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Selling for Accountants with Nikki Rausch

Published by Summit Marketing Team on Sep 5, 2023 6:00:00 AM

The Modern CPA Success Show: Episode 100


In this 100th episode of the show, Tom and Adam welcome Sales Maven, Nikki Rausch, to provide tips and strategies for successful selling. Nikki emphasizes the importance of creating curiosity, asking questions, and telling stories to engage clients and establish credibility. She also shares her five-step process to a sales conversation called the "selling staircase," which includes understanding the client's needs, creating curiosity, discovery, proposal, and closing the sale. The conversation covers the importance of sales coaching and training to overcome misconceptions around sales and improve communication, providing valuable insights and strategies for accountants looking to improve their sales skills.


Tom (00:00:22) - Adam, this topic that we're gonna talk about is selling, and we've got Nikki Rauch on. Having talked to her already, I just think it's gonna be one that lots of accountants are really gonna appreciate.

Adam (00:00:32) - Yeah, Nikki's great. I mean, she's obviously a pretty successful author. She does a masterclass around storytelling and talks about curiosity. All things not only do we need on the sales side, but also on the advisory side. And so I think whenever we had a conversation with her, everything, you know, just seemed to parallel so much between those two worlds that I think a lot of people will get a ton of information out of it because, uh, yeah, selling is always a difficult thing. We can all be better.

Tom (00:00:58) - Yeah, I agree. And you'll get some very specific step-by-step suggestions from her. And I had the same reaction you picked up on that during the discussion and brought it up. But there's a lot that, when you're not selling, comes into being curious, trying to align a solution to what people are telling you, listening well, storytelling. It's all in there, but she wraps it up in a really nice way that I think people are really going to appreciate.

Adam (00:01:18) - Yeah, she's great. Let's jump in.

Tom (00:01:21) - Sounds great. Welcome to the Modern CPA Success Show. Um, I am Tom Watson. I'm one of the virtual CFOs here at Summit CPA Group. Um, I'm joined by my co-host, Adam Hale. Adam, welcome.

Adam (00:01:32) - Hello, everyone. Yeah. Hey, everybody.

Tom (00:01:34) - Uh, we're excited to have Nikki Rausch with us today. Um, Nikki is the CEO of a company called Sales Maven, a company that she started 10 years ago. She's the author of three books that talk about influencing relationships and selling. Um, she's also the host of the Sales Maven podcast. So Nikki, welcome to our show today.

Nikki (00:01:51) - Thank you so much. I'm excited to get to spend this time with both of you.

Tom (00:01:55) - So as a sales expert, Adam and I had talked to Mike Mellinger on our previous podcast just a little bit ago, and Mike was talking about selling in his business and had some tips and talked about the importance of sales training. But one of the things that I know and that we talked about is for accountants that can also often not feel very comfortable, maybe introverted, maybe feel like it's something I shouldn't do. How do you respond to people who sort of feel like, "Ooh, sales is maybe somewhat of a bad word when I think about it?"

Nikki (00:02:21) - Well, I think when you feel that way, it's probably because you've been on the receiving end of sales being done to you in a really horrible, aggressive, pushy way. And I will say one of the biggest mistakes I think people make when it comes to selling, and this is a misconception as well, is that people think that selling or sales is something that you're supposed to do to another person. And that right there, mm-hmm, feels weird and awkward because who wants to do something to another person that feels aggressive and kind of out of alignment. And I teach that selling is actually something you do with people. It's a collaboration, and your objective of sales is not to try to convince people to buy from you. Because again, that's where you get into that place where, ooh, that feels kind of weird and manipulative and uncomfortable.

Nikki (00:03:07) - But when you start to think that sales isn't about convincing, it's about understanding, does the person I'm in conversation with have a need or a want? Do I have a solution that would meet that need or want? And do I have their permission to offer that solution to them so they can decide yes or no about working together? And when you start to approach it with that, it's a much softer side of selling, and it's something that anybody and everybody can do. And in order to be successful in your business, selling skills are a critical skillset. It isn't something you can leave for others to do. As a business owner, you need to have the basics down and understand how to walk somebody through a sales conversation, get to the place where you put a decision in front of them, "Would you like to exchange dollars for services or not?" Mm-hmm. And either way is okay, but if you don't ever get to that part of the conversation, you're gonna miss out on working with your ideal clients. They're gonna miss out on the benefit of your services. And like nobody makes nobody prosperous that way.

Adam (00:04:16) - Yeah. I think that's an, and I mean, and we're kind of in the same boat. Um, but I do have a question for you because for us, we market and sell through education. So exactly what you're saying. Like it's all about just laying out first, you know, obviously diagnosing what the problems are and then prescribing a solution in an educational way. Whether you want me or not, these are kind of the things that I think would solve your problem. Mm-hmm. , and yes, of course, we do them. Um, and you know, that kind of gets people to that point where they're like, okay, well they understand what I need and they're, and they, you know, they can help me out. Um, but the big thing there is the first part. Like, so we spend a tremendous amount of time on the marketing side, educating.

