Podcast

Selling Consulting Services & Example of a Bad Sales Process with Neil Kristianson

Neil Kristianson – https://emailsplat.com/

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Name: Neil Kristianson

LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nkristianson

Company Name: Email Splat

Company Website: https://emailsplat.com/

Short Bio:

Neil Kristianson, Ontraport Certified Expert and founder of emailsplat.com, a business automation agency, knows the pain and the glory of the modern entrepreneur. Since 2013, Neil and his team have been helping small businesses and solopreneurs automate their systems and dial in their processes to help free them up to do what they do best.

Show Notes

In this episode, I am speaking with Neil Kristianson of www.emailsplat.com and we a whole range of topics including; selling consulting services, Neil’s sales process. We also talk about “selling the plan” before “selling the project”, building sales processes for clients and then at the end, we actually analyze a sales experience that Neil is going through right now and why it’s really bad.

I hope you guys will learn something from it. And let me know if you’ve got any feedback on the show or you have any questions you can always hit me up at [email protected]

If you enjoy the episode, please take 10 seconds to leave a review on Apple Podcasts or like, share and follow with your favourite pod catcher!

Neil’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nkristianson
Website: https://emailsplat.com/

Transcription

Sam Wilcox:

Neil Kristianson, how are you doing my friend?

Neil Kristianson:

I am doing well. How are you? Thanks for having me.

Sam Wilcox:

No worries, man. Yeah, I’m good. This is our usual time for catching up anyway. So we thought we’d record a podcast this time around-

Neil Kristianson:

Instead of just wasting time, we’ll actually do something productive.

Sam Wilcox:

Right.

Neil Kristianson:

Hit the record button, yeah.

Sam Wilcox:

So for anybody that’s listening, why don’t you start off by giving everybody a bit of a heads up in terms of who you are, what you do and yeah, a little bit of history of Neil.

Neil Kristianson:

History. Oh wow. That’s a long history. We could go on for a while. Neil Kristianson’s company is Email Splat.

Sam Wilcox:

Emailsplat.com, yeah.

Neil Kristianson:

Emailsplat.com. Yes, splat as in splat.

Sam Wilcox:

Do you say everybody when you-

Neil Kristianson:

No, as in Batman. Think of Batman and that’s where-

Sam Wilcox:

Oh is that, well, I don’t get that. What’d you mean?

Neil Kristianson:

Well, when Batman, when they had the fights and they always put like splat.

Sam Wilcox:

Oh, right.

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah, that’s exactly where it kind of came from when I came up with the name is I wanted something fun that people would remember.

Sam Wilcox:

I remember your branding actually it was quite-

Neil Kristianson:

My original branding was very splat like. It was definitely like the old school Batman kind of cartoon feel to it. And I changed that a couple of years ago and made it more adult. I got a lot of feedback from clients that said, “I almost didn’t call you because it felt not serious.” Oh, that’s interesting. Hmm. Because I was trying to make it kind of playful and something you could have fun with in branding and marketing and yeah, I guess, I went a little too far. So I dialed it back in the last two years.

Sam Wilcox:

That’s interesting though because I think that kind of speaks to the type of people that, well, the type of companies that are seeking the services that me and you provide, right?

Neil Kristianson:

Right.

Sam Wilcox:

Why did you get into the services so people know what you actually do?

Neil Kristianson:

So the services. Well, very similar to what you do. How most businesses can’t scale because they kind of live in chaos. Well, I help people cut through the chaos, build automated systems to help them run their companies so they can actually scale and maybe sell and maybe have a life outside of like a… I have one client right now who constantly has to take his laptop everywhere in case he sell something because there’s-

Sam Wilcox:

What do you mean?

Neil Kristianson:

Because he didn’t have an automated way to get people the product they were buying.

Sam Wilcox:

Right.

Neil Kristianson:

So if they bought it, he had to stop what he was doing. Like out with his kids and family. He’d get an alert on his phone, he’d have to stop, pull out his laptop and set up an account for them and email them.

Sam Wilcox:

That’s crazy.

Neil Kristianson:

So we fix that. He was definitely do that

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah, I should hope so.

Neil Kristianson:

So he was kind of a slave to the business. This is the kind of thing I like to help people with is figuring out how to get some of your life back as well as to systematize it. It’s not like every time it’s the first time. So many businesses, it’s like every time it’s the first time. We got a lead, now what? We got to sell, now what?

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah, or it feels like I can’t do this.

Neil Kristianson:

Well, you’ve done this before.

Sam Wilcox:

It feels like I’ll do that this time round.

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah, very similar to what you do. I just help people come up with strategies to use these tools.

Sam Wilcox:

Well, absolutely similar to what I do because that’s how me and you met, isn’t it really?

Neil Kristianson:

Yes.

Sam Wilcox:

So I’ve known you for a few years, a couple of years now. Maybe like two.

Neil Kristianson:

At least like three. Something like that.

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah, it’s because I got certified as an Ontraport consultant. You were one of the OG Ontraport consultants.

Neil Kristianson:

I made it five minutes into this podcast and I didn’t say the word Ontraport yet. It’s a new record.

Sam Wilcox:

Oh, great. So when I first got certified as an Ontraport consultant, you were somebody that I looked up to. I was like, this is the guy that I need to speak to because he’s been doing this longer. Everybody seems to respect Neil in terms of the custom object databases and those kinds of services that you set up. So I was like, right, this is the guy I need to make friends with.

