Episode 141

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I hang out with agency owners every day and 95% of them resist proactive business development for as long as they can. Until that big client starts to give “I want to break up” signs, they are happy to rely on referrals and anyone who crosses the threshold as a substitute for a true biz dev program.

Most owners will tell me that they either hate sales or they’re terrible at them. But the reality is – you are all brilliant sales people because you are not a sales person. You are uniquely skilled at having business conversations at a level that no average salesperson can have.

The other excuse some owners will offer is that they are introverts, which means they can’t be good at sales. Again, I disagree. The key to good sales is asking better questions and listening with more intentionality and no one is better at that then someone who is more introverted.

All of this is why I invited Matthew Pollard to be on the show. He’s here to share insights from his work and from his forthcoming book, The Introvert’s Edge. He’s got some really great things to share to get us out of our reluctance about selling and networking.

Can narrowing our niche help us sell better? Matthew thinks so. Should we get beyond describing our work as a functional skill – the same skill everyone in the marketplace has? Matthew knows getting beyond functional skill is a crucial step.

Matthew is the Rapid Growth Guy. He’s dedicated to helping small business owners succeed by giving them methods that helped them transform their business from struggling into profitable success stories. He is the founder and executive director of the Small Business Festival, ranked among the top five conferences in the nation by Inc. magazine. He is in the international sales blogger awards hall of fame and has been featured in Entrepreneur, CEO magazine, Fortune, you name it.

But what we care about is that he’s going to help us be smarter about selling.



What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How to craft a unified message about why people should work with you
  • The difference between your functional skills and the reason people actually work with you
  • The three-step process to rapid growth
  • Why you don’t have to be an extrovert to be excellent at sales
  • Plenty of life hacks for your next networking event
  • How to stand out when your services have been commoditized
  • Why bending yourself to perceived market “needs” will leave you tired and frustrated
  • How niching narrows your market in all the right ways
  • The folly of sharing a bland message in a crowded market – and what to do instead
  • Why a small niche you are excited about is better than a giant market you don’t care about

The Golden Nuggets:

“You’ve got to realize that if you're a business owner and you’re not ‘in sales’ you’re really just counting down the days until your business shuts down.” - @MatthewPollard_ Click To Tweet “Don't go to a networking event with a friend. Go by yourself and talk to three specific people. When you’ve done that, you'll find that your momentum has increased.” - @MatthewPollard_ Click To Tweet “How do you compete in a crowded market? The first step is to avoid the battle altogether.” -@MatthewPollard_ Click To Tweet “You have to know what you’re passionate about and why you got into doing what you do. You need to tap back into what you're excited about, why you do what you do.” - @MatthewPollard_ Click To Tweet “If you define yourself by a functional skill, you are a commodity.” - @MatthewPollard_ Click To Tweet “When you've created a message that you're so excited about that you're willing to tell everybody in the world, now all of a sudden some markets are not as interesting as others to you.” - @MatthewPollard_ Click To Tweet “Focus your attention on making sure you speak the exact message that excites you. Sharing a bland message in a highly competitive market right gets you exactly nowhere.” - @MatthewPollard_ Click To Tweet “If you discover a niche that you only had one or two clients in, don't be fearful of that. Be excited that you are starting with two clients!” - @MatthewPollard_ Click To Tweet


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Speaker 1:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build a Better Agency podcast, presented by HubSpot. We’ll show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invested employees and best of all, more money to the bottom line. Bringing his 25+ years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McClellan.

Drew McClellan:

Hey, everybody. Welcome back to another episode of Build a Better Agency. Today, we are going to talk about sales. Let me tell you a little bit about the guests that I have with us to dig into that topic and then we’re going to get right into it.

Matthew Pollard is the “Rapid Growth Guy”. He’s dedicated to helping small business owners succeed by giving them methods that help them transform their business from struggling into profitable success stories. He is the founder and executive director of the Small Business Festival, ranked among the top five conferences in the nation by Inc. Magazine.

He is sought after to judge at many of the US’s most prominent startup events, including Google Startup Weekend and others. He is in the International Sales Blogger Awards Hall of Fame, and has been featured in Entrepreneur, CEO Magazine and Fortune, Forbes, you name it. But what we care about is that he’s going to help us be smarter about selling. That’s where we’re going to focus. Matthew, welcome to the podcast.

Matthew Pollard:

Drew, I’m very happy to be here. Thank you for having me on.