Adam (00:04:58) - So we get a lot of inbound sales. And so when people come to us, they have a problem. So they're coming, you know, not to say everybody doesn't have problems, but whenever they're coming to us, they're like coming to us, you know, arms wide open and saying, okay, here's the deal. This is what I'm looking for, and this is what I need help with. What about, um, how do you approach sales, um, when it's more outbound-driven versus inbound? Or do you just focus more on creating that inbound funnel so that you can manage that sales call? Because there's definitely a difference. Like we've always said, it's very difficult for us to sell something to somebody like you just said there, mm-hmm. , um, that doesn't really feel like they need it or want it or know about it. And so that's always been an obstacle. Outbound has always been a bigger obstacle for us than inbound, obviously.

Nikki (00:05:45) - Yeah. Well, I will say I do have kind of a philosophy that your calls should be warm calls if you're cold calling, mm-hmm. and doing what I call is like the shotgun approach to sales. Like, I'm just gonna send out, you know, 5,000 emails and word vomit all over people and tell 'em why they need me. That's not gonna work. To me, that's a huge waste of time. The piece that often is missing, and I teach a five-step process to a sales conversation. I call it the selling staircase. I wrote my third book around it, mm-hmm. And step two in the selling staircase is what's known as creating curiosity. This is the most misstep in the sales process. And so when you think about outbound sales, are you creating any curiosity?

Nikki (00:06:30) - Because if you're not creating curiosity, the person's just gonna delete your message or ignore the message or just be annoyed that here you are, just another person showing up, telling them what's wrong with them and why they have a problem and why they should hire you. To me, it's like giving somebody a thousand paper cuts and saying, "Oh, bless your heart, you're bleeding. I sell band-aids." It's like, "I'm bleeding cause you cut me, and I'm not gonna buy your band-aids." Right. So I think you have to create some curiosity, and then from the curiosity, the person should be leaning in, going, "What does that mean? Tell me more about that. I'm wondering if this is something I would benefit from." If you don't have people leaning in and wanting to know more, then you really don't have permission to sell to them, and you shouldn't be selling to them, mm-hmm. Because they're not gonna buy from you. Why would they?

Adam (00:07:21) - Yeah. No, I mean, that's a great point. And that's why I say whenever people are coming to you, they already have that curiosity or at least that exposure to where once you start educating them, they become more curious. But then you're talking about the staircase. How does that work then when it is outbound? What are some of those tips and tricks to create some of that curiosity on some of those calls?

Niki (00:07:42) - Yeah, one of the easiest ways to create curiosity is, well, I'm gonna say too, it's asking questions. So one of the things that people often don't even think to do in an email is ask a question. So people treat email like, it's just my job to word vomit on you, so I'm just gonna talk at you in email. But that's not interesting to a reader, especially a reader who doesn't have any knowledge of you. So you need to ask questions that allows for their brain to want to answer. So our brains are like Google, just like if you go to Google right now and you type in anything, doesn't matter what it is, Google is gonna try to give you an answer. Our brains are the same way, but that only happens.

Adam (00:08:23) - Mine's not Okay,

Niki (00:08:24) - Okay, Adam,

Adam (00:08:25) - My mine can't go that fast. Adam, you're

Niki (00:08:26) - So special.

Niki (00:08:28) - Who knows what's going on. But I'm sure it's something wonderful in your brain, . And when you can ask questions, it allows for the brain to want to answer and come up with an answer. Now whether they actually respond to your message or not, that's, that's another kind of step there. Mm-hmm. , but ask questions. You know, I got an email this morning just actually right before I got on this podcast with you guys where this person was just telling me like, this is who we are. He introduced himself, then he tells me about his company and then he tells me what he would like to do for my company. That's not interesting to me. Mm-hmm. , I don't know him, but if he had approached it from the standpoint of like, you know, I'm, I'm reaching out to ask is this something that you would value? Having a conversation around, now I can decide like, oh, well okay, what does this mean? Or is this something that maybe I could benefit from taking part in, but telling me what you would like for me to do and what you would like for you to have happen for us when you don't have a relationship that's not interesting to me as a reader. So learn how to ask questions and you will find people will answer them.

Adam (00:09:33) - Yeah. I mean, I agree. Um, but I delete 'em both. Okay. So , so how does that work from like, and I get it from like the marketing standpoint. So are you suggesting like, it, it, it's probably better to be in person, right? Or on a video call or a conference where you can kind of have that compelling message? Or are you saying, no, it's okay to like have this interaction or try to create this because I do, I get kind of both. I get the, this is what I'm gonna do for you and you're right, I'm absolutely like, that's a fast elite and then I get the one that's more of like posing a question. And I do actually read those cuz I'm like, what's going on here? But then I usually still am like, I'm not self-diagnosing that as being a problem. Now maybe that's just me in that, in that particular exchange and maybe if that was a problem, maybe I would be more apt to respond to it.

Adam (00:10:23) - Um, but I think the other challenge these days is I get 12 of those a day. You know what I mean? So if it was like a unique message then, or a unique solve, then maybe, you know, that would be something. But these days I get 10 or 15 of those on LinkedIn a day and a bunch of 'em via email every day. So I just kind of get used to just, you know, deleting those things 'cause I'm just like, yep, here's another one. Delete, delete, delete you. Yeah. Um, so, so how do you get around that kind of a...

Adam (00:10:51) - The, you know, 'cause everybody just has that Yeah. Too much in their, the...

