On this week’s episode of Conversational Selling, we speak with Deb Calvert, the President of People First Productivity Solutions and the Host of The Monday Morning Sales Rally on The Sales Experts Channel. Deb also leads the Stop Selling and Start Leading Movement. She is certified as an Executive Sales Coach, is a certified Master of the Leadership Challenge, and her bestseller, DISCOVER Questions Get You Connected, has recently been named by HubSpot as one of the 20 most highly-rated sales books of all time.

We chat about putting people first, as well as:

  • The global need for sales content and the creation of The Sales Expert Channel
  • Why questions are critical to any type of relationship
  • DISCOVER— the eight reasons to ask quality questions
  • Ennobling your customers by engaging them
  • And more

Mentioned in this episode:


Voiceover: You’re listening to the Conversational Selling Podcast with Nancy Calabrese.

Nancy Calabrese: Hello, it’s Nancy Calabrese and it’s time for Conversational Selling the podcast where sales leaders and business experts share what’s going on in sales and marketing today and it always starts with the human conversation. Joining us today is Deb Calvert. She is the president of People First Productivity Solutions. From sales, training, coaching and leadership development programs, Deb leads the stop selling and start leading movement and founded The Sales Experts Channel. She is certified as an executive and sales coach. And is a certified master of the leadership challenge. Her best seller DISCOVER Questions Get You Connected, has recently been named by HubSpot as one of the 20 most highly rated sales books of all time, which is amazing. You know, putting people first and profits will follow is so true. And I I think most of us, or at least many of us know that good leaders are hard to find. So this will be an enlightening conversation. I’m so excited to have you here today. Deb, welcome to the show. 

Deb Calvert: Thank you, Nancy, I bet I’m more excited than you are about being here. I’ve been a listener for a little while, and I’ve been looking forward to spending some time with you. So thank you. 

Nancy: Oh, my goodness, and what you folks don’t know, we’re both wearing red glasses today. So we really match up dancing through the audio. So let me start by asking, stop selling and start leading movement? What is it about and what inspired you to create it? 

Deb: Well, you know, I work in these two realms, selling and leading. And for the longest time, they were, in my mind, completely different. I’d have days when I was doing leadership development. And then the next morning, I’d wake up and I’d be doing sales training. And I never let those two paths cross until I realized, you know, sellers, the stereotypical behaviors of selling, the perceptions that business owners and others have about the ickyness of selling and they don’t really want to do it. 

I saw all of that happening. And I also saw these behaviors of leaders that they inspire people and that that mobilize people and I thought, wouldn’t it be great if selling could feel that way about the work they do. And that led to a big research project. And it became a movement because it’s about not doing those stereotypical wolf of Wallstreet things, but instead, using behaviors that make leaders effective because they also make sellers more effective. 

Nancy: Interesting. And you know, you’re you also have another amazing creation, The Sales Experts Channel, what an awesome resource for all of us. What was the inspiration for that and tell us more about it? 

Deb: Well, The Sales Experts channel is now in its fifth year. And there are about 73,000 subscribers, lots of other people view, but for whatever reason, don’t subscribe. And then there are a few 100 people around the world like you have people who are experts, people who have podcasts, or they’ve written books, or they’ve done research and they’re thought leaders in the global sales community. They are their presenters on the channel. I did this because years ago, I had a podcast when blogtalkradio was new going way back. 

And I had a coaching show on Saturdays for hours every Saturday at first, and people would call me up Nancy and they’d be like, yeah, yeah, don’t don’t, don’t say my name. And they’d be disguising their voice. And, and I realized, you know, it’s true people who are in sales, management, whatever level it might be, they don’t always feel like they can be vulnerable and admit what they don’t know and ask for help. And they need a resource for that. So anyways, flash forward now several years, I still had that very, very strong desire, I might even say calling to try to give something back to the global sales community. 

But you know, having matured a little while since then, a little bit since then, I realized that what I can give back is puny compared to what all these these experts in a community can give back. So we now have about 1000 pieces of content all free, all available on demand. All indexed topically so people can find exactly what they need. Stuff for business owners and marketing professionals and and entrepreneurs and salespeople and managers at every level. It’s all there.

Nancy: Yeah. You know, you just said something that it always shocks me how some people are hesitant about admitting that they need help. And especially in the selling world, there are so many moving parts, I don’t know where I would be without the resources, people I could call or, you know, even though I’ve been doing it for I don’t want to say how many years, I’m always looking for another trick of the trade. It’s just shocking to me that people would be reluctant to admit they don’t like doing this, or they’re not good at this. What what what are your thoughts on that? 

Deb: Well, you said two things there. So one is I don’t like doing this, because they think that doing sales is you have to get a personality transplant and be some fake version of yourself like that nobody. 

Nancy: Right.

