For many of us, there are certain sales techniques that seem like incredibly bad choices. For example, isn’t it giving too much information away if you list your prices online instead of sharing them with potential customers during a sales conversation? And wouldn’t it be a bad idea to explicitly list people who you aren’t a good fit for online, because that will drive away potential customers before you even have a chance to talk to them?
Today’s guest, Marcus Sheridan, AKA the Sales Lion, has been called a web marketing guru by the New York Times, perhaps thanks to his sometimes unconventional advice on what sales techniques really work. We discuss deeply valuable information that gives insight into how customers think and behave, and how this relates to what you should do in your sales process. In today’s conversation, Marcus will talk about how to influence the buying criteria of your prospects to preempt their objections, and how to differentiate yourself in a sea of competitors.
In this Episode
- [01:17] – Marcus talks about the biggest mistakes that he sees people make in sales.
- [02:48] – What would be some of the best practices or tips for getting your sales to be more effective? As he answers, Marcus explains that he owns two companies. He then gives deeply valuable information that gives insight into how customers think and behave, and how this relates to what you should do in your sales process.
- [07:31] – Stephan agrees that there is reluctance to make costs public. Marcus then steps in to clarify what he’s been saying.
- [09:52] – Marcus steers the conversation to swimming pools to illustrate his point about being more transparent with pricing.
- [14:10] – What are the best ways to package these buyer-based questions? Is it best done, for example, as an article, a YouTube video, a downloadable buyer’s guide, or something else entirely?
- [16:59] – The goal, Marcus explains, is to preemptively answer the 80% of questions that are the same across most first sales calls.
- [18:06] – We hear about an interaction between Chris Sacca and Kobe Bryant that Marcus read about.
- [19:29] – Stephan recently created a welcome or intake packet that includes a questionnaire for people to fill out before he talks with them.
- [20:30] – Marcus makes one further point, talking about the pool industry again.
- [22:08] – Point one is to list the questions that people ask and link to the answer on every product page; what are the other points that will transform the website and facilitate sales? Marcus offers an incredibly valuable exercise to help you figure out how to better address customers’ concerns.
- [25:54] – Marcus offers a third activity, which involves writing down every claim you make about your company.
- [27:47] – Marcus gives us two more tips as a bonus round. He talks about making a website section called “Problems We Solve.” His fifth and final tip here is to make a section on your website about who you’re not a good fit for.
- [31:48] – As Marcus went through those five points, Stephan was thinking about how they would make a perfect five-day challenge. He then goes into more depth about these challenges, including a recent one of his own.
- [36:54] – What is the best approach to doing a webinar? After answering, Marcus talks more about what he does instead of webinars.
- [41:20] – Marcus talks about how reacts to pushback about his insistence on using video during sales calls.
- [45:21] – Stephan brings us back to the topic of public speaking. Marcus offers some suggestions on groups for listeners to check out, then gives advice on how to progress in a speaking career.
- [49:32] – We hear more about moving from free national events to paid events. Marcus then offers one of the keys to speaking: if you do a good job on one talk, you’ll likely get three or four others from it.
- [52:43] – If you’ve just done a fantastic job on a speech, how do you turn the attendees into leads?
- [53:58] – Marcus explains why he chose the name the “Sales Lion.”
In today’s episode, you’re going to learn how to influence the buying criteria of your prospects, to preempt their objections, and to differentiate yourself in the veritable sea of competitors. Hi, I’m your host, Stephan Spencer, and our guest today is Marcus Sheridan, aka The Sales Lion. He’s been called a “web marketing guru” by the New York Times, and for good reason. The story of how Marcus was able to save his swimming pool company, River Pools, from the economic crash of 2008 has been featured in multiple books, publications, and stories around the world—and is also the inspiration for his newest book They Ask, You Answer, which was dubbed the #1 marketing book to read in 2017 by Mashable. Welcome Marcus. It’s great to have you on the show.
My pleasure, bud. Excited to chat today. Hopefully, we’ll have a good time. I think we will.
I think we will too. Let’s talk about sales and how to take it to a whole other level. What do you see are the biggest mistakes that people make in sales?
I think far and away, the biggest mistake is they forgot what it’s like to be a customer. Because they’ve been in the business for as long as they have, they forget their questions, their needs, their fears, their worries, their issues and they’re suffering from the curse of knowledge. Because of that, they’ve lost touch.
Yeah. Let’s say they’re looking at their marketing collateral or their sales pitch, or script, or whatever and they’re not looking at it with fresh eyes. They’re seeing that as the creator of that script or of that pitch and not really relating as the customer would.
Yeah, totally. Big problem. Then that affects their messaging and their ability to ask the right questions. If you want to be a great teacher on the marketing side, on the content production side, they suffer there. It just goes and goes.
I was just having a conversation with a client of mine and similar issue from what we’re just discussing. I was pointing out on their website that all the social proof logos, all the sort of things that will help to [lay] fears and concerns is buried deep in their website. No one would ever find it. They had trouble finding it. “Okay, you go here and then at the sub page and then this other sub page. Here’s where our certifications are and here’s where our as seen on logos where we’ve been on the media.” No one would ever find that stuff. How are you going to persuade, how are you going to persuade, lay fears and build trust when nobody can find the stuff?
If they can’t see it, it doesn’t exist.
Yeah. What would be some of the best practices or tips for getting your sales to be more effective?
That’s so broad, right?
It is a big question.
