Matthew Kimberely and the Joy of Selling
Matthew Kimberley first dove into entrepreneurship at the tender age of 13. Having built up his juggling skills, he decided to have a go at street performance Full of trepidation at the concept of asking people for money, he stood on a sidewalk, dropped a coin-collecting hat in front of him, and commenced his act.
In not much time, he heard the “clink” of a coin from his first-ever happy customer, and in that moment, all of his fear disappeared. Then and there, Kimberley became acquainted with the euphoria of selling, which would become his passion and fascination into adult life.
Speaking about sales in his interview with Foundr, Kimberley’s enthusiasm shines through:
“When you can sell, you don’t need any other skills. You don’t need to be a creator. You don’t need to be a manager. You don’t need to be a writer. You don’t need to be a speaker, you don’t need to be a talker, you don’t have to have a business idea. You don’t have to be a particularly good executioner.
“You don’t have to be good at doing anything, other than asking, convincing, persuading, giving other people the opportunity to part with their money in exchange for something that you’ve got that they want.”
He makes it sound downright magical, doesn’t he? That’s just the beginning, as Kimberley shared with us knowledge from many years of honing his technique.
So get your notepad ready, because, in Kimberley’s words, “If you don’t ever want to be homeless, learn how to sell.”
The Reluctant Entrepreneur
There’s a certain image of young and successful businesspeople as “unemployables,” misfits unable to abide by the rules of the conventional workplace. Not so for Kimberley.
“I was actually a pretty good employee,” he says. “The discipline of having to report to a manager was extremely helpful for me.”
Nonetheless, a 20-something Kimberley convinced himself that founding and running a company was what he wanted to do. Not only that, he became insanely successful at it. He grew his professional services company, called B2K, selling recruitment for a cool seven-figure yearly revenue. He had chosen a hot market and had the sales skills to match, and he was raking in the rewards. One small hitch: He was totally unhappy.
“I fancied myself as a junior Wolf of Wall Street-type with sharp suits and Italian shoes and heavy drinking on the weekend,” says Kimberley. “It was lucrative … and I wanted to put my head through a window every day”
Instead of the exhilaration one would expect running a seven-figure company, Kimberley felt exhausted.
“Is this it? Am i going to be having the same conversations with the same people all of the time?”
He also recalls these internal dissatisfactions expressing themselves physically. “I was seriously sick. I had a bad back, I wasn’t sleeping well, drinking too much coffee in the morning.”
Kimberley still enjoyed the selling part of his business, but everything else—from dealing with his business partner to employee reviews—was sheer tedium. But instead of grinding through like so many of us might, Kimberley decided to listen to his heart and step away from his company, and into a direction that resonated more closely with what he really loved.
“I realized what I liked to do is sell and teach people how to sell. So what I did was become a self-employed sales trainer, and I haven’t looked back since.”
How Matthew Kimberley Booked Himself Solid
After selling his interests in his business, Kimberley decided to zone in on his love of teaching others by sharpening up his skills as a sales trainer.
He set himself up with training from the legendary New York Times-bestselling, expert salesperson Michael Port. He took Port’s course, Book Yourself Solid, and got to know him in the process. Port became a mentor and friend, and Kimberley soon found himself working for him as head of the Book Yourself Solid school.
The two worked together on a variety of exciting projects and on growing the Book Yourself Solid brand. He certified dozens of other Book Yourself Solid coaches over the years, and got to leverage his exceptional presentation skills all over the world. He caused a stir with his talk at the 2015 Tropical Think Tank event, where he kicked off his presentation with his storied juggling act.
But in early 2016, Kimberley decided to head in a new direction. “I’m not a naturally very ambitious person. I don’t worry about money. I never worry I will not have money to sustain my lifestyle and that of my family and children. But I was worried I was getting too comfortable.”
As much as he enjoyed his time working for the Book Yourself Solid brand, Kimberley decided after six years to branch out on his own.
“I’m excited about building big things,” he says. “I was ready for a new challenge for myself.”
So once again, driven by passion and heart, Kimberley started on his new venture of training people to sell better and with more confidence.
Step Up to the Plate
Kimberley opens up his discussion on how to sell with a reminder of just how important mastering this skill can be for entrepreneurs:
“The difference between a business owner with a bad idea who can sell and a business owner with a fantastic idea who can’t sell is enormous—it’s the health and success of the business. Sales is absolutely critical.”
That being said, a lot of us are very hesitant, both about selling and being sold to. This hesitation is one of the prime reasons why many entrepreneurs, perhaps including you, are hesitant to embrace the topic. So how does one get over this constricting fear of selling?
“People don’t like to be sold to, but we like to buy! There must be someway of facilitating that,” Kimberley says.
The reality is that no one likes being sold to until they need or want something, and at that point, they actively seek out salespeople. So sales isn’t only about trying to figure out how to get money out of the hands of other people. Rather, Kimberley suggests a holistic approach that takes into account different perspectives.
It’s also important to recognize that sales, for all of its intricacies, is very much a numbers game.
“If you have 100 sales conversations everyday, even the crappiest sales person with the crappiest product will sell something eventually.”
Oftentimes, the reason Kimberley’s clients aren’t making enough sales is because they simply are not engaging in enough conversations. So showing up is step one. But Kimberley has 16 more steps to help you along the way.
The 16 Principles of Professional Persuasion
Qualification: People need to be qualified buyers. Make sure you research your market carefully. “Have they bought something like you’re selling, was it recently, have they bought for your competitors, have they visited relevant sites/shops. Any proof they want your stuff?”
Control: “It’s critical that we exercise control if we are going to be good salespeople. Lay the groundwork. Lead them. Make me confident that the person I’m buying from has more knowledge, expertise than me,” Kimberley says. “It’s about moving your prospect along a sales journey, the sales funnel—once they are past one funnel, there is no going back.”
Likability: Be the best version of yourself by being yourself. Assert your values strongly. If there are elements of your character/personality that make you more likable, make sure that they are included in your sales process.
Credibility: Credibility is a primary reason why you would be the preferred source for whatever it is that your are selling. Authority lends credibility.
