Sales Pipeline Radio, Episode 197 Q & A with Steve Gordon @steve_gordon

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By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

If you’re not already subscribed to Sales Pipeline Radio, or listening live every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Pacific you can find the transcription and recording here on the blog every Monday morning.  The show is less than 30 minutes, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.

We cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities. You can subscribe right at Sales Pipeline Radio and/or listen to full recordings of past shows everywhere you listen to podcasts! Spotify,  iTunesBlubrry, Google Play, iHeartRADIO, or Stitcher

This week’s episode is entitled Successful Selling for Professional Services: An Unstoppable Approach from Steve Gordonand our guest is Steve Gordon, Founder of The Unstoppable CEO.

We cover strategy methodology for sales and marketing professionals all the time and naturally end up talking mostly about selling products.  It’s not often we step back and say, okay, “What is it when you’re selling what people do?”

I facetiously tell people, as a consultant I talk and type for a living, so I don’t necessarily have the same widget to be able to sell to everybody or the same piece of software to sell. So selling in professional services obviously is very much a thing.

In this episode I ask Steve how is that different and why do people need to think about this a little differently when you’re selling professional services versus selling product? And for smaller organizations— is the answer to that to separate your services from your selling? is there a way to make that transition? If you are a small firm and representing yourself, what are some of the strategies that you’ve found work best?

This and a lot more!

Listen in or read the entire conversation below to learn from Steve Gordon’s answers:

Paul:  Hey, welcome back time again to grab your surfboard and swim out into that sea of ideas and see if we can’t catch one. Is it starting to curl up over the horizon and Sales Pipeline Radio with the man. Well, I don’t know if I should bring this up or not here, but we’re in the middle of political season. I know Matt’s usually adverse to talk politics on the show, but  a couple of these candidates are seeming unstoppable here. And Matt Heinz is thinking of throwing his hat in the ring. I can happily announce here today and see if he can disrupt the whole process.

Matt:  I think it’s a little too late for this election cycle. I don’t have $40 billion to be able to throw at it to catch up.

Paul:  You don’t? Okay, all right.

Matt:  I don’t. I don’t, no. I am grinding it out over here Paul. It’s the sausage making at the end of the month, this episode at Sales Pipeline Radio. It is the 27th of the month for those listening live, what are you doing? Get off of radio and go close something and it’s the end of the month. We are two thirds of the way now through Q1.

Paul:  Well, they’re driving to their next appointment. They can listen.

Matt:  Okay. That’s fine. That’s fine. The statistics tell us that the average B2B sales rep only spends about 25% of their time actively selling.

Paul:  Wow.

Matt:  And by actively selling, I mean in front of a prospect talking to a prospect, working on a proposal, sort of sending communications to prospects, so getting your way to those meetings, this is a fine way of taking that time.

Paul:  Yeah. Well, and again, I mean the topic today, that’s why I was trying to tie it all in is apparently unstoppable. How to be unstoppable.

Matt:  Our topic today is unstoppable and very excited for our guest. Well, thank you everyone for joining us. Thank you Paul for your intro as always, thanks everyone for joining us on another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. If you are listening to us live on the Funnel Media Radio network, thank you as always for joining us.

Pleasure to have you make us part of your work day. For those of you listening on the podcast. Thank you very much for subscribing. You can find all of our episodes at Salespipelineradio.com past, present and future. As well as get subscribed to the feed. We are publishing here every week Thursday at 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern live. Each week, as you know, Paul, we are featuring some of the best and brightest minds in sales and marketing today is absolutely no different, very excited to have with us the CEO of the Unstoppable CEO, a proud University of Florida Gator. We have Steve Gordon with us today. Steve, thanks very much for joining us.

Steve Gordon:  Hey Matt. Great to be here.

Matt:  So this is the, it’s the end of the month for you as well? I mean even though you’ve created a system to help professional services firms sell, do you find yourself in that sort of cycle of selling and closing business at the end of the month and quarter as well?

Steve Gordon:  You know, it’s not just an end of the month thing for us. We try and do it every day of the month. I never liked being in that pressure cooker at the end. So we try and get on it early.

