Jason Dial has had a hugely successful career in sales for Southwestern, Tom James, and LGFG Fashion house, but as he says in this interview, it isn’t because of any original thinking or linguistic skill. It is rather Jason’s coachability, and listening skill, that have elevatored him amongst other great leaders.
Jason kindly let me interview him at Dimitry Toukhcher’s request, but it was fascinating to hear him say that he doesn’t enjoy being interviewed, preferring his actions, listening skill (and immaculate appearance) speak for themselves.
You can read Jason’s full biography here
Jamie: In your sales career thus far, what have you found most fulfilling?
Jason: A fulfilling thing for me in my sales career has been watching others that I have had some level of influence on, becoming successful, achieving their goals, and achieving their dreams.
Jamie: How do you help them set goals?
Jason: I am just a messenger. I take messages from books like this Brian Tracy’s “Goals”, and I introduce it to people. I am not the person that gets people to do things; I just introduce them to principles and then show them how to do it.
Jamie: What are some of the biggest principles you’d like to introduce people to?
Jason: One is that people are in control of their own destiny, accountability, and responsibility.
Jamie: What changes do you see in people when you give them that knowledge?
Jason: Confidence and success. You start to see the Law of Attraction kick in.
Usually, when I start working with single salespeople after they start setting and achieving goals, suddenly they are married.
Jamie: What is the best thing about being a salesperson?
Jason: Being in control of your destiny. You can have, do, become, and achieve whatever you want. That is the master skill in sales and in life from where I sit.
Jamie: What is the worst thing about being in sales?
Jason: Probably the same thing, that you are in control of your destiny and that if you do not have that discipline and you do not have that accountability, it is not going to be a smooth ride.
Jamie: How did you get into the suit trade, and what is the best thing about selling suits?
Jason: The best thing about selling suits is that more doors have opened for me than I think would open for the average person, just based on my appearance. Whether or not it is right, people will judge you by the way you look, and since I have got access to the finest clothing in the world and dress the part, I will get bumped up to a first-class seat, or I will get that table in a restaurant when I ask. It just opens doors. That is the cool part of selling suits.
Jamie: There is a trend toward dressing more casually in business. Is that a trend you would advise salespeople against participating in?
Jason: I started in this industry in 1999 in New York City. Business-casual had just kicked off. It was a reaction to the tech companies and the dot-com boom. For the first time, large investment firms were losing the best talent coming out of law schools and graduate schools to these dot-com startups. One of the selling points I think of the dot-com is that you could be casual; you could have a pet parrot with you at work maybe. Yes, I would advise against that.
I would advise dressing for the role you want, not the role that you have. This is for the reason that I mentioned earlier; right or wrong, people will judge you based on how you look, and I do not want to spend the next thirty minutes of my sales appointment convincing them I am the right person because I do not look the part. I would rather be figuring out how I can help them.
So yes, I would absolutely encourage people to dress the part.
Jamie: Body language and voice tone is a big part of that as well, right?
Jason: You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig, right? You are talking about being a good salesman. You start with character. Are you a good person? Are you doing the right thing? That is inherent. When we look for salespeople in LGFG, we are looking for character, ambition, coachability, and work ethic. You cannot fake any of those. You have to be a good person, absolutely. If you are all those things, but you are wearing cutoff jean shorts and a tank top on the sales presentation, unless you are selling pools, it is going to be a tough sell.
Jamie: When you are recruiting for those different characteristics, you just mentioned, how do you test for them?
Jason: If I had the answer to this, then I probably would have written several books already. There are questions that you can ask that reveal, but you never really know. You just take the best indicators that you can. You get better at making good decisions even though you may only have twenty percent of the proof that it is going to be the right thing. It is a gamble. I do not have all the right answers. I wish I had that answer.
Jamie: What are the most important skills to cultivate throughout a sales career?
Jason: It starts with habits, and then it goes to skills. In terms of habits, you have to be consistent with how many calls you are making and appointments that you are scheduling, and people that you are seeing. It is the sales funnel. Then, the skills that follow the habits. You have got to be articulate and give a good presentation.
Backing up, the most important skill is listening. There is a misconception in sales that you are just extolling the virtues of whatever product that you have and how to change it.
You just have to ask good questions and listen. A good salesperson never talks more than twenty per cent of the conversation. Which is why I am not comfortable with you asking me questions and me doing all the talking. Listening, that is the most important skill to cultivate.
Jamie: To expand on that- as a salesperson, ideally, you should get to the point where you are uncomfortable talking because you are so good at listening?
Jason: Absolutely. You want to be able to hear your client, not listening to talk, which is a skill that was a painful lesson for me to learn many times over, not waiting for a break in the action so you can get your point across, but listening.
