This Asher Sales Sense Podcast – “Selling with Authentic Persuasion” – features host John Asher with guest Jason Cutter, Sales Success Architect and Keynote Speaker in Fort Myers, Florida. Jason is the CEO and Founder of the Cutter Consulting Group and the author of the book with the same name as this episode’s title – Selling With Authentic Persuasion: Transform from Order Taker to Quota Breaker. Jason is also the host of the Authentic Persuasion Show, the Scalable Call Center Sales podcast, and Call Center Confidence with Cutter & Catt.
About John’s Guest:
With a degree in Marine Biology, years of experience tagging sharks, then time spent at Microsoft on the tech support team, Jason didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. He fell into sales at age 27, following the path of so many others: no plans on being in sales, no training, no coaching, and no real leadership. But after 18 successful years in sales seeing so many sales teams struggle, he’s made it his mission to empower over one million people to become AUTHENTIC PERSUADERS.
- What was it about his path in life that led to an ability to sell so effectively?
- Why do most people end up in a sales role/career?
- And why do most of them end up being an “Order Taker” in their sales role?
- What can you do if you are in sales, but don’t feel like a ‘natural-born salesperson’?
- What are the keys to becoming effective at sales?
- Why do sales slumps happen?
- How have buyers changed over time?
- What can business owners do to support their sales team in being more effective?
Listen to the answers to these questions and learn how to transform from being an Order Taker to Quota Breaker.
Dave: I’m Dave in the Asher Strategies studio in Washington, DC. Our host today is John Asher, CEO and Founder of Asher Strategies. John’s guest is Jason Cutter, sales success architect and keynote speaker in Fort Myers, Florida. Jason is the CEO and founder of Cutter Consulting Group and the author of the book with the same name as the title of this episode, Selling with Authentic Persuasion. Over to you, John.
John: Well, Jason, thanks so much for coming on the show. I’ve got a little place in Bradenton, right up the coast from you.
Jason: Yeah, not too far. Thanks for having me. I appreciate being here. I’m excited to chat about sales, authenticity, or wherever this goes.
John: All right, terrific. I like the name of your book. It’s certainly a different name. How’d you come up with the name?
Jason: It was actually a long journey and what’s fascinating is I wrote the book. The book was in the final editing phases and I still literally had no title. What I had was the framework that I had used in my selling and then helped hundreds of people in their selling when I was managing companies, leading call centers, sales teams, mostly telephone sales. I had written the book, which was the culmination of my career to that point. It was interesting because I didn’t have a title for it for a while. Then I finally just sat down and said, “I need to come up with the title,” and inspiration hit, and I was writing out words, and then authentic persuasion was born. Those two words encapsulated both important parts of what I think makes for a successful sales professional.
John: All right, great. I remember when I wrote my second book, we had it as the title of our training course, Top 10 Skills of the Elite Sales People. The publisher took it to one of the… I think it was Ingram where they had 40 salespeople and proposed it to them and they came up with a much better title, Close Deals Faster, and that became the name of the book. My name was pretty mundane and lousy according to them. That’s how I got the name of my second book. The name of your book, the first thing that can come to mind for people is, “Okay, what’s an inauthentic conversation, what do you mean by that name authentic”? I know what authentic means and I know what persuasion means, but what does it mean, the two together?
Jason: That’s a great question. There’s a lot of people I’ve talked to who we can debate some terminology, right? Some people dislike authenticity. It’s so overused in the media and it’s the word of the day where you should be authentic and companies should be authentic. Some people prefer transparency, something along those lines. But in the framework of authentic persuasion, the authentic part refers to the salesperson, the persuasion part refers to the act of what they should be doing, which is persuading the right people to move forward. On the authentic side, a lot of it has to come down to where people who get into sales or fall into sales as I did without that being a career path, think that to be an effective salesperson, they have to act a certain way, do a certain thing, say certain things and essentially copy either what they’ve seen in the world or what they’ve seen in movies that are generally terrible movies to try to copy.
