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Chris Lytle: A Presentation on The Art of Selling Yourself as a Solution and Becoming the CEO’s Trusted Advisor

Chris Lytle, speaker and author of “The Accidental Sales Manager” joined the Cerius Interim Executive Meet-up, to discuss The Art of Selling Yourself as a Solution and Becoming the CEO’s Trusted Advisor.


Kristen McAlister:

Let’s get started. Welcome.

We first started these in April or May of last year of just getting interim executives together. And one of the things that has come out of this past year is finally figuring out how do we take this network of thousands of executives across the United States and some international and get them more connected to more learning and development?

Most of us work independently. Which means it’s a business of one, and it’s tough to consider your clients as your advisory board. So you’re a bit out there and don’t have a whole lot of opportunities, especially that are specific to what you do. So we’ve created the monthly meet-ups – we call them top tier because everyone on here is someone who didn’t just come into our network, we’ve never talked to you, we don’t know you.

Someone from Cerius has worked with, interviewed, talked to, got to know you, or vetted every person who is in this group. So you can consider it as a trusted network. And the goal today is learning development and connecting.

Cerius is the professional matchmaker of the executive industry. When you look at companies who just want to date their leadership versus marry their leadership, you want to marry it, go see an executive search firm, but we help them figure out what do they need for the short term and the midterm to build the bridge to the longer term.

We’ve got Chris Lytle on the phone with us and really one of the toughest things, and I love his book, The Accidental Salesperson. As I look at us as independent executives, interim part-time, whatever it may be, through the process, we’ve all become accidental salespeople, whether our background is IT or HR or non-profits. We are now all a sales force of one, selling ourselves through clients.

So, we’ve asked Chris to come in today. He’ll give us a brief overview about 20 minutes on some background and how to become the best salesperson you can for yourself and your business. And then we’ll do a couple of breakout rooms before I get there.

I would love to turn it over to Chris, Pam, Tiffany, a part of the Cerius team, Pam, my co-owner, and partner in crime at Cerius Executives, and have them give a brief overview that you may not be able to get anywhere else.

Our group talks to hundreds of CEOs a year. We work with any number of CEOs and their situations on a weekly and monthly basis. And I’d love to have them do kind of a brief overview of what they’re seeing with their opportunities to help CEOs right now and some of the biggest challenges, just to keep you up to date on that monthly pulse of what’s going on with CEOs.

Chris Shepard:

Thanks Kristen. Thanks everybody for being on. Some of the things I’m seeing in the market right now is really just a lot of activity. And each of the different C-suite roles in our pipeline right now, I have pretty much one of everything at least. So top of those, as always, is finance. We’re also seeing a lot of sales leader activities, chief sales officer, VP of sales, that type of thing.

But overall, it’s a really good time to be an interim executive. And I think today’s conversation is very timely and will be very helpful to you in your business development efforts. So, thanks for being here and hope you enjoy.

Tiffany Egenes:

I echo Chris and I appreciate everyone’s time, spending this hour with us.

From my funnel, I’m actually seeing quite a few sales and marketing opportunities. Seems a lot of clients are leveraging this opportunity and any cash that they’ve preserved to really put the pedal to the metal and proceed forward and not really be in a stand still.

Like some of the competitors situationally I’ve actually got three to four different clients where they want to upskill their executive regardless of what the functional role is. It’s like some of them kind of getting off their seats and making changes and upskilling and areas that they’ve kind of just been laissez-faire about.

And you know, for example, I’ve got a couple of clients where their finance individuals were just doing okay, kind of getting them by and now they’re ready to take it to the next level, make sure they have the right infrastructure in place to scale in a potentially positioned him for an exit.

So seeing that as a theme, quite a bit with my clients.

Pam Wasley:

Welcome everyone. Good to see you here today. I don’t have much to add besides what Chris and Tiffany had just said. The only thing I will just add on to this as we’re starting to see some activity in private equities and quite a bit of activity, I mean, there’s so much cash out there, especially with the specs of special acquisition companies.

