Sales Hustle is now Sales Transformation
April 26, 2021

Episode #89 S1-EP89 Acquiring Deeper Insights During Sales Calls that Lead to Closing Deals with Richard Smith

Richard Smith joins Collin Mitchell in this episode of the Sales Hustle podcast. Let’s hear from Richard as he looks back into his sales career. He also explains the value of gathering deeper, personalized insights from clients that contribute to closing business deals.

Richard Smith is the Co-Founder and VP of Sales of Refract who is passionate about building outbound sales teams, coaching reps to sales excellence.

Refract is a coaching and consulting company that empowers Sales Management Teams in identifying and immediately improving costly mistakes, errors and missed opportunities. In all their sectors, they find that providing coaching and feedback are essential to individual and organizational development, whether it be during training or learning from the job performance providing appraisal – praise, ideas and corrective feedback, are considered part of the essential keys to improving performance. 

Richard is also a published author as he co-wrote the book - Problem Prospecting?!: Completely Eradicate Your Prospecting Troubles By Leading With Problems that’s dedicated to every sales professional who has ever sat anxiously before, during, and after sales calls. Grab a copy of his book at 

Find out more and reach out to Richard Smith through the following links:

Join the Sales Hustle Community! Text “Hustle” to 424-401-9300!

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Episode 89 - Richard Smith

Welcome to the sales hustle. The only no BS podcast, where we bring you the real raw uncut experiences from sales change makers across various industries. The only place where you can get what you're looking for too. Uh, your sales game today's episode is brought to you by sales cast sales cast helps sales professionals transformed the relationship building process and win their dream clients.

[00:00:30] I'm your host, Colin Mitchell. What is happening? Sales hustlers. Welcome to another episode today. I've got a special guest for you. We're going to be talking with Richard Smith, joining us from the UK. He is the VP of sales and co-founder of refract passionate about building outbound sales teams, coaching reps, to sales excellence, and craft beer.

[00:00:53] Richard, welcome to the show. Yeah. Thanks Colin. And the, yeah, I'm not sure if. They were an order of priority, but probably the last one should have been first. All right, let's try. Let's do it again now. Um, all right. Awesome, man. I think I came across some awesome content that you. Posted on LinkedIn said, got to get Richard on here and drop some knowledge bombs for, for our sales hustlers.

[00:01:19] So welcome to the show. Glad to have you on here. And just, you know, we'd like to start these out pretty much the same. Uh, give us the short version and I say sharp Rosen. Cause sometimes it's hard to get salespeople to shut up, um, of your sales story. Short vision, um, nothing too exciting and unique. Uh, one of these people who left a university, um, with a terrible degree in computer science realized I was terrible at programming.

[00:01:48] Coding was never going to make it as a, never, not smart enough to do that. Quite frankly. Um, when there, what the hell am I going to do? Uh, London in sales as an SDL, it wasn't called an SDL back then. It was a, it was a business development executive. Um, but it was essentially essentially doing the role of an SDL, um, kind of muddled my way through that for the best part of two years, um, slightly progressed through the company, which was a SAS business I was working with back then.

[00:02:17] Um, Doing small deals, you know, moved into more enterprise deals. Uh, and so, you know, that company got acquired. And then that led me to, uh, starting up refract, which is the company that I'm with, uh, with now, um, where, you know, really. Built the company from the ground built, uh, run the sales team here is VP of sales.

[00:02:39] We were acquired as a business at the end of last year by a company called a Lego, which was awesome. Um, uh, you know, we'd gone from zero to 25 employees and, um, and yeah, just continuing the growth now and, um, yeah, excited to, to talk about some, some cool topics today. Yeah, that's awesome. All right. Well, thanks for giving us that insight there.

[00:03:02] And so I know that you're really passionate about cold calling. You're really passionate about, um, you know, to be a better, closer, you need to be a better opener. So why don't you tell me a little bit more about that? No, let's focus on the second one that, um, I think. I in my line of work, we, I speak in sell to sales leaders every day.

