As a CEO for two decades, Ian started, sold, and grew his business-services and technology companies from zero to over one billion dollars in value.
Ian has since spent years researching how customers make decisions. His modern approach to sales & marketing is known for helping organizations around the world achieve explosive growth. A leading authority on accelerating business growth, Ian is currently recognized as one of the 30 Global Gurus on Sales. He’s a co-author of the bestselling book, Same Side Selling and hosts the weekly Same Side Selling podcast available on iTunes. And you can read hundreds of his articles on Forbes and Inc.
Ian lives in the Washington DC area with his two adult-ish children, a dog, and a wonderful wife he doesn’t deserve.
Listening to Heart Sells Podcast has felt like meeting a soulmate! That initial excitement of knowing this is exactly what you’ve been looking for, the peace of feeling completely understood and that burst of energy from knowing that anything is possible! Every episode has been chock full of awesome nuggets and beautiful reminders. The combination of incredibly successful powerhouses sharing their journey, practical and applicable tools and Christine’s heartfelt and authentic approach and energy, is an incredible gift for all heart-centered entrepreneurs!
Loved the interview! Dondi has a great way of reminding us that we get to choose the lesson in our experiences.
I just started listening to Christine's podcast and the content is amazing! Can't wait for the next episdoe.
Love this podcast! The lifeblood of any business is sales and Christine does an amazing job of making sales something you'll fall in love with instead of dread. These podcasts are short and get staright to the point, filling you with both the knowledge and motivation to go out and bring in lots more money to your business by selling from your heart. If you want to bury the notion that sales is sleazy or avoid "gurus" who make sales sleazy and instead learn to how to sell in a way that is heart-centered, easy, win-win, and non-pushy, then look no further... you have found the right podcast!
Great show about creating a business with heart. If you think it, you can achieve it and Christine show you how to use your heart and mind to find success. I'll listen again.
Wow, what a great interview with JLD. Christine your energy is great and I look forward to listening to your other episodes. Well done! BTW I love the title so much!
... and your mindset will take it from there. Yogi Berra once said "90% of the game is half mental." With your heart and mind aligned (like planets) you'll be amazed at what you can accomplish. Subsribe, listen and start selling!
These are wonderful interviews with successful entrepreneurs, (including the Queen of Sales Mindset, host Christine)......who share how they began, what their difficulties were, and the sales mindsets & strategies they used to get to their top. If you've ever had that icky feeling when it come to 'selling' you or your stuff....get some great inspiration here of not only how to sell, but how to think.
Just listened to ep 5. Love the POWER formula. Christine explains it clearly and makes it simple for me to understand. Great podcast!
Let’s be honest, we can ALL be better at selling. I know I can, and I’ve been studying selling for years! Have a listen if you want to start getting better. I’d recommend it!
Christine is a joy to listen to and learn from! I am so glad she now has a podcast so I can keep learning from her wisdom on sales, money, mindset, business and more. Great information!
Wonderful energy and such valuable insight! Thank you, Christine!
Christine does such an incredible job of helping her listeners to find their way with selling with love, from the heart. Her guests offer so much value—looking forward to more interviews!
Christine has a wonderful energy. She is a great coach and teacher. I love how she teaches tools for shifting our mindset into creating habits and behaviors that build our success.
Have gotten a lot of value out of the first episodes. Christine is a great host!
I'm an entrepreneur and I sell every day of my life. It's easy to neglect the heart side of things, but I think it's important to balance that since we're all humans on the same team. Christine does a great job providing really valuable insights!
