We all know that sales are important, and sometimes people look at that as if it's a yucky word, but we're always selling ourselves in one way or another. Whether it's to find that beautiful lady, beautiful man, or whatever the situation is, we all need to know how to sell ourselves.
We've got Ken Lundin from Ken Lundin and Associates to tell us more about a systematic approach to business.
• Do your buyers know your value? What's the big pain that you actually solve?
• Value development versus commoditization: what does "selling on value" mean?
• How to increase your profitability ratio? Find out the real reason that your customers stay with you, market to that, and sell with that.
• Why does sales training fail? Focus on what you can control and change the way you buy sales consulting.
How to Calculate Sales Growth Over 5 Years
How do you calculate sales growth and particularly what should be the timeframe?
Ken: I think what I like to measure is the impact. Do you have an individual who's in a leadership position or a management position who's making an impact with what they're doing? We call that Alpha. We steal that from an investment term for investment management.
Alpha is literally like this. If your industry is growing at 10%, are you growing at above 10%? Because the difference between the industry is just organic growth, and what you're growing at is the rate that you're capturing more market share. From that perspective, you've got to put the right things in place.
Typically, when we talk about time frames, we ask what are we going to do now? What are we going to do in 3 months, 6 months, a year? And then what should we look at in 2 years. The process of putting sales in place, it's typically a year's process with iterations after that.
Obviously, there are lots of things that come into the sales process. If you've looked at people such as Jordan Belfort, it's all about tonality and looping.
Is it more about having a strategy around it rather than talking in a certain way like you’ve got a secret? What is the sales strategy? How would you comprise it?
Ken: Probably the number one mistake that companies make is they don't realise how the product is actually impacting the client or the customer because they think their product matters.
An example of the number one thing that you've got to figure out is what's the big pain that you actually solve? Let's say you're selling software or IT services. If you're trying to sell $50,000 software or a subscription and you're saying you can give a better report, no executive will wake up one day and think he should spend $50,000 to have a prettier report in a different font.
Executives will spend $50,000 at this moment if that means a way to better run my business with better data and make better decisions that will lead to revenue growth, expense decreasing, etc.
Changing fonts to Comic Sans doesn't win anyone's heart. It's definitely about solving people's problems, not looking at what they need, but instead looking at what they want and how you are going to better reflect that.
As business efficiency experts, we are all about making their business more efficient. The fulcrum that we use is technology, but that doesn't mean that that's the only one out there.
How to Write a Sales Strategy
From a sales perspective, what are the key ingredients that you would need to leverage systemization and to be the right person to be able to sell your product in business?
Ken: You can look at it from a couple of perspectives. First, am I doing it right? What are my customer acquisition costs? How much does it require me to get a customer?
Second, what's the lifetime value of my customer? Do I actually have add-on processes?
Ultimately, what we're trying to figure out is how do we put in a process that's customer-centric, about solving their problem, and helping them realise the problems they don't even know they have. One of the biggest fallacies you're going to see right now is that the buyer is 67% of the way through the journey before they actually talk to a salesperson.
Here's the problem: if you believe that in business, you would decide that you no longer have to provide value or sell. It's like going to the doctor because your back hurts, and then the doctor asks you to walk to the door and tells you that you don't have a back problem but your knee is messed up. In business, the buyer usually comes in because they're trying to cure the symptom, instead of the actual problem.
That's why you have to build a sales process that helps the buyer understand how to analyse the problem and how to figure out what the latent pain is, not the pain they walked in with, but what's the real problem that they need to solve.
It sounds like there's a lot of psychology that goes into understanding someone else's problem, putting your head into the mind of your buyer. From our experience in business, we've seen that that is very difficult to do. Many years ago, we used to do web design and we had business owners tell us what looked good and what didn't. They're not their client, and they're not doing the voodoo that we do.
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How to Help Your Buyer Realise Your Value
How do you make sure that you jump into the right mindset? Is it best if you've got a few clients telling you why they are working with you? How do you make sure that you're finding those golden nuggets, the reason that the knee is broken as opposed to the back?
