How to Soft Sell in a Hard World with Master Sales Trainer Jerry Vass

Show Notes

Jerry Vass the master sales trainer that taught Clay Clark how to sell effectively explains how to dramatically improve your sales systems and processes while breaking down his legendary book, Soft Selling In A Hard World.

Thrive Nation it’s my honor to interview the author Soft Selling in a Hard World and a man who is regarded by many sales professionals and trainers as the number one sales trainer of all time. Jerry, welcome on to the show, how are you sir?

  1. Jerry Vass, in your book you write, “If you aren’t selling up to your potential, you probably don’t understand that selling is a game. Most people don’t. Those who do make 85% of the money, become executives or run their own successful businesses. This book is about fulfilling your potential without resorting to “motivational” and “inspirational” beliefs. As in sports, you’ll find that certain mechanical moves need to be mastered before your inspiration or genius can shine. A dog can be inspired to chase a car, but doesn’t know what to do with the car once it’s caught it. This knowledge is about what you do when you catch the car, that thin slice of face-to-face time with the buyer when persuasion really occurs.” Jerry, I’d love to have you expound on this…
    1. I use “game” in the sense of a professional sport.
    2. And just as in any professional sport one has to understand the game, develop and polish the skills needed, and have a plan for the big contest.
    3. In selling that translates to getting your story together, getting your tools ready, and practicing your delivery. Then putting it all together under pressure in front of a prospective client.
    4. You may hear someone say, if my job doesn’t work out, I can always sell. You never hear them say, if my job doesn’t work out, I can always be an NFL quarterback.
  2. Jerry in your book Soft Selling in a Hard World you wrote, “Sales is a profession identified with the worst of its practitioners, not the best. Because they sell so well, the public doesn’t identify those as the top of the cultural heap – the politicians, movie stars, talk-show hosts, televangelists, and business leaders – as salespeople. As outstanding salespeople, they are rarely caught practicing the selling trade. The best of them are so good that people simply like their “personalities.” People easily confuse skill with personality. When you study the best, you find they make many mechanical selling moves exactly right. Is this due to practice or coincidence? Natural talent or learned response? Only they know for sure how much is talent and how much is learned. The results are the same. They convince, move ideas, create change and solve problems. We love them for it and reward them with the best our culture offers: fame, fortune, cool clothes and big houses.” Jerry, share with us about what great selling and bad selling looks like…
    1. GREAT SELLING is problem solving. Find the buyer’s real problem and working with the buyer to solve it. To do that you have to ask intelligent questions and listen intently.
    2. BAD SELLING is vomiting your stuff,  talking, pitching, about your stuff and seeing the whole transaction only from your point of view.
    3. Successful selling is explaining well what you do FROM THE CLIENT’S POINT OF VIEW.
    4. As in any activity, when someone is really good at what they do, it looks easy, even effortless. It’s transparent. Whether it’s running a podcast, or playing tennis or skiing or selling. We all think “I can do that” until we try and learn how difficult it is.
  3. Jerry Vass, we work with hundreds of business owners all over the country and we often find that many of them seem to be scared of making sales calls. What would you say to them?
    1. They have a right to be scared. Poor selling skills waste money, trash the market as you go. And no business and no person likes personal rejection.
    2. The real problem is that ALL salespeople (and I include owners and managers here) can see the upside of every possible transaction….”This could mean $10,000 to my company”….and they also sense the downside….No sale, wasted time…and they don’t have the skills they need to control the downside and weight the transaction in their favor. Most of the time, they don’t even know such skills exist.
    3. They confuse personal magnetism with selling skills and a signed contract with being liked.
    4. Neither of those is true. What is true is that buyers would buy from a donkey if he could solve their problem.
  4. In your mind, why does it seem like so many business owners are scared of rejection when it comes to sales?
    1. Because the real process is unknown to them. They are walking into a situation thinking ” I have a good product” but they don’t know one thing about the client personally and very little about the client’s business.
  5. What would you say to a business owner that wants to delegate their sales to an employee without them actually first creating the proven systems?
    1. You are an idiot.
    2. If you owned a major sports team, you wouldn’t put a player on the field just because you liked him or her. You’d insist on training and practice…and lots of it.
    3. Managing sales people is one of the most difficult aspects of running a business…partly because salespeople take their cue from management and many managers are not trained themselves.
    4. The more years involved they are with their product or service, the shallower the presentation gets. The senior salesperson is often the worst to teach others. They are often product oriented make few new calls and sell to their connections so they don’t like to be told they don’t know what they are doing.
      Business has changed now and businesses that keep on selling the same way will fall behind.
