Grow Your Sales and Influence with Merit Kahn
In this episode of the Leadership Habit Podcast, Jenn DeWall interviews Merit Kahn. Merit has more than 20 years of sales, sales management, coaching, training, consulting, writing, and speaking experience. She has worked with thousands of clients across multiple industries, with one goal in mind: grow sales and influence. Today Merit is going to share with us how we can be more influential leaders.
Full Transcript Below:
Jenn DeWall: Hi everyone and thank you so much for tuning into this week’s episode of the leadership habit. I am so excited to have Merit Kahn with me today. She is going to be talking all about how we can grow our influence, which we know is essential no matter what career or industry that we’re in. If we want to be effective leaders or if we want to actually sell a product, we have to understand what we need to do to be influential. Merit, thank you so much for coming on the show today. We are so happy to have you.
Merit Kahn: I’m excited to be here. Thanks for having me.
Jenn DeWall: Yeah, very. For those that may not know you like I have or seen how funny you were like I have. Could you just briefly tell, you know, tell our audience a little bit about you.
Be Worthy to Earn Sales and Influence
Merit Kahn: Well, let’s see. I’ve been in sales- sales management training since 98 had my own business. My business is called the Merit-based Business because everything, my core philosophy is everything. You have to be worthy to earn business, worthy to earn influence, worthy to have your leadership. So no participation trophies here. And I think the thing that people find most interesting about me is that for stress relief, I do stand-up comedy.
Jenn DeWall: How did you get into that?
Merit Kahn: 2014, I took a workshop with a standup comedian, and I just learned to take things that were difficult in my life and process them through a lens of comedy. And I, I just, it changed my outlook for everything. I just, once I did my first seven-minute set, I was absolutely hooked. I’ve never looked back and I, I just can’t wait to get on another stage to make people laugh.
Jenn DeWall: Oh gosh, I love to see you in that capacity. And I know there’s two sides of the Merit coin. There is the sales expert, the speaker that’s there. I know you have your two-day sales intensive and then there is the, maybe it’s not necessarily nighttime, but yeah, the comedy side of you, which I think just makes it that much more engaging, especially when you can combine the two, I’m sure when you’re speaking. Yeah. You know, when I, when I, the reason I am enrolled
Merit Kahn: In that workshop was I wanted to just learn how to be more deliberately funny in my keynotes. And what happened was I became, I sort adopted this identity amongst my friends and colleagues, and they expected me to show up funny. So I had this permission to step into this funny part of me that, you know, I didn’t really bring to my work and now I can’t separate it ever again. It’s just, Sorry, you’re going to get, you’re going to laugh at my sales training, sorry.
Jenn DeWall: And that’s what you need because I’m sure that like in any type of training that we experience, it can’t just be all content, right? We have to bring that to light with humor or stories or just different ways to engage and really cement that into the learner’s mind. And so I am so happy that you’re one of those people that aren’t just talking at someone with no personality. You’re actually giving it your all and sharing unique and comical insights,
Influence with Humor
Merit Kahn: Which actually creates an environment for the participants where they’re more open to receiving whatever it is you are teaching. So I think humor, really understanding it, and being more deliberate about baking funny moments and experiences into my programs. Whether it’s keynotes or sales training things, it actually made it easier for people to apply what they learned because they were having fun during the session. And that I think makes a huge difference. You know, we talk about being more influential with other people. They have to want that want to be influenced, right? They have to want, do they have to be open to that? And what better way to open someone to understanding and learning and, and being in a moment, there is no better way than helping them learn how to laugh or just be present.
Jenn DeWall: Yes. And laugh at themselves. I love that you know that laughter is the key to gain and one of the keys, not the focus of what today is one of the keys to being able to gain influence because laughter can get you permission to be able to share that. So we’re going to talk all about our mindset, emotional intelligence, a lot of different things that really all are the underlying factors that determine how influential you truly are. You know, one of the things that we talked about offline was emotional intelligence. So let’s kick off our talk. How do you possibly develop that mindset for success? To be influential?
Merit Kahn: Yeah, I think the underlying learning is, well, let me say it this way, the best, the best piece of advice I got when I was learning sales and when I was an entrepreneur early entrepreneur was to learn as much as I can about other people. Learn as much as I can about the people I’m trying to sell to the people I’m trying to influence. And I thought that was great advice, but it left something out because the person that was in every single one of those conversations where I wanted to be most influential was me. And what I didn’t understand until much later in my career was that I had to if I wanted to be more influential with other people, I had to get very clear on the things that had influence over me. And that opened up for me when I took my own emotional intelligence assessment.
