Hi, it’s Ian Altman. Welcome to the Same Side Selling podcast, your source for integrity-based sales and marketing guidance to help grow your business. I am joined once again, by the talented Meridith Elliott Powell, Meridith can you give people a little bit of your background? By now they should know you, but just in case they don’t.
Well, I am a business, sales, and leadership strategist. My passion is helping my clients turn all of this uncertainty into their competitive advantage.
I love it. Most people know me through the book, Same Side Selling, and of course, the Same Side Selling Academy.
Today I want to focus on something you and I had talked about. We discussed how people are looking at the end of the year, going into the next year. Coming out of the pandemic is when we’re recording this. We’re talking about mid-2021. In the United States, we’re just hopefully finishing up this global pandemic. So, a lot of people are making decisions about how they approach their sales, marketing, and business development. What are some of the big mistakes that you’re seeing people make? Then we’re going to talk about what people should be doing instead to drive better results. So first, what are those mistakes that you’re seeing that people are making?
You know, I have to say, I love this topic. And I especially love this topic this year because every single person I talked to, we’re all turning around and going, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe how fast first quarter went, we’re halfway through second quarter. It couldn’t move any faster.” I think the biggest mistake you make is you’re trying so hard just to keep your head above water in the first two quarters that you don’t even think about the third and the fourth quarter.
Why is that important? Because everything you do in third and fourth quarter is going to determine your success in 2022. So, not realizing that honestly, by this time, if your engine isn’t rocking to close a lot of sales this year, keep it going. But realize you’re priming the pump more for 2022.
I love that perspective. I think that if we look at the pandemic, some businesses really thrived during the pandemic. They had huge opportunities and had explosive growth. I had a client of mine who grew from 42 million last year, and they ended up doing a little over a half a billion because they just were in the right place at the right time. People needed personal protective equipment that they happened to actually have a source for. So, it just it worked out great. They were able to capitalize on that.
Many other businesses struggled. I think that one of the things that we see is that people went from being proactive and strategic, to reactive and tactical. So, they started just responding to any opportunity or any place they can grab revenue. That’s what they went after, even if it wasn’t good revenue.
That’s something that I want to talk about a little bit: the difference between revenue in general and the right revenue. I think, for a lot of businesses, the mistake they make is they think any revenue is good. But sometimes we have those toxic clients or sometimes we get the clients who aren’t necessarily the right strategic fit. Those are the people who end up being the bane of our existence. They suck us into the vortex of evil and it sucks all the energy out of our business. So, do you have some thoughts on that in terms of just revenue versus the right revenue?
Yeah, all the more reason you need to be planning for third and fourth quarter, because if not, you wind up more with revenue rather than the right revenue. As you’re heading toward the end of the year, you want to make your quota, you want to hit your goal. So, you start grabbing at anything.
The other thing I think is that we’re all salespeople, right? And for salespeople, it’s the thrill of the chase. Sometimes when you reject me, it almost turns me on more. I want to try to land that deal even more than I did before. But, if I don’t catch myself, because we have all done this, you have landed that deal, you get that high, you talk to that customer into it, and, oh my God, did they make you pay for it 20 times over. You thought you won, but you just realized you signed your own death sentence. So, it’s all the more reason you want to plan. I always say you need to be selling from a place of power rather than a place of need. As you head into third and fourth quarter, to use your term, it’s not about chasing revenue, it’s about chasing the right revenue.
Part of it is, how do we attract those clients for whom we can have the greatest impact? Because let’s face it, depending on what your business is, not everybody is the right fit for you. The sooner you realize that the better. I spent time actually with a client of mine earlier today. And, I said, “Let’s come up with a list of criteria of those organizations who are the best fit. Those organizations who you’ll never have a debate about whether or not you’re adding value for them. And whether you do it uniquely compared to the competition.” They said, “Well, I mean, gee, those are our are the ideal clients for us.: Yeah, they look like this, but that’s not everybody. I said, “Okay. How many of those types of organizations do you think exist out there?” They thought about it. I said, “Well, I mean, we just don’t know who they are, but there’s probably 1000s of them.”