[00:03:25] My team do. It's kind of, we say we sell to sales leaders, see all Rose VPs. Um, and it's interesting. We sell a product which is all about having better sales conversations to senior sales leaders. So it's like, we've got no heightened place. If me and my sales team ish shit at what we do, you know, we can get called out quite quite quickly.

[00:03:46] We almost lose credibility out products could lose credibility quite, quite quickly in that regard. Um, but it is very interesting because you know, you do get a lot of perspectives from sales leaders as you, as you, as you speak with them. Um, and yeah, what I tend to find is some of the things that. You know, they, they share quite, in some cases they've shared quite a lot of what you might call private stuff about their team.

[00:04:12] Like they give us the rundown on team performance on, you know, who's, who's not performing who that top performers are. They talk about the pressures that they're facing in their world. You know, they tell us that it's, that, you know, not going to turn around and results in the next two quarters, they might that, that next on the line, it is quite a interesting conversation that you can have, um, And one thing that kind of frustrates me is I asked them about, so tell me a little bit about what it is that you feel your sales team is struggling with right now, as it pertains to your sales process.

[00:04:44] And one thing I constantly hear is are we just not very good at closing deals? I said, okay. Tell me, tell me more about that so that we just, you know what, we're really good at getting. Things to the point of closure. And, but we were just, we just lacking closing skills in the team. It's one thing I'm working on is closing skills.

[00:05:02] Um, and I guess this, this kind of amuses me. Because in my entire career in sales, the clothes has always been for me, the easiest part. I'm like, if I do everything right at the front end of the process, the clothes, actually, you don't need any skills to close often, you know, when you've done the right thing.

[00:05:23] W w what happen when you say do the right? Yeah. When you say do the right thing, what do you mean? Um, thinking about. Doing the right thing of qualification. Are we speaking to the right prospects in the first place? Um, once we've got the right prospects that we know we can be successful, the ones that we can help, um, do we.

[00:05:43] Do we do good discovery, um, discovery being the hardest part of the sales process Bohannon. Um, you can put that in front of prospecting and everything else that people say is that the hardest thing about sales, good discovery is like, how can you get this prospect? Who's dead precious with time. Who's being solely by lots of people getting them from a point of, Hey, I'm quite happy with how I'm doing right now to actually I need that.

[00:06:07] I need to change. I've got urgency to, to change what I'm doing, maybe in the space of 30 minutes, that's hard. Um, but once you do that, everything else should just feel easy because you'll, you know, you'll product much as that. Pain points. You know, they, they're motivated to bring all the stakeholders in the conversation.

[00:06:23] If they don't have budget budget, they'll go and find it because they've, you've, you've done a good enough job of finding out that the cost of them not changing to the point that when you get to the close, you don't even have to ask for the clothes, the, the sale, but the prospects as what happens next, send me over the contract.

[00:06:38] Let's move forward. You don't need skills to close. You need skills to open. So if you're opening and doing your discovery properly, being thorough, qualifying, doing all of those things, right? Like you mentioned, That prospect kind of closes themself if you've done your job well. And why it's, it's kind of baffling that sales leaders think that the biggest thing that they need help with is closing.

[00:07:04] Why do they not realize that, like the reason we're not closing these deals is because they should have never fucking made it to the pipeline in the first place. Right. I mean, you said it perfectly that Colin, I think, I think part of it is some of the kind of old outages and sort of nonsense phrases.

[00:07:21] That's still kicking out in sales, like, you know, um, coffees for closes and sales is like closes. And, um, even, even at the point that we're describing our account executives as closes, Hey, I've got my closing team, like by buying spicing that you'll basically saying. Hey, my account executives going to swoop in and they're going to close the deal.

[00:07:39] They're gonna use that witchcraft. They're gonna use their kind of clever sort of closing techniques. And we're going to, we're going to get pen to paper. It's auto bullshit. Yeah. Yeah. And, and, and, and the AAE AKA closer, can't close if it wasn't opened properly. Right. Exactly. Um, and you know, I think if you, if, uh, sometimes like do get them to that place where they realize that it's actually not.

