On this week’s episode of Conversational Selling, we speak with Fred Diamond, President, Executive Director, and Co-Founder of IES, the Institute for Excellence in Sales. He’s also the host of the award-winning Sales Game Changers Podcast. 

Fred started his prolific career in software sales with Apple, Compaq, and Compuware, and had a side-hustle as an in-demand party DJ. He has interviewed 1000s of sales professionals and leaders, always seeking tips to pass on to IES members to help them get better at the art and science of professional sales. 

We chat with Fred about all he’s learned from hosting a webinar a day, as well as:

  • The three big challenges everyone is facing right now
  • Being empathetic to customers’ concerns
  • The three keys to successful sales
  • Differentiating yourself as a professional by staying committed to your development
  • And more

Mentioned in this episode:


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

Nancy Calabrese: Hi 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 me today is Fred Diamond, Executive Director and Co-Founder of IES, the Institute for Excellence in Sales. He’s also the host of the Sales Game Changers podcast. Fred is an engaging, energetic sales professional who spent time as an in demand party DJ, that sounds like it was a lot of fun, Fred. He’s interviewed 1000s of sales professionals about their career, always seeking tips to pass on to IES members, and leaders to help them get better at the art and science of professional sales. He’s an exceptional speaker who frequently helps companies improve their sales processes, and stay ahead of the trend. I you know, I’m really excited to get started today, Fred, and I’m hoping to pick up some interview tips along the way. Welcome to the show.

Fred Diamond: Nancy, it’s great to talk to you. Everything you just said is absolutely true. So it’s great to be here.

Nancy: Hey, I don’t know if we want to start with the DJ, or actually a sales trend. So why don’t we start off with the sales trend? You know, we’re in 2021. Everyone’s anxious to move forward and to grow. What are some of the trends that you’re seeing in sales right now?

Fred: Yeah, there’s tons we do a webinar a day at the Institute for Excellence in Sales. And I do want to do one quick comment about the DJing. I’m glad you brought it up. I was a DJ after college. On weekends. I worked for McGraw Hill publishing for a couple years. And on weekends, Friday, Saturday, Sundays, I would I would DJ weddings, proms, bar mitzvahs, you know, the whole thing. And I like to say like to say I learned more about life. And not just sales, but about life in general as a, as a party DJ than I did working for Apple Computer, getting my MBA, running the Institute for Excellence in Sales, just understanding how people interact, understanding how people engage. So I still reflect back on various moments of doing probably, I don’t know, maybe 200 parties.

Nancy: Wow. Why did you stop?

Fred: Well, it was it was a weekend gig. It was after college. Again, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do for a career. And I’ve always liked loved music, and I did a little interning in high school as a DJ for one of the stations. I grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, always into music always in a rock and roll etc. So you know, it was an opportunity. It was a big DJ company in town and I applied to one of their one of their Help Wanted ads member Help Wanted ads.

Nancy: Oh, yeah.

Fred: I really dug it, it helped me to raise some cash. And, you know, it was always fun. But eventually it just became to be honest with just became work became a, like any other job that you’re working for hours for you know, I got paid to do a three or four hour party. And you pretty much got paid the same amount. And eventually, they all pretty much just became the same thing over and over again. And it was time for me to really embrace my life and my career at the time.

Nancy: All right, so let’s get back to the trends. What are some of the trends that you’ve seen out there right now?

Fred: Now we see tons and again every day we’re doing a webinar, which we’re converting to a Sales Game Changers podcasts, I tell you a couple of them. This was a great example that came up from a consultant a guy named David Morelli. And he used to run a very, very popular podcast called Everything is Energy. And I’ve been a follower and now we’re friends. And we had him on our on our web getting a webcast on a Thursday. So every Thursday, we do a webcast called the Optimal Sales Mindset webinar. And all we talk about every single week is mindset related topics, Nancy, and David made a point that has stuck with me. And I’ve been communicating this to everybody I talked to he basically said, and again, this was May of last year and I think this is still applicable. 

