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Understanding What It Takes To Get Into The Top 1% Of Salespeople With Tommy Schaff [Episode 91]

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What does it take to get to the top 1% of earners?

Many people want to be top earner. But not everyone knows what it takes to achieve this. In this episode, Doug C. Brown speaks in-depth with Tommy Schaff, the Managing Partner of Major League Sales. Doug and Tommy discuss the secrets of elite sales performers, how to become the best version of yourself as a salesperson, and much more.


In this episode you will learn:


Episode’s guest – Tommy Schaff 

CSS 88 | Top 1% Of Salespeople

Tommy Schaff is the managing partner of Major League Sales, a sales strategy consulting and sales training firm. Over the course of his career, Tom has worked with major names like Intuit, Jiffy Lube and Costco. Tommy teaches executive teams how to land huge deals, and he specializes in companies from $30 million to $300 million in size. His experience in sales and private equity have made him an expert in creating “exit value” for organizations in many industries across four continents.

Visit his website: www.majorleaguesales.com

Tommy is giving away free access to his F.I.E.L.D.O.F.D.R.E.A.M.S. Relentless Goalsetting Seminar. Learn more here: www.majorleaguesales.mykajabi.com/offers/cmdjbsie/checkout


Understanding What It Takes To Get Into the Top 1% Of Salespeople With Tommy Schaff

I have a guest of all guests for you. His name is Mr. Tommy Schaff. Tommy owns a company called Major League Sales. Tommy is one of the guys that I have looked up to for most of my life, quite frankly, in selling. I was able to get him on the show because I wanted to talk about 1% earners. In other words, what does it take to get to the top 1%? Everybody’s in selling or people have companies. They always want to make money. We’re going very deep. This is a longer episode than normal. I was able to keep him on the call. He was gracious in doing so. We’re going to talk about what to do to become a top 1% earner in sales. Get your notepads out and take good notes. Let’s go talk to Tommy.

Tommy, welcome to the show. Thanks so much for being here.

It’s great to be here.

For those of you who don’t know Tommy, Tommy and I go back long history. He’s one of my mentors, a guy I looked up to when I was with the Tony Robbins organization and Chet Holmes’s organization. Tommy was the guy that you listened to all the time because brilliant stuff came out of his mouth every single interaction. I asked you to come on, Tommy. Let’s talk about what separates the boys from the men or the little girls from the largest players in the industry and what gets people to the top 1%. You have a company called Major League Sales. Why don’t you tell people what you do and we’ll go from there?

Sales consultancy. I have two businesses. One’s for private equity portfolio companies and to groom for exit. We’re exit value creators. My other one trains financial advisors.

You’re an avid baseball sports fan. You got a collection of baseball memorabilia like I don’t think anybody else has. It’s amazing how much you have. What makes a top 1% earner? What’s the differentiation from your perspective of what makes somebody that elite performer?

There are 100 fathers to any success. Most of the things would sound trite. The thing that I believe that’s probably more controversial, that’s probably worth giving some of the currency that we have of our time is most people think they’re problem solvers. In my opinion, the greatest aren’t problem solvers. They’re problem-finders. What they seek is, “Who has this problem?” They help a client recognize, “This is a problem they have,” and help them understand and monetize, “Here’s the cost of not solving this.”

Our greatest competitor is never another company. It’s status quo. In the debrief of all deals that go bad, people keep with what they’ve always done. It might be they keep doing nothing. Our answer is, instead of trying to convince people what they should do, we should help them understand the consequences of what they’re not doing and see if they’re relevant.

When we change messaging from what we do to the problems we solve, people say, “I have those problems,” and then they talk. When we say, “Here are the things that I solve. Here’s my solution,” they fold their hands and say, “Tell me how that works.” They ask lots of questions. We’re like, “They’re interested.” They grab all this information but we have no leverage. They have no leverage over themselves. If I look at my last several years of being a sales coach, I’ve found, if I make my emphasis on the problems that we solve instead of the solution or what I have, the whole conversation does a flip. There’s a time when prospects sell you what they need to buy instead of you selling them that you want to sell them.

There’s a lot to unpack there. What I’m hearing is the messaging that we use, if we focus it on a problem that they may not know they even have or that they do know they have but we’re messaging in that capacity, they’re going to respond to us much better than if we come out with a standard elevator pitch per se.

Congratulations to you. If there’s a guy that deserves to have a successful show like you’re having, it’s you, Doug. The things that I saw you do at Business Breakthroughs International, you were fantastic and understated. You’re way too humble for your show here. Good for you. When I think about the audience and you have all these people out there that are reading from a myriad of industries, we could get granular.

The answer would be, “My business is different.” I’d like to go into something that we all can relate to. That’s talking to a financial advisor. When a financial advisor calls you Doug and says, “Doug, Tommy Schaff. I work at X Insurance Company Acme Financial, I like to,” immediately you’re going, “Sales call. I don’t want to talk to you.” You’re saying to yourself, “I already have somebody.”

