Keynote speaker, author, and content marketing expert, Marcus Sheridan joins us for a two-part podcast as he discusses how the internet changed the buying process and how we must approach selling to consumers differently.
Edwin K. Morris (5s):
Welcome to the Trusted Advisor Podcast brought to you by Iroquois Group. Iroquois is your trusted advisor in all things insurance. This week, you’re listening to Charlie’s corner a segment hosted by our very own Charlie Venus. Welcome back everyone. We are here with Marcus Sheridan, keynote speaker, and the man
Charlie Venus (25s):
Behind the success at River Pools & Spas. This episode is going to cover content marketing assignments selling in the world of virtual sales. I wanted to talk to you about River Pools & Spas. Can you just give the audience a recap of how you use, you know, the inbound marketing content marketing, addressing the big five on your website and how that turned things around at River Pools & Spas, and also address assignment selling, because I thought that was just a great subject matter.
Marcus Sheridan (56s):
So let’s start with the, with the first question there. I started a company with two business partners, really out of college, 2001 called River Pools & Spas. And, you know, we struggled to grow up, but we survived. But then 2008 happened. 2008 was the crash that many of us can remember. And unlike Covid, which has been great for pool companies, 2008 was a disaster. I mean, it was a disaster. And so we thought we were going to lose the business. Now I was pretty confident we were going to file bankruptcy and it was during this, this low point that I really started to research how the internet works. And I started seeing all those fancy phrases like inbound marketing, content, marketing, all that stuff, you know, but what I heard in my simple pool guy, mind, if you will, Charlie was: you know what, Marcus?
Marcus Sheridan (1m 43s):
If you just obsess over your buyers, customers’ questions, and you’re willing to address those questions on your website, you just might save your business. So I said, I’m going to do that. I can do that. And we didn’t have two nickels to rub together, but what I could do is I could sit at my kitchen table late at night and I could type answers to questions and post it on my website. And so that’s exactly what we did. And because I was so focused on what the buyers wanted to know, I realized there’s these commonalities, there’s these five main subjects that I keep getting asked about. So I decided to call them the big five, right? So we have this philosophy called “they ask, you answer,” we have these five subjects called “the big five.”
Marcus Sheridan (2m 26s):
And before I knew it, we were getting traction and we started to get major traction. And within a few years, we became the most trafficked swimming pool website in the world, save the business. And then a few years after that, we were getting so many leads from all over North America, that I started manufacturing fiberglass pools as well. So I became a B2B manufacturer of fiberglass pools and we became a franchise company too. So today we have franchisees all over the country called River Pools & Spas, right? Little branches popping up everywhere. But I mean, we went from, from literally broke to financial peace, the rest of my life and 10 years, because of the simple philosophy of “they ask, you answer”.
Marcus Sheridan (3m 10s):
Now you asked about assignment selling. So let me share the quick story on assignment selling, because this is one they ask you. Answer is unique too, because it’s written from a sales and marketing perspective. So there’s a section of the book. That’s on marketing, a section of the book that’s on sales. And then there’s a section of the book on implementation. And so if somebody understands that that trend that we were talking about earlier, Charlie, at the 80% and the buyers 80% of the way through the buying journey before they even talk to a salesperson, at this point, recognize, wow. So marketing has got to be responsible for revenue today. Same time, sales has to be more involved on the marketing side of things.
Marcus Sheridan (3m 53s):
You need to teach your sales team how to integrate it into their sales process. So they say, why? So, at the beginning of 2013, I was looking at two groups of people on my company’s website. Both had filled out a form and said, I want to get a quote from you. All right? So both these groups have fill out forms that I want to get a quote. One of them bought one of them didn’t buy. So I say, well, what’s the difference between the ones that bought versus didn’t buy? This is what we found. The number 30 kept jumping out underneath the group that had bought. That number 30 represented total pages viewed. So in other words, we found that if somebody read 30 more pages of our website before the initial sales appointment, they would buy 80% of the time, which is pretty crazy because the average industry closing rate was about 25%.
