In this episode Josh talks with Marc Samoisette, Founder of Elevate Coaching. They talk about sales as a science, not an art, and how the “process” is the key to sales.
Marc Samoisette is a sought-after sales process implementation coach, a certified executive coach, and author, with over 30 years of B2B sales experience.
Personally trained by New York Times bestselling author Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid® system, Marc has built a career on implementing winning processes and methodologies designed for small to medium B2B companies to increase top-line revenue.
Marc currently works closely with CEO’s of SMB’s helping them book more B2B sales for their company.
In today’s episode you will learn:
- Why a sales process?
- How a sales process protects your business?
- What does it look like?
- How to set one up?
- How a business leader should manage the sales process?
Narrator: Welcome to The Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In The Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful. Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.
Josh: Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick. You’re at The Sustainable Business podcast. Our guest today is Marc Samoisette. He is the CEO of Elevate Coaching. He just wrote a new book. He has a new book out called Sales Proce$$ified, I guess–
Josh: —How Small Business CEOs Can Implement a Sales Process That Gets Results. He has spent a bunch of time with Xerox over his career. He’s a real sales pro. I know we’re going to have a great time talking about sales and sales processes, and all the stuff that big companies should do that small companies should. Let’s bring Marc on.
Hey, Mark. How are you today?
Marc: I’m good, Josh. Thank you so much.
Josh: You spent 16 years with Xerox which means you’re a very disciplined salesperson.
Marc: I am. I learnt a very, very big lesson in the first three months that I was at Xerox.
Josh: Okay, so I have to hear about that now.
Marc: Well, back in those days, Xerox would come on campus, I was a finance major. They would recruit people that they thought would be really good candidates. I basically got into Xerox not through the front door, not through the backdoor, but through the basement window. I wasn’t supposed to be there. It was a total fluke, total accident.
I had been hired by Xerox as a financial analyst to help the sales reps convert rental photocopiers to lease. When they did that, the client was locked in for three to five years, depending on the plan. Xerox had hired me to help these sales reps convert these clients. I had to figure out “how many copies a month they’re making? What’s the cost-benefit? What’s the break-even point in terms of copies?” and all that kind of stuff.
That program lasted about six months. Xerox had tremendous success. And then, they decided to close down that department. They didn’t want to fire us all so they said, “Well, let’s put them in sales. All these people.” I had zero experience in sales. I think, I did the worst interview anybody could do for sales, but they hired me anyways because they had to. They didn’t want to fire all of these people. There was about like half a dozen of us in the same boat.
And so, I went to Xerox school, and everything else, and learnt all their techniques. And then, I got into territory. And then, I sold nothing the first month, nothing the second, nothing the third. I was starting to worry. I had a new car on a lease. I had a new apartment that I had signed a lease for, for a year. I was getting a little bit nervous.
One day, I decided to see my buddies who were having success in sales and I said, “Well, how do you do demonstrations?” And then, they would tell me, “Well, first, I do this. Then, I do that. Then, I do this. Then, if he says this, I do that.” It was a recipe. It was a process.
Then, I asked someone else. I said, “How do you get your leads?” “Well, I normally do, I go on a Friday afternoon, it’s a very relaxed time. This is what I say. This is how I approach.” I kept taking notes and all this kind of stuff. And I started to copy what they did.
Within six months, I had made my first President’s Club. The lesson that I learned is that sales is really a process. It doesn’t have anything to do with the personality. At that time, I was a shy guy. I was very low key and I just was not sales material. I managed to have 16 years of an outstanding career there. I’ve won many, many, many President’s Club not because I was good but because I followed the process. Ever since then, that’s the thing that stuck to me the most.
Josh: I would submit that you were good because you followed the process.
Josh: And so, I would say that the truth is you were good, it isn’t that you weren’t good. It’s you were good but you were good because you followed the process that proved a successful path.
Marc: That’s exactly it. Ever since then, I’d see sales as a process – as a business process. As such, it should be managed like any other business process that you have in your organization because it represents the whole revenue side of your business so it is important.
