I talked to Jim Miller, a sales genius, to learn how to build sales strategies, build a sales system, and hit every single sales target your heart desires.
Adam: Who is Jim Miller? What has he done? I could speak for your accolades for you because I know how great you are, but, take this moment and brag for a little bit. Share with people some of the incredible things you’ve done over the last few decades.
Jim: Well, my background relevant to this conversation starts in 2001, when I was hired to be the Vice President of sales for Tony Robbins. At that time his organization was in quite a situation. He was going through a divorce and the company was going out of business.
I remember my first day of work, I arrived from the airport, hadn’t even put my suitcase down and I had the Vice President and CEO telling me, “Jim, for purposes of transparency, we have to let you know that company’s going bankrupt.”
This was quite a shock to me because, first of all, Tony Robbins going bankrupt? Secondly, I just got married on Friday! I hadn’t even taken my wife on a honeymoon and left the altar to fly to San Diego from New Orleans to take this position. So I told them, “Listen, let’s not do anything rash. Give me a little bit of time and let’s see what we can do.”
By the 24th month, we had generated more revenue for the company than the history of the company combined, with the sales strategies and programs that many of which are still in place right now, including the $20 million coaching program.
I worked with Tony and traveled around the world with him for a few years, met many of the world’s biggest thought leaders, and worked with guys like Jay Abraham, Keith Cunningham, Harvard professors, and Nobel prize winners, you name it, it’s quite an experience.
Adam: What I love most about you is you’ve got this pedigree. You’ve worked for this household company. Everyone knows Tony Robbins coaching, and you’re the one who brought him back from the brink of bankruptcy with your sales methods.
Jim: Yes. Right. We built up a pretty extraordinary sales team. After my first day and that initial shock, on the second day, they flew me out to Hawaii to be with Tony because Tony wanted to meet me again. While we were in Hawaii, 9/11 hit.
We were stuck in Hawaii but I had to get back because the very first event we were doing was up w in Orlando, Florida. I had to get my sales team going. We had to get sales going, otherwise, if we didn’t have a big hit in Florida, we were shut down.
When I was able to get back, still no one was willing to fly. All of the attendees in that Orlando show were east coast, flying from the Northeast. So we had a big problem on our hands, then we had the anthrax issue that hit Florida, and there was a big reluctance to go to Florida.
We were able to put together a sales strategy but none of my sales team wanted to sell because they all bought into the fact that, we can’t ask people to fly when there may be another terrorist attack. Apparently, there were still a number of terrorists that were still happening.
So my first biggest challenge as Vice President was to change the psychology of my sales team. My entire sales team bought into the fact that there’s no way we can get people to even take this event seriously right now, after having faced what the nation was facing. Even irrespective of the inability to fly, they thought it was something that people would rather not even talk about, going to a Tony Robbins event while the nation was mourning and under the scare.
So the big psychological conversation that I had to have was if there was anybody in the universe that stood for changing the psychology of this country from one of fear, to one of courage, to take action, to not allow every single day, every single moment that we were under the threat of terrorism, it was Tony Robbins.
People came to Tony Robbins for the psychology of courage, for the psychology of taking action, so I got the team motivated and gave them specific strategies and sales conversations to have with the general public. We ended up filling up Orlando and I believe we set several sales records for the company at that event. So it was quite a success.
Sales Strategy: Turn a problem into a selling proposition
Adam: I love this. I love that turnaround because there are so many companies that during that time would’ve felt the opposite and would’ve failed because they bought into that climate of fear. I love how you turned it around into a selling proposition to sell out an event at a time when the company was on the brink of bankruptcy.
Jim: Absolutely, because the fear that we faced from the general public and the fear that we faced even internally, helped me use a very visual analogy. I said, “As long as you allow fear to embrace you, then you are allowing those planes to strike those buildings. Every single day. It’s simply another every single day. Those two planes are striking those two buildings as long as you’re living in fear.” It’s not where we operate from.
What is the most important department of any company?
