Hugh Liddle | The Real Reason People Buy

Hugh Liddle has a simple philosophy when it comes to sales: people don’t buy what they need, they buy what they want.

He says only when you apply that principle to your interactions with prospects will you get the sale. And it’s even essential for products and services you don’t think people would ever “want”… like tax prep help or legal services.

Hugh explains that in those cases, you must understand the difference between the service you provide and the result you deliver as you put together your sales process. Essentially, he says, prospects only care about one thing – and you have to address that when you talk to them.

We discuss that in-depth, including…

  • The biggest mistake service providers make in their sales and marketing
  • The worst type of question you can ask when talking to prospects
  • How to make a sales script… not sound like a script – and why everybody needs one
  • The power of You Statements and Value Statements – and how to use them
  • And more

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:

Want my best ideas for growing your firm, plus winning ideas from successful firm leaders?

Twice a week I’ll send the latest actionable ideas to your inbox. Just tell me where to send them and let’s get some clients rolling in…


Steve Gordon: Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast. I’m your host, Steve Gordon, and today we got a fantastic interview for you. This one is I think, for anybody that really wants to get serious about sales and selling. Today I’m talking with Hugh Liddle. He is the chiropractic sales wizard at Red Cap Sales Coaching, where you can learn how to make selling easy, fun and profitable. He specializes in helping chiropractors and other service businesses dramatically increase their conversion ratios, their sales and their revenues. And his sales training and coaching comes from over 50 years of in the field sales and management experience. And Hugh is the author of Take the Icky and Scary out of sales which you can find on paperback and Kindle at Amazon. He is also most notably I think the host of the radio talk show Sales Chalk Talk where I was fortunate enough to be a guest. You can find that on iTunes as well. Hugh Liddle, welcome to the Unstoppable CEO.

Hugh Liddle: Well, thanks, Steve. I’m excited to be here.

Steve: I’m excited about this, too. I’m excited to turn the tables on you. Last time, you were interviewing me. But I’m really curious to learn from you today. You’ve got a, just a tremendous depth of experience in selling services. And I think that’s a particularly difficult problem. So I’m excited to dive into that. Before we do, would you please give everybody just a little bit of context about your background and how you got to the stage of your career?

Hugh: Well, when I got out of the Air Force, I had several job opportunities and decided to take one that was sales-oriented because, hey, there’s no ceiling on your income. And I’m an outgoing guy and I talk pretty well and I just thought I was going to laugh my way to the bank and it was going It’d be really easy. And I very soon found out that it was way more difficult than I thought it was going to be. And if hearing the word no was fatal, I would have been dead back in 1970. Fortunately, it’s not. And I hear no a lot less frequently today than I did back then. And so I worked in a number of different sales jobs and in different kinds of professions. Financial, did some work with alarm systems, did some work with roofing, did some work with milk subscription sales, I was a sales manager there. And over that period of time, I learned to be pretty good at selling. And so in 2008, I started Red Cap Sales Coaching and started teaching other people to do and to be able to have the success that I’ve had in a much shorter timeframe. I got to make all of the mistakes and suffer all of the heartache and challenges of not being good at sales before I learned to be good at sales. And there’s no reason why people really have to go through all of that themselves if they learn how to sell correctly in a short period of time.

Steve: Well, I know that’s welcome news to everybody listening because I know I made lots of mistakes in the sales process. I’m still, even though I’ve been doing it for 25 years now, I’m still learning every day. So tell us a little bit about your overall philosophy and approach to sales.

Hugh: I believe that it’s not our job as salespeople to get other people to do what we want them to do, or what we think they should do or even what we know they need to do. I think it’s our job to help them do what they want to do. And people don’t buy what they need. They buy what they want. And I’ll give you an example of that. I drive a 2005 Dodge Ram pickup truck. I love the truck to pieces. And it starts every time I turn the key and it gets me where I want to go, which is what a vehicle is supposed to do. So I don’t need a new truck. Now, if I really thought about it a lot or if I went down and really started looking seriously, I probably would want a backup camera and a car that was, or a truck that was newer and that had more bells and whistles and smelled better and looked better. I don’t need that. So if I bought a new truck, it would be because I wanted that. And that’s true of sales and every situation with every product or service. What’s important is finding out what people want and if we’re able to supply that, to be able to effectively let them know that when they work with us, they can have what they want. And if we can just do that, if we can find out what they want and let them know that they can have what they want, we’re most of the way to have a positive buying decision.

