Chris Spurvey, Business Growth Facilitator and CEO at Chris Spurvey Sales Consulting Inc., joins me on this episode of #Accelerate!
It’s time to Accelerate!
Hi friends, this is Andy. Welcome to episode 730 of Accelerate! Sales podcast of record. That’s episode 730. Another great episode lined up for you today.
Joining me as my guest is Chris Spurvey. Chris is the author of the book titled, It’s Time to Sell: Cultivating the Sales Mind-set. He’s also CEO of Chris Spurvey Sales Consulting.
And today, we’re going to talk about how to cultivate your sales strengths and include among the topics to explore are:
- Why the conventional sales mindset just doesn’t work for most sellers?
- How to determine when you need to find your own way of selling? This is so important in writing and talking about that a lot recently.
- How do you use experimentation to define your unique sales strengths? Learning how to sell in a way that gives you the greatest confidence from a customer which is so important and
- Why you need to focus on growth instead of goals?
So we’re going to talk about that and much, much more.
All right. Let’s jump into it.
Let’s meet Chris Spurvey!
Chris, welcome to the show.
Thank you, Andy. It’s a privilege to be on and I’m looking forward to this, should be a lot of fun.
Yes, this has been in the making for quite a long time. So you’re joining us from Newfoundland.
Newfoundland, Canada. Newfoundland and Labrador. I need to put it in there. We’re proud of our province, Labrador, as well.
We don’t want to… what would we call them? Labradorean?
Or the Labs? Whatever. Getting mad at us?
Actually, we’ve had a fair number of people on the show recently from Halifax. There seems to be quite a tech startup scene going on in Halifax.
Absolutely. I know a number of the founders there.
Yes. Which when you start look at the map and saw. You think. Well. Huh. That’s fantastic. Because obviously you should build that anywhere. But it is a little surprising because it’s remote.
Yes, it is and Newfoundland is even more remote. Even remote.
I don’t live in igloos, though. We don’t live in igloos.
So let’s say we’re recording this the middle of August. So has it started cooling down yet?
No. Well, historically, yesterday, we have a thing in Newfoundland, is the longest running sporting event in all of North America called The Regatta, The Royal St. John’s Regatta. And it takes place the first Wednesday of August. And that historically has been considered the turning point of summer where it starts to move in the fall but with global warming, things have changed a little bit. So we got a few more weeks left yet.
Yes. I just think that the other day where if I want to go get cool some place where I go besides putting my face on my refrigerator because it gets hot here in New York.
First Exposure to Sales
We’re going to chat about a few things a little bit about your own journey to start off with. And earlier in your career, you’d mentioned something that your own negative beliefs about sales. You felt were holding you back from reaching the next level.
So, what were those negative beliefs about sales?
I would suggest the kind of line up with perhaps some of the stereotypical negative beliefs in that. I thought that you had to be gregarious, extroverted, have the scripts and the objection fighting, all that stuff, plus be pushy.
I could tell you a story about my first exposure to sales. It’s a story similar to many people, I’m sure listening that I know specifically 1983. I’m 10 years. I’m out playing street hockey and it’s a Sunday evening and I go in the house, mom has supper on the table and the knock comes to the door. And it’s the Electrolux Vacuum Cleaner salesman.
Did they throw dirt on the floor?
Yes, exactly. Yes, within 30 seconds, though, he was in our living room and he was doing a demonstration. And I just remember my mom and dad, who never dreamed of buying a vacuum when they woke up that morning, putting up objections such as the price and so on.
Sure. Electrolux is top of the line.
Yes exactly. Yes, it is. But anyway, mom and dad ended up buying a $3000 vacuum that evening, which in today’s dollars would be around $12,000. And then they fought about it for the next three months, as they tried to figure out how to pay for it. So that was kind of my exposure to sales. So when I decided I wanted to try to.
Was that a positive exposure to sales or a negative exposure to sales?
Well, I would say it was a negative exposure, in terms of how I internalized it.
I’ve been around my mom and dad’s energy as they fought around the purchase, and they were largely influenced by a person who had all the means to get over that objection. So I internalized it negatively.
And who ultimately ended up taking responsibility for making that decision?