Solution: Your solution must address a real problem in the marketplace you
are targeting. People will always buy a real solution.
Expert Endorsement: If you lack your own credibility (e.g. because you are new), an expert endorsement is the highest form of borrowed credibility. Endorsements should never be ignored or forgotten.
Problem: Present a problem that everybody can relate to. Highlight/acknowledge a problem that already exists. Do not assume that your potential customer has a problem. You must be able to get the “yes I have a problem” answer to ensure your prospect is well-qualified for the sale.
Offer: Make the offer as many times as you possibly can.
Benefits: Introduce the benefits as a supplemental bonus to the solution.
Social Proof: The first form of social proof is showing that other people are already
consuming your product (number of customers, reviews, etc.). Another form is through testimonials. Show examples of how other people have benefited from your product.
Preempt Objections: Come up with a list of common objections and address them in
a document, such as an FAQ.
Urgency: Pre-frame your prospects on the idea that they are going to pay less if they
buy right now.
Sweeten the Deal: Sweeten the deal by stacking bonuses and giving your
prospects more reasons to come on board.
Risk Reversal: Offer a satisfaction guarantee. Eliminate as much risk as you possibly can from the prospect’s point of view.
Scarcity: Scarcity is the principle that says there’s not many of this product and this might be one of your few chances to get it. Scarcity is a powerful sales tool—use it in your marketing and sales process.
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- Kimberley’s 16 principles of professional persuasion
- The best place to learn and hone your skills as a salesperson
- Why learning how to sell is the most important skill for an entrepreneur
- How to follow your passion while maximizing your profits
- The importance of having a mentor and where to find one
Full Transcript of the Podcast with Matthew Kimberley
Nathan: Today’s episode is proudly brought to you by our sponsor, FreshBooks. FreshBooks is an easy-to-use cloud accounting software that’s completely transformed how over 10 million entrepreneurs deal with their day-to-day paperwork. It’s an absolutely amazing product and you can start your 30-day trial at freshbooks.com/foundr.
Hey, guys. Welcome to the “Foundr” podcast. My name is Nathan Chan, I am your host and the CEO of “Foundr Magazine.” And for all of you guys that are listening for the first time, I just want to say thank you so much for taking the time to listen to this podcast. We interview some of the greatest and most successful entrepreneurs and founders in the world. And I do whatever I can to unpack and pick their brain and just extract a ton of gold and knowledge and experience that they can share with us, so you can learn what it takes to build and grow a successful business.
And today’s guest, his name is Matthew Kimberley: super talented guy, very, very funny Englishman. I was…I spoke with him and met him at a conference last year and we really hit it off. We had some–you could say–interesting conversations over beers. And it turned out that he used to run a really successful recruitment agency and now, he’s gone off and done his own thing and doing bits and pieces. But what I really want to talk to him about is sales.
Now, if you check out episode number 92 with Ben Chaib, that’s another amazing episode that we talk about sales. And that was such a well-received episode that I had to get another sales expert on here. And same with Gary Tramer from episode number 86. So sales is everything. Sales is the lifeblood of your business and if you can’t sell your product or your service, you’re in a bit of trouble. And that’s why I asked Matthew to come on, because he’s got an interesting framework. It’s really, really solid as well.
And we’re pretty big on understanding sales processes and things like that here at Foundr, because I think it’s really, really important. And sales is one of the greatest skills that you can learn that you can take with you wherever you go. And if you’ve got an amazing product or service, you’re doing that person…remember, you’re doing that person a disservice if you don’t let them know about it. And…yeah. So Matthew goes through his background, it was really interesting. He was…He had a really successful business and he gave it up, because it just wasn’t him. And now, he’s gone off and done all these other things, so it’s really interesting.
And we talk everything sales, he gives you a great process and framework for you guys to follow, which I think you’ll love. So before we jump into today’s episode, I just wanted to let you know we are working on many different courses and products at Foundr. And one in particular that I know you guys might be interested in is…it’s a “how to start an e-commerce-based business” course, how to start from scratch. It’s called “Start and Scale.” We actually found from our audience that 30% of you guys…of hundreds of thousands of people that follow the brand on our email list and our newsletter, 30% of you guys haven’t even started a business yet. So we want to help solve that problem, so we’ve found someone who’s an absolute superstar.
I won’t reveal who that is yet, but this person has built and launched multiple…many different…multiple seven-figure e-commerce businesses and brands and you’re in for an absolute treat. So if you’d like to know more about this course and you’re interested in entrepreneurship and you haven’t started, or you might be saying, “I want to start a business, don’t know where to start,” or you’re not feeling it with your e-commerce business or your online store, just sign up at foundrmag.com/ecommerce. So foundermag.com/ecommerce. And you’ll be notified when this course goes live and you can jump in and get an early bird special price, super discounted just for you guys. All right, guys. Now, let’s jump into the show.
The first thing I ask every one that comes on is, how’d you get your job?
Matthew: Well, I fell into it. It was a…it’s been a series of evolutions. It’s been an evolutionary process. Back in 2006, I started a recruitment company. And that was a result of being a recruiter and thinking, “Hey, I’m fed up with the boss making all the money. I think I could probably do this.” So I got a partner to invest, opened a company with table football and big bean bags and a comfy sofa, so I knew we were going to be a great success. And actually, the company is still a huge success. None of the original owners or founders are involved in it anymore and I was the first to jump ship, because it was killing me.
And that…you know, becoming a company owner in a sales industry–professional services, recruitment, corporate sales–was a result of discovering sales. When I was much younger, maybe 23 years old, I started working in timeshare and that taught me to fall in love with the psychology of selling. Really, it was an awful, predatory, aggressive, hungry industry full of dodgy characters and dubious tax write-offs. And we sold very hard, we’d use films like “Boiler Room.” And I guess that was the precursor to based on the same story, right? We’d use that as our training video: “Glengarry Glen Ross,” stuff like this.
