Mahatma Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Michael Oliver has made a lifelong practice of creating success for himself through serving others. He is the founder of Natural Selling Sales Training and the author of the bestselling book How to Sell Network Marketing without Fear, Anxiety, or Losing Your Friends. Michael delivers the message that, by understanding how to help people influence themselves to make positive changes in their lives, any distributor or direct sales person can achieve the long-lasting results that they themselves are looking for.

An internationally recognized speaker and trainer, Michael honed his professional sales experience through a combination of continued learning and practical experience. In the 80s and 90s, he broke new ground by being one of the first to sell commercial solar energy appliances in southern California. He also sold multimillion-dollar sponsorships and advertising contracts for some of North America’s top sports arenas and entertainment facilities.

In the mid-90s, Michael became increasingly frustrated with how the outdated, conventional sales techniques used by network marketers were turning people away in droves. Drawing on his years of hands-on experience and his natural talent, he turned his attention to helping distributors and direct sales people significantly increase their results. He demonstrates how to do this effectively and comfortably by understanding how to eliminate rejection and objections.

Over the past decade, he has trained and coached many of the top distributors and income earners in network marketing and direct sales. His practical and natural sales approach is one that is founded with the idea that real success comes from within, and knowing how to serve and help others achieve what is most important to them. He’s an accredited trainer of Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws of Success in the Workplace.

Michael has also developed a program titled Natural Selling and the Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, and he teaches how anyone can achieve spectacular success, both professionally and personally.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: Michael, it’s really a pleasure and an honor to have you with us tonight. Thank you so much for being with us.

MICHAEL OLIVER: You’re very welcome, Chris. I appreciate being here.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: The title of this series, as you may have noted, is The Passions of Real Life Legends. Will you first share with us what role passion, or the things that matter most to you in your life, have played in leading you to the work you do today?

MICHAEL OLIVER: I think it has everything to do with what I do today. When I reflect back on the last 12 years, I’m still continually doing what I started to do 12 years ago. Then I reflect on the previous years of my life-and I’m not going to go tell you how far I’m going to go back on that-and in previous years I was in and out of jobs a lot of the time. I was doing a lot of different things, and I think it really had to do with the fact that that’s all I was doing.

I was working for the sake of working, and I wasn’t in tune what I really wanted to do. I guess in the back of my mind I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but it never really surfaced until a certain incident happened. Then it came to the fore, and that gave me the realization. Once I was in it, I realized that I’d hit my passion. It wasn’t as though it was something that was easy to find for me, that I knew this is what I want to do, that this was my passion.

I went into something with an eagerness and desire because it felt right, and then I realized that I’d hit the mother lode. So my approach to it was probably a little bit different, based on past experience and also how I entered into what I do right now.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: I want you to share with us in a moment, if you would, what your passion is, but would you do it in the context of telling us the story of how you got your start, how you had that epiphany, and ultimately became the world expert on natural selling. I want to preface that by saying that for many people, many of our listeners and readers at Healthy Wealthy nWise, one of the most difficult things for them is to figure out how to make the transition.

There actually are quite a few people out there who find themselves going from job to job or doing work they don’t really love, and the most difficult thing for them, at least as they express it to us, is, “How do I make the transition? How do I start doing my passion and actually support myself doing it?” Would you share with us your passion, and then how you had that epiphany and where it led you?

MICHAEL OLIVER: I think it wasn’t just one epiphany; I think it was a series of epiphanies. It wasn’t just one singular thing that happened; it was a series of things that happened. I’m not sure when it first started that I actually realized it was happening. It was only on reflection that I saw it happening. It’s a difficult question because I’m always looking for when the transition was between being who I was before, how I measured myself, and how I saw myself, and then who I became.

That was really the person I wanted to be. I wanted to be me in my own comfortable natural state, as it were, as much as I could. It was a series of things, and sometimes there were big gaps between one incident and another. When I look back, I saw that I was progressively moving through what it was I was seeking. I have to confess to you; I wasn’t that sure what I was seeking.

I just knew that there had to be another way. In the back of my mind, there had to be another way than what was being taught, and what is still currently being taught in the selling profession, and it started back in the solar energy days.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: Will you tell us a couple of little vignettes of the things that led you to launching Natural Selling and becoming such an expert in that area?

