The most important part about selling is listening. Public speaking coach and keynote speaker Ben Gay III says if you’re a sales infiltrator and you listen, the prospect will almost always tell you what they want, how they want it sold to them, how they want to buy, and what they’re willing to pay. Ben has been called a living legend in the sales world. After 50 plus years in professional selling, he has been the number one salesperson in every organization in which he has worked.
At age 25, he was president of what was then the world’s largest direct sales and network marketing company, having been personally trained by fellow sales legends J. Douglas Edwards, Dr. Napoleon Hill, Earl Nightingale, William Penn Patrick, Zig Ziglar, and many other sales giants. One of the most famous, popular and powerful sales trainers in the world, Ben now writes, publishes, and produces The Closers series of books, audios, videos, newsletters, tele-trainings, and live seminars, a series that is considered to be the foundation of professional selling.
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How To Master The Art Of Professional Selling with Ben Gay III
We’re going to be talking about closing the sale faster. Closing a sale faster is the best way to be efficient and effective because if you can do that faster, it means there’s more money in your pocket for investment or for other fund spending faster and that is the end goal when we’re talking about our business. I’m excited for this episode because it’s going to be amazing and not only that but we have an amazing guest, Ben Gay III. He’s been called a living legend in the sales world and he’s had 50 years in professional selling. He’s been the number one salesperson in every organization that he’s worked for.
At the age of 25, he was President of what was then the world’s largest direct sales network marketing company and having been personally trained by fellow sales legends like J. Douglas Edwards, Napoleon Hill, Earl Nightingale, William Penn Patrick, Zig Ziglar and many other sales giants. That’s a cool crowd to learn from and that’s why you are going to be really to learn from Ben. One of the most famous and popular powerful sales trainers in the world, that’s Ben. Ben now writes, publishes and produces The Closers. It’s a series of books, audios, videos, newsletters and tele-trainings, as well as live seminars. It’s a series that’s considered to be the foundation of professional selling. Ben, welcome to the show.
Thank you, Penny. Pleasure to be here and honored. I’m happy to be with you and your audience and I will answer anything you ask if I can.
You said that you started at the same time with Zig Ziglar and you had a story to tell there. Tell us about that, what it was like to work with him, maybe a tip that he gave you and a tip that you gave him.
He gave me lots of tips. He was eighteen years older than I was. He was in the Navy the day I was born but I considered him my age who was still a young man and I was a very young man. I didn’t even think about age until years later. When he died, I started figuring out the math and he was a lot older than I than I thought he was at the time. Wednesday, September 15th, 1965, I answered a little ad in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, it said, “If you want to make more money and know anything about marketing plans, call this number.” I didn’t know what a marketing plan was but I need to make more money. I was putting my wife through nursing school on $100 a week. That’s in 1965 dollars but it was still a bit of a tight thing. I went into a phone booth, dialed the number and a gentleman answered. His name was Bill Dempsey and I began interviewing him.
My father had always taught me you’re aggressive in these situations. Dempsey didn’t because when I got about three or four minutes into how important I was and why I might consider joining his organization, he said, “Mr. Gay, I’m not the man standing in a phone booth answering one ads. Where are you?” I told him and he said, “I’ve got good news for you. It’s only a few blocks from my office. Be in Suite 300 at 1447 West Peach Tree Street in ten minutes or never call this number again,” and he hung up. When my running buddy pulled around in the car, we were working for my father calling on grocery stores, I jumped in the car like Batman and Robin and said, “You turn 1447 West Peach Tree Street.” He did as he was told and on the way there he said, “What are we doing?” I said, “I don’t know but I think we’re going to be rich.”
We pulled into the building, rode up the elevator and skidded in probably with 60 seconds to spare to a receptionist sitting there. Over in the corner in a waiting chair was a curly headed guy. He was obviously waiting for something also. I introduced myself to the receptionist, turned around to this guy and said, “Hi, I’m Ben Gay.” He said, “Ben Gay?” and started laughing. I’m used to that. I know jokes. We got through that and I said, “What’s your name?” He said, “Zig Ziglar.” I said, “With a name like Zig Ziglar, you’re laughing at Ben Gay?” We became buddies on the spot. Each of us thought we were going to a job interview. What we were going to was an opportunity meeting but only for three people.
