Sales skills are a part of life. Doug and Graham talk about some important points related to selling and sales skills to help everybody achieve more.
YouTube Video of Episode: https://youtu.be/wVBFRVDDMd8
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Welcome to the terminal value Podcast where each episode provides in depth insight about the long term value of companies and ideas in our current world. Your host for this podcast is Doug Utberg, the founder and principal consultant for Business of Life, LLC.
Doug: Welcome, everybody. We have Graham Phelps on the line. Graham is from the United Kingdom. And he has one of the coolest accents I have ever heard. He actually works with me as an expense reduction analyst to help companies not just cut their cost, but really optimize their cost structure. So it's more than just negotiating low contracts. But it's really about making sure to monitor all those processes, so that nobody gets any sneaky costs slipped in on by the vendors, our grant, how are you doing?
Graham: Oh, wow. Thank you, Doug. I'm very well, and thanks for the flattery compliment. Get you everywhere with me? Absolutely. Pleasure to be here. Very good to take, take this time an opportunity to share some ideas with your listeners.
Doug: Absolutely. And so Graham is a very humble guy, but he is actually a, he's exceptional at sales, training. And grant, one things I'd love to do would be if you could share some of your insights about what makes people succeed in sales, because he's actually far more experienced. And he looks I'm not going to give away your age grant. But some of his stories will. But he this man has a wealth of experience and wanted to share some of that with our viewers and listeners.
Graham: Okay, well, I suppose one of the things that I've learned most in the last 10 15 years is a realization that the more you try and sell things to people, the less they want to buy from you. And, and also that your role as a salesperson, when I started, no, 30 40 years ago, there was no internet, it was brochures, and what you could find out from asking around, but you know, 15 minutes before you turn up on the screen, they've gone through your website, they've googled your company, your product, they know more about you than you do, for goodness sake, right. So you've got to add value in a different way. Today, it's not just about knowledge and information. And you have to take that role as a consultant, and you have to go in and do a diagnostic of where you can help them and identify they're not just physical needs, but their emotional and psychological thought process of how they make a decision for your product or service. And that's when choosing a new accountant or choosing where to buy a sandwich at lunchtime.
Doug: I mean, I think that's, that's actually really profound, just because what it fundamentally means is that the model for sales is probably in the midst of shifting, you know, because of course, right, you know, you'll you get a lot of people who like to play around on social media who say that, you know, calling is dead. I don't think calling is ever going to be dead. But I think the way that people close sales are really going to be shifting over the next few years.
Doug: That's, that's just something that I find completely intriguing. Just because, of course, right? The, you know, it's it's actually kind of funny, you know, in graduate schools and universities, sales is kind of pooh poohed. And kind of, you know, pushed off the side. But But you know, sales is what drives every business.
Doug: Other than the C suites, you're usually sales are the highest highest. Well, the top salespeople are the highest compensated people in the company, the bottom salespeople, usually the lowest compensated people in company.
Graham: Yeah, and Absolutely. And I mean, to be fair, you know, people have been telling me that cold calling doesn't work for 40 years. But never the guys who are doing it right. Today, it's one of six methods of prospecting, or what I call connecting and that's what it is, is connecting with people who might be in a position to use your product or service at some point in the near future. If you're selling a sort of a supply type product, you just got to hang around long enough for your competitors to mess up. And then you're a second alternative. So the six are something like obviously, like LinkedIn and social media.
Graham: Face to face or online networking, email marketing and email sending telephone prospecting, referral based leads and prospecting and then obviously, working your contact base, your own existing contacts for referrals. So the other referrals is third party introductions from like minded professionals who don't compete with you, other consultants, other firms introducers those sort of people. And you've got to put if you do all five and you don't do the phone calling, it's like having a combination lock that one open and they got five digits right and one missing, it's never going to open. So that that phone call is that last inch that last mile that connects you with a customer and gives you that appointment. And the you know what most people make the mistake of an idea for years is you phone up and you're trying to tell them what you're selling. And as you know, Doug telling is not selling, right? only asking questions is selling. So what you got to do is just give them the reason to meet, I want to take 20 minutes of your time, half an hour of your time to share some ideas with you find out where your company's at with this particular area. And to see as any areas we can work together. That's it, it's to business people having a conversation just takes 20 or 30 minutes. And if nothing else, you know, I can keep you up to date with what's going on in this particular sector. Yeah, so I Yeah, and that's, that's the key. So, of course it works. It absolutely works every time. But it doesn't work on its own, you got to combine it with all the other good stuff we've talked about.