MICHAEL OLIVER: I always get a little blanched about the word ‘expert’. As my father once reminded me, when you break down the word ‘expert’, ‘ex’ is something that was and ‘spurt’ is a trip under pressure. I’m not really sure about the word ‘expert’, so it would make me more comfortable if you didn’t call me that; I don’t consider myself an expert. I just consider myself having a talent that was learned over a period of time, which I’m quite happy to share with others.

When the first real realization came was when I was selling solar energy systems. I did very well in my first year, and I think it was probably through ignorance more than anything else, and through not knowing. I was taught, and self-taught as well, the process of selling, which was based on the conventional method of making a presentation, hoping that something you said sticks, then going through the process of closing a person and handling objections.

That whole process just seemed to be so contradictory; it seemed to be so adversive. There was so much adversariness in it. It doesn’t matter what the book said; it was all about getting the sale, focusing on your family, on your country, on your company. It was the sale, the sale, the sale. It just didn’t feel correct to me. I saw somebody doing something very different, and his name-I’ll give him credit for it-is Bob Branda. He was working four times less than me and making four times as much money in a very relaxed way.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: That’s something to get your attention.

MICHAEL OLIVER: It really was, and I asked him, “What are you doing? How are you doing this?” He was a very open guy, and he actually invited me to a couple of meetings to observe, but I didn’t know what I was observing and he didn’t know why he was good. He mumbled things like, “Relationships,” and stuff like this, which was basically meaningless at the time. We use words even now like ‘form a relationship’. What does that mean?

It could mean 1,000 different things to 1,000 different people, and so it was with some frustration that I couldn’t really define or get a definition of what it was. What it did was open up my mind to something. He used one word, which I was beginning to have a feeling for. When I first came to North America I came with a very, very blank mind. I was not tapping into my creativity, I was very logical in thinking, and very cynical in thinking.

I always felt there was something there, though, which is why I came to North America. I always felt that I could find what it is that I wanted here on this continent. He came up with a word that was very interesting to me. He talked about metaphysics, and it was something that I was beginning to bump into, the idea of metaphysics, and I was being a little more open to than I had been previously.

That sort of helped me to start moving forward, and that was the first glimpse. The second thing that happened to me, and I give credit to Larry Wilson of the Wilson Learning Center, was when I discovered that there was a process of asking questions. This was instead of presenting what you thought were the features and benefits of your solution, and then hoping that your presentation was persuasive enough that the other person would buy into it.

I realized that was a total guessing game, and it was really totally inadequate; it was designed to fail. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that whole process actually has a built-in failure mechanism. When I say it’s designed to fail, it’s not intentionally designed to fail, but the design of it is set up to fail.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: Why is that?

MICHAEL OLIVER: It’s because you’re guessing. When you go in to make your presentation, let’s say that you go through the normal rapport-building stuff, which is talking about family, friends and common interests. For me, you don’t need to do all of that, but that’s the conventional way of doing it, generally. The next thing is that you do a presentation, which is a persuasive presentation. It’s based on your assumption as to what you know is best for the other person, and you know what benefits to talk about.

Benefits are extremely personal. You have no idea what benefits to talk about until the person tells you how it’s going to benefit them on a very deep and personal level. For example, selling cars is not about getting a person in the car to smell the leather and to feel how good it would be to drive a new car, so they’re going to feel great about it. That’s all superficial stuff. That’s how a lot of car sales people are still selling because that’s how they’re taught to sell.

That’s how a lot of the selling books are processed. However, you’re guessing, and it’s not the reason why a person will buy a car. A person will buy a car or anything for very deep personal reasons. Here’s a clue: if you ask them, they’ll tell you what they are. They’ll tell you exactly if they’re going to buy or not. They’ll tell you whether to waste any time or not on doing a presentation. There’s a clue as to what that’s all about.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: Wonderful. Go back; you were telling us when you were with the Learning Center you learned that there was a different way of doing it.

MICHAEL OLIVER: Yes, it was about asking questions. Asking questions will actually reveal a lot more about what the person wants. That was very useful to me. All of a sudden I started seeing more of a picture of why a person might buy something. That was good, because I hadn’t really thought about the concept of asking questions. This is actually an interesting one for a lot of people to get their heads around.

This is because most people think selling is about being persuasive, about telling. This word ‘sharing’, for example, really is an interpretation of the word ‘telling’. People go into the telling mode. People just don’t like being told things. People very happily reveal a lot about themselves. We can talk more about that later if you want. They’ll reveal a lot about themselves and tell you everything you need to know. Asking questions is very valuable, but it had one very fatal flaw in it, which took several years for me to uncover as I looked at various programs.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: What was that?

