We have a great interview with Chris Handy, CEO of Thinkhandy, which I personally really enjoyed. Chris has the great ability to make you look at things in a new way, cutting through the rubbish to get to the point!
About Chris Handy
He is a proud father, sales & marketing strategy consultant and speaker whose podcast was named one of the Top Ten Podcasts Produced By Agencies in 2015. His company, Thinkhandy, is based in Fort Worth, Texas.
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Episode 129 Table of Contents[0:00] Intros [0:37] What is inbound marketing? How does inbound marketing relate to the sales cycle? [1:40] Inbound marketing has expanded it’s meaning to the point of dilution. [2:09] People buy much differently than they used to. [3:00] Content creation has become more casual. [3:31] Content marketing is answering your customers questions online. [4:50] Wanting to get questions answered without talking to a sales person. [5:58] 57% of sales in B2B are made before you ever speak to the prospect. [7:55] You have to ease into the sales funnel with email marketing. [8:34] Every email marketing campaign is going to look different, depending on the business and audience. [9:57] People get stuck on The Law of Demand. [11:09] Don’t be afraid to share unique content in email newsletters. [12:20] Be more of a teacher. [14:08] Curating and publishing content on a specific subject in your newsletter is important. [16:28] Build a content machine from customer and client feedback. [19:08] Hit customer objections head-on. [21:00] Use human language and not jargon. [22:45] Why do salespeople rush to close the deal? [26:26] Match customers to what they need. [29:40] Your job is to take them to the next step of the funnel. [31:30] You have to have quotas in sales teams, but realize they influence behavior. [33:48] LeadPages bought Drip. Also, what are your thoughts on automation? [38:40] Tracking the source of sales referrals is important. [39:39] What are your thoughts on various email marketing solutions? [41:02] How do sales teams use a CRM to get a 360 degree view of a customer? [42:05] Here’s some thoughts on workflows and automated sequences in email marketing. [43:13] Time for the podcast outros. [45:27] The YouTube bonus content begins here. [45:28] What are your thoughts on ConvertKit? [46:54] What makes a marketing or publishing platform easy or difficult? [49:50] How do you navigate prospects through the middle of the buyer’s journey? [54:35] Is using LinkedIn for B2B sales important or not? [58:01] How do you match case studies to specific prospects? [1:02:02] Time for the YouTube outros. [1:02:30] Here are some Easter egg outtakes.
Episode 129 Summary
The show opened with John asking Chris what inbound marketing was, and how it fits in to the sales cycle. Chris said inbound marketing is a term he is thinking about getting away from because the term has become diluted. When people first turned to inbound marketing, there was less competition. Now everyone seems to be doing inbound marketing. Chris said many people have a Field of Dreams ‘build it and they will come’ mentality, but you can’t just publish content and expect customers to find you today.
Chris said that people buy differently than they did five or ten years ago. Five years ago your grandparents weren’t on Facebook, and today they are. As a result, more people are accustomed to publish content, but many businesses are still afraid to publish content. The businesses that are overcoming their fear and publishing content are the ones succeeding with inbound marketing and content marketing.
Great content answers questions that your customers already have, and delivers a great user experience. He says prospective customers want to know how to arrive at a cost, and want assets like case studies to help them make those buying decisions.
Chris states that inbound marketing is answering customer questions proactively, so they can be fully informed without having to talk to a sales representative. Chris cites a study that says 57% of B2B buying decisions are made before the prospect reaches out to your sales team. Content marketing is what helps them make those buying decisions. The bottom line is companies lose deals before they even know they are a candidate.
Chris states that many long-time salespeople are confident they can close a deal if they can get in front of a prospect, but people don’t buy in the same way they did a decade ago. The best way to get prospects in the sales funnel is to ease into it through content marketing.
John says Chris is alluding to email marketing, and asks where are most companies dropping the ball with email marketing?
Chris paints a great analogy of a restaurant and the things they might put in an email newsletter. He says everyone wants to go to “buy one get one free” offers first, instead of talking about what actually makes your business unique. Customers care about the personality of a business much more than they do who is the cheapest.
Chris also says too many businesses look at the Law of Demand (If you raise or lower the price, you will sell more or less accordingly). Businesses think they are driving sales by offering specials, but they forget that the Law of Demand only works if all other factors are equal.
There are always other variables, like quality, atmosphere, ambience, personality. Continuing with the restaurant example, he cites one of the restaurants in his local area, which is one of the top 10 establishments in the country. Chris says they regularly publish their recipes in their email newsletter. Many businesses would look at that practice and wonder, “Why they are doing that? They are giving away their secret sauce.”
Chris says you can try to make the recipes they are giving away at home, but the experience will be different. What giving away those recipes is doing is establishing trust, ensuring the restaurant will stay top of mind, and building a relationship between the business and the customer.
Chris challenges us to look at our published content, and think about how we can be more of a teacher, and see how we can give away those things we think we should be charging for. You cannot sit down with someone and give them custom consulting every day, or you would be out of business. But by teaching people through your content, you can scale your reach, and the people who need help will still reach out. They will not be deterred by the free content you publish. There will always be freeloaders, but they were never going to purchase anything from you anyway.
Make sure that whatever you put in your email newsletter is something you would want to receive and continue receiving. Jonathan says it takes research and strategy to put together regular content for your audience, citing the WP-Tonic podcast as an example. He also says it is important to curate subject content that is not your own, because that is still valuable.
