How Putting your Prospects First Results in Winning More Deals- with Daniel Johnson


In his presentation, Daniel explains how having an understanding of where your prospect is today, and what they’re trying to achieve, makes a big difference in your outcomes. Daniel shares how to communicate with prospects and what he has done to find the most success in winning more deals.


Daniel Johnson is Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Officer at Zonos, the leading cross-border technology company and most accurate solution for landed cost. Daniel has had a successful 15 years of experience in sales. 


“Prospects are people: there’s a person on the other end of the phone so make them feel heard and a good way to do that is to restate what they said to you to make sure that you understood it correctly.” 

“The pain of staying the same has to be greater than the pain of change. Change is painful for your prospect but make sure you’ve helped them understand how staying the same is a lot more painful than going through that change.” 

Key Points

Three tips to win more deals:

  1. Take time to do research on the company that you’re interacting with
  2. Keep your prospect engaged
  3. Be curious and genuine


Everyone, my name is Daniel Johnson. I’m the co-founder and chief revenue officer at Zonos. Zonos’ mission is to create trust and cross borders. We help businesses with total landed cost calculation, Harmonized Tariff assignment, tax remittance, etc. But we’re API first and trying to make something that’s extremely complex, easy for businesses to sell across borders.

Today what I want to talk about is something that I’m passionate about, one as a salesperson, and two as someone who loves SaaS technology and has procured quite a few different solutions over my years with different roles. And different use cases. And I’ve had a lot of varied experiences, which has actually been really helpful for me to improve when I am in a sales process. So I’m also going to preface with, I do have quite a bit of text in these slides, which is usually not something that I do, but I also want it to be something that you all could have as a resource. And I’ll have all of my contact information at the end of it. Feel free to reach out to me anytime with any questions, connect with me on LinkedIn, etc.

So, I’m gonna go ahead and share my screen. I want to talk about how putting your prospects first is going to result in winning more deals. This is a bit of a challenge and it’s definitely something that I’ve had to work on and improve and continue over the years. But being a true understanding of where your prospect is today, and what they’re trying to achieve, makes a big difference in outcomes. So why does your prospect’s experience matter? 53% of marketers spend at least half of their budget on lead generation. There’s a lot of time and money that goes into driving and engaging demand. The opportunity to close demand is often missed during the opportunity stage. So the outcome is missing projections, quotas, some tension or friction between teams pointing fingers. Is this an actual SQL? Why are the opportunities not getting closed, etc. I want to talk about how we can mitigate these things by putting our prospect first and making sure they have a great experience with us.

I know that it sometimes seems like you understand who your buyer is, but I think it is key to take time to do research on the company that you’re interacting with. In addition to the individual prior to meeting with them. A good example is we apply to e-commerce businesses. When I’m going to do something along these lines I’m going to gain an understanding of who I’m about to meet with. I’m going to go to their website, see what their existing experiences for their international transactions, review their shipping policies, etc. And it was really helpful for me because sometimes there’s misalignment with what they’re doing today and what they perceive they’re doing. So it’s just a little bit of extra education that I can use during my sales process. So try to put yourself in your prospects’ shoes, like think of things from their perspective not about your features and benefits but understand that some team or an individual took their time to meet with you, instead of doing a long list of other things that I’m sure they have to do or are behind on.

Time is the most valuable thing any of us have. So be mindful that they are not bored and they’re not talking to you just because you think your product or brand is amazing which it probably is but they are experiencing an issue or have goals and are looking for you to help them. Also say we’ve all been a part of a bad pitch and a lot of the time that causes us to shut down. People get distracted with Slack messages, email, et cetera. And if you don’t keep your prospect engaged, you’re going to end up just trying to get off the call as soon as possible. Discovery, I have more slides on Discovery, than I do on demos, close, etc. That’s because discovery is key. A demo without a diagnosis puts your prospects at risk.

The mind set that I always try to be in when I’m doing this is being curious and genuine. I want to be curious about why they understand their existing issues, what they’re trying to solve, what they’re trying to achieve, etc. If I don’t genuinely care, it’s going to come across, they will know it will be very obvious. So one more statistic I want to point out is that 79% of your leads won’t ever convert to sales. I want to help you with that. And I think that by getting your prospect to engage you can increase your close ratio. So why do they care? You wait and when I say why do they care? It’s why they care about you, what your product does , etc. So gain an understanding of what they’re experiencing so you know how you or your product can help them with the challenges they’re facing and the goals that they have. A good way to do this is to provide direction. So ask questions from their perspective with what’s going on in their current state that cause them to prioritize talking to you. A good way to do that is an a to z question.

So, again, going back to the Zonos process, something we would ask is from the time the international shopper arrives on your website until a package arrives at their door. What throughout that process concerns you the most or keeps you up at night? And after they respond which you know, that’s an open ended question they can’t respond with yes or no, wait. It’s okay for there to be awkward silence because it also gives them time to think and they may end up coming back with additional information that’s going to provide you more resources or ammunition to help tie back what their current state is to what they want it to be. And get them to be fully bought in with moving forward and be excited about it. So tie the root cause of the issue is the cost of the problem, challenges, their experience, etc to like, what’s the impact? Could be their top line revenue could be profitability, could be manpower, they could be a lot more efficient doing other things. It could be how they’re perceived in the market, how they’re perceived internally. Understand the impact of the individual that you’re working with. The question that I like to ask is the worst case scenario if you don’t do anything about this, six months down the road from now, what is your life going to look like? Prospects can tell if you know and understand their world or not.

