Sales Hustle is now Sales Transformation
Dec. 13, 2021

#210 S2 Episode 79 - Why Practice & Vulnerability Matter in Sales with Jordana Zeldin

This episode of the Sales Transformation Podcast with Collin Mitchell features Jordana Zeldin, sales coach, founder of Spriing Training, and co-founder of The Practice Lab. The relationship aspect is an undeniable part of sales. Creating rapport takes more than just a catchy pitch.

By showing your own human side and being vulnerable, sellers get to connect with prospects and increase receptivity in the conversations. But this does not come automatically.

In fact, it requires a lot of relearning which Jordana unravels with The Practice Lab, a space where sellers develop their skills like athletes, musicians and performers where they are allowed to stumble and even fail as a vital prerequisite for mastery.

This vulnerability is also important within sales organizations themselves. As leaders at the helm, showing sales teams your willingness to grind through the work too and ask for feedback on their performance creates a connection otherwise lost in just theoretical coaching.


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HIGHLIGHTS

01:39 A difficult start in sales and learning from a sales leader

03:47 Working with peers helped jumpstart a coaching career 

06:45 Building confidence through time, practice, and leadership

12:43 Deep practice: Micro and macro summaries and objection handling 

19:11 Increasing receptivity and lowering resistance from prospects

22:23 Put in the practice and be vulnerable 

28:16 Connect with Jordana

QUOTES

03:53 Jordana: "When you don't have any real sales skills, you're going to be making a lot of mistakes. But the sales leader made it a really comfortable place to mess up and he'd offer feedback out loud to us in the sales pit after we got off our calls."

13:01 Jordana: "Talented and successful athletes and musicians from these pockets all over the world have developed their skills, and it's usually not just through repetition, but through what they call a kind of deep practice or deeper deliberate practice."

14:51 Jordana: "Conversations, it can be a really valuable thing periodically to play back what you are hearing from them, both to confirm understanding but also to give the person that you're speaking to the experience of feeling seen and heard and understood... it does wonders for lowering prospect resistance and increasing trust."

Learn more about Jordana in the links below:

Learn more about Collin in the link below: 

Also, you can join our community by checking out @salescast.community. If you're a sales professional looking to take your career to greater heights, please visit us at https://salescast.co/ and set a call with Collin and Chris. 

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Transcript

[00:00:00] In the world of sales, you either sink or swim or breakthrough to the next level. My name's Colin Mitchell, and this is sales transformation, a new kind of sales show designed to bring you through the epic life-changing moments of elite sellers. So you can experience your own sales transformation.

[00:00:24] All right. Welcome to another episode of sales transformation. I am very excited today to have Jordanna Zeldin on today. Jordanna is a sales coach and founder of spring training and the co-founder. The practice lab, a new sales training community for sellers eager to develop their skills like athletes, musicians, and performers.

[00:00:45] Do there's. Jordanna welcome to the show. Colin. Thank you for having me again. Yes, absolutely. We've been meaning to make this happen. I know that you've been very busy doing important work. So here we are. Let's just jump right in because we had way too much fun before we hit record. So now, um, we got to just jump right in.

[00:01:05] So. Just take us back for a moment of like, where did your sales story? Yeah. So I never, in a million years imagined that I would be a salesperson. I was in the art world. I was directing theater. I was mentoring emerging visual artists, and I kind of tripped and fell into B2B sales through an art technology company who had a very ambitious mission of bringing the art world online.

[00:01:32] And they just needed people who could speak to our customers who were gallerists at the time. I felt very weird about being in sales early on. I didn't really have any hard sales skills to speak of. Um, and a big part of me thought that in order to be a sales person, I had to be somebody else. So, uh, for the first year I did fine, you know, my enthusiasm and warmth carried me, but, um, I didn't feel really connected to who I was.

[00:02:05] And we had a very unseasoned team that didn't offer a lot in the way of support. Um, most, most of our pitching for example, would just happen in private phone booths. We didn't get to hear each other. We didn't get to learn and develop together. Um, so the first year was tough. First year was tough. Um, Things really changed when they brought in a really seasoned head of sales, who I think helped in two key ways.