So now that we know that, now we’re going to figure out how to attract those people to you. That’s where we develop these types of strategic plans on how to pursue those types of opportunities. So, to me, it’s almost less chasing, and it’s more, how do we magnetize? How do we create this incredibly powerful magnet to attract those ideal clients to us? For many businesses, the sales cycle is not three hours, or three days, or three weeks. It could be three months, it could be three quarters, or whatever it is. So, we need to start planting seeds now so we can harvest later.
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My favorite exercise to do with my clients is I say, write down your top 10 clients. Write down those clients that if the phone rang right now and it was them, they bring a smile to your face. If you got up in the morning, and you thought you were going to spend time with them you’d actually be looking forward to it. They love your products. They never dicker with you on price. They understand the value you bring to the table.
The moment you write 10 of them down, you’ll start to see themes about them. They may or may not work in the same industry, but they usually hold a certain position in a company. There is a certain type of person. I know for me, a lot of my clients are weekend athletes, they’re family-based people, they’re typically at the top of the game in their company, they’ve done really well, but they want to push it and take it to another level. They’re tear them all apart, let’s take it to another level, type of people.
The moment I intimately understand them, then I can start to use the things that attracted them to attract people just like them. The writings, they were attracted to, the way that I sold them, the way I positioned products. It almost becomes like a crack a code or a crack a puzzle. If I can put together the pieces of how I won that business in the beginning, it is going to tell me how to win business of customers that are just like them.
I love them. So, that could be the first step for people. Rather than thinking about who you want as clients, look at who your best clients are today and find common attributes for those. Then, the next step can be, now that we know the criteria and what attributes make up our ideal clients, now we want to think about where do those people hang out? How do we attract and get in front of more people like that?
Because if nothing else, now that we know what those attributes are. We already have existing clients who would be great references for those clients. We’ll get to the idea of referrals a little bit later. But the idea is that even without the direct referrals — which certainly if you’re doing well, you’ll get direct referrals — we want to think, so if these are the attributes, where do I find other people like that?
People often say, “Oh, well, I can’t buy a list like that.” Well, can you log into LinkedIn? I mean, it’s already there in front of you. You just have to do a little bit of work. So, start with that notion of making sure that we know which of our clients are the ones that put a smile on our face, that we say, “Wow, this is a great client.” And then, we want to think about where do those people hang out and who else is like them? What other thoughts should people be looking at for planning that end of this year? Going into next?
Well, you know, I think the I think the other thing, too, is the fact that for some sales professionals, that can get scary, because in essence, what we’re telling you to do is niche. To really focus in on a specific type of client. But let’s talk a moment about why that works.
Think about when Amazon started. I mean, Amazon basically said we’re going to sell books online. For most of us, we thought that was insane. You go downtown to buy a book. You like the experience of sitting in the bookstore. So, Amazon did not try to sell to us. They knew their ideal customer. And, once they knew that ideal customer, they sold to them and allowed them to sell the rest of us on the idea.
Because, you know, as Ian said, we’re going to get into referrals. You have to make people happy before you can get referrals. And the reason you want to know this ideal is because this is who you can make happy.
Now the third step I think you need to take beyond that is you need to go back to those top 10 clients, and you need to have a conversation with them to intimately understand the problems they’re facing right now. Because, if you’re going to attract more people like them, you need to understand what the current problems are. Far too often, we’re way too comfortable with our existing customers. Hopefully, we’ve reached a relationship where, if they have a problem, they’ll call us. We don’t necessarily have to work as hard because we did so much work on the front end. But they can become a goldmine, for you, of information. They can tell you what to write about, what videos to shoot, what places to go, and what to talk about that’s going to attract people just like them.
