Episode 333:

For an industry that is heavily dependent on effective sales practices, many agency owners are intimidated by the “s” word. It conjures horrible imagery of vacuum salesmen trying to trick people into making purchases they don’t actually want or need. Hiring sales teams might seem like the right step but the results are often disappointing and it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why. This can turn one of the most important aspects of building a successful agency into the most strenuous aspect.

Kevin Snow is dedicated to helping businesses and business owners think through their approach to selling, while also helping them get more comfortable with the process. He believes strongly that shifting from a sales pitch to a simple conversation is key to making the outcome more pleasant and effective on both sides of the table.

In this episode of Build a Better Agency, Kevin and I demystify what it means to have a successful sales model. We look at ways to approach sales comfortably, regardless of your personality type. We unravel what it means to have sales automation that doesn’t feel phony or contrived, and we ultimately hope to help business owners reimagine this “necessary evil” as an enjoyable conversation with an outcome.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Sales Strategy

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • The best small business sales model
  • Sale tactics for introverts
  • Making the most of sales automation
  • The important shift in how to approach sales
“The biggest thing I saw while helping companies launch sales teams is that they hadn’t documented any of their processes. They weren’t actually able to show me how exactly they sold their product or service.” @kevinesnow Click To Tweet “It’s really key for business owners, especially in the beginning, to go out and sell.” @kevinesnow Click To Tweet “No matter how much that salesperson loves your company, they’re never going to be as passionate about it as the owner.” @kevinesnow Click To Tweet “As introverts, we have a superpower, because we like asking questions and we listen, and we pay attention because we actually want all of that information.” @kevinesnow Click To Tweet “Sales is just a conversation with an outcome.” @kevinesnow Click To Tweet “When you’re focusing on what the client’s got going on, you’re asking questions and having authentic conversations, it changes the whole sales dynamic. You’re now becoming a partner and not just trying to take their money.” @kevinesnow Click To Tweet “The biggest thing you need to be thinking about is not how many sales calls you’re doing, how many pitches, how many proposals. It’s about how many conversations are you having with people.” @kevinesnow Click To Tweet

Ways to Contact Kevin Snow:

Additional Resources:

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, Build A Better Agency podcast, presented by White Label IQ. Tune in every week for insights on how small to midsize agencies are surviving and thriving in today’s market. We’ll show you how to make more money and keep more of what you make. We want to help you build an agency that is sustainable, scalable, and if you want down the road, sellable. With 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey everybody, Drew McLellan here from Agency Management Institute. Welcome back to another episode of Build A Better Agency. I am back with guests. I am done with my six week solo cast fest. Thanks for tolerating that, I hope you found it helpful, but it’s fun to have guests back in the studio, air quote to the studio, and be able to have these kind of conversations again. I know that you are going to be glad to hear a voice other than mine for a change, and I’m happy to bring today’s guest to you, which I think is going to be a great conversation around sales.

Before I do that though, I want to remind all of you that we have some really great workshops coming up. We have the running your agency for growth and profit, which is in March, March 14th and 15th, and that’s really for agency owners and leaders. We’re going to look at all of the best practices for all of the back-of-the-house systems. So, finances, HR, biz dev, leadership growth, all of those things. We’re going to talk a lot about your role as an agency owner, we’re going to talk about how you reap the most benefit out of owning an agency and how we can reduce some of the stress and worries that you have. So, it’s a great workshop, it gets rave reviews, it’s in Chicago, March 14th to 15th, and we would love to see you there.

Then we also just announced that we are bringing the Mercer Island Group folks back to do the selling with strategic insights workshop that we sell out every single time that we offer it. And so, we have opened it up and we are going to do it in July, and it is July 19th and 20th. Again, we’re going to do it in Chicago. Again, that workshop sells out at 50 attendees, so do not wait to check out either of those workshops and learn more about them. Head over to the Agency Management Institute website, and under the how we help tab, you’ll see workshops, and then you can move over to the right and you will see both of those with some detail and you can also register for them there. So, we would love to have you at both or either if they will serve you well.

All right. Then I want to tell you a little bit about today’s guest. So, Kevin Snow, really interesting background. He’s been a sales guy, was in the military, and now owns his own company where he coaches and helps businesses and business owners just like us, really get comfortable with the idea of selling and thinking through the way we approach selling and how we can be more effective and also be more comfortable doing it. So many of us find the whole S-word a little bit intimidating. And so, Kevin has some great strategies around how we can approach that a little differently and be a little more successful. So, let’s just jump right into the conversation and welcome him to the show. Kevin, welcome to the podcast, thanks for joining us.

Kevin Snow:

Thanks for having me, Drew. I’m excited about our conversation this morning.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, I am too. Tell everybody a little bit about your background and how you came to run Time On Target and the work that you do so that they understand the context before I start peppering you with questions.