And then, when I started using that in my business to coach my clients, I really saw the difference. So I could have- I had two guys in my training class. It was kind of funny. It was, they were, they were young guys. They were both hired at the same company at the same time. They sold in the same territory, the same products, and services at the same price point. They kind of looked alike. I mean, they’re like same, same, same. Steven and Daniel and they sat next to each other in my class, learning the same sales techniques from the same person in the same class, like the basic case study, right? The perfect case study. Well, Steven knocked the cover off the ball. Like he, it was like every conversation turned to gold. Like he could do no wrong, he crushed his sales quota and Daniel, you know, kind of eked by like he did all right.
He didn’t, he wasn’t a complete failure, but he didn’t knock it out of the park. And I was intensely curious because how could I take credit for Steven’s success if I didn’t also take responsibility for the fact that Daniel just did okay. Like you don’t get to celebrate, and that’s not fair. I couldn’t take that win. So I had, I was interested in emotional intelligence, and I gave both of these guys this assessment and was so clear was that they were fundamentally wired differently. Steven’s self-regard was higher; his level of assertiveness was higher; his optimism was higher. And those are three of the most important things for being successful in a sales role. So rather than teaching Daniel– like pushing on him the sales techniques, I had to work a layer beneath that. Boost up his emotional intelligence attributes because once he was stronger in those areas, then yeah, I could layer on these skills, and now it would start to work for him. And that’s exactly what happened.
How Does Emotional Intelligence Help You Gain Influence?
Jenn DeWall: Why do you think people don’t first turn to emotional intelligence as a way to gain influence?
Merit Kahn: I think it feels very much like a soft skill even though there’s tons of research, and it’s been written about in many books at this point. You know, when I first started talking about emotional intelligence, I had to really define it for people, and now people have been exposed to it. It’s, you know, a decade and a half later. And I think, I think people want to go immediately to that concrete, what can I do? What do I say? How, you know, what should I hold people accountable for? If I’m a leader who wants to be more influential, what do I do in a sales call if I’m a salesperson who wants to grow my influence? And I think that’s; we’re walking, we’re working the wrong end of the problem. So I do believe that skills and action plans are important, but I think fundamentally it’s getting comfortable with understanding our own strengths and our, I call them not-yet strengths. I don’t like to use the term weaknesses because you know, it’s just a, it’s a weaker area because you haven’t put any focus on it. I’m a terrible basketball player because I don’t play basketball. Not my, not yet my strength. But if I put some time in, I could probably be less bad.
Jenn DeWall: I like that. Oh, cause you know, with emotional intelligence, it’s one of the topics. It’s new. But yeah, it seems so obvious for me. And maybe that’s because I live in the leadership space to say, yeah, hello. If you want to have influence, you need to have emotional intelligence. They go hand in hand. Yet, if you talk about, maybe, maybe it reflects, it’s reflective in the difference between Daniel and Steven, but when you think about someone and the instance of sales that has high EQ, emotional intelligence, or low EQ, that high EQ person, what does that look like? What’s the difference between them in terms of how you see it?
Merit Kahn: Yeah, so the difference is you can be, you can, you can have high self regard as an example. And that’s a strong, that’s a good attribute on an emotional intelligence spectrum, but you don’t want so much that it’s out of balance with some of the other strengths that you have. So, for example, I’ll use myself, I’ll use an example for my own reports. I’ll throw myself under the bus a little bit. I’m really high on the optimistic scale, right? I’m one of- I don’t see the clouds. I see the silver lining. I look at everything through rose-colored glasses. Now. I always knew myself to be upbeat, optimistic, but I didn’t always understand how that, in combination with some other emotional intelligence attributes and men, my score in those areas, how being optimistic could hurt me in a sales situation. So in the sales world and leadership world, I was lower scoring in something called reality check, like reality testing.