Josh: Yeah. I mean, I remember when I first went into the food service and vending business, I went to one of the national trade shows. The theme of that trade show was “Nothing happens until a sale is made.” The truth is nothing happens in any business until that first sale is made.
Marc: That’s true.
Josh: After that first sale, you better get a second, third, fourth and fifth sale pretty quickly or you’re not going to be around very long.
Marc: That’s true. That’s true. If you follow process, you’ll get the second and third and fourth.
Josh: Right. The challenge that comes up for lots of businesses that I talk to is, “Okay, I get I need to have a sales process. How do I build it?”
Marc: Well, the first thing you do is you have to map out how you’re getting clients right now. And then, you map it out in terms of steps along the way.
Josh: Okay. I need to stop you there and ask you a question. What if you don’t know how you’re getting clients now? Which, believe it or not, happens more often than you think in a privately held business.
Marc: Okay. Well, the first thing you would do is you know you would have to pick up some leads, right?
Marc: And then, you start writing out like a generic process. You start picking out some leads. Then, you qualify those leads. And then, some of those leads are going to convert to an opportunity. By definition, an opportunity is where actions start to occur. In other words, you schedule the meeting to talk about your stuff. You schedule a demonstration but it’s real, real activity. That’s generic too. After that, well, it’s logical that the client’s going to ask you for some sort of proposal. That would be the next step, okay. So, that’s a proposal. Out of those proposals, some of them are going to be forecastable. Those become your best few. From those, then you convert to quotes.
Josh: When you say forecastable, what do we mean by that? I’m a little confused.
Marc: It means that you’re 90% sure that this deal is going to close but it’s not closed yet.
Marc: In other words, if you took all the proposals that you sent out to all your clients in the last month, there might be five or ten of those that you really, really going to count on and there’s hardly anything that’s going to stop this business from closing. Those are the ones you want to put on your forecast. Those are the ones that your boss is going to count on and say, “Okay, this is revenue for the next month” and that becomes forecastable.
Josh: My experience with business owners who do their own selling or small businesses that have salespeople is that the salespeople and the business owner, for that matter, dramatically push back when I say, “You need to have a system that you use to create sales.” What do you say to somebody who pushes back really hard on that?
Marc: Well, I tell them that those companies that have a sales process or a process, they have a process that’s repeatable. If you can get a sale through the process once, you can get it through many, many times, so there’s no reason why you want to push back on that. And then, as a matter of fact, you would want to put it in a sales process because that’s your surest way to repeat sales. This is what you want to do as a business owner and not leave it up to chance because sales is really a science more than an art.
Josh: I would agree with that, by the way. I think that there’s a real misnomer in the world of business is that people who are good salespeople are great artists. I would actually say the best salespeople are actually great technicians.
Marc: That’s right. And they have their own process. Often, these people – and I’ve seen this many, many times. I’ve seen an owner of a business hire a really, really good salesperson but I define a really good salesperson as a person who already has a sales process. It may not be documented. What happens is these people are left on their own and the business owner is going to say, “Well, let’s not bother Johnny. He’s bringing in sales all the time. Whatever he wants, give it to him.” These people, once they leave and they inevitably leave at some point, well, the sales process goes with them. What companies should do is any good sales rep, figure out what their process is and make it a repeatable thing so that when that person leaves, well then, you can hire someone else and follow that same process that brought success to this guy.
Josh: It sounds to me like the owner should be forcing that documentation, not the salesperson–
Marc: That’s right, absolutely.
Josh: –because if you have a good salesperson and are doing certain things, that person walks out the door, your sales might walk out the door with them, but if the process is still there, you can hire somebody else and relatively quickly get them up to speed.
Josh: Speaking about that, I have a question for you. A new salesperson comes to work in your company, how much time should you be giving them before they start creating revenue?
Marc: Well, that will depend on the industry they’re in, okay.
Right now, I’ll tell you a story about a client that I have. They are a manufacturer of customizable trailers for all sorts of uses. I got in there at around the same time as they hired a new sales rep. Basically, I put in some mechanisms and all that kind of stuff in there – the work that I do. The whole thing is documented. His close rate went from 15% of leads to 38% of leads, almost straight off the bat.
