Making money as a thought leader is no picnic. If it was, we wouldn’t cover it so much on this podcast!
But, despite upheaval in the industry and the often-cited argument that technology has nullified standard sales practices, the fundamental tenants of sales remain the same: being authentic and building trust with your potential clients.
To back this up and outline some of the ways you can remain true to these “core values” of successful sales, we’re joined by speaker, author, and sales guru Mark Hunter.
Also known as “The Sales Hunter,” Mark is a consultative selling expert and specializes in custom-tailored sales programs.
With more than 20 years of speaking experience and as a Certified Professional Speaker (CSP), Mark delivers programs around the world to help organizations, large and small, demystify their sales efforts and become sales masters themselves.
As always when Mark joins us, this episode was a stellar reminder of what to prioritize when selling, and we learned a lot. Hope you do, too!
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✅ Connect with Mark: https://www.linkedin.com/in/markhunter
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Intro: You know those moments when you’re doing what you love in your business, maybe it’s standing on stage or creating content, whatever it is, you’re totally immersed, and time just seems to slip by? This is called the Flow State. At Speaker Flow, we’re obsessed with how to get you there more often. Each week we’re joined by a new expert where we share stories, strategies, and systems to help craft a business you love. Welcome to Technically Speaking.
Austin: All right, boom. We made it. Hey, Mark, thank you so much for joining us today on Technically Speaking. We’re so happy to have you here.
Taylorr: Second time.
Mark: Thank you for having me on. I don’t know what we’re going to talk about, but, hey, we’re going to have a good show.
Taylorr: We don’t either.
Austin: That’s right.
Taylorr: Believe it or not. Yeah. So, little preparation over here at Speaker Flow.
Austin: Yeah. And we might throw you some curve balls, but I think you’ll be all right, I believe in you. And, yeah, second time on too. We’ve only had a couple of guests on a second time, so for whatever it’s worth, we think very highly of you, and you were loved the first time you were here, so the bar’s high, I guess; be prepared to hit it, I suppose.
Mark: Do I get a gift for that? Come on, showing up a second time, I should get some, sort of, a gift, right?
Taylorr: Yeah. A plaque.
Austin: We have a Rolex in the mail on its way to you right now, so keep an eye out for that.
Taylorr: Wow. Okay. Well, that’s news to me.
Mark: I was going to say, it’s a Rolex, right?
Taylorr: It’s a Rolex, yeah, for sure. Wish.com. We just got a comp Rolex.
Austin: Man, that’s right, thank you. Exactly. Oh, God. Yeah, we’re excited for this episode. We’re excited to be talking to another podcast host too. You know what it’s like to be on this side of the table. I think there’s some respect that happens when we interview people that also have shows. Nope. He’s shaking his head.
Taylorr: Mark’s like, Naw, these guys have no idea.
Mark: Not at all. Not at all. You’re on your own on this one, man.
Austin: Yikes. Wow. Off to a great start.
Taylorr: Man, just the disrespect.
Mark: The wheels on the bus go round and round.
Austin: Well, we feel like we’re constantly leveling up because of this interaction that we have with people, I’m sure you do too, to some degree. Can you think of an aha moment you’ve had recently on your own show that came from an interview that you had?
Mark: Yeah. One of the aha moments, and I get them every time I do a show, it’s this whole thing of proximity to power. This idea that, and this is isn’t from an ego perspective, but proximity to power means putting yourself in a position that you can see where power’s coming from. And that allows you to leverage situations, it allows you to take advantage, it allows you to contribute. It just raises you to another level.
Taylorr: Yeah. Interesting.
Austin: Do you find that being in the seat of the host of the show gives you that perspective?
Mark: No, not at all. Not at all.
