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Redefining Your Sales Process- “People don’t buy what you do, but how you do it”.

July 16, 2020 · 47 min read

GIP BLOG Ep3_

The lifeblood of any green industry business is it’s sales pipeline. The ability to keep your crew’s schedule full is paramount in growing a healthy business.

This week’s guest on Green Industry Perspectives was Mike Claudio. Mike is the owner of Win Rate Consulting, and specializes in coaching home service companies how to redefine their sales processes. 

Listen in as he shares how to build out a sales process from scratch, qualify projects with transparency, follow up with customers, and much more.

 

You can tune in above on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, or anywhere you get your podcasts.

Become a pro member of the podcast to receive notifications for each new episode and bonus content each week.{{cta(‘d0055302-0934-4cff-9b8f-5e8230378aa9′,’justifycenter’)}}On this episode, you’ll learn:

 

What your biggest asset in the sales process is.

  • How to go about qualifying work with transparency. 
  • Starting out a sales process from scratch.
  • Why following up is a necessity. 
  • The importance of understanding the customer’s needs.
  • How to build a referral network to fill your pipeline. 

What to listen for:

  • [1:45] The three most important things businesses can do to sell more business
    [5:40] Mike’s path to becoming a sales guru for home service companies
    [11:40] Visualizing your sales process
    [14:50] Why should you care about the sales pipeline?
    [19:10] The first step in creating a sales process
    [23:25] The necessity of follow-ups
    [27:01] 5 things you need to do on every sales call.
    [33:03] Qualify business with full transparency
    [47:50] Selling to people’s needs
    [49:50] How to get involved with Mike and Win Rate Consulting

Links to love

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Sean Adams:

You are listening to The Green Industry Perspectives podcast, presented by SingleOps, a podcast created for green industry professionals looking for best practices, tactics and tips on running their tree care or landscape business. Mike, welcome to the show. 

Mike Claudio:

Thanks, man. Appreciate you having me. 

Sean Adams:

Absolutely. It’s great to have you here. 

Mike Claudio:

We’ve been talking about this for a little while. We went through the typical social media outlets. I mean is it a year at this point? Pretty close? 

Sean Adams:

At least. It might be more than that. 

Mike Claudio:

Yeah.

Sean Adams:

I’ve been your career for a while. I know you and I go back and forth. A lot of the same thoughts, sharing each other’s posts and links back and forth. So, always appreciate that. Love what you’re doing for the industry and really happy to get you on, unpack some of the stuff going on in your brain and see if we can share some nuggets for the audience here. 

Mike Claudio:

Yeah, love to.

Sean Adams:

So, Mike, what I like to do just to give some immediate value to the audience, somebody jumping on here in that first couple of minutes without any fluff, I just want to kind of get into in your experience whether this is from your background in the contracting space or what you do now working with contractor businesses on a day-to-day basis, what are those top three beliefs, tactics, strategies, what are those things that you see are making those companies most successful? 

Mike Claudio:

So, I think the number one thing, this is probably the biggest thing I see missed all the time is that anybody that’s doing sales or owns a business does not do a good job of building a human relationship with their audience, right? I mean we say a lot of the same things. People buy from who they know, like and trust. And I can’t tell you how many contractors out there and I’m sure there’s a tree service company right now and their profile picture’s a picture of their truck, right? And I get it. You’re proud of your truck. You got it wrapped. It’s awesome but people don’t buy you for that. People don’t buy you for what you do. They buy you for how you do it which kind of leads me to the second point. 

Once you’ve done that, you have to understand—people who understand this point are the most successful—what you do is not competitive. How you do it is your competitive, like you are your biggest competitive advantage: how you communicate, what your process looks like, your professionalism, how you communicate, what your online and in-person image looks like and consistency because what people want to know when they find you, they built a relationship with you online. Let’s say they see your face. Well, when they see you in person, are you the same? When they see your trucks, do they represent the image you have online? Are you consistently doing the things to differentiate yourself in a good way? 

Because look, the bottom line is I don’t care if you’re inside, outside, on a roof, on a property, doesn’t matter. People are afraid of you. People are afraid of being taken advantage of, people afraid of you not delivering on the product, people are afraid you not delivering on your service and that’s just the unfortunate reality in the home service world. So, the better you can do to deliver a consistent differentiating experience, the better off you’ll be because ultimately especially as tree service companies, anybody with a chainsaw thinks they can be a tree service company. But the difference is how professional are you, how do you communicate, how you deliver, how do you show up on time, how do you follow through on what you say you’re going to do. The number one thing is definitely build a human relationship with your audience online. Number two is you have to use your biggest competitive advantage and it is you as a person. So, once you’ve built that online presence, you have to have a consistent sales process, a consistent operational process, all of that so you’re delivering your differentiating. 

And then the third biggest thing I would say is your ability to lead your team to match the mission that you have in your head because I think so many people who we were talking about before we started recording, like it’s time to hire, like you can’t just be two guys in a truck forever and your ability to onboard, train and execute your vision through those people so that they match a consistent client experience. Because I’ve seen it. I’m sure you’ve seen it. I know somebody listening has seen it. You hire someone, you say hey, great, I’m glad you’re here, good luck, let me know how I can help you and they just send them out in the field with a clipboard and a truck and the problem is that that person is going to make decisions based on their background, their experiences, their mindset, their priorities, their core values. But what you need them to be able to do is execute on your core values, your mission, the way you make decisions and so many of our as business owners, our processes are between our ears. So, your ability to either document, train, onboard new employees that fit the culture and also deliver on the mission and core values that you’ve created, it’s a game changer in your ability to scale. Three things. 

Sean Adams:

All right. I think I’m going to hang up. That’s good, that’s good. End of podcast episode because I think we just nailed it. Coming with the fire right away, Mike. I love it, man. That’s stuff I preach all the time. Super powerful. We’re going to weave that into the conversation as we get a little further there. I have to imagine that there’s been a lot of pain, a lot of experience yourself and when you worked in the contracting space, how you’ve transitioned into some consulting roles to allow you to get this level of insight and experience this the hard way. So, let’s contextualize that a bit for the audience. Tell me a little bit about kind of your upbringing, how you came into the industry and where that molded you into having such clear concise ideas about it now. 