Now, the owner had zero knowledge of sales. The way he saw sales before was separate from his business. In other words, “I’ll hire someone who’s going to bring me sales. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll hire someone else.” Okay. But now, the whole thing is documented and If that person leaves, he can easily replace that person with someone else because the process is completely documented.
Josh: Typically— or at least in many companies, I see this happening and it’s one of the things that I think is probably a mistake is that there’s five people in the sales group. The owner decides they need to have a sales manager. The owner takes their best salesperson and makes them into the sales manager. And then, the sales manager falls flat on his face. The owner ends up firing that person and takes the next best salesperson and makes them into the sales manager. Can you talk for a second about the difference between what makes a great sales manager and what makes a great salesperson?
Marc: A good sales manager is going to put a lot of emphasis on coaching the other sales rep to go through the process.
Josh: In other words, they’re going to make the other sales reps use the process.
Marc: That’s right and you’re much better off. Especially if it’s a company that has five sales reps, you really don’t need a sales manager. The owner should become the sales manager. Basically, all that’s required is a meeting, once a week, with each sales rep that lasts around 20 minutes just to make sure they’re following the process and brainstorm some ideas on how to advance some of the sales that they’re stuck.
Josh: There’s a challenge with that. The challenge is many owners are uniquely not able to follow any process. They just can’t do it, especially in smaller privately held companies. They may need somebody else in the company to either manage the process or have a simple way for them to manage the process.
Marc: Well, it is a simple way. I’m going back to my example here of a client I’m working on right now. The owner knew nothing about sales. He admitted that to me. Now, he’s completely comfortable as managing his sales force of three reps. It takes him just maybe an hour or two a week, total time, and sales are coming in. He is booked. He has doubled his sales since October, since I’ve been working on him.
Josh: That’s great.
Marc: It’s very easy. Everything is done. All the ratios are in there. there are some mechanisms that he’s completely familiar with. His knowledge of the business actually helps the sales reps sell more.
Josh: That makes sense.
Marc: He’s become an integral part of selling. While he doesn’t do any selling himself, he just follows the process. It is very, very simple. It’s not complicated at all.
Josh: The owner, he’s following the process that you’ve put in place, I assume?
Josh: His job is to make sure the process is being followed?
Marc: That’s right.
The way I do that is I talk to him about the process of manufacturing the trailers on the other side. He’s got guys that weld. There’s a certain way you weld the sides. There’s a certain way that you put up the sides so that everything is straight. There’s a certain way that you put in the wheels. Is it a single wheel or double wheel? That’s how process is driven on the other side. That’s how he streamlines his whole operation. I just simply explained to him that sales is the same thing except they’re different items and you just have to follow that, just like you’re following on the manufacturing side. As soon as he understood that, well, then all the mystery went out of it and it’s very easy for him and he enjoys doing it.
I wanted to sort of change gears just a little bit, which is one of the great confusions I see in lots of smaller businesses, that’s the confusion between marketing and sales. Could you talk a little bit about that?
Marc: Sure. What marketing is, is creating awareness, okay.
Marc: Once the awareness is created, well, then it’s up to sales to convert that awareness all the way to a close. So, the awareness will be a lead. The definition of a lead is that you, as a salesperson, see a potential fit and the person who you see a potential fit knows what you do. That’s it. That’s a lead.
Josh: Let’s talk about qualified leads because you just brought up something near and dear to my heart. I have seen so many salespeople chase bright, shiny objects around. They think these leads are qualified but there’s no way that they’re ever going to become a client or customer.
Marc: That’s right.
Josh: What sort of thing do you recommend people do to qualify leads in the first place?
Marc: Well, the first thing, before you can qualify a lead, you have to understand what your ideal client looks like.
Marc: As part of setting up a sales process, this is something that I do, I come out. We talk about this. It takes a couple of hours to do it. We set it up and I ask the question, “Who is your ideal client? What does he look like?” They will say, “Well— so, if I go back to the trailer guy, okay. He has a trailer that’s broken. He likes the quality products.”
