Listen to Ari Galper as he explains trust-based selling and how you can help increase sales by building trust and credibility.
Carl Lewis: Welcome to The Connected Enterprise podcast. I’m Carl Lewis, your host from Vision33, and my guest is Ari Galper. Ari's from California but lives in Australia and is the world's #1 authority on trust-based selling. He’s been featured in CEO Magazine, Forbes, INC Magazine, Sky News, the Australian Financial News, and more. He also has a new book, Unlock the Sales Game. Ari, welcome to the podcast. Tell us about yourself and how you got where you are.
Ari Galper: Thank you, Carl. For 20 years, I've been specializing in a unique niche called trust-based selling. It helps people shift their thinking about selling away from the goal of the sale itself to building deep trust with people, which doubles the ability to convert sales. It's very counterintuitive because we've been taught to chase opportunities, play the numbers game, and pursue people. But it turns out if you take the pressure out of that process, you unlock the sales game. My work is about building trust with people in the sales process without doing the dysfunctional behavior of chasing people. People hate that.
Carl Lewis: I've done a little sales work in my life, and I always had great relationships with prospects and customers, and I always felt like that was the best way. When I heard about you and trust-based selling, I thought, “Where has this guy been my whole life?” What are the origins of trust selling?
Ari Galper: I had an experience as a sales manager in a software company. We launched the first online website data collection tools, now known as Google Analytics. One day, I got a phone call from a website. It was a huge opportunity—big company, lots of websites, and they agreed to a conference call. I'll never forget it.
Ari Galper: I went into the conference room with my CEO. I dialed the number on the old-school speaker phone, my contact picked up, and he said, "Hey Ari, how's it going?" I said, "Good." He said, "Ari, let us tell you who's with us today." The next thing I hear is, "My name's Mike. I'm CEO." Then, "My name's Chris. I'm head of IT." Then, "My name's Julie. I'm head of global marketing." Amazing. Everybody on the call was a decision-maker. If it was going to happen, it was going to happen then.
Ari Galper: I introduced myself and gave them a live demo over the web of what it’s like to see all their website statistics live. As I'm walking them through it, they’re happy. They’re saying, "Wow, this is great. It’s amazing." They asked me a million questions, and I had all the answers. There was so much chemistry, Carl, it was like a love fest on the phone. You know what I mean?
Carl Lewis: I do.
Ari Galper: I said to myself, "This is a no-brainer. There's no resistance. All is well." An hour went by, and they were still excited. I did everything I was taught to do in the sales game—answered objections, built rapport, built relationships—by the book. Then the guy says, "Ari, this is amazing. We love it. Give us a call in a couple of weeks. We'll move this thing forward." I was like, "Oh, thank you, God. Perfect." I said my goodbyes and reached for the phone to hit the off button. But I accidentally hit the mute button instead. In a split second, a voice inside of me said, "Ari, go to the dark side. Be a fly on the wall. Go where no one's ever gone in the world of sales." So, I let them think I hung up, and they talked among themselves.
Ari Galper: What would you imagine they would have said if you’d listened in?
Carl Lewis: They could have been positive, like, "Wow, we're really looking to follow up," like they said. Or "We're never going to want to talk to that guy again." Right?
Ari Galper: Here’s what they said, word for word. I'll never forget it. They said, "We're not going to go with him. Keep using him for more information and make sure we shop someplace cheaper." Knife in heart, twist. I was in shock. When I snapped out of it, I hung up and asked myself, "What did I do wrong?" I was professional and relationship-based. I answered every question. I did everything I was supposed to do as a student of selling. That’s when it hit me: It’s socially acceptable to lie to people who sell. It's okay to say, "Sounds good. Send me information. We're interested. Send us a proposal," without any intention of moving forward.
Ari Galper: I thought, "Why were they afraid to tell me the truth? Why all these games?" And I realized there’s a deep well of pressure embedded in the sales process and conversations. If you aren't aware of it and don't know how to remove it, they'll always have their guard up, just giving you enough of what you want to hear. Breadcrumbs. And you'll chase people your whole career, making a few sales and wondering what happened to the rest.