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Same Side Selling by Ian Altman and Jack Quarles
3 Key Points
Show Notes:[05:56] That’s when I realized, “Okay, instead of selling what you think you want to sell, you have to sell what your clients want to buy.” [07:22] It’s a very rewarding thing to be able to speak and write and share experiences that help other people get rid of that stress and feel like they’re operating with integrity. [07:46] If you really open and you’re listening, and you’re asking the right questions, that gives you so much opportunity for growth. [08:24] If we ask questions like, “So, what does success look like?”, then we all of a sudden get focused on that end goal of the clients trying to achieve. [12:32] In a coaching business, one of the most common ways that services businesses sell is they sell by the hour. [14:23] When it comes to professional services, really, the key is if you can focus on the results, it’s a much better model, because never has somebody thought to themselves [14:49] The more you can focus on a task base or a project based or a goal-based objective, and then assign an investment level to that, then that shifts the focus a little bit.
For FULL Transcript click here:
Christine Schlonski [0:02] Hi Gorgeous. This is episode number 094 with the amazing sales guru, Ian altman.
Ian Altman [0:08] Hi, this is Ian Altman, you are listening to Heart Sells! with Christine Schlonski. Enjoy.
Christine Schlonski [0:15] I am so super pumped to have Ian Altman back on the show today. And we’re going to go deep into Same Side Selling because in reality, we’re all sitting at the same side of the table. Ian has been a CEO for two decades, he sold and grew his companies from zero to over a billion dollars. So he is known for explosive growth. He spent years researching how customers make decision and has a real modern approach to sales and marketing. He is the leading authority and currently recognized as one of the 30 Global Gurus on sales. He’s the co-author of the best selling book, Same Side Selling the host of the podcast, Same Side Selling Podcast. He has done hundreds of articles on Forbes, and Inc. as a contributor. So I’m so super excited to have him back on the show. For all the show notes, the resources, and everything you need to know you just need to hop on to https://christineschlonski.com/ Find the podcast tab and what up that is all the podcast episodes, including the transcripts, show notes, key points, resources, everything you need to really become a heart seller. And I want to thank today, our listeners in the Washington, DC area, as well in Texas, Dallas, thank you so much for tuning in. So excited to have you here. Now let’s get started with the next interview with Ian Altman. Well, I am so super excited to have you back on the show. Welcome, Ian.
Ian Altman [2:05] Christine. Thanks for having me back.
Christine Schlonski [2:07] Yeah, I loved our first conversation and you know, time just flew too fast. I could have talked about your amazing book, Same Side Selling all day long because I love that approach. We talked about quadrants you can use to make a conversation easy and fun and to not push somebody or be the sleazy salesperson but to be a partner, to create a business case together. I just find that super brilliant. So Gorgeous, if you have not listened to it, just make sure you check out the episode before, that you get all those golden nuggets. Today, I would love to go a little bit into your past, like where you came from in sales. Because as you know, one of the 30 sales gurus globally. It’s not I would guess maybe I’m wrong, but that’s probably not something you were born with.
Ian Altman [3:07] No, in fact that the very first job I had in sales, I was a college student, I got fired from it because I was really bad. It was awful. I had no idea because I didn’t know what I was doing. The person said, “Well, you just call up and tell them what we have.” It was interesting because I lost the job and the next to the last call I made I had success on and I lead with, “Well, here’s the kind of problem that that this is supposed to solve”, and the people said, “Oh, that’s really interesting”, and of course, at the time, it never occurred to me that there was a connection there. Then over time, I studied this craft and learned about it. Then later in college, I worked for a company and I remember selling was, we had software and equipment that did character recognition. This is back before, today, you scan it, excuse me, you scan a document, Adobe just says, “Oh, you want to recognize the text and you do it.” This was in the late 80s, where it required highly specialized equipment to do this. These devices we sold were about $40,000 per unit. So it’s rather costly. The company was trying to sell these into law firms and law firms would look and say, “Well, it looks interesting, but now it’s too expensive.” I remember this one law firm. They said, “Well, yeah, we have a ton of documents you need to convert. But yeah, I just don’t think we can spend the money”, and I walked past their copier room and they had these