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The Conversion Code

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Byron chats with Chris Smith, author of The Conversion Code this week. Chris is a USA Today bestselling author and the co-founder of Curaytor, a full-service digital marketing company that focuses on the real estate industry. Learn why the black lab mindset is important to sales, what analytics really matter, and how to bridge the gap between marketing and sales.

Byron:                                   Thanks for tuning back in everyone. Byron here with Chris Smith. Chris, welcome.

Chris:                                    Thanks man. Thanks for having me on.

Byron:                                   Right on. We’re going to talk about ‘The Conversion Code’. It sounds very scientific. Can you tell us about the name? Let’s start with that.

Chris:                                    Sure. The Conversion Code basically is a three step book, three part book. It’s about capturing internet leads, turning those leads into quality appointments, and then turning those appointments into sales. With marketing, everybody knows about the acronyms, the cost per click, and cost per lead and reads and click-through rate and open rate and page view per visitor; but what I try to tackle in the book is that I’ve done inside sales and a couple of different boiler rooms for billionaires and they approach sales as a science. They don’t look at just the technology and marketing as science. They actually look at technology and marketing as the way to create more conversations, and then they look at those conversations just like you would look at a marketing campaign; how can we optimize it, tweak it, make it better, say it better, run it again with a better result. So, The Conversion Code really is about the fact that there is a science to sales and marketing, and a lot of people are winging it.   

Byron:                                   Makes a lot of sense. Let’s talk about the web part of it first. Are you of the belief that we can actually over test and confuse the hell out of our prospect customers by doing too much testing, A/B testing, multivariate testing and maximizing this lead-gen flow?

Chris:                                    Yeah absolutely. I’m not sure how much of the book you had a chance to read, but there’s a bonus chapter called ‘Analytics or Overrated’, because sometimes if you’re in the lab all day and nobody is in the factory, no money gets made. So I’m a big fan of testing, and I talk a lot about web design and impact of colors on click-through rates, some of that stuff, but I also think that your metrics that matter are your gut and your growth. Are you growing as an organization and all the numbers that really matter like sales, and how many customers are coming on board, and do you feel great about the work you’re doing. If it’s yes and yes, I wouldn’t think too much about the data.

Byron:                                   Let’s talk about the language of sales and how it’s changed. What is your thought on sales and the whole sales process, are we…? Do we need to stop selling and doing more listening to our customers? Tell us about your take on that.

Chris:                                    Sure. I think the reason the sales process has changed is because the access to information through the internet has changed. And so because people are sort of 90% through the funnel when the call is made, the call has to be different; but certainly listening is transparent across time and industry. You always have to listen and find a problem if you’re going to then sell a solution at the highest rate possible. Sometimes you can focus on bells and whistles, but typically bruises are why people buy, in helping them find a kind of a heal to a pain versus, Hey we’re going to write all this great content for you at WriterAccess.” It’s actually, “We know that you wish you were doing it and you don’t have time.” Aand so we’re going to help you stop not doing it versus start doing it right. There’s a lot that goes into sales, but the biggest thing is that you’re on the phone with your prospects if you do all the social website lead-gen correct. When you’re on the phone you don’t have physiology, so I think for a lot of traditional sales people that are used to being belly to belly, they are used to wearing a suit and having their binder with them, or popping out the laptop there at Starbucks, that’s gone. The only things that matter on the phone are your tone and your words. So that is where a lot of people have struggled, because if you don’t have enthusiasm, a great tone, if you don’t have what I call a black labrador mindset; you’re going to fail even if you know your product well and you have traditional sales skills.

Byron:                                   Tell us about the black lab mindset. Who doesn’t love a black lab by the way.

Chris:                                    Well, the point is that black labs love everyone. They don’t care when the doorbell rings if it’s the UPS guy with a good package or if it’s a criminal, they’re just going to go crazy. One of the things I learned in the boiler room is that what you focus on is what you find. If you focus on a positive outcome and you bring that enthusiasm to your calls, a positive outcome is what happens. I remember one of my coaches, he wrote the word enthusiasm up on the board and he put brackets around I-A-S-M. He said that if you’re going to sell you have to be sold yourself. I am sold myself, is the last four letters of enthusiasm for a  reason, and so even if you don’t know your product, even if you don’t know your industry…I wrote 42 loans in my first 20 days at Quicken Loans, and I didn’t know what PMI was! I didn’t know what an APR was. But I sure knew how to get emotionally excited about the conversation.

Byron:                                   Chris, how do you teach somebody to get emotionally excited about a conversation?