So you would, you might say to me, Oh, I’m really interested in your two-day sales intensive, and I would go, great. And, and then that would be it. Like I would think, Oh totally, Jenn’s going to sign up for that like a done deal. That’s not what you said. It’s just what I heard through my optimistic, happy years. Once I saw on paper, the reality of optimism was so high in reality-check testing was very, very low. Then I could work to bring those more in balance. And what that looks like is now I would say, you know what? I appreciate that you are excited about participating in that course. I must’ve missed something. I didn’t pick up on that. Like, tell me why you really want to do that. And now I’m getting you more excited because I’ve asked you a good question. Now I have a better sense of, Oh, okay, she really is going to do this. Or like I might even ask like, so does that mean you want to be in the February class or the April? Like I might close it, but before I’m going to let, I’m going to lead with my optimism, and it’s actually going to lead me astray
Jenn DeWall: If you go too, too deep. And do you feel like that’s because people have a natural tendency where they can’t see the forest from the trees?
Merit Kahn: Absolutely.
Jenn DeWall: Like we can only focus on one small piece of data. So it either is what we want to hear because we have that confirmation bias, and we just run with it. But then it can lead to assumptions that are faulty and don’t yield that end result that we’re looking for.
Earning Sales and Influence by Asking Permission
Merit Kahn: Exactly. Which is why we can’t see you know, who we really are. The question I ask is, you know, who do you need to be to accomplish the goals and aims you have for your life and if who you need to be is a more influential leader than you want to pull out all the stops to learn what, what things like optimism, self-regard, self-awareness, interpersonal relationships, your level of empathy, those things are influencing you and your reactions to other people. You don’t even know if you’re not aware of the emotional impact you have on other people. You can’t, and you’re powerless to be more influential youth. You’re going to try to push your influence on others as opposed to allow them to be influenced by you of their own choosing.
Jenn DeWall: Yeah, I love that. Talking about the push because you know when you do see that a lot with people that have low self-awareness, they’re constantly pushing. I mean, I feel like I feel it on LinkedIn. I haven’t even met a person and all of a sudden, you know, they send me a request, they want to connect, and then they’re just pushing information at me as if I was saying yes by nature of connection. I wanted you to send me every single thing that you possibly had that I didn’t know about that I won’t read. Thank you. No one wants that, but yet when you’re so out of touch, I think you just naturally assume that, well, if I just keep doing this, like by statistics, someone’s going to pick it up. Whereas now I’ve received that as a seller is, I never will want to do business with you again because there was no, you didn’t ask if you could push at me, you just pushed.
Merit Kahn: and you just said the magic. The magic question- you said you didn’t ask if you could do that. And the rule is that permission changes everything then you can use. That applies to every area of our life. When you have permission to ask a question to send some to kiss someone, I mean, it’s a different ballgame. Without that permission, you could be in for a world of hurt. And, and it feels pushy and aggressive. So I think to access and, and to be more influential with other people, we want to be very mindful of asking for permission. And my magic question that I’ve been teaching for years now is, are you open to and then fill in the blank. So if I were to connect with you on LinkedIn and I knew I wanted to bombard you with all of my amazing stuff, the first thing I would do is say, Hey Jenn, we know some of the same people. Are you open to having a conversation to see if it makes sense for us to talk in detail about what we each do? Like that’s a different conversation.
Jenn DeWall: And that feels a lot better. I think that in the digital age, people, especially over LinkedIn where it is so much more of a networking tool and platform just by its nature, that when you do accept a request, people I think love to jump in and assume that because you’ve accepted that request, that all of a sudden it means that you’ve given permission. Whereas it’s kind of misguided. I think it’s then creating that point, the opposite effect. Now you’ve made an assumption where I wasn’t actually there, sorry. But if they would’ve just reached out and said the simple, you know, ask that magic question that you had shared, that would have felt a lot better. Yeah.
Merit Kahn: I mean, you can use that question in a lot of different applications. So think of a leader or manager who has to have a tough performance improvement evaluation conversation with one of their you know, direct reports. Well, it’s a different conference. It’s like, okay, we’re here to have your 90-day review. Well, that’s an environment that puts me and Headspace of defensive. Like I’ve got to defend everything that I’ve been doing. Versus if that meeting were to start with, you know, are you open to first hearing some things that I’d like to celebrate about your performance, but are you also open to some moments where I think, you know, some coaching would be beneficial. Are you open to having a conversation about some of the things I think would be helpful for you to focus on for improvement? Well, that just puts me at ease because nobody doesn’t want to be open.