Jason: What happens is they think that’s what it takes to sell. What I found is that’s very, very much not true. The more you try to be a certain thing, in any career that you’re doing, especially in sales, people will detect it. It’s hard to act and pretend and fake something long-term as a successful career. Short term, yes, long term, no. A lot of people think I have to be overly charismatic. I have to be a storyteller. I have to be an extrovert, I have to be schmoozy. I have to do all of these things to be effective. The basis of it is that the more you can be who you are and rely on your strengths while understanding why you’re in sales and the value you bring and why you want to sell what you’re selling and help the people that you help, that will go much further than pretending to be something else.
John: Oh, I agree. Those are those humans who’ve been around for a while, can pretty much sniff out who’s authentic and who isn’t pretty quickly, I would say.
Jason: That’s the fundamental thing, right? Is that when we all think about ourselves as consumers, we know what that experience is like. We know when it just feels… and this is the word I’ve been using for the last year, we know when it feels gross. When it’s just like, “Ah, that’s not…” even if I end up buying, I still don’t enjoy that, and I’m not going to do that again from that person or that company. But unfortunately, people fall in sales and they think, “Okay, but that’s what it takes”. Or they think that’s what it takes to be successful. If I’m not doing that, then I’m probably going to fail versus them effectively being themselves.
John: One of the things we’ve always taught is there are three things that are helpful as you’re a salesperson and people can get it pretty quickly. That is showing gratitude. Thank you for coming to the meeting with me, and showing empathy, being able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. As you say, authenticity, and so we can sniff it out pretty early when somebody’s inauthentic or trying to be somebody they’re not. That’s good. I like that word a lot, authentic. Now let’s go to persuasion. How do you persuade somebody?
Jason: Well, and this is where again, it gets into dialogue and word choice. It’s very clear when we look at the opposite or another word that the people associate with sales, which is manipulation, right? A manipulation, when you look at the definition is purely about, I’m doing something to something else and it’s for my benefit and I don’t necessarily care what happens to it, right? I’m manipulating clay into a vase. I don’t care what the clay thinks, here’s what I’m going to do. In sales, that’s “I’m going to manipulate you if you benefit from this or not that’s not my concern. my concern is me winning”. Then persuasion is a little vaguer in the definition. I use positive persuasion, which is, I want to persuade you in some positive outcome for your benefits, and that’s important because when we talk about sales, it should always be predicated on if somebody is a good fit.
Jason: If they qualify for what it is that you’re selling, right. They have problem X, I have solution X, they have goal Y, I have solution Y, and then from there, the persuading part happens. The act of persuading and the reason why I put that in there… you mention the title of the book, I think it’s important, and I love the subtitle and some people like it even more, the subtitle of the book is to Transform from Order Taker to Quota Breaker. What happens is a lot of people like myself fall into sales, end up being order takers, again, because they think selling takes manipulation. They’re not persuading, they’re not an active participant when it comes to the conversation. They’re nice. They follow Bob Berg’s advice, right. They get people to know, like, and trust them. They hope that that’s going to do enough of the selling and that’s going to convince people.
Jason: It doesn’t because that’s part of the formula, but not all of it. Persuasion for someone else’s benefit to help them get to a better place is really about getting them unstuck. Because fundamentally, if somebody has not yet bought from your company, which means they didn’t go online or they didn’t call up and say, “Here’s my money, please take it and sign me up, I don’t need your help”. Then that means they’re in their comfort zone. They’re unsure. They’re worried about what is the right outcome. They’re looking for wisdom and as a sales professional, using authentic persuasion, you’re persuading them out of their comfort zone while still making them feel safe.
John: I like that. To give an example, there’s… we teach a number of cognitive biases, and one of them is called a rhyming bias, and that is we humans remember things that rhyme more than things that don’t rhyme. That’s why your subtitle, sounds so good to me. Right. It’s a rhyme, people will remember it a lot better. You’re right nobody wants to be manipulated. Those of us who’ve been in sales for a long time like Dave and me, and you recognize that using biases and old brain activators to wake up the buyer’s decision-making brain, is really about positively influencing them, right? Not about negatively influencing them by manipulation. That’s good. Now I get the whole deal behind your book. I like it. Excellent. How did you first get into sales Jason? Said… you intubated this, you fell into it.
