On this episode Josh speaks with Stephan Schiffman, author of “Creating Sales Stars”. They talk about issues in dealing with millennials and sales.

Having been a leader in motivational and sales training since 1979, Stephan is a Certified Management Consultant, and has trained and consulted to a wide range of corporations including IBM, AT&T, Motorola, Sprint, CIGNA, and a host of other organizations throughout the world. He has also trained over 500,000 professionals in over 9,000 companies.

Millions more have read his best selling books internationally. Some of his accomplishments include the development of highly pragmatic sales training and management programs that adapt effectively into a broad range of sales environments and industries. All of Stephan’s training is based upon actual sales experiences and are proven successful. Rated as the number one sales expert in prospecting by Personal Selling Power magazine.

In today’s episode you’ll learn:

  • Can you close the sale without understanding the other person?
  • What’s the difference between millennials who are becoming salespeople, and GenX, and baby boomers?
  • How trainable are millennials?
  • How to build trust?
  • Are millennials risk-averse?


Narrator:         Welcome to The Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In The Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful. Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.

Josh:                 Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick. You’re at The Sustainable Business podcast. Today, we are in for a real treat. Actually, it’s an old long-time friend and consultant, somebody who worked with me back when I was probably not the easiest guy in the world to ever get along with. That might be an understatement. I was kind of a young, terrifying person to work with. Steve came in and helped our vending business and food service business back in the very early days when I was trying to learn out with all this stuff around being a business owner is.

He re-appeared about three or four months ago and I said, “Boy, I know that name.” It turned out Steve has become a sales guru. He’s written over 70 books which I just find absolutely incredible. I wrote one book. It was hard enough. He’s written 70 books.

Today, we’re going to be talking about millennials and How to Create Sales Stars which is his new book. Instead of me meandering on, let’s bring Steve on.

Hey, Steve. How are you today?

Steve:               I’m fine.

Josh, I want to say, “It’s good to see you again.” I won’t give you the number but a number of years since we were in Vermont working on the vending business. It is good to see that we both have made it this far because there are some people who’d don’t get to this level, this place.

Josh:                 Well, I almost didn’t make it this far but that’s a different story for another time. I am here today which is great. I’m absolutely thrilled to have you on.

Steve, let’s talk about millennials and the sales process or millennials and salespeople. What do we need to know?

Steve:               Well, here’s reality, selling is really starting to understand the other person. You’ve got to kind of work with that premise. If you don’t understand the other person, if you can’t help the other person accomplish his/her goals, you’re probably not going to be successful in sales. That’s the premise.

The problem is that some of the, let’s say, inexperienced salespeople don’t want to hear that point. They’re too busy in trying to close the deal because that’s what they’ve been taught. “Close the sale. Close the sale.” They don’t ask the right questions. They don’t inquire. They don’t care. At the end of the meeting they’re out. They don’t carry the right stuff with them. The end result is the sale just falls apart.

It falls apart, not at the end. You see, people think, “Well, the guy didn’t close.” But he didn’t close right from the beginning. In other words, the whole process was broken. And so, therefore, it never got to that point of closing. There was never a chance to close.

When I work with them – and a I do a lot of work with companies all over the world, literally, we try to re-educate, so to speak, or re-position the sales so they understand what it is they’re trying to accomplish. That’s really where the problem is.

Josh:                 I get that. It’s absolutely true with sales staff. But it’s also been true for the 40-some odd years I’ve been in business.

Steve:               Oh, yes.

No, no. I’ve got to tell you. I have been doing this sales training now for 40 years. I’ve worked with almost 500,000 sales reps. The reality is it’s not all that different. Most salespeople are trying to close the sale.

I did a webinar yesterday for a group and I said, “You try too darn hard to close. Don’t close it just get it right. Get the situation right. Have the right conversation”, but they don’t hear that. Most salespeople don’t hear that. They’re trying to close because they think that’s what they’re supposed to do instead of getting the right information that leads to the close.

Josh:                 What’s the difference between millennials who are becoming salespeople, and GenX, and baby boomers?

Steve:               They’re not communicating. One of the things I’ve written about, I’ve written a number of articles – several hundred articles, which I call Sales Alerts, is that managers and reps need to speak the same language. Now, I don’t mean the same language in the sense of one language. What I’m saying is they need to be able to communicate on the same basis. A lot of times that doesn’t happen. They’re really not speaking the same thing.

Let me go back a little bit. I had 20 representatives working for me. When they came back to the office, I would say, “How did it go?” because that’s the normal tendency. You say, “How did it go?” We knew – because the question was asked in a way, and the answer was given in a way, that I could tell how that meeting went. For example, the only thing that I think about, when I go on a first appointment is, “Will I get the second meeting?” It’s the second meeting that counts.