Niki (00:10:54) - Easiest in their, the easiest way to warm up your cold calls, which is the way that I find most people hesitate to do. And yet it's the easiest way to open doors is to utilize your network and ask people, mm-hmm, that know you, who believe in you, who are comfortable with who you are and what you bring to the table, if they would be willing to make an introduction on your behalf. Because I am pretty sure, you tell me Adam 'cause we just met. But chances are, if Tom sent you a message and said, "Hey Adam, I want to introduce you to my friend Nikki. She's doing some stuff and I'm wondering if it's something you would find value in your business," you are probably going to at least maybe give me a little bit of a chance to try to pique some curiosity.

Niki (00:11:40) - Like, you may decide to get on a call with me or maybe you'll have an email exchange with me. And that's because you have rapport with Tom. So I get to ride the coattails of whatever, you know, Tom's rapport is with you, whatever his credibility is with you, if he's willing to make that introduction on my behalf. And this is that thing that often people are like, "Ugh, I feel weird asking people." Well, you shouldn't because it feels nice to do nice things for people that you like. Like if you ask me right now to make an introduction on your behalf when I get nothing out of it, but I like you, so I would happily do that for you. And I would feel good if it turned out that the person I introduced you to, that you guys formed some kind of a relationship that benefited each other.

Niki (00:12:23) - I get, I get those the, like the, the good feelings from it, mm-hmm, and it doesn't cost me anything. It's just a tiny little bit of like, it's a blip in time to send an introduction that may open a door that I could never open on my own and vice versa. Right. So ask your network if they're willing to make introductions, and I don't mean sending out a generic message to 500 people saying, "Will you introduce me to everybody who needs accounting services?" Mm-hmm, no. Be selective, handpick people one at a time and be specific on who you want them to introduce you to. So if you're saying, "You know, we offer fractional CFO services and I notice that you have a connection on LinkedIn to so-and-so, and it doesn't look like their business is using fractional CFO services, would you be willing to introduce me and see if there's an opportunity for us to work together?" Chances are, mm-hmm, that person's gonna be like, "Sure, no problem."

Adam (00:13:19) - Yeah. No, I would and and I would definitely give, I mean, as long as it wasn't Tom referring it...

Niki (00:13:24) - Someone else, a bad check.

Adam (00:13:26) - I would, I I I would definitely make that connection and I would be like, I would, you know, hear you out. Yeah. You know, for sure. And so, so I agree. I mean, so that's a great tip to kind of get through, you know, some of those barriers because some of that stuff is uncomfortable or feels weird throwing out, you know, just tons of messages into the abyss. So being more strategic with how you're asking for those things makes a ton of sense.

Tom (00:13:51) - Yeah. And I like the investment. Cause what I'm hearing you say is that the shotgun approach, people see that, at least I do, right? I get messages from people I've never heard of and they'll mention, like you said, how about if you, you people ask me, do I want to sell the firm? And I'm like, you obviously don't know me 'cause I don't own the firm, I can't sell the firm. So you get these kind of messages like, okay, you're not on target. Yeah. We're doing those kinds of things that are there. But that specific approach, like I know you, I've done some work, I can see how that would help, asking questions. And I assume that also translates into the conversation when you're starting that conversation with someone, is that right? I would assume that would be one of the big approaches is not diving in and saying, "Hey, let me tell you all the ways I'm gonna solve your problem from the beginning."

Niki (00:14:28) - Yeah, yeah. Asking questions. And so in the selling staircase, step three is what I call the discovery step. And chances are, it sounds like with you guys, the way your leads are showing up is kind of at step three, like they're in that discovery process. So in the discovery process, the objective is not to sell. The objective is to understand the need and ask really smart questions that plant seeds for the other person in the conversation to start to go, "Oh, Tom knows some things that I need to know" or "He's probably the right person that can help me with my business" just based on the way he's asking questions. So your questions should be strategic. You should have a set list of questions that you ask, and you should get through the set list of questions.

Niki (00:15:10) - One of the mistakes people will make is they'll ask a question, the prospect will answer, and they'll start selling. Then they'll ask another question, and the prospect will give an answer that might tweak what they would've sold in the first place. So then they sell something else, and now you start to overwhelm and confuse people. But if you keep it really clean, I will say, like, don't muddy the waters, keep it clean. Get through your set list of questions. Once you have an established, like, "Okay, I can see a pattern here" or "I can see some ways that we can work together," don't launch into a sales pitch. Ask permission. So I usually would say to somebody, "Based on what you've shared so far, I see some ways that we might work together. Would you be interested to hear more about that?" That's me asking permission and showing real respect. I don't just go in and be like, "You know, everything you said to me, you should totally hire me, and here's why, because I'm so good at this and I'm so good at that and blah blah." And now it's like I made it the me show. That's not interesting to a prospect either.

Tom (00:16:04) - Yeah. An example I can think of that we do, and I think we do this fairly well, but a big part of our solution that we offer to clients is forecasting. So as we're learning more about them, that's one of the areas that we're in a sales call. You'll just understand, tell me a little bit more about how you do forecasting currently. What's included in that? What is it telling you? And often people say, "Well, I don't do any." And that's a place where you can say, "Well, here's what we do." Or they might say, "We are doing it, but here's something that's not very good." Or maybe it's great and we're saying we can continue it. But that's one that you can sort of get a hook where we'll tell them more about what we're doing and here's what you really should know about your business as you look forward. And to Adam's point, I mean, hopefully if they get off that call and say they didn't think we were for them, they still leave thinking, "I got something out of that. They told me this, they did a little bit of consulting on that, and I felt like that was valuable" even though for whatever reason they choose not to work with us.