We all have the same three challenges. Everybody in the business world and social world in the planet has the same three challenges. One is getting past COVID getting past the pandemic side of COVID and, you know now of course there’s vaccines so you know, that whole process. Second thing, everybody is challenge with the financial side of COVID. And how that’s impacted small business, how that’s effect impacted the sales process, how that’s impacted, you know, everybody’s day to day life. You know, a lot of people have lost jobs, a lot of people have lost interest in their jobs. But a lot of people who are motivated, committed still need to be focused. 

And the third thing that David talked about whatever third, you know, what’s impacting you, specifically, what’s impacting your company, what’s impacting your family. So everybody is dealing with those three things. And if we realize that and understand that, that can lead to the next thing, which is the need to ensure that you continue to be empathetic in your relations.

Nancy: Well, I, you know, I think empathy is really critical nowadays, right? And it draws us all together, especially with uncertain times, I see it day in and day out. But empathy is also an such an important skill in sales, wouldn’t you say?

Fred: Oh, absolutely. And it’s kind of interesting. So, you know, we’re all kind of dealing our lives pre pandemic, and post pandemic, right. So I’ve been running the Institute for Excellence in Sales since 2012. And prior to the pandemic, I was doing a podcast, it was just audio called the Sales Game Changers podcast. And prior to the pandemic, we had done about 215, interviews with sales VPS. And one of the trends was that you needed to be an empathetic seller. And I thought I understood what that meant, you know, basically empathy being the ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, or ability to view where the other person is coming from, so that you could be of service to them. 

And then pandemic kicks in. And we started doing the daily webinars. And empathy became one of the three big words and I’ll share the other two in a second. But they became one of the three big words. And people were were not quite grasping, what it truly meant to be successful in sales, that you had to also be empathetic. And I remember this great interview we did on our webcast, it was the VP of sales for the International Spy Museum, which is this great Museum in downtown DC.

Nancy: Oh, I’ve been there. It’s awesome.

Fred: It’s fantastic. And they’ve put a lot of work into it. And the VP of sales, this guy named Dan Cole. And the question came in via the panel via the webcast. I’m struggling with being empathetic right now, do I have to still be empathetic. And this was two months into the pandemic. And Dan gave a great reply. He said, You have to always be empathetic, to be successful in sales. And if you’re struggling with it, take the weekend off, and go meditate and think through go journal, whatever. And think it through. Because if you forget to be empathetic for a millisecond in sales, then it’s about you, it’s about the customer. And you’ll be toast. And your process will go downhill from there.

Nancy: Yep. What about the other two?

Fred: Preparation. Preparation is huge. So here’s one of the interesting things, as well, that the podcast about the the lessons we’ve learned, you always need to bring value to customers. So whatever it is, you need to bring value, or else the customer really doesn’t have a need for you. And this has become even more dramatic after the pandemic, for a couple of reasons. Some of the reasons we already talked about people are struggling, people are challenged. Certain industries have gotten destroyed, like the entertainment industry, and the in person, sports industry, right? Obviously, the small the small restaurant and the restaurant, and the whole restaurant industry has obviously gone through turmoil. Some charities have had their best year ever, but some charities have had extremely difficult times. 

So if we’re talking to customers, we now need to bring them even more value than ever. Because through dealing with their own challenges, they’re not really that interested in a sales pitch. They’re not interested in more productivity. They’re interested in one of those three things we talked about before. How are you going to help me get past COVID? The challenges related to it? How are you going to help me get my company’s business back in order because of the financial hit, and then once again, whatever the third thing might be specific to the industry or to the company. So you have to spend a tremendous amount of time preparing to ensure that you’re communicating the value you can bring if you figured it out.

Nancy: And what’s the third idea?

Fred: The third idea is that and this goes back to a common sales refrain. We’ve been running the Institute for Excellence in Sales since 2012. People ask me all the time, what’s the main thing you’ve learned or what is the biggest takeaway that you’ve had? Since starting the Institute for Excellence in Sales, and I tell people, it’s the phone. The phone is the number one sales tool, verbal conversations with prospects, customers or partners. And it’s by the phone, it’s not via email. It’s not via text. Not via LinkedIn, those could be helpful. I do a lot of LinkedIn, I send a lot of emails. But it’s not until I physically pick up the phone and engage in a conversation where possibility can happen. One of our great guests, do you know Alex Goldfayn? You ever come across Alex?