When I said, “How did it go?” what I’m looking for is “Did you get a second meeting?” That’s what I really wanted to know. Managers don’t ask that question? They don’t really know how to manage.

They go, “How did it go?” And the rep says, “Hey, it was nice. A nice guy.” But that didn’t lead to anything. And so, therefore, it wasn’t a good meeting. Both people are not communicating properly.

Josh:                 When a salesperson makes a call – the first call, and I agree with you that the goal of the first meeting probably is to get a second meeting, it’s certainly not to make a sale?

Steve:               No. No. Unless that’s what you’re doing. You’re selling brushes or something but short of that note.

Josh:                 Even if you’re selling brushes.

I remember a guy in my vending company was a salesman for a coffee cup company, paper cups that we used to put coffee in. He walked in one day and said, “Well, I bet you don’t need anything.” I said, “Yeah, you’re right. Goodbye.”

Steve:               That’s right.

That’s right but it’s true. You don’t really– but I won’t get into that.

You don’t really need anything and that’s the mistake that most salespeople. “Oh, you must need.” No, you don’t, you don’t need.”

Anyway, but go ahead.

Josh:                 This coffee cup person walk in and actually was going to sell me something. First, they need to find out where was I with the present coffee cup company and what issues did I have, if any. If they were really good, they would know what my issues were, bring it up, I wouldn’t have known that was my issue and it would disturb me enough to say, “Oh, I guess, this is an issue. I need to pay some attention to it.”

Steve:               The biggest competitor, let’s face it– I don’t want to get too much at the sale. The biggest competitor that a salesperson faces is the status quo. Any company that’s in business today already has what you sell. They have to or else they’re not in business. If you’re selling paper, they have paper. If you’re selling pencils, they have to have pencils.

If you go in and say, “What do you need?” The person says, “I don’t need anything.” That’s not going to work. But there’s a way to find out what they do, how they do it, when they do it, where they do it, who they’re doing it with, why they are doing it that way. Our job is to help them do it better. That’s the key. Help them do it better.

If you don’t ask the right questions or you’re not trained the right way, you’re not going to get that information. You’ll never get it. You’ll just simply say, “Hey, I got this. What do you think?” The person says, “Okay, that’s good. That looks good but I kind of have that.” We don’t have a rebuttal for that so we kind of end the discussion.

Josh:                 We could go on to salespeople being lazy without having product knowledge. That’s a different conversation.

Steve:               It’s a whole different conversation.

Let’s go back to the young people. The young people today, coming out of school, are given certain entitlements. They believe they’re supposed to get it. They start out with the briefcase that traditionally mom and dad gave them, that leather briefcase or portfolio. They put in all the paper that the manager gives them. Didn’t read it because why would they? And then, they go out and knock on– well, they don’t. That happened to me.

I talk to them. They don’t bother. They don’t I read it. I don’t know. It was interesting, I guess. Nice pictures. And then, they go and knock on doors and expect people to say, “Oh, this is wonderful that you came today.” That just doesn’t happen. And so, they get disillusioned very quickly. Unlike any other group, they quit. They just go away and go some place else and do it all over again. You could do that for a number of years. You can actually go from job to job until somebody says, “What are you doing?”

Now, I talked to somebody yesterday. A bright kid. A really bright kid. He wants a job. He told me, “I want a job as a manager.” I was on the phone, I said, “You know, you’re not ready. You haven’t learned the core skills to be a manager.” He said, “But that’s what I want.” I go, “Yeah, I know that’s what you want. I’m all for it. I want you to get it but you’re not going to get it just because you think you’re qualified.” I think that’s a big difference, too. They’re not willing to take the steps necessary to learn the skills.

Josh:                 Do you blame the millennials or do you blame their managers for not finding a way to teach them in an appropriate manner?

Steve:               I blame the parents.

Josh:                 Well, I would definitely blame the parents.

Steve:               Yeah, you’ve got to blame the parents first of all.

Josh:                 That cat’s out of the bag.

Steve:               Okay, so we blame the parents. Okay. Now, we blame the parents into the entitlement thing. Now, they get a job. They’re not qualified. They haven’t tested properly but they get hired. They get hired a decent salary, probably more than you and I made 20 years ago.

Josh:                 Way more.

Steve:               I didn’t want to say how far back but I would use 20 as kind of like a nice base. When and I started, I remember when I charged you as a consultant and it wasn’t anything near what people– it was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me to go up to Vermont for $150 or something,” anyway.

