Art Sobczak – Episode #119

by Richard Wilson on August 9, 2011

The following audio interview  is borrowed from our BusinessTraining.com platform and was originally recorded for our sales training program.  In this expert audio interview, we hear from Art Sobczak, an author and cold calling and sales guru.  Art was selected for an expert audio interview because he is a speaker, trainer, and author on sales and cold calling. His business is called Business by Phone, he focuses on helping sales professionals use the phone more effectively while selling.  (Download this file in Mp3 format)

Interview Transcript:

Ashley:  Hello everyone, and welcome to this BusinessTraining.com expert audio interview.  Today we’re joined by speaker and trainer, Art Sobczak, owner of Business by Phone and author of the 2010 top sales book Smart Calling: Eliminate the Fear, Failure & Rejection from Cold Calling.  Thank so much for being here today, Art.

Art Sobczak: Thank you for having me, it’s a pleasure.

Ashley:            Great.  So, what does Business By Phone do?  What do you do now?

Art Sobczak: We are a sales training company that specializes in one area and that is helping sales professionals use the phone more effectively in their prospecting as well as their selling and servicing a customer, so that can encompass outside sales reps who again use the phone to prospect or inside sales reps, professional business to business inside sales reps who never leave the office and do all their business over the phone.

Ashley:            Okay.  How do you source your clients?

Art Sobczak: How do I source my clients?  As in…?

Ashley: Yeah.  How do you find?

Art Sobczak: Well, I’ve been doing this for 28 years and have done over 1,500 training programs during that time with publishing and newsletter for over 26 years.  Paper and newsletter and electronic version of that as well, as well as an email newsletter for about 12 years with about 60,000 subscribers, so my name is out there and people contact me.  Although, we do practice what we preach and we prospect as well and I’ve just recently taken on a sales rep who is a long time fan and customer and client.  He approached me, so he is now selling for me.  I’m a pretty good sales rep but not a good manager, so that’s why I haven’t had a big organization over the years.

Ashley: [Laughing]  Okay.  So, how did you get to where you are today?

Art Sobczak: How did I get to where I am?  I’m an overnight, 28 years success.

Ashley:            [Laughing]

Art Sobczak: I started in corporate life way back in the day when there was just one phone company and that was the Bell system and I took my first corporate job out of college in sales with the old AT & T, selling their network services but what they were also doing was selling the concept of telesales and they actually called it telemarketing at the time, it wasn’t a bad word.

 

We were doing it and selling it as well, so we were actually selling over the phone to corporate clients to get them to use more of the Bell system services because at the time you had no choice so the only way they could increase revenue was get people to use more of it.

I thought, “Well, this is a great concept.  I think I can do this on my own,” so I left and formed a consulting and training company, almost went broke as a lot of companies do but figured out a way to make the business model work and I decided that if I was going to do this I needed to be the best at it so I studied my craft of speaking and also became an author and I was constantly writing and researching new material and providing that to my clients.

We became a company that provided information through a variety of different mediums; prints, audio, video and of course delivering live, face to face training both on a public basis; public basis meaning I would sponsor and hold my own seminars which we still do, as well as doing in-house training programs for companies.

Ashley: Okay.  So there was a point in time where you maybe weren’t the best sales person or have you just always been great?

Art Sobczak: Well, no.  I actually had my first job in sales when I was 13, although everybody is a born sales person, all kids are great sales people.  Some people just choose not to follow that as a profession and they are not just that good at it later, because they are sensitive to the nose, but was I always good at it?

Well, in my training I always made ton of mistakes that people make on phone calls.  For example, calling somebody up and saying, “Hey, I sent you out some material.  Did you get it?”  And I say I’m very qualified to make fun of every mistake in the book because I have made every mistake in the book but as most successful salespeople or people in any profession do, I’ve learned from all those mistakes, so to answer your question, no.  I always wasn’t as good as I am today, nor am I as good as I’ll be tomorrow and next week and next year because we never graduate from this school.

Ashley: [Laughing]  The sales school?

Art Sobczak: That’s right.

