Selling is a game of failure and rejection, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do to step up your game. In fact, it might take just five minutes off of your day to grow your sales through short bursts of proactive action. This is what sales coach and bestselling author, Alex Goldfayn teaches us in his book, 5-Minute Selling, which he talks about in this interview with Paul Higgins. We have grown used to doing sales reactively. We tend to only reach out to our clients and prospects when there is something wrong. It’s time we break out of that reactive pattern and take control of the sales conversation through these simple yet brilliantly effective hacks.
Listen to the podcast here:
5-Minute Selling: Proactive Steps To Grow Your Sales Dramatically With Alex Goldfayn
Build Live Give. Mentoring with Paul Higgins.
Our guest is someone who started as a journalist for the Chicago Tribune in tech and realized the large tech companies were selling features and not benefits. Let’s be honest, they weren’t great at it. His wife said that there was a consulting opportunity in it to help these people. Now, he helps salespeople to overcome fear and rejection in sales and most importantly, be a proactive salesperson. Why read? What percentage of sales is the mindset and how to improve it? Number two, an incredible sales follow-up sequence, I will personally swipe and deploy asap. Number three, what you can do in five minutes of selling time a day to exceed your sales targets. I have also given four tools for BLG readers to help you with your sales. Over now to Alex Goldfayn.
Welcome, Alex Goldfayn to the show. It’s brilliant having you on, Alex.
Thank you so much for having me, Paul. I appreciate it.
I’m looking forward to this piece. I know your background is something that I love, plus what you do now is also relevant for everyone reading. You’re a journalist. Journalists always make great people to interview or you were a journalist, but I suppose you’re always will be. It’s in there. You never lose it.
I have to start making money. I’m a former journalist.
Why don’t we start with something that your family or friends know about you that we might not?
I keep a huge vegetable garden and that’s where I blow off steam. I have 24 different heirlooms of tomatoes growing. For the first time, I’m trying to grow a giant pumpkin. If I get into the hundreds of pounds, I’ll be very happy. These things are full-time work. I’ve got four plants growing.
Is the pumpkin going to enter itself into a competition or is it for bragging rights?
I have no idea how I might get it to competition because these things get so big. I don’t have a vehicle that would transport such pumpkin. I don’t have a pickup truck. That’s how they do it. As we talk to each other right now, I have no idea how I’m even going to get it from the patch than it is in my backyard over to the front door. I don’t have the machinery to do that. As these things get figured out, I’ll come back to you and tell you what happens. I frankly don’t know what the answer with that.
Like anything in life, go to somebody that’s done it before. I’m sure there’s a community or a Facebook group.
Every little tiny niche thing has its community and there’s certainly one for this.
You want to have to hire a helicopter to get it there. You’re a former journalist at the Chicago Tribune. You also had a radio show. Take us through a little bit of what you were doing then and how that’s turned into running your brilliant sales consulting and training business.
Several years ago, I was a syndicated technology columnist for the Chicago Tribune. My work ran in 300 different publications around the world and I covered technology. I did that at the time that the first iPhone came out and the first flat panel TV came out. We went from tubes to flat panels when I was covering technology. It was a great time to be covering technology. All these technology companies were marketing their products to me because they wanted me to cover it. They were awful at it. They were succeeding despite their marketing. I don’t know if you remember how the desktop computers were used to be marketed, but it was all specs. It was all gigahertz, megabytes, RAM and the old ads on the backs of magazines would have 25 pictures of little desktop computers on it on one page.
I was at Coca Cola and the irony of it was we used to show this is how not to do things. We’d often use those magazines as examples. They’re talking about the sausage, not the sizzle. That was a classic word that Coke has used. The funny thing is most of those companies are now the highest valued companies in the world. Unfortunately, Coke forgot to remember that not everyone loves sugar. You were helping them sell the sizzle, not the sausage. What happened from there?
I started helping them. My wife said, “You know you can get paid for this.” I started charging for it. It grew a consulting practice on marketing consumer electronics. All those companies became my clients. I wrote a book called Evangelist Marketing, which was my first sales or marketing related book. It was about how to market consumer electronics. As soon as it came out, non-technology companies started calling me, manufacturers, distributors, and service companies. I started helping them and do the same thing. The work shifted to selling. Since then, I’ve written three books. The Revenue Growth Habit was the first one of the sales books, then Selling Boldly, which came out a few years ago and coming out soon is 5-Minute Selling, which is all about how to grow your sales in five proactive minutes a day.