Steve: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. But I think for a lot of people that it’s, you know, it’s difficult for a lot of business owners who are in businesses that might, you might not think of right away as a want kind of business. I think service providers fall into this category an awful lot of the time. You know, an attorney who’s doing, you know, your will is probably not somebody who’s sitting there thinking people wake up in the morning wanting a will. Your accountant who does your taxes is probably, you know, listening to this going, yeah, but nobody wants to get their taxes done. So for people like that who are maybe having a challenge visualizing the want that would be behind what they sell, how do you help them? Is there a way of thinking about that that gets them to see that clearly?

Focus on Results

Hugh: Well, sure, it’s all about result. So it’s very, very true. I’ll just be really personal about it. Nobody wants sales coaching. Nobody wants to invest money in sales coaching. What they want is the result that they’re going to receive from sales coaching, which is to have a higher conversion ratio, more sales and more money coming in. So they don’t want the service, they want the result of the service. You mentioned lawyers and not wanting a will. I don’t want the money and the goods and the stuff that I have accumulated to go to the taxman, I want it to go to my family. And so that’s a really good reason to have a will or a trust. As far as taxes are concerned, I don’t like to pay taxes. I don’t really want to do taxes. I also don’t want the IRS to come get me and put me in jail or take my stuff. So I’m looking for a result when I work with those kinds of people and I want somebody who is really good at those things to provide those services for me, even if I have to invest a considerable amount of money to do that. So I think looking at the result of what your product or service can provide for people and making that what you talk with people about is really the key to successful selling.

Steve: Yeah, I think a lot of times, that’s just for many business owners, they get so wrapped up in what it is that they do, they almost sometimes forget the result that they’re ultimately delivering. But I think making that connection is, in my mind, probably the fundamental key to making, marketing and selling easier Because you start to talk with people in the language that they want to, you know, they want to hear.

Hugh: Yeah. And I think one of the big challenges that salespeople have and especially in helping professions like coaching or health services of various kinds, that we want to be educators and we want people to know everything that we know about what it is that we do. And so the temptation is to start telling people all about how we do what we do and what all is involved in it, and how long we’ve gone to school to learn how to do it and just all of those kinds of things. And I’ll give you an example of why that really doesn’t work well. I love sausage. I really, really do. It’s one of my favorite foods. I don’t care how it’s made. I don’t care what’s in it. All I care about is when it comes out of the frying pan and onto the plate next to my eggs or my pancakes, it makes my tongue jump up and beat my brains out. All I want is the result. I don’t care how the result gets done as long as it’s legal. I don’t care how it’s done. I want to know what it’s going to do for me. And that’s the question that every prospective client has in their minds when they have a conversation with a salesperson or when they read a piece of marketing, advertising. And when they call in to find out whether they should make an appointment to come in. The question in their mind is what’s in it for me? How is this gonna make my life easier or better or more joyful or more productive? What is it going to do? How is it gonna change my life for the better if I purchase this product or service? So, we need to be talking to people about results, not about all of the details and all of the how-tos, unless the person asks about the details. And then, as briefly as possible, we might want to explain those things. Most people don’t care about the details. If they can get what they want, that’s what’s important to them.

Steve: I think that’s probably one of the most important things that’s been said on the podcast. And having that focus is absolutely vital. I don’t think enough business owners give it enough time and really enough deep thought about how am I going to communicate with this person who needs help and who wants some outcome? How am I going to communicate how I can deliver that outcome and what that looks like for them in their, you know, bigger, better future? So let’s get practical for a minute. If we’re engaging with a potential client and we’re really trying to understand where they are and how we can best help them, what are some of the ways that you approach that? Is there a particular line of questioning or method of questioning that that you find that works?