Merit Kahn: Right? And sometimes, and when you ask permission, you create this space for somebody to say, yeah, I am, I am open to that. Okay. I kind of call it, I call it the open mic environment. You know, you want to set an environment or mood for people to be playful and light, and here you, your leadership, your wisdom, your coaching, your advice. You want them to be able to receive that. So you want to set up this kind of open mic environment. When a comedian or a or a musician goes to an open mic night, they are there to play and to experiment to see what works with an audience or what doesn’t. So however it goes, it really gives them information that they’re going to use to improve their performance. So there’s no bad outcome. I mean, you know, a comedian could bomb at an open mic, and it might not feel good at the moment, but if they really think about it, they’ve had a great experience that’s going to help them in the future.
Jenn DeWall: Yeah, they have new data.
Merit Kahn: They have data. Exactly.
Three Keys: Open Mic, Open Sesame, Open for Business
Jenn DeWall: To back that up. So what we’re going into now, to our listeners, is the three keys essentially to opening your door to success and to be able to influence. And so those three keys, what Merit just touched on was Open Mic. The second is Open Sesame, and the last is Open for Business. But going back to the open mic, people get so hard on themselves. It’s that perfectionist culture where they feel like they should get it right and so when they fail, then it becomes more about, Oh my gosh, I’m not good enough. I didn’t do that, and sometimes they give up. Whereas if they went in with that mindset, that said, all right, let’s see what works and doesn’t, I’m not here to say I got it right. I’m just here as a scientist to collect data. There’s a different energy there.
Merit Kahn: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah.
Jenn DeWall: I wish more people would set themselves up for the open mic. Why do you think people resist it?
Merit Kahn: I think they’re just, and I just think they haven’t been invited to participate in something like that. Like you’ve been to plenty of brainstorming sessions, but how many times have you been, have you had an idea that’s been shot down in a brainstorming session. That’s really not what brainstorming was intended to be? So I think one of the things that are, is that leaders can do a better job is to set the tone of something like a brainstorming meeting or any meeting where they want to invite people to have that open mindset. So you know, whether they’re, they’re verbally saying, you know, no idea’s a bad idea in here. We’re just, we’re looking at the top of the mountain 360 degrees at all of the options. We’re going to see who we’re going to celebrate, the absolute craziest idea that comes out of this conversation. Like you have to be really open and invited to participate at something at that level. Can I tell you a story?
Jenn DeWall: Please do.
Create the Environment for an Open Mind
Merit Kahn: You know, I think a great example is how this whole thing comes together, as is my dad. My dad has been volunteering with the Make-a-Wish foundation for more than 40 years, and Make-a-Wish, if you’re not familiar, is an organization that grants wishes to children with life-threatening diseases illness. And over the years, my dad’s done lots of different things. Like he’s picked up, with families at the airport and got them settled in the rental cars so they can take their journey to whatever the wishes. He’s organized events. He’s, you know, done fundraising.
But his favorite role is as a wish granter and the people who are wish granters for the Make-A-Wish foundation, and they’re the people that get to sit down with these kids and say, okay, if you could have been or do anything in the world, what would be your wish? And I think, you know what, when my dad tells me these stories of these amazing conversations and these wishes that these kids come up with when I’ve asked him, like, how does a kid open up to you like that? Because he’s a stranger to them and he says, well, he creates an environment of play, let’s say it that way.
So, you know, if the child is, you know, an artist, he might draw with them. If they’re into music, he might have them sing their favorite song, right? He might have put on music and have them dance. It’s really about creating that environment, that open mic environment where they get to just play. And what happens is he’s really, whether he knew this, you know, deliberately or not, he’s preparing their brain to think big. And I think we could learn a lot from that in the leadership world by, you know, how are we preparing our teams to think beyond what the goals are or what they think is possible. So my dad, in doing that, takes a kid from, you know, I want a new TV, or I want to go on a shopping spree, or I want to go to Disney World, which is a great wish.
Nothing, no disrespect to that wish. It’s the Disney World has set up an amazing, you know, to be able to do that. But he takes them to the level where they get to do what I call the next step, which is Open Sesame, which is kind of like, you know, the genie in a bottle. Like legitimately, anything is possible. So the open mic is setting the stage. That’s the environment that you need to see the possibilities that open Sesame is. That’s where you declare and share what the big wish is from a place that you wouldn’t have thought of had you not been in that open mic environment. Okay. So open Sesame is when, you know, little Claire, six years old gets to say, I want to be a mermaid or Jack a six-year-old, from Denver who wanted to be a superhero. And the next thing you know, he’s rescuing the entire city of Denver from the Red Villains as his alter ego, the Green Blaze.