Because there are always sub categories to that. I would say though that for me, a big part of my sales is to make sure that they’re educated before we have a serious conversation. Because if somebody’s not willing to become well educated before we actually let’s say talk, meet face to face or talk on the phone, it means they’re not really serious about the service or the product that you sell. Just to give you a sense for this, two totally different companies. I own a swimming pool company and I own a consultant, sales, and marketing company. I sell pools for a long time. That’s where really I learned digital sales and marketing so much. In 2013, I was looking at two groups of people on my website. Both of them had filled out a form that said I want to get a quote. One group ended up not buying a pool. The other group ended up buying a pool. I said to myself, “What is the difference, behaviourally speaking, between the ones that did versus did not buy?” What I found was I kept seeing the number 30 underneath the group that have bought. What that number 30 represented was total pages viewed on the website. In other words, if somebody read 30 or more pages on the website before the initial sales appointment, they would buy 80% of the time. If they didn’t hit those marks, then the closing rates were around 25%, which was industry average. That’s why I said, “Wow. All I have to do is let content be my best sales tool.” At which point, I started to integrate content very, very early into the sales process. When I say content, I’m talking about very specific buyer based questions, the questions that I would get every single time. I try to eliminate those before I ever got into the house and it really just changed my whole life.
Awesome. What would be some of those buyer based questions for the pool industry?
I have found, because we do this with so many different industries at this point, that there are essentially five main questions that everybody asks, whether it’s a B2B, a B2C, big, small, local, national, service, product, same game. In other words, before a prospect contacts a company, they want to know five essential things. Number one, they want to get a sense for how much it is. In other words, they want to understand the factors that drive it up and drive it down in terms of cost. That’s number one by far. Number two, they want to know what are the negatives, the drawbacks or the problems with that thing that they’re thinking about. In other words, how could it blow up in my face? What are the downfalls? If somebody’s thinking about a boat, they might be thinking, “Geez, I’m going to have to spend a ton of money on gas.” If somebody is thinking about a pool, they might be thinking, “I have a lot of maintenance.” If somebody’s thinking about a particular material for a carpet, they might be thinking about, “Okay, does it stain easy?” But this is the way that people think. Again, it’s the same thing for a service or a product. That’s number two problems. Number three is comparisons. We are obsessed with comparing this versus that. In other words, if somebody’s looking at a fiberglass pool, there’s a good chance they’re also looking at a concrete pool. If you want to get a new patio in your backyard, you might be comparing pavers versus concrete. If you’re going to hire a lawyer, there’s a very good chance you’re going to compare two different law firms or maybe two attorneys within the same law firm. This is the way that we think and it’s the same across the board. We are obsessed with comparing something because we want to feel like I’ve got a gauge. The only way we can gauge something in life is to have a comparative analysis. Number four, we’re obsessed, as buyers, with wanting to know what everybody is saying about that thing. In other words, generally, we don’t search for quality. What we search for is reviews. That’s how we do this. And so we want to know what other people think and that’s how we gauge what defines quality, or exceptional service, or good this or that, based on what is everybody is saying. That’s number four. Number five, we’re obsessed, as buyers, with finding the best. In other words, again, let’s say that I’m looking for a litigation attorney for my particular business. Then, I might search for best litigation attorneys in Virginia, where I live. It’s just one simple example. Or best business litigation attorneys. This is the way that we do it. What’s crazy about this, Stephan, is that most companies don’t like to talk about those five things, at least not on the front end. They want to wait till they’re face to face with the prospect, which is really, really dumb. It doesn’t make any sense. Not in 2017 and beyond.
Yeah, there is a lot of resistance to putting your cost up and doing comparisons with the competition in your marketing collateral, in your educational materials, or on your website. I don’t put my costs up. I do for my lower priced offerings like online courses but I would feel uncomfortable putting my costs up.
The problem is you’re only seeing it from, “Oh, I need to put up a price list.” That’s not what we’re talking about. Let me give you an example of how buyers think and then let’s talk about it from a business perspective, alright?