My mom, yes, my mom was certainly in my life just to really go deep into the subconscious entrenchment of this whole thing. My mom was of course, my motherly figure, she was hurt. And observing how the reaction after definitely internalized for me that darn salesman who sold the vacuum that they didn’t want to begin with. It was a negative experience out of the gate, for sure.
How did Chris Spurvey Started into Sales?
And you didn’t start your career in sales though?
No. Not at all. Even though I had started a business. It was part way through university. And my two business partners at the time because I didn’t have technical skills nor finance skills. I got designated a salesperson.
The experience of that led me down a path that once we sold that company, and I’m not talking about any major exit here, I’m talking about a few thousand dollars, once we decided to sell that company. I then said, sales is not for me. I’m going down a marketing path. So I spent the first 10 years of my career in a marketing role.
From Marketing to Sales
What was that transition then when you said, Okay, now I have to confront sales. You’re starting a new business?
No. So fast forward 10 years later, my family and I were in a position where I needed to make more money. And I was kind of getting tired sitting behind a desk all day. And somebody gave me a Robert Kiyosaki’s book. And in that book…
Was that Rich Dad Poor Dad?
Yes, one of those Cashflow Quadrant or whatever. And in that book, I internalized this idea that I’m an entrepreneur. However, I wanted to earn more money and building a business didn’t seem to line up. So in terms of how to do it immediately. So somewhere in the book I read, if you want to acquire the skills of an entrepreneur, go for a career in sales.
So I woke up one morning and said, I’m going to conquer this. I’m going to find a career in sales. And so that decision point led me to a company that the owner met me and maybe saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. But he saw a salesperson.
And this was selling what?
That was selling I.T. professional services, which I knew nothing about. And he decided to make me his Manager of Business Development. And I was all of a sudden in sales. And I just fell into it because I wanted more from my family, financially. And he saw something in me that I didn’t know was there. So I decided to go for it and give it a try.
So was it that point in time you start saying, Okay, I’m starting this career in sales as I should be acting like I saw that guy, Electrolux salesperson, or I don’t want to be that person. What am I going to do?
No. Initially I jumped in and thought I had to be that person. And I went and I’m going to throw out some names like Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy and those types of people. And I guess I internalize them a way of selling that was very much in line with what I perceive that Electrolux Vacuum Cleaner salesman to be.
So I tried to be a combination of that and it didn’t work for me. I went months miserable but I was determined but miserable. If that makes sense. I was determined to conquer it and find a way to sell that is unique to me. Sorry, I’m phrasing that wrong.
Selling In Line With Your Personality
I tried, I failed, I was determined. And then I realized I needed to find a way to sell that’s in line with my personality. So I decided to just start experimenting. And the more I experimented, the more I found a few little things that worked. And away I went.
Well, this is a topic I will spend more time on because you work with companies all over and help them with transforming their sales. I talked to a lot of companies and a lot of entrepreneurs and executives and we don’t want to think that seems to be a trend in sales these days is toward greater conformity.
One of the artifacts I think of the technology we have is that it dauntlessly enforces what certain encourages conformity. I think managers enforce the conformity because we’ve got a way now to go have more insight into the activities you’re doing. And we have our metrics so on and so forth.
But interests of users see the same thing because that’s certainly what my takeaways are increasing. I look at companies and what they’re doing and I’m very outspoken in my writing and so on that I think that’s a huge problem. So interesting, what do you think about that?
Yes. I just want to understand your position. Are you suggesting today’s day and age? We are now at a point where more and more people are selling in a way that feels better for them?
No. Just the opposite. I’m saying the opposite, greater emphasis on conformity, which is less aligned with who they are as individuals. And I said I write quite a bit about the importance of becoming the best version of you, not the best version of some mythic ideal salesperson.
Yes. So you mentioned I now work with companies. I mean there’s a long story to where I’m doing what I’m doing now. And certainly we could dig in a little bit on that. But what I have found for me, I really gravitate towards helping individuals who are not stereotypical or their sales are not even in their inner title.
And I basically help them see how just through consistency of building relationships and having an approach to selling that feels okay and feels good for them. How they can leverage their own strengths to become effective at getting results in sales?
They’re non sales sellers, as I call them.
I think that we see more of those at least it feels like to me and certainly entrepreneurs have been in that boat forever.
