Episode 5 with Mike Montague
Becoming A Pro at Sales Even if You Hate Selling

Mike Montague is a certified trainer and VP of online learning at the largest sales training organization in the world, Sandler Training. He is host of the How to Succeed podcast and creator of the social selling success course where he teaches the skills required to increase your sales pipeline well over six, seven, and even eight figures.

Becoming A Pro at Sales Even if You Hate Selling

Mike Montague is a certified trainer and VP of online learning at the largest sales training organization in the world, Sandler Training. He is host of the How to Succeed podcast and creator of the social selling success course where he teaches the skills required to increase your sales pipeline well over six, seven, and even eight figures.

In this episode, he shares:

  • How to be viewed as a consultant rather than a salesperson:

    Sales isn’t about fast-talking and overselling features; you’ll get further by being viewed as an expert.

  • How to fix things at the lead generation stage:

    Having more prospects in the pipeline allows you to be more selective about choosing who to work with.

  • How to put together a prospecting plan that allows you to chase your dream clients:

    The process you need from choosing these prospects to following up.

  • Distinguishing between rabbit, deer and elephant clients:

    How to move into different leagues of clients, and which ones you should focus on.

  • Why you could be losing jobs because you’re too cheap:

    Discounts are not deals for higher ticket companies.

  • The difference between sales and marketing:

    And how you need to use both to land big deals.

Full transcript

Juan

You're listening to the Six-Figure Freelancer audio course, brought to you by And Co from Fiverr. We interview top professionals who share their exact formulas for success in starting, growing, and maintaining a six-figure freelance career. And I'm your host, Juan Felipe Campos. Okay, freelance masterminds, remember: on every episode of the Audio Course, there's a giveaway of digital goods or resources from our partners that other people don't have access to. To get your audio course resources, subscribe to the audio course on iTunes and then visit and.co/resources. Again, that's a n, d dot c o slash resources to access your digital goods.

Juan

Mike Montague is a certified trainer and VP of online learning at the largest sales training organization in the world, Sandler Training. He is host of the How to Succeed podcast and creator of the social selling success course where he teaches the skills required to increase your sales pipeline well over six, seven, and even eight figures. A perfect fit for freelancers who want to scale their revenue. Let's hear more from him on this episode of the Six Figure Freelancer Audio Course.

Juan

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Six Figure Audio Course by AND CO from Fiverr. Today we have a very special guest, Mike Montague. Thank you so much for coming on the show.

Mike

Hey, good to be here.

Juan

Mike, so you definitely know something about sales most of us don't. You've spent years working with Sandler Training and you guys train executives, you train salespeople for big organizations and you have a lot of context in this industry. Many of us are struggling with sales and this is what this course is all about. Can you give us a little bit of insight at a high level about how you think about sales from a freelancing standpoint for freelancers?

Mike

Yeah, and probably just sales in general, right? That a lot of people get a wrong idea of sales because of the traditional sales stereotype. You see it in movies and you experienced bad salespeople and you think you have to be pushy or overly assertive or you have to be fast talking and oversell your features and benefits. And what we found at Sandler - and David Sandler started the Sandler Training Company and system 50 years ago and it's still growing and we've continued to be the world's largest sales training company - but what he discovered back then was there are some counterintuitive things that really help you build better relationships and create more open, honest communication than just trying to overhype your services. That generally the harder you push on prospects, the harder they push back and the more defensive walls they put up. But if you just calm down, if you just relax and you create an atmosphere and environment where both people are equal and you're a highly paid professional and worthy of higher dollars, more attention, more respect, then that's what you attract and you get in the sales process. Does that make sense?

Juan

Totally, totally. And so, yeah, so basically what you're saying is it's pretty much everyone's tendency to be more excited than the prospect and to try to transfer that enthusiasm through, like you said, fast talking just rattling off a bunch of services and that doesn't work very well is what you're saying that's not very effective. Right? And you actually know a different paradigm of how to approach that whole sales cycle.

Mike

Yeah. I think the general gist of it is that sales people are not highly paid. If you, if you put, you know, two people pitching products and you can't believe either one of them, it usually comes down to price and people try to pay as little as possible when there's not a lot of trust, but consultants and highly paid people like lawyers and doctors and people that are paid for their opinions and have respectable positions in the dynamic there, are treated differently. You believe their opinions, you asked for their help, you are willing to pay them what they're worth and respect their time because they are highly paid consultants and not just a somebody trying to sling a product.

Juan

So how do we make the switch from being the pesky sales person that doesn't get paid very well to actually commanding the, you know, high ticket prices of like a lawyer or a doctor and actually positioning ourselves as consultants?

