Challenge Conventional Forces and Build a Better Business
Learn how to challenge conventional forces and build a better business through quality client acquisition in an exclusive interview hosted by John Evans, Jr., Ed.D, Executive Director of Knowledge Labs™, with Matt Newman, Vice President with Transamerica and author of Starting at the Finish Line.
Challenge Conventional Forces and Build a Better Business
John L. Evans Jr., Ed.D.
- How do we challenge conventional forces and apply the appropriate mechanisms to build a better business?
- The biggest mistake salespeople make is telling everybody what we have, what we do and why we are great rather than asking people what is most important to them.
- Are you leaving a positive impact so when your name comes up or someone needs a service your business provides they are not recommending the company, but are recommending you?
John Evans: Hello and welcome. I am Dr. John Evans with Knowledge Labs, and I am delighted to have our distinguished guest, Mr. Matt Newman, here to talk about something I think is on the minds of all businesspeople all the time. And that is what? Quality client acquisition. How do we build the business? How do we challenge conventional forces, the appropriate mechanisms to building a book of business? How do we go against that? And I have been doing this for 20 years all around the world, and Matt Newman, I have not seen somebody like you before. You are, and I mean this with all affection, a freak. You have built an extraordinary business. It is not just a bigger business, it is a better business. How do I know this? It is because we have worked together for years, and I see the way your flock emerges around you. Our Head of Distribution, Drew Elder at Janus Henderson, talks about building an army of loyal followers. You have got that in spades. Matt Newman, you are Senior Vice President with Transamerica. How did you do this?
Matt Newman: That is a great question. First of all, John, thank you for having me today. This is an absolute honor, and I have been looking forward to it.
Evans: Let’s roll.
Newman: Let’s do this. So it is interesting, you learn some of the greatest lessons in life probably at the toughest of times. You try to do things that are correct, but you are not sure when you are young. So when I started my business, I was very fortunate that my father was basically in our business as well, too. So he was able to give me some great points at the beginning. I was a young kid, and I thought I knew everything. And some of those points were people don’t buy product, they buy you. They buy your belief. They buy your leadership. And if you connect with them on the right levels, they will follow you.
He taught me about honesty and that sometimes you lose the battle to win the war. And he taught me about there is always an end user client at the end of the day that needs to be looked after. And if you put those three things together and you outwork other people, there is no limit on what you can do. And I took that and I owned it. I believed it is my dad giving me that, and that is when he started to build these connections that were beyond business; they were honest.
Evans: You talk about the structure you have, this big three, that you want every one of our listeners, irrespective of what industry you find yourself in, to put these big three in place right now for the aspiration of building again, not just a bigger business, but a better business. And the spirit of what you learned from your father and the spirit of what you learned in the marketplace, through grit and failure and determination and recalibration in moving forward. This first one I just love, Matt Newman: The days of the golf balls are over. What? What do you mean? And here we are in a commoditized world, right, things are more and more competitive, and you say, “Number one, the days of the golf balls are over.” Expand on that, please.
Newman: Yeah, in the old days, regardless of the business you are in, if someone did something for you, they provided business to you, you would send them golf balls with a thank you note or something along those lines. We got lost in that. That became archaic. That became, everybody was getting those. And no one got a thank you note back, no one said anything. What did you do to really position yourself with that person through honesty, through integrity? And what you realize is, it is learning about them. It is learning about the families, it is learning about their dreams, it is learning about their aspirations. Digging deep into that person and building a connection and then sending them something that means something personal to them.
Evans: That means something personal to them. Okay, as I am looking in your eyes right here in this studio, I get a sense of tremendous sincerity, and that is not a word you hear in sales training in corporate America, corporations around the world. How do we increase our capacity for being more sincere?
Newman: That is a great question. First off, I think the biggest mistake we make as salespeople, regardless of the field you are in, is we speak instead of ask. We try to tell everybody what we have, what we do, why we are great, rather than asking people what is important to them. When you do that, you could just sit back, grab your pen and take notes, and everybody will give you the map of exactly what they want to make them happy. So I will give you an example.
Evans: Give me an example, yes, please.