Ari Galper: I decided to do something about that, so I shifted to what I call “unlocking the game.” The concept is redefining what selling is at its essence. It isn't about making the sale. It's about building deep trust with people to see if you're a good fit. And when you create what I call a moment of vulnerability with people, they feel comfortable telling you the truth of where you stand. You don't have to chase people anymore. That was my trust-based selling shift 20 years ago, which now has a huge movement behind it. It’s changed thousands of lives.
Carl Lewis: It's a great story, Ari. Many people in sales have been there. They experience a lot of emotional letdowns because of rejection.
Ari Galper: Yes.
Carl Lewis: There are many myths about selling. What are some that run counter to what you discovered?
Ari Galper: One classic is that sales is a numbers game. That more contacts and calls equal more sales. It’s not true. It's about how deep you go in each conversation. How good you are at building trust. Another is that a sale is lost at the end of the process. No, the sale's lost at hello. If someone calls your office, Carl, and you answer and hear, "Hello, my name is ... I'm with ... We are ..." What goes through your mind?
Carl Lewis: What are they trying to sell me?
Ari Galper: See? It's over at hello. People are losing their opportunities at the beginning because they don’t know how to build trust. Another myth is that rejection is part of the game. If you can't take a no, if you're not tough enough or thick-skinned enough, you're not made for success. We discovered rejection is triggered by things you say/do unconsciously that cause the other person to push back on you, which puts you in the wrong position to build trust. Those are myths we must bust before we can change.
Carl Lewis: Most people can easily see themselves in those three. I’ve been there. So, what are the basics of trust selling?
Ari Galper: There are two core principles behind trust-based selling. The first is to take the pressure out of the conversation. We invented our own body of work about trust-based language. It’s not scripting; it’s using words and phrases that are authentic and natural. Let's say you’re on a call with somebody for the first time. The call is going well. There’s good chemistry, a good opportunity. You're excited. Right before the call ends, we normally say things like, “How about we move forward, have a cup of coffee, get together again, send you a contract, see a demo?" We're wired to move things forward. We sense an opportunity. But what could happen if you try to move something forward with someone and they’re already at the beginning? What do you break with them from the beginning of the process?
Carl Lewis: If you push too hard, they put on the brakes, but they might do it in kind of a subterfuge.
Ari Galper: Exactly. If you make assumptions, you lose that trust. Now, same scenario, different ending. This time, we say, "Where do you think we should go from here?" I'll repeat it: "Where do you think we should go from here?"
Carl Lewis: You're giving them permission to unhook the wagon.
Ari Galper: That shifts the power. It puts people in a state of shock. It tells them you're willing to listen. They can't believe somebody in business would ask them what they want to do because they're so used to being pulled down a linear process. Usually, they say, "I have one more question," or "What about this?" You know what comes out? The truth. And that's your goal. Your goal is to build enough trust that someone feels comfortable telling you where you stand, versus guessing through a whole long sales cycle and hoping it'll work out.
Carl Lewis: Yes.
Ari Galper: That's the first principle. The second is what I call “getting to the truth with people.” That means having them feel comfortable enough to tell you the truth of where they stand. Because you're not playing games anymore. You're unlocking the game.
Ari Galper: Here's an example. I recently got a call. He said, "Mr. Galper? My name's John Johnson. I'm with XYZ company. We want to bring someone in to change the culture of our sales organization. We're looking at you and a few others. We'd like to know why we should go with you. Why are you the best? Give me your best sales pitch." He said this on an inbound call. And they're a huge company. I’m human; I got excited. But I took a deep breath, got centered, lowered my voice, and said, "Well, isn't that interesting?"
Ari Galper: Then, I paused for a few seconds and said, "We have a similar process. We ask questions to see if we're a good fit. If we are, we decide where to go from there. Would you be open to that?" Dead silence. I felt him breathe a sigh of relief and lower his shoulders. He said, "What kind of questions do you have for me?" Within five minutes, I discovered he's not a decision-maker, and he has no budget. He's just curious as to what I do. So, I directed him to my website to watch my videos, and I hung up. What did my process just save me months of?
Carl Lewis: Trying to sell him something he wasn't going to buy.
Ari Galper: Exactly. Chasing, pursuing, time, energy, resources. It's almost like a drug that’s triggered by inbound calls like that. You know what the drug is called? It's called hopium.