And it’s this incredible, amazing story in this. This child is just so full of possibility, and he gets to take that presence, that identity to his medical treatments and be the green blaze undercover of course, dressed as a child, right? But he who he really is is the Green Blaze. And that just adds a whole new level of possibility for how he takes on his medical treatments. So how, how could we do that in the business world? You know, what’s, what’s the, what’s your environment where you think bigger than anywhere else? You know, what gives you access to that? Do you need to walk your dog in on a nice beautiful day? Do you need to sing at the top of your lungs on the way to work? You know, like what gives you access and then you declare that big dream and then it’s Open for Business.
Cause my dad’s role is to go mermaid. Got it. Absolutely. Your wish is my command. And then he just gets an entire team of the most amazing people you’ve ever met at the Make-A-Wish foundation. And they make it happen, and Claire becomes a mermaid.
Jenn DeWall: I love that so much. But you know, they’re all so important because we think about all of the things that can happen that stifle our creativity, that stifles our ingenuity, that can prevent us from having influence, but what you’ve just given us as, for our tools and ways that we can look at things to expand our mindset, to be able to see possibilities.
When you’re in a sales capacity or any influencing role, you need to be able to unlock that with other people to get them to do what you want them to do. And so in that case of your dad saying, no, let’s think bigger, even though you might have that fixed mindset and only be exposed to what you’ve experienced, how can you help them see a different thing? Cause in the lens of sales, your product may be the perfect thing, but they just can’t see it yet.
Merit Kahn: Leaders, or sales professionals, or you know, pick an industry, our ability to be more influential with other people starts with our ability to create an environment where they can see a new possibility for themselves. And sometimes my work is as simple as asking a question like, have you already decided that it can’t get any better than it is or are you open to a new possibility that could 10-X your business growth? And they’re like, what?
Jenn DeWall: I want that. I’ll have what she’s having!
Merit Kahn: Exactly. But you know, if I were to just try to convince you that I could help you 10-X your business, that’s pushy. You are, you have no choice but to push against that, to protect yourself from being sold by the Sales Guru or the Leadership Guru. Like that’s, that is putting somebody exactly in a space that you cannot be more influential with them. So to unlock what’s possible for them, it’s first being open. You know, I kind of look at it like, do you remember that movie? The Sixth Sense, right? And it was like, you know, the guy’s like, I see dead people – or the kid- like I see dead people. So like my superpower is, I see possibilities. Like I just see stuff for other people. And my job as an influencer in whatever capacity, whether I’m speaking on a keynote stage or leading a small training workshop or coaching people, my job is to help them see the possibilities that I see for themselves.
Jenn DeWall: And so when they, so it starts with the Open Mic, which is just kind of that environment. So creating the right environment, we’re talking about how you can influence, you have to create the right environment for them. And then Open Sesame is unlocking their brain to be open. And that Open for Business would that be described as, okay, like I’m in alignment with you, like I’m ready to see where this could go. Is would that be how you would describe it?
Create the Possibility
Merit Kahn: Yeah, I would just, I would maybe tweak the Open Sesame part is that’s where they, they create the possibility. So open mic is the environment where that thinking will take place. Open Sesame is, I’ve written it down, I’ve shared it, I’ve created the bigger possibility and then Open for Business is, okay, let’s get down to work. Like what do we need to actually do? Can we make this happen?
Jenn DeWall: What kind of questions, would you ask? If you were in, you’d already created that environment, and you went through the Open Mic phase. What type of questions would you ask for someone once you’re in the Open Sesame phase?
Merit Kahn: Great question. So I ask in that phase, I asked, you know, what have you done? You know, what have you achieved thus far? Like, how far have you gotten in this area without anything else? Like, where are you now? Right? Where are we starting from? And then I want them to either want to ask about, well, what do you think is realistic? So sometimes people will think like 10% growth is realistic, or, you know, opening up another office in one other city is realistic. So they’ll dream what I call a possible dream.