Doug: Well, and I think that's you know, of course, speaking for myself, you know, I've you know, I've fumbled through a lot of calls, not nearly as many as I think I've made, because I think the problem that most people in you know, whatever form of sales you're in, you know, most people don't think, well, I'm not in sales, I don't sell products or services, it's like you most people are selling something, they're just not aware of it.
Doug: You know, if you're selling influencers, you're you're selling people on ideas, you're selling, whatever, you're always selling something to somebody.
Doug: But yeah, I think the you one of the things that I've found is that unless you're really following a disciplined structured method, it's really easy to under prospect.
Doug: And to not call enough or not follow up enough is that it's, I think a lot of times there's a there's kind of a religion in sales, which is worth it, people say just get on the phone, everything else will take care of itself. And, you know, because of course, what they're trying to do is stop people from analysis paralysis.
Doug: But you really need to have a disciplined structured method of doing it. Otherwise, you're just going to end up having random acts of prospecting.
Doug: And most most of it will disappear into the ether. So I think it's, you almost need to bring a kind of a military type of discipline to your prospecting in order to really get the full effect. Let me know what your thoughts are there. Graham.
Graham: Yeah, well, military type discipline, kind of scary. But yeah, I know what you mean, it is it, I call it I call it a process, I think if you if you start thinking about a skill set, and start thinking about a process, and it's like, like being a cook, right, so I'm not a great cook, I can open a packet and I can put it in the microwave, because I've never taken the time to learn how to cook. But if I needed to, I could cook a great meal from scratch because I could follow a recipe.
Graham: And they will tell me to do this and chop this into into chunks and five minutes and and weigh it out. And I will produce a perfect dish. And I believe the same is true in selling right the way through from writing an email, making a phone call or first meeting, questioning, putting a proposal together. So you basically have a best practice do's and don'ts checklist. And if you follow that you will increase your chance of success. And I think there's a lovely quote that says “Ambition without talent is a scourge of modern times”. Right? And, and you've heard the quote about monkeys and Shakespeare and trust me, if you did get an infinite, you know, library of monkeys, they're not going to produce Shakespeare. In the same way. If you make 1000 phone calls, you're not going to get an appointment. If you're an idiot, right? So you've got to learn from those who have been before you and if not have the intelligence to work out what works and doesn't. And I'll give you a share this with you this came through to me yesterday, right and this is kind of one of the things I came across a few years ago. If you sound like a salesperson, when you phone up a contact even someone you know, they're not going to engage with you immediately you set off in their brain, this kind of BS detector and alert button. And it always starts where the over friendliness. And the first thing they ask you is how are you doing? And how's your day going? Now, there isn't a stranger on the planet who really cares how my day is going my partner might my kids might my mother might, but no random strangers ever gonna walk up to me in the street and saying are you having a good day Graham? Right. So as soon as they come on the phone Hi. Hey, use that Mr. Phelps, Mr. Phelps. Hi, good morning. How you doing? g right. So you're gonna sound like a normal human being. He's just doing business, you know. Hi, good morning, Mr. Phelps. We're not spoken before, but I'd like to talk to you about an email I sent you yesterday. Are you free to take this call for a moment? Now that sounds intriguing, but it also sounds like somebody who is worth talking to. So I do agree we need to follow promise sheets and scripts but we don't need to sound like a canned 70sa sales person, shall I say, now?
Doug: Well, and like, that's one of the things I've noticed, even from social selling, like a lot of people who connect with me on LinkedIn, the first thing they do is they try to pitch me on some product or service or bring them on board as a financial advisor. And I'm like, Okay, any of these people study sales?
Graham: Now, actually, I did call one of those to account reasons I like you get all these things, and SEO and lead generation and yada, yada. And I, and I pin one of them back and I said, this is actually work this first thing you do you connect, you send me that everything that you can do with a link through to the website, does this actually work? And he says, Yeah, he's he does. I mean, most people don't respond. But if we send out enough of them, we get links and inquiries. If somebody is in the market for that, if they're looking at it, and they're thinking about it, and ping it comes through it, of course, gets your attention. But that's the numbers game, I think, is much more appropriate to perhaps suggest a reason based on something you read, or you know, about their business. And I think that's always been true. And I think it's even more true now. It cuts through the noise of the internet. Yeah, and I think that's, that's an important thing that, you know, LinkedIn is great Facebook, and all the other things are great, but you've got to connect with them on those systems, and then get them off the system. So you can talk to them, or meet with them on teams, or zoom or even face to face.
Doug: I think you and I can agree to disagree on Facebook, I consider Facebook to be the single greatest contributor to peach, people's terminal attention deficit disorder of the 21st century.
