Episode 600: Why you need a Trojan Horse of Sales, with Stephen Woessner
Stephen is the CEO of Predictive ROI and the host of the Onward Nation podcast. He is the author of three bestselling books including the recently released Profitable Podcasting. He is also a speaker, trainer, and his digital marketing insights have been featured in SUCCESS, Entrepreneur, The Washington Post, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, and other media.
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Good Morning, Onward Nation…I’m Stephen Woessner and welcome to Episode 600!
Today’s episode is going to be a solocast — where I fly solo without a guest so that you and I have an opportunity to explore a topic with some real depth — and in the process — I can share practical and tactical steps — also with some real depth — that you can take and apply into your business right away to accelerate your business development with more leads and sales.
And we are going to follow that exact recipe today.
But before we do — I owe you a very big thank you. Seriously…episode 600!?!
Seriously…it feels like yesterday when Scott McKain and I recorded Episode 1. And we have had the privilege and honor — that we take very seriously — of being able to serve business owners in 115 countries with our daily episodes.
All of which is possible because of the questions YOU ask me, the feedback YOU send my way where you help us see what we are doing right — or — when YOU push us to go where we need to go in order to get better.
So before we get into today’s lesson — I wanted you to know how much I appreciate you…and how I do not take for granted the generous gift that your time and attention represents.
You make my team and I better every single day — so thank you, Onward Nation — thank you so very much.
Why Business Owners are Selling the Wrong Way
So now let’s shift our focus toward today’s lesson…and why I believe so strongly that business owners are going about selling the wrong way.
To help illustrate that…let me share a couple of scenarios that I see happening inside the typical business.
The owner is busy…so he or she doesn’t believe they have the time in their day to do “prospecting” so they hire a junior person, or several junior people, to run point and “get out there and kick up some prospects for us to sell to”.
The owner rationalizes their decision by saying, “Well, if we are going to scale this business…then someone other than me needs to be able to sell what we do.”
And the sales team does what they are asked to do. They research…they call…they follow up…they schedule appointments…and sometimes they make pitches.
And sometimes…they even close a deal or two giving them confidence that the hard core sales process works…and it does from time to time…it just isn’t that efficient or cost effective.
And you know what? That is exactly how I learned some extremely valuable sales skills early on in my career. One of my first positions inside an advertising agency when I was 21 years old was to go through the yellow pages (I know, cringe…the yellow pages!) and then cold call everyone in town…and then go meet with anyone who would listen.
I learned a lot about persistence and tenacity…and we closed some business… but I wasn’t really that effective.
So now let’s also consider another scenario…this time replacing the heavy lifting of hand-to-hand combat — that sometimes prospecting can become — with inbound digital tools designed to advertise and promote your business to a vast audience who doesn’t yet know you — where there is no context of relationship — but over time and if you invest the right budget — you will be able to win them over and they pick up the phone and call you…to become your next big client.
But oftentimes…this is filled with marketing hyperbole because it is not that simple as launching a Facebook ad and connecting it to an email sales funnel…then voila — you have well prepared prospects who are desperate to become your next client.
Logically, we know it takes more than one Google Adwords campaign, or one Facebook ad, or a retargeting campaign on AdRoll to earn the trust of your next client. Digital marketing is great — heck — Predictive ROI…my core business is a digital marketing agency…and we have worked hard to earn our chops in this space.
Relying on a purely digital model is the wrong sales strategy for a business, too. Because…what I oftentimes find is that the business owners who are reluctant to get out and sell are the owners who are the most attracted to an inbound or digital marketing model for what should be a true sales strategy.
The Trojan Horse of Sales Business Development Strategy
So let’s set these two scenarios aside for a moment — and instead — I want you to consider the potential impact on your business if you and your team stopped the aimless prospecting — and paused your digital marketing budget budget — so you could take some time to get really clear on who you wanted to serve.
Where you and your team sat down and made a list of your Dream 50 prospects — the companies you would most like to serve — but for whatever reason — you haven’t had an at bat just yet. And take it deeper that just saying… “Oh, we want to work for Harley Davidson!” Of course you do…and so do all of your competitors. Instead…you and your team need to get laser focused and say… “We want to develop a relationship with Sarah Jones at Harley Davidson because she is the type of business leader we most like to work with and for whom we can create the greatest impact.”