The way that the journalism industry is structured back then, was the transition easier or harder going to a consulting business?
I wrote the column on a contract basis. I never was in a newsroom with both feet and I didn’t want to be. It’s how I liked it. I spend a lot of time working with my clients in mindset and also a lot of time in my books talking about mindset. The mindset we need to be successful as service business owners is completely, entirely, and utterly the opposite of the mindset that journalists had.
Tell me more, why?
Not giving up is the key to sales success. Click To Tweet
Not so much in technology, but if you look at news about the world and about what’s happening, Journalists get rewarded based on how afraid they can make us. The more fear that they create, the more clicks they generate, the more eyeballs they get, the better they do. It’s the same on TV News. It’s the same on any news. Open a newspaper or a web browser to a news site or turn on your evening news, local or national. It’s all about how miserable they can make it. The more miserable, the better for them. In business, that doesn’t work as good. You can’t sell a lot if the job is to make people afraid. You can’t make people afraid.
Further, if you have fear, it’s very difficult to sell successfully. My work goes in the opposite direction and uses the principles of positive psychology. Positive psychology is the study of what makes us happy and successful as opposed to the rest of psychology, which is a study of what makes us screwed up. I work closely with the sales teams, with organizations on things like optimism, positivity, gratitude, boldness and enthusiasm. It’s the one that I tell my clients all the time. The only thing you can’t teach to people is enthusiasm. I could teach you about the products, services, technical details, but I cannot teach somebody how to be positive and enthusiastic. That’s where we focus because we can’t outsell our mindset and how we think. We focus on getting the mindset right. Ironically, that’s 70% of the work and 30% of the work is the system and the technique. That part’s not that hard. The mindset and psychology, that’s the hardest thing.
I’ve got a three-step framework, mindset, skills and systems. I’ve got people reading from all over the world at the moment and they’re like, “Aren’t Americans naturally inclined to be positive people? How do you get Americans to be more positive because that’s the picture I have of them?” What do you say when people say that?
If it’s okay, I take the conversation to that direction, our readers who run service companies or sell services. People who sell tend to be driven by fear. The fear is almost always of rejection or failure, one or the other. Sales is a game of rejection and overcoming it. In American baseball, you can fail 70% of the time as a hitter and back 300, and go to the hall of fame if you fail 70% of the time. In sales, we fail more than that. Many of the most successful salespeople who I know are failing 80% to 90% of the time. That means they only experience success 10% to 20% of the time. It takes a lot of work to train your mind to understand that all those noes get us to the yeses. We must fail a lot or else we won’t succeed. We have to fail. If we’re not failing, we’re not trying, are we? We’re not exerting sales effort.
The average conversion rates are around 20%, especially in a B2B service-based business. That 80% is like the quote of Thomas Edison on how many times he took to get the light bulb to work. He was only one step from the success the whole time through.
It’s my favorite quote. I do two quotes in my speeches and workshops. That’s one of them. I’ve said it so many times. I know it off my head. The quote is, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” It was Thomas Edison. The magic of that quote is you never know if the next effort is going to be the one that gets you there. If you’ve already been rejected eight times by this person, then what is the ninth rejection? It’s the same. It’s no worse. A ninth is no worse than eighth. Don’t stop. Keep trying. Don’t be annoying. Ask a different way, try a different angle, ask a different person. Give it a month and try again. Let some time go by. Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology, found that perseverance is twice as important to success as talent is. That might be even more so important for us. Not giving up is the key to sales success.
It must be one of the reasons why I’m fairly successful in sales is because most people that have been following me and my great guests on the show. I have had a kidney transplant. When you’re at 6% kidney function, it’s not a lot of fun. You have to keep getting up because it’s a simple process that the sooner you go on dialysis, you’ll last about ten years on dialysis, most transplants last about twenty years. You’re every day looking at the fact that, “I want to see my grandkids. I’m going to last another day.” That tenacity and not giving up that some people deal with in health is the same thing you can do in sales. Before we get to more details on the 5-Minute Selling because I want to understand that concept, who do you love to work with now? As you said, you were in tech then it was more general, but who are the ideal clients that you love helping them with the mindset now?