Matt:  That’s smart. Well, I appreciate you joining us today. You are the founder of the unstoppable CEO and I was really excited about this topic because we cover sort of strategy methodology for sales and marketing professionals all the time. And I think naturally end up talking mostly about selling products. We’re selling software, we’re selling products, not an often we step back and say, okay, what is it when you’re selling what people do? I mean I sort of facetiously tell people that I, as a consultant, I talk and type for a living, so I don’t necessarily have the same widget to be able to sell to everybody or the same piece of software to sell. So selling in professional services obviously is very much a thing. How is that different and why do people need to think about that a little differently when you’re selling professional services versus selling product?

Steve Gordon:  I think it’s fundamentally different when you’re selling a professional service and particularly if you’re leading the firm and were one of the leaders of the firm, you’re not only in that leadership role, so you’re running the business and doing all of that stuff and probably wearing three or four hats doing that. But you’re probably also the sales team, probably the sales management team, probably the marketing team. And oh by the way, you’re the product too. So you’ve got to go and take a potential client through the entire buying cycle, through the sales process, then run in the phone booth, put on your Superman cape, come back out and save the day and fix whatever problem they have. It’s a very difficult thing to do and a lot of the sales tactics that are taught don’t work as well when you’re also the person that’s delivering that service. And I think it’s just a fundamentally different, I personally think a very challenging way to sell.

Matt:  It certainly is, especially for smaller organizations. Is the answer to that to how sort of a separate your services from your selling, is there a way to sort of make that transition? If you are a small firm and representing yourself, what are some of the strategies that you’ve found work best?

Steve Gordon:  It’s really, really hard to separate it when you’re in a small firm. You just don’t have enough people to do that. And so the answer that we have found for that is to use marketing to pre-sell your prospects, to the greatest extent possible. We tell all the businesses that we work with that there are really three buying decisions that are made before anyone becomes your client. The first one is that that potential client has to buy the idea that they have a problem and that it’s a problem that’s worth solving. Then they’ve got to buy the idea that there’s a solution and you’re the guy or you’re the gal to deliver it. And then the third is the one we all love. That’s where we ring the bell and we cash the check and all that where money changes hands.

And if you can orchestrate those first two sales so that by the time they’re across the table from you and you’re actually having a sales conversation and they’ve already decided that they’ve got a problem and it’s one that they need to solve., And they decided that they liked the solution that you talk about and that you’re the guy, boy, things get a whole lot easier when you’re across the table from them.

Matt:  It all makes sense. I’ve seen people push back on and maybe not push back, but at least sort of say the challenge there is that there’s that investment you have to make in those first stages of that sales process. The investment you make in that content and in that experience that doesn’t necessarily turn into money right away. And the fact that the majority of your prospects may not be in an active selling cycle. So you’re working well in advance to build that reputation. Is that just a law of nature for professional service selling? Are there things that companies can do to accelerate some of the velocity that prospects naturally go through in that process?

Steve Gordon:  Yeah, I think you can accelerate it, but I think the idea that that investment only exists if you’re taking this sort of pre-selling approach and doesn’t exist if you’re taking a more traditional prospecting approach. I think that’s false. I’ve done this for a long, long time. Even with the prospecting approach, there’s an awful lot of investment in relationship, so that you’re around and known when that prospect is at a point where they’re ready to buy. I think either way you do it, you’ve got that investment of time, energy, and money. That’s just a question of how you do it. And I think that rather than in professional services where you’ve got to be seen as that expert, that trusted authority, if you’re doing a lot of manual labor prospecting, oftentimes that’s going to erode that perception of authority and expertise on the part of the potential client.

And so I think it’s just a different approach, a different way to get at the same thing. And so for professionals to do that and to be able to accelerate that sales cycle, there are really a few tools that we found that seem to work year in and year out. Doesn’t matter what new social media platform is out there and they do tend to accelerate the process. Because they’re the tools of authority and we really break it down to making sure that you’re capturing your ideas, your intellectual property, and all of the sort of things that you would convey in a sales process if you were one on one with someone, but capture that and package it up. I think books are probably the best way to do that.

And lean on those heavily to generate leads. And then you can from there accelerate it with presentations that are designed to convert somebody into an appointment. And with your longterm follow up, we really advocate using something like a podcast so that you can sort of demonstrate out in public on a weekly basis all of your expertise in what you do for people. And that combination has just worked extremely well to accelerate the buy cycle.

