InnovaBuzz Episode #44 – Marcus Sheridan: The Sales Lion

MarcusSheridan The Sales Lion

Marcus Sheridan: The Sales Lion

In this episode number 44  of the InnovaBuzz podcast, Marcus Sheridan of The Sales Lion and of course, star of the River Pools story talks about content marketing, but primarily about the key principle of solving your customers’ problems by educating them.  This is an enduring marketing strategy that has worked for a long time, even before the internet and will endure for much longer.  Listen to the podcast to find out more.

Listen to the Podcast

The only thing people care about are their problems and finding a solution.

Marcus Sheridan

Show Highlights

Some of the highlights of this episode include:

  • Hear the questions people are asking, their fears, issues, concerns, and worries, then address them on your website, through text and video.
  • River Pools core philosophy – four simple words, they ask, you answer.
  • The  goal of content marketing isn’t to show the world that you’re smart, the goal is engaging communication with your audience and education.
  • Teach better, listen better, if you do that, you’ll get the reward.
  • The people that see blogging to educate clients as principles are more successful than the ones that see them as “techniques” or temporary behaviors in consumerism.
  • If you can’t empathize and think like your customer, you’re going to stink at content marketing and digital marketing.
  • If you can’t articulate the problem you solve, if you have to think about it, then you aren’t good at your job.

Ultimately, when all is said and done, buyers want to be educated, they want to be comfortable, they want to know they’re not going to screw up and not make a mistake. And that’s the purpose of content.

Marcus Sheridan

The Buzz – Our Innovation Round

Here are Marcus’ answers to the questions of our Innovation round.

  • #1 thing to be more innovative –Be a good observer – what’s happening, what questions are being asked?
  • Best thing for new ideas – Interactive communication with prospects – get them to tell you how they feel and what they need
  • Favourite tool for innovation – Hubspot.  Also constantly analyse your lists for behaviour, remembering that 20% of the activity gives 80% of the results.
  • Keep project / client on track – Incredibly honest conversations – establish a rapport of equality.
  • Differentiate – Be an amazing teacher, say what you are for and against and who is not a good fit.

To Be a Leader

Don’t let your personal opinions get in the way of smart sales and marketing!

Reach Out

You can reach out and thank Marcus via email at marcus@thesaleslion.com and twitter: @thesaleslion

Suggested Guest

Marcus suggested I interview Chris Marr of the Content Marketing Academy, on a future InnovaBuzz podcast.  So, Chris, keep an eye on your Inbox for an invitation from me, for the InnovaBuzz Podcast, courtesy of Marcus Sheridan.

Links

Full Transcript

Click to Read…
Intro:
Hi, I’m Jürgen Strauss from Innovabiz. Welcome to Episode No 44 of the InnovaBuzz Podcast – designed to help smart businesses with an interest in innovation become even more innovative.In this episode, my guest is Marcus Sheridan of The Sales Lion and of course, star of the River Pools story.  Of course we talk a lot about content marketing, but primarily about the key principle of solving your customers’ problems by educating them.  This is an enduring marketing strategy that has worked for a long time, even before the internet and will endure for much longer.This is a fascinating and high energy interview, so strap yourselves in an let’s get the Buzz from Marcus Sheridan.

 

Interview
Hi, I’m Jürgen Strauss from Innovabiz, and I’m really honored to have here with me today on this episode of the Innovabuzz Podcast, from Virginia in the USA, Marcus Sheridan from The Sales Lion. Marcus, welcome to the podcast. It’s a privilege to have you here.

Marcus:
Jürgen, it’s my pleasure, buddy. And hopefully we’ll have a great conversation and say something that is valuable to your listeners. And I’m really, really happy to be here with you.

Jürgen:
I’m sure you will. Now, Marcus travels the world teaching people about content marketing. He’s also a platinum Hubspot partner, and for anybody that hasn’t been paying attention on the internet for a while, Marcus is, of course, famous for the River Pools story, which I’m sure he’ll share with us today. And he runs The Sales Lion, of course. So, Marcus, now I understand from a podcast you did with Troy Dean that when you were a child, you wanted to be a dentist when you grew up.

Marcus:
From dentist to pool guy. I don’t know how that happened. I don’t know how it happens, but it happens. You know, nobody ever says they want to be a pool guy, but I became a pool guy.

Jürgen:
Now, I thought, well it’s an interesting journey because now that you’re on about content and content marketing, getting people to write content can sometimes be like pulling teeth, right?

Marcus:
Well, it can be and which is why I think there is a great communicator within all of us. I think the issue is in how we deliver that communication, how we deliver that content. And the problem is there’s not a great writer within all of us. And that’s the thing that a lot of businesses and a lot of people forget.

Jürgen:
That’s right. So, tell us briefly then the River Pools story.