If I ask you or anybody that’s listening to this right now, if I said, “Have you researched how much something costs online over the last year?” Everybody will say, “Yes, I have.” And then if I said, “If you’re on a website and you can’t find anything about cost and price, what’s the emotion you experience?” You’d say, “Frustrated.” And then I’d say, okay, so if you’re frustrated, you’re looking for cost and price, do you say to yourself, “That’s okay, I’ll just keep digging on this website unlit I find it,” which is silly because most people on average will stay about 10 seconds before they leave. If I said to you, as you’re frustrated looking for cost and price on the website, do you say to yourself, “Well, that’s okay. They’re a value based business. I’ll call them on the phone instead.” Once again, you would chuckle because essentially, most buyers today, we don’t want to call until we have a sense for the thing. And so instead of calling or digging further on their website, what you would do or what most buyers would do is they would keep researching and they would research and they would look until they found an answer. Generally speaking, whoever gives them that answer, they get the business. If not the business, at least, they are the company that gets first contact. If any of us have a choice in the profession of business, sales, marketing, if we had a choice, we generally want to be the first one contacted. If we get to the core psychology of this, the real reason why we get so upset as the buyer is because we know that they know as the business, the answer. Because we know they know the answer and they’re not giving it to us, we now feel like they’re hiding something from us. The moment we feel like anybody is hiding anything from us online, trust is gone. That’s the name of the game. You say, “I understand Marcus but on a service based business, there’s a bunch of people that are thinking that right now.” Okay. Let’s talk about pools for a second. Again, this is going to come back to everybody that’s listening. How much does a pool cost? Well, everybody knows the answer is the same. Well that depends, doesn’t it? For most people listening to this, the answer for how much your stuff costs is it depends. When we embraced our philosophy as a company, the philosophy that changed my life, the title of my book, the philosophy that thousands, at this point, of other businesses have embraced is they ask, you answer. My philosophy when I was struggling to save my swimming pool company in 2009, every single question I’ve ever been asked, I’m going to address it. Good, bad, or ugly, I’m not going to hide from it. I’m not going to be the ostrich with my head in the sand. We talked about how much a fiberglass will cost because that was pretty much the first question that everybody wanted to ask us. I said, “You know what? Buying a fiberglass pool is a lot like buying a car. There are a lot of options. There are a lot of accessories. Here’s a list of all those options and accessories that you might use with your swimming pool. In fact, here are some of the different packages that people get. Some people just want a very basic pool. Some people want something more complex with more features, and landscaping, and waterfalls, and this and that. Here is an explanation as to why some companies, swimming pool companies are very expensive whereas some are very cheap.” We really explain the marketplace. If you go online today and you search how much does it cost to install a pool? How much does it cost for an in ground pool? How much does it cost to install a fiberglass pool? Cost fiberglass pool is one of the first ones that you’re going to see. What started to happen was a twofold result of this article being online because six or seven years ago, no pool guy in the world had addressed this question. The reason why they haven’t addressed the question is the same reason everybody listening hasn’t address the question. Number one, we feel like every job is different. Number two, we say, “I don’t want my competitors to know my pricing.” When in reality, your competitors know your pricing and you know theirs for the most part. Number three, we say, “I’m a little bit more expensive and so I don’t want to scare them away,” which we all just established. The thing that actually scares us away as buyers in 2017 is not knowing, not seeing the thing. And so, as a result to this article, how much does a fiberglass pool cost? Two things happened. People start to call me up and they would say things like, “I just wanted to thank you for being real. Finally, somebody is helping me at least get a sense for this and thank you for that.” I started to get more trust on the consumer side. But of course, from the search engine side, it exploded and led to a lot of traffic and eventually, leads. Because we know the exact number of leads that filled out a form to request a quote, that originally landed on that article how much does a fibreglass pool cost, I can tell you, without equivocation, that that one single article that took me 45 minutes to write on my kitchen table generated $3.5 million in sales since the day it was written in 2009. Furthermore, we never said how much does a fibreglass pool cost. What I’m saying is this, that it’s our job, if we want to be great with sales and if we want to earn trust, to educate the marketplace, to explain what drives it up, what drives it down, why are some companies so cheap, why are some so expensive, and essentially, where do we align. We don’t have to give a price list. In fact, I don’t think you should necessarily give a price list because if you just give a price list without explanation, you commoditize. But if you don’t address the thing at all, you’ve also commoditized because the thing that commoditizes any product or service is ignorant. Ignorance is what causes somebody to say, “I’ll just go with the cheap guy. I’ll just go with the cheap company.” What I’m asking everybody that listens to this to do is through the power of great teaching and education on the front end, that you de-commoditize the thing that you’re selling.
I love it. This is great. Now, what are the best ways to package this information, these buyer based questions like what’s the cost? Is it in a form of an article like what you did? Is it in the form of a YouTube video or a downloadable buyer’s guide PDF or some other format or all of the above?
Really, it is all of the above. We do know this. We’re becoming obsessively visual as a society. And so if we have a chance to visually show it, it’s always better in the sales process. But sometimes, people don’t want to do the visual learning experience until they’ve gotten to a certain point in the sales funnel. Let me give you an example. Let’s say last night, you came up with the idea, “Maybe I want to get a pool.” If that’s the case, maybe you start researching by reading and then you start to get a little bit more serious and then you start watching short videos. And then, you start to get really serious, you’re contacting companies. In fact, you think you want to go with my company River Pools and I’m coming out tomorrow to have a sales appointment with you and give you a quote. You know I’m going to come there to earn your business and so, at that point, you might be willing to watch a 30 minute video about pools and about everything you need to know because you’re getting ready to write a big check. To do this the easiest way, this is what I would suggest to everybody that’s listening to this. Number one, on every single service or product page on your website, you have a section that says, “If you’re considering this product or service, there’s a good chance you’re thinking the following questions.” And you list out the questions on that particular service or product page, exactly as somebody would think it, search it, and say it. For example, how much does a fibreglass pool cost? What is the difference between a concrete and a fibreglass pool? Do fibreglass pools look cheap? You list them on that product or service page. Once you’ve done that, that essentially creates almost like an editorial calendar of the content you need to produce through text and video. You do not answer them on that page. You will link that question in a hyperlink format to the article or the video on your site that thoroughly addresses it, usually found in your learning center. I wouldn’t call it a blog. I’d call it a learning center or a knowledge center, something like that. Of course, you still put all those videos up on YouTube but in the best case if it’s on your learning center, you have a textual piece of content and a video embedded into that. By doing this, you really enhance the user experience of somebody coming to your website. They can immediately find the major questions that they want to know before they buy, before they contact the company. You have addressed the visual and the textual learner. It’s great for SEO. It just crushes that from an SEO standpoint. There are a ton of reasons to do it. Fundamentally, what we’re talking about here, Stephan, is the goal. If I was talking to anybody that’s listening to this right now and I said, “What percentage of the questions you get on a sales call assuming it’s the same product or service are the same every time.” Most people would say, “About 80%. About 80% of the questions I get on a first sales call are the same every single time.” Okay. The question is why do we keep answering those same 80% of questions? Is it because we haven’t figured out how to answer them? No. It’s because we haven’t done a great job of educating the marketplace, which leads to poor leads and to poor sales conversations. We want great leads, great sales conversations. Sometimes, companies say to me, “Well Marcus, my internet leads aren’t good.” No. Contraire. Internet leads are as good or as bad as the messaging that brought them there. Any lead is like that.