Ken: I think we're in such a hurry to get revenue for the wrong reasons. Early on in the cycle of our business called the launch phase, which is about product-market fit, some think they should be producing revenue in order to get feedback.
If you hurry through the product-market fit where you don't understand the customers' real problems or issues, when you install the process of sale, you can still sell some stuff but:
• you're selling it at lower margins
• you have a higher cost of acquisition
• you're having more stress within the buying cycle
Ultimately, when you start to talk about being efficient about this, it's the ability to be okay with slowing down to speed up, slowing down to go big.
We were in business, booming and going crazy, back in 2010 when we had a bit of a recession. We grew too big too quickly. One of our key employees had a stroke, and the end result was the team not having enough capacity so we had to start shedding clients.
That would have been better if we had processes in place, which now we do, but we didn't at that stage because we grew too quickly to create the processes because we were too focused on the sale. That would be probably a good example of what not to do, and I've learnt the hard way and how to do it properly.
Ken: I think that's fair to say. I think the big issue there is sometimes it may not be slowing down as it may be focusing. Let's be efficient with our efforts and let's decide what are the most critical things that you need to address in order. We often talk about going left to right. We do the first thing and then the second thing. Businesses do the first thing, the 12th thing, the 6th thing, the 7th thing, and they forget the third and fourth.
What Does "Selling on Value" Mean
If you're going to be making sure that you're selling in the right way, you're talking to people, and you're selling on the right things, price becomes a factor when it shouldn't, especially if you can monetise your products and you're selling exactly the same thing as your competitor.
Here we have Burger King and Hungry Jacks, which have exactly the same franchise model, same business, same logo, different words. Both nearly like a cookie-cutter copy of McDonald's. There's very little difference between the products that they're selling and they're both competing, to a degree, on price. What does selling on value mean? How do you make sure that you're selling on the values that your clients want?
Ken: For years, I have been looking for a way to really try to show people what value development means versus commoditization. You just gave me the leverage to do that. Thank you!
Hungry Jacks and Burger King are a perfect example of how you allow commoditization to happen and what your business may be doing wrong. Think about it: that's kind of a walk up and take an order—we all have buns, we all have meat, we have cheese on it, and we have a price.
Unfortunately, that's how the vast majority of businesses in the world present their products. Think about the difference of an experience, though. If you walk in and somebody is actually going to talk you through it.
That burger at Hungry Jacks or Burger King might even be better quality than the one that I'm getting down the street from the craft burger place, but they're asking me what I want, they're having a conversation with me, and I'm paying almost twice as much for that.
Same thing in B2B sales and B2B servicing. If you want to let the client walk themselves through a do-it-yourself process, you're going to have commoditization and price value problems all the time. On the other hand, if you're going to create a process where you actually get to have conversations and expose the things that they truly want and need in their business, you can increase your prices and your margins.
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Is it ok to have a hybrid model?
What we've done for the last few months is we've looked across all of our competitors and we've looked at what they're doing and what they're selling. We've commoditized exactly what they're doing and selling and then dropped the price by 10% to 15% even if we're not making any money on it. Even if we're losing a portion of money on it, we know that if they're coming to us for that, any of the other professional services that we offer, we've already put them in a position where they know, like and trust us.
If they've already looked at prices across the board and then they see these guys selling in markets $1 to $6 cheaper than the other guys, they will go with them.
We've called it "Would you like fries with that?" model because we know that they're going to be interested in the first thing but it's opening up the conversation to then sell them other things, the same as when you get a junk mail in the post. All the things that are on special generally have these add-ons, which is where they make money.
Is that hybrid approach okay or are there some sort of pitfalls that people should be aware of?
Ken: The answer is it depends. Look at the home printer market as an example. Right now, I think if I sign up for Office Depot, Staples or any kind of office loyalty card, they'll give me a printer for free, but they make money on the ink. Then they charge you $50 for the ink to go in the printer.