Everybody that’s over 30 years old that makes a living has somebody that they work with. Most people have five people that they’ve worked with. If we try to go to, “I have a solution that’s unique,” good luck. If I say, “Doug, picture I’m a financial advisor.” There are 1,000 of them in Nashua, probably in your ZIP code. The only time a successful business coach, an entrepreneur like yourself ever wants to talk to me is if they fall into one of three buckets.

“Do you mind if I share them with you? If they don’t make any sense, then kick me out off the curb.” I’m going to give them the problems. The problems are usually constructed in a way that there’s a syntax. There are three parts. There is an emotion, a time when the problem occurs and then a consequence of having that problem.

CSS 88 | Top 1% Of Salespeople
Top 1% Of Salespeople: The problems are usually constructed in a way that there’s a syntax. There are three parts: An emotion, a time when the problem occurs, and a consequence of having that problem.


I might say you’re frustrated. As you take a look at all the piles of statements from your various investments with all your advisors, you say to yourself, “I’m winning the lottery. I’ve stacked up cash high and deep. The return rates are phenomenal but I have no idea how I’m going to distribute those proceeds to create income streams. I wonder if I’m sub-optimized.” I’ll pause.

Do you know many people have that problem? Every person in the world I’ve come to find out. We live in a world that loves to invest money. We stack it up and look at return when that’s never been the question. The question isn’t, “What return can I get? How tall is the pile?” The question is, “How much will I be able to spend it and for how long?” If I change what I do to the problem I solve, the conversation sounds different. We differentiate and I could take apart any advisor. That’s how that structure works.

I imagine people sitting here going, “That makes total sense.” Do they call people? What do they do? People would be going, “What do I do?”

You’re assuming that what we start with is finding a need and meeting it. We probably should start with, “What are we good at? What do we have? Who are we? What do we do?” A good place to start is to say, “What do we overtalk about?” People say, “I have this experience. This is what I have.” The more they talk about what they do and they bonafide their credentials, the more they sound like everyone else. It moves to commoditization. There’s no difference. We do need to know it. For all of our careers, Doug, you’ve heard feature benefits. We need to know the feature benefits. The problem with feature benefits is not that they’re bad, it’s that everyone says that so you sound like everyone else.

What does the top 1% do? The opposite of what everyone else is doing. We can call and get pushed out into a different pile and not be in the herd. We start with, “Here’s my feature,” and then I’d say, “This is what I think is unique and good. Here’s the benefit of that.” I say, “What’s the consequence of not having my benefit?” If I say to you, “Here are these problems,” people have a hard time finding them. My experience is that they have wonderful, perfect memories but they have crappy filing systems. We could probe your brain with a literal probe and find out every memory of your life but you can’t find them because you don’t know where to look.

The top 1% do the opposite of what everyone else is doing. Share on X

Sometimes we go out and there’s a temperature or a song or a smell, olfactory being one of the great senses like a “take us back” machine. When I am told where to look, I can find anything. I have 6,672 bobbleheads within 30 feet of me. I have a disease. I am a hoarder. If I said, “Find this bobblehead,” you’d be like, “It’s impossible. There are thousands.” If I said, “Third shelf. I have 38 bookcases full of them. Go above five high. Look for the red one with the wolf,” you’d find that. What we want to do is say, “You’re frustrated in this place, at retirement and when you pull out your financial junk door full of statements that you’ve never, opened up.” You tell them where to look and then the problem that’s in that place, then people go, “That’s me.”

When you’re good at it and you give three of them, you say, “I don’t know if any of these are even on your radar,” but if there were even one that we’re talking about, what would it be? They say, “I have all of them?” Another person is saying, “It’s impossible to do this business. There’s so much competition. Everybody already has somebody.” Your problem is you don’t know what you do and the consequences. You focus on what you do so it’s ethnocentric and egocentric. I talk about myself instead of I talk about the problems I see in my world. When I get you to see the problems in your world and you raise your hand, I get to say, “Tell me about that.” As they talk, who’s selling who?

They’re selling themselves.

Messaging is the meta. If I can message, I don’t have to have a lot of fights with the dog because everything’s easy. The persistence, all the stuff. I was talking to a guy. We had a mutual friend that’s no longer with us who prided himself that he chased a guy for seventeen years. My question was, “That demonstrates persistence.” He called it pigheaded discipline.

I would say, “Maybe if you would’ve understood what you do and the consequence of you not being there, you wouldn’t have had to chase them for seventeen years. You wore them out finally but eight humans in the world can do that and get beat up every day. There’s an easier path. The easier path is to quit talking about what you do. Talk about the problems you solve. Be a problem finder.” The day I became a problem finder instead of a problem solver was the day that everything changed for me.

We’re speaking with Mr. Tommy Schaff. He owns a company called Major League Sales. Check it out, for sure. Tommy, I approach messaging in a way. Let’s say a guy wants to ask a gal out, for example. We’ve all seen this happen, our friends. They go up and have this ridiculous line and they go up and they to be cute and they get shut down. When they focus on something that she’s interested in, especially maybe it’s a challenge that she’s had in her life and they’re sincere, they end up with dates. What I heard you say is you apply a similar principle to a business and you’ll have much better results.