Deb: And then the other part is I’m not good at it. Well, why would you be until you’ve had training and read books and tried on different approaches to selling? It’s so different from other careers where there are degree programs, and there are specific metrics that and tests and, and certifications that qualify you as a professional. 

Nancy: Right.

Deb: Selling, we have that giant stone around our necks that holds us down? And those are the stereotypes and perceptions. We have to break out all that to feel good. 

Nancy: Yeah, you made me stop and think when I was an undergrad, there were no sales courses out there. And I’m happy to know that now. And I don’t know how many universities are putting in sales as a major. 

Deb: Yeah, more and more every year. And there are now a couple of 100. We’re not to the point yet where I think we’re getting closer. But there’s not a common standard yet. If you’re a CPA, everybody knows exactly what that is. And every place you go to get that that credential is teaching you toward the same thing. Not so in sales? 

Nancy: Yeah. You know, here at One of a Kind Sales, we are all about asking questions and listening. So your book, DISCOVER Questions Get You Connected, totally resonates with me. And I’m sure most of the listeners out there. Tell us more about the book and why questions is so critical in any, any kind of relationship. 

Deb: The book is born out of sort of that same desire, it is based, like stop selling, and start leading on research with buyers. And it gives some ideas about different kinds of questions in selling that you can ask to accelerate the sell and to have a deeper richer conversation efficiently. Turns out there are only eight reasons people ever ask questions. I’m not talking just sales. I’m talking everywhere. So that makes an acronym. Yeah, DISCOVER is that acronym. Eight purposes for asking questions. 

Nancy: Really? Okay. Oh, it is the app. Oh, okay. Really cool. And how did you uncover that or learn that? 

Deb: Well, it took about 20 years of field research, logging sales calls, I was, at one point working at Northwestern University with the Salesforce advisory board. So we had people in many different industries helping to contribute to the research, and it was observing, cataloguing questions, interviewing buyers, how did they feel about the question, seeing how the question would unlock greater conversation and accelerate the sale. So quite a bit of research behind it. And the idea of of categorizing questions to make him because SPIN Selling was so helpful to me when I first started selling, but I started saying, well, wait a minute, this is a good question, but it doesn’t fit. What is this question? 

Nancy: Right. Questions are critical. By asking the right questions, the buyer is going to educate you on how to sell them. Wouldn’t you agree? 

Deb: Absolutely. They’re also going to sell themself.

Nancy: Yeah. Oh, yeah, definitely. So why don’t you share your unique idea that is different and really sets you apart? 

Deb: Well, I think there is a lot of talk over the last seven years or so about sales enablement, a lot of work to define what that is, and to heightened how people see it and how important it is. And I don’t mean to take anything away at all from that. But my unique approach is that instead of focusing on sales enablement, because I do believe that’s, that’s covered by people who know it better than I do. I focus instead on sales ennoblement, a little known word, it’s a real one. I didn’t make it up. Oh, yeah. 

To ennoble, it’s the opposite of ignoble, right? When you have something ignoble, it’s lowly and not important. But when you add noble, you’re showing the worth, the value, the importance of something. And I want sellers, including business owners, anybody who sells to think of that as a worthy endeavor, and to see how important the work that they’re doing to help the buyer really is. 

Nancy: Wow. So it sounds like it really focuses on mindset first, right? Really feeling good about your profession and your skills. 

Deb: Absolutely. And so to discard those things that feel bad, to liberate yourself from those stereotypes, and tap into the potential that you have as a leader, an ennobled seller who can do good for others. 

Nancy: Love it. I love storytelling. And I know you have a story that we would all find interesting, let us know what it is. 

Deb: I could tell stories all day. So I know that I’ll tell the one I started which is, you know, working in two different worlds. Am I in leadership today? Or am I in sales. And the moment when I was standing in front of a group of people, I was doing sales training, and it was large company, Dole, the produce company. And literally I was when the idea hit me, I was gobsmacked. I couldn’t speak for a full minute, I think I just the idea hit me. 

And the idea was, why wouldn’t salespeople use those 30 behaviors of leaders that are proven to make leaders more effective? What would happen if they did? How would buyers react? And I think we should explore this. So I took the idea to two colleagues of mine. They’re very well known in leadership development, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. And they said, well, interesting, why don’t we research that? So we launched a big research project through Santa Clara University. And sure enough, it was so true that the behaviors that are proven 30 plus years of evidence to back it up those behaviors that make people leaders also make sellers more effective. 

Nancy: So can you give us a taste of what some of those behaviors are? And the relevance one to the other? Examples? 

Deb: Yeah, let me just give you a couple of examples. Some of them are really, really obvious, like, the seller treats people with dignity and respect. And buyers commented a lot on that one, saying things like, hey, you know, if they aren’t nice to the receptionist, or the person who they call a gatekeeper, then I don’t want anything to do with them. Right. So the value of behaviors that are that obvious. A really big one for buyers, is that the seller follows through on promises and commitments that he or she makes. 

