Yuri van der Sluis is a Dutch sales expert, speaker and author living in the Valencia region of Spain. His passion is helping B2B sales organisations to lead with trust because without trust in the sales process you’ll never create value. Full of inspiration and enthusiasm, Yuri speaks to Alex about his struggles and difficulties in setting up the business and the things he has learnt along the way, and what he hopes to achieve in the future.
You can connect with Yuri here:
00:52 – Where did the abbreviated name originate from?03:00 – How is B2B sales relevant today?
05:41 – Ideas for a person or business to build trust
10:00 – Tips for selling as a small business
13:23 – Overview of “Trust me I’m a salesman”
17:31 – Is writing a book a good way to connect with your audience?
20:30 – Why was the business set up?
26:18 – Struggles and challenges without the local market
35:09 – The future aims for the business
Click to Read Full Transcript...
Well welcome to my next guest. He is someone who has perfected the art of B2B sales based upon trust, and based upon being authentic but also avoiding the pitfalls of the 80s and 90s approaches of sales, which is all around high-pressure boiler-room sales etc. etc. So, this is Yuri Van Der Sluis, or better known as Yuri Van Der he calls himself. He’s Dutch, living in Spain today, living the true expat lifestyle and created a business all around his passion, which is around strategic B2B sales. He is also a speaker, and an author and his thing is about helping sales organisations really sell and build trust as they do it. Fantastic interview, let’s have a listen.
Alex: Hi Yuri, welcome to the call, pleasure to have you on the show.
Yuri: Fantastic and a pleasure about being here, Alex. It’s an honour.
Alex: Well we’ll save the honours for later, I think they’re more for you than for me. But, listen Yuri you’ve got this, you know it’s one of these funny Dutch names, you know Yuri Van Der Sluis and I don’t even know if I pronounced it rightly?
Yuri: Well, good enough, good enough, it’s fantastic. [Laugh]
Alex: But you don’t tend to use it on your website, you tend to use the abbreviated name, Yuri Van Der dot com?
Alex: How did that come about, where did you get this from?
Where did the abbreviated name originate from?
Yuri: Yes. So, Dutch would pronounce my name as Yuri Dan Ver Sluis, but obviously Sluis is so difficult, so people don’t even know how to spell it. So if you just take it off and say, ‘Yuri Van Der’ then everybody will have a pretty good idea how to spell it. Actually, the idea came about 18 years ago. I was travelling in South America, and it also happened a few other times as well. I remember taking a bus ride and there’s, I think it was in Peru and for some weird reason at the time they wanted my name to write on the bus ticket.
So, they asked me in Spanish and I responded saying, ‘Yuri Van Der Sluis’ and she just wrote down Yuri Van Der and just skipped my whole ‘Sluis’ part, she just you know [laugh] made it a lot shorter. I thought, ‘Okay, it makes sense. For them Yuri Van Der is good enough’. But actually it means right now ‘Yuri of the’ blank. [Laugh].
Alex: So there’s something missing?
Yuri: Exactly, but maybe that’s also nice, because we’re going to talk about sales. We’re going to talk also about the journey and an adventure. So ‘Yuri of the’ maybe all of us are on this journey to discover ourselves and to go to new places and wondering. We’re all wondering, so that’s why Yuri Van Der I like it, I don’t mind that there is a third part missing, or last part. Because then it’s also exactly the definition of creation itself.
Alex: Cool, alright well let’s go with that then. So, as you mentioned we’re going to talk a bit about B2B sales, business to business sales.
Alex: We’re going to talk about trust and we’re going to talk about how this Dutch man ended up in Spain. But, let’s just dive straight into your passion and that’s all about enabling businesses to sell to other businesses. I used to work in the area myself, in management consulting and it’s quite a complex process doing this kind of sales. So, just tell us a little bit about your philosophy around B2B sales and how it’s particularly relevant today?
How is B2B sales relevant today?
Yuri: Yes, a great question and it’s probably it has never been as important and relevant today as it has ever been. Right now what I see is that businesses they want to show that they can be trusted. We tend to give our views to even the restaurant or the hairdresser down the street.
With LinkedIn the world is becoming so much more transparent, you can even when you buy orange juice, on the back it will say exactly what the contents are, but also where it came from. So in this world of increasing transparency in business to business as well, we want to know that we can trust the company, the product, but also the person that we do business with.