Marcus Sheridan (4m 34s):
So they go from 25 to 80% simply by reading 30 pieces of our content. So we had a hockey stick growth of closing rates. So I said to myself naturally, okay, so what can you do, Marcus? So that they consume 30 pieces of your content and 30 pages of your content every single time. And so assignment selling is a process of when you sell, creating that content to push people down or out of the funnel even faster, but it’s very intentional. So what it might sound like is something like this: let’s say, Charlie, you call me up and say, yo, Marcus, I’m checking out your website. Could I get a quote for a pool this Friday? Well, back in the day, I’d say, yeah, sure, Charlie I’ll come out to your houses running, give you a quote. But the problem was, I didn’t know how educated you were. I hadn’t done anything on the front end there.
Marcus Sheridan (5m 16s):
Right? A lot of salespeople sell just like that today. The majority do. So now understanding assignment selling, the way I changed, the way that we evolve, that is now you would say to me, Hey Marcus, can you come out to my house this Friday? Give me a quote for a pool. I would say, sure. I’d love to Charlie, but you’re getting ready to spend a lot of money. And if you’re going to spend a lot of money, I know you don’t want to make any mistakes. And so, as to make sure you don’t make any mistakes, I’m going to make sure you’re well-educated. So this is what we’re going to do. As we’re talking on the phone right now, Charlie, I’m going to send you two things that you’re gonna love via email that are gonna really help you with this process. So the first thing I’m going to send you is a video that shows you the entire install process. This way you’re gonna see what it’s like when the pool shows up to the house, excavation goes into ground patios around it, the whole nine.
Marcus Sheridan (5m 58s):
And now by watching this video, when I come out to your house on Friday, you’re not going to say to me, so Marcus, what does this process look like? You’re already going to know. That timeout that just saved me about 30 minutes on the sales appointment. Now the second thing I’m going to send you, Charlie is a buying guide. Now this buying guide is great because it’s going to answer a lot of the major questions you have about pools right now. Like, should I get a cover for my pool? What’s the best type of cover. Should it be meshed should be solid. Should it be automatic? Should I get a heater with the best type of heater? Should it be electric? Should it be gas, should a heat and cool the water. Now this guide’s a little bit long. It’s about 30 pages, but I promise it will be well worth your time. Will you take the time Charlie, to review those things before our appointment on Friday, 90% of the time buyer says sure, but here’s, what’s wonderful about it.
Marcus Sheridan (6m 39s):
If they do the homework, I now know they’re going to buy 80% of the time. You see too often, salespeople don’t even know content has been produced. If they do know it’s been produced, they don’t integrate it into the sales process. And if they do integrate into the sales process, it sounds something like this. Hey Charlie, I got this, this video. I’m going to send it to you. It’d be great if you could give it a look before appointment on Friday, what a tragedy that is. And that’s because they’re not trained how to do this the right way. Of course. That’s what I, one thing that I do is ultimately I train people on communication. Sometimes I call it marketing. If I’m talking to a mortgage, sometimes I call it sales, but it’s just better communication.
Marcus Sheridan (7m 19s):
And so that’s exactly what you heard there. That’s assignment selling.
Charlie Venus (7m 23s):
Yeah. So you’re just asking for a commitment from them, just to, how interested are you? How, how serious are you about this? And if you are, I just need commitment that you’re going to read the material and watch the video that I sent to you.
Marcus Sheridan (7m 36s):
Well, what’s interesting about at Charlie’s is if they don’t do it right, if they say, no, I don’t have the time for that. It indicates only one thing. They’re going to base their decision on one variable: price. At which point I’m going to lose that game anyway. So let me just email you that price. I don’t need to come to your house for that. I can email you a price. If you, if that’s the case,
Charlie Venus (7m 54s):
I don’t need to spend five hours traveling to and from your place. Yeah.
Marcus Sheridan (7m 58s):
And that’s exactly what it took back in the day. My average sales appointment was two hours away, average length three hours. So I’ve got a total of a seven hour investment. And if I stopped to eat we’re eight hours. Okay. So that’s problematic. That’s problematic. And so when you integrate content in the sales process, you have a happier sales team because you’re not getting those same old redundant questions over and over again in that first sales call. Let me think about how many times, if you’re in sales, you’ve had a sales call and you heard it a question you’re like, Oh my gracious. How do they not know this? How do they don’t know this. And you’re just rolling your eyes like this is going to be a dud. So how do we eliminate those things from happening? We gotta be better teachers, better teaching starts with better listening.
Marcus Sheridan (8m 38s):
And then once we hear the questions, we got to produce the content to answer it. And we got to answer them well. And then we answer them well, we have the content, then we integrate it.