Mike Claudio:

So, I was really blessed. I worked in corporate America for the first nine plus years of my life. Like college didn’t work out for me. I got into a sales job with a corporation and kind of worked my way through the ranks there. And so, I learned a lot about just professionalism, communication and follow-through and follow-up and having a consistent approach and prospecting and all that stuff, right? So, I learned that kind of doing it over nine years and then a good friend of mine was a remodeling contractor. He was a kitchen/bathroom addition guy and he was struggling to kind of grow his business and I had kind of run my course in corporate America. And so, I took a huge pay cut, jump ship, went work with him and I took over all sales, marketing and estimating for a remodeling company with zero experience. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of moving parts in a remodel world especially in kitchens and bathrooms. And so, I learned basically over the course of six to twelve months, I became an expert in how to negotiate, how to figure out plans, how to help with design, how to help with selections, how to figure out how to price accordingly for so many different variables and that’s really where I cut my teeth. Like I knew I had the differentiating factor of the professionalism and approach and communication style but then I learned the industry basically by cutting my teeth in that world and I took him from about two or three hundred grand a year to— was there for two and a half years. My second full year we did $2.2 million. 

Sean Adams:

Wow.

Mike Claudio:

And so, like we scaled fast, we scaled heavy, we scaled hard and as anybody knows who’s scaled a business, that comes with its growing pains and for a number of reasons, it was time for me to move on. I went to a roofing company and we did residential and commercial roofing and siding so very similar to the kind of the world a lot of your listeners are in in that outdoors, outside space and I kind of took over as—I say took over—they created a role for me as vice president of business development. I was like a player-coach where I had my own client base and I had three sales guys that worked for me and this is really where the consulting kind of started to take form. This was in 2017. I was trying to get my sales guys more like me and I said well, what makes me me? And I didn’t really know just like a lot of business owners. Like I don’t know. I just do and I win. I don’t know what the difference is. So, I actually wrote my sales process out from start to finish, everything I do, when I do it, how I do it, how I track it and I literally just started typing because I just knew. Like I just basically walked myself through like a typical sales transaction, everything from prospecting to appreciation. I just wrote it all out and I went back and read it and I was like shit, that’s like a course. Like that is a course on how to sell in this industry and I was like okay, cool, now what? What I do with this, right? So, I was like can I coach, can I not coach, would I enjoy it, would the process even work for somebody else? Wasn’t sure. 

So, I took one of my sales guys. In 2017, he did about $180,000 in sales. He was remote. He wasn’t local to me in Charlotte. He was on the coast and kind of covered some of the coastal markets. So, I’m going to train him on this process and if this works, this will be my proof of concept and I’ll go out and I’ll try and help other companies. So, in 2017, I said he did $180,000. In 2018, he did $920,000 in sales and we spent no additional money on marketing or anything. He just adapted, started doing the activities, started communicating, started adjusting, all of that. And so, that was really the okay, I can do this kind of thing. So, about halfway through 2018, I started the company. I started WinRate Consulting. I was getting a lot of pings from other people who saw what I was doing. These companies, Mike, what would you do about this, how would you help me with this and I’m like I love helping people so I’m going to help everybody. Then I sat down and I was like I just helped three companies grow by seven figures for free and I was like I’m happy to do it but I’d like to be compensated a little bit. So, mid-2018, I started the company and in 2018 it got pretty serious. I got a lot of clients’ interest. So, basically end of 2018, I put in a 60-day exit strategy in March 1st, 2019 and I’ve been coaching full-time ever since and I’ve helped at this point somewhere around 80 companies. I’ve coached about 80 companies in the last 15-18 months, something like that.

Sean Adams:

What a background. I love it, man. I love the results you get. I mean you’re the win rate guy. I love the brand that you’ve built around that. Before we go any further too, I just want to touch on one point that you made. You were talking about documenting your sales process and we’ll get into like what that means as a process side but just at a very high level, I’m super nerdy about this, this was the domino for me to knock over my business and everything I’ve ever done thus far is about that brain dump, that activity of sitting down, getting the crap out of your head into something messy and it doesn’t make sense, it has spelling errors. It doesn’t matter. You’ll find like this moment of bliss when you start to realize how much stuff is trapped up there and like Mike said, just like dumping it all in there and figure out how I do this start to finish and all those ideas. There’s a million tools, there’s all kinds of processes and techniques to do it but the idea, the hardest part is just to start kind of vomiting that out of your brain and getting it into a Word doc, on a piece of paper, I don’t care if you voice record it. It doesn’t matter. Just start to think about that because what it does is one, it starts identifying what processes are going to look like but it also and we’ll talk about this, Mike’s going to expand upon, is it helps you recognize where the gaps are. You’re going to be like yeah, I really don’t have a way to transition from like when a call comes in to like booking the appointment. There’s a big gap there. I kind of just like wing it every time. Now you have a way that you can improve. But when everything is like in your head and emotional, you have no way of actually making improvement. So, along with the three great points you made about the humanization and personal brand from the business standpoint, like really building something of scale, I think that documentation was a huge nugget of gold there. I mean we can talk further about that but I just wanted to make sure I, I made a note of it before I forgot and make sure people because I got to ask that all the time. I think it’s really powerful and something to mention. 

Mike Claudio:

So, I’m going to put a little sale spin on that activity though because we’re really bad as humans in general of picturing a story in our head and how it’s going to sound before you actually say it. And in a sales process, I’m really, really big on visualization. Like if I’m going to a new client or a big opportunity, I’m walking myself through that meeting. How am I going to start it? How am I setting the agenda? How am I setting next steps? How am I overcoming objections? What might their objections be? The difference between thinking it and actually saying it out loud is massive in you understanding what the impact of that statement is going to be. So, not just in processes and systems but in general human interaction, like when you’re dealing with your employees, don’t be afraid to sit in your office and say it out loud. My wife makes fun of me all the time because when I’m responding to an email or a text message, she’ll see me like kind of whispering it out loud because I want to see what it sounds like because especially in today’s world where nothing is done in person anymore, you have to be incredibly tone sensitive to how your messages are going to sound when they’re said. Because what’s going to happen, you’re not visualizing this but the person you’re sending it to is hearing you say what they’re reading in that email. They’re picturing you saying it and there’s a lot of times that I have adjusted the way it’s worded or adjusted the outline or adjusted the structure of that conversation based on the way that it actually was sounding once it was said. 

