Arch MI

Season 3, Episode 4: 10 Steps to Sales Success: Five Key Questions

December 1, 2021


Welcome to the Arch MI Podcast, featuring our senior customer trainer, Blaine Rada. Arch Mortgage Insurance company, or Arch MI, is a leading provider of mortgage insurance or MI in the United States. Our competitive pricing tool, Arch MI Rate Star, is the leading risk-based pricing platform in the industry providing rates based on a thorough understanding of the underlying risk. Here's your host, Blaine Rada.

Blaine Rada: [00:00:34] Welcome to the podcast. My name is Blaine Rada with Arch MI. I really appreciate you taking time to invest in yourself and I promise not to waste your time. My intent is to help you separate and differentiate yourself from the competition. And I do this by sharing perspective and experiences from doing this work for over 30 years. Like the previous two seasons of this podcast, I plan to be unscripted and conversational, which means I never quite know what I'm going to say or how long it will take me to say it. However, I would like season three to be a little different with shorter episodes and an even easier to implement set of ideas. So, let's get to it. 

[00:01:10] This is part two of 10 Steps to Sales Success. And part two is about five key questions. If you didn't listen to part one, it was five must have skills. And while these episodes do stand alone, there are some kind of complimentary things back and forth that you'll discover if you listen to both of them. So five key questions are simply questions that I believe successful salespeople ask themselves and get the answers to. And of course, it's one of the reasons why they're successful. So the very first one is what's my brand. Now branding, again, this is a really huge topic and there's a lot of experts out there that are much more skilled and knowledgeable about branding than I am. So I would encourage you to seek out that information and do your own research. But I want to just make a few suggestions about your brand. And this is, you know, primarily it's you, right. Brand you as opposed to the brand of perhaps the organization that you work for. But there are different levels of brand, right? There's the brand of the company you're employed by. There's the brand of the team or the group that you work for or with. And then of course, there's you. You incorporated, so to speak. What is your brand? 

[00:02:34] One of the most compelling parts of any brand is what's known as point of view. In fact, it's become kind of so necessary that you'll even hear the expression, POV marketing, or point of view marketing. And the way I relate it to the sales process is that people just want to know what you're all about. Like they want to know what you stand for, what you believe in. Even simple things like, why do you do this work? You know, what is it about this work that gets you up every morning excited to do it. Why do you work where you work? And we don't tend to think about sharing our point of view. Like a lot of people are hesitant to do that because they don't want to offend somebody or they don't think it's appropriate to share that kind of information unless they're specifically asked. But I would suggest that in the sales process, it is important to share your point of view. Because there's a lot of things that affect a brand or that can be identified as a brand that are not that. That are not your point of view. Things that almost anybody would be talking about that a potential customer or client would be interacting with. So for instance, is part of your brand that you're selling a solution to a problem, right? That's one way to look at a brand. What is the solution that you're selling? Another way to look at a brand is, do you help people achieve a particular result? You know, what is the actual result that you help people accomplish? Of course, many times your brand is kind of your product or products. And that's what you're kind of identifying with. I’m going to give you a suggestion for perhaps how to identify what you incorporated, what you personally might have as a brand that you're not even aware of or in touch with. And that is to make sure that you get feedback from people. And I'm sure you do, right. You have people that either say or write nice things about you. You've helped them in a way that they appreciate and they talk about it and they mention it, at least to you. If you start to pay attention to the feedback that you get, the testimonials, if you will, the endorsements, whatever word you want to use, if you start to pay attention, there will be probably two or three words that actually consistently come up more often than