And I fell in love with selling, but absolutely hated the industry. I mean, it was an evil industry to be involved in. And I’ve still got some good friends who work in timeshare, we just don’t hang out anymore, right? And prior to that, that had come from when I was a kid. I used to go out and juggle in the street turn pocket money, because I realized if my dad was going to give me if a fiver once a week–which would have been a great week, by the way, it was more like a few cents or a few pence–I could earn multiples of that by taking my hat to the public, performing for them and encouraging them to give me money. So it was really an evolution.
And when I realized that I my sales ability to the limit…which is when I tapped out as sales manager. “Oh, I’ve put you in the sales manager hold.” “Ugh…” I’m tapping out, right? That was when I said, “That’s enough. I can’t cope with this. I can’t cope with sales management.” I need to go back to doing the selling, but doing it in a way that meant I wasn’t dependent upon a partner or a boss or something like that. So I took what I knew and I became a sales trainer and that’s where I am today. And people often have the conversation with me…they’re like, “Well, aren’t sales trainers just failed salespeople?” If you can’t do, teach, right?
I will tell you that in many cases, that’s actually true. If you look at…no, not always, but often…if you look at in-house sales trainers–employed sales trainers–they are not likely to be the most competent salespeople in the world. Firstly, I don’t think that’s a problem. I think you could be a very good teacher, just not a very good doer. It’s like the cobbler’s kids’ shoes or whatever the story is. You know, the guy who makes the most beautiful shoes wears…his kids wear crappy shoes, all right? It doesn’t mean he can’t make good shoes. Also, if you’re a good teacher, you might have a better…you might be more patient, you might have a better way of phrasing things and some people innately gets it.
But I will defend myself by saying that any…and the other self-employed salespeople…I would say if you’re a self-employed sales trainer, then you’re dependent upon your own sales skills to get your customers.
Nathan: Yeah, no, I can see…for everyone listening, me and Matthew are friends. And we met earlier this year in the Philippines and we had a really good time. And he’s a really good sales guy. He’s a man of many, many unknown talents, but selling is one of them. So I wanted him to get up…wanted to ask him to here about his journey and talk to us about selling and–you name it–sales, because this is the lifeblood of every business.
And before we talk about that though, I…me and you had a really good conversation over probably a few too many mojitos and beers in the Philippines. And that was around your recruitment agency, because that was a multimillion-dollar company. And you said to me, “Nathan…” even when you were really “crushing it,” maybe, it wasn’t everything that you maybe dreamed or anticipated or told yourself it would be.
Matthew: Yeah, absolutely right. And a couple of disclaimers that go with that. Yes, we were multimillion revenue from day one. And as you know, revenue doesn’t equal profit, right? So we did sell…we sold millions of euros in the first year, doubled it in the second year. Third year, it was on to do even more, but I jumped ship before the end of the year. And there were a couple of issues, but really…but my biggest mistake…I’ll tell you the biggest lesson learned is that I didn’t employ a general manager. That was the biggest problem.
I thought that because I’m the owner, I also have to be the manager. And I see many of my clients making a similar mistake and I’m happy to jump in and say, “Listen, listen. Why are you killing yourself with the admin, with the recruitment, with the hiring, with the financing? Why are you making decisions about which office to take? Where are you running the lunch run? Why don’t you employ a general manager or a series of managers to take care of this?” I believe that if I’d just kept myself as Head of Sales or Head of Head of Business Development, I employed someone to do the general manager role, then I may still be there today.
However, Nathan, and that’s really why it was the biggest headache, because I didn’t know what I was doing. And the counsel I was getting, either I wasn’t listening to or it wasn’t correct for me, because everyone’s got an opinion, right? And so, I was getting counsel from various individuals and nothing really sounded right. And I felt the only thing left was to jump. Now, do I look back on it and say, “Do I wish that I’d stuck around?” No, not so much. I don’t. I see…
Nathan: A little bit?
Matthew: No, absolutely not. I don’t regret it a little bit. What I do think is, “Why did I make it difficult on myself by starting all over again,” right? “I had a good thing, why didn’t I just run with it?” And honestly, Nathan, I think you perhaps know me well enough to say that, “If Kimberley’s not interested in doing something, there’s very little chance he’s going to do it.” Not known for getting overly enthusiastic about many things and I just wasn’t interested enough.
The prospect of sitting and discussing mainframe infrastructure projects with large banks over endless meetings didn’t excite me in the slightest. And the prospect of being responsible…this was a big one for me…managing and being responsible for other people. You know, what I hated more than anything, ever in the world…and it still makes me cringe when I think about it, now…and that’s firing underperforming people or firing anybody. Firing people sucks. Anybody who says that firing people doesn’t suck is a liar or a psychopath.
And I maybe should have gotten somebody to do it for me, but I was still the owner, I was still the totem head, I was the iconic face of the business. And I said, “Right, that’s enough.” I was too miserable, I was too unhappy. I don’t look back now and say, “I want to run it.” And I always swore then that my next venture would be very, very streamlined and very lightweight. And I’ve remained true to that and probably suffered from…”suffered” is the wrong word…probably experienced less rapid growth than I could have done, had I been prepared to bring more people on board.
Nathan: Interesting. How many people did you have in the company before you’d left, where you think you should have hired a general manager or an operations manager or someone to run that side of the business?
Matthew: I’m thinking. How many people…? We cycled through several. Some people went, came and left. When I left, there were probably eight or nine people in the company.
Nathan: Yeah. It’s really interesting, because one of my mentors reckons once you get to about eight to ten, that’s when you look to get an operations manager or a general manager, or some sort of manager to…because it makes your life much easier and it kind of justifies it. It’s interesting, that number.
Matthew: Yeah, I had trouble from day one. I had trouble from day one, with the first two employees. And what I tell people…I was having a conversation with somebody here in Malta. I live in Malta, somebody in Malta runs a coffee shop here. They just made the decision to close on…they always closed on Mondays and now, they’ve taken a decision to close on Tuesdays. And this pisses me off, because this is my local coffee shop. So I say, “Why are you closing on Tuesdays as well? Why don’t you just hire somebody that can run it for you?”