Yes, the model works as long as you know the lifetime value of your customers. Otherwise, it doesn't matter. If you do less than break even on the initial acquisition of the customer and then you don't know what your actual ability to sell is, you don't know how often they actually buy from you afterwards, or how often they add on services. It's a pretty risky play. It's like gambling and playing craps.
On the other hand, we have a customer that does mobile application development for Fortune 1000 companies. We know that they're going to sell seven figures once they get somebody in the door, so I kidded with them and I said, "Sell them supersize fries because once you get them in, they're buying seven figures."
But I found that it depends. The only way I'd say to do that is if your sales cycle on the front end is very short, doesn't require you to do a lot of selling, it's futures based and you're okay with that.
It’s very automated so you're not wasting people's time. You don't want to be spending time on things unless it's really bringing a lot of money.
When you've got this situation where you've got this hybrid environment, are there things you should be aware of? Obviously, you don't have to say yes to every customer. I think that's important.
We've all seen and dealt with low-lying fruits, bottom feeders, Karens, and people who are just looking at the dollarydoos and don't care about anything else. If they come through the door, is it okay to say no?
In that printer example, is it okay to not sell them a printer because you know they're never going to buy ink from you? Or should you still keep face and sell to everyone and stuff up your 80:20 ratio and have more of that 80% you don't care about?
Ken: There's no such thing as a good or bad deal.
Go with your gut, and make sure that you have a look at what the potential is for that customer. Don't just sell them just for the sake of it. Don't give them supersize fries if you don't see them buying a burger.
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How to Increase Profitability Ratio
If you've already been selling a bit and your business is going well, hopefully you have your work-life balance in check, but you're looking to better things and the only way you can do that is by increasing staff or increasing the profitability ratio. If we focus on just how to increase the profitability ratio, how would you go about doing that?
Ken: When you talk about the profitability ratio, I think most people are priced too low to begin with because they don't spend enough time trying to figure out the big problem that's actually solved.
If you want to increase your profitability ratio, ask your customers who've been with you for any period of time the following questions:
• Why did you originally decide to work with us?
• Why did you decide to buy our products or services?
• What would have you kicking and screaming if we took it away from you?
Most of the time, businesses miss the real reason that their buyers want to stay with them. Find that, market to that, and sell with that. That will move up your profitability ratio substantially.
It's a very easy way to do it, isn't it? If you find out what the carrot is and what the fire is, at least you know what's having them move toward you. That's something that you could then use to create sales, sales group content, no market towards the same customers. You'd only go to obviously the top 20 that you want to work with, your A-grade clients, to do that.
Why Sales Training Fails
We've spoken a lot about different ways that you can better your sales process. In what ways have you seen that sales training fails? I've covered off a little bit about Jordan Belfort and his sales persuasion stuff. People sometimes get caught up in these 6-hour master classes where they think they're going to jump out of there and start the next Wall Street franchise. Why do sales training fail? What are the things that you've seen that people should just stop doing or alternatively, what should they start doing?
1. Focus on What You Cannot Control
Ken: Focus on what you can actually control. Oftentimes, we think about our business and we think about if this would happen, if this could occur, and so on. Focus on what you can control.
And push the accountability of what your individual employees or salespeople can control. They can control the number of conversations that they have. They can control the number of first meetings they have.
2. Do Sales Training in Small Bites
Ken: Second, from a sales training perspective, you actually have to understand that sales training has to be done in small bites. It's my belief that the world of sales training has failed business.
There's something called the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve, which says that you'll forget 77% of everything you learn in 7 days. Are you paying people thousands and thousands of dollars to come in for a two-day training to fix your people? That's the fire. Burn the cash and then spend it on carrots.
We use a process called Habit Stacking. I got the terminology from somebody else so attribution to whoever it was. We don't do one- or two-day deals. We do two hours of training in January, two hours in February, two hours in March, and so on.
In between those training sessions, we back it up with coaching to help get the behaviour to change. The number one thing that you need to know about making your team better is it has nothing to do with training. It has everything to do with behaviour change.