Chris says that a content machine can become self-sustaining, because you get feedback on what you are publishing, and it gives you a sense of what you should continue publishing. Chris says most businesses have this machine already, they just don’t realize it.
Your sales and support teams are talking to customers every day, and the questions they receive can become your content. The mistake many organizations make is putting a dedicated, siloed team off in the corner, and call that team Marketing.
When the marketing team, sales team, and support team don’t communicate, none of those real questions get to the marketing team. This is when you end up with jargon-filled websites. Chris says the term inbound marketing in itself is a bit of jargon. Most businesses owners are looking for leads, sales, and community.
Chris relates a story of watching interactions between a client and their customers at a trade show. In this example, the public thought that the client product was just like another product, and asked about it directly. What Chris realized is that they had a positioning problem that needed to be addressed. The objection did not come from the CEO or board room, but straight from the consumers. It is good to get out of your own bubble to understand people’s concerns, objections, and perceptions of your product.
Chris says you could make an email subject line that asks Isn’t Product A just like Product B? This creates interest, because no one addresses objections head-on like that, and it can lead people into an education funnel, where those objections are tackled.
Chris says that human language is what is most often missing from emails. So many companies are trying to design what are essentially print ads for an email newsletter, but the best emails are just a paragraph or two of text with a link to a blog post addressing the customer concerns.
John asked Chris, why do salespeople rush to close the deal? And does the sales team underestimate the length of the sales cycle?
Chris thinks there can be pressures from quotas or internal initiatives. He said there is a lot to be said for playing hard to get. You make better decisions about chasing a prospect who may or may not be a good fit when you have other leads in your pipeline, or you don’t need to close the lead to make your numbers. Chris said he believes in matching up people with what they need, and tries to sell to businesses that actually need their solution.
A short term gain is not worth it if the fit is bad. It ends up hurting both the customer and the selling organization. He said some people just like to talk to sales people, and you have to identify if someone is just stringing you along. If they change their mind, they know where to find you. It is your job to just move them to the next step in the sales funnel. They have to decide if they want to buy.
It is also important to understand where they are in the sales cycle. If the prospect has only just figured out that your product is a viable solution, they may need longer to get acclimated with what your product is before buying. Just take them to the next step of the sales cycle. If they don’t take the time to read what you send them, they might not be worth taking to the next step of the sales funnel.
Chris is not against sales quotas, but they influence the behavior of the sales reps, and it is the responsibility of the organization to understand that.
Jonathan asked Chris about the sale of Drip to LeadPages, and the role of automation in email marketing. Chris felt that the Drip acquisition was to gain market share in the small business category. Chris mentioned the advantage that certain tools have, like HubSpot, which have end to end integration, where the landing page contact form information goes directly into a CRM.
Chris works with HubSpot as an agency partner, and what he likes is that you can see exactly what touches a customer makes before they make a purchase, and you can get a full view of the sales cycle for each customer.
Jonathan asked Chris’ opinion of other email marketing tools like MailChimp. Chris said tools that integrate with a CRM are what he prefers, as the sales people can look at a 360 degree view of a customer history very easily. He said MailChimp has limited integration with Salesforce, but it is not ideal. Chris says the most important page for software websites beyond the home and pricing pages is the integrations page.
Chris says MailChimp id getting stronger with automation, and that they do newsletter roundups and scheduled emails well, but their customer segmentation is not as strong as it could be. Chris said MailChimp was ripe for an acquisition, perhaps by Salesforce, who seems to be acquiring lots of properties.
In the bonus content, Jonathan asked Chris about ConvertKit, and his thoughts on how they got traction. Chris said ConvertKit does a couple of things right: building customer education into the product, and integrating with other tools.
Jonathan mentioned episode 127 with James White of InTouch CRM, and how they offer the Growth Academy, which also educates customers on how to use their CRM to get the best results for their business.
Chris reiterated that it is best to use the language your customers use, and consider the intent behind their actions.
John asked Chris about the buyer’s journey, and what tools or assets Thinkhandy uses to move prospects through the middle of the funnel. Chris said you should talk to your sales team, because there will be a set of questions that they consistently get. These questions can become your content.
He said another tool is to use the cost of inaction. What opportunity cost is forfeited by not taking any action at all? Most of the time we do not lose to a competitor, we lose to nothing at all (i.e. inaction). Most companies need to think about how to express what happens if the prospect doesn’t move forward at all. Factors can be time, budget, or fear of making the wrong decision.
Chris says you should not always rely on email in the middle of the funnel. Using the human touch, like making a phone call or interacting on social, can be the thing that makes the sale happen.
Jonathan asked Chris about LinkedIn as a tool for B2B sales and prospecting. Chris said people are looking you every time they make a buying decision in B2B. He says people do see if you publish on LinkedIn, and those people can send you dark referrals. The people who never like or comment on your content will be the ones who send you referrals.
Chris also states that people are looking at your LinkedIn while they are talking to you on the phone during a sales call. What will they see? John said it depends on the audience whether you need to be on LinkedIn, and B2B is essential. Chris said you are losing sales you didn’t know you were in contention for.
John asked Chris about knowing who to send case studies to and when. Chris said you must look for buying or consideration signals. HubSpot and some other tools will allow you to send emails at certain actions. If a customer looks at your pricing page, they might be ready to look at a case study. If someone is looking at the Team page, they are looking into who is running the company as a way to research for a buying decision.
Chris said you shouldn’t send a case study with the email subject line, Here’s a Case Study. He told a great story of how to frame the case study as a transformation: before, during, after, and show the whole Hero’s Journey with the customer as the hero.