Austin: Okay, fair enough. Oh, yeah. Well, that’s good. Well, yeah, so let’s dive into it, I guess. One of the things that we saw when we were doing some research before the show is your demo video, and I don’t know if this is the same demo video that I watched a couple of years ago before you came-on to the show. I don’t know if you recently redid that or not, but I guess you can tell us whether or not that’s true. But one of the things that you say in that video is that sales is all about making things possible that somebody doesn’t believe is possible to begin with. You say it more eloquently than that, but can you unpack that idea for us a little bit here? Because I think that’s different than most people think.
Mark: Yeah. Because if you think about it, sales, and think about your, typical, listener out there, a lot of people who are speakers, what’s our job? It’s really the same thing, it’s to help others see and achieve what they did not think was possible. If that doesn’t jazz you when you take the stage, if that doesn’t jazz you as you go into a sales call, something’s wrong.
Taylorr: That’s true. There seems to be a gap for folks, especially because sales is a dirty word for some, they hear that and they kind of want to run away or put a different label to it. And I think a lot of people believe that they have impact to create, largely that’s why they started their business, because they want to change perceptions and get people to take action. So, if that’s true, why is it so hard for folks to see that in the process of selling?
Mark: Well, because, here’s the simple thing. We all like to think that we’re better than we really are. We all self-elevate ourselves to this pinnacle of perfection. And it’s hard for other people to see that, and again, let’s go back to what sales is, it’s about helping others see and achieve what they didn’t think was possible. But the challenge is who’s going to accept that? Who’s going to accept that knowledge from you? Who’s going to accept that wisdom from you? The deal is that you first have to create that relationship. And sales is about creating relationships. And relationships in this post-covid world, even more so, have to be authentic and transparent, because everything about you is already known out there on the internet or somebody will make it up about you.
So, what this means is that you have to demonstrate a level of authenticity, transparency; you have to be genuine. Now, what does that do? That helps create trust. When you begin to create trust with somebody, well, then they’re going to become more confident to you and you’re going to become more confident in them. Now, what does that mean? That means conversations take on a completely different meaning. If you’re talking to somebody who you really don’t know, you’re going to be a little bit guarded with your conversation. Flip side, if you’re talking to somebody who you really know very well, you’re going to reveal everything to them. That’s the mark, that’s the level where we have to get to from a sales perspective if we’re truly going to help people. So, it starts with authenticity, to create trust, which ultimately creates confidence.
Taylorr: Yeah, I think, the last time we had you on this was March of 21, we were kind of mid-covid, I believe; still almost two years ago, I can’t even believe that. I don’t know where time goes, but do you think sales has changed much since then, you kind of alluded to this, that there needs to be more authenticity and trust, but I’m wondering, even if we zoom out a little bit, think over a hundred years, a few hundred years, how has sales really changed? Shouldn’t those things like authenticity and trust kind of be default? What’s your take on that?
Mark: You know what? Sales really hasn’t changed at all. It has not changed. It’s a conversation. Now, the medium with which we have the conversation has changed. It used to be years ago, it was face-to-face, now it might be way of Zoom or email or voicemail or social media, whatever. But it’s still; it’s an exchange of information between two parties. So, that element of sales has never changed. The whole level of authenticity and transparency that I was talking about earlier really hasn’t changed; it’s just been magnified because of covid. See, if you think about it; years ago, you lived in a little village and everybody you communicated with, you probably grew up with and you knew, right? That was your world.
So, tremendous amount of authenticity and transparency. We moved into the fifties, sixties, okay, eighties, nineties, this current century we’re in, and we become a mass market. We become a global market. Now, I think what we’re seeing is that, oh, guess what? Authenticity, this genuine connection of people is more important than ever. All we did was we just went back to where we were, probably a hundred years ago, living in a village.
Taylorr: Wow. That’s a good perspective.
Austin: I think it was important.
