Arch MI

Season 3, Episode 3: 10 Steps to Sales Success: Five Must-Have Skills

November 10, 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 RateStar, 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 my 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'm never quite sure what I'm going to say or how long it will take me to say it. However, I’d like season three to be a little different with shorter episodes and even easier to implement ideas. So, let's get to it. 

[00:01:09] This is part one of a two-part series called 10 Steps to Sales Success. And basically I'm going to cover five of these steps in part one and the other five in part two, each with a different focus. So, for part one, I'd like to talk about five must-have skills. And these are things that you just can't skip as I really thought long and hard about the most successful people that I know in the world of sales. And of course, you know, that could be any sales, really, but I focus primarily on mortgage lending since that's our business. I really came up with, I think, five things that, you'll agree with me, they can't be skipped, right. These are skills that really the best in sales possess. And so I'm going to kind of go through them each, individually, but let me give you the high level title of what each of these are and then we'll get into more nitty gritty. So number one is to modify your approach. Number two is to communicate effectively. Number three is to manage expectations. Number four is know your numbers, and number five is dare to be yourself. Now, just by hearing those words, you probably already have kind of an idea or a concept of where I might be going with this or what those things mean to you. Again, I'll get specifically into what each of these mean for me, but I would ask you to be on the lookout for, you know, listen for the things that are meaningful to you. The things that actually you think you can take action with or even come up with your own idea based on something that you heard me say. Again, these are five must have skills, part one of 10 steps to sales success. 

[00:02:53] So number one, modify your approach. Really what this means is to be a chameleon in a way, but not to be an actor. This is where it gets kind of tricky because there are salespeople who are very skilled. They've got the gift of gab, so to speak and they can kind of talk to anyone and walk into a room and connect with all kinds of different people. But they're not necessarily authentic. They're not necessarily being themselves. And so what I'm talking about is that yes, it is necessary to modify your approach because honestly, if you interact with people in only one way, which is the way you are, right? You're your default way. And I'm going to get more into what that is in a second. But if you interact with people in only your way, then of course the only people you're going to connect with are people like you. And there's lots of other people out there, and we don't want to miss the opportunity to do business with people who are different from us. So in essence, we need to accommodate differences in people. In order to connect with someone, you have to be willing to accommodate, to kind of move your style a little bit to accommodate what their preferred style might be. Some people would call this mirroring, as if you're kind of changing based on the reflection back that you're getting from someone. But let me specifically address what are the differences I'm talking about, because this is a much bigger topic than what we're just going to cover in this podcast. So I want to be really clear. I'm only really going to talk about two things that I'm suggesting you modify, and they're very easy to remember. And that's why I like to talk about these two things because any of us can quickly just remember what these are and start putting this idea into practice right away. So the two words I want you to remember are speed and temperature. Speed and temperature. Here's what I mean by that. If you imagine that you've got this continuum, right. Or you could even imagine it as like a line drawn on the floor that goes from one side of a room to another. And on one side of the room you have, when we're talking about speed, you have fast. And on the other side of the room, the other end of that line, you've got the word slow. And so you would put yourself somewhere on that line, right. If we were in the room together, I would ask you to go stand on that line either towards the fast area or the slow area, depending on your preferred style. Now, one of the tricky things about this is that we start to say things like, well, no, wait a minute, doesn't it depend on the situation? Doesn't it depend on where I am? Are there times when I do things more quickly than other times? Yes. All that is true, but we also have a default. When we're just kind of left alone to do the things that we do, the way we want to do them, we have a default approach to how we do things. And we're either faster or slower. Very few of us are literally right in the middle. That would be kind of like the cop-out choice to say, well, I'm right in the middle between fast and slow. Most people are not, most people tend to do things more quickly or more slowly. So what am I talking about? I'm talking about everything from decision-making to how quickly you speak, to how quickly you walk, to how quickly you eat, to how quickly you make decisions, to how quickly you drive. Either we tend to be people who are kind of in that hurry up mode, we'd like to do things quickly. We don't want to waste any time. Or we’re people that are more methodical. We take our time. We don't rush things. In fact, we get nervous around people who are moving too quickly. So the first thing I'd ask you to consider is, well, are you fast or slow? What's your lean in? And again, you can behave fast or slow depending on the circumstances. But in general, would you identify yourself as being a faster person or a slower person? And so of course the key is you're going to be dealing with people who are not on the same place on that line between fast and slow that you are. And so modifying your approach simply means you're willing to behave, modify your behaviors so that you're closer to the person that you're interacting with. Again, that's not acting because as soon as you start to act or be fake or not be genuine, people can pick up on that. And that's actually more distasteful than if you just stayed the way you were. But I'm sure you can think of examples where, you know, you've been with someone, let's say you're a faster kind of person, and you've been with somebody who's very methodical in the way they go about things. You know, they speak more slowly and they take their time and you're kind of sitting there thinking, oh my gosh, would this person just hurry up and get to the point. Or they like to, you know, we'll get to that in a second. I was already thinking ahead to my next point. So you are somewhere on that line between fast and slow and other people are somewhere on that line between fast and slow. And so the great salespeople have the ability to move their position on that line to modify their behavior without being phony, without being fake or acting, legitimately just accommodating another person's preference. So that’s speed. That's the first of the two words I wanted you to remember. 