Newman: Yeah, yesterday I was in a meeting with two clients of mine, and they have been clients of mine for a long time, friends, if you will. And we are having a conversation about preparing for the bad and all the other stuff we will refer to. They let me know that their new assistant has a 27-year-old brother going through brain cancer. So I reached into my briefcase, grabbed a book that I happen to have on my story, my memoir, and I wrote a note to him, and I told him in that note that we are a family of warriors. We are here for each other. You live in the now, you appreciate the moment. What meant more, me sending golf balls to these two guys or providing something to their assistant that is real and honest?
Evans: Right, it is laughable, right?
Newman: It is; it is basic.
Evans: It is so basic it is almost back to the future in a sense. You also talk about this idea of becoming, it is imperative for a next-generation rainmaker, a next generation, moving forward now to be a life coach. What do you mean by that?
Newman: You used the word commoditized before. That is the way products are becoming, whether they are financial products, they are toys, regardless of whatever it is going to be, you could find out, go on Google and find out what is the best one, what should I use in this situation? By becoming a family life coach, we are learning more about the people that we are working with, what is important to them and letting them know we are there for them, because we have a better understanding of who they are.
When we become that family life coach for them, that is when we get referrals of someone saying, “Go call John” or “Go call Matt,” because we are showing them that we are there as someone who is trying to take them to a place of honesty and integrity, to allow them the ability to maintain their lifestyles, regardless of what is happening around them. We are that point person that they can rely on to help them get through difficult times.
Evans: Yeah, and going back to your example a couple of minutes ago, you are listening differently than your competitors. You are listening differently, you have got a bigger ear, that example you just cited. But then you are taking action. I am just terrifically interested in that process, you know, what is a powerful process that we can replicate and we can scale with respect to this idea of quality client acquisition. So to me it is the one tool, you just said you are listening differently, I am saying, you listen differently, and then you took action. But before you took action, you stopped and you paused and you said one of my favorite words in this, “Hmm,” HM, as in Mary, MMMMM, we need more, “Hmmm,” don’t we, to think how we can make meaning with clients.
Newman: We do, and I will give you an example of something that I started to understand. Do you ever buy a new car? You go to a dealership to buy a car, you leave the lot and all of a sudden you see that car is everywhere. Well, the reality is that car was always there. You never noticed it until you actually had a connection with it. That happened to me when I took on my battle of cancer at 39 years old. I really just thought older people got it and yeah, I had family and all this other stuff that dealt with it, and the minute I went through it, it was like I put on a new set of lenses. It was everywhere. So what I learned is that when you connect with people on a personal level, all of a sudden your connections get deeper, you will notice things more. It allows you to speak less and listen more and allow them to tell you what it is they are looking for and find trust in the person they are talking to. And then you are not selling anything, you are solving.
Evans: You are solving. Let’s go back, if you don’t mind, if I could just ask, you went through this unbelievable stress at 39 years old. I heard it said about you that your mess turned into your message. You turned that around, something changed in you. Humility expanded, compassion expanded. Does the next tremendous rainmaker out there listening to this podcast, Matt Newman, does she or he have to go through some egregious experience to get to this point where elevated compassion, listening and empathy comes about?
Newman: You shouldn’t have to. But I said this at the beginning of our conversation, we learn some of the most basic lessons in life at the toughest of times. We learn the sense of how fragile life actually is. We start to have a better understanding of living in the now, appreciating the moment. I feel I was pretty good prior to getting sick, but I was given this gift from cancer, and that is right, I said a gift from cancer, because this is my journey. I own the journey. Cancer is just along for the ride.
I could have let it take over my angst, I could have let it take over my drive. Strength is something that is deep down in our bellies and at the toughest of times, we often can find it, grab it and own it. It is not the size of our arms, it is not how much we bench press, it is something deep down that when we grab it, we can use that to our advantage. I found it. And what I realized is that the moment is something that is much more precious than I realized before. And I have an obligation to extend that to other people and share that with them, with a real story that they connect with, their friends connect with, their loved ones connect with. It affects everybody. And what that connection allows us to do is me to listen to them more and me to encourage them as well, too. And it is not about selling; it is about building that bridge to each other right there.