The time, we all love the movie ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ with this day training, but promising the world on the phone, or as in digital dramatically change your business. That type of selling is becoming less and less effective. You can spam your world into success, but spamming is becoming illegal, even cold calling right now is a dying function, because people just don’t accept it anymore.
So, as a sales person, as a company if want to sell a serious service or business that is at least ten or twenty thousand dollars, or more, then you have to show your level of integrity and to show pretty much instant trust and credibility. You can’t say, ‘trust me’ because people will tend to not trust you, so you have to show it. It is the same as saying, ‘You know I’m funny’ and people say, ‘Well probably you’re not’ so you have to tell a joke so people will think that you’re funny.
So, how do you engage new customers in such a way that they believe that you have a high-level of integrity and at the same time it’s attractive whatever it is that you’re proposing? So, what I do right now is companies in Europe and around the world to help in today’s world. To guide potential clients for them, from A to Z, where trust, transparency and a high-level of quality is at the centre of the way how they’re selling.
Ideas for a person or business to build trust
Alex: I mean give us some ideas of what someone could do to build trust, with you know, with a counterpart that they are discussing sales?
Yuri: Yes, so you know I can give you a thousand of ideas. But, let’s start with a very simple one. That one of the most common mistakes is that you practice your own elevator pitch. I mean practice it so much and you believe in your elevator pitch that it’s a mental recorded story and it’s one story you tell to all.
The bad thing about it, it is completely discounting the audience. You’re not recognising the unique existence of someone else. So it’s a first mistake that you’re completely disregarding the other person.
So, if you want to build trust you have to show that you understand whoever is sitting in front of you, or in a video call, like us right now. Or, with an email that you show that you truly thought about the context of the other party, the company, the person, and you weave that in your elevator pitch.
You show that your level of research is something that is important to you, not because you know it sounds nice, ‘Hey I did my preparation’. But also, because you believe it’s important to ensure that you’re looking for value where it make sense. This already starts in the very first instance.
Alex: So I mean you work with a lot of clients around Europe, around the world. I mean have you found as you’ve gone into these clients you know a lot of you know ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ type set-ups, that you’ve gone, ‘Oh my god, you know what’s going on here?’ I mean without obviously naming anyone, but what have you found when you’ve gone into these kind of clients?
Yuri: Well, you can immediately see what strategy they follow. So, you either have a pack of wolves that are pounding the phones, spamming clients and telling stories, whatever it is just to get that signature. They’ve a high-level of customer churn and sales people tend to leave quicker and it’s a big mess.
Or, you got the other way round where you have a sales director or VP sales, who truly want these customers to come back and to buy more products and that they truly want to build a reliable, sustainable business. You can see instantly with where they would like to be; the majority wants to put value and transparency at the centre of the way they are selling, but don’t realise that what they’re doing often sounds more like a wolf way of selling, just because that’s what we’re all used to. We’re taught to, there is a Dutch phrase that, ‘A selling starts when the customer says no’. We’re just weird, why would you need to sell when a customer when says no? Even if the customer says yes, you still need to sell and you still need to qualify, you still need to ensure that there is value out of that transaction. It’s not a matter of yes or no, there is a degree of match and value and as a sales person you want to make a difference.
If you look at the majority of the sales methodologies being taught today are sadly still based on the 80’s and the 90’s and they’re not embracing the future way of selling, which is completely different.
Alex: I mean you are an entrepreneur, you have to sell yourself when you go around.
Alex: I mean if there were two or three things that you could perhaps share as experiences or tips for other people in a similar business to yours, what would you say with regards to selling? Because I think it’s the biggest task that a small independent business owner has, but it’s also sometimes the biggest fear they have –
Alex: – is to get out there?
Tips for selling as a small business
Yuri: Yes. So, there are several ways how to sell, obviously. But if we’re zooming in and not our process or technology or the scalability, but more in terms of how do you engage customers and how do you show that you can be trusted? It’ll become interesting for the other party as a consultant or an independent coach. I think it comes back to what I said earlier what I always do is to show that I understand their business, or I tend to understand their business. So, I immediately, it’s like the highest level of business empathy you can possibility absorb.