Graham: Yeah, yeah, I'm with you on that one. But depending on your industry, I do know people who get a lot of business and Facebook activities.
Doug: This is true.
Graham: At restaurants and
Graham: Wedding designers and those kind of folks. But yeah, I hope LinkedIn doesn't go the same way.
Doug: Absolutely right.
Graham: Now in 2020. LinkedIn is just a fabulous tool. And I love it. Yeah.
Doug: Yeah. LinkedIn has been amazing.
Doug: Well, well, let's see. So I think one of the other things I wanted to talk about before we got got on to selling, which, by the way, anybody who's listening, Graham gave you some, some nuggets, he didn't charge anything, I'm sure he'd be happy to accept donations. So I'll make sure to get, make sure you get his PayPal link at the end of the end of the call.
Doug: But one of the things that we work together on is helping businesses achieve operational cost savings. Now that kind of sounds like a dry topic. But it doesn't have to be. And so so Graham I know, one thing that you've seen with expense reduction analysts, you know, what, have you seen companies using their cost optimization for? Right, you know, of course, you know, saving, you know, say 1000 10,000 100,000 million year, the numbers, frankly, irrelevant. It's really what you use it for that matters. What are some examples that can help bring the life? What era? Does that really matters to companies?
Graham: Right. Well, let's back that up in terms of what does it do for the company, or rather, the executives and directors and the people in those companies? Why would they engage with a cost reduction business like era? Well, every business sets, its executive financial targets ebita, profitability, sales, and so on. And those are often linked to their bonus, or some some aspects of their deliverables. So that becomes a preoccupation for these folks. And so what you need to do is to is to link what you can do with their cost reduction with their goals and objectives when it comes to producing enhanced profitability, smoothly and cash flow graph. And I think most importantly, of all the invisible, the invisible benefit of cost reduction programs, is financial discipline, is building a business that has stronger financial controls. I know when they some for some crazy reason, I was 31 years old, and I got given a team of 65 salespeople to look after with a P&L responsibility. And, you know, I kind of had to look at what P&L was, and I just, they gave me thrown 1000 pounds, but a marketing. Boy, we're gonna have some parties with this, right? And then you do for the first year, then your boss comes along, says Graham, we're overspending, right? So you have to cut everything back. And it's easy to cut back the big stuff, but then it gets tricky. And most businesses now have been taking cost out their suppliers year after year after year. But they've left a lot of the suppliers behind, but the enemy is within.
Graham: The enemy is always budget holders and managers who know they should look into a particular type of hotel, but they book into a slightly better one and they can get away with it. Or they're changing suppliers and no one's checking up on them and they're paying more or buying more or you know, all these other things. because nobody's there to check the spending to check the invoices from suppliers. And I think that's the discipline. It's not just going out and finding the cheapest supplier though that is important. And boy is that possible today. I mean, the market has never It'd be better for a buyer.
Graham: It takes time. And it takes skill. But you know, you can almost find savings in any commodity item in your business.
Doug: Yeah, now that's completely true. And one of the things he said that kind of really struck a chord with me or just kind of lit off a light bulb, is, you know, a lot of people think about about cost optimizations is something you do if your company is struggling, it's like, oh, you know, we're under margin pressure, let's go do a cost reduction project. But the cut the discipline is actually almost more important for a company that's growing.
Doug: Because of course, the way that the way that a lot of company life cycles go is the company will start. And then I believe a flop right away, in which case, it just dissolves, or it'll start growing. And when companies start growing, typically they don't pay attention to their expenses at all. Not just as long as they're growing. They just keep spending money.
Doug: Just spending money. And then at some point, they stopped growing. And their board start saying, why are you spending so much money, you need to get the sense of control so we can manage our margins?
Doug: And then there's this big giant m, there's, I call it a goat rodeo, where I come from, that's an American colloquialism.
Doug: There's this big chaos tornado, to try to try to get the margins under control. Whereas if you just started with more discipline, I think then not only can you have a faster growth path, because you can start self financing more of your investment capital. But then you don't have to do this, you do this big giant chaos exercise, when you kind of get to the top of that S curve that every company experiences.
Graham: Yeah, no, absolutely, absolutely. And I think the danger is, yeah, if you're doing well, or you're well funded, management will take their eye off the ball of the cost control elements, and any walk around some of these, these kind of app type. You know, I don't want to call them millennial.com companies, startup fast startup business, and all the VC money, and you walk around, and it's like, pool tables and ping pong tables, and there's free fruit everywhere. And, and this sort of thing, I need to think what is who's paying for this right in these big fancy offices. And it's...