Yes, that is always sort of the first hurdle for a lot of entrepreneurs. You start a company. Oh, now I have to go sell.
And they carry it, love the beliefs that you did that. We all do. Maybe to some negative stereotypes images, and this idea of saying, how do I find a way to sell that’s congruent with who I am? It’s tough.
It is. Yes. For me, it’s what I try to do. I try to zero in on some core strengths that they have and change or flip those strengths to be in line with being of service and delivering value for clients. And a lot of the people I work with, given my background in consulting. And then, our company was bought by KPMG.
So these are people who are subject matter experts in the same way an entrepreneur is a subject matter expert around the product or idea or service that they have. And how do you tap into, maybe it’s a strength of being curious. Maybe it’s a strength of solving problems, and so on.
So when you’re working with someone who’s a non sales seller, as you talk about, where typically do start with them? Because here we have an entrepreneur’s list of the show that struggle with this. So someone is saying, okay, I’m just really struggling, not comfortable.
Find Your Sales Strength
And I’ve made a career out of helping people and sellers learn how to sell. But interest on your perspective, where do you start with them?
For me, I’ve adopted a bit of a methodology that’s not mine. The methodology that I’ve adopted is after I begin working one on one with somebody who hasn’t done CliftonStrengths (StrengthsFinder). And by doing CliftonStrengths (StrengthsFinder), they read their top five or 10, whatever, they decide to unlock their strengths
And what I have found with almost everybody who does CliftonStrengths (StrengthsFinder). They read the top five strengths and at least 80 percent of those top five or 10 strengths, they can say, you know what? That’s me. I can’t believe that. I know it’s me. I can’t believe that this 30 minute assessment identified it as me.
So for me, my number one strength is that I’m an activator, as an example, number two strength is I have empathy. Competition is also in my top five strengths and I’m a maximizer.
I have people do the CliftonStrengths (StrengthsFinder). And what I do is I get them I get them feeling good about the process they went through to identify their strengths and they read them. They say, God, that’s me. And I show them how they can leverage a few of those strengths in sitting with confidence with a buyer and having a conversation.
And so I leverage CliftonStrengths (StrengthsFinder). I really do and find it all it really entails is adding a new picture, we think in pictures. And if somebody can reframe the picture of what sales is to have some form of positive energy to it, then away we go. And that’s the building block. That’s the initial building block.
Changing The Mindset
There’s something in common people just so have, they just don’t get about sales. For someone to ask you, what do people not get about sales? What would you say?
What I would say to that is what people don’t get about sales? What they get about sales is they think sales is convincing and persuading. Through my book, the number one thing people take from my book is they get a new feeling about sales that it’s not pushing, it’s pulling.
And so what I try to do through this process is then identify how leveraging your strengths, having good quality organic conversations with a potential buyer. It’s a pulling. It feels more like a pull. That’s why I’m working with them. They’re changing the image on the screen of their mind that sales is not pushing, it’s pulling.
How do you distinguish that? I know the difference between pushing and pulling. But in the sales context, how are you differentiating those two? Because you could say pulling is a course of as well as pushing.
Yes, that’s a valid point. The best way I can put it is to say it’s a feeling thing. It’s an intuitive thing.
Is it more of not pulling as much as leading? Leading from the front as opposed to pushing from behind?
Yes, that’s actually very good. I like that. It’s “leading your buyer” would be a good word. I agree with that. It’s a feeling thing. And I know from my experience, having worked with hundreds of people let’s just say, that once they get that feeling and the feeling comes from having a different image on the screen of their mind of what sales is.
The More You Experiment You Make, The Better
When you started going through this process, what was the first area you experimented with or you worked on?
Because I love this image I just wrote about it. It’s about time people here this will be passed. But here early in August I wrote about this idea. You have to experiment. This is how you understand who you are. What’s the best way for you to sell?
There’s a great quote that I love from the American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, who align with what you’re saying, the quote is, “All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.”
Absolutely. And again, it’s amazing how something like that can impact you. Behind me is my lazy boy chair and I spent a few minutes in that every evening. And I read a really good book by Price Pritchett called The Quantum Leap Strategy. And this little paragraph on the top, it’s like a side quote of it on every page. And it said, “What experiment can you run tomorrow morning to test your limits?”