So, if I’m at B2B sales at a certain industry, I immediately zoom in and I’m trying to imagine what it would be like; the size of the company, the sector they’re in. The type of people they deal with; the type of customers that they have. I use that as a way of trying to level with that person, to first understand what world do you live in? Secondly, what are the challenges and how could you improve your life?
Now, my expertise is sales, but if I would be a coach in terms of stress, or, I’m a coach in time management, or finance, it doesn’t matter the process is still the same. You want to make sure that the other person feels that you understand that person, or at least try to understand. If you’re so busy with selling your product and how great you are, it’s you know, it’s fine but that is not the best way to sell anymore. Because right now, if they’re looking for skills, they can find any skill in the world. It’s not the skill that they’re buying, it’s the security that they’re not just buying the skill, but also the skill that is constantly looking to adapt their skill in your unique personal situation.
Alex: Wow, okay, that’s great. It reminds me of a phrase I’ve often heard and that is, ‘If you’re able to connect with somebody and describe their world and their problems better than anyone else, they’re more likely to believe that you have the solution to their problems’.
Yuri: Yes, it’s understanding the real problem is half the solution, that’s always my quote. Understanding the real problem is half the solution.
Alex: I like that one, maybe I’ll use that some time.
Yuri: Yes, fantastic.[Laugh]
Alex: Alright. So you’ve finally got your book out now in English, it’s called, “Trust me I’m a salesman”.
Alex: You know tell us a bit about the book, but also you know one of the metaphors you use in the book is this whole idea of the wolf and dogs and this idea of how they approach engagement. But, also I want to know why you decided to use cartoons as well in the book, which I thought was a very interesting way of laying out the book. But tell us a little bit about that?
Overview of “Trust me I’m a salesman”
Yuri: Yes, so it’s nice to tell short anecdotes. I was training one of the largest real estate companies in Holland. Actually it’s part of a global company and I did one exercise. There was this a woman and she did not believe in selling. She said, ‘It’s negative, and sales people always try to screw you. You can’t trust them, it’s always over the top and you can’t take their word for it’, all the negative stereotypes. So, I asked her, ‘So, surely there must be good sales guys in the world as well, right?’ ‘Yes, yes’. So I asked her, ‘What should a good salesperson do?’ ‘So, asking questions, understanding their needs, trying to add value. Be honest’ and all those terms.
Then something crazy happens, we did a role play. In my trainings I always do role-play because it shows in situations you’re simulating how to act in certain sales situations. Low and behold she copied the negative sales person she hated and tried to avoid being and that’s exactly the behaviour that she showed. Which was weird, so I asked her, said, ‘Why did you do it, you’re against that way of selling, and who taught you to do this?’ She said, ‘I don’t know, I think this is just a way how you should do business. So I’m that’s the behaviour I’m showing’.
It’s not only ineffective, but it was also against her nature. That’s the moment I thought, ‘Okay, the essence is the wolf between the dog and a lot of people want to find out how can they be successful by aligning with their personal values. Not being a different person in business and then you screw people and then you’re a good Father or Mother and you’re nice to kids, but business we screw each other.
A lot of people want to feel authentic and take those personal values and use it in business as well. But, then we need new tools, so I thought, ‘Okay, it’s great that from the process from the beginning to the end, I can show you even with a simple cartoon what would a wolf do, and what would the dog do? Because we know all of us know negative stereotypes of those sales people, because the wolf of wall street and all those born in a room type of movies. We’ve seen that behaviour, but an extreme dog, an extreme positive centre value and transparent salesperson, we don’t have any stereotype. We don’t have any examples in the world of a good successful sales person that has value and customer satisfaction at the centre of their business, as a person.
In companies we may know some examples, but as people we don’t have that stereotype, and it’s really annoying. Because we cannot be inspired by anything, there’s only what we try not to be and the sad psychological thing is, what we’re trying not to be, we eventually become.
So, we need a positive mindset and again, as an example, how could you act this particular situation? So, that’s why I wrote a book, that’s why I created the dog that also deserves the stage, not the sexy bad, funny, horrible salesperson that we can laugh about and enjoy the movies. But obviously, we would never buy from this person.
Alex: So, I mean the book, writing the book must have been an experience which was very cathartic, you got it all down on paper now. Has that been a tool which has helped you in your business in terms of getting your message out there? Because, you know a lot of people think about writing books, and thinking, ‘Well that could be really helpful for me to connect with my audience?’