Merit Kahn: Now I want them to dream bigger. It doesn’t mean that the possible dream isn’t worth shooting for. It just means it may not pull them- really pull them with a passion that a big, you know, a big, and what might others might term the impossible dream will pull them towards like you could rally around the wish you know, that a child might, might share with you to go on a shopping spree. That’s, you know, that’s a legitimate wish that children have had and in that organization and, and has been delivered on. But the energy that comes from a wish that seems impossible like a superhero, you know, they didn’t just get a padded costume for this little kid to put on and like bam, you’re a superhero. They had to invent the evildoers and the crimes that the superhero would save the city from. Like that’s enrolling. So how do you, how do you get people to think like let’s 10-X that dream? And it would just be questions like, well, where are you now? You know, what’s, what’s you know, how much growth have you experienced? What’s possible, what’s realistic? And then what would it look like if it was ten times growth, not just 10%.
Jenn DeWall: I love that. Getting people to see and think beyond their own limitations. I know you have so much experience. What type of results have you seen with people when you can get them to that place of 10-Xing your business? What have you seen people accomplish once they’re in that place?
Merit Kahn: You know, to be perfectly Frank, I haven’t seen everybody, you know, get to that the big impossible dream. But they sure got a lot farther than they thought was realistic. They had a lot more fun along the way. They allowed, when you think bigger, whether it’s 10-X or whatever, you know, because that’s not necessarily new information. Right? You’ve probably heard other people say, you know, 10-X your business, right? That’s not new. But what I see that people are able to create is by thinking that much bigger about what’s possible. They have to come up with that many more options to get there. And so if, if somebody, like I had a, a client of mine who had a million-dollar sales goal. So I said, okay, what’s realistic is he’s got four different revenue streams in his business.
So what he originally did was he said, okay, I’m going to come up with a way to get to a $250,000 sale or you know, worth of sales in each of these four revenue streams. And I said, okay, that’s what’s realistic. That will get you to your million dollar goal. What I’d like you to do is think bigger than that, and I want you to build a plan that would have you do $1 million from each of these four revenue streams. Now, he may not make his goal in each of those four revenue streams, but just by virtue of the fact that he now thinks that it could be possible, he’s now, you know, what are the resources, if this channel was going to be a million-dollar revenue stream versus a $250,000 revenue stream, that’s a different set of what do I do. That’s a different checklist to be open for business. And so I say, just build the plan for the bigger dream. And then if you fall short, you’re still probably getting higher than the original goal.
Jenn DeWall: I love that. That’s the midpoint. And that’s still where a place where you can see the progress that exceeds your expectations. And I think that it’s so important because people really do become limited or jaded or too conservative in play-it-safe mode. And so we don’t necessarily stretch ourselves or even challenge other people in that way because we’re not thinking bigger. And if we’re putting That into the context of an organization, if you’re not challenging your employees to think bigger, do better, you know, add more value, be more innovative, you’re likely going to fall behind your competition or to those people that are actually creating those spaces for people to think big.
Having the Right Mindset to Grow Sales and Influence
Merit Kahn: Exactly. Yeah. You know, it’s, it’s interesting because I think if, if you are professionally the same place, the same level that you were three years ago, it’s not because of what you know how to do or your game plan, it’s because you have some belief that is driving all of those actions and it’s keeping you playing at that level. I’m often telling audiences, you know, there are three things that you need to focus on to be successful in anything. And you know, it’s a mindset, right? It’s having the right mindset. That’s what we’ve been talking about.
But it’s also being skilled in the mechanics of what you do. So the mechanics of sales, the mechanics of whatever your particular offer is, your product, your service. You’ve got to know that stuff. You know, the mechanics of what it is to be a good leader. There are things that good leaders do and things that bad leaders don’t do, right? So there’s mechanics of that, but then there’s also being in motion, right? Being in action, working your plan. So mindset, mechanics, and motion, those are really the fundamental things that I, I base all of my work on, it goes back to those, those keys. But if we go to mindset it, you can break that down into three parts, too. There’s the internal mindset, right? That’s what you say to yourself. There’s your behavioral mindset. That’s what your actions say to other people. And there’s your emotional mindset, which is really how, how much your emotions impact other people, whether or not you’re aware of that. Right? So that’s where, you know, as we talked about at the beginning with emotional intelligence, it’s your awareness of your emotional triggers for yourself and how you might be triggering others is going to impact your ability to influence.