Because they’d put up a big sign saying, you know, “In the interest of work-life balance and family unity, we’ve decided we’re not going to open on Tuesdays as well as Mondays.” Well, this is ludicrous. I said, “Why don’t you grow? Why don’t you just employ someone?” And they say…and the answer was, “Well, no, we can’t do it, because we can’t find anyone who can run it like us.” And I said…well, we know that it’s possible, because other multiple-location food and beverage companies exist, right?
The owner of McDonald’s is dead, yet there are thousands of McDonald’s all around…sorry, the founder of McDonald’s is dead and yet, there are thousands of McDonald’s franchises all over the globe. We know that it’s possible. And so, what…and so, I would berate my clients or my customers for forgoing profits in the interest of not hiring staff or not believing hiring staff is possible. And yet, perhaps I was guilty of the same thing back in the day.
Nathan: Hmm, interesting. Before we move on to sales, personal brands, all the cool stuff you’re doing now, I’m curious: how many people did you fire, man?
Matthew: Too many. Maybe five or six.
Nathan: Why did it feel so bad?
Matthew: I knew it was the right thing to do and I know that no job is guaranteed. You don’t have tenure in any job, unless you do. And I think that’s a mistake anyway. I felt bad because our hiring policy was very clear. We didn’t hire experienced salespeople or recruiters, we hired newbies. There was an exception. We opened a second division of the company where we took an experienced person and put them in charge, but we hired newbies and we trained them up. And I felt that if they didn’t manage to produce results in spite of my training, then it was a personal failure.
Also, being fired sucks. You’re looking somebody in the eye and saying, “I don’t…you are no longer of sufficient value to this organization that the organization is prepared to keep paying for you,” which is an awful thing to tell anybody. I’m not saying that people who are…like, we had a guy drinking on the job once. We had a…we hired a girl… And he stuck around, right, until he didn’t. That was creative. He just didn’t understand. There was beer in the fridge, he didn’t understand the beer in the fridge was not for Monday morning, right? He just…I probably should have been more clear about that.
We had a girl who started, who I think…you know, I genuinely think that she had psychological problems, to the extent where we had to close down the office one morning, in case she was waiting for us to execute violence upon us. And I felt bad about that and I fired her by email, right? And…
Matthew: No, no. I mean, this was a serious thing. We ended up calling the authorities and things at one point with this poor girl. But it’s never a pleasant thing to do. I didn’t feel a responsibility towards them as a kind of donor or a benevolent, charitable giver towards them. I just felt I had somehow failed them by failing to recruit them properly or train them up properly.
Matthew: I wouldn’t feel bad if someone was being a douche, but we hired well enough that people weren’t a douche and probably not enough. We didn’t hire enough, through having 15, 20 hires total. Some stayed, some didn’t. We didn’t hire enough to experience the full shebang of douche-baggery that I’m sure exists in the world. But if someone had been a complete douche, I would have happily let them go. But it was firing good people who are underperforming on sales targets, that really killed me.
Nathan: Let’s switch gears. Can you sell without being slimy?
Matthew: Absolutely, categorically yes, you can. And I think the proof, Nathan, is that you buy stuff, right, probably on a daily basis, as do all of us. The people who are listening to this buy stuff on a daily basis. And how many times do they come away from that feeling, “Yuck, I’ve got to take a shower,” or, “I’ve got to have a steam wash,” or, “I’ve got to be de-slimed?” Almost never, to the point that when it does happen, it really sticks in our brain. Why? Because it’s an irregular occurrence. So if us, as consumers, don’t feel like we’re covered in ectoplasm after entering into a buyer-purchaser relationship, why is it that so many salespeople have got this hang-up that the minute they encounter prospects, they’re going to cover them in ectoplasm?
Nathan: Why? I don’t know. Yeah, why is that?
Matthew: Yeah. Yeah, why is that? That’s what I’d like to know. When we have a negative experience with a salesperson, then that takes in the craw. It remains stuck in our brain as being an example of what we don’t want to do. And so, we start to compensate–we overcompensate–for not being slimy by either never making a sales offer, or by making a weak sales offer, just because we don’t want to be that slimeball who once pissed us off, or the kind of traditional car salesman that goes down in folklore and is on every…every TV show, there’s always a dodgy, ambulance-chasing lawyer or a slimy salesperson or an ethical train crash of a financial services provider. They make good TV baddies.
They make good TV baddies, so we overcompensate for that and say, “Sales equals slime. Therefore, in order to not be slimy, I’m going to not make sales offers.” And this is problematic. So I think the people who very rarely come across or who have the least…let me say…rephrase that. The people…the salespeople who most rarely experience the “Am I a slimy salesperson” doubt are the people who are confident about the value of their product. I think if you have…and I think it genuinely is a confidence issue.
If you are not sure if your product or service is for the person who’s in front of you, you’re going to have to go out of kilter with what you believe is best for the person in front of you or the humanity–the empathy side of things–by delivering them something that they don’t want or need. So if you’re a person who…because you don’t believe they want or need your product. If you don’t believe they will want or need your product, then you will have an ethical quandary, providing that you experience some form of sensitivity towards other people, providing you’re not a full psychopath.
So if you’re not sure…and this comes with experience, as well. It’s easier to sell something that has worked for a dozen other people. It’s easier to sell a widget that you use yourself. If you wouldn’t sell it to your grandmother, if your grandmother was in your target market, you shouldn’t sell it to the person in front of you. If you doubt your ability to provide that service, then then you’ve got to be upfront about that doubt and even upfront about that doubt with your prospect, if necessary.
But I still think you can follow a systematic process, even if you’re not 100% certain, in order to allow that person to make a decision. Sales is not forcing somebody to do something. Sales is encouraging somebody to make an appropriate decision for themselves within a timeframe that suits both of you.
Nathan: Interesting. So when it comes to selling, professional persuasion, where’s the first place that people can start? You talk about a system. What does your sales process look like? Can you take us through it?