Marcus:
So, the brief River Pools story is we started the company in 2001. We were installing specifically fiberglass in-ground swimming pools throughout the states of Virginia and Maryland, here in the U.S. And things were going okay up until 2008, 2009, when the economy just crashed. And that was really, really bad for pool guys because most people, once that happened, didn’t have the value in their home to get a second mortgage or a home equity line, whatever you want to call it, to get a swimming pool. And so lots of swimming pool companies all over North America really, really started to struggle. We were no exception. And by January 2009, I really thought we were going to go out of business. We went through a period of three straight weeks where we were overdrawn in our bank accounts, and I had 16 employees sitting at home during that time. And it was a huge struggle; just stressful, not a fun time. And that’s really when I said well we either file bankruptcy and I’ll lose my home, and my business partners lose their homes, and my employees lose their jobs, or I need to figure out a way to generate more trust, more traffic, more leads, more sales than we ever have, even though there is way less of a pool of people to choose from. And that’s when, of course, I started to read about the internet, inbound marketing, content marketing. But you know, when I read all of those fancy marketing phrases, what I heard was “Well, Marcus, if you’re just willing to hear the questions people are asking, their fears, issues, concerns, and worries, and then you’re willing to address them on your website, through text and video, you might be successful, you might save your business. So our core philosophy became four simple words, which is they ask, you answer. And They Ask, You Answer is the title of my first book. It’s coming out, probably at the end of this year, beginning of next year, but it’s really just a philosophy of if anybody, Jürgen, has ever asked you the question pertaining to your business that you feel like it’s your moral obligation to address it before you know they exist, in other words, on your website beforehand, and that’s what we did. We became the Wikipedia of fiberglass swimming pools. And I consistently and persistently addressed customer questions over the next few years, and today it’s the most trafficked swimming pool website in the world. It saved the company, it’s very profitable, we’ll get about 600,000 visitors a month to the website. And it’s really amazing. And it’s a story I never get tired of telling because of its simplicity. The beauty is in simplicity. We don’t have to overcomplicate this stuff, man, and many people do.

Jürgen:
And what I love, well, there’s a lot of things I love about it, but what I love about it is that you’ve condensed it down into its fundamental core and then just took action, which as you say, it doesn’t have to be perfect.

Marcus:
Well, and I didn’t overanalyze it, man. And I didn’t sit there and say, well, I mean, what should I do – video or text, or should I just …. I just created. I just did. And I didn’t sit there and scrutinize everything like maybe I shouldn’t address that question. Like literally, if I was hearing the question in a sales appointment, I was thinking to myself, have I addressed that on the website? Nope, haven’t. I’m going to produce an article or video about it tonight. It was really that simple. And that’s what drives me crazy. It’s funny how content marketing isn’t a good fit for a few different types of organizations and people. A, it’s not a good fit for the type of organization that isn’t great at thinking like the customer. In other words they’re so stuck on being a business they’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a buyer. If you can’t empathize and think like your customer, you’re going to stink at content marketing and digital marketing, etc. You’re just not going to be very good at it at all. Also, you’re not going to be good at content marketing if you’re trying to prove yourself as smart. Because the goal of content marketing isn’t to show the world that you’re smart, the goal is communion, that they hear it or see it or read it, and they’re able to nod their head and say, Okay, now I understand the thing, now I get it. That’s the goal. And some people would rather sound smart, and they end up looking stupid.

Jürgen:
It’s counterproductive, right. I remember when we were in the corporate world, there’s a website called the Paint Quality Institute, which we launched back in 1997, and it’s still around, still huge traffic. I’m not involved with it anymore. But it was the same kind of concept. And it was because we were supplying raw materials to the paint manufacturers, but the end users were stopping buying quality paints, and so we thought well how can we educate the end user on the use of quality paints. And we came up with this idea of basically answering their questions and then expanding that to everything around paint. So that when you imagine somebody painting their house, then they’re concerned about decoration and, well first of all, what sort of paint do I use, how do I apply it, what weather do I apply it in. There’s thousands of questions that come up. And then you go out to the related things because they’re redecorating or they’re maybe putting an extension on, or maybe putting a deck out and so they’ve got different paint needs. And so answering all of those questions. And that website is hugely popular right now.

Marcus:
Well, I bet. And that’s, you know, you were way ahead of the game on that. I mean that was way ahead of the game. But the fact of the matter is there’s still huge opportunity for the teacher, for the person that is willing to think like the customer and willing to address their questions. You know, and this fundamental truth, it’s B2B, it’s B2C, it’s local, it’s national, it’s service, it’s product. Ultimately, when all is said and done, buyers want to be educated, they want to be comfortable, they want to know they’re not going to screw up and not make a mistake. And that’s the purpose of content.

Jürgen:
Yeah. So, tell us a little bit about The Sales Lion and what you do there.

Marcus:
Well, yeah. I mean, I started The Sales Lion, it’s thesaleslion.com, and I started it in, at the end of 2009 because I knew the stuff that I was doing with River Pools was working. And so I’m like, man, I’ve got to talk about this somewhere. And so I literally started that, it was like a birthday present to myself. I think I’m going to start this blog here. So, I started writing about what I was doing, and before I knew it, people said, you know what, this is pretty cool, what you do with your company, how it’s working. Some of the stuff I was doing was really innovative at the time. And so I just kept writing and I kept talking. And before I knew it, people started to say, Hey, can you come tell that story at this conference or can you teach my company how to do that. And it turned into a really nice business. And so today, businesses and brands contact me when they’re looking to engender more trust from their prospects and customers through content. And I help them do that and show them the types of content they need to be producing, how to produce it, how to involve their team in the process, and how to do it in a way that they don’t sound like a jerk or they don’t sound like they’re schlepping or don’t sound like they’re just, you know, oh look at us, we’re so stinking awesome; they truly sound like they are … ultimately just care about the customer. And that’s the goal. And it’s really great. And I get to speak all over the world, as you said. It’s been amazing. I’ve been to multiple continents over the last few years. You know, spreading the gospel that is let’s teach better, let’s listen better, and if we do that, you’ll get the reward.

