John Jantsch: Everyone is a salesperson. I don’t care what business you’re in, what your role is, what your title is, particularly if you own a business, you have to get good at selling. And in order to get good at selling you have to get good at prospecting. But selling and prospecting are two very different things, and we have to have a different mindset for each of those roles. And that’s why I brought Marylou Tyler, founder of Strategic Pipeline and author of “Predictable Prospecting” onto this episode of The Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is a book you should read. This is a show you should check out.
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Hello, and welcome to another episode of The Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Marylou Tyler. She’s the founder of Strategic Pipeline, a Fortune 1000 sales process improvement consulting group, but it also has a lot to say about small business. And we’re gonna talk about her latest book, “Predictable Prospecting, How to Radically Increase Your B2B Sales Pipelines.” Some of you may know Marylou because she’s also the co-author of a very, very popular book that I’ve talked about before called “Predictable Revenue.” So, Marylou, thanks for joining us.
Marylou Tyler: Thank you for having me.
John Jantsch: So, in every sales conversation today, and you and I have talked before about the idea that many salespeople, even if they’re in one of these Fortune 1000 companies, but certainly the owner of a small business, is a salesperson, as well. What role does, I mean I know the answer to this. I know what role strategy plays in the sales conversation, but for a salesperson, how do they have to understand marketing strategy or the overall businesses strategy, the ideal client, the message and all those things? How do they have to plug into that to take advantage of it?
Marylou Tyler: Well, it all starts really, with understanding the SWOT, the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of whatever it is that you’re offering. And we take it even further in the new book and try to get you to slice and dice that thing six different ways so that what starts emerging is truly where you serve, who you serve, why you matter, and why they should buy from you. And that’s really, that whole planning phase is, a lot of people don’t give it the credit it deserves for the success of a business developer or closer or servicer, whatever role you’re playing. The planning pieces are paramount in order to be able to create a predictable stream of revenue for your company.
John Jantsch: I’ll tell you what I see very often in organizations that I’ve worked with, and they might have five or six salespeople, and two of them kill it. And three of them are constantly struggling to keep up, because there isn’t any kind of, attachment to strategy or even sales process. Do you come across that and try to fix that in some cases?
Marylou Tyler: Well, I think the short answer is yes. And it’s ubiquitous, whether you’re in a large company or a small company. The idea of adherence to a process or heaven forbid, actually continually improving a process is just not something that sales folks or sales organizations focus a lot on. Not all, but it’s a very small percentage of people who understand the data is something that we look for and look towards creating a predictable stream of revenue, because it’s giving us the data points, the talking points, the conversation points, where we did well, where we didn’t do so well, and it’s all there embedded in our conversations as we wrap up these phone calls and meetings with our prospects.
So, adherence to process, tweaking continually, failing forward, don’t be afraid of making mistakes, because that’s how we learn. Our brains just love making mistakes so that we get better and better. And that’s what process gives us the opportunity to do.
John Jantsch: So, would you say that this is a reasonable approach, one of the things I see most people attempt to do if they’re gonna create a process is, they’ve got that one or two people that are killing it, and they say, “Go figure out what they’re doing.” I mean, is that a reasonable process?
Marylou Tyler: I like to look at the data. But I am an engineer, so I’m more of a data person than I am a clinical people person. So, I like to look at the data first and have it tell me the story. And of course, I’ll look at the outliers as well as the midstream, the bubble, the people who are the 80% of the people and model them. But I’m not just looking at the outliers or the 20%, because it doesn’t always tell us the full story.
John Jantsch: Yeah, they might have been connected to a large network or something in their past. I mean, there are a lot of things that can lead to that, right?
Marylou Tyler: There’s a whole plethora of things, yes.
John Jantsch: So, one of the ideas that you introduce, or at least expand upon, in “Predictable Processing” is this idea of organizations having dedicated prospectors, that they’re not the people that close, they’re the people that find and set appointments, perhaps. But, isn’t prospecting a big part of what a salesperson’s supposed to do?
Marylou Tyler: You know, I can talk out both sides my mouth on this one. And I do get a lot of pushback on the multi-role versus singular role. Predictable revenue is all about separation of roles. We felt that having a business developer do business development, because of the mindset of a business developer where it’s continuous habit, it’s hard worker mentality, you’re not finessing in really a lot of things, you’re just getting up, doing the work, working hard, improving, that type of person may be a little bit different than someone whose building relationship that’s longer-term with the prospect, so, you’re gonna go through the nuances of behavior with the prospect and their ups and downs, their trials, their tribulations.
So, I liken it to, the prospectors are really great at dating, and the closers are really good at getting engaged and married and continuing that conversation and that relationship all the way through. That really, it hasn’t been debunked yet, but I do have 48% of my community do all roles. So, they’re trying to figure out a way to add prospecting and bolt it onto their normal selling practice. But that piece of it has to be habitual and has to be done consistently.