Drew McClellan:

You bet. As we were talking about before I hit the record button, in most agencies’ world, some of them have Biz Dev people on staff, but for the most part, the agency owner is the salesperson and it is one of many hats they wear. And quite honestly, for most of them, it’s not a hat they enjoy. Once they’re in front of a prospect, they enjoy that part of the process but the getting of the meeting and getting on someone’s radar screen is not something that most of them enjoy. So as you might imagine, as busy as they are, they find ways to dodge it. I suspect that that’s not uncommon for you to see business owners who don’t really love the art of selling.

Matthew Pollard:

Let’s face it, most people get into small business especially and small business has varying different analogies. But most people get into business because they want to build a business around doing what they love, their functional skill. They didn’t into business to be a salesperson, they didn’t want to be a salesperson. They kind of figured out that they needed to be several months in when they realized that the money wasn’t hitting the bank account like they expected. And the people that they spoke to that said, “100%, I will work with you when you open up your own business,” didn’t come across or they did but then after a few months, they weren’t providing repeat business or they weren’t referring their friends and they couldn’t get new clients and all of a sudden, things go flat.

Drew McClellan:

Right. Because you’re exactly right, nobody opens an agency because they want to be a sales guy. So how does someone wrap their head around? How do you re-jigger your brain to realize that A, you’re capable of it and B, it’s not as horrible as you have convinced yourself that it is?

Matthew Pollard:

But it is as horrible as you’ve convinced yourself that it is. No, I’m joking.

Drew McClellan:

I was going to say everyone just to stop listening to us now. So it’s just you and me talking.

Matthew Pollard:

First, I think Peter Thiel, actually, he’s one of the founders of PayPal and I think he said it best. He said, “If your business consists of just you and your laptop, look around. If you don’t see any sales people, you’re the salesperson.” You’ve got to realize that if you’re in business and you’re not in sales, you’re really just counting down the days until your business shuts down.

You have to make the decision, “I’m actually in sales.” This is what I do for a living. Yes, I do this functional skill and that’s what I love. But unless I sell, I’m not going to be able to continue running my business. Now, we can go into some strategies because I know a lot of people that come to me and they’re after sales techniques, sales tactics to be better at doing what they’re doing. And a lot of times if you start with sales, you’ve kind of already lost. There’s a lot of things you can do.

I always say rapid growth is really around three steps, differentiating and creating that unified message that separates you from everyone else. The thing that expires people who want to know more, then niching to develop a market of willing to buy clients and then sales systematization. But a lot of people are really happy to talk about marketing and branding and niching. But when it comes to the sales, they still don’t want to do it. So the people that are in that boat, the best way I can explain it is when I was just turned 19 and I was working in a real estate agency. Before people imagined me as the salesperson, I was the guy in the back office with a look on my face saying, “Please don’t talk to me. I’m here to find myself for the year.”

I [inaudible 00:04:59] in late high school. School was really hard for me. I got into the top 20% of the state, but it had worn me out and I just needed a year off to just really figure out what it was I wanted to do. Well, I’d worked there for three weeks and my boss comes up to me, he goes, “Matt, I’ve got some bad news. The company’s going bankrupt and you’re out of the job.” I had worked there for three weeks.

Drew McClellan:


Matthew Pollard:

Now, to put this in perspective, this was just before Christmas. Now, in America, you can get another job around that time because you take time off at Thanksgiving, you take time off at Christmas, but you don’t take a lot of time off. Because it’s winter, it’s cold, you’re going to see your family, you’re going to get back to work and then you’ll take some more time off in the summer.

In Australia, we take our Christmas and our summer break at the same time. We go away on the 20th of December, and we’re not coming back until the 15th, the 20th of January. There’s just not a business owner to be seen. So I had to find a job and the only job I could find, you guessed it, commission only sales. So if you can imagine a guy that is terrified of speaking to his own friends really and terrified of being the one that everyone’s focusing on, now he’s thrown to this commission on the sales job, he gets five days of product training, not a single ounce of sales training. I get thrown on this road called Sydney Road and it’s just shop after shop after shop of these struggling to survive retail suites.

Most people when I say-

Drew McClellan:

Sounds awesome.

Matthew Pollard:

It was horrific. I was terrified. Most people when I say that it was shop after shop, they’re like, “Oh, yeah. Versace and then Maya and then…” No, no. This was like going down junk shop. It was like going down a strip of shops in Thailand. It was a really bad street. And I remember I was about to open up the first door. I didn’t have to knock. I wasn’t doing residential. But I was going to walk in, there with customers in the store and I was about to walk in and talk to someone. I went, “No one’s taught me how to sell. I’m going to have to figure this out.”