Kevin Snow:

Sure. I’m actually supposed to be a high school agriculture teacher and college or a wrestling coach. That’s actually what I went to school for. I graduated college and I got offered a teaching job that was going to pay me $19,000 a year, and then I also got offered a sales job in the neighboring state that was going to pay me $39,000 a year base plus commission. So I was like, “Oh, hi mom, I’m moving. I’m going to this other state.” And I took the sales job, and that was the start of my sales career.

And it got to a point where I’d been a top sales producer for multiple companies. I had started working with a networking organization, supporting their chapters and their members and doing some coaching, and I was really good at launching the chapters and making big chapters, doing it quickly. People started asking me to come train their teams and paying me to do it. And I was like, “Okay, I need a business.” That’s how I launched Time On Target, because people wanted to give me money, and I had no intentions of having a business other than what I was doing at the time.

But then other people started paying me to come speak at conferences about sales and networking and to teach their … come to their organization’s chambers and different professional groups. So it turned into this side business for me, it was really cool. And then I deployed, I ended up in Middle East for a year with the army, and I came back and I was like, “Oh crap. I have no speaking gigs on my calendar, and I have nothing in my pipeline.” I just found the major flaw in my business model. It cannot survive me not being around.

And I had this huge realization that I didn’t actually have a business, I had a job and I was in the point where I had to make decisions like, “Do I keep doing the speaking thing and rebuild everything, knowing I’m going to have to deploy again at some point? Do I just go find a job and go back to the corporate world?” That got ruled out really quick because I had found I really liked the independent thing. Or do I pivot and figure out another way to apply all my skills that is scalable. That’s what I did. I did a huge pivot with my business, where we went from the speaking being the product base, and me being the product to actually going into businesses and consulting and coming in and helping them actually build and launch their sales team.

I was working with all second stage growth companies. It had some success, they were all doing really good, and now they’re trying to figure out how they get to that next level, and we’d come in and actually do all their sales stuff for them. We’d figure out how to write the job description, teach them how to interview sales people, because it’s different interviewing a salesperson than a developer or a customer service rep. We’d help them map out their sales process, we’d help them figure out how to put the automation in, how to train those new sales people, how to manage them. The whole gambit of what you need to do if you’re going to have a sales team.

We’d help them document and put into place and launch the team. And that was awesome. But I discovered unless I was going to have a huge team of consultants working on stuff, I couldn’t scale that business either, because there were certain parts of it that were just so labor intensive. I don’t know if you’ve ever gone through a hiring cycle to hire three to four salespeople at a time. That’s all you do. All you do is [crosstalk 00:07:26]

Drew McLellan:

[crosstalk 00:07:26] Yeah.

Kevin Snow:

Yeah. And you’re like, “Oh my God, I can’t have more than one client at a time when I’m doing this.” So I had to shift again and I started niching down to where we’re at now, where all we focus on is helping companies develop and document what their sales process is and how their clients make purchasing decisions, and then integrating the sales and marketing technology into that process. So that it’s seamless and gives the user and the client a good experience.

Drew McLellan:

It is interesting you talk about the need for sales and the importance of sales, and fascinating the idea of you having to pivot your business a couple of times as you realize the shortcomings of the current model. Many agency owners, most agency owners, they are the salesperson inside their shop. They are the ones who are out networking and selling and leading the sales team, and the sales team is typically some accounts service people and some other key leaders. But the agency owner is often the lead salesperson. But they all covet hiring a salesperson. Right? But most of them do not enjoy sales or they don’t enjoy the perception of sales.

So, talk a little bit about, as you’re coaching clients, should everyone aspire to having commission salespeople on staff? What do you believe is the best model for actually being successful at sales if you’re a small business?

Kevin Snow:

It really depends at the stage of development that you’re in as a business, and how you actually vision your company being, 3, 5, 10 years in the future. So, I have this conversation with CEOs of companies cross the industrial spectrum where they’ll come in and say, “All right, I need to hire sales people.” And they’re not at that point where they can actually pull that off.

The biggest thing I saw when I was working with companies and helping them launch sales teams was that they hadn’t documented any of their processes. They weren’t able to verbalize and show me how they actually sold their product or service, and they weren’t able to tell me who they specifically were selling to and how those people made decisions. I worked at a few small businesses during my sales career and it was always frustrating for me, because I started my sales career with large Fortune 100 companies where you’d come on as a salesperson and you’d have like a month of training. Of, “Hey, here’s how our product works, here’s the values, here’s how to position it to your clients, here’s who our clients are. Now we’re going to teach you this really specific process. All right, you know stuff, now go out and do things.”

