Steve Fretzin | Sales-Free Selling: How to Sell without Being Salesy

John Corcoran 1:38
That’s a great episode. Definitely go check that out. Yeah. So well, I’m excited because this episode is something that a lot of people care about and struggle with. And that is how to sell without being salesy, how to sell without making you feel uncomfortable, or make your potential client feel or customer feel uncomfortable. And we’ve got Steve Fretzin with us who’s an expert, he’s gonna be talking about that. First. Of course, before we get to that this episode is brought to you by Rise25 Media, which helps b2b businesses to get clients referrals and strategic partnerships done for your podcasts and content marketing. You’re listening to a podcast right now or watching it live. And this is one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life, just so many great relationships have come from it. So if you are thinking about doing a podcast, and if you have a b2b business, give us a call, drop us a line email [email protected] or connect with us at or on LinkedIn. So Steve, welcome. So glad to have you. We’ve done other episodes together and other interviews together. But for those who don’t know you do, you specialize in helping attorneys. That’s my background practicing law. But you have also written three books about sales and selling. So tell everyone a little bit about who you are and what you do.

Steve Fretzin 2:56
Yeah, so I’m a business development coach for the last 20 years. And in 2008, when the recession hit, I found a niche working with attorneys, because they really hate sales, number one, and number two is they’re not really trained to do anything around client development at law school or at the law firm level. So there was just such a need in this industry, that I went from working really with everyone to really focusing on a niche myself of, you know, working with attorneys and helping them grow their law practices. And it’s been an unbelievable journey. I work with some of the best people in the world, people that you would know, John,

John Corcoran 3:33
yeah. And, you know, we can dive into that a lot of attorneys struggle with sales for many different reasons. But let’s talk about sales overall, you know, and how buyers have changed. There’s been a lot of books, I’ve read a number of the books out there about how sales and selling have changed. We’ve got you got buyers who are really well educated these days, because they can do a lot of research. Whereas 20 years ago, there wasn’t as much information out there. So that’s one of the ways in which it has changed. But how has the market changed for buyers? Even before COVID happened?

Steve Fretzin 4:08
Yeah, I mean, everybody that’s listening is a buyer. We all buy things, you know, we buy, you know homes, we buy cars, we buy services, we buy a lawyer, we buy an accountant, we were buying things all the time. And as buyers, we’ve gotten more sophisticated not only in getting to what we want, which is really about information and price. That’s what we’re driven to find to get. And the other thing that we’re driven towards is keeping whoever the salesperson is whether their title is salesperson or they’re a CPA doesn’t matter. They’re selling a service, how to keep them at bay, how to keep them, you know, a distance from us so we don’t get caught. We don’t get sold something we don’t need. We don’t get taken for a ride. We don’t make a bad decision. We’re all afraid of that. We’re all risk averse in some ways, which is why we’ve learned to sort of not get burned and the easiest example Is the social proof that we need to go to a restaurant, if I’m going to go to a new restaurant, I want to go and I want to see on Yelp, I want to see an urban spoon, I want to see on all the different outlets that this is the place to eat, this is a great service, great food. Otherwise, I’m just not interested in trying something and rolling the dice. And this is how buyers, we’ve evolved to really drive to get information and price before we make decisions, which makes sense. That’s what a smart consumer will do. But in that happening, what’s going on with the sales professionals with the people that sell services and products and things like that, they’re basically just getting strung along, they’re just getting taken for a ride, they’re, they’re being very reactive in the way that they’re managing this situation. And they end up not really allowing for a win win to occur, you know, the seller’s out to sell and the buyers out to buy, and they’re not really connected or working in a collaborative way. And that’s hurting everybody. And I’ve got obviously some backup and stories I can give you. But that’s the gist of what it is. And just the model of the tradition of traditionally how people sell and push products and services does not just or gel well with the way people buy things.

Jeremy Weisz 6:10
I want to hear Steve, you know, what are attorneys experiencing when they come to you. And again, like I say, attorneys, we could probably put anything in there, right? doctors who sell products, what our experienced attorneys are experiencing, when they come to you, what are they saying, here’s what my pain is and then I’d love to hear a bit about your process, what you walk them through?