Well, it was 93 doors before my first sale. Now, if you can imagine Christmas time, everyone shopping, everyone at high stress. People are lovely. Around that time of year, I got told to get a real job, I got told every swear word under the sun. I got asked what I was doing with my life. I even had one person scream at me until I left. It was terrible. And then the 93rd door, I made my first sale. I remember I made about $70. I was ecstatic for about 45 seconds.

Nothing was better until I had that realization. I’ve got to do this again tomorrow and for the rest of the year. And I’m like, “This is not okay, I can’t do this.” My father broke his back 80 hours a week putting us through school and… I didn’t grow up in a rich family. I promised him I was going to look after myself and pay for myself that year and I’m not going back to him to explain, “Sorry. It’s a little bit tough. My first day was bad.”

It’s not like I can pick up a Brian Tracy or Zig Ziglar. But I mean, I had a reading speed of a sixth grader, it would have taken me a year to read the book, let alone do anything with it. So I went looking for another answer and I think this is one of the biggest things for a lot of people to start their own business or their own agency or whatever business they have. Things get tough and they start to reevaluate whether they want to do it. Or maybe they’re getting just enough clients to not be in pain but definitely not enough that they’re making great money and it just continues on like that until their husband or wife goes, “Are you serious? Go back and get a job.”

The thing is that things don’t… For me, my back was against the wall. I think when people have their back against the wall, they find a solution. Pat Flynn’s a great example of that. He’s a great podcaster, he did very, very well. But his back was against the wall as well. His wife was pregnant and he had to find a way to make it work. And for me, so did I. What I did is I went looking online for a solution. This was around the time that YouTube just started to get popular and surprising to me, there was a lot more to YouTube than just cat videos.

I learned the steps of the sale, I learned the elements of the sale, I learned everything it took to be a phenomenal salesperson on YouTube. Every day, I would go out and I would practice a new part of the sale, and every day the number of doors it would take me to make a sale would go down. Until about six weeks later, my sales manager came up to me and he told me that I was now on the report and I was listed as the number one salesperson in the largest sales and marketing company in the southern hemisphere.

Everybody was shocked because I was the guy that nobody would talk to. You got all the old sales dogs and the extroverts, they’d be talking about how the market was getting harder and how… I just kept to myself because I didn’t consider myself a salesperson. I was just treading water trying to make enough money to survive and I hadn’t even received my first paycheck yet. We got paid eight weeks in arrears and I just got told that I was the number one salesperson in the largest sales and marketing company in southern hemisphere. I’m just selling telecommunications.

From that point onwards, next thing I knew, I was promoted and then I was training people and I started training a huge number of introverts, people that did not want to sell but they wanted to provide a great income for their family. As I got promoted more and more, I ended up the state manager of South Australia, which is equivalent to a really tiny state. It’s got less than 20% of the population of Australia. Predominant, most of the population is in Melbourne and Sydney and I got promoted there and when I first started, the only two salespeople I had, I had one guy that had been diagnosed with cancer and he only worked a couple of days a week.

The other guy, pretty much I would say he was homeless, he just came in to use the bathroom in the morning. And then that was it. And within the space of four months, I built that to a sales company or sales state that was outselling the two primary states. That’s Detroit selling more than New York and Los Angeles together. We were just doing amazingly well. I got promoted to head off the state. Fast forward a little bit more, I opened up my first telecommunications company. We turned over a million dollars within the first 12 months. And by year three, we were the number one brokership for business to business cell phones in the country. We turned over about $4.2 million that year.

Fast forward a few more years and I’d been responsible for five multimillion dollar success stories. My last one was a nationally accredited education facility. If you’re thinking you can’t do sales, I was the guy that had no right being in sales. I went from terrified to sell to teaching hundreds how to do it. And now through my blogs and through my new book that’s coming out and all the podcasts interviews I do, I’d like to say I teach thousands.

Anyone can work in sales. The thing that they’ve got to get over is that it is a gift of the [inaudible 00:11:38] that they either have or that they don’t. It’s something that they don’t enjoy. I’m not sure… Drew, do you ski?

Drew McClellan:

Do I ski? Yeah.

Matthew Pollard:

Do you remember the first time you put two planks of wood on your feet and you were going to go down. How comfortable did you feel?

Drew McClellan:

I was terrified, of course. Yeah. I think if you learn over the age of three, you’re terrified. I think if you’re three or yet less, you don’t care, you just go. But, four and plus, yeah.

Matthew Pollard:

My first experience of snow, I was eight years old. My dad drove… We spent hours in the car driving to the snow. My father put snow down my back, I cried, we all went home.