Whereas you get hired by a small business or a mom and pop shop and they’re like, “Oh, you are a number one salesperson at this company. Go sell stuff.” And you know nothing. And it was really frustrating because then they’d be like, “Well, why aren’t you selling anything?” “Because I’m trying to make this up as I go, you’ve given me nothing.”

So, it’s really key for business owners, especially at the beginning to go out and sell. And for obvious reason of creating processes and figuring out what works and what doesn’t work, and paying attention to, “Hey, I said this one thing and the client’s eyes lit up and they got it and they understood what we did and how we could help.” That’s a key thing you should be documenting, but it’s also really key because that’s driving revenue and it’s validating that what you’re offering is actually needed in the marketplace.

When I did the pivot from the speaking thing to the consulting, I got all into this. “Oh I’m going to build a real business.” And I started doing CEO things, and I stopped doing the sales thing. I started figuring out, “All right, here’s the culture I’m going to build, I have this really cool culture deck that I still use [inaudible 00:11:25] it’s fun to show people.” I did that right away. I built out like marketing stuff, built a website. I didn’t go sell, I was like, “Oh crap. I don’t have money.”

Drew McLellan:

I actually [crosstalk 00:11:34]

Kevin Snow:

“I don’t have it. Oh shit, I need revenue.” I went from having a nice little cushion from coming off the deployment where if I had started selling right away that I would’ve kept that cushion to, “Oh crap, I need to go make money.” So, you got to sell. That is the number one thing as a CEO, you got to go do it.

Drew McLellan:

So in our world we believe that at least 50% of an agency owner’s time should be spent on biz dev. Whether it’s direct selling or it’s networking or it’s following up with current clients to see if you can upsell them, but that I believe and I teach that that’s really the most critical job. So yes, you still have to do CEO things and things that no one else is going to do if you don’t do them. But the core part of your business is, to your point, I love the idea message of sometimes as a business owner, A, you can have a level of conversation that’s different than everyone else, but B, you tell the stories because you’ve been there from the beginning.

So you can be able to say, “You know what? We had a client that had that exact problem and here’s what we did, and here’s what happened.” And when agencies hire salespeople, agency owners think this is great, I can just send them out into the world and they can sell. And what they don’t understand is that they still, even if they have somebody who can open a door for them, either they have to show up to and tell the stories or they have to teach all the stories to the person which takes time.

Kevin Snow:

Yep. Exactly. And no matter how much that salesperson loves your company, they’re never going to be as passionate about it as the owner, as the founder, the person who took it from an office in their garage to a multimillion dollar company. When they come in, there’s just going to be that sparkle and that energy behind the stories and how they’re talking about what they do that no one’s going to be able to replicate.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Yeah. I agree. One of the excuses that a lot of agency owners give is that they aren’t good at sales because they’re not gregarious, outgoing and extroverts. So, surely you have seen and coached a lot of introverts in terms of sales, how do you combat that argument?

Kevin Snow:

I’m an introvert. On the DISC profile, I can’t be any more of a C, I can do all the other things, but I am totally a C at heart. So I have huge introvert. I get all my energy from being at home alone. I get that thing. And my first sales job was horrible because I tried to be the high D, the I high sales guy-

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, great.

Kevin Snow:

And it did work for me. I could not do those types of closes and those high pressure things. But I found through trial and error because no one really was teaching, “Hey, here’s how to sell if you’re a C, here’s how to sell if you’re this person.” I discovered that, as introverts, we have a superpower, we like asking questions, and we listen, and we pay attention because we actually want all that information. And our brains are always taking that information, they’re analyzing.

So, the biggest thing I did is I got rid of the pitch tech. I completely threw out the three ring binder they gave me with the horrible handouts and the pitch that’s all about, “All right, our company started here and then we did this and it’s all about us.” I shifted my process, so it was all around the client and the prospect, and getting them to tell me stuff so that I could then take whatever product I was selling at the time and make it fit to what they told me, and really focus on, “Hey …” And it wasn’t so much focusing on what we could do, but what the impact was going to be.

So our sales process or my sales process then became all about the afters. If we’re able to do this and you’re able to increase your revenue by 10% or you’re able to do an extra job a day per guy, what does that mean to your business? And the focus was all on that. I pretty much did 180 degree turn in my sales success from struggling to hit quota on a regular basis to being the number one guy in the company, because I wasn’t focusing on price and the bells and whistles and all the other stuff that people normally sell in technology, I focused on the impact. That’s really the key for the introverts is, we’re going to ask really good questions and we’re going to make that prospect think about things and get them to tell us things.

