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About This Episode
Richard Harris is one of our favorite people to sit down with. Before branching out on his own to start The Harris Consulting Group, Richard spent many years building SDR teams and running sales operations. He’s been immersed in sales culture long enough to hold a wealth of knowledge that he’s always willing to share.
He even began his interview on The Sales Engagement podcast with a great sales tip: what he calls the question behind the question. A method to better understand someone’s perspective and intention when they ask you a question.
He told us, “whenever someone asks you a question, there’s always a picture in their head. Ask them to paint that picture.” So when we asked him how he sees sales engagement changing between sellers and buyers today, he asked me, “when you said that word sales engagement, what picture was going through your head?” Thrown off for a second, Scott quickly answered, “a handshake.”
The result? Richard knew exactly what we meant by sales engagement. We weren’t asking about tech stack, we were trying to get to the human element in sales, and Richard’s question got us there.
Getting Back to Human
So what did Richard teach us in the question behind the question? A simple technique to help us have more engaging and meaningful conversations. Because no matter how good you are at convincing someone to take a meeting with you, if you can’t engage them well human to human, the meeting will not be fruitful.
These relationships need to be psychologically and emotionally more intimate. People buy from people they trust more than from people they like. And that trust comes from meaningful, detailed, intimate conversations. This is how Richard sees the industry changing.
We can have all the tools in the world to help us go faster, but if we don’t have something to help us do better then we lose. It’s not just about getting the meeting anymore. People need to know that you understand the world they’re coming from. We focus so much on getting people in the funnel that we have no idea what to do with them once they’re there.
How to Engage 101:
1. Phone calls are important
Richard doesn’t shy away from putting his phone number on his LinkedIn profile and never discourages someone from sharing it with someone else. So as you can imagine, he gets a lot of phone calls. But here’s the thing, most are a waste of time.
If he misses the call, they don’t leave a message. If he answers, they’re more focused on getting him to meet with them in person instead of making a connection over the phone first. In-person meetings are not the end-all be-all, if you get someone’s phone number, have a plan, which leads us to tip #2…
2. Have a meaning and a purpose
That goes for any kind of outreach you conduct. Before you send someone a message on LinkedIn or pick up the phone to call them, have a clear purpose for that outreach so that you’re not wasting their time.
One of Richard’s pet peeves is when someone calls him or sends him a message asking to meet in person to “explore synergies.” Exploring synergies does not equal a clear meaning or purpose for a connection. All of a sudden you’ve put the pressure on that person to figure out how you can work together when you’re the one that reached out in the first place. So show up with a plan, an idea, and a purpose.
3. Engage on social media
Have you ever stopped to consider how much time you’ve taken to engage with someone you want to connect with on social media? Before cold calling/messaging to request a meeting, spend intentional time engaging with their activity on LinkedIn or Twitter. You’ll learn so much more about them which you help you show up to your first meeting better prepared.
Beyond engaging well in conversations, according to Richard, a good sales rep today is:
- Technically savvy
- An extreme focuser because study after study has proven that multitasking doesn’t work
- Able to understand their buyer persona and the psychological ways people make decisions
While Richard admits that he learns more from millennials than he does from his peers in sales, he still believes there’s much to learn from those that came before you. Instead of asking someone for advice, ask them to share their worst sales experience with you. Everybody has one, and you can learn more from those stories than you can from straight advice.
Another great question to ask someone with more experience is if I want to get to where you are, what are the five things you’d suggest I do? Finally, Richard encourages those in sales to be massively vulnerable and to not ignore their mental health.
This isn’t something his generation discussed, so he’s adamant about sharing the realities of not prioritizing your health. Own all of the great stuff you receive, take all of the accolades (and the tough stuff that comes your way) but don’t ignore your mental health. If you’re not a healthy, functioning person everything else falls apart. So as you are learning to be human in your conversations and engage with customers in a more meaningful way, don’t forget to take care of yourself.
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