Make a Habit of Asking Open-Ended Questions

Hugh: Well, yes. And asking questions and listening very, very closely to the answers is really the first part of the sales process. There are a couple of things that go before that. When you get to the question part though, it is extremely important to ask your questions open-ended. My rule is never ask a closed-ended question in a sales conversation, or if you can help it, in any conversation. Whenever you’re going to ask a question, ask it open-ended. And open-ended questions are questions that cannot be answered yes or no. The person that you’re asking the question to has to provide more information in answering the question. So a very simple example of that, if I were to ask, is the sky blue, almost everybody would answer that question, yes because there’s even a crayon that’s called Sky Blue. From the time we’re little kids, we know that the sky is blue. The challenge is that the sky isn’t always blue.

So if I asked you, hey, what color is the sky? And you look out the window like I am right now and you see that there’s a bunch of clouds, it looks like maybe it’s going to rain, well, the sky is kind of a combination of white and gray right now. Or it looks completely black and we’re gonna have a hurricane. Or maybe there are some high wispy clouds in the skies, just kind of a powdery blue and maybe it’s brilliant blue. So when you ask open-ended questions, you find out more about what’s going on with the person to whom you’re asking the question. And listen, if you want to have a whole bunch of fun, ask your kids open-ended questions, and your grandkids. You’ll be surprised at what you find out if you do that. Ask your significant other open-ended questions if you want to know how they really feel and what they really think. Your friends, the people that you work with, anytime that you ask questions, if you ask them open-ended, you’ll get more information. The challenge is that we’re not in the habit of asking open-ended questions most of the time.

From the time we’ve been little kids we’ve had closed-ended questions asked to us and we’ve learned how to ask closed-ended questions, and the only response that we get is yes or no when we ask those questions. So even when you ask for the sale when you’re having a sales conversation, ask your question. You’re asked for the sale question, ask it open-ended. So it’s not would you like to do this? That’s a closed-ended question. There’s only two answers that you can get, yes or no. And what if the answer is just no? Then what? Where do you go from there? If you ask the question in an open-ended way, how should we proceed? How would you like to get started right now? What would you like to do? You’re going to get more information, people are going to talk to you. And if they’re concerned about starting and they don’t want to do it right now or they don’t think they can, then they’re going to tell you right off the bat that the reason why they think that they might not be able to do it. If they’re ready to go, if they’re ready to buy, they’re going to be very open and tell you yes, they want to buy and why they want to buy, and they’re excited about getting started.

So try to make it a habit in your life to ask open-ended questions. And if you make it a habit in your life to do that, then it’s no problem in the sales conversation. You’ll always remember to do that. And by the way, when I coach people and we roleplay, if one of my clients asks a closed-ended question during the roleplay of the sales conversation, the answer is always no. And my clients have learned that when I say that, they slap their forehead and say, oh, man. So I ask that closed-ended.

Steve: So you just mentioned roleplay. I think for many salespeople, that’s something that they do as a part of their training. But I think for a lot of business owners and service providers, they probably don’t do it as much. How critical is roleplay and developing these skills?

The Cruciality of Having a Script

Hugh: It’s completely critical. Having a really good script and knowing what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it and when you’re going to say it during a sales conversation is absolutely critical. Now, if you’ve been selling for more than a couple of weeks, you already have a script. You’re already pretty much saying the same things to the people with whom you’re having sales conversations. And the question isn’t whether you have a script or not, it’s whether the script that you have is a good script, if it works, if results in a high conversion ratio and a lot of sales and a lot of income. And so if you’re not getting good results with your script, you need to have one professionally written and then you need to memorize it and you need to rehearse it over and over and over again until it’s absolutely second nature and you’re so comfortable with it. And I always kid my clients, I tell them listen, when you learn the script, I could call you up at three o’clock in the morning, wake you out of a dead sleep and say, hey, let’s have a sales conversation and you would immediately say what I’d like to do before I kill you as ask you a few questions.