Evans: You talk about this so wonderfully in your game-changing book Starting at the Finish Line. I remember, I was going through my troubles with my retinas and these eyes, I had a series of eye surgeries. I appreciated your messages so much, but I will tell you, the world just, after I got on the other side of it, the world looked a little different, a little sweeter. I remember when I finally got my vision back, I looked up and I saw this osprey land on this cypress tree, and I could see it. I wasn’t able to see for a while. That brought this tremendous sense of gratitude, overwhelming sense of gratitude. So I think one of our messages to our listeners here, and this is just emergent right now, is can we establish the habit of gratitude day in and day out.
Newman: You know, you bring up a great point. I will tell you what is interesting. What you guys do at Janus Henderson with the FireStarter curriculum of understanding the purity of purpose, I feel that is something that bellows the things I talk about. I want to share a very quick story with you that I bring up.
Five days after my surgery, I was looking at life through rainbows and unicorns. I was understanding it differently. I didn’t know if I would still be here, and I didn’t know the diagnosis, how severe the cancer was. I had gone through a craniotomy, and I was trying to just really live in the moment. And my wife was taking my kids to school one morning. I had a 2-year-old, a 4-year-old and a 5-year-old. She takes them to school, and I am riding shotgun. I had a big hat on because I have a second head from this craniotomy and whatnot. I took my 2-year-old daughter, and I walked her to class. I walked over to her class, and she took off her little pink jacket. And she walked over to the hook, and she put the little pink jacket on the hook, and she looked at me and she goes, “Thank you for taking me to class. I love you, Daddy.” And it hit me that I can’t do that more? I was so focused on my phone, so focused on work. I was so focused on things that what I didn’t realize, I always looked through my lenses.
At that moment, I looked through her lenses, and I created a memory for her. And I learned a lesson from this awful, evil disease, cancer, that I was not going to let go, and I was going to incorporate this into my life. I was going to incorporate it into my business. I was going to share this with others, so they could realize you shouldn’t have to go through this to learn this way to connect and understand that you just don’t look through your eyes. Whether it is your clients, your daughter, your son, whoever it is, look through their eyes.
Evans: Okay, let’s tighten up for our listeners right now. We have got one and two. What do we want? Let’s be prescriptive here, Matt Newman, based one and two. Number one is no more golf balls. Number two is life coach. Get really succinct. What are the habits you want to see going forward for our listeners?
Newman: I believe our job is to be there when things are bad. I think we need to put ourselves in the position that when things go bad, we become the point person that people turn to. People want things they can’t get. People want – whether it is some type of financial planning, life insurance, whatever it is going to be, they are doing, – they want something they can’t get any longer.
Evans: So you are talking about anticipating satisfying an unstated need.
Newman: Have your plan in place.
Evans: Having a plan in place, but if I am hearing you, you are satisfying an unstated need. The client isn’t saying, “I need X, Y or Z,” you are providing leadership, you are stepping into the relationship and saying, “We should be going there.”
Evans: Is that fair to say?
Newman: It is not the product you are selling, it is the strategy and the solution of leadership that people want to follow.
Evans: But hold on, Newman, we have got sales to make. There is pressure here. There is, we have got to get results, too.
Newman: When you are selling to someone in a way that you are showing them that they will be in a better situation, the product becomes inconsequential. I have been saying this for the last 20 years. If you live by the product, you will die by the product. If you live by the sincerity of the relationship, you have a lot longer rope than you would have had. And I will give you an example. Your book The Takeaway, I love the little area you put in here, “The raucous tale about the art of the sale.” It is about the connection, and that is what it is about. Products come and go. No one is using a Betamax or a VCR player any longer. But if you had a relationship with a person who is moving his way up, you probably still talk to them in some fashion.
Evans: Excellent. Let’s go to number three. It doesn’t sound really nice, but we are going to put hope around number three, right? We are going to put smile and hope on this. Plan in advance for the bad. What are you talking about, Matt Newman?
Newman: Yeah, and I kind of just mentioned that a little bit, but we always want what we can’t get. We always want to have something that after something bad happens, we want to look back. I will give you an example. Let’s say you are invested in the market, we lose 30% and then we say, “Well, what do I do now?” Well, you should have had a plan in advance of that. As a salesperson, regardless of what field you are in, we want to put a plan in place of something that if things go bad, we can alleviate that burden.