Matthew: Absolutely right. Yeah. So in order to sell, you can either leave it up to the prospect…so you can say, “Right. Here…I’m going to stick up a sign that says, “You can buy my widget here,” and if people are interested in a widget, they’ll find out about it. And just in marketing, you can say, “Look, widgets for sale.” And people can come and have a look at your widget and you stand there with an order book and those who are ready to buy, buy, right? Or you can make it more likely that they buy, more likely that they have all the information they need by following a system for selling and many large organizations have these systems in place.
They’re called pipelines, they’re called sales processes, they’re called funnels, they’re called launches, right, where you make sure that you hit all the likely buttons, that people have the information that they need, in order to…and to build out some excitement and to give them an incentive to do it now instead of later, which is better for everybody, if you believe that they should have it now rather than later. So…or, you can leave it up to chance. And too many people–particularly the solo operators that I tend to work with–leave it up to chance.
So instead of leaving it up to chance, you can lead them through the stages of the pipeline, the steps of the funnel, the process. And what I’ve done over the last 15 years or so, since I’ve been studying this off, is take all of the individual elements and piece them together in some kind of order which makes sense to me. And that is my professional persuasion program that begins…it begins with the qualification phase. So who’s the person you’re talking to and who are you? You qualify themselves and then, you qualify yourself as the vendor of choice.
Then, you enter the clarification phase. The clarification phase is when you actually let them know what they’re getting: what it is, how it works, what the numbers are for, how to turn it on and whether or not it’s for them, if other people are using it, if it’s appropriate, stuff like that. Then, you do…once they know what they’re getting, then you can just start to quantify that with prices and sales conditions. So you say, “Now, you’ve seen what you’re going to get. Let’s quantify what that means for you in monetary terms today,” and then, you close, right? And those are the four big big-picture steps.
So the qualification stage is absolutely critical. And I don’t need to torture you or your audience–I believe–about the importance of a niche, the importance of a target market, the importance of making sure that the person in front of you has the financial means, or access to the financial means, in order to become a customer. I don’t need to tell your audience, Nathan, that if you want to sell hotdogs, don’t sell them to people who are walking out of a restaurant. It’s kind of the basis of qualification. Is this person…does this person have the emotional drive, do they have the financial capability, do they have the situational need: if they need it today?
Identifying the last part–which is often neglected, but which I learned from my mentor, Michael Port–is, do they belong in my world? Do I want them…? Maybe if you’re selling a widget, it doesn’t matter. But if you’re selling a service, do you want to work with this person? Do they pass your red velvet rope policy or do they fail the douchebag test? So that’s important as well. There’s got to be a good deal of qualification. The more you work on qualification up front, the less…and this is after your marketing has done its job of bringing people to your front door, right?
Then, you qualify these people: are you allowed in? Do you belong here? Is it appropriate for you? If you do that hard work and really hard…another one of my mentors, Taki Moore, has a process called application selling. It’s like, if people want to work with you, they have to fill in an application. That’s great qualification, because they’re filling in the application themselves. You’re not saying, “Come on, come on, come on, come on. Come in, come in, come in.” That makes you a needy salesperson and that’s unattractive. That shifts the balance of power to the buyer, where they’re dangling the carrot and you, the salesperson, are trying to grab it.
It should be exactly the opposite way around. It’s like, “I’ve got something for you and if you’re lucky, you can have it. Oh, and not just lucky, but you’ve got to qualify.” When you go to the doctor, the doctor doesn’t say, “Choose me, choose me, choose me.” He’s like, “You have a verruca on your foot, but I’m definitely the person to do it. Let me show you all the verrucas that I’ve cured in the past.” No. He just goes, “Of course I’ve got the answer. And if you give me enough money, I’ll help you.” That’s the way I think that we should be approaching things. That’s the mind-set shift.
Instead of putting up prospects on a pedestal and kissing their feet, you say, “I am the prize and if you qualify, you can get a piece of me.” That’s difficult for a lot of people. And that’s why people fear being slimy, I think, because they don’t see themselves as the prize.
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And when it comes to qualification, do you think someone buying, like…? What are your thoughts on the ascension model: having a series of products throughout the sales process or in the funnel, having some sort of level-entry product or service or something to qualify them. So you don’t have to pay a nominal fee to be somewhere, or you don’t have to pay a nominal fee to fill out the application, or a deposit, or…what are your thoughts on those kinds of things, in terms of qualification?
Matthew: Yeah, I think it’s absolutely critical. And you’ll know, Nathan–as I know and any other person who’s sold more than one thing in their past–that your best customers are your existing customers. Anybody who is a happy customer who has already spent money with you and has gotten what they wanted will be more inclined to spend money with you again, because the element of risk has almost been annihilated. There is no risk if you’re going back in…well, there’s always some elements of risk, but it’s much less.
I’ve just launched a coaching program, Nathan, and I’ve asked everybody who’s come through…I’ve said, “Why did you join?” And a lot of them have said, “Well, because it’s you and you never fail to deliver.” And that’s fine, right? “I didn’t even know…” like, somebody…one person said, “I didn’t even know what it was, but you’ve never let me down in the past. So let’s see what you’ve got. I generally need it,” right? That’s the…great. So that’s…yeah. So the ascension model, can you…? Yeah. People commit. Commitment creates commitment.
Commitment creates commitment and people commit different things, right? You can commit money, but you can also commit time or energy or attention to something as well. One of the famous qualification tests…I’m trying to think of the name of the guy who told me about it. I can’t now. It’s like, all these kids are sitting and exam, right?
Matthew: And to pass the exam, you need to get 100%. And the first instruction is, “Read through the entire paper before you answer any questions,” right? And then, the first one is…point number one, “Take out a pencil and write “X” at the top of this paper.” Good. Point number two, “Stand up and shout, “Hi, I am here.” And people around the class are doing that. Step number three, “Do five push-ups.” And these people go, “Yeah, this is easy. I’m easily going to get 100%.” And then, you get down to question number 20 and it says, “Thank you for reading to the end of the paper. Do not do any of these questions. Hand in a blank paper.”