Niki (00:16:53) - Yeah.

Adam (00:16:53) - It's usually 'cause we're too expensive. Yes. Yeah.

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Adam (00:17:38) - Um, so, di, so break us down then. Um, 'cause you're right, we probably start a little further down in the sale, you know, up the staircase there in the sales process. But what we'll typically do is whenever we get on a call with a client, we actually just kind of let 'em know what the agenda for the call is. Yeah. And we're like, "Hey, I'd just love to hear from you what you have going on. Tell us a little bit about the company and how you think we might be able to help or solutions that you're looking for." And then I'll explain a little bit about how we work and what we do. And if we feel like that's a good match, then I can even show you what the pricing would look like at the end of the call.

Adam (00:18:13) - And then people are like, "Cool, sounds good." And they dive right in, and we spend probably in an hour conversation, we probably spend the first 30 minutes at least just talking through what's going on in their business. And as Tom mentioned, like giving them advice, you know, un un, you know, we're not like being paid for it or anything like that. Just giving 'em advice, whether you use us or not. Like, "I would use this" or "I'd do that." Um, and then, and then whenever we get to the la you know, and then the next like 15 minutes or so, it's like, then we talk about how one of our subscriptions, like we're listening intently for just themes like you mentioned. And we're saying, "Okay, these are the kind of things that we think would solve some of those problems." And we walk through what those look like, and then we're like, and they're like, "Yeah, that sounds good."

Adam (00:18:57) - What does that look like? And it's like, I can probably explain it better. And we have a very rudimentary, like, subscription-based pricing tool, and the client can actually, like, do their own pricing. Like, we just kind of navigate it, and they go, "Yeah, that's important. That's not important," and they can kind of toggle things on and off, and then they can see their price. And so we try to accomplish all of that in a one-hour sales call, mm-hmm, which I know is a lot to, to smash into one meeting. Um, but again, maybe that's just because they're already on, like, step three whenever they come to us.

Niki (00:19:31) - Well, does, oh sorry, go ahead.

Adam (00:19:33) - How can we improve that? Okay. No. So, so, so just like thinking about that, like, where, where are we, where are we missing out there? Well, okay,

Niki (00:19:39) - So I'm gonna give you a maybe a different possible approach to your conversations. Good. And you can take from what, what you want. And I will say, if what you're doing is working, if you have a close rate of 50% or more, then it may not behoove you to make any changes. However, what I would teach is what you're doing at the beginning is what's known as a preframe. So I love a preframe. Now, a preframe for me is, you know, the purpose of our call today is to chat a little bit about what's going on in your business and see if what we have would be a possible solution for you. We're scheduled to chat for about, and then I insert a certain amount of time, and then I say, "Does that still work for you?" Now, I wouldn't give somebody a free hour.

Niki (00:20:19) - I, I don't recommend that. I think you can probably accomplish what you're talking about in 30 minutes or less. Um, because you should be able to establish pretty quickly like, am I talking to an ideal client? And if not, I'm just gonna bless and release this person so they feel good about the conversation, they leave happy, we leave. Like, I'm not, I didn't give up a full hour of my time. Mm-hmm, for somebody who's not a good client or an ideal client. So then once they say yes, that that amount of time still works, then I would say, "Now, in order to make this time meaningful and productive, is it okay if I start with a couple quick questions?" 'Cause I wanna lead the conversation, but I wanna get permission to lead it. Because if I just say, "Tell me about your business," we could be here for, you know, the full hour where they go, "Well, when I was five, I had this dream of," you know, and it's like, the story's super interesting, but it's also a big time suck.

Niki (00:21:07) - So I would want to ask the questions. And so again, you have, it sounds like you have some really smart questions that you guys are asking. I love what Tom said about this forecasting question because that's probably a good trigger question. Whereas most people go like, forecasting, what do you mean forecasting? Right? Well, now Tom just planted the seed that you guys offer something that this company or this customer is not doing yet and needs to do, otherwise why would Tom ask about it? So I love the questions. So you have your set list of questions, and then you could say, you know, based on what you've shared, I see some ways that we could work together, and we have a tool where we can walk you through, and actually it'll allow for you to see pricing. It's all really transparent. Is that something you'd like to do?

Niki (00:21:50) - And they're gonna say yes, right? And then you get to the place where you lay out the tool, and then you say, now based on it's got this pricing, it shows, and you go, is that something you'd like to get started with? So I'm gonna close on that call as well. And I, I think, yeah. So the difference here is, one, I don't recommend coaching and giving advice on that call. And the reason for it, I get, I get all of the, like, all the coaches out there that say, like, demonstrate your expertise. However, my guess is that what you're demonstrating on that call is just a tiny little fraction of your expertise. Cuz you guys have so much, you bring so much to the table. I always, I always say, like, imagine every resource, all your years of expertise, everything that you can do for a client.