I like that. That’s awesome. I love the approach where you get the person to do their homework before the sales conversation and that homework is what they would do otherwise, somewhere else.
It shows they’re serious. Dude, check this out. I was reading this great article. I think it was in Inc. today. Chris Sacca is a really, really famous investor in the Silicon Valley, right?
He was approached by hall of famer Kobe Bryant about two years ago.
I heard about this, yes.
Kobe says, “I want to be a world class entrepreneur when I retire.” Chris is like, “Oh, he’s just going to be like a bunch of other athletes. He’s not going to be really serious about this. He’s going to think it’s just going to happen naturally.” Chris says to him, “Alright, if you really want to be great, here is everything that I need you to watch and read before you and I have a conversation.” Chris did that as a litmus test to see how serious Kobe was. Kobe gets it. He doesn’t just consume it, he devours it and he’s hitting Chris up in the coming weeks every single night almost, saying, “Yo Chris, I’m watching this right now. I’m reading this right now. Here are my thoughts here. What do you think about this?” Up to the point where Chris became so fascinated with Kobe because of the fact that he could tell he was all in. Because he was all in, he said, “I will give you my time.” That is what a true sales experience is supposed to be. Both parties are invested. That’s what’s possible when you use the power of information the right way.
Amazing. I just recently created a welcome packet or intake packet. It includes a questionnaire for people to fill out before I have my first call with them. They need to put that time in to show they’re committed and that they will really put the effort in. Then I’m armed with the kinds of knowledge I need about their business, the top keywords they’re targeting, because I do SEO, and the kinds of competition they’re facing, and also most importantly, the challenge that they’re facing. That’s the biggest stumbling block to the growth of their business, particularly in online marketing. Then, I can stretch the gap between where they are now, the challenges they’re facing, and where they’d like to be.
It makes a lot of sense. It’s very, very powerful. We got to stop wasting time. Education is what solves that issue. Just to make one for the point about this, when the economy was great in 2007, anybody could get a pool because if you’re breathing, you can get a loan back then for a pool. I sold 75 pools that year. In order to sell 75 pools, I had to go on about 230 sales appointments. A few years after that, economy is down, but by this point, we’ve embraced they ask, you answer. We become the best teachers in the world with respect to fibreglass pools. We’ve integrated that content into our sales process. I no longer was selling for us because I’d moved on to the sales line. I had somebody else selling for us who’s arguably not as good of a sales person in terms of just the general polish, communication skills, etc. Notwithstanding, that year, we sold about 110 pools and we went on about 140 sales appointments. You can do the math. This is a no brainer. If we’re using great information the right way, it will literally build the morale of a sales team up because they will say, “Wow, these leads have never been better. My closing rates have never been higher. My sales cycles have never been shorter.” That’s what we’re targeting here.
Yeah, love it. You gave point one is on every product page, list the questions that people ask and then link to the article or video that’s in the learning center. What are the other points that will really transform the website or the marketing collateral so that sales can just hone?
Just remember, as I’m describing these, if you’re listening to this, we’ve got to accept that the majority of the sales process happens long before someone talks to a salesperson. With that being the case, if we’re talking about marketing at this point, we’re talking about the sale. I think sometimes when we say the word marketing, we mainly turn off a group of people who are just nutso because obviously, they’re not paying attention to the digital consumer and everything that’s happening around us. I have to make that point. Now, here’s the number two thing that I would challenge everybody to do. Let me give you a total of three. Here’s number two. If you do these activities I’m talking about, they’re amazing. They’re amazing from a search perspective, from a user experience perspective, from a sales ROI perspective. Number two. If you’re listening to this, I want you to write down the top seven reasons why somebody would not buy from you, assuming they know you exist. In other words, think about all the times somebody said, “You know Marcus, we like you. We really do but we decided to go a different direction and here’s why.” Remember, whatever you write down may or may not be true. But it’s the perception of the marketplace. I want you to write those things down. For example, usually, one of the first ones everybody does with this is price. It’s a very easy one to put. But you want to be specific. Don’t be generic. In other words, don’t say, “Well, they don’t trust us.” That’s stupid. Why don’t they trust you? Give me a specific reason. A specific fear, a specific issue they’re having with that thing that you do. In my case as a pool guy, they might say, “Fiberglass pools look cheap.” Or “Fiberglass pools aren’t as good as concrete.” Or “I can’t get the shape or size that I want.” These are the real reasons why people don’t get a fibreglass pool. But be very honest like that. Now, once you do that, here’s where the rubber meets the road and here’s what crazy by the way, Stephan, a lot of people struggle to come up with a list of seven, which just shows you how very out of touch they are with their prospecting, with their customer. It’s easy for me to get seven on any industry because I don’t suffer from the curse of knowledge. Like literally, if somebody says what they sell, then I can give them seven immediately, simply because I’m not so in the business that I’ve lost touch. I’m a good old ignorant consumer which gives me the advantage which is why some of the best sales and marketers are the ones that can’t think as the ignorant. Very, very powerful. Once you have that list of seven, put a checkmark next to each one that you have already addressed well on your website. I can tell you this. I’ve done this with over 20,000 people, Stephan, at different conferences and workshops. The average number of checkmarks that somebody will put is 1.5. The average company has addressed one and a half out of seven of the greatest concerns their customers have about their products or service on their website, which is where the majority of the sale happens in so many industries. That’s really, really scary. The challenge is, is it possible for you to put a checkmark next to each one? The answer is yes. Now, you can’t always overcome every concern but you can always address every concern. I can always overcome the concern that a fibreglass pool isn’t long enough for my needs if I want to swim laps. Because the fact is, sometimes you can’t. That’s part of being a great educator and a great salesperson, is the ability to be honest. That’s the number two activity. Number three activity I want you to do. This one’s really, really fun. I want you to write down every claim that you make about your company. For example, you might say, “It’s our people that make us different.” Or “It’s our service that really sets us apart from the competition.” Or “We have the best x, y, z in the world today.” Whatever it is, just right them down. Your claims, you know what they are and so, write them down. Now, once you have written them down, here’s where it gets interesting. Number one, I want you to do a cross analysis of your competition and see which ones they have also said that you said.