Jürgen:
Yeah, I love some of your comments on … I guess on the website or perhaps on blogs that I’ve heard where you say instead of focusing on the search, focus on listening, communicating, helping others, and then the ultimate content strategy is listening.

Marcus:
It is. You’ll never run out of content if you do that. You know, it’s like I wrote an article early on for River Pools, “How much does a fiberglass pool cost?” – and at that time, can you believe, Jürgen, no swimming pool company in the world had talked about how much it costs to install a fiberglass pool. Yet it was the first question everybody wanted to ask me when they called me up and said, Oh, Marcus, you know, I’m just looking to get a pool, and I’m not going to hold you to it, but give me a feel, how much does something like this cost? I mean, that happened every single call. And so I didn’t sit there and overanalyze it and say Oh, I can’t talk about cost because I might scare them away. I realized that when you don’t talk about money, that’s the thing that scares people away. And I certainly didn’t care if my competition saw it. It’s just crazy things that we do as businesses. I just said they’ve got the question, I’m going to address it, and that article has generated over $3 million in sales since the day it was written six years ago. It’s not anything special. It took me 30 minutes at my kitchen stinking table to write that baby, and it’s made $3 million, 30 minutes, $3 million, it’s pretty solid, that’s a pretty solid ROI, I’ll take it.

Jürgen:
Yeah, and on the one hand it’s a little sad that we consider listening to the customer and answering customer questions to be innovation, but on the other hand, a lot of people don’t do it.

Marcus:
But you know, you know this is, like great content marketers often times are great innovators as well for the business because they are hearing the things that everybody else talks about but nobody does. It’s like, let me give you an example. Do you realize it wasn’t until like 1980 that suitcases had wheels. Can you believe that crap? 1980, Jürgen. This whole time we were carrying our luggage like crazy people, and it could’ve been rolling. How many people said “good grief I could just roll this, why don’t they make these on rollers?” Nobody made them on rollers. The guy that invented it was a pilot because he got tired of it. How is it possible that these Samsonites of the world didn’t invent that themselves? Because they weren’t listening. If they had listened, they would’ve known. Of course, these things should have wheels. Of course it’s possible.

Jürgen:
Yeah. And sometimes the most innovative inventions are quite simple, aren’t they? And when you think back, you say, “That’s an obvious need. Why hasn’t somebody addressed it before?”

Marcus:
Yeah, except that person did something about it, right. How many times have you seen something and said, yeah, I thought of that before. Well, yeah, you might’ve thought about it, but you didn’t take action on it. And so when I see companies … It’s like was it innovative that Zappo said we’ll let you return the shoes. I mean some might not call that innovative. That changed our whole world. It changed our whole world because today millions of people a year will buy a pair of shoes without trying them on first. All because they can send them back. That’s innovation. Not that you create a pair of shoes that can allow you to jump and dunk a basketball. That’s not the essence of innovation. The essence is you can send them back, and then you change the rules for an entire industry and for commerce in general.

Jürgen:
Yeah, that’s right. And in some ways it’s really understanding the customer, really understanding their needs and their concerns, and then actually taking some action, like you say.

Marcus:
Yep. Every time.

Jürgen:
So, in terms of innovators, what do you see as the biggest trap that people fall into when they innovate something. Let’s say they have an idea and they actually take action on it, but when they go about selling their new idea?

Marcus:
You know, so the only thing people care about is their problems; that’s the only thing people care about. And so if you have a headline that says “Greatest invention ever,” that doesn’t mean anything. But if you say “Finally you can solve the problem of” and just name the problem, now all of a sudden every single person that has that problem is like “What?” You see what I’m saying. I mean that’s what matters. And that’s why when it comes to great content marketing, it starts with the problems that you solve and the problems that your customers are having. When it comes to innovation, it’s the obsession with those problems and then the communication, the messaging lies therein. What does the problem, what is the problem that it solves? You know what’s funny, man, like I have people pitch me on stuff all the time, right. They pitch me on their company or they pitch me on their product or they pitch me on this or that, and I say yeah, well, what is the problem that it solves? And then all of a sudden they slow down and they have to really think about it. Are you kidding me? You’ve got to think about the problem you solve? If you’ve got to think about that, you’re screwed. You’re not really good at your job. Whatever your job is, you’re not good at it. If you’ve got to think about that.

Jürgen:
Yeah, that’s a key message there. Know what problem you solve and know who you solve it for as well. Know what the pain is and for who.

Marcus:
That’s right.

Jürgen:
So, you’re also a Hubspot partner as well, aren’t you?