      FUN FACT – Jerry has been in business for himself since he was 17 years old
  6. Jerry, in Soft Selling in a Hard World you wrote a statement that blew my mind the first 5 times I read it and it’s doing it again…”There are only three ways to make exceptional money. To work in a place nobody wants to be. To perform work nobody else wants to do. To perform work nobody else can do.” Jerry talk to us about the importance of facing the reality that these are the only 3 ways to get truly get rich.
    1. These are the financial conditions we all cope with daily.
    2. This book is about dealing with the second and third ways
    3. Doing what no one else wants to do and what no one else can do.
    4. As you have said people are scared of selling and many don’t have the skills to close deals. Learning to sell well allows you to bravely meet both of those conditions where you both want to and can do.
  7. Jerry Vass, I love when you write, “This book is about mechanics. It is designed from the street up tactics, not strategy. You won’t find magic here; there is none. There is no underlying motivation or belief system. It isn’t about something larger than yourself. You don’t have to believe in it to make it pay. You don’t even have to believe in yourself. You just have to use the mechanics.” My friend, why is great selling really just about mastering the mechanics of sales?
    1. Done well, selling is a profession. Learning a profession isn’t something that happens naturally or in a vacuum, it takes awareness of errors, learning from those errors, correcting the errors and in doing so, you eventually learn the profession. Persuasion as a profession is no different. It requires attention, troubleshooting and practice.
  8. Jerry, can you contrast the default tactic of hard-selling that most salespeople use by default versus the soft-selling system that you mastered and taught for years?
    1. Traditional selling, the hard sell, as taught by the culture, is all about “me and mine”. It’s about getting the buyer to do what you want. The whole transaction is done from the seller’s point of view.
    2. Soft selling is all about the Buyer. It’s helping them do what they want to do. Every word is from the buyer’s point of view.
  9. Jerry, can you explain to the listeners why you believe sales is a learned skill?
    1. Because it doesn’t come naturally to us. For thirty years we taught a course in unnatural acts. For the soft sell one must put away ego and let the buyer do the work.
    2. We live in a culture that tells us we sellers we are the center of the universe. To sell well, one has to allow and encourage the buyer be the center of the universe.
    3. Sales people should talk no more than 40% of the time. Buyer should talk 60%. Great salespeople are all above average listeners.
  10. Jerry, this is another knowledge bomb for your book that I highlighted and underlined multiple times, “Even if you have a world-class idea and want to give it away for the good of humanity, you will have to sell the concept. If you can’t sell it, you’ll be stuck with your idea, poorer for your brilliance and generosity. It seems unfair, but even freebies must be delivered with a certain salesmanship or the receiver does not perceive the true value of the gift.” Jerry, why do so many push back on the idea of learning how to sell effectively and resort to saying dumb things like, “this product is so good it will sell itself?”
    1. They love this illusion. Maybe 2% of the time it is true. If your stuff sells itself then it’s not really selling; it is order-taking.
    2. We all love the idea of the financial miracle….winning the lottery or an unexpected inheritance from a rich aunt. And we’re all looking for the magic bullet. Whether it’s weight loss or closing deals.
    3. Those are myths too…and they are fun.
    4. Selling is a skill. There are no shortcuts to getting good at it. And no quick fixes.
    5. It may not be the fun you are looking for but the profession is very lucrative. The highest paid people in our culture are salespeople.
  11. Jerry, in your book, you write “Puffery is hot air. Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “Flattering publicity, exaggerated commendation especially for promotional purposes.” In selling, it is claims that are unproven as stated. Typically puffery words and phrases are: We’re number one, we’re the best in our business, save big money, a lot, high profits, the fastest, etc.” Can you explain for our listeners the profound difference between attempting to sell using puffery versus attempting to sell using representation and benefits?
    1. In a downscale market, we buy puffery all the time. The less sophisticated the buyer the more likely they are to buy puffery.
    2. But, buyers view puffery as lies. They may not be intentional but buyers don’t believe them.
    3. First they make all salespeople sound the same. Then you get killed on the price negotiation. Second, they set up conflicts with your buyers….
  12. Jerry, on page 31 of Soft Selling in a Hard World you DEFINED and wrote about the LAW OF CREDIBILITY. I wish every salesperson on the planet would be force-fed this knowledge, because it would totally get rid of get-rich scams. In your book you state, “If you want to be believed, obey this law of the street. The Law of Credibility. Don’t say anything you can’t prove. Be able to prove everything you say.” My friend, share with us the power of always using the law of credibility to your advantage.
    1. As we said, sales is defined by the worst of the profession, not the best.
    2. Being able to prove what you say separates you from your competition.
    3. For the sales person, when they have to prove EVERYTHING they have to rethink their business and their presentation from the buyers point of view.