So, it’s not just in processes and systems. The power of visualization, visualization is just day dreaming with intent. That’s all it is. And so, for you when you’re getting into these situations where you’re unsure or you’re getting into a situation where you want to make sure that you’re heard and said things the right way, don’t be afraid to record yourself, video record yourself because you’ll be amazed of just what you do with your eyebrows in a conversation, how that impacts the other person especially now on video chat which is a big part of our future world. If you’re not doing video virtual consultations, get ready. It’s coming. It’s going to be the expected new norm. You have to be a little overly excitable on video because it just calms you down a bit. So, seeing yourself, hearing yourself do things ahead of time is a phenomenal practice to help you get better and it’s a way for you to role play and failing to yourself is a lot better than failing in front of a client. 

Sean Adams:

Oh, yeah. 

Mike Claudio:

Or an employee for that matter. 

Sean Adams:

Yeah. And this is not directly applicable just for sales. Like you said, the leadership component, how you communicating their personal life as well but just for the purposes of what we’re talking about here, I do that every video, blog post, anything I’ve ever done I’ve recorded four times before that, thought about it, made mistakes, been like what the hell am I talking about and then going back and like yeah, let’s actually put real words together instead of just mumbling or whatever I’m doing. And you need that and it’s part of your process because then it’s like okay, I’ve already done this before, right? So, the practice makes perfect. We got to have that level in there. But we could talk all day about that. What I want to jump into is the sales process side, right? So, in the green industry, in the home service industry, sales process is not something that a lot of business owners think about. They’re like yeah, my people call me, I win the business, I lose the business. Well, what are you talking about? What do you mean process? What do you mean pipeline? I don’t get what you’re saying. So, just first of all, kind of if you can just roughly define what that means to you, pipeline process for the sales side and why should we give a crap about that or track something like that? 

Mike Claudio:

So, when it goes our sales pipeline, what it really is is measuring the blood life of your business. When you don’t have a clear picture as to how many open leads you have, how many contracts you have out, how many quotes you have out, how many follow-ups you need to do, how much you have active because one of the biggest things people miss is closing deals is just as bad for your pipeline as losing them. Regardless, you’re pulling it out of your pipeline and this is how people get in this feast or famine sales cycle. You close a bunch of business and you’re excited like man, how the hell we going to get all this done and then three to six weeks, you’re like what are my guys doing next week? How did I not realize we were running out of work? It’s because you got so—you weren’t paying attention to the pipeline. For me and I’ve done this like the roofing company, we did $4 to $5 million my last year there. It was several hundred projects, maybe even close to a thousand. You can’t keep up with that on a napkin. Yeah, and it might work right now while you’re a three, four, five hundred thousand dollar a year company but you’re not setting a good foundation for how you’re going to get to the next level. 

So, having the visibility into what your pipeline looks like, it helps you with who to follow-up with. Like I’ll tell you I did a research, I kind of did like an analysis and realized 40% of my sales came from follow-up. Well, over a five-year period, I sold a little over $10 million in projects. That’s $4 million in revenue that I equated directly to my follow-up process. Well, how do you know you’re going to follow-up with it if you’re not keeping track of it? The days of if they want to hire me, man, they’ll call me. No, people get distracted. People get pulled aside. People forget. Realistically, unless the tree’s on somebody’s house, you’re not their top priority. So, don’t pretend that you are. Like guide them through your sales process. Let them handle the timeline but make sure you’re setting next steps. make sure you’re following up. Making sure you’re keeping track of who needs to be followed up with. You can’t do that day-to-day. You can’t even keep up with what like oh, God, that chainsaw is out of gas again? Man, sorry. Like guess I’ll have to run to the store. Like you can’t keep up with these things reactively. It just won’t work. So, having a pipeline is kind of I would say is almost separate from a sales process but trackability of the pipeline is incredibly important for keeping up with the life lifecycle of your company. Because you’ve seen it, I’ve seen it, people listening have seen it, that feast or famine rollercoaster. And I think for a lot of people, things slow down fourth quarter but I think a lot of times people slow down because they stopped doing the sales activity in June, July, August and September because they get too busy for it. Well, what do you expect is going to happen? And then you get slow in December, January, February so you do a bunch of sales activity and then next year you get busy June, July, August, September. It’s not because of the weather. It’s not. it might be a little bit but it’s mostly because of how you don’t have consistent activity and mostly it happens because you’re not tracking it. 

Sean Adams:

Could not agree more. Yeah. You mentioned one word in there that stuck out is the visibility side. We talk about this all the time on the software when we’re trying to help somebody break down the bottlenecks in their business, the inefficiencies and when we actually peel back the layers, we find out oftentimes they have none of that insight. They have no idea like you mentioned. Well, I mean yeah, the phone’s ringing. Like I’ve got a stack of carbon copy papers on my desk that the secretary took. I mean yeah, things are coming in the door, right? But they have no idea in a visual sense like how can I see the segments, the phases of my business, where there’s gaps, where I need to improve, how many proposals I have outstanding. Like none of that happens if it’s up here or it’s in some filing cabinet in the office that only one person has access to it at any given time, right? 

Mike Claudio:

Well, the other side of it too is that you prioritize the activity that way. You just attack whatever fires in front of you and there’s likely other things you need to be doing as opposed to that next one that’s on the stack. There’s probably someone else who needs your attention more but you don’t do that because you’re just focused on whatever the fire is right in front of you and you can’t track who needs you when without a pipeline. You just can’t.

