Today, I spoke with Dave Lakhani, who is the author of How To Sell When Nobody’s Buying.  In this interview, he talks about how selling has changed in the past few years, what social media means for selling, what personal branding has to do with selling and more.

How has selling changed in the past two years?

Selling changed dramatically and no one told the salespeople. Most salespeople are still slogging along using the same old ideologies and techniques from the 80’s and 90’s that are based on ideas from the 60’s and 70’s. The result is a bunch of very frustrated salespeople and managers who are not making their numbers. Then, along comes an economic downturn and wholesale destruction of many industries and salespeople don’t know what to do or where to turn. What really changed was buyer mentality and buyer psychology. Consumers and prospects are overwhelmed with choices, markets commoditize faster than ever now and virtually all of them are over-communicated. The result is that they’ve become ambivalent, lack trust and are slower to buy.

Buyers don’t trust their old relationships that were based on concealment of information, they demand transparency and relevancy of messages. Buyers have instant access in the palm of their hands to shop around for better pricing, to see what your reputation is and to see if what you are saying is true. What they are really looking for is a real reason to believe. If you can give them a real reason to believe and earn their trust, you have the opportunity to create a relationship and ultimately a customer.

How did social media change the playing field or did it?

Social media and online social networking absolutely impacted sales greatly because buyers were able to band together in networks and share information instantly. They also learned how to discover the truth online (at least most of the time) and they learned the power of shared experiences. They began reporting their experiences on blogs, on their Facebook pages, and instantly on Twitter. Salespeople and many companies were stunned by what came out and very slow to react. Now, they are rapidly trying to navigate the new landscape and figure out what to do. Sadly, most of them don’t hire a strategist with experience in new selling to help them, they simply muddle about hoping to get it right.

What do you tell salespeople about personal branding?

I’m glad you asked. Let’s face it, if you stay at the same job for five years now, you have a long career with a company. The salespeople who are going to earn the most in the future are those who embrace the idea that they are their ultimate product. Building a personal brand is what will allow you to take your clients with you wherever you go because they will seek you out if you’ve built a strong brand. A powerful personal brand will also set you apart from your competition and give people a reason to believe.

In my book How To Sell When Nobody’s Buying I tell salespeople that they must have a blog, a personal facebook, Twitter and Linkedin account and their name as a website. They need a coordinated place to showcase themselves, their information and their knowledge. And, I also reveal the most important information that they must gather from each client in order to best position themselves for future business. I also strongly recommend your book to everyone who needs to build a personal brand, it is the most actionable information on the market right now. Salespeople must embrace this or they should just get out of sales. The only problem with that is, not matter what your job now, you must take control of your personal brand. So, the smartest thing any salesperson can do is decide what they want to be known for, what do they want people to say about them, what are they willing to do every day to be sure it happens? Once they decide that, they can build the rest quickly.

You’ve created something called “The Leads Machine” for people who buy your book, what is that?

The Bold Approach Leads Machine is a web 2.0 powered contact manager that allows you to share and exchange leads with other salespeople so you never have to cold call again. It is a collaboration between my company Bold Approach, Inc. and

One of the principles I talk about in the book is leveraging established relationships. The best leads you’ll ever get come from other salespeople who have a good relationship with the account you want to get into. The challenge of course is knowing who is non-competitive and who may be willing to share leads with you. The Bold Approach Leads Machine takes all the work out it, you just search and find someone who has the contact you need and exchange leads. It is completely free and also full incorporates social media, down to the point that you can see a contact’s live twitter stream right on their lead profile page. It is a powerful tool.

Using the same old tools doesn’t work anymore, you need new tools for new times and new psychologies, this is it. The leads machine has thousands of leads and thousands of members already so you’ll walk into a virtual goldmine of potential new business with background information so that you never cold call again.

What is the Chapter 0 in your book, I’ve never heard of a chapter 0 before . . .

Chapter 0 is like ground zero. If you have to make sales right now and only have a week to turn things around, what do you do? Chapter 0 is a complete implementation plan for how to kickstart your sales immediately.  One of the things that I teach salespeople is that implementation is everything and money follows action. So rather than give them room to try and figure out what that means on their own, I decided to make it simple and gave them a very specific action plan for the next five days of their career to create massive momentum.

Chapter 0 breaks down what you do from the moment you walk in the office until the minute you walk out. And guess what? I don’t tell them to start cold calling, that is a very low value activity. We start by going to inactive accounts and non-buyers, people with whom we at least had familiarity. By the time we get around to calling new prospects, they are using The Bold Approach Leads Machine to find them so they aren’t cold. They have a great deal of information that will allow them to succeed in closing an appointment right away.

I also talk to them about message to market match. People don’t want to be force fit into a solution, they want something elegant that fits perfectly. Chapter 0 shows them exactly what they need to do to become relevant and how to do it. And here is what is interesting about that information. If you substituted job hunt and interview for all the sales reference, and applied everything in Chapter 0 to getting the job you want, you’d have the job of your dreams in no time. Especially if they’ve followed your advice and built a powerful personal brand.

Dave Lakhani
is the author of How To Sell When Nobody’s Buying and many other books on persuasion and mass influence.   There you’ll also find free access to The Bold Approach Leads Machine.  Dave has been described as a “Marketing Genius”,”Business Acceleration Strategist” and “Multipreneur” by his peers and the media. Dave is an in demand speaker, author and trainer, whose ideas have been applied by some of the biggest companies in the United States including IBM, US Army, Rogers Media, Micron, GE, Wizard Academy and many more. Dave is frequently seen in magazines including Selling Power, Sales and Marketing Management, Entrepreneur, The Today Show and dozens more. Dave has owned more than 10 successful businesses in the past 20 years.