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 going to 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 mindset 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 going
to 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’re
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 instances I’ll end up moving forward but that can be something that causes
you to lose a sale. So, if someone’s 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

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

Thanks again. I hope everyone has a great week.