Jason: I went the way that most salespeople turned consultant, author, podcast host, professional speaker most of us go. I got a bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology and I tagged sharks for years in and around Santa Cruz. Funny enough that didn’t work out most, not because of… I still have all my fingers and toast that part was okay. But in that field, you have to do a lot more schooling to get a job, and I realized that job was going to be mostly research and I wasn’t passionate about it. I couldn’t even get an $8 an hour job scrubbing boats at the time. I took that as a sign of maybe I should do something else. Before marine biology and going on in that focus, I was a late-blooming only child and didn’t fit in, awkward, shy.
Jason: I chose sharks instead of people. But then I realized as I got older that I was okay with people, and I did well with people and I could help them. Worked at Microsoft, doing tech support. I thought I wanted to be in computers, that ended. Then I had an opportunity to go into the mortgage business, which in 2002 was the height of the real estate boom, especially in Seattle, Washington. It was pure order taking, literally learned nothing about selling. I did learn how to screw up deals, but I didn’t learn anything about actually selling and that kicked it off where I equated sales… at that point, I equated sales with helping people. I didn’t even see myself as a salesperson for probably another five years after that point.
John: Interesting. I have a similar background. You’re a marine biologist. I’m a physicist by education and an engineer by training, but I couldn’t do real work. I hated real work. I got lots of friends here in DC who will say, “If you can’t get into real work, can’t do real work, then get into sales”. I’m sensing you’ve been a sales guy for… I don’t know, 35 years?
Jason: Love it.
John: I like that. I like your story, your background. Now that you’re there and on the top of the heap from a sales training standpoint, to what do you attribute your sales success? How did you learn sales as you came up the line?
Jason: I think it’s a culmination of factors. I think one of the things that played against me for a long time, but then ultimately helped me was the fact that not only did I have an awkward, shy, bullied childhood growing up, but I am also the product of two very analytical parents. My mom was a banker and moved up and around in organizations before she retired. My dad was an engineer, moved up to program director, and manager and leader, but in engineering. My mom hated salespeople, especially from the banker side. I was raised to hate sales as well, and see sales as really gross and dirty. When I was in it, before I even realized I was doing sales, I didn’t think of myself as sales. I just thought I was helping people and solving problems.
Jason: That part of my brain, which led me into marine biology and probably you into the physicist and the science and whatnot is that’s solving problems. When you see a situation, then you want to figure it out. I learned to apply that to people and their situations and helping them out. Also because I didn’t have any traditional sales upbringing, even in all of my sales career at companies, I have received zero minutes of training where somebody sat me down and said, “Here’s how you overcome objections. Here’s what you say. Here’s how to close a deal. Here’s how to use a script. Here’s how to read body language. Here’s how to receive zero…” it’s all self-taught.
Jason: I think that was helpful because I got to see myself and what others did and learn it in a way that worked for me, thus the book. That’s what I helped people with. It’s not so much of like “Here, you have to do these things, it’s, here are the principles that are successful for you”. I think that’s helped me be… it be universally applicable, right. I have clients right now that are in B2B software, retail furniture, business to consumer energy. I’ve had clients all over the place with their sales teams and at some basic level, the principles of sales that could help people are similar.
John: Jason, thank you for that insight. Now, just to pick it back up, you mentioned several different clients, B2C… B2B. When you have an engagement, what are you doing for the clients?
Jason: It ranges. All of it is focused on their sales operations. David mentioned, in the beginning, the sales success architect focus that I have, it’s really about helping sales, operations, scale, build systems and processes. There’s a lot of organizations and teams out there that I consider playing sales. They look at sales, especially depending on where the founder or CEO is coming from in their perspective. They think if I hire some sales, people who know what they’re doing and let them loose, they’ll know what to do and they will make us money. That usually leads to really high turnover challenges, maybe even bad sales because the salesperson’s motivated on their motivations and compensation and not the big picture.
Jason: I do a lot of system-building processes, organizing leadership development. A lot of people get promoted into leadership because they were good in sales, but not given any tools and leadership is a completely different skill. Then I spend a lot of time training salespeople and training leaders on following through with the salespeople and helping them sell in a very effective way for them. Training workshop, coaching programs. Again, ultimately anything to help the salespeople sell more, better retention of the company, and fundamentally just a better bottom line.