Adam: One of my clients specializes in teaching Zen and Stoicism, and there’s this great story about these two monks that are vowed to never touch a woman. A woman is trying to cross a river and the older monk picks up the woman and carries her across the river. Once they get to the other side, they keep walking and the younger monk keeps looking at his teacher all awkwardly, like oh my gosh, oh my gosh.
About two hours later, he says, “Master, why aren’t we talking about the fact that you touched a woman after taking a vow not to?” And he said, “I left that woman back by the river hours ago. Why haven’t you?”
People hold onto problems for such a long time, whereas sometimes, the bigger picture is so much more. I want to talk some more about the psychology of sales, specifically for business owners, because I always tell people when you start your business, rather than starting with a product that is refined and perfect, it’s better to start with a sale.
I believe that the sales department is the most important department of any company. Yet for some reason, entrepreneurs build the sales department last and do everything except the sales department then they’re struggling for cash. Whereas I see the most successful businesses start with sales first. Obviously, as a sales professional, what do you think about that?
Jim: Well, the evidence is very blatant. I can’t tell you how many times, dozens of times where I was engaged in a sales effort or my team was engaged in a sales effort of a product or a program that had not even yet been developed where we were pre-selling.
To the point where we generated so much capital, it was a very easy play than to manufacture the product that we were selling or to develop the program that we were selling. Then we ultimately deliver.
Presell the product
Adam: I love that you say that because that’s actually the biggest strategy in our company. We always pre-sell a product and if the product doesn’t sell, then we would go to the two or three people that have already bought and say to them
“Hey listen, we love that you like this, however, we couldn’t get enough buy-in. So we have either an alternate product or we’ll turn it into a one-day live training”
Or we’ll switch it on them and offer them a full refund instead if that’s what they prefer.
Jim: Absolutely. The truth is there should be no reason to do that because the focus is on developing, #1- sales personnel, and then #2- a sales methodology, because what sales personnel end up becoming under any sales force that I build are executioners of the sales system that they’re provided by me. I don’t ask people to sell, I don’t ask people to close. All I ask is a faithful, energetic, and professional execution of a system that I know already works.
Adam: I love that you’re talking about sales systems. Let me jump in for a second on this. I think one of the most prolific salespeople on the planet that everyone knows is Jordan Belford, because of The Wolf of Wall Street, straight-line persuasion, what do you think about his sales system? How does it either compare to yours or are there differences?
Jim: Well, I can tell you this, my methodology of selling is not so much the “rah” type of selling or the motivate and whip up into a frenzy type of sales team. My methodology is very professional, it can be delivered by any intelligent person, plus the subsequent training that I do, because what’s important is not only to provide an individual with a system that you know already works but secondarily to continue to train them. We train the sales forces at least three times a week.
And irrespective of how long they’ve been with me, how long they’ve been in sales, I continue the sales training because we are always talking about human psychiatry, negotiation influence, and at a very deep level. To a level at which college students study it so they can quickly become extraordinarily advanced at what we do.
This is what the Sales Manager, the Vice President of sales, or even the CEO’s responsibility is, to develop these masters of influence so that the money you’re spending on your marketing, the money you’re spending on the development of your product or market share, whatever it is, the investment that you’re making will be covered by the revenue generated in sales.
It’s absolutely the most important, along with marketing because you’ve got to have leads people and you’ve got to have sales opportunities.
When I say sales opportunities, what I do is break down the lead into two categories. You’re in-sale marketing is either going to give the sales team a suspect or a prospect. A suspect is someone who has no money and has no availability to money. That’s the only issue, I’ll talk later about the fact that there are no objections. There’s no such thing as an objection in sales.
The only condition I cannot sell into is someone who cannot buy. They either have no money or they have no access to cash. That is a suspect and suspects can be filtered out through application forms, for example, or from the initial marketing itself. But generally, I will use application forms and questions in there that filter and reveal the financial status of the individual. Then even after that, very early in the conversations, I’ll determine whether or not I’m working with a suspect or a prospect.
Now a prospect is somebody who has money or the availability. You hit money and that person is fair play irrespective of whether they want to do it. Now they wanna do it later, they need to talk to this person, that person, all of that, none of that matters to me. They are a prospect that is now my responsibility on the call, and here’s where sales professionals miss the mark.