They’re picking up companies to go public left and right. So, a lot of activity there and you’re going to see them start to look at the leadership for the companies that they do pick up. And they’ve loved this whole fractional thing.

I’m working with one now out of Canada. They’re looking at all fractional, as they really get these well-funded companies up and running. They’re going to go that route as opposed to having one for one company. So, it’s an exciting time to be an interim executive.

I’m really glad to see all of you here today and hope you hope we all gain something from Chris Lytle.

Kristen McAlister:

Before we introduce Chris, I would like to do some thank yous and testimonials. It’s a new addition to our monthly meetings because there’s so many individuals on this meeting here who have either referred business to us who have been in assignments and we are finally really wanting to take the opportunity to thank you, recognize you.

It’s going to be a bit of a long list as I go through. Those who have worked on assignment with us in the past have trusted Cerius, have done such a great job with our clients, everything from IT and CTO – Annie O’Grady is actually personally responsible for working inside Cerius and building out some of our internal architecture.

Gopi that incredible job at a private equity portfolio firm.

HR – Rusty, again, I know you stepped in and it seems like you all stepped into impossible situations and make the absolute best of it. But that was certainly his situation.

Teresa, CFO, she, I think went in for a six-month assignment ended up in there 19 months. They just kept finding things to do at both the company and the parent company.

Ajay Kumar. I wanted to especially thank you. Not only has he gone in, we’ve seen a spike in advisor roles and he has a very special expertise in e-commerce. As companies are starting to move more and more to the e-commerce space. He does an incredible job in that and in working with the client of ours, they came to him and started complaining about accounting and had issues with accounting. And he said my most favorite words in the world: “why don’t you call Cerius first?” I think it was a matter of three days later, Chris worked with them and has an amazing solution, now they’re up and running. They’re going to be implementing a software they bought and invested in a year ago. Making tremendous things happen.

And now we’ve got some absolutely incredible executives who have contributed their time and their expertise to some of our spotlights. We have a quarterly business update that we put at put out every three months for CEOs.

And I think this quarter we’ve got Ginny Waller and Holly Ehrlichman. Really appreciate your efforts on that. And Helen Wanamaker was recently one of our spotlight executives.

Tiffany Egenes:

I actually want to thank Holly. I placed Holly on a roll a couple of weeks ago, and from what I hear, things are going great and have completed the first phase of assessment. So we’ll be connecting on how things are moving forward, but thank you, Holly, for your involvement with us and our client.

Kristen McAlister:

Fantastic. Thank you for all of your efforts. And obviously as we get going here, I would like to kick it off with Matt Sauer doing the esteemed introduction of Chris and finding out how we can all be our best salesperson.

Matt Sauer:

Thank you, Kristen. Many people come to a session like this, hoping to get one good idea.

If that’s your goal, may I suggest that you raise your expectation level and expect a half a dozen or more actionable, easy to apply ideas during the next 25 minutes. Chris Lytle promises to you a bold one. This session contains more usable information per minute, than any program you’ve ever attended.

That promise comes with this warning: “education without action is entertainment.” You will be entertained by this fast paced, highly detailed program, but you must apply the learning to gain its business building impact.

To know and not to do is not to know. Chris Lytle is the best-selling author of The Accidental Salesperson and The Accidental Sales Manager was born in Newark, Ohio, and graduated from Baldwin Wallace college with a political science degree in 1972. After working as an intern in Congress, he returned to Newark where he hoped to secure a news position at a local radio station.

Instead, he was offered a sales job, which he accepted, changing the course of his career forever. Lytle started his own speaking business in 1982 and has spent the last 39 years delivering domestic and international seminars to salespeople and their managers. He has offered training to Fortune 500 companies and startups in the technical, financial manufacturing and service industries. His focus has been broadcast advertising sales.

Chris lived 30 years in Madison, Wisconsin, 15 years in Chicago, and has recently relocated to Chattanooga, Tennessee, a scenic city where the average snowfall is two inches per year. And there’s no state sales tax. Welcome to Chris Lytle.

