An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Take the time to understand the customer’s why or the reason they are making the purchase.
As a part of my series about how to be great at closing sales without seeming pushy, obnoxious, or salesy, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lyndon Brathwaite.
Lyndon is an easy-going, driven father of one. Outside of his passion for basketball, sports and being outdoors, his goal is to help people with similar experiences to him, become their best selves. He lives by four words which are Change, Create, Difference and Achieve. When put together they mean Change your routine, to Create opportunities that make a Difference for yourself and others and Achieve your goals.
Thank you for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this career path?
It’s an interesting one for me because up until 25 yrs of age, being in sales was not on my horizon. I was actually studying to be an engineer and working at a bank at the time, and life was good. Then, a few things changed, and I left the bank and was out of work for about nine months.
During that period, which was around 2002, I was introduced to Amway, which was fun at the time, and I think that was my first introduction to sales. While applying for other office-type positions, I saw two vacancies, one for insurance sales and the other was car sales.
I got the job with the automotive dealership in 2003, and the rest is history. Between then to now I’ve held several different sales positions and worked with five different companies in five different industries. Starting my sales career in 2003 changed my life, and it’s instrumental in who I am and what I do now.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or takeaway you took out of that story?
The story that comes to mind when is meeting a young lady that walked into the dealership one morning and said she saw one of our cars on the road and wanted to know more about it.
A normal thing, right?
Well not exactly, because I ended up losing that customer because I tried to sell her the vehicle then and there even though she had a concern with the lack of a particular feature in the car. She walked away with a quotation and a brochure, and I never saw her again until about 5 months later.
When we did meet, she was driving a new vehicle that cost $15K more than what we initially spoke about. When I asked her what she liked most about the new car, she said the same thing we spoke about initially.
My biggest takeaway from that was to pay attention to the customer and by extension people. If someone has a concern, try to address especially in sales.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
The main thing I’m currently working on is my business (OPAAT-SWY), which I started four years ago. It’s a sales enablement company designed to help companies and entrepreneurs increase sales by having a better approach to their customers.
It’s a first in the English-speaking Caribbean, and one I believe will help us change several things that have been plaguing us for some time.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My sales career would be nothing without Inshan Meahjohn. Inshan was the person that hired me at the dealership but was fundamental in nurturing me into where I am now. The funny thing is we have not worked together in fourteen years, and we rarely see each other. But the seeds he planted about being a father, husband and leader have stuck with me till today.
For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit why you are an authority on the topic of sales?
I’m always cautious about calling myself an “expert” because it’s very subjective, and in the sales industry, things change so often that we always have to keep ourselves up-to-date with new techniques, strategies, insights, etc.
So, what makes me an authority?
I’d say because I am always a student of my craft. I don’t teach anything I haven’t tried because I don’t believe in hypotheticals. If I read something from someone and think it makes sense, I try it. Whether it works or not, I document it and use it to share it with persons I train.
That approach has helped me develop some really good and successful sales teams in my time and is also responsible for some of the success I’m experiencing in my entrepreneurial now.
Ok. Thanks for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. As you know, nearly any business a person will enter, will involve some form of sales. At the same time, most people have never received any formal education about how to be effective at selling. Why do you think our education system teaches nearly every other arcane subject, but sales, one of the most useful and versatile topics, is totally ignored?
That’s a great question. I would answer that by saying while sales is a core role to all companies, it’s not seen as a core profession to the point where I’ve seen companies treat sales professionals as commodities and not as valuable members of the team. There are master’s and degree programmes for Marketing, social media management, digital marketing, etc. however, nothing for sales. What is each one of these programmes teaching marketing to do? To “SELL” products or services?
In my country (Trinidad and Tobago), I have seen higher education institutions try to offer sales programmes as short courses, but with sales being one of the oldest professions and one that continuously evolves with new strategies, techniques, etc., there needs to be a dedicated accredited for it. Outside of the schools, companies should spend more time investing in dedicated sales development for their salespeople based on their industry.