MICHAEL OLIVER: The fatal flaw was that the focus was still on closing the sale. It was still on getting the sale. It was still focused on the bottom line. Consequently, that created energy. It created a vibration that was a resistant vibration. If you’re focused on yourself to get what you want, it will work to a certain extent a very small percentage of time. It will work to a certain extent.

It will work if you have a particular personality or style that has certain persuasive powers within you; if you have the ‘gift of gab’, for example, or you know how to use words effectively that will instill a trance in people, or you know how to use words manipulatively. You can achieve a sale, but it’s usually not a satisfactory one, which is why you have rescission clauses so that people have 24 or 48 hours to back out of things.

The regulatory industry recognizes that the conventional way of selling is an externally persuasive way. In effect, what’s happening is that the process of asking questions as it’s was taught and as it’s still being taught is still based on the bottom line. It’s still based on getting what we want. People pick up on this energy. You can’t escape it. It comes out in your words. It comes out in the way that you talk. It’s a very powerful energy. That was the fatal flaw.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: How did you discover a new way of doing it?

MICHAEL OLIVER: It was a slow process. I still focused on the fact that there had to be another way. I still went through the process of asking questions. I got clarification. I still used certain closing techniques, but I backed off on those a great deal and worked out how to not make it such a hard close. Even though I could do it, I was very uncomfortable with it.

I was still working out ways how not to address people’s comments and questions as objections to be overcome. I was indirectly thinking about it, and it came to me when I was in England in the mid-90s. I was working with a company over there. I’d helped this company raise quite a lot of money to be able to expand. The investor asked me if I’d go over and help develop the company, which I did; I went to England to do that.

On arriving, I discovered-I didn’t do a huge amount of background check on it; I just knew the guy, and I liked where he was coming from and his integrity-that the sales force was virtually nonexistent. Having had experience in sales, I rolled up my sleeves. Having done a bit of training, I created a telemarketing team and also a sales force that would drive up and down different locations in the country to sell this company’s product and service.

In the process of doing so, I realized that I had to take responsibility of learning how to train properly. I came across other books that I started studying. I went out on the road, and then I found the key ingredient, which is what Natural Selling is all about. I learned how to be very calm. I was meditating at the time. I was learning how to be very calm when I was going into these meetings. I was asking questions.

I found that by being calm I was able to be very creative. Here is the thing. I detached from the bottom line. It wasn’t a matter of just shrugging it off and saying, “I don’t care if I get this sale or not.” I detached from my own need to make a sale, from my own need to be able to provide revenue for the company, or from my own need to demonstrate that I was a great salesperson.

I detached from all that. It became totally irrelevant in the conversation. I was able to focus on what people were telling me, what our potential clients were telling me. In doing so, I discovered that they picked up on this vibration. I didn’t use words like ‘vibration’ in those days-not like I do now-many, many years ago. It was just a feeling at the time. I knew that inside of me I had found that missing ingredient, which was the element of detachment.

I started studying that. I found that it was something that Socrates used. In fact, what I was actually doing was using the Socratic dialogue. Socrates, 2,300 years ago, would have conversations where he was able to detach himself from any kind of attachment to his own thoughts, as it were. In doing so, he listened intently to where others came from. Through a process of questions, he allowed others to question themselves.

They’d question what they’re doing, why they’re doing what they were doing, what they wanted, why they wanted it, and so on and so forth, until they came to an understanding that perhaps what they were doing was wasn’t really serving them properly. He wasn’t even attached to that. It was a process of elimination, of allowing the person to go through a process of elimination in their mind about what was holding them up from moving forward.

It doesn’t matter if it was through buying product, through service, or whatever it was. It was a matter of what was happening. I use that in the sales process, in the Natural Selling process. The Natural Selling process is not about one big conclusion or the big close. It’s actually a series of mini ‘Aha’s’ that a person comes to himself. They make that decision themselves to make a change.

Also, they realize themselves why they want to do that. It comes at the end, the final ‘Aha!’ It’s about themselves doing that. It’s not about me putting pressure on them. It’s about me assisting them in the process of discovering what it is they want, why they want it, and a few other things as well.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: That’s wonderful. I want to investigate this more. Before we go there, there may be some of our listeners who say, “I’m not a salesperson.” You’ve kind of touched on how powerful this could be for anyone, but if people don’t consider themselves salespeople, is Natural Selling something that can benefit them and that they could gain value from in their life?