Chris Lytle:

Thank you. Thank you very much, Matt and Kristen, did we get handouts to everybody?

If you have a handout, I’m going to go fast. There’s a lot in the handout. I want to tell you that every picture has a link in it. So if you link in the PDF, you’ll find the book or the website or the video that I’m quoting. So you can get a lot more out of this than just the 25 minutes or so that we have together.

So this is the best book ever written about selling that’s Neil Rackham’s book, Spin Selling, which is now 33 years old. He interviewed and researched 35,000 recordings of 35,000 sales calls to come up with this book and said that the salespeople who ask deeper questions, implication questions, deep payoff questions, sell more than people who asks situation and problem questions.

This is the best title of any book ever written: If You Don’t Have a Plan, Stay in the Car. You don’t have to read the book. You just have to follow the coverage instructions. Mack Hanan is one of the giants of selling.

That’s The Accidental Salesperson now in its second edition. Over 50,000 sold.

This is Neil Rackham today. Here he is in 2019 on YouTube. And he’s talking about whether the spin model is still relevant, he said the spin model is about understanding. I suppose the breakthrough was it’s no longer about persuading customers. People persuade themselves. It’s really about understanding them and their needs.

So you can do the job of creating value that has changed. Some things have changed with make to spend model probably more relevant than it was 30 years ago. Products that become commodity. So salespeople are the differentiator. I think that’s an interesting insight from Neil. If everything’s a commodity that salespeople are the differentiator and then how do they differentiate by really understanding the customer more deeply, being able to create new and creative solutions.

So way back when they did the original spin research situation, questions about fact were slightly negatively correlated with success. You could ask too many of them today. They’re actively positive. I don’t know why he said it this way, but it was on his YouTube video positively, negatively correlated. If you ask a lot of situation questions, customers become impatient.

They’ll say you should have done your homework. You should have known that in the book, The Accidental Salesperson. I say that one of the magic phrases is in preparing for this meeting and then you tell people what you did to prepare because the number one complaint buyers have about sellers is lack of preparation and then lack of interest or purpose.

I once had a business banker from the largest bank in Wisconsin say to me, “what do you do here?” He was trying to get my banking business. I said, “we teach people to prepare before they make a sales call and never to ask what you do here. I just put a hundred thousand dollars into a website. You could have Googled me.”

I Google really well. Mack Hanan. He wrote the book. If You Don’t Have a Plan, Stay in the Car. He wrote this book in 1970, his eighth edition came out in 1994 and then he passed away. There will never be an eighth edition of The Accidental Salesperson. I don’t want to work that hard anymore, but he kept updating his.

This is the classic book. And he said that you must bring something to the party. You can’t come empty handed with your understanding of the client’s business. Must show evidence of diligence and intelligence. You should never ask for any information the client knows is publicly available. And he wrote this in 1970, before the internet, you had to go to the library. You had to go to all these reports and find things – it’s so easy to prepare for a meeting now. This is the guy who I used to call when I was in the radio business. Len Mattioli, Crazy TV Lenny. 1974. I had learned consultative selling and I went into his store to ask him some questions.

And I said, “Hey Len, what days are you open late?” Because that’s what it said on my, my consultative forum, I suppose to gather all this data before I was allowed to make a presentation. I said, “what days are you open late here at America TV.” He said, “It’s on the door.” I said, “Whoa. Yeah, this isn’t it.” I never, I, I didn’t ask him what brands he carried or any other things that I could observe because you can, you can’t bore people into buying from you.

So consulting is giving expert advice. You got to bring something to the table.

This gentleman was the IBM CEO and in Mumbai, he’s now with another computer company there, he says the nature of the consulted sales that you’re creating the solution as you sell. So you really can’t be selling when you’re consulting because you don’t know what the problem or the objectives are.

I love this guy. He’s from Great Britain, Phil M Jones, prolific author, a really good speaker. He says, selling is earning the right to make a recommendation. And if you would say that to the client, I believe, that selling is earning the right to make a recommendation. And I need to ask you a few questions and share what I’ve learned about you, and then let you correct what I mistake it about before I can make an intelligent presentation.