So, we now get to use their words and we’re not telling them what we think is going to happen or what happens with other people. It’s all going to be what’s happening with you and how we’re going to help you get there and be a partner with you. And that is huge. I sell sales automation. I one-call close 85% of my clients right now. I don’t do proposals. I don’t say, “All right, so here’s how we’re going to do stuff.” It, we literally have a call and go from here, tell me all you’re paying and everything that’s going on in future, and by the end of the meeting, we’re talking about, “All right, so how do we start working?” It’s because of how you do the questions and how you engage that conversation.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So here’s what I just heard you say, because I want to dig into this. So, what I heard you say was, I have an automation system that brings people deeper into the funnel that then gets them ready to buy by the time I first have a conversation with them. Did I just translate that correctly?

Kevin Snow:

No, I do a ton of business development work. So, events like podcasts, speaking on stage, I do a ton of stuff on social media, not your normal social media, I do like groups, and I get a ton of clients out of different groups and then a ton of referrals. So, I’ll have my first meeting with the client first introduction, and by the end of that meeting, we are already talking about implementation and how we move. I have automation that will fire sometimes depending on if we have additional meetings or not.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So, talk to me a little bit about the automation, because for a lot of agency owners, they worry that that feels transactional, that it feels smarmy, that they … So, how do you have it set up? Because what you’re selling is, you are in essence selling a service and consultation, just like we do. Right?

Kevin Snow:

Yep.

Drew McLellan:

What does your automation look like or sound like that feels genuine, not salesy like you, and why does it work?

Kevin Snow:

So, when we come into a client to help them figure out how to integrate sales automation into their sales process, the first thing we always end up working on is understanding how their client makes that purchasing decision, and of a huge part of that is understanding what questions they’re asking at each step. And that’s the issue a lot of small businesses have developed, this sales process that they’ve pulled out of thin air.

All right. So we’re going to do initial meeting and we’re going to do these things, and they’ll always throw in … And then there.s a proposal step, and we’re going to send that out, and then there’s another meeting, and it’s all artificial, because they haven’t done the research to actually go into their clients to talk about, “All right, so …” And get feedback about how they make purchasing decisions, and then figuring out if that is standard across their target or not. So, that’s the first thing we do.

And then we look at, “All right, so what are all the things that are the same, and what are all the tasks that you’re doing as a salesperson that are redundant, that you’re having to do for every client?” And then that’s where we start looking at the automation pieces. And a big one of the automation steps that we do is usually after that first meeting, there’s always that, “Hey, thanks for meeting with me on Friday, it was great learning about your business. Here’s more stuff.” And we’ll automate that.

So when they complete that initial meeting, then that trigger will fire and I’ll send off that email, but that email’s in all really structured around those key questions that we know they’re asking at that time. So for example, I was working with a roofing company and we did this for them, and that first email after they went out and did all the measurements and everything in the house was, “Hey, thanks for meeting with me yesterday. It’s great getting to find out about you and your family and your house and blah, blah, blah. Here’s a guide how to know that you’re not getting scammed by a roofing company.”

Drew McLellan:

Huh. Okay.

Kevin Snow:

And it was all because the biggest fear for [crosstalk 00:19:57]

Drew McLellan:

Of course. They have no idea what I’m buying.

Kevin Snow:

Yeah. And are you actually a reputable company? Because in Minnesota, when we have the big thunderstorms in the summer, we get storm chasers that come through. So all of a sudden there’ll be someone knocking on my door that does not sound like a Minnesotan, because they’re from North Carolina and they’re up here just getting quick jobs.

Drew McLellan:

Again, because there’s hail damage or whatever from … yeah, yeah.

Kevin Snow:

Exactly. They see a big storm, it’s like, “All right, we’re sending crews in Minnesota. Now we’re going to Kansas, this week we’re going to be here.” So, that was a huge thing for them to help their clients. We’d give them a checklist, “Hey, here’s all the things you need to ask, here’s all the things you need to check on.”

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Right.

Kevin Snow:

So they could go and feel comfortable about making that decision. And that was not something that’s common for their industry to do-

Drew McLellan:

[crosstalk 00:20:47]

Kevin Snow:

“Hey, here’s how you make sure you’re making a good choice.” And then the next step was then, “All right, here’s my pricing. Here’s how much is the cost to do the roof, the windows, siding, whatever it is.” And then the next automation for them was, “Hey, here’s some testimonials, here are some people in the area that have used our services who [crosstalk 00:21:04]

Drew McLellan:

[crosstalk 00:21:04]

Kevin Snow:

Exactly. That social prove. People that are not from other states, people that could be their neighbors. And it’s all making sure when you’re doing the automation … I’ve come across lots of marketers who write their copy like a marketer and they don’t understand the actual voice and tone of the person that’s going out and doing the selling. Especially in a small business where that agency owner, the CEO, the founder is doing all the sales yet, you need the right in their tone. People need to think it’s actually Drew sending the email, not some AI developed content that’s just getting pushed out. So, those are the key things, is understanding, “Hey, here’s the content that they need right now.”