Sean Adams:

Yeah. So, let’s get a little tactical then. Let’s assume we’re the guy who’s got napkins and sticky notes all over his dashboard and we’re trying to get ourselves in order but we’re trying to be like okay, where do I start with, I know I need to get more process driven, I understand the concept of a pipeline and these groups and that visual standpoint. What’s the first set of steps that you would kind of take to say all right, I’ve got to get more organized with this, how do I start thinking about this or making some sort of positive momentum with the chaos that’s happening? 

Mike Claudio:

So, I went through the same process when I was growing both businesses I work for because there was not really a set CRM in place, there was not a set pipeline in place. So, I went through a lot of these questions of like do I get a software, do I use a spreadsheet, do I track it on a notepad somewhere and like I kind of went through a lot of the same that a lot of business owners go through in deciding to go through this. So, I actually created a CRM and a spreadsheet that anyone wants I’ll give it to them for free. Like I mean I put some effort into it. But ultimately, what the first step was is understanding the steps of your process and it’s understanding like the different, I call them statuses. Like what is the status of the project? Is that a new lead? Is a quoted? Is it active? Is it invoiced? Is it followed up on? Is it not? Is it closed? Is it awaiting information? Like you have to figure out the statuses that are important in your process to trigger certain activities. 

And so, the first thing I would suggest doing is when you’re creating your sales process is understanding the different statuses at what your client goes through throughout the process because from there, you can figure out how I should be tracking things. Because if you’re starting from scratch, you could strictly, if everything’s on paper right now, it’s going to be very uncomfortable for you to switch digitally like overnight, right? So, the first step we had to figure out the statuses and then put some storage units, some storage pieces on the wall that have the different statuses and move your folders down the statuses, right? Hey, okay, is this new opportunity? Has it been quoted? Has it been approved? Has it been invoiced? Is it completed? Is it in warranty? Whatever it is. Whatever your steps are. Create some sort of a tracking system for your physical sheets that are outlined by status because then you can just look at it and say oh, man, we have like nothing in active status right now. So, you can still visualize it. It’s not virtual but you can still visualize like how many pieces of paper in each status. And so, I would start there. 

Like if the first thing, if you were like hey, I don’t want to go digital, I’m not comfortable that yet, what’s Excel? Like if that’s what you’re saying right now, start with just figuring out the specific meaningful steps throughout your sales process or I would say client lifecycle. It’s not really a sales process. It’s client lifecycle because certain things will trigger certain activities, right? Like if it goes from active to completed, well, now everybody knows that a final invoice needs to be sent. Okay? So, that could be a task for somebody else in your office. Hey, anytime you see something in this folder or a folder in this filing cabinet or this whatever you want to call it on the wall, those people need to be invoiced. So, that’s the trigger. I’m really big on creating triggers in my business. When this happens, then that needs to happen. So, I would start there. Figure out the life cycle of a client, what the meaningful tasks or stages are throughout the process so that you can kind of have a visualization of where they are in that lifecycle. 

Sean Adams:

Yeah, brilliant advice. Yeah, paper or whatever you’re using. Baby steps are important, rights? It’s progress, not perfection. You’re not going to go overnight like Mike said 48 hours from now you’re going to have everything digital and you’re going to click a button and you’re going to be on a beach and everything’s going to be fine, right? That’s not that the goal. That’s definitely not what reality is either. So, just the visual component of seeing those stages I think is super, super powerful. Okay. So, like we’ve rationalized and conceptualized that we can see our business in their groups and the statuses. I would say that what I hear the most, the pain point or the maybe they don’t even realize that they have this issue is they go from okay, call comes in, easy, that goes into lead status and I jump on my truck and I go right out and I look at the job, give them a proposal. Paper, digital, doesn’t matter. Proposal has been submitted to the client. That’s typically the end of the road for most people’s sales process, right? Because they either did they call me back? That’s a one-job and that’s the three steps in their sales process. Or they never heard from them and they went into loss, right? So, let’s talk about the overwhelmingly glaring issue in that. And you mentioned follow-up so I’ll let you, I’m sure you can talk for 45 minutes about that but let’s just talk about the follow-up process. Mike, I’m busy. I’m 90 days out. What do you mean follow-up? They’ll call me when they need me. like why do we need that step in between won or lost? 

Mike Claudio:

So, where to start with that question? So, if you look at how consumers make decisions now, they expect to be able to take whatever time they want to do their due diligence and follow their own decision criteria and timeline and process. But when they want to make a decision, they’re going to make the quickest decision possible with whoever’s right in front of their face. So, that’s just how humans are now. They’ll Google for three months on what car they want and the minute they see it, they buy right away from whoever showed it to them, right? And home service is no different especially in, well, a lot of your world is more reactive, right? Like it’s not as proactive as some other things. It’s somewhat reactive. Like hey, I need that tree cut down. So, like they’re making a decision pretty quickly. Well, what you underestimate in my opinion is the lack of communication from your competition, right? You’re the guy who showed up on time, you’re the guy that delivered a proposal. The other guy showed up late. The other guy didn’t deliver a proposal yet and now you’re following up to confirm if they have any questions where the other guy still hasn’t delivered anything yet. Well, if you’re just sitting back waiting on them and they’re waiting on somebody else to give them a proposal and somebody else gave a proposal and followed up, who do think they’re going to go with? The guy who’s putting themselves in front of them. 

So, I think the follow process is so important in today’s decision making world where people are interested in taking their time in making a decision but once they do, they’re going to hire the person that’s in front of them. They’re going to hire the person who earned the right for their business. A lot of follow-up is just helping a client with their decision process. It helps you earn the right for their business where somebody else has just showed up, gave them something that said hey, call me if you need me. Well, of course, they need you. That tree is literally lying on their house. Of course, they need you. But like what did you do to earn their business? The days of just doing good work and you’re going to grow and scale your business, it’s not that way anymore. Your process has to be more thoughtful and intentional with outbound and engagement both and all parts of the process specifically in the follow-up because that person needs to make a decision and when they do, you want to be the first person they think of. 