Does that make sense? So you need to talk about, this is the way I work before I start telling you what you need. I need to ask some questions.

This guy is Matt Dixon. He’s the co-author of The Challenger Sale. Bottom right-hand corner of page one. Challenger Sale was written in 2011, and these guys are saying, don’t ask the customer, what’s keep keeping them up.

There’s a typo of them up at night. Tell them what should be keeping them up at night. And I think that’s brilliant because if you can tell them what they should be worried about, and they haven’t been thinking about that, you really differentiate yourself from the other salespeople that are talking to the customer.

Okay. So next page. We’re grading the relationships we’re already having, hoping to upgrade them. That’s the bottom of page one. This is page two, the chart. This is the foundation of The Accidental Salesperson. The idea behind this is that you can grade the relationship you have, or you can grade the last meeting you were in with the prospect or the customer.

Can you see yourself at different levels with different people you’ve called on? So you say I had a level one meeting. I had a level two meeting when I was doing leadership training for the longest time I was, I said there were level one, two, three, and four salespeople.

And then one day I got a call from a meeting planner because my marketing person was out of the office and she said my manager asked me to call you by my CEO or VP of sales. We saw your book. We’re considering bringing you out to our annual sales conference. And I said, “Well, tell me about the audience, tell me about the company.” And she said, “Look, I’m the meeting planner. I’m going to look at seven videos, look at seven media kits and pick two speakers. You want to play?” I said, “I guess,” so she said, “Send me your video in your media kit.” So here I am thinking I’m a level three or four salesperson, but I’m sending out product literature and rate sheets to a person I’ve never met to a company, I don’t know the name of it. And I said, “I just had a level one meeting and I wrote the book.” So. I quit saying there’s level one, two, three, and four salespeople, and started saying there’s level one, two, three, and four relationships.

Now this idea you beat, you’re a true source of industry information, business intelligence. You’re a resource you’re sending out articles. You’re sending out white papers, you’re messaging with some things that you do. You’re putting videos together, linking people to them, whatever that is. You’re trying to be that true source of industry information. And you can have 10 or 15 or 20 level three moments a week.

You can be perceived in the marketplace by working to send articles and white papers. That sort of thing. As a resource, a true source of industry information level four is a little hard to get to. It takes years, but you can have a level three moments and level two is a hundred percent better than level one.

In fact, I say to sales managers, I could have five level two meetings and outsell someone who’s having 10 level one meetings because it’s just a higher quality. You can measure the quality of the meeting.

You don’t have a business relationship until someone writes you a check. You may be very friendly with someone until they write you a check. There’s no business relationship.

Charles Brennan, brilliant guy. He wrote this book in 1994: Sales Questions to Close the Sale. I’ve linked you to that. He’s on YouTube a little bit, but here’s what he says. A recitation response is one in which the prospect answers with subsidy, or she already knows by rope.

And that’s what deal Reckham was calling the situation question. I’ve answered it a hundred times. How many locations do you have? How many employees do you have? You know, that stuff, it’s a situation question. A dialogue provoking question requires often requires complex thinking on the part of the prospect, you make the prospect think about something he or she hasn’t thought about before, and they don’t have an answer for it.

And so the question solicits that opinion rather than the correct answer involves longer exchanges among individuals. And Brennan says that the clients remember those meetings when they quickly forget a meeting where they’ve answered those questions. And I think that the theory behind that is just fantastic.

And so he came up with this idea of the multi-level probing question and the way you do that, is you make a statement of fact. And then you make a personal observation supporting that fact that usually does. And then a dialogue probing question, is this new for anybody?

I was in the radio business. So I would call on a car dealer, the owner of a car dealership. I would go online today and say, in preparing for this meeting, I found this from the hedges and company that the median age of a BMW buyer, 56 years old. And there’s the research from hedges and company.

The average in the US population is 38, but the average BMW is 56 years old. So I’d say, “Our first BMW didn’t come until we went on our mid fifties. I know that by the way, I’ll be 89 years in two but our first, my 32 year old niece drives a Chevy cruise. And so I was wondering if you would talk about how you decide where you target your dealers advertising. What demographics do you target?”

