Rewind – Stop Using that Outdated Sales Model | Peter Strohkorb

"Your tech stack, your marketing stack can pretty much reach anybody on the planet, if you really want to. But there's a huge difference between reaching them and engaging them." Peter Strohkorb, Episode 109

The commonly used sales funnel is over 120 years old…

Yet so many people use this outdated system…

Is there a better way to engage contemporary buyers?

This week, we’re rewinding to my conversation with Peter Strohkorb.

Peter believes it’s time to update the sales process—and his method has helped companies close bigger deals faster, achieve greater sales revenue, and land dream clients.

In this episode, he lays out his keys to success, including: 

  • 3 ways to engage contemporary buyers

  • How to create lean-forward sales moments

  • Why the opening is more powerful than the close

  • 4 questions for post-sale buyer care

  • And more

Mentioned in this episode:


Peter Strohkorb: Your your tech stack, your marketing stack can pretty much reach anybody on the planet, if you really want it. But there’s a huge difference between reaching them and engaging them.

Voiceover: You’re listening to the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast with professional speaker, coach and consultant Nicole Greer.

Nicole Greer: Welcome to the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. My name is Nicole Greer, and I’m here with Peter Strohkorb. And he is an amazing human. During the 20 plus years in executive level sales and marketing leadership roles, in multinational corporations such as Canon, don’t miss this list everybody 3M, and DXC, he found that traditional selling approaches were failing to achieve their desired results. And this turned out to be a problem. Serious problem. Buyers love buying and they hate to be sold to even more so now. 

And that’s why, since 2011, he has upgraded to a modern buyer focused sales funnel. And they have achieved multimillion dollar deals that they didn’t think they could win and closed six figure deals faster than ever before. And won dream clients they believe they didn’t even have a shot at, but they landed it anyways. So today on the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast, we have Peter, a sales and marketing guru because you know that old saying, Peter, right? Nothing happens inside an organization until something is sold. Is that still true?

Peter: Absolutely. Unless you’re in the public sector, and you can be paid from somebody else’s taxes. You need clients and customers to actually pay you and give you a revenue too so you can pay the whole organization and grow the business. Simple as that.

Nicole: That’s right, that’s right. So high on top of the CEOs list has to be are we making a profit? Are we getting the sales and marketing going? What is going on out there? Now before we get started on the whole sales marketing piece, I am collecting definitions Peter to this definite this this question, which is what is your definition of leadership?

Peter: Okay, so I have been asked this when I was at Uni, you know, what, what is leadership? And I gave the wrong answer. I actually said that the purpose of leadership is to create followers. But the true answer was the purpose of leadership is to create new leaders. And and so leadership is when you can not be more than a manager. So there’s a big difference between being a manager and being a leader. Of course, that’s pretty well understood. But what is a leader? So that’s that’s answering your question. 

A leader is somebody who can paint a vision of the future, round people up around that vision, rally them, get them to believe in the vision and follow them towards their path, and nurturing and guiding and coaching them to be the best person that they can be every single day. A leader is not what we see so many times somebody who, you know, cadence call on a Monday morning, bashes their sales team up and has a blowtorch in one hand and a the spreadsheet in the other. That’s not a leader, right. But a leader is somebody that helps somebody to be the best that they can be every single day and bring the results for the whole team.

Nicole: Fantastic. I love your definition. So I’m going to scrunch it down to the very first one he said, which was a leader develops other leaders, right empowers people to get the job done. And so I want to dive into this sales funnel. I think that, you know, what you’ve put together is really fantastic. And so everybody on the team needs to understand that the company has a sales process, and everybody’s a salesperson, that’s my philosophy. So you know, if I’m out having dinner with my neighbors, and I ask where I live and who I work for, you know, I’m trying to sell them on the company. So we’re all we’re all on the same team. We’re all on the sales team. So tell me a little bit about how your sales funnel that you put in place with organizations differs from the one that’s traditional. I read some statistic on your website that the other sales funnel has been around since when?

Peter: 1898.

Nicole: 1898? Is that what you said?

Peter: This is the original sales funnel invented way before the internet when the the all the information rested with the with the sellers. And the the prospect had to come to the salespeople and get the information off them and then make a decision right. Now that that’s all gone. You know, what we do now is we don’t talk to salespeople, first off. What we go is we go online, we do our research, we decide who we want to contact and when we want to contact them. And by that stage, we have done so much homework that we have a bunch of questions that we need to get answered. 