Ashley:            So, how do you continue improving?  Do you take training yourself, do you read a lot of things?

Art Sobczak: Yes and yes.

Ashley: Okay.

Art Sobczak: Absolutely.  I still read everything I get my hand on.  I probably own more sales books than anybody out there and you really do and of course you really need to practice as well and I tell this to every sales person, this is particularly good for your audience as well, if they are either in or looking to get in the sales, what you really need to do is have the desire to learn and you’ll need to make the commitment to always be looking for and finding and studying new material and then practice it, and making that non-negotiable.

So, setting aside a certain amount every week for self-development, just like you would if you were on a fitness routine.  You should have a sales fitness routine as well.

Ashley: What do you think is more important; formal training or training by someone professional or just reading lots and lots of things?

Art Sobczak: I think a combination of both.  There is certainly a lot of good free information.  I provide information.  However, nothing beats a formalized, customized program that is designed for the type of selling that you’re doing.

If you have nothing else, you could certainly go out and find a lot of great free information out there, especially today with the internet.  I don’t want it to sound like that’s a new thing but there is so much free information out there that there is no absolutely no reason that somebody should not become an expert in their profession.

But again, there is that old adage that, to truly become an expert you need to put in – what’s the number?  Something like 10,000 hours over time and I believe that.

Ashley: Okay.  So through training, what do you think is a number one skill that someone should really work on mastering?

Art Sobczak: Well, training or self-training or research; there is no doubt that probably the most important skill in sales is questioning and then the other side of the question, which is listening.  And then, based upon the answer, following up with deeper questioning.

Too many times sales people think that to be effective, it’s all about talking which is the opposite of what it actually is and so, again, the questioning and the listening.

Ashley:            Okay.  Now, how then does your sales technique differ from maybe what’s in popular books or magazines?  Is there a big difference between what you do and what they preach?

Art Sobczak: Well, I’m going to be similar to the good ones and I’ll be opposite of the bad ones and that might sound like a flip answer but there is a lot of garbage that’s been written and taught over the years; particularly on using the film in sales.  There are a lot of myths of sales.  For example, prospecting by phone is just a numbers game.  You make so many calls, you’re going to get so many yes’s.  That’s a crock, because it’s a quality game, it’s not a numbers game.  You just can’t pick up the phone and smile and dial.

There is a lot of myths surrounding how to deal with – this is a negative term but it’s commonly used, how to deal with screeners?  For example, I can pick up the books right now and reach the verbatim passages that say, “Don’t give any information to the screener because that person can’t buy from you and you need to be evasive.  Answer their question with a question,” and all these things that are just completely idiotic.

The best way to deal with, an assistant or somebody who is playing the role of the screener is to give them what they want, because really what they are asking is, is this person important enough to take some of the decision maker’s time?  And if they need to know why you’re calling you need to be prepared with an answer.

Ashley: That screener is the “gate keeper”, right?

Art Sobczak: Well, typically.  Almost anybody within an organization can play the role of a screener.  It could be an assistant; screener, gate keeper, whatever term you want to use for that person.

Ashley: Okay.  So, why do you think a lot of times there are trainings that say to be evasive?

Art Sobczak: I would say it’s probably a result of somebody who had been trained in old school techniques.  Maybe they are just repeating what they have heard in the past.  Maybe they have never had to deal professionally with these types of phone calls.  So, several different reasons.

Maybe they are just a cheesy individual.

Ashley: [Laughter]  Did you have a mentor that helped you weed out he cheesy when you were becoming better at sales?

Art Sobczak: No.  I did not have one mentor.  I became a student of everything I could get my hands on.  There are a lot of good programs out there but again, I wouldn’t say that there is just anyone that completely influenced me and likewise, there are a number that I read and looked at and said, “Well, that’s not on target.  We’re going to do without that,” but really actually, it’s common sense.

The longer that I do this, the more I realize how simple sales really is and what we want to do is to simply be natural, be conversational, not try to sound like a salesperson and when we sound like a salesperson that actually creates resistance, because really let’s face it, nobody wants to talk to somebody if they are just trying to sell them something.

