I bet you’ve heard the saying, work smarter, not harder, right? When you work in sales, you don’t get paid based on the number of hours you’ve clocked or how much effort you put in. You get paid based on your results. The ends are often justified by the means, and sales perhaps more than in any other field. But what if you were confident with both your process and results it produced? What if you were efficient and successful and never dreaded a quota again?
In Sell with Swagger, top-revenue generating sales director Tim Zielinski shows how to deliver consistent, exceptional results with pride, confidence, and peace of mind. A former programmer and self-described introvert, Tim isn’t your typical salesperson. His focus on providing value, and serving as the customer’s consultant has helped dissolve the sales stigma and demonstrate that mindset truly matters.
You’ll learn how to work effectively, develop a specific skill set, and pursue a clear path toward closing deals and exceeding quota, so you never second guess your steps again. With practical advice and relatable anecdotes, Sell with Swagger is the ultimate playbook for the sales professional ready to up their game and discover the fast track to sustainable success.
This is The Author Hour Podcast, and I’m your host, Frank Garza. Today, I’m joined by Tim Zielinski, author of a brand-new book, Sell with Swagger.
Tim, welcome to the show.
Tim Zielinski: Frank, thanks for having me. I’m honored and humbled to be here.
Frank Garza: So, to start, I just love to hear a little bit about your background and how that led to you writing this book.
Tim Zielinski: Sure, it’s actually funny. I mean, the book is a lot about sales but I didn’t start out thinking I would be in sales, mostly because when I was in school and, up to grade school, high school, even college, I was an introvert. I think most people, including myself, would think, “Yeah, an introvert, you’re not going to be in sales.” I think we all — there’s this nomenclature of salespeople, have the gift of gab or they’re very social or the life of the party.
That was not me. So going into college, I picked what an introvert would pick, which is engineering and computers, right? I can just interact with a computer, it doesn’t talk back, I can just be quiet, it was perfect. So that’s what I did for college and then I got out, I was a computer programmer. After college, I had a few different jobs, writing software, writing code and I got interested in the business side of things after a while.
So that led me into customer support and marketing, inside sales, where it was more just dialing a lot, not meeting customers in person, and then that led to me being in field sales or outside sales, which is a long path to say, I went from introvert to being more — I had to be more extroverted. A long path that got me there.
Frank Garza: Did you face — it kind of sounds like maybe you had some self-doubt because you’re an introvert and that doesn’t fit maybe their perceived personality of a salesperson. Did others see you that way or were they very encouraging to you about making that type of transition?
Tim Zielinski: I don’t think anybody would have picked me back when I was in middle school, high school, college to be in sales just because I wasn’t that extroverted person. I would say, I’m more opened up in college, spread my wings so to speak, got more confident because in high school, I was that zitty kid that was not confident in front of people, which probably was somewhat of why I was introverted. But yeah, in college I spread my wings so to speak, got more extroverted but still, I don’t think anybody would have picked me to be a super successful salesperson. It just naturally led to itself.
I think each role that I got after college, I got good at it, and then I was ready for the next thing, and because I was interested in the business side of things, I just slowly moved over to that side of where I was at in my company. And it’s funny, when I wanted to get in sales and I was a computer programmer, people would say to me, “Well, you can’t be in sales. I mean, you’re a computer programmer. Who does that? What do you know about sales?”
Then once I got in sales and I was successful, people would say, “Well, of course you’re successful in sales because you’re a computer programmer, you know the customers you’re selling to” and I’m like, “Well, you can’t have it both ways like, before you were saying I couldn’t be successful in sales.” So I think now, people think like, “Oh yeah, of course you made” it but back then, they weren’t picking me to be the successful salesperson.
Frank Garza: And so, as you wrote this book, who was the target audience you had in mind for it?
Tim Zielinski: Target audience was myself, which was aspiring people that wanted to be successful in sales because for me, I didn’t have a lot of the natural born sales qualities. Like we’re talking about, I wasn’t extroverted, I wasn’t the life of the party, I wasn’t, just had these natural born sales skills, I had to learn them all. I went from computer programmer to successful salesperson.
So for me, it was a long journey of reading books, going to seminars, listening to podcasts, getting mentored by my management and things. It was just a very long journey of absorbing all this information from different mediums to figure it out. So to me, I took all that knowledge and stuff that I learned and tried to bubble it down into easy bite-sizable chunks so that somebody could pick it up and learn it faster than what I had to go through.