Sean Adams:

One other tip, a way that I used to go about this and I’m sure this can be mirrored in a lot of the ways that you grew and had 40% of your new business come in that way, I would think about FAQs, frequently asked questions, right? If I didn’t hear back from somebody, they’re typically either they went with somebody else, indecision, like they just forgot, they got busy, other stuff came on their plate or they just were looking at other jobs and they couldn’t make a decision on a contractor, right? So, you live in that little world. You have such an opportunity, like Mike said, to earn their business, to jump and level up, right? All it takes is a little bit of effort. What I used to do in my business, I’d have email templates for this. If you’re doing things paper and pen, maybe you want to drop something off, I would have an FAQ sheet and just be like listen, here’s what companies or customers do at this point in the process. They’re typically thinking about can I get it cheaper or is there something else I can do with my scope of work or I don’t understand why I have to take it down versus prune it or I’m trying to get this landscape patio put in and I’m a little hesitant about X, Y, Z, right? If you are there to proactively, like Mike said, just slide that piece of information, really calm and collected in front of them either as they’re thinking of it or as they’re going to think about it, you’re going to be positioned so much higher in their mind as that person who’s like oh my God, this guy actually gives a crap about winning my business. This is going to make us positioned for that higher quality. You can charge more. I mean there’s a million different things you can do. Follow-up is vitally important. 

Mike Claudio:

So, and we might get to this but I think there’s five main parts of every in-home or at-home sales consultation. You got to break the ice, you got a build rapport, you got a collect scope, you got to soft close and you got to set next steps. Those are the five things you need to do in every single call. Well, that build rapport part of that conversation is understand their decision criteria, fears and concerns. And so, that’s a great point but in that beginning of that conversation like hey, what is your biggest concern about hiring a tree company, have you made a decision like this before and if so, how’d it go, what didn’t go well? Because then you can propose yourself and set yourself apart by harnessing and really focusing on the parts they’re most concerned about. Because literally all they care about is do they trust your ability to execute the job within the price range and the timeline that they are looking for. That’s it. They might know you and like you but if they don’t trust you, it doesn’t matter. So, your ability to really hone in and focus on the each individual client’s very specific decision criteria and fears, you’re just setting yourself apart because someone else might come in and say yeah, but we have the best harnesses around but they don’t give a shit about harnesses. They’re about like how well are your guys trained. Well, hey, like we do weekly check-ins and safety meetings with our guys. Oh, man, that’s awesome. That frequently asked question handout is great. I’m not opposed to. But do your due diligence on the front end of that conversation to uncover some of their biggest fears and concerns so that you can align your sales process specifically to those things because I use this analogy all the time. We all have drinking buddies that we like that we would never trust with $5, right? So, they know and like them but if they don’t trust them, then when it comes to transitioning especially financial investment even if it’s only a few thousand bucks, they got to trust you. 

Sean Adams:

That’s a great point. I’m glad you gave me a little bit of a blowback on that because I think that’s correct. You can use the FAQs after you’ve identified maybe what that persona is or what those fears are and that’s really what I—we weren’t getting super deep into that—but that’s a hundred percent of great piece of feedback because if it’s somebody who’s purely on cost, you probably could have found that out before you actually jumped in your truck and got there—

Mike Claudio:

Oh, don’t even get me started on people’s piss-poor pre-qualification processes. 

Sean Adams:

Yeah. I’m sure we could talk endlessly about that too and I’d like to just high-level mention a quick thing here about one of the other things I hear is like all right, we’re growing, I’m seeing it naturally start to progress here, how am I starting to position myself as more of that high-quality customer, right? I want to make sure I’m starting to charge for consultations and we don’t have to get super deep into every level of pre-qualification but it starts from that first conversation. So, along with what are your big fears, what are you going into, what are the types of questions are you asking on the front end to be like maybe this is a good customer for you or not? Like how are you saving yourself steps before we have to go through all the follow-up? 

Mike Claudio:

So, it really depends on what your ideal client or project is, right? Like I mean if you don’t know that, if someone said hey, what’s a great client and a proponent for your service that you want to do? If you can’t answer that, you’re going to struggle in getting those questions right because it needs to lead back to that. Certain things like where are you located, what’s driving this decision right now, have you been involved in a decision like this before and if so, what are your priorities, you can ask that over the phone. But it really could just come down to what’s the problem, how important is it for you to solve that problem, what are you willing to invest to solve that problem? It doesn’t matter what the service is because ultimately, what most people miss in the sales process is if somebody doesn’t have a problem, you’re not selling them anything. It doesn’t matter what it is that you sell. Someone needs have a problem. So, say you call and say what made you reach out today? Awesome. So, what’s the problem? Like they well, a tree came down. Well, how is that impacting you? Well, how important is it for you to solve that problem right now? And I always like using the invest term instead of budget because like hey, what are you willing to invest to solve that problem? Because it signifies a return on investment as opposed to a budget looks like an expense. And they’ll say well, I don’t know what it costs, man. Well, hey, look this is our price range for what it sounds like you have going on. If that works for you, I’d love to meet with you. If not, no problem at all. 

So, location can be important, demographic could be important. It always comes down to the type of service you offer. But what’s your problem, how important is it for you solve that problem right now and what are you willing to invest in that? Because you don’t want people who are just kicking tires and wasting time. It’s somewhat difficult to get granular without knowing more of a specific problem that you’re trying to solve. But those are the three things that you want to uncover. However you want to ask those questions but what is the problem, how important is if you solve that problem right now, what are you willing to invest to solve that problem? 

Sean Adams:

Yeah. And what I would add to that is not only do people make decisions to move away from pain but they also will do it to move towards pleasure of some kind, right? So, I’m not in pain when I need a new patio but I do really want that because of these different pieces of pleasure that’s going to give me. I’m going to have family over. I can’t travel any more. There’s no vacation I can do right now. So, I can have a staycation, right? I’ll spend 30 grand on my patio out back because it’s going to make it that every weekend can be a little mini vacation, right? So, identifying that and to me, it seems like what you’re describing is just controlling the conversation, going back to the proactive nature, right? You know. You’ve been through this before even if you’ve been in business for a couple of months. You have to be able to recognize some trends going through there. So, what can you speak to about controlling the conversation without being overly dominant and pushy to people? What is that fine line between sort of assertive and confident and here’s who I work best with versus I’ll come give you a price but my time’s valuable and I want to blow people off? How do you navigate that world? 