We’ll come out with eight or nine things that make up an ideal client that you can find out rather quickly and you can actually measure, as a percentage. We put in a weight on each statement that describes an ideal client and we say, “This top one is, say, 75 points. The next one, below that, is 50 points. And then, you go all the way down to, say, the least important thing is is 5 points.” You can actually measure a client just by having one little conversation with them, how much of a match he is to your ideal client. So then, the higher the percentage, the more qualified he is and the easier it’s going to be for you to sell him something.
Josh: Do you tell your clients that they’re not allowed to go through the sales process unless they get a certain amount of points in the qualification?
Marc: Well, similar to that, okay, what I tell them is, “You have to get a lead. And then, you have to convert that lead to a qualified lead.” So, we follow all the leads that come in. And then, we measure – we give an objective of converting that lead to a qualified lead, as a percentage, a ratio. And then, when it falls below the target, well then there’s a problem there. There’s something you’re not doing. There’s something you’re missing. And then, we work on that little thing.
Josh: Or you can just be talking to the wrong person.
Marc: You could be, yeah.
Josh: The truth is – I’m a big niche fan. If you tell me, “Everybody is your customer base–
Marc: Yeah, I thought so.
Josh: I’m going to tell you, “Your customer base is nobody.”
Marc: That’s right.
Josh: So, if you can’t narrow down saying, “Here is the demographics and the psychographics of people who we’re successful with,” you’re going to spend an awful lot of time chasing your tail and wasting all your time.
Marc: Absolutely. So, for them, just as an example, the biggest characteristic was someone who needs a trailer with certain specifications and they like quality products. Now, this gentleman, his company, they manufacture trailers. They last about 20 years. They don’t rust or anything like that. They look for clients who want their trailer to last 10 to 15 years. That’s their one biggest thing and they have special requirements. They’ve got to put in so many tons in there. There’s a whole bunch of stuff. So, as soon as they have any particular demands and they want something quality, well then, that becomes their highly qualified lead.
Josh: Yeah, which means that it’s probably going to be pretty easy. That’s the reason you went from – what did you say 10% to 30-some odd% closing ratios?
Josh: Yeah. Well, the truth is all businesses that are great businesses have great systems.
Josh: That includes the sales department.
Josh: That’s something that I want everybody listening today to take home is that Marc has got this right. He’s got this. It’s a systematized process. There is very little to no art in selling.
Marc: That’s right. Anybody can do it.
Josh: It is a system. It is not a, “I’m going to go out and just be creative and sell stuff.” Well, you’ll get lucky and sell something; but if you don’t have a system, you’re not going to predictively create business.
Marc: That’s correct. That’s exactly—
Josh: And that’s the name of the beast. Marc, unfortunately, we are out of time.
Marc: Oh, okay.
So, this is what I’d like to do, if somebody wants to find your book or find you, how would they do so?
Marc: Well, they go on Amazon and either put in my name Marc Samoisette, or they type in Sales Proce$$ified and you’ll be taken to the place where the book is for sale. In there – in that book, I have a whole bunch of mechanisms that any business owner can do. Or, they can give me a call and I can have a discussion with them over the phone. I’ll try and help them as much as I can.
Josh: Well, how do they find your phone number?
Marc: Well, they can hookup on LinkedIn, send me a message there. They can come on my website which is elevatecoaching.ca, and leave a comment and a phone number, and I’ll call them back.
Josh: Sounds great.
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You go to our website www.sustainablebusiness.co. You’re going to see a little thing down there that says, “Cracking the Cash Flow Code”. You click on that and you click on the button to get our infographic that shows the success path about how you create all the cash that you need in your business.
This is Josh Patrick. You’re with Marc Samoisette. You’re at the Sustainable Business. Thanks a lot for stopping by. I hope to see you back here again really soon.
Narrator: You’ve been listening to The Sustainable Business podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around a hundred years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802-846-1264 ext 2, or visit us on our website at www.askjoshpatrick.com, or you can send Josh an email at email@example.com.
Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.