It’s interesting. One of my mentors and I’m one of his trainers, Robert Cialdini, wrote the book, Influence. In his research, he found out that there are the parts that we don’t want to tell, the parts that are potentially going to be an objection later where we don’t have all the goods. We can wait until somebody brings it up, asks about it or finds out. The perception is you can’t be trusted and should I believe everything else you say. Once we get our messaging, another thing we add to it is the truth. My second controversial idea based on what I said is don’t handle objections. Bring them up as soon as possible. We don’t handle objections. We say, “Before we spend a lot of time, do you mind if I share something?” You put up whatever’s on the table and we deal with it.

Put up whatever's on the table, and we deal with it. Share on X

Let the prospect sell you on why they’d still talk to you despite that you brought this up. I’ll give you an example. Years ago, I was working with a software company. It was called BusinessObjects. It was a big multinational company. They wanted me to do training. I’m one guy in my underwear in my basement. They’re multinational, all kinds of languages. I don’t have any ability. I studied Latin. I can’t speak any language. I can read a bunch of romance languages but I can’t speak anything. They’re like, “We’ve been referred to you. It’s the chairman and the CEO of the company. We want to work on some things. We think that would be great to see what you can do for us when it comes to our sales program.”

I said, “Awesome,” but in my head, what do I think? There’s no chance I can win this deal. I do not have a European or an Asian presence. I don’t speak Spanish. I don’t have any of these things. I don’t have any redundant abilities. This isn’t a great match. There’s a way I can make a living with them and a good one. I say, “I’d love to do that so that we’re on the same page. Fair to say that you probably have people on all the continents of the world except for Antarctica, that you have thousands of people, that you need transcription language, all these things. I don’t have any of those. I don’t know that I’m a good fit with you.”

“No, we heard you’re great.” To which I heard I’m going to be column fodder. I am being brought in to give a proposal to bring down a billion-dollar company’s proposal and keep it in check. I decide that I don’t think I want to write a proposal to be their insurance policy to bring it down. I’ll say, “I don’t think it’s a good fit.” He’s like, “No, you come highly recommended. This is legitimate.” I said, “Let me ask you.” Now I got to warn them. The third thing that I do is Captain Obvious. I call it the when use. You should make a list of everything a good prospect would do. Every good prospect that has a brain, what should they do that they haven’t done? I deduced that they probably should have done a needs assessment.

I said, “I don’t think I’m a fit but I’m willing to play. Do you mind if I ask you a couple of questions and we’ll cut to the chase?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “You’ve already talked to some other companies and you have proposals.” “Yes.” We don’t waste a lot of banter time. “When you sat down and reviewed the needs assessment that they did, what did you come up with?” “They didn’t do a needs assessment.” “When you use psychological instruments to measure all of your people worldwide to see what you have, what’s the difference between the high performers and the low performers, what were your findings on that?” Guess what they said.

CSS 88 | Top 1% Of Salespeople
Top 1% Of Salespeople: When you use psychological instruments to measure your people worldwide to see what you have, what’s the difference between the high and low performers?


“I don’t know. I don’t have.” One or the other.

“We didn’t do that.” I asked about eight of those and then I heard them. This is back before Zoom. They’re on a conference call and they think they’re muted. They go, “We haven’t done any of this? Jesus Christ.” They’re talking. I’m sitting there and then they’re like, “We haven’t done any of those things. Could you give us a proposal?”

I’m like, “Time out. Have you got proposals for everyone else? Since you haven’t done a needs assessment, do you mind if I make up a couple of things? What’s the chance that you’re frustrated that your people are calling too low and getting commoditized that you’re not getting upstairs? You’re not getting to go back upstairs. You have no relationship and everything’s being sold on price. You’re getting crushed on margin erosion. Your deals are smaller than you’d like them to be. They’re taking forever. You have projection dates that you don’t meet. They’re scope creep. You’re not getting referrals.”

I keep adding this. He goes, “We have all of those.” I said, “You called the biggest companies in the world to fix it and they never took any time to do a needs analysis to study your people. They never looked at your numbers and they just gave you a proposal.” The guy supposedly unmutes again, he’s like, “Did we do that?” He goes, “Yes.”

I said, “You guys deserve each other. Your big companies were sending people out trying to buy. Instead of dealing with this, you’ve dealt with somebody who came in, featured a preacher and vomited all over you during a presentation. You guys got a price. You’re looking to probably negotiate with me. I’m not interested. This is going to be a loser. You’re going to waste tens of millions of dollars when it comes to the opportunity time of guessing and putting training out that will never work.”

They go, “I don’t think I like your attitude.” I’m like, “Are you open to an idea? You need to do a needs assessment and understand your people. All of your dollars, time, pipeline and the next two years of your pipeline is a guess because you don’t know what you’re doing.” I suggested, “Perhaps it would be helpful to know what your problems are, be able to measure them, have a rubric and have an understanding of who should even be on your team and whom you mis-hire.”