Steve Fretzin 6:33
Well, and so the interesting thing is, I have to follow my process, sort of to a tee, because if I’m training and teaching people my process, but then I’m not using it myself that I’m a bunch, I’m a bit of a hypocrite. So I have to be very careful to not slip into some of my old bad habits from when I was, you know, in sales, you know, for many, many years, where I have to really follow my process. So they’re coming to me on a number of levels, most importantly, is thinking about things from the very beginning, they don’t have a plan, they don’t have goals set, they’re all over the place, because they’re just thinking I have to get out there and get business. Okay. And it’s hard. And how many hours do they invest in maybe an ineffective way to get that business and one of my clients calls it sheer effort of force. That’s how he spends his time or used to spend his time going after business, because that’s the way it’s done, you just have to go invest a ton of time doing as much as you can, and then hoping that something comes out of that effort. And it’s incredibly inefficient. And it’s really not a great way to spend your time in lawyers, as you may know, based on their billable hours, they’re literally Time is money. You know, not figuratively, literally it is. So the idea that they’re going to spend 234 or 500 hours a year on business development and not get the return not get the growth is very, very disheartening, very challenging. So they’re coming to me with lack of plan, lack of understanding of how to actually go out and get it to find it, too. And then once you do find it, let’s say you get in front of a decision maker at a major corporation, how to run that meeting, so that you don’t end up doing a sales pitch or trying to convince someone of something? How do we use what I call this sales free selling model to walk a buyer through a buying decision to make sure it’s a good fit, versus trying to jam around peg in a square hole?

John Corcoran 8:26
Okay, great. So can you take us through kind of what a process would be like then? And how does, particularly for lawyers, but more broadly, any, you know, anyone who’s in professional services is selling something, and could be at risk of being a commodity? How do you take control of that process when someone calls you, you know, interested in your services?

Steve Fretzin 8:48
Yeah. And so that’s the goal of the buyer is to take control, ask the questions and get that information in price. So the process that I teach every day, and again, doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, if you follow these steps and execute on it the right way, you’re going to come to one of two conclusions. Either this person is exactly who you should be working with. They fall in love with you, you fall in love with them, everything aligns with the stars and you move forward. Or this is the side perk or benefit is by controlling the meeting soup to nuts, you identify who’s not a good fit, who doesn’t have the money to pay you who’s not really going to be cooperative is not going to follow through and you might be in a position to move them to a no which then gets you your time back you’re not playing the game of chasing a you know everyone that comes your way hoping that they’re going to sign I want to know what’s going on not hope or wonder what’s going on. And so the process I teach in it’s just follow these steps and get a predictable outcome and that’s what people need but don’t have and it’s I can tell their frustration when they call me that they feel they’re just out there just running on a wheel like a hamster.

Jeremy Weisz 9:53
Yeah, so what are a few examples of a step that you would, you know, walk someone through?

Steve Fretzin 9:59
Yeah, and let me give The first two steps because this is without the first two steps, everything that comes after it doesn’t really matter, you’re not going to really get the get the buy in, and you’re not going to get the control that you’re looking for to run a meeting in a way that’s going to get a win win outcome. So the first step that I teach is relationship building. Okay? Now we go into meetings all the time, and we just naturally build relationships, and that’s fine for some people. Or maybe they could be doing better. And what I mean by that is, there’s a thing called observational relationship building. Now you guys are looking behind me and you’re seeing a few things. You’re seeing that I wrote a book. Okay, and you’re seeing I have an autographed Michael Jordan, Jersey. So how easy is it for you, if you want to build a relationship with me to mention those two things? Very easy, because it’s right there. What I’m teaching is lawyers, or anyone to go out and go online, get the research, find the things that are interesting about that person that you can bring up to them, because that’s going to be what they want to talk about. So Jeremy listens to my podcast, be that lawyer, he identifies a line that was said by me that he really connected with him. And he brings that line up to me at the very beginning of his free