John: When you look at an effective salesperson, they usually are pretty good at product knowledge, obviously you have to know what you’re talking about. They’re pretty good at selling skills that they’ve learned or been taught by you or others. They’re usually motivated and they usually, but not always, have a good sales manager who’s helping them. Usually, the company they’re working for has good processes and gives them the right tools. Lastly, they have a nice talent for sales. They like sales. They like being in sales, because what it takes to be successful in sales is that’s part of their personality, it’s what they love to do. Of all those various factors, which ones have you found that are the top of the heap for importance for salespeople?
Jason: I think those are… I think that’s a great list, especially in the terms that you put it in. Having the desire to sell and enjoying it. There’s a lot of people who get into it and they, no matter what, it’s just… it’s not the right fit for them. Right. They just feel at odds. Sometimes that’s training, sometimes it’s just mindset. They don’t understand, again, that sales is service. It’s not something you’re doing to somebody, but it’s something you’re doing for and with them. I think you said some things in there that you and I both always wish were true, but is not, which is a company that supports their salespeople and gives them the tools and the training and knows actually how to cultivate and nurture that. I think for me, the big traits that I put in the book, which I have seen are the fundamental overall ones more on the individual salesperson would be openness, curiosity, creativity, persistence, and authenticity.
Jason: Those five in particular and in that order, I have found lead to very successful salespeople. Even if someone has no sales experience in the past, if they’re open and they’re curious in that order, then they will take feedback. They’ll want to learn. The rest of it will go from there. The same is true because all three of us know this and have seen it. If you’ve got a seasoned veteran who’s been selling for a long time and they are not open, they will not do well at a new company because they will try to force their process onto a different company sales model. It just doesn’t work unless they’re selling this same exact thing.
John: Just because it’s five and people have a hard time remembering five, we can all remember three. Just repeat for the audience, those five for you. Openness, curious.
Jason: The five are openness, curiosity, creativity, persistence, and authenticity. Again, those top three are the most important, openness, curiosity, and creativity, because that will lead to the other things. Most people think persistence and grit is number one for sales, but you can be persistently gritty in the wrong direction and not open to feedback and who knows what’s going to happen.
John: By openness, you mean open to feedback or open to learning or open to-
Jason: Yes, actually all of that. Open to feedback, open to learning, open to when your manager says, “Hey, we’ve got a new script we’re rolling out, and we found this is effective. We want you to try using this in your conversation”. Somebody who says, “Okay, I trust you. You are in the business of making money. You say, I should try this. I will try this”.
John: Got it. I like what you said about mindset and problem-solving. That is in my experience when you look at the salespeople who are passive listeners, and doing all the things that they should not be doing then, and trying to close too soon and all those things. Then the savvy buyers consider that those salespeople have commissioned breath. Meaning that the buyer knows the salesperson is just after a commission. On the other hand, when you have an active listener and they had this whole new mindset that you’ve already mentioned and their mindset is, I’m not a salesperson, I’m a problem solver and my metric is the number of problems solved, not how many deals I’ve closed. Then the buyers can see that and immediately sense it, pretty much immediately. I agree with your five. All good.
Jason: I agree with that. That’s the thing is that buyers can sense it, now here’s the challenge is that buyers sometimes will still buy, even with that commission breath, even when they know the salesperson cares more about their situation than the potential customer. If there’s a need and the customer knows they want it or need it, they’ll tolerate it and put up with it, which just gives some people the idea, “Oh, that does work, so I’ll just keep doing it”. Then what you hear on the flip side of that is… sales is a numbers game, right. Which it is, it’s always a numbers game, but what numbers are you watching? Is it a numbers game of, “I got to talk to a hundred people to sell one”, you might be doing something wrong. “I got to talk to a hundred people to sell 10, 15, 20”, well, that’s a different numbers game than the commission breath numbers game.
John: Right. Speaking of that, there’s a lot of metrics associated with salespeople. If you take a… let’s say you’re going to start working for a company that’s got five, 10, 20 salespeople, say B2B, and you ask the sales manager or the CEO “What’s your main metric? What can I do with your sales force that would please you the most”? What do you hear from those prospects? To them what’s the most important metric?