I work with manufacturers and distributors predominantly. Some people who make something then distribute it to the end-user, and very sexy industries like lumber, carton, plumbing, HVAC and steel. I have a bunch of service clients as well. The other 20% to 30% of my clients are firms like engineering firms, law firms, and accounting firms. People who sell services. People who often say, “I didn’t go to law school in order to sell.” You’re a partner in the company and we need the company to grow. The interesting thing, I was talking to somebody and they said to me, “Alex, I don’t like selling.” He’s a host of a sales podcast.
I started thinking about nobody likes to sell because of all the rejection that’s in it. Yet the world revolves because of us people who sell. Who do you think is going to get us out of his COVID pandemic depression, this business gigantic bounce that we’re having? On the day that you and I are talking, in the US, they said that the gross domestic product or our economy was down 32%. Our economy lost a third in the US. Who is going to get us out of that? Do you know who is going to do that? The salespeople will, people who sell stuff. If you own a company and your job is to help other companies, then you’re the one who’s going to get us out of this.
Let’s talk about the 5-Minute Selling, which is a new book. What’s the 5-Minute Selling all about? At one point, it’s seven touchpoints and now I’ve heard as much as 77 touchpoints before someone buys. 5-Minute Selling seems too quick. Tell me about that.
The premise behind that is if you can give five combined minutes a day of proactive efforts that are all laid out in the book, exactly what to do and what to say. Even scripts are all over the book. You can grow your sales dramatically. The reasoning here is that most salespeople operate reactively, which means if you run a service business or if you work at a service company, you’re listening. Most of the day is spent reacting to customers or clients’ issues, problems, demands, commands, jumping through the hoops they put up for us. When do the clients call? When they’re happy or when everything’s good, “Great job. That was awesome. Can I pay you more?” Did we get a lot of those calls? No, we don’t get those calls. When do they call?
When they need something, when something’s wrong, when you screwed it up, when you didn’t do it right, when didn’t send enough, and when you’re late. We spend our days solving customer’s problems and we’re good at it. We’re world-class at it but that’s reactive. The 90% of salespeople who sell, when I say salespeople, it’s inclusive of us, people who run a company, it’s inclusive of us owners. I run a consulting practice myself. Ninety percent of us are completely reactive. Five minutes of proactive effort every day like picking up the phone and calling a customer proactively when nothing is wrong.
As customers call us when something’s wrong, they only hear from us salespeople when we have a problem communicating. Picking up the phone and calling them and saying, “Joe, how’s your life? How’s the family. How are the kids? How are you getting through this difficult time? What are you doing for school in the fall?” Asking the did you know the question. Did you know that I can also help you with this or that? The did you know is you telling me something else that you do. You said a couple of interesting ones that I didn’t know about. Go ahead and share a did you know question with me. Did you know what?
Did you know that I can help you get more clients on LinkedIn?
That was exactly the one I was hoping you’d say because I had no idea you did that. I’ve been to your website. How long did that take you to say, three seconds maybe? I caught you off guard. You didn’t know I’d be asking you to say that. It took you still to get three seconds to say it.
We’ve got a phone relationship, which is brilliant. What are some other key things that people could do in that cumulative five minutes? What you’re saying here are the little micro-actions that can lead up to five minutes. What are some of the other things I can do?
Reverse did you know question is, what else do you need that I can help you? What other services are you buying elsewhere that I can help you with? In your case, how can I help you get clients on LinkedIn? The reverse did you know question instead of us suggesting service to the customer, we ask the client to tell us what they need. It’s a very powerful question and also three seconds.
What you’re talking about with the phone does relate directly to the work we’re doing on LinkedIn. Your background, I can tell you’re good at asking questions. Unfortunately, most people treat LinkedIn, and it may be because of that fear of rejection or failure, is they answer the question on behalf of the client. For me, I often asked a hot potato or short open questions like, is LinkedIn important to you? Where does LinkedIn fit in your marketing mix? Are you getting everything you want out of posting on LinkedIn? Those short little questions that build the bridge is what is powerful. What we’re doing on LinkedIn, does that correlate to what you’re talking about in your 5-Minute Selling?