Is writing a book a good way to connect with your audience?
Yuri: Yes, so it has helped me on a lot of fronts. First of all, it’s something that I give to, anytime I give a sales speech and a few hundred sales people in the audience, I get my book. Or, if I have an intensive training, 20 people in the room, I give my book.
But also, if I need a VP sales and I analyse their sales process and I look at, ‘Okay, what are the major challenges?’ I sometimes take my book and I show them just one visual to clarify why they’re losing customers. Or, why that their conversion ratio, certain opportunities are lower than what it could be.
So I’m using my book in my work, and not as much in terms of selling it online with landing pages and movies about my book. But in my business, it is absolutely boosted my level of authority. Also, my level of trust, because it’s not just talking about what you believe in, because that can seem random. The moment you put something on paper, and in a book it’s such a painful process, you truly have to believe in it otherwise you can never get it printed. It means that is something that you believe in, and I think it’s also one of the major mind-blocks or reasons why certain self-employed consultants are not writing books. Because it’s also scary to send out your message, what do you truly, truly, believe in, because it’s easier to adapt to what you think from an opportunistic level works here, or works there, but this is a way of coming out.
It’s really has liberated me in such a way that I feel that this is what I believe in, and whatever happens to the world this stays. Maybe that’s a bad thing about the book, but it’s also a good thing about the book, you won’t read an anecdotes. You won’t read statistics, you won’t reach friends. This is for me an universal law that will always apply, even a 100 years from now, when they are no books anymore and somebody finds, ‘Trust Me I’m a Salesman’ somewhere, I still want those values to be recognised, as something that is ethical, that is something that makes you proud. That it sets you apart from a good business person.
Yuri: Literally, but also from a result perspective, but also literally in the process and not just by the level of your bank accounts.
Alex: Fantastic. Well let’s go back, let’s go back in time a bit, because there’s a story here about how you got to where you know, to here in the first place. So, why did you set up this business, take us back to how you set up. How did you end up in Spain, or you are in the process of?
Why was the business set up?
Yuri: Yes, so I’ve been a salesperson in the business to business area for a while, for almost I think around 10-15 years and in my last job, that was about 10 years ago, I found that I really took a lot of satisfaction of helping sales organisations and my sales colleagues to become better at negotiating and landing new accounts. I thought it was so thrilling to help someone else to be successful, almost more thrilling to sign my own deals. Because after a while there was another con trick, and another con trick and then you’ve seen it, but to work with others to be successful, that was for me more challenging and actually more rewarding.
So that’s when I changed, so now I’ve trained about 12,000 people within 200 companies and it was mainly in Holland, and I love travelling. I’ve travelled around the world and I love Dutch people, I am Dutch. But you know, as a real Dutch man would say, ‘The world is bigger than just Holland’ and I want to embrace the world in its entirety, not just have a very limited of the world.
In fact in high school, I remember that one day, I don’t know why I remember this particular quote or sentence. It was a woman, a female teacher and she told the classroom, ‘Listen, Holland is worth nothing without its neighbours. You have to master other languages, learn English, learn French, learn German, learn other languages and connect to the world. Because, Holland would not exist without its neighbours.’ For some reason it imprinted, that single comment still drives me today. To reach out and to learn how other people are selling, how other people are doing business. To learn and to grow in a truly multicultural global society.
It’s not always easy but right now we’ve lived in six countries and up until the point that today since August last year, I live in Valencia with my beautiful wife and two kids. I’m travelling frequently out of Spain and we chose Valencia and we didn’t know a single person. A little bit of Spanish, not even that impressive [laugh] but we didn’t know a single person and I think that is the true adventure of life.
Alex: So you’ve got this mission to make this business that you’re running right now work?
Alex: Regardless of where you’re living?
Yuri: Yes exactly and we’ve all seen the beautiful videos online and remote working. First, you’ve got this sexy looking dude and a girl surfing and then suddenly they’re behind the computer and it’s all looks nice, but I have a family, I got two kids. You know apart from the fact that I’m a shitty surfer, [laugh] this is not a corporate life.
At the same time, I want to prove that even in a boring corporate life, where you’ve got rules and big serious processes, you can still prove that you can have a dynamic remote working situation working for you and I want to prove it.