Niki (00:22:38) - Imagine it's a big beautiful beach and it sits behind you, and every resource is like one grain of sand. And so you get on a call with a prospective client, and you give them a couple of grains of sand cuz, you know, behind you, there's this big beautiful beach full of resources that they're gonna benefit from when they hire you. But they don't know what you know, they don't see the beach. So they think those grains of sand are the beach. And so you actually lessen your chances of them hiring you because they feel like, oh my gosh, Adam just gave me all this gold for free. Why should I hire him now? I know what to do. But if they knew what to do, they wouldn't have been on that call with you in the first place. They'd already, they'd already have their forecasting set, and when Tom asked them about forecasting, they'd be like, boom, boom, boom, here's our plan. We're clear as day on this. But they're not, and that's why they're on the call with you. So that was my impassioned thing for not... No.

Adam (00:23:30) - That was great. I mean, I think that's a great way to frame it. And we do try to guide that first discovery. So we're asking a lot of questions, and we're saying things like, "So how do you do your forecasting?" And then they're like, "What forecasting?" So we're doing a lot of those leading things to make them curious about, "Well, what do you mean? No, I don't do that as well." And then with the advice, what we also do is we record all of our sales calls, and it serves a double purpose. Like, one, we say, "Hey, I'm gonna send this to you whenever you're done, and know that way if you have to look back at it, you know, recall what we talked about." But the other thing is, too, is like sometimes in that advice, what I'm really doing is laying seeds for when they decide to go with us. I hand it over to our CFO.

Adam (00:24:19) - Yeah, they listen to the sales call, they hear directly from the client what the problems are, and I've kind of laid like a little bit of a framework so they can see like, "Oh, good, that's how we should approach this one." You know? Now whether or not they believe in my approach or not doesn't really matter, but I'm kind of already giving them, they hear directly from the client, and they're hearing how I would approach it. They may approach it differently, but they've kind of, you know, so it kind of serves almost as like a handoff transition video as well. So that's the reason why we kind of do it that way. But I like the preframe instead of the agenda. I definitely love that. And I do like your advice about just making sure that we're being really intentional with all those questions upfront. So that's great.

Tom (00:25:08) - I'm curious, Nikki, that if I change direction just a little bit. So within our firm, we have a few people who do a lot of selling. So in the initial call with people, almost all the CFOs and many of our senior accountants are in conversations with clients where there's a change in service, where you have an opportunity to sell, a person leaves the company, or they're saying, "You know, I'm frustrated because this person never does a good job." And so there's an opportunity to say, "You know, we can do that. We can actually take in all of your payable invoices and do that, and we can price it." So I'm curious if you think about things any differently when you're like, "Okay, sort of everyone sells at some level, even though you're not in that initial selling. How do you think about that kind of people and maybe some of the skills that they need?"

Niki (00:25:47) - I think they also need some skills around sales because those are prime opportunities. I'm sure you guys have probably heard this, but you know, the easiest business to earn is repeat business. Sure. So if you already have an existing client and you have opportunities that you can offer more, that you can be of further service to them, the mistake oftentimes is people think, "Well, they know what we do. So if they want these other services, they'll let us know." Mm-hmm. , uh, no they won't. And they probably don't know, like maybe you mentioned it once, but they forgot because they're busy and you're not front of mind for them all the time. Sure. So these people that are in those roles have the prime opportunity to offer additional services. So these are oftentimes upsells, like, I don't know if you're working with clients on retainer, but maybe they need more services than what their initial retainer covers.

Niki (00:26:38) - So there needs to be that conversation. So teaching your team that is having those conversations how to plant seeds, how to create curiosity, and how to open those conversations is so critical to their success. Because I actually get hired oftentimes by agencies and teams where it's exactly like what you guys are talking about. There are retainers or there's this ongoing service, but the team, the account rep, or the person who's managing that account doesn't have any skillset around it. And as soon as you teach them, they're like, "Oh my gosh, I've been wanting to talk to Roger about this other thing, but I never knew how to say it." When you give them some skillset around it, now it opens doors. And this is really how you level up your business. This is how you scale to the next level. It's not that you have to go out and find 50, 20, or whatever, new clients. It's like, what do we have on our existing roster, and what else can we offer to them?

Adam (00:27:39) - Mm-hmm. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So help us, yeah, it does. So help us walk up the staircase. We're on step three. Yeah, like, keep us going. This is great.

Niki (00:27:47) - So, so the discovery is asking the questions, and then step four is the proposal. To move to the proposal, you need permission. So it's like, you've heard me say it now a couple of times, you know, based on what you've shared, it sounds like you'd be an ideal candidate for X, Y, and Z. Is that something you'd like to hear more about? Or, I have some ways we could work together. Would you be interested to hear more about those? And then as soon as they say yes, now you're in step four, the proposal. Now, sometimes, depending on the business, this may mean an actual proposal that needs to be sent in the form of a contract. It depends on the type of business that you have. But sometimes, it's still just a part of the conversation. So imagine it's still part of the conversation.

Niki (00:28:26) - Okay. And I'll give you both scenarios if you want. Mm-hmm. So it's still part of the conversation. So now I really step into my place of credibility and authority, and I recommend what is the best solution to meet their needs or problems. And the reason I'm emphasizing the best solution is that one of the things that people often do here when they're selling is they're like, "Here's what I think they can afford." No, your job is not to sell from somebody else's wallet. Your job is to sell what is the best solution that is gonna meet their needs. Now, if they tell you they can't afford it, that's a different conversation. But if you step into that place of credibility and you lay out the offer and you say, "This is what I recommend for you, and here's why it's this, this, and this."