If you say “what can I do to get behaviour change out of my salespeople to make them more successful for our business?”, that will flip your mindset and change the way that you look at how you can actually increase your sales.
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How to implement efficiency processes?
A lot of people in the B2B sector can be in professional services or selling a product. Generally, they have the people that are on the coalface of business.
Ken: Everyone should care about sales, but everyone is not in sales.
If you have people that are on a support desk or answering the phone, how do you make sure that her behaviour has changed into something that aligns with the company's core beliefs to ultimately produce more revenue and have a longer period of client retention?
Ken: You have to have people who you have to have a culture that cares about the ultimate client experience, which has to be the thing. As long as that's true, everybody can pull the wagon the same way.
Change the Way You Buy Sales Consulting
Make sure that you do have these sorts of things in place. I know that you've brought in efficiency processes and made sure that you've got a systematic approach to be able to have people in line and have people accountable. Tell me a little bit about how you implement that for businesses.
Ken: We've done something that's very different. One of the things we figured out a year ago was that people were buying sales training and coaching and they're trying to fix the symptom. It's like they're driving down the road and they have four flat tires and they were asking us to fix one. But if we change a tire, it's still a bumpy ride.
What we find is that our sales training and coaching strategy, as well as process work, need to be delivered on a monthly basis. That makes small changes and tweaks because that's the only way you get long-term behaviour change for your staff, your leadership, etc.
We look at the world very differently. We want to do small changes because we are interested in long-term behaviour change. We try to take a holistic approach.
I couldn't agree with you more on that one. As business efficiency experts in business, we look at micro changes to make macro differences. We look at shaving minutes of every employee to save hours for your whole team. Don't change things that aren't within your control. Use your resources and become resourceful with those resources.
It takes 21 days or longer to start a routine. I learned in hypnotherapy that you'd need to do something for at least 21 days or 21 times. After you get to the 65-day mark, it becomes autonomous with what you're doing. You can't do that in a 6-day sales training or 2-day blastoff workshop. It has to be something that's done over time with an accountability process where you're able to bring it back to your staff, and change the way that you're buying sales consulting. It's something that is identical to sales as a service (SaaS). How would you frame how you should buy sales?
I have an aversion to calling anything "a service" because it seems like the lazy man's way out. Everybody is like, "I want to reinvent my business. I'm dry-cleaning as a service." Suddenly everybody's got a SaaS business.
What we say is "You get everything we've got and it's a subscription plan for a flat fee." We're able to do what would cost about twice as much in total dollars for half as much in monthly spend because we can set it up, we can put our team on it instead of an individual consultant who bills hourly. You call it what you may, but we call it impactful.
It helps you plan your business because you're able to make sure your staff is fully utilised. That means that people aren't sitting in seats waiting for calls or waiting for people to call, which means you can pass those efficiencies onto your clients. It's a better system for everyone when you're able to have a predictive income and they have predictive spends and they know what their outcomes are going to be.
Ken: It allows us to slow down or go fast too because we do a 3-month entry and then it's 6-month renewals after that.
Conferences are a waste of time. You go to a conference and you think you've got to change your business, and then a week later, you've gone back into the same mundane routine that you're always in because it wasn't something that you had anyone helping you out and guiding you through.
It's Okay to Be Wrong
It's okay to be wrong. It's okay to fail. That's something that I learnt after leaving school, which I kick myself for doing so. I remember sitting in the advanced math class after I missed two weeks and I didn't know what the hell they were talking about but I was too embarrassed to put my hand up to learn. Then I was missing 3 weeks, 4 weeks, and 5 weeks; I was so behind I couldn't catch back up. If you have a question, ask the question. It's okay to be wrong. We all do it. That's something that everyone needs to be more aware of.
Dorks Delivered's Worst and Best Year
In 2020, the COVID year, we had our worst year in 10 years. We've been in business for 14 years, and most people in the technology space are kicking goals. We stuffed up.