Now I’m not there yet, because I still the majority of my business there will be about 70% or 80% that’s still Holland and I got clients in Spain and England and sometimes the US, but it’s still the majority is Holland. But by living in Spain, by moving from my local language everything to English, and launching online products, I’m moving away from relying on where I’m from.
Because if you can truly keep serving your customers, but find new customers that are not related to your home base, that moment is where true freedom starts, because that’s the moment you are, you kind of break away from your family in a way. You can live on your own and embrace the unknown world. For me Holland is my home base, my home country, it’s easy to find clients in Italy, or Ukraine, or India, for me as an independent consultant, trainer, speaker, that’s another level. That is something that I truly decided to master.
Alex: I think it’s a very inspirational message as well for a lot of expats who are setting up their businesses away from their countries. Because they do feel that vulnerability about being in a country where, you know if they are out of the job market, or if they’re looking to set up a business, how do I make this work? How do I not rely upon the local market and make sure that I’ve got footings around the region or the world? So, yes, that’s fantastic what you’re doing there, really, really, really aspirational I think for a lot of people listening to this call. So I mean it can’t have been easy getting to where you are today, now, I mean what have been some of the ups and downs that you’ve had along the way, what have you struggled with, or maybe still struggling with?
Struggles and challenges without the local market
Yuri: Yes, so, first the desire to have routine and the need of routine is something that I’m still struggling, because there’s no routine. So every week is different, a country and a ticket, and a hotel. Every week is crazy in a sense and I love dynamic world, but usually you, you know what I was used to was you go to an office, three weeks every month, or somewhere and then one week you travel and then you have to come back, but you have your daily routine. But now there is no daily routine, because every week is different. There is no routine, so that means I need to plan which country am I going to work, for how long, for which customer? I need to plan everything also with my wife and my two kids. So that is really challenging and I’m still finding that the best way to balance that.
At the same time what is starting to work more and more is you said it earlier, there are three choices. Either you fully rely on your old customers, your old network where you came from, but you decided to live somewhere else. So you fly all the time and you’re just living further away, instead of a traffic jam you take a flight, you still fully rely on your old network, your old business.
Or you completely mold it into your and become a local hero wherever you live. You know it will take a year or two years and you’ll find your clients, that is your choice. Or, you go to the third option, and that is what I’m doing right now. I start with what I my business is relying on and I’m moving it to the third scenario, that I keep certain customers and exploring new countries and new territories so I can choose my customers. I would love to have some new customers in Valencia, I live in Spain, Valencia. But, at the same time it doesn’t have to be Holland every week. So, that means there’s only one condition or pre-requisite that I need to change in order to make this happen. I have to bring a portion of my business online.
We all see there are a lot of guru’s out there that are moving to online training and online coaching. There is still this online training, online skills transfer is one of the, it sees the biggest explosion of new services in a whole new industry that you’ve ever seen in this space. Sadly, the people that don’t have the skills are bracing this new way of training and online training, but other people, like you and me, not saying we’re old, but the people that have 15 years of working experience, or 20, or 25, are still thinking in traditional business models.
You’ve got these young people, even with Instagram training and a lot of fancy stuff and fancy videos, and promising the world. But they are delivering these online trainings and the majority of people with skills and 25 years of experience like you and me, are not embracing this virtual online world yet, not fully. The majority at least, and I’m one of those and I have, I’m committed and I’m forcing myself. The easiest thing to do is move back to Holland, I’ve got plenty of business, good world, nice life, nice house, that’s it. But then I’m going to comfort instead of adventure. It’s either comfort or adventure and I choose adventure, so that means that I have to embrace technology. I’ve already written a book, so that’s one step forward and now it’s embracing the next step and that is delivering online content. Which I’m making right now and in March I will be launching this officially.
There’s another trick here, there’s another trick. Because if there’s nobody forcing you to do this, you end up in your comfort zone again.
Alex: Of course, yes.
Yuri: So, what did I do? I sold it to my customers, so every training or consultancy that I’m selling right now to a customer, I’m selling an online component attached to it and they pay for it. So now i have to deliver it and it will be in English, so in this way I am using what i have in Holland and it will transfer into this hybrid world if you will, that I have Holland but also other customers and the virtual world. Because I’m selling it so now I have to make it and I have to deliver it.
