Sales conversations can be uncomfortable for most entrepreneurs, especially those who do not want to be constantly on the chase for closing the deal. Top-ranked business coach, Loren Fogelman, joins Domenic Rinaldi today in an engaging episode on making value conversations with prospective clients. Loren prefers to call a sales conversation a value conversation, stressing that entrepreneurs need to be seen by their clients as trusted advisors. Clients need to feel that their best interest is what’s at stake in the conversation and eventually make the first move towards closing the deal. Listen until the end as Loren gives valuable advice on transitioning from nurturing the relationship to closing the deal in a sales conversation.
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Making Value Conversations With Loren Fogelman
As we manage through this COVID crisis, perhaps more than ever, we could all benefit from a great coach or mentor to navigate these uncharted waters. I am being joined by one of America’s top-ranked business coaches, Loren Fogelman. Loren is on HubSpot’s annual list of the World’s Top 22 Business Coaches and has delivered talks and workshops across the US. Loren is also the author of two Amazon bestsellers, The Winning Point: How to Master the Mindset of Champions and The Success Solution: Break Through Limiting Beliefs for Business Success.
Loren, welcome to the show. I appreciate you taking time to share some of your knowledge with our audience.
Thank you. I’m looking forward to our conversation and how we can best serve your audience.
I’d like to learn a little bit more about your background, how you got into coaching and then how you got to this place.
I believe it’s an evolution. I never started out saying, “I want to grow up and focus on how to price services and help other entrepreneurs be profitable.” However, I did grow up in an entrepreneurial family. My parents taught me that you either live to work or work to live. They went into the work-to-live-type of model which gave me a great foundation for my path. What I found is that my education gave me all the tools and the skills that I need to do what I do with helping clients, being able to grow profitable businesses for having all of the pieces in place to understand what value is and how that applies to business.More than ever, we could all benefit from a great coach to navigate these uncharted waters. Click To Tweet
During my education, they prepared me to be an employee as opposed to an employer or an entrepreneur. As a result of that, I had to go out afterward and invest my own time, money and energy in figuring out three main things. How to network and be able to create connections or be able to attract clients to me. How to be able to price my services because I didn’t want to get paid by the hour. I thought that there was a better way on how to do the sales part when I didn’t want to be salesy. I’ve been on this journey of networking, pricing and sales because not only did it benefit me, but being able to have those skills benefits business owners all around.
Speaking specifically about sales, having been in M&A for as long as I have, one of the recurring themes that I see in most businesses is that they fail to build out a successful sales and marketing function. The owner had some particular expertise and they built their business or they bought something and didn’t come from that background. The sales and marketing usually is a stepchild. As you and I both know, it’s the lifeblood of a business. I’m curious from your perspective, what factors influence sales in a sales conversation? How do you approach that with clients?
The first thing I want to highlight that you mentioned because it’s important is marketing and sales are two different things. However, they’re both important. With marketing, you’re creating leads and starting to attract people to you, which is great but if you don’t know how to enroll them into working with you or the next step, then you have a sales problem. Whereas other people are great at the closing part, but they don’t know how do the attracting part. Therefore, they both work very well together but they’re not one of the same thing. That’s one of the mistakes that a lot of business owners make.
The other thing that I see is that they don’t have a system. Because they don’t have a system in place, they are doing things in their sales process a little bit differently every single time. It’s hard to be able to fine-tune it and get the best results possible. If you’re winging it every single time, you get into a sales conversation when someone comes into your sales funnel. Therefore, I believe that there’s a step-by-step system that any business owner from a solopreneur to large corporations need to have from very first engagement and all the way through to continue to qualify people and know where they’re at in their stage of readiness for taking that next step as they’re moving through the funnel and then you’re going to get better results.
Sales should be no different than manufacturing or engineering, which are all driven by processes. Sales is no different. That is a good point.
I want to go with what you put out there also with the manufacturing part. If you look at manufacturing, and it’s true for other businesses too, there’s always going to be a bottleneck every single time. As soon as you fix one bottleneck, there’s going to be another one. The only way that you can become more efficient in the production part is to become aware and be able to fix that bottleneck. That’s true in the sales process also when you have a system. You can figure out where the nuances are that you can adjust in order to improve your level of effectiveness. The only way you can do it is if you have a system.
How do you get owners to buy into the fact that they need a system? Where do you personally start with owners when they call you or you’ve been introduced to them? What’s the first step there?