    4. The advantage is that maybe for the first time ever the sales person understands what they do for clients, that is, they learn the magnitude of what they do for their client which, without research, they consistently underestimate.
  13. Jerry Vass, when delivering benefits to the buyer and explaining how our product or service can solve their problems you write about the importance of using a proof statement. You write, “Use a proof statement whenever the buyer expresses doubt about your product or service. A Proof statement is a statement containing facts, figures, testimonials, parallel circumstances and anything else that is tangible, quantifiable, or real. It is a good idea to use the expert opinions from someone who does not have a direct involvement in your transaction. A proof statement is a material representation and the opposite of puffery.” Jerry can you hammer home the importance of having prepared proof statements readily available before you begin the process of attempting to sell something?
    1. Presentations, even major ones, need to be short and to the point. Even if your presentation is a deadly two hours long. There is 10 minutes or less during which a decision is made.
    2. Being able to prove what you say helps you keep that benefits presentation short and provable.
    3. Second, when you understand how your benefits affect the clients’ world, much of the trepidation and the sweaty palms go away.
    4. As explained in the book, many people, including managers, don’t know the distinction between features, advantages and benefit.
    5. it’s important to know that there are only 4 benefits anyone sells.
      1. POWER
      2. PROFIT
      3. PRESTIGE
      4. AND PLEASURE.
    6. Also, Buyer’s only have only 5 questions.
      1. Why should I spend my time talking to you?
      2. Why should I hire you rather than your competitor?
      3. What makes you different from them?
      4. Why should I pay you more when they charge less?
      5. Why should I switch from the firm I know?
    7. Answer these questions well and your closing ratio goes up dramatically.
  14. Jerry, what does the closing move look like to you?
    1. In a brief discussion like this I will speak about Selling Move #7 – The Close –
    2. In selling lore this is the scariest move. However, this 7th move is the simplest move of all. But only if you have set up your whole meeting from your first words to solve buyer’s problem. The actual words can be as simple as
      1. “how do you see us working together to solve this problem” or
      2. ‘where should we go from here?
    3. And let the buyer do the work.’
  15. Jerry you write, “Trickery in closing is like trickery anywhere else is short-lived.” What do you mean by this?
    1. If you are truly trying to solve a buyer’s problem, trickery is unnecessary and sticks out like brown shoes with a tuxedo.
    2. Buyers get annoyed by closing shenanigans and it ruins your reputation.
  16. Jerry as a bonus move on page 119 of Soft Selling in a Hard World you write about cross-selling. What cross-selling all about and why is it so important?
    1. Many if not most salespeople have several things to sell. After the buyer’s first agreement the salesperson now has a proven performer and must move on the second, third sale and so on. Some businesses can’t survive without them. Successful cross-selling also cuts the cost of sales and thus profits.
      1. “Fries with that hamburger?”
      2. Extended warranties?
      3. Add-on accessories?
    2. The cross-sell always starts with a seller question.
  17. Jerry, your chapter about cold-calling sincerely improved my life dramatically, can you talk about The Cold Call and the art of staying cool in hell?
    1. Most sales people instinctively understand where the buyer is during a cold call.
    2. Most buyers lives will proceed rather successfully if they never meet you.
    3. Most buyers can do very well without your product or service.
    4. Most buyers don’t really care to change what they are doing now. It’s too much trouble.
    5. Nobody cares about the features of your product or service no matter how new or improved they may be, only in the benefits for them.
    6. So When one has honed the selling moves and understands the buyers questions, much of the fear goes out of cold calls. You may not close every prospect but you will be talking about what they are interested in.
    7. The goal for our students was an 80% closing rate.
  18. Jerry, I’ve worked with thousands of sales people and you’ve worked with thousands salespeople, and I’ve noticed that most salespeople instantly freeze up and seem to almost have a panic attack when the buyer inserts any objections whatsoever, why is this and what are the moves salespeople need to learn to overcome objections?
    1. When you hear an objection, the first thing you have to do is figure out what the real objection is. English is a complex language and what you think you heard and what the buyer really is saying can be quite different.
    2. So first the move is ask a question.
      1. “Why is that?”
      2. “Help me understand what’s going on here?” Etc.
      3. We’re now assuming sales people have play-books so they will have practiced the answer to this objection.
  19. Jerry Vass, I’d love to hear you explain to our listeners about how to overcome the price objection and the inherent panic that poorly trained salespeople experience?
    1. Because sales people aren’t prepared to defend and offset their price with benefits so they are defenseless and must take what they can get.
    2. But price is just like any other objection. First you ask questions (isolate) to find out what is really going on in the buyer’s mind. Remember the 5 questions Buyers have.