Let me give you my point. On myself, I spoke all over the country on the necessity of having a plan in place for years and years and years. We want what we can’t get. I remember laying in my hospital bed, and I remember my parents were on their way down, my father-in-law is on the way down, who was dying of pancreatic cancer, and I just got diagnosed with brain cancer. And I grabbed my iPad and I started, my wife said, “Do you want to watch a movie? They will be here in 20 minutes?” I am like, “No, no, just give me the iPad.” And the first thing I pulled up was my will. It was done. I didn’t know if I was going to get through this. The next thing I pulled up was all my basic financial planning, my kids’ college, my insurance, all stuff that I just always talked about being there in advance. And I realized that every presentation and speech I ever gave about this stuff was actually about me. I am the shoemaker whose kids had shoes.
So my father walked in. And he gave me a look of, “Hey Bud, how are you doing?” I saw the fear, I saw it. You know, your son has brain cancer, he is going to die. I saw it in his eyes. Him and my mom could fake it all they want, I saw the realness. So I brought my father over to the bed, and I just started showing him this stuff that I just went through. And I kind of threw the iPad on the bed and I said, “Dad, there is only one thing on my mind, beating this disease, because I don’t want to have to worry about any of that stuff. My kids are taken care of, my wife is taken care of. I got one goal, and I want to beat this thing.” That is the first time in my life I saw my dad break down and cry. And that is when he looked at me and said, “This is the message you need to give.” I said, “Dad, it is the message I always gave. I just now realized that I was the shoemaker whose kids had shoes.”
Evans: For whom the bell tolls.
Evans: Simon Sinek does a lot of work on getting clarity on our “why,” why we do what we do. We all know what we do, and we all know how we do it. And I want to add at Janus Henderson Labs, our group, Knowledge. Shared, this idea of building a scaffold in the pond your why and being able to tell stories about your why. That is what I have observed over the years with you, Matt Newman. You tell tremendous stories about why you are doing what you are doing. Should everybody be doing that?
Newman: I think the more you make it personal, the more people don’t feel like they are being sold to. I think when we use a schtick, if you will, about selling something, everybody is going to take a step back and go, “Where are you going with this?” When you connect with someone, so an example that I would use on that is I got an e-mail yesterday from a woman in India, because I went on cancer support groups whenever I can, to try to help in any way that I can. I throw out my own battles I deal with. And she sent me an e-mail that her husband is going through brain cancer and not doing well, and she just found she was able to buy my book in India and wanted to thank me. And I wrote her back immediately: “You don’t thank me in any way whatsoever. Anything we can do to help, we are a family of warriors. Anything you need, let me know.”
And I get these messages five to 10 times a day from someone I never met. The reason I am bringing that up is how many people that are listening to this have some friend, family member, someone, a prospect, whatever it is, that has been through a situation similar to mine, similar to other things they read about. And letting them know your story and inspire them. It might motivate them. That might turn that they were the person who gave them something that said, “You are not alone on your journey, there are others.” That is the connection. If you are doing it the other way, you might be living and dying by the product.
Evans: You grew up in Jersey. You are a Jersey tough guy.
Newman: I lived in South Philly a little, too.
Evans: Gloves off here, right? Keeping it real about client acquisition, building this flock, this army, this legion? But what you are sharing with me right now, 2019, this is vulnerability. South Philly kids aren’t supposed to be talking about stuff like that. You are supposed to be hustling, man. Move the product, Newman, move it.
Newman: I can honestly tell you that if you do it from the heart, and you allow the heart to let it out and go the way you want, you are being honest. And there is an attraction to this honesty, there is an attraction to purity. There is an attraction when someone feels that they are being led by someone with the right motive. The product becomes a little inconsequential. It becomes about that person, that I trust him, I trust her, I want to be on their path. And that is what brings relationships to a different level.