Bottom line, what did I sell them? A couple hundred thousand dollars assessment project that needs scoping, which I could do for my place and then I left. I could not solve the problem they wanted because I wouldn’t put my life at it. When we worked together, I spent some time running around in China and Australian stuff with Tony but then I left. The reason is my family is more important than being the guy that spoke after Tony Robbins. It’s like, “What do I do?” That’s the fourth major theme. People that are great understand their messaging and that they are problem-finders. They bring up objections and don’t handle them. The four things they realize there’s an abundance thing.

When we think every prospect matters, it’s because we don’t believe there are enough prospects in the world. When we realize more people in the world have the problem that we fix than we can never get to, we don’t want to deal with anyone who doesn’t have our problem. In a world with 7 billion people or whatever it is in a nation with 330 million, if we could visually put them in a line, one needs us the most to the bottom needs us the least or we could stack that in companies that are our clients. If we could stack them from top to bottom, where should we spend all of our time?

On the ones that we feel are going to be the best fit for us.

We should probably only work with the top twenty or fewer of those. Why? That top twenty who need us most are going to be disproportionately likely to work with us. They’re going to get a disproportionate return. Our deals are going to be bigger. They’re going to be faster. We’re going to stay with them longer. A lot of people are looking and worshiping at the altar of crap revenue.

Anyone’s a prospect, they put stuff in, it doesn’t work and then they’re stunned that their business doesn’t grow. Get rid of all of the clients that shouldn’t be buying your stuff. Don’t sell them. Don’t let them buy. If they’re not your people, stay away from them. Our mutual friends of ours, Tom Searcy and Gene McNaughton and I did a triune. We helped one of Gene’s buddies in Iowa.

CSS 88 | Top 1% Of Salespeople
Top 1% Of Salespeople: Don’t sell them. Don’t let them buy if they’re not your people.


It was a firm that’s been about 100 years old. It did about $68 million. They had 969 clients. They hadn’t sold anything of size for 5 or 7 years. They’re like, “Can you help us?” I’ll be like, “Give me all of your clients and sequence them from top revenue to bottom.” What I realized is 91% of the revenue is in 17 clients. 9% is in 952. They’re like, “What do you think we should do?” I said, “You should fire 952 of your clients. Package them up. Sell them. It’s like catching sunnies. Little fish that all day long you fish and pull up. By the time you clean them, you get a fish nugget out of it and you’re like, “I’m tired.”

You spend more energy than you get from the fish. “Let’s get rid of these drains of resources.” They’re like, “No, we can’t do it. We want to go find someone new.” I said, “What do you mean someone new? You don’t even have any share in your top seventeen clients. Let’s go after your number 1 client that does 15%, 20% of your revenue and has $1 billion more.” They have all kinds of billion-dollar companies. Here’s what we did. We competed for that business, just one account. I told them, “Fire five guys.” There were six salespeople. We fired five. We had one. We went to the world with one.

In about 60 days, we brought home a $100 million contract that we had to set up 3 additional facilities to put the employees and deal with. When we know the problem that we solve and talk about the problem like, “Here are the problems that we work on,” people grab for you. They share and sell themself. People say, “You can’t get access to anybody.” I said, “In this field, for us to do it, we’re going to have to call from the top down. They’re about to go to RFP. We have no time if you want this.”

I talked and coached the COO, “Call them directly. I want you to call the president. Get an appointment. She was going on a trip with her grandkids. She’s taking them to Disney World.” It’s like, “She’s going to be in Florida.” I said, “You have a plane. Get a plane. The kids are going to sleep. Do you get up early? Are you going to breakfast? Meet me for breakfast in Orlando.” He flies to Orlando and does the sales call. I remember it was in 2013. The reason I know is I left Cooper Stone and jumped on a train in Albany.

I was headed to the All-Star game in New York. That was the one where Mariano Rivera was the MVP last game. I coached him on the train. He executed the play. Do you know what they said? “We will slow down the RFP. You can talk to any of our executives you like.” They competed against 8 companies that were $1 billion apiece. Goliath got slain by David. Simple shot. You got to stock and take a look. Prioritize. Not everyone’s my people.

These are things that separate the 1%. The reason I wanted to talk to you is that you and I’ve known each other for a long time. You’ve always been in the 1%. I’m in the 1%. What I have found is we do things slightly differently. It’s not radically different sometimes but it’s adjustments throughout the process.

I’ve gotten tactical in these. There are strategies. Know who your client is, be a problem solver and a lot of things like that. I didn’t start with this idea because it seems trite but the top 1% knows who they are and who they’re not. Leo Buscaglia was a faculty member at USC. He passed away. He wrote a book called Personhood. At the end of his book, he has a poem. I don’t remember this exactly but it’ll be close enough. “I’m a plum. Not everybody loves plums. Lots of people love bananas. Anyone who loves bananas will think that I’m a second-rate banana if I try to be a banana. Do you know what I am? I’m a plum.”