And you’re right into the sales conversation. And of course, I would never do that, but I could. And if somebody really had their sales script down and they had made it part of themselves, it would be an absolute no brainer. And that’s where you want to get your scripting to, and then it doesn’t sound scripted. It doesn’t sound canned. You can have that conversation and it’s really truly effective. I just recently heard a story about Hal Holbrook who played Mark Twain and a one-person Broadway play, and in order to do that play, Hal Holbrook memorized nine hours of material. Various stories and quotes and just funny things. And his show only ran two hours and a half-hour of that was intermission.

So he was actually only performing for an hour and a half but he had nine hours of material that was memorized. And he knew how to be Mark Twain and how to say those things in a way that really related to the audience. And the way he decided which material he was going to use was that he listened to his audience. And if he said something and the audience was just picking up on it and reacting to it and roaring with laughter, then he continued with that particular line of material that he had memorized. If they were only just laughing every now and again and it was just not really going over, he would switch to another line of material until he found something that really, really worked and made the play something that people would remember forever. And most of the time in your sales conversation scripting, you will memorize and know how to pull out way more stuff than you ever memorized. And it will just depend on your interaction with your prospect about how you answer a question or what you say, or the question that you asked. So a script is kind of a living, breathing thing in a way. And do you have to have it?

Yeah, you really do if you want to be successful, because when you go into a sales conversation, you have to go into that conversation with total confidence knowing exactly what to say, no matter what comes up, no matter what objection you get, no matter what the person’s situation is or what their problem is, if you know what you’re going to say, you can be confident and there’s an energy that passes between salespeople and prospects. And if you are not sure about what you’re going to say, your prospect isn’t going to be sure either. If you’re nervous, your prospects going to be nervous, and they won’t buy if they’re nervous. If you’re not exactly sure what you’re talking about, they’re going to pick up on that and they’re not going to be sure that they want to buy from you. And on the other hand, if you go into a sales conversation and you’re confident, you know what your product or service can do for people and you can explain that in a way that tells them the result that they can get and they get excited about that, they’re going to pick up on your energy, you’re going to get more mirrored back to you exactly what’s going on for you. And that’s why you have to know what you’re going to say. Steve: You know, for a business owner, I’m thinking particularly of, you know, somebody who’s an expert. And they may think, well, I deal with all kinds of different clients. Every one of them is different. How can I be scripted? How would I address all of these different situations that they have? So if somebody would say that to you, how would you respond?

Hugh: I would ask them, the people who come to see you that you, or that you go to see that are engaged in sales conversations with you, what is the major problem that they have that you can help solve? And as an example, I work with chiropractors, a lot of chiropractors. And people don’t just come to a chiropractor’s office because they’re curious. They’re coming in because they’ve got some kind of challenge. Something in that’s going on in their life that they don’t want to have in their life And they’d do almost anything to get rid of it. Or there’s something that they don’t have in their life right now and they would do almost anything to get that in their life. And if you can figure out what that is for your product or service, why do people want it? What does it do for them? What’s the result that they’re looking for? There really aren’t that many variations. In most products and service lines, there’s not that much variation in what people are looking for. There’s a problem that they have that they want solved, and your product or service will do it. So you build your scripting around that. And if a different problem comes up and one that you actually can solve and you’ve never talked to people about that before, that’s something you can adjust to and you can prepare to deal with it later on. And if you know how to ask open-ended questions and you know how to make value statements, as long as you know that you can help solve whatever the challenges that they’re experiencing, you can adjust. And you can use the stuff that you’ve memorized, the things that you know about what your business will do and you can talk to anybody.

Steve: You mentioned the term there, value statements. What do you mean by that?

What is a Value Statement?