Marcus:
Yeah, we’ve produced more Hubspot training videos than anybody in the world other than Hubspot themselves. Yeah we like it. You know what, here’s why I like it, let me tell you why I like Hubspot. So, Hubspot was really the company that I derived “they ask, you answer” from. Hubspot is … They founded the phrase inbound marketing, it all made sense to me. And I said to myself, you know what, there’s no reason why I can’t do this. And that’s the tool I started using in 2009 when we began this process. And it’s what I’ve used to measure everything we’ve done since then. And to me that’s the beauty. Most people can’t say I wrote a blog article and I can track at least $3 million in additional sales that we derived from that one singular piece of content, those thousand words. I can say that because I had a tool this whole time that allowed me to measure the ROI of, the specific ROI of pieces of content. And that’s the beauty of today. You know what, marketing is, it’s funny to me. We’ve seen the stats that today 70% of the buying decision is made before someone actually talks to the company, before they talk to a salesperson. So if that statement is true, which department of an organization has a greater impact on the actual sale, is it sales or marketing? Well, the obvious answer is that it’s marketing has a greater impact on the actual sale, notwithstanding generally speaking when a company is in trouble, marketing is the first one that gets laid off. And if a company is looking to grow the business, sales is the first one that gets hired. It’s really screwed up. And the reason why it’s done this way is because we’ve always viewed sales as revenue, marketing as an expense. That’s total bunk, and the reason why it’s bunk is because we have tools today that allow us to measure better than what we could even with sales all those years. Because with sales, we might have measured, okay, that sales person has a sale next to their name, but we didn’t necessarily tie everything that started the conversation in the first place. With the advanced digital tools that we have today, we can have some of the most incredible data and intelligence on lead behavior that we’ve ever had. So, I can say things like for my swimming pool company, social media is not really worth my time to focus on majorly because it doesn’t produce the returns and I have the studies that we’ve made, that we’ve analyzed that show how it doesn’t have the greatest returns for us. Like, why am I going to be on Twitter if Twitter, like, okay, so we hear all these things that we should be doing. Well, you shouldn’t necessarily be doing anything because it changes across the board. But you should certainly be measuring. Then you can justify; then you can say well it was worth it or wasn’t. You know how many people come to me and say, “Yeah, we’re doing Google Adwords,” and I’m like, “Great. How much did you spend last year?” And they’re like, “We spent $50,000.” “Well, how much did you make?” “Well, we’re not sure how much we made, but we know we made money.” That’s dumb. Why are we saying that. We shouldn’t be having that conversation. The conversation should be, “Yeah, I spent $50,000, but I grossed, or excuse me, I yeah, I grossed $500,000, I netted $250,000, and so therefore we’re $200,000 to the good; it’s totally worth it to us.” Now that is a respectable conversation, and that’s how you can “measure” marketing and put marketing as revenue.

Jürgen:
Yeah, and of course for everybody out there, you don’t need Hubspot to measure the return on your Google Adword spend, but one of the things I really like about Hubspot, I think I discovered them pretty much when I started my online business, and their whole philosophy around educating their customer, I mean there’s so much good information that they put out. And I’m not even a customer of their CRM, so I’m getting all this stuff for free, essentially.

Marcus:
Yeah, they’ve really taken over the marketing automation space, and they’ve pretty much said this is ours. And they have, they’ve done a nice job with it. You know, for a while there, they were neck and neck with the Marketos, Pardots, Eloquas of the world, but they’ve really just … they really own that industry. And good for them because it all started with a desire to be the most prolific educators in the digital marketing space. And I think they’ve really achieved that, and they have a great product, and it does allow marketers around the globe to get a raise if they’re using it because it allows them to show how much revenue they’re generating for the company.

Jürgen:
Yeah, that’s a great point. Marketing is the area where perhaps many of the decisions that customers make to buy occur.

Marcus:
It is. I mean, that’s it, man. I mean, there ain’t no … that’s where it’s happening. That’s where you and I are vetting companies, vetting people, deciding if we like them or not. And it’s funny to me, when I hear people say, “Yeah, we have great closing rates” … You know how many people told me they had great sales people who have great closing rates and businesses have great closing rates, but yet they’re losing money and going out of business. It doesn’t mean anything if you have a great closing rate if you’re not getting enough leads in the first place.

Jürgen:
That’s right. Getting leads in the funnel.

Marcus:
There’s no value there. Especially because if they actually get to the point where they talk to you, where you know they exist, they’re almost home anyway, so you haven’t done anything special closing the deal.

Jürgen:
That’s right, yeah. So … Because if you’ve done your job right, or if the business has done their job right before then, they’re already closed at that stage, they only need the sales guy to walk them through the final step of the onboarding process, don’t they?

Marcus:
Yeah, my goal with marketing is to make everybody else order takers. That’s what I’m trying to do. And I’m not saying salespeople don’t matter, because they do; they matter big time. And in fact, sales people, instead of complaining about jeez, it’s so different than it used to be, what they need to do is they need to get involved early in the process, they need to accept the reality that they’re not determining the sale after that first handshake. It’s happening before that moment. And so they need to embed themselves with marketing, they need to get engaged with that, they need to help marketing produce content, be it through text, video, audio, whatever it is, because they realize they better earn the trust long before a first hand shake.

Jürgen:
A lot of the big companies these days, the sales person is actually what they term account manager or something like that, so if there’s a lead that let’s say comes to the website and starts to take an interest in the content that you’ve published, then the so-called sales person could then take that lead under their wings and guide them through the rest of the process. Then they can genuinely say, well, we’ve actually influenced that sale. And then after the person becomes a customer, they become the account manager, so they’re the contact person that manages the relationship between that client and the business.

Marcus:
Yeah. And to me… You know, I don’t honestly, it’s not so much what they call it, it’s what they do, and it’s the philosophy that they espouse, right. Because if they espouse the philosophy of we better be responsible, we better realize the shift that’s happened, and then we better be responsible for what’s … for this timeline, the way they shop, and the way they buy, the way they research, the way they vet, that’s what really, really matters to me.