Mike

Yeah. I, it might sound a little cheesy, but the first step is to start in your own head. You have to convince yourself first, right? You have to say, okay, I'm financially independent. I don't need the money. And sometimes that's a stretch, right? When you need a Gig and you need some dollars, especially as a freelancer - both you and I have been there before - it's hard to take a step back and say, okay, it's not a big a deal here. This might, they might not be the right prospect. They might not have, uh, the right problems that I can solve or the right amount of money, or they might just be jerks and I don't want to work for a jerk. Right? And so we have to kind of take a step back in our own heads and say, okay, let's slow down a bit.

Mike

I don't need to get married on the first date and worry about whether this prospect is going to become the all time best client I've ever had. All I needed to do is take it one step at a time. I need to figure out if they have any interest in what I do and if there's interest, uh, see if there's enough interest for them to set an appointment and if there's enough interest on the appointment, does it make sense for us to move forward and kind of really step back and take a slow process here so that both parties can begin to build trust rather than make the mistake that most sales people do, which is they move too fast. They say, hey isn't this great? Don't wait, don't you want to buy it right now? And then they deal with the aftermath of that, which is a lot more difficult.

Juan

Yeah. You're right in saying that it's counter-intuitive. There's a difference between needing money and wanting money and if we always act like we need the money that, that comes off in our body language and our tone and how we communicate and it will make it so we shoot at anything that moves. You know, like if it's a rabbit, like anything that moves, we'll shoot it. We'll just to get the $300, the $500. And it sounds like what you're suggesting is actually taking a step back and kind of tricking and training yourself into acting as you would act when you just want the money and not need the money. And then those habits and that body language, your tone, all of that gets picked up by the prospect. And so those are things like asking questions, making sure that it is a good fit, pricing it right, you know, as opposed to just saying anything that you need to just close the sale and then putting yourself in a position where you're in this hamster wheel of closing a lot of these low ticket sales but never actually growing your business.

Mike

Yeah. And I think if you think about that in the, uh, analogy of negotiation, leverage, right? If you really need every dollar and you're willing to do the job for 10 bucks, then the other party can kind of sense that. And they're not gonna. You're not gonna say no and you're not going to demand a higher price. But if you are in the position where you believe that you're worth $100,000 a year, that you believe a six figures is what you deserve, then you're not going to take a job for $10 an hour. You know that $100,000 is $50 an hour. So I need at least that much. And if somebody says, 'Hey, this job pays 15', you're not going to take it. Um, so it, it is really, really tough. But if you want to increase your hourly rates or your annual income, you really have to start believing that you deserve it first and taking less jobs because it kind of makes sense too, right? If you took 10 hours worth of work at 10 bucks an hour, you only need one $100 job, that takes an hour, to fill that time. So you can actually say no to nine of them and still be okay. Right?

Juan

Right.

Mike

And still be ahead of the game.

Juan

Yeah. And that's also part of teaching yourself and training yourself to have that abundance mentality. And if anything, you fix it at the lead gen stage, by having enough leads that you're talking to that you can be picky and say no to nine of them, but then close on the one that is right as opposed to having a scarcity mindset only talking to two leads and then you absolutely have to take both of them so you price yourself accordingly. So this is already a ton of value Mike was sharing, is having that mentality, that mindset and then positioning yourself in a way that helps you command higher prices. Once you start talking to the bigger companies and you know, let's say someone is sitting at home right now and they're like, okay, I get it, I believe it. I can start working on myself, position myself as a consultant and a high ticket professional. How do you then encourage people to actually approach the bigger companies? Because it's a totally different cycle sales cycle. When you're selling something with $10,000, $50,000, then $500. Where do you find bigger companies? How do you approach them? What can we expect with selling to bigger clients like that?

Mike

Yeah, that's a lot to unpack and I think the first part you mentioned is finding a pool of prospects to call on. If you have one shot at it, you're not going to do a lot of things right because you put too much pressure on it, so there might be one whale that you're chasing and you say, hey man, I know I could solve problems for this XYZ corporation and that will be awesome and I'm going to pursue that, but I think as soon as you can, you've got to start putting some other people on your list and so just go to LinkedIn and find companies similar to that one that you would love as your dream client and start adding more and more people onto it. I do think there is a little bit of marketing tactic to it because generally some of the larger companies need a little bit more credibility and stuff, but you can do that fairly simply.