Drew McLellan:

Here’s what the barriers that might be in the way of them making a buying decision, and how do I move those barriers by giving them the information that they need. Yeah.

Kevin Snow:

Exactly. And it’s getting rid of that one thing that sales people hate doing. Because I remember when I was doing the corporate sales, this is pre big automation, every Friday was my, “Hey, I got to send my thank you emails.” And you wouldn’t pay attention because you’re just cutting and pasting, and you’re really not excited to be spending your time doing this.

So I’m sending an email to Drew, except I’m saying, “Hi, Sally.” I have the wrong company name, and then I hit send. And I’m like, “Oh my God, what did I just do?” Then you feel like a schmuck? It’s taking that stuff off the plate that gives the owner now time to do more biz dev and be the face of their company and get more stuff in the pipeline or to do the CEO stuff. So they’re not doing that stuff at night when they should be hanging out with their family and playing with their kids.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Well, again I think smart automation and understanding that at least in our world, the sales cycle can be long. I mean, it can be a day or a decade and it often is somewhere in between. And so, to be able to stay in front of them and to provide value, but not have to think about it and create it in your head every time, is challenging, but also important as you said, to make sure that you’re spending your time doing the things that you should be doing.

Kevin Snow:

Yeah. And that’s why we’ve seen the onslaught of all the internet gurus, “Here, use my system and we will increase your sales by a 100%.” But it’s all cut and paste. It’s nothing that’s personalized to that specific business, and most companies when they get these, they’ll just implement them. And now there’s going to be that huge disconnect in the buyer because, “Okay, this doesn’t sound like Drew and he’s talking about things that we haven’t talked about yet.” There shouldn’t be surprises in your automation. You’re not introducing new concepts, you’re following up and reinforcing things you’ve already talked about or answering questions that you know are going through their head because of the conversation you just had.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, exactly.

Kevin Snow:

Whereas a lot of the automations you can buy and all the swipe files are just really horrible sales copy that’s designed to … and that’s where people get this whole negative idea about using email [crosstalk 00:24:13]

Drew McLellan:

Well, and if anybody should be able to do this well, it’s agencies. Right? I mean, it’s what we do for clients. But we often don’t do it for ourselves.

Kevin Snow:

Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

Because we know how to do it for clients, but somehow there’s a disconnect when it’s us. Yeah. So, I want to take a break, but when we come back, I know that one of the things that you talk about is stop driving to close the sale, but instead drive for closure. So I’m curious about that. So, we’ll take a quick break and then we’ll come back and you can tell us what you mean by that phrase. All right?

Kevin Snow:

Perfect.

Drew McLellan:

All right. We’ll be right back, everybody. When it comes to conducting a client satisfaction survey, your agency has three choices. The first one is adopt and don’t ask, don’t tell policy and just roll the dice. Your second option is to do the study in house. And the third option is to use a third party to conduct your client satisfaction survey. If you decide that you’re ready to invest in protecting your client relationships and improving your win and keep ratios, we believe there are some benefits of using AMI as your third party research partner.

Number one, we know emphatically that your clients will tell us things that they just won’t tell you. The reality is they’re going to speak more freely if they’re not talking to you directly, they don’t want to hurt your feelings, and they don’t want to get into a big conversation about it. So a third party is a safe place for them to share their real feedback. The second is, at AMI we don’t have a bias about any particular client, we don’t know if you like them, don’t like them, if they’re a pain, if they’re your favorite. And so, because we understand the agency business, but we don’t come into those conversations with any preconceived notions, we can absolutely give you unbiased and unfiltered information based on what your clients tell us.

And you know what? We know agency clients, we can hear what they’re saying and we know which threads to pull on as we’re talking to them to get more information for you and more insight. Your clients will be comfortable talking to us because we speak their language. If you’re interested in having AMI do your customer satisfaction survey, head over to agencymanagementinstitute.com and look under the how we help section of the website to learn more. All right, let’s get back to the show.

All right, we are back with Kevin Snow, and we are talking about sales and how you as the agency owner can and should really drive sales until you get to a certain size, and then as many of you do, you’ve got a salesperson or a sales team. But right before the break, I was asking Kevin, one of his catch phrases, if you will, is stop trying to close the sale instead get closure. So, walk us through what that means.

Kevin Snow:

So, there’s such high pressure for business orders and salespeople to get to yes. That it really skews how they have as a conversation. And they think sales is about that yes, and it’s not. Sales is about having a conversation with closure at the end, and the closure that I talk about can be the yes or the no, either/or is fine. I am totally fine with the client telling me no. And I let them know upfront. It’s like, “Hey, if we’re not a fit, please tell me.” If I don’t think we’re a fit, because I’m going to tell you, and I need that same respect from you that you’ll tell me and not carry things on and drag things out, because you’re afraid to say no.

