Part 1. Interview with Sales Influencers – Sales Tips from Dan Martell
Nowadays everything is being googled. And sales tips are no different. Once you type your question on how to become better in sales in Search, you’ll get 101 sales advice in return. So what’s next? What should you do with these tons of how-to’s and recommendations?
To help us sort through what sales tips actually work, and which ones each salesperson should consider implementing within the next year, we’ve contacted the most popular sales influencers.
In this respect we’ve decided to launch our blog series putting together the interviews with top sales experts that are actually making an impact and willing to share their knowledge. If you don’t want to miss the next post of the series, make sure you’ve subscribed to our newsletter.
This week’s featured interview is Dan Martell – a serial entrepreneur, a world-famous business coach for SaaS founders and an angel investor since young years (40+ successful investments so far!). So let’s get into it.
Dan, you are a world famous business coach for SaaS founders. But is there one thing about yourself or your career in general that many people haven’t heard of?
Not really. I share everything about my life very publicly because I think this provides a context. If I had to say something that isn’t well known, I would say that people don’t realize how many things I’ve started and failed at. So I’ve started over 30 projects and ideas that have fizzled out, that didn’t go anywhere.
I call domains that I’ve bought over the years projects. So when I meet entrepreneurs, I’m interested in how many domains they’ve bought, not how many companies they’ve started. Some of my favourites were XLights.com. It was a crazy idea. I had to have people built a site where they could book and configure their Christmas lights. Then somebody would come to install them. Then come again and take them down. That one I still love, and I wish somebody would do.
GrowthCalls.com was another project. It was a kind of forum accountability expert system. It may sound familiar because that really laid the foundation and my curiosity around phone calls for advice. I did that as kind of a give to the community, a free thing. Then I finally launched Clarity.fm, which obviously became a huge success and my last company that I exited.
So, yeah, I think that projects are a great place to start and to call them that in the early days and see what sticks.
What are some timeless sales tips, tricks, or hacks that will always work in your opinion?
Yeah, so the three big things for me are, one, stretching the gap. Meaning, really understanding where the customer’s frustration lies today and anchoring that and thinking about that like stretching an elastic. It happens, what’s frustrating you about your world today, it’s going all the way into the future of possibilities of what could potentially happen and how it could look to solve their problem in the most epic and incredible way. That is going to be a tried and true structure and conversation style. In sales you can really quantify the customers pain, then do nothing or define what it’s costing them. And then by painting prospects this exciting future vision, it allows your solution to kind of resolve that tension by solving that problem. So that’s one.
Two is mapping the solution. I think too often when we’re uncovering some of the challenges our customers or prospects are having, we don’t stop at the end to really review them. These are the things I’ve heard, these are the challenges that you want to solve, the problems that you’re having in your business, in your life, and here are the specific things that our product does from a features point of view to solve those problems to get you the benefit. So I call that mapping the solution. If you don’t take some time in the conversation to say ‘hey, when we started off, you mentioned the challenges you had, we reviewed them, and here is the specific feature that’s going to solve your problem,’ I think the customer won’t be able to connect, really deeply, connect their problem to your solution.
And then third. I would say case study wins. At the end of the day, birds of a feather flock together. People want to know that other folks similar to them buy your solution. There are really cool and clever ways to pepper in those case studies through references and credibility indicators if you have the skills. So those will always work.
And at the core, I’m just going to end with this. There are five things that you need to do in a sales conversation, and these will never change. They’re just as true today as they were the first time somebody convinced somebody else to give them or take something from them in exchange. That’s really selling.
- Trustworthy. Your prospects will ask themselves whether the salesperson, you, the individual is trustworthy. Are you trustworthy? Do you follow up? Do you say what you’re going to do? They’re going to look for things about your nature to ask themselves if this person is trustworthy.
- The company you’re working with, is it dependable? Why did they start the business? How did they come to create this solution? It’s really important in the sales conversation, to address the question if the company is dependable.
- The possibility of the product to solve customer’s problem. Does it actually solve it the way they want it be solved? Or is it just like any other solution and they’re just trying to convince me to buy?
- Affordability. Meaning if the product and the value demonstrated are affordable based on the price. I think it’s always going to be benefit-driven, but they’re asking if it’s valuable and what return on the investment looks like.
- Is it a now thing? Is this the right time to buy? And if you don’t encourage or provide your prospects the reasoning around that, it makes it really tough to get them to enrol, or to essentially transact.
These things will never change, in my opinion.
As one of the top sales influencers, what do you think you’re doing that other people aren’t?
One, I really care about other people. Period.