you've ever realized in people's feedback. In other words, these are the things that people are identifying in you that you may have never gotten in touch with yourself. I'll give you a personal example. Over the last several years, in my speaking and training and even the topics that I've spoken about have evolved over time. But over the last few years, I have started to see in the feedback that I'm receiving a couple of words like motivational or inspirational. Now I would have never identified with those words. In fact, I almost stay away from using words like motivational or inspirational because that is definitely not my style. In other words, when I picture those words, I think of somebody that if you were in an in-person presentation, you know, they jump on the table and they fist pump in the air and they shout and they yell and they make people scream and get excited. It’s kind of like this high energy, high octane kind of a presenter that gets people all fired up and then leaves the room, and then of course the energy dissipates. I've never identified with that particular style of speaking. Not only do I not do it myself, but I don't even necessarily get much out of it when I see someone who does it that way. But I don't think that's what people are talking about. I think what people are talking about when they say that they received motivation or inspiration is that I got them thinking. That I kind of got into their heads a little bit and they started to think about things in a way that maybe they hadn't thought about before. And that was kind of inspiring to them, and it kind of motivated them to do something with those thoughts. Well, that's spot on. That's exactly what I try to do. But I personally would have never used words like motivational or inspirational. Now that I'm seeing that come up consistently in the feedback that I get, it's helping me appreciate what those words mean and that yes, that actually could be a part of my brand. So part of identifying your brand is actually reaching out to other people and finding out what their impression of you is. Like, how would they identify your brand if they had to describe it in a couple of words. The other thing I'd have you consider in kind of tossing around what your brand is, are you more about the journey or the boat, right? The journey or the boat. So just using mortgage lending as an example, the boat is the mortgage, right? The boat is the outcome. People have come to you because they need a mortgage. You're helping them to get that mortgage, and so ultimately it's about that product, right? That's the boat. But there's also a journey that they're going to go on. The journey is this process that you're going to lead them on. And that may actually be more important to your brand than the boat itself. So again, what are you selling? I think a lot of times we focus on that product or the boat when it's really the journey that people are after. And you know, I mean, just think about why people would take a cruise as an example. I mean, yeah, it is about the ship itself. Is it glamorous, does it have the amenities they want, is it the size of a ship that they would want to be on? There's a certain amount of taking a cruise that is about the ship, the boat, so to speak. And for some people that is actually the main reason why they cruise. Like they never even get off the boat, even when it goes into a port and people have the ability to leave the ship, they stay on it because they just enjoy being on the ship and taking part in entertainment or in gambling and eating and whatever it is that they like to do. Other people, the ship is just a vessel. It's just transportation. They're all about the excursions, seeing different parts of the world. Again, I'm just using that as a metaphor in anything that you're selling, there's the part that is the ship and there's the part that's the journey. And it may be useful when you think about your brand to think about it from that standpoint. So basically, I've given you lots of potential homework, right? Are you selling a solution to a problem? Are you selling a product? Are you selling a particular outcome or helping people achieve a goal? Is it more about the journey or the boat? And again, ask for feedback. If you don't actually get regular feedback, it never hurts to even ask people, how would you describe the experience of working with me over these last several weeks and see what kind of words people start to say when they talk about you. You'll probably notice two or three key words that come up consistently. That's probably your brand. Okay, so that's question number one. Key question number one, what's my brand. 