My soon-to-become partner, Jimmy Rucker and Zig and me. Bill Demspey with the chalk board or an easel beside his desk gave us a typical multilevel marketing opportunity meeting. At the end of that, we all joined. Jimmy and I split the $91.42 investment and Zig came up with his own $91.42. It turns out, rather discovered, to move up the organization getting the right position it would be more money. On that day, we didn’t know it. $91.42 and we were in the multilevel marketing cosmetic business with a company called Holiday Magic Cosmetics, which was destined to be it and its subsidiaries, the largest direct sales MLM company in the world within a year or so.
That’s how we started out and in that fateful meeting, not only did I meet Zig who was going to be an important influence in my life, Bill Dempsey gave me a copy of Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, which I’ve never heard of, and an all scratched up record called The Strangest Secret by Earl Nightingale. Zig and I worked together for several years and went head to head and contests and so on. One day at my house two years later in Marine County, California where I’d moved, the original part of the story was in Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. Hill and Earl Nightingale both of whom worked for me by that time, one of them said, “Did our material help you?” I said, “I was broke when it was handed to me and you both work for me now and we’re sitting in this huge house. Yes, thank you very much.”
Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich and The Strangest Secret are still available here today. They’re amazing resources and I definitely suggest that you go out and check those out.
I recommend that, especially people who maybe haven’t grown older and wiser but even them too. I suggest that everybody listened to The Strangest Secret least once a month. Put it on your calendar and do it. It’s what I used to check myself and get back into line from time to time. I try and read Think and Grow Rich about once a year, at least start it once a year. A group came to me who knew the story and knew that I was Dr. Hill’s last student. He was hired to work for me as a mentor the last two and a half years of his life. There’s an organization being built called The Last Protégé. TheLastProtege.com is how you find it. Dr. Hill’s last protege is me.
That’s an exciting background in history and rich 40 years of professional selling. That sounds like you’ve been in all sorts of different business models and you know your way around sales.
Selling is pretty much what I know. I was lucky to have stumbled across that little one ad. It was the only time I ever looked at a one ad looking for a job. I went through everything starting with a different letter and I found I wasn’t qualified to do anything until I got to that ad. It didn’t say sales in the headline, but it was under sales. I’ve been selling since I was fourteen. I was the top fundraiser selling donuts in high school. In the beginning, it became apparent that selling was about the only thing I was qualified to do.
What’s the most important part about selling?
There are 87 most important part but what jumped to my mind when you said that was listening. Learn how to listen was one that stuck in my mind and helped me. It was said by Nelson Mandela. He was a great speaker, an inspirational figure when he came out of prison. They said his greatest strength was he was a dynamic listener. That doesn’t just mean staring at them, waiting for their mouth to quit moving. It means listening. If you listen, if you are sales infiltrator and you listen, the prospect will almost always tell you what they want, how they want it sold to them, how they want to buy and what they’re willing to pay. It’s almost unfair like shooting fish in a barrel.
I go to these conferences and on the web and so on. I see selling is this, you’ve got to wear an orange hat and spin around on Thursdays at noon and so on. It’s just nonsense. Sell a quality product that’s competitively priced, it doesn’t have to be the cheapest but competitively priced to qualified people and then become a sales infiltrator, which includes listening. I don’t understand the confusion. When you’re selling a bad product or services that’s over overpriced, I can see why sales trickery would become important to you but it doesn’t have to be. You can solve 85% of all problems by what I said about the quality product.
You’ve got several books out there that are around closing and I believe that it’s probably one of the hardest parts for people is the closing aspect. If we could shed some light on why it’s a challenge for people and what are some tips that they could do to get to closing faster, that would be a huge initial value.
The series of books is called The Closers. It’s the bestselling, most popular, most powerful material ever done on closing sales. Looking back, hindsight is always a wonderful thing. I wish we’d called it The Openers because what most people do in selling, unfortunately, is they wait until the end when they’re already knee-deep in trouble and have lost the prospect’s attention. Then they want a tricky close that will bail them out at the end.
