right. You get it all from the outside. It’s all right side up.


Andy Paul  15:12  

Yeah. And you talk about, you know, stop focusing on your anxieties, focus on their anxieties. Because they have them, right. I mean, the person you’re talking to if they’ve got some goal they’re trying to achieve or, you know, something that needs to be resolved. Yeah, they’re, they’re anxious about it. It could be an impact on their career or their job satisfaction. They’ve got those anxieties.


David Fields  15:38  

And if they’re considering buying your service, they’re considering buying your product and that decision is fraught with risk. And it comes with additional anxiety. What if I choose the wrong product? What if I choose the wrong consultant What if I choose the wrong vendor? What if it goes wrong? What if it costs too much, what if it takes too long because my boss doesn’t like it, you know, all these things. And these decisions are risky. And as a result, to the extent First of all, you understand which of those anxieties are the ones that’s most plaguing your prospect, you can then release the anxiety you can address it head on. And that goes back to that’s how you become irresistible.


David Fields  16:18  

Yeah, yeah.


Andy Paul  16:23  

I love the perspective. And so the question would be is, you know, how do you coach people then to sort of let go of themselves? You know, when you’re working with consultants, and to build their self confidence and what is again, we’re talking about sort of habit change or behavior change and habit formation, what serves the trigger there?


David Fields  16:41  

Well, there’s how I suppose and what’s the trigger that we actually have when I work with consultants, which obviously I do all day, we just actually take real real client situations. So I tend to right after this call, obviously, I’ll be Working with a consultant who I’ve been working with for four years now. And she runs a great firm. And when we will literally just take a meeting that’s coming up and we’ll roleplay What are you going to say? She goes through it. And that gives me an opportunity to say, What if instead of saying, here’s how you need to run your board, because she works with boards?


David Fields  17:24  

I say, you instead ask what’s going on with your board right now?


David Fields  17:30  

Oh, yeah, you’re right. So it’s actually just that it’s very tactical and practical in practicing little things one at a time, that that gets you in the habit of asking questions, and to be fair, this consultant has been working with her for some time, she’s very good at it now.


Andy Paul  17:50  

Yeah, well, I think the key is for people in that situation is something I stress constantly on the show and what the guest is. You gotta be A moment you gotta be present. Yeah, this whole idea of mindfulness and eliminating distractions and being really focused. That’s really central to what you’re talking about.


David Fields  18:09  

Yes. And, you know, and I say that which is funny, I am not naturally, you know, sort of born interested in other people.


Andy Paul  19:39  

Yeah, well, that sort of, you know, to two things that are really interesting about that was one is there was just recently who who wrote it but saying that you know, one of the most powerful things that this may have been even on based on some research studies have been done is that you can do and this is you know, train yourself to this comes your trigger when you first start meeting with a couple When we sit down and there’s this you know, pregnant pause, who’s gonna go first is ask them. So how are you doing? Now, how are things going with your business? Be a hard thing, you know, just how are things but how are you doing? Yeah, I like that. And what happens is, several things one is yeah, you’ve you’ve asked an authentic question directed at that person. And they’re going to, they’re going to tell you, you’re gonna learn a lot then you. I think this is a great training thing for people to know, how are you doing? But then also, what happens is they begin to think that you will, wow, this person is really interested in me. And you are because once you practice it, you’re doing it sincerely. It’s not just you’re throwing it away. You’re asking the question, how are you doing? And as research more recent research has shown is that you always talk about people who buy from people they know, like and trust. Well, actually, there’s a fourth one there. It’s like meaning people are more likely to buy from people they think like them. Yes. Absolutely well, right. So it’s a great way, a great way to begin to serve events that in your conversation


David Fields  21:05  

Those are good ones. And part of the emotional pillars, especially like and trust, a lot of the way you build that is by paying attention to the other person, right? They want to know that you like them, they want to know that you’re attending to them. And when you do that people genuinely like other people who seem to pay attention to them. Who thinks that they’re interesting. So if you think the other person’s interesting, guess what I don’t know. Like you. I think you’d like them.


Andy Paul  21:43  

Exactly. makes a big difference. And people tend to overlook that. And that’s my reason, I think, but we see him in the research that more than extroverts don’t tend to perform as well as people think they do relative to introverts are actually close. Have encompassed both apparently been performed the best, but is that, you know, it’s all about them. You know, you’re an extrovert, it’s really all about you. Your extraversion is all about you. So, you know, something for people to sort of think about. So interesting. Okay, so the second step you had, which I want to get into if you’re not going to go through all six, was to maximize impact. Yep. Find your killer offering. You talk about fishing where the fish are. So maybe that seems evident on the surface. We’ll talk about that a little bit.


David Fields  22:35  

Well, it does seem evident on the surface, but you’d be surprised how many firms I walk into. I sketched out what I call the sextant chart. And I go, oh my gosh. So basically, you know, I’d say for anyone listening, think about you know, I’m a consultant. So I can boil the world down to these two by two charts. But because I’m super fancy, I’ll make it a two by three chart.


Andy Paul  25:09  

Yeah, I mean, you could make the argument that when you look at this or close rates of orders across the entire business to business sphere that most people are doing that. Right and we see close rates on the 20% range and business business since some cases may up to 40%. But I mean, it’s, it’s well below 50. So sorry, by definition unless we’re assuming we lose all those to competition, but I think that’s not the case is Yeah, where most deals are lost to no decision. So we’re selling to people that just aren’t ready to buy.


David Fields  25:40  

Absolutely the biggest competition certainly for consulting and I’m sure for other kinds of sales, the biggest competition is inertia. And, you know, there are ways to overcome it. There are ways to increase urgency and there are ways to increase awareness of a problem but it takes A little bit more work, you know. And then for consultants, the second second biggest competition is internal staff. But inertia is a big one. And so why spend so much time trying to fight it


Andy Paul  30:53  

Yeah. Well, and that’s the journey that sales professionals sell anybody selling a product or service, confront. At some point, right, there’s this hump to get over. Sometimes it’s, you know, coming into a new market and finding the right niches, finding where you fit, finding what people are willing to pay for consultants. I mean, that’s always one of the big challenges, right, as we talked about, what are people willing to pay for.


David Fields  31:15  

I mean, my business, my consulting business, not the work I do for consultants, the work I do for corporate clients, is completely different from what I was trained to do in my first decade of business in corporate. I grew up in consumer products. And when I went into consulting, I went to a firm that focused on consumer products because that’s what my background was. When I started my own firm or co-founded my own firm. We left that entirely because we found that the market was asking for something different. And rather than sticking with what we did, right, which is really self definition, it’s upside down. We decided we’re going to go where the market is. That’s right, sign up.


Andy Paul  32:00  

Well, good. Well, David, we’ve run out of time for today. But well, thank you for being on the show. 


David Fields  32:44  

It was an absolute delight.


Andy Paul  32:45  

My pleasure and friends, thank you for spending this time with us today. Remember, please join us again tomorrow. Until then, I’d really appreciate it if you got a moment. Go to iTunes, subscribe, leave a review and we really want to hear what you have to say, good or bad. Until next time, this is Andy Paul. Good selling everybody.