Why? If I’m a sales influencer, the only reason I have influence is because I actually care, and I think people feel that. Sometimes I care more about the success of other people than they care about it themselves. This frustrates me. But at the end of the day, the first thing I do is go above and beyond to reply to every comment, every email, every Instagram message, every opportunity to engage with my community. I don’t take it for granted. I absolutely appreciate it, and I’m grateful for it in my little small part of the Internet universe, because I really care.
Two, I have a belief that I give away 98% of everything I know. Everything I’ve ever learned and studied. I’ve paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to acquire millions of lessons learned to understand every story of challenge and frustration. I just give it away for free. I believe that if you do it right, your marketing will serve more people than your product or service ever will. And out of doing that, there might be 2% of people that decide to learn more about what I’ve got or work with me directly. That is an awesome exchange.
Three, I am a student first. When I go to conferences, I don’t hide out in the back or go to sessions. I actually sit in the very front row. I make it a point to actually grab my journal and be attentive like the best student in the world. Taking notes, asking questions. I’m always the first person to put my hand up. Why? Because I think it’s important for everybody else. Recently I got off the stage in Dublin at SaaStock, and I was the first person back in the room, front row, with my journal, listening and my hand went up for Q&A immediately. To me, being an influencer is being a student, studying all the great sales books, leaders, and just learning what the current state of the art material is.
So, if I’ve got any type of influence in the market, those are the reasons why I do.
You’re coaching SaaS founders to help scale and grow faster. What have you found to be the biggest challenge you face helping entrepreneurs drive results?
Yeah, I think there are three key areas that SaaS founders struggle with when it comes to growth.
First one is strategic thinking. I think too often they’re working in the business, not on the business. Meaning that they’re either writing code, marketing strategies or blog posts, they’re going to conferences and so on. They’re in it, but they don’t actually take a step back and think strategically about where they’re at, where do they want to go, and what those big milestones are they need to hit along their journey. And then they should ask themselves what strategies will they need to implement and what sequence to achieve those numbers. Because I believe that sequencing equals success, and knowing what we do in what order this week versus next week, versus next quarter matters more than just doing, doing, doing. So that’s number one.
Secondly, I think it’s important to help founders get around other peers (peers are people that are one or two years ahead of them). To help them really see what the implementation and execution looks like. I’m a big fan of community, because I think it really comes down to one question: are the people you’re spending time with supporting your past or your future? And I think that there’s a big area where people struggle. They could have the most incredible tactics and strategies, but if they don’t get the people part of their life right, it’s just going to feel like an uphill battle, like they’re swimming against the tide.
Third challenge is getting the calendar right. Most entrepreneurs are highly ineffective when it comes to production and output. And a big reason is that they haven’t committed the work to their calendar in regards to what needs to get done on what days to actually drive results. So I teach this framework called Block Time. I’m a big fan of planning. Let’s say on Sunday night you look at your week, you look at your projects, your quarterly blocks, and you ask yourself what needs to get accomplished for those things to be done and move forward, and you put them into your calendar. So I think getting your calendar right, including all aspects of personal and professional in there, so that you don’t feel like all you’re doing is working. You’re still getting your workouts in or spending time with your family, I think is ridiculously important.
So those would be the three most common things that are really holding a lot of the founders back, that I first start working with on, that I help solve.
Can you tell us your top three tools that you use to effectively manage, optimize, organize, or measure the day-to-day operations of your business?
Yes. Great question. I’m a bit of a systems nerd. The book referenced is called The Goal. I can’t pronounce the guy’s name who wrote it. But it’s an incredible book. Jeff Bezos from Amazon and all top executives recommend it. It’s a great story of a manufacturing company that has to turn around their operations. It has nothing to do with most businesses that are not in that world, but explains all these incredible lessons of efficiency and time, and sequencing, and process.
So, back to three tools. For me number 1 is Voxer. Voxer is an incredible voice walkie talkie platform that I use to interact with my team. The reason why is I am way faster in regards to output in words than using my fingers to type, and I also have the ability to provide context and tone, and nuances in voice that I don’t have in the typed word. So I’m a big fan of using Voxer for sharing ideas and responding to things. Nevertheless, I always ask people to reply in text so I can read it faster and I don’t have to sit and listen to a bunch of stuff. So Voxer is a big tool.
Second is Zoom. I think Zoom is the most incredible video conferencing platform ever built to date. It’s everything I always wished Skype or Google Hangouts would have been. And there are two key features in Zoom that you need to be using.
- The waiting room concept, which means you can schedule a bunch of back-to-back-to-back meetings using your personal public Zoom link, but everybody gets cued up until you’re ready. So even if you run a little bit late on a meeting, they don’t just automatically jump in. That’s what used to happen to me before I figured out that feature. Super awkward, as people just hang up and don’t come back, and then you get an email. It’s weird.
