The Power to Walk Away: Influence in Sales Meetings with Will Marshall – Ep. 05

Most people don’t like to talk about power, because they consider it evil and associate it with abuse and the use of force. But as my guest on this episode puts it: power is a fact of life, especially in sales meetings. If you don’t understand it, you can lose a sale without ever knowing why.

Will Marshall is a self-employed management consultant and an executive and sales trainer at the International Institute for Humanization. In our conversation, he shares many anecdotes from his long career as a B2B sales rep and manager at corporations including Xerox. 

My favorite one is about Rob, who Will calls the best salesman he ever worked with. Rob shows that great salespeople are great conversationalists. When meeting clients, he’s always looking for clues about the organization’s key players, buying process, culture and challenges -- because knowledge is power.

“That is where power in a selling situation starts: asking questions and listening. You don’t sell to anybody by talking.” – Will Marshall

Will provides many tips and strategies to ask better questions, strike up conversations with receptionists to gather valuable information about prospects and use and interpret power in meetings. We also spent a lot of time talking about the mindset sales people need to deal with rejection, sell with confidence and walk away from multi-million-pound deals.

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Show Notes: 

2:00 – How a video about body language sparked Will’s interest in power

4:25 – Authorizers and influencers: using decision making units (DMUs) to determine where the power lies in organizations 

7:37 – Why power is so important in sales

9:13 – Technique is not enough: the winning mindset for salespeople 

12:07 – Standing up to bullies: using power for good

15:30 – The willingness to walk away from a deal

18:33 – How to stay calm while dealing with dominant hostile personalities 

21:33 – Cold canvassing: going into offices and factories to ask for information 

23:04 – Why telephone marketeers have the power, and not the recipient

25:40 – The master of the negative close

28:38 – The essential traits of great salespeople: questioning and listening skills and patience

31:20 – The purposefulness of throwaway remarks and conversations with people at the reception desk

33:30 –Why negotiators need to get into the other person’s head

35:39 – How to handle objections in the sales process 

37:50 – The power of asking questions – reflecting on the school system

39:44 – The alternative close (also works with friends and family)

41:13 – “No deal is better than a bad deal”: reflecting on the Brexit negotiations

44:29 – Always look for the positive: Del Boy, the salesman with natural ability 

46:45 – How to change a negative mindset

48:45 – Choosing the best route to power 

52:35 – Using coercive power without making threats

53:48 – The power I used when I convinced Will to join the podcast

55:38 – Power is a choice: sometimes you don’t want it

56:07 – Why Will has a preference for meeting on the client’s turf

59:03 – “The only reason why they have that power is because the individual feels intimidated.” (just had to share this quote because of the well-timed dog fight going on in the background)

59:41 – How to identify power dynamics in meetings

1:02:00 – What external consultants should do when a client keeps hijacking project meetings

1:07:03 – How the powerful struggle with power 

1:09:28 – Closing question: Do we get a better world if we teach people about power?

Links to people, books and resources mentioned in this episode:

-       The website of the International Institute of Humanization (IIH), where Will works as an executive trainer and coach

-       A short video on You Tube, in which Will explains his power theory and the different routes to power, and another video about IIH’s power programs 

-       Audio recording of a 1987 address by body language expert Joseph Braysich, who inspired Will Marshall to study power 

-       I had never heard of him, but I definitely want to learn more about this natural salesman ‘Del Boy’ from the British sitcom ‘Only Fools and Horses’. Will talks about him around the 45th minute

-       Books, blogs and other media:

  • The book Will mentioned about Winston Churchill wrestling power from Neville Chamberlain is called “The Gathering Storm”. Here’s more information about Churchill’s book series about World War II. For a better understanding, Will also recommends watching “Darkest Hour”

  • My recent blog about the essential traits of great listeners: humility and confidence

  • video interview with Neil Rackham, creator of the SPIN program Will mentioned and author of SPIN Selling

  • Will’s reflections on the role of questions in the education system reminded me of an interesting conversation with Warren Berger on The Knowledge Project podcast

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