And then instead of unleashing your junior salespeople or a digital armada on Sarah Jones and your other 49 Dream prospects…you first reached out to Sarah personally to begin building a relationship. But not a cold call.
Instead, you will be seeking to build a relationship that is architected to remove all of the friction and uncomfortableness that can sometimes creep into the sales process. You will make Sarah feel valued…and most importantly…she no longer felt like a prospect.
Wouldn’t that be rock solid awesome for Sarah and for you?
And the sales process I just described…is what I call The Trojan Horse of Sales…and it has the potential to change the game for you and your business.
The legend of the Trojan Horse comes from the story of the Trojan War between the Greeks and Troy chronicled in the Odyssey written by Homer near the end of the 8th century BC. The story – which could be fact or fiction – is a great illustration of strategy and subterfuge.
According to the legend, the Trojan War ended in a stalemate because Greece was unable to devise a strategy to circumvent the city walls of Troy. The 10-year battle ended and the Greek army made what looked to be a retreat to their homeland.
The Trojan army investigated and found the beach abandoned. The Greek armada was gone and a large wooden horse was all that remained on the desolate shore.
The Trojans believed the Greeks had left the horse as a peace offering.
They gleefully accepted the offering and pulled the horse from the beach, past their impenetrable city gates, into the city square, and began to celebrate their victory over the Greeks.
However, a little due diligence by the Trojans would have been prudent. Perhaps they would have found the Greek strike force tucked quietly inside the horse.
The Greeks seized their opportunity late that night when they snuck quietly out of the horse and opened the city gates so the balance of their army could enter unencumbered.
The Greeks proceeded to sack the city. The story gave birth to the expression “Beware a Greek bearing gifts.”
The business development strategy for your company, if executed properly, will work in a similar way.
For example, a typical salesperson may have their access to a decision maker within a dream prospect’s company — like Sarah Jones in our example — blocked by a “gatekeeper.” Any sort of sales opportunity is thwarted and the salesperson may be forced to move on to her next prospect.
Cornerstone Content: A Crucial Piece to the Trojan Horse of Sales
However, what if you happen to be the host of a top-rated podcast — or a YouTube channel — or a popular blog with a lot of subscribers — and you are getting in touch with Sarah Jones — one of your Dream Prospects — because you would like to interview her about her journey, her secrets to success, and the wisdom she could share with others in her industry or the broader business community?
Well now, you just changed the entire game, didn’t you?
Your podcast — video interview — or article for your blog — just increased the probability of a one-on-one, private, 60-minute conversation with your ideal prospect.
But how did your podcast give you this “All Access Pass?”
Your podcast changed the game because you are no longer perceived as a business owner looking for a new account, and as an added bonus you’re monetizing your content along the way.
You are now perceived as a journalist and your show is a media channel – a conduit – to an audience the guests on your show want to reach and influence.
It’s as simple as letting the decision maker at your dream prospect wheel the horse past the company’s gatekeeper – and park it right in the center of the C-suite. You now have an opportunity to dazzle your dream prospect with your brilliance and intimate industry and company knowledge during the interview.
Your podcast has done its job. Now it’s time for you to do yours. Sell to Sarah!
And your sales strategy should be a blend of traditional sales tactics like scheduling appointments, making presentations, providing proposals, evaluating your sales team’s workflow in your CRM, and so forth — AND — employing some digital marketing tools, too.
So after your interviews with your Dream prospects, you share the insights and wisdom collected from your guests through research guides, eBooks, webinars, and tag your guests in social media so they can feel the love — and — the appreciation you have for their contribution to your community.
My Predictive ROI team and I call this process creating “Cornerstone Content” and it plays a vital role in the long term success of your Trojan Horse of Sales strategy.
So whether you are comfortable writing articles, recording audio, or being in front of a camera — you should…without a doubt…interview each of your Dream 50 prospects with the result outcome being “Cornerstone Content” that you can share to build your platform — AND — relationships you can build, nurture, and cultivate over time so your Dream 50 prospects truly KNOW you…they truly LIKE you…and most importantly…they TRUST you.