Matt:  Talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio with Steve Gordon. He’s the founder of The Unstoppable CEO and he practices what he preaches. I would certainly encourage everyone to go check out unstoppableceo.net tons of great resources. You get access to his podcast, his newsletter, some great articles and other materials there. This strategy, it changed when you’re sort of maybe a services firm of one. When you’re an independent consultant versus a small firm, and even as you start to grow, what you’re talking about in terms of building relationships, getting your content out there. Is this about sort of a subject matter expert or individual doing this? Or can this approach be leveraged by a group of in that professional services firms where you’ve got multiple people following that same strategy?

Steve Gordon:  I think it works in both situations equally well. When you’re in that larger firm situation, you just want to think a little bit about how do you want to present the face of the firm? Is it going to be one person? Oftentimes there’s one principle that’s sort of that face of the firm, or is it going to truly be multiple people? And again, you want to sort of tailor that to the market. And so we have some solo professionals that we work with that they follow the strategy, but they may have two different entry points because they’re going after two slightly different types of the target markets. And when you’re in a situation where you’ve got multiple professionals, often they’re each going after a different type of client and so you’d segment kind of in that way. But I actually think it’s the secret weapon for businesses like that. Because when you’re in that sort of solo or very small professional service firm, you’re spending so much of your time trying to fulfill, because you are the product.

And usually the business development gets pushed. So it gets pushed to that thing that yeah, I’ll do that on Friday afternoon and then Friday afternoon gets eaten up by demands of client work. Or I’ll do it on the weekend. Or I meant to go to that chamber mixer and do that networking that I’m supposed to do this month, but I just couldn’t do it because a client called. And so I think these things actually help get you out of that mode and allow you to kind of replicate yourself without investing a whole lot of time.

Matt:  You mentioned a couple of things. One of your previous answers around, sort of the form of some of those materials mentioned a lot of companies, a lot of individuals will write a book about a particular methodology or something they do. You mentioned podcasts. I think a lot of people obviously are using shorter form content like blog posts. Are some formats better than others? I think people look at things like, a short blog post is something that’s faster, easier to get done. LinkedIn updates is something that might see more and more people using to sort of share their intellectual property and to share their expertise. Is there a separation people should be thinking about that makes the longer form commitments like an ongoing podcast or even a book more worthwhile?

Steve Gordon:  I think that shorter length stuff is largely a waste of time. And we talk to dozens and dozens of business owners every month who are doing a lot of that stuff. They’re posting on all the social networks because they think that’s what they should be doing. And they’re not getting any results from it. And I think books are particularly useful. We have yet to find anything that works better as a lead generator for a service business than a well-positioned book with the right title. Now it doesn’t have to be a long book. It doesn’t have to be 150 pages. We had client Matt, that did one and it’s pretty generous to call it a book. It was 12 typed pages in Microsoft word. Had a title that spoke to his perfect client. And when we put it in front of that perfect client, whether that was on social media or anywhere else, and instead of giving them all the content up front, we said, “Hey, we’ve got this book, would you like a copy of it for free?”

And now all of the interested clients could raise their hand and identify themselves. We gave them the information, but we, instead of exposing it all in a post, we said, “If you want it, come ask for it, come request it.” Now he’s got leads to work with and they’ve initiated the relationship. Not only have they initiated, they have initiated because he was the author of a book. So he’s well positioned kind of going into that relationship. And then of course you want a process in place to convert them from there. But I’m a big believer in a book. If you’re selling expertise and you’re not using a book to do that, I think you’re doing yourself a disservice.

Matt:  Well, and I would think that people look at the book sometimes and as like, it’s this big long thing you got to do. But I think if you actually sit down and start putting your ideas to paper, like you said, a book doesn’t have to be a hundred thousand words. It can be half that. It could be a quarter of that. Look at some of the best marketing advice books that tend to be the most popular over the last 10, 20 years. Some have been much shorter than that. Seth Godin publishes regularly books that are in a much shorter volume. We’re going to take quick break here, but I would encourage people, I mean Steve’s definitely practicing what he preaches. Three books he’s published that I know of, at least, The Exponential Network Strategy, Creating Business Growth and Unstoppable Referrals.

So definitely love a consultant who is practicing what they’re preaching there. We’re going to have to take a quick break. We’ll be back with more with Steve Gordon talking about referrals, talking about professional services marketing, talking about finding the time and the discipline to get this done while you’re doing the client work. We’ll right back on Sales Pipeline Radio.

*Break*

Paul:  Okay, let’s pick it back up with Matt and his guests and as I often do, can I ask one quick question here of you guys, before you launch back in?