massive photocopiers. I said, “Well, just out of curiosity, how much of the photocopiers?”, and he said, “Oh, it doesn’t matter”, and I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Oh, they charge us per copy.” Then we mark that up to our clients so it is actually a profit center. Okay, so I came back to the company and I said, here’s this idea that I have, we want to sell these per page. So let’s tell people, it’s $1 per page, and they have a minimum, they have to process per month. So the approach I took is I said, “Okay, it’s $1 a page, and you have to do a minimum of 1000 pages a day, 20 days a month.” They said, “Well, no one’s going to do that, because they can buy the equipment for $40,000.” I sold more that summer than anybody had ever sold. We had these clients who wouldn’t pay $40,000 for the equipment, but they would pay $50,000 a month for the same thing they could have bought for $40,000 a month prior. We locked them in into a multi multi-month contract with a minimum, that was the same amount that we’re going to have to buy it for. These people are just keep doing it and we couldn’t produce the equipment fast enough. That’s when I realized, “Okay, instead of selling what you think you want to sell, you have to sell what your clients want to buy.” So I started my first company in 1993, we became a fast 50 company by 1998. So one of the 50 fastest growing companies in the Washington DC area. We built a software company also. I sold both companies in 2005, to some investment bankers out of New York. They asked me to serve as managing director of the parent company. At the time, the value of the combined company’s was about 100 million dollars. I grew the value of that business to roughly $2 billion over the next three years, when we expand to all these places around the world. Candidly, I burned out, I wasn’t spending as much time with my wife or with my kids. I realized, “Wow, why am I still doing this?” I didn’t have a good reason so I stopped. If I had done absolutely nothing forever, I think my wife would have killed me. That would have been a bad, it would have been a bad outcome. People said, “Well, when you were growing your business, you always seem to enjoy helping our businesses, if they were struggling more than you were focused on your own business.” I said, “Yeah, it’s true.” They said, “Well, why don’t you do that?”, and I said, “Do what?”, like it didn’t occur to me that people needed help growing a business because I was fortunate in that my businesses have grown pretty well. That’s what I get to do now, is I get to help other people and how they grow their businesses. It’s a very rewarding thing to be able to speak and write and share experiences that help other people get rid of that stress and feel like they’re operating with integrity.
Christine Schlonski [7:32] Yeah. Oh, I love it. What a success story. So obviously, you had to change your mindset for that and visit copying machines. I love the story. You did find your puzzle, right?
Ian Altman [7:45] Yeah, exactly.
Christine Schlonski [7:46] It find the puzzle way back when. If you really open and you’re listening, and you’re asking the right questions, that gives you so much opportunity for growth. Can you elaborate a little bit on that to give people maybe more ideas that might feel stuck at where they are?
Ian Altman [8:08] Yeah, I mean, one of the biggest things that we have to realize is that if we focus on the results that our clients are trying to achieve, rather than what we’re trying to sell, then what we’re trying to sell just kind of happens. What I mean by that is, if we ask questions, like, “So, what does success look like?” Then we all of a sudden get focused on that end goal of the clients trying to achieve. So if I asked most people in sales, if I say, “Okay, the initial contact is the starting block in a race. What’s the finish line? You know, that place where we break through the tape? And we’re all high five in congratulating each other? And and, we’re celebrating, what do we call that?” And most people in sales will say, “Well, that’s the clothes, it’s the sale. It’s the contract.” Someone in accounting might say it’s getting paid. But the idea is that, it’s all centered around the sale and the revenue. But what if you ask your client the same question, and you ask your client, what’s the finish line? The client would likely say, “Well, it’s the results”, and so if we’re focused on the contractor sale, and the client is focused on the results, then we have a disconnect, not aligned. If you instead, if you said, “Well, gee, what would make this successful? What can we measure together?”, and we start asking those sorts of questions. Then all of a sudden, we’re not selling, we’re solving. More importantly, when I’m talking to CEOs and executives, I’ll ask them, “If you have a choice, one vendor is focused on the contract and the sale, the other ones focused on results, which one would you rather work with?” Universally, people say the person with result, then it gets more interesting because I asked them, “Okay, how many of you would be willing to spend a little bit