And I said, My God, It’s a distinction. What experiment can I run tomorrow morning to test my limits? Maybe I’ll go out and run 30K. Let’s say I’m going to run 30K, but I don’t run.
Hopefully you’ve been training before that.
But if I set 30K is my limit, whatever that is in miles for anyone listening in the United States, I’m probably going to get 7 or 8K, but I’m going to know what my limits are. So running these little experiments I think is a really clever idea.
It’s funny on certain aspects of selling, especially, you see proactive outbound, there’s a lot of emphasis on testing A, B. We’ve got test subject lines. We’re going to test opening paragraph. We got to test these things we do remotely.
Our email outreach, our cold calling script. And I think what a lot of sellers don’t get is, well, that applies to every conversation you have with the buyer, every interaction you have, not just through prospect and through the middle of the funnel, your discovery calls. Maybe I’ll ask this question this way today, because it’s different than the way I’ve been doing it. And I know I could be better. So let me experiment with that. That’s what we talk about experiment.
At least in my perspective, I think with yours as well, that’s what we’re talking about. Built to do that, though, as you just can’t operate on autopilot. You have to be conscious of the fact that you’re learning, you’re trying to learn, you’re being deliberate on how you sell.
Tweak it and you can write it down if you want to. But first of all don’t tweak a million things at once. Tweak one so you can remember it. Repeat it four or five times and see if it works.
Exactly. I think probably the most important aspect of that is to ensure you’re taking a very objective view to it because you can rationalize anything. So if you do something once or twice or three times, you can convince yourself that it’s the right way.
Even though you’ve failed three times. This is the value I think of having somebody who is objective, coming along for the ride, and giving you feedback, and challenging your thinking and so on. I guess what I’m saying is that’s the value of a coach.
This idea of experimenting and then maybe sitting down every Monday morning looking at your past week or on Friday before you leave for the afternoon and having a good look at what you did and make some objective decisions to try something a little bit different.
Make a few tweaks the next week and do that every Friday until you’re getting to certain numbers that you feel reasonable. Not everyone is going to say yes. So pick a number that you find is reasonable and start working your way towards that by experimenting and by pivoting around what works. So I’m with you. I think that’s extremely valuable.
There is a John Maxwell’s quote, “If you focus on goals, you may hit your goals, but it doesn’t guarantee growth. If you focus on growth, you’ll grow and you’ll meet your goals.”
I think that’s a great quote for people to keep in mind. The business that you should be trying, if you’re in sales and you’re thinking, okay we’ve got a number, we’ve got a quote and so on. But what your mission should be, is to grow.
And by growing, growing personally, growing professionally, doing the things that Chris was talking about here, the experiments, that continual deliberate change of what you’re doing to try something else, sort of test back and forth A, B.
If you set the mission to grow. If Brian Tracy talks about read the value of reading. I stressed the value of reading. Brian Tracy’s quote was, if you read a book a week in your field. In 12 months you’d be in the top 5 percent of earners in your category. A little hyperbole there but I think basically he’s right.
Yes, absolutely. It comes down to action. And you know, the one thing I have learned is that there’s a segment of the population that are willing to do the things… I read somewhere that successful people are willing to do the things that failure will not do.
And action is very important. And from my perspective, what I’ve learned is that action is a result. Everybody needs to have some form of inner desire to grow and which I guess the word is self motivation.
But don’t you think it’s an issue that we don’t, and I’m not talking broadly in terms of sales industry. But when I look at we’ve got these high rates of attrition in sales, high turnover rates. They’re individuals, contributors see statistics like every 12 to 14 months, they’re turning over and VPs of sales every 18 months.
That’s a problem. And I think for me, a lot of that, what you read and Gallup with its CliftonStrengths (StrengthsFinder), one of their surveys was that people primarily leaving because they don’t feel there’s an opportunity to grow. And so if there’s no opportunities to grow, I think it’s something for you as an individual to think about.
Yes. I’m in sales. I want to grow. Grow. What does grow mean? Grow means become more proficient. Grow becomes be broader in my knowledge of sales or and deeper in my knowledge of sales and my customers is all on us. What do you need to do in order to achieve that growth? Too often it just seems like it’s just associated with growing sales. That’s why I think the Maxwell’s quote is so great, because if growth is your goal, sales are going to come.
