Ian Altman | Grow My Revenue (Episode 427)

Conduct your business with integrity and people will know you as a problem solver instead of just another charlatan trying to sell them stuff.

“Trust is more important than like.” -Ian Altman

The Cheat Sheet:

  • Nobody likes being sold to — in business or in life. It’s all about finding a fit.
  • Are you working, or doing your life’s work? Use your unique talents to deliver extraordinary results. Define a niche and value that has endless rewards.
  • When you ask for advice, are you seeking validation or real input?
  • How to ask great questions when hiring salespeople…or when applying for a job.
  • What two questions can you ask to uncover the truth in competitive business situations or relationships?
  • And so much more…

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Two-time bestselling author Ian Altman knows a thing or two about making money. He started, developed, and sold his own businesses — growing their acquiring company from a value of $100 million to over $1 billion in just over three years. But he understands business from the side of the customer, as well. Nobody likes being sold to — but they do like having solutions to their problems — himself included. “Dishonest, old school sales tactics just don’t work anymore,” he says. The key is building rapport through trust; even if it means you lose the sale in the short term, treating others as you wish to be treated makes others go out of their way to work with you in the long term.

But you say you’re not really a salesperson? That’s okay. Everything Ian has to say about business relationships can easily be applied to personal relationships, too. His message is about being extraordinary with integrity in all aspects of life — which is a concept we like, trust, and respect! We’re happy to talk to Ian about his unique insights here on episode 427 of The Art of Charm. Listen in and learn along with us.

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More About This Show

When you’re doing business with someone, it’s ideal to like, trust, and respect them. But if you could only pick one of those qualities, what would it be? Think about friends and family members you like or even love. Would you go into business with them? In some cases, yes, but not always. Likability isn’t (or at least shouldn’t be) the sole selling point in such a scenario. On the other hand, you might be willing to go to the curmudgeonly family doctor you’ve been visiting since you were seven because, even though he kind of scares you and you wouldn’t hang out with him, you trust him to keep your body in working order.

But as soon as trust goes out the window, Ian Altman says, nobody cares about like.

Dishonest, old school sales tactics just don’t work anymore. Helping customers find the right solution — even if it’s not yours — will go a long way toward building trust with your clientele. Maybe you’re not selling something to this person today, but they’ll always remember you as someone who solved a problem for you — and they’ll be more likely to seek you out in the future.

From the Customer’s Perspective

Ian talks about Van Mensah from Nordstrom, a legendary salesman who’s been selling him suits for years. When Ian was preparing for a trip out of town and needed gloves, there weren’t any in the store that were quite right. Rather than shrugging his shoulders and wishing Ian luck (like a lot of less successful salesmen would do), Van walked him to the other side of the mall — to Macy’s, the competitor — and told the salesman there exactly what brand and size was required. He tried them on, and they were perfect. Sold!

On the way back to Nordstrom, Van told Ian that, if he had any issues with the gloves — that had just been bought at Macy’s — he should bring them back to Nordstrom and Van would take care of it.

Ian had a problem, and Van had the knowledge to solve it. While Van may not have made a penny from this particular interaction, he understood the long-term value of helping his customer. Years later, even though Ian now lives farther away from where Van works, he’ll pass by two other Nordstrom stores just to buy merchandise from him.

From the Salesperson’s Perspective

What about when the merchandise you’re selling is worth more than 45 minutes out of your day and the price of a pair of gloves? Ian tells us about the time a big-name client had a project that his company’s $150,000 software could potentially serve. As he ran through a checklist of the client’s needs, it became apparent to Ian that, while the software could be used for the project’s short-term goals, it wasn’t ideal — and definitely wouldn’t be of much use to the client 18 months to three years down the line.

Ian leveled with the client and told her as much — and that his company hadn’t ever tailor-built anything quite like what she was looking for. The client told him that he was the first sales guy who had been honest with her so far — and if there were such software out there, she would have known about it already! The fact that Ian was willing to lose a sale for the sake of integrity impressed the client so much that she had his company build the software that her company needed from the ground up — for millions of dollars!

Ian points out that such a perfect outcome isn’t inevitable in every circumstance; sometimes the client will opt to go with your competitor if your product or service isn’t the right fit for their needs. But the trust earned from showing how you’re willing to go the extra mile to benefit your client proves that you’re a problem solver above self-interest. They won’t forget this, and they’ll go out of their way to seek your help the next time they’re in a pickle.

Contrast this with a business relationship that’s not the right fit — we’ve all experienced them. Bad deals never work out well for either party. If you can identify and walk away from a bad fit rather than trying to force it, you’re doing yourself and the other party a favor. Again, it’s a situation where integrity wins the day over short-term gains. Someone may not like that you said no to their proposal, but they’re more likely to respect and trust you for doing so when mentioning you to others in conversation.

Just because you’re not a good fit for them doesn’t mean that you won’t be a good fit for someone who hears about you through the grapevine.

Two Questions About Your Competition

When you’re trying to get a handle on what potential clients are looking for in a good fit, ask these two questions:

  • Can you tell me some of the things you like best about working with our competitor?
  • If you could change one or two things about our competitor, what would they be?

Notice how this wording is more positive than just asking “what don’t you like about our competitor?” which might invoke a more defensive response if the client has a good relationship with their current fit. If you get a good feeling about the conversation that comes from asking these questions and think you might be an even better fit for the client, it opens the door for asking: “Is the potential of working with somebody who could overcome those issues worth a discussion about how we might be able to help?”

Again, you’re offering to solve a problem — which has a positive association — rather than the negative association that would come from blatantly trying to poach a customer away from a situation with which they’re already happy. The worst case scenario? Even if this doesn’t result in a sale, it gives you the opportunity to learn more about what potential customers are looking for in your field. Consider it informed field research.

Listen to episode 427 in its entirety to learn more about accepting and growing from candid feedback by modifying the two questions mentioned above, how a Same Side Quadrant can help you separate real opportunities from false leads, and more.

THANKS, IAN ALTMAN!

If you enjoyed this session with Ian Altman, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out on Twitter:

Click here to thank Ian Altman on Twitter!

Resources from this episode:

Grow My Revenue
Same Side Quadrant
Same Side Selling by Ian Altman
Upside Down Selling by Ian Altman
Ian Altman on Twitter
Ian Altman at Forbes
Ian Altman on Facebook
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Jordan Harbinger - author of 827 posts on The Art of Charm

Jordan Harbinger has spent several years abroad in Europe and the developing world, including South America, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East, and speaks several languages. He has also worked for various governments and NGOs overseas, traveled through war zones, and been kidnapped -- twice. He’ll tell you the only reason he’s still alive and kicking is because of his ability to talk his way into (and out of) just about any type of situation. Here at The Art of Charm, Jordan shares that experience, and the system borne as a result, with students and clients.

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