[00:08:05] About having these like magical skills. And you say these words and you, you asked these clever questions and suddenly the prospect can't do anything, but say yes, sign me up. Uh, cause that just doesn't happen. Um, you know, I asked them like, Hey, if you look in your CRM right now, you see all these deals, right.

[00:08:24] Um, You know, what's the number one reason you're losing deals, no decision, essentially. It's not because you're losing against the competition. It's not because of budgets. It's due to the prospect B until you're happy with their current state, you know, that, that the thought of them changing the cost of change, the motivation that they don't see the value in changing.

[00:08:44] Right. Exactly. Um, the reason they don't see the value. The reason that they haven't closes the deal is because not because we weren't good at closing them. It's because actually we didn't do a good enough job at the front end of the sales process. We didn't open the sales process effectively enough. So everything else was a waste of time afterwards.

[00:09:02] Um, yeah, I mean, it's clear anybody. If anybody looks into the, you know, deals loss, that the biggest reason deals don't close is because of their just stick, no change at all. They're just going to stick with what they currently have. They don't see the problem that you think you solve it as a big enough problem we're solving.

[00:09:22] Um, or you didn't do a good enough job helping them see the problem or dig deep enough into the problem or quantifying the problem. Right. Exactly. Um, so kind of brings me to my point of like, well, how do you improve that while you, you basically spend time practicing analyzing mustering discovery, because if you can get your salespeople to.

[00:09:47] Do better qualification do better discovery your win rates, change exponentially. Um, but I've see too many T too many companies who aren't doing that, that just kind of like, Hey, if we stick in the fleets and the top of the funnel, um, you know, sure enough, we'll, we'll close some deals off the back of it.

[00:10:05] Um, so what are some, what are some key things that you see? I mean, you probably. Here tonight. See tons of data on calls and qualification and discovery. And what are some of the big things that you see where people are making a lot of common mistakes and what are the actionable things to fix those? Yeah.

[00:10:25] Good question. So what we tend to see is a lot of, um, what I call like. The kind of the confusion between qualification discovery, two very different things like qualification is where a lot of reps gets stuck as like, Hey, all you, how big is your team? How many reps, you know, what do you use right now?

[00:10:48] It's kind of like, I almost frame it as slavery interrogation. Right. But it's almost like situation. It's like questions to say, Hey, do you, do you make, do you make a good profile of prospect for us? And it feels like once they get the yeses to those questions, it's like, right. Let me show you my product because you, you you're gonna like this because you fit the profile of the prospect that we, that, that, uh, that we enjoy selling to.

[00:11:12] But that's, the problem is like, that's not enough. You've got to go lower than that. And I call it like, that's the D the discovery is understanding. Okay. Let's discover. Um, what is their current process? What are the gaps in that process? What's the impact of those, uh, of, of, of, of that, of that problem. If we, uh, what's the impact of not solving it?

[00:11:33] What does it mean for the prospect? If we did solve it, if we fast forward to 12 months from now, what does that kind of future vision and personal motivation look like? That's a good discovery. And that's what gets people to realize like, Hey, this is worth changing for, so I'd say that's the first one is just like, you know, people, people confuse and qualification for discovery and therefore they don't do good discovery.

[00:11:54] Um,  art. Yeah. I would almost argue that some of the, yeah, I would almost argue some of those things don't even matter, like. You know, some of those things that people are having their processes, like, Hey, you meet this criteria or persona, like a lot of that shit doesn't matter if they have a problem that's big enough.

[00:12:15] And you do a good job of, you know, helping them see that and see the value in solving that or the impact of not solving that, whether they fit that mold or not, doesn't even matter. Right. Yeah. I totally agree. Um, and I think. You know, we spend a lot of time in discovery of like, like, Hey, we need to spend lots of time doing small, talk on our discovery call.