Jürgen:
So, I want to change stop a little bit here, and there’s a couple of questions I get and I sort of feel like pulling my hair out each time I get them, from clients that have engaged us to build a new website, for example, and they’ll either be a blog, “I don’t really need a blog, why do I need a blog?” or if we get beyond that stage, it’ll be, “I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to blog about.” So, can you give us some comments on that.

Marcus:
Man. For that person … I almost feel bad for that person in some ways. In some ways, I don’t and I wish them poorly, because anybody that’s thinking that has lost touch with reality, they really, really have. They have refused to accept how they research and how they buy. You know, when somebody says to me “Why is a blog important?” I say “you obviously have no idea what a blog is, do you?” and then they’ll get offended and they’ll say, “What are you talking about?” and I’m like, “Well, let’s rephrase the question. Is educating your prospects and customers important?” and they’re like, “Well, yes, of course it is.” “Is solving the problems of your prospects and customers important?” and they say, “Well, yes, of course it is,” and then I say, “Yeah, and will solving the problems and education be important in 20, 30, 50 years to your business?” and they’ll say, “Yes, of course it will,” and then I’ll say, “And that’s exactly what we’re talking about, and you’re sitting here asking me why is it important, you don’t understand what it is because that’s what it is.” And that’s the same answer I give, let’s say somebody says, “You think this content marketing stuff is going to even matter in 20 years?” They missed the stinking mark, they don’t understand. Now granted, what’s going to change is what we might read today, is we watch tomorrow, and then we experience it in 20 years because the experience is the virtual, right. So, we go from read to watch to experience. And that’s what I know to be true that the way we consume the value, the great teaching, the great information, that will change, sure we’ll evolve. And of course companies better be prepared to utilize those other means of which they want to learn. But in terms of the principles of earning trust through education, that’s going to be as good in 1,000 years as it is today.

Jürgen:
That’s right. And if you think about it, I just pulled up the latest blog on The Sales Lion, which is about the buyer’s journey, and that hasn’t changed for centuries, probably since man was around and bartering.

Marcus:
That’s right. It’s the same deal because we go through the same process. The process is “I have a problem.” or “I have a need. I think I might want to solve that need. Hmmm…. What can I get to solve that need? Hmmm…. Which is the best thing here of all these things that I might choose? Hmmm…. Let me see here. Okay, I guess I’ll get that thing.” That’s what it is. That’s what it is. Now in the process of that, there was, there’s psychology, there are fears, there are questions, there are concerns that are standard. And if a company obsesses over that, it doesn’t matter what happens next, it doesn’t matter if virtual reality happens next. They’re going to be ready for it.

Jürgen:
That’s right. and I remember in the very early days of my business, so it’s nearly 10 years ago, the whole idea of SEO was stuffing keywords in places and buying inbound links and all this kind of thing, and I never really liked that idea, so I just went with the philosophy of publishing good content. And when all of the Google algorithm changes came around, and everybody was screaming, oh my rankings have slipped and all this, and I remembered the very first time it happened, and I thought, “Oh, I better go and check all my websites,” and they were all ranking the same or some of them had improved, some of them had slipped a little bit just the normal up and down that you experience, and I thought, well, nothing’s happened to my stuff. And that’s the way it happened all along. So, essentially the idea of publishing good content that’s relevant to your audience and then, sure, you need to do some of the fundamental, technical stuff so Google sees what’s going on, but that essentially doesn’t change either.

Marcus:
Yeah, I mean, that’s why we’re not inventing anything special here. We’re not, these are time-tested principles. The people that see them as principles are more successful than the ones that see them as “techniques” or temporary behaviors in consumerism.

Jürgen:
So, you mentioned a book, “They Ask, You Answer.” That sounds exciting. Tell us a little bit more about that.

Marcus:
Well, I mean, I should’ve written it awhile ago, but I’m glad in some ways that I didn’t because what was initially when I first embraced “they ask, you answer” as a philosophy, as a business model, it was a matter of blog articles and videos for me, talk about it on your website. But then it expanded beyond that, it went way beyond that. And I realized that it became the obsession with meeting them, the buyer, where they are, where they want to be, where they want to go. And just to give you example of that, we are constantly, any industry is in this battle, do I do it the way daddy and mommy did it, or do I do it the way the customer wants it done today, the consumer, the buyer? And so the idea that … For example, like CarMax is the largest retailer of automotive vehicles, used cars, in the United States, CarMax is. Now, how did they get to that point? Well, they followed they ask, you answer so unbelievably well, it’s an unbelievable case study. They revolutionized their industry because the first thing they did is they said most people hate dealing with the sales person, so why don’t we get rid of this whole “Today, today only, I’m going to give you a deal,” and they said no haggle pricing, in other words, set price, set price, one price. They paid their sales people the same commission, whether they sold an expensive or a cheaper vehicle. And so they did that, that was innovative. That was they ask, you answer. But then they said people, they’re concerned when they buy a car if they’re going to regret the purchase. Let’s give them a 5-day money back guarantee. That was unheard of when they did that. But they said this is what the buyer wants in order to feel comfortable with the buying decision. We’re willing to take that gamble; we’re going to bet on them. And then they said, look, we’re tired of this bad, like everybody fears they’re going to get a lemon, you know, a clunker, a bad … somebody else’s problems if they buy a used vehicle. They don’t want this, so what can we do to prevent that? So, that’s why when you walk into a CarMax, they physically show you the inspection process that they do on their vehicles; they show it to you because they understand that unless you see it, it doesn’t exist. It does not exist. And so the question is what can we show better, what can we do better? So, there’s a reason why CarMax sells thousands of cars a year without anyone actually test driving the vehicle; there’s a reason. And there’s a reason why most people never think of their business in that light, like it’s used cars. But if you said to yourself what are the top seven reasons why somebody would not buy from me, and you wrote them down. Which I would challenge you to do, anybody listening to this. Write down the top sevens why people say, you know what, we’ve decided to go another direction, no we’re good, we’re going to, we’re going to use somebody else, we’re not going to go with you. What are the top seven? Now, this is what I want you to do. Once you’ve done those seven, the first thing I want you to do is say okay, put a checkmark next to each one that you’ve addressed very well on your website. So, in other words somebody might well, we’re too small. Okay, have you addressed that well on your website? Or they’re worried about … or the fact that we’re the most expensive. Okay, have you addressed that well on your website? Because if you haven’t, you’re asking them to do business with somebody else. You literally are. And the most successful businesses, they’ve got a check mark next to everyone, because they obsess over the fears, the reasons why people would not buy, and they say to themselves, is it possible to eliminate it, is it possible?