Chris:                                    Well, for some people you can’t. I’ll be quite honest with you, if somebody is a Debbie Downer or somebody is a pessimist, or sort of a border-line pessimist, realist, they probably shouldn’t be in sales. They should hire someone to do their sales for them. I would say, one of the challenges that your mental attitude at work a lot of times stems from the actions you take outside of work. If you’re in a fight with your wife all the time, or if you’re neglecting being a good father to your children, those things are in your mind, and what’s in your mind is going to come out through your tone and through your calls. I’m not a huge fan of actually trying to teach people how to be positive, I’m just a huge fan of finding people that naturally are.

Byron:                                   Don’t you agree that there’s a lot of tension between the sales department and the marketing department and how is your book helping to bridge the gap?

Chris:                                    Thank you for asking that, because it’s one of those 800 pound gorillas in the room that nobody wants to talk about. If marketers had to call the leads they generated, they would fire themselves. If sales people had to generate their own leads, they wouldn’t have any to call. I think we have to understand that each side brings something important to the table, but there has to be accountability. There’s too much brand building, and there’s not enough direct response marketing like, “Here’s what we sell. Hey, here’s a good offer on it, would you like to learn more? If so, click here and give us your freaking information.” Because I’m a big fan of content marketing, writing, blogging, 2000 word posts that help you in the search engines, but if you don’t have leads to call, you won’t get to the phase where that stuff helps.

Byron:                                   I get the lead part of it, but what about this tension, how do you resolve that tension, how do you bring these parties together? What’s your proposal?

Chris:                                    You incentivize marketing to move the bottom line, and you don’t incentivize marketing to generate metrics that don’t matter. If you look at most of the marketing reports, you have things like reach, impressions, unique visitors, pages views per visitor and time on site, and when you in the sales room and you come in the boiler room, guess what number we have over there, we just have one number how much shit we sold!

Byron:                                   Which number would be in sales? Which would be the number in marketing rather? Which would be the number in marketing?

Chris:                                    Yeah, for us the metrics that really matter are going to be, how many appointments did your marketing help us create for our sales team? Why don’t you start with that number and then work backwards.

Byron:                                   What if the appointments suck? That’s the biggest complaints that the sales department have, that the leads you’re giving us suck! What’s your answer to that? How do you better qualify people?

Chris:                                    Well, my answer to that is actually it’s your copywriting, believe it or not. That’s a big part of it is what the people, that the WriterAccess either hire out or that needs help. When you’re writing an ad, when you’re creating a funnel, when you’re drafting an email, believe it or not, the words really matter. I’ll give you one example that really increased lead quality for one of our clients. It’s just one simple example of the power if copy. We were running ads for a year that said, “Want to know how much your home’s worth? Click here to find out now.” That ad got our clients a lot of leads, and some of those leads wanted to sell their home and that’s why they wanted to know the value. But by taking a step back and going, “We want appointments, not leads” that’s really what it is. It’s a focus on appointments, not leads, through the marketing department. We really just went back and we said…We took the same ad, the same image, the same landing page, but we changed the copy and we said, “Are you selling your home in the next six months? If so, find out what it’s worth first.” It was literally an additional sentence, but it took the lead quality from a two to basically a ten.

Part of the problem is that a lot of companies are desperate and they’re trying to get leads by giving away free I-pads. They’re trying to get leads by giving away Gary Zee’s new book or something like that. I think that when you focus your marketing team on writing articles, writing ads and writing emails, they get people actually interested in learning about what we sell; that’s a good place to start.

                                                Now we’ll say this, the best content drives awareness and sales. I think that most people’s content drives awareness or sales. It’s a very small, subtle difference, but nobody likes reading a sales piece and nobody gets an appointment from marketing, from an editorial. So the sweet spot, the perfect storming content is how can we educate about what we tell while we also entertain and inspire. It has to be about awareness and sales, not one or the other.

Byron:                                   Tell me why customer service didn’t surface in your mind at least with this book on the key element with cracking the code of conversion?

Chris:                                    Well, I’ll be honest man, believe it or not, I know sometimes it’s hard to believe, because a lot of times online business owners they look worse than they’re offline. What I’ve learned is that a lot of business owners provide great service. They actually do provide an amazing service. They actually do keep people wanting to come back again and again and tell their friends. I tackle that topic in depth in my first book called ‘Peoplework: How to Put People First in a Digital First World. I have a big service people first mindset, but at the end of the day most small businesses do not have enough leads, appointments or sales coming in through the internet, compared to the opportunity the internet brings. But I will say this, we do something at our company to drive sales through service all the time; we use a net promoter score. What we’ll do is we’ll ask our clients to rate us on a scale of one to ten, how happy are you with our service, and if they rate us at ten the sales team is notified, we call them to sell them additional stuff and to ask to give us a couple of friend’s names. We actually leverage great service as a trigger for our sales team to pounce.