[00:02:36] One is that he assured all of us that the people who we were are in fact, the people who belong in our selling, we didn't have to pretend to be someone that we weren't put on a weird sell at salesy voice in order to do the job. Um, but he also transformed the culture. And he took us out of our phone booths and put us all in the sales pit so we could hear each other and screw up together and give each other feedback and everything really started to change there.

[00:03:02] Wow. Uh, I can't even picture like having to do your sales calls in a phone booth, not one, I'm like a New York city street corner, but you know, these startups have, you know, these fancy phone booth. So it was, it was all a very kind of. Uh, private exercise. Yeah. Wait, which meant that we were very much alone and trying to understand like what we were doing well and where to improve.

[00:03:24] So, uh, just curious, uh, what were, what was, what were people saying or what were your own thoughts about like, okay, we've been doing it this way. Uh, you know, privately now we're going to have to be vulnerable and have these calls in front of our peers. Don't really know if I'm doing them right. If I'm good, bad or indifferent.

[00:03:44] What were people saying? How are you feeling about that? So a lot of people felt really uncomfortable, right? Because there is a pretty high level of vulnerability. And when you don't have any real sales skills, you're going to be making a lot of mistakes. Right. But the sales leader made it a really comfortable place to mess up and he'd offer feedback like out loud to us in the sales pit, after we got off our calls.

[00:04:09] Right. So we'd be able to hear him lovingly telling you. How we can improve. And we all started as a result of, um, you know, so much feedback just flying around throughout the day to listen to each other and to develop awarenesses of what one another were doing and to start to offer feedback ourselves.

[00:04:31] And that was actually in some ways where I caught the sales coaching bug, because I got so much out of noticing. What my peers were doing and working with them to try to improve and to grow. And I think that's really where the origins in a way of my sales coaching career began. Yeah. Yeah. So we're people, I mean, it just, it totally flipped the old culture, like upside down, right?

[00:04:58] Yeah. In, in, in every way. And even, you know, it's so interesting when we started. Out as a team, you know, we were selling into a pretty exclusive audience, right. Gallerists, very, very kind of elite. And I think all of us felt a bit of a subservience to our prospects. When we were talking to them on the phone, we didn't feel like we had any power and we didn't really feel like we had much control and this sales leader.

[00:05:26] Like he gave us permission to all, but tell our prospects to F off if we needed to. I mean, he, like, there was like a, kind of like a reverence and a confidence that he instilled in us, which allowed us to feel like, no, like we're the experts here. We deserve to be having these conversations with, with these important people and can indeed offer them value.

[00:05:47] Right? So in a way, he, he helped to flip the hierarchy on its head to where we felt. We, we were no longer subservient to our prospect, but rather on equal footing, which changed of course, how we felt in our conversations as well. Yeah. I mean, confidence is so important in sales, right. And I think that a lot of people early on struggle with that.

[00:06:10] Right. And even don't even view like their prospects as equals well, I think, I mean, think about it like being an SDR calling into the season. That's hard, you know, I mean, yeah, go ahead. It is hard. It is hard, but the minute you can get over that. Right. And just like, Hey, I'm just calling another human that puts their pants on the same way as me, um, to have a conversation, then things can really change, but it takes a little bit of time to build that confidence.

[00:06:44] Absolutely. But when we had a leader like this one, like pushing us and encouraging us and allowing. To be our full selves on our conversations with these important people that, I mean, that was transformative. So it was a combination of time and culture and leadership, not to mention the fact that because we were all learning together and practicing together and growing together, we became a much more skillful team.

[00:07:11] And I think under this leader's leadership revenue grew by something crazy, like 400. Wow. That's big. It's powerful by creating a safe place in the culture to make mistakes and learn from each other. That that's exactly right. And you know, what's interesting is that when I decided to become a sales coach full time, and I moved on to my first sales coaching and training company called sales gem, that was there in spades to more explicitly.

[00:07:45] Kind of through the vehicle of practice. So this, this training organization was a company that trained up its clients with a kind of athlete, inspired approach to practice. But we also trained up our own coaching skills that way as well, internally as a team. Um, you know, I spent two weeks doing mock coaching sessions and role-plays before they ever let me actually get in a room with any of our clients who are, you know, important clients from like the fortune 100, but there was something incredible about having had that experience of developing my own skills through practice, getting vulnerable, messing up, trying, getting feedback that made this place.