Frank Garza: So the book is called, Sell with Swagger, and in the introduction of the book, you talk about what swagger means to you and especially in regards to sales. Can you talk about that?
Tim Zielinski: Yeah, for sure. There’s a little quote in the beginning of the book where I talk about Michael Jordan and I think that’s the first thing that come to mind when you ask me that. To expound on the Michael Jordan story in the book, I say, I’ve heard this before, I’ve read some of the books about Michael Jordan, the famous NBA basketball player.
World-renowned, one of the best players, if not, the best player ever and people would say to him, even if they didn’t follow basketball, weren’t interested, didn’t know Michael Jordan. If they knew nothing about him, if they were in a room with people and he walked in the room, you would say to yourself, “Now, that’s somebody” and to me, that is swagger, right?
You don’t know who Michael Jordan is but he just walks in a room and he just has this presence about him, like, this aura of somebody that’s confident, like somebody you want to know, like, what they’re all about. That to me is, I guess, the easiest way to explain swagger. It’s confidence, it’s poise, it’s attractive to other people.
Frank Garza: You also say in the intro that, nearly everything you know about mastering sales can be sorted into three categories, mindset, grind set and skillset. Give me just a big picture overview of what each of those three things mean?
Tim Zielinski: So mindset, I think you have to have it right, the six inches between your ears, people always talk about like, what is going on in your head and we talked a little bit about that with swagger. You got to have some confidence too. You can’t just be a salesperson, asking somebody if they want to buy your product or if they want to try it or, that’s like the needy used car salesman that nobody likes.
You want to be more like a consultant and a lot of that is your mindset about sales, you want to be providing value to clients, to customers, to prospects because if you’re providing value, then naturally, they want to follow you because you can help them with a problem that they have. So I’d say, that’s a lot of the mindset side.
It also includes like planning and building a gameplan for your territory and how you’re going to hit quota, that’s all like, the mindset, the planning, the who you are inside, right? More of a consultant, not a salesperson.
The grind set is getting the work. Anybody can be successful at sales and you can plan and talk about it all day long but at the end of the day, you got to do the work. Good, successful salespeople, they work hard. There’s no way around that one. You got to have what we call in the book, the grind or grind set, which is, at the end of the day, getting down to the work of it. You’re going to have to work hard to be successful really, in anything not just sales.
So that’s the mindset, the grind set and then the skillset. Skillset is more like the fine-tuning of soft skills in sales but also other skills, like how to handle objections or how to plan for meetings or how to build your calendar. It’s all the skills that make up the successful salesperson, you’re going to have to master those two. So it just seemed like a good, natural way to segregate the book in those three parts because it would make sense and be relevant to most people.
Frank Garza: Okay, so, let’s talk about mindset a little bit. Chapter one of the book is called, “Fuel Your Fire” and one of the things you review is you talk about each of the disciplines for you that are very important. Could you go through what those are?
Tim Zielinski: Yes, so in “Fuel Your Fire”, be hungry was number one because to me, that really means you have a motivation. We just talked about grind set, which is working hard. Being hungry is you want it, you got to want to win, you got to have that desire, that will, that urgency with inside it, you got to be a self-starter.
Without that, I mean, the rest of the book is a waste, which is why we made chapter one be hungry. At the end of the day, you’re going to have to put the principles and the ideas in the book to work which again, it goes back to being hungry. It’s not about food, it’s about being hungry or having that desire, that urgency to win, to want to win, work hard and see the results of that.
The second, “Sharpen Your Saw” is about learning, and we use an example in the book about two lumberjacks and you can’t just be working-working-working all the time. You got to work smart, you got to find better ways to do things and for me, when I was in sales, I was working hard during the business day, what I used to call my primetime business hours, where I was prospecting, I was meeting with clients, I was doing the day-to-day sales job.
But at the end of the day, in the evening, I was reading books about how to be better at sales, I was listening to podcasts, I was going to seminars. So that to me is the sharpen your saw part of it, you don’t want to just pile a bunch of time and effort and work into sales, you also want to fine-tune your process and there’s lots of ways to fine-tune that, which in the book we call, “Sharpen your saw.”
Then, the last part of that chapter, fuel your fire is have fun. Some sales people are very hard workers. Very hard workers, which is great, but the thing you got to guard against is burnout.
Some salespeople just work super hard day in, day out, lots of hours, they’re successful but you keep doing that for too long, you’re going to burn yourself out and you’re going to want a different job or you’re going to want to do something different.