Meridith, I love that you touched on this idea of focusing on the problems that they’re facing right now. Very often, I’ll ask somebody, “Well, so, what problem do you solve for this customer? And, their response is, “Well, what we do for them is we do this and this and this”. I’m like, No, no. Not, what do you do for them? That part is easy. From their perspective, looking through their lens what do you solve for them or what are the problems they are facing that you’re not solving, and no one else is today? Because that’s the mindset that I believe is critical when we’re reaching out and trying to attract new business.
If we use a medical metaphor, I think of it this way. We’re not just going out peddling our treatment, saying, “Hey, do you want amoxicillin, do you want amoxicillin?” Instead, we want to look at it as, what are the symptoms that might be an indication of a condition that we’re really good at treating? So, we don’t want to say to people, yeah, we have a treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome, because most people who have carpal tunnel syndrome don’t know it. But, if we said, “Our clients come to us when they have numbness in their fingers, when they maybe have discomfort when they’re typing, when they’re playing with family members, or playing sport. That could be an indication of something called carpal tunnel syndrome, or two other conditions. We’ve had great success in helping people solve that. Well, now someone says, “Yeah, I do have that symptom. I wonder if it is that condition. It sounds like they’re good at treating it.”.
So, we always have to lead with the problems that we solve or the symptoms that we treat. I think that the trap that a lot of people fall into is they describe their treatment, or their product and service, or dare I say, features and benefits, when the reality is that if people don’t think they have the condition, they don’t care about the treatment.
The other thing I think that sales professionals need to understand, we all need to understand, is that the condition is constantly changing. In an uncertain marketplace, it is constantly changing. Ian, right before we started this podcast, I was on a sales call with a client of mine who’s an ideal client. I love her, she loves me. She refers me a ton of business. I was just checking in with her to kind of see where we are on things. We’re working on a project. And I said, “Tell me some of the roadblocks you’re running into?” She sells a piece of technology, and she said, “People just don’t feel they can get their sales teams to make the culture shift in order to sell”. Now, I sell sales training. What I do with her a lot is sales training. But I immediately heard, I have to solve the problem to help her sales team understand how to convey to make a culture shift. All of a sudden, not only am I going to solve the problem for her, but she also gave me a great idea to go out attract clients like her, because this is the current pain point. Now when I had talked to her three months ago, this was not the problem. You have to stay on top of it.
I love that. So, we need to make sure that we’re checking in with our clients on a regular basis.
Now, I mentioned that we will come back to referrals. One of the things is that, when we have those 10 clients, who we’ve had great results for and we’ve got a great relationship, and we adore those people. I’ll give you the approach that I tend to take with my clients, and then I encourage them to take with their clients. Then, I’ll give you opportunity for rebuttal on different strategies because there’s more than one way to approach this.
So, the approach that I often take or tell my clients to take is this notion of the first thing we want to do is confirm the results that they’re seeing. So, we say to them, “Well, I know when we started working together here’s what we were hoping to achieve. Zero to 10, how well do you feel we’ve done that? Because if they tell you well it’s been like a six, they’re probably not going to be a great referral source right now. So first of all, make sure that they’re thrilled with what we’ve done. Then, what we want to do is we want to say, “So remind me, this is the challenge you were facing at the time, right? Yeah. Okay. Can you think of one or two other individuals or organizations like you, who might be facing that same type of challenge, and would like to be in the same place that you are right now?” The reason I do it that way is that if I ask, “Can you think of anybody,” your brain creates this kind of amorphous bucket of people. If I asked you, “Can you think of one or two other people, your brain creates an ordered list with a slot or someone in the one slot with specific names. Then they’re likely to say, “Oh, yeah, I can think of two people right away — this person and that person. Then I ask, “What’s the most comfortable way for you to make that introduction? Would you rather do it via email, or via phone, or to schedule a lunch together?”
Now, what we’re doing is, we’re turning this conceptual idea into action. The beauty is that then we say, “Would you like us to send you a draft intro? Of course, you can edit it, I just want to make it as easy for you as possible.” And your note says, for example, if someone was referring to you, Meridith, would be, “Oh, we had this issue we’re facing. We reached out to Meridith who really helped us solve it. From our past discussions, I have a feeling this might also apply to your business, and I thought you might appreciate the introduction.”