If you come across like you have them at the forefront of your mind that you’re trying to help them and everything you’re going to recommend is going to be in their best interest, that’s how break down walls, ease tension and get somebody into a sales conversation.

Ashley: Why are so many people still cold calling people that are not qualified for their product or approaching people that have no interest in their product?  Why is that still happening?

Art Sobczak: Well, I think it’s ignorance.  I mean, ignorance and not to mean it as derogatory term but ignorance of the right way to do it and the right way to do it is what we call the ‘smart calling way’ and that is know something about the people and organizations and industries and their situations before you call so that what you say is going to be immediately relevant in their mind.

And again, with the internet and then some other techniques we use and teach help social engineering, where we ask questions to people other than the decision maker in an organization you’re able to get information so that when I call you up I can touch on something that is going to be of interest and relevance to you and I’m not going to sound like every single other sales person that called that day.

What I say I going to strike a chord with you and [inaudible 00:12:19] to want to at least spend a couple of more minutes with me on the phone which is really all I’m trying to do in the first ten seconds of a phone call.

Ashley:  It’s really interesting though, because I don’t think I’ve ever purchased anything because of an untargeted email or it’s now even coming over to Twitter which is really annoying and any phone calls that have no relevance to me and I don’t know, it’s really strange that people are still doing this.

Art Sobczak: I think what happens is that many times you’ll have managers that all of a sudden their boss will say, “Hey, we’ve got a big push from new business.  You need to get out there, hit the phones, start cold calling” and that trickles down to the reps and they say, “You’ve got to start making these phone calls,” and they just throw them up to the walls and the reps know that they don’t have any guidance and they just start smiling and dialing some names and saying that are actually counterproductive because they are likely creating resistance, and rejection and we talked about how to avoid what’s called rejection.

Then, it’s a vicious cycle because what happens now is that whatever they are saying is causing them to get that resistance and then they continue doing it and it’s pulling down the moral, the results stink and it’s also harming your database because now they are leaving a negative impression in the minds of the people that they are calling.

Ashley: Don’t managers notice that it’s not productive or really effective?

Art Sobczak: The good ones do and now again, I don’t like to use the term cold calling and then I suggest people don’t do cold calling.  There are people out there that if you type in cold calling you’re going to pull all kinds of responses, saying “Cold calling is dead, never cold call again,” and all this stuff and that’s great because those people sell programs that teach you how to use social media and how to get referrals and everything like that and what they are doing is they are preying on the fear of people who are afraid to pick up the phone.

I firmly believe that yeah, I could call referrals all day long.  Absolutely.  Those are the best leads to call than your existing customers, however the quickest way to enter into a sales process with somebody is to pick up the phone and start talking to them.  There may be people and organizations that we want to talk to that we don’t know anybody there and there is no way we could ever get a referral, so what are you supposed to do then?

Again, quickest way to get into that sales conversation is to place a smart call.

Ashley: What do you say to younger generations who don’t like talking on the phone?  Is there an alternative to calling at all?

Art Sobczak: Well.  Here is the thing with the younger generation is that what I’m noticing is that people want to rely on social media and Twitter and Facebook and all that, but you know what, those things are tools.  They are one form of communication and there are people that say that the phone call is going to go away.

Well, if you believe that what you’re going to be doing is being passed by the people who are using the phone because in order of effectiveness, face to face communications is the number one form of communication in terms of effectiveness.  And then, next to that, you’ve got talking on the telephone.

Now, on the phone of course you’re losing half our means of communication but it’s two way and it’s instant whereas if you’re relying on sending email, you could draw out that communication process forever.  You don’ t have a nuance of a tone of voice and emotions, so what I find quite often is that people who want to rely on again social media and email are normally people who are afraid to pick up the phone and they are not confident in their ability to communicate.

Ashley: Okay.  Aside from being able to pick up the phone, do you have a list of maybe top three tips for someone to be successful in sales?

Art Sobczak: Well, it goes back to number one; what I had said earlier.  Let me see if I can narrow these down.  You need to be an excellent questioner and listener.  Now, tied to that, in order to do that, you have to have the customer’s best interest in mind as opposed to thinking about what you want to sell.