So, I want that, but there’s also that piece, closure. If I get to the end of the meeting and I know we’re not going to get a yes or a no today, I want some closure at the end of the meeting with next steps. I’ll never leave a meeting where everything’s up in the air if I ever have to do a proposal and I try never to do them, there needs to be agreement on, “All right, so what happens?” I’m going to send you this proposal, you tell me exactly what you want in it, and if topics come up that we haven’t talked about, then we’re going to go backwards, because we’re not ready for a proposal, because I’m not going to surprise them with new stuff.

But then there’s always, “All right, so I’m going to send this to you, when are we talking about it?” And setting up that, “All right, so we are going to talk on Tuesday at 9:00 about this proposal.” So, there’s always having those next steps. So you leave the meeting understanding what’s going to happen. It’s like when you’re talking to your friend, you never just drop the conversation. There’s always, “Hey, I’ll call you on Tuesday.” There’s going to be that next step in your relationship. And that’s what sales is. It’s like dating, you never go out on that first date and never have, “Hey, here’s what’s going to happen.”

There’s always some pre-planning of, “Hey, can I call you next week? Can we do this again?” “Yes, I’d love to go out again.” And you have closure. And the same thing with sales, sales is just a conversation with an outcome, and a lot of people skip the outcome part of that conversation because they’re afraid.

Drew McLellan:

Well [crosstalk 00:28:58] outcome. Right?

Kevin Snow:

Yep. Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

Which maybe 10 steps down the road.

Kevin Snow:

Exactly. So that’s why it’s not about the yes, it’s about getting that closure at whatever step you’re in. And when you take the pressure off yourself of, “Oh, I got to get to yes.” Now you’re paying a lot more attention to what your client is telling you and what the signals they’re giving you and you can interact with them on a higher level in a more authentic way.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I think I believe that we have this misnomer about selling, that selling is dirty and it’s bad and it’s hard and it’s … you’re trying to get someone to do something they don’t want to do. I think today when we teach this and it’s in the book that I wrote a couple of years ago, but I think today selling is actually just about being helpful.

So I think about your roofing example. Right? So, if I’m producing content that helps people make better buying decisions when they need a roof, that scam thing, and here’s all the different materials that could go on your roof and why and how you know which one’s the right based on your climate, whatever it is, but if all I’m doing is really helping you eventually make a better buying decision, whether you buy from me or not, that’s easy selling because we as human beings want to be helpful. We as human beings want to be a resource for people.

And so, when you go at it from that perspective, I think, all of a sudden, selling is not that onerous scary thing anymore. You’re just sharing what you know, what for you is second nature. But for other people is really valuable information.

Kevin Snow:

Yeah. Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

How do you coach to that?

Kevin Snow:

So it’s all about the questioning, and a lot of sales people, especially if they’re that high D, high I personality under this profile, they want to get to the part where it’s about them, because that’s their personality. And it’s really understanding, “Hey, the sales process is not about you, you are literally the least important part in this process-

Drew McLellan:

That’s right.

Kevin Snow:

Get over yourself. And it’s all about your prospect.” There’ll come a point in a sales career at a company where people think they understand it all and they’ll try and shortcut the process like, “Well, this is a roofing company and I know these are the things they have. So we’re going to skip the questioning part and go into the pitching part right away.”

Drew McLellan:

They’re prescribing.

Kevin Snow:

Exactly. That’s the quickest way to screw up your sales, because if you come in and you’re that salesperson that letting the other person do all the talking and they’re getting to say what’s going on and share, they’re going to feel more comfortable around you because you’re not being what they think a salesperson’s going to be. Whenever I have a salesperson come in, I play a game. It’s like, “Is this going to be a fun conversation or is this going to be a really bad pitch session?” And I’m about 50/50 in my guessing right now.

But everyone has this idea of what it feels like to be sold to, because we’ve all bought cars, we’ve all gone through those horrible sales processes. We’ve probably had the Kirby vacuum guy in our house at some point try to sell us a $5,000 vacuum. So, we understand how that feels. So we automatically have our guard up for it, and that’s what we expect. So when that [crosstalk 00:32:13]

Drew McLellan:

And it’s also by the way, why we don’t want to be in sales.

Kevin Snow:

Exactly. Totally.

Drew McLellan:

Because we don’t want to do that.

Kevin Snow:

Exactly. But when you’re focusing all on what the client’s got going on, you’re asking questions and they’re sharing, now having that authentic conversation, it changes that whole sales dynamic, you’re now becoming a partner, you’re not just trying to take their money.

Drew McLellan:

Right. And I also think it’s more pleasant. It’s fun to be helpful. It’s fun to share what you know, it’s fun to just be a resource as opposed to feeling like you’re knocking on doors with the equivalent of the $5,000 vacuum.