Neil Kristianson:

So you were using me.

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah, I was using you all this time. I was using you all this time. But that’s how we met though, right?

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah.

Sam Wilcox:

So obviously we provide similar services. I think there’s definitely differences in what we do I think, for sure I think.

Neil Kristianson:

Yes.

Sam Wilcox:

In terms of the services that I offer, I think we’re a little bit more focused on kind of sales process stuff whereas you guys like all of business process automation stuff, don’t you?

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah.I like to help people do what other people say couldn’t be done.

Sam Wilcox:

Right.

Neil Kristianson:

So they’ve got something really unique or something kind of outside the norm. That’s usually the kind of client I like to work with just because it’s more challenging.

Sam Wilcox:

Right, so this is an interesting one because I think a lot of times with what you do specifically, which is building business processes that are not necessarily just attached to the sales process, but that will be part of it. But it’s also around onboarding and operations and how to actually run the business through software and not necessarily custom dev software. It’d be off the shelf solutions like Ontraport. And then you’ll work on those types of platforms to develop. And I’m not trying to say here, not developed, but use the flexibility of those platforms to get the answers that the client needs. But a lot of times the client doesn’t know what they’re looking for. You know what I mean? So how does that play into you and Email Splat in terms of sales and stuff? How do people kind of find out about you in the first place?

Neil Kristianson:

Well, primarily people are finding me through Ontraport. So they’ve kind of picked the tool already. Maybe they already have the tool or they’re exploring using Ontraport, but somehow they usually find me through Ontraport. And so they’re kind of going down the Ontraport path already.

Sam Wilcox:

Right.

Neil Kristianson:

And then, they don’t usually know what they don’t know. When they have an idea of what they’re trying to do or maybe they even think they’ve got it, a lot of times people will send me a map that they’ve drawn out thinking they have it all figured out. And usually very rarely do they have it all figured out.

Sam Wilcox:

Right.

Neil Kristianson:

So that’s usually where we start with just trying to, where are we going with this? And so they come to me. Usually I’m trying to find the problem. Why are you thinking about moving to Ontraport? What’s wrong with what you’re doing today?

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah, and you do the same.

Neil Kristianson:

What’s the problem you’re trying to solve?

Sam Wilcox:

Like an upfront like discovery type call? What’s the process, what’s the sales process?

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah, well, the process for me is it usually starts with an email or they’re filling out a form on my website, one of the two and they’re giving me, usually they just give me a clue of this very vague clue of what they want. And so then I might just ask some clarifying questions through email. We might go back and forth on a couple of emails. I’m trying to figure out if this is even in the realm of what I do or can help them with because I don’t want to waste their time on a call. Frankly, I don’t want to waste my time on a call if this is not at all what I do. So I’m trying to figure that out through email. 

Sam Wilcox:

So you’re trying to disqualify them up from first really?

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah, and hopefully my website has done that. But still sometimes I get these crazy ones like, where did you get the idea? I did that. No. No, I don’t do that at all. So make you go back and look at your website and take, what did I put on here that they thought that that was part of the deal?

Sam Wilcox:

I think that’s a really good point though around the website. The website should, as a sales tool, the website should be something that… This sounds obvious, but I think a lot of people do a bad job of it. And I would hold myself included in this as well. The website should really communicate exactly what you do and who you do it for. And if you don’t have that in place, you’ll spend or waste a lot of time speaking to people that have no relation to what you do. I found that in the past as well because we recently relaunched our service and we’ve been doing this for a little while. But without this kind of full website relaunch and revamp, we’re still getting a lot of leads and wasting time with a lot of leads that were asking us for other stuff that we used to do a long time ago. And I’m thinking, what, why do people keep inquiring about this? And it’s because that’s what it says on the website.

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah.

Sam Wilcox:

So you need to change the website.

Neil Kristianson:

This people are so stupid. They’re reading the website and actually listening.

Sam Wilcox:

I was like, well, I’m being an idiot here or we need to change the website to be more succinct in terms of what we offer. And that was kind of splat off a whole relaunch. But I think it’s a really important point that a lot of people are avoiding.

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah, and I find the ones that usually don’t want what I do are the ones that do not come through my website. So when I just get a random email or they found me some other way than through my website, that’s when I’m asking more questions because many times those who know where they came from.

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah, it could have been some random referral or maybe they heard you on a podcast somewhere.

Neil Kristianson:

Or they found me on a listing somewhere. That’s usually what it is. They just found my listing somewhere, whether that be on the Ontraport website or one of the other places that I have a listing somewhere and they just make the assumption just because you’re listed here and this, then you must do X.

Sam Wilcox:

All of these things, yeah.

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah, and so then I’ll get requests for things I don’t do quite a bit from those kinds of listings.

Sam Wilcox:

Okay, so for yourself then, it’s quite like manual process up front to actively try and disqualify, but then obviously once you get to an understanding whereas this is somebody that you can help, then what happens from there? You move on to a call and discover you’ve done something.

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah, and as part of that, the other reason that the people that come through my website or use them gutter is because I have a form there that they fill out that actually helps them ask the right questions. I get better information usually from that form. And then usually, it’s a good fit if they fill out the form on the website. But anyway, yeah, beyond that, then I usually schedule a call with them to talk about what they’re trying to do, why they’re trying to do it. I ask a lot of questions. I’m constantly amazed by how many people I talk to that say, “Wow, you’re the first one I’ve talked to that’s actually asked me any of that. Or you’re the first one I’ve talked to that took the time to actually talk to me and couldn’t wait to get me off the phone.”