So the old sales model, the 121 year old sales model now is something that a lot of organizations still look for and follow. And it’s so inward looking. It’s looking at how we want to sell and what we want to sell, instead of looking at our buyers, and how do they want to buy? So the buyer focused sales funnel is simply remodeling the 121 year old concept and turning it into something for the 2020s. And and what it all it does is it says, what does the buying process or the or our selling process look like from the perspective of the buyers? 

And how can we make ourselves interesting to the buyers and help them to make an informed buying decision, which is what they want now, but importantly, to buy from us. So instead of ambushing somebody with a sales pitch jumping out of the bushes, sending you a spam email, cold calling you with something that we have no idea whether you’ve been in the market for, and worst of all, connecting with you on LinkedIn under some pretext only need to pitch stuff to you next, right.

Nicole: That happens to me on the daily. I get so many LinkedIn messages.

Peter: So let me ask you this, Nicole. How well does it work for you when you receive those calls when you get those emails, and when you get pitched left on LinkedIn? How well does it work for you?

Nicole: Well, I gotta tell you, I’m a sweetheart. So I usually am very kind to them and say I’m not interested. But I’m glad to stay LinkedIn with you. Because I have a heart for salespeople because I’m a salesperson. But I think the average bear hates it. I think they think oh, why is this person making me say no.

Peter: So here’s, here’s the thing, right? Nobody likes it. And you’ve said it before that buyers love to buy, but they hate being sold to. And this goes for everybody out there. So why the heck are sellers still doing something that we know doesn’t work. And then when it doesn’t work, then we go, ahh we need to do more of it. So what I’m proposing is to change the game. You actually sell in a way that your buyers want to buy from you. And instead of making an adversarial relationship where I’m trying to sell you something you’re trying to resist me and all the objections. And then I have the objection handling. And the old mantra is close early, close often. Instead of instead of all of that, we actually positioned ourselves on the same side of the table as the buyer, and we help them to make an informed buying decision to buy from us of course.

Nicole: Fantastic. Alright, so if you take your funnel, have different layers to it that we can work through so we could talk about it.

Peter: Yeah, so there’s actually a structure to the buyer focused sales funnel that starts off with the same principles as the old sales funnel, namely, who are ideal prospects? Where can we find them? How do we get to them, but then we diverge. Because at the moment, what happens is that technology has made everybody lazy. So that your your tech stack, your marketing stack can pretty much reach anybody on the planet, if you really want it. But just but there’s a huge difference between reaching them, and engaging them. So this is where the buyer focused sales funnel then diverges from the from the 121 year old model. And that is where we need to find a way to engage our ideal buyers. And there’s there’s three ways you can engage an ideal buyer. 

Nicole: Let’s hear them.

Peter: So particularly if they’re if they’re b2b, and particularly if they’re relatively senior decision makers, or in particularly if it’s either something more complex that you’re selling, or something that has a higher price tag. So let’s, let’s make it worthwhile, right? Number one, is you make them aware of a business opportunity they didn’t know they had. Number two, it’s the opposite. You make them aware of a risk that they didn’t know they were facing. And number three, is probably the easiest and the most scalable of those three. And that is you help them to understand that they have a need for the thing that you’re selling, so that it becomes their decision to buy it. 

And you’re not forcing anything down their throat. So how do you do that, right? How do you do that? The first two, you need to do your homework, you need to dive, do some research and investigation into the prospect. And you almost need to know more about the organization than they do themselves because you want to surprise them with something that they didn’t know themselves. The third way is much and that takes time it’s possible to do, but it takes time and you got to be very focused. 

So so the third one is much easier. And that is by leading with thought leadership. If you can promote yourself as somebody that is a thought leader in your space, an expert in your space, then you have earned the right to have a point of view. And we kind of want to challenge the thinking of the buyer and get them get them to think about something they hadn’t thought of before. So, for example, what I talked about is creating at the first point of contact with the buyer to create the so called lean forward moment. 

This is when you lean when I lean forward and say, Nicole, that sounds really interesting. Tell me more about that. Why? Why am I looking for the lean forward moment? Because maybe inadvertently, maybe advertently, you’ve at that moment that you asked me the question, tell me more, it’s actually given me your explicit permission to sell to you. Not before. So at that moment, we have earned the right to sell to you. And then we can talk about all the things that we that we have. And we can, we can do what I otherwise call we-we syndrome, when we say we have this, and we have that, and we’re so great, and you should buy from us. 