more with the vendor who’s asking questions about results? Notice, I don’t ask guarantees the results, just how many of you would be willing to spend a little bit more with the people asking about results?”, and just about everybody raises their hand and I say, “Okay, how much more?”, and people say, “Well, it depends”, and usually, if I try and nail them down, they say, “I don’t know, 15% more.” So imagine just being able to differentiate on value, just by asking questions where you could charge 15% more than the competition and when the business because you’re asking about results. The funnier question to me is that I ask people, “Okay, so for anybody who didn’t say they’d be willing to pay more, how much less would you have to pay for it to be a good deal, but you don’t get the results that you need? So how much less would you have to pay for bidding for to be a good deal, but you don’t get the results that you need?” The answer is, you have to pay 100% less, because if you don’t get the results you need, it’s not a good deal. So what that does allows us to win a prospect and someone says, “Well, gee, I like what you’re doing but these other people are 20% least”, you get to say, “Well, my guess is that in your business, if you don’t get the results that you need, that doesn’t matter what you spend, right ?” And they say, “So yeah, that’s true. Okay.” The only way we can sell it for less is if we sacrifice these two or three things and that would put your success at risk. And I know, some vendors might be willing to do that, but we’re not. So should we readjust what success looks like? Or is that actually what you need? And now we’re having a discussion about their results and what they need, rather than focusing on just the price.
Christine Schlonski [11:37] Yeah, I love that. So many of the listeners are service based, right? They have to come up with their own, not they don’t have to, they get to come up with their own packages, their own offers. That makes it a little bit difficult sometimes, because they don’t value themselves often enough. Because it’s something that comes to them so easily. So they think like, “I could do this for free. This is so much fun. I can do it all day long and now they have to put a price point.” So what advice would you have for somebody to executive to conduct that conversation? Just from the perspective of service based business. What could they do?
Ian Altman [12:24] Absolutely. So, so give me an example of what type of service business might be?
Christine Schlonski [12:27] Well, let’s go into coaching.
Ian Altman [12:31] Okay. So in a coaching business, one of the most common ways that services businesses sell is they sell by the hour. The reality is that, I’m not a big fan of selling by the hour, because what you’re doing that at that point is you’re selling resources, not results. Meaning, at that point, all you’re doing is exchanging currency for hours. The problem with that is that, it’s very easy for someone to say, “Oh, you’re going to charge this much per hour, these other people charge less per hour.” Instead, we have to focus on is here the problems that we solve, for example, if someone’s an executive coach, and they’re helping get a team better working together, what they might say is that might have a discussion. So use the quadrants and determine, “Okay, so you want to improve the way your team works together. What happens if you don’t solve that? Well, I’m wasting money, we’re not achieving our business goals.” A whole myriad of things will come out, “What does success look like? Well, people would work better together, they wouldn’t be at each other’s throats. I’d feel like we’re accomplishing our goals. What specific goals? And now we get a list of those. So if you achieve those, what would it mean to the business? Well, gee, that would mean would have an extra gazillion dollars. If we do that. Great. In order to achieve that, the way we would do this is over the next quarter, here’s what we would work on together. Here’s what the investment would be for that quarter, at the end of the quarter will evaluate where we are and will determine if you need more or less help in the following quarter.” In that way, all you really committing to is a quarter, you can say, “Look, here’s here’s an upper end limit as to the number of meetings and rough days, things like that. But really, it’s about what they want is I want to solve this problem and get those results”, and then they get to evaluate, “Is that investment worth it to achieve that?” When it comes to professional services, really, the key is if you can focus on the results, it’s a much better model, because never has somebody thought to themselves, “You know, I really need this, I need 1.4 hours of this person’s time.” It’s never come up. If someone’s looking to hire an attorney, they don’t want to hire hours they want to hire, the outcome they’re seeking. The more you can focus on a task base or a project based or a goal based objective, and then assign an investment level to that. Notice, I didn’t say a price, it’s an investment, then that shifts the focus a little bit.