Austin: Yeah. Something that brings up, for me, is this sense of a genuine relationship, right? And I even think, if we use the example of the tribal times, right? Building a relationship meant, I think to some degree friendship, the trust factor, right? It builds because two people are connected to one another and, generally speaking, I think it’s because there’s not some ulterior motive. I think what a lot of people struggle with in sales is this idea of developing a relationship that still to some degree is rooted in transaction, because that’s the outcome that we want. We can’t just build the relationship, because that could just be friendship, right? So, where’s the line in the sand for you, right? How does somebody take an authentic relationship and also make money from that?
Mark: Yeah. Well, here’s the situation, we have to get transactional out of our vocabulary. There are always going to be transactions, I go to the grocery store, I buy stuff, I buy stuff online, that’s transaction. But the whole premise of a professional person selling anything from an intellectual standpoint or a professional salesperson, we can’t look at closing a sale; we have to look at it as opening a relationship. In other words, this whole idea, Hey, I closed this sale. Hey, I closed this deal. I got it, got it, got it. That is wrong, that is bad. It’s about opening a relationship. Because what that means is that I’m going to use this first opportunity to be able to interact with you, because you bought something from me, absolutely terrific. That you’re going to see value from what I’m giving you, that’s cool.
Well, guess what? That, hopefully, is going to open up the door because you’re going to want to come back and get more of me, or you’re going to share me with other people, you’re going to refer me to other people. All of these things. So, we have to get out of this transactional idea that it’s a one-off thing. Every contact you have, it’s about a relationship, and this is why I say every conversation I have, my goal is to earn the right, the privilege, honor and respect to be able to talk with you again. And if I do that, that’s a pretty cool thing. That’s a pretty cool thing. You do that enough and it’s amazing what happens because now people are truly trusting you.
Taylorr: Yeah. You’re really planting seeds at that point, I think. It’s an interesting way too, to measure success of your efforts in sales too, if we think about the individual speaker, coach, consultant, and they have to wear many hats; sales might not be their number one game. And so, as they’re kind of faced with the reality that, that needs to be a part of their business actively, that can be uncomfortable. And they may be measuring the success of those efforts by, to your language, closing deals, which is not the language we want to use, right? Rather than have I earned the right, the privilege, the honor to have future conversations with them.
And now you’re measuring your success of selling or engaging with new people to build relationships in a completely different way, and I believe that would at least help with the stickiness of doing more of that. Because now you’re measuring success based on do I have a new relationship now? Rather than did I actually bring money through the door?
Mark: And we have to look even beyond that. You say, okay, I have to close X number of engagements this quarter or get this consulting project or whatever to, that’s the scoreboard. That’s much like when you go to a game, that’s the scoreboard. The scoreboard is a result of the activities that are being done. See, those are the activities. That’s where we have to focus our effort. We all get into trouble when all we do is focus on the scoreboard. Because then we start doing desperate stupid stuff. Focus on the activity. What are the conversations you’re having? What are the relationships you’re creating? How are you helping other people? What are you doing for other people? It’s the activities we do.
Whenever somebody comes to me and they say, man, I’m not making my number, I’m not making my number for this quarter, I’m not making my number for this year. I always come back and I go, how much time have you spent prospecting the top of the funnel? And there’s a direct correlation. There is a direct correlation. When I see people who have credible wisdom, incredible knowledge, and we’ll say they’re gifted on the platform or they’re gifted from a consulting standpoint, whatever it might be. But they’re not getting any business. I go, well, hold it, you’re not prospecting. Yeah, but shouldn’t people find me. I’m sorry, it’s a noisy world out there. You have to bang your own gong.
So, you have to be prospecting out there. And prospecting is not just throwing a lot of stuff out onto LinkedIn or Facebook or Instagram or TikTok. No. That’s click and likes. And you can’t take those to the bank. I have to have meaningful conversations. I have to pick up the phone, I have to call people.
Taylorr: Yeah. This actually brings something up for me. We kind of get this a lot. So, let’s assume; Mark, you’re running a fairly successful business, you get a lot of referrals and some inbound traffic, of course; you have a name for yourself. Congratulations, by the way, on making sales professionals list recently. Very cool. And some people will reach that mark, right? They’re going to segue away from; I don’t have any inbound stuff or referrals, so it’s really heavy on the prospecting and lead gen front. And then eventually that starts picking up. And what can happen for a lot of people is they now neglect that active business generation because we’re comfy.