Which nobody appreciates, because the first thing the buyer wants to know is what is in it for me, not how great are you? Right, and so so we need to intrigue them at the first point of contact, not not pitch them. And that and that’s, that’s, that’s a bit of a mindset shift as well for the sellers, because they’re usually so focused on what they’re selling. And they’re focused on the end of the month, the end of the quarter, you know, the the the arbitrary deadline, where they go, oh I must hit my target, I must make my quota.

But I wrote an article a couple of months ago that I ended up calling, Opening is the New Closing. Because rather than close early, close often, if we open well, and we achieve that lean forward moment, and they say tell me more about that. And then they’ve given us their permission to sell to them. That’s when the opening actually takes care of the closing. Because if you follow that progression through and the buyer focused sales funnel has those steps in it that are quite structured. If you follow that through to its logical conclusion that the closing will happen by itself, then you won’t need to push it.

Nicole: That’s fantastic. Okay, so the opening is the closing everybody write that down. I think that’s genius. That is genius. And so if we want to read that article, Peter, do we go out to your website and find it there?

Peter: Yes, you go on my website under media, and you will find it there. If, if, if you like, I’ll send you a link a bit later, or people can just reach out to me, and I’ll send it to them individually.

Nicole: Yeah, if you’ll send me the link, we’ll put it on the show notes. And so make sure people can get there. Okay, so. So you’ve dropped a lot of information. I just want to make sure everybody caught it. 

Peter: Sorry!

Nicole: So no, it’s fantastic! So so first of all, he said, there are three ways that we can begin to be different. Differentiate ourselves from the other people that are using the very old model.

Peter: This is about how to engage in a meaningful business context, rather than pitching and ambushing somebody with something that we have no idea whether they are interested in. Engaging as opposed to pitching.

Nicole: Right. And you said, you can be aware of their business and sell them something they didn’t know they needed. And the second thing was maybe a risk that they might be up against and didn’t know that they had.

Peter: Yeah, sorry, Nicole, it’s not quite right. 

Nicole: Okay straighten me out!

Peter: What I said was that you can get them interested in and you can create that lean forward moment by making them aware of an opportunity they didn’t realize they had or warning them of a risk they didn’t know they were facing.

Nicole: Okay, fantastic. And so he said, you’ve got to do your homework and your research, find out more about the organization, almost surprise the client with how much that you know, so I love that. So tell me how you research a client before you go in and you talk to them. I mean, obviously, we can Google and that kind of thing. But I’m wondering if you have other ideas about how we might research the clients we’re trying to get close to?

Peter: Yeah. Okay, so great question. And I said, it’s not easy, and the prospect has got to be worth the effort, of course, right. So the deal’s got to be large enough, and the prospects got to be ideal enough for you to take that, that effort. So so there’s this, as you said, you can Google them, you can look them up on LinkedIn, you can look at who they’re connected to that you also know, all that sort of thing. But the the most valuable part of the research is actually from from their own publications. 

So they will, they will put out information about themselves. If they’re a listed company or if a big enough company that have an annual report. If they’re not not big enough, they will have a newsletter and they will have information that they that they put out. Now, as a thought leader in your space, you will know what other clients like them in their industry are already facing, because you’ve done work with others that look like them. But because you’ve worked with clients that looked like them, that are in similar situations in the industry, similar kind of business and and by the way, in a similar job role. 

You can then go take the information that you’ve done that if gathered with somebody else and repackage it for them. So that it’s totally new information for them. So a lot of the accounting firms do that really well. They get IP by working from with one, one client. So this is the accounting and consulting firms, right, the big four. They take IP by working with one client, and then they repackage that same IP to somebody else, and it makes it look really clever. So you can do the same thing.

Nicole: That’s fantastic. That’s fantastic. And so what we’re trying to do is get that lean forward moment where they say, tell me more about that. And that is the opening that creates the closing on its own. Did I get that right?

Peter: Well, that’s what and that’s, and that’s, that’s very critically, that’s the moment they have given you their permission to sell to them.

Nicole: Yeah. I love it. And I think everybody who has a sales team, if they have an area where they meet, they need to have a sign on the wall that says, we-we syndrome with a big circle with a line through it. I think that’s fantastic. All right. So and funny. So that we-we syndrome. Got to get that out there. Okay. All right. So we’ve started by going through this process, tell me a little bit more about the next part of the sales funnel, what happens then?