Evans: You know, Stephen M.R. Covey, at Knowledge Labs, we have had the great fortune of working with Stephen M.R. Covey. He wrote a tremendous book called The Speed of Trust, when trust goes up, outcomes go up voluminously. The question then defaults, Matt, to how do you build more trust in a relationship? And one of the answers, not the entirety of the answer, but one of the answers is vulnerability. Even for a South Philly tough guy, right?
Newman: I will stick on the Jersey side. I am throwing that one out there right now.
Evans: Yeah, yeah.
Newman: I agree with you on that. I think you can’t fake it. It has to be real.
Evans: So how do you teach sincerity? You have had these sales trainings all around the world. How are you and I supposed to teach sincerity?
Newman: You know, I bring this point up to salespeople, and I have no problem saying this. The majority of salespeople in specific fields look and talk exactly the same. They wear the same suit, same tie, same shoes, same Rolex watch.
First of all, you have got to be you. You have to fall somewhere in that box of massive professionalism. But people are trying to get there themselves; they share what they like to do. Everybody says the same thing, like, do the clients you work with, the prospects, they know who you really are, they know what your kids like to do? They know the issues you have been through? Some people, for me, I notice they want to keep things to themselves. That is their catharsis.
My catharsis became writing a book and speaking all over the country. I get that from me. I had no intention it was going to go anywhere. It made me feel better to get it off my chest. But what I did realize, when you share a circumstance with someone that can relate to it, they will talk to you. So the more you dig in and the more you find out personal stuff, you might create something that you didn’t know you had the ability to, and now you are different. And I watch it all day long; people don’t do it.
Evans: Okay, so this is our final point. The painting is almost over, listeners. Hey, I am a Philly guy, too, originally.
Newman: I know, I know.
Evans: So listen, I watch you with clients, and you are looking at your clients differently. You are listening different. I think you have remarkable emotional intelligence. And you have established a habit of finding out what is going on, pain points, interest, passions, personality types is so important. We have a driver, social and analytic, with whom we are dealing here. Emotional dynamics, how does the client appreciate being appreciated? You know, you have been a tremendous supporter of the Art of WOW, from Knowledge Labs, and we are so grateful for that. You are looking at your clients differently, and you have established this habit of taking in information. Isn’t that critical to this whole new way of characterizing selling?
Newman: It changed those two things in my mind. Change breeds complacency or change breeds opportunity. To not adapt to change means you can lose efficiency, and you could be set behind the pack. Things have changed. It is really more about digging in with all the information that we can find and taking advantage of that and making a relationship somewhat better, but creating a more efficient sales cycle as well, too, because the trust is built.
I watch people that speak in a vernacular, to where they sound like a salesperson. You have to break it down and be willing to be you, to truly get people, and then you learn things. You learn the colleges people go to, the relationships they have, where they used to live. You learn all these little things where now they will start trusting you more, because you are you. And the minute that happens and your product is slightly lower than someone else, you will get the head nod because of the relationship. And I feel like I see people going the opposite way of they present product first, where they almost puke it out in front of everybody, and then hope it sticks. I believe it is you build the foundation first, and then the product just happens to come next.
Evans: One of our great mentors in Labs, Knowledge. Shared, is Betsy Sanders. Betsy took a job with Nordstrom in 1973 making, I believe, $2.75 an hour, right? Decades later, her career ended, she was one of the highest-paid employees at Nordstrom. And because, the reason that happened was because she created this whole mindset around a client experience. She said something very important to me, Matt, and I want to get your comment on it. We were doing a workshop and she said, “You know, success is not who you know, rather success is who knows you and what they are saying about you when you are not in the room.”
Newman: That is really good.
Evans: Isn’t that right? Isn’t that what you are trying to espouse here, what Betsy Sanders said?
Newman: I completely agree with that. Are you leaving something in a positive impact, where people, when your name comes up or someone needs a service that your job provides, that they are not recommending the company, whoever you work for, they are recommending you. If that is what you are leaving, there is no ceiling on what you can do.
Evans: And you are Exhibit A. Matt Newman. We want you, Matt and I want you, not only a bigger business, we want you to have a better business. We want you to have an awesome business, a flock of loyalists, that are singing your song, telling stories about you, that you are making meaning on a regular basis with that group. Thanks, everybody. Bye-bye.
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