[00:07:51] The other one you might recall is temperature. What that refers to is basically their personality. Are they people-people. People-people, I would identify as warm. Task oriented people I would identify as cool or colder. And again, there's no right or wrong, good or bad. You know, I hate to use labels because we have these preconceptions of what these words mean. There's nothing wrong with someone who's a task oriented person, for instance, they're just not as into people as other people are. You know, they're the kind of folks that come to work and just want to get their job done. They're not interested in talking about what you did over the weekend. They're not interested in asking about your family and it's not that they don't care about any of that, it's just that's not where they focus their attention. They focus on getting things done and not engaging in chit-chat. Whereas a people-person, a warmer personality almost can't get to work and can't get down to their business until they engage in some of that social conversation or chit chat, so to speak. So again, if you had this imaginary line from warm to cool, do you place yourself on the warmer end of that temperature scale or do you place yourself on the cooler end. Are you a people-person or are you a task person? Again, most of the time, what is your default place? And now you need to realize that lots of people you're going to be interacting with are not going to be on the same place on that line. And so you need to modify the way that you approach them and the way that you interact with them. So for instance, you know, be more interested in small talk if that's not your default, but you're talking to someone who really wants to talk about their family or what they did over the holiday or something like that, be okay with that. Let them engage in that small talk before you get down to business. So again, this first key seems pretty common sense, but it's not something we often think about. And so we don't even realize when we're kind of rigidly being ourselves. And of course there are some people who, that's their belief. Their belief is, I am who I am and I'm not changing myself for anybody, which is fine. You can have that belief. But the reality is, you'll only connect with people who are like you. Those salespeople who can connect with a wide range of people are the people who can modify their approach. Again, mirroring might be a concept or a word that would be easy to remember this by. It's basically accommodating the differences in speed and in temperature. 

