Salespeople need confidence and passion to win. But as buyers and robots continue to gain power, it’s easy to feel beaten down in a world where customers no longer seem to need them. As deals fall through and commissions dwindle, they feel desperation begin to sink in.
Blow after blow, they wonder: Am I going to lose the career I love — to a robot?
Anita Nielsen wrote Beat The Bots: How Your Humanity Can Future-Proof Your Tech Sales Career to help salespeople get up off the mat and come out swinging. She knows those in sales don’t need another impractical system or framework that can easily be copied by any other sales professional. Everything they need to regain their confidence and win in this new sales landscape is already in them, waiting to be unlocked. Anita unpacks a series of trench tales, high-impact questions, and a thought process that shows readers how to use the power of personalized value to differentiate themselves and win better, bigger, and more.
What made Anita realize she needed to write her book, and what’s her favorite idea that she shares with readers? I caught up with her recently to find out.
What happened that made you decide to write the book? What was the exact moment when you realized these ideas needed to get out there?
I have worked with sales professionals for many years and I genuinely have a lot of respect for the profession, so the idea to write a book that could help them succeed has been in my mind for years. There was one moment when I knew that I had to do it as soon as possible.
As an embedded coach, I had joined a customer meeting with one of my sales professional coaching clients. The meeting had gone so-so — not as well as we would have liked, but not bad, either. We went to have a drink after the meeting to debrief and talked through our lessons learned and next steps. After a few drinks, he (I call him Neil in the book) started to share on a more personal level. He talked about how much harder it seemed to get a deal done, anymore. There were more buyers, the buyers had more information and deals were just taking longer with margins shrinking. He felt he was always struggling to differentiate.
He also shared how he was stressed about the fact that it was likely he would soon have to ask his wife to go back to work. She was a teacher and hadn’t worked as she was raising their two young kids. That was never an issue because he always was a top rep and made a lot of money. He also said that their kids may have to get pulled out of private school if things didn’t change, soon. He was just so DOWN. It made me realize I had to do something about it. The only thing I could do was to put something together to help him and so many others like him.
What’s your favorite specific, actionable idea in the book?
This is tough because so many of the ideas are around how to think, not so much what to do. But I would say the High Impact Questions (HIQs) are the easiest and most powerful thing to learn and are easy to act upon. High Impact Questions are like normal, open-ended questions on steroids — questions a shrink would be jealous of. The idea is that when you ask questions like this, you are able to engage the rational and emotional systems of the customer’s mind.
These questions get you the basic information you need, but also let the customer go down a path where emotion tends to seep out. For example — instead of asking a regular question like “Who reports to you” you would ask a HIQ such as “Help me understand your org structure.” You get much, much more from the HIQ and, typically, that HIQ (specifically) will bring out some more emotional things like politics or organizational dynamics: who works well with whom, etc. If you can get good at asking HIQs, you can change the level you engage with a customer — you connect at a much deeper, more emotional level.
You should ask them all the time, but for the purposes of sales reps as I talk about in the book, I tell them to master these in the discovery conversations with customers.
What’s a story of how you’ve applied this lesson in your own life? What has this lesson done for you?
I have always been a student of human nature. I ask HIQs instinctively — it’s part of the reason I decided to become a coach — because I realized that the way I ask questions makes people want to share EVERYTHING with me. Then, I help them solve their challenges by getting them to ask themselves questions and bring about the changes that they need to.
This lesson about HIQs is literally the foundation for my career. It’s in everything I do — whether that’s with coaching clients or with my teenagers. Asking questions to really understand rational needs, emotions, and motivations and then being able to respond in a positive way is one of the most powerful things anyone can learn to master.
For more advice on future-proofing your sales career, you can find Beat The Bots: How Your Humanity Can Future-Proof Your Tech Sales Career on Amazon.