[00:08:24] One of the most kind of rewarding and generative cultures I've ever been a part of. Yeah. I mean, you've been, you've been thinking about sales and practice and sort of like the sales athlete for, for quite some time now. Right? Well, I think what's interesting is. You know, to me, it's indisputable that practice build skill, right.

[00:08:45] We know that from every other performance-based discipline. And I'm excited to do more of that, you know, with, with sales teams, both the spring training and also with the practice lab. But I think where I really kind of geek out Collin is around some of this, um, subtler cultural stuff where I see practice really moving the needle through mistake, making and vulnerability and.

[00:09:09] You know, taking risks and experimenting and offering feedback. I've seen firsthand from my own experience, the impact that that has on culture. So, you know, a big part of my work, especially with teams now is not only giving them a foundational skillset that's rooted in. Their humanity, which feels really good for them, but also working with teams to develop these cultures of practice so that they not only can turn those skills into habit, but also create the kind of culture and container where people feel safe enough to learn, which makes these teams places where people want to stay.

[00:09:49] And of course impacts, you know, really important key, key performance and revenue metrics. W, why do you think more sales organizations aren't providing a safe place for people to practice? Like what are some of the reasons that more organizations haven't adopted this? Yeah, so I think there are a number of factors.

[00:10:12] One historically sales has not been considered. To be an industry where you practice any time beyond your calls with prospects. Right? It's, it's that kind of like, yeah. You know, you get your at bats on the phone, you try, you fail over years, you figure it out, you know? Um, so I think that's a kind of broader like sales, cultural issue.

[00:10:38] Um, but I also think that a lot of sales manager. Not only don't have the time to coach period, but don't necessarily know what it means to be a practice coach, which is different from the kind of coaching that, you know, training that a lot of managers get, which is question-based and exploratory and reflective, which is transformative coaching.

[00:11:00] But when you're talking about developing skill, that's not the most effective way to do it. Private practice coaching. And I don't know that many people out there managers or otherwise who really have that. Yeah. I remember. I even, um, I can't remember what exactly the context was, but I posted something about, um, referencing, you know, like a sales athlete, like, you know, that they need to practice.

[00:11:24] They need to take care of themselves and get proper sleep and all this. And it was not a popular opinion. I got a lot of crap for it where people thought it was ridiculous to compare salespeople, to ask. Yeah. Yeah. It's, you know, I think part of it is that, you know, maybe the athlete metaphor connects to like the old boys for his club of, of, you know, sales hope.

[00:11:45] Sometimes people are turned off from that, but again, I'm not sure that people think about communication skills, right? Human communication skills as a skill set that can be practice, but I just wholeheartedly disagree and I've seen firsthand, uh, how beneficial developing a practice of practicing. And you, you guys have S you know, you and John have sort of figured out some ways to practice these skills that aren't directly just on real live sales calls.

[00:12:15] Right. So tell me a little bit more about that. Yeah. So what's interesting about the practice lab is that this is a space for sellers to get their at-bats in working and practicing very specific core sales skills. You know, have the potential when executed well to have a big impact, not only on how selling feels, right.

[00:12:38] Both for the seller and the prospect, but also the results that sellers are able to get. And what we've done is we've taken our cues from. Books on like the science of behavioral change and neurological development. Like there's an incredible book called the talent code, um, which really breaks down how some of the most, um, kind of talented and successful athletes and musicians from these pockets all over the world have developed their skills.

[00:13:09] And it's usually not just through repetition. But through what they call a kind of deep practice or deeper deliberate practice. And that practice happens right at the edge of your current abilities where you don't feel comfortable. Mm, where it's awkward, where you're stumbling, where you're having to double back and make corrections.

[00:13:34] But what's amazing is that when you can get as an athlete, a musician, as a seller, into a state of deep practice, the impact on what's happening neurologically in terms of like the matter in your brain is pretty profound. And in a state of deep practice, your neurological circuitry is getting more insulation.