[00:10:15] All right. So that's skill number one. Number two is to communicate effectively. And I talk a lot about communication in many of my podcast episodes. So, again, we're not going to take the whole podcast just to talk about communication, but I do want to highlight a few things that I think are specific to the conversation we're having today. Three things, really, that I would highlight in terms of what I consider to be effective communication. First of all, get good at asking questions. I mean, honestly, salespeople talk too much, and I'm not saying that as an insult. And I've been a victim of this myself. I recently actually sold our home and I did it without a realtor. And so I was the realtor, so to speak. And so, I'm actually negotiating and interacting with the buyer, and these buyers, you know, bless them, older folks who hadn't moved in 40 years. They had a thousand questions, they had not been through this process. So, they've got no realtor, I've got no realtor. I'm really driving this process. And before we actually got to the point where we had made the deal, right? So I'm still kind of in sales mode, I'm trying to hopefully establish that, yes indeed they want the property, and what can we agree on with a price. And I found myself talking so much. They would ask a simple question, and rather than just answering the question and maybe even then giving them a question, I'd just go on and on and down these rabbit holes and I would realize later I just need to shut up. I just need to stop talking and ask more questions. So even though it's like, we know this stuff, I'm not telling you anything you probably have never heard of before, but do we do it? Do we actually do these fundamentals? And that's why I came up with the list I came up with because I've noticed the really good salespeople do this stuff. So become very skilled at asking good questions. And that's a whole study in and of itself. There's different kinds of questions that elicit different kinds of responses. And being a good questioner actually allows you to kind of control the conversation. And I don't mean control as in, you know, in a negative way. I mean, you're kind of helping get the conversation to its natural conclusion and asking questions is a far better way of doing that than just talking, talking, talking. 

[00:12:35] Now hand in hand with that is the second communication skill that we often don't think about, which is listening. And again, I talk a lot about listening in various podcast episodes, but I'll just highlight for you today what I think are some keys to better listening. One of them is to simply focus on understanding as opposed to focusing on responding. I think that when we listen, our natural inclination is to try to anticipate where someone's going, to anticipate what we want to say about it and to be ready to say that before they've even finished talking. In other words, we're not even really truly listening. We're kind of half listening while we're anticipating where this is all going and how we're going to respond. So, rather than listening to respond. A good thing to train yourself to do is to simply listen to understand. To really try to understand what it is that that person is telling you before you even consider what your response is. Your mind works very quickly, you'll come up with what you need to say. We don't have to prepare for it while they're still talking. So that would be one key to better listening is just to simply focus on the act of understanding what the person has to say. 

[00:13:40] A second listening skill would be to ignore distraction. Now, this is really hard because I don't know that we've ever been as distracted as we are now. And honestly, I don't think that's getting any better. I don't think the world is suddenly going to become less distracting. So again, if you're not in their presence, I mean, if you're talking to someone on a telephone or they can't see you, they don't know that you might be checking your email or scrolling through your Facebook feed. But imagine if you were in person with somebody, it would be considered very rude if you were doing a bunch of other things while they're talking to you, right? You would need to show them some respect and at least fake that you're giving them some attention, right? But we kind of get away from that when we're dealing with people virtually, because they can't see what we're doing. So, if it's an important conversation and you really need to understand what someone's telling you, you need to push those distractions aside because they will distract you. Your smartphone or your devices will distract you. The environment that you're in and the things that are going on in your environment will distract you. So removing distractions when it matters is an important skill for better listening. 

[00:14:49] And then the third thing I would suggest with better listening is to offer no judgement. And I mean that in two ways, I mean, first of all, you don't want to say anything to the person that sounds as if you're judging them. So let's say somebody is expressing an idea to you that's about the craziest and, in your opinion, the dumbest thing you've ever heard. Well, obviously it would be kind of rude to tell them, you know, I think this is like the dumbest thing I've ever heard. But you still may be thinking it, right. And you've probably all had this happen, especially with a significant other in your life that knows you very well, where you've made a face, right. In other words your body language has actually expressed your judgment without you even having to say it. So, what I try to do is push those thoughts aside. If I start to have those feelings about what somebody is telling me, any kind of judgment that I might be having about it, I try to just push that aside and get back to focusing on understanding what they're saying. You can always pass judgment on it later, right? You can always mull over what somebody told you later and come up with what you think about it. But in the moment we have a tendency to have a reaction to what people say and often it's kind of a judgemental reaction. And if that seeps out in any way, either in your language or your body language, that immediately shuts down that person's desire to talk to you basically, because none of us want to feel judged, right? We want to feel understood. We want to feel valued. We want to feel that people are appreciative of what we're sharing with them. And the moment that we get a sense that they're not, it kind of shuts down the conversation. So, communicating effectively, asking good questions, talking less, listening more, I’ve given you some suggestions for how to do that.