Mike Claudio:

So, what I learned through going through that process and figuring that out when I was early on in the industry is ultimately people are calling you for an answer. They don’t expect you to be the answer. So, a lot of times when it was hey, like this just isn’t a great project for me. When you tell anybody no especially when you’re dealing with a client, you have to tell them why and this is where getting like vulnerable and authentic and somewhat open about what’s going on really helps you. Like hey, I’m really glad you called. We’d loved to get on that project but like that’s just not a project we can take on right now. Because of our current headcount, we can’t pull guys off to do something like that. But here’s somebody else you can call. Because all they want is they want a solution. They’d like for you to be the solution. They heard you were great. But if it’s not an ideal client for you, just tell them why they’re not an ideal client for you. Because here’s what happens when you don’t. When you tell somebody no and you don’t tell them why and this does it for your kids, your wife, your employees, your friends, your family, whatever, you tell them no and you don’t tell them why, that person’s going to create a story in their head as to why you said no and 99.9% of time, it’s going to be wrong and it’s to be incredibly negative about you. So, even though you just did what was right for your business, if you don’t tell them why you did it, they will go somewhere and say nah, my money wasn’t good enough for them. I wouldn’t call them. As opposed to you like hey, man, like I appreciate you calling, I’d love to help you but right now with our current workload, we just lost some employees, I just can’t get to it in time, I’d rather you call this person, they should be able get to you faster because it does sound like it’s an emergency. Man, like I’m really glad that I called him because what I became as the sales guy was the go-to guy to call for all things because they knew if they called me, I would get them an answer even if it wasn’t me and that really helped. 

But then the second thing I did—and this might be like a little off topic but I think it kind of works the same way—I’m really big on creating referral partners, right? Huge on it. I talk about all the time. But what I did every single quarter, I called my top 10 to 20 referral partners and explained to them the current state of my business and what I was and was not looking for because I wanted to avoid the conversations where I had to say no to somebody. So, that referral network was informed as to how my business is changing, why it’s changing and why either like I’ve implemented a minimum job requirement, minimum job fee, I implemented a hey, we’re not going to that side of town anymore, I implemented a hey, we’re not doing siding anymore. Well, I didn’t want them to find out because they referred somebody and I had to tell them no because what happens is that person goes back to the person referred you and said why did you refer to me to them? They didn’t even want my business. And that makes you look really bad. So, it was kind of twofold I was trying to be proactive and I can get all under the content side about how you adjust that to tell the message differently. But in this specific scenario, you ask the good questions but be able to push back in a way that just has to be honest. You can’t just say well, I don’t know right now, maybe, maybe. No. Just be like hey, man, I’m sorry, I’m really glad you called, it’s a service we could do but right now we’re not taking that stuff on because of these factors but here’s somebody you can call this should be able to help you or here’s two or three people you can call that should be able to help you, highly recommend them, we just can’t do it right now. 

Sean Adams:

Brilliant, brilliant.

Mike Claudio:

And I think that really helps them because if they get upset, that’s their fault. That’s their problem, not yours. I’m making a business decision for myself. Hey, I can’t take on $300 sales calls anymore. We have a minimum of a thousand dollars per trip. If it’s not at least a thousand dollars of work, I can’t take it on right now. Hey, I’m sorry, like I love you, I want to help you because you have to appreciate as the business owner or salesperson, that $300 is a lot of money to some people and you’re saying like nah, man, I’m not interested. What? My money’s not good enough for you? Like hey, like I’d love to help you but based on our current workload and our schedule, I would not be able to get to you for four to six weeks. I know that’s too long for you to wait. Here’s some other people you can call as opposed to yeah, man, I’ll be out in a couple days then you show up in like six and then you give them proposals five days later and then they’re waiting on you. They’re waiting on you. You were the guy to call, you were the guy to call. And now three weeks later, you’re like man, I’m really sorry, I’m not going to get to your stuff. Well, you knew three weeks ago you shouldn’t take it on that call. So, telling them no but then taking the extra step to like vulnerably explain why and then giving them an alternative. That’s all they want is an answer for their problem and that doesn’t need to be you. It’s better for you to say no than delivering subpar client experience. 

Sean Adams:

That is solid gold, Mike. Seriously, I use that in my business and I can attest to that strategy. Ninety-nine out of a hundred times, when you articulate a reason why and have a valuable resource for somebody to go to, they’re not going to leave that conversation like that guy’s just kind of an ass. Like I can’t believe he said that to me. They’re going to be like you took the time to have a an answer prepared and you clearly have a process for how you go through this and I left with more information than I started with. And that’s why they’re calling you, right? They’re not always ready to buy right now. They’re maybe just in that stage of collecting information or learning if this is even a thing that they can afford or whatever that might be and when you give them a resource, they leave feeling satisfied in some way. They’re progressing this conversation forward. So, brilliant, brilliant strategy. Love that. If there’s one piece you’re going to take away from this conversation, oh my God, it’s worth its weight in gold. 

The other thing you brought up was about the referral partnership. Again, this is something I talked in recent videos about this. We’ve had things on our website about hey, we can only handle this size job, here’s who does this, here’s ranges, here’s criteria in which we dedicate who does what and our subcontractors. That’s the referral side of work that you may not take. Tell me about the other referral cycles. You know you have plenty to say about how we’re gaining business, how we—you mentioned like reaching out to good culture fits, good value partners that you guys have complementary services. So, expand upon that part on the flip side where we’re going to gain business and gain good referrals through those same types of partnerships. 