Listening to hear, listening to understand what the client or the prospect wants, and understand if you can help them. If you cannot help them, tell them. You have got to be able to listen. Everyone is going to tell you what they want, how they want it, and when they want it. If you do not listen, you are going to miss it, and all of it will pass you by.
If you do not have the habit of getting in front of those people, then all of that is irrelevant.
Jamie: How did you get better at listening and improving that skill?
Jason: I read ‘How to Win Friends and Influence’ people, and that book just lays out everything that you need. It was the first book on sales that I read, and probably will be the last book on sales I read because I go back to it time and time again, but
reading the chapter on listening really hit me at a time where I was very low and struggling with sales. It made so much sense to me at that point, and for whatever reason, it really allowed me to look back on failures and say, “I did not even know what I did not know.”
Just read the book. Again, I do not have the answers. The answers are in the book. I can direct people to the book that will help them solve their issues.
Jamie: What is the biggest difference you see in successful vs unsuccessful salespeople?
Jason: Habits, and consistency with your habits. You do not have to be the most polished person. You do not have to be a dynamic salesperson that has a silver tongue that can talk someone into buying. That is not important. What is important is that you are consistently getting in front of enough qualified people that can purchase your product. Then doing what you say you are going to do. You do those things, and the world is yours. You are in complete control of your destiny.
Jamie: In a premium suit, are you selling a product or a service?
Jason: You are selling service, first, and foremost. You are selling quality, but it is one hundred percent service. Absolutely. You have got to know what your client is looking for. You have got to be able to give it to them the way they want it. When I started in this business, it was the price, it was quality, and it was timing, Those were the three things we needed. Pick two of the three, but you have to deliver to all of those things you say. You have got to be able to set clear expectations. The service is what you sell.
Jamie: What elements of sales culture really helped a sales organization to be successful?
Jason: You have got to begin with the end in mind. Again, not my idea. This comes from ‘The Seven Habits.’ You’ve got to have a picture of what you are building. You’ve got to have a clear vision of where you are going. You’ve got to know what people’s roles are to get there. You got to know what you have to do year by year, month by month, day by day to be able to execute those things, to get you there. Your people have to know what is in it for them.
Yes, my title is president of LGFG, but I work for every employee there. My job is to make sure they know exactly what they have to do, believe in them that they can do it, hold up a picture of them that is bigger than their current picture, and just reminding them constantly that I will see them that way until their picture is either that size or larger than what I am holding up.
You’ve got to follow that up with accountability and hold that picture up, so they know exactly what is in it for them. Pour belief into them.
I am just going to regurgitate stuff that I have learned from books. I am not that smart. I am a country boy from Tennessee, but you have to have a strong mental picture. It could be a picture of a particular car or living in London. Maybe you have a particular watch that you want, and you have that picture in your head. You can actually have a physical picture of it on your wall. Things are created twice; first in your mind and then in reality. When I say a picture, I mean that if we work together, then if I spent time with you, and if you are clearly good at what you do, I would say, “We have been in this industry for twenty-one years, I know what someone like you could do. You are someone that can easily sell a million dollars in clothing per year. You are easily an earner that does not make a six-figure income but a seven-figure income.” That is how I would hold a picture up. That takes time to cultivate. You’ve got to be able to listen to people and find out what is important to them, what moves them, what motivates them. I have learned it is the same thing in moving and selling a product; it is just doing it with people and their hopes and dreams.
Jamie: How do you make sure you are going to the right organization in terms of leadership?
Jason: Yes, ask them what their plan is. Ask them where they are going.
Where do you see this business going? Asking the same questions that they are asking you. What is the goal of this company? What is your five-year plan? If they do not have an answer, I would be worried. I recently made a move. I have had two jobs in twenty-one years, and when I came over, I asked my business partner Dimitri specifically, “What is the plan?” If he had said “Make a lot of money,” then we would have had an issue, but he was specific with where we are going and what we are building, and it is a lot easier to get on board with that. People want to be onboard with successful people.
You get referrals in your industry because people buy you and your plan and your vision; where you are going. Getting referrals is something that people give you just because they want to be a part of something successful. If you do not have a path and a vision and a picture of the destination where you are going, it is going to be tough to get people on board with you.
Jamie: Can you talk a little bit about the importance of referrals to a sales process?
Jason: Referrals are, in the sales world, it makes the world go round. You can still build a business cold calling and knocking on doors, you and I both have done that, but that is the hard way; that is the really hard way, and it is not getting any easier.