What I look at with the owners that I work with is that I want to help them create what I call a value business. The value business has three different components to it. The first one is personal value. You have to connect with your self-worth before you can expect anybody else to see the value of what you or your service has to offer. The second component is value pricing where you separate your fees from time. I firmly believe that an hourly rate, the billable hour is unfair to you as well as to clients plus it disregards your highest value, which is your intellectual property or your expertise as opposed to the actual steps that you take to achieve that outcome for your client or get that result.
The third one is how to have a value conversation instead of a sales conversation. The majority of entrepreneurs that I work with, they don’t like the sales part. It is uncomfortable for them. They see themselves then in being a hunting position. Most of them don’t want to be chasing. They’re more relationship-focused because they’re in service-based businesses and they want to be in a sales conversation that’s more nurturing than chasing, but then they don’t know how to do the close parts. I teach them how to have a value conversation where you don’t have to sell and if you set it up correctly, your clients ask you naturally, “How does this work?”
Every business is different. You have a service-based business or you have a product. You’ve got to approach each business individually. How do you go about breaking that down with a client?It’s hard to fine-tune the sales process if you wing it every single time you get into a sales conversation. Click To Tweet
I work primarily with service-based businesses. I’m going to say that my answers apply to the other ones also, but my focus is service-based businesses. What I see is first, someone’s going to be reaching out to you. What you want to do at that point is have them answer a couple of questions before they get on your calendar to see if they’re a good fit or not. This means that you’re always qualifying to see if it’s someone that might be ready to take that next step. If the answers to their questions look like they are a good fit, then you go ahead and schedule an appointment to speak with them. If they’re not a good fit, then go ahead and give them a resource or give them something that will help them to move forward so that eventually, they are a good fit. It might be that they’re not an ideal client for your business and then you want to be able to give them a resource that moves them in a different direction, which is fine.
Once you had them on the counter and you’re in a conversation with them, you want to have a very specific guided conversation. The conversation is going to focus on three different parts. It’s going to look at asking what I call quantitative questions. This is the ones that are, “How much? How much is it costing you not having the solution? How much can you potentially earn if we get this working?” It gets them connected to the amount of money that they’re potentially losing because they have a problem, they’ve been tolerating. It also gets them aware of the value of being able to move forward with a solution. Those are the quantitative questions and then you want to ask qualifying questions which go more into the emotional side of it. This applies whether you’re a financial aid advisor, an accountant, a realtor, a marketer. You want to have them get connected to the emotional part of the frustration not knowing which is the best route to take or feeling that they’re distracted and not being able to focus on the things that will advance their business or what’s the cost of tolerating that.
The reason that the qualifying questions which dig into the emotions are so important is because people make a decision to move forward based on an emotion and then they justify it from logic. They’re going to feel that you can help them. They feel a connection to you. They start to gain trust in your process because of the questions. That will influence whether they decide to move forward with you or not. The third one is what I call qualitative. With the qualitative ones, it’s about asking quality of life because when there’s a problem going on in one part of their life, let’s say their business, it overflows into the personal part of their life. When there’s something going on in personal life, that overflows into their business also.
We want them to become aware of what is the cost of continuing to tolerate this and how has it impact other parts of their life. They’re not as emotionally available for their spouse or they are giving up some other very important personal activities because there’s more work that needs to be done or they’re dealing with this problem which is not resolved. Therefore, it’s affecting their efficiencies and how effective they are. We’ll talk about three different types of questions. The quantitative which goes into the numbers, the qualifying which goes into the emotional part and then the qualitative, which goes into the quality of life aspects.
What I love about this guided conversation framework that you’re talking about, not once did you mention talking about what your company offers, what services you offer, how you could solve a problem. This is all about staying focused on the client. What are their issues? What matters to them? Sometimes they don’t know. You need to be prepared to ask great questions so you could bring this out.
There are two points you made that I want to highlight. If you want them to have information about your company, send that to them prior to the conversation. It could be when you confirm in the appointment. You can go ahead and send some type of information whether it’s a video, a PDF, whatever that might be, even an interview like you and I are doing that helps them get some awareness about your company and the benefits. That way, when they’re in this conversation with you, it’s all about them where you don’t have to pitch yourself. This is positioning you and taking the position of being a trusted advisor. When you’re a trusted advisor, you are coming from the position of doing what’s in the client’s best interest as opposed to your best interest, which is very novel. It gets their attention. They very much appreciate it and when it’s a good fit, they will naturally ask you, “How does this work?”