Matt:  Of course.

Paul:  Curious as I’m listening to this conversation, when do you know you’re unstoppable? Is it a mindset shift? Is it a bit of momentum? Things are just rolling your way? Is it a process that you’re talking about that you’ve got in place? You’ve got enough, a big enough funnel that you know it’s going to feed you? When do you know? When do you look at yourself and say, “Man, I’m there. I’m unstoppable.”

Steve Gordon:  Yeah, I think it’s a mindset. I’ve got a quote here on my wall, it’s my favorite quote in the world from Calvin Coolidge, who was the 30th president of the United States. And the short version of it is, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not, genius will not, education will not.” And when I think about all of the business owners that I… Coming up, when I was early in my career that I really admired, they weren’t necessarily the celebrity business people, but they were the people that I came across that we did business with, that they just kept going. Didn’t matter what obstacles had been thrown in their way. We all have that, but they just kept going. They kept creatively overcoming and for me that’s what that means.

Matt:  And I want to use that as a way to transition or so, I guess go to the next question, which is around if you’re thinking about mindset, if you’re thinking about sort of the disciplined approach you bring to things, I think you brought up earlier before the break a struggle I think a lot of professionals in general, but especially folks with professional services firms struggle with, is finding the time to do the right level of business development. Finding the time to get that book written, finding the time to do this. To me it’s not necessarily a time question. To me it feels like a discipline question. Can you talk about what you’ve seen work most successfully for companies in making the time to do this?

Steve Gordon:  It’s a real challenge. I mean, you have people who are, they’ve gone out and they’ve gotten clients. Okay. And so they’re feeling this pressure to fulfill for those clients and go and capture the dollars that are right there in front of them. And that almost always takes precedence over trying to go out and chase dollars that might come tomorrow or next quarter or next year. And so it’s a really tough trade off. So I’ve been working on this problem for 20 years now, and I will tell you the only real answer that I’ve found to it is, number one new, some marketing methods that create some leverage so that it’s a minimum amount of time for you as a professional. And then two get a team, to do everything that you’re not absolutely necessary for. And so what we’ve kind of come to Matt is we’ve looked at podcasting as almost the perfect medium to sort of base a professional’s marketing on.

And the reason for that is not because we particularly love podcasting, but because it’s audio. The vast majority of business owners that we come across, they’re great in person. They can talk to a prospect, they can explain what they do for a living, how they create value. But if you ask them to sit down and write that they’re going to scratch their head, they’re going to get frustrated, they’re going to feel overwhelmed by that in many cases, because podcasts are in this audio form, it’s really easy for them to get that out. It also doesn’t take a whole lot of time, so they can sit down in 30 minutes and have a great interview. Also, at the same time, connecting with somebody maybe, in their community that might be a strategic prospect that they would have a really hard time getting in front of in any other way. But because they’ve invited them to an interview on a podcast where they’re going to share their wisdom and expertise and maybe that other business owners is going to promote their business.

But now it’s really easy to get in a relationship with them. Maybe it’s a strategic partner who has an audience of all of the people that they want to get referred to. And so we’re able to do a lot in a short amount of time. And in a form that really plays to the strength of most every business owner that we’ve come across. And then we can take that content and repurpose it in lots of different ways. So it can be all of their sort of staying top of mind marketing. So that they’re showing up for all of their prospects every week. We can carve out a few of those podcast episodes. And if we think through how we outline those topics maybe in three or four or six episodes, they can talk through their book and then that can go and get written for them, so that they don’t have to write it. And so we use it to do an awful lot in the little bit of time that we can carve out.

Matt:  It seems to me as well that this format allows people to become a little more relatable. I’m a print journalist by trade. I’ve always done a lot of sort of written format and you could make the written word conversational and feel approachable as well. But to me, it’s, it’s a whole nother story when you can actually hear someone’s voice, when you can hear their passion, when you can… It just feels like this is a more familiar way, especially if I’m going to be investing not in a product you’ve built, but in spending time with you. Then whether it’s video or podcasts, this becomes a more relatable format.

Steve Gordon:  Absolutely. I mean it’s, it’s very difficult. I’ve written… We actually just released my fourth book last week, so I’ve written four books. I can’t even count how many articles anymore, over a thousand. And it’s tough as you know, to really convey a lot of personality in writing and a lot of emotion in writing. You have to be very good at it. But we don’t have to do that when we talk. And what you’re allowing your future clients to do is to sort of… It’s like they’re at that networking event, that cocktail party and you and I are having this conversation, and the person listening to the podcast is that third person.