In our business, we track this, and it takes 300 cold calls to get one client, or it takes 10 referrals. Do you want to work 30 times harder and take 30 more calls to get to a single client? The metrics are just unbelievable, but let us just put the emotion into it. You want to build a clientele through referrals that there is an inherent trust or you have to go in and really prove yourself every time?
Does that mean that you can’t do cold calling? No, you can, but it is going to be more of a challenge. I do not want to do it that way. Referrals are paramount. When you look at our habits to be successful here at LGFG, referrals are the number one habit. If you get referrals, everything else will fall in place as long as you have the discipline to make the calls, go to appointments, and generally, you are excited to do so when you have got a bunch of appointments.
Jamie: From a more technical point of view, how do you structure that asking about referrals?
Jason: Asking for referrals generally comes with the appointment, and I would give gratitude appreciation for meeting with me. I would share with them what my plan is, the most important goal I have for that particular year. I would share with the client, and then I give them a short version of what my plan is to get there. That plan always comes back to how many referrals I need. Let us say to achieve this, I need to get a thousand referrals this year. That sounds like a lot. I am not asking for a thousand, but everybody has been nice enough to give me ten. It is getting people to buy-in. You express gratitude. No one wants to be around negative people. People want to be around grateful people, and then you show them your plan, and where you are going, if it is written out you can actually give it to them, they can hold it and then they are like,
“Wow I thought this guy was just selling suits, but he has got to plan to change the world, it is pretty cool.” That is how I would encourage people to ask for referrals.
Jamie: I think a lot of businesses do not thank their customers or certainly not enough. Will you talk about the difference it can make if you do thank your customers?
Jason: These things I am sharing with you, all of them I have learned the hard way, and it is not like a quick lesson to neither these things that I personally stumbled over again and again and again and again and I am human, and I have erred more than most. I have made some bad decisions and learned some really tough lessons.
I have not thanked clients, and they have gone away quietly. I have thanked clients, and they have championed my calls, so clients become advocates when you express gratitude. People do not remember what you said, but they always remember how you made them feel.
Jamie: Has anyone ever done anything in an interview with you that really wowed you and made you think I need to hire this person?
Jason: Yes. Can I remember specifics? No. Is it one particular thing? I do not think so. There have been a series of indicators that someone works hard. There have been a series of indicators that someone has gathered a really high level of character or is super ambitious, amd is coachable, but I do not remember any one particular situation.
Jamie: What is the single biggest piece of advice you would give to an aspiring salesperson?
Jason: Work on yourself. Learn how to set and achieve goals. Learn how to use affirmations and self-talk and stay with the plan. People come out with these great complex strategies; strategy gets trumped by execution one hundred out of one hundred times. Make a simple plan and do not back down from that plan. Do not let yourself off the hook. Follow through. It is not easy, but it is worthwhile.
Jamie: If you had your sales career again, what would you do differently?
Jason: I do not know that I would change a whole lot; my failures have been where I have learned the most, and I have found in a leadership role that people care more about my failures than my successes. Generally, they know what you have achieved, but they do not always know the hardships you endured to get there. I have been through a lot of pain, and some of it still hurts, but that is why I am where I am. I am okay with it.
Jamie: Is there a specific story about a time when you did not make a sale, or you failed in some way, but it taught you something really valued?
Jason: There are hundreds I can think of. There are times where I have taken shortcuts and been burned so many times. I can just tell you this, whenever I cheated the system, I paid tenfolds of what I would normally pay.
Jamie: Is that ‘cheating the system’ in terms of the sales process, in terms of morality, or both?
Jason: All the above. Just taking shortcuts. Pain is when I think of where I have failed when I tried to take a shortcut here and there. I would rather not get too far into detail with that. But yes, you will pay the price.
Jamie: Is there an example of a sale that shows off the skills and experience you have gained throughout your career?
Jason: There are a lot of situations. I can remember following a young man, he was in one of his first sales calls. It was so bad. He had set the appointment up. I went with them on the call, and the guy was desperate to be successful, and he was short, quick, and to the point and I had to kind of jump in and helped the guy because he wasn’t listening. We walked out with a $50,000 clothing sale. He got full credit for it. It was a cool experience to see him go through that. I do not want to say I am better than anyone else. Maybe I had heard something else here that resonated with my experience, and then later they learned how to do it by themselves.
Jamie: Do you think your humility helps you in a sales and leadership role?
Jason: It has. If you are more important than the team or the purpose, then it is about you, not the end result. I learned this from Jim McEachern, who was the guy that built Tom James.
You work for everybody else. It is not about you. It is bigger than you. That is also a selfish tactic because when you make it about other people, they end up putting you on their shoulders and you get more appreciation, praise, and gratitude by doing it that way, by making it about other people.
It absolutely helps. I think it is necessary.