So, I think a big part of it is having fun, getting enjoyment out of it and I give some strategies in the book about how to have fun with your clients, how to bring brightness into their day, into meetings because at the end of it, if you are not having fun doing what you’re doing, it is going to be hard to be successful. People aren’t going to want to be around you if you are not having fun at the end of the day.
Frank Garza: Yeah, I really enjoyed your story in that section about going for a client visit dressed as a bug exterminator but I will save that for people to read themselves in the book, but that was a good one. Okay, so later on in this part, there is a chapter called, “Regiment Your Time.” You talk about some of the most effective ways that you have done that for yourself. One of the ones I wanted to ask you about is plan tomorrow today. Tell me why you do that?
Tim Zielinski Yeah, I think a lot of people, they show up for their workday and they just check their email or they spend time thinking, “What should I do today?” and they waste a lot of time doing that. I mean, especially with email. I find so many people get bogged down in email and if you’re checking email to set what you’re going to do for the day, you’re letting other people drive your agenda.
We only have so many productive hours in a day, which is why I think it is so important to plan tomorrow today and that really just means at the end of the day, like today it’s 4:17, maybe most people’s work day is winding down, think about tomorrow, one of the big things that you need to tackle, the big things that you want to get done tomorrow, and plan that out like when are you going to do those things?
For me, personally, my most productive time is right in the morning. So I want to do my big important task early in the morning. I don’t want to check my email, I want to do those big things and because I plan tomorrow today, it really gives me a good agenda of how much time do I have in a day and what are those important things I can do. I mean, I can’t do everything every day, so having a plan means that when tomorrow starts I know exactly what I’m doing, at each time, I get through the big pieces.
You know, I’ve heard it say, this is really a Stephen Covey example, but he talks about big rocks and little rocks and he says, “In a jar, picture your workday like a jar. You want to put the big rocks in first, then the medium sized rocks, then the small rocks and then put the water and then that’s how to get the most things in a jar” and planning tomorrow today is very similar.
The big rocks are those big priority items that you want to do in the beginning of the day and then you add the smaller items later, but if you don’t plan it out, most people they kind of just meander from task to task or let email plan their day and it’s just not an effective way to get the big important items done.
A Powerful Sales Formula
Frank Garza: Okay, so then part two of the book talks about the grind set, it’s called, “Define Your Grind” and the first chapter there is called, “Sharpen your sales persona” and you talk about some of the ways that you do this. The first one is called making a friend. Can you tell me more about that?
Tim Zielinski: Just naturally, people want to do business and they want to buy from people they like, people they’re friends with. If you’re a salesperson that is not really good at making friends or building rapport and trust with your clients, it’s not that they’re not going to buy from you but it is going to be harder. You know, if you’re a friend of theirs and they really like you, it just makes it easier to buy.
It makes the sales process better, which is why making a friend is such an important part and once you’ve made a friend, it is so much easier to get other things you need as a salesperson, which is what are their problems, what are their pains, how can you help them? But making a friend is that first doorway in to get the prospect or the customer to open up to you as a salesperson.
Frank Garza: In a later chapter called, “Navigate Your Metrics” you talk about a sales formula, how it’s important to have one of these for yourself, how it’s important to build one. So how do you build a sales formula and would you mind sharing how you build one for yourself?
Tim Zielinski: Yeah, we spent a lot of time in the book on that. We actually almost thought we could just do one book on the sales formula, so we spent a lot of thought time putting all of that content together because it is so important. I mean, a lot of people will say sales is a numbers game. It depends how many calls you make a day and how many calls you make gives you a certain number of connections, a certain number of conversations.
Based on those, you show your product and based on a certain number of those, then a certain number will buy. So it is kind of like a formula or a funnel and I talk in the book a lot about how do you build a sales formula. I give examples on mine, why I did it, and I think the important thing is when I was a direct line sales person, the sales cycle was long. It wasn’t like I worked in a cellphone store and somebody would come into the cellphone store, want a phone, I’d show it to them and they buy it.
Our sales cycles were sometimes nine months long. So, because the sales cycle was that long, I needed to know where the sales formula, what are the daily and weekly things that I need to do to make sure that I am building the right amount of interest pipeline, so that I do have the sales that will show up in nine months, if that is my sales cycle, and it’s so important because nine months is a long time to wait.