I just find it strange. And I keep thinking, so what are these other consultants basing their quote on or basing their, whether or not they want to put work with this, what are they basing it on? Just that you picked up the phone and called and that’s… I don’t know. It constantly amazes me the comments I hear back because I don’t think I’m that greatest salesperson. I am not a natural born salesperson. So it constantly amazes me when people tell me how well I connected with them right, I got to the meat of the problem or whatever.

Sam Wilcox:

What does that even mean though? You know what I mean? You have, I think not you, but everybody has this preconception of what a salesperson is and what they should be and do and how they would act and stuff. But realistically, you don’t have to act in any of those stereotypical ways to be a good salesperson. You generally just need to ask really good questions. I would argue that that is the biggest trait of success when it comes to sales is how good are the questions that you’re asking in the conversations that you’re having with potential customers.

Neil Kristianson:

Well, you have to remember that I’m what, 20 plus years older than you, something like that.

Sam Wilcox:

I think you have to remember that faster than I will.

Neil Kristianson:

Some days it’s hard to remember, yeah. But the synopsis doesn’t fire, these tutor synopsis don’t fire like they used to. But back when I was younger and first getting into business, we didn’t talk about this. To have anybody talk about consultative selling or asking questions when they were teaching you how to sell. Never, never, never. That is much more common today than it was 20 years ago. 20 years ago, it was all like teach them the Porchlight clothes and use this word and that’ll trick them into buying. And all this BS about how you have to be a manipulator, it was all manipulative selling. And there’s still quite a bit of that being taught. But I think most of that has gone away and now it’s much more consultative human connection sales, which is what I’m much better at.

Sam Wilcox:

People can see that nowadays, can’t they?

Neil Kristianson:

I sure can. I don’t like it.

Sam Wilcox:

And a vast majority of people don’t want to be sold. And so as soon as they’re in a conversation that, even as the slight hint of that kind of smell, then the defenses are up straight away. If I feel like you’re trying to trick me in any way by guiding or pushing the conversation down a specific path, that’s when you jump off the boat. Maybe not necessarily that analogy, but you know what I mean?

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah, well, that’s not to say that when I’m having a call with someone, I’m not guiding or trying to go somewhere, but I’m not doing it heavy handed or arrogant. I’m not arrogant in how I do it. I’m just pretty laid back and-

Sam Wilcox:

Genuine.

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah, I’m just pretty laid back.

Sam Wilcox:

There is genuine curiosity as well, right?

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah, genuine curiosity. But I will also ask very direct questions that I don’t think other people are asking them because when I’m done with that and I’m trying to do no more than 30, 45 minutes on the first phone call and even shorter if I realized this isn’t going nowhere. If this is not my customer, it’s going to be really short. And maybe if it is my customer, it might go a little longer. But in that first phone call, I’m asking questions to try to figure out is this going anywhere? Does this job have potential? Does this project have potential? Are they my customers? Are they not my customer? And by the end of that first phone call, that’s what I want to know.

And then maybe we didn’t close it on that phone call, but at least I know that I’m not living on hope island. I want to know I’m not on hope island all by myself.

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah, there’s another inhabitant. They might just be in the jungle, stuck in the jungle though.

So I think with what we do and the types of projects that we bill for and yeah, just generally the types of businesses that we work with, it’s very rare to get a close on the initial call. As for me anyway because usually, I mean, our sales process is we have to call like you and then there is a follow-up proposal and then they will review.

Neil Kristianson:

I don’t do proposals.

Sam Wilcox:

All right, talk to me about that then. So what do you do? You got the first call-

Neil Kristianson:

I’m not in the proposal writing business.

Sam Wilcox:

Right.

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah, I’m not in the proposal writing business. I’m in consulting and helping people with their business.

Sam Wilcox:

Okay.

Neil Kristianson:

I don’t want homework when I get off that call.

Sam Wilcox:

Ah okay, I understand what you’re saying.

Neil Kristianson:

They get the homework.

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah, just to clarify. When I say proposal, the system that we build is the same every time. So a full-stack sales system because I don’t want to be right in a custom proposal every single time based on a 30 minute phone call because you’re never going to get it right anyway, right?

Neil Kristianson:

No.

Sam Wilcox:

So when I say we send over the proposal, it’s the same.

Neil Kristianson:

Oh, okay. That makes more sense. That’s good.

Sam Wilcox:

Because we’re selling the same thing every time.

Neil Kristianson:

But I hear this so many from other consultants that they are based off of a 30 minute phone call trying to write up a proposal. And that’s just, in my opinion, that’s suicide.

Sam Wilcox:

I’ve not been doing that for a long time. So we recently made this switch and it works to a degree. So it is time consuming you’re right. So I’m sure you did it too for a certain point in your career.

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah, very early on I did this, but I quickly transitioned. So in my former life, I’m a reformed remodeler. And for those of you who are not in the US, remodelers are builder general contractors, whatever you want to call it, renovator. They call them renovators in other parts of the world.

Sam Wilcox:

Builders and stuff, yeah. Yeah, renovators.