So I’ve given them the facts, the observation, and now I asked the question. So now I’ve got this person thinking differently than just an answer. So that was an embedded question. The questions are better than the statement to tell me about this.

“I’d be interested in learning more about that. I’m wondering…”

Some people say it’s more polite way to question people. It seems less interrogation all and a little calmer.

This is the commercial for the book we didn’t talk about. I wrote this 23 Shockingly Simple Sales Ideas book, it came out in December of 2017.

And it was a compilation of 23 scripts from my audience that I post on Instant Sales Training, which is my website. It was just the name, one of the hundred best sales books of all time by book authority. So it’s probably not one of the a hundred best sales books of all times, but there are now 300 of those five minute knowledge bytes on the site. So if you want to check that out, there’s a lot of free information on there too, but I’d love to have you take a look at it.

Last couple things, and we can move on to the breakout sessions, but Brendan talks about questions about the past. When you ask ask a basic question about what are your goals, you’re going from the present to the future.

But he says perhaps the most important piece of the pie, the past, almost everyone forgets to ask about the course of events that led to the present and shaped the thinking that determines people’s future goals. Once we understand why the client is taking a particular approach and why it is traveling in a specific directions, these are salespeople to identify prospects pain, create need to change, present a solution.

So whenever possible, try to frame a chronological comparison in terms of the prospect’s history. We always ask about the future. We don’t ask about the past enough the Neil Reckham chimes in research done the last three or four years shows a customer’s rate of the value of a salesperson higher when they ask about future problems, not just about present problems.

And I love that the end of this, he talks about research done. He says, “I interviewed one buyer in this research who said to me, ‘If I fall into a pit, there are 50 salespeople who can sell me a ladder to climb out. There’s only a one 50 who can keep me from falling in the pit in the first place.’” And so having that future vision is important, but then Brendan says, you really need to know about the past as well.

So to me, these are the greatest thinkers we have selling today, but I want to share one other idea. Maybe you’ve seen this around. It’s not a new idea, but it’s a really easy way to do a consultation. It’s especially good if you’re working with a team and you want to find out what the team is thinking.

If you’re selling to a committee, it’s a great thing. And you can use a whiteboard or a blank sheet of paper or a flip chart. And I had a salesperson do this to me. So you founded this company in 1984. Here we are today. What did you do to become such a successful speaking business? And I start any, all he did was he drew five areas up from the day one to today.

And I told them, “Oh, well, I always have a handout. And I always do a lot of research that I pack my info with usable information.” And then he says, “What does the next level look like for you?” And I said, “Well, be the next billion dollars in sales adding speaker addict.” He said, “what’s holding you back? What are some of the forces that are keeping you from getting to that next level?”

Now I’ve done this with CEOs. I’ve done it with sales teams, management teams. And some people will say, “Well, I got to get the stock price up to $42, or I’m not going to make it. Or I’ve got to get two more locations in this market.

So I can maximize my advertising and sales. Well, but everybody knows what the next level is. Now we’ve asked about the paths what’s gotten you to where S the level of success, and what’s the next level for you. What’s gotten you to this level, what’s the next level, and what’s keep you from getting there.

So that’s called the force field analysis. I think it was developed by the national training labs many moons ago, but maybe a new idea. The first time somebody used that on me I told the salesperson things that I’ve never told anybody just by talking about the arrows. And then I went to a National Speakers Association Facilitation Lab.

I paid $5,000 to go to Scottsdale, Arizona, to the lab, and they spent an afternoon, three hours teaching this. I taught it to you in two and a half minutes. You could use this tomorrow. I’ve had people use it on a golf scorecard and have had people use it on whiteboards and flip charts.

So I will stop there and I will say that learning that doesn’t change your behavior in some ways it uses the parachute that opens on the first bounce. And so as we break out and go into the breakouts, we’re going to talk about some of the things we can do about some of this learning.

Chris Lytle

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