Charlie Venus (8m 46s):
That’s fantastic. Marcus now recently written another book with Tyler Lessard called T he Visual Sale, you know, and in the book you know, you talk about how you use the video or visual philosophies to really address the “they ask, you answer” philosophies. Can you expand on that a little bit for us why live video and visual is going to be so important, why it’s so important now, but even more important going forward.
Marcus Sheridan (9m 12s):
Yeah. I mean, look at this point, I think most of us are recognizing that Holy crap video is just taking over. Now, if you have a teenager, if you have a 20 something, you recognize that the majority of what they learn about products, services and companies is through video. I mean, it’s just prolific and never in the history of the world have we more had the feeling today of seeing is believing than we do right now. Buyers want to see the thing to believe it. They don’t just want to hear it because you think about a Charlie, almost every company says the same things about themselves. You know, we have the best service. We have the best people, right? Lovely things they say. So unless they show it, it’s just noise to the marketplace.
Marcus Sheridan (9m 53s):
But when you show it, it becomes very believable. And if you look at the rates of consumption, right? So 85% of the content consumed online right now is video based content. That’s sick, right? 85%. Yeah. It’s an astounding number. So the problem though is companies, they haven’t adjusted to this trend at all. And about four years ago, I said to my team, this, I have an agency and we help companies implement digital sales and marketing strategies. And we are obviously the go-to place for “they ask, you answer” practitioners. And I said to my team, I think we all know video is going to be huge.
Marcus Sheridan (10m 33s):
I think we should be teaching companies how to create their own videos in house. And my team said, ha no way, Marcus can’t do that. That’s not what agencies do. Agencies make the videos for the clients. I’m like, yeah, but is that sustainable? Long-term and is that the best interest for the client? We’re like, well, not necessarily, but they’re just not going to do it. I’m like, I don’t believe that I’m calling BS on this. And so since that time we’ve trained over a hundred companies on how to create a culture of video in house. Now it takes a mindset, it takes buy-in, but also takes a few little pieces like a full-time videographer in house. And so when companies realize what’s happening with video, they’re saying to themselves, I don’t need to hire another freaking salesperson.
Marcus Sheridan (11m 14s):
My gracious, what I need to hire, And this is at less than half the cost probably, is a videographer because a videographer is going to have a way bigger impact on sales than another sales person. Well, for your company, I guarantee you that, assuming they follow the plan, especially like what you see in the visual sale, right? And so when companies do this, they start to approach everything like we’re a media company. If we don’t show it, it doesn’t exist. We can’t just tell it. We need to show it. And then the mindset is let’s start with sales. Once again, you start with sales, what’s the quickest way to see return on your investment? On the sales side. So the marketing side is going to produce a return over time, but the sales side can help you tomorrow.
Marcus Sheridan (11m 58s):
So we talk about in the book, very specific types of videos that just dramatically revolutionize your sales team, your sales process. So an example of one such video would it be the 80% video. This is the first video that every company should produce that has a sales team or any type of sales system. So the 80% video is based on this. When we survey sales teams, they tell us that roughly on average, 80% of the questions they hear when they go on a sales call are the same questions every single time. So if you already know what those 80% are going to be, why do we spend so much time answering them over and over again? It’s like Groundhog’s day. So what if we could eliminate those questions?
Marcus Sheridan (12m 40s):
What is the buyer already knew them? And not only that, what if they had heard them and learn them from us? Would the sales call, that first one, be different? Oh, my gracious. Yes. We’d spend way more time selling less time teaching for the win. We’d also shorten the sales cycle while increasing closing rates. So what you want to do is you want to brainstorm those top 80% questions. And generally you want to come up with this top seven to 10, most repeated questions you hear in the sales process, write them down and say, all right. So here’s our questions. Let’s produce a video that addresses each one. And then you do a mashup. So you have one longer video that addresses all those major questions that they have.
Marcus Sheridan (13m 21s):
And so in a perfect world, let’s say I’m selling insurance. Let’s use that one, Charlie. So let’s say I was selling insurance. And let’s say that you came to me and you were the customer, the prospect, and you wanted a quote. So I said to you, great, Charlie, we’ll meet at your office this Friday. But before that, I’m going to send you a video that addresses 10 of the top questions you have right now about this particular type of insurance. It’s going to talk about this. It’s going to address this question and it’s going to address some other questions as well. And so I promise it’s going to be well worth your time. Now the video is about 15 minutes, but by you watching this, we’re going to spend a lot less time having to go over the basics and we’ll spend a lot more time on your specific needs. Charlie. We watched that video before our appointment on Friday, once again, same process using the assignment selling now, and I’ve implemented the 80% video and boom we’re rocking and rolling, right?