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah. So I did renovations. And we had the same problem in that world in that you’d go meet somebody and after an hour meeting, they want to know how much it’s going to cost to remodel like putting a brand new kitchen and build a 500 square foot addition. I don’t know. I have no idea. I have no idea what you want. I mean, we’ve had this conversation, but I have nowhere near enough detail that I’m going to be able to put a price to it and give you a price. And if I do, it’s going to be what I want, not what you want. And then we’re both just going to hate it three months from now, then we both realize that-

Sam Wilcox:

That it’s not right anyway.

Neil Kristianson:

That we’re talking two different languages.

Sam Wilcox:

Right.

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah, so in that world, we have the design build process, which the whole goal of our initial sales was just to get you to buy the design from us. And then once we had everything designed, then we tell you how much it costs to build it. And so I very quickly adopted that model over here in just a different way. So basically my goal in my initial sales call is to find people that want to work with me to develop a plan for their business.

Sam Wilcox:

Right. Okay.

Neil Kristianson:

And so I’m selling, on that initial phone call, I’m really just selling the plan. I’m not selling the whole system because I don’t know what the system is and they don’t either. As much as they like to tell me, I know exactly what I want. Once I start asking questions, it becomes pretty obvious they don’t know exactly what they want. So then and now they haven’t considered it because they don’t know what they don’t know. That’s kind of my job.

Sam Wilcox:

Exactly.

Neil Kristianson:

To consider all the variables they haven’t thought about yet or to bring in the life experience that I’ve seen in other companies that they haven’t thought about yet. So that’s my whole goal initially is just to sell that initial plan with that.

Sam Wilcox:

I think that makes sense. I think that’s something that we transitioned to before we relaunched obviously our core service.  That’s what we were doing last year. So we would have, let’s say a custom CRM project, but we would always sell the discovery and planning phase of that project as a kind of one-off thing, as many projects at the beginning because I went down the path that you did in your previous life. I’m in my early days of running the business. And yeah, it was just getting too wild. Trying to figure out a custom CRM based off of a 45 to 50 minute conversation is extremely difficult to corporate in the right way and doesn’t feel good.

Neil Kristianson:

And it’s hard to. You and I in that 45 minute phone call, we kind of know how much it’s going to cost. I mean, we have some idea.

Sam Wilcox:

Rough, right?

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah. But they don’t see the value yet in that. And usually they have some preconceived idea of what they think it’s going to cost. And usually as with any business, it’s usually two wildly different numbers.

Sam Wilcox:

Right.

Neil Kristianson:

And so they don’t see the value of it until you start going through that planning. And then suddenly the light bulb will start to go on that, oh, wow. This is more complicated than I thought it was going to be or there’s more involved here than I thought there was going to be. So usually I try to work with them on their first phone call. It doesn’t mean I don’t talk about money. We’re going to talk about money because I want to know that you have some idea of what it’s going to cost in the long run, but I can’t tell you today what that number is going to be. But usually I’ll get some sort of budget out of someone that… Well, I can’t spend more than this.

Okay, well, then as we’re going through the planning, that’s what we’ll design towards. And we can come up with all these great grandiose ideas and we can put those down on paper, but that doesn’t mean that we’re going to be able to build them. And we’ll talk about that through the planning and designing phase. And that they’ll say something like, “Oh, I want this custom integration to do these.” They won’t use the word custom, but they’ll say, “I want to integrate this and this and do all these things.” And like, “Oh, that’s great, but that’s going to blow your budget.” I mean, yes, that’s totally possible. And then I just become the budget police.

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah, but it’s good that you do that up front though, isn’t it? Because you’ve got to set those expectations, right?

Neil Kristianson:

Right.

Sam Wilcox:

I mean, it’d be a little bit irresponsible to not at least give some kind of ballpark in terms of what you think the total project cost is going to be around in that first call because you don’t really want to go into the planning process and have them pay for the planning process unless you have a rough idea of what it’s going to cost in the end because the last thing you want is for a client to spend a few grand on getting a plan put together. And then from there, they can’t afford to have the rest of it built, right?

Neil Kristianson:

Right.

Sam Wilcox:

That feels bad for everyone. So you do have to put that up front. So I think that’s the right thing to do.

Neil Kristianson:

Yes. So yeah, we talk about that on that first phone call.

Sam Wilcox:

So okay. So process-wise, lead comes in, a little bit of back and forth to try and disqualify and figure out whether there’s a good scope for a conversation.

Neil Kristianson:

Yes.

Sam Wilcox:

Then in the conversation, I imagine you’re taking all of these calls here because the business is mostly based around your expertise, right?

Neil Kristianson:

Right.

Sam Wilcox:

So you all have the conversation with the client to… And the goal of that initial call is not to sell the project, but it’s to sell the planning offset projects, but also set expectations with them on that call as well and ask the right questions to kind of build trust and make sure that they’re on the same page.

Neil Kristianson:

Yes, that was very eloquently stated, Sam.

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah.

Neil Kristianson:

That’s a nice recap, yeah. But yeah, that’s how it works. That’s how I do it, yeah.

Sam Wilcox:

I’m good at recaps because you have to do those on those calls as well, right? Because this is a client thing.

Neil Kristianson:

Right.

Sam Wilcox:

If you’re on one of these calls with the clients, you need to make sure that you relay back that you understand the information that’s just important. So from there then, somebody sells, somebody… Well, let’s say somebody purchases the plan and they’re willing to move forward with yourself from there. It’s just straight to onboarding or are there any other steps in between? Are we getting contracts signed, I imagine and all that kind of stuff? And what kind of tools and stuff do you use for that?