I always suggest in my training programs; not suggest, I insist that we start out any training program by putting ourselves in a ‘them’ frame of mind.  You should start out any sales conversation or any negotiation with who am I talking to, what is it that this person might be interested in, what do they want, what do they want to avoid and how can I help them get what they want or avoid what they don’t want?

And then, what of course I need to do is I need to have a process and a dialog where I’m going to be able to plan my call, do my research, put together a good interesting creating opening statement where most calls fail.  The first ten seconds of a call.  At my website, I’ve got the top ten dumb cold calling mistakes that sales people make and what you can do to avoid them, so there are tons of things that people should avoid as well as what they should do and if we had several hours we could go through them.  Or the things they should be doing on a call but the information is out there.

Ashley:  Do you have a number one tip, your $10,000 tip for working in sales, maybe something that you’ve learned over the years that is a mistake you could avoid or a technique that you’ve used that could maybe save a company that lost revenue?

Art Sobczak: Sure.  Get information before you give it.  It’s really that simple.  Too many people will go into a, again a sales conversation or a phone call and they’ll start giving information.  If you start giving information about a product or a service, what you’re doing is you’re giving something that people can object to as opposed to hinting at the possible value you may be able to provide and then going in the questions so that I can then determine what exactly am I going to say that’s going to help them buy.

For example, if somebody asks you on your way home to pick up a birthday present for one of your daughter’s friends because you didn’t have the time to do it, you probably have some questions before you bought that birthday present, right?

Ashley: Right.

Art Sobczak: How old is the girl?  What are they interested in?  What don’t they like?  What do they have already?  If you’re buying clothes, what size are they?  All these things, because if you just went out and bought a present it would what you wanted to buy for your image, what you think this girl would want even though you didn’t know anything about her.

Ashley: And that’s not usually successful? [Laughter]

Art Sobczak: [Laughter]

Ashley:            Do you think that, I mean, [inaudible 00:19:54] information online about all the companies, about individuals themselves through social media, do you think companies don’t really have an excuse anymore to not find that information out first?

Art Sobczak: Totally.  Yeah.  The only reason I guess I could imagine for somebody not getting that information – actually there is two.  One, it would be laziness and the other would be they don’t know where to get it and if they don’t know where to get it well, then my answer to that is find it.  You find out.  What do you need to do in order to get the information that’s going to help you make your calls more successful.

It blows me away what is available out there.

Ashley:            Right.  It’s a little scary sometimes.

Art Sobczak: Yeah, yeah it is.  For example, a friend of mine wrote the book Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling, Sam Richter and in his book he talks about how to use the internet to get information on people, industries, situations, companies and it’s amazing the tips and tricks and techniques that he knows that he put in his book to help sales people.

I’ve used many of them and just seen what was available myself and yeah, you’re right.  It’s a little bit scary.

Ashley: Yeah.  It’s always a wonder how people get my information or when I get calls about power, wheelchairs when I’m in my 20s, so it’s really interesting.

Art Sobczak: Yeah, that’s obviously an example of somebody who hadn’t taken the time to find out about you.

Ashley:  Right.  Do you have any other tips you want to add, any other insights that you want to share?

Art Sobczak: Well, sales is a great profession for people who are looking at getting into it.  I would say that in addition to everything that I mentioned here, probably the most important characteristic would be your desire and your attitude.  I believe that about 80% of your success in sales is due to how you feel when you do it.

Most other professions, you can come in and maybe come in feeling like dirt, maybe a little bit hung over and put out a fast-forward product.  In sales, we really can’t do that because we’re a performer and we’ve got to be at the top of our game every single day and without that attitude part and without the desire part, we’re not going to be anywhere near successful as we could be.

Ashley: Right.  Well, great.  Thank you so much, Art.  I really appreciate your time here.

Art Sobczak: Certainly.

Ashley: You’ve given some great insights so thank you so much.

Art Sobczak: My pleasure.  Anytime.

Ashley: Alright.  Have a great day.

Art Sobczak:  Okay, thanks.

Ashley: Bye.

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