Alex: That’s brilliant, I mean I’m working with a client right now and you know he’s been typically working with a corporate market and it’s definitely been a face-to-face paradigm for him consulting and training. He’s just started to put out the idea to his clients, let’s do this online, let’s I can train you and coach you at distance. Just as, even better than before and to his absolute amazement, they said, ‘Yes, yes, I’m up for it, I’m up for it’ so if you can crack it with your customers and you know, sell this new way of delivering value to them, then I think as a independent business owner you’ve there’s gold at the end of the rainbow for you, because that’s going to really help you with your lifestyle, your freedom, you’re going to hit the jackpot there.
Yuri: Yes, the market is ready, the technology is ready.
Alex: Yes, absolutely.
Yuri: It’s only us and our mindset and it’s also you have to change the protocol. Because the majority of the clients, I’m talking about boardroom clients, large corporations. They prefer, if you’re selling yourself for two or three grand a day, or more, or two or three hundred Euros an hour because you’re an expert in your field. Then they prefer for you to be physically present, if you then say we can do a Skype session, it kind of takes the value out of it. So how do you sell something that will be perceived as a high-quality high-end to still be able to charge similar levels as if you would be physically present?
Yuri: So you have to be creative and it means that you need a few re-iterations before you crack that code. But these business models are emerging as we speak and I say let’s not give this market to either the LinkedIn platforms with online learning and only they can deliver the skills. Or the lower end, I love those platforms, Fiverr and People Per Hour, and Upwork. But there is a world in between, the online platforms for the very affordable skills and the high-end learnings of the LinkedIn learning platforms. In this world in between, this is something that we need to own together, educate our clients and find new ways of delivering content and skills.
This is something that I am working on everyday and it’s a not an easy journey, but I also know that this is the only journey that will make sure that I’m innovative and still living in a world that will there tomorrow and not be an old-fashioned guy that needs his physical flip over and go to your traditional classroom training, if you will.
Alex: Fantastic, very aspirational. Definitely what a lot of us should be aiming to achieve. Well listen, that’s a great story about what you’ve been through, how you ended up in Spain. What about the future, what do you think the future holds for you, what do you want to aim for with this business?
The future aims for the business
Yuri: Yes, so, like I said earlier, it’s what I aim for is to increase my audience. Right now I coach and train and I see maybe 500 or 1,000 sales people every month, few hundred. But I want to create a community and to share my message and my training to as many people in the world as possible.
So I’m going to invest heavily in this, and I’m also going to do a lot more online training and video training. Also actually developing software to help people to facilitate that sales process that we spoke earlier, to help them to become the dog in their daily work. With skills that will be available instantly, so that’s the software that I’m actually building right now.
So that is what the future world holds, but at the same time, who knows what the future will bring us. It’s always an unknown factor, but I always will be there to help and inspire sales people to make the most out of their opportunity. It doesn’t matter if you’re sales director or a VP sales that is managing a thousand salesman or sales organisation if you will.
Alex: All run from your world headquarters in Valencia?
Yuri: Valencia, yes.
Alex: That’s fantastic. Well listen Yuri it’s been an absolute pleasure. I’m going to finish off just by helping people understand how to find you. So you’ve got your website which of course it’s yurivander.com. We’ve taken of the Sluis bit there, so yurivander.com and people can hook up with you there. Although you do like to engage with people a lot on LinkedIn, you said it’s one of your favourite platforms?
Yuri: Oh absolutely, anybody can find me, Yuri Van Der Sluis s-l-u-i-s. They can link with me, and ask me any question. Also ask if I have connections or if I can help them with their business or with their ideas, anytime. So, definitely, definitely.
Alex: Yes and I’ll put the links in the show notes afterwards. Of course we’ve got your book on Amazon, “Trust Me I’m a Salesman”. Yuri, it’s been an absolute pleasure to talk with you. I know you are currently travelling right now, so you’re going to be back on the road soon.
Alex: But let’s do this again sometime in the future. Let’s carry on and I wish you all the best.
Yuri: Fantastic, thank you so much. I really enjoyed it and we’ll talk very soon, hopefully.
Alex: Thanks a lot Yuri, bye.
Yuri: Bye, bye.