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah, we have agreements. Yeah, so we need to get the agreement signed, you get payments, that kind of thing. And then we start gathering some basic info, but most of the info I’m going to gather on calls with them. So I give them a little bit of homework, but I don’t get too crazy. And then I just try to draw it out of them through conversation because again, they usually don’t know what I’m looking for, even if I write it out. But if I can dig a little deeper on a Zoom call, we can get to the heart of it a lot faster than back and forth.

Sam Wilcox:

Pretty straight forward then, right?

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah.

Sam Wilcox:

So pretty straightforward, selling custom services kind of requires a little bit of custom sales process or not custom, I mean, more of a manual input from a sales process, which isn’t a bad thing. I don’t believe it. So a lot of people come to us and they want to automate absolutely everything. And I don’t believe that that’s the right answer for everybody.

Neil Kristianson:

No.

Sam Wilcox:

Because it depends on the size and type of business that you run and what you’re doing. This is a perfect example, right?

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah.

Sam Wilcox:

So a lot of people. So I’ve been asked this quite a lot of times by clients that come to us for help with the sales process and stuff is, oh, we want to automate our sales process and then we came out to you and reached out to you. But I noticed that you don’t really automate much of your sales process, but you say that you’re the automation guys. And it’s like, well, I don’t need to automate all of my sales process. I know what needs to be done, what doesn’t need to be done and what needs to be manual and what needs to be automated. There are parts of the sales process that are automated, but there’s a big chunk of it that’s not because it’s random. It’s managed by one man, which is me right now.

Neil Kristianson:

Exactly.

Sam Wilcox:

Yes, I’ve got a team of people that build everything out, but the sales process is managed by me.

Neil Kristianson:

The ROI isn’t there for it. And in a lot of the issues aren’t there that bigger teams have. If I had five people doing what I’m doing, they’d all be doing it differently and saying different things. And then that’s when that chaos shows up.

Sam Wilcox:

Exactly.

Neil Kristianson:

And that’s when you need to build more systems and automation. When I’m just doing it. The time I’m going to invest in automating all of this, it’s just not worth it. Plus when you automate, you lose flexibility.

Sam Wilcox:

Right.

Neil Kristianson:

And so I kind of hybridized. Is that a word?

Sam Wilcox:

It’s now.

Neil Kristianson:

I’ve kind of hybridized where I have a lot of things pre-written and ready to go.

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah.

Neil Kristianson:

But then I’m modifying that based on the conversations we’ve had.

Sam Wilcox:

Conversations, yeah.

Neil Kristianson:

Honestly, I could 100% automate the contract that we use. But I haven’t because again, I’m not like some high volume thing pushing through a bunch of these.

Sam Wilcox:

Right.

Neil Kristianson:

So the time it takes my assistant to go in and put somebody’s email.

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah, the ROI.

Neil Kristianson:

Email address in it and send it to them.

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah, it’s one of those. So this is a bit… I think this is an interesting jump off point too as to something I spoke with previous guests about as well as this is super generalized, but I’m kind of rolling with this thinking at the minute and that I’d like you to poke holes in it if you can.

Neil Kristianson:

Sure, I’m good at that.

Sam Wilcox:

Most businesses kind of fall into these kinds of three buckets really. It’s either they’re trying to, and we’re talking about the sales process here, they’re trying to build a fully automated sales process hands off completely, which is all run by technology funnels, emails, upsells, down sells, freemium plans, all this kind of stuff. So that’s mostly it’s kind of an info type business or maybe a SAS business, that kind of stuff.

Neil Kristianson:

Right. Where it’s very much a product they’re buying. They’re not buying a service.

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah, or different levels of a product or whatever it may be, but as a product in the end. And you can dress it up as software as a service or whatever you want to call it. But at the end of the day, it’s an off the shelf product that has a certain amount of benefit that you can-

Neil Kristianson:

Everybody pays the same price here it is.

Sam Wilcox:

Right.

Neil Kristianson:

And you get the same thing, yep.

Sam Wilcox:

And then you’ve got this, let’s call it semi automatic, for lack of a better term, sales process, which is where I think most businesses fall into. And they’re mostly service-based businesses and they’re generally selling, let’s say medium to high ticket services. And they have this hybrid between the manual and the automated part. So there’s parts of the sales process that are automated, maybe like the movement of pipeline stages based on certain activities that sales reps do or don’t do and outcomes of certain tasks and all that kind of stuff. So you’ve got this and obviously, there’s more automated email communication during that as well.

But the responsibility is still on the rep or the owner to actually drive those sales and manually move somebody through a sales process. And it’s still relatively hands-on a load as a lot of automation kind of firing off helping with some tasks. And then you’ve got your more manual end of the scale, which is all kinds of your high ticket services or products even that most of the time generally business to business. Some B2C stuff like a house remodel is a good example of this, where everything is a manual touch point and it’s all about relationship building and long sales cycles.

Neil Kristianson:

Right.

Sam Wilcox:

Generally, they’re the kind of three buckets. I can’t really… I’m sure there’s holes there. I’m sure it’s a kind of generalization. But it seems to me that you’re going to be in one of those three in most cases. What do you think about that? Do you think that kind of stands true? Are there any buckets that we’re missing there?

Neil Kristianson:

I think that covers 90% of what I’m thinking. Yes, the only thing I would say is that I don’t know… Even the most hands-on business, those sales systems could still have some automation behind it.