Usually, what happens is 80% of the ones that you say about yourself, your competitors have also stated about themselves. Here’s the problem. If everybody is saying it in an industry, then it doesn’t mean anything until, and this is part three of this little activity, until you show it. And so, that’s the next part. You take the claims that you make about yourself and then you say, “Of these, how many have we truly shown, proven, visually speaking, on the website?” Okay, you said you got the best product. Have you shown me? You got the best people. Have you shown all your people and why they’re the best? Literally, how many have you shown? If you’re like most companies, you’ve shown 10% or less. That’s really, really scary. The goal is that you get to 100%. That you give me the ability to prove it as the buyer because I can see it. I’m going to give you one more as a bonus round. You’ll appreciate this as somebody who does SEO well. That is, buyers, they don’t care about our solutions. They don’t care about our products. What they care about is their problems. When they’re coming to a website, what they’re thinking about is I have a problem. One of the best sections you can have for a website is the section that says, “Problems we solve.” Now, on that section, what you would do is you would state exactly as the buyer would state their problems. For example, I’m a digital sales and marketing guy. The problem might be I’m spending way too much money on PPC and I’m not getting enough results. That’s a problem that we solve. I’m producing content but I’m not seeing the traffic, leads, and sales that I was hoping for. Again, that’s a problem the way somebody would say it. You list every single one of those out. You turn each one of those into an individual page of the website that talks about how you help solve that problem. It’s the problem you solve section. I got to do one more bonus round. This is number five.
Okay, let’s do it.
Number five, and this is a total game changer for anybody that does it and if anybody understands psychology, they quickly realize, oh yeah, that makes sense. That is this. When it comes to your website, your sales copy and your messaging. Everybody says who they are, what they do, who they help. Remember, if everybody says it, it doesn’t matter because at that point, it’s just noise and nobody is listening. Here’s one of the most important sections of your website that nobody listening to this right now has. That’s the section of the page that says who we’re not a good fit for. You want to have literally, at least one page of your site that says, “We are not a good fit for you if…” And then you give them very, very honest answers. For example, again, going back to my company The Sales Lion, because that’s a service based business and this way, those that are still doubting what I’m saying can say, “Okay, I see how he’s doing it.” With The Sales Lion, on my who we’re not a good fit for page, I say things like, “If you’re looking for somebody to run your entire social media campaign and you’re not interested in learning how to do it yourself, well then, we’re probably not a good fit for you. If you are looking for a company to produce all of your content for you, in other words, you don’t want to learn how to do it in house, you don’t want to learn how to do video, you don’t want to learn how to produce textual content, you don’t want to learn best practices for SEO, well then, we’re probably not the best fit for you. You should outsource that to a different type of agency.” You see what I’m saying?You want to have literally, at least one page of your site that says, “We are not a good fit for you if…” And then you give them very, very honest answers. Click To Tweet
It’s a very honest but not snarky. They’re just very honest reasons as to why we would not be a good fit for somebody. I literally had people tell me, “I was comparing you and I was comparing this other company. I tell you they were this big, huge organization, this big agency, but you were the one that had that who you’re not a good fit for page. And after I read that, I said this is my guy.”
No more bonuses. That was it. I promise.
That was crucial. What a critical, critical piece of knowledge. The distinction there is huge. If our listeners only took that one bit of advice and apply that, it would be the difference maker I would take in their business.
It’s a game changer. If they just do it because as Seth Goding would say, make a purple cow, you get noticed, you are different. Your leads quality goes up. It all feeds the same thing, man.
It’s better experiences.
As you were going through five of those points, I was thinking, “This would be a perfect five-day challenge.” Have you ever done a five-day challenge or a seven-day challenge or anything like that?
Usually, it has to do something with diet for me.
I mean use this as a sales/marketing top of the funnel technique. I just completed a five-day challenge, an SEO challenge. I called it the SEO Maximizer Five-Day challenge. Coincidentally, one of the five days was focused on identifying the questions that your potential customers make, that they are using in Google, that they are typing into Google. I shared a tool called AnswerThePublic.com. Do you know about this tool?
I do know that tool. It’s a great, funky, cool, creative keyword tool. I like it a lot.
Yeah. It’s completely free.
