Picking up from the topic of incompetence, Ken talks about the business obstacles his company has been through because of it. Sharing three out of six, he talks about the events in ’09, ’13, and ’14 where they were really incompetent. Covering struggles about selling, understanding the sales process, and social proof, he lets us in on the lessons he learned along the way. You’ll find some great nuggets of wisdom that’ll help you lift your business up from that level of incompetence to growth and success.
Listen to the podcast here:
First Of Three Obstacles
For this episode, I’m going to continue on this topic or series of incompetence. We were asked to fly out to the LA City Gala and talk about how did our company, a mature company with 100 plus employees, grow so quickly in the last eight to ten years. We’re a 25-year old company. We went out and we prepped a one-slide deck where we listed out the six areas where we bumped our head, knocked us backward, gave us concussions. Not only were we not growing during these six periods in the last decade, it got us to question who we are, where we’re going, and how quickly we can get there. These bumps on the head were severe. I’m going to talk about three levels from 2009 to 2013, 2014 where we were severely incompetent.
These became obstacles, we saw them, recognize them, and acknowledge them. We were able to define probable causes and then we were able to remove the probable cause and remove the obstacle. Once we removed that obstacle, it allowed us to grow like a weed for a period of a year or two. First and foremost, even though we’ve always had a great number of salespeople who very skilled in the area of sales, I wrote a book on sales and I’ve done somewhere between 600 and 700 meetings on sales. We were having a sales challenge in the area of Income Store. Something was going on, it wasn’t working. We had ten, eleven sales reps and the bottom line is it was tough. When it was all said and done, I came to the realization, “The reason we can’t sell or are not selling to the tune at which we should is I was not handing it off.”
Sales is not an event, it’s not a closing. Click To Tweet
I was the guy that read all the books, I was the guy that did the training and my ego was in the way. I wanted to be involved in all of the closings in that first couple of years. I did not have the faith to trust other people and hand it off. The first couple of years we were building Income Store, we had ten or sales reps full time. I’m not exaggerating with this number, we do twenty to 21 times more volume with only two sales reps. I’m not one of them, I don’t get involved in any sales. It was a maturing process where Ken, the control freak had to step out of the way and be able to hand off sales. Even though Ken can sell well and Ken is completely convicted of what products we have for sale.
I was confused on the game of selling. The game of selling is not about the salesperson. It’s not about the product or service. It’s not about conviction, the customer’s belief, or the customer’s ability to find social proof on the internet. It’s about everything. It’s about all of those things. It is not about a person. If you’re building a sales process, there is no one person that can make it or break it. Our first obstacle was understanding that sales is a process. Sales is not an event, it’s not a closing. Nobody in this company in the last ten years has heard me close a deal. I’ve closed out on how many deals, but I’ve never asked for the order. I’ve never said, “Is this something you want to do, or do you want to start or I’m going to send you this in DocuSign.” Those words have never come out of my mouth.
I keep building value until people finally said, “This is pretty cool. How do we start?” Sales, in my opinion, could be an obstacle for major companies, small companies, one-person shops at some point in their journey. The probable cause when you find yourself believing that you have a great product but it’s not selling, ask yourself, “Am I in the way? Can I hand this off?” The probable cause is you might not be handing it off. Let’s go a couple of years down the road. We were selling, Ken was out of the way, but all of the sudden, and we weren’t selling again. We were not adding new contracts and we spent a year scratching our head and I realized, “We don’t have a sales problem. We have a research and development process.”
I was reminded of an old mentor of mine. Somebody told me something in 2002 and he said, “Ken, the first step of all success is to stop lying to yourself.” I didn’t understand for years what Brad meant with that. I want to give you a couple probable causes that you might have a research and development problem. Do you have an exact product for an exact audience? If you do, how do you know? What’s your proof? What is your right to succeed? What is the evidence you can show someone in a PDF or a spur of the moment that you’re moving an exact product to an exact audience?
We found out a couple of years into this journey with our new company Income Store, we had a great product, but we did not have the right product to the right audience. We did the research, but we didn’t do the development. Somebody came to us a couple of years after we started, and they said, “Ken, this is amazing. You guys are building websites.” As a matter of fact, there’s a very famous GM of a professional football team that said these exact words, “Ken, your stuff is amazing. You have built us one website and in seven months from a traffic standpoint, it is more traffic and faster-growing traffic than my other four websites that I paid SEO firms thousands of dollars a month to manage. I’m not paying you anything. I wrote you a check one time and your stuff’s growing faster.”
I said to him, “What would make this better?” He said, “The only thing that could make this better is if you could guarantee a financial return with this.” I got to thinking. I’m like, “How would I pull that off?” We developed a product that can not only grow faster than the one for that GM of an NFL football team, but it came with a financial guarantee and we exploded. We did the research and the development. Many people do the research, but they suck at doing the painful development to make the perfect product for the perfect audience. You might have a research and development obstacle or blind spot if the probable cause is you’re not willing to stop and ask yourself, “Is the first step of our success to stop lying to ourselves. Maybe we don’t have the greatest product in the world.”
That was our obstacle number two. We made a better product, we exploded again, but then we bumped into obstacle number three. This one was painful. We have an amazing company, but in 2012, 2013, 2014, we were amazing, but you could not find us on the internet. We knew what we were doing. We were adding an employee every eighteen days. We were adding website partners constantly. Our portfolio was seen ten, twenty, 30 million times a week, but you didn’t know who we were. You couldn’t find us. All of a sudden, we realized, “Our problem is social proof. Our obstacle is we never wrestled the terms branding and marketing.” We thought branding and marketing were sales jargon. Like you made a media kit, a PDF, you had a slide deck you could send somebody.
Branding and marketing in this era has nothing to do with what you say about the company; it’s what others say. Click To Tweet
A lot of companies we counseled think when “I say send me your branding and marketing materials,” they send me their slide deck. If someone says, “Send me your branding and marketing materials.” What they’re asking for is a link to the media page or press page of your website. They don’t give a rip what your company put together to tell them how great you are. They want to know what the world says about you. What do clients say about you? What do the press and the media say about you? We found out a hard lesson that branding and marketing in this era, I believe in the world moving forward because we are a digital age, has nothing to do with what you say about your company. It’s what others say.
Social proof is the probable cause of your branding and marketing challenge, it certainly was for us. The way you know if the probable cause is the probable cause is simply ask yourself this question. “What is the world currently saying about our company? What are they saying? If you google your name, what comes up? Is it stuff that your company wrote or you personally wrote? Is it stuff that comes up that many other people wrote?” If you want to see an example of a three-year lesson, a very painful lesson of what the results should be from a press or media page, go to IncomeStore.com. Click the press page or media page and you’ll notice we haven’t been updating it much lately, but we have a tremendous amount of new press. Since our name is recognized, the actual search engine algorithms will call up that other press on other people’s websites. We no longer need to make sure we transpose every single one of them to our press page.
Number one, we hit a sales obstacle. What was our probable cause? I was in the way. I didn’t hand it off. Then we had a research and development problem. We were good at research, but we were not willing to develop the right product. The probable cause we got honest, we stopped lying to ourselves. Our product was awesome, but it wasn’t perfect so we fixed it. Number three, branding and marketing, we were confused what those terms meant. Then we realized the probable cause for not quite perfect branding and marketing is we didn’t quite lead with social proof. The definition of social proof is whether you say something or not is irrelevant, people don’t care. If the world says it’s so, it must be so. For episode 260, these are some obstacles and some probable causes so you can fast track and accelerate growth. I hope this helps. Take care.