There was the G20 back in 2013 in Brisbane, and we had put in processes so that everyone could work from home securely. That was part of our onboarding process. When COVID hit and everyone had to work from home, we already had it in place, whereas other IT businesses were putting out projects and cashing in on it. We stuffed up there, but all of our clients were so appreciative of it. The moment their businesses bounced back is looking to be the best year that we've ever had in business.
Where are vendors' responsibilities?
A lot of the time, there are products that we're selling or that we require in business to leverage whether that be for our business backup type of things or for your business, like Salesforce, CRM systems, and Xero. Where do you think the vendors' responsibility sits with ultimately selling their products? Do you think they should have any say in it? Do you think they need to step up their game, given that our business's success ultimately drives their success? Or do you think that it's just "you package it up however you want it to look?"
Ken: I think at the end of the day, they have a responsibility to represent their product and train the people who sell their product depending on the kind of the lift. As an example, if they are not helping you at all, whatever that product is or the channel partner is, then they should be paying you a lot more than everybody else.
On the other hand, if they're providing you a substantial amount of backup, resources and other things, then maybe that's not the case because they're actually investing in your success. I think when I look at our channel partnerships, I'll take the least amount of money to be a part of the partnerships that I'm most fond of.
Because you believe in the product and the positioning, and they've probably got enough backing to be out to support you.
Ken: Absolutely, because that's the idea of outsourcing to gain efficiency and leverage.
Recommended Book: Obviously Awesome by April Dunford
If there was a book that would help our listeners to be better at sales, what would that be?
Ken: Don't read any sales books. Here's the problem. When people read sales books, everything they read about sales was written 30 years ago or earlier.
The sales books that we read all used very common concepts using different languages. If you're not educated in the actual process of sales and how to sell, you read these sales books and you think they're saying different things. You end up in a zig-zagging pattern of trying to implement what you read in the latest book, and you change it even though all it should have done was reinforce what you've already done.
Unless you have the ability to group things in context, I don't think reading sales books is a very good way to actually figure out how to do sales because it confuses most people.
I'll tell you a cool book I read recently, which helps you think about how to be creative and figure some stuff out, gives you some positioning. And that's called Obviously Awesome by April Dunford. She's based in Canada, and she's the go-to for small businesses.
You're right, there are a lot of books that talk about how to do, not what to do, and not things that are actually actionable. When it does boil down to it, most of the time it's just about taking the first step and that's most of the time the hardest.
Ken: "Done is better than perfect."
I love that because as an engineer, one of the biggest problems that I find is I do 95% planning and 5% execution. Have you heard of the "ready, fire, aim" concept? I'm getting better at this, but I find it very difficult.
There are different ways that you can help businesses. Tell us more about it.
Ken: We have a 3-month start and then a 6-month renewal. Our average client stays with us for probably a year and a half. They can come in and just see if we actually know what we're saying for the first three months and then at the end of the first three months, we will automatically renew for six months to continue the engagement.
Jump onto Ken Lundin and Associates!
What is freedom to you?
The podcast is called Business Built Freedom. It's different for everyone. What is the vehicle of business or what is business built freedom to you?
Ken: Choices. Options. People say, I want to make money, I want to make a million, I want to do this or that. Business freedom is about creating options because there’s nothing worse in life than not having options. Just look at last year with COVID when most of our options were taken away globally.
It definitely helped people think laterally and out of the books. I like that: choices and options. A lot of the time, if you're working for someone else, you're doing it by whatever the man has said. You don't necessarily have as many choices and options.
Ken: I think at the end of the day, the idea of being efficient has to transcend every piece of your business because that's how you actually will squeeze the most value out of it. Whether you're running a lifestyle business or an enterprise business, you have to ask: are we being efficient? When you say yes or no, you have to know how you actually measured it. Whether it's sales operations or your IT systems, understand how to get the measurement to answer the question the right way instead of just answering it with your gut.
If you have any feedback, comments or love to give, please jump across to iTunes. Stay good. Stay healthy out there.
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