Nobody likes to sell because of all the rejection that's in it. Yet the world revolves because of people who sell. Click To Tweet
You’re asking good foundational questions as a salesperson. I can tell you’re good at silence also. You’re good at asking the question and then listening for the answer. It’s another thing most salespeople are terrible at. Many businesses lost in the nervous chatter that fills the silence. My message is that they are not silent. They’re not being quiet because they’re uncomfortable. They’re quiet because they’re thinking about the answer to your question. They didn’t know you were going to ask this question. You knew you were going to ask for this referral. You’ve been planning it for two weeks in your head getting ready to do it. They didn’t know you were going to ask them for a referral. Let them think and don’t talk over them. The short answer to your question is the language you’re using is excellent.
In 5-Minute Selling, I’m trying to get people to either make contact with customers and prospects they haven’t talked to in a while. Communicate with people who aren’t calling in all the time. I’m trying to get people to educate customers and prospects about what else they can buy from you because people tend to niche us. He only does sales coaching. He doesn’t do LinkedIn. That’s the niche or the people working with you on LinkedIn. They don’t know you’re a sales coach. Similarly, we niche them. Salespeople almost always say, “If they need it, they’ll ask me for it.” They don’t know that the customer has our niche, then also we have the niche. The salespeople have the customer niche as well. This is what they buy for us. They don’t need anything.
Make contact with customers and prospects, educate them on what else they can buy from you systematically. We have to do these things in the system. The whole book is a system, which I’d like to come back around to. Let me give you two more. Following up on quotes and proposals. Most of us, because we don’t want to be rejected and this drives our behavior in sales. We’ll send the quote or the proposal. We’ve done 99% of the work. We’ve built the relationship. We’ve serviced the customer. We’ve written the quote or the proposal that they’ve asked us for. We’ve sent it to them. Because we don’t want to get rejected, we do not follow up typically and because we’re busy. We’re spending our days being reactive and responding to customers is so important. I teach three follow-up process that closes 20% to 30% of outstanding quotes, which is a good number. Most of my clients average about 20% of quotes closed. We close 20% to 30% of the remaining 80%. Business goes up dramatically.
What are those three things?
All three things are ideally done either with a call or with a text message. You can guess where everybody defaults to. We go into the less threatening one, which is the text. The first follow up is, “Paul, did you get it?” I want to make sure it got to you because these things tend to get picked off by a spam filter. I would send that out within 12 to 24 hours of sending my proposal. The second one is if you still haven’t responded, I would say, “Paul, I was thinking about you. Where are you at in that proposal we talked about? I’d love to help.” It’s a one-liner. All of these are one-liners.
If you still haven’t responded and I followed up with you twice, I feel like you’re being a little bit rude to me. Let’s say you’re being impolite. It’s three communications. Sending the proposal was the first one, which you asked me for. I’m not going to send you one if you don’t want them. The second one is, “Did you get it?” The third one is, “Where are you at in that. I’d like to help you.” The fourth quote now is saying, “Paul, I haven’t heard from you. I wanted to let you know the proposal is going to expire in a day or two. You pick if you want 24 or 48 hours. If you’d like to work on this and I hope we can, please let me know within the next 24 to 48 hours because I’d love to help you. If not, I hope we can come together on something soon.” In a cold sales jargon, you tell them that you’re taking it away because that’s fair. It’s also not fair to the other clients and your other prospects because you’re waiting on this one. Many times, the prospect gets to reply and says, “No, wait. Not yet.” Those close 20% to 30% of what’s outstanding.
That’s a huge takeaway. I have a similar process, but I love that last one, the expire. Scarcity is still a breakaway. As a quick example, I was about to move my price. My price on my LinkedIn membership is moving. I sent it to people that were sitting on the fence. I sent it to them and I closed five people from the fact that there was that scarcity in it. It wasn’t a made-up case. It was putting up the price. Everyone, the book will be launched. Where can they go and get the book? What will be your URL for them to get the book?
You can get the book wherever they sell books. It was published by Wiley and you can go to Amazon and buy it there. You can buy it wherever you buy books.
It’s 5-Minute Selling. The next section is the Live section, Alex. What are some daily habits that help you be successful?
