James Muir, the VP Sales Eastern Region at Marketware.
James is the founder and CEO of Best Practice International and the bestselling author of The Perfect Close. James is a 30-year sales veteran, having served in every role – from individual contributor to executive VP. His mission is to make the complicated simple.
James has an extensive background in healthcare where he has sold to and spoken for the largest names in technology and healthcare including HCA, Tenet, Catholic Healthcare, Banner, Dell, IBM, and others.
Michael:The reason why I asked Dmitry to set up this call is that the team and I are focusing on being very good in lead generation. So we are working hard, reading a lot of books, learning a lot of practices and kind of wanting to maximize our value to our clients from the lead generation perspective, but what we've seen a lot of time is that those that are closing, those on the client-side that wanted to close deals are not that good.
So what I want to understand from the practitioner like yourself is what I can pass to my clients so they can be better at what they're doing, and how I want to build this conversation with you is that first I wanted to better understand how did you start with sales? Because I've seen that you've been in sales for like 20 years now, and you first started as a salesperson at NextGen Healthcare?
James: That's not even right. That's not even right. I've been in sales for about 30 years. I started as an operations person in a revenue cycle, family-owned revenue cycle business, and I got drafted into sales because they opened up an office in a location where they had to have someone who could run the business but also have to go sell.
Prior to that actually, I would go with the salespeople on their meetings to answer hard questions. I remember thinking, Man, I hope I never have to do that. Then, what do you know? Here I am in sales! It turns out that was the best place for me, actually, for what I am, so I've been in sales even longer than it looks like on my LinkedIn profile.
Michael: What was the kicking point when you decided... so you were in operations and then you moved back to being a full-time salesperson sales executive? What changed in your mind where you decided to say, okay, I want to dedicate my time to be better in this craft? James: Well, that also was the crisis. So I thought I was eventually going to be able to run that office and show everybody how great a manager I was going to be. And what happened is, are we had acquired another business and their number one sales guy left and took a whole bunch of clients with him.
So I went from having to manage and do a little bit of selling to doing all sales. And there was a ton of pressure associated with that too, because it was like, hey, if you don't bring in business, we're gonna have to shut down this whole office and all these people are going to lose their job. It wasn't what I signed up for, and so I just learned the hard way and I did not know how to sell at that time.
And so I started scouring books and reading all these different things to try to figure out. The problem that I had is that I had tons of opportunities in my pipeline, but they weren't ever closing, and so my pipeline was just really bloated. And so I started reading all these different books. If you name a book on closing, I've probably read that book, and I tried some of these tactics and some of them backfired - very badly. Very badly!
I lost a really, really, really big account that we already had by practicing one of these bad closing techniques on one of our existing clients. Anyway, it was through the school of hard knocks, but that's how I wrote the whole book.
Perfect closed originated with me trying to solve my own closing problem, and I stumbled upon that by accident. I was talking to a client and I needed to get some business out of him, or we were going to be in really big trouble. This client was very gun shy; they'd already been burned by another rev cycle company, and they didn't know what was wrong inside their organization so we can know exactly what happened. And they said yes.
And I'm like, okay, so I did all this homework for them. There was a lot of extra sweat equity involved in getting that idea, but what I learned is that later I was reflecting what made them say yes to that when nobody else was saying yes. And it was just that little phrase - that doesn't make sense.
That's the thing that got me doing that. And so later when I started managing my own teams, I sort of tricked out that whole process and made it even better than it is, but I suffered a lot like a lot of other salespeople with a whole bunch of deals that are in my pipeline, but none of them going over the finish line. I couldn't get them to close and so that whole thing was my personal journey from not only how to sell at all and move deals across the pipeline, to be able to get every deal closing and always moving forward.
Michael:What was the trick that you wanted to try out, the sales trick you wanted to try that worked, that you fell back on? Do you still remember that?
James: Yes, I used an alternate choice close on them, and here's what the guy said to me. Everything was going fine up to that moment, and then when I use this alternate choice closing on him, he pushed back from the table and he got this look on his face like he just ate something bad.
And he said, if you think that you're going to get this deal just because we're already an existing client, you are wrong. And he looked at me, and so he knew immediately I was doing a sales tactic on him and that really offended him, and he proved it to me too. He was already a client for one part of our business, and we were trying to get him to be a client for another line of business that we had, and he was pissed.
When I use that alternate choice close, an assumptive close basically, he said, if you are assuming that you're going to get this business just because we're already a client, you're wrong with that, and he proved me wrong. He actually bought a worse product for more money than our product was. Just to prove a point he bought the other guy's stuff, even though it was the worst choice for him.
So I learned most of those books that you read that have these closing tactics in them, they're all telemarket or timeshare related, meaning I've got a really big-ticket item. I need to sell it and I can only sell it in one encounter, and that's not how most of us sell.
Most of those tactics are all very dysfunctional selling tactics. And so obviously, what I wrote about in my book is just how to do that in a way that's non-confrontational, it's no pressure, and it makes the customer feel like they're in control. And it's more effective, it's far more effective.