Jürgen:
Yeah, that, for anybody that’s on the podcast, is worth spending the time on the podcast alone. Now, the example of CarMax is fabulous because it highlights that transparency in a business, transparency to your customers or potential customers is actually a good thing, actually gives you sales rather than contrary to what a lot of people think. And then you mentioned the competitors, if our competitors find out, but as you say, basically if you don’t answer the questions, they’re going to go and find the answers elsewhere. And that’s easy to do today on the internet, isn’t it.

Marcus:
I fundamentally do not believe buyers are stupid. And if they are uninformed and ignorant today, at some point they will be informed, they will be educated. And it’s my hope that that occurs on my website and not somebody else’s. I know this too, that consumer ignorance is no longer a viable sales and marketing strategy; it’s just not. The idea that a buyer is not going to find out about that other option, that other thing, that other special, that other discount, that other company, that other technology, that other methodology. It’s fundamentally false. They will find out. And when they do find out, now you’ve got yourself a problem, especially when it comes to the issues or the concerns or the worries when it comes to your stuff. Let me point this out to you. Everybody on their websites, they want to say what they are, they want to say why they’re awesome, but it’s dramatically more powerful, instead of saying who you are, to explain who you’re not. So, how many people that are listening to this right now have a page on their site that says who we’re not a good fit for. That is a very, very highly converting page of anybody’s website; I know because our clients have them. They work extremely well. But yet most companies do not have them.

Jürgen:
Yeah, so there’s a really good piece of advice for everybody. I love that. It’s great. And as you say, educating the client is probably the best thing that any business can do, and also if you qualify them in some way, so the idea of saying who we’re not a good fit for is a qualification step, then you’re actually doing everybody a favor. So, you’re telling the client, hey, go look elsewhere because we’re not a good a fit; we can’t help you. And you’re also saving yourself time down the track trying to force fit a solution to a client that isn’t actually a good fit.

Marcus:
Yeah. Dude, I mean, it’s like for years when I was a sales guy for my swimming pool company, I’d go on sales appointments and I would hear dumb questions that made me so mad. I’d hear, somebody would say to me, “Oh, Marcus, jeez, you’re saying that this pool is going to be $40,000? We only budgeted $15,000.” or “Marcus, I was really hoping to get a pool that’s 50 feet long, and you’re telling me fiberglass pools only get about 40 feet long.” And I would get so mad. But the reality was why was I getting mad at them? It ain’t their problem; it was my problem because leads are as good or as bad as the messaging and the content that brought them there. And so if you constantly are in the process of good sales appointments, it means your messaging is really sound on the front end on that 70%. If you are constantly in this, “Man, my leads stink. They ask the dumbest questions,” it means you’re a terrible teacher. That’s just what it means.

Jürgen:
That’s great advice. So, I like the idea of what are the seven things that would stop people doing business with you, as a question and addressing those questions. One of the things on my list when I work with people on building a content strategy is ten reasons why people won’t do business with you. But there’s obviously a whole lot of other questions that go through people’s minds, and I think the message here is get in the mind of your potential client, and what concerns and questions and issues are they looking to address when they come to your website or when they go onto the internet.

Marcus:
Yes, and it always comes back to just that.

Jürgen:
Okay, this has been really great, Marcus. I think it’s time we moved on to the Buzz, because time’s getting a little bit away from us. So, the Buzz is our innovation round, which is designed to help our audience, who are primarily innovators and leaders in their field, but we want to help them with some tips from your experience. So, I’m going to ask a series of five questions and hopefully you’ll give us some more really great insights that will inspire everyone and help them do something awesome.

Marcus:
Cool. Fire away.

Jürgen:
So, what’s the #1 thing anyone needs to do to be more innovative.

Marcus:
Oh man, I feel like I’ve answered this six times because I …. You know what, it might frustrate people, but it’s just so true. You’ve got to … You know, Gary Vaynerchuk, people think he’s innovative. Actually, he’s just a really good observer. He watches stuff, he watches people, and from the keen observation, the keen eye, he’s able to say I see this happening; I think this is going to be a big deal. You see what I’m saying? And this is what the innovators do. The people that see around the curve, they see wait a second, I’m noticing people are behaving this way, they’re asking this thing. To me that is by far the biggest key to innovation.

Jürgen:
Yep. That’s not surprising, your answer there, but it was worth hearing it again. So, what’s the best thing you’ve done to develop new ideas? It might be the same answer.