Hugh: Value statements are really the solution to the challenge that they’re experiencing. So I’ll use an example again from chiropractors. If a chiropractor is having a sales conversation with somebody and that person is having back pain, they’re not able to go to the gym, they’ve gained some weight, they’re not feeling good about themselves, maybe they’re having trouble sleeping at night, maybe they’re not able to go to work. And a value statement would be something like, you know what the good news is that it doesn’t have to stay that way. Because when you receive care here, you’re healing the underlying cause. That’s the cause of all of those symptoms that you enumerated for me. And so you don’t have to live in pain. You can get to the point where you can get back in the gym and start working out again and lose some weight and start feeling good about yourself. You can go back to the work, you can get a good night’s sleep.

You statements are what are utilized in value statements. You can have, you can do, you can be, you can take advantage of, you can enjoy, you can learn all of those different kinds of things. And the reason that I strongly advocate using you statements instead of we, us mine I, our, we, is because, again, people care about themselves. They care about how your product or service is going to produce some positive change in their lives. And they don’t care about you, they care about themselves and what’s going on when they’re having a sales conversation. So if I say, well, we can help you do this, and I’ve been selling for 50 years and so I can help you with your problem and I can do this and I can do that and I’m a great sales coach and I, you know, whatever. They don’t care. If I tell people you know what, you, in a very short period of time, you can be a sales wizard. You can really learn to be excellent at selling, you can be extraordinary at it. And you can go into every one of your sales conversations feeling good about yourself, knowing what you’re going to say. You can have a high conversion ratio well above 50%. You can make more sales, you can make more money, you can do it. And all you have to do is learn some really basic stuff. It’ll totally turn your world around. You see the difference in that, in those two things?

Steve: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I think it’s so much more powerful. Even as I’m listening to you say it, I’m trying to, you know, envision what it would be like to be the prospect on the end of that. And I think it completely kind of flips around the perception of what you’re saying.

Hugh: And salespeople and business owners, even if you’re gonna talk about yourself, even if you need to talk a little bit about yourself, still make it into a you statement. So, Steve mentioned at the beginning of the podcast that I’ve been selling for 50 years. Well, if I just say to somebody, you know, I’ve been selling for 50 years and so I’ve gotten pretty good at sales, that may not have much of an impact. If I tell somebody you know what, when you work with me, you’re working with someone who’s been selling for over 50 years and has seen it all and done it all. And so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You can learn how to sell in a very, very effective way in a very short period of time. And you know what, you could very shortly be even better than I am at it with only a few months experience. How does that sound to you? Open-ended question. So, you can always couch everything that you say even about yourself as a you statement rather than an I or we statement.

Steve: I love that. I, you know, for everybody listening, you need to just hit the 32nd rewind on your podcast player, go back and listen to that again. You just heard a masterclass in how to take anything that you say and turn it into a you statement as he’s explaining. So Hugh, let’s say somebody’s got, they’ve got their script together and they’re, they’ve memorized it, they’ve got their you statements, they’ve put all of this together and they’re now having sales conversations. How do you go about analyzing whether or not you’ve got the right script and how do you go about improving it over time?

Inflection, Tone, and Body Language

Hugh: Conversion ratio. If your conversion ratio is anything less than 50%, you really need to do some revamping of your scripting or the way that you’re doing the scripting. You see, a well-written script is, the words in the script are really important. That’s only a small percentage of the project, though, of getting really good at selling because your voice inflection and your tonality, the way that you say what you say is tremendously important. And also your body language and your facial expression, if you’re selling face to face rather than over the telephone is extremely vital. In fact, there was a study that was done in 1964 at UCLA by a professor by the name of Alfred Moravian. And what he found out was that in any conversation that has to do with emotion or attitude, only 7% of the words that are said are effective in the communication. 38% is the voice inflection and tonality, how you say what you say. 55% is your facial expression and your body language. So that means that preparing to sell and preparing to use a script encompasses all of those things. You have to get really good at all of those things in order to be successful.

Steve: We’re all transitioning to selling more remotely these days. As people are kind of moving, maybe they’ve been traditionally selling in person face to face, as they’re moving to sell online over things like Zoom and Skype and tools like that, does that same dynamic translate? And do you have any specific advice for people who are now trying to learn how to sell that way?