The top one is so far in a way more important than the rest. That is every day, first thing in the morning, I send communications out to five different people. I do this by email or text. I’ve even automated it with my assistant because you mentioned assistance. We sent texts or emails to five either past clients or prospective clients about connecting and catching up on a phone call. The average is 2 or 3 out of the 5 will eventually set up a call. We connect and we talk like humans. That’s one of the key things that drive my business. It’s been the thing that drives my business amid this pandemic. The other thing that drives my business, my process, and I got a glimpse of your process.
My process is I speak a lot. For me, keynote speeches and workshops are my social media. I’m no good at actual social media, but I’m quite good at growing my business through speaking. We work on booking lots of talks where there are prospective clients in the audience. I go there and I speak. The daily habit, you could send your five inquiries in 45 seconds, in a minute total is trying to set up five calls every day, not for that day, but five calls every day. If you’ve got that part of the process running, you know that your business will grow.
I did think you were going to mention the veggie patch, but that’s okay and your pumpkin. That’s brilliant. That’s a great habit. Quickly on speaking, you’re doing a lot of it in person live. What’s happened with the transition to virtual? Have you seen that change?
You can guess what’s happened. It’s all gone virtual, which is difficult for the clients that I speak for, which are associations and executive groups. You go from being somebody who’s that’s my special skill in the world. Now you’re a box on a Zoom call with everybody else in the world. That’s where those daily telephone outreach and daily phone schedule gets off. I look for simple, fast systems. It’s almost a replacement for the number of prospect conversations that I’ve had from speaking without traveling, without getting on a plane, without leaving my family. It’s almost a replacement. As I get energy from speeches and giving them, I get energy from connecting with people on the phone and catching up and talking about our families and talking about how I can help them. That’s what it is. If you’ve been in business for any number of years, almost all of us have hundreds of people who know our name and whose name we know that we can reach out to. That’s all I’m doing.
When I was on dialysis, three days a week, four and a half hours, I couldn’t ask people to come to me. I learned the art through LinkedIn of doing exactly what you’re talking about. Fortunately for me, what I felt like a bit of injustice has now turned into one of the most positive things because I’ve discontinued it through COVID time. To me, if you are reading this and you think that your traditional forms of revenue and your traditional forms of sales have dried up, have a look at the virtual coffee that’s happening on LinkedIn. It’s the same human relationship, but it’s done with the aid of being in your tracksuit pants at home. What I’d love to hear from you is you’ve got Lisa and your ten-year-old twins. She’s been there for a long time. She was the person that you said you should start a consulting business. What would you like to say to her about the support she’s given you through this journey?
I had entire years in my business ball where she’s believed in me more than I believed in myself. We’ve been out of money multiple times. In the last couple of years, I’ve run a $3 million solo consulting practice. The many years before that were very good also. Entrepreneurship has its ups and has its downs. We’ve had some very big downs. We’ve had difficult downs. If it wasn’t for Lisa, there’s no other way to say it, but I probably would’ve stopped. I probably have a job, which I’ve never had a job in my life. I went straight into business. I am in college or grad school, I went straight into business. It’s because of Lisa that I get to do what I’m doing, that you and I get to be talking.
The next section is the Give section. What’s a charity or a community that you’re passionate about and why?
Our kids go to school here at which I’m on the board. It’s a fabulous independent day school called the Lake Forest Country Day School in the suburbs of Chicago in which I live. It’s a place where they teach positive psychology and optimism to the kids. From my brief time talking, I’m big on that. They teach perseverance. They teach optimism. They teach these things that if they were taught when I went to school, I feel like it would’ve had a huge impact on my life. A lot of our time and also free money goes there.
I’ve got a charity that I’ll give all my book proceeds to. My book’s called Build Live Give. The charity is called The Purple House. You can find out more at the PurpleHouse.org.au. The last section is the Rapid-Fire section. I’ve got the timer on, Alex. I’m going to pound through these questions. The first one is, what are your top three personal effectiveness tips?