Nancy: No, no,

Fred: He’s an author, he wrote the Revenue Growth Habit. But his most recent book that he published, it’s probably in June, it was called Five minute Selling. And basically, it was a whole bunch of processes around picking up the phone, and you know, how to how to manage your, your in person verbal communications. So I tell people all the time, I said, if you’re struggling, if you’re having a challenging day, pick up the phone, call a prospect. It’s not a prospect, call partner, or call a friend, but it’s those verbal conversations. And we forget about them. And there’s been so many other things, Nancy, that we’ve learned over the last year, but but those are, I would say, those are three of the big ones.

Nancy: Yeah. Well, you know, and for everyone out there, I didn’t pay Fred to talk about the importance of the phone, you know, you’re speaking my language, Fred. So, thanks.

Fred: No, absolutely. I mean, that’s, that’s how we first got connected. I mean, I, we discovered each other, but I know that you’re in that space, and you guys have done a tremendous job helping so many companies reach their prospects. And you know, the reality and you know, this, obviously, people don’t love picking up the phone. And people don’t even they don’t even love calling their you know, their best customer. 

There’s always, you know, am I bothering you? Is this an okay, time? You know what, there’s a couple things that have happened over the last 10 months that make pick up the phone even more imperative. One is, you know, people are watching webinars or listening to podcasts like ours. They’re reading LinkedIn posts, and engaging in conversation. So people also getting a little fatigued about zoom, as we know. So people are have found themselves in some cases disengaging from verbal communications and conversations. We spend so much time at the Institute, helping people think through the conversations they want to have. And we break past the fear of picking up the phone.

Nancy: Yeah, you know what I’m like, why don’t we talk more about IES. I think everybody is intrigued with it and give us some more insight.

Fred: Well, I’m intrigued. So I would seriously, you know, you mentioned my marketing strategy. So, I worked at companies like Apple and Compaq, and a large software company called Compuware. I then went to work as an outsourced chief marketing officer. And my tagline was, we said in the beginning, marketing that doesn’t lead to revenue reward is a huge waste of time and money. And I’ve even though I’ve been in marketing, and my MBA is in marketing, I’ve always believed that marketing is about sales. 

So we created the Institute for Excellence in Sales, mainly to meet more sales VPs, because they were who was hiring us as marketing consultants, or product marketing strategy or outsource chief marketing officer. I needed, yes, I need to be in the room with more sales leaders. So we came up with the idea for the IES, we did a couple of things we would bring speakers. One of the ways you and I got connected was the Sales Hunter, Mark Hunter was on one of our recent shows, we brought Mark to DC a couple times got to know him, placed him at a couple of places or referred him to a couple of customers and companies that had been coming to our programs, and started asking for more things they asked for. Why don’t we do a program for women in sales? Why don’t you do a program for young sales professionals? 

You know, why don’t you get a training program instantiated at my company. So we started doing more and more things. We’ve met more and more great people along the way. And now basically, we do four things. We, we have a big award event, typically it was live in the spring. In 2020, it was virtual, and 2021 it’s going to be virtual again. And we recognize companies recognize companies for operational excellence and sales. Second thing we do is we have a designation called the premier sales employer, where we recognize companies that are great places for sales professionals to work. And our 2020 guide is coming out in February. Thurd thing we do is every day we do a webinar open to members and we also let other people come to them. Tuesday we do a webinar just on women in sales buying for women in sales. Wednesday I interview sales VPS. Thursday we do the optimal sales mindset, where we talk about you know how to refine what’s going on between your ears to be as effective as possible in sales. And every Friday we do a show called creativity and sales where we talk about a sales tactic or procedure or technique or process. 

We convert them to Sales Game Changers audio podcasts, and then we post them on LinkedIn. And we have about 10,000 impressions. Our members can watch them behind your firewall whenever they want. And finally, we have we have a thriving women in sales program. And it’s called the women in sales leadership forum. It’s a six session cohort over two months, where we work with women in sales in their first, second, or third level of leadership and help them take their careers to the next level.

Nancy: Wow, we could go on and on. Tell me something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Fred: You know, it’s interesting, I believe, that might be answering differently than how we talked about this before. But a lot of people were wrong about sales as a profession. And a lot of people believe that it’s about charisma. A lot of people believe it’s about garrulousness, you know, being comfortable speaking to people, and it’s not, we’ve done so much work with great sales professionals and great sales teams, that we understand that sales really is about, there’s an art to it, but there’s also a science, but even more importantly, it’s a skill. And it’s a profession that you need to continually refine. 