Kevin Snow:

Exactly. And the other really cool thing about when you do it this way is, you can learn some really cool stuff from these business owners, these people. I worked with one of my first clients doing the consulting thing was a fire suppression system company that had been around for like a hundred and some years. The current owner is grandpa or someone had started it. So he’s been in this industry for years. So I was taking every opportunity to pick his brain about business and scaling and doing all that stuff on that business side, because I wanted to learn. Because I would love to have my business around in a 100 years and have my grandkids running it.

It’s asking all these questions and that’s how you build these really cool relationships with your clients where they’re like, “I have clients that get called all the time.” They’re like, “No, we like Kevin, are you going to do these things for us? Because he does these things for us. He brings us coffee. Are you going to stop in and hang out and just chat and bring me coffee?” “Well, no.” “Why?” Building those types of relationships is what makes sales fun. It stops it from being that stereotype that everyone has in their head of what a salesperson is.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and I think too, it aligns better with just how we work as human beings. I mean, it is all about … The minute is transactional, then you have a problem. But it is all about the relationship and it is acknowledging that this relationship is going to be around for a while and it’s going to be fruitful in some way. So they may become a client, they may become a referral source, they may become somebody that I hire later because they’re a subject matter expert in their field, and this is a niche that I serve and they’re going to get disgruntled in their job. Or they’re a client and they’re going to hop jobs, and so everywhere they go, we go.

So, I think when you take the pressure off of the transaction and you put the onus on the relationship, then all of a sudden, A, it’s more pleasant, but B it’s also more fruitful.

Kevin Snow:

Yeah. And thinking about what we do in the sales and marketing agency realm, we [inaudible 00:35:04] sell our product or service. It’s not we’re going to fix all your stuff overnight. I tell all my clients and they come on. It’s like, “You got to commit to being with me for at least six months to get everything going and for us to go in and make tests and revise and optimize and get it really where it needs to be.”

What we do is a long term thing. So we need to really … The sooner we start building that relationship where they trust us, and they understand, “Hey, we’re a partner in your business.” But Donnie I’ve said that I’ve talked about a couple of times with Success Champions. He started out as my client and now we’re business partners. Because of the relationship that we’ve built.

Drew McLellan:

That’s another way [inaudible 00:35:44] relationships, all of a sudden you become colleagues or … Pam Slim just wrote a great book called The Widest Net, which is all about how do you create this community around your business, of other businesses who support … who you can collaborate with and partner with? And that’s exactly what you’re saying. When you go into a conversation knowing something good is going to come out of this, I’m not sure what it is, I might sell them something or three years down the road, they might be my colleague and business partner. I think that’s a different way of going into the conversation, and I think it’s the head space you need to be in to actually be effective in sales.

Kevin Snow:

Yeah. I totally agree. And I love having those types of conversations with clients. There’s times that we jump on the phone a couple by clients, it’s all about … We’re not talking about what I can sell them or what they can sell me. It’s all talking about our businesses and how we move them forward, and being able to have that peer conversation about, “All right, I am so stressed out about this right now.” And having that other person be able to say, “Yeah, I remember that feeling because I had that last year and here’s what we did.”

And a lot of business owners, they don’t find that they’re board of directors, so to speak, they don’t find the other people that have been where they are, they hang out in their same group, and they don’t change who’s in their circle when they become a business owner. We’ve all had those conversations with friends or family. It’s like, “Well, I don’t know why you don’t just get a regular job.” Because they don’t understand, and they can’t, they’re trying to be helpful because they want to make sure you can feed yourself, but it’s not helpful.

Drew McLellan:

It’s good to hang out with people who get your world. Right?

Kevin Snow:

Yeah. And I try to always have people around me that are that step ahead, who have just went through what I did and are like, “Yes, let me tell you, here’s what not to do because I did it.” And those are the best conversations.

Drew McLellan:

So valuable. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So valuable. You’re absolutely right. All right. We need to wrap this up. I could talk to you about this for days, but if people are going to have one takeaway from this, and they’re going to change one aspect of how they approach sales or think about sales or actually execute on sales, what do you think the biggest thing that they need to be thinking about is?

Kevin Snow:

So the biggest thing you need to be thinking about is not how many sales calls you’re doing, how many pitches you’re doing, how many proposals you’re having, it’s about how many conversations are you having with people, and then having that as your starting point. Because that takes all the pressure off you as a salesperson. And it opens you up for so many opportunities, because you may have that conversation with someone and it’s like, “Well, you know what? I’m not a right fit for you, but I’m going to introduce you to this person.”

Or you have that conversation, “Well, you know what? You’re saying you really needed this thing, I know someone.” And now you’re able to use that as that relationship building tool to help that person be part of your world and bring them into your community. So, the most successful business owners, especially in that small business, medium business space are the ones who are going out having tons of conversations.