Byron:                                   Good stuff there. Where is it all going? How good can we get at this conversion funnel, and what does that really mean to the marketplace and to competitive advantage?

Chris:                                    I think it’s the most important number right now in business because the problem is people don’t talk about conversion rates. Right now the B2B and B2C conversion rates are dismal. It’s 1% or 2%. So while it doesn’t sound that exciting to go from 2% to 4%, when you actually double your bottom line conversion rate, you double your revenue from the internet. That to me is such a big opportunity where if right now every 100 leads I get, one becomes a customer, and I can do some of those things that are in The Conversion Code or I can kind of get myself tooled up from a digital marketing and follow up perspective, to go from one to three…Yeah, I know it’s not as exciting as having 50,000 followers on Twitter, but it actually triples your revenue.

Byron:                                   Tell me a little bit about the speed to dialing a post conversion situation. I’ve heard some discussions about that and didn’t catch that in your book, but do you believe that making a phone call to somebody that signs up for a trial, within say 8 seconds, has a profound impact on the probability of reaching to them and having a meaningful conversation to them, avoiding that repeat hassle of having to call and catch them at their desk ten times, twenty times? What’s your take on speed to call?

Chris:                                    It sure does. Speed kills. I mean it’s that important. If you call a lead back within five minutes compared to thirty, the increase in conversion is 100 X. The idea that sometimes you reach out to a business and you get an email that says, “Hey thanks for reaching out. We return our calls between two and four.” It’s like, “Well its 2016. That’s not how it works anymore.” So speed is critical. The other thing tenacity, because even when you call in the first five minutes, you only contact 48% of internet leads, but if you will call five more times, six times total over the first three days, you’ll get up to about a 93% contact rate. So part of it is just being fast, but then also being tenacious.

We live in a world where if you get a call from a number you don’t recognize, the most common thing to do is to ignore it. The best thing a sales person can do is just call it again. We call it the double dial. Just doing little things like that. Like when you call a lead and they don’t pick up, you call again, you don’t leave a voicemail. Just them seeing a missed call twice from the same number, now they pick up. We live in a different world, a microwave mentality.

                                                The other thing I wish everybody would write down is there are times during the day when you have the best chance of calling a lead and actually having a talk with them and it’s 8 to 10 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. Sometimes we try to work our prospecting into our schedule where after lunch I’ve got a couple of hours to call leads back, but if you don’t have the ability to call every lead right away, at least use time blocks in the morning and in the afternoon to catch people when they’ll pick up.

Byron:                                   How are you battling coastal problems, east coast, west coast…? Any tips and recommendations there including and/or outsourcing or those types of challenges?

Chris:                                    Yeah, I think the number one way to figure out how to not call the west coast during east coast hours is     to do it andget yelled at. I’m pretty sure that has to happen for everybody to never do it again. When we generate leads, we believe that if you’ve got something worth opting in for, you can actually ask a few questions. Now, the more you try to collect, the less leads you’ll get. But if you’re just getting like email and phone number and you don’t have the context of where they live, maybe you should start asking for their website as well, and then on their website you could find their about page and fill in the details of the time zone they’re in. I would say the biggest challenge with time zones would be not knowing the time zones. But looking up the area codes of the phone numbers you’re calling, we definitely have a west coast sales person and an east coast sales person for that reason. I think that in a remote virtual world we live in with tools like Skype and Slack and Go To Meeting, you definitely can have coverage on both coasts even if you don’t have brick and mortar there. So yeah, we think about that a lot. I mean, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. happens on both coasts. I want guys calling at both blocks.

Byron:                                   Have you done any writing in the book on fine-tuning the tone and style of both messaging and aligning that with the tone and style of the actual conversation?

Chris:                                    Yes. I think that if your company has a lot of swagger and your founders are very confident and they’re in the public eye and they’re putting out thought leadership content on ink and they have a web show, I think that your sales team needs to have some swagger. I mean it’s called coupling. If your ad has read and has fire on it, your landing page should too. I do think that corporate messaging is where the conversation starts, but it’s not where the conversation is going to end in a customer. I do think that if the marketing team wants to send messages that everybody is okay with, involve the sales team in coming up with those messages. If we could start any conversation with you about our product with leads this week, what would you want that conversation to be about, because typically what that means is those were the things during the call to get that person the most excited, so shouldn’t we be marketing that anyway? I think a lot of it is kind of being okay as a marketer, going to the boiler room to get some of your marketing ideas from the “sales guy”.