So that’s a great qualifier. That’s a great qualifier. Do you see why that’s a qualification? You’re getting people to…if you don’t do what’s expected of you in question number one, the chances are, you’re not going to pass the test. It’s the same with interview applications. We see this a lot. When you’re hiring a VA, I’ve seen a lot of recommendation would be, “Please follow the application of rules to a letter,” to a T. So, “I’m looking for somebody who’s going to create”–let’s say…I don’t know–“curate my Instagram feed. I’m looking for somebody who’s going to run my Instagram feed. If you think this is you, please submit an application of no more than 100 words and tell me what your favorite color is.”
And the minute you receive an application which is 5000 words and they don’t mention their favorite color, then you know that this person doesn’t qualify to work on your team. They have disqualified themselves by not answering the right questions. So when it comes to the ascension model, people can invest their time. You can ask them to read…you know, “Read this before you show up.” Or I have a friend who introduced me to action-based coaching, where I used to have a problem when I was a coach. I used to do a lot more coaching than I do now.
But the problem was, I would sit down with people and I’d go, “Right. So here’s what we agree that you would do before the next session. You’ll go out and you’ll have 10 sales conversations, then you report to me when you get back. Right? Good. Okay. So let’s fix our next meeting for Wednesday next week.” And they’d come back Wednesday next week and I’d say, “So how many of those sales conversations did you have?” And they’d say, “Well, you know, I couldn’t have any, because the cat was sick,” or, “I had an existential crisis,” or something like that. And we’d end up having a therapy session and I wasn’t good at this. So I said, “I need a better quality of client who qualifies themselves upfront.”
And I think it may…it might have been James Shenko, actually. I don’t remember. And…it could well have been. He was like, “Well, why not try something else? Why not qualify them for every single call?” Which is, “Okay, here’s what you need to do. At the end of our session, you agreed to go away and have 10 sales conversations and try this approach.” “Yes.” “Good. When you’ve done that, send me the report and we’ll schedule our next call. But you can’t have your next call until you’ve done that.” So that’s an ascension model. You can ascend to the next call if you have followed through.
I think it’s very important to allow people to make investments…and this comes directly from Michael Port, who I worked with for six years at Book yourself Solid. This is directly his quotes. It’s not mine, but it stuck with me. “People will make investments that are directly proportionate to the amount of trust that you have earned.” So if you’re asking somebody to invest $5000 and they’ve never met you before, then that might be asking too much. If you’re asking them to invest 15 minutes to watch a video or to fill in an application form, that might feel right for them.
And here’s the thing, trust develops at different times for different people. So I stand up on stage, I give a keynote of 45 minutes to a crowd of people who’ve never met me before. One person comes up to me and says, “I want you to be my private coach,” and I say, “That’s $30,000 a year,” and they say, “Hmm…” yes or no, right? But some of them say, “Yes.” Some of them say, “Okay, that’s great. No problem.” And I say, “But you’ve only known me for 45 minutes. How do you know it’s right?” And they go, “I just know.” We haven’t even had a conversation, right? So it took 45 minutes for $30,000 worth of trust to be developed, right?
Then, I’ve been running a mailing list for probably five or six years as well. I’ll have somebody write to me maybe once a month and say, “Hey, Matthew, I’ve been reading your emails for the last five years. I just wanted to let you know I really appreciate everything that you do and I just bought your book.” My book is 99 cents or $3.99 or something on Amazon. So it took five years for three dollars’ worth of trust to be developed. So the ascension model is important, yes, but I don’t want to stick everybody into a funnel.
If someone walks up to me and says, “I loved your talk, I want you to be my coach,” and I say, “Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. That’s great. But first, have you taken my survey and bought my $99 course?” I’m not going to say that. That’d be crazy. So yeah, I think the ascension model is really important, but I think we should consider it to be a…you can enter at any point, right? It’s a carousel, it’s a sales cycle, like Michael Port says, rather than, “You must ascend from one dollar.” If you’re ready to jump to the $30,000 offer off the bat, then you should do that.
Nathan: Gotcha. So what are some other ways that people can build trust quickly? Because we…I want to work towards closing this loop.
Matthew: Yeah. The other way to build trust quickly comes from…I think the most powerful tool that you have in your arsenal is your client list. Whether you’re working in corporate or whether you’re working in B2C, whatever that might be, I think the element of…you’ll be familiar with social proof from Cialdini…the social proof that comes with your list of existing clients cannot be sniffed out. Let’s say you’re working in corporate and you walk into a meeting with a purchasing officer–a procurement officer–of a large corporate organization.
And the only question they’re asking themselves–and they will probably ask you out front, up early, because they’re not…they don’t want their time to be wasted–is, “Why should we even think about working with you?” So, “Give me a pitch. Why should we choose your firm?” The most common response is to list all the features and benefits of your organization. So like, “We have a database of 400,000 active professionals who we’re currently working for,” “We have been in existence since 2001 and we have served X, Y, Z.”
I think a much stronger response is to just dangle that social proof, “Well, I don’t know why your bank should work with us, but let me show you that Bank A, Bank C, Acme Bank, Bank of America, Bank of New York, Bank of Ethiopia and 400 other world-leading banks in the world currently choose us. I guess you just…I just presumed that you would be interested in finding out more,” right? Or, “Why should I run your Facebook ads…why should I let you run my Facebook ads account?” “Well, you shouldn’t. But let me show you a list of names of 90 of our existing customers. If it’s all right for them, it will probably work out for you. Would you agree?” “Well, yeah, now that you mentioned it like that.”
So I think if you can dangle your client list through case studies, testimonials and also just names, that can work…well, that really works like you wouldn’t believe, done right. You don’t want to be that hungry, needy salesperson. I’ve said it before. If you can walk into a meeting confident that you have a solution that will benefit them and you just show them–you show them why it will benefit them–then that can build trust a lot quicker. What you say about yourself only goes so far. What other people say about you–and that includes your client list–says a lot more.
Now, what if you don’t have any existing clients? Well, then, you need to start to get some clients, right? It’s all…it’s more difficult in the beginning. But there are other ways of building trust if you don’t have more clients. And that’s through the voice that you have in the world, or I call them authority signposts. I use somebody who has written a book, I use somebody who’s written extensively, I use somebody who has spoken on the “Foundr” podcast, I use somebody who has…yeah, right? I’m going to dangle this.