And all the while…you are also sharing your message publicly through your platform…and then an interesting thing begins to happen.
You — yes, YOU as the business owner become known — you begin receiving invitations to be a guest on podcasts, you get quoted in the media, perhaps an agent or publisher approaches you to write a book, you are asked to speak at an industry conference, and on and on.
All of this content forms the foundation of your thought leadership — and it is thought leadership — true thought leadership in today’s world of biz dev that separates the progressive market leading companies from the wannabes.
In a future solocast — I will share some specific strategies and recipes you can use to create cornerstone content as well as how you can plug it into your Trojan Horse of Sales strategy.
But for today…I want you see how the sales process in your business likely needs to change — and how if you put a Trojan Horse of Sales out in front of your business — and get clarity around your Dream 50 prospects — how you will improve your entire sales pipeline from end to end.
I wanted to get you thinking about that.
The Trojan Horse of Sales: A Case Study
To take that thought process even further…I am going to share a story of how the strategy of the Trojan Horse of Sales changed every aspect of biz dev for my core business, Predictive ROI — and in the process — took us to a completely different level.
It was a quiet Sunday afternoon in the middle of May 2015. I was sitting at my dining room table looking out the front window at my daughter and her friends having fun at our neighborhood playground.
All was well outside – but not inside. I was under a great deal of stress.
We had just lost a major client. And although every business experiences this pain from time to time, what made this particular loss so painful was that we were overstaffed.
The loss in revenue made our reality even more excruciating.
I had purchased the domain name OnwardNation.com about 12 months earlier but had no idea why. No strategy; I just felt compelled to make the purchase.
Funny how God whispers the seeds of inspiration into your ear sometimes and then just lets them sit until He is ready for them to germinate into some remarkable.
That Sunday must have been germination day. As I sat there at my dining room table, I remembered the OnwardNation.com purchase and made the decision that we would create and launch a daily podcast using that name.
Next, I crafted an enthusiastic, optimistic email explaining that Onward Nation was the solution we’d been seeking to turn Predictive ROI lead gen and sales activity around (mind you, I had zero strategy, only unbridled optimism).
In the email I set an aggressive launch date of June 15th. I closed the lid to my MacBook, and somehow felt good about the decision (or chaos) that I had just initiated.
Why chaos, you ask?
Well, I should probably share that the decision to create and launch a podcast in 30 days was made in complete and utter ignorance. I knew nothing about creating or launching a podcast.
Sure, I had been a guest on a couple of podcasts such as EOFire with John Lee Dumas and ReLaunch with Joel Boggess. So I knew how to put on a headset and open Skype, which comprised my entire body of knowledge in the podcast world up to that point.
Now let’s fast forward to launch day, Monday, June 15th.
Remarkably, we launched on schedule and the first day of Onward Nation ran smoothly. We aired three episodes on launch day: Episode 1 with Scott McKain, Episode 2 with 10-time New York Times best selling author Don Yaeger, and Episode 3 with real estate mogul Stacey Alcorn.
All three guests are rock stars and Onward Nation was off and running.
Several weeks later, I attended my Agency Management Institute mastermind group. By then, Onward Nation had aired 47 episodes, daily downloads were steadily increasing, and we had scored top rankings in iTunes.
I was feeling proud about our accomplishments. We had gone from zero to 60 in about 3.5 seconds. Not bad.
But we were missing a vital outcome: Revenue!
My mastermind group – all exceptional agency owners from across the country – asked me how I was going to make money from Onward Nation. Excellent question, but I had no idea of the answer. “I don’t know,” I said. “But we will figure it out.”
Then providence set in.
Two of our Onward Nation guests got in touch with me and asked, “Hey, could you do that for me?”
“Do what for you?” I asked.
“Build me a podcast!” they said.
Like any enthusiastic entrepreneur in need of revenue, I said…achem…“Yes, we can!”
So my team and I stripped out the branding and content from the Onward Nation system and replaced everything with our client’s branding, episodes, content – and voila! We launched two more podcasts and earned $26,000 for our effort.