Peter: Okay, so we’ve identified the ideal customer, we’ve understand, we understand where they hang out, we understand how to reach them and engage them. The next thing that is, of course, you will not be the only runner in a race to the deal. You’ll be competing with others. And so what the buyer focused sales funnel teaches you is how to eliminate your competitors. And there’s a specific technique that I teach my clients that in terms of how we do that without bad mouthing the competition. 

So we’re not saying bad things about them, we’re just saying something that we’re bringing up a subject that our competitors will probably not raise and avoid, but we’re bringing it up proactively so that we’re the only ones that that talk about that particular subject, and, and that subject is the matter of decision risk. So I have a specific technique that I teach my clients. Now, my clients are now in three continents, by the way. In North America, Europe and and Australia. To eliminate the competitors by simply raising an uncomfortable subject, namely risk.

Nicole: Okay, can you tell us a story that might illustrate that?

Peter: Yeah, sure. So So I say to you, Nicole, you realize that in every business decision that you make, there’s an element of risk involved? Right. Okay. So you realize that in making this business decision about what you’re trying to buy, there’s also an element of risk? Right. Okay. So would you like to know what risks you’re facing in making this decision, regardless of whether you buy from us or anybody else?

Nicole: Yes, I would like that to be very clear.

Peter: Okay. So what I’ve done there is I’ve made you aware of a risk that you’re facing, but nobody else has spoken to you about. Yeah. And so you’ll be now thinking, why is Peter the only one that’s mentioned this to me, and nobody else has? And why is everybody just said, look, don’t worry, nothing will go wrong, just trust us. So what I’ve done there psychologically is I’ve positioned myself on the other side of the table, and I said, look, it’s a big bad world out there. Let me help you to navigate and get a good result. Regardless of whether you’re buying from me or not.

Nicole: Yeah, turns yourself into a trusted advisor.

Peter: Pretty much. Pretty much. Or you’ve at least got them curious.

Nicole: I didn’t hear what you said.

Peter: I said, or we at least got them curious.

Nicole: That’s right. That’s right. Okay, so you will help them eliminate their competitors. By planting the seed that, hey, it’s a big scary world out there, you’ve got some risks. I’m here for you. I’m going to help you navigate the risk that is in front of you, whether you buy from me or not. So that puts you in that hot seat of trusted advisor. I think that’s genius.

Peter: Next, next thing is to say, how do we actually win the deal? Yeah. If it’s a big enough deal, people will ask ask you for a proposal. Let’s say this is not a tender situation, this is actually a sale. And they say, look Nicole, can you send me a proposal? Okay. So I say to my clients, what’s the worst thing you can do when somebody says send me a proposal?

Nicole: Send them a proposal.

Peter: Bingo. All right, because the thing is that most salespeople will get excited. Yeah, that’s a buying signal. I’ll send them a proposal. Now a lot of work goes into these proposals. And you want to make sure the content is right and that the styling is right and that you got the right information, you’re going to executive summary of the pricing and oh, my God, everything right. Now you think about it, a proposal actually contains a lot of your valuable IP. So there’s information about your products, there’s information about your pricing about terms and conditions, your warranties, you know, there’s a lot of IP in there that you may not want to spread far and wide. 

It’s just specifically for the client. But what’s the guarantee that they’re actually serious about your proposal? You may not know whether you’re number one, number two or number 25 in the hierarchy, list of priorities, right. So this is what I teach my clients to do. I say to my clients who tell their clients, thank you, Nicole, we’d love to send you a proposal. At our organization, we’re super serious about making sure that our proposals meet our client’s expectations. Therefore, can we meet at 2pm on Thursday, to walk through a draft together to make sure it meets your requirements. I’m giving you all my best tips right now.

Nicole: I’m very grateful. Put it in the notes that you’re grateful. So when Peter checks on him, he’ll be like, oh, they were grateful. All right. So I don’t want to give out too much information. So I’d love to send you a proposal. We are very serious about meeting your needs. And meeting your expectations. Can we meet Tuesday to work through a draft?

Peter: Yeah, to make sure that it suits you. Right. Because it’s in our interest that we make sure it suits you, and it’s in your interest that we get it right. So one of two things will happen. Either the buyer will say yeah, Nicole, that’s great. Let’s meet at 2pm on Tuesday. What does that tell you?

Nicole: I’d say they’re pretty excited. 