[00:16:35] And the third thing I would offer to you under communicating effectively is to be concise and compelling. And I have to work on this myself. There's probably things that I'm even saying on the podcast that I could say in fewer words. I could find a better way to say it. Now, part of the reason that that doesn't happen is because it's unscripted and I'm kind of just having a conversation with you. But we all probably could say things in fewer words or say things in a more compelling way. The best communicators out there are people that can say things without rambling on, and they can say things in a way that gets us thinking, you know. Like I might be telling you or sharing ideas with you that are not things that you don't know, but if I can share it in a way that just gets you thinking about it a little differently, then I've done my job. I've gotten you to think about it for yourself, which is really what this is all about. I'm not here as the person that's reached the summit of the mountain top that has all this wisdom to share with you. I'm here to get you thinking about ideas that maybe you haven't thought about in a long time. And hopefully you'll come up with better ideas for how to do what you do. Maybe I could sum up this whole idea of communicating effectively in that you want to be not only an interesting person, you want to communicate in a way where people are interested in hearing what you have to share, but you also want to be an interested person. You want to show interest in other people, which is where the questioning and the listening skills come into play. You want people's reaction to be me too, when they're hearing you talk as opposed to, so what, right. You want people to lean in and want to know more about what you have to say, as opposed to, you know, leaning back and crossing their arms and obviously showing you that they're not interested. Okay. So we've covered two of the five must have skills on the 10 steps to sales success. Number one was modify your approach. Number two, communicate effectively. Number three is to manage expectations. Again, this should not be something that you're not already doing. I just want to highlight what I think might be a best practice. 

[00:18:35] You really don't have a prayer of meeting people's expectations if you aren't involved in setting them. That's my belief, anyway. That you have no chance of meeting people's expectations if you aren't actually involved in setting the expectation. And all of us would like to exceed people's expectations. I mean, that feels really good when you've actually been able to make someone think that this was better than they thought it would be, right? Whether better is cheaper or faster or easier, however they're going to define better. We all love that feeling when we've done that and when we're acknowledged for that. When somebody says, wow, this was amazing. This was just so much, again, faster, better, cheaper than I thought it was going to be. But we need a formula. Like what is the formula to consistently exceed people's expectations? Well, that's where the phrase that you've heard before, ‘under promise over deliver' comes in. That's the formula. And I know that doesn't sound very sexy and you probably think to yourself, well, you know, that's like a cliche, ‘under promise, over deliver’. Here's the challenge, we don't do it. We actually do the opposite. We're constantly over promising. Sometimes we over promise because we're trying to make the sale. And so we're competing against other people who are over promising to this person, right. And so we're trying to be like the other people they're talking to who have the same product or idea or service that we're selling. Another reason that we over promise is because you might be a people pleaser. You might be the kind of person that just wants to be liked and wants people to like you and wants people to do business with you. And so you tend to make promises and commitments that maybe aren't exactly what you can do. But we also know the feeling of painting ourselves into a corner and not being able to meet the expectations that we set. It was our fault. We set this higher expectation, we fall short and that never feels good either. So my suggestion to you is try to get into the habit of never promising more than you can perform. Let me say that again. Never promise more than you can perform. Now, I realize we can't be perfect at this. We don't control all the circumstances that affect how things ultimately come out. In fact, you may have a whole team of people that support you that are also responsible for how people feel this went, right? So you can only do what you can do, but the thing you can control is the commitments that you make. And the easiest way to ensure that you exceed people's expectations and that you always honor your commitments is to under promise. I'm telling you this is way harder to do than it is to say. But I've noticed successful salespeople are always hitting it out of the park, right. To use a sports analogy. It's always faster than they said, easier than they said, cheaper than they said. And it's so nice as a customer, as a buyer when you have that feeling that, oh my gosh, this was better than I thought it would be. Well, the salesperson is the one that really controlled that outcome by not painting this unrealistic picture of what it was going to be like to do business.