Niki (00:29:12) - And then we talk pricing if that's appropriate in that part of the conversation. And then step five in the process is the close. This is the second most misstep in the sales conversation because most people get to four and then they kind of hang out. And here's how you know that you're not issuing the close language is, you have a bunch of, like, I have like, and I just had this conversation last week with somebody where she's like, "I have a hundred thousand dollars in business that's just sitting out there that I'm expecting to close." That to me is always an indicator she's not closing. She thinks she's closing, but she's not. So we need to make sure that it's really clear with a close. And so that's something that you say. If you're not using close language, people don't know what to do next.

Niki (00:29:57) - Or they'll say, like, "Okay, well, I'll get back to you." And then they don't, and then you're like, "Well, now they're sitting out there. Should I email 'em again? It's been five times." You know, all that kind of stuff. So you have to get close language out of your mouth. And the reason why this is so important is we have what's known as decision fatigue. You know, we all have it, right? I don't know if you guys have heard the stats about how many decisions on a day an average adult makes. Have you heard the stats around this? I don't think so.

Niki (00:30:25) - Huh? If you had to guess, what would you say? Think about your own day. How many decisions in a day do you guys each think you make?

Adam (00:30:32) - You're gonna say it's like a massive number.

Tom (00:30:35) - I'd say like a hundred decisions a day is what I would say. Yeah.

Niki (00:30:38) - Tom says a hundred. That's what I'd say. Adam, you say 102. Yeah, that's what was stuck in my head.

Tom (00:30:41) - I guess you say it's higher than that.

Niki (00:30:44) - Well, they say the average adult makes up to 35,000 decisions a day.

Tom (00:30:48) - Oh wow. I was gonna go high on you and say like a thousand to throw you off and make you come down, but...

Niki (00:30:54) - You were trying to be nice to me.

Tom (00:30:56) - I'm very below average. Yeah. I think daughters might say a hundred. Does that count? The shorter decisions?

Adam (00:31:03) - Was gonna say, does that count how many your spouse makes for you? Or is that like...?

Niki (00:31:10) - Interesting. So, um, I've heard another stat where it said it can be up to 60,000. I always think people who are parents probably make the higher amount. Oh, interesting. You know, if you've got little kids at home. But now here's the thing about decisions. That's a lot of decisions in a day. Yeah. And our brains, it's been proven, our brains are lazy. Our brains want to do the minimal amount of work. So if you don't put a decision in front of somebody in the form of a closed question, oftentimes they won't decide because they're overwhelmed with decisions. But if you make it really easy for them to decide in the moment, they're more likely to make that decision. But if you don't make it easy for them, all you just did was put something on their to-do list. And if they have 35,000 decisions to get through in a day, what are the chances you're ever gonna get to the top of their to-do list? Yeah. None. Like it's so slim. So an idea or an example of closed language would be to say to somebody, you know, here's what I would recommend and here's why. And then you say, "Is that something you'd like to get started with or is that something you'd like to sign up for?" You have to close. And then as soon as you close, as soon as you issue that close statement, then you zip it and you be quiet and you wait and you let the other person respond.

Tom (00:32:25) - Interesting. And it's really, that's great. So it's very common in what we do. You would come to us, describe your business, and we would offer the pricing. And pretty typically, it might be, say, $75,000 for a year for our pricing. It's pretty frequent that doesn't actually say yes on that call. There's, "Let me think about it a little bit" or "I have a couple of partners. We're having a meeting next week, and we'll discuss it." So can you talk a little bit about, okay, what does follow-up look like if in that moment they're not saying yes?

Niki (00:32:54) - Yeah, absolutely. And that's really common, especially when you're talking about those higher dollar amounts, that people are like, "Oh, there are some other people involved in the decision" or "They just want some time to think about it." Now again, you heard my stat here about decisions and you heard about getting on people's to-do list, bad mistakes. So instead, what I want you to do is great. When do you think you'll have that conversation with your partners? Or about how much time do you think you'd like to think about it? And then you say, "Let's go ahead and schedule a circle back call on our calendars now. That way you'll have had your time to think about it or you'll have had that conversation with your partner. And then I can answer any additional questions that come to mind for you, and we'll decide on next steps for working together."

Niki (00:33:36) - And then you get a time and a date on your calendar and on theirs to talk again. Because if you say like, "Okay, yeah, think about it, and I'll call you next week," well, when you call them next week, the chance of them actually answering that call is like slim to none. Like, I don't know about you guys, but I live and breathe my calendar. If it's not on my calendar, it doesn't exist in my world. You cannot just call me and get me on the phone unless you're on my calendar. It just doesn't work in my schedule. And most people, I think, are very similar. So don't waste your time and energy like, "I'm gonna try to track this person down again." Because they're busy, they're making decisions. So if you're on their calendar, they're much more likely to actually initiate that conversation with their partner, because they...