Most of the audience has no idea that this exists. You can put in a keyword, let’s say it’s fibreglass pool, and see what sorts of questions people are asking of Google. This is all based on Google Suggest. As you start typing into Google, different suggested search phrases come up. I actually turn off Google Instant so I get a longer list of Google Suggest suggestions. AnswerThePublic is based on the Google Suggest database. It does queries of Google to get that and these are great questions of who, why, when, where type questions and prepositions as well that you can use to create an FAQ page. That was my first day challenge. Use this tool and create an FAQ page if you haven’t already. If you already have one, most people wouldn’t, but if you do, then add some more questions that you find in this tool and answer them. Or add additional pages. If you have a library of frequently asked questions and it’s not just one page, which is ideal from an SEO perspective, to have each question and answer fully laid out and on a separate page, then add a few more. I just got a lot of great feedback on that challenge and all five days, the challenge. Here’s my challenge to you, Marcus, is to create your own five-day challenge because this is gold and it’s not hard for people to implement. You’re leading them on this journey. You show a video every, let’s say, morning, you shoot an email out to everybody who’s part of the challenge. And this is a free challenge. You don’t use it as a paid product or anything. It’s valuable enough that you could charge for it but that’s not the point. This is top of the funnel sort of stuff. You advertise on Facebook and do whatever other marketing you need to to get the word out that this challenge is starting on such and such date. Each of these five days or if you want to do seven days, five days I think is good for a business environment rather than take time out of the weekend. Just the power of implementing some of this stuff, they are going to be sold. They’re going to be sold just listening to this episode. They’re going to want to sign up with you. You’re amazing.
Thank you for that.
I’m not just blowing smoke. You know your stuff. Your reputation precedes you. That’s why I contacted you. You got great stuff. By the way, I got to learn why you called in The Sales Lion, but we’ll get to that in a minute. You got these five amazing tips, five days, five-day challenge. I think this is a no brainer, you should totally do it. And then you create a squeeze page to get people to sign up for it and get them on a private Facebook group to post the challenges. I did all this. This is the first time I’ve ever done it and we got so much activity on the private Facebook group. People are so excited. They are primed. This week, this is the week after the challenge is completed, I’m going to do a “master class” or webinar for those people and I think they’re going to be so much more primed to sign up for my coaching and my online courses, certifications. It’s going to be just so much higher conversion rate for the webinar than what I’ve done in the past. Pretty cool.
Very, very cool.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes because I have a feeling it’s going to be pretty darn powerful for you.
Will do, absolutely.
Let’s talk about webinars since I just mentioned I’m doing one this week. What is the best approach to doing a webinar? I’m assuming that you do webinars as part of your process.
You know what, I big believe in them, I think they’re great. I get asked to teach them a lot, but in terms of integrating them into my mix, I’ve never done them really on a consistent level to get the results that I’m sure you have and of other people who have done it. Although I really enjoy teaching them, I’m just doing them, setting them up, I’ve not been great at that.
Okay. What would be the things that you most rely on and if it’s not webinars, what’s after the educating process? Is it just get them on a phone call? Is there some sort of appointment funnel or something that you do that is a little bit different, more sophisticated than most folks?
The advantage I have with The Sales Lion is I speak all over the world. It’s a beautiful, wonderful profession. I go speak. I get paid to speak. I get paid to travel. You’re basically put in front of people that end up wanting to buy from you and so it makes it not very fair because it’s not necessarily applicable to every business because frankly, lots of times when consultants come to me or service professionals, and say, “I’m trying to just generate leads now. This content stuff takes a little bit more time.” I’m like, “Are you doing public speaking?” Because far and away, the greatest closer out there, just in terms of winning over a CEO, winning over a business owner quickly, is by some type of public speaking opportunity. What’s interesting is in every single town, in every single city, there are groups that are meeting that are looking for good speakers. Most people don’t really like speaking and so, that means there are big time opportunities. High demand, low supply of speakers. Because of this, hopefully, by listening to this, I will challenge you to check yourself on that. Once somebody does though, enter our funnel, they either saw me speaking or they came to our website, I always make sure that they know what I look like, they know what I sound like, before we’ve had the first sales conversation in real life. When I say in real life, I’m talking about like picking up the phone. In other words, they’re required to watch a video of me teaching before we’ll have that first call with them. Because again, I want to eliminate the 80% of questions that I know they’re going to ask. I want that to happen. But at the same time, I want to make sure they get me. If you look at really where we are today, in the power of visual sales experience, to me, it comes down to three things. Before we ever talk to them, we want the prospect to have heard us, to have seen us, and to feel like they know us. If they haven’t heard me, seen me, and feel like they know me, the chances of me getting what I want when we have that sales call, are dramatically less. I’m going to be more expensive. Therefore, if I’m going to be more expensive, I need to make sure they see that I’m worth it. I’ve got to develop a very strong relationship on the front end as much as possible. Thus, that’s why we integrate video very much into the mix. And 100% of our sales calls are done with video. We do not do any sales calls at this point. On the phone, I will refuse to do it, won’t do it. I ask them specifically, “Do you have a camera, and will it be on, because I’m going to send you this invite. Go to Zoom, whatever you use and we’re asking you to use your camera during the experience because I want you to see me and I want to be able to see you as we’re having the conversation. That’s a rule.
Wow. That’s unusual. I get it. It makes total sense. I imagine you must get some push back on that.