Byron:                                   Your thoughts on training new sales reps, what are we doing wrong with that process, and how can we fix it?

Chris:                                    Great question. When I got hired at Quicken Loans, which is a billion dollar organization, they owned the Cleveland Cavaliers. They’re the number one internet lead company for mortgages, they have rocket mortgage, commercials on the super bowl…When you get hired at Quicken Loans you go through five 50 hour weeks of training in sales and training on mortgages before you’re allowed to call a bad lead. I think it’s as simple as training out of the gates. Most people don’t even have a script, so how could they teach a new guy a script? But at Quicken and at Lou Pearlman’s company, he’s another billionaire I did inside sales for, when you go there, there’s already a framework for success.

I remember logging in to the backend of the Quicken Loans program the first time and they had a call clip library where you could go and you could click on any kind of situation, like overcoming the waiting objection, overcoming the spousal objection, how to get a credit card number on the first call, and you could just go right to a real call that had been recorded by one of your colleagues where they had accomplished that goal. I think a lot of it is about the company’s commitment to excellence and also not rushing to get them on the phone, being patient with the training, really being patient with the on-boarding, and then when they do get a chance to start, make them call the back end of the leads, make them call the leads that said never call me again, for a month.

Byron:                                   What is learned and gained by calling those dead wasted leads in your opinion? What are you practicing?

Chris:                                    As the owner what’s gained is that they don’t mess up with the people that really might buy. What’s valuable for the sales person is to have conversations out loud, to get hung up on, to get through a couple of those people that are mad at first but actually turn it into a call or a deal, which does happen from time to time. It’s an equivalent of what happens when Leo DiCaprio takes a script for the first time and just starts reading it out loud to his buddies. It’s probably not that great, but by the time they film the movie, he’s got it. If you’re not saying stuff out loud, if you’re not role playing, if you’re not calling people with a pulse and trying to talk them through your products, you’re not going to be ready for the big leagues.

Byron:                                   How much practice do you think really needs to happen before you have perfected the art and science of selling?

Chris:                                    Well, a lot of people would say you need 10,000 hours to master a topic.               What I’ve seen is that inside of these organizations that have gotten it right, they have a unique ability to take people up a notch quickly. What I mean by that is if you’re average, you’re going to be good within the first month and a half or two. If you’re good, you’ll be great; if you’re great you’ll be excellent; if you’re below average, they can get you to average. They can through their infrastructure, tools, trainings, teachings, they can take almost anybody up a notch very, very quickly. But then, to go up another notch or another notch, that’s going to be internal drive, work ethic, focus, external motivations for why you’re there; some of the stuff they can’t teach.

Byron:                                   What percentage of people do you think exercise those extra-curricular activities that make you really understand the art of selling?

Chris:                                    All the ones who make a lot of money.

Byron:                                   Do you think there’s any limit on that? Is anyone constrained and limited by that investment of time and seeing the payoff from it?

Chris:                                    I think so. I understand people are busy. One of the things my first coach told me is you always should be learning more than you’re earning. So right now if you’re broke, and you’ve got 500 bucks in the bank, you should be learning your ass off. But if you’re actually wealthy and you’re earning a lot of money, well you should also be reaching out to people wealthier than you, or more successful than you, or that have more inner peace than you, or have a company that the employees like working at more than yours. You should always be sharpening your axe and you should always be looking for mentors to pull you up to greatness. Most people won’t push you up.

Byron:                                   This has really been a lot of fun by the way Chris, thank you for that.

Chris:                                    Happy to be here. It’s exciting. You’re right; this is like ping pong coming on.

Byron:                                   Well, I think everyone really enjoyed listening to your podcast today. The aim of your book is certainly in the right direction, and I applaud you taking on this challenging, rough waters where marketing and sales have just not been able to get it together. So good for you for taking that on and offering some great coaching through the book, thanks for that.

Chris:                                    Thank you. It’s a labor of love. It took me about 12 years to write because it took me going from my first day in the cubicle as an inside sales person all the way up until now as a digital marketer generating tens of thousands of leads a month. Not a lot of people have worn those same two hats, and so I just want to share that experience and let people know that it is possible. There are companies that have cracked the conversion code and you can too.

Byron:                                   Love the energy Chris. Keep up the great work, and thanks for being with us today.

Chris:                                    Thank you.

Byron:                                  Write on. Thanks for tuning in everyone. We’ll see you next week.