[00:13:53] That's wrapping around it to help your circuitry fire more quickly. Faster firing firing circuitry is, is like the tangible version of skill. Right? So what we do in the practice lab is we break, uh, uh, kind of the sales process down into these key micro behaviors that a seller can do in the sales process and deliberately create exercise to keep them exercises, to keep them right at the edge of their ability.

[00:14:21] So that they're developing those skills. Yeah. Give me a few examples of like some of the skills that can be practiced in the, the practice lab. Yeah. Such, such a great question. So, um, one of them are really powerful skill that not a lot of sellers do I find is what we call micro summaries and macro summaries.

[00:14:44] And. What that skill is, is when you are in discovery with a prospect, or really when you're just out in the world as a human being, having conversations, it can be a really valuable thing periodically to play back what you are hearing from them both to confirm, understanding, but also to give the person that you're speaking to.

[00:15:07] The experience of feeling seen and heard and understood, right. Which is one of the most profound human experiences that we can have. And it does wonders for lowering prospect resistance and increasing trust. Yeah. So in the practice lab, you know, we have an exercise where, you know, we're having a conversation with our partners and for the first round, it's our job to summarize.

[00:15:35] Almost everything that we're hearing as they go just to, to like extend that muscle, exaggerate that muscle to its max, right. Just to get into that habit. And then as the exercise progresses, of course, the amount of summarizing that we're doing becomes more natural and gets less frequent. But what we're then doing is teeing up something called a macro summary, which is a kind of big picture summation of what you heard.

[00:16:01] That you can then use to pivot into how you're going to talk about your product or service. So that's, that's just one example of like a specific skill set that can have a big impact on your understanding of your prospect and how they feel on the interaction. Yeah. And I mean, just, just. Skills alone. I know a lot of sellers have a hard time with, but what you're also doing there too, is flexing your active listening bus as well, which is one of the things that I think a lot of sellers could use a lot of practice on because I get pitched a lot too.

[00:16:39] And I love just kind of. It just sort of, um, examining how people do in, in, in the process and, you know, sellers tend to get nervous, um, or they're already have their talk. Figured out in their head or they have sort of, you know, prospect says this, I'm going to say that sort of mapped out. Um, and when all of that's going on, you're not fully present.

[00:17:04] You're not fully listening to what your prospect's saying. You're not fully processing what they're saying. And a lot of sellers can also get uncomfortable with like silence and, you know, even. Telling your prospects, like before you respond, like, let me process that for a second. Right. Um, and, and these are all super, super valuable skills that are relevant throughout the whole sales process.

[00:17:30] I mean, the listening piece is huge. You know, we focus so much, like you say, on our talk tracks, like what we're going to say, but another thing we need to consider our sellers is like, how are we going to be. With our prospects and how has that way of being going to make. Them feel. Yeah. And when someone feels not listened to not heard the amount that they're willing to disclose drops, and then the entire conversation suffers, right.

[00:17:59] There's less trust. There's more resistance. You get less information. You're not able to sell as effectively. So you really, really hit on a really important skill that gets a lot of air time in the lab. Yeah. And if you even think about it from the seller's perspective, too, Not being able to just be themselves and conversations and people are just too dynamic to have sort of every play or conversation mapped out.

[00:18:24] Um, they end up being, you know, kind of forced to say things that they're told they should say. Um, and, you know, makes them less confident, less comfortable, and really just as a recipe for disaster. Yeah. I think once you leave yourself, like if you're not with yourself and you're selling. Your prospect is going to feel it.

[00:18:45] You're going to feel it. You're not going to be as agile. The skills that you've learned, aren't going to be as readily accessible to you. And you're going to deprive both you, your prospect and your selling of that vital human connection that is required to be really effective and impactful in this role.

[00:19:02] Right on Colin. Yeah. Okay. So that's, that's a great example. I love that. Um, Give me another one. Okay. Objection handling. For example, what do you think Colin, when most sellers receive an objection, what is their response? Well, I'll push back a little bit. Cause I don't like to view them as objections. I like to view them as questions.