Mike

I think in today's world too, because it's a global market and people will work as independent consultants, you don't need a huge website or you don't need a crazy portfolio in order to go after these jobs. You just need enough evidence that they believe you can do what you say you're going to do and so I always use the term kind of overwhelming evidence. Nobody's gonna like call 10 of your former clients and ask for all of these crazy evidence that you're a professional. You just need to make sure that you look the part when you approach them and then I think when you do get into these, they're going to be longer sales cycles, so you need a plan. Almost a prospecting plan, if you will, of how to follow these things through, follow up on them and then make sure that you're finding more and more opportunities.

Mike

It really is a case of once you get one, you get referrals to more of those clients. So the hard part is making that first jump and so that might be a place where you lower a fee or you do something you wouldn't normally do to get that first experience and do a great job because you and I have talked before, if you've done a lot of $200 jobs for your friends and you now you want to do a $20,000-$30,000 job for a company, you need to work in that company's space. None of your friends are going to refer you up to the company. Generally companies refer to other companies. So to make that jump to the next level, I would say start doing it, start working on those levels, do anything you can do to get experience and then make sure you do a killer job so that you can get referrals and introductions to more of those.

Juan

Mike there's a huge lesson worth sharing here about rabbits, deer and elephants. Can you talk about that for a minute?

Mike

Yeah, we talk and use that metaphor. And if you don't like the, the hunting analogy there, you could substitute anything else you want. But uh, we use this hunting metaphor of rabbits are small deals that tide you over for a short amount of time and they're quick moving, they go through the cycle quickly, but sometimes they're so fast that you can't really chase them down. But a deer is a nice thing that you could hunt, you could find them, there's still plenty of them. They're not tough to bring down. And maybe they'll last you a 10 to 100 times longer than a rabbit would. Right? But an elephant is one of those big enterprise deals. Now you're calling on like a fortune 500 company or somebody really large. And these things are big, slow moving deals that if you land one that's great, it'll feed you for a year. It might be a killer deal for you. But those are harder to bring down because they're so big. And there's some risks associated with that too, that if an elephant leaves your product mix and you don't get the deal, sometimes that could have a dramatic effect on your overall revenue as a freelancer.

Mike

So at Sandler we talk about, you know, playing in that middle range space, these deer are the ideal clients, the ones that are big enough that they're important to you but not so big that it's going to completely change the game or wreck your business in order to deal with them and you've got to find that sweet spot of a deal.

Juan

Totally. And, to go on with the analogy, I've found that and bringing it back to your last point, I've found that deer don't talk to elephants and rabbits don't talk to deer. People kind of stay in their league. So even if you have to, like you were saying, taking a price hit or do something, you wouldn't typically do to then level up your game in terms of referrals and portfolio companies that is worth it. I talked to a lot of freelancers that, you know, we're thinking in the short term like how do I make sure that I'm making enough money this month or next month and we end up taking on so many rabbits and small deals that we don't actually scale out of it. And if you can take, you know, let's call it 85 percent of your business goes towards that day to day survival because I get it, we'll have to pay bills, but then 15 percent of your time goes to these moonshot opportunities for you to maybe do a website for free, for like a deer or an elephant.

Juan

It's a nonprofit, something like that, you know, they're all a church in any kind of institution that's already at a bigger league. And that helps you now show that you've done something for a big organization. Your work is proven, and then hopefully get some testimonials and referrals out of it. It's something freelancers don't like hearing, like, oh, what do you mean I'm getting, you know, doing something for free for exposure. But it can certainly work if you do it in service of actually increasing your prices three, four, five months from now, as long as it's not 100 percent of your bandwidth.

Mike

Yeah, for sure. And I think you have to be careful about just making it about price too. So could you work with a larger uh, agency or organization, like you said, that's already doing a project at that level just to get the experience and the portfolio and maybe you still get paid. Because you have to be careful - a lot of times free is not a deal for these larger companies. So I have myself and, and maybe you have too Juan, but I've lost the deal because I said I could do this website for 10 grand and I was $40,000 under the second, the next lowest bid. And so they said, hey, we like your work but we just don't trust that you can do it. That deal's too good to be true. And we'd rather pay for quality, than get something cheap. So when you're levelling up, sometimes you have to level up your money mindset too. And discounts are not deals for higher level people. They have the money, they want something really outstanding.

Juan

Let's dive into that Mike, because we've talked about this before. We both lost deals because we were too cheap and walk us a little bit through what that means and how we actually start increasing our prices and making sure that we get the higher ticket bids.