[00:21:34] All right. Number four, know your numbers. Now my observation is, a lot of people in sales they're not necessarily numbers people. I mean, they got into sales because they're people-people, they like to build relationships, they like to be out there and about, you know, shaking hands and interacting with their customers and this whole idea of, you know, data and numbers. And it's just not appealing to a lot of salespeople. But what I've noticed about the best of the best is that they know their numbers. So for instance, you've probably heard of the 80-20 rule, right. And I'll just give you a little background on the 80-20 rule because it's one of those things we've heard a lot about. We kind of understand what it means. It's also known as the Pareto Principle, it was named for an Italian economist back in the late 1800s by the name of Vilfredo Pareto. Vilfredo Pareto. That guy probably had his name made fun of in school. And what he did as an economist, one of the first kinds of things that he discovered was that 80% of the land ownership in Italy was owned by 20% of the people. So 20% of the people owned 80% of the land. And so, kind of anecdotally, this became this 80-20 principle. The way that we've come to understand it or use it is that 80% of your results come from 20% of your activity. Or 80% of sales come from only 20% of the buyers. In other words, there's a mismatch between activity and results. And so one of the key things that you need to get a grip on is what are those handful of activities that lead to the most productivity and the most results. And it may not be 80-20, maybe it's 90-10, maybe it's 70-30. Don't get hung up on, you know, is it exactly 80-20? Although it does kind of miraculously turn out to be pretty close to that. But we all have a handful of activities, probably 20% of what we do that drives 80% of our results. So the goal would be to not only figure out what those 20% of our activities are, but how do we do more of that? Like how can we make sure that we're focusing on the high producing activities. Okay. So that's a pretty common sense idea, right. The 80-20 principle, that's part of knowing your numbers. But wait, there's more. Another part of knowing your numbers and sales is just to acknowledge that sales is a numbers game. Sales, in and of itself, is a numbers game. In other words, anybody who's in sales, if you talk to enough people, you'll find someone who at least has an interest in what it is that you're selling, right. So you have to talk to so many people to find someone who's at least interested in you. And then of the people that are interested in you, there'll be another percentage that actually might buy from you. In other words, it can all be tracked with numbers. So as a very new sales person, this is really encouraging because as a very new salesperson, you can still make sales. In fact, you can even compete in, say, your company's sales competition, you can even compete against people who are much more experienced than you and better salespeople than you by simply out working them. Here's what I mean. If you had to talk to 10 people to get one person to buy from you, talk to 10, get one to buy. And you're competing against somebody who's a much better salesperson that only has to talk to five people to get one to buy, right. So they only have to talk to half this number of people to get the same result. You can match their result by talking to twice as many people, right? In other words, if you just outwork, you just follow the numbers, just talk to the number of people that you need to get the sale. So if you need another sale, you know how many people you're supposed to talk to. But it gets better because we get better. So maybe initially you have to talk to 10 people and one person buys, well, eventually it's talk to nine people and talk to eight people, talk to seven people. And eventually you're that person that only has to talk to five people. Good salespeople know what these numbers are. So they not only know things like what are my high producing activities, the 80-20 rule, that get 80% of my results. But they also know what are the specific numbers, how many people do I need to talk to in order to get a prospect that's interested and have those numbers, you know, how many do I talk to, to get a sale? They keep track of all of that. And they also follow how that improves over time. And if you're a professional who's always looking to improve your skills, then these numbers get better over time. They don't stay stagnant. But if you did nothing to improve your skills, you would notice that the numbers actually repeat themselves. So it's pretty predictable. That's knowing your numbers. 