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah, that’s true.

Neil Kristianson:

Could.

Sam Wilcox:

Could is the word, Nick.

Neil Kristianson:

It could and I think that is going to depend on the ROI and the ROI of money and time. So time is an ROI as well. So if you’re… I work with… I’m around a lot of contractors still through one of my clients and they’re still a one man show, but they’re trying to handle 300 leads a year.

Sam Wilcox:

Right.

Neil Kristianson:

So even though they’re still pretty high touch as you would have described it, they need some help with some systems or 297 of those leads, they’re going to fall into a black hole. Never to be heard from again because they just can’t keep up with them. They can’t keep up when they’re getting that many leads because they’re not just the salesperson, they’re the owner. A lot of times, they’re the field guy. They’re wearing multiple hats.

Sam Wilcox:

That’s an interesting point. So that potentially somebody that’s in that manual bucket, but should not be. They should be in the semi-auto.

Neil Kristianson:

They should be in the semi-automated bucket.

Sam Wilcox:

But many of them are not, right?

Neil Kristianson:

Right.

Sam Wilcox:

So I suppose that’s the opportunity. That’s the opportunity for people like yourself and me and anybody else who’s a business consultant is to try and help those people move into the correct bucket because I still, I mean, yeah, I suppose you’re right. Even with the manual bucket, let’s say here, I’m thinking kind of big corporate sales teams with reps earning hundreds of thousands a year and however many millions in commissions there and on the golf course. But I suppose even to some degree they must be using CRM and stuff like that.

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah, I’m sure they are. I’m sure they’re using it to some degree. And I think mostly what I’m talking about there is not so much automating the process from the customer’s point of view, but automating the process from the sales reps point of view.

Sam Wilcox:

Right.

Neil Kristianson:

So in other words, it’s more about reminders and just the sales rep doesn’t let something fall through the cracks.

Sam Wilcox:

No one leaves through the crack.

Neil Kristianson:

Right. So it’s not so much that I’m just constantly automating marketing messages or next step in the sales process messages or even put your credit card in here kind of thing, but more so that I’m just reminding the sales rep that, hey, you still got this lead out there or hey, your lead just went to the website again. Maybe you should follow up with them because they’re on the pricing page right now.

Sam Wilcox:

Right.

Neil Kristianson:

So that kind of thing where it’s more to help the sales rep not replace the sales rep.

Sam Wilcox:

Right, and that’s a really good point. And I find a lot of business owners who are clients that come to us for help. A lot of the time, they’re almost trying to… They want a sales team, but it seems like they think their train of thought is going down the path of trying to replace what the sales rep actually does. And a lot of times, I have to say, hold on a minute, we don’t want to automate all of this because at the end of the day, it’s your sales reps responsibility to make sure that this happens and that happens, right?

Neil Kristianson:

Right.

Sam Wilcox:

And the customer is walked through the process in the right way. And they know there’s trust in the business. And they can sell based on their knowledge and expertise rather than trying overall to make the system because that will remove a lot of responsibility from the rep. And then you risk reps being lazy, you risk reps kind of taking that backseat and just thinking, oh, well, this is just a button clicking game now and it’s not a selling game, right?

Neil Kristianson:

Right.

Sam Wilcox:

So there’s been a few clients so we’ve had to kind of show that light to if you know what I mean.

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah, it’s that balance. Because the sales you’re describing are very much relationship sales. It’s not just I’m going to show up at your website and give you a credit card for a $50,000 project. I want to know that that’s the right thing. I want to know the people behind it. I want to talk to somebody. To me as a consumer where it’s more frustrating is on the other end where it’s a $50 product and they want to do relationship sales with it.

Sam Wilcox:

Right.

Neil Kristianson:

I have one of those experiences going on right now and I just keep telling the guy, how do I give you my damn credit card? I just want to buy it. You’ve made this all freaking complicated.

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah. Well, you might be doing a little bit of disqualification on your side of things, Neil, trying to find if you’re a good fit for the product or not.

Neil Kristianson:

Well, yeah, I had to schedule a call with them because they won’t tell you the price. So I’m thinking-

Sam Wilcox:

Because something is interesting if they-

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah, so I’m thinking the price has to be high, right?

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah.

Neil Kristianson:

If we’re not going to put the price on the website and I have to talk to a sales rep, I’m going to get the hardcore sale and they’re going to put the screws to me to buy this thing and it’s going to be really overpriced. And so it goes through… Show me the whole product. And basically I knew everything already. I’m like, okay, great because I looked at the website. I’m not just ready to buy. If the price is right, that’s all I want to know. So I finally like, “okay, what’s the price?” And he tells me and I’m like, “That’s it?” He’s like, “Yeah.” “So why don’t you just put that on your website?” “Because people think that’s expensive.” “Really?”

Sam Wilcox:

I’m interested in what product is.

Neil Kristianson:

Wow, you guys have a really warped view of what expensive is. Okay.

Sam Wilcox:

Is this a B2B product or…?

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah, it’s a B2B. It’s a B2B product that I’m trying to get for one of my clients. Some software. Something that’s going to be at least 300 bucks a month if they’re making me get on a phone call.

Sam Wilcox:

Right.

Neil Kristianson:

It’s $55 a month.