This discussion, entitled, “How To Be Great At Sales Without Seeming Salesy”, is making an assumption that seeming salesy or pushy is something to be avoided. Do you agree with this assumption? Whether yes, or no, can you articulate why you feel the way you do?
Yes, I agree that it is important not to come off as pushy or salesy with clients because sales is not about you; it’s about the customer. While I cannot speak for all sales professionals, I have met several sales professionals and was only concerned with the commission more than the customer. Because of that, their customers had horrible sales experiences resulting in the customer not buying.
The seven stages of a sales cycle are usually broken down to versions of Prospecting, Preparation, Approach, Presentation, Handling objections, Closing, and Follow-up. Which stage do you feel that you are best at? What is your unique approach, your “secret sauce”, to that particular skill? Can you explain or give a story?
I’d say my two strongest skills in the sales process are Prospecting and the sales approach. I take a lot of pride in finding and aligning products and services to the right types of customers. It’s an important first start because if you get this step wrong, then you have no sales. Or, you end up with customers experiencing buyer’s remorse because they are not getting what they wanted.
The right approach is just as important because saying the wrong thing can slow a del down or you can lose it altogether.
I don’t have a secret; I teach people how to communicate value over features, how to understand the reason for the purchase and why it’s important for the customer. If everyone takes these things into consideration, then more sales reps will be successful.
Lead generation, or prospecting is one of the basic steps of the sales cycle. Obviously, every industry will be different, but can you share some of the fundamental strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
Generating qualified leads requires some sort of skill. So, one of the fundamental things we have to change is the thinking that this step is a “basic” step. Because if it were that basic, companies wouldn’t still have issues with prospecting.
For example, I’m currently implementing a CRM solution in an organisation where the sales team do their own marketing. One guy generates leads daily through his social platform, but he frequently complains that those leads are trash.
However, another sales representative is using the same medium, and they are happy and excited by the leads that are coming in because they close.
So what’s the difference between these two sales reps? The skill and understanding of how to generate leads through social selling. The same goes for prospecting through the traditional medium, and that’s why it’s not a basic step.
For sales reps today, whether they use social platforms, social selling, emails, referrals, on the field, etc. Three things I recommend to be good at prospecting are;
- Understand Client Profile based on what you offer.
- Be clear on your sales pitch and what value your service or solution brings to that profile.
- Pick a distribution channel or strategy to communicate that value message.
In my experience, I think the final stages of Handling Objections, Closing, and Follow-up, are the most difficult parts for many people. Why do you think ‘Handling Objections’ is so hard for people? What would you recommend for one to do, to be better at ‘Handling Objections’?
Effective Objections handling comes first with good discovery. Discover comes in the early stages when identifying why a prospect is interested in your product or service in the first place. Regardless of what you sell, there’s always a reason for the purchase, and that’s what some or maybe most sales professionals don’t do well with “discovery”
I remember losing an opportunity with a major insurance firm even though I offered a solution that saved them USD$148k in their first year. When they declined the offer is was shocked and upset because I felt that $148K was substantial. Plus, I put a lot of work into the proposal. See how selfish that last point was?
The savings wasn’t the CTO’s main concern. It was the impact the solution would have on her team, and because I never discovered these concerns initially or whole going through the proof of concept, it was too much for her to figure out for herself, so they declined the offer.
What’s the problem and lesson from that story? I was trained to sell the solution from one perspective: “show them the savings, and they will buy”, and not from the operational or human resources side of things.
Discovery at the beginning and throughout the sales process allows the sales professionals to identify and handle some of those hidden objections.
‘Closing’ is of course the proverbial Holy Grail. Can you suggest 5 things one can do to successfully close a sale without being perceived as pushy? If you can, please share a story or example, ideally from your experience, for each.
Closing a sale comes from effectively showing a customer the difference between their current and future state. Plus, effectively answering all of their questions, such as how they are going to achieve it, how much it’s going to cost them, what timeline they should expect a return, how they can measure success, etc.