Communicate with your clients and prospects. If you're not talking to them, chances are good that they're not thinking about you, either. Click To Tweet
If you have to do something difficult, do it early because the frog’s not going to taste any better later in the day. Number two, I use a Pomodoro timer. I know you’re going to get to tech. Sometimes when there was a lot of free time and when there’s a lot of unscheduled time, it’s hard to start that thing that you have to do. The Pomodoro timer makes it so that you only have to do it while the clock is running. You determine the interval. When the clock dings, when the time was done, you’d get up and have a break and walk around.
Number three, it’s being present. It’s a little more vague than the first two. Being present, communicate with people. Don’t go silent. Don’t disappear because if you’re not talking to them or with them, chances are good they’re not thinking about you. Remember that the vast majority of salespeople tend to be rather silent and reactive. They answer what’s incoming. They take what comes in, but they don’t do a lot out. If you can get good at picking up the telephone and talking to people, you’re going to be in the top 5% to 10% of all salespeople instantly. You’re going to open up such a gap between yourself and others, that the others will not be able to close the distance.
What’s a piece of tech that is essential to running your business?
I’m going to go with a good microphone here. I switched from a Blue Yeti microphone to an Audio-Technica Cardioid Dynamic mic. It goes right into my USB. It sounds so much better. It doesn’t have that annoying squeak. In the middle of a pandemic, I use this microphone every single day.
It’s such a simple thing. They’re not expensive. If you’re on Zoom all the time, it makes such a difference to have a good mic. It’s great. What are some of the best sources of new ideas for you?
It’s those conversations. I had an idea for a new line of business to which the reaction has been extraordinarily high. It came about from one of those proactive conversations. When you talk to people, when you get to kick around ideas back and forth with smart people, many of the people we call are smart people, you’ve got the inspiration for new ideas.
The last question is the big question, I always leave it to the end, but what impact do you want to leave on the world?
I want to be remembered as somebody who didn’t give up trying to help people. If my kids can look at me and say, “Dad persevered like crazy and didn’t stop trying to help people.” That’s it. What can you do better than, after you’re gone, people say, “He tried to help people?” I’m trying to teach that to my kids and I’m trying to teach perseverance by example. That’s it.
You can find out more about the 5-Minute Selling. It’ll be launched soon. Alex has got some fantastic tools to help you with the 5-Minute Selling. If you go to Goldfayn.com/BLG, we’ll have those tools for you. Alex has also got some brilliant tools already on his website as well, which is Goldfayn.com. Alex, I loved having you on the show. I always loved speaking to smart people, but also, they’ve got a journalistic background, a former journalist, as you said. All the best with that pumpkin. We’d love to see some photos soon.
I will make sure you get some as long as they’re not embarrassing and the pumpkin has some size to it.
Remember you don’t mind rejection. No matter the size, you’re going to show those photos.
I wanted to thank you very much for having me on. I appreciate it a whole lot. I’m grateful for the work that you’re doing and the focus on the personal mission that you have. It’s cool, different and powerful. I’m grateful to be able to talk with you.
I loved that interview with Alex. I went a little bit longer, but he had so much great content to share that I let it run a little longer. You can get the information at BuildLiveGive.com. Most importantly, take those sales follow-up scripts. Take them and use them. His positivity and outline are needed in a time where the US GDP is down by third, as he said. What is your biggest takeaway from Alex? Please share on your socials mentioning Alex and the 5-Minute Selling book. Also, grab your free resources that Alex has given at Goldfayn.com/BLG. If you believe someone you know would benefit from the show or know there’s plenty of people that would, please share it with them. Please take action to build your profit, to fund your lifestyle, and stay well.
- Evangelist Marketing
- The Revenue Growth Habit
- Selling Boldly
- 5-Minute Selling
About Alex Goldfayn
Alex Goldfayn is the CEO of the Evangelist Marketing Institute, LLC., a revenue growth consultancy for clients who want to grow quickly. Alex’s average client grows by 15-20% in their first year of working with him.
He is among the top-rated and most requested sales speakers in the world, motivating sales teams, managers, executives and owners to take simple action which will grow their business. Alex delivers more than 50 keynotes speeches and workshops on sales growth per year.
Alex’s latest book is called The Revenue Growth Habit: The Simple Art of Growing Your Business By 15% in 15 Minutes A Day (published John C. Wiley & Sons). It was selected as the sales book of the year by 800-CEO-Read and Forbes called it one of the top 15 business books of 2015.