So if you ever had that third person just sort of standing there and they’re not really talking to either person in the conversation, they’re just listening and they’re sort of there. And in that process they’re getting to know you, they’re getting to understand what you’re like, what it would be like to talk one on one with you. And so it’s a little bit of a preview for your future clients and they can understand what it’s like, what the experience would be like to be in a meeting with you.

Matt:  Now we’ve been talking about podcasts and we mentioned this a couple of times. One thing I haven’t heard you mention is video. Is there a difference in podcasts and video? Is there a reason why, sort of… Do you see video as sort of an extension of this or is there a reason why podcasting might be more preferable than video?

Steve Gordon:  Video is great and there’s a lot of reasons to do it. I also find that not many business owners feel super comfortable on video. So I think there’s a barrier there. And if it’s not something that the business owner will do, then it really isn’t a solution that’s going to work for them. But the other thing about audio is that you can take audio with you and so you can listen to that audio podcast, just like you would on the radio in the car. You listen to it while you’re at the gym while you’re on a walk. It can be in the background and so people will kind of carry you along with them and you’ll occupy this sort of unused but intimate space in their lives.

The best example of this I ever had, we got on a sales call with a potential client and he said, “A buddy of mine referred me to your podcast. And I started downloading some episodes and I went on a business trip, and it was like a four hour drive each way. And I listened to you all the way there and all the way back.” I got eight hours with this guy before we’d ever gotten on the phone. And it wasn’t any more selling to do, it was just at that point he already felt like he knew me personally, we’d never met.

Matt:  That’s powerful and I think Paul’s probably heard me say this before, I sometimes feel like I have a face for radio, I’m not… I’m one of those that is not super comfortable being on video and there’s all kinds of sort of mental barriers to that. And I completely agree with you in terms of the accessibility of audio as well. We’ve just got a couple more minutes here with Steve Gordon. He’s the founder of Unstoppable CEO. Definitely check out his website, unstoppableceo.net. Lots of great resources there. And even though this has really been focused on how your business is very focused, Steve, on professional services firms, I can’t help but think that a lot of what we’re talking about here does actually apply to product companies as well. For companies that are selling a product or a piece of software, is there still value in making sure that they’re.. Or reinforcing the likeability or comfortability with the people behind that product?

Steve Gordon:  I think without a doubt. I think this works equally well with product companies. Where we see it come in and be kind of more effective is when you’ve got a product that is complex or it’s one that is higher investment. So I gave a speech one time to a group one of the CEOs in there owned some Krispy Kreme Donut franchises. And he didn’t need any of this. He just needed to turn on the hot donuts now sign. Right.

Matt:  Yeah.

Steve Gordon:  But if you’re selling something that’s complicated that people need to understand or that requires some relationship with you or with your company. Yeah. All of this stuff I think absolutely helps the sales process and it celebrates it.

Matt:  Love it. Well, unfortunately we’re out of time today, but this has been awesome. Steve, thanks so much. Other than unstoppableceo.net where else can people learn a little more about you?

Steve Gordon:  If they’d like to go there and a go to unstoppableceo.net/salespipeline. They can get a free copy of my new book, which is called Podcast Prospecting. It goes through everything we’ve talked about today.

Matt:  Podcast Prospecting. I love it. Well, thank you so much for joining us today. Thank you everyone for joining us on another episode today. We are out of time, we’ll be here next week. We got some great episodes coming up as we head into March into the spring. Weather’s getting nicer. Even up here in Seattle, Paul, the weather’s getting nicer, the suns setting later. I love it. This is a great time of year. Well, thanks very much for joining us on behalf of my producer, Paul, this is Matt Heinz. Thanks for joining us on another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio.

Paul:  And with that, we wrap up another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio right here on the Funnel Radio Channel for at-work listeners, like you.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Matt Heinz
Prolific author and nationally recognized, award-winning blogger, Matt Heinz is President and Founder of Heinz Marketing with 20 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations and industries. He is a dynamic speaker, memorable not only for his keen insight and humor, but his actionable and motivating takeaways.Matt’s career focuses on consistently delivering measurable results with greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer loyalty.

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