Interview with Blogger and Sales Leader Anthony Iannarino
Anthony IannarinoAnthony Iannarino is an international speaker, author, entrepreneur, and the Managing Director of B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy. He also owns part of his family’s staffing business, a company he has grown from 3M to 45M with a small sales force of 6 people. Anthony teaches Professional Selling, Persuasive Marketing, and Social Media Marketing at Capital University’s School of Management and Leadership.

Anthony is internationally recognized as a thought leader in sales, with his award winning The Sales Blog being read by 65,000 people each month. In addition to writing daily at The Sales Blog since 2010, Anthony is also a contributing editor at SUCCESS Magazine and ThinkSales Magazine. He also writes an occasional column for Forbes. Today, we are chatting with him about his latest book, The Only Sales Guide You'll Ever Need, some of the biggest mistakes salespeople make, and the future of sales.

Hi Anthony, thanks so much for stopping by the Activia Training website. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure. I’m an international speaker. I’m an author, mostly at thesalesblog.com where I write daily, but also of a new book called The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need. I’m a sales leader, managing a number of sales forces and businesses in which I’m a stakeholder. And I’m also an entrepreneur.

How did you find yourself working in sales coaching and consultancy?

After having built my family’s business from $3 million-$45 million, people started reaching out to me to ask me for help. For a long time, I resisted doing anything outside of the businesses I was running.

But around 2007, I decided to start helping other salespeople and sales organizations replicate the success that I’d had, and sharing the things I recognized as effective when it comes to sales strategies and tactics.

Your latest book, The Only Sales Guide You'll Ever Need, is coming out later this year. Could you tell us a little bit about it?

The Only Sales Guide You'll Ever NeedI thought you’d never ask! This book is a complete guide for salespeople and their sales managers. The book is broken into two halves, the first half containing the nine essential attributes a salesperson must have to succeed in sales now. This includes things like self-discipline, resourcefulness, initiative and a handful of other critical attributes.

The second half of the book are the eight skills that the salesperson needs now. What’s interesting for our purposes here are skill sets of a higher order, like business acumen, change management, and leadership. These skills weren’t always necessary, but another critical.

The book is really a field guide for salespeople to improve their own performance, or their sales manager to help improve their competencies and to coach them.

Why did you feel you needed to write this book? How does it stand out amongst other sales books?

I did have to write this book. I was offered opportunities to write a different book. When I look at salespeople, I believe that they are trying to do good work. But it’s difficult, maybe more difficult than any other time in history.

What I noticed was that salespeople and their managers could recognize poor performance, without recognizing the underlying root cause of the problem. They would say things like, “the salesperson doesn’t know how to prospect.” In their view, that was the challenge. But when I looked at the salesperson I recognized that they had no business acumen and struggled to have compelling conversations with clients at all.

We need to look at all the competencies required to sell effectively today, and that includes attributes and skills. One without the other isn’t nearly as effective as both combined.

Are you working on any new projects at the moment or what’s next for you?

Right now, my passion project is Iannarino Online, a membership site I’m building for individual salespeople, sales managers, entrepreneurs, and success-minded people. You can find it at Iannarino.io.

This is a learning platform for people who don’t have easy access to world-class training or the resources they need to take their game to another level. Big companies with big budgets spend a lot of money on training, but there aren’t very many offerings for the individual. I’m democratizing sales improvement.

I’m also working on book 2 right now, which will be out in August next year.

What is the single biggest mistake you see salespeople making nowadays?

There are so many to choose from. They’re not all mistakes though. Selling is just difficult, and you can do almost everything right and still lose. You can almost do everything wrong and still lose, too.

If I had to pick one, it would be spending too little time prospecting. Salespeople and sales organizations have gotten lazy when it comes to prospecting, believing inbound marketing should take care of their needs. But this isn’t happening, and so they are opportunity starved. Prospecting in a full pipeline inoculate you from almost any bad thing that can happen in sales. I’m in a call this the biggest.

If I had to pick a second-biggest it would be not recognizing how many commitments you really ask your client to make between targeting close. All those smaller commitments are what equals a win, not the final close when you ask for the client’s business. That final closes the easy one.

What mindset do you need to be in, in order to make a successful sale?

I love this question. I think we too often simply go through the motions of salespeople. For example, were supposed to be making a discovery call, so we think that the outcome is for us to ask questions and acquire answers from the prospective client. And this is true, but partial. Or we think that were supposed to be presenting a solution.

Almost any activity that you can describe should not be done mindlessly and without the intention of creating a preference for you and your solution. You need to be in the mindset of creating enough value for your prospective client so that you are preferred above all others. Does that mean you need to be known, liked, and trusted? It does. It also means you need to create economic value that your prospective client can say yes to.

Do you think some people are natural salespeople, or is it a skill anyone can learn?

I do believe some people are natural born salespeople. I’ve been thinking a lot about this. I started selling at a very, very young age. It came very natural to me, even when I didn’t recognize I was selling. I was always able to get work, because I was always able to sell myself. When I started a rock band, I had no trouble booking gigs for the band.

It is a skill that people can learn, but to pretend that there are natural attributes that make it easier for some people that other people lack isn’t fair. Some people are very uncomfortable in their own skin, and they don’t do well in sales. Some people have a tough time asking other people for commitments, and this makes selling very difficult for them.

Most people can learn to sell. It’s easy if you change your view of what selling is. Selling is really trying to help another person get an outcome that they can’t achieve without you. That’s it.

Anthony Iannarino speaking

How can having sales skills advance you in every day life?

If you are trying to get anything done, you need to sell. You need to gain agreements about what the future state needs to look like, and you need to gain commitments about what actions need to be taken, when they need to be taken, and who is going to complete them. That’s selling.

If you raise children, you are selling every day. You’re trying to sell them your values, and you’re trying to sell them on the things they need to do to grow up to be successful adults. They have to find it’s in their interest to say yes, and as someone with three teenagers, I can tell you this is a hard sell.

Honestly, if you want to succeed in business, there is no better place to start than sales. If you know how to win customers and deal with customer challenges, business is much easier.

Out of all the tools you provide in your book, which one do you find the most useful in your own life?

Easy. A discipline list. A discipline list is something very different than a goal. A goal can be completed. You can decide to run a marathon, run the marathon, and scratch that goal off your list. A discipline is different. It is something you do every day, no matter what, forever and ever.

Someone today told me that they had been reading my blog for many years. Early on he and his friends joked that I would stop writing any day, eventually running out of things to say. That was six years ago. Writing daily as a discipline for me. I don’t take any days off, and it is something I will do for the rest of my life. That’s a discipline.

Having a list of five or six things that you do this religiously will change your life.

What is the main thing you wish more people knew about sales?

There’s one thing I wish more people knew about sales. Selling is not something that you do to someone, it’s something you do for someone in with someone. Anyone who is still attached to the old stereotypical view of sales, doesn’t know anybody who sells.

How do you think the art of selling will evolve in the next few years?

Over the short term things won’t change much. But there is a long trend towards a requirement that a salesperson have greater business acumen, a greater ability to create value, greater situational awareness and expertise, and much higher accountability for achieving much greater outcomes.

I don’t believe that salespeople are going to go away anytime soon, but I do believe that anything that can be automated will be. This means if you can’t create value, you’re going to be redundant or irrelevant, or both.

Thanks for your insightful thoughts and for stopping by our site, Anthony - it was great to have you here!

Anthony’s new book, The Only Sales Guide You'll Ever Need, is coming out on the 11th October 2016, and is now available for pre-order on Amazon. If you'd like to see more from Anthony, check out his blog at thesalesblog.com, or say hello on Twitter at @iannarino.