MICHAEL OLIVER: Yes. I’m not a salesperson either. I used to be. I mean that in my sense. People will say from the conventional way of thinking, “I don’t sell. It’s not about selling; it’s about relationships.” No, the reality is it’s about selling. Where I’m coming from it’s not about selling because I’m not attached to the end result. That’s the other thing: I’m not attached. Even in my own program, Natural Selling, I’m not attached to you.

I’m not even attached to you having to agree with what I’m saying. You don’t even have to agree with what I’m saying. It’s up to you to decide whether you want to do that. I was in a very interesting conversation with somebody where I came up with a comment. Something was happening, which is actually very real and it was very hard for this person to grasp. It’s somebody I know very well, and he was being very resistant to the whole idea.

I reached over and said, “It doesn’t matter to me whether you agree with me or want to understand this or not. As a friend, though, I suggest you might stay open to the idea. Just stay open to it. I’m not asking you to agree with me. Just stay open to the idea, and maybe sometime down the line something will happen that will cause you to reflect and that will give you an idea that perhaps what I’m saying might have an element of truth to it.

“However, it’s only my truth and it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to affect us in any way.” Even just making that gesture, he was able to understand that by letting go and being open, he then was able to start discovering himself, which he started doing immediately. He started looking at what we were talking about by Googling it and to actually start a process there.

Whether he decides to embrace it or not is not something that I’m attached to. It’s this lack of attachment that enables me and people I teach to move forward. There’s an old saying I use: “If you let go of the outcome you’ll increase your income.”

CHRIS ATTWOOD: I want to investigate that a little bit, because whether people are salespeople or not, they might say, “What’s the benefit to me of this process? Great, I can have great conversations with people.” The reason people are generally attached to a sale or to a specific outcome is because they think they’re going to benefit from getting that outcome.

If I’m not attached, if I really don’t care what the outcome is, fine. I can have conversations all day long, but that’s not going to help me increase my income. How can people benefit personally by being non-attached and using a Natural Selling sort of approach? I want to investigate what that means. Let’s first address this.

MICHAEL OLIVER: That’s a fair question. It’s a big struggle for a lot of people. It’s the same as when you enter into the whole idea of spirituality, for example. How do you know? What’s there to be gained from it? It’s the same sort of question. It’s the same question that you’re asking: “Who am I? Why am I here? What do I want?” These are questions you ask yourself but you never answer it yourself because your ego will never give you the answer.

It’s only inside your heart, inside yourself, that the answer will surface. You just have to allow it to surface. The whole thing is, “What do I get out of it?” The irony is you can get out of it 10 times the amount that you would get if you were attached. There are two things that are happening here. There is a thing called personal agenda, and there is a thing called purpose.

Look at purpose: “What is my purpose? What is my agenda?” They, to me, are two separate things. In fact, if you look at Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws of Success you’ll find that the seventh law-that doesn’t mean it’s the seventh law; it just happens to be the seventh in the book-is the Law of Dharma or the Law of Purpose. It’s like, “Why am I here?”

The reason I’m here is to serve. By understanding the act of service and manifesting it into a practical application-not just thinking of it conceptually, but turning it into practical application-is how you ultimately serve yourself. It’s a balance. You have to serve yourself. You ultimately have to achieve what it is you want to achieve because that’s why you’re here. That’s why we are here. It’s to achieve what we want to achieve.

The question comes up, “Do we have to put ourselves first?” The answer, again, is yes because we have to take care of ourselves first. There is a way of doing it through helping others. Instead of focusing on what I call your personal agenda, which is to make money, seek fulfillment, have fun, or whatever it is, is to instead focus on your purpose. That is actually one of the first, or the primary, four principles of Natural Selling.

The purpose of the business, the purpose of why you’re selling, or the purpose of why you’re doing it is to help other people solve their problems, or to help other people realize their needs, desires or wants. This is standard, in a sense, sales terminology. The big difference is that’s it’s not about doing that in a manner that puts pressure on the other person, so that you are going to achieve what you want to achieve by putting pressure on the other person.

If you do that, now you’re focusing on your personal agenda. It turns the whole aspect of selling from a persuasion, or a telling, exercise into a problem-solving exercise with very different dynamics. You can think of it in these terms. If you take the first dynamic, which is the persuasion exercise, this is how most salespeople and network marketers think. They start off thinking-and if they don’t, I would suggest that they do-with a thought something like this.