That's what the data shows actually, is that all these other techniques actually backfire. So you'll be more successful if you don't try to push the customers.
Michael:That alternate choice close, can you explain what the technique is about? Is it just you take this or you take that, or you have 2 options on the table, which one works for you? And then he said, No, I don't want any of that.
James: Yeah. So for those who are listening that don't know what an alternate choice close is, it is where you give them two options. Both have options, which are you, so that would be like, hey, do you want to buy the green car or the red car.
Either way, you're buying a car, or more commonly when we're making appointments, and it's less risky when you're asking for an appointment is do you want to schedule something for Tuesday or Thursday? And so the truth is an alternate choice close can work. I've used it actually quite a few times. But what the data shows is, the bigger the opportunity gets, the less effective it is. And so when you're selling things that are tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, then you can't use these old tactics. That's what the data shows.
The data also shows that it damages the trust relationship with a client as it happened to me with my client. And so there was a study done - this is a long time ago - of B2B customers, and they studied six different closing tactics. And in fact, if I look here closely, I could probably tell you the exact closing tactics that they used.
An alternate choice is one of them. But what they found is that every case, every closing tactic damaged trust, and the ones that were the most manipulative damaged trust the most. And so the takeaway is that in the B2B selling space when you're selling things that are above 500 bucks, you can't use these tactics.
And so that's the challenge because a brand new sales rep, they want to learn how to close, they're probably just Google it, but what they're going to find is all these tactics that were invented in the late 20s, when salespeople sold very cheap items and so they don't actually work for the kinds of sales that most of us do today, especially a B2B or a high tech sale like yours.
Michael:And when you have a sale cycle that is stretched and you need to invest 12 months into building relationships with clients, rather than relying all your hopes on one or two calls, what would be the top three failed sales techniques that salespeople are currently still using, especially the beginners?
James: Well, there's a free report on my website called the Seven Deadly Sins of Closing. There's a bunch of myths - I call them myths - The first of those actually is just that they even work.
Neil Rackham actually studied that, and they found that those that had the most faith in these closing gambits, I call them were actually 21% less effective than those who did. But the one that everybody knows that is actually wrong is the always be closing. And so, thanks to Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross, we all know always be closing and it's so memorable, but what the data actually shows is that past the first attempt to close, there's a negative correlation between closing and sales success.
We even know how much. It's 33% less. So you're going to sell 33% less if you keep badgering the customer about that. So if the product that you sell is below 110 bucks, then you can continue to ask and it will actually improve close ratios, but above that number, it will actually decrease your success ratio. So always be closing is easy to remember, but it's absolutely not true.
Michael:Always be closing - number one.
James: Another one is what I was just mentioning is that people think that these closing tactics apply to whether the sale is big or whether it's small. What Neil Rackham proved, in his study of over 35,000 face-to-face sales encounters, is that once the deal gets above a certain size, the tactics that used to work don't work.
And so when you force the person to make a decision, we're trying to put them in in some area where they got to make a commitment if the value or the risk of that commitment is low, then those closing tactics that put pressure on, that can actually increase sales.
He measured it; it actually went up by about 4%. It's not a lot, but it went up a little bit, but above a certain amount and the threshold that he tested in the 80s was only $109, anything above that once you used those closing tactics, it actually had a negative correlation.
So the truth is that using those manipulative closing tactics on anything above 110 bucks is going to backfire on you. And so the myth that you can use the same tactics just isn't true. You have to use a very different approach when you're selling high-tech, B2B, multi-stage complex selling.
Michael:Do you see there is a vast difference between your approach in sales when we're talking about the deals that are up to $50,000, between 50 and 1 million, and then go up on to millions and in terms of, you know, how the salesperson should behave or how mature the salesperson should be?
Do you think that people with just a few years’ experiences but are talented, who read a lot of books, they know what they're doing can close those multi-million deals, or they need to be experienced in that regard and have a lot of failed calls?
James: I don't think you have to fail a ton to be successful if that's what you're saying. I do think that you can study. I'm an example of that. I went to school to learn a totally different thing and then ended up in sales and then I've done that for the last 30 years. So I think that it can be learned. It can be taught. I would say that there is a threshold once you hit like 50,000.
And there are multiple people, there's a very different set of skills that you have to have that just don't exist when you're selling something less expensive than that, and that's because there's a lot of people involved. There's a lot of risks involved, and so you have to make sure that it's a win for every single person that's involved in the process.
A classic book that I would recommend to almost anybody that's in complex selling is called Strategic Selling by Miller Heiman, and that book explains that companies don't buy things, people buy things, and that every person has a different opinion and a perspective of what's happening whenever you're in a complex sale.
And so what you actually have to do as a salesperson is you have to meet all those people and you have to figure out what their needs are. You have to make sure that their needs are going to get met by the solution and explain that to them so that everybody gets a win and that makes the process much more tedious than stuff that where you might be used to over the telephone, or where we're doing web-based selling where we might have one or two encounters.