Jeremy Weisz 11:11

Steve Fretzin 11:12
sales like that line. That’s it. That’s it. Alright, so there you go. And in doing so, you’ve just made a friend, you’ve just, you’ve just made my heart sing, because now we’re talking about something that’s valuable. To me, that’s important. To me, that means something to me, it wasn’t the weather, the traffic or the Michael Jordan jersey. And so I’m teaching people how to build natural affinities and how to leverage relationships. And the easiest way to sort of explain this is imagine a skyscraper right? 100 stories up. And as an architect, I say, you know, the fastest way to build a skyscraper is to let’s just start on the 50th floor. Now, how fast Am I going to lose my job? Okay, probably pretty quickly. So what does a skyscraper need, it needs the peers in the ground, it needs to, it needs the foundation. And people are charging into these meetings without really spending five or 10 minutes building a strong relationship. And that ends up being the foundation of trust and likability and common ground for the rest of the engagement. So that’s the first step. And even if somebody says to me, let’s say I’m meeting with a lawyer, and the lawyer says to me, Hey, Steve, let’s get right down to it. Tell me what you do. Tell me how you charge. Right? And I’m like, Oh, this isn’t following the relationship plan that I had in mind. But if I’m prepared, couldn’t I say? Absolutely, we’re going to handle that I’m going to tell you everything. And more than you probably want to hear about me and what I do and my rates and everything. However, I have to mention, Jeremy, that I saw a recent article that you posted on LinkedIn. And I needed to just ask you a question about it. And then I do and then we talk. And now we’re building a relationship. So I did a simple play of what I call agree and redirect to get you back on track of where I need you to be, which is talking about you, which is your favorite subject. And it’s building a relationship between us. Okay, now, that’s the first one. So relationships and relationships. And the second step is, is super important. And it’s really about setting an agenda. And while we think that sounds formal, and that sounds uncomfortable, or whatever, what I’ve experienced is that working with 1000s of not only attorneys, but entrepreneurs, that if you set an agenda, you can use it as a way to take control of the meeting, where it ends up is a win win, everybody feels good about it, or you could not set an agenda and let the cards fall the way they fall. And that could be a great meeting, that could be a total disaster. Okay, so I have a very specific agenda that I’ve been using for years, and looked at I came up with agendas out of the blue out of the blue sky, no agendas have been around forever. But it’s how I tweak and adjust and build the language around the agenda to get a desired outcome, which is control of the meeting. So that’s really what I want to do. Now I’m happy to either give you those steps or give you an example of how it works, if that would be helpful, but let me know

Jeremy Weisz 14:00
about an agenda. You know, I love that Steve because oftentimes, if we you know, people have a big meeting or someone has a big meeting, you’ve set an agenda, but on a normal call, we don’t but what you’re saying is you should always had an agenda and then and I could see that it would be very beneficial. So what would be an example?

Steve Fretzin 14:18
Yeah, so agendas can be set for any kind of meeting but I’m talking about let’s say that Jeremy, you’re a potential client for me, you want to improve your sales or whatever. And so you were meeting we built this great relationship. And then I would say the following: there’s a bunch of steps that you got to kind of listen for and be cruel roleplay this Okay, like when real time and I just like you to be cooperative. Obviously, it could be difficult, but that’s not your style, you’re your charming person. So it’s a quest, a cooperative, because I can tell you in the 1000s and 1000s of times that not only I’ve done this, but that my clients have done this. It’s on one hand, how many times there’s been any kind of pushback, the person goes along with it because it makes so much sense. So we’ve been talking about your podcast and I say, you know, Jeremy, we could probably talk about how amazing your podcast is for hours. But listen, I know how valuable Your time is, and quite frankly, mine as well. And I thought just to make the best use of our time while we’re together today, would it be alright, just to set a little agenda for us? Is that okay?

Unknown Speaker 15:15
Yeah, sounds good.

Steve Fretzin 15:16
Okay, great. So I know we had agreed in our email for about a 45-minute call, we’ve got about 40 minutes left, and from my perspective, that the purpose of us getting together was really just to get to know each other better, and see if there’s a fit. Okay. Does that sound about right for you? Yeah. Okay, great. Great. So what I was hoping to do is spend some time asking you some questions, learning more about your business, and just try to again identify what’s going on. And I do tend to ask some tough questions. Is that going to be alright, as well?

Jeremy Weisz 15:42
Sure. As long as you live on LinkedIn,

Steve Fretzin 15:45
yeah, absolutely. And just out of curiosity, anything specific you want to make sure we get that you get out of the meeting today?

Jeremy Weisz 15:51
Oh, yeah, I would just love to hear obviously more about what you do. But sounds like that’s on the agenda. So

Steve Fretzin 15:57
it is, and we’ll probably handle that closer to the end of the meeting. And the other thing about the end of the meeting, if it’s okay, real quick, Jeremy is that when I meet with people, typically one of a couple things happens. Either we decide it’s a great fit. It’s a great synergy. We want to talk about specific next steps to move forward. And we can agree on that at the end of the meeting. Or if for any reason, you don’t feel it’s a fit or I don’t feel it’s a good fit. We can be very honest with each other and just call it a day. We can stay friends, but it’s okay to tell me no, you’re not gonna hurt my feelings. Is that alright? as well? Sounds good. Okay. And seen? Okay. So think about it in nine,

Jeremy Weisz 16:32
you’re gonna ask me tough questions that I was like, what I don’t know what he’s gonna ask me. already here.