    3. There are only really 2 price objections.
      1. I don’t have the money.
      2. I don’t believe your stuff is worth the money
    4. Most of the time, it’s the second choice.
    5. Here is where those quantified benefits come in.
      1. You must offset the price with them.
      2. Amateur sales people are experts at the features of their stuff,
    6. Pros are experts at the benefits of their stuff and they can quantify them to offset the price objection. We find that most salespeople under-price their services based on benefits they deliver to their buyers.
  20. Jerry, in your book Soft Selling In A Hard World, you got into detail about TIME ACCOUNTING and the importance of being aware of where your time is going, can you enlighten our listeners about your thoughts on how sales people should be managing their time?
    1. Actual face to face time is where the money is made but sales people can convince themselves that paperwork, driving around in their cars, visiting existing customers to “say hello” is work. It may be part of the job but it’s not selling. It’s an overhead function.
    2. Selling is face to face persuasion time. When you divide the amount of money you make by the amount of time you actually spend in front of prospects attempting to make or change opinions you have the amount you actually make per hour of selling.
    3. That can amount to $1600 to $3000 in some cases. And often, much more. Try it.
  21. Jerry, you’ve written much about how salespeople can truly make a fortune if they understand that the profits are in solving problems. Can you share what you mean by this?
    1. Circling back to the top: selling well is problem solving.
    2. There are 7 business problems that seem to be universal. They pop up over and over again and they are:
      1. CAPITAL
      2. PEOPLE
      3. MARKET
      6. CASH FLOW
      7. OVERHEAD
    3. There are many other specific business and personal problems and if you ask the right questions, you can help solve the one most important to your particular buyer.
  22. Jerry, I love the chapter of your book where you talk about the importance of positive SELF-TALK…can you share why it’s important to be intentional about what you say to yourself?
    1. Easy for us to talk ourselves out of selling when all we can see is the stress of it. Preparation, knowing exactly where you are going and where you are taking the buyer can change that.
    2. There are many more problems than problem solvers. When you get a reputation as a problem solver, opportunities just naturally flow your way.
    3. Salespeople and managers worry a lot about losing clients. When you solve their problems, you can’t get rid of them.
  23. Jerry Vass, in your book your write about how decision maker is often as elusive as true love, can you explain why this is?
    1. WE spend a lot of time talking into a receptive ear which often has no decision-making responsibility.
    2. That’s because sales people often prefer to meet with someone at a lower level who is more interested in features. And salespeople are often intimidated by executives who are interested in benefits.
    3. Once you know what your product or service does for buyers and how you impact their company, you are way less likely to be intimidated or willing to waste time with someone who can’t say yes.
    4. A valuable question:
      1. “How are decisions like this made inside your firm?”
  24. Jerry, after a salesperson has invested the time to read and devour your book 3 times, and to invest the time needed to learn the proven concepts and strategies that you teach, they really need to take the time to build themselves a selling playbook because you and I both know that the devil is in the details. Can you explain what it means for salespeople to truly make a sales playbook?
    1. If you can’t write it you can’t do. Soft Selling is an action plan. Writing comes first, then practice on the street.
    2. A playbook is a working document. It changes over time as your business, your products, your services, your competition all change.
    3. After each call, you should make notes of what didn’t work, what you would change.
    4. And schedule regular reviews of your playbook for review and upgrading
    5. It becomes an archive of the best of what you do. It’s also an excellent teaching tool if you are called on to train new hires.
  25. Jerry, why do you think that most people never take the time to make their sales playbooks?
    1. Don’t understand importance of the act of the thinking and design stage.
    2. In building it, one should:
      1. eliminate puffery
      2. develop proof statements
      3. quantify benefits
      4. Find your unique benefits
      5. Design your Mission statement for your firm and the upcoming call
      6. Develop each of the seven selling moves
      7. And work to develop an ROI for the buyer of your services or products
  26. Jerry, why do salespeople need to invest the time needed to make a tactical selling presentation?
    1. To build their own confidence and know where they are going rather than wandering around in empty halls bumping into walls.
    2. And it keeps them from sounding just the competition who walked out of the buyer’s office an hour ago.
  1. Jerry, I would like to get your thoughts on how salespeople can overcome their fears?
    1. Just like the violin player who gets to Carnegie hall: Practice, practice, practice.
    2. Fear doesn’t exist well in the face of extensive preparation.
    3. Find a buddy and role play every presentation.
    4. And don’t wait for a perfect presentation, just start using the skills and perfect them as you go along.
    5. There is no right time to begin. Do it now.
  1. Jerry Vass, your have literally worked with thousands of salespeople, why do you believe that most people just try to make things up on the fly as opposed to implementing a proven path?
    1. Because many people do not understand there is an underlying structure to successful human communication and persuasion and working without a structure or a plan is a design for failure.  
    2. There is no magic bullet in this profession or any other.
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