Deb Calvert was named by Treeline as one of the “65 Most Influential Women in Business”

Deb as the Co-Author of Stop Selling and Start Leading who also leads the Stop Selling and Start Leading movement works with companies to build organizational strength.

She’s the President and Founder of People First Productivity Solutions which was founded in 2006 with the aim of putting people first. Putting people first has been effective base on her work in sales training, team effectiveness and leadership development is research- based and people-focused.

Deb has worked as a leadership program architect, sales productivity specialist and researcher for over 20 years. Her knowledge in Sales, Human Resource and Operations helps her in a major way to work across a variety of industries.


Deb’s experience in Sales and Human Resources gives her valuable insight and her ability to understand the challenges faced by companies. She offers Coaching, sales training and leadership development programs.


How has the Industry shifted and why do you feel some people are still fixated on this very kind of old school sales mentality?

Deb thinks that people are still stuck in that mentality because it had work for them. This type of mentality had work by being aggressive and persuades the buyer. With sales approach today there’s a different approach. Deb states that if we are going to remain effective our approach to selling needs to be different because buyers today are different.

She further went on to state that when something has worked or is working for us, it’s hard to let go off that technique and it’s hard to accept that there’s something new.

There are some misperceptions that fill the stereotypes of movies and books. Persons misinterpreted books thinking that they need to challenge their customers, etc and that’s not what the books are trying to bring across.


How do you go about really getting through how to carry on a conversation and ask questions that are probing?

How do you do it?

How do you do it is to remind yourself that you’re not pushing nor being rude when you ask purposeful questions without interfering or disrupting. You’re here to help and if you can keep that intent at the center of what you are going to do next, it changes the entire conversation because it comes from you More Authentically, More Persuasively, More interestingly to the buyer.


How do you now getting to the technical skill, what do you do to find out the real reason that they’re saying no?

What’s great about B2B selling is that people don’t just turn their backs on you. Deb’s team would respond to a telemarketer who would call and say for instance, “It cost too much” or “I’m happy with my current solution”. Those telemarketers do this with a motive to give them more information or to get more invitation from them. This can also be an objection to make other sales people go away. The only way to find out is a technique use by stating the opposite. You’re not trying to persuade them, you’re just trying to find out if it’s a real objection.

Your answer should be, “If you didn’t feel it cost too much would we be proceeding with this proposal, conversation or meeting”? They might replied and say, “Yes if it didn’t cost so much” .Then you will know you have a real objection. They may even say, “Well… no actually”, and now you’re about to get the real objection.


Many graduates who have little training they struggle to think of the right questions to ask.

Deb refers to books, training programs that you get from your sales manager. Have a natural curiosity and interest when having a conversation. A normal conversation we don’t struggle for questions.


For those people who haven’t read your book, what does that actually mean to Stop Selling and Start Leading?

It doesn’t mean stop making sales. It means start making more sales. At a panel study Deb and her team would research with about 530 business to business buyers. They collected over 500 stories from sellers and find out what buyers preferences were in terms of how seller’s behaved. They would then look at seller’s stories to see if that behavior showed up and they did.

When sellers are making extraordinary sales, what they’re doing is showing up as leaders. They’re demonstrating behaviors that are more associated with leadership than with salesmanship.


How do you actually make sure that you become an essential part of the sale?

Deb’s team does want to have enough qualifying questions at the beginning to ensure that they are serious.

  • Why are you thinking about making a change?
  • What criteria will you use when you make your decision?
  • What’s your timeline?


These are questions that are probing enough to see if they’re serious. They ask questions that do engage the prospect rather than asking questions that focus on their needs.

Even if persons without the intention decided to start a business with you, it’s that you have created a connecting experience with them. You’ve become the partner that helps them to become better. They feel empowered by you and what you’re able to do to help them out.


How do you demonstrate value to someone who is more concern about pricing as oppose to answering questions in the discovery phrase when you’re still trying to get to know them and understand what they’re looking for so that you can provide value?

Deb states that as sellers we were taught that we shouldn’t talk about price until value is firmly establish. The way to do this is to answer the buyers question in a way that’s vague but not so vague that it seems like you do not want to answer the question.

Example: We have a range of prices, typically the low end is I suspect you’re going to be somewhere mid-range but the high end is I can’t put an actual price until I know more about your specific need. I wouldn’t want to mislead you. But I do have a question, “Is price the most important consideration for you”? “Are there some other factors that are equally important”? Deb always tries to turn the conversation back to value.


How do you create that urgency of your prospect?

She states that the prospect depends on the complexity of the sale and the number of decision makers. You want to know what the buyer’s urgency is because that’s the most important thing that’s going to boost sales. Creating urgency includes things like putting a deadline on your proposal and being responsible, even creating some urgency about competitors if it is true. Depending on what you sell there’s always something you can do that heightens the stakes.


When you’re asking questions, how do you ask questions in a way where you’re not pressuring the buyer and feeling guilty where you’re taking so much of their time but at the same time you still understand

She refers to being strategic that will be helpful when speaking to the buyer. Do not let the buyer only see you as a sales person but as a sales person of value. Don’t be forceful as a sales person of value. Take it a little slower and do something that’s different from most sales people. You need to engage the buyer first while having value in that conversation.

Deb will get your attention by demonstrating value if she asks a thought provoking question that you want to answer.


What would be your advice on making effective followers?

At the end of a business meeting

  1. Have meetings with action plans.
  2. Build a constructive and timely conversation with followers.
  3. Try and make an action plan and send necessary information.
  4. Follow up a meeting when they make an aspect of what you’ve talked about.
  5. Send a meeting invitation and called that person.


And do you think that level of commitment in terms of budget and agreeing to a certain process needs to be and agree at all stages of this whole process?


Every Micro Commitment is a baby step towards doing business with you. Because everyone of those micro commitment causes the buyer to envision what it’s going to be like to do business with you. The more buyers are in, the less likely they will want to withdraw.


Deb states that as you’re asking questions, you can give assignments to people. Your communication should be effective. Those micro commitments are effective towards buyers.


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