[00:12:39] It's like, it's yeah. It's just not, not, not necessary. Like if you've got, if you've got 30 minutes with a busy VP or C at CRL, you've got 30 minutes on their calendar. You better make the most of that time. And if you end up spending 15 minutes talking about the weather, COVID what, what the favorite sports team is.

[00:12:56] You're left with 15 minutes to move the needle, to get them motivated, to want to talk to you again, that's you don't leave yourself a lot of time. It's like I see too many people confusing, small talk with building rapport. Rapport is not built by small talk. Rapport is built by asking great questions.

[00:13:13] Megan, the prospect feel like you understand their world, that you're an expert and what you do in that, you know, you're someone that they want to spend more time talking to. Boom. All right. I love that sales hustlers. If you're listening, go ahead and just hit the rewind button and listen to that one more time, because building rapport is not about small talk and their sports team and their kid's baseball game and the pictures on their wall or whatever you can see in the zoom background.

[00:13:38] It's about positioning yourself as a, as an expert to help them, you know, solve a problem, a real problem that they have, and even challenging them and making them think about, or consider something that they might not have otherwise and asking some questions that every other person in your space they're talking to is not asking.

[00:13:55] Right. Right. I have a sneaking suspicion that you're, uh, you're, you're a gap selling fan. I like upselling. I've got the book. I've read it. Um, and yeah, I, I kind of, I'd say I take a lot of the principles of that, of that methodology. Ones that I believe in, I wouldn't say that I sell to any particular methodology.

[00:14:16] I just kind of one that I've crafted myself taken inspiration from lots of different, um, sources, but, but yeah, I'm very much a big believer in like the premise of gap selling of, um, Hey, it's, it's, it's about understanding, like what is, what is their current state and what is, what is Mo what would motivate them to move away from that?

[00:14:35] Um, The, the other things that we typically see Colin in, just the mistakes that I see is, um, You can boil it down to active listening in calls. Um, you know, we see tons of data about how much sales reps are toting on calls versus prospects, which is useful, but it doesn't always tell the full story. What, what tells the full story is if you actually to listen to those.

[00:15:02] Conversations that they're having is the amount of what I described as a moat of nuggets that get dropped in by prospects and sales calls that salespeople never pick up on. If you're a great example of this, like, Hey, you're on a sales call, the sales person, they kind of had in the call, they're taking notes.

[00:15:18] They ask a question. The prospect says, yeah, that can be a challenge for us. And the sales person just moves on to the next question. They don't, they don't, they haven't picked up the emote of nugget of the word challenge. It's like, Hey, that is where the opportunity lies is just what the prospect has said just then, but you've missed it or you may not have missed it.

[00:15:37] You've heard the word challenge, you think? Oh, cool. They've got a challenge. Right? Let's get them to a demo, whatever, whatever your next step is, check the box and move on. Yeah. That's like a huge opportunity to go deeper. Tell me more about that. Why is the challenge? You know, what happens if you don't fix that problem?

[00:15:53] I might lose my job. Okay. Right. Solving that problem is important. And prospects rarely tell you the truth, like the false picture, first time road, like, you know, I, I was on a call and I said, it would prospect, Hey, why are we talking today? And they said, Oh, Hey, we're, we're wanting to wanting to, um, make Huntsman snow, a sales process.

[00:16:13] Okay. When you say in Huntsman's what do you mean by that? Oh, wait, just looking at ways that we can improve our conversion ratios. Okay. Improve commission ratio. So it sounds like you're happy with your current conversion ratios at not, not, not, not where they'd like, where we'd like them to be. Okay. So where, where are they now and where would you like them to be?

[00:16:30] You start from sponsor. We want to enhance our sales process to get them into a point where they're telling you, Hey, well, I. We're missing out on the number of big style, but oftentimes you have to go deep. You can't just take what they tell you first time round, because prospects will rarely tell you the truth.