I put that in my head. I read that book. I love that book. The greatest sales books or psychology books, not the stuff in the sales chap or thing at the business library, is to understand people. Companies don’t buy anything. People buy stuff. People that know themselves know who they are. They realize that if you’re a plum, banana lovers aren’t going to buy you. Quit trying to market and change banana lovers. Spend your time with the plum people. It’s crazy but not everybody loves me. I know it’s shocking. My wife doesn’t like me but she loves me.

Companies don't buy anything. People buy stuff. People that know themselves know who they are. Share on X

I spend time with my people. I created a niche. I made a mistake. It’s weird. We talked about this before the show. The last time we saw each other was in Indianapolis. We were at the top of a stately building, far in the sky with big windows looking over the City of Indianapolis. It happened to be March 12th, 2020, the night before the Big Ten tournament was canceled. Hundreds of people leave the city from every hotel. NBA canceled their season. As we sat in that room, the conversation we had is, “What are we going to do now?” We knew that companies were going to shut down and a bunch of them were going to put their head in the sand.

They’re thinking that because I’m not looking at stuff, nothing is happening. Leveraging what happened that day, the key was to say, “Who is going to buy? Whom do I serve? Who are my people?” I realized that my private equity business was going to fall apart for two years but I go, “If a bunch of people are going to die and it looks like we might be in for some turbulence, the market will be volatile, let’s do financial planners.”

If a bunch of people are going to die and it looks like we might be in for some turbulence, the market will be volatile. Share on X

That day, I turned off one engine, turned on a new one and said, “Today, we coach financial advisors.” We started pretty pluralistic and let anyone in. We said, “No, maybe eat your own dog food. We got rid of the little ones. Today, the last week and next week, a big percentage of my clients aren’t coming to our classes because they’re on an awards trip in Rome with their big company.”

What I found is our message worked for top people. Going back, I love baseball. I position Major League sales in 2019 saying, “I love baseball. I made a metaphor for baseball. I sell with this baseball.” I’m in a cleanup because if I can’t teach, my target market became people that had Sky Boxes. If you owned a company from $10 million to $300 million, it was privately held, it was in a Sky Box and you used that to enter contain clients, I am your puppy.”

I know how that thing works. If my baseball knowledge, my appreciation for that, my ability to create an event and my understanding of sales, if I can’t sell someone who invested a fortune into Sky Box, then I should quit. You can narrow not only the problem you solve but the kind of people you like to spend time with.

My problem is I did that in 2019. I waved my flag. In 2020, no fans. The season has no Sky Box. 2021, didn’t know if there was a season. Sky Boxes, no one paid the money because they didn’t know if they were going to play. 2022, a baseball strike. They started the season that we’re in the World Series. If we go back in the go back machine, there wasn’t a season on April 1st, 2022. They didn’t know what was going to happen. Sky Box sales boom. None of the launches. Sometimes it takes a while to be able to launch who your real people are but in 2023, you can bet that I’ll be gallivanting around on the greatest Sky Boxes at 30 stadiums in America because it can. There’s nobody that can make the claim that I can for that. You got to know who your people are.

Tommy, people who want to check you out and get to know more about you, how do they do so?

The best way is to go on LinkedIn. It’s Tommy Schaff. That’s probably the best way we get communication. I’d love to hear from any of your readers.

I appreciate that. We’re at our time but I want to ask you one more question. You were talking about consequences and about how we should get our prospects, the people and potential buyers, to understand the consequences of the problem if they don’t fix it. Could you go into that a little deeper for people? We’ve established that they had 1 of the top 3 or all 3 problems they were having. A lot of people recognize they have problems but then they’re not moving. They’ll stay in that place sometimes. We’ve got to get them to move off of, “I’ve got a problem.”

You got to find out people’s stories. We use three hooks as their bait. We call those trouble hooks. When you fish in a stream or something, you might use three hooks and put pieces on bait so that you maximize the chances that they hook on anything. We’re going to use bait, a problem and a problem. We’re going to throw those out so people bite on them. When they bite on them, they need to sell us that they have this problem and they care about it.

I call it Find Your STORIES. We call it the magnificent seven STORIES. Situation, where are you? What do you get? What are your measurements? What are the key things? Target and Timetable, where do you want to be and when? What’s going to happen when you do that? What’s the prize and size? Why did you want those things?

We’re going to go to Obstacles. Obstacles are what could get in the way that would stop you throughout your effort to get where you’d like that you hope I can help you with. Response, what are you currently doing to mitigate those risks? Impact, if you don’t change anything and stay your course, do you make it or what do you have to give up? If you give something up, what’s the impact on your employees, stakeholders, shareholders and executives? What happens?

After that, we’re like, “Do you care?” That’s Emotions. How do you feel about that? Do you care why? In Summary, here’s where you are. Situation and target, here’s where you’re going and when. Obstacles, here’s what’s getting in the way. Responses, here’s what you’re doing about it. Impact, here’s what happens if you do nothing with your words. This is why you care about it, the emotion. That’s the summary.