Michael:And do you think that the same logic where we see the trend that people buy more from people than from companies led us to the point where we see that the influencers are commonplace, and people start following more people and you need to build your own brand first, and invest in yourself, invest in what you're doing, and then you build up a product line or service line, or you just than always have a client that are following you wherever you go, what you do and while hiring salespeople or interviewing salespeople, you need to look at how big the community is around your brand. Do you think that that's this true statement or ...?
James: It's true that brand is important, but so also is your own personal brand. Just to give you an example of that. I've been in healthcare technology for 30 years or so, and I have sold in those 30 years, some of the same people 3, 4, 5 times in that time, and the reason is that once they understood that when I promise them that they were going to get the result that I promised, even if I had to go put some sweat equity in to do it, they trusted me and they knew that I would never bring something to them that was going to fail.
They knew I would not bring them something that was bad. And so what they were doing in that case, just like you said, Mike is they're buying me. They're buying me as much as they're buying the product.
I think it's really important for anybody in sales to start building your personal brand now. And that means making sure that all the things that people see on the outward side of what you are are reflective of who you are as a person. So you have to buff out your LinkedIn profile.
You have to be on all the social networks and you have to be careful about what you put on Facebook. Don't ever do or say anything that you wouldn't want to be blasted all over the internet because that's the world we live in and I'm okay with that. You should live every day with that if you ask me.
Don't ever do anything period that you wouldn't want to be blasted over the internet, and that's probably a good moral for life. But those are important things because what the data shows is that people actually before they meet with you, they actually look you up in the different social platforms to see what they're dealing with, and so that's an important place to start.
Then, of course, you got to do good work for customers. If there's a shortcut in sales, then I would say it's just to do a great job for a client and have that client help you get other clients. That means you as an agent of your company promising and making good on your promise that you're going to deliver the results that you say you are, and that when you do that, all you have to do is record a before and after and now you have a case study and a happy customer, and that customer helps you get more customers.
Michael: Here's the challenge that I see. Sometimes when your pipeline is being split into several roles, when you have a hunter and then you have a farmer for example, or when you are closing deals and you're constantly focusing on bringing new clients, taking new calls, qualifying customers and moving them to close, and then you have people like account managers or customer success managers that are making sure that the value that you spoke about to a client, or that you evangelize can be met with by the team by the delivery.
And the challenge that I see sometimes when you are focusing, and I've seen that with my own example,I when I'm focusing on my own pipeline, sometimes I just don't have time to attend to those people that I already started building relationships with. Do you have any advice on how to solve that problem?
Obviously, what I think is that you can always add people on social on LinkedIn, Facebook, like their photos, endorse their skills, sometimes send a quick message once or twice saying,
Hey, guys, how are you doing? Is everything alright with you? Do you have any suggestions or feedback that I can incorporate or help you with? Something like that, but are there any other kinds of modules that you can use in your work with customers after you already pass them over to your customer success team.
James: Oh, yeah. In fact, a lot of managers might not like what I'm about to say, and I'm sure a ton of support people won't like what I'm about to say, but there has been a huge benefit to me as a personal salesperson. So first of all, when you create a relationship with a customer, it's your relationship, and you make it that way forever.
So do not ever hand off your relationship to someone else. There might be other people in your company that will do service and other things, implementation, training, maybe programming, all that kind of stuff, you still have a relationship with them.
And you need that, by the way, because that relationship is very, very valuable over time. So if you're in sales for a career for a long time, you want to have that relationship with that person, and I'll give you an example.
I remember I was working in the west for NextGen Healthcare, and we were selling organizations out here, but one of our clients that had had really great results was actually in Atlanta, and so I called this guy on the phone, and by the way, we had rules in our company, for whatever reason, the implementation support people are always worried that salespeople are going to ruin the relationship that we have a client. They're always worried about that. But that is not the case.
That is not the case, and I don't know why they're guardians of the clients like that but there that is a real phenomenon. So what I did is I ignored all those rules. I called the client up on the fly and this is their CEO I'm talking about. Now I've heard great things about you guys. Tell me how you're doing it. What are you doing? And this guy spent about an hour with me on the phone telling me all the great stuff they have done, the way that they had used our product to create all these great results.
And then later, it wasn't that call, but was later I had a client clear over on the west coast and I asked the client, hey, do you want to see someone closer? Do you want to see a place that's really doing it? And they said We want to go to the place that's doing it as well as it can be done. I said we should go to Atlanta. Let's go talk to Jack Reed. So we jump on a plane, we go over there, and of course, I called Jack. Hey, can I bring somebody else to see you?
And he goes, yeah, of course, all because I reached out to him and created that relationship. And literally, probably 50 to 80% of all the site visits I ever did, I convinced people to fly across the country to go see this one guy's site so they could see how great it was. And that's because I created the relationship with this guy and we continued that. There are other things that we did to build the relationship, but the whole point of all this is this guy got that it was valuable to be able to help us as a company and me personally to bring people out to his place.