Marcus:
Well, it clearly could be the same answer. But along these same lines, though, some of the best things I’ve done is interactive communications with prospects, forcing them to tell me how they feel. For example, for customers, I feel like surveys, even though they’ve been around forever, we underutilize them, right. We don’t …. I see people go out and do buyer personas, but they’ve never done a customer survey, like a really true survey of buyers and customers. That’s the only way you can identify personas really, really well. Especially if you take somebody that just bought something, right, and you say okay, when you were going through this process, what were you stressed out about? That’s gold, man, that’s gold. Why did you choose the company you chose, and what turned you off about the companies that you didn’t like? That’s gold. All of that stuff’s golden, man. If the used car industry had done that 50 years ago, we wouldn’t still have nine out of ten commercials saying “Today, this Saturday, the biggest, greatest sale of the year!” Man, I mean, it’s crazy, but that still exists. Why does it exist? It exists because these people are out of touch.

Jürgen:
Yeah, that’s definitely great advice. And those ads really annoy me, so… What’s your favorite tool or system for improving productivity and allowing you to be more innovative? I think I know what the answer might be here.

Marcus:
Yeah, I mean, the simple one from a marketing standpoint is Hubspot, I mean for my business, I think it’s a great tool. I think people should consider it. I think, in terms of my productivity, though, one of the best things that you can do is that you’re constantly analyzing what is the 20% of your activities that are producing 80% of the results? This could be in business or this could be in your personal life. Like, what’s bringing you the most joy, personally and professionally. Now once you’ve done that, ask yourself is it possible to eliminate all of the other stuff? But you have to make lists in order to do that, you have to analyze your behavior. You have to sit there and say how long did I spend on email today? Well, email sucks, it’s a big drain on my life; how can I change that; how can I fix that, instead of just accepting it for what it is. It’s amazing how replaceable we are, but yet we tend to overvalue our … the things that we do. Like nobody else can do them. That’s not really true. People can do them just fine if we just let go of the pride element.

Jürgen:
That’s great advice. So the 80/20 rule in practical action. Keeping lists and then analyzing behavior. So, what’s the best way you know to keep a project or a client on track?

Marcus:
I think one of the most important elements of keeping a project or client on track is to have incredibly honest conversations with them. And what most businesses do wrong is they come out of the gate and the client is always “in change.” And because the client’s in charge, they never establish a rapport of equality with the client. Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. When somebody is vetting our company, I say, look, you need to vet us to make sure we’re a good fit for you. I need to vet you to make sure you’re a good fit for us. Now see everybody knows that, right, but most people don’t say it. I come out and say it. And then I say things like this, “Now, once this engagement starts, we have one very important rule. The rule is this. You can fire me at any point in time. You don’t have to … no questions asked, you can just fire me whenever you like. But also, I can fire you. That’s important to me because if you don’t do your side, your end of the obligations, of the agreement, well then I have the right to let you go. And so we agree that if one of us is not performing at the level that we expected, then we can let each other go.” And you see, most companies don’t … like, when you have an engagement, usually you don’t have those conversations on the front end. I have them really, really early. Really, really early.

Jürgen:
That’s great advice. That’s really great advice. And as you say, it’s a level of honesty and …

Marcus:
It’s a frankness, it’s a conciseness, it’s an openness in communication that is really, really nice, and it saves everybody a lot of heartache often times.

Jürgen:
Yeah, and it sets a tones that … I mean, I would imagine that it hardly happens that either party fires the other because you’ve set that sort of tone and expectation up front, and those that aren’t up for it will kind of probably pull out at that stage.

Marcus:
Right, which is why you don’t a problem, build and build and build and all of a sudden, boom it blows up in everybody’s face and somebody gets fired. Instead, there’s an issue you say “Dude, what’s going on with this? I thought, what’s going on here?” and you immediately are addressing it.

Jürgen:
That’s great. I love it. So what’s the #1 thing then anyone can do to differentiate themselves?

Marcus:
So, there’s simple things that we can do. I think being incredibly honest and transparent is an amazing differentiator. Being an amazing teacher is an amazing differentiator. Saying what you’re not is an amazing differentiator. Saying who you’re not a good fit for is an amazing differentiator. Specifically being honest enough to recommend the other way, and so in other words, usually we like to say what we’re for, we’ve got to say what we’re not for. We like explain, we like to, we always just look at the one side, but if we really understand communication and building trust, we always give reasons why they wouldn’t engage us, why they wouldn’t buy our stuff, who it’s not a good fit for. And that makes you very, very different, but also appeals very much to the person that is looking for an honest company to engage.

Jürgen:
That’s great recommendations, a great set of recommendations there. And you know one of the things that I like to do is if I don’t feel somebody is a good fit for our organization, I’ll point them in another direction and recommend somebody who I think might be a good fit. So, it’s a case of trying to be helpful even though I don’t believe I’m the right person to serve their needs. So, that kind of fits into what you’re saying.

Marcus:
Absolutely. It’s what it’s all about.

Jürgen:
Alright. So, this has been really great, Marcus. So, what’s the future for The Sales Lion and for your business, apart from the book coming up soon?