We get a bunch of leads coming in inbound, we get people hitting our contact form, we’re getting referrals. Now, of course, it’s not predictable, but it’s paying the bills and we’re taking some money home afterward. Is that a good enough excuse to stop prospecting? Or in other words, does prospecting on top of funnel ever fade out of a business?
Mark: Prospecting top of the funnel can never, ever, ever fade out. I’ll give you an example from my own business. When I first went out on my own, I was doing primarily consulting. And I had some large consulting projects with several Fortune 500 companies. And I was on my way to China for a two-week engagement. Things were great. I thought, this is great. My business has never been better. I’m going to China, this is a great opportunity. When I got off the plane coming back from China, within about three days, these four major clients had all gone, poof. Had all gone, poof. And I was looking at zero revenue.
Because what had happened, I was relying on these existing clients, I was relying on just stuff rolling in. And that taught me right there, prospecting is a muscle and you better exercise it every day. I don’t care who you are, pick up the phone. There are always people. So, the person who’s been in business a long time says, oh, I get a lot of inbound stuff. That’s great, that’s great. But you know what? I’m sure there are people who you haven’t talked to in a year or two. You better pick up the phone and you better call them. You better have a consistent, and this is where what you do is so key because it allows us to create a consistent cadence for every six weeks or every quarter or every month or every two weeks, whatever it is.
I can be reaching out to you, touching base with you, talking to you, bringing you value. That’s how I keep the business full. You have to have a mix of business from, really, four different places. One is just inbound, stuff that just falls in your lap. Boom, great. Love it. Two, business from existing customers. Okay, that’s great. Terrific. Three, business by way of referrals and four prospecting. You have to have business coming from all four of those. And you really have to be measuring that because that’s how you keep balance and you keep a healthy business.
Austin: Yeah. We have seen that for our own business, we see that the people that have that balance are, typically, the ones that have the most staying power in the industry over time. You think of some of the most respected names in the NSA community, for example, David Avrin comes to mind, he’s somebody that has been preaching this gospel forever and living it. And so, I think that it’s not hard to find real world examples of that being successful. And yet, Taylorr and I just finished processing our data from the state of the speaking industry report and it is consistently shocking to us how few people take what you’re saying seriously. Where is the gap for people here? Why is that, even though experts like you preach this from the rooftops, and you can find examples of this everywhere, people still struggle so hard to do what you’re saying?
Mark: Because they’re afraid to pick up the phone and have a conversation. Wait, hold it. You’re going to stand on the stage and you’re going to talk to people, hundreds or thousands of people, but you can’t have a one-to-one conversation. Something’s wrong. Now, here’s the gap that I see. And the light bulb really came off me. When you really start looking at the top players in NSA, National Speaker Association, they’re all out there selling. They are all out there selling. And people down, lower down, guess what? They’re the ones who aren’t selling. They’re waiting for somebody to do something for them; they’re waiting for something to do something.
Every day, I am proactive in making phone calls. Every day. You have to. And here’s what’s cool. It isn’t like you have to make 10,000 phone calls. I have found that if I make three to five calls every day, life is good. The calendar stays full. My calendar right now it is bulging, because, again, it’s just consistency. Consistency. And this, again, is what the average person in the industry, because they think, oh, I’m so good, I’m going to deliver one speech and next week I’ll be on Oprah’s show. Well, let me tell you something, Oprah’s show has been canceled. Oh, I’ll be on Ellen DeGeneres. Oh, excuse me, that show’s canceled, not on the air. So, guess what? You can’t wait for other people to create your success. You have to create your level of success. Period.
Austin: Personal accountability.
Taylorr: Yeah, for sure.
Austin: That’s the gospel right there.