Christine Schlonski [15:06] Yeah, totally agree. Yeah. I like when you talk to your clients, it’s always an investment. Because with the service you provide, they should get so much more in return.
Ian Altman [15:18] Absolutely. And it’s interesting, because there are many businesses I’ve worked with who they say, “Oh, our business, it’s impossible. We can’t do that.” And it’s funny, there’s an accounting firm that I worked with, “Oh, each of our clients is different. We couldn’t possibly do things on a fixed monthly fee”, and I said, “Do me a favor, let’s just take 10 of your clients, the next 10 clients, let’s do this on a fixed fee basis and you tell me, worst case scenario, what it would cost and we’re going to do a fixed fee at that amount.” “Oh, they’ll never go for that.” So of course, those 10 clients did that. What happened is, two interesting dynamics. One, they have almost zero turnover in clients because the clients know exactly what it costs them every single month. Second, the organization because now they’re not focused on how many hours they’re billing, they’ve uncovered different ways to be more efficient. And so now they operate way more efficiently than they had in the past and now they have I believe, it’s two clients out of like, 400 clients, who are old clients who still pay them by the hour, everyone else’s fixed fee and their business is thriving. It’s a great culture, because no one’s focused on how many hours they’re billing, they’re just focused on the results of delivering for their clients.
Christine Schlonski [16:32] Yeah, I love that. That’s business with integrity with truth, authentic. I just love that. So one thing I would love to know is, what was the very first thing you ever sold in your life?
Ian Altman [16:47] Like many people, especially like many Americans, I sold raffle tickets. So I played in a baseball league, and we had to sell these raffle tickets to raise funds for the league. It was a great lesson in that. The raffle tickets, they sold them for $1. I was committed that the individual who sold the most raffle tickets, win a bicycle. I was like, “Oh, I want to win this bicycle.” So I went to the neighbor on next door on one side and I sold a whole book of these are like 20 per book. It was why there’s $20. I went to the neighbor on the other side $20, “Wow, this is going to be easy. I’m going to win the bike for sure”, and as I got further away from the house, the sales got smaller, because it was people who were actually looking at it on the merits instead of just helping out the neighbor next door. I eventually got to this house where the the McKibbin house and this gentleman opens a door and I said, “Hi, I’m selling raffle tickets”, they said, “We’re not interested”, and he slammed the door in my face. I was about 11 years old, and I went home crying and my mother said, “Well, you can either give up or you can go to another house, and you can figure out why it didn’t work, and try and get better at it.” So each day I would go out to sell these, and I would walk in a brisk pace, pass the McKibbin house. On these raffle tickets, they bought them for $1, there was a $2 coupon at a pizza restaurant called, Round Table Pizza. As I’m walking past the McKibben house at a brisk pace one day, I see three of these pizza boxes in the trash can. Mrs. McKibben happens to be outside and I said, “Hi, Miss McKibben, I see that you guys like Round Table Pizza. so are we.” She said, “Yes.” I said, “You know, we actually have these $2 off coupons and you get one of these coupons every time you buy one of the raffle tickets”, and she said, “Well, what’s the expiration date?” “Well, there’s no expiration date.” She said, “Oh, well, then. How many can I buy?”, and I said, “Well, I have a book of 20.” She said, “Great, I’ll do that.” So she buys them and then as I’m walking away celebrating this victory, Mr. McKibben walks out of the house, he says, “Young man”, and I’m like, now I’m in trouble. He says, “My wife said she just bought one of these books of 20 raffle tickets.” I said, “Yes, sir.” He said, “Why didn’t you tell me that there were these coupons?” Right. It’s one of these great lessons that at the time, I probably didn’t appreciate as much as I do now. But it was just same sort of thing. It’s one of the puzzle pieces, they were buying pizza would have been foolish for them to not save money and support the league. It made perfect sense. But at the time, I was 10 years old, my selling skills weren’t quite as proficient as perhaps they are today.