It is not an immediate sale all the time, which means you’ve got to really focus on one of those daily and weekly activities that will make you successful long term. It is just so important to have that because that also leads to your swagger and your confidence. I mean, I’ve never met a salesperson that has a lot of activity, a lot of pipeline going on. I’ve never been a salesperson that’s unhappy when you have a lot of customer meetings and in pipeline.
But I have met a lot of salespeople that are unhappy when they don’t have pipeline, when they don’t have a lot of deals or opportunities coming. So it makes the formula just super important to be able to know where you’re at and then track your success.
Frank Garza: Could you give us an example of what a sales formula might look like just so we can picture it?
Tim Zielinski: Yeah, so a lot of details on the book on this but closest to what I was doing, which was each week, I needed to reach out to a certain number of prospects or contacts, people I didn’t know and for me back then, it was five people a week. So five brand new people I need to reach out to. I need to do some research on them and I need to reach out and tell them why they should talk to me like why it would interest them.
Then out of those five over time, I would continually follow up and I would get connections and meetings with two out of those five. I would show them my product, which is a demo and then out of those two demos per week, that would lead to one evaluation of my product where they would actually try it and then for every two evaluations of my product, I would get a closed one opportunity or a new customer out of it.
So it is probably hard to visualize that but that’s the basics of my formula where it goes through prospecting, they see my product, they try it and then they end up buying it.
Pulling Out the Pains
Frank Garza: Great, thank you for that. Okay, so then part three of the book moves into talking about the skillset that you mentioned. The first chapter there is called, “Master Your Discovery Call” and you started this chapter off by using a tennis example and how that can apply to these discovery calls. Can you share that?
Tim Zielinski: Yeah, so I’ve heard it said before that in tennis, if the ball is in the other person’s court, you’re ahead. If you keep the ball in their court, you’re directing. You are guiding the point and you’re winning, you keep it in their court. Discovery calls are like that, you want to guide and direct the conversation and keep the ball in their court. So when I think of a discovery call, keeping the tennis ball in their court is asking the right questions.
Making sure you are asking questions, pulling out the pains, the needs they might have but in thinking of those tennis terms, kicking the ball back to them is asking them a question. I see too many salespeople that get on a sales call and they just talk-talk-talk-talk-talk. Well, that doesn’t do you any good because you are just pitching. A lot of people call that just pitching and I don’t know about you but when I have a salesperson just talking at me, I’m not really engaged.
I am not really listening but if the salesperson is, going back to the tennis analogy, if they’re hitting the tennis ball to my court, meaning they’re asking me questions, they’re engaging me. They are pulling out my problems and my pains so that then they can tailor and talk to how their solution or their product or their service can help me solve those. So the short of it is, the analogy is keep the tennis ball in the other person’s court, which means ask them questions.
Pull out the details, the problems, and the pains they have so that you can map your solution to it.
Frank Garza: Well, writing a book is such a feat, so congratulations on putting this out into the world. Before we wrap up, is there anything else about you or the book that you want to make sure our listeners know?
Tim Zielinski: I think one thing I really tried to do with this book is write it for salespeople who have ADD. I am raising my hand right now, I am one. I have ADD. I think almost all salespeople have ADD, they’re just high energy, bouncing from thing to thing to thing and I wrote the book in that regard. I think a lot of books sometimes you’ve got to read them from cover to cover to really get the meat out of it and this book, I wrote it as a quick kit guide.
Where, as a salesperson, you could jump in and hit one of the sub-chapters and some of those sub-chapters are only two pages, and you could get something out of it. So it is broken down into real bite-sizeable chunks so that for an ADD sales person, you could read like two pages, get something out of it, and then it gives you an idea or an action item that you could then go implement, and once you’ve implemented that and it becomes a habit, it is going to make you a better salesperson.
So it’s really broken down in those bite-sizeable chunks for salespeople so they can consume it as they are, right? Little bits here, little bits there, you could read it cover to cover, but I definitely think it’s a book where it’s trying to help you implement these habits and these successful pieces of a good salesperson in your daily life. So it is meant to be a book where you consume it in little pieces and then go implement the ideas.
Frank Garza: Thank you, Tim, this has been such a pleasure. The book is called, Sell with Swagger. Besides checking out the book, where can people find you?
Tim Zielinski: On LinkedIn, probably the best place.
Frank Garza: All right, thank you, Tim.
Tim Zielinski: Thanks Frank, I really enjoyed it.
Broken To Better: Michael Kurland