[00:26:17] All right. Finally, number five. I said dare to be yourself. Now you've probably heard the expression, you know, dare to be different. The reason I didn't say it that way is that I think that encourages us to be different just to be different. Like, you know, everybody else is turning right, I'm going to turn left just to be different. That's not really what I'm talking about. Now, don't get me wrong. I think what makes you different, what makes you unique is what makes you valuable. You know, I've heard that it’s said this way, you know, let your freak flag fly, right. Like just be outrageously yourself. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. But I don't think different for different’s sake is what we should be after. So that's why I said dare to be yourself and being yourself includes what is unique and different about you. We've all heard the expression, I'm assuming, I shouldn't say that, because maybe some people haven't. But many of us have heard the expression, people do business with who they know, like, and trust. They do business with who they know, like and trust. Well, how is a person gonna know, like, or trust you unless you're authentically yourself, right? Because if you're out there trying to be somebody else or you're out there trying to please everybody and you're not really being authentically you, then people aren't really getting to know you and they're not necessarily trusting you because people can sense when a person is not themselves. And so they probably won't like you at that point because they have that discomfort. So, being yourself just means be authentic, be transparent, don't worry about people's opinions. Don't worry about what people think. Will you turn some people off? Are you not the best fit for some people? The answer is absolutely yes! And that I believe is why we don't do this fifth step. We often are not ourselves because we're trying to please everybody. We're trying to be something for everybody. You know, I can do business with everybody. I can work with anybody. The reality is there are people that you're not a good fit for, even just personally, even your personality or your appearance. You know, you've been around people where you just don't click. Like, there's just this awkwardness, like maybe over time, if we got to know each other more, we could get a little more comfortable. But as of this moment, like, I just don't want to spend any time with this person. There's nothing there that, in fact it's not even a lack of attraction. It's almost like a repel, right? Like you want to just get away from certain people. I think that's totally normal. We're not supposed to be the best fit for everybody out there. So by being yourself you accomplish a couple of things. First of all, you just enjoy doing business a whole lot more because you're doing business with people that you connect with. You get a lot more repeat and referral business because these are the folks that love working with you and they come back and they tell other people about you and you actually attract your ideal client and customer. You actually attract the people that you're best suited to serve. We're going to talk a little bit more about that in the next episode where I cover the other five steps. So, actually there will be some application between this episode and the next, where we kind of piggyback off of some of these ideas. So if you're only listening to one half of these, either episode one or two or part one or two of the 10 steps, then make sure you listen to the other one because there will be some crossover.

[00:29:46] So there you have it. This was part one of the 10 steps to sales success. Five must have skills. The things that you just can't really skip. You need to incorporate these to be among the best of the best. And just a quick review, modify your approach. Meaning when it comes to things like speed and temperature, you've got your own place on those spectrums. You want to make sure that you can pivot and move and adjust to meet the speed and temperature of other people that you're working with. Mirroring, in other words, is what that concept was about. Accommodating the differences in people. Communicating effectively, that's a huge topic in and of itself. So I decided to focus on things like asking good questions, being a good listener, and making sure that you're concise and compelling. In other words, be interesting and interested. Managing expectations, number three. The best thing you can do is to under promise and over deliver, that ensures that you will exceed people's expectations. Number four was to know your numbers. I talked about the 80-20 rule as well as sales being a numbers game. And then finally dare to be yourself. It's okay to be different, authentic, vulnerable, transparent. Sometimes in business, we feel like we can't be ourselves. We have to have a certain kind of identity. I don't necessarily know that that's where we're at. I mean, you may work at a company or live in a place where just culturally, there are some norms that are expected and you kind of have to fit into those norms in order for people to know, like, and trust you. But I think we're moving in the direction of people just want you to be you. People want to know who they're dealing with, what's your point of view, who are you? They want to know that stuff. So don't hold back. Let people know who you are. All right. So that's it for this episode. But you know, our work with these ideas is really just beginning. You know, we think clarity leads to action when in fact it's action that leads to clarity. Let me repeat that. We think that clarity leads to action when it's actually action that leads to clarity. Only when we put ideas into practice will we really understand what they mean. So I encourage you to get the maximum return on the investment of time today. Take action on something that you found valuable, put it into use and practice. That's when you're really going to discover what the value is for you. All right. I appreciate as always you taking some time to be with me. 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.

Podbean App

Play this podcast on Podbean App