All of the above are some KPIs that a B2B customer uses in making a decision. The important thing for sales professionals is to identify all or any of these things at the discovery stage or as you work on the opportunity to close.
I remember going into a store to buy one shirt but leaving with two.
Because the sales professional took the time to identify why I was looking for the shirt, how important the event was to me and what else I had in my wardrobe to match the shirt. He also had a good sense of style in men’s fashion and did a very good job helping me see what my outfit would look like on the day.
With that said, five things salespeople can do to be successful at closing are;
- Take the time to understand the customer’s why or the reason they are making the purchase.
- Understand why or how important it is important to them. Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions like “Why make this purchase now?” or “What happens if you don’t do this now?” or “What does success look like if all goes well?”
- Stick to the customer’s outcomes and not yours. Salespeople sometimes need the deal to close more than the customer. This is where the pushiness or salesyness comes in. While creating a sense of urgency is a skill in sales, it can sometimes backfire if you push customers to buy before they have made up their minds. Always align your sales approach to
- Be the consultant/expert. When I was in copiers some years ago, customers were impressed with the amount of information my team shared with them about the industry. This helped us build trust and be seen as experts.
- Sell value not features. Selling value is very different from selling features, to sell value it means that the salesperson has to see the end benefit that this feature is offering to the customer. Having a copier that prints at 35 ppm doesn’t me it’s fast; it means that the user gets to create large documents in a shorter amount of time which means increased productivity. A vehicle that can break from 100km to 0 in 35 meters doesn’t mean that it stops quickly, but it means a driver has the ability to avoid a collision/accident in an emergency. Saving them the inconvenience of an accident or worse. Those are just two simple examples of value selling as opposed to feature selling that can help opportunities close.
Finally, what are your thoughts about ‘Follow up’? Many businesses get leads who might be interested but things never seem to close. What are some good tips for a business leader to successfully follow up and bring things to a conclusion, without appearing overly pushy or overeager?
Follow-up is a salesperson’s Achilles heel, meaning, many deals are lost because of timely follow.
I remember some years ago I did a follow-up call exercise with one team member and we called a client he quoted approximately six (6) months ago.
Why didn’t he call the customer? Because he did not want to seem pushy so kept procrastinating waiting for the client to call him back.
When we made the call, the client was happy to hear from us and engaged in some good small talk, but then advised that because of the silence their manager made the decision to go with another provider that was in consistent communication with them.
I always tell, reps, “Don’t expect customers to call you back”
How can sales representatives and managers be better are follow-up?
- Set A Next Follow-Up Date: At the end of every client, meeting set a next step or a follow-up date. This way a follow-up call or email never feels like an intrusion.
- Use A CRM: Technology is a big part of our business so it amazes me when I see sales professionals still using pen and paper to do things that technology can manage for us. A CRM tool is an effective way to stay on top of tasks and not miss important next-step dates.
- Practice, Practice, Practice: Effective sales follow-up is a skill and to get better at that skill you need to practice. It’s recommended that sales and business professionals practice this with their teams 1–2 times per week.
As you know there are so many modes of communication today. For example, In-person, phone calls, video calls, emails, and text messages. In your opinion, which of these communication methods should be avoided when attempting to close a sale or follow up? Which are the best ones? Can you explain or give a story?
That’s a pretty interesting question but in 2022, there is no right or wrong way or medium to communicate and close opportunities all of the above are good.
I’ve closed opportunities via, one-to-one email, phone calls, video overview emails with Vidyard, Zoom, in-person conversations, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, etc. It all comes down to the customer’s preferred method of communication and also how you use the follow-up strategy, to set a date and time for the next meeting.
One question I normally ask customers early in our communication is “What’s the easiest or preferred way for us to stay in touch? Based on their feedback, then that is what I use. I recommend sales and business professionals take the same approach.
How can our readers follow you online?
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/opaatswy
- LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/opaatswy
- Website: www.opaatswy.com
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
Lyndon Brathwaite Of OPAAT-SWY Consulting: How To Be Great At Sales Without Seeming Salesy was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.