[00:09:31] Question number two, why choose me? I think we need to have an answer to that question. Why choose me? And if we just want to cut to the chase, the shortcut is it's all about value. Because no one's going to do business with you if they don't perceive that there's a value in doing business with you. So again, to use our business as an example, realtors, if you were to talk to realtors and ask them how is it that we can do business with each other, right. What are you looking for? What do you need in a lender? How can we form a relationship and a partnership? If they were honest, they'd basically say, I need to know the value that you bring me and how it's different from everybody else that I do business with. And that may sound kind of blunt, but that's exactly what everybody's asking even subconsciously when they're trying to figure out who to give their business to, what is the value in doing business with you and how is that different from the other choices that I have. Those are the things that you're going to want to have an answer to. And it's kind of what I call, why choose me. Now what we're really talking about are competitive advantages. That's the marketing expression that would be used here, competitive advantages. And so I want to give you a quick primer on, well, what are those things, exactly. And they're usually things that have nothing to do with price. Even though people ask you about your rates and your fees and how much it's going to cost to do business with you. You know, they ask that all the time, unless you've got the lowest price in town, you need to have another story to tell. You need to have something else that you can explain as a reason why people should do business with you.

[00:10:56] So a competitive advantage really has three components. The first is that it's what you're all about. It almost kind of goes back to what's my brand. What is your point of view? Who are you? What do you stand for? A part of your competitive advantage is, again, you incorporated. It can't be something temporary. It can't be a sale that you're running or something that's just a short-term way of doing business. A true competitive advantage is kind of built into your DNA. It's what you're all about. And again, you could be thinking about this as you, your team, your company. Second part of a competitive advantage is that it's different. It's something that is maybe not one of a kind, pretty hard to be one of a kind in business now, because especially if you truly have something that's one of a kind, it's only a matter of time before somebody else has it. I mean, everybody just kinda copies from everybody else. So don't necessarily search for one of a kind, but what is unique or different in doing business with you? Again, it might be a product, it might be a service, it might be the experience they're going to have. It might be the knowledge or the way that you hold a person's hand and walk them through this transaction. Again, there's going to be some things that you do, well, maybe not one of a kind are at least considered different or unique. And the most important part of a competitive advantage is that you could actually quantify it. That you could actually put a number to it, that you could measure it. Because to just say things like, oh, I'm all about service or I close loans really quickly or I have a lot of experience or I work with a great team. I mean, all those things may be true and they sound fine, but if you could put a number to them, I have 30 years of experience. I work with people who've been doing this work for at least a minimum of 10 years. Everybody on my team has a minimum of 10 years' experience. Doesn't that sound a lot more compelling than I work with a great group, or we've got the best people in the business. It's kind of like answering the question, what's your interest rate? You'd never answer that without giving them a number, right? You'd never say some vague thing like, oh, it's really low. Or it's really good. If somebody asks you what your interest rate is, you're going to tell them what your interest rate is. So a competitive advantage needs to be that quantifiable. So you may need to measure some things in order to know what that is. Okay. So all of those things, again, are ways of trying to think, why choose me. It comes down to what is the value that you have, what is the value that you offer and how is that different? And again, another way of looking at it would be, is it a competitive advantage? Is it somehow such a part of how you do business and it's different from what's in the marketplace and you can quantify how good it is, then you're onto something.

[00:13:47] All right. Question number three. What's my niche? Or some people would say niche. I'm never quite sure which is the correct pronunciation. Probably either is fine. There’s a lot of conversation around niching. And in our business, I think what we tend to focus on is demographics. Demographics are basically how the world sees us, that's a demographic. How the world sees us. So as an example, I am a middle-aged man from the Midwest. I just gave you three demographics about myself. There are things that are easily quantifiable or easily measurable, easily determined. Male, middle aged, lives in the Midwest. And so companies will use that information to target market. They'll decide, well, we want to do business with middle-aged men, or we want to do business with men who live in the Midwest. And so we tend to get very kind of fixated in business on what demographics, you know, where are there opportunities, what demographic do I want to work with? And that's fine, other than everybody else is doing that. And so it just makes business harder because if everybody's focusing on building their business in the same way or going after, for instance, the same demographics, then it just makes it harder. So if you haven't heard this term before, I'm going to introduce you to psychographics. So if a demographic is how the world sees us, a psychographic is how we see ourselves. So now we're talking about things that aren't visible, we're talking about things that aren't readily knowable. What are my concerns? What are my fears? What are my goals? What are my aspirations? What am I anxious about as it relates to this transaction that we may be doing business together. And it's obvious now that all middle-aged men from the Midwest are not going to have the same psychographics, right. That becomes obvious. So if you can start to identify psychographics that you specifically are a good fit for, and honestly it might be ones that are similar to your own. Like, do you identify with people who are anxious about buying their first home and getting a mortgage? Now, a first time home buyer is a demographic. But people buying their first home who have a lot of anxiety around that process, now the anxiety part would be the psychographic. And do you see how you can position yourself differently? If you're an expert in working with people who are anxious and you have an ability and a skill to kind of calm people and make the process have less anxiety, you're starting to attract a whole group of people that otherwise would have never seeked you out because they didn't know that that was something that somebody specialized in. So psychographic allows you to really kind of niche down even further. And so I think that's a question that's worth kicking around. What are the niches or what is the niche that you're perfectly suited to serve? This is the group that you can help the most.