Mike Claudio:

So, the number one thing to think about when you’re looking at targeting referral partners is you want somebody that has two things about them: one, they directly benefit from you helping somebody in their sphere and they operate in a place as a trusted advisor of that sphere. So, those are two things that are super important because everybody’s like well, Mike, what happens if someone, like they want kickbacks, they want referral fees. If you’re bringing value to their clients that directly benefits them, I’ll use a real estate agent as an example. All right. So, real estate agent need something to happen to get to the closing table. They don’t need the hundred dollar kickback. They want to get to the closing table. Well, you helping them get there is the value you bring. It’s not monetary. It’s part of the process. So, you become the go-to guy for that and now these referral partners i.e. in this case real agents, they want to use you because you answer their questions quickly, you get to their clients promptly, you charge fairly and you help them get to the ultimate goal of being at the closing table. 

But then for the person who’s the client of the real estate agent, let’s say someone’s moving to town, who’s the person they’re going to trust the most? They’re in trust their real estate agent. I mean I run into this a lot especially in the hire and remodel world. Like somebody I targeted for a long time was financial advisors, right? When you have somebody in that ideal range, was 45 to 60, making a major monetary investment in their home, the first place they’re going to go is how are we going to pay for this. Let’s go talk to a financial advisor, right? So, that person is in a trust advisory role and how you help them is that you keep them as a valued asset to their clients because they referred somebody of quality, right? You were able to deliver for them so that referral partner got the value of being the go-to guy for their big and top end clients. So, first thing, they need to benefit directly by referring you their network and then secondly, they need to be in a trusted advisory role. 

But then one of the biggest things that I learned that had massive impact was targeting other size companies in my industry because no matter what size you are, there is somebody right now turning down work you want. And subsequently, the other way, right? If you’re a really small company, you can’t handle a large project. The big companies don’t want little projects. Good middle ground. If you’re in the middle range like hey, there’s somethings re going to be too big for you, somethings are going to be too small for you and then vice versa, you can pass them out. It was an amazing transition for me when I started targeting larger companies because especially in the remodel world, like there are companies right now that will not touch a project under $250,000. I was salivating over projects that were 75 grand at the time, right? Like they’re saying I don’t want to touch anything under 250. I’m saying I don’t want to touch anything over 250. We would absolutely shit the bed on that, right? Like it was a good combination because they were now getting, again, their clients didn’t want them to solve the problem. They wanted somebody to solve the problem. So, they were in a trusted advisory role as the bigger contractor saying hey, we don’t take on projects like that but you got to call Mike, they’re great for you to take care of you. That was huge. That was absolutely huge. So, those were two things that I really focused on from acquiring of new business was focusing on referral partners that directly benefited from me that were in a trusted advisory role and then other similar service providers of different sized businesses. And like you just call them. Hey, I’m a smaller guy, I’m a bigger guy. I’m looking to pass off bigger or smaller projects. Wanted to see if that’s something you want to work on together? You’d be amazed at how many people are just like tired of saying no and making themselves look bad as opposed to having an alternative. Both things I did pretty effectively.

Sean Adams:

Yeah. Really, really good advice. And I want to expand upon that a little bit more too because if we’re in the green industry, tree care, landscape, lawn care, irrigation, whatever that might be, we’re exterior contractors. People like realtors, high-end builders, your roofers, people who do like pool installations, we do a lot of landscape work. These are people that are actively day-in day-out have hundreds of thousands of your ideal clients in their CRM, in their database, in their rolodex and their cell phone for God’s sake. These are people you need to be getting to know and I know in these times of social distancing, it’s kind of tricky because you’re not driving by a jobsite and stopping to shake hands with people, you’re not going to a BNI group, you’re not going to meet up somebody at a bar. So, it’s a little touch-and-go there. So, you mentioned at the end there, just like calling up and having a candid conversation. Let’s say we’ve identified who those ideal partners would be for us. Can you expand a little bit more about that conversation, that approach of besides just the identification? What does that language look like? Because I could see a lot of people being worried and a little hesitant about going into what they think might be competition or looking silly. So, just talk a little bit more about that if you don’t mind. 

Mike Claudio:

I’ve used the same sentence for 10 years incredibly effectively and it’s strictly, it could be a DM, an email, a phone call, whatever it is, it’s just would you benefit from a relationship with insert whatever it is that you do. Because if they say no, well, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Move on. But if they say yes, you can solve an immediate problem for them and now you’re in the door immediately because you proactively went out and put yourself in a position to bring value. Because ultimately, what we talked about earlier, if you don’t have a problem, you’re not selling them something. Well, hey, would you benefit from a relationship with insert whatever it is that you do? So, let’s say you’re a hardscape guy you want to work with a couple pool builders in town, right? Like those guys need help. Well, hey, pool builder, hey, would you benefit from relationship with a really quality local hardscape company? Nah, man, I got somebody already. Hey, man, I’d just love to be your backup. I know sometimes you might get busy. Do you mind if I send you an email with my information just in case a need arises in the future? Cool. Now you’re the backup. Being the backup is the best place to be. You cannot fail in the backup role because if he calls you, he has the need immediately because his guy is not delivering, right? Whatever it is. Didn’t show up, can’t grow with the capacity. If he’s calling the backup guy, you pretty much won that job no matter what you’re charging because he needs you that badly. Or yeah, man, like I’ve been calling all over the place. I can’t find anybody to these hardscapes for me. I’d love for you to quote a job. 

 

And I’ll use an example. So, three weeks ago, me and a buddy started a grading site demo company. He’s got the equipment and experience. I’m handling the sales and operation side. I sent out 15 text messages and said would you benefit from a site demo or grading company to 15 people might network that I know. I sent out over 200 grand proposals in the last two weeks because if they have a need, they have a need. If they don’t, move on. Like I’m a quantity guy. I’m going to send that message to 50 people a week until I get enough business to feed my kids for generations because the bottom line is and what most people overestimate here is you don’t need 50 good clients like that. Three to five quality people in that space would triple your business overnight and that’s why like anybody who has seen my content, like I’m not big on like spending money on SEO and getting to the top of the Google chain and spending a bunch of money on ads. Go make 50 phone calls a week for like three months and you’ll never have to make another phone call again. 