Rock solid awesome!
Now, a smart businessperson would have said, “Hey, we might be onto something here. This could be worth pursuing.”
But I didn’t say that.
Instead, I returned to thinking about how we were overstaffed and needed to grow revenue. Ironic, isn’t it? I often say that if God wants me to get the message, He needs to take out a billboard or hit me over the head with the brick. Subtlety is lost on me.
In late October, one of those clients (Drew McLellan, host of the Build a Better Agency podcast) said to me, “The podcast you built for me is awesome. And Onward Nation is awesome. Why in the world are you not building more of these?”
In my brilliance, I said, “For who?”
Drew rolled is eyes and said, “There have to be more Onward Nation guests who would love to have a podcast of their own!”
He took the lesson he was teaching me deeper, adding, “Look, here’s what you do. You create a Silver, Gold, and Platinum Elite package…you charge this much, this much, and this much, and get out there and sell them to guests.”
My team and I immediately got to work creating the packages Drew had recommended.
And then providence struck a second time. On November 17, 2015 — I interviewed Wendy Keller, literary agent extraordinaire, for Episode 106 of Onward Nation. The conversation started out lovely – just what I had envisioned.
Then, suddenly, I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach and the air knocked right out of me. Wendy told her emotional and devastating story about the tragic car accident that she and her husband, along with their two children were in while on vacation in Europe.
Her children were killed, she was critically injured, and her life was changed in an instant. My legs felt weak. In shock, I didn’t know what to say.
Wendy had to be the strongest person I’d ever met. After continuing for a few minutes, she paused and gave me a moment to catch my breath. Then we continued the interview. I was captivated by Wendy’s courage, her commitment, and her resolve.
What could stop this woman?
When we finished the interview she turned the tables on me, asking about Onward Nation.
Why was I doing it?
What was the end game?
I told her I was planning to write a book that distilled all the wisdom collected during the episodes of the podcast. I could practically feel her smile on the other end of our Skype connection.
And then she asked me a life-altering question: “Hmm… Why don’t you write a book about how business owners can use podcasting to grow revenue and their business? That’s where the real opportunity is for a book.” Bam. Providence!
Quick side note…Wendy is the one who gave me the idea and push to write Profitable Podcasting…which we released a few short weeks ago…and it became a #1 New Release on Amazon.com in just 18 hours and is currently rolling out to retail stores.
So…back to the story…following the interview with Wendy, my Predictive ROI team made it a vital priority to accelerate the sales of our newly minted Silver, Gold, and Platinum Elite packages. We were on a mission to create a bone fide monetization strategy.
Our goal was to grow revenue, and at the same time, create a compelling proof of concept for the system that would eventually become this book.
We grew podcast-related revenue to $223,000 between November 17 and December 31, 2015 and built a sales pipeline of $380,000 during Q1 2016. We scaled our production and sales teams and created step-by-step documentation of our system.
And now we predict $2 million in podcast-related revenue during the next 12 months.
We accomplished this thanks in part to several amazing mentors who stepped into our path. We listened to them, and we did exactly what they recommended — and — we put the Trojan Horse of Sales to work and built a complete business development system around the entire process.
But your story of growing your business, expanding your platform, and building a nation of true fans can be just as amazing if you put the right sales strategy to work for you.
So in my next solocast…I will take this lesson deeper with more of the “How to” that takes you through how you can build 3 passive income models — but for now — I encourage you to take some time to consider the “Why” and how the game would change for you and your business if you were open to the possibilities of what the next level of biz dev may hold.
In the coming weeks, I will share our full blueprints or “recipes” for success with you. I will share each and every step we took along the way in complete transparency.
Not a single step will be hidden from you. It will all be here, in plain sight.
So before we go…before we close out and I say goodbye…I just wanted to say thank you again.
Thank you for listening…thank you for making Onward Nation what you listen to and study.
Thank you for making Onward Nation part of your daily routine — please know — I am grateful for your time and I encourage you to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you ever have any questions, concerns, or feedback on how we can get better.
Let me know what you think of the show — thumbs up or thumbs down. I want to know because that is the only way we can get better.
Until tomorrow — onward with gusto!