In other words, they do WYSIWYG. They do what they say they will do. Yeah, and, and, and because of stereotypes, buyers are harsh. They’re hard on sellers, if you said you were calling at [8:30], and you don’t call till [8:35], I can’t trust you. I mean, it’s that’s dramatic. But I’ll tell you one of the biggest ones, and, you know, I, I had to very much check myself do I have a bias here. But one of my favorite behaviors of buyers, was the seller engages me in a two way dialogue, meaning they asked me great questions. So me with my questions book already under my belt. I’m like, yeah, validation. And then I’m like, oh, I just want to make sure I’m not seeing what I want to see.

Nancy: Right, right. Well, you know, a lot of it really boils down to common sense. When I think about selling and hat leadership. I think about it’s all about conversation, right? But you said something about behavior that sticks with me. And I learned lessons a long time ago. Judge people by what they do not by what they say. I really think that’s an important virtue, right? If you say you’re going to do something, and you’re in the buying process or the selling process, you better do it, right? Because that’s are they judging you all the way until you get their business and then once you get it, they’re still going to evaluate? Are you true to your word? 

Deb: What you’re talking about Nancy is credibility and the root word of credibility. It is just like the root word of credit. Am I going to give you credit? Am I going to trust you? It’s going to be dependent upon your actions. 

Nancy: Yeah. Okay, so moving on. What would you like me to spotlight. You’ve got so many great products and ideas. What do you want to share with us? 

Deb: Well, oh, right now I’m on a crusade. So I am. I like people to think about selling and the profession of selling in this way that’s ennobling. So I’m trying to get into mainstream dictionaries. I’ve got it into a lot of the smaller ones already. But I’m literally on a crusade to get the word sellership in place as a replacement for salesmanship. I mean, that, to me, salesman, first of all, there’s a gender, right? Word in there. And then, more importantly, the word salesmen. The word salesmanship has the baggage of stereotypes we’ve been talking about. We can just use the more accurate word, fellowship to represent all sellers. And we can use that opportunity to say this is a heightened professional standard as well. 

Nancy: Well, I love it. I’m writing it down, by the way, so I don’t forget it. And as you were saying, I didn’t mean to interrupt, but if you need any help getting it into the dictionary, let me know. 

Deb: Well thanks. You know, dictionaries, the bigger ones they look, they look out online to see how many times the word’s used. So I’m just telling everybody, put it in your blogs, put it in your dialogue and let it be out there. 

Nancy: Oh, definitely. I always ask this. And I’m curious to know, what is something that you believe is true almost nobody agrees with you on? 

Deb: When I say people don’t ask enough questions, especially sales people disagree with me. Now, if I can get them thinking instead about how many quality questions they ask, yeah, that becomes a little different thing. But they everybody thinks they ask enough questions. And I usually find that’s not true, or at least not the right questions. 

Nancy: Yeah. 

Deb: So more efficient. 

Nancy: I’m always, you know, we all evaluate our own performance. And it said, we’re our own worst critic. I’m always looking for another question that’ll change it. So questions, like you say, are really quite critical in developing credibility, and trust. We’re kind of coming to the end of the program. So I want you to leave us with one takeaway. If they remember anything, what would this be? 

Deb: It’s that word ennoblement. Because it’s a game changer. Ennoble your customers as they come into your business, ennoble the people who sell your products, make them feel worthy and important. Give them enough information. As you are selling, ennoble the people who are going to support the work you’re doing make them feel worthy and important behind the scenes. That’s how you engage people. That’s how you get things done. 

Nancy: Well, so how can we find you out there? 

Deb: Well go to thesalesexpertschannel.com to find all those great pieces of content I mentioned. And to find me, connect with me on LinkedIn or come to my website, the website for my own company is peoplefirstps, short for people first productivity solutions, but the first two words are spelled out.

Nancy: Very good. I told you this was going to be enlightening. Deb you have to come back so we can spend more time in each of these areas of, you know, what you do so well. And I want to thank everybody out there for listening in. Have a fantastic and confident sales day. Successful sales day. And again, Deb thanks for a great conversation. 

Deb: Thank you, Nancy. I appreciate the time.

Voiceover: The Conversational Selling Podcast is sponsored by One of a Kind Sales. If you’re frustrated that you don’t have enough leads or your sales team complains that they just don’t have enough time to prospect, we can help. To work with Nancy and her team one on one to help you manage your sales team, install her proven outbound sales process and create more bottom line results, email her now at Nancy@oneofakindsales.com. To learn more about Nancy and her outbound sales secrets, grab your free copy of her book, The Inside Sales Solution at oneofakindsales.com/book.