And this is something I try to do with life in general, prospects are people: there’s a person on the other end of the phone so make them feel heard and a good way to do that is to restate what they said to you to make sure that you understood it correctly. And something that you’re looking for in terms of response would be along the lines of That’s right. Telling is not equal to selling. Don’t lose leverage by telling them about your product without knowing why they care. I know when you’re talking to your ideal customer profile, you know that during discovery, they’ve mentioned things that you know you have a solution to and you get all excited and you just want to start talking about you, don’t do that wait until you really know that you understand what they’re going through.

Something else that I think is really a bonus- understand their procurement process, who else in the company is going to be impacted? What is their process to procure and implement new tools? This helps mitigate down the line issues that prevent you getting the deal done. It could be related to IT, another decision maker and along the way you may find a champion that is going to help get the buy-in required within their company for you to get the deal across the door. And they may provide really great insights which could help make the case for ROI. During the demo, keep the focus on your prospect, lean on what you learned during discovery. That is what your demo should be focused on when you’re talking about the relevant features and benefits, tie it back to the pains, motivation, etc. that you found during discovery that are going to help them achieve their ideal state goals etc.

And this helps them imagine their life without pain or with the objective achieved thanks to your product. If you get a bit of a curveball from the prospect asking a question about a specific feature, how something works. This is a really good opportunity for you to ask why. Why did they ask? What’s their motivation in understanding that? Because it matters to them for a reason in most instances, and again, could be additional ammunition you can add to your belt. But in the end, you should be able to summarize their goals and challenges, and again, get them to respond with what’s right.

So, I’ll give you another example with one of our products which is called zonos landed cost. The way that I would restate something then would be along the lines of so it sounds like if we were able to calculate a total landed cost at checkout and collect the fees up front as opposed to surprising your customers at delivery, that you would have a more profitable business and a better customer experience. Am I understanding that correctly? What you want them to say is that’s right. In terms of the close. This is the easy part of the sales process. When your discovery and demo are done right. Does your prospect understand how you will be able to help them? It’s very easy for us as salespeople to have a deep product understanding and for us to see how we can help them. What you are really after is your prospect understanding how you are going to help them? So, are they motivated to change?

Again, I was referencing that question asking about what their life would look like six months from now, but something that I learned early on in my sales career which is going on about 20 years is that the pain of staying the same has to be greater than the pain of change. There’s a pain to change, whether it’s a cost, whether it’s prioritizing a roadmap, taking on a new project when you’re already slammed with work. Change is painful for your prospect but make sure you’ve helped them understand how staying the same is a lot more painful than going through that change. Make sure they care about what excites them the most in terms of the challenges that might help them solve. And this is another example which is probably a little bit better stated but it’s pretty broad but it’s okay to ask and get reassurance that they are engaged and they are wanting to take the steps to move forward.

When your discovery and demo are done right and they do understand how you’re going to help them they’re going to be anxious to get going. They’re gonna ask you what the next steps are as opposed to you asking them. Can we send you some pricing and we can get a time on it. Like that’s great follow up and in many instances, you’re likely still going to have to do that but sending a proposal with loose follow up or sending additional materials is not going to result in as high percentages when they’re the ones asking for materials, proposals, etc. to get started.

In summary, get to know your audience as well as you can, their company, their role, their goals, challenges and needs. Seek to understand not to be understood. Remember, you want to understand where your prospects are coming from and not seek them to understand what your product does. You want to understand their business so that you can help them get to the point that they understand how you’re going to help.

Again, getting back to the anxious salesperson, don’t talk about yourself as soon as you hear something that makes you think there’s a fit for your product. Wait until you’ve done all of the discovery. Peel back the layers and make sure you really understand what they’re going through and why they’re taking the time to talk to you. Great demo really is a conversation with your product as a backdrop. Your prospect should talk as much or at least about as much as you do. If you’re speaking the entire time- they’re disengaged, they’re busy doing other things. There’s a chance they’re still engaged and still interested but most likely you’ve lost them. Focus on your product, your products, features and benefits that help them and skip over the ones that don’t and I don’t mean skip over entirely but maybe just glance over them. Because there could be added value that maybe wasn’t found during discovery. It should have been, but focus on what’s going to matter to them, the questions and answers session and keep them engaged in the way that you direct it could be based on what you found during discovery. Reinforce your selling points. When you’re able to put all of these pieces together properly and direct the conversation this way. Deals are going to be closed without you having to ask your prospect if they’re ready to buy.

Thank you all for joining and thank you for putting on this summit. I’m really grateful to have had the opportunity.

One last story I’ll share or one bonus nugget I would give is don’t force your prospects through your buying process. If you have someone who’s already done all the research, knows they want to buy, then facilitate them making the purchase. I’ll give a good example because we recently went through the procurement process of changing CRMs and I was a bit nervous that I already knew what I wanted, which was Salesforce and I was very direct with them on my initial discovery call, which had an SDR, a sales manager and AE. I was very upfront with them and said I already know that I want Salesforce. We don’t need to go through your typical hoops, just help facilitate me by and answer the questions that the team I brought on the call have. And they did great. There’s other times where I’ve said some more things. And I’m talking with just an SDR and then they say Oh, well hold on, let me get this and I get frustrated. And most most instances I’ll end up moving forward but that can be something that causes you to lose a sale. So if someones ready to buy just make sure they genuinely understand what the deal was. Take the agreement and just facilitate them getting done what they’re after, save them the time of going through all the hoops.

So Feel free to email me anytime. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

Thanks again. I hope everyone has a great week.