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Happy Ears: Why You Keep Losing Deals | CS005

Leave no stone unturned when you’re on a sales call. What does that mean? Something I’ve noticed with a lot of entrepreneurs and sales reps that kills a lot of their deals is what I call “Happy Ears.”

In this episode of the podcast, I’m going to tell you how to stop doing that. And how to dig deep during discovery so you identify any and all red flags.

And I have a story about an interview that I did today and I found something that I didn't want to hear, but it really could have cost us dearly later. And I'll get into that in a bit. But first, what’s Happy Ears?

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What Are Happy Ears?

Happy Ears is the process of listening for what you want to hear.

A lot of salespeople don't want to hear the bad stuff. And so, their desire is to constantly ask questions and only hear good things that reaffirm what they're looking for anyway. When you do that, it's your desire to get the deal that actually kills the deal.

Sales Calls Are Haunted Houses

I like to sometimes look at a sales call like you're running through a haunted house and any door that you leave open, a monster could come out and chase after you and get you.

And so the job is to close all the doors and make sure that they're shut. So then that way the monsters don't come and get you. “Monsters” being reasons that blow up the deal or things that kind of make the deal go off-course.

So your job when you're on the call is to find anything at all that possibly could kill the deal or get the person to not make a decision today. Bring that up as early as possible.

After you've gone through the discovery, you've gotten the information, you really want to address a lot of that stuff. Usually, you'll be aware of it early on the call. You'll start to set the dominoes up and then knock them down when you start to get into the offer presentation part of the call.

The problem is when you're listening for things to be good, you want to hear about rainbows and unicorns and that everything's awesome. You avoiding the things that you don't want to hear is going to be the thing that blows up the deal at the end.

The True Source Of Your Success

An early mentor once told me that the money and the results you get come from not who you make offers to, but more who you don't make offers to. It’s essential to be clear on your criteria for who you do and don't make offers to, and then find every reason why that person's not really a good fit and why they shouldn't receive an offer.

If you do this, it's going to put you in such a position that when you do make offers, you make them with 100% certainty. And you're really ready to rock that.

My Recent Experience Interviewing A Potential Hire

To give you guys the story that prompted this podcast, so today our team's growing. We're looking to hire a salesperson internally. More like a junior salesperson role, like an appointment setter and outreach.

I was talking to a kid and he was a home run. I thought he’s a great fit for our team. Then he dropped a seed of something:

“Yeah, you know, I’d like to start my own business in a few years.”

So I went through the conversation with him and towards the tail end I said:

“You know, just out of curiosity, you said you wanted to start your business in three to five years. Like why not start a business now?”

Then he told me how he used to have a business and as soon as he got on his feet he got really depressed and then the business kind of crumbled. So then he found himself looking for a job. And he really loved sales, so he went and got a sales job at this company.

He then proceeds to tell me that he felt like he had really done well at that sales job and had learned a lot. So then, he went to one of the company’s clients, the president of the company, and told him that he would offer the same service for less money and “cut out the middleman” was how he phrased it.

He didn't even process that this was a bad thing.

And so right at that point, I told him:

“I just want to be real with you. That's 100% a deal-breaker. There's no way you can possibly change my mind after that. I really thought you were a great fit. After hearing that…like, that's just something we don't tolerate.”

“What? What do you mean exactly…you don't tolerate?”

“If you did it to them, why wouldn't you do it to us? And the worst part is that you went and got the client and then you couldn't even deliver.”

(Because he emotionally and mentally crumbled again.)

“So you stole a client from the person who fed you and gave you what you needed. You thought you were cutting out the middleman and then you'd totally crumble and don't deliver results. And the fact that you don't even perceive it as being wrong tells me that there's something off here. It’s just not the right thing to do. And the fact that you're not aware of it means that there's no way that I would consider you for this role.”

“Wow, nobody's ever been that direct with me. Thank you for being so direct.”

“I enjoyed our conversation. I like you. I think you're a nice guy. I think you need to consider what you did there because that wasn't the right decision. You know, that's not the right thing to do. And I think if you look at it and you unpack it, you'll see that wasn't the right thing to do.”

And at the end of the call, he was really grateful. He didn't feel that I was judging him cause I really wasn't judging him. I was just telling him he didn't do well. And that pattern of behavior, I know if I've seen it in the past it's going to happen again, especially if he has the same desires.

So, I totally killed the deal.

It's a little different if you sell a complementary offer or a completely different one to the same client base sometimes. But I still don't think that's the right thing to do because these people are trusting you with their leads. They're trusting you with their business, they're trusting you to represent them to their clients. And if you do get those clients and something goes wrong, it also reflects badly on them.

And so the reason I told the story is this:

IF I had Happy Ears, I would have never found the thing that was the deal-breaker. I may have believed there's a deal when it wouldn't have been a good situation.

The Astronaut Helmet

And for you, my dear reader/listener, it's really important that you, on sales calls, put on your astronaut helmet. Astronauts practice everything that could go wrong and in space so that they're prepared for it.

That's kind of your goal. You want to make sure that if you do see a potential threat, that you explore it. And if you don't explore that potential threat to the deal, it's going to bite you in the ass.

That's why you really want to leave no stone unturned. You'll be able to make sure that the deals you get are solid. Because that's the key.

You want to deal to be solid. A solid deal happens when it's really a good fit and everybody's IN and committed together.


Your success in business depends less on who you make offers to and more on who you DON'T make offers to. Happy Ears, or listening for what you want to hear, is a sure-fire way to lose deals or worse, bring clients in who are a bad fit.

The best way to only make offers to “good fit” prospects is to be a goalie and not a striker. That is, you're trying to keep the ball (the prospect) out of the net.

Another analogy is that a sales call is a haunted house. Every door that's open has the potential for monsters (threats do the deal and your ability to serve the prospect) to come out and get you. As you go through the house you want to close all the doors and make sure none are left open.

If you follow this approach and stop listening with Happy Ears when you DO make offers you'll be confident that the prospect is a good fit for you and you for them. And that you will be able to get them the results they want.

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