Jason: One of the biggest things I hear a lot, which is… might be surprising depending on who’s listening to this, is the consistency part, from a lot of owners and top-level executives when chatting with them, they know they want to make more. They know they want more revenue, they want lower turnover. They want all of these things. But a lot of them say, “I just… I want them to do it consistently”. Right. There’s nothing harder from a business perspective. Then I will also argue from an individual salesperson’s perspective. Then to close depending on what you’re doing, five deals this week, and one deal next week, and then 10 deals, and then zero, and then eight and then two, that up and down is so mentally and financially painful. It’s tough for a company. A lot of what companies want before they even think about growing, like ” Yes, we would love them to all do 10 deals a week, but for now, can you just get them to consistently do five? And then we can build up from there”.
John: I had a great mentor way back when, not too far different from what you said, but certainly related. That he says when you take… and that is when you take an existing sales force, if you can cause their closing rate to increase from whatever it is, 33% to 50% or whatever it is, then not only do you have more revenue, but profitability goes sky high because you are increasing the sales you’re getting without any increase in the so-called SG&A expenses, because you’re getting more productivity out the current salespeople. You don’t have to have more office space or more admin costs or hire more salespeople, on and on. That’s always stuck with me as a really important metric.
Jason: I think the closing rate and the closing percentage are important. I think one of the challenges that I have seen though on the flip side of that, is a lot of salespeople and sales managers who put everything on the closing percentage without even looking at other metrics as well. I think you have to look holistically at a lot of those when you get into that level because going from a 33 to a 40% closing rate is great, but how many of those deals stay? How many of those people retain long term, versus how many do they cancel? Because I’ve seen some salespeople close more deals today, that then cancel tomorrow or return next week. I think that retention is important. I think quality, what’s being said, compliance in the act of that sale. Then it also depends on what your marketing is like.
Jason: I deal with a lot of organizations that have multiple lead sources. The closing percentage on, let’s say a direct mail phone call that is expensive is different than a closing percentage on a Facebook ad call, but they have two different costs. How do you tell, okay, “I’m closing bad here, but I’m making the company more money”. I developed a formula called the closing effectiveness score, which then balances a lot of those factors out to give you a number, a ranking number to then tell how the team or the individuals are doing.
John: You call that the closing…?
Jason: Closing effectiveness score.
Dave: John, unfortunately it’s time for the wrap-up.
John: Dave, we were just getting started.
Jason: Come on Dave.
Dave: I’d like to bend time, but I can’t.
John: Well, Jason, so great to have you on the show, really enjoyed the conversation. If there was a couple of ideas you could leave with our listeners that you think are the most important or would be the most impactful for them, please let them know. Also, let people know how to get ahold of you if they’d like further information.
Jason: Well, I think that the two biggest things I’m thinking about are to keep it simple, is remember that sales is service, in my opinion when it’s done right by a professional it’s something you’re doing for and with somebody not to them. That really can affect both your mindset about how you feel about what you’re doing and then also the outcome and what you’re doing in the conversation because you’re doing it with them and you want to help them. Like you said, problem solver. I think the second thing, and this is my default number one go-to advice when anyone says, “Well, how do I close more deals”? And they want an answer right now, I say, “When in doubt, do the opposite of what you think a salesperson does”. Just do the opposite, right. Say and do the opposite. Now that doesn’t mean being passive and an order taker.
Jason: It means don’t do the things that people don’t like about salespeople. I promise you’ll probably win right away much more. We’ll leave it at that. Then for people who want to follow up, want to get the book, I… you can buy them directly from me. I’ll sign it and send it to you. I have… like I said, podcast and other exciting things going on, but it’s really simple. jasoncutter.com. That’s J-A-S-O-N-C-U-T-T-E-R, just like it sounds jasoncutter.com, which is the hub for everything that I have available.
John: All right. Terrific. Thanks so much, Jason.
Jason: Appreciate it. Thanks for having me.
Dave: Thank you both. That’s all the time we have for today. For our listeners be sure to subscribe to Asher Strategies radio on apple podcasts or your favorite podcast venue. You can also ask Alexa or Siri to play Asher Strategies radio. From now, until we meet again, John Asher reminds us to please, please get out there and sell something
Susan: Over 200 correlation studies show that natural aptitude is the most significant factor in predicting sales success. Asher’s advanced personality questionnaire, the APQ consistently identifies peak performers in outside sales, inside sales, sales management, number support, and 17 other business positions. Go to asherstrategies.com today, or call 866-833-9941. That’s Asher Strategies at 866-833-9941.