Plus, it kind of was great on his ego. And so sometimes you'll bump into clients that actually have that mindset, that understand that if I help this company, it also helps me. That kind of client, that is pure gold when they get that.
There are other kinds of clients. There are clients that are takers and they never give back. But when you find someone that gets that, boy, you better nurture that and never give that client relationship away to somebody else and stop. The idea that you're going to sell somebody then just move on is not really a thing. I would just totally recommend against that, the whole fire-and-forget type of sale is not a good strategy if you're going to be in it for a career.
I've been in it for 30 years, and as I said, I sold many people products that are hundreds of thousands of dollars, multiple times, and that's because that relationship is there and they trust you. So that was a long answer to what you said, but break down those walls that your company puts with you and your clients. If there's a good customer within your client base and you've heard about them, reach out and create a relationship with that person because it'll be valuable to you.
Michael:Here is a scenario for you. So you build this great relationship with the customer. You deliver them to your client's team that is making sure that the goals are met, and they fail. Something happened, deadlines were passed, something went wrong.
The clients reach out to you and saying hey, James, I want to seek your support because your team failed, and you say, John or Mike, I will take care of things. I'll make sure that it works, but then the team failed again.
So the client will not get back to you again. How would you solve that challenge? What would you do if you see that is in fact happening? Would you be honest with a client and say, we don't want to lose your business, but it just doesn't work right now? Or have you had any?
James: You always have to be 100% truthful and honest with a client, ad what you're describing, I would say in each case is very unique. You need to find out what it is that went wrong because sometimes ... it's never true that if I implement a system, it's 100% success every time because the client has stuff they got to do on their side, and so often, the thing that is going wrong is on the client-side.
They're not doing their job and so they'll try to often push it on to the company and say that it's our responsibility that they're not doing their stuff, and of course, we know better than that. But we still suck it up on our side. Customer's always right.
But if we have done the customer wrong and we fell short somehow, then we got to figure out a way to make that good, so an important kind of problem-solving mindset to have is well, what are they actually trying to do?
What's the end game? So if a feature doesn't work, as long as we can get to their end result some other way, a workaround or some other strategy, then maybe that gives you a latitude to try other things to solve the problem until we can get the way it's supposed to be working. I would say it's very situational, but you try to help the customer.
You always own up to it, and then if it keeps happening over and over again, Mike, I would just say you need to take a close reflection about where you're working, because if, if you're not delivering, if you're working for a company and the rest of the team cannot deliver on our promises, then you have to go to a place where you can authentically and honestly tell customers with integrity that they're going to get the results you promised. So if you're working for somebody where that's not the case and you're just selling vapor, I would get out of that as fast as you can.
Michael:Well, because you're not selling vapors, people could be selling vapors, they like their business.
James: If you want to enjoy sales, you don't want to be in those awkward moments where the customer calls you on the phone and said, Hey, you lied to me. We don't want that. And the funny thing - it was just like a joke. The difference between a car salesperson and a software salesperson is the car sales guy knows when he's lying, but in the software world, sometimes we think everything's working the way it's supposed to work.
Everybody in the whole organization finally get out to doing it, it doesn't work as we thought, and so those things will happen but if it's happening a lot, you got to take a close look at where you're working because what will happen in the long run, believe it or not, is you will telegraph unintentionally your knowledge that you're hurting the customer by selling, and so your success will totally plummet because there's a whole bunch of hidden messaging that takes place between two people, and just like that dog can smell fear, customers can tell when you're trying to fool them.
Michael: It's so true. What I have also seen is that sometimes if you're not in the software business, but if you're in service, business or managed service business when you are dealing mostly with people, sometimes when you're approached by the customer, they want you to create magic. They want you to solve all their problems.
I have this problem. Solve it! And if you didn't solve it, then they say, I paid you the money; you didn't solve the problem. So suck up and then you fail. And what I see a lot of times is that whenever companies that are dealing with other companies don't have the same willingness to do their best, to work hard, to grind, to change, and they just need that service provider just to help them with their specific skills.
I don't know marketing, I'm looking for a marketing agency, but it doesn't mean that I don't care about marketing, and those guys will take care of the marketing. It just means that I need to also to know about marketing, I want to change my marketing, and those folks just help me out with some hard skills, with quality, with strategy or something.
But I want this marketing. And I think that a lot of time when companies fail, when you sell software, but from that side, no one cares about the software because they were not decision-makers, and that's just the problem.
So anyhow, I wanted to spend the next 10 minutes talking about The Perfect Close and especially about the last chapter, the one where you summarized the seven easy steps for perfect closing, and I wanted to ask you while we're on this session to go one by one and then if we can use a real example, for example, a facility or healthcare company, which we can sell to, and we can go and see which kind of tools you can use advise to use. How would you do that preparation and how would you handle that, just kind of high level but with some kind of details?
James: And maybe it makes sense to teach them what the perfect close is before we go through the other seven steps.