Christine Schlonski [19:32] Awesome. I just I just love the story. It was so impactful for you because you still know the names.
Ian Altman [19:40] Oh, yeah. Yeah, I still have fear of Mr. McKibben coming around.
Christine Schlonski [19:45] Yeah, I don’t believe. I can totally see that but beautiful. Again, you did find that puzzle and probably not knowing but that prepared you for.
Ian Altman [19:56] Exactly.
Christine Schlonski [19:57] What a beautiful story. Do you use mantras or quotes in your life to support your mindset?
Ian Altman [20:06] You know what I don’t really, the biggest quote is self-serving, because it’s a quote that I’ve actually gets attributed to me, which is, “Price and all objections matter most when the seller believes they matter most.” So it’s something that in my keynotes I talked about, but its price matters most when the seller believes price matters most. So oftentimes, it’s our own limiting beliefs that tell us, “Well, no one will ever pay for this”, and the reality is, they will pay for it if there’s an impact of not solving the problem, and if they see enough results, but there’s some stories, I share my keynotes about those exact examples, but that quote, tends to be something that resonates with a lot of people.
Christine Schlonski [20:49] Oh, yeah, it definitely resonates with me when I started my career in sales, and I never intended to be in sales. I got there, so to speak, by accident.
Ian Altman [20:58] Most people here.
Christine Schlonski [21:00] Which we don’t really believe in accidents. But I remember my first cause, like being nervous anyway. Wanting to do the right thing, and that it was high ticket events. So I had to see this huge number. And I know, like in the pitch, which was a pitch, you came to the point where I knew, “Oh, now I have to say the number”, and I felt so uncomfortable for such a long time. Because for me, that was a lot of money. It took me a while to shift my mindset and to really see what I’m selling to companies, right? They do have a budget, or they can find budget because the product is supporting them. So when you just mentioned that it’s the quote, I was like, “Yep, I’ve been there.” I’ve seen the change, once I changed, less people had an issue with a number.
Unknown Speaker [21:55] Well, it’s kind of a funny thing I look back to when I started my speaking career. I charged maybe 5% of what I charge now. I would almost share that number with an apology. Now, someone can say, “Oh, we only have 95% of what you charge”, and I think to myself, “No, I wouldn’t do that.” I couldn’t possibly discount it at that level. It’s how your confidence changes that and now you realize what the value is that you provide.
Christine Schlonski [22:28] Yeah. Oh, I just love it. Well, thank you so, so much for sharing all these amazing insights. And people really need to go and read your book, Same Side Selling to find those puzzle pieces. They can go to https://www.ianaltman.com/ and also they can go to the show notes where I will provide all the links, the transcripts, the resources, and obviously a link to your book as well. Thank you so much. I so enjoyed the time. And yeah, have an amazing day.
Unknown Speaker [23:00] Thank you, Christine. It was a pleasure.
Christine Schlonski [23:02] I so love to have you on the show. So make sure you hop on over to https://christineschlonski.com/ Find the podcast tab and get into Ian’s episode, you’ll find the show notes, the key points, the transcript, and of course, all the amazing resources and a link to his social media pages. So it’s all just one click away. In case you don’t know, Ian has also been part of the Sales Mentality Makeover Masterclass #3, where he’s teaching a whole master class. So if you are interested, it’s as well on the page in the resource tab, and you can check it out and really add these interviews to your sales success library. Thank you so much for being here. Wishing you a wonderful day, wherever you are in this beautiful world. And till the next time, make sure you journal out for yourself. What does it mean to be on the same side of the table with your clients when selling? How would that impact your sales process? And what might you be doing differently? And make sure you just send us an email to email@example.com or you just hop on over to Facebook to heart cells podcast and leave a comment under the episode of Ian Othman. Thank you so so much for tuning in. Have a wonderful day wherever you are saying bye for now.
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