[00:16:46] First time round. Mm. Hmm. Yeah, you gotta, you gotta dig deeper. You gotta work for it. It's not easy. It's not easy at all. Yeah. And this is what I, this is what I was told about. Like, Hey, um, this is why this is the, for me, the hardest part of the sales process is discovery. Um, because that you have to practice it.

[00:17:07] Active listening is insanely hard to muster because, you know, as salespeople one, we generally like to talk, secondly, We have to be super focused on specifically what our prospects are saying when we are thinking about what we want the sale. Um, and I think this is where not enough people are spending time, practicing discovery, like literally how many sales, how many hustlers out there that listen to this podcast?

[00:17:36] How many of them are every week? Role-playing with a colleague, Hey, let's practice a discovery call one that I had last week or one that I've got coming up. Let's try and improve some of these skills. I bet you hardly, anybody is doing it. Why not? Ah, that's a great question. So sales house sellers, if you're not doing that, now's the time to start.

[00:17:58] I mean, it's, it's a great opportunity to learn, to get better because discovery or opening or qualifying, you know, these are all in the beginning stages of the sales process and those need to be mastered so that the close isn't so difficult or so that you can disqualify and write and not have a bunch of crap in your pipeline.

[00:18:19] And so. And, and something that you said Richard that's so important is active listening skills. You know, I think that. A lot of sellers are looking for that silver bullet or that perfect playbook or those perfect, you know, one liners or rebuttals or scripts or whatever the case is. And, and, and I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with those things.

[00:18:40] Those are necessary to like, you know, have some knowledge, but these conversations are just way too dynamic. You can't be paying attention of what you're supposed to say or what you're supposed to ask next. Because that's when you miss those opportunities to go deeper in your questioning or ask more or get to the bottom of what your prospect is telling, rather than just taking what they're saying for face value.

[00:19:02] Yeah, I've lost count like w I mean, at refract, what we do every Friday morning, um, as a team is we all, normally we do this in person, but the last year we've all been in this on zoom. Um, we go in and we pull out a discovery call or two that's taken place that week from one of the team. Sometimes it's my own.

[00:19:23] Like I get my own coals, like listened to, and we will sit as a team and we will play this call out. And it is amazing of the amount of things that the account executive who was on that call the mountain times, being things they hear that they didn't hear first time round. Mm. As a team we go through and say, right, we stop and start the tape.

[00:19:46] And we say, Hey Mark, what, what are you here? Just do it. Any, any, any additional perspectives. And the amount of times the account executive who was involved in the call says. Geez. I totally missed that. Mon I cannot believe I did not hear the prospect say that. Like, I feel like oftentimes if the coal has ended in a specific way, like maybe it didn't turn out the way they wanted the coal turnout, but they say, I honestly believe if I'd heard that.

[00:20:19] On the call. And if I'd asked, I asked this question that caught, we would have had a very different outcome. These are, these are like critical moments that happened in sales conversations. Um, and I don't think people often appreciate that these are highly specific things that can happen, which can completely influence the, um, the outcome of a deal.

[00:20:40] Right. Right. And sometimes it's got to sting for you to learn, right? Like if it's a big opportunity and you just totally missed the Mark, sometimes that's, you know, a good way to learn. Hey, next time that scenario comes up. I'm not going to miss that. Yeah. Right. I mean, we, um, we've all made. Tons of mistakes and I was sales, careers.

[00:21:02] We've all lost deals that we should have won. Um, but if we're not learning from them then, which is kind of in blissful ignorance and just forever, but probably we're probably never, ever improving our win race, improving our, you know, earning potential. Um, we're just probably staying quite flat. Um, it's those people who all, um, Well, the actors professions, professionals, right?

[00:21:26] We, we keep on talking about sales as a profession. If you look at what most professionals do in any line of work or sport or hobby is they're constantly reviewing what they did and self-analyzing and self critiquing and getting coaching. And, you know, this is what, this is what being a professional is all about.