Sam Wilcox:

So there’s an interesting thing here actually in this chronic cross pollinates with the conversation I had with Casey Hill last week on the podcast. We were talking, because I was quizzing him a little bit about the nature of Bonjoro because Bonjoro is a low ticket product. It’s not expensive, it’s a cheap service. But their reps get on the phone with people as well. I think they do have in place, I think he mentioned they do have in place a priority of leads, a lead priority situation so that the reps are getting on with potential business more like B2B stuff that is of higher value, which is obviously suggested.

So there is that. But also as well, he made a really good case for sales reps being a valuable feedback tool for the rest of the business. So it could be that they’re taking that approach if we’re not putting the price on the website, which is an interesting decision if it’s such a cheap service, especially for B2B, that seems really cheap, 50 bucks. But they might be trying to get as many people on the phone as possible to glean as much information from you as a customer as possible, which is also a pretty good thing to do if it’s a relatively new product or business.

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah, I could see that. Well, and it wasn’t just the fact that there’s no price on the website, it’s the fact that I am now a week out from the conversation. And they still have given me no way to give them my money.

Sam Wilcox:

That’s interesting, Neil, for sure.

Neil Kristianson:

So at the end of the phone call, I’m like, okay, great. What’s the next step? Well, I’ve got to get you a quote. Well, didn’t you just tell me what the cost was? Yeah, but I gotta get you a quote. Okay. 

Sam Wilcox:

The price doesn’t change.

Neil Kristianson:

That took like three days. What was that?

Sam Wilcox:

The price must change in that sales process then.

Neil Kristianson:

Well, there’s options.

Sam Wilcox:

Right.

Neil Kristianson:

So there’s a base price and then there’s some options and it’s a per user deal kind of thing.

Sam Wilcox:

Are there many options?

Neil Kristianson:

No.

Sam Wilcox:

Right. Okay. So this to me, in my personal opinion, this reeks of a bad sales process, right?

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah, I don’t like it. So it took like three days to get this quote from him. I signed the quote and then nothing.

Sam Wilcox:

Really?

Neil Kristianson:

Nothing. And finally, I had to email him.

Sam Wilcox:

Is this a subscription service or is this…?

Neil Kristianson:

Yes.

Sam Wilcox:

All right. Okay.

Neil Kristianson:

So finally I had to email him and I’m just like, how do I give you my credit card? Good God, I just want this off my to-do list and you are like a bad rash. I can not get rid of you. I just want to be done with this. And I got… The customer’s like, “Hey, let’s go. I want this thing up and running.” And I’m trying like hell to give somebody my money and they don’t want it. They’ve just put so many barriers in my way whereas if they’d had the price on the website in order form, I’d already be in onboarding and a weekend to use it.

Sam Wilcox:

Well, this is such an important point I think just for understanding and this is exactly the reason why the initial call I have with potential customers is finding out exactly what type of business is, what type of service is, products that’s offered, the price points your target customers are because all that stuff dictates what this process should look like. And what you’re talking about here is somebody that’s not really thinking about the way that people want to buy from them and the sales process is really suffering because of that.

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah, and to your point, I’m not sure I’m their ideal customer. I might be too small for them. They’re really trying to land somebody with far more users than we’re going to bring to the table. But if they’re going to take my business, I’m just looking at this, this just reeks of him getting off the phone with me, pushing a button and a quote shows up in my inbox, not three days later.

Sam Wilcox:

Exactly, if maybe you’re not like the ideal target customer so they’re not going out trying to find you, which makes sense, right?

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah.

Sam Wilcox:

It’s not like an outbound process built around about targeting you.

Neil Kristianson:

Right.

Sam Wilcox:

But if you are all going to accept money in the end from somebody that looks like you on the inbound, then there should be an inbound process that helps you sign up for the easiest and most efficient way. So you’re not wasting their time so they can go and find the target customers that they’re trying to look for, right?

Neil Kristianson:

Right. And as soon as I hit submit on that contract, I should have had an email that said, “Hey, put your credit card in here.”

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah.

Neil Kristianson:

Great, thank you.

Sam Wilcox:

We should read our directives straight there even better, right?

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah, I should have been right to, “Hey, give us your credit card. Let’s get started.” Instead I have to email them and say, “What’s going on? I sent this in.” I sent them the contract Thursday afternoon, Friday morning and here we are Monday morning. I finally had to email him and say, “What the heck?”

Sam Wilcox:

So check this out. I think this is a really good place to kind of start wrapping up the show. But now this is the importance of having a good sales process because, Neil, you’ve just spent 20 minutes talking about this bad experience.

Neil Kristianson:

And I will tell you the name of the company later when we’re not recording.

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah, well, we’ve just recorded a podcast about how bad this sales process is, right?

Neil Kristianson:

Right.

Sam Wilcox:

So this doesn’t matter. People don’t want this friction nowadays. So yeah, I think it’s a really good example and thanks for bringing that up.

Neil Kristianson:

I think the biggest friction is around price. I’ve had this so many times where I just want to give someone money to make the problem go away and they put up so many barriers in my way. They’re more scared to talk about the money than I am.

Sam Wilcox:

Right.

Neil Kristianson:

Just tell me what it costs. Let’s go. Sometimes I’ve had it where we just flat out ask the price and well, I have to write up a quote for you. I mean, that’s like a perfect place to just at least say, well, it could be in this range or we find customers like you usually spend about this or something instead of completely stonewalling you and-

Sam Wilcox:

The whole process is about building trust. And if you can’t give somebody at least a ballpark figure after you’ve had a 30, 45, an hour long conversation with them, then the signal to that potential customer is that you’re not trustworthy because you’re going to go away and figure out how you can get the most out of it. Not what it should actually cost.

