Brent Weaver on Sales Process
On todays episode Phillip and Jonathan chat with Brent Weaver, founder and CEO of UGurus.com. Hear a bit about how Brent started UGurus to help people build their digital agency companies and to offer online courses as well as a bit about his ups and downs running his own digital agency company. Tune in to check it out!
How did UGuru get started?
Brent talks about a company he ran before UGurus called Business Catalyst and how how he took that companies idea and expanded it to a wider audience of digital agency owners. This expanded version was the starting of UGurus. Brent had ran a digital agency for 12 years starting in high school. He talks about getting into making websites and made a website that had overhead in server costs and so he needed to find a way to cover those costs. He started telling people he could make websites, with his first being a $500 job that took him a couple days. This job inspired him to quit his day job. He created a company with a friend and to their surprise the business made it for a long time. In 2005 they made the business their full time business.
As a passion driven skills based entrepreneur, did you ever dislike the sales part?
Brent talks about how he likes working on cool projects with cool people, and it takes selling it to be a part of that. He looks back at his first big pitch, and despite being a natural born salesperson it didn’t go so well. He adds that it was mainly due to a lack of experience as a sales person. He talks about how he didn’t learn the client before getting there and that being a major factor. After being told they didn’t get the job, they went out for drinks and discussed the business as a whole and its viability. It took years of experience to reflect what went wrong during the pitch. It wasn’t until years later that he learned a better sales discovery process. Cold calling and talking about your product doesn’t give the potential customer a chance to talk about their needs and to create a real connection with the salesperson.
What are the top things you’d recommend for someone about to do a pitch?
Brent talks about coming in with no expectations and being ready to ask questions. The best clients are clients you understands well and those clients often will connect with you in a way that you can continue to do work over time. Getting them to talk about themselves is key. Also, spend at least the same amount of time preparing as you do pitching, learning about who the client was. Learning about them and their industry informs the questions you ask them. Find what the essence of why they are looking for your work in the first place. If there are multiple people in the room, they may all have varying ideas on what the work should do and how it’s important. Sometimes you will need to mediate their own conversation as well. Adding your experience to that facilitation can sometime highlight the reasons they need you and reinforce your value. Sometimes it’s about not having the questions ahead of time and learning them while being there. As a salesperson, if you can get into a consulting range and help create a high value impact in their organization it’s a good position to be in. Jonathan adds that many times when someone calls in a salesperson or consultant and starts to ‘brain-dump’ their issues, it in many cases is because they feel like they are in over their head.
“Never Say ‘WordPress’ When Selling a Web Design Project.”
Brent talks about writing a post called “Never Say WordPress When Selling a Web Design Project” and how many clients would self diagnose their situation. He would often have clients come to him and ask him to work on a project and for him to use WordPress. He would help them dig in to find out if WordPress is actually what they need. Often times their issue isn’t fully understood and many times their solution isn’t actually fitting to the issue. This leaves a good opportunity to sell what services you offer that better fits the issue anyway.
What was your decision making process like when needing help or needing to pivot?
Brent tells how they had a really nice office and the office was a bit more expensive than they could handle so eventually they reached a point where they had to borrow money to keep the lights on. A client of theirs offered to help them professionally to bring their business back to their feet. They went out to lunch and they doubled their revenue in the 12 months following the conversation and the advice. His advice was around focusing on what was important and what wasn’t. Brent started tracking his time and found out that much of his time was spent on unbilled support and training and busy work. This drained his time as well as his energy. He hired someone else to handle the type of work that ate up his time. With his extra time and energy he repositioned himself in sales. He partner suggested that he ‘divide and conquer’ by splitting up work into focused jobs, making his new job focused on sales. He also would bring in consultants when he met anyone who was smart in a field that was useful to the business. Simply asking “what can I do better?” He took on consultants for 5 years whenever he could. That process doubled his revenue in the course of a year and allowed him to sell the company with a successful exit.
Sales vs Persuasion
Sales generally needs a level of persuasion, and it may sometimes look like manipulation, but if the client needs something, be it an item to service, it’s a positive persuasion. He adds that you absolutely cannot make the “Sales Salad” without the “Persuasion Sauce”. Persuasion is part of non-sales consulting relationships as well. Jonathan adds that If someone pays you to coach them, it’s your job to persuade them into action. Persuasion tends to have a negative connotation but sometimes it should just be seen as inspiring. If a client hires you to help them, they are looking for your expertise and your guidance. Brent talks about the sales person leading the process with confidence, starts with the first interaction. The sales meeting is a trial process, if they are hard to work with in the meeting you learn that they may be hard to work with over time. If you can hold a meeting and they follow the sales leading process you know that they can be a great client. If a client pushes you around during the sales process, expect them to push around when you’re working on the project.
Confidence as a Salesperson r a Freelancer.
Phillip ask Brent how he has built confidence and has reached a point where he feels strongly about his ability to get work and do the work. Brent says that it’s important to know a process that works or at least be familiar. He talks about having a few processes he offers as courses. He sold it for a few years and would call those customers back to get feedback. For the people who finished it, many of them needed to tweak the course for it to work for them. Brent talks about how that always bothered and that his customers that bought the course didn’t get the that level of confidence. So he decided to offer a video course and weekly calls, with the goals of having the customer getting their first $10,000 in 12 weeks. In 2014 he launched their 10K bootcamp program to do just that. With the bootcamp, there was a 96% completion. He adds that the person to person interaction is very important. He also talks about having methods of accountability and some basic coaching about the person’s core beliefs. Often people believe that their work is not worth the money, or that the work they are offering is a commodity that can be bought cheaply anywhere. He adds that those sort of beliefs tend to be on a personal level and take some personal coaching to get past. When you beliefs change, confidence is the result.
What do you recommend for attracting the right clients?
Brent talks about how the way you generate leads is important to creating the right kind of pool of clients. Leads come from your own actions and depending on those actions is where your clients come from. Brent talks about once having a mix of good clients and bad clients and going through the whole pool to figure out where those leads came from. He found that there were certain things that he did that lead him to having good clients as well as certain things he did that generally led to clients without money. For example, picking up business from a new business incubator meeting generally leads to clients without money. To illustrate he gives an example of a business that makes $50,000 annual revenue. If that business follows the Small Business Administration guidelines, they will spent 8% to 9% annual revenue for marketing and so they will have roughly $3500 for a budget for the whole year. If that is your client, the economics are against you. Chances are that client will never give you a $20,000 project, and if they do, they will be high maintenance and hard to work with. Brent gives a comparing example with one of the previous clients he worked with being a 150 million dollar a year company. Their concerns weren’t focused on the budget, but the project itself. If you want those kind of clients, you have to ask yourself, “Where do these people hangout?” You may not know the answer but asking and trying to figure it out will be a good way to start finding better clients.
“Carrying your own Bag.”
Brent adds as a last piece of advice to find the people you you want emulate and create businesses like and reach out to them. Reaching out to those people and trying to create connections to those people can yield more responses than you expect and has been a vital part of his success.
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