Mark: But it’s hard medicine.
Taylorr: It is.
Mark: For people to accept. Because, again, they want everybody else that, wow, if I just do this one engagement, everything is going to fall in place or this is going to happen. Or if I do this one post on social media. I’m fortunate, I happen to have over 300,000 followers on LinkedIn. And I’m not anywhere close to being a LinkedIn expert, in terms of understanding it. But that doesn’t pay my bills. Yeah, I get business off of it, I get some business off of it, but I have to still be doing everything else out there, I have to. You can never step away from prospecting; you can never step away from selling.
Taylorr: It’s a good lesson.
Taylorr: So, you say that, I think what I heard, at least; is fear of picking up the phone and doing the thing is kind of what’s limiting people here. But that might be the root, so I want you to help me understand this. But what seems to be the facade of all of that is it’s not worth my time. Rarely when I ask somebody, especially in this industry, why aren’t you selling? Do they say I’m afraid, right? It’s a vulnerable position to come from as well, so let’s honor that. But almost certainly what the most common thing I hear is it’s not worth my time. I can be out there creating content, I can be out there delivering for my clients, which they don’t have enough of. I can do X, Y, and Z, write a book or whatever. It’s almost as if selling is beneath them, when I hear that statement. What do you have to say to that?
Mark: I hear that a lot because what they’re doing is they’re making an excuse. They’re making an excuse. I want to write this book, I want to write this book, I want to write this book. Well, let me tell you something, writing a book is really easy. It’s selling a book that’s hard, right? Crafting a keynote is easy, selling the keynote, that’s hard. See, so what we do is we gravitate toward, and I hate to be calling this out, but we gravitate to that which we like doing. I enjoy doing that, believe me, I enjoy doing that. I enjoy being able to go into the studio, make videos, et cetera, et cetera.
But, again, I have to spend my time selling. Now, here’s a question that I ask people. I said, did you forget to use the restroom today? No. Did you forget to eat today? No. Did you forget to sleep today? No. There are certain things that everybody does every day. Prospecting and selling needs to be one of those essentials. Again, I look at people at the top of the food chain in the National Speaker Association. Every one of them is incredibly deliberate in their selling process. Incredibly deliberate. And that’s why they’re successful.
Austin: It’s true. It’s a system, right? The whole point of having a system is that it’s a repeatable process that if followed every time gives you a predictable result. If you turn it into a system, it doesn’t even have to be that hard. I think so many people look at this conversation like it’s going to take tens of hours of work every week and that you just have to suffer through it. It doesn’t have to be that way. Well, and if you’re going to do what you you’re saying right now, Mark, it can’t be something that you suffer through. If it’s going to be repeatable, you have to see the good in it; otherwise it defies what repeatable means to begin with for a person, right?
Mark: Yeah, it does. And this is where I will sit there and say that the most success, and again, I’m going to go back to the most successful people you see in the National Speaker Association are incredibly disciplined. They’re incredibly disciplined. They have a very set routine with how they do their day and they don’t deviate from it. So, again, this whole selling piece is geared into that. And if we’re not willing to make that move, see this whole thing, because so many times we talk about, oh, this is a lifestyle job for me, this is a lifestyle job. Well, so is standing on a corner with a cardboard sign, that’s a lifestyle. Okay, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to, but I’m kind of even.
Taylorr: I get the point, though.
Mark: Well, I’m kind of being blunt.
Taylorr: Please do.
Mark: Because, again, if we’re not willing to be disciplined, I get up every morning at 4:30 and I have a very strong discipline to the first 90 minutes of my day, period. Very strong. And I also have a deal, I talk about this from the stage; that you want to have accomplished something significant before 10:00 AM every day. Before 10:00 AM you want to have accomplished something significant. It keeps you on track, it keeps you focused. When you stay focused, it’s amazing how much more you get done. Really what it comes down to, it’s managing yourself. If you can’t lead yourself, how can you lead anybody else? Again, I’m being blunt, but, man, sometimes you [Inaudible – 23:43].