Steve Fretzin 16:37
So I want to explain what just happened. Okay, in a 92nd agenda, we agreed on the time, so it’s not going to go two hours. If it doesn’t, we don’t want it to. And it’s also not going to go 15 minutes, we agreed on the time, the purpose is to see if it’s a fit, which puts us on a level playing field. Okay, even if you’re the Big Shot CEO, and I’m a lowly salesperson, I want to be on the same level playing field. Okay, either way, you agree to not only answer questions, but tough questions. I’m not asking you those questions now. But isn’t that the goal of our meeting, that I need to get into the weeds and understand what your problems are and how deep that rabbit hole goes? That’s where the business is. That’s what I need to know, to understand if there is a fit. And you just agreed to allow me to ask those questions. Okay. And then think about the last step about the outcome. It’s about moving someone forward to a specific next step, or moving them to a no. And they’re both great responses. And what we’re leaving out of that is wondering, hoping guessing, that’s the killer of business in sales is wondering, hoping, guessing, I want to know at the end of every meeting, is it doing something or is it not and why? And so hope while great in the movie Shawshank Redemption for Tim Robbins, and his character and the frame, okay, hope is a killer for us in business development, sales, whatever we want to call it. So our job is to make sure we get rid of hope, get rid of guessing and wondering and put some real honest truth into these meetings to understand what’s really going on and try to identify lies, or the reality of it. That’s what that agenda does.

John Corcoran 18:18
You know, I want to ask you about, you know, we’re recording this in January 2021. We’re, you know, a year into COVID. How has sales changed in the last year?

Steve Fretzin 18:29
For many people, it’s become incredibly efficient in the sense that the travel, the time to run around the lunches that had to happen, all of that stuff has gone to zero. So everything is being done by phone by zoom. And so for me, just as an example, as a hypothetical situation that’s real, is I went from an average of about four meetings a day, which I consider to be an incredibly efficient day in a powerful day, to having somewhere between seven and nine meetings a day. Okay, and we’re talking about with my clients, with my prospective clients with strategic partners, podcasts, valuable meanings, okay. And I think a lot of professionals out there are feeling the same thing. They’ve been able to cut back on expenses, they’ve been more efficient with their time they’re getting in front of more people, more people are willing to meet, because it’s not as involved as it was. Now. Is it harder? In some ways? Yes. I would prefer to see you in person and shake your hands and buy you a steak and have a glass of wine. I mean, that’s for me. Amazing. I’d love to do that. That being said, it’s just, it is what it is. So since that’s not an option, everybody sort of fell back to what is the reality, which is great.

Jeremy Weisz 19:42
My question, Steve, is you mentioned bad habits earlier. I would love to hear because I think a lot of people will be able to relate to this. What are some bad habits that you had to kick and then what are some just big mistakes people make that maybe they don’t even know they’re making.

Steve Fretzin 19:58
I can give you two that are on me, okay. Number one is I say this I’ve a book on networking best practices called the attorneys networking handbook. And I’m not 100% sure, but I think the first line of the book for me is that no one has wasted more time in networking than I have. So that’s how I start, okay? Because I was, if I went through the math with you, it would blow your mind, not how not only how much activity I had, but how many leads and connections and how much karma I was building, it was astronomical, how much I was doing, you know, what was the problem, though? I wasn’t getting very much business. So there are books that talk about karma building and networking, and all of that. And it’s all wonderful. It’s all lovely, wonderful stuff, one out of a million people are going to go out there and build the kind of karma I built and actually get everything that’s coming to them. And I know Jeremy, you’re a big karma guy. But you give and you get and you understand where you need to spend your time and who’s relevant to you and who’s not. And so I just had to learn some tough lessons about how I needed to spend my time efficiently with purpose, meeting the right people for the right reasons. And that’s hard to do. I think a lot of people don’t have a process around networking. And so they end up killing their time. And I did too, but that was, you know, 17 years ago, not, you know, in 2021. So we need to continue to improve things. And that’s one that I can say from firsthand knowledge that I thought by helping everybody, the Amway salesman, the insurance salesman, the Avon lady, that I was going to do that I was going to get all this business back, because that’s what the networking books that I read, were saying, the reality is that networking done with intelligence and with intent, and with process is always going to Trump doing just winging it. That’s just never a good plan. And that’s what I had to do, because I didn’t know anything. Now I know quite a bit. And everything I do is with intent. So that’s one example. The other example and you know, I’m a practitioner of my craft, I hire coaches, I’ve worked with a number of coaches. And one of the first ones that I ever worked with, said to me, and this goes back to what I was saying a few minutes ago about the agenda that I’m you know, Steve, you seem to be working awful hard to get what you’re getting. And I was a top salesman in the franchise space, you know, I was an MVP, and I’ve done very well. But the amount of time that I wasted because I was so afraid of hearing the word No, I was so afraid of rejection. And I just like to be liked. I’m, I’m you know, the way I’m built in my ego is sometimes not so hard. And it’s hard to please. Yeah, I’m a people pleaser. That’s just how I’m built and confronted and altercations. That’s not my thing. Right? I mean, it takes a lot to really trigger me, my 14 year old has done it a couple times in the last couple weeks. But that’s a different story.

