Chatting with Shari Levitin on Consumer Trends and Her New Bestselling Book, “Heart and Sell: 10 Universal Truths Every Salesperson Needs to Know.”

When I heard that Shari Levitin had written a new book, I asked this well-known entrepreneur. “Why this book, and why did you write it now?”

I’ve spent a lot of that time wondering why salespeople in the same auto dealership, sales reps at the same resort, and sellers of similar software products produce such different outcomes? Why does one salesperson earn $50,000 per year, while another in the same industry earns $400,000?

I made it my mission to study top sales leaders, authors and salespeople in various industries, in part to see if there are any common, unifying practices.

For each person I studied, I asked myself: what did they say—and what didn’t they say? How did they do it? Did they have secret tricks or best practices they could share?

It turns out that top salespeople have a lot of differences beyond the products they sell and the industries in which they work. Some are book-wise and some are streetwise; some are effusive while others are shy. Some come from wealth while others have struggled. But they are all the same in one important way:

They not only lead with their heart when connecting with others; they also connect deeply to themselves and their own goals and dreams. Today’s top performers realize this important truth: What you do matters, but who you are matters more.

The 10 Universal Truths in my book are all about achieving the balance between sales techniques and human connection.

What’s changed in the sales landscape and in consumer behavior that makes a different approach necessary?

1. Low Trust

In the age of pseudo facts, or what we call, “The Post Truth Era,” one thing we can all agree on is that authenticity is more important than ever. If we as salespeople aren’t coming from a position of integrity, customers know it instantly. Today’s buyers are savvier than ever, and they’re wary of staged presentations and canned pitches. A recent Gallup poll found that customers consider sales one of the least ethical professions—only lobbyists and members of Congress ranked lower! Additionally, the Millennial generation numbers roughly 77 million, or about a quarter of the US population. This generation demands honesty in where they work and how they buy. They will trade collaboration and mission for competition and commissions.

2. The Empowered Consumer

Increased access to information has shifted the power to the consumer. The empowered consumer lives on their smart phone. It’s their calendar, their map, their shopping cart and their companion. As a result, customer engagement starts much earlier. Research shows that 87% consult the web prior to, or during a sales presentation. They’re fact checking, comparative shopping and subconsciously asking themselves how they feel about every interaction with your company. Each consumer touch point must compel customers to act. It doesn’t matter how great your vacation club, resort or product might be might be, you won’t succeed if you don’t understand your target customers’ decision process and create brand loyalty. The Universal Truths help team members in every department to connect with the empowered consumer and enhance the buyer’s journey.

3. Information Overload

Today’s customers are overloaded and overwhelmed by too much information, making a decision is more difficult. Your stressed-out customers simply can’t fully grasp your new, complex offerings. They may like your product, and they may even see the value in it, but they don’t have the bandwidth to understand what you’re selling or why they even need it. But here’s the good news: As my colleague Terry Ferara points out “Your customers don’t have to understand a product in order to buy a product—they just need to know that you understand them and that you’re a trusted, reliable, and honest resource.”
So, what are these Universal Truths and how can companies apply them?