I’m going to say, “Look, you don’t have to trust me. But Nathan and the “Foundr” crew trusted me enough to have me on their podcast to talk about it. So if they think that their audience can learn about selling, maybe you might think that’s I can teach you about selling,” right? These are the standard credibility builders. It used to be, back in the day, that you could buy a mention on an affiliate website of CNBC News, local affiliates in Durango, New Mexico…I don’t know where Durango is. You know, and some kind of tiny little town would mention you on their website and you could say, “As featured on CNBC.”
I’ve got some guy who’s still trying to sell me that. Every time I send out an email, he replies with, “Imagine Matthew Kimberley, as seen on CNN, BBC, CNBC, Fox,” etc. And he always spells my name wrong, so . But this is the kind of thing…you know, if you can be considered to be a talking head–if you can get a newspaper column, if you can exhibit the facts that other people are vouching for you–then that eliminates a lot of the, “You should trust me, you should trust me.” You know, if someone has to tell you that they should trust you, ask yourself why.
What about if you already coming into that knowing that this is a trustworthy kind of person? How do you demonstrate your credibility, how do you demonstrate your experience? Through other people saying things about you. That’s much more powerful than you listing off your own reasons to be considered trustworthy.
Nathan: Okay, so we talk about trust-building and rapport. What about the pitch? That’s the hardest part, right, for most?
Matthew: No, that’s the easiest part. Yeah. But it’s actually the easiest part when the rest has been done properly. So it is the hardest part. The pitch is the hardest part if you walk in with no rapport, if you walk in with no connection, if you walk in with no authority signposts, no credibility. It’s the hard part if you’re not exerting control over the sales process. So if you walk into a meeting and you allow the client or the prospect to bully you into doing everything their way, then it is more difficult.
But if you have set the tone…and I think what I didn’t mention earlier is control. The four stages of the qualification section of the sales process are qualification, connection, control and credibility. And control is critical. It’s so tiresome to dance to the prospect’s tune, a prospect who tells you, “I just need to see three or four different things and then, I’ll give you a call when I’m ready.” You say, “No, no, no, no, no. That’s not the way that we work here. We work this way. If you go to the bank because you want and need a mortgage, you don’t tell them, “Yeah, so just throw me some figures and I’ll decide whether or…” No.
They tell you, “You’ve got to fill in this form,” then you’ve got to sit here and wait to speak to somebody. Then, they’re going to try and upsell you on homeowner’s insurance. This is the way we operate here. You don’t get to tell your vendor how you want to do things.” I think that’s a…as a prospect. And this idea that the customer is always right is not a correct idea. The customer has a right to be listened to, but the customer also has the choice of places where they can make their purchase. So I think…I like to teach a lot of my clients how to control the process.
How many times do you hear, “Thanks, I’ll get back to you,” or, “Just give me a price,” or, “Just give me a ballpark figure, how much would it cost,” or, “Look, I only need you to do 10 minutes’ work?” And a lot of people drop the ball at that point and they’d be like, “Okay, fine. Well, I’ll just do 10 minutes’ work. And I’ll give you a price and I wait for you to get back to me.” Well, that’s a waste of time. You’re better off not having that conversation at all.
So what was your original question? Oh, what about the pitch, right? So if you do all of this work, where the prospect is qualified and you’ve got a strong connection with them and you’re considered to be credible and you are actually controlling the process, the pitch is the easiest part. The pitch is just like, “Here’s what I’ve got, here’s what it does and here’s how much it costs.” The difficult part is what happens after the pitch, which is getting them to agree, one way or another. But that’s what we forget, it’s one way or another.
Your job is not to close every person you meet in…to become a customer. Your job is to close every person you meet one way or another, so that you’re not chasing your tail, wasting time following up on prospects who are never going to buy. I learned this from the Sandler Training System. I almost hired a guy back in the day called Marcus Cauchi. The reason I didn’t is because he was operating in a geographical region that I wasn’t able to travel to for his franchise training.
And he told me…he said, “Listen, I’m going to…we’re going to have a conversation about it and I just want you to agree to make a decision at the end, okay? That decision can be, “Yes,” and that decision can be, “No,” but I want you to agree one way or another. Can you do that?” And this is a great way of exercising control. I was like, “Yeah, of course…”
Nathan: Yeah, wow.
Matthew: “…of course, I can agree one way or another. Great.” So here’s what was so painful. And he said, “The thing happens like this. We meet twice a month in London and it costs £3000 a month.” And he did all the other stuff right, “Here are some of the other people that are members, here’s why it will benefit you,” etc., etc., “but the price is $3000 a month. Now, he created his own urgency with me. He didn’t have to say, “And the price goes up on Monday,” because I’d already agreed to make a decision by the end of that conversation, right?
Nathan: Yeah, wow.
Matthew: Now, I might have wiggled out and I said, “Ooh, can I have a couple of days to think about it?” And here’s what happened at a previous step. He goes, “Right, I need you to complete this application form,” so he’s starting to get me to commit early on. I’m completing an application form, I’m doing a personality test…
Nathan: So this was before you spoke…
Matthew: …a personality test. This was …
Nathan: …before he said, “I need you to make a decision?”
Matthew: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So this was before we spoke and it was before…it was initially…it was before the initial offer, right?
Matthew: He was like, “Sure. In order…” It is the qualification phase, right? “In order to have a chat with me about whether or not we can work together, I need you to fill in this personality test and this application form.” So I did that. And of course, the application form was designed to heighten my fear and to elucidate to me all of the problems that I had in my business that I thought he might be able to help me with. And the personality test was just that. It was like a desk profile test or something, so that he could actually come back to me and be more relevant when we connected and forge a stronger connection.
But here’s what he said. He said, “I need you to complete it by Monday. Can you do that?” And I said, “Yeah, probably.” He said, “Well, you said probably, so it sounds like it might be difficult. When would be a good time for you to complete this application?” And I said, “Well, if we say by Friday next week, that would be perfect.” He said, “Okay, we’ve got a deal. And for you to uphold your end of the deal, if you haven’t completed it by Friday, we can’t work together. Is that okay?” And I said, “Yep.” So he doesn’t have to do anything, right? He’s not chasing anything. He has just…
Nathan: Yeah, wow.