Jenn DeWall: It’s called tact. Yeah, exactly. That’s, I mean, that’s just what came to mind in terms of leadership is that oftentimes not understanding or thinking through how someone could possibly respond. Because once you say it, perception is reality, and it’s going to be so much harder to reverse that.
How You Buy Influences How You Sell
Merit Kahn: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. You know, but that internal mindset, that’s what’s gonna keep you stuck. So what you said earlier, you know about you know, sometimes we kind of sabotage ourselves, but it’s, it’s our beliefs about money. It’s our beliefs about how our own self worth, and it’s our beliefs about you know, if they’re the CEO, they must be the decision-maker, right? If you believe that you’ve made an assumption that could be false, right? They might have a board of directors that they run every major decision by, so there’s, you know, we, again, it’s– here’s another example. So how we buy impacts, how we sell as an example. Oh yeah, this is a good one. So talk about, you know, being, wanting to be more influential with others, but again, needing to understand what has influence over us. So if I asked you what play will you play with? Game with me. All right. So tell me about the last thing you bought. That was like $500 or more.
Jenn DeWall: The last thing that I bought my pair of skis.
Merit Kahn: Okay. Pair of skis. Perfect. And what was the process you went through when you bought those skis?
Jenn DeWall: I went to, you know, I went to REI. I talked to an associate, and we compared brands. We talked about the level that I was at and what I was going to be basically and how I was going to be using the skis.
Merit Kahn: Okay. Did you go to any other stores?
Jenn DeWall: I had gone to a few, but I knew I wanted to make the purchase at REI.
Merit Kahn: Because?
Jenn DeWall: Because I’m a member of their co-op.
Merit Kahn: Ah, okay. So you were going to get some money back on your purchase for future purchases. Smart. So you’re a smart shopper. What about, did you shop for sale? Did you wait for the coupon?
Jenn DeWall: I did shop for the sale. It was an unintentional sale. They just happened to have a pair of last season skis, and I decided I didn’t care if they were last season, they were $300 cheaper. So I would buy those.
Merit Kahn: Okay, perfect. So how you buy impacts, how you sell. Now for the leaders listening or sales managers that hire salespeople, that is an awesome interview question. They have absolutely no idea why you’re asking that question. And you are going to learn volumes about the objections that your salesperson might not be able to overcome because of the way that they buy personally. So if, if I would, if you were selling to me and I said, you know, Jenn I don’t know if I really want to buy these skis.
I mean, I dunno I might want to, I wanna go somewhere else. I’m not, you know, I want to save a few dollars if I could shop around and find this somewhere cheaper. Even if you were highly trained in what to say, you might say I can totally understand that I would do that myself. If I can be of any more help to you, just let me know like something like that. So that’s a great example if you want to pay attention to what has influence over you, like your buying style and because and look at does that impact how you conduct a sales experience for someone else? So you don’t have it. I didn’t pick up on any real negative buying habits from you, like your buying habits.
Jenn DeWall: No, what I think I picked up on one as you’re talking, I feel like the aha that I’m having is it is so important for me to have choice. And so the second that the pressure is on like I want to be able to walk in and just talk about things. I don’t want anything to be forceful, and that’s the same way that I would want to sell. I want people to always feel like they have a choice.
Merit Kahn: Right. But you also, you have a very, there is a very positive one I want to highlight for you. You went to REI, you had two specific reasons. So a loyalty program was important. So in your sales offer, it might not make sense to you if somebody didn’t want to buy that was part of your company’s loyalty program, you would be like, well, why would you go anywhere else? We’re going to give you this back, or you’re going to get points or whatever. So you might really appreciate it, you might want to think about how can I add a loyalty program to my offer, right? That might give you a clue about something that other people might find attractive. The other thing was REI is well known for having real experts on their sales floor. Like it’s not, you wouldn’t have me, a non-skier, selling skis in the ski department. You’d never have that because they are real outdoorsy people that do the activities in the department of the store that they work in and they’re very well known for that. So you value expert advice when you’re making a purchase that’s a high dollar amount. And so you are going to learn as much as you can about your offer so you can be the expert that other people can go to. And I think that’s a strong buying habit.
Ask More Questions
Jenn DeWall: What, I mean, that’s an awesome interview question, and I just love all the reflection that’s there. Look at yourself. How do you make decisions? How do you buy? And then, you know, looking back and reflecting on your selling because selling isn’t just selling your product. Sometimes it’s selling an idea and think about how you need to package that in a way that ensures influence.