Drew McClellan:

Sounds like a fun family vacation.

Matthew Pollard:

It was a fun family vacation. I’ll put it this way. The first time I stood on skis, I was terrified, my stomach was in my throat. It was not fun. It was uncomfortable. I remember going down, I had no control. I had no idea how to stop. There was one time I plowed right into this one other person and I was in incredible pain and now you know what? I enjoy skiing?

Yeah, right. And it’s because I learned the skill set. I didn’t hold down and go, “You know what? I didn’t have the gift to the ski. I’m never going to be able to ski.” Everyone seems to look at every other skill set from accounting to skiing and say, “Okay, this is a process. I need to learn this process step by step and then I’ll be able to do it.”

But yet for some reason, when it comes to sales, we go, “That’s a natural ability. I either have it or I don’t.” It makes most sense to me. But you know what? I would have been saying the same thing if I didn’t get thrown on that street all those years ago.

Drew McClellan:

For many agency owners, it’s interesting that you were talking about introversion. A lot of people who think that they are not good sales, people who don’t want to go to a networking event and engage with someone that they don’t know, who don’t want to reach out to somebody at a trade show, whatever that is.

For agency owners, many of them, their sales process is, “I’m going to wait for a referral.” Or, “I’m going to sort of stay in the circle of people that I know well and I’m hoping that I’m liked enough that someday they call me.” So for someone who is not a walk in the room and introduce themselves to everyone. so for somebody who’s doesn’t exude extraversion, how does an introvert or somebody who is less inclined to just chat chat, love your hat with everyone, how do they learn how to sell?

Matthew Pollard:

Sure. What we’re really talking about is how does someone like me because that’s me, I’ll go to a networking… I was at a networking event the other day. I was in Chapel Hill and I’m like… We’ve just moved to Chapel Hill, we moved from Austin to Chapel Hill and I’m like, “I’m going to have to start to meet some people.” 99% of my customers are from all over the world but I’d like to have some contacts here. I’m well connected in Austin. I moved into Austin not knowing anyone but my girlfriend, my now fiance and within three years, I was listed as one of the most connected people in Austin.

And then I went, “I’m moving to Chapel Hill.” So I’m starting again. You know what? The same thing happened. I went to a networking event and I’m like, “I don’t want to be here. And no one knows me.” They’re looking at this guy going, “Who’s that new guy?” And I could feel it.

The difference is that even… I’m going to put it in a way that people understand. If you see a bear and a bear is running at you, your brain says run away. That’s what that brain says.

Drew McClellan:

One would hope so. Yes.

Matthew Pollard:

If doesn’t, I can’t help you.

Drew McClellan:


Matthew Pollard:

That’s right. But if you’ve got to bear running at you, your brain says, “Run away.” If you see a bear, your brain says, “Run away.” The whole reason it does that is because our whole life or through generations and generations, our brain… We have three different types of our brand, but our survival mentality kicks in every time, our brain or our body feels that it’s in danger.

When we go to networking events, there are no bears, but our brain sees them all as bears. Our body is like, “Bears everywhere. This is a time to run.” So our psychology and our body chemistry is not working on our side. So we have to have strategies.

I’ve got a podcast that actually is launching in about two weeks. I’m not sure when these episode’s coming out, but it’s coming out from two weeks from today, but it’s called the Introvert’s Edge. And the whole focus is my books coming out in January, so it’s leading up to the book and I’ve interviewed everyone from the founder of BNI, which is the guy that’s got nearly 8,000 networking events across the world. He’s an introvert. He was joking to his wife about being an extrovert. His wife’s like, “No, no, no. You’re an introvert.” He’s like, “No, no, I’m an extrovert. I run the largest networking group in the world. I’m an extrovert.”

She’s like, “No.” So he did the test and he found out he’s an introvert. And then he realized that he created BNI because it provided a strategic way to meet people and create-

Drew McClellan:

Yeah, like the structure of it.

Matthew Pollard:

Exactly. Now, it doesn’t matter who you talk to that’s introverted. I’ve interviewed everyone, as I said, from that, to the founder of Ugg Boots to Ryan Deiss to Jamie Masters, all of them will tell you how they handle a networking event. And a lot of them have different processes. They all have different steps that they follow. But there’s one similarity, they have a system that they have worked out. It’s a step by step process and they always follow it.

Drew McClellan:

How did they figure out what it was? So if someone’s listening and going, “Great, I need a system like that.” How do you figure it out?

Matthew Pollard:

Definitely. So there are things you can do. And I will talk about this