You talked about qualifying prospects and potential clients. I’m thinking about a conversation that I had, and I’m in need of a particular type of service right now. I reached out to somebody and he was gracious enough to give me 30 minutes of his time. At the end of the 30 minutes, he said, “I’m not the solution for you.” One, I applauded that. Most people try to fit a square peg in a round hole but I also left the meeting thinking, “That’s 30 minutes he’ll never get back again.” He probably could have asked me 3 or 4 questions upfront and filtered me out. It could have still helped me because he gave me a nice referral. When you work with clients and you go through this qualification process with them, is that something they can do online? Is that a conversation? What’s your advice there to clients?
There are a couple of different ways. It depends on how your business is set up. One way is that when they first reach out to you, you want to have them answer a couple of questions to be able to see whether they’re a good fit for your service or not. That’s the first thing.
Is there a preferred method for doing that? Is it okay to do that over an email exchange?
I send them to a page inside of my website and there is a Google form there, a doc where it’s a questionnaire and they answer the questions there. Google immediately emails me the answers. It’s all automated. The other thing that I do when I’m not sure if it’s a truly qualified prospect or not, then I will have one of my team members do an initial fifteen-minute consult with them before they get on my calendar. That way, somebody else is going through some initial qualifying questions. If they look like they’re a good fit, they get on my calendar for a longer conversation. If they’re not a good fit, we give them a resource, we bless them and we send them on their way.We need to step into our client’s shoes and look at value from their perspective. Click To Tweet
It’s important because you could easily spend 30 minutes here, 45 minutes there and all of a sudden, your day is gone and you didn’t move the needle in a meaningful way.
Yes and no because even though this person took the higher road as a trusted advisor, not offering you a service, I see it as good business karma. First of all, he made a good impression on you, enough for you to have a conversation with me about this. It is going to come back in some way or another because that’s how he treats his clients also, He deeply cares about his people and he wants to do what’s in their best interest. I believe that’s a great business model.
I walked away from that discussion thinking that that guy gave me 30 minutes of his time and a great referral. Hopefully, I’ll be able to pay it back to him at some point in time. To your point right there, I’d look to feed him some business if I could in the future without a doubt.
I never go away from one of these conversations if someone is not a good fit and already feel like I wasted my time. I see it as an investment in the greater good and it comes back to you in some form or another.
As long as you’re doing the proper prequalification a little bit. We’ve talked a lot about value, but value is not equal for everybody. How do you approach that?
What I believe is that the mistake that most entrepreneurs make regarding having a sales conversation is they believe value is from their perspective because we invested so much time, energy and money into developing our expertise in our profession. We think that thing that we do, the product that we sell, the service that we offer is the thing that our clients value. However, what we want to do is step into our clients’ shoes and look at value from their perspective. Their value of us has nothing to do with the systems, the product or their service necessarily. Their perspective is about the outcome and the solution. The other thing that has to happen with value during this conversation, that’s why I teach about having a value conversation instead of a traditional sales conversation, is your prospective client needs to believe that what they have to gain is greater than the price you’re asking. That’s an unusual concept at first. If you do high-ticket sales where you are offering something that’s a significant investment for them, they have to believe that they have more to gain or they will make more money because they invested in your service than if they choose not to.
You mentioned early on in the conversation that it’s one thing to have the value conversation, but you also need to know how to close. Can you talk a little bit about that?
What I see is that there are two different types of people that come into the sales conversation. One is the hunter. They absolutely love to chase and close. They live for it. As soon as they make the close, they get bored with that client and then they move on. There’s the nurturer who loves the relationship. They have a little bit of a longer sales process because they enjoy creating that rapport and the relationship, but they aren’t very comfortable with asking for the close or the sale because they see it as a take when they’re more inclined to want to be givers. Because of that, what I see is that we want to make this set up to where it doesn’t feel like a bait and switch. Domenic, I learned this the hard way. What happened very early on in my process in 2009, I was just learning about value conversations and starting out in sales. I had a consult with a financial advisor who wanted to work with me. We had a great consult.