[00:19:27] Right? So an objection or question, whatever you want to call it is an opportunity to, to have a conversation, to explain something better. So typically sellers, when they hear an objection and they have that sort of mindset. And, um, they're sort of defensive to like defend whatever their prospect is saying.

[00:19:47] That's probably the most common way that a seller responds to an objection right on, right. So a prospect objects, a seller rabbits, right? That's that's the pattern I had been taught. Yeah. So what do you think Colin that does to your prospect's trust and openness to having their perspective change at the moment you kind of counterpart.

[00:20:13] They're going there, they're going to rebut right back. Right. So it's just kind of like, we're going to Democrat and butt heads. Right. And it's like, who's going to win. And then it's just a, can be like a, like an ego contest. Right. There we go. So that is a behavior that is ingrained in us as sellers that we want to change.

[00:20:29] So when we, yeah, go ahead. Yeah. I mean, even when I first got started in sales, and even when I first had a team, like we have. All of our objections, all of our rebuttals, we needed to learn them. We needed to know them. And that's how we sold. Yeah. That's what we were taught. That's how so many people still do it?

[00:20:49] Well, that's the thing. And when you think about it, like resistance tends to be quite high at the moment of objection from a prospect, receptivity tends to be a little lower. So the goal with a great kind of process that you take your prospect through is to increase their receptivity and lower their resistance.

[00:21:05] And it's not going to be through arguing back, right? So a simple micro behavior that we teach and practice in the lab is to welcome the objective. To express, genuine appreciation and gratitude. That really glad you brought that up. Thanks so much for being straight with me and then to ask a question to create deeper understanding, right?

[00:21:27] Because sometimes you'll get an objection, maybe it's around timing or price or whatever it is, and you take that at face value and then you're. Responding down like the pricing path. When really, if you ask a question to better understand my, what might be going on, and maybe it's more than one question often it is Maura will be revealed that will allow you to more effectively.

[00:21:49] Uh, respond and share some ideas when it is time. So what we're trying to do in our kind of objection handling, we can, I agree there, you know, the questions or concerns is to interrupt that pattern of argument and rebuttal, encourage sellers to express genuine gratitude. It's way better to get an objection than to be ghosted, right?

[00:22:10] Because then you've really nothing to work with express genuine gratitude, and then get curious. And that's that micro behavior welcome curiosity. Welcome. Ask a question. Wow. Wow. Um, and so that's, that's a toughie, I think for a, for a lot of people, right? Because it's, it's, it's retraining sort of, uh, an old way of thinking and our old behavior.

[00:22:38] Right. And the only way to do that is through guess what. Let's practice one hour and the practice lab is not going to change the behavior. Right. And then of course, there's open lab the following week where you have an hour to get some more practice in, but then you've got to be doing it on your own, getting into your reps and yes.

[00:23:01] Trying it out on your prospects. Right. And seeing how it feels, knowing that you have laid the foundation and kind of prime the well. In the lab, if you're in the practice lab, or even if you're in front of your mirror, if you're not a seller in the lab, right. To try that on for size, to have a sense of what it might feel like to approach this differently.

[00:23:20] Yeah. I'm going to ask you a question. I think a lot of people are probably thinking at this point, right? What is it? Um, like how often to a sales rep be practicing and do they ever stop practicing? Um, you know, it's interesting. Did Michael Jordan stopped stop practicing and like the height of his career.

[00:23:40] I mean, just this idea in our industry that you become so good that you no longer need to practice and continue to pay attention to your craft. It's just incompatible with what every other performance-based discipline knows. As they continue to grow in their careers, even the top 1%. So for, even for leaders, like absolutely, you know, leaders need to stop thinking that they know all the answers and they have nothing to learn.

[00:24:08] You know, like I want to see sales leaders in the practice lab with her. Well, you know, it's interesting, there is a, a series of posts a couple of weeks ago on LinkedIn asking the question like, should sales leaders make cold calls? And I said, yes. And I said, yes, but what was so interesting is that, that, that people read that as like, oh no cold calling is not a high value activity.

[00:24:33] Therefore sales leaders should be spending time on. Bigger business problems, but how can you coach on cold calls if you haven't made a cold call in this decade? Well, not yet. And there is a way, way more powerful signal that you can send to your team. If you're a leader hopping into the trenches, it has nothing to do with.