Michael:Yes, it is. It is. Sorry about that. Yes, it makes sense. I think that I will put a link to the book and a short summary of the book so anyone who will be listening to this can go and check out the book first and the summary and the idea, and then they will know for sure what we're talking about.
But what I like with the book when I read it, and I will be honest with you, I haven't read the full book yet, but I got a very close glimpse at what the book is about, and what it was specifically is that you are a practitioner. I like that you basically tell people what to do, what to use and what not to use, and it's great because this is actually something that companies like myself are looking for. If I have a sales team or as your team, I want to have a guide at hand that I can say, hey, listen, this is the book that I want to read and then you need to follow that. Because sometimes when you encounter books on sales, these are books just about the methodologies, like you need to get this or you need to be about this, but they don't give a real example like this is what the phrase you need to use, this is the sentence you need to use, and this is what I see how great the book that you wrote is, specifically in those details of the conversation that you can have with a book and notes that you can take because you can basically scan the book and put something on the wall and just go straight. It's wonderful.
James: It's that easy. So I don't know if you want to start with the close or you want to start with the steps. The first step of any encounter is to do a little homework about your client and to research your client before you get there.
Michael: Researching your client, so let's imagine we are selling software for hospitals. For example, we have a hospital - St. Mary's Hospital in Salt Lake City - that we want to work with and we have software, a patient/doctor management system. If we do the client research, what do you start with?
What tools do you go to? What links, what websites do you check to get information about what this meeting will be about, or what your client is?
James: I would say in terms of where to do the exact research, that's going to be a little bit industry-specific, of course. An obvious place that you can go to is their website. If we use the hospital example, as you did, the hospital will have certain news announcements.
So they may have new buildings that they're building; they may have new insurance plans that they're offering; they may have new special technology that they purchased to treat cancer or things like that. And so those things all tell you something about what that organization is trying to do as a whole, and even departmentally because we might be selling to just one department within a really large organization.
But other industries, you can go to Bloomberg, you can go to different sources to look at, like in the healthcare space, we have a database called Definitive, and it tells us a whole ton of different things about the hospital. it tells us how many beds they have, all the departments, how much money that they did last year and things like that, and so we can get a picture of what's happened to that organization.
Are they in growth mode? Are they in crisis mode? Are they losing market share? Are they acquiring clinics, or are they selling off? All those things tell us a little bit about what's happening with the customer and that is different for every client.
Now, that's the organization. Finally, we also need to research the individuals within our organizations, as well, and so who are we meeting with. Well, obviously the places to look up for them or we can look them up on LinkedIn or Navigator if you don't want them to see that you visited their profile, but we can look them up on Facebook.
Of course, if they are an executive, they could easily be listed on the website as a leader within the organization and you can see that on there, and we can see interesting things like their hobbies, but we can also see where they came from. In LinkedIn, we can see this guy came from this lab company or this other place, so he's gonna know about this kind of stuff.
Other people might have come from outside the industry, and they might not be very educated about certain things. And so that tells you a little bit about them, but the whole point of doing the research is so that you can have sort of a value hypothesis of how you're going to be able to help these guys. And that's really what the second step is - knowing what your value prop is.
So I don't know if you want to transition to that, but I work with a lot of different organizations around the country. They'll bring me in to look at prospecting, or they'll bring me in to look at closing or something like that.
But I tell you about 80% of the time when we get to figure out what the problem really is, almost 80% of cases is that they haven't developed a value proposition for all the stuff that they're trying to sell and I'm just blown away by that. But if you don't know your own value proposition, what are the odds that you and your team and your client are ever going to know what that value proposition is too
Michael:Why is it so hard with value propositions why companies don't do that? Why don't they focus on this? They know what they're selling, they know what value they can bring to their clients, but do they just not know how to summarize it, put it in the flow of language, or ...?
James: I would say the first problem is that they're product-centric. They think about the product; they don't think about the results their product creates, and that's what customers buy. Customers do not buy your product. They don't give a rip about your product. They only care about the result that the product produces.
Your product could be all kinds of different things, but if it produces the right result, they'll buy it. So it's not about the product, but customers, organizations tend to get really centric on their product, especially engineers, the people who make the products because it's their baby. So they love it, they love the product. But we got to get off of that. You got to think about what kind of results does this produce.
And what most organizations have never done is that they've never put enough rigor into looking at the results that it actually produces for clients that they can ever say that we were able to improve accounts receivable for such and such organization by 10 to 60%. They don't know that. They know it does generally make credit improvement of some kind, but they never quantify it, and if you're selling something for 100 bucks, people will gamble. Hey, I'll pay 20 bucks on the off chance that it might work. But if you're selling something for millions of dollars, you cannot do that.
You have to be able to articulate exactly how much money you're going to be able to do because some CFO somewhere up the food chain is going to have to say yes or no to this big investment.