Where they miss the mark is in the belief in their mind that person becomes a client once they buy. That’s a fallacy. Your job and why we have the degree of success that we have is because we turn them into a client on the call and then ask them to buy once they are a client. But the sales methodology is designed to transform a prospect into a client and then get them to pay.
Make The Client Be The Client Before They Purchase
Adam: I love that. I had a great interview with a guy by the name of Tom Breeze a little while ago. He’s a YouTube Ad specialist, but he talks about in his methodology he gets people to identify with the person they want to be in the future. Then once they’re sold on imagining themselves as this future person, he’ll get them to state what kind of decisions that future person would make or has made. Then he’ll say to them, that future version of you, did they decide to take this training?
And they’d be like, “Yeah, that person would’ve.” And he says, “Okay, well, it sounds like you’ve already made that decision.” This is a big part of his methodology and I love what you’re saying as well. The focus is on making them be the client in their mind before they even purchase the product.
Jim: Yeah. Now there’s a methodology, and really when we’re talking about advanced sales, we’re talking about selling programs that are $5,000, $10,000, $25,000, $50,000 programs. What we use, half of the formula you just mentioned is what that gentleman uses. We use a process called cognitive dissonance, where we’re creating within the individual through the use of the question.
The question is the tool. That’s the tool, that’s the lever. What we do is we identify, first of all, from that individual, the actual pain and price that they’re experiencing in life, by not being who it is they want to be. What is it costing you to not be an entrepreneur? What is it costing you to not have financial freedom? To not have the ability to take off whenever you want to? To not have the ability to control your time so that you’re there for your family? et cetera, et cetera, what are these costs?
What is the emotional cost? What’s the intellectual cost? What’s the opportunity cost? We go into this deep conversation about cost so we can get what the individual has sublimated in themself, and that’s the pain.
We all walk around with this sublimation of anxiety and pain that we’ve got shoved down and we cope with it. We’re all walking, coping mechanisms, which is not how to truly live life, it’s not an authentic life. It’s a simple way of being able to function in life while the pain is still there, we shove it down, and we sublimate it.
And then we develop coping mechanisms. There’s a great book, by the way, that’s called “Immunity to Change”. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read by Robert Kegan out of Harvard University. And it talks about the way we create these mechanisms within ourselves that allow us to operate in life. Even though we have the pains of not being who we authentically desire to be.
What I do in my methodology is I access that pain. Let’s uncover that pain, let’s talk about it because it’s real and it’s relevant. That pain, by the way, is defining the trajectory of your life.
You’re making all of your decisions, you’re taking all the actions, especially in moments of stress, as a result of all the sublimated pain that you have inside you. It’s like an invisible rudder in the water that’s determining the direction and even the trajectory of your life. Pain uninvestigated is very dangerous, so we investigate it through questions, and queries and we investigate it.
Then after we have access to all of this and we’ve got it laid out on the table, we pivot and we talk about the fantasy. We go from the fatal into the fantasy. If you were to live the life that you truly desire to live outside of that pain, and we do the mental construct, what would that look like? Just like the gentleman does, what would it look like to be the CEO? What type of decisions would you be making? Where would you be traveling? What type of individuals would you be hanging around? What type of internal conversation would you have about yourself? How would others see you? Et cetera, et cetera.
Now we have this cognitive dissonance, we have the pain and we have the pleasure. The truth is human beings cannot coexist in both at the same time. It creates what’s called a condition of cognitive dissonance, and the only way out of cognitive dissonance is to take action to seek a solution. And of course, the solution is our program or our product.
So now the person is more predisposed. They are now a client. Somebody very clear about their needs, their wants, their desires, and why it is they want to join our program. They see the benefits, and of course, we describe all of the benefits and all the features of the program and attach them to it, this is important. We don’t just describe it in isolation of the individual. We attach the features and the benefits to the desires of the individual, to the fulfillment of the desires of the individual. Then we call them to action, we reveal the price, and then we call them to action.