Marcus Sheridan (14m 9s):
So that’s how this works. 80% video is the bomb. Now here’s the thing about the 80% video people say, sometimes Marcus, I heard that all video is supposed to be short. If somebody is getting ready to spend their money, they’re very, very likely to spend way more than 90 minutes. So as to ensure they don’t make a mistake. Where that comes from is stats, it’s what works for video on certain social media platforms. For example, Facebook is a shorter video platform. LinkedIn is a medium sized video platform. YouTube is a long form video platform. That’s how it works. You base the length of the video on a few things. What platform is it going on?
Marcus Sheridan (14m 51s):
But also does answer the question well. If it answers the questions well, or the question, well, and it takes two minutes or five minutes or 10 minutes, well then that’s what it needs to be. And let’s face it for most businesses. The goal isn’t that you produce some viral, dumb video that gets a million views, but doesn’t make a single sale. The goal is that it moves your actual buyers towards making a buying decision. I would much, rather as a business owner, I’d much rather have a video that gets a hundred views and makes three sales. Then when they get to a million views, but doesn’t sell Jack squat and you see that a lot. And so you want to be careful not to fall into those traps.
Charlie Venus (15m 32s):
Now, Marcus, on those videos, the 80% video, do you see that being on the company’s website? What about a YouTube channel? Do you recommend that companies have a YouTube channel?
Marcus Sheridan (15m 41s):
A hundred percent? You should. Absolutely. Once you start to embrace video, you should a hundred percent have a YouTube channel just because don’t look at it like social media here. Do you like this? Do you believe in Google? Well, yeah. Do you believe in YouTube? Which is of course still the second most popular search engine in the world. So if you, if you view it that way, you’re like, okay, of course we got to have a YouTube page. Too many companies are not even giving YouTube any attention. You got to house your videos somewhere. That’s certainly one place that you should be housing, those videos. So yeah, you should be approaching it like that. And you should be showing these videos on your website.
Marcus Sheridan (16m 21s):
And in fact, I would argue this. You want to have at least one specific video for every major page of your website. So for example, let’s say you offer five different major services. So if I resist tab of your website right now, and you’ve got five different major services, does each one of those pages have a very specific video, ideally 80% video about that thing. So if they don’t, well, then they need to, they need to soon because otherwise you’re risking being left behind. Good thing though is about this is your competitors aren’t doing this yet. Right? And so we can count our competitors, not thinking like today’s buyer to save the day, but we don’t want to be reactive.
Marcus Sheridan (17m 4s):
We want to be proactive. And we want to be the rule makers and the real creators of our space. So this is why it’s so important that we do this
Charlie Venus (17m 12s):
Marcus. We’re still living and breathing the pandemic and virtual sales now are just an absolute necessity. So how should companies approach this? Also, I want you to touch on the results that you’ve had at River Pools & Spas. Since the pandemic started last year,
Marcus Sheridan (17m 29s):
I’ve spent the majority of my time teaching sales teams around the world, some really big brands that everybody knows of how to go from meeting in person in that board room to meeting over video, but maintaining or even upgrading their efficacy, their communication. How do you deliver a world-class video sales presentation? So this is something that we’ve consistently found that just because you’re good at sales traditionally doesn’t mean that you’re good at selling over video. And so you want to learn how to do that. And a lot of companies have pushed back on that and they’ve said, you know what? There’s still a way that we could be as effective on video.
Marcus Sheridan (18m 10s):
And I can tell you, this is BS. So with my pool company for years, I was actually telling my team, I think we should be selling over video. And they’re like, we can’t do that Marcus, because we got to see this job site. We’ve got to see the yard, got to do this and this I’m like, I don’t know. I just think it’s inefficient guys. You can do what you want, but I think it’s really inefficient. I didn’t push it. But then Covid comes around and all of a sudden people didn’t necessarily want us in their homes. We had to think differently. So then we started doing all first sales appointments. Now we’re over video and you say, well, how did you overcome the issue of seeing the art? Because that’s the most critical part of why we had to go out to the house and installing pool. You got different elevations in the backyard, different features that could screw it up, right?