Neil Kristianson:

Well, and it’s still on my mental to-do list then. If I had a ballpark and I went, oh, that works. Okay, now I can just sit and wait for them to do whatever they’re going to do. But now it’s still on my mental to-do list because I’m in this unknown place whether or not that company is going to work for me or not. So now it no longer becomes their job to lose. Now I’m still out actively trying to solve this problem where if they could take me off the market with one or two simple sentences of reassurance, they could take me off the market and I would wait.

Sam Wilcox:

It’s a big deal. 

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah.

Sam Wilcox:

Friction, too much friction. Too much friction. So questions we always round out the podcast with. Everybody that comes on is usually at least a little bit of a software nerd, right?

Neil Kristianson:

Okay.

Sam Wilcox:

So I want to ask you what software tools that you use and love. Obviously, we can all mention Ontraport. Me and you both love Ontraport.

Neil Kristianson:

Yes.

Sam Wilcox:

So if we could get Ontraport, what else do you find yourself using daily that you couldn’t live without in business terms?

Neil Kristianson:

Ontraport, Zapier. There’s another one I use from a lot of my clients and myself personally. Couldn’t live without that one. What else am I using a lot that I couldn’t live without? That’s it.

Sam Wilcox:

Zapier is a good one. Nobody’s said Zapier, yeah.

Neil Kristianson:

No.

Sam Wilcox:

And I think nowadays it’s just so important, right?

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah.

Sam Wilcox:

And the software stock, you’ve got to have that connecting tool and it’s super easy to use, super powerful, super flexible, can connect pretty much any tool together with it. If like me and you, at least a little bit to be dangerous then-

Neil Kristianson:

Well, the other ones that come to mind are Loom, Zoom. Some screenshot software like a Google plugin. These are things I’m just constantly, constantly using every single day.

Sam Wilcox:

Do you pay for Loom now?

Neil Kristianson:

I have paid for Loom for a long time, yeah.

Sam Wilcox:

Have you? Because I didn’t use to pay for Loom because they made an interesting change relatively recently. I think it was towards the backend of last year, where… When Loom came out, they did a really good job of this to be fair. When that first came out as a Google extension, you created a Loom account and you could just record free videos, right?

Neil Kristianson:

Right.

Sam Wilcox:

So you can record as many of them as you wanted. There was a limit on it. I think it ended up being around about 150, 160 videos. But usually by the time that you would hit that limit, most of the videos, they’re kind of ad hoc quick how to use and stuff like that. And they get used and then that’s it. So it is kind of disposable in that nature all Loom videos. So you can keep on top of that and keep that 150 available very easily. But that tool became such that they seemed like they must have been planning this from the beginning, but they timed it perfectly I think. Late last year, I think it was late last year. It could have been a little bit longer ago. They changed the free plan now. So you can only record up to five minute videos, whereas you could use it to be able to record as long as you want it to be able to record.

Neil Kristianson:

Right.

Sam Wilcox:

The limit on the videos is much shorter. But for people that use a tool like that, when they were using the free version, it’s such an easy to use low friction tool. There was no sales process at all even, it’s just download this and create an account. Low friction, it gets ingrained in your day-to-day use of a business. And then when they turn around and say, well, you can only record five minute videos anymore and you can now pay, I think it’s like $19 a month or something similar for an account. It’s a no brainer. You’re just going to pay it because it’s ingrained in what you do.

Neil Kristianson:

I don’t know. Back when I bought it, I think it maxed out at 100 videos. And then there was some other perk that they were offering when I bought it that I went, oh, I think I want that. And it was only, I think I pay 10 bucks a month.

Sam Wilcox:

Yeah, something like that, right?

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah.

Sam Wilcox:

It’s not expensive.

Neil Kristianson:

It’s not much. So there were a couple of perks that made it worth it to me. And I have videos in there now from geez, three, four years ago. I’ve just got a whole library of videos that are all organized. And I go back there and find things constantly of little training that I did or things I did for clients or whatever. So I use it quite a bit.

Sam Wilcox:

It’s a great tool. It’s a tool that businesses like mine and yours have been using them for a long time, but it’s also now, I mean, from a pandemic situation and remote work becoming more of a prominent thing, it’s just one of those things I can’t see slowing down at any point sooner. And I think they probably do it the best. There’s a little side chat here. Round out the podcast. Talking about Loom, why not?

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah.

Sam Wilcox:

All right. Cool, I think that’s good, man. I really enjoyed the conversation.

Neil Kristianson:

That was the only question? I thought we had multiple quick hit questions at the end.

Sam Wilcox:

No, the way this podcast works is I’ve got like a bunch of guiding questions that I can throw in if I feel like we need a direction, but we float. We didn’t need them. I do like to ask.

Neil Kristianson:

We don’t. You and I don’t need that. We just wrap away. We just kick out.

Sam Wilcox:

Exactly. But yeah, I always like to ask about software because everybody likes to geek out on software. So there we go.

Neil Kristianson:

Right.

Sam Wilcox:

Neil, I think we’ll leave it there, my friend and thanks for coming on the show, mate. Really appreciate your time.

Neil Kristianson:

Yeah, thank you.

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