Adam: I love this. Now you did mention earlier that there’s no such thing as an objection. I know there are business owners who say, that’s not true, I get objections all the time. What did you mean by that? And what’s the solution there?
Jim: Well, let’s take a look at it. I used etymology as my first witness and when you take the word objection, the root word in there is object. To object an object, there is no object. “I want to think about it. I want to talk it over with my wife. I want to pray.” These are all subjections, that’s what I call them. They’re subjective feelings, they’re subjective thoughts, and what they really are is resistance.
Their resistance, the inability to move, to take action, the inability to move out of the status quo that the individual operates in, that they’ve created for themselves where it’s predictable, where it’s comfortable, where it’s safe. This is how we want to operate as human beings, our human nature loathes unpredictability, our human nature loathes risk.
So what we do is we construct a life of safety where we’re safe. Where we create this womb and go back into the womb, the greatest and first experience that we have of anxiety is when we’re born. When we come out of this womb into the big, bad world, we all have this infantile desire to create this world around us, where everything is safe and everything is peaceful and predictable.
The truth is that when we call an individual to action, what are we calling them to do? We’re calling them to change. We’re calling them to risk. We’re calling them into uncertainty. So the word decision, if you look at the etymology, the word decision comes from the Greek de Saari and the word Saari is the root word of scissors, of incision or incisors, your teeth is to cut. And the prefix D means away from, so a decision, the first impulse of a decision is to cut away from. To not move forward.
So the first impulse of a decision is for us to take whatever is holding us from moving forward and deal with that first and we are reluctant. Where salesmen fail is they don’t deal with that first. That’s why we get into that pain. We get into the pain first so that the individual can cut away to see that the life that they’re living is failing, to see that the strategies that they are living are no longer producing for them what they desire, that these strategies are in fact working against them.
Adam: I love it. So it’s like the safety in the womb of the life that they’ve created, now that is predictable and boring it’s also the binds and chains that are holding them back from the life they actually seek and want.
Jim: Absolutely. That’s why we create the fantasy phase of it to create motivation and desire and move them into something new. We help them paint that picture when we enunciate something, when we speak into the reality of what could be, the possibility of it taking place becomes very strong and becomes more importantly, desirable.
Adam: I love that channel, I think this is so powerful. Obviously, there are going to be some business owners here, and one of my very good clients does all their sales themselves and they do great. They make like, $27k on average a week, which is pretty good money, but they do all the sales themselves. I’ve been trying to convince this person to start a sales team for so long, but they have a fear that they’re gonna grab a salesperson and that salesperson’s going to suck and they won’t make any money.
In getting them past this, the one question they always have is how do I hire somebody? How do I find salespeople to come on board? You’re incredible at building sales teams. How does somebody go about starting a sales team?
Jim: Well, the first thing to start a sales team is to make sure that you have already codified and you are very adroit at being able to teach a sales system. The first thing I would say before anyone hires a salesperson is make sure you have a sales system. If you rely on the innate skills of an individual to come in and just start selling, they’re not going to get anywhere. There must be a formal scripted system that you can very effectively teach because remember what a sales personnel is.
I don’t ask them to be salesmen. I don’t ask them to be closers. What I ask them to do is to execute into the system, and then I will train you on the system. Then I will continuously coach you because that’s what you become. You see, the salesperson is my internal client that I’m continuously coaching. Coaching them into effectiveness, proficiency, efficiency, and into purpose. We can very easily lose our purpose, and if we lose our purpose, we lose our effectiveness.
Why is it that you’re doing what you’re doing? Purpose is a strong motivator. It’s not a Rah, but it’s a scaffolding strategy. I would look for someone very intelligent and someone who’s very persuasive in conversation. Being a conversationalist, when I look to recruit, what I will do is I will engage in conversation with that purpose and I’ll ask them a very challenging question. It’s something that we did recently at this event in Las Vegas to initiate a deep conversation with an individual and get them to access what’s inside of their being, as opposed to what’s inside of their mouth.