Marcus:
Well, I just want to listen well, and I think if I listen well, then the trail will slowly unfold itself before me and I’ll see where I’m supposed to go. I’m not one of those guys that feels like I’ve got to have a five-, a ten-, a fifteen-year plan. I don’t actually believe in that because I feel like I’m always in this mode of just watching, listening to the marketplace and adjusting as I go. And when I get too set on a vision, sometimes I don’t look left or right and I miss very important things. I, for me, I want to teach a lot more about communication going forward, about speaking, about presenting, and about how to ask questions. Now I anticipate my second book is going to be along those lines, how to be a world-class communicator. I’m not exactly sure of the title, it might be like The Art of the Question. I could see that being the title or something like that. But that’s where I’m headed in the future because I love, I just love clean communication where everybody sits there and says, “Man, I get it.”

Jürgen:
Alright. Well, we look forward to that second book. Well, we look forward to the first book at this stage, but we certainly look forward to the second one as well. So, what’s the #1 piece of advice, then, that you’d give to any business owner who wants to be a leader in innovation in their field? Probably the advice you’ve already given all the way through.

Marcus:
Yeah. But other than that, I would also say that your opinion, my opinion never really matters. What I mean by that is it doesn’t matter if you or I like Facebook. There’s no question that Facebook can have a dramatic impact on a business, especially B2C businesses. And so too often times we say things like, “Well, I don’t watch videos, so we’re not going to create videos.” “Well, I don’t really ever read articles or I would never watch a video longer than 30 minutes.” Well, guess what; nobody cares what you would do because that’s you. You present one person. And so it doesn’t matter what you and I think. We cannot let smart sales and marketing be messed up by personal opinions, and it happens all the time.

Jürgen:
Yeah, I’ve got one like that that I’ve come across a couple of times recently. I don’t like the pop-up forms that come up on a website.

Marcus:
Neither do I, and I use them. I use them all the time because I cannot argue with the results.

Jürgen:
That’s exactly the response …

Marcus:
And that’s one of the best examples you can come up with right there, Jürgen, was just that.

Jürgen:
And that’s the response I always give. I say I hate the things too but they work, and here are the results.

Marcus:
Yep.

Jürgen:
Well, great. This has been fabulous, Marcus. Where can people contact you and thank you for all of the stuff that you’ve shared with us today?

Marcus:
Well, you can always email me. It’s marcus@thesaleslion.com. You can find me on Twitter @thesaleslion. You can find me at Mad Marketing, or … that’s on iTunes, that’s my podcast. And I’ve got another podcast recently on iTunes called The Balance, which is about work life balance. So make sure to check that out; it’s pretty good.

Jürgen:
Okay. I haven’t heard The Balance yet, so I’ll check that one out as well. And we’ll have all ….

Marcus:
Yeah, it’s a video docu-series almost. It’s pretty cool.

Jürgen:
Okay. I’ll check it out. So, we’ll have links to all of those things in the show notes for the episode obviously, so people can click on those and contact Marcus and check out the podcasts and the video documentary, as you put it. So, finally then, who would you like to hear me interview on a future Innovabuzz Podcast and why?

Marcus:
I think you should interview Chris Marr.

Jürgen:
Chris Marr.

Marcus:
… of the Content Marketing Academy, who is in the UK, he’s in Scotland. And he’s one, I think, he’s one of the true digital marketing leaders of the UK. He’s also amazing when it comes to community. He understands tools. He understands how to get stuff done. And I just think the world of him. I think he’s a big timer. He’s going to be a star. Chris Marr. M-A-R-R.

Jürgen:
Okay. Great. Thanks for that recommendation. So, Chris, look out for an invitation from us for the Innovabuzz Podcast, courtesy of Marcus Sheridan. So, Marcus, this has been really great. I’ve made a lot of notes here and we’ll, I’m sure that our audience will get a lot of benefit out of this interview. So, thank you for your time. I’ve enjoyed this and learned a lot obviously. And I wish you all the best for the future of The Sales Lion and your podcasts and for the book launch coming up. And let’s keep in touch.

Marcus:
Jürgen, my pleasure. Best to you and of course to your audience.

Jürgen:
Thanks.
Wrap Up:

Well, wasn’t that an exciting, enlightening and educational episode – I was exhausted at the end, but so happy to have had Marcus talk to me, and there are just so many fantastic tips here!

All the show notes for this episode will be at innovabiz.com.au/marcussheridan, that is M-A-R-C-U-S-S-H-E-R-I-D-A-N, all lowercase, all one word, innovabiz.com.au/marcussheridan, for all of the links and everything we spoke about in this episode .

Marcus suggested I interview Chris Marr of Content Marketing Academy on future InnovaBuzz podcast. So Chris keep an eye on your inbox for an invitation from me, for the InnovaBuzz Podcast, courtesy of Marcus Sheridan.

Thank you for listening.  Pop over to iTunes or Stitcher or Pocket Casts and subscribe so you’ll never miss a future episode.  While you’re there, you might leave us a review, because reviews help us get found and your feedback helps us improve.  If there is anything you’d like us to cover, or questions you want answered on a future podcast, please send them to us.

Until next time, I’m Jürgen Strauss from Innovabiz.

Remember, if you don’t innovate, you stagnate, so think big, be adventurous and keep innovating!

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Jürgen

Jürgen is the chief innovator and founder of Innovabiz who partner with innovative, exceptional business coaches to enable you to acquire more leads and more business by reaching your ideal target prospects with your message, so that you will achieve growth and be able to make a difference to more ideal clients. You can find Jürgen on LinkedIn, as well as on Innovabiz' Twitter, Facebook and Google+ Pages.

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