[00:17:07] All right. That was question number three. Number four, how can I stand out? Specifically, how can I stand out from the crowd? Sales is a crowded marketplace, right? There's a lot of choices. Probably never been as many choices as there are. And so how do you be different? How do you stand out? I mean, we've already kind of talked about a few things that kind of relate to that question, but let me give you a suggestion I haven't given before, I don't think in any of the podcast episodes I've done. If you think about the things that people dislike about interacting with a salesperson, there's no shortage of data on this. I mean, you can do your own research. Of course everything you find out there may not necessarily be true. You have to do some vetting and make sure that the information you're getting is accurate. But even intuitively, if you just asked yourself, what are the things that people dislike about dealing with a salesperson. There’s probably a common list. So I recently came across a survey that had three things. The top three things that people identified were problems that they said they associated in dealing with a salesperson. I'll just give you what those three things are. One of them was, they felt that sales people didn't listen to them. They felt that salespeople talked too much and didn't listen. Okay. That sounds reasonable. I can appreciate that. I mean, you've been in that position yourself as the buyer, right. You've been in a position where you've been dealing with a salesperson who is obviously not in touch with, you know, where you're at, right? They've not spent enough time trying to understand you. And they've just been kind of going on and on about themselves and their product and their company. And you're feeling like these people don't get me at all. That is a common complaint that people have about working with salespeople is they feel like they didn't get listened to and the salesperson talked too much. That was number one on the list. Number two, they feel like they didn't respond to their requests in a timely manner. Now, sometimes that's an unreasonable kind of thing, right. Like somebody called you up, you weren't available, they expect you to call in like 30 seconds. Well, that's obviously not reasonable. But I think there's some truth to people saying the sales person wasn't responsive. The sales person didn't honor their commitments because I've experienced it myself, right. As a buyer of products and services, I would say more often than not salespeople make promises and they don't honor them. And again, I don't think it's intentional. I don't think they're intentionally misrepresenting themselves. I just think that they make promises they can't keep, and that they're not very good at followup and that they're not responsive. And this is what's showing up in the surveys. People don't like that. And the third thing that I saw in this survey is that people said the sales person doesn't understand my needs. That kind of goes back to the listening. But they specifically said, the sales person doesn't understand my needs. So, if we just recap these problems that buyers have typically said they don't like about dealing with salespeople, that the salespeople don't listen to them, they talk too much, that the salespeople don't respond to their requests, especially in a timely enough manner or that the salespeople, they didn't feel understood their needs. If you simply work on not being any of those things, if you simply work on being the person that listens and doesn't talk too much or being the person that is responsive or being the person that really tries to understand what their needs are. In other words, if you simply try to do the things that people have said that this is what they want in a salesperson, because this is what they don't like in a salesperson doesn't that automatically make you different? Doesn't that automatically set you apart from the crowd. Because the crowd is what people are responding to. So whenever you see somebody saying, here's a list of things that I don't like about doing business, just don't do that. Just don't do those things that people say they don't like.

[00:21:05] All right. So that was question number four. Number five, who can impact my business? And I'm going to share an idea that I actually heard from someone else. So I want to give attribution to Mark Leblanc. Mark Leblanc is a small business owner that actually helps other businesses grow, helps small businesses grow. And he has what's called the advocate strategy. So what we're talking about here is, you know, who can impact your business. And the advocate strategy is probably the lowest cost, highest return thing that you can do to grow your business. So if you're interested in the lowest cost, highest return, it's the advocate strategy. And it has three pieces to it. And again, you can modify it to fit your approach, but I probably wouldn't modify it too much because Mark Leblanc has figured out that this is really a pretty solid piece of advice. So the first thing is to have a list of people, roughly 25 in number. Have a list of 25 people who you think are people who could impact your business. Now that in and of itself sometimes is a difficult thing to sit down and figure out. So who could impact your business? Well certainly, people who've worked with you before, right? So like referral sources or people who have used you before, you know, repeat customers, so to speak. The people who know you and like you and appreciate what you do. Those are certainly people who could impact your business. But it could also be just people who are your biggest fans. I mean, they may not even be people who you've done business with. Now, I probably would carve out family members. Although sometimes family members can actually be a great source of business building. It's just that sometimes that also gets a little weird because when somebody says, oh, you should do business with John. Then they ask why they said that and they say, well, I'm John's father. Well, right away that referral is a little less impactful because of course John's father is probably going to say, you should do business with John. But there are fans that you have out there. There are people in the business community, or in your personal circles who really admire you and trust you and just would be happy to speak kindly about you and send people your way. So this list of people obviously can change over time. It's not like the first time you write down 25 people's names that that list stays forever— those twenty-five people. People are going to kind of come and go in and out of your life. But that's the first step of the advocate strategy is to have a list of roughly 25 people that you've identified are people who could impact your business in a positive way or help you grow your business.