A lot of times we just give the first answer that’s inside of our mouths. It’s really quick and easy. It’s that three-second elevator talk. We’re able to say it, but what I want you to do is spit out what’s in your mouth because I’m interested in what’s inside your gut, what’s inside your heart, what’s inside your loins, what’s inside your being! I want to find out who you are and if you’re able to enunciate that. So the first question I ask is, after connecting with the person and doing the views, et cetera, I might say, “Okay, so Adam, if you would please tell me, what is your purpose in life?”
Adam: That’s the kind of thing that’s going to get somebody to start analyzing themselves and start bringing it up to you. I can see some people might freeze up on that and be like, I don’t know what my purpose is.
Jim: Right, and I’m not looking for the right or the wrong answer. What I’m looking for is your ability to speak into your purpose, your conversation, and your ability to influence me because when I ask somebody, what is your purpose? Subconsciously, I’m challenging them to influence me. In other words, what they hear is I need to give him the right answer because this is a very significant task, I’ve gotta nail this. This is a question when somebody asks you, what is your purpose? This is a question you’ve got to nail. There is no willy-nilly answer to this because then you would seem to be someone of insignificance.
Adam: If they can convince you of their purpose, then you know, they’re a good salesperson.
Jim: Absolutely. And I want to hear how they converse. I want to watch them go down deep into the kitchen. As Robert Bly says in his book, Iron John, we go down deep into the kitchen to get the answers of substance. What it is that substantiates us as human beings is down deep. So I want to watch that process, and then I want to hear if they’re convincing and if they’re able to enunciate and speak well. And if it sounds like I’m speaking to a professional, then that person has the ability to be convincing to others if given the proper framework, which is the presentation that I provide.
Adam: I love this. Jim, this has been absolutely invaluable. I can tell that like many people coming into this we are going to get a lot out of it. I want to talk about where people can learn more about what you do and where they can get it from. But before that, if you could leave people with one thing they could do to either make themselves better at sales or to level up the income from their business. I can imagine you have so much experience, there’s probably one thing you could say to a business owner that if they went and put it into practice, would probably increase their revenue by 10% in a year easily. Could you maybe think of something to share with a business owner right now?
Jim: To question and to question deep. To go vertical with your questions, to go subsequent with your questions whenever you’re speaking to an individual. What life does not do is give us significance. The truth is, we all need to be recognized as human beings. We need to feel relevant in life. We need to feel significant. Many of us take to certain higher degrees more so than others, but when somebody stops us and they question us about our lives, about who we are, the existential meaning of who we are, this is something very unique because very few people do this.
Very few people really want to know you at an existential level. Meaning why do you exist? Who is it that exists? Who are you and what are your motivations? What are your fears? What are your desires? Once you become an expert at truly questioning an individual, not interrogated, but questioning within an authentic way, with a true desire to get to know that individual. To get to know their motivation, to get to know their fears, to get to know their perspective and their models of reality.
I’m reading a book right now, Changing Minds. I forget the author’s names out of Harvard, but we all have these models of reality that we deal with. How is the world modeled for you? Who are you? How do you see the world? And most importantly, how do you see yourself in the world? When somebody comes at you with this line of questioning, you feel that you’ve been authenticated. You feel that you are relevant, you feel that you’re important at least to this individual.
And then you hear it in yourself. You hear yourself expressing your own true realities and it gives you a sense of vitality. It gives you a feeling of purpose and significance, at least in this encounter because these types of deep encounters are very rare. So I would tell you if there’s one hack, it is to learn to question well, to question vertically, to subsequently follow up one question with the other.
Adam: I love that, so I’m convinced. I feel like I need to send my sales team to talk to you. I know people are going to be like, “Man, I’d love to maybe take some time for Jim and pay him to have a look at my team.” What’s the best way for people to reach out to you, to communicate with you if they want to get some of that insight?
Jim: Well, my personal email is probably the best way and I’m more than happy to have a conversation to take a look at what it is that individual has on their plate and what their desires are. So there will be a sequence of questions that take place. But, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
To listen to the full episode of the most comprehensive podcast about strategically building and growing your business, the S.M.A.R.T way, click on any one of these platforms and subscribe!