So people just don't spend nearly enough time understanding what their value props are, plus in addition to having a value prop, you should have little stories that articulate the value prop for every single value prop that you have. So that you can say, yeah, we're able to improve the referral revenue for this organization by $2.8 million within an eight-month period, and then we tell the story about how we did it, and where they started and how they got there and the mistakes that they made and the things that they did right, and then the customer starts to not just understand the metric, but they see the how it happens, how we get there, and I call that the mechanism of action.
People don't spend nearly enough time on that. I got to tell you over and over again, and once you have created these very tight value props and these little stories, salespeople will be armed to go out to the market and have these conversations with people. What I find is that they'll just say, here are the people we want you to go after. Here's our product brochure; go get them.
They never teach anybody how to have a conversation about how this stuff works. I see that problem over and over again.
Michael:It's so powerful. So let me kind of put this into context and give our value proposition in research as an example. So if my ideal customer profile are businesses that are up to 500 employees in size, they have an existing sales team of 5-10 people, and they are actively hiring SDRs, or they don't have enough SDRs and they have their average product or sales size or sales sub size at $500,000 or $200,000, something like that. And what I do, I go to a company LinkedIn page, I go to the company page and when you buy this Navigator, you see their analytics.
You see how they're growing, what's their team distribution is, the breakdown of how many salespeople they have, and anybody see that they have 10 salespeople and two people in business development, and you go to their website to see their value proposition, their team structure, etc. and then you can see those guys have a sales team but they don't have a BDR team, so they are probably utilizing other channels. Their marketing channel may be advertising content. You go to their blog; you see there is lots of content strategy.
So you see how many salespeople they have, and you also go and see if they're hiring an SDR. You can see how many positions are opened for the SDR in their area and how long they've been opened. So if the position was opened for the last six months, they have challenges in closing that position so they are struggling.
So when you go on the call and you have 10 people salespeople and you have two BDRs. What kind of marketing channel are you utilizing, and they would say, well, we do this and this and content? Do you do outbound, and they say, yes we do outbound. What kind of outbound, and they say we have BDRs that are supplying the appointments or leads to my sales team.
And you say, we have 10 salespeople and two BDRs and you've been struggling with hiring another BDR. What if my team steps in and we're going to deliver that many appointments for that cost that would help your salespeople to be 25% more effective, where they will be able to close twice as many deals?
And if you put that into perspective and start calculating numbers, and it would say that your average deal size is about $100,000, and your salespeople are closing about two deals per quarter, for example, and to close two deals, you know, you need 10 appointments or 10 leads from the client, so your closing percentage about 20%. How many leads did you get? They say we have seven.
So if you were able to get them an additional 10 leads that would result in 200,000 more in revenue per quarter, which is, for example, $50,000 or $100,000 per month. And you invest in that $5,000 or $10,000? Would that fit in your position cost?
What I've seen is that when you talk this language, and when you start putting that into perspective, the research that you did plus the takeaways and as well as talking numbers, this is the value that I want to bring to you based on this information. Is that about right? It's different from just learning about the company, the pitch, the presentation, and that's it. I've seen that a lot of salespeople, especially in the United States, and I don't know why they have that strategy.
They have a strategy to jump on the call, do the pitch, share the screen, learn about the business, just listen to how the other side is talking, talking, talking and then go do your talk, and then are we doing this or not? And I've seen that this kind of mindset that I've developed and the piece of value is very characteristic for being a business owner, or being a person that delivers the value because you want to put the numbers. you want to say, Okay, this is what we have.
This one should do. How would you comment on that? Would you add something else? What am I doing wrong?
James: Just now what you're describing is, you have a perspective as a business owner, and you speak to another company person, as an investor and the return that you produce, and so you see it in the way that they see it. So that's the thing that's missing with a lot of these young BDRs in the US, is they are product-focused, and they're saying, Oh, well, what I want to do is I want to ask him about the things that relate to my product, and then I want to convince him to see my product, and then I'm going to show my product. And yet, we've all missed the results that we're trying to produce.
When you focus on the result that we're trying to produce, it actually opens up your options as a salesperson dramatically. I've been in many, many situations where the customers' overall goals and the results that they needed to produce could only be handled, maybe I can only handle about 60% of that, which left another 40% that needed to be done by someone else. What that means is I can bring in a partner, I can bring an internal resource to that company, there are lots of ways of solving the problem.
The goal is to be committed to solving the actual problem. The customers' goal is, what they're trying to actually do or the result they're trying to produce, and part of that might involve you, but part of that might involve others, and they will surprise you. They don't care. They don't care that you're bringing in another person.
In fact, they're grateful that you're doing their homework so that you can create a complete solution for them. So when you sell that way, you've got a lot more latitude, and then you're thinking more about just helping them accomplish a goal or solve a problem, then you're about selling your stuff. So you need to be able to walk into any conversation thinking if I'm not the right fit, I'm not going to do business with these guys, but I'm going to point them towards the person I think is the greatest fit.