Matthew: …made it crystal clear that this is my qualification. “You said you would do it by Friday. I need a man of his word who…if we’re going to work together. So if you haven’t done it by Friday, it’s off.” I worked with recruiters. Still, funnily enough, I’ve got one single client here in Malta where I live. I might go in maybe every six weeks for a couple of days and I train up their new hires in how to be good recruiters. And one of the biggest sticking points for them is how to get feedback from a proposal.
So they send a proposal–which is a person–they send a resume through, say, “You were looking for a programmer. Here’s a programmer, he’s available.” And then, they hear crickets. They hear nothing. They’re waiting for their decision-maker to give them a “yes” or a “no,” but they hear crickets. So I taught them that this version of the pre-emptive close–agreement to the next step–is what they should be doing and it’s working really well.
So say, “I’m going to send you a copy of the CV and I’ll give you a call back in 20 minutes to see what you think,” at which point, people either say, “Okay,” or they go, “Who, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. I’m going to need a lot longer than 20 minutes, because I’m in a meeting.” At which point, you give them the bone and you say, “Great. When can I call you for feedback?” And they’ll say, “Oh, well, how about tomorrow morning?” Good, you can then relax. You have no more pressure on your salesperson, you know exactly what their next step is. You’re going to call them for feedback Wednesday morning.
If they go…if they still push back and say, “No, no, no, no, no. Well, I need to discuss it with my team, we need to have a meeting about it. I’ll give you a call sometime next week,” you have a duty to bring it back to you again. “Great. So what…are we talking Wednesday or Thursday next week?” “Well, I don’t know. I’ll call you when I’m ready.” “I’ll tell you what. I will call you on Friday next week, if I haven’t heard from you. And you can give me a yes or a no at that stage. Does that sound okay?” And nobody says, “No,” to that. They just say, “Yes, of course.”
So what does the salesperson then do? Relaxes. Doesn’t chase feedback, because you know that at the very latest, he’s going to get feedback on Friday. The sales manager says, “What’s happening with this deal?” He says, “We’ll know one way or another on Friday.” And if we don’t hear on Friday, you send an email saying, “I guess you’re not interested at the moment.” And you say, “Okay, I’m here if you need me.”
So when you make the pitch, Nathan, making the pitch is very straightforward, “Here’s the offer, here’s how much it costs.” And then, you get them to say, “So, is that going to be a “yes” today, or a “no” today?” And if they say they want to think about it, you use exactly that proposal, unless you pre-empted it by saying, “You can’t think about it. You have to make a decision,” like Marcus did with me. But you say, “Great, I’ll tell you what. How long do you need to think about it?” And they say, “Well, a couple of days.” You say, “Fantastic. Here’s what I’m going to do. I make this offer valid for two more days’ time and I will call you on Wednesday, unless I hear from you before. Is that all right? Do you need anything else to help you make that decision?”
Matthew: That’s all I’ve got.
Nathan: That’s crazy, man. So finishing off. When it comes to the pitch, if the person’s qualified, you’ve built rapport, you’ve built trust, you believe in what you’re selling, do you try and make it a no-brainer “yes,” “no”: “Yes. Yeah, of course,” and then, you just ask for the sale?
Matthew: Listen, there are systems for everything, Nathan. There are systems for administration, there are systems for recruitment, there are systems for finance, there are systems for tax, there are systems for allowing employees access to the building. I just think if we have a system for selling–“The 15 Steps of Professional Persuasion,” for example–then we eliminate a lot of headaches, right: what do I have to do next? What must happen next? And these fit into the regular pipeline dashboards that people have, which is typically identify opportunity, initial contact, chat, chat, chat, chat, proposal, close.
These all fit into that. Whether you’re selling a nuclear reactor to a South American country, these 15 steps are going to apply. You’ve got to qualify the prospect, you’ve got to build rapport, you got to present them a solution, you’ve got to give it a timeframe, you’ve got to close at some point. Or whether you’re writing a sales page or delivering a webinar which might take place over 60 minutes or might be read in five minutes, the same system has to apply, because it helps move towards the close.
I think creativity in sales can be a very dangerous thing. In my experience, we’ve seen hundreds of employed salespeople. Being smart doesn’t always help in sales, because you start to second-guess, you start to think you can read minds, “Oh, this guy is great. He’s definitely going to buy. Oh, he didn’t.” “Why not?” You didn’t demonstrate social proof, or you pre-empt his objections, or he doesn’t have any money. “Why didn’t you qualify him better?” “Because he said he was…” “Yeah, it doesn’t matter what he said.” When you follow this system, you will find that you close far more consistently than if you try to improvise every time.
Nathan: Love it, awesome. Well, look, dude. You’ve shared so much knowledge, so much gold, we can see you definitely know how to sell well. Where’s the best place people can find you if they want to find out more?
Matthew: Sure. If you go to matthewkimberley.com. And you spell that with two Ts, “Matthew” with two Ts. “Kimberley” is L-E-Y at the end. Matthewkimberley.com. And what you need to do when you get there is just put your email address into one of the boxes that says, “Hey, give me your email address,” because all of my best stuff is by email. I mean, all of my best stuff is by email. I rarely blog, I don’t have a podcast or a videocast, but I do write killer emails on a regular basis. And they’re pretty interactive as well, so if you hit “Reply” to me, I’ll typically reply to you. And we could become like pen pals and maybe have a drink together one day.
Nathan: Love it, man. A, B, C, always be closing. Awesome. Well, look, thank you so much for your time, Matthew. Before we finish up, was there one question or any questions that you wanted me to ask you that I didn’t ask you?
Matthew: You know, Nathan, not today. I have nothing but respect for your broad-reaching intellectual interests and I never know which way our conversations are going to go. And I’ve been thoroughly satisfied with the experience that you’ve given me this morning.
Nathan: Thank you so much.
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