Yeah, sometimes we do. I just laugh it off. It’s fine if you’re not used to it but guess what, this is a visual world, it’s a digital world, and we want your customers to know, and see, and hear you long before they’ve talked to your salespeople. A part of that is setting things up the right way with respect to your sales calls and your sales culture. Look, if you’re going to ask somebody for their money, you’ve lost the right to hold back. And so they deserve to know what you look like, what you sound like. They deserve to get a sense from you. That’s why this is so important to me. Plus, in my case too, as somebody that meets with clients like our team meets with every single client at least twice a week, 100% of the calls are done as video based calls, where we’re looking at them. I’m so frank, it’s ridiculous. I tell them, “I have to see your eyes when my team is talking to you. I want to know if you’re glazing over. I want to know if you’re paying attention. I want to know if you’re focused. I want to know if you’re getting it.” I literally say those things. Because we work in this digital space, I tell a large percentage of CEOs that contact me, and this sounds absurd, but I tell them straight out after they say, “I’d really like to work with you.” A large percentage I say, “I just don’t think you’re ready. I don’t think you’re ready.” The reason why I say that is because it’s easy to say, “Yeah, I want to be great with the internet and I want to be great with digital sales and marketing, etc.” But doing it and making sure your team does is, it’s a different story. It takes a major commitment. If I sense for a second that the CEO, that the President, whoever, the leadership team, that he or she is not all in, I’m going to let them know that I don’t think they’re ready for it yet. I’ve had many people say, “I don’t believe you’re telling me that.” I would say, “Okay, let’s reassess. This is the time required of you to be the best in the world at this. Are you willing to spend that money, that time, and those resources to make sure that these things get done. Because if not, you’re not ready. You’re not ready. What that does, it saves me because I don’t ever have customers saying, “Marcus, you didn’t deliver. It’s not working out.” What instead happens is they say to me, “Marcus, you told me if I didn’t do this, this, and this, well then, the relationship wouldn’t work and well, I’m not doing it and we’re falling short. I’m thinking that we might need to step back until we’re ready.” Which that does happen. That’s reality. You know this because you work, you coach, you teach. I do the same thing. There is a certain percentage that are not going to have success. My goal is to make sure that if they don’t have success, it’s not because we failed to deliver. It’s because they didn’t give it their all. I don’t want that to happen but I need them to recognize that early on. This is a two way street. Remember, sales is a two way street. Responsibilities on both sides. We set the tone early on. It’s just like when you ask somebody early on, “Hey look, this conversation that we’re going to have, it’s going to be by video.” They say, “I don’t know if I can do it by video.” Well I need you to get a camera because this is the way that we communicate with our customers. You now have established yourself as a respected authority in the relationship. I’m not saying you’re the authority, but you’re one of the authorities because there are always two. It’s you and them. But if they only see themselves as the authority, you know, Stephan, you got a problem.
Right. You got to have the stronger frame. This is NLP or neuro-linguistic programming. The person with the stronger frame is the one who controls the conversation.
Got to have ground rules, man.
Very, very good. Let’s go back to this idea of you’re doing public speaking. You probably find some local events to get started. Maybe you have to overcome some fears about public speaking and I’ve got some great episodes on that like in my other podcast show, Get Yourself Optimized, I just had a master hypnotist and NLP expert talking about how to overcome fears and reprogram your subconscious. Check out that episode if you’re fearful of public speaking. I am talking to you, the listener. Once you get past that, then the local events and then national events, even international events. I’ve spoken at thousands of events over the last couple of decades. It’s been a game changer. Really was the most effective way that I had marketed my business in that 22 year history. I couldn’t agree with you more, Marcus. What would be some of the local events that you would recommend for our listener to check out like Rotary, what sort of groups would be good?
Rotaries are good. Chamber of Commerce is good. Sometimes, there are all these little groups, small business groups and entrepreneur groups and this and that groups. You just got to get your foot in the door. You got to will this. Like you said, Stephan, once you go, the snowball, at first it’s going to feel like you’re pushing it up the hill. It’s going to grow but it’s going to take some time. It’s going to be very hard but then one day, it’s going to crest that hill, it’s going to come down the other side. That’s a magical day. Same thing happens with all that content you produce. It’s really, really tough to build that momentum but once you build it, it’s an amazing experience. The results are profound. Same deal with any type of career including a speaking career.
What would be the next step then, in terms of national events? What are you looking for there? Are you going to speak for free or are you going to pay to speak? Are you going to try and get paid gigs where they pay you?
Yeah. Like everybody, I started my speaking career probably when I was about 33 years old. At first, I was just fighting to get in the door. I was pretty much paying my expense. In many cases, they would give me free admission to the event. Started to build my brand, build my name, then I had to ask for a small [00:50:10]. At the time, I thought $500 to speak for 30 minutes was a big deal. You know what I mean? I was like, “Wow, this is amazing.” And then it just goes up and up and up. It just goes. The fact to the matter is you go to these big conferences, that speaker, that keynote has a huge impact on them. It is a very high paying profession if you reach a certain point. But you don’t have to be like Zig Ziglar. You do though have to be able to tell a story. You got to be able to tell a story and you’ve got to be able to put things in a way that everybody can understand it. I think the biggest factor that has impacted my speaking career and my sales career and my success online is the fact that I’m not trying to sound smart. So many people are trying to sound smart. My only goal is communion with the audience. I don’t use big words. As we’ve been talking, hopefully, at no point has somebody said, “What is he talking about? I don’t understand what he’s saying right now.” Hopefully, I’ve said it in such a way that everybody listening could definitely understand it. Because if they can understand it, they can apply it to their life and they can apply it to their business. They can put their arms around it and they could say, “That’s possible. It’s possible that I do that thing.” That’s why I don’t want somebody saying at the end of a talk that I give, “That guy is a genius.” What makes you a genius is when the audience is saying, “Why are we not doing that? That is so simple. That is so easy.” Hopefully, that’s some of the thoughts that the listeners of this show have had today.