Mike

Yeah, it's really a tough one because again, it's counterintuitive and we think, especially when we haven't worked on that level. We think that it's a lot of money to us, so if somebody is going to spend, let's say $100,000 on a website, we might say, well that's ridiculous. I could build a website in a weekend and you go, well yeah, we can, but that person buying it can't or they want more things and it's worth a million dollars for them to have that website. So they're still getting an incredible return on this. So I guess the way I thought about it and the way I fixed it in my head is that it's not about us, it's about the customer and it's what they need and what the return on investment is for them. A lot of times, especially larger organizations would rather avoid a mistake and overpay for a sure thing than they would under pay for something risky.

Mike

So if you think about, let's take it out of websites, and talk about if a construction company was going to build a hospital wing, uh, and it's a 100 uh, hospital beds and it's a huge building, do you want to go with the cheapest person that might screw it up and might collapse the whole hospital? Or do you want to play it safe and make sure that everybody in this sky rise building or something are going to be safe, right? You're willing to overspend in that case because it's a critical purchase here. And so you have to switch your mindset to thinking, in their situation, what is a reasonable amount of money to ensure that they get the outcome that they want? It's rarely about price. You don't want the cheapest toilet paper. You don't want the cheapest building or, or security. There are places where you want to overspend a little bit, right?

Juan

Totally. Totally. Okay. Finally, Mike, can you walk us through the right approach and split between sales and marketing? I think there's a disconnect where a lot of freelancers think marketing is their sales. You know, like if they posted on Instagram that day, then they can go to bed at night thinking, okay, I did, I did my marketing, my lead gen, my sales, but that's not really a sales tactic. Right? Can you differentiate for us the difference between sales and marketing here?

Mike

It's a great point and it's one of my huge pet peeves that a lot of times, uh, and I think the social media marketers and stuff get, uh, the hype these days because they're marketers. Marketing is great. Marketing can make the phone ring and increase your branding and awareness, but sales is what happens after the phone rings and those are where you need some skill in negotiating the deals that you get done or what happens if somebody responds to that Instagram post and says, 'Hey, I love your work. I need a website done'. Then what do you do from there? But there's also this middle ground that is not quite marketing and it's not quite sales, and I call it a prospecting because sometimes you're going to have to go out and find the deal. If you want to call on a huge company, it's that XYZ corporation again, and they're not looking at any of your posts, then that post doesn't help you.

Mike

So you're going to have to do something actively to either go knock on their door, to meet them at a networking event, to get an introduction into somebody, uh, that you know, at the company. There's a lot of things that we need to do sort of in real life or in social prospecting to get more deals. And we call that active prospecting. It's nice to buy ads on Google and think that you have things coming your way because you spent the money. But a pay-per-click ad isn't an active thing. That's a passive thing that the prospect has to see and then respond to. What can you do as an individual, uh, independent freelancer to take control of your own destiny? Go out and get the deal, get in front of somebody, knock on their door, pick up the phone and call them. Send them an email. Do something that you can control to make sure that they notice you.

Juan

Totally, totally. Yeah. There's a big disconnect here. I think personality wise, a lot of freelancers, because they're the best in their industry at making a website or at designing or whatever our craft is. We are kind of accidental entrepreneurs and a lot of ways, you know, I'm the best SEO person in the world, therefore I should just get paid to do SEO work, but the moment you step into entrepreneurship and being a self-employed professional, you actually have to do something that you may be really uncomfortable with, which is actually the outbound active prospecting that you're talking about and it's the broccoli of behavior because we all wish that that leads came to us and it's easy to just complain that not enough leads come to us that we're underpaid. That da da da... Like people don't pay enough in my country. The economy's bad, but if you for two seconds, take extreme ownership of the fact that you can make your own luck and do the outbound, even if it's uncomfortable, it doesn't come natural to most of us. You can have it have a direct impact on your revenue and start scaling your business from there.

Mike

Well, it's huge, right? The old saying is, if it's meant to be, it's up to me. The questions I like to ask people are, are you sitting back saying, when will somebody noticed me? When will somebody pay me more? Or are you saying when will I do something worthy of being noticed? When will I ask for more money or a raise or a bigger job? Those are the questions you should be asking yourself. And I think the last thing that I would add there is, um, that I, I think you have to, take that personal responsibility, but take it up a notch and get momentum. That's the word I was looking for is that momentum is such a huge thing and generally other people don't transfer that to you. You have to do something to get the ball rolling. Now, once your company is up and scaling and you have deals coming in and money than those things feed on each other and you get introductions to more and more deals, but you have to do something to get that ball moving downhill, right? To get that snowball rolling so that it becomes bigger and that's the part that you should focus on. What can I do to kickstart it and get momentum moving in my favor?