Niki (00:34:22) - They're like, "Oh, well, I'm talking to Tom in the morning. So just the accountability, right?" Yes. Yeah. "I better have that conversation." Or they'll actually think about it and maybe they'll decide it's not for me. Mm-hmm. And they'll cancel that call with you. Well, now you bless and release. Like, you weren't going to earn their business anyway. So instead of you spending a bunch of time and energy trying to track them down again, you know, when you get five, seven emails deep and seven phone calls deep, and you add up all the time you spent trying to get that person back into a live conversation with you, that's a huge time suck. Mm-hmm. But if you have it on their calendar, they'll either get on the call with you, they'll have a few questions, and maybe they'll have that one question, that one question that's going to be the tipping point for them to say yes to the $75,000, you know, year-long contract with you. You have to give them the opportunity to ask that question. That means you have to make it easy for them to get on that call with you. And you do that by getting on your calendars.

Adam (00:35:20) - And if they're hesitant to get on the calendar, maybe that's your good clue that they're probably not interested, you know? Because some people have a hard time saying no, it's true on the call. Yeah. You know, whenever they see the price and they're like, "Whoop, I was thinking it was $7,500, not $75,000." Yeah. You know what I mean? But at least you know, and they're potentially a little bit embarrassed or just don't want to say no on the call. But if they're hesitant to get back on the call, I mean, obviously, that should be a yellow flag.

Niki (00:35:46) - Yeah. If somebody's not willing to schedule a circle back call with me, I don't believe in chasing clients. I think if you act like you're gonna chase clients, it's kind of like, I don't know if either one of you have toddlers in your life, but if you say to a toddler right now, like, "I'm gonna chase you," they don't even know what the game is and they start running, right? Like, they're like, "Oh, this is some fun game." So when you act like you're gonna chase clients, they will run away. And when you stop chasing, just like a toddler, the toddler will get bored and go do something else. Or they'll inch their way back to you to see if they're still playing. So if you're not sure if the person is serious about like, "Are they really going to think about it? Or do they just feel uncomfortable or embarrassed because they didn't realize pricing?" And if that's the case, you just make it easy for them to go away. So if somebody says to me, "Hey Nikki, I'll let you know," then I go, "Great, I'll look forward to hearing from you. I'll be so happy to work with you when you're ready." And now that's blessing release for me.

Adam (00:36:45) - Good. Yeah. So ask for the sale, but I made a note, don't say, "What do I need to get you in the car today?" So none of that language, check. Um, one other quick thing that comes up a lot is conveying value. So do you have any tips? You know, because clients might ask, when you're selling, it's always about what's the ROI? Most of the time, you don't have to answer the specific technical question of what's the ROI. You'll get some people on the call that'll ask that. As long as you've been able to convey value. But, and I get that questions stir up those kind of comments, but is there any kind of tips or anything that you think you should have in preparation? We talk about understanding your brand promise and your delivery and all those kind of things, going into a call. Because then that helps you be ready to convey value. But do you have any other tricks or tips for how to get that across the finish line and really make sure that it's embedded in the conversation?

Niki (00:37:49) - One of the most impactful ways to do it is through storytelling. So have a story ready to go. And so a lot of times when you're telling a story, you can be telling, you know, it's so interesting that this is the challenge that you guys are facing. I recently worked with a client that had a similar situation. Here was the struggle, here was our solution, and here were the results. Now, even though you're telling a story about another client, the thing about storytelling is that storytelling is like the language of the brain. Our brains love stories because we like to make sense of them. And when you tell a story like that, even though you're telling it about another client, people will find themselves in the story.

Niki (00:38:35) - So even though you're talking about another client, they start to take on that story and imagine what their life or business will be like when they achieve those results. So storytelling is a really great way to convey value without being so on the nose, especially when people are getting into wanting hard ROI, which is probably pretty hard to give without having dug into their business a little bit. So you can talk about ROI for other clients, other things that people have experienced, and that will help.

Adam (00:39:06) - Yeah, no, I think that's good. I mean, because, like I said, that comes up quite often with people, like, you know, how do you answer the question of ROI? And in most instances, I'm like, if you get to the end of your conversation and that's a question, outside of like a controller or a CFO who is only thinking about the ones and zeros, you probably haven't conveyed the value prior to that point in the conversation. And so you really need to make sure that you, you know, again, understand what you do and how you do it. But I love what you say because we talk about storytelling throughout not just the sales process, but really what I think is my takeaway from the entire thing is all this great information that you've shared about the sales process and storytelling and how the steps work. I find a really tight parallel with the advisory service because it's like everything you just talked about in the sales process is everything that you really kind of need to be as an advisor once you go forward, all the delivery, all those kind of things. You know, you're more of a guide. When you're a technician, only people are like, it's the magic eight ball thing. They come to you, they ask you a question, shake it, and say yes. But when you switch over to being an advisor, you're trying to be more curious. You're trying to ask those questions that they're not thinking about. And everything that you've given us, all the tools about the sales process, I just think it doesn't just stay with the sales process. It should be embedded in everything that you do. Thank you.

Niki (00:40:44) - Thank you. Thank you.

Tom (00:40:45) - Yeah, I really agree. On the storytelling, I assume you probably have some, I don't want to say canned because that doesn't sound right, but you probably have some that you've thought ahead of time in your sales process, not just ones that come to the top of your mind. You probably have crafted and thought of these are the kind of stories that make sense and probably resonate with prospects. Is that true?