The reason they’re afraid of closing is the old thing. Fear of the unknown, fear of rejection and fear of, “What do I say after they say no?” They don’t want to hear no to start with. They’re trying to avoid no at all costs. That’s silly because you’re not going to avoid it but it goes back to the opening. In The Closers Part Two, I tell two things that would be pertinent to this. One is sales infiltration, last chapter in the book. The best thing ever written about selling starts on page 257. If they get a chance to read it, I recommend they do.
Earlier in the book, there’s a section of chapter called The Good Night Kiss Close. It was based on my second oldest son coming to me years ago. He was borrowing the car and he was going to take a date or something. He said, “Dad, how do you get a goodnight kiss at the door?” I can’t say this with everybody but I hear it all the time. I don’t have daughters and it wouldn’t work at my house if I did, but they arrive late to the date, honk the horn out in the street so she will know to come running out, give her a hug. He’s reeking of the beer that he downs as he goes along the way there and probably garlic from lunch and he didn’t have a chance to brush his teeth and gargle.
Then he wants to know how to get a goodnight kiss. The answer starts much earlier than. First of all, how he asked for the date and when he shows up and how he doesn’t honk and goes up to the door and meets the family. His breath is fresh and his deodorant is on and he doesn’t get drunk at the dance and so on. If you do all that right, getting a goodnight kiss at the end of the evening shouldn’t be a problem, which is the point I make in The Goodnight Kiss Close. It starts early.
The process doesn’t start at the end. The closing isn’t at the end. The closing starts at the beginning. It’s how you qualify people. It’s going back to what you said about the listening. The quality of your listening is going to impact, whether it’s going to be easier later to ask for the sale or whether it’s going to be hard.
You triggered my mind with another point I was trying to make. Most sales are made or lost in the first ten to fifteen seconds. They can be resuscitated through hard work and so on but why? You could throw up on the front porch if you’re selling Kirby vacuum cleaners as a sympathy approach if you’re good and maybe work your way through to a presentation and close it somehow. I don’t understand. Here’s how I’ve got to be inefficient opener/closer. I was raised as a Southern gentleman. When I said, “Kirby vacuum cleaners,” it triggered me. I’ve done a lot of sales training for them and their individual sales people over the years. I’ve never been able to break them of this. I’ve heard it hundreds of times in meetings and so on, Kirby says in their manuals, “No sales presentation is complete until you have the payment or the police had been called.” I’m a Southern gentleman. If I’m in your home and you asked me to leave, I’m gone.
I had to figure out a way not to be asked to leave and that requires a good opening. In sales infiltration, there’s a gentleman there who I write about. He’s passed away now. For 40 years, he sold giftware. Those things you don’t need but you’d give them to somebody at a wedding or Christmas and so on. He sold that. He went to a J. Douglas Edwards seminar as did I. That was my official entry into sales training and Doug wound up working for me, so it must have worked. He went to a J. Douglas Edwards seminar and Doug said from the stage that every presentation you gave, you should do such a good job and be so respected and beloved as much as you can in a brief encounter that they will gladly give you at least five referrals.
It sounds like multilevel marketing. This friend said, “I was so stupid. I wrote it down and believed it.” I made one cold call. I met somebody somewhere and went up to him and I got invited to her home. Not only that I do a good job at what I did, I asked for five referrals and they gave them to me. At each of those five, I asked the five. Somebody may have given me none and somebody gave me fifteen and somebody gave me the directory to their church and used my name. Everywhere I went, I’ve got five and got five and then they had to hire assistant to work with me and I trained them to get five and so on.
In every sale in over 40 years of selling, every sale he ever made, he could trace the DNA back to that first night. Forty years in selling, he made one cold call in the direct sales in home selling. That’s almost unheard of. He said, “I was so stupid. I thought that you should get five everywhere you went.” I said, “On average, I always did.” In the chapter on sales infiltration, I write largely about him and his approach. He tells people about efficient selling, getting to it quick. He laid out the ground rules of how he operated with people. It’s blend of what I’ve created and what he told me and what Dr. Hill told me and so on. I don’t claim credit for all of it but I don’t give it all credit to one person either. The gist of it was to tell them the ground rules up front.