The 10 Universal Truths

  1. Success starts with the growth equation. Top salespeople share a willingness to take responsibility for their weaknesses, a deep curiosity about their customers and the world, and a desire for mastery. They commit to using what they’ve learned about their processes to continue improving. When you master this “growth equation” you will not only improve your ability to sell, you will transform your life.
  2. Emotions drive decision-making. The desire to be loved, to create closeness, look good, feel good, be remembered–even to belong–drives all of our decision-making. Which is why your ability to uncover customer’s emotional dominant motivators will dictate your success. Selling anything is a matter of understanding intimately what drives the desire to buy. Until you know someone you don’t know what drives them.
  3. Freedom lives in structure. Pilots run through preflight checklists. Free-throw shooters develop rituals to help them hit the same shot time and again. Bakers adhere to time-tested recipes. So why should it be different in sales? Highly successful salespeople have a process they follow and they follow that process every time. It may sound counterintuitive, but structure creates the freedom to act authentically and to create meaningful connections.
  4. In sales, no never means no. Are you paralyzed by fear? Good. Top salespeople know that the more fear they feel, the more important it is to tackle the fear. What you’re afraid to do, you must do. The question you’re afraid to ask, you must ask. Failure is inevitable. Learn to bounce back. Resilience is a life skill, one that will fill your soul and your pockets.
  5. Trust begins with empathy. Trust is born of empathy, integrity, reliability, and competency. You need all four traits, but without connecting on an empathetic level, you won’t have a chance to demonstrate the other three. Empathy is the first building block of trust. We can’t pretend to have empathy. Empathy is not about shifting the conversation to what you want to say or judging your customer. It’s about being fully engaged and present to understand someone else’s emotions. Once you establish trust everything else just falls into place. But, like a mirror, once you break trust it can never be pieced back together in quite the same way.
  6. Integrity matters. Once we cultivate true empathy, it’s impossible to lie to or cheat our customers–or anyone, for that matter, including ourselves. The word “sales” comes from the old English word for “give.” When we sell, we must give. We can only maintain trust and enjoy enduring success when we cultivate honorable traits like reliability, competency, and integrity. Eventually, they become part of your character, and when I buy from you it’s your character, more than anything else, that I’m buying into.
  7. Anything that can be told can be asked. When you ask the right questions, you uncover what matters most. “Discovery questions” uncover customers’ needs, direct their thinking down a path you choose, generate curiosity, and ultimately move them to action. These questions build rapport, gain commitment, and help your prospects sell themselves. Well-crafted questions help you make a point loudly, without having to raise your voice. Good questions create change. Great questions change the world.
  8. Emotional commitment precedes economic commitment. Most salespeople incorrectly assume that they can create a sense of urgency by threatening scarcity or appealing to greed. If people don’t want what you’re selling, they won’t care if there are only two left or whether you’re throwing something else in. Focus on Truths 5 and 6, and economic commitment will follow.
  9. Removing resistance takes persistence. As soon as a, prospect displays resistance, most salespeople drop the price, modify the terms, or otherwise change the offer. But the truth is: only when someone is in a receptive emotional state can you close. Everything else you do will create an illusion of progress when it only lengthens the sales cycle and sucks more time and energy into an unlikely sale.
  10. Looking for wrongs never makes you right. Every day, in every encounter, you have a choice. You can look for what’s right about that person or experience–what’s valuable or productive–or you can look for what’s wrong. When you’re interacting with prospects and customers, don’t look for reasons why they won’t buy. Look instead for reasons why they will buy. Keep the conversation and the interactions on a
    positive track. Reinforce benefits and opportunities. Selling fear is tantalizing but it’s not the basis for enduring relationships and it will most often lead to distrust.
Heart and Sell by Shari Levitin

These 10 Universal Truths may sound ridiculously simple but practicing them takes discipline. In addition to the book, we’ve created a Companion Guide so that companies can leverage the principles in the book into their entire culture. Each chapter contains exercises, videos and discussion points.

Shari’s newest revelations are the foundation of an international book launch tour, coordinated through her publisher that began in Brazil, Hawaii, New York, Mexico, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Orlando. The tour resumes in the fall of 2017 and is slated to continue through the end of the year.

Shared ownership brands like Hilton, Wyndham, Pueblo Bonito, RCI, Breckenridge Grand Vacations, as well as giants outside our arena like Adobe, Salesforce, and the National Association of Home Builders, have embraced her fresh insights and endorsed her theories enthusiastically.

As Shari says in her book, “Sales can be a tough game. It’s full of rejection, stress, and self-doubt. But once your dreams are more potent than your fears, you will find that your rewards are far greater than your struggles. And that’s why you’ve put your heart and soul into this to begin with!

The warm, honest and accessible book is garnering rave reviews because of its abundance of original information and useful techniques. Dr. Dan Baker, author of What Happy People Know, says, “Going beyond the ‘how to,’ this book gets to the ‘why’ that only top salespeople understand.”

Fiona Downing, Senior Vice President, PI at Group RCI, adds, “Full of Levitin’s usual wit, compassion and humor. Her fans will be delighted and sales leaders can gain new actionable and useable tools to increase profits and create more satisfied customers. It’s refreshing to see science-backed research combined with heart and authenticity. Timely and necessary!”

Says Michael Brown, CEO of Wyndham Vacation Club, Heart and Sell bridges the gap between the new science of selling and the realities of today’s highly informed and equally overwhelmed customer, who demands and deserves a more personal sales approach. Levitin’s expertise is readily apparent in this read and expertly blends neuroscience, heart and humor to create a powerful resource for anyone who wishes for success in sales.