I’ll tell you one of the other main lessons we had from doing the webinars every day, you know, you may recall, Nancy, the beginning of 2020, everybody thought that 2020 was going to be their best year ever, right? In January, February, a lot of people it did turn out to be that way. But in January and February, everybody thought 2020 is gonna be your best year. But then pandemic kicks in lockdown kicks in. And transactions weren’t happening, like people thought they were going to be for all the reasons that we’re familiar with. So we began, we began to realize that if you’re a sales professional, okay, well, what do professionals do when the transactions aren’t happening? 

So you work on certain skills, you understand empathy, like we talked about before you study your customers market, so that you can provide that value, the same way that, you know, golf tournaments were canceled. But you know, the great golfers were out there at the driving range, or the putting green. Professional athletes whose games were canceled. We’re still going to the gym or working in a home gym, I should say.

Nancy: Sharpening their skills. 

Fred: Exactly.

Nancy: You can’t stop. You continue. You diverted, if you would, right?

Fred: Exactly. And that’s the whole notion is that, okay? If you’re a sales professional, be a professional. And what does that mean? What do you need to work on? And usually, it’s one of three things, it’s the skill around sales conversations, learning how to be comfortable picking up the phone and making conversations. Secondly, it’s about the mindset, it’s about, you know, being prepared, no preparation, showing up on time, those kinds of things, confidence, you know, accountability. And the third thing, of course, is understanding what you sell and what your customer buys your, your solutions for. And really, really getting deep into understanding your customers market and where the customers market is today in the COVID world.

Nancy: Wow. I, you know, I can’t believe we could go on and on. We’re running out of time, what is the one takeaway you’d like to leave the audience with?

Fred: That’s a great question. You know, it’s interesting, we end every single database that I’m sorry, every single webinar that we do, and we ask the guests, give us one action step, you’ve given us so many great things, give us one action step to be successful. And I’m going to go back to what we talked about before, and looking at a lot of the things that I typically tell people, but I’m going to tell people to pick up the phone. 

And, again, it’s not just to make 50 phone calls a day, like, you know, like you guys help people do. It’s, it’s really pick up the phone and continue to develop the relationships that you have. Have the courage and what you know, one of the key things about sales too, is it’s about courage, courage to pick up the phone, courage to ask for the next meeting, courage to ask for a referral, courage to ask for the deal. Courage to you know, to to ask for recommendation, those things. Work on that. But first of all, man, pick up the phone, it’s your best friend, get comfortable. If you do that 10 times today, you’ll have a better 2021 than you would have if you hadn’t.

Nancy: Oh, and you can’t get COVID over the phone.

Fred: You can’t, unless you’re calling from a bar.

Nancy: Right? Don’t do that, folks. 

Fred: Wear masks, please. Let’s get this over with. 

Nancy: How can my audience get in touch with you, Fred? I think you’re terrific. And I think they’re gonna want to speak with you.

Fred: Thanks, Nancy. It’s very kind and it’s been it’s been an honor. Yeah, I know you’re starting on your, your podcast journey. And I want to let you know that you may not realize this, but I think you’re doing it the right way. You know, you’re you’re trying to figure out how to make your show valuable. How to make it worthwhile and interesting for people who are trying to take their sales careers to the next level. So I applaud you for the efforts. 

The best way to find me is LinkedIn. We have a obviously we have the salesgamechangerspodcast.com website and we have the I for the letter I the number four esbd.com website where you can find our daily webinars, but the best way is go to LinkedIn and engage with me. And I’d love to see how many people do that based on this webinar. And we’re we post content every day on webinars on LinkedIn and it’s it’s our friend and it should be your friend as well.

Nancy: First of all, thank you for your kind words. I think another benefit and reaching out to Fred since he’s a rock and roller you guys can all be rollers out there can swap stories and talk about sales. So Fred, I hope you’ll come back we have a lot more to discuss. This has just been absolutely great. And for everyone out there happy selling. Make the phone your friend.

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.