- Facebook Live publishing. This is another feature of Zoom if you’ve got the webinar add-on. It allows you to tape the conversation you’re having. So you could be having a conversation with your team and then publish it into a private Facebook group. I think that’s a really powerful way to not only create content, but also to share ideas cleverly.
And then a third tool. I would say it’s Google Docs but using it for Business Playbooks. I’m a big fan of documenting systems and processes. To do that, I’ve got this framework called Business Playbooks. But at a minimum, every company should have one Google Doc for all core functions of their business. So let’s call it a marketing program, a sales program, a delivery program, a HR program, and just high-level outline of what you do and how you do it and in what order, in those documents.
So I think those are the three tools: Voxer for communicating with my team in a way that’s more high bandwidth and provides tonality for me; it’s key. Zoom for all my meetings because I’m a big fan of face-to-face so that I can see people, and Business Playbooks to help get a lot of bandwidth, repeatable and scalable processes in the business.
What advice do you have for young sales people who are just starting in their sales career, or are there things that anyone starting in sales needs to know?
I’m going to focus on the young sales reps.
One is you can’t outsell a crappy product. So find the best products to sell. I remember when my company Flowtown was acquired by the company called Demandforce, and I moved my desk to the sales floor because I wanted to learn how the sales reps were positioning and selling our product to help inform our roadmap. I remember asking one sales rep how he decided to join Demandforce. He gave me the most incredible answer ever, which was obvious in hindsight, hence why he was such an incredible salesperson because he was clever. He said I went on the Inc. 500 list and I started at the top, because I figured if these companies were at the top of the list for growth, they must have a great product, and I want to sell a product that I know that the market wants. And I was like, “duh.” So Demandforce was #12 on that list, and that’s how he ended up there. I think that’s a big thing. You can’t outsell a crappy product, so find a company that’s got a great solution and approach them to sell it.
Two, learn how to prospect. I think a lot of reps might have never come from a world where they’ve got to generate their own leads. It’s an incredible skill to learn, to deal with objection, to understand copywriting and intrigue, and creating value, and assuming the close or the meeting, and moving things forward. I think it’s just a great skill.
And then third would be focus on efficiency. What I mean by that is there’s so much time wasted. You know, when I think of the movie with Will Smith, I think it was “Pursuit of Happiness”. All he did to outcompete his other sales co-workers is he figured out how to dial faster. It was all about the speed of the dialer.
And look, the company will probably not provide the infrastructure for this, so this is very much an individual’s decision to approve their own efficiency. It could be through hiring their own virtual assistant, investing in tools or building their own templates and structures. And I’ve seen one sales rep at a company create all these plastered sales phrases and frameworks and they just put it all around their monitor. So that when they were on calls, they didn’t have to have documents open. They were ready to go. So I think just looking at reducing waste and improving their velocity is an incredible thing for a new sales rep to build as a habit.
Yeah, and in regards to a tool. Close.io is a great tool. You know, it’s a great story as well where Steli, the founder, decided to build this tool based on his own frustration around selling in outbound sales. I also see a lot of sales reps using developers in the Philippines, etc., really cheap to build scripts, to clean up lead lists, to add data that’s missing, to prospect better on LinkedIn, etc. And I think that’s the mindset that a great sales rep needs to adopt, especially in the early days.
If you were asked to mention just one online resource, a blog, a website, or something like that on sales, which would you recommend?
If I had to pick one, no brainer. SalesHacker.com.
And last question. With 2019 just around the corner, what would you recommend for sales people to consider implementing this year?
I think if a salesperson wants to improve their outcomes, there’s really one place to look, and it’s the review of their sales velocity. So sales velocity, SV, is an equation. It’s the number of deals multiplied by the deal size multiplied by the win ratio divided by the average time to close. So if you look at those four variables and you just sat down and you said okay, I’m going to list three action items for each one of those variables. For example, number of deals. What could I do to increase the number of deals that I’m generating on a quarterly basis? What are the three action items I could do? Same thing for size of deal. Maybe I should prospect to a different size of customer, or focus on a specific industry, or really push this specific product because I’m getting a better conversion for average order value. So etc., etc. So you just work through that formula, and you implement all of those … you know, if there’s four variables, three ideas. You implement all those in the first quarter, you’re going to have an incredible year going forward. So I think that’s the strategy without knowing any context for the world you sell in. If you wanted to just increase your overall performance this year, I would focus on that.
Great. Thanks so much.
Cool. Add the lead magnet Rocket Demo. I’d love to give this as a gift to everybody reading this. You know, it’s a framework for doing product demos that allow sales reps to close twice as many deals twice as fast.
You can get it at www.danmartell.com/rocketdemo