Hugh: I would say that Zoom is a tremendous sales tool. It’s a great way to connect with people, even during this time when some people are still sheltering in place and their businesses may not even be open right now. Connecting virtually is a really great thing to do. And of course, right now, Steve and I are talking on Zoom, and if we wanted to, we could turn our cameras on, and then there, we would be able to see each other and we’d be able to see facial expression and we’d be able to maybe see even a little bit of body language, at least shoulder height. We don’t do that folks, because I have a really good voice for radio and have really good face for radio.

Steve: You and me both.

Hugh: And my advice would be look into how technology can really help you. I know some really high-powered speakers that even before the COVID-19 situation arose, were starting to do their public speaking gigs virtually so that they didn’t have to travel to China or they didn’t have to travel across the country, didn’t have to ride on an airplane, didn’t have to be away from home. They could just sit down at the computer and do it that way. So it can be a time-saver, it can be a money saver, and you can still be extremely effective in doing that if you know what you’re going to say, how you’re going to say it and when you’re going to say it.

Steve: Yeah, absolutely. The tools today are phenomenal. I think people are, a lot of us have used them for a while. I know you have, we have, but I think a lot of people are now having to wade into these waters and often have questions about well, how does what I used to do in the real world translate over? So you, this has been phenomenal and you’ve shared some amazing stuff. This is one of those episodes, I have a small playlist of a handful of episodes from the podcast that I go back and I listen to over and over and over again. This one, particularly when you talk about open-ended questions and value statements, this is what I’m going to be listening to again and again because you really laid out a very simple way to understand it that I think everybody can apply. So if folks listening want to learn more, they want to connect with you, I know you’ve got a tremendous number of resources, what’s the best place for them to get in touch with you?

Hugh: If you would like to have a conversation about your business and your sales and find out if Red Cap might be a good coaching service for you or whether we wouldn’t be, you can go to my calendar at BIT.LY/wizard-strategy and you can talk with me for up to an hour. There’s no charge for that. And I know what you’re thinking as you’re listening to this, you know, if you’re doing a free hour with me, then that means that you’re going to twist my arm, you’re going to try to get me to do something I don’t want to do. And so I’ll just take a pass. And I want to make a promise, not only is there no charge for the time that we spend, there’s also no obligation and there’s absolutely no pressure because I do practice what I preach. And I really do believe that it’s not my job to get you to do something you don’t want to do. It’s simply my job to help you do whatever it is that you want to do. Whether that’s coaching with Red Cap or coaching with somebody else or not coaching at all. Whatever you want to do, I’ll be happy to help you do it. So take advantage of that.

Steve: Yeah, do that. And I will tell you, I haven’t, I’ve had a few conversations with you now. He doesn’t bite. What you heard today was just a small sample of the wisdom that he can bring to the table. So, Hugh, thanks so much for investing a little bit of time with me today and for sharing your wisdom with everybody that’s listening. This has been fantastic. And, again, I think just the few little nuggets that you shared today are so incredibly valuable. I’m grateful that you’ve been here. So thank you.

Hugh: Well, Steve, it’s been my pleasure to talk with you again. And by the way, folks, if you go to, TALK, you can listen to Steve’s interview that he did with me on Sales Chalk Talk, and he’s phenomenal. And you really need to give a listen to that if at all possible.

Steve: Well, thank you for that. And we’ll link all of that up in the show notes. We’ll link to your calendar, we’ll link to the podcast and to your website so folks can find you. Hugh, thank you so much. This has been fantastic.

Hugh: Thank you. And your mission for today, Steve, is to have fun if you choose to accept it.

Steve: Always, always.

The Pre-Sell Formula
9-Part Email Course

We care about keeping our email list very clean. We will NEVER spam, sell, or rent your emails. You can unsubscribe at any time (and your email will be permanently deleted). Please feel safe to use your primary email address.