“I want to increase my business today,” which is a worthy thought. That’s great. “I want to increase my business today. I need to focus on that.” Then they continue to focus by thinking like this: “In order for me to do that, I must go out and prospect as many people as possible, sign them up into my business, or sell them a product.” That is a self-serving thought, which has its own energy that people pick up on. They know what your game is.

They know what your real intent is because that is your thought. Your thoughts will manifest in those words as actions and as habits. There’s a saying that says, “Your words are an extension of your thoughts. Your actions are an extension of your words. Your habits are an extension of your actions.” People judge you, and what you receive in life is based on your words, your thoughts and your habits, which all started, where? With a thought.

That thought is self-serving, it will always be self-serving, and you will get what you want if you want it. For example, certain personality styles who are real drivers and who are only thinking of themselves will get what they want. It takes a huge amount of energy. It takes a huge amount of drive. A lot of times people will end up sick. The majority of people, the rest of the personality styles, the other 85%, won’t do that.

They can’t do that. They won’t do that. There has to be another way. There is that side of it where you focus on yourself: “I must go out and prospect as many people as possible today and sign them up into my business.” There is this other thought, which is getting up in the morning and saying, “I’d like to increase my business today.” Again, it’s a worthy thought.

Then there’s this way of thinking: “In order for me to do that I must go out and talk with as many people as possible today to discover if they have the types of problems that I might be able to help them solve.” I think that if your listeners are listening to this, compare the energy of the two statements. There are two different thought processes going through here.

I think most people agree-and I do this at workshops all the time now, and I haven’t found anyone to disagree-that the second thought process gives a totally different vibration and energy. It’s one of clarity. It’s one of service. It’s one of no fear. It’s one of approachability. There are a hundred different things that it means to different people. It’s one of relaxation. It’s one of calm.

It’s one of, in a sense, least effort because there’s no more pressure. It’s the process that’s the least-effort process. It’s how you go about doing that. That, to me, is the purpose; that’s my purpose. It’s to talk with people to discover if they have the types of problems I can help solve. As an example, I’ll go to conventions and I hang out in the hallways. People come up to me and say things like, “Are you a member of whatever it is?” I say, “No.” They say, “What do you do?” I’ll give them a little plug.

I say, “Do you know how a lot of people nowadays have a hard time? Especially distributors and network marketers have a hard time talking with people with all that rejection and all those objections they go through.” They look at me and say, “Yes.” I say, “What I do is I help people who talk with people in a very different way that eliminates rejection and eliminates objections as well, so they can start achieving what it is they want to achieve in a comfortable, effective way.”

Then I’ll be quiet. They look at me and say, “This is exactly what I want,” or “Tell me more about it.” Here’s the clue: if you’re in a conventional mode, you’ll start telling what you do. I’m not in a conventional mode. I’ll turn it around and say, “Let me ask you a couple of questions and see if I can help you.” I’ll ask them two or three questions, which will lead into other questions as well.

They’ll tell me everything that I need to know and that they need to know as to whether, in fact, they need to know what I know. I’ll find out whether they are prepared to actually listen to it or not. In that process, I haven’t said anything about what I do. I haven’t said anything about Natural Selling, but I’ve actually said reams about what I do, specifically who I am, and about Natural Selling just through the questioning process.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: Actually, it’s pretty amazing just to listen to you describe it, because there is a very substantial difference in the feeling of the approach that you’re describing. As we investigate this, you mentioned that there are four fundamental principles-if I understood correctly-of Natural Selling. You talked about them a little bit. Would you go through those four so people have them? Then we can dive into the pieces of it, if that’s all right.

MICHAEL OLIVER: Yes, sure. The other three principles are actually the principles that Socrates used in the Socratic dialogue.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: Would you repeat the first one for anybody who may have missed that?

MICHAEL OLIVER: Okay. The first principle, which is not necessarily part of the Socratic dialogue, though it could be, is that Natural Selling is helping other people solve their problems, or realizing their needs, wants or desires. That’s the first principle. The other three principles have to do with asking questions, listening and feedback. On the asking questions, the precise definition of that is that Natural Selling is asking the right types of questions at the right time.

It’s not just about questions. A lot of people now have caught onto the idea of asking questions. It’s not just asking questions; it’s knowing …

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