Merit Kahn: Yeah, and I mean, think about you know, being on in that sales role for whatever your offer is and asking somebody, you know, are you open to it if I ask you a couple of questions about what’s important to you in making a decision like this, because you know, you could go a thousand different places to buy a pair of skis. Tell me why you came in here. You know, are you open to it? If I asked you a couple of questions, you wouldn’t expect somebody selling you skis would ask. Well, sure. And now, I’m just building the relationship. But even in that question, I’m inviting the person that I want to be influential with to be in the mind space where they’re open to hearing something in a new way.
Jenn DeWall: Yes, and then you’re also just like you learn, learn, learn, which only then gives you more “intel” if you will, to be influential or to at least connect the dots for them.
Merit Kahn: Exactly. Now I hope that your audience will use their new powers for good and not evil.
Jenn DeWall: It’s very powerful. You can see the manipulation or like the consequences. We’re going to assume that everyone that listens to this is very, they have a lot of integrity, so they are going to use it for all good.
Merit Kahn: Perfect.
What is Your Leadership Habit for Success?
Jenn DeWall: Merit, we wrap up every single podcast episode with, first of all, I’ve loved our conversation, just thinking about how we truly can be more influential and how it’s just by mindset. Thinking about how we can unlock the mindset and mentality of the people that we’re influencing to get them into that space to be able to work with us so we can gain influence. And also talking about, you know, the mechanics and just, there was so much good content in this episode. I’m not even gonna rehash it because I hope everyone has listened to it. So thank you. But we do conclude every single Leadership Habit Podcast Episode by asking our final question, which is what is your leadership habit for success?
Merit Kahn: Well, I think what I’ve learned recently through comedy, through really studying comedy, is to really keep things light. So what I know about my own ways of being is that I’m a writer, I like to journal, and I used to just journal and just kind of get it out of my head and onto, you know, into a journal just to kind of rehash the day or process a question or something on my mind when I didn’t always do, was a review that journal. And when I started studying comedy, I also did a lot of writing. You know, you write about your observations, and then you write about why what’s interesting about the fact that you observed that. So it’s kind of like the, there’s the observation but then there’s observing the observation, and so there’s a lot more reviewing what you’ve written that I didn’t always do. And what has happened in my business as an entrepreneur and somebody who leads lots of people in training sessions and you know, keynotes and things is I’ve started observing the lessons that have been right in front of me that I, I didn’t allow myself the time or space to process. So I guess all of that is to say I would recommend that leaders do a journal. It doesn’t have to be like this is what I have for breakfast, but a few things like a big issue, how you’re observing what you’re thinking about it and what that informs you as a leader.
Jenn DeWall: I love that. Be an observer of your observations.
Merit Kahn: Yeah. Yeah. You said it perfectly.
Jenn DeWall: I mean, that’s something that gets out of your own head because you might be missing something. There might be that next solution or aha moment when you take that step back. And journaling is the way that allows yourself to do that. That’s what I think I hear you say, which sounds powerful.
Merit Kahn: The only other thing I would add to that is I think you know, leaders, we have a lot on our plates. You know, I’m a business owner. I’m a single parent of a teenager. Like there’s a lot going on, but the moment I take comedy or my writing or our exercise, the things that lift me up, the moment I take those things off of my schedule because I’m so busy is the moment that stress takes over. And when I’m stressed, I am closed-minded. I can’t see the possibilities. So it may feel like a luxurious thing to sit down and write in a journal or go catch an open mic night or, you know, perform standup comedy. But it is absolutely essential to my being open-minded to see new possibilities for my audiences. For my clients and for my own business.
Jenn DeWall: I love that. It’s like slowing down to speed up.
Merit Kahn: Exactly. Exactly.
Jenn DeWall: Merit, thank you so much for being on the show today. It was such a pleasure to have you. This was so fun. Thank you.
Jenn DeWall: Thank you for listening to today’s episode with Merit Kahn. If you want to find out more about her two-day sales intensive event or book her as a speaker, find her at meritbasedbusiness.com or look at the show notes. If you feel that today’s podcast made an impact with you, please share it with your friends, and don’t forget to write us a review on your favorite podcast streaming service.