That's having integrity and people will sense that they sense it in your voice is called parallel language. They sense it in your micro expressions when you're face to face with them and your body language and so when you're authentic that way, they'll want to do business with you. And what the data shows is they'll even pay a premium for the services with you.
So what you described was awesome, because you can articulate the actual value that you bring and how it fits into an organization. Very often, especially for organizations that have multiple products, they'll invent a brand new product, and no one has ever done what's called a problem inventory.
They don't even know the problems, really. they have an idea of the problem that it solves, but they've never done a complete list of the problems that they actually solve for the client, and that's your target market. The people that have those problems are the people you can sell to and sometimes that will allow you to sell to other markets you never even dreamed you could sell to because you understand what the problem is that you solve.
And so anyway, you did many things right with everybody. You also identified your ideal client and that's another thing. I wrote a book on closing, but if you asked me what's the best way to improve your closing ratio, I would say it's not to use my magic clothes. I would say it's to sell to only ideal customers.
That's the best thing. Don't waste your time on people that can never buy your stuff. That will improve your close ratio faster than anything else you can possibly think of, but so many organizations never sit down and take the time and think what does our ideal customer looks like?
Michael:Here's also a challenge. I notice a lot of tools and platforms right now like ZoomInfo, Apollo, any automatic scrapers, databases, aggregators, any kind of a tool or a company that wants to automate the sales process and we know that all of us like to be more efficient with what they're doing and have better exposure. They actually killed this idea of being very targeted, being account-based, working with your ideal customer.
So what I've seen a lot of the time is that when I want to build my sales process, and I'm always looking for the best customer acquisition cost, so what kind of tools and sources I can utilize to make it cheap, to get more clients and get more margins or more sales, for example.
And what I see is that what I do, I buy Sales Navigator, for example. I buy a tool that helps me go through the leads and put together a spreadsheet with all the leads, and then connect that via a tool like Zapier to a tool that like Outreach.io and then send a massive email, and then I can expect some results, and that actually created a problem where I'm emailing everyone, I'm talking to everyone, but I don't know who my ideal customer profile is and that harms my sales.
James: It's so easy to scale now that you just go for everybody instead of going for the ideal customer.
James: You know, another thing that you said in there, I love dissecting your value prop segment there is that. You said, Well, these guys have this and they have this, and that probably means this. You said that. And so what that is, that's insight and so that helps you identify a hypothetical value prop for the customer.
So just knowing numbers, just knowing numbers of beds or number of companies or how many employees they have or how much revenue they did last year? Yes, we can get that infinitely from database products. But the psychographics is different.
That comes from the human part of it, or like in your case, from experience. You're like, whenever I see a customer that does this, this and this, they always have this problem. So that tells us on our call with them - because of we prep - say, Hey, I'm curious, I was working with a client that looked just like you guys. they did this, this, this, and this. Are you guys experiencing anything like this? And that's the moment that person on the other end feels understood. They go, yes, are you kidding me? You get me. we're totally experiencing that problem.
Michael:And I have seen that you can use the same methodology in your email, right? So you can find a hundred companies that are just similar to the client that you work with, and then you can send an email - Hi guys. I feel like you have the same business model as these guys, and they have this challenge and this is how we solve them.
Do you guys experience something like that? And that's the best cold email right because if you...
James: Yeah, that is a very great script. You guys look like somebody we helped. Here's what we did for them. Do you think it makes sense for us to talk for 20 minutes?
Michael: And also to give you a real example and this is super interesting, talking through experience.
I had probably 500 calls with different owners of software development companies, and what I've seen in the pattern - is that when the owners or founders of the software company are technical people, they are engineers, and the team is about 50 to 100-ish, 150 people and if you go to their link in their pages, and they don't have salespeople, most of their sales come from the referral channel and you've tried outbound for example and it didn't work for you, and they say yes, we tried it didn't work for me and then you say, why didn't work for you?
And they say, well, because we sent 100 emails, we received 2 responses and then we failed, because when you are receiving leads from channels like referral channels, organic, your network, it's easier to sell.
Okay Jim, send us the contract. Let's see where we are. And it is different from where you knocked on the door and said, this is the solution that we have. Are you interested? And they say, well, we can take a look. This is a totally different sales model. You need to be more proactive.
James: Big time!
Michael:You need to be more proactive. you need to be more progressive. you need to show more enthusiasm from your side, and you wanted to solve their problem. you wanted to get their business, rather than just being reactive there and saying that, okay, this is what we do. Are you interested? No. We move on.
James: You're making a good point here. Just to simplify what you just said - there are really two kinds of sales. There's responding to demand and then there's creating demand, and they're very different types of sales. one, if someone calls you or your friend says, Hey, this looks interesting. Well, that's easy. You just say well, tell me what you're trying to do.
That's an easy sell. It's when someone who doesn't know that they have a problem or could be benefited from you, you have to sell the chance to sell, and so that's a very different type of sale. People think that all kinds of selling are the same, and the truth is responding to demand or working your network is a wholly different kind of selling.