Aside from that, they want the salaries that are incredible salaries. They want to be successful immediately without working. You see the word working gets in the way of the vocabulary. That word doesn’t sit with them. Working doesn’t mean working.

You and I, when we were back then, worked. You drove around. You made sure your customers were satisfied. You made sure your vending machines were clean and working. I made sure that my clients were clean and working, so to speak. That’s not what they do. They’re not going to do it.

Josh:                 That actually is not my experience with millennials. My experience is very different. I kind of say that I remember every rising generation, who are in their early 20s, get blasted by the generations that came before them.

Steve:               Yes.

Josh:                 Our generation was completely reviled by our parents’ generation.

Steve:               Yes. Yes. Yes.

Josh:                 For good reason because we were bratty, as a group. This group, the millennials, tend to want to have more input into the process than we, as baby boomers, are often willing to give them. My experience with them is, “If I give them input into the process, they are actually very trainable.”

Steve:               They ask for that. In the book, the book that we’ve written, we talk about that that’s what they want. The problem is us, you and I.

Just go back a little bit. It took me maybe five or six years of working with younger people to accept that they actually knew what they were talking about. Once I accepted that, all of a sudden, I get a whole different set of ideas that came out but I still had to learn to accept those ideas and trust that they would be implemented properly.

There’s two factors there. One is “Do we trust it? Do we let it go and let it happen?” And “Do they come up with something that’s good?” You’re right. there are two levels of concerns that an owner has with that group. And then, if you look at you and I, what we grew up with was very different than what they’re growing up with.

Josh:                 Well, we grew up with a top-down authoritarian sort of reality. The millennials are more of a bottom-up. We clump and do things as a group. I have this visual of millennials as a kind of all put their arms around each other and hop down the street together.

Steve:               It sounded great for them for a minute.

This is another issue. Our generation, that is our parents, went through the depression. They started businesses. They had difficult times or they carried that through but they didn’t talk about it.

You see, you and I grew up in a time when people didn’t tell you what they did. Nobody talked about what the war was really like. I was watching a war movie last night. No one talked about what the war was really like. I think millennials know more about things than we were told. We grew up kind of being in this because I was, anywhere, being in the shadow of “Any day, everything can break, you better be careful.” There’s a big difference. They don’t have that experience. They’re not experiencing that. They’re also not afraid to change, not afraid to move, not afraid to go some place else where we were desperately afraid.

Josh:                 Yeah, I find if millennials are not being fulfilled in what they’re doing, they will rapidly find some place else to go.

Steve:               Yeah, I have clients of mine where it just doesn’t work because the managers, the owners, are not as receptive to listening. By the way, listening doesn’t mean you do it, you just listen.

Josh:                 Right.

Steve:               Not receptive. They just say, “I’m gone.” They really leave. They don’t like hang around.

Josh:                 Again, I think that’s more our problem than it is the millennials’ problems – the way we manage these folks. One of the things I’ve learned along the way, which was a hard lesson for me to learn, was you have to meet people where they are. If you don’t meet people where they are, they’re going to become unhappy with you as a manager very, very quickly because they don’t believe you listen or understand what they’re thinking.

Steve:               Or care.

Josh:                 Or care.

I don’t know if you’ve ever read The Trusted Advisor by Charles Green. In there, he’s got this great thing he calls the trust formula. The trust formula is reliability + competence + intimacy / self- interest is how much somebody’s going to trust you and how much you’re going to trust somebody else. Where we fall down with millennials, I think, is on the intimacy where we care about them as a person and they believe that we’re working our self-interest and not their self-interest.

Steve:               I think that managers today, and if you think about the growth of a manager, managers are not taught a lot, if you really think about.

Josh:                 No. It’s terrible. MBA training is horrible.

Steve:               Most sales managers just come out of sales. They’re just promoted up. They really don’t know how to handle people. The only thing they know is sell or whatever that mean. Whatever the job is, it doesn’t matter. So, whatever the job is, the owner doesn’t want to even know about that because he did it and he’s going to say, “I did it my way and you’ve got to follow me.” That’s kind of what it looks like.

You’ve got that group, at the end, that’s saying, “Wait a second. No one’s listening to me. No one cares about what I have to say.” Now I’m not defending that. I’m just saying how it is. That, if no one cares and no one listens, why would you stay? Why would you stay? If you were that person and you believed that you could do something, then my recommendation is go do it. Go find a place and start something for yourself. That is the one thing I don’t see, other than in high tech. Go do something. Go create your– that’s what I did.

No one listened to me. No one listened to me, Josh. When I said, “I’m going to start a business.” They said, “Well you’ve got to be kidding. You can’t.” “I’m going to write a book.” “Oh, you’ve to be kidding.” 70 books later, I did it. But in the beginning, no one believed that. Literally, no one believed that.