Yes, definitely. And I think it’s important for companies to align with that goal of growth. Like your company. If you work for a company, your company is really your partner in crime, in the fulfillment of your own personal visions. If the company you’re working with is not or is not providing you with those close opportunities, maybe you’re with the wrong company.
I really find companies need to need to align with that exact thing, their employees who desire to grow and learn and thrive and flourish like a stock.
Yes. I don’t see enough of it though. But I mean we see half-hearted, half-ass attempts. I mean companies so often is, our training budget we’re going to consume for our sales kick off in January. How does that help? How does that help anybody to do that?
And so it’s tough saying, look, here’s something we could do every day of the year. And we have programs that we sell through The Sales House to companies and increasing companies are looking at it but the initial pushback is almost always the initial objection.
If there is one. We don’t have time to do that. We don’t have time to grow. You don’t have time to invest in your people. Of course you’ve got time. You’ve got nothing but time.
Exactly. Yes. I think Bob Proctor says, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.”
Pretty much. There’s no there’s no standing still.
No. Exactly. That’s why I say there’s no standing still.
No, no, it’s impossible. Bob goes as far as to say you’re you’re still dying even when you’re in the grave because you’re disintegrating.
So there’s no standing still. No, I think we’re out of something here.
Well, I think that we talk frequently on the show about is, that individuals have to take more responsibility or willing to take more responsibility. This is not hard to ask. Maybe again, it depends on the situation, you may feel a little bit differently if you really in highly rigid sales process or conformity driven sales process environment, maybe not.
But even then to the point where talking about earlier. Even if you operate in that environment, I think there’s more. What a rep sales to do to serve of break free of the shackles. Early in my career, I was fortunate enough to work for people that gave me enough rope to hang myself. We have a process and I use part of it. But the part that don’t align with me. I came up with my own.
But people don’t seem to feel as empowered. Individual contributor in sales don’t seem to feel as empowered these days to start against the flow and do that. To your point earlier. They need to leave where they are, to go find a place where they can do it, or there’s need to take the risk where they are and say, look, this is my job, this is my career.
Yes, Mr. Boss, I appreciate the guidance, but I think there’s a better way to do this. And yes, fire me at the end of the year if I don’t have my numbers. But in the meantime, I’m going to try to do where I think works best.
And I think that going right back to the original story. This is where Robert Kiyosaki was pointing to. The salesperson in terms of skill set, there’s a big alignment there. I find the best salespeople are entrepreneur and entrepreneurial wired. That might be the right word.
No, I said the rule breakers.
I had Wes Schaeffer on my podcast. I believe a couple of weeks. And he was talking about how, you know, I threw out the idea that some of these larger enterprises and the what the name I use and I hope you don’t mind me saying it was Oracle and as the end of the year approaches, they put off the blitz where that customers can buy for X percent off and that force decisions.
And Wes made a comment that just leads from his experience, leads to a pile of lying. What’s the status of that proposal? It’s in waiting. Meanwhile, the salesperson never, ever sent it in.
Yes. That’s one artifact. I think the other artifact that was those types of sales initiatives really are our trust breakers. And one of the four cornerstones of trust is transparency. And so the customer has to be confident and comfortable that your motivations are aligned with theirs or your motivations are transparent.
And I just think about you invest all this time to build trust with a buyer. And they say, I got an opportunity for you if you buy before tomorrow. We’ll give you a 20% discount.It doesn’t mean the customer is not going to take advantage of that. But in their mind, suddenly I went from being an advisor to a vendor, from a partner to a seller. That’s fine. Okay, we’ll take it. But yeah, the shine goes all the I’s. They know exactly who you are at that point.
Absolutely. And I know personally as a buyer in certain aspects of my life, for all aspects of my life. I put a block up to that, big time. And my spider senses go off immediately. And even if there’s something I need, I won’t buy it.
I think sales managers actually are most responsible for this. They tend to point the finger at individual contributors for discounting, and I personally in my experience has been and both through my own career as a manager and as a consultant on many, many companies, is that yes, it’s managers who really stimulate the discounting more than the individual contributors.