That, by the way, it's tough to scale compared to outbound, where your messaging has to be tight, you have to be able to explain to them why they could benefit, even if they don't know about you. I'm working with a company now that only 20% of the market uses something like what they have, and so people aren't even aware of what's possible.
And so sometimes when we describe what's possible, they think, wow, I didn't even know that technology had got to the point where something like that is even a possibility. And in some cases, they say is it even legal? But that's good.
That's good. It's just that with them not being aware, you're never going to get demand. If they're not aware of the solution that you have, you're never going to get demand. You're going to have to reach out and tell them about the possibility, and that's a very different kind of sale.
Michael:I've seen that companies that started with outbound that became good in outbound, they knew how to articulate the message, how to streamline your pipeline, how to measure each and every deal, and how you can squeeze that and making those first mistakes and building actual sales by outbound are much more efficient and successful with their organic sales down the road, just because they already made those first mistakes.
It's opposite to the companies that see this first organic boost. They have those users, the acquisition was great, but then when they hit the wall, and they don't know what to do, it's like the conversion is falling, the customers are falling. We don't know what to do, and they invest a year or two years building that outbound channel and they expect the same results that they had with organic. they expect the same conversion.
They expect the same closing, and any agency that they are hiring or any external consultants or people that are brought in, I saw multiple examples of companies that are hiring this great VP of Sales, great Head of Sales, and they failed for six months and they let them go and looked for a better professional or something.
So the point that they were trying to make is that if you're a company that is doing great with outbound, don't just focus on outbound. Grow your marketing, grow your content, try to utilize those channels, because the outbound is a temporary thing. you cannot build your business just on outbound.
Whereas the companies that are great in inbound, also do the outbound, because if you don't do outbound, don't get on and practically look for new businesses for bigger deals, for new buying windows, you will stagnate at a point of time in the future, and then you will be in trouble because you will not know how to do it, and if you are in trouble, then try to understand that the channels are different and that you need to fail at least one or two or three times, and it's not just about the people that you hired. It's also about how you position yourself, what your value proposition is, and as you said, and supporting your point that the sales are super different when you're dealing with organic traffic, with organic networking and people coming to you, and then when you are coming to people and offering your business.
James:It's a multi-faceted problem and what you say is so common. Hire someone; we expect they're going to turn this around in six months, and if they don't turn this around in six months, we were often to the next guy. But I see clients that will do that year after year after year after year. So that's a challenge. So wow, covered a lot of ground here.
Michael:To wrap things up, James, can you give a one-minute elevator pitch, a quick summary. Who should be reading the book? Who can benefit from it and what can they learn from you? What's the main takeaway that they can learn from the book?
James: Sure. Honestly, almost everybody. I've had comments from folks that are brand new to sales, all the way to those who have been in sales for decades told me that they benefited from the book because while the book sounds like it's all about closing, the truth is it's about the sales process, and about doing that in an authentic way.
Definitely the two questions that are the perfect close are very helpful. It's, just like I said, two questions, zero pressure, and non-confrontational, and it will advance your sale, literally 90 to 95% of the time. So you'll just have a nice steady, slow advancing of your sale. So, anybody who can benefit from that kind of a process, I would say the folks that will benefit the least from The Perfect Close are those who are in a single encounter type sale.
The Perfect Close is more about making sure that momentum takes place in every single encounter, and that generally lends itself to more complex B2B types of sales. That's who I think can benefit from it. They can try it out by going to the website. Right on the website, they can download the first three chapters so they can get a feel of what it's like, and then there's a whole ton, there's more than a dozen different tools and resources so that they can download for free as well, and that could give them an idea of whether or not it's for them.
Michael:What's the website? Can you spell the website?
Michael: And they can also go to Amazon and buy from there. So the Kindle version is 4.99, and the paperback is 14.30, and so there's going to be a Black Friday soon, so discounts from Amazon?
James: That's right. That's right. Actually, we should do something for your listeners. Just listen to this podcast. And you tag Mike and me in either a tweet, or you can post it on LinkedIn that you heard this podcast, tag us both, and for the first five people that do that - and the reason you're tagging is so we can notice - I'll send you a free copy of the audiobook. You can download the Audible book. So how about that? You can't beat that. That will reward you for listening to Mike's podcast.
Michael:Yeah, well, I appreciate that. That's amazing, and definitely, probably some of my folks here will listen to this and reach out on LinkedIn. It doesn't work at Belkins so please don't
James: You guys can have it. just send me their email address.
Michael: We're going to order a few books and put them in our library. We collect a lot of books. We are geeks, so... Okay, Jim. I appreciate your time. It has been great. I know that we can stretch this session for a few more hours
James: I think we could have gone on forever.
Michael:So I appreciate your time. You and your family have a Happy Thanksgiving and we will both connect
James: Okay, sounds great, Mike.
We hope you have enjoyed this episode of Belkins Growth Podcast and found it useful. Be sure to subscribe and catch upcoming episodes on iTunes and Stitcher.
to find out more about the cookies we use or to opt-out, please see