What you notice there is that they’re not doing us a favor by making the introduction. They’re doing a favor to the people who might be experiencing that same challenge. So, it’s not like, hey, can this person call and harass you for the next six months. It is here is someone who might be able to help you.
Now I absolutely love that’s it. That’s a fantastic approach. The typical approach, I take it, I have about three different ways that I approach it. Number one is, before I close out a contract, if I’m doing training or I’m doing consulting, I’m always keenly aware of their vendors, partners and who they’re connected to in the association. Every client I’ve got has buddies that they work with. Usually not a competitor. Somebody maybe in another state, on the other side of the country, or even somewhere else in the world. So, I’m keenly aware of that just in the fact that you’ve been pretty close to them in the conversation. So as soon as I make them happy, and we achieve the results we achieve, I might say, “Ian, this has been fabulous working with you, and I really want to work with more people like you. I noticed that both Tracy and Savoya are both two people that you work really closely together with and I’m thinking that we could do the same type of work for them. Would you be open to making that connection?” Now, usually, I rarely get any problem at all. If I do get any pushback then I go to my third choice.
I’ll tell you, my second is to just getting a really good testimonial, because I might reach out to Tracy or somebody by using social proof by saying that I just finished working with your company and use it as an introduction. I’ll use that testimonial as social proof with the next person to open the door. “Ian suggested I reach out to you, but Ian doesn’t necessarily want to get involved.
The last way I approach it is fairly open and fairly simple. A lot of this I do for my keynote speaking engagements, because I’m only going to go in there typically to do one keynote, and most likely, they won’t have me back next year. I make a referral to them of who they should have on stage next year. So, it takes the problem off the table for them. And I say, “I know you work with a lot of other meeting planners; I’d love to have a connection to work with other meeting planners just as great as you, would you keep me in mind?”
That’s great. That’s great. So that wraps up that whole notion of referrals. So, I want to recap all the stuff that we talked about here so that people have a concise way to do this. So, I’m going to do my best to recap things. I generally forget stuff and leave things out, so Meridith, hopefully you’ll back me up after this and, and clean up the mess that I create trying to try to do this recap. Here’s the key stuff.
First is, when we’re planning for the end of this year, going into next year, the first place you want to look is your top clients right now. Who are the people that make you smile? And in that way, we’re getting an idea of the profile and the attributes of our ideal client. Then, we think about where might those people exist elsewhere in the world and how do we connect to those people?
We want to think about connecting to our existing clients and think about the problems or challenges that they are facing today so we can talk about and describe those symptoms that we’re going to be treating.
Then, when it comes to referrals, we want to reach back out to our existing clients. First, make sure they’re really satisfied. Then, we give you a couple different approaches for how to get those referrals. One of which is, “Hey, I noticed you worked with these people and those people. Are those the kind of people who might benefit from what I do as well?” The other side is, “Hey, who else is having this same type of challenge who might appreciate the same outcome that we’ve delivered for you?”
What did I miss Meridith?
I think I think you did a fantastic job. The only thing that I would add, is take all this, use the time now to create the strategy for third and fourth quarter. You’re going to need the energy to keep your foot on the gas. You’re going to need to be proactive. So, take the time now to be methodical about who you want to call on, why you want to call on them, what your approach is going to be, and what your ask is going to be, as far as getting referrals. You do that and you’re going to finish 2021 strong and you’re going to start 2022 off even better.
Fantastic. So Meridith, where can people learn more about you and connect to you?
Well, they can find me at my website, which is ValueSpeaker.com or follow me on LinkedIn. I tend to live on that social media channel. I’m a big believer – build your network, change your life. So, if you reach out and connect with me, I will connect with you.
Fantastic and please feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. If there’s another Ian Altman, I’m not aware of them, but I’m pretty easy to spot on LinkedIn. And of course, at SameSideSelling.com. We will see you on the next episode of the Same Side Selling podcast. Bye.