And I say it’s a surplus problem. And surpluses, they’ve got too many unsold products. The services product is still unsold, inventory, theoretically of services are unsold hours. They’ve got a surplus and they need to move the surplus.
Exactly. And I guess it’s also a factor of the managers somewhat wedge there in the middle. So they’re getting a top down pressure. But they’re not the doers. So they they can only go down with that pressure and it reads in results. I mean, it’s the manager who is ultimately responsible for it largely.
Yes. We’re virtually running out time. I think the one takeaway for this is I would leave with sellers here listening is, this is hard, but it can be done. I’ve done it my career, I know many other successful people have done it in their careers. You can be in an environment that says fairly rigid. Culture is fairly rigid. But maybe you enjoy the job. You enjoy what you’re selling, you enjoy your customers, but you’re just not aligned with the process.
Change it, break it, as long as you’re hitting your numbers. I’m sure there are managers out there say, yes, screw that, this guy is not in line with the culture. Not a fit, misfit, fine. In that case, take your capabilities and go somewhere else.
There’s companies that have become a billion dollar companies by hiring misfits. And the misfits as they’re not to be pejorative in this case. Find an environment where you can do your thing and where you feel supported. Even if you have to invest on your own to go growth, to learn. You take an online class, you do whatever, but you always feel supported doing it. You’ll find those environments because that’s where you need to be to hit your own goals in your own life. We’re all about to growth, not goals.
I love it. That’s awesome. If you don’t mind because I had mentioned the word self motivation.
The one thing that I have come to realize is that there is really only one way to get yourself to a point where you are self motivated and willing to do what it takes to get it. And then it really comes down to having a vision for your future that’s far more compelling than where you are right now.
And being it falling in love with that vision for your future. And that’s what leads to the self motivation. Do you really want a future that’s brighter? You’ll do. You’ll put the physical energy into it, the enthusiasm.
I agree. That is a great point. And what’s ironic about that, to some degree, when you think about it is one thing you should be good at as a seller is creating a vision. I’m actually in sales, certainly in my experience has been a complex sales environment.
The way you get the customer enrolled into the process of making a decision is by creating this compelling vision of what I will leave for them with the outcomes they can achieve with the products or services you’re selling.
That’s one on one. If you really want to have a successful career in sales. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a similar vision that, except in this case, maybe you’re rolling yourself, maybe rolling your partner in life because you might make some sacrifices in time, but you have to have the same, to your point, the same passion around that vision as the one you create for your customers.
I love your analogy there. If that’s what it is. It’s really selling yourself and your future. And that to me is what it takes to go out and do what’s necessary to be successful.
You got to get people enrolled in it. I couldn’t have done what I’ve done over the past 10 years in my first marriage. We didn’t have to buy into the vision. So, that’s a personal example, but can work on the job level as well. You gotta put yourself in those environments.
Wrapping Up The Episode
All right, Chris, it’s been a pleasure.
It has been a lot of fun. It’s been deep.
That’s what you get here on Accelerate! So tell people where they can find out more about you and connect with you.
They can go to Chrisspurvey.com And if people want to go there, they can get an electronic copy of my book for free. So just do that. And LinkedIn is where the social platform where I spend all my time. I don’t really participate in any of the other social platforms.
So Chris, thanks a lot and I am looking forward to talking again soon.
Thank you, Andy.
Okay, friends. That was Accelerate for the week. First of all, as always, I want to thank you for joining me and I want to thank my guest, Chris Spurvey. Join me again next week as my guest will be Oren Klaff.
Oren is Managing Director of Intersection Capital and best selling author of the book, Pitch Anything: An Innovative Method for Presenting, Persuading and Winning the Deal. The next week or tonight, we’ll be talking about his brand new book titled Flipped the Script: Getting People to Think Your Idea is Their Idea.
So be sure to join us then. And before you go, don’t forget to check out The Sales House. The Sales House is my own growth training platform for B2B sellers just like you. If you’re a seller who’s reached the limits of what the science of selling can do for you, then The Sales House will teach you how to master the human side of selling to crush your numbers. So for more information, visit TheSalesHouse.com. We look forward to seeing you there. So thanks again for joining me. Until next week, I’m your host, Andy Paul. Good selling, everyone.