I’d say to them, “How do we do?” They go, “You listen. This is big. I got to get this done.” They’ve sold me the whole time. That takes about 30 to 50 minutes. I’d say, “Doug, I can help you.” On a scale of 0 to 10, how’s my understanding of your situation? Usually, I get that maybe sometimes a fifteen. Every once in a while, I will get a 9. If we get a 9, we’d say, “What’s the part I misunderstood? I wasn’t smart enough to ask. Are you withheld from me?” They go, “My company’s for sale. I’m going to smoke the CEO.” The things that we never find out, they tell you that. I say anything else. I’d be like, “At the beginning of this meeting I told you that if I could help you, I would tell you. I unequivocally positively can help you. Would you like to get my point of view?”

In my point of view, I would say, I call it plus minus exclamation mark, “Here’s what you’re doing great. Here’s what is challenging for you and you better get ahold of it. This is my recommendation, the exclamation mark.” As we go back, to get more impact, the key thing is you got to find the dream. What are they trying to do? Why does it matter? What’s the win if we do it? No dreams, nothing happens. After I get the dream that finding the obstacle, I bid on, “They gave us the right problem.” A thought that I’d like you to take away in closing is the problem they give us is never the problem they have.

I went to my doctor. I’m getting a physical. He’s got a coffee cup. I almost spit my lungs out laughing. It said, “Don’t confuse your WebMD search with my Harvard MD. It’s nice that you have a rumbly stomach, and you went on WebMD and you think that you have cancer but how about you let me be the doctor? Sit down, fill up this form, pee in a cup, stand on this thing, take your clothes and sit on this toilet paper on this chair. We’re going to pop and prop you a little bit and do a physical.”

“Afterwards, when I get all my data, I do a diagnosis and then say, ‘You got this. Here’s the prescription. You should do that.’” Don’t operate on people or give prescriptions until you’ve done an adequate physical. Why? Prospect doesn’t know. We live in a world. Our friend Amanda Holmes, Chet’s daughter, rewrote the book for this.

We live in a world where prospect comes all the time thinking they know what they need except the mind that caused the problem can’t solve the problem. Their diagnosis is usually wrong. We got to back up the truck and start it over. In our obstacles, the seven things that we do quickly, let’s role play this fast. I’d say, “You mentioned all these things at the beginning. That’s going to be helpful. Are there any other problems that you’re hoping might get in the way of you getting to what you want that you hope I can help you with?”

CSS 88 | Top 1% Of Salespeople
Top 1% Of Salespeople: We live in a world where the prospect always thinks they know what they need, except for the mind that caused the problem.


“I’ve got some people I got to report to here that may not feel the same way I do.”

“What else?”

“We’re running low on budget.”

“I don’t have any money. What else?”

“Pull in all these resources at this time. We’ve got all these other initiatives going on.”

“There’s competition for resources. Anything else?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

Sometimes given what you shared with me so far, when I talk to other companies in the same situation, they often share three problems you didn’t share. Do you mind if I throw them on the table to see so that we measure twice and cut them once? I give them the problems that they aren’t thinking about. When I give those problems to them, they go, “I have those.” How come they didn’t get that from everybody else?

My third trench is when you talk to your team about this, what did you come up with? When you talked to the other people who have sat in this chair and you discussed this, what did you come to the conclusion on? When you did your needs analysis, when you tested your people. We didn’t do any of those.

I pile all of those in a bucket. I go, “I got a bucket. Here’s what you gave me. Here’s what we came up with. Here are some other things. What’s number one? What’s number two? What’s number three? Why did you pick one? Tell me more about that. Could you be more specific? Why did you pick number two? Tell me more. Could you be more specific? Why’d you picked number three? Tell me more. Can you be more specific? Doug Brown, you are a genius. You know a lot about your problem. How long you have been thinking about this?”

Two years.

That’s a long time. Maybe you’re used to it.

I never thought about it that way.

Now you’re thinking about it. I’ll tell you what happens in real life. They go, “It’s not that we haven’t tried. It’s just no shit works.” They blow up in front of you and then start selling you. “What are you doing about it now? I’m talking to you.” Our job is to take somebody who thinks that they’ve got it all together and like dance monkey boy dance, make a presentation, then we’re going to beat the crap out of you and grind you on the dirt and let you make sense. When you solve dollars, we don’t sell that way. We don’t pitch. We wear them out. We get their stories. That’s how you get that leverage.

We don't pitch; we wear them out. We get their stories, and that's how you get that leverage. Share on X

Let’s say I’ve been trying forever. It’s for two years. Do we quantify it in the value of dollars?

In STORIES, that’s the O, then it’s the R, what are you doing about it? What are you doing specifically about this? 1) Nothing. 2 We tried this. 3) You’re not doing much. “Doug, when did you make a decision to do whatever it took to get this problem dead so you can move on and do the stuff you love in this business and the things that contribute more, not only to the company but to your happiness?”

I can imagine you’re going to get a death stare from that one.

