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The Real Secret to Sales Success: Conversations over Collateral

I was 20 years old and working in a staffing company. Even though I wasn’t a salesperson, I had always made cold calls and won clients when working in my family’s staffing business. I would interview candidates in the morning and attend meetings with prospects in the afternoon. Los Angeles provided a target-rich environment. There were three sales reps in our branch office. In the first year, none of them had acquired a single new client.

At the time, I had no idea about what we call the legacy approach. Because I was not a salesperson, I wasn’t trained to sell. But over time, the VP of operations provided me with an 81-page binder. The first page was the founder’s story, followed by everything anyone could ever need to know about the company. It also included all kinds of things that the client would never need to know. Up until this time, I had no collateral, other than a contract.

The VP walked me through the gargantuan binder. I was now required to use the binder on every sales call. With no one managing me, I did what I knew how to do: Get a meeting and address the client’s problem.

One day a new manager walked into the office. It would be months before he emerged from behind his closed door. He was selling, and I was still selling. The first sales rep forgot to take her resume off the printer. Soon, she was gone. Not too long after that, the second sales rep quit. The third sales rep left one day without saying anything.

One day my manager handed me a report listing who won which deals. All of them were mine or his. He told me to cut my hair because now I was a full-time field salesperson. I had no interest in being in sales, but he promised me that he would fire me if I didn’t take the new job. I didn’t want it, but I took it.

My manager was a good manager, so he decided to join me on a first meeting. I opened the binder up to page one, and I treated the contact to our founder’s story. Riveting! I turned the pages and carefully talked through each one, as I was taught. My manager gave me a look, but I was too busy persuading the client that we were the right company to acquire the people she needed.

As we left the client’s office, my manager asked me how I thought I did. I told him I thought I did well. He told me that the client was now in a coma she would never recover from. He explained that no one cares about the binder. It is something that you leave with the prospective client, but not something you need to review with them. I started doing better without the binder.

I was a bird dog, sniffing out prospective clients. We would visit with these clients. No binder. No “Why us?” page. Just a conversation about problems and how best to solve them. My manager was very good at selling.

The branch office lost $600,000 the year before my manager took over. In the first year, we went from worst to first. I secured a very large client that would retire my quota for years. Then, two weeks later, I had a grand mal seizure while walking up the steps to my Brentwood apartment. Later, my manager collected just over $450,000 for the turnaround, and I had two brain surgeries.

Sales is a conversation. It should be organic. It should create value by helping clients understand why they have certain problems and the changes they need to make to solve them. This conversation should also help your client understand what they need to know to make the best possible decision, one that will ensure they produce the better results they need.

If you still start a sales conversation with “Why us,” stop. You will do better to throw away the 81-page binder or slide deck and instead spend your time helping your client to succeed with your help.

"How I Conquered Sales Without Formal Training: A Personal Journey"

"From Staffing Agent to Top Sales Rep: My Unlikely Success Story"

"The Power of Organic Conversations in Sales: Lessons from My Career"

"Why Ditching the Sales Binder Was My Best Decision in Business"

"Turning Around a Failing Branch Office: My Sales Success Story"

"The Legacy Approach: How I Learned to Sell Without a Sales Background"

"Overcoming Adversity in Sales: My Journey from Seizures to Success"

"The Real Secret to Sales Success: Conversations Over Collateral"

"From Worst to First: How I Helped My Branch Achieve Unprecedented Growth"

"Sales Wisdom: Why Understanding Client Problems is Key to Winning Deals"


Sales 2024
Post by Anthony Iannarino on June 29, 2024

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an American writer. He has published daily at thesalesblog.com for more than 14 years, amassing over 5,300 articles and making this platform a destination for salespeople and sales leaders. Anthony is also the author of four best-selling books documenting modern sales methodologies and a fifth book for sales leaders seeking revenue growth. His latest book for an even wider audience is titled, The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

Anthony speaks to sales organizations worldwide, delivering cutting-edge sales strategies and tactics that work in this ever-evolving B2B landscape. He also provides workshops and seminars. You can reach Anthony at thesalesblog.com or email Beth@b2bsalescoach.com.

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, X or Youtube. You can email Anthony at iannarino@gmail.com

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