[00:21:44] Um, and which leads me to, you know, I got one of the, one of the biggest reasons people don't buy from refract. Um, and quite frankly, pisses me off is, Hey, my, my team wouldn't respond well to this. My team wouldn't respond well to have that calls on the lies and listened to they wouldn't like that. These are experienced people, you know, they'd be doing this show for 30.

[00:22:02] Yes. Yeah. That's mind blowing. Yeah. It is the reality. And that's why sales, I think is one of the reasons sales has a bad sort of name is that, you know, we, we, we call it a profession yet. We, we seem to have this. Vision that, uh, just because you've been doing the job for 30 years is means that you're at the top of your game, that you can't get better in like, just to look at any sports person, top, top sportsman of the world.

[00:22:29] None of them have that mentality. Gotcha. They're not going to not show up for practice because they've been doing it awhile. Yeah. Um, so, so yeah. Um, it's. It's about, do you want to treat the profession as a profession? This, this is what pays the bills at the end the day. Um, do you want to get better at what you do?

[00:22:46] Do you want to earn more money? Well, you got to practice. You've got to self-analyze. You've got to, you've got to listen to what your colleagues are doing, who were doing things better than you are, um, otherwise, you know, be prepared to stay flat and hit the ceiling. Yeah. Yeah. Hey Richard, it was a pleasure having you on, uh, really enjoyed this conversation.

[00:23:04] I'm sure the sales hustlers got a ton of value. Uh, you have a book you want to tell folks about the book, anything else that we can include in the show notes for them or any final thoughts? Yes, the book. Um, so last, uh, About this time last year, in fact, Colin, um, me and a couple of my colleagues, Mark and Stu, um, we decided to, uh, do some online sort of boot camps, which was basically us helping the sales community out.

[00:23:31] You know, a lot of people had been sent to work from home over night because of the, um, the pandemic, uh, a lot of young folks who were starting off in sales and as SDRs who were. Suddenly found themselves working in their spare bedrooms could often their team and not really having a clue what to do, to be honest.

[00:23:46] So we did these bootcamps, which was basically us sharing everything that we learned when it comes to, comes to prospecting over the years, everything, you know, cold calling, cold emails, you name it. And we had an amazing response to that, uh, to those boot comes, uh, You know, literally hundreds upon hundreds of people turning up to these things week after week.

[00:24:07] So then we have this crazy idea of like, Hey, should we actually write a book on this stuff? Um, which, uh, really felt like a bit of a pipe dream then, because I was like only kind of like, you know, clever, uh, important people become Google authors. But anyway, we, we, we, we did it, you know, weekends and evenings.

[00:24:23] We spent right in this boot and we launched it in December last year. It's called problem prospecting. It's kind of play on words. It's for those people who have a problem with prospecting and they struggle with it. But the whole theme through the book is about, um, leading with a problem, first mentality and prospecting, and it's designed to be highly tactical.

[00:24:43] So every chapter is like full of. Like cold call scripts, cold email templates, LinkedIn voice message scripts, building a brand on LinkedIn. It's almost like your little handbook that you can and use by your side every single day. Um, so yeah, if you go to www dot problem,, it will take you to straight to the Amazon page where you can buy a copy or just search for it.

[00:25:07] And I was in and, um, Yeah, but if you want to, aside tonight, if you want to connect with me, um, uh, you know, just, just, just look me up on LinkedIn, Richard Smith, refract and, uh, yeah. Post some content about sales quite frequently there, and happy to connect with any, anybody listening to this. Awesome. Thanks again, Richard, we will drop the link for your LinkedIn profile in the show notes for you sales hustlers, as well as the link to problem prospect end.

[00:25:33] If you enjoyed today's episode, please share with a friend, write us a review, and as always we're listening for your feedback. Thank you for tuning in to this episode of sales hustle. Are you a sales professional? Looking to take your sales career to the next level. If the answer is yes, then I want you to go over to sales,, check us out.

[00:25:56] And if you feel that you are ready, set up a time to talk with me and my co-founder Chris, I'm your host collum Mitchell. And if you enjoyed this episode, feel free to leave us a review and share the podcast with your friends.