Josh:                 I think that’s true.

Where I think we have an issue is millennials are not starting businesses at the level that baby boomers and GenX do and that’s an issue.

Steve:               That’s right.

Josh:                 When I look at my own kids, who are millennials they tend to be pretty risk averse.

Steve:               Yeah, they don’t want to take the chance that you and I took or your father took or your grandfather, whatever. They don’t want to take the chance.

I’ll give you just a brief story. I had somebody call me. I get calls all the time. This young guy called me up. He wants to start a business. He’s got a business plan. He’s got all the stuff. Whatever his name was, I said, “Just do it. Let’s just do it. Don’t get hung up in this.” And then, he said to me, which was just incredibly simple, “Well, here’s the problem.” And I knew this going to be it. He said, “I could lose my credit rating if it doesn’t work.” Now, I’m not a kid. My credit rating is high like this, a hundred times, so now it’s whatever it is. I went, “Wow. That’s what you’re worried about. You know, like just do it. You’ll get it back, you know. You can make a lot of money. No one’s going to care. No one cares anyway.“

Josh:                 Well, the issue is people don’t realize that credit ratings only matter when you’re dealing with monies in your banks.

Steve:               Right. Right.

Josh:                 If you go in a community bank, you’re dealing with families and friends. They could care less about your credit rating.

Steve:               They don’t care.

He was so worried. He never did it by the way. The idea was not bad. But he never did it.

I said to him. It was crime. I told my wife after. I said, “This is a crime. This kid has an idea.” Just do it and see what happens because the idea will lead to another, would lead to another, which will lead to improving, and he may just hit on the whole thing. It doesn’t have to be that idea but he said credit rating – credit rating. That he learned from somebody else.

Josh:                 They probably heard that from some friends of theirs. Like many things, there’s a lot of misinformation that people are getting. You have to be able to kind of learn the skill of knowing what misinformation is versus real information.

Steve:               Let’s go into that for a second, I think. When I wanted to write my first book – first book, it goes back 35 years ago, I didn’t know how to write a book. I had no idea how to write a book, so I went out and bought a book on how to write a book. Now, that sounds just idiotic but that’s what I did.

Josh:                 I’ve actually read several like that.

Steve:               Yeah. I had no idea how to write a book. When I wanted to get published, I went out and bought a book on how to get published and I got published. I just kept going.

Most millennials don’t read. First of all, it’s hard to find the books. You’ve got all these high-tech things. You can’t find what you want sometimes. I think a lot of them don’t use the resources that are available to them.

Josh:                 I would agree with that.

Hey, Steve, unfortunately, we are out of time for the podcast.

Steve:               Ah, it went fast.

Josh:                 It always goes fast. I’m always amazed at how fast can be two minutes goes by.

I’m going to bet people who are listening, some are going to want to find what you’re doing and learn more about who you are and what you do. How would they go about doing that?

Steve:               Reach me at website, link is SteveSchiffman.com or sschiffman@steveschiffman.com, either way will be fine. Or you can go to Amazon, put my name in, Steve Schiffman. Just on Amazon, go to Amazon, put my name in and everything comes up. You’ll see all the books and all the different topics that we talked about. A lot of different ways you can reach me. I am available.

Josh:                 If you go to Amazon, make sure you put S-T-E-P-H-A-N-S-C-H-I-F-F-M-A-N into Amazon because if you put Steve Shiffman or Steven spelled a different way, you don’t get all of the books.

Steve:               No, you get other guys.

Josh:                 I can tell you because I spent about 20 minutes one day in looking for him, so there you are.

I also have an offer for you. I wrote my first book. I’m not even close to 70 nor will I ever get there, but I wrote my first book. It’s called Sustainable: A Fable About Creating a Personally and Economically Sustainable Business. It’s really easy to get. You can get it at Amazon – on print version or Kindle, or you can go to my book website, www.sustainablethebook.com. Buy it there. If you buy it there, you get a 37-page ebook which shows you how to implement all the stuff I wrote in Sustainable and you get to have a free 20-minute coaching call with me where I guarantee you’ll get a least one actionable idea that you can use in your business.

This is Josh Patrick. We’ve been with Steve Schiffman at the Sustainable Business podcast. I hope to see you back here really soon.

Narrator:         You’ve been listening to The Sustainable Business podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around a hundred years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802-846-1264 ext 2, or visit us on our website at www.askjoshpatrick.com, or you can send Josh an email at jpatrick@askjoshpatrick.com.

Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.


Topics: sustainable business podcast, trust, Sustainable Business, Sales, training, generations gap, understanding, sales people, millennials

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