Absolutely. Now, the national events, if we start with free events, maybe get a free pass or whatever but they’re not paying for travel, they’re not paying a stipend and then you move towards the paid. Really, is getting a small stipend and then who knows, you might get $10,000 per keynote or whatever if you keep going. What would be the kinds of industries or types of events that you would go after national? Would it be industry associations?
Associations are good. Here’s one of the big keys to speaking. Usually, if you do a good job and you get into an industry, you do a good job on one talk, the dominos will fall and you’ll get three or four other talks from the particular industry. That’s what’s so great about it. You might say, “Geez, is it worth my time to do this event?” Well, if there’s going to be a lot of people in this room, especially decision makers, power players within that industry, there’s been times when I’ve taken way less of my normal fee because I realized wow, just if do this one talk, it could lead to huge opportunities. Oftentimes, that is the case. I don’t think there’s a particular industry that I have targeted because I’m very principle driven. Be the best teacher in the world. That applies to so many industries. If you know who you are and you really are good with a particular industry, I would start in that industry. I started speaking in the swimming pool space and then I branched my way out from that.
I’ve spoken in very particular types of niche industries. I’ve spoken at very broad, just general internet marketing type conferences. I tend to get more leads come from the more specific type shows where I’m one of the only SEOs there, instead of going to an SEO conference and being like everybody else.
Very good point. That’s a really, really good point. Because then, you’re just one of many. You’ve heard it. Everybody’s heard it. The richest on the niches, specificity is the key. It’s the same with SEO as it is growing your business online, offline. Being very specific is better. People say to me all the time, “Marcus, you’ve got the most traffic swimming pool website in the world. Why don’t you build fibreglass pools too? Because you could double up.” I’m like, “No.” Because then, I’m not as attractive to the marketplace that I really am the best in the world at. I want to be the best fibreglass pool builder in the world. Because that’s been my only goal and I haven’t gotten distracted by the other opportunities, it’s helped us to be incredibly successful.
Yeah. That’s great. Let’s say that you’re doing one of your speeches and you just did a fantastic job, how do you get those leads, how do you get those attendees to turn into leads? Do you have them fill out a form? You pass out something during the talk for them to fill out? Do you have them go to the back of the room for some free offer?
Most of the events I do, the back of the room stuff is not there. I tell you what, you can offer a particular downloadable PDF or something just by them texting the information too. Those tools now are just phenomenal. They are just great. The fewer digits they hit on their phone, the better. I think that’s a great way to do it. Sometimes, if the group is very small, in other words, if I’m teaching a workshop and I could tell it’s alter, alter serious qualified CEOs, well then, I will say something like, “I will give you 20 minutes of my time to look at your website and we will talk about it.” That’s a huge converter. One out of two of those is going to become a client pretty much every single time. But I only do that with small audiences that have already heard me speak, that are on the fence.
Yeah. This is critical because if you just get people to go to a website or to send an email, you don’t get the same level of response. Just instruct them. Take your phone out and type this code into this number and boom!
Yeah and you’re rock and roll. It’s fast. It’s easy. It’s very, very effective.
Yeah. I use Leaddigits and there’s instant customers, there’s a bunch of these out there. Last quick question, why is it called The Sales Lion?
Number one, when I was younger, I wasn’t a very good reader. I have a learning disability. I was in the slow reading class. The first book that I ever read was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Fell in love with Aslan. I always like the lions growing up and then when I got into business, I quickly realized, okay, if you want to get something approved, you call it sales. If you want to get it rejected, you call it marketing. The Sales Lion sounded a lot better than The Marketing Lion. That, my friend, is the quick story.
That’s awesome. Thank you so much, Marcus. Thank you, listeners. This is Stephan Spencer, signing off.
Your Checklist of Actions to Take
☑ Remember what it is like to be a customer by keeping in mind what their needs, worries, issues, and fears are.
☑ Educate potential customers before I have a serious sales conversation with them by letting my content be my sales tool.
☑ Focus on creating answers for buyer-based questions such as cost factors, drawbacks, options, reviews, and how to find the best of whatever they are looking for.
☑ Build trust by answering questions about pricing. It doesn’t have to be the exact prices of what I’m selling, but I should be able to provide options and a clear explanation of what they’ll get to eliminate customer frustration.
☑ Create a learning center on my website that addresses all potential customer questions with an article and an embedded video that is also on YouTube.
☑ Create a section on each product page that says “if you are considering this product, you may have the following questions” and link to the answers on my learning center.
☑ Write down the top 7 reasons, issues and fears that would prevent someone from buying from me. Then make sure that they are all addressed on my website.
☑ Write down every claim that I make about my company. Then make sure that I visually show how or why these claims I make are true.
☑ Have a “Problems We Solve” section on my website that specifically list problems a customer would have, and then turn each one into a page that shows how I solve these problems.
☑ Have a “Not a good fit for you if” page on my website that gives very honest answers to help find the appropriate customers that I can actually help.
About Marcus Sheridan
Called a “web marketing guru” by the New York Times, the Story of how Marcus Sheridan was able to save his swimming pool company, River Pools, from the economic crash of 2008 has been featured in multiple books, publications, and stories around the world—and is also the inspiration for his newest book, “They Ask, You Answer,” which was dubbed the #1 marketing book to read in 2017 by Mashable.