All right, the second part of the strategy is to contact them. Now, Mark’s suggestion is every 30 days. Now I know when I first heard that, I thought, wow, that's a lot of contact. Like, is this almost bordering on harassment? Like contacting people every 30 days, that's asking a lot. But it's not, when you think about it. And again, you can determine if 30 days is the right timing, just like you can determine if 25 people is the right number to have on your list. The idea is there's a lot of ways to contact people, right. I mean, there's reaching out and calling them or sending them a text or an email, or even sending something physically in what used to be called the mail. I mean, a lot of people don't use that anymore but there's lots of ways to reach out to somebody. And so Mark's idea is that you've got these 25 people and you're making some type of contact with them every 30 days. Okay. So number three, and this might be the most important part, the contact intent needs to be neutral. In other words, you're not selling, you're not reaching out to these people every 30 days to say, hey, got any business for me? Got anybody you could send to me? Because then that would probably be considered too much, right? I mean, to be banging on somebody's door metaphorically every 30 days to say, hey, you know, can we do business or you got any business for me, that would become a nuisance. Instead, the contact is neutral. It's not selling. Again, the possibilities are endless. You could just reach out to see how someone's doing. You could recognize some type of special occasion, like a birthday or an anniversary. You could send them a piece of information that you think would be valuable or interesting to them. But the key is you're not selling yourself when you make these contacts on a regular basis. And so here are 25 people who probably think very highly of you and the work that you do, and you're just kind of consistently staying in their awareness by reaching out to them as often as you choose, Mark says 30 days. Again, it could be as simple as just sending a little text. Hey, thinking of you, hope you're having a great day. I mean, to me, that qualifies as a contact. Or it could be something more specifically like, hey, I've got this new idea. I'd like to run by you, can I book 20 minutes of your time? Again, it's like the possibilities are endless. Now, this sounds really simple, right? A list of names, regular contact, don't be salesy. You know where the challenge is, it's doing it. The challenge is having the list, keeping it up to date, actually doing the contact every 30 days, and making sure that you're not selling yourself. Because that tends to seep in, especially if business is slow and I'm really trying to figure out how to do more business. You know, I start to get anxious and sell more to people. And again, Mark Leblanc is saying don't sell. The selling kind of takes care of itself. That's known as the advocate strategy. 

[00:26:55] Okay. So that was the five key questions. Again, this is kind of part two of 10 steps to sales success. And part one, we talked about some must have skills. Five must have skills that you just can't skip. This was part two, five key questions. First question was what's my brand. And I specifically highlighted point of view. People want to know what you're about, what you stand for, why you do what you do. But I gave you many different ways of trying to articulate your brand, including asking for feedback, finding out what people really value in doing business with you. The second question was why choose me, which really is a value question. What's the value in doing business with you and how are you any different from the other choices that people have. We talked a little bit about how that relates to competitive advantages. Question number three, what's my niche or what's my niche? We talked about the difference between a demographic and a psychographic. And if you can really market to people's psychographic, there's far less competition and you're far more compelling than when you just market to people's demographics, which is what we see on the outside, psychographics is what's on the inside. So we have to learn what that is, right? So you have to actually build a relationship to know what a person's psychographic is. Question number four, how can I stand out, specifically stand out from a crowded field? And I specifically talked about things that people don't like in dealing with salespeople. So just don't do that. Just don't do the things that people don't like and you automatically stand out. And then last was sharing Mark LeBlanc's advocate strategy, which might be the lowest cost, highest return thing that you can do. Basically staying in touch with people who can impact your business in a non salesy way. All right. Well, you know, as much as I try to not put too much content and not take too much time in these, it seems like every time when I'm done with one of these, I think, well, yeah, that was about another 30 minutes and I actually put a lot more content in there than I thought I would.

So much for my field that season three would be different. So far, it’s sounding a lot like seasons one and two, at least in my approach. I'll work on that as we go forward. So that's it for this episode. But again, your work with these ideas is just beginning. I’d like to finish with this idea that we think clarity leads to action, when in fact it's action that leads to clarity. And again, that's worth repeating. We think clarity leads to action when in fact action leads to clarity. Only when we put ideas into practice will we really understand what they mean. So I'm encouraging you, if you want to get the maximum return on your investment of time today, take action on something that you found valuable. It's always a pleasure to spend some time with you. This is Blaine Rada with Arch MI, thank you for listening. 


Arch Capital Group Limited’s US mortgage insurance operation, Arch MI, is a leading provider of private insurance covering mortgage credit risk. Headquartered in Greensboro, North Carolina, Arch MI’s mission is to protect lenders against credit risk, while extending the possibility of responsible homeownership to qualified borrowers. Arch MI’s flagship mortgage insurer, Arch Mortgage Insurance Company, is licensed to write mortgage insurance in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. For more information, please visit

Arch MI is a marketing term for Arch Mortgage Insurance Company and United Guaranty Residential Insurance Company. All right reserved.


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