Carl Lewis: I like that.
Ari Galper: You're excited. You tell your team, "I got the big opportunity." But when you follow up, you get their voicemail. So, you go to your email to write, "Hi. I'm writing you to," what? To follow up on our conversation. I ask everyone in your audience to take a verbal oath that they’ll never again use the phrase “follow up” in their career. Never. What's the only industry that uses the phrase “follow up”?
Carl Lewis: My doctor uses it all the time.
Ari Galper: Typically, it’s salespeople. "Hi, I'm calling to follow up." There are other classic ones: checking in, touching base. That’s the old language associated with the negative salesperson stereotype. Following up is chasing them to move things forward. When you move them forward, they’re pressured and stop telling you the truth. Now you're playing the game. So instead, you say, "I'm calling to see if you have any feedback from our previous conversation/proposal/meeting." Feedback moves them backward, which takes the pressure off and releases the truth. Once you own this concept and master the art of this, you’ll never go back to chasing ghosts, playing the sales game, and losing money for your company, which people do all the time in this distraught, dysfunctional process.
Carl Lewis: You know what it sounds like, Ari? Often, when we meet with prospects and salespeople, it's like they know how to flip our switch and get us to tell them our story. And it never happens until it reverses, and they tell you their story.
Ari Galper: Correct.
Carl Lewis: And this trust component must be there for that to happen. I like how you take the pressure off by not pushing it to go forward because they feel like they have to hide stuff from you the instant you do that. Some sales cycles are a year, and you waste all that time digging out bits of information. And then you lose at the end. One phrase that always made sense was, “Lose early, lose often.” I don’t want to lose often, but I’d rather lose early—if it's not a fit, it's not a fit.
Ari Galper: The goal is to get the truth ASAP. And if you're not taught how, you'll always be chasing whatever appears to be an opportunity. Which is a mistake.
Carl Lewis: You want to find the genuine opportunity rather than trying to make something out of nothing.
Ari Galper: Playing the numbers game is a losing game.
Carl Lewis: Exactly. Well, Ari, where can people find these materials? Because what you're saying is very attractive and many salespeople I know would benefit from it. Where are you and your stuff available?
Ari Galper: First, there’s a free masterclass at unlockthegame.com. You can watch a video with more insights about this. You can get my book on the website, too. It has lots of language and new ideas in it. I have a new book coming out called The One Call Sale, which is a level up from this material. And on LinkedIn, I do a monthly show called Stump the Guru. You can jump in live and ask me your toughest sales question, and I'll give you live coaching there on the show. I'm very accessible there. Just drop me a connection and say hello and that you heard me on Vision33’s podcast.
Carl Lewis: Excellent. I know you have a son, Toby, with Down Syndrome. I read on your website that he's influenced your career and this concept. Can you give us an example or two of how Toby's made that contribution?
Ari Galper: Sure. When we learned he has Down Syndrome, we weren't sure what that meant to our lives, but we realized we had a gift. If you know someone with Down Syndrome, you know they're exceptionally special. They're loving and transparent—they have no hidden agenda. You can't help connecting with them. I said to myself, "He’s the role model we have to become, especially in the world of sales and business, because there are so many hidden agendas, so many layers to peel back from people. We're trapped in so many dysfunctional games. If they could just be like him." I wrote a book about him and what I learned from him, called Lessons From Toby. His view of the world is embedded in my approach of authenticity and integrity. Because if we could all be like him, the world would be so much better. So, I'm here to help people make a lot of money and be successful in selling, but also to make the world a better place for everyone.
Carl Lewis: I think salespeople could live longer if they learn a different way to do this. They'll take a lot of pressure off themselves.
Ari Galper: Probably end up de-aging, too.
Carl Lewis: Absolutely. I know many sales folks, and they live with a lot of stress. They all have quotas, so they live with that numbers game thing. And any way you can get better and not have to live with some of that stress would be positive for anybody. Well, Ari, thank you for this. It’s been great. My friends and listeners will be intrigued and look you up.
Ari Galper: Thank you, Carl. I appreciate it.
Carl Lewis: And for everyone else: ‘til we meet again, stay connected.