The phrase I use is I say to a customer, “Before I start selling anything, let me tell you if you want to razzle, dazzle, fast shuffle and do the back flip and getting your wallet and so on, you’ve got the wrong guy. We may have some back at the office. I’ll send one out to work with you. If you want to work with me, here’s how I operate. I will treat you fairly, squarely, decently and by the rules. I operate on a straight-straight basis. I’ll be straight with you. You’ll be straight with me. That means that the end of the presentation, you don’t tell me you have to check with your attorney brother-in-law in Cleveland.” Then I bring up the objections that I hear other people contend with all the time. “You might want to think about it. You might want to pray about it, go ahead and pray about it. I’ll wait for you right here.”
At the end of my presentation, I sell quality products that are competitively priced with qualified people. I just want a yes or no. We don’t have to play games with each other. I don’t do mud wrestling and I’ve got good news for you regarding the pricing. They’d been pre-haggled. I say that with aggravation. I figured what I wanted for them and I knew what you’d offer and then I made a counteroffer and I knew what you’d say then I made a counter offer and said, “This is the pricing. It’s been pre-haggled. It’s a yes or a no.” Fair enough it is important too because that comes to close at the end. My favorite close, I’d probably used it 95% of the time with an 86% closing ratio, so it works pretty good.
When I say, “Fair enough,” they say yes. When they try and double back and they have to think about it because we’re buddies now, we laugh and we giggle. I can say, “No, you promised you wouldn’t do that. We discussed straight-straight. It’s been pre-haggled. What we’re looking for is a yes or a no. I’ll be happy to work with you either way.” At the end, since I’ve been listening and we’ve been conversing back and forth, here’s the magic close that I use 90%, 95% of the time with an 86% closing ratio, whether I’m selling a set of books or 50 acres in Arizona or whatever. I sell not only for myself but for my clients or selling a seminar to somebody. My seminars are at $9,500. Most people who hire me to do them are referrals. To a new person, I’m just a voice on the phone and you have to send me $9,500 30 days in advance or I don’t get on the plane. That takes a little selling.
At the end of whatever we’re going to be discussing, here’s what I say. I’ll pretend like you’re the prospect, “Penny, based on what we’ve discussed, here’s what I suggest we do. Fill in the blank, buy the car, get the vacuum cleaner, buy the ranch, whatever. Here’s what I suggest we do. Fair enough.” I didn’t invent the words fair enough. I’m from the South. I used to hear it all the time but injecting it into high level selling was magic. It’s hard to say no to and easy to say yes to. If you say no, I must have missed something. What would make it fair enough for you? That’s basically it. I don’t try and bamboozle them and outwit them. I’m right up front. If you don’t need a $500 weed whacker because you live in an apartment, I’ve got that. Not a problem. I shouldn’t be talking to you anyway.
They’re not qualified and you’re wasting your time and their time.
I probably wouldn’t ask you to start with but that’s the point. If I’ve discovered your true needs and I do have a quality product that will solve that problem or fulfill that need, sometimes it’s not technically a problem. They just always wanted one. When I bought my first new Corvette, I didn’t have a problem. I just looked at it and suddenly, I wanted it bad so he didn’t have to solve a problem. He showed me the benefit. He said, “If you’re driving around that car, you’re going to be the center of the town.” I said, “Get me the keys.” Whether it’s a want or a need or whatever, the concept’s basically the same. I do work with a lot of automobile dealers and automobile salespeople and they say, “I don’t know why people don’t trust me.” I won’t be insulting and say, “It’s your fault. Let me blame it on the generations that came before you.”
When I was growing up, comedians to get a laugh would talk about used car salesman standing on a used car lot and a cheap suit or a cheap sport coat. I saw some ads in the local paper. It was GMC Denali, $15,000 off. You mean if I went in there yesterday, you screwed me out of $15,000 extra? It’s one price selling. As soon as you go in the shop for the one price, salespeople say, “I don’t know. I’ll get back to you.” What if I took $1,000 off? It wasn’t a one price shop to start with.