Peter: They’re serious.

Nicole: They’re taking time off their calendar to sit down with you. That’s a pretty good sign.

Peter: They’re serious about your business. What happens if they say no, Nicole that’s fine. Just send it through the way it is.

Nicole: Yeah, your number 25, I guess. Right.

Peter: Yeah. So just by asking you that question alone will give you members of tremendous information about how serious the buyer, the buyer is, right? And let me tell you a story about a Californian company that’s a client of mine. 

Nicole: Oh, please.

Peter: Who, who are in quite a niche business, so they do compliance for for manufacturing processes, right. So they did compliance testing and stuff like that. Client came to them and said, we would like you to give us a proposal for this for this new project. And this was a multi million dollar project, a multi million dollar project.

Nicole: Multi million project people. 

Peter: Multi million. Lots of zeros.

Nicole: We got it, we got it. We got dollar signs.

Peter: And so my client had only just been taught this, this technique, and he used it on on this on this buyer. And he said, look, when can we get together? And and they said, yep, we can get together. And because it was a multi million dollar project, they brought their entire executive team to this review meeting. They walked through the thing, almost line by line for an hour and a half. Guess how much? How much at the end of that they had an appetite for to do the same thing with anybody else.

Nicole: Nobody, and maybe it even grew, right?

Peter: My client got the deal without them, without them even looking anywhere else. Because they had walked through it together. The client knew exactly what they were going to get, and that it was meeting their requirements. And my client, my client had the help of the buyer to get the proposal right, just for asking.

Nicole: Yeah, that’s fantastic. Yeah. And writing proposals is about the lowest thing on my sales skills list in terms of fun. I can do it, I don’t enjoy it. Because it is it’s a big guessing game. You know, you’re sitting at your desk all by yourself, you’re like, what are they going to do? What are they going to say? Should I put this in? Should I not put this in? I mean, it’s it’s a big mind game, you play. As the salesperson, you’re telling me I don’t even have to do that.

Peter: And Nicole what happens once you send the proposal off? What happens to you? 

Nicole: I worry.

Peter: Yeah, you lose control, right. And then there may be crickets and you go have they read the proposal? Have they already decided and not told me? Is, they don’t understand something? Did the email bounce, you know, what, what, what, what? And so you get desperate so by you can avoid all that. And you can also avoid all the extra work by knowing whether they’re serious or not simply by using this specific technique.

Nicole: That’s great. Now, if they do say, just send it off, what do you suggest? You push for the in person meeting or do you send it off? Or what do you do?

Peter: Okay, so there’s two more choices that you have.

Nicole: Oh, good. I love choices.

Peter: And I’ll teach those to my clients and you have to join my program to know. To find out.

Nicole: Oh, come on now. You’re not going to share for real. Okay. All right. Well, there’s two more things. So you have to get up with Peter if you’re interested. All right.

Peter: It’s how you win, how you win the deal, right? How you structure the proposal content, as well as the proposal process to win the deal.

Nicole: All right, don’t miss that everybody the proposal content and the proposal process. Yeah, and I don’t think anybody’s talking about that, that I know of. That’s fantastic. I love that idea. Alright, so as you said, we found the ideal customer. We have reached them, we have engaged with them. And now we do the proposal. And we want to meet with them to do the proposal process. What’s next?

Peter: Okay, so let’s say we’ve won the deal, because they’ve put so much effort into writing our proposal that they’re just going to buy now. The next thing then is to give, how do you give them such a good pre, during and post purchase experience that they come back and buy more from you? So very distinctly the, the relationship does not end with the transaction.

Nicole: Right. Yeah, I have called it the before, during and after, but you’re calling it the pre. 

Peter: Pre, during and post style.

Nicole: Pre, during and post. Okay, can you tell us about somebody that does an amazing pre, during and post process so we can kind of see what amazing looks like.

Peter: There’s a there’s a lot of b2c companies like consumer companies that do that really well. And so for example, there’s a I live in Sydney in Australia, but I service clients all over the world. And there’s a local boutique gin company here. And what they do is they they first differentiate themselves through what they put into the gin and how they work and all the story behind how they grew the business and how the business establishes. You get a bit of an emotional attachment to the business. And but then after your purchase, they actually come back to you and say how did you enjoy the experience and you can, here’s other things that you can buy as well. So they reach out to you afterwards and check on you in terms of how you how you actually enjoyed their gin and and give you and ask you too how you use the gin. So