John Corcoran 22:58
I have an ability that I have remarkable ability, oh, man, my four year old told me this morning, he doesn’t want me to be his father. Okay.

Steve Fretzin 23:07
Yeah, it’s a never-ending, you know, body blow and face punches. But at the end of the day, you know, we can, we can, we can work towards it. But the idea that this, you know, I saw, I worked with a coach, and he really was able to identify my gap, which was that I had a very heavy pipeline of prospects. I mean, I was doing great at getting people in the door. But then I was dragging, I was selling businesses at the time franchises, okay. And I was spending a year chasing after someone tried to convince them and sell them and help them along and get them into this business. And it was never a fit from day one, it wasn’t a fit. And if I had figured that out in the first hour conversation, I wouldn’t have had to fly back and forth to Minnesota, or Des Moines, or go up to Green Bay in my car and spin my wheels for two days, multiple times a year. So it was about that point of, of, of getting to an educational point where you understand if you even though you’re driving to get sales, and you’re driving to pitch your numbers, that if you’re going down a path that isn’t a fit or isn’t a win win. And you can call it early for what it is. That’s going to be huge in a career. So let’s say you’re a lawyer out there, and you have all these people you’re talking to, and it’s you’re just killing your time. Wow, if you could slim that down and cut that way back to the most qualified people. How much better would it be and how much less time would you spend and how much more billable hours Would you be able to get in between your business development efforts? So that’s another example of a mistake I was making that I learned from a coach and now I preach to the choir as often as I can about efficiency and knowing versus hoping, as I mentioned earlier,

Jeremy Weisz 24:49
yeah, you know, Steve, you mentioned the networking and it’s intentionally networking, and always looking to give and I totally relate to what you’re saying there and one of my favorite books by Adam Grant, give and take. And he talks about givers, matchers. givers and matchers. And I can’t remember the third one takers, tan down, you know, they say, the most successful givers and the least successful are givers. You know, because of probably what you said just trying to help everyone.

Steve Fretzin 25:18
Yeah, it’s a very beautiful, lovely concept right of the karma that can be achieved by helping everyone selflessly. And if you have nothing else to do, like, that’s an amazing thing to do, you should do that. If you have a business to run or you have billable hours, or you have other things that you have to focus on, we need to give but we need to give with intention. And we need to then coach people on how to help us. We need to coach people on how to give to us so that they can feel good about it. Because someone that’s just taking all the time, if they’re a really good person, they’re not going to really feel good inside that they’ve gotten from you, but not been able to provide reciprocation. So we need to not only coach people, on how we can help them but also how they can help us and if all that aligns, you’re going to be more much more efficient with how you network and and actually get to the end result of Oh, I’m in front of a decision maker who can buy my services.

John Corcoran 26:13
Though a couple of great tips here. I’ll just sum them up and then we’ll wrap things up Steve, but network with intention. Don’t be afraid of a no try to get to a No. Give with intention to network, coach people on how they can help us. I think those are all great tips. Great advice. Steve. This has been great. Where can people go learn more about you, Steve and check out your books?

Steve Fretzin 26:34
Yeah. So on Amazon, if you type in Steve Fretzin and you’ll pull up my three books and feel free to grab a copy to support my son’s 529 plan. You know, slowly and surely, then also my website is the best way it’s. My last name is Fretzin and And there you’ll understand not only all the free things that I have for you, including eBooks and podcasts and video and all this stuff. I’ve been writing for the Chicago daily law bulletin for five years. But also if you’re interested in learning more about my programs, how do I actually directly engage with attorneys in a variety of ways to get them the results they’re looking for? And I can. I’m happy to speak with anybody about that directly as well.

John Corcoran 27:16
Sales a free selling Steve, thanks so much. This has been great.

Steve Fretzin 27:19
Thank you both. I appreciate having me with you.

Intro 27:23
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