The intersection of traditional sales and conversational selling… with Shane Gibson.

Say less to sell more

In this post I get to interview Shane Gibson, an international speaker and author on social media marketing, social selling and sales performance.

Shane and I worked together training young entrepreneurs way back in the mid 1990s. A LONG time ago! Since then he has become a huge force in a few different areas, from sales leadership training to social media.

A little while back, instead of just reading one of his tweets, I clicked on it and soon found myself immersed in his videos and podcasts.

Weird thing… although we’ve barely been in contact all these years, it seems like we’ve been travelling along parallel lines.

This is a long and meaty interview, with a ton of powerful takeaways.

Put aside a little time and grab a coffee and notepad. If you rush through this, you’re going to miss a ton of great insights.

Let’s get started.

Nick: I was watching the first few minutes of your keynote talk on the ROI of Social Selling. I had to smile, because we both take such a similar approach… drawing a distinction between selling AT and engaging WITH an audience.

When I suggest to marketers that it’s time for “Goodbye Selling AT and Hello Engaging WITH”, I often get some pushback.

How about you? Do you find companies with sales teams still resist the idea of building an audience through social media, and putting in the time to truly engage with that audience?

Shane: I get push back all the time. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Richard Bach “Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them.”

Many will claim to not have time, or are concerned that it’s too much work. They’d rather run on the sales hamster wheel month after month than invest in building an online presence and tribe that will drive business to them over time. It’s an investment.

With social selling many people want to try to “negotiate” the price of success. They want the easy way, the automated method that gets awesome results.

Nick: In one of your podcasts you talk about right-brained selling. Can you tell me a little more about that? Would it make any sense to equate that with a conversational approach to sales?

Shane: When I talk about the Right Brained Sales Revolution I’m really talking about the fact that technology is going to replace a lot of sales people. By 2055 McKinsey Institute predicts that 50% of all white-collared work processes will replaced by Artificial intelligence.

I think for sales it’s going to be more like 80%. Anything that is “left-brained” or repetitive as a sales activity will not need salespeople to do them.

People who see sales as a long-term career must take an inventory of their skill set today and make sure they prepare themselves. What can they do that computers can’t? What would make them invaluable?

In my opinion, it’s about really growing our competency in the right-brained and truly human aspects of selling. These are things like rapport building, negotiations, relationship building, navigating multiple stakeholder deals (corporate politics), entertaining clients, and collaboration.

What all of these things have in common is they all require a high level of what Daniel Goleman calls “social intelligence” combined with the ability to have powerful, generative conversations with their customers and prospects.

To me selling is about “creating an environment where an act of faith can take place,” this act of faith happens when trust and credibility is created. None of this can happen without deep, authentic conversations.

Nick: Thanks for the introduction to Daniel Goleman’s book, Social Intelligence. I just ordered it! Have you read Judith Glaser’s book, Conversational Intelligence? If not, I bet you’d find it interesting.

And I love that line, “creating an environment where an act of faith can take place.” Perfect! : )

Something else I wanted to ask… I’m always looking for evidence-based examples of how applying a more conversational approach leads to increased engagement, trust and sales.

Do you have that kind of data from the world of sales? Do you have solid evidence that leaving behind the old-school sales approach is actually working better for your clients?

Shane: I had one mortgage broker who took my course on “The Art of Asking Questions” which teaches people a process that gets the client talking, builds trust, and creates receptivity in both parties. Most of his customers were individual consumers who would get a mortgage every 10 years or so. He wanted to start working with people who frequently need mortgages – real estate investors.

In the past he had given clients the typical pitch about better rates, good service etc. and didn’t see the results. When he shifted to the more conversational approach to selling he closed two out of the three investor class clients he met with the following week.

Recently I spent time with several new reps I was coaching for a client of mine. What we found consistently with these sales people was that in a 30-45 minute meeting, those that spent at least 15 minutes asking questions and having deeper meaningful dialogue had a lead to deal rate that was almost 50% higher than the ones that skipped over the conversational aspect of the sale.

The process we put in place has a key 70/30 metric where we define a successful meeting as one where the salesperson listens 70% of the time and for the other 30% they are asking great questions and offering great insights.

Salespeople who generate bi-directional dialogue with customers and keep their own talking to less than 50% of the time on a call consistently outperform those that talk more than 50%.

Nick: That’s such a great takeaway… that you should listen for at least as long as you talk… 50/50.

I find it so interesting that you and I have evolved in such similar ways. We really haven’t been in contact that much over the years. You’ve been in sales training and I’ve been all about online copywriting. But somehow, we’ve arrived in much the same place when it comes to selling online.

What do you see for the future? Everything lost to automation? Or a new era of right-brained, social and conversational selling?

Shane: As I mentioned before – a lot of what salespeople do today will be lost to automation, machine learning even really robust Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality tools. Salespeople who just react to customers, regurgitate answers to frequently asked questions, blanket email their client list and rely on features or price to compete are going to be extinct. There will be no use for mediocre sales approaches.

Salespeople who rise up, invest in Right Brained conversational sales skills and build a strong personal conversational brand online and offline will prosper. They won’t be competing with AI, it will be riding shotgun with them, giving them insights faster, reducing data entry, booking their appointments and freeing up more time to do the stuff that indispensable salespeople do.

Nick: Thank you so much! It’s been great to catch up a little. As you know, I have family out in your neck of the woods. And you and I have some shared passions in hiking and kayaking. So maybe we can actually get together again soon… for the first time in over 20 years!

Shane: Yes, I am good to head out on the ocean or hike a mountain next time you are out west. If you’re here in the winter we can head out and do some cross-country skiing too! That for me is one of the things that allows me to fly the miles and work as intensely as I do in my business. I take time to connect with myself, and my family in nature weekly. Thanks Nick for taking the time to have this conversation with me!

Shane Gibson is an international speaker and author who has traveled the globe and addressed more than 100,000 individuals with his messages on social media marketing, social selling, and sales performance. In 2014, Shane landed the #5 spot on Forbes’ Top 30 Sales People in the World. You can learn more about his work at his site,

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2 thoughts on “The intersection of traditional sales and conversational selling… with Shane Gibson.

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  1. Nick,

    Your conversation with Shane Gibson today was worth the cost of admission. I particularly enjoyed his discussion of the 70/30 metric where you ask questions for only 30 percent of the time and then listening to the prospect. Few old-school marketers will give up 70 percent of the conversation to listen. That is why with the coming of the Internet of Things, most salespeople will be replaced, as he said by artificial intelligence.

    I recently used conversations communication in your contest for an 83-word email about a pool safety fence. It was tough getting it down to a 75-word body text.