Drew McLellan:

And building community.

Kevin Snow:

Yeah, exactly. That is a big mind shift, is you need to have conversations, and I do a ton of those into Facebook groups just where we’re talking about things and I’m teaching, and I’m giving them content and information about what I do in my world so that they can do it in theirs. And with the idea that at some point they’re going to be like, “Okay, I am not an email marketing guy, I need to talk to Kevin, because I actually need him to do this for me.” It’s planting all the seeds.

Drew McLellan:

It’s really is. It is about planting seeds and going into simply be helpful, which builds the community, which will eventually lead to sales.

Kevin Snow:

Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

Couldn’t agree more. This has been great. Thank you. Thanks for being on the show. Thanks for sharing your insight and your experience. If folks want to learn more about the work you do, want to follow you on social, what’s the best way for them to track you down?

Kevin Snow:

So the quickest way to get into my world and get access to all my different stuff is actually, if they want to text the word Sell Smarter to 612 429 4298, and if you’re outside the United States, country code for that is one. So it’d be +1 612 429 4298. I’ll send them a list of questions that they can use to help map out their buying process, and for the agencies, they can use it to map out their clients buying processes.

Drew McLellan:

Great.

Kevin Snow:

And a guide to what content is used for each step of that process. And then you’ll get some more texts where you can get into, follow me on Facebook, get into some of the different organizations that I’m active in, so you can do some more stuff with me.

Drew McLellan:

Awesome. Thank you, Kevin. Appreciate it.

Kevin Snow:

Yeah. You’re welcome.

Drew McLellan:

It was great having you on the show.

Kevin Snow:

Yeah, this was awesome. I loved our conversation. It was really cool.

Drew McLellan:

Me too. All right guys, this wraps up another episode of Build A Better Agency. So, Kevin gave you a lot of very tangible, practical things to do, things to think about as you go out and have “sales conversations.” But maybe you don’t even think of them as sales conversations anymore, maybe they’re just conversations. I think sometimes you guys get into your own heads a little bit. When it comes to sales, you’re good at conversations, you are all great questionnaires, you are a natural salesperson. Introvert, extrovert, doesn’t really matter.

You have stories to tell, you have questions to ask, and honest to Pete, if you just do that and you know who your target audience is, you are going to make sales. We can talk all day about it, and in some of the podcasts that I did earlier in the year where I was really drilling down on sales, we got into the nitty gritty of how do you do this? But it starts, I think, with the mindset that you are there to talk and learn as opposed to sell. So hopefully this was super helpful for you today and that you could apply some of the things Kevin talked about.

A couple of quick things. One, I want to remind you that, we were talking about the value of hanging out with people that do what you do and understand your world and support you and lift you up. And that is absolutely what happens in the Build A Better Agency Facebook group. So if you are not a part of that, there’s about a 1000 agency owners there now, just head over to Facebook, just search for Build A Better Agency podcast, and the private group will come up. You have to answer three questions, they’re super easy. Do you own an agency, what’s the URL? What do you want to get out of the group? And are you going to be nice?

I mean, seriously, it’ll take you three seconds to answer the questions, and then we’ll let you in the group and you can start learning from each other, supporting each other. We jump in and answer questions as well. So we would love to have you be a part of that community. No sales happens in there, it’s just about bringing people together so you guys can support each other, and so we can support you. So we’d love to have you do that. And before I let you go, two things, one, huge shout out and thank you to our friends at White Label IQ, as you know, they are the presenting sponsor of the podcast. So they have a special landing page just for you, the podcast listeners. So it’s whitelabeliq.com/ami.

And if you go there and you initiate a project with them, so they do White Label PPC dev and design, they will give you some free hours against that project. They are the savior for many AMI agencies who need to expand their staff either temporarily or permanently, and don’t want to add FTEs to the mix. So check them out. And sec last, but certainly not least. I just want to to say thanks. I’ve gotten some great feedback from a lot of you about the sales series that I just did. That was me stepping out of my norm in terms of how the cadence of the show has gone over the past five or six years. So I’m grateful that you were okay with hearing just from me for six weeks in a row. So, it’s nice to have a guest back on the show.

But most of all, I’m grateful that the content was helpful and that you’re putting it into play. So thanks for listening, I do not take that for granted, and I always love your feedback about the shows. So, if you need to track me down, I’m Drewagencymanagementinstitute.com and I will be back next week with another guest, and you have a great week and I will talk to you soon. Thanks for listening.

That’s all for this episode of AMI’s Build A Better Agency podcast. Be sure to visit agencymanagementinstitute.com to learn more about our workshops, online courses, and other ways we serve small to mid-size agencies. Don’t forget to subscribe today so that you don’t miss an episode.