John Jantsch: And you can make a case for it being something that’s very practical too, right? I mean, prospecting can take a lot of time if you have somebody who’s dedicated to prospecting, they’ve got the list, they’ve got the outreach, they’ve got the ability to burn through a whole lot of stuff to create some appointments, and that that appointment time could be perhaps, better used by somebody that’s not spending half their day prospecting?
Marylou Tyler: Well, yeah that’s also a way to look at it. And I am, just like everyone else probably, on this call, I’m doing all roles. But I still dedicate certain blocks of time a week for prospecting. The skills that I use for that block of time is very different from the work that I’m doing as we march into the pipeline a little bit further. So if you look at it that way, that you’re wearing these different hats, but you’re wearing them in blocks of time and for prospecting, you’re doing it consistently, it’s almost like you’ve got a really strong grit when you’re doing prospecting, because you’re tenacious, you’re persuasive, you’re passionate, your persistent, and that may not work very well as you march down the pipeline with prospects, and you want to get more into the relationship side of things.
John Jantsch: Well, and you make a great point, because many of my listeners are small business owners, and they might be thinking, “Well, I don’t, you know, I’ve got two salespeople. I can’t afford a prospecting team, necessarily.”
Marylou Tyler: Right.
John Jantsch: But I think that is really a key. You definitely have a prospecting function in your business. Where does it fit? It’s like the small business that has three people in the business, and I have them build an org chart because all of those functions exist, it’s just a matter of how you compartmentalize the time to do it. So I think that’s a great point. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a person, it’s almost a mindset.
Marylou Tyler: Yes, it’s a mindset, it’s a block of time, and it’s consistent. That word consistent has got to flow throughout when you’re thinking of prospecting, because everyone has experienced the peaks and valleys. We talk about that. And what prospecting does consistently is level that out so you’re not freaking out towards the end of the quarter or the end of the month that you don’t have enough in the pipeline.
John Jantsch: Yeah. So, for the last five, maybe 10 years, us marketing types have been talking about producing content and telling stories and people will show up with their wallets. And I know that there’s certainly a lot of sales folks, yourself included, that would say, “No, you gotta get on the phone, you gotta email, and that that’s the only predictable way to create qualified appointments.” So, how do you manage this inbound versus outbound struggle?
Marylou Tyler: What I like to do is think of accounts or clients as dream clients, and that would be kind of, the whales, the folks that are gonna bring in a lot of revenue, that are probably high likelihood of closing and high revenue potential for my business. And I put them in a special bucket called outreach, because I want to target them, I want to reach out to them. And I want to be able to start conversations with them on a regular basis.
The next tier out, if we look at a bulls-eye, that would be the middle of my bull’s-eye, those high-revenue accounts. There’s not very many of them, but it’s definitely on my radar and I want to go after them because I know they will love me and I love them. The next ring out are people that are maybe, close to being a target, but I can’t necessarily, justify spending the time bringing them into the, into my fold. So I may leverage technology to wake up that chill and get them out of their dormant stage so that they can bubble up to the top.
And then everybody else would be pretty much the inbound channels, any social work that I do, any relationship referral work that I do where, they’re great to have but they’re not predictable for me. They’re great, great income, but I can’t rely on them for a consistent revenue stream.
John Jantsch: So, I’ve for a lot of years been talking about, especially as people were kind of, jumping on this inbound, inbound, inbound is, I think if you do a good job with inbound, your outbound will be far more effective.
Marylou Tyler: And I think if you do a great job with outbound, your inbound will grow. And I’ve proven that over and over again, that the outreach efforts that we’ve done led to people going to our website, curiosity of, “Who are these people, and why are they contacting me? This is pretty great content. Let me find out more about them.” So, we do see a spike in the inbound, as well, because we are reaching out to these people on a consistent basis with what we call value added, which is a term that drives me crazy but it’s really looking at ways that we can teach our prospects why they should change what they’re doing, why now, and why us.
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So, one of the things that I find that really good salespeople do is, they’re actually use a, because they’re so focused on an ideal client, they’re very good at disqualifying. And I think that that is a skill that is very hard and very scary for a lot of business owners. How do you suggest that people get good at that?
Marylou Tyler: Well, you know, the way I like to look at it is, my targeted, those targeted accounts in the middle of the bull’s-eye, I’m gonna work really hard at qualifying them. As we start moving out and they’re in the less desirable layers of my bull’s-eye, then I’m gonna try to get them off my active pipeline as quickly as possible. So, I disqualify, and I look to disqualify, because I really want the pipeline to be a pipeline, not a lake. Things aren’t gonna just fester in there and sit around. I want to get them out, or I want to move them forward. So disqualification is really the only way to do that, to keep that pipeline robust, moving with a high velocity. But I will take certain accounts that I covet and I won’t let go until they physically carry me out of their office kind of let go.
John Jantsch: So, one of the challenges I think, with a lot of small businesses is the chief salesperson also has to live with that client that’s been sold. They actually have to do the work. So, I think a lot of times, you might disqualify somebody on firmographics or on maybe, the challenge that they have, but a lot of times a small business owner needs to be alert to what the relationship’s gonna be like, what kind of person it is. How’s it gonna be like to work with this person. And that sometimes doesn’t happen or is hard to make happen until you’re kind of, in it.