Say 1 of 2 things. They say, “I haven’t or I did.” The hardest part of this whole sales call is when they say, “I just did,” not smiling. You got to stay sober. What we go into is that impact, the quantification. I don’t want to make a mountain out of a molehill. Not a problem, don’t solve it. Let’s pretend I leave. No one else comes in. Everything stays the same. You run the course of where you’re at. What’s the impact on the business? Probably hard to measure but if you were to guess ballpark numbers, what kind of dollars?

They give you a range. $6 million to $10 million. “Closer to $6 million, I wouldn’t say that.” “What would you say?” “It could be more than $10 million.” What is it? “It’s probably $11 million.” “This year or every year?” “Sorry?” “Is that $11 million impact? If you don’t solve it, does that happen again next year? How long will that happen? What’s the net present value of $11 million for perpetuity? Do you have an exit in the future? When you don’t realize $11 million of profit, what’s your multiple, $22 million?” I don’t know. I’m not the greatest at math but that sounds like about $242 million.

“When that doesn’t happen, what other stuff happens at this thing? You don’t get any of that money, do you, Doug? You do? How does that work? It could cost you $6 million. I don’t know what you make. Is that a lot or a little? That’s a lot no matter who you are. What are you going to have to give up if you don’t get this? How do you feel about that? Do you care about that? Why?”

I can go back and go, “Here’s what I heard. Here’s where you are. Here’s where you’d like to be. Here’s what’s getting in the way. There’s been thinking about it. It’s not like you haven’t been trying, it’s just not working. Here’s what you’re doing about it. Not much. You said, ‘I got to solve this.’ If you don’t solve it, this is the impact, this many million at exit.”

“These million dollars for the four years until you have your exit. You are leaving this much on the table and bonuses. This is how your share of the stock is underappreciated. This is what you were hoping to do with it personally. You don’t get your second house. You don’t get to quit when you want. You don’t get to send your kid to Dartmouth because everyone wants to go to New Hampshire. This is how you feel about all that. How did I do?”

That’s how I’d get my 10 or more scale on a 10. I get to say, “I can help you. Do you mind if I give you my point of view? Here’s what you’re doing great. Here’s when I’ll think there’s trouble in River City. Here’s what I would do.” I’ll do one little last piece. My acronym to get paid is Point of view, Agreement of the point of view, Investments and Decision. PAID. Investments, we often fight about money. Remember when we used to go back and this guy that we work with, he would go into a sales call and talk for 59 minutes?


He thought he did us a favor and then we’d have to unload the truck and start all over while clients were laughing.

I remember.

When we pitch quickly, the objection we get is our price because we haven’t established our value. When we do what I do, we have a big cost of not solving it compared to a little cost. Cost is never a problem. Money is never the problem. There are three investments. The three investments are time, money and change. You’ve been a trainer and consultant. What’s the hardest thing?

CSS 88 | Top 1% Of Salespeople
Top 1% Of Salespeople: The three investments are time, money, and change.



What’s the second hardest thing?


What’s the easiest thing?


Do you know why people fight about money? It’s because we never got leverage on the size of the problem. When we got the leverage on the problem, we never said, “There are three investments to solve this. Do you mind if we deal with the hardest one first?” Change is a bitch. It’s hard. This isn’t going to be easy. You’re going to have to do these things. You probably got to fire that guy. You got to do this, this and this. You’re going to have to probably change markets. If you don’t have an appetite for this or you are not going to personally watch and make sure it happens, this will not happen.

Do you feel lucky, do you, punk? I’m not saying we say that but let’s poke the bear. I say, “Doug, it sounds like you’re willing to make a change but here’s the deal.” Everybody wants a miracle. Everybody wants a Harvard education in one second. Everybody wants a long-term friend overnight. This thing took you decades to get into this spot. It doesn’t happen in a quarter. This is going to take this long to turn the Queen Mary.

For that to happen, we need you. Your family doesn’t get any time. I need you to be here for these things. Are you willing to spend time with whatever we ask? When we go to the money, the money’s a lot easier. Our good friend Andy Miller had a business partner, Ganesh. Ganesh was a Sikh, a wonderful human who played guitar, sitar, with seal and stuff. He would say, “Do you got your seatbelt on, Doug?”

“I got it on.”

“Do you mind if we talk about money? Do you got your seatbelt on?”


“Wind blow through where your hair used to be. Have a little fun with you.” You’d be like, “Yeah.” “By the way, what happened in my head to price?”

“I minimized the whole process. Process of price isn’t even there anymore.”

That’s what happened when I dealt with change in time. When I said, “Do you have your seatbelt on?”

“Here’s comes to the price.” I get it.

You give them the price. Here’s what they say every time, “I thought it was going to be less.” I get to say, “It’s not like you have it.” Examples of that in real life, I did that and the guy said, “I don’t have it now but I have half of it.” What if I go across my second sale in my consulting career on my own in 1994? I needed the money. I was sleeping on my buddy’s couch. I go to this company, MV Sales. They made happy meal toys in Oak Brook, Illinois. I’m with this guy named Christian and I said, “Do you got your zip-on buckle? Wind blowing on your hair, $120,000.” He said, “I thought it was going to be more.” I said, “It’s not like you have it.”