The generation or two or three or four before them and many of them too have created an environment where salespeople, in that case, automobile salespeople are not to be trusted. I tell people who I work with, “When you walk up to a customer, what do they think about you?” You said, “I’ve got on a nice suit,” or whatever the appropriate dress is. I said, “They think you are a liar, cheat and a thief.” That’s where you start. That’s the hole you’re in when you start, unless you came highly recommended from a close trusted source of theirs, in which case, you might be a liar, a cheat, a thief. You still got checked out.
That’s why a lot of people don’t like to sell or have issues around going to the close because they feel like, “I don’t want to be aggressive. I don’t want to be that stereotypical.” Either that or they’re so aggressive and they’re not listening and they’re all about, “I’ve got to get the close,” but they’re not focused on meeting the needs and listening. It’s finding that happy medium. You’ve made a lot of great points and I want to summarize them a little bit for everybody because some things that came up that I heard was if you want to close faster and close more people, you want to talk to the right people. You want to qualify people as you’re initially meeting them.
The second thing is that when you initiate a conversation and you’ve qualified them, I love that you say cover the ground rules and upfront tell them how it’s going to go. You’re looking for a yes or no. They don’t need to beat around the bush. You’re not going to be upset if the answer is no. You pre-haggled it. Those things with the ground rules upfront and with the fair enough upfront gets them to the fair enough at the end in the close when you’re closing it as a team. You’re saying, “Here’s based on what we discussed and bringing into that you are part of their team.”
Those are some of the things that I wanted to sum up for people. I wanted to go back to the point where you said that you had to go out and get five referrals. Also, referrals close faster. There are statistics that show that and that’s because the trust is being transferred. When somebody gives you a referral and says, “Ben referred me to give you a call,” I’m calling in and you are receptive. You’re more receptive than the average person than anybody you’d have to cold call on because Ben referred me.”
These are tips that I want to make sure that people are taking this down because sometimes when I work with my clients, that’s all we do. I had one client, we doubled his capital base. He was a financial planner and all we did all year was work on referrals and improving his whole referral process because that can be a goldmine. That one gentleman went for 40 years and could trace it back the initial referrals and that was his skill. If somebody makes that their skill, that can be a huge game-changer in the business that they can create.
I gave a seminar a $9,500 fee, airfare, hotel and the right to sell material that I did very well there. You make more money in the back of the room than the front of the room. The reason I gave that was at San Quentin State Prison where I started teaching my People Builders program in 1972, late ’71, ’72, Air West was no longer in business. A story ran in Air West magazine about me teaching at San Quentin and the good we were doing there.
I left there 42 years ago. I did a very profitable seminar, Galton book sales and everything. Because of a direct lineage to the article that ran in Air West magazine 45 some odd years ago, I can trace it back because this guy referred me who referred me to this guy who referred me. I know where it came from. This person, although you never saw the magazine, probably never heard of the airline. This person said, “I understand you did some interesting work at San Quentin.” I did 42 years ago but I’m still trading off of it.
The other point I wanted to make was I’m not advocating not marketing yourself. Because we worked very hard to treat people right, we have what we call sudden shipping. I’ve given 5,000 paid appearances. I’ve never missed one. I’ve never even been late for one. I’ve been close, fine, but they didn’t know it. When I walked in, it looked like I’d been there all day waiting for them, so I’ve never missed a seminar.
Some are better than others but I’d never embarrassed myself in front of a room. I never felt the need to apologize for my presentation. My sales materials we sell is rock solid. Everybody knows it. It’s the foundation of professional selling. If you haven’t read The Closers, the person who trained you probably did. It’s like what would you say about Doug Edward. If Doug Edwards didn’t train you, the person who trained you was trained by Doug Edwards. All that said this, “I have not run an ad of any kind for me or my material in 25 years.”