I say that because like I did that like with the remodeling company and the roofing company. We didn’t have a marketing budget. I went out and I hunted for business and sold $10 million in five years without spending a dollar on marketing. Like we did some events here, we did some BNI there, like little things. But I didn’t spend money on SEO, I didn’t want to be on the first page of Google, I didn’t spend money on Facebook ads. I just want and said I’m going to have this conversation with enough people and I’ve proven it now, if you do that for four to six months, you never do it again because you build enough referral partners that all you do is keep them happy, deliver on what you said you were going to do and you’ll keep them forever. Like those are builders I sold to three to four years ago, haven’t heard from me since saying hey, this is what I’m doing now, do you need anybody? Oh, great. Here’s a proposal. Literally, 200 grand in my first two weeks. We didn’t even have a website yet. That question, if you’re unsure, literally would you benefit from a relationship with, insert whatever it is that you do to a targeted audience, you’re going to find people who say no. Great, I’d love to be your backup. You’re going to have some people say yes. Close that deal. That’s it. 

Sean Adams:

We’re so aligned on that, it’s ridiculous. It’s the definition of business development. 

Mike Claudio:

It is. 

Sean Adams:

Of the shift from sales marketing, funnels, Google, all that BS in my opinion to this holistic business development. Like I’m actually going to get my brand, my humanization, everything you talked about in those first three key points out in front of the right amounts of people and scaling your visibility so much quicker than you joining Angie’s List of paying the next amount per month and being part of this giant bucket with a bunch of other landscape guys or hardscape or tree guys and they’re just pulling a part and hoping that you are the one that answers, right? You have full control of this process. Everything that Mike’s talking about here does not cost anything or if it does, it’s extremely low and it should be basically zero you can test these ideas out. I did the exact same thing in my business. I got into large commercial accounts, all sorts of partners and it’s the exact same principle about putting that best foot forward. 

Mike Claudio:

And well, here’s a mindset that might help you. When you go that activity, the only people you’re going to try to sell to are people who have a need. So, you’re no longer an inconvenience. You’re no longer bothering them. They needed you to make that phone call. I use this in my content creation concepts as well and this is something that changed my life because everybody struggles with content creation, putting themselves out there, making the phone calls, call reluctance, all this other stuff. And it came down to my mindset of if this post or this call or these prospecting efforts would bring value to one person, it is irresponsible me to not do it. Because look, I don’t care if I post something and I get 99 trolls and one person saying thank you, this is what I needed today, that post was worth it just like that phone call was worth it. I need to make these ten phone calls because there’s somebody on the other end of that line right now that needs me and yeah, I’m going to be on the line, I’m going to go hunt, I’m going to go weed through all this stuff, I’m going to be the warrior that deals with the nine who don’t to get to the one that does. And it’s just that mindset changed the game for me from a sales, business development, content creation, all that. If what I’m about to do will bring value to one person, it’s irresponsible of me to not do it. 

Sean Adams:

Another golden nugget, Mike. I love it, man. You’re killing us here. So, I really appreciate that, guys. If any of this information makes remote sense, make the choice to at least go and follow Mike right now. Social media, he’s on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, all those platforms. Go join his construction selling Facebook group too. I’m going to plug you before I even get a chance to plug you because I do believe in the message and I follow you and always try to comment on your stuff because we’re always so aligned with that kind of thing. He’s giving out this free information out there. Imagine what it’s like if you actually work with him. You’re getting these real insights to these are practical things, right? So, Mike, with all that said, you’ve dropped an unbelievable amount of knowledge here. If somebody wants to work a little deeper with you or test their waters as far as how they get in this business development mind, do how they get in touch with you? What are the first steps? How can we learn more? 

Mike Claudio:

So, WinRateConsulting.com, W-I-N-R-A-T-E, like what’s your win rate, what’s your close rate? That’s kind of where that came from. So, WinRateConsulting.com kind of has an outline of all my different options. I do one-on-one coaching, I do group trainings, I just speaking engagements, I have mastermind groups. So, that website kind of helps you understand what the options are. Follow me on Instagram @WinRateConsulting is probably where I spend the most amount of my time engaging. And then like you said, the construction selling Facebook group which has grown to about a thousand members right now. A lot of engagement there. I post a ton of videos, I post a ton of free content in there. If all you did was that and you just paid attention and implement it, you’d win. As honest as I can be. I put out a lot of good content because I’m intentional about it. I’m intentionally putting out—because I am the product, right? So, when you see me, I can’t have an off day. I can’t have like a hey, you know that thing I told you to do last week, don’t do that. I was just hungover. Like I can’t give bad advice. So, I have to be on all the time and I want people to realize that about me that I’m consistent with that. 

So, @WinRateConsulting on Instagram, WinRateConsulting.com, construction selling Facebook group and then I have a podcast just called Big Stud Sales. Again, if you’re in a podcast, jump over there and check it out. I’d really appreciate the engagement and tag me. If you guys are listening to this, screenshot it, throw it on your Instagram stories, tag @WinRateConsulting and I’m not sure what your IG handle is off the top of my head but tag us, man. We love to engage with people. We love to engage people who are listening and implementing. Like I give out free advice every day on social media from people that are asking questions because I love, just like you do, we love what we do. And you as the audience, please just engage. We’d love to hear from you. 

Sean Adams:

Yeah. Couldn’t have said it better, Mike. I really, really appreciate it. I’m sure all the audience is going to be loving this. I’m sure we’re going to have you back on to dissect some of those theories a little deeper. Off air we were talking about a few strategies and I’m sure we’re going to spin off of this. So, again, my friend, really appreciate your time here today. Thanks for being with us. 

Mike Claudio:

Hey, man, loved it.

Sean Adams:

Thanks for listening to this episode of Green Industry Perspectives presented by SingleOps. If you got some value out of this episode, be sure to leave us a five star review on your favorite streaming platform and don’t forget to become a pro member at SingleOps.com/GreenIndustryPerspectives. As a pro member of the podcast, you’ll get notifications of each new episode, access to exclusive bonus content each week and then entered in to win fun prizes. Thanks for listening and don’t forget to tune in next week.