Niki (00:41:03) - Yeah, that is true. I do teach a masterclass on storytelling and how to like, gather your stories and like what kind of a story and when do you tell certain types of stories in certain instances? Like are you telling an expertise story to demonstrate your expertise or are you telling a story to help them relate to your other clients? So stories, even though, and if somebody's listening right now and they're thinking, I don't have any stories, you've got stories. I guarantee you you've got stories. But learning how to look for those stories and learning how to, to bring the story into the conversation in a way that feels very conversational and yet at the same time allows for the other person to make sense of the story, um, is really important. But having stories ready to tell is crucial I think to sales success and business success overall is, uh, people love the story and you have to have a few stories in your back pocket ready to pull out.

Niki (00:41:54) - And sometimes the story might not feel like it's a hundred percent on the nose. Like, it's like, is this, is this the right story to tell here? Unless it's really egregious , you probably should go ahead and tell it because again, our brains love story and we make sense of story. So the listener will find a way to make that story make sense in a lot of ways for their brain about like where, where like, where are we in the conversation? So sometimes I'll tell a story and think, we'll see how this lands and usually it'll land really well, but the Yeah. But the listener because they're like, oh, I totally know and this and this is what it means. And that may not even be what the intent of the story was that I was trying to tell. They get to make up the meaning it's not my job to tell them the meaning of the story.

Adam (00:42:42) - Right. Yeah. That's pretty key.

Tom (00:42:45) - So I, if we kind of wrap this up, the, I've taken several things away from this, which are great and at the same time I think of some parallels to our business. Like you said, we can give people advice and they might brush their hands off and say, great, I'll just go do that. But in reality, most people don't do it very well. So the sales training, sales coaching, can you just say a little bit about that? Cuz I can hear people saying, oh, there are five steps. I do it and even if I want to do everything you say, I'm probably not very good at it and maybe don't even realize when I think I'm doing this. So you wanna talk a little bit about maybe some of the benefits people get if they get a coach to help them with selling or actually go through a class?

Niki (00:43:21) - Yeah, yeah. It's, you know, I'm gonna use some of Adam's language here. I really think of this idea of being the guide. So a lot of times people think like, yeah, yeah, you know, I'm, I'm okay at sales, but if there's some part of you that's like, but I really struggle here, or this part feels uncomfortable, or the money conversation is awkward, or, you know, I have all these people who I think I could do more with, but I don't know how to open that conversation. Those are all indicators that with a little bit of skillset and a little bit of guidance on language, chances are you're gonna, again, just elevate your, your business to the next level. And I work with businesses that are, you know, kind of in that starting out phase all the way to seven figure businesses. And they find that whether you've been in sales for, you know, five months or whether you've been in sales for 30 years, I have people that come and go, man, just that one little, that l that little tweak or that little guidance that you gave me here that allowed me to move to this next step in this conversation.

Niki (00:44:18) - So I do recommend whether it's, you know, reading sales books or finding a sales coach mm-hmm. , whether it's me or somebody else, that you'd be surprised at how often you'll be able to use these skills. Kind of like Adam said too, that it isn't just in the actual sales conversation that selling skills are to your advantage. Sometimes it's in conversations with your spouse, but sometimes it's conversations with your coworkers, right? Like, I'm doing a whole training tomorrow for a team that has been struggling with communication and I'm teaching a lot of my sales techniques, but I'm, but I'm, I'm, I'm kind of like wrapping them in communication skills, but they're still sales techniques. Mm-hmm.  and all of these things will improve your, your relationships and your communication as a result.

Tom (00:45:02) - Yeah. I I think that's great. I, I think whether people take the individual tips and say, here's an error, I'm gonna improve or use this as an error to nudge them and say, okay, I need to go actually get better at this and can see the benefit. I think either one gives them a really good result.

Niki (00:45:16) - Yeah.

Tom (00:45:17) - Thanks. Yeah, Niki, thank you so much for spending time with us. Sorry, Adam, go ahead.

Adam (00:45:21) - No, I was just gonna say, I think reading is always a great tip. Um, but you know, obviously, the outside insight is really important. We sell it to our clients, um, and we believe it in ourselves. So I would definitely recommend anybody listening to at least consider that. If that's an area that you feel is a weakness, I would reach out and find a coach.

Tom (00:45:41) - That sounds great. Niki, thank you again. Thanks for spending time with us today and giving us some really good learnings.

Niki (00:45:46) - Thanks for having me. And can I offer a gift to your audience if they want, of course, a little bit deeper dive into the five steps? Yeah. So I have a little mini-training where I actually talk through each step and discuss how to create curiosity in a deeper way than what we covered today. You can get that by going to my website, yoursalesmaevent.com/freetraining, and it's the "Five Steps to Mastering the Sales Conversation." I'd be happy to gift that to your audience.

Tom (00:46:09) - That sounds great. Awesome. It's a good demonstration of permission marketing, right? May I give this tip? I love it. You practice what you preach. That's wonderful.

Adam (00:46:16) - Dang it. I didn't even pick up on that, Tom. Great.

Tom (00:46:19) - Thanks again. I hope you have a great day.

Niki (00:46:20) - Thanks for having me, guys.

Tom (00:46:22) - Thank you.

MCPA-- Episode 100--Nikki Rausch (1)


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