He goes, “I don’t have it but I have half of it now.” I’m like, “How does the rest work?” He goes, “This is September. Our fiscal year is over in October. What if I run over? I can make him give me $60,000 now. It’s in my budget. I’ll put it in the next one. I promise you we’ll pay you on November one when the new thing comes in. I tried not to cry because I had to go to my bride and go, ‘We have money.’” That’s how that works.

You and I can talk all day. I want to respect your time. I appreciate you being here. Anything in closing that you would recommend to people? You brought your A game. Anything above and beyond?

I got one idea. First of all, we don’t have to be perfect. To be in the top 1%, the best thing to understand is what you’re not and own it. I did a little bit about this be a plum instead of the banana kind of thing. Whenever I think about another difference of what makes the top 1%, the top 1%, it comes from The Velveteen Rabbit.

We don't have to be perfect to be in the top 1%. The best thing to understand is what you're not and own it. Share on X

There’s a little rabbit. It’s huggy for a guy who’s probably got TB or something. He’s sick and can’t go outside. All day long, he watches out the door. He sees the little rabbits playing in the yard. The boy longs to go and play with the rabbits. He hugs his little huggy fake stuffed rabbit. At night, the toys all get together and they go, “Boy, wouldn’t it be nice to be real? Wouldn’t it be nice to run in the meadow and have the boy play with this? I wish it could be real. If I could do anything, I would be real.” Skin horse. They called him that because he had a hide from when he was a horse.

“Skin horse, you were real. What’s it like to be real?” “It doesn’t happen often. It usually happens when you’re old. Your eyes fall off. Your seams are split. All your warm and fuzzies have rubbed off. Nobody cares because you’re real. The pretense, the dance, the I’m better, we’re smarter, I’m the best problem solver, we’re number one, we’re the biggest isn’t real. It’s posing. The people who can be vulnerable, who can tell what they’re not, stand for who they are and have the humble swagger of any good baseball team.”

“When you come in in a Red Sox uniform, a Yankees uniform or a Cardinals uniform, it’s worth ten wins at the beginning of the season just because they go, “Holy hell, look at those guys.” It’s to say, “I can’t help everyone but the people that I’ve spent my life learning how to serve, they’ll never get solved by anyone else.” To have transparency on what we are and what we’re not, to be that real, that’s the meta-skill of the top 1%.

You know me doing group things when we worked together before. That was part of the key to being able to convert because you don’t know everything. The more real we are, the more people can relate. They go, “I’m like you, you’re like me but you have this expertise and I have this problem. I have these consequences for this problem. We’ve gone through this whole process.”

To me, that’s one of the top things that it’s not something that even needs to be taught. It’s people who need to relax and be themselves and not worry about it like, “I’m talking to the CEO of Procter & Gamble. That person must be way up here. I’ve got to be below them. As soon as I find the position that way, the game is I’m going to chase this person.”

It’s not what you’re doing. I firmly agree with you. Be yourself and understand that that president or CEO of whatever company you’re talking with, you and I have had the pleasure of working with some great people, Tony Robbins and people like that, have fears, desires, wants and problems like everybody else.

Position ourselves as people and let them know where our expertise is. Some of where our vulnerabilities are like you do with that guy and say, “Maybe I’m not your guy.” You knew you couldn’t take it to that billion-dollar competition level because it’s not you. That is one of the strongest selling points because when they buy, they know what they’re getting.

One of the things as we round out and end this session, I want to thank you, Doug, for having me on your show.

You’re welcome.

I want to thank you for the years where you set up them that we could knock them down years ago. What I want to thank you is you were real then and haven’t changed. You’re still the same guy with all your success. You deserve all the great successes you’re having. Thanks for having me be on your show.

I appreciate that, Tommy. Thanks for being here.

I hope you have a whole host of notes here. To get into the top 1% of selling, be yourself. That is a key element in being in the top 1%. Be yourself. If you’re a plum, be a plum. If you’re a banana, be a banana. Don’t try to be a banana if you’re trying to sell the plums. Understand your messaging, where you’re going, what you’re looking for, whom you’re going after, what the messaging should be and what the problems they face, should and are. Explain those.

Get into understanding what the consequences are for them and let them sell back to you. That is a key component. If you love this show, please go give it a five-star review. If you love the information here in this particular show and you go, “I want a specific subject matter,” and maybe you’re the expert or not, email us at YouMatter@CEOSalesStrategies.com. Let us know what your idea is. If it works for the show, we’ll have you on. If you’re not the expert and it works for the show, we’ll find the resource for you. If it doesn’t work, we’ll let you know that as well.

Thanks so much for reading. If you or someone you know wants to be in the top 1% of earners selling worldwide in your industry, reach out to me. If you’re a company looking for those elite performers already trained and you want to put them into your company, reach out to me as well at Doug@CEOSalesStrategies.com. Until next time. Go sell something. Sell it profitably. Sell a lot of it. Play win-win. Make someone happy. Make yourself happy. Make the world a better place. To your success.


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