Marylou Tyler: Well, but if you’d really work at that SWOT 6, that’s that first step in the process, what will emerge between that, your ideal account profile, and then your ideal prospect persona, those three things combined, will give you a sense of who you want to work with, the culture of the company that they’ve come from or businesses that they represent, the type of person they are. And over time, as you do more of this outreach, your radar will be spot on as to who will continue to start, you’ll continue to have that sales dialogue with, or who you’re gonna politely say, “You know, I don’t think this is a good fit for now.”
John Jantsch: Yeah, and one of the things I can’t stress enough is that not being matched with an ideal client’s the fastest way to cut your profit that I know of, because you’ll spend more time trying to satisfy a not-ideal fit. But, until you’ve done it a few times, it’s a little hard to say no.
Marylou Tyler: And we’ve all been there. We’ve all had the horrific client that we knew in our gut wasn’t gonna work out, but we still thought, “Maybe it’ll be different this time around,” and it’s not.
John Jantsch: Okay, I’m sold. Let’s cut to the chase. How do you build and operate a successful outbound prospecting program?
Marylou Tyler: Well, the first thing I would do is take a real gut check as to who you are, like you were solo, like me, who you are as a person, and whether you can dedicate the time to do prospecting. And it’s something that, the most important concept of prospecting is this concept of block time. It’s putting in every day, or three days a week or two days a week, depending on your ideal number of opportunities you want per month, it’s putting in the time necessary to have those conversations and meaningful conversations, those conversations that move you into the pipeline further like a mile marker on a freeway, or they exit out because you’ve disqualified them.
So, you have to really start thinking about, “Can I do this on a consistent basis?” After that, you really need to focus on who your ideal clients are, where they are, why they would use you, why they should change what they’re doing now, and really dig deep into why you matter and what clients you can truly serve, and what clients will stay with you in the long-term to increase that lifetime value.
Once you’ve done that, then you start crafting, figuring out, “Okay, how many opportunities do I want to per month, per week quarter,” whatever it is. And there are metrics for outreach, thank goodness, that drive those, that we know how many conversations you should have in order to generate the number of opportunities that you’ve delineated as what you need. And then it’s really just, after you’ve assembled, it’s activating, and then optimizing. You’re constantly tweaking, taking one piece of it and fine-tuning it, moving onto the next, fine-tuning that, and then going back to the beginning and starting over again.
John Jantsch: How do you get people past, and I don’t, you haven’t used these terms, and so I’m not suggesting that you’re advocating this, but a lot of people default to an outbound prospecting program as basically cold calling is, “If I do 1,000 dials, all I need is 10 appointments.” How do you get people past that, what I call very low-value prospecting?
Marylou Tyler: Well, that’s believe it or not, one of my qualifiers when I work with clients. If they’re insisting on looking at vanity metrics, and I consider dials a vanity metric, I consider the number of conversations that you have regardless of movement in the pipeline. So, my clients have to be willing to say, “Okay, let’s define what a meaningful conversation is.” And that’s the metric that we look at in order to get past this concept of cold calling.
In order to have meaningful conversations, that means we need to serve up the conversation somehow, whether we use marketing tools, whether we have basically, allocated time to develop relationships through education, whatever those channels are, we incorporate that into the mix so that our first conversation isn’t cold, it’s warm.
John Jantsch: Yeah, so you have, in the book, a, everybody has to have these frameworks. You have a seven-point outreach process. And we don’t have to go into all those seven points, but tell people where they can find, obviously, the book’s available everywhere, but where they can find about how they might even go deeper with some of your training and resources.
Marylou Tyler: Perfect, yes. The book has an accompanying webpage on my website. It’s called Maryloutyler.com/swag. S-W-A-G stands for “Stuff we all get.” And on that page is this seven-step process. I’ve done a number of different webinars. I have video training. You name it, I’ve done it, it’s out there. So, if you really want to start diving in, that’s the place to go.
John Jantsch: That’s Maryloutyler.com?
Marylou Tyler: Correct. /SWAG.
John Jantsch: Yeah, awesome. Well, thanks, Marylou, for joining us. This is something that I think, I mean, you think about that B2B business owner, service professional, that only needs six more clients to really make or break the business. And I think this is the approach that that person should be taking, in my opinion, as opposed to mass outreach on Facebook or something.
Marylou Tyler: I agree. And that’s what I do with my business. I only need two to three a quarter, and I know exactly how much time I need to dedicate and pour into the top in order to do that. And it’s consistent, and I have no stress.
John Jantsch: Yeah, awesome. Thanks, Marylou. Hopefully, next time I’m passing through, I guess you’re currently in Des Moines. Next time I’m passing through Des Moines, I’ll honk at you.
Marylou Tyler: Thank you.
John Jantsch: Hey, thanks for listening to this episode of The Duct Tape Marketing podcast. Wonder if you could do me a favor? Could you leave an honest review on iTunes? Your ratings and reviews really help, and I promise I read each and every one. Thanks.
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