Juan

I've found that we think we face burnout whenever we're too busy, we actually face burnout whenever we lose momentum. And you can get that momentum back by pure coincidence or by your own behaviors and it's pretty tough to do sometimes when your finances aren't in order and there's a lot of problems going on around your life, especially as a freelancer, especially when you have to deal with things like your own health insurance and taxes and things like that. Like I get it, I get it, but unless you actually start building that momentum for yourself, you're going to stay in a cycle and season of burnout and it could be years and there's so many freelancers that are stuck in that trap of just waiting for an outside force to build that momentum for them.

Mike

Well, that's a great point about momentum because that doesn't mean that it's forever. It's not that you have to work your butt off and do all of these uncomfortable things forever. You just need to do it long enough to get that ball rolling and the momentum going and then you can either outsource those things you don't want because you have so much money coming in or you get easier and better deals through referrals and introductions, but those uncomfortable things are required, and you can either take a year to do the calls and the uncomfortable stuff and work, talk yourself into it. Or you can get all of that stuff out of the way in a month and get your momentum rolling and then you don't have to worry about it anymore right.

Juan

Totally. Mike, tons and tons of value. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Here are some highlights from today's episode. Mike talked about transferring enthusiasm through listening, instead of talking. Instead of just being overly energetic and putting yourself in the bucket of the typical sales person, stereotypical salesperson, you actually want to position yourself to negotiate and talk like a high ticket professional so that you can command higher prices. What he talked about is having overwhelming evidence that shows that you can do what you say you're going to do, so this means taking on portfolio projects and maybe do things that you wouldn't typically do before just so you can actually prove that you have the chops to deliver when you talk to these bigger companies. One thing you should know is that you can expect longer sale cycles when you work with bigger companies and you really need to have a plan on how you're going to follow up with them.

Juan

We also talked about having and distinguishing between rabbit, deer and elephant clients, and we find that they can refer to each other in those different leagues. So rabbit is a small deal. Deer is a medium-sized deal. Elephant is a big enterprise deal. Problem is with elephants, it can take so long for you to close the deal that you might actually go out of business before you end up getting the bid, so you want to focus on those deer clients. Just be aware, doing free or discounted work shouldn't be the obvious answer. It's a possibility and something you can play with and consider, but you should lead with fair prices that make it worth your while. Mike actually shared a story of a big company that is willing to pay for an outcome instead of the price. In this case, it was a hospital - they want to make sure that their infrastructure is set up correctly as opposed to just taking the lowest bid. And there's a big difference between marketing and sales. This was the last point. You need to have a process for both and furthermore, understand prospecting, which is actually outbound active behaviors that get conversation started so you can get into the sales funnel and make your own luck.

Juan

Okay, freelance masterminds. Do not forget to pick up your digital resources from this episode. It's very simple. You just subscribe to the show on iTunes and then once you've done that, visit and.co/resources. Subscribe on iTunes and then visit a n, d dot c dot o slash resources to get your digital goods. See on the next one.

Juan

Mike, as you continue to take your career forward and get to the next level, where's the best place for people to stay in touch with you and learn more about what you're doing? Well, I do a ton of this at Sandler so you can follow us @SandlerTraining on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. I'm on all of those as well, MikeDMontague, but I would really encourage you to go to sandler.com/sell, S-E-L-L, and I've developed a free e-learning library there. You just sign up. You get a year's worth of access, it's all of our white papers, webinars and podcasts that we have. There's hundreds of resources in there for free. Go check it out, see if there's anything interesting that'll help you there. And I bet you'll find something special.

Mike

Well, I do a ton of this at Sandler so you can follow us @SandlerTraining on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. I'm on all of those as well, MikeDMontague, but I would really encourage you to go to sandler.com/sell, S-E-L-L, and I've developed a free e-learning library there. You just sign up. You get a year's worth of access, it's all of our white papers, webinars and podcasts that we have. There's hundreds of resources in there for free. Go check it out, see if there's anything interesting that'll help you there. And I bet you'll find something special.

Juan

Perfect. Mike, thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing all of this with us.

Mike

Thank you.

Juan Felipe Campos
About your host

Juan Felipe Campos

Juan Felipe Campos serves as VP of Technology at Manos Accelerator in partnership with Google Launchpad. As a freelancer, Juan has worked on growth and customer acquisition for VC-funded startups including Ease, Admix, Timeular, and AND CO from Fiverr. He hosts the Six Figure Freelancer audio course/YouTube channel, leads the Freelance Masterminds Facebook Group, and is passionate about helping remote workers make more money and live life on their own terms. His companies have been featured in major publications including Entrepreneur, Huffington Post, Inc. Magazine, and Forbes.

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Building a Business Instead of a Job