I asked all the right questions and he was interested in the next move. It came to the point of closing the sale. Somewhere within me, I could feel my energy changing about it because all of a sudden, I went from building rapport and focusing on him and his needs. When it came to the sale part, there was a switch going on within me about, “I have a new business. I have some bills to pay. I could use a new client and the money would be great.” By having that happen where I started to think about me instead of him, I lost the rapport that I’d been building with him this whole time. My tone of voice, eye contact and body language must have shifted somehow. I couldn’t stop it because I didn’t know what was going on, but I could sense it. He could sense it too. He asked me, “Why do you want to work with me?” In integrity, I was transparent saying that, “I know that I can help you and I could use a new client.” At that point, he said, “Let me think about it.” My heart sank.
We scheduled another appointment. After he left, I vowed to myself I was going to figure this out. What happened was, I went from focusing on him to focusing on me and what I needed to learn was how to remain as present and engaged in what was in his best interest rather than my best interest from the very beginning of the conversation all the way through to the very end. That’s what’s coming from the place of being a trusted advisor makes the difference. It’s not about a sales conversation any longer or about a close. This is about helping determine what’s in the best interest of the client instead of what’s in my best interest. Just like you had that experience with that particular person. If it’s not a good fit, that’s okay. I’m not looking to close someone. If it is a good fit, then I’m extending an invitation. I’m not trying to close. I’m extending an invitation and we’re exploring what that next step forward would be that would be in this person’s best interest.Your prospective client needs to believe that what they have to gain is greater than the price you’re asking. Click To Tweet
I do have one little follow-up though. Is there a smooth transition that you have that allows you to extend the invitation?
Yes. This is golden because one of the things that happen as entrepreneurs is when we’re getting into those questions and we’re finding out all about the problem, we want to close and sell them then. This is an advanced move. It’s a huge mistake to try to enroll someone into working with you when you’re in the problem part because they’re in their pain. When they’re in their pain, from my study of neuroscience, we’re in that fight-flight or freeze mode, which is the amygdala. It’s the lower functioning parts of our brain that are now tuned into survival somehow. We cannot make a higher-level decision of wanting to work with you when we’re in that pain point. Therefore, you have to shift the conversation once again from the pain over to the potential or the possibilities.
What you want to specifically ask them is a couple of questions about what do you see is the benefits of us working together? What’s possible for you once we resolve this issue? How can you tell if our work together was successful? They’re once again into the potential. They can then have this conversation about the next steps with you because they’re in the executive part of their brain that’s able to make higher-level decisions. They can’t do that when they’re in the pain part of the conversation.
That is a real nugget that you’ve given to the M&A Unplugged Community. Making that transition from asking the questions, diving deep, getting the pain, finding out what is the next step to transitioning to a close is an art form. Loren, you’ve shared a ton in here. You’ve been great. This is awesome information. What would you recommend to our audience who are seeking more information on how to close the sale?
I have put together the sales script for your people because I know that they’re busy. They can see the value of doing this. However, taking the time of thinking out all those questions themselves and then being able to implement it might not be where they want to be spending their time. I put together how to have a value conversation. It’s word-by-word. You can go ahead and make adjustments to make it fit your personality and your service. That’s at BusinessSuccessSolution.com/value. It’s a complimentary free offer for your community. Please, go ahead and grab that if it appeals to you.
Loren, this has been great. It’s been such a pleasure getting to know you and have you shared this information. If folks wanted to get in touch with you, how could they reach you?
The best way to reach me is to go to my website, BusinessSuccessSolution.com. If they want to have a conversation with me, it would be BusinessSuccessSolution.com/letstalk. They can then experience part of what I talked about here and see what it’s like on the user’s side as well.
Loren, thank you so much for being here.
If you would like to learn more about the process of acquiring or selling a business, please visit our website at SunAcquisitions.com or feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. I look forward to seeing you again on the next episode of the M&A Unplugged Podcast. Until then, please remember that scaling, acquiring or selling a business takes time, preparation and the proper knowledge.
- The Winning Point: How to Master the Mindset of Champions
- The Success Solution: Break Through Limiting Beliefs for Business Success
- Loren Fogelman
- [email protected]
About Loren Fogelman
Loren Fogelman is a keynote speaker and one of America’s top ranked business coaches. From 2018 to 2020, she continues to be recognized by HubSpot in its annual list of the world’s top 22 business coaches.
She has delivered talks and workshops across the United States at major conferences such as Inbound, one of the world’s most esteemed content marketing events for entrepreneurs, as well as many niche conferences.
Loren is an expert in pricing strategy and sales for accounting professionals. Her passion is empowering them to double revenues by working half the time through strategic pricing and effective sales techniques.
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