Marcus Sheridan (18m 53s):
Oh, like all the types of factors. And so we created a video. Once again, we created a video that taught homeowners how to take the right photos or video of their front yard side yard and backyard. So as to send it to us and allow us to see exactly what we needed to see. And so this has been a total game changer used to be Charlie that at most we could do maybe two sales appointments in a day. Right now we’re doing five and six sales appointments in a single day. And the homeowner likes it more. We’re able to meet with him faster. We’ve actually found that closing rates go up and I’ve seen this with a lot of companies, but the key is you got to train your team, how to be more effective over video.
Marcus Sheridan (19m 42s):
There’s a lot of mistakes that they make. When you talk about virtual selling, it’s not just sales calls over video. It’s also, how do you send one-to-one video emails? That’s, that’s a major one. That’s a major one. Not enough sales teams are doing that. Not enough, just like companies are doing it like customer service. If they were sending out videos to explain how to fix that thing, it would eliminate a lot of service calls. You don’t see many doing it. What a tragedy, right? Wasting a ton of money. So that’s another example of it. And then there’s also a part of virtual selling. Charlie is what are you doing to your website today that would essentially replicate the sales process. If they were meeting with you in person, let’s say, just talk about polls for a second.
Marcus Sheridan (20m 24s):
You might come to me, Charlie. And you might say, what’s the best swimming pool, shape and size for my backyard. And I would ask you a series of questions. And from that, I would make a recommendation. Could I rinse and repeat that on my website without you talking to me, it sounds bold, but it is possible, a hundred percent, yes, it is possible. So we’re moving into an era of virtual selling where you go and you might say, go back to insurance. What’s the best. And you know, specific type of insurance plan for my business, let’s say, and then there’s a series of questions on the website that, that business owner fills out. And once they’re done filling it out, then they get a recommendation again, without having talked to anybody yet.
Marcus Sheridan (21m 6s):
Now, why is this amazing buyers. Love it? It’s very, they ask you answer right at the same time, it generates way more leads. sales teams like that. A lot of sales teams pushed back on this because they say, is this going to replace me? What’s going to replace you is not paying attention to today’s buyer and trying to do things like it was 1995. That’s what’s going to replace you.
Charlie Venus (21m 25s):
What are some of the things that you had about your success at river pools? Just in terms of how it shortened the sales cycle, how it made the salespeople much more effective. And also that they weren’t on the road all the time, back and forth spending all that time on the road, they were doing visual sales,
Marcus Sheridan (21m 42s):
Charlie, every single one of them, every single one of them has said, I’m not going to go back to the way I was doing it before now. It doesn’t mean that in-person selling is over. It just means that there’s times to be onsite. And there’s times to do it over video. Both are face-to-face. Let’s keep that in mind. Both are face-to-face and both are about relationships and both induce trust. Not enough companies are really seeing it that way yet, but they’re being forced to, right? I mean, let’s be Frank. This whole COVID thing has catapulted us about 10 years ahead when it comes to video and certainly video conferencing, whereas a year ago, grandma hadn’t used zoom.
Marcus Sheridan (22m 26s):
Grandma’s used zoom, right. You know, parents of school children have used zoom. So we’re at that point now. And it’s a new world, tremendous opportunities. Wonderful. Let’s be more efficient. Yeah. There’s a lot of things that suck about it, but there’s also a lot of great benefits and we might as well really lean into those if we’re going to have to.
Charlie Venus (22m 48s):
Well, Marcus, this has been absolutely fantastic. I’d love it if we had more time, but I keep getting notes that
Marcus Sheridan (22m 54s):
There’s never enough time. There’s never enough. Hey, by the way, before I forget to mention it, everybody that’s listening is follow me on LinkedIn. That’s where I live. I, in terms of social media, I post one great piece of content there a day. So make sure you follow me on LinkedIn. If you listen to this
Charlie Venus (23m 11s):
And I’ll echo that Marcus always has some great videos on LinkedIn. Well, thanks again, Marcus. Appreciate it. Maybe you’ll come back again and we can talk about the, you know, more about video sales and the 11 irrefutable laws of virtual sales, which is another fascinating topic. I love it.
Edwin K. Morris (23m 31s):
Thanks for listening to this edition of Charlie’s corner brought to you by Iroquois group. I am Edwin K. Morris, and I invite you to join us for the next edition of the trusted advisor podcast.