Everything we do, everything is based on word of mouth and referral. I don’t recommend that that’s you’re only path a marketing. I was lucky enough to build a reputation pretty quick and had good material pretty quick that I’ve continued to update and add to that point that I had never run to run an ad. I don’t run ads on the internet either. As an active there, people see my name and so on. You don’t see ads for me. We have a website. We have a place where we discount some stuff on eBay. If you want to go to it, have at it.
You’ve got some amazing resources that these people need to check out.
If you do it right, word spreads. It may not be with lightning speed like the internet and makes things possible now. If we’d had the internet when I joined and then ran Holiday Magic Cosmetics and all of its subsidiary companies around the world, I would now be the benevolent dictator of the world. We had to do it one at a time, invite them to the meeting, drive to their house frequently, pick them up, take them to the hotel room, having them sit through a presentation and so on. In spite of that, we built a company that was making in $1 million a day in the late ‘60s in cash, not billing. If you do that to $10 million, which is what it would be today, $3.5 billion company in today’s money, no internet, no Facebook, no nothing. It’s just based on scripting.
We’ve got hundreds of thousands of people, few of whom had a serious sales experience before joining us. We had hundreds of thousands of people in numerous languages in five major companies, each of which were in 25 different countries. At 7:59 local time, someone stepped to the front of the room and said, “Good evening. My name is Ben Gay. I’m a general distributor with several different companies and it’s my pleasure to welcome you here at tonight’s special meeting.” It’s just talking to people who were brought there because the distributors had given a script to invite them and an hour later after seeing the fifteen-minute film and listening to a 47-minute word for word scripting presentation, turn to the person who brought you here and ask how you can get started.”
Then those people turned to their prospects, got out the legal pad and started drawing circles and everything they said was scripted. We took a few hundred thousand salespeople, the vast majority of whom had never sold anything and build in today’s money a $3.5 billion company. I’m a product of the product. The reason I sound so fervent and I believe so much is Bill, the owner, said, “Ben, I’m going to put you in a glass cage and take you around to shopping centers with a sign. The sign on your cage is going to say, “If he can do it, anyone can do it.” That’s literally the truth.
That’s what we can see when we look at anybody who is accomplishing whatever we want to be. If someone else can do it, we can do it. That’s what it means to be an entrepreneur. The guy across from me when I was in technology was a contractor and I was working for a large company and he was making huge money and I was making next to nothing and I was his boss. I didn’t have an IT background, but if he can do it, I can do it. Then I started my own IT company. It’s a great motivator for many people to see that you can do it.
People do have short attention spans, so I keep my shows to about 30 minutes or less. That’s why it would be great to talk again about scripting because how you say something and what you say matters. Words have energy just like even in you using the words fair enough, saying that and how simple it is, there’s a lot of psychology around why those words work the way that they do and what kind of energy it creates. I’d love to talk about that in another show. In parting words, give a little summary. You have a lot of the different tips that we talked about in closing. Is there anything else that you want to say before we close out?
Get into a quality company, product service, learn how to present it effectively. It’s called scripting. Every movie you’ve ever seen was on a script. Every song you love is a script. All professionals use them. If you’ve been in selling over 30 minutes and you’re on a script, over 30 days you’re already on the script. It’s just a matter of was it a good one that was designed by a professional or you stumbled into it to laziness and slothfulness. Get serious.
Thank you, Ben Gay III. Thank you so much for being here.
Thank you, Penny. I appreciate it.
- Ben Gay III
- The Closers
- Think and Grow Rich
- The Strangest Secret
- The Closers Part Two
About Ben Gay III
Ben Gay III has been called a living legend in the sales world.
After 50+ years in professional selling, he has been the
#1 salesperson in every organization in which he has worked.
At age 25 he was president of what was then the world’s largest
direct sales/network marketing company, having been personally
trained by fellow sales legends J. Douglas Edwards, Dr. Napoleon
Hill, Earl Nightingale, William Penn Patrick, Zig Ziglar and many
other sales giants.
One of the most famous, popular and powerful sales trainers
in the world, Ben now writes/publishes/produces “The Closers”
series of books/audios/videos/newsletters/teletrainings/live
seminars, a series that is considered to be “The Foundation of