[00:24:53] Dave you are in your calls. You can be a sales leader and suck at cold calling. And that does not mean you are an ineffective leader, but it shows back to this vulnerability piece that you're willing to get vulnerable, that you're willing to muck in that you're willing to ask your reports for feedback on how you can improve.

[00:25:10] Do you know how powerful that is and how transformative that can be for a team calling? Oh, it's big for a number of reasons. I mean, the number one reason I think is because just showing that. Vulnerability as a leader. Shows that it's okay to be vulnerable to the team. Yes. Let me tell you a little story.

[00:25:29] So when I was training up at sales gem, like I said, I spent two weeks mock coaching and practice coaching before they would let me take on any clients and a big part of how we trained was doing lightning rounds with our team, you know, with our coaching squad, um, either practicing skills that we were teaching our clients or practicing our coaching skills.

[00:25:47] And I remember Colin, how. Utterly terrified. I was to show up for the first lightening round because the founder of the company was going to be there. Right. And I felt like I was very much being tested, but what was so interesting is that the founder of the company practiced. And not only did he practice, but he made mistakes and asked for feedback and that signal to all of us on the team, that this was a place where we could mess up and learn and grow together too.

[00:26:18] And the impact there was. I mean, yeah, it's transformative. Yeah. Well, this is awesome. Everybody needs to sign up for practice lab, even sales leaders. There you go. Sales leaders are so Colin sales leaders are not allowed into the practice lab. Oh, I know. A separate lab. I agree. I agree. Well, maybe that's twist your arm to change your mind.

[00:26:43] Well, part of it look part of it is that we really do want this to be a place for reps and peers to be learning from one another. That's part of it. So that's part of a bigger problem. Incidentally sales leader. Should be able to be allowed in practice lab and it still be a safe place. I could not agree more, unfortunately.

[00:27:05] Yeah. Unfortunately we're not there yet, but I would say that's a good goal, right? Yeah. I think what, when that's, when, when there's, when there is a day, when leaders can hop in to a practice space with sellers and for there to be excitement, rather than fear, we know that the industry has gotten to where it needs to be for certain leaders.

[00:27:25] It would be appropriate, but there would have to be some very thorough vetting process. I think so. Yeah, because there are some leaders that are, you know, a lot of times I can get so caught up in talking about, you know, what peop you know, how things are being done wrong, but there are a lot of people that are doing things right.

[00:27:46] Um, and. Maybe not as many as we would like to see, but I would love to see a place where leaders and individual contributors could both go to practice lab and it'd be a comfortable, safe place. I love that idea. Let's make it. So, all right. So leaders, you can not sign up today. We'll be sending your team.

[00:28:07] And if you're a leader that you think. Should be in the practice lab then, I don't know. Maybe, maybe there'll be a separate lab for leaders one day, if you're a leader in your interest in right. Write us directly@thepracticelabsalesatgmail.com and the more leaders raised their hand and say, this is something that they want to do the more possible it will be for us to create an offering for you.

[00:28:29] Yeah. Yeah. There you go. All right. So where can people find out about practice labs? Okay. The practice lab.co is our website. You can read all about it, apply for the Q1 cohort. We're also on LinkedIn. Yeah, and don't wait because, uh, they've already gotten a lot of applications and you don't want to miss this opportunity.

[00:28:52] Trust me. So pack the practice lab.co we'll. Put the link in the show notes for you. Hurry up before it fills up. Jordanna thanks so much for coming on today. Really enjoyed this conversation. If you enjoyed today's episode, please write us a review, share the show with your friends. It really does help us out.

[00:29:09] And we're always listening for your feedback. You can always go to sales, transformation.fm, drop us a voice DM there, and I will get back to you. Hey, you stuck around that tells me you're serious about your own sales transformation. If you're tired of doing things the old way and want to get started in your journey with other people on the same path.

[00:29:29] Head over to sales, cast.community and crush your numbers on your leaderboard. Yeah. It's free sales cast.community. Send me a DM with your best pitch and mention this ad. And I might even give you free access to our best templates.