Taylorr: Change the gears.
Austin: The problem with entrepreneurialism too is people need to hear this or else they’ll spend their entire essence of being an entrepreneur, being an employee.
Taylorr: As a freelancer?
Austin: To themselves.
Austin: And then nothing gets done. They can’t manage themselves so nothing gets done and they’re forever trapped in this cycle. It’s one of those paradoxes, I think, where sometimes restricting yourself actually creates more freedom for yourself because the.
Austin: I can hear you jumping in. Let’s go.
Mark: Yeah. I get to work with a lot of startups and there are various startups I’ve been an investor in and others I’ve not. And these are all started by founders, people who start these companies; they go out and raise money, et cetera, et cetera. And some of these found, and I’m working with one right now and I’m trying to say quit chasing the shiny object, you have to get focused. You have to get focused. And all he does is he runs off here and here and it’s like, dude, you’re never going to get to your A round of funding. Okay, I’m going down a rabbit hole here. But you’re never going to get there because he’s chasing too many shiny.
And this is what I see a lot of speakers doing. They go, oh, wow, this is a great topic. I’m going to develop this or I’m going to create this, I’m going to start this, I’m going to do this. No. Know what your outcome is that you create. There’s a great book out called The One Thing. The One Thing. And I really strongly suggest everybody read it. Because it’s about understanding what is your one thing, can you stay with it? And the other book that I highly suggest is called Deep Work. Deep Work, it’s about where you get so focused on something, you are lasered in on it. And, again, I think those are two books that everybody in the National Speaker Association could benefit from.
Taylorr: Well, for sure. Well, this is a great segue for one of our questions kind of about the future here. Because I think we kind of laid out the land, fundamentally over the last hundred years or whatever, sales really hasn’t changed too much; we have to put in the effort, we have to build the relationships, be authentic. The way in which we go about that is different, back in the village days, to our point earlier; we already had some trust there, so you had almost a jumping off point. Now, that we’re global in the present, you have to develop that trust and that authenticity or that trust to be authentic in the first place. And speaking of shiny objects, right?
We have the, now wonderful uprising of ChatGPT, these AI tools. And I already hear so many people going down this path. It can write all of my sales scripts for me, it can write me a phone script, I can do all of my email templates through here. I can just have it all created and then I can automate everything and then not even have to worry about it. And now I’m sitting on a beach sipping some drinks and everything’s all well and fine. So, to that end, especially with the rise of AI coming into our lives, I think the next 5 to 10 years are going to be very particularly interesting. How do you foresee sales evolving and what do people need to be cautious of, as time tricks on here?
Mark: Yeah, I can look at my own website, thesaleshunter.com and I could say ChatGPT, rewrite my website. I have tons of eBooks out there. Rewrite all. I could very easily. But here’s what ChatGPT cannot do. And, again, stop and think about this. ChatGPT is just the next generation of Google search. 25 years ago, we went to the library to do all of our research. Then along came Google. Okay. This is just the next generation of it. But here’s where the challenge is. We, as a person, have never been more valuable as we are today.
Because, again, authenticity, integrity, trust, confidence, those are only going to come through because of a personality of you or me. That’s it. That’s it. ChatGPT will never, ever, ever trust. I might be able to trust the content. You might be able to, but look what just happened the other day with Google when they released their new version; oops, little bit of a mistake. And their stock lost a hundred million dollars in value. You see, the integrity of what we still find on the internet will always be, eh, suspect. I want to have a body. My role as an intellectual expert has never been more valuable than it is today because I’m going to be called in on more situations to actually de-educate people because they’ve been educated because of ChatGPT.
That’s why I’m bullish on the future of what we get to do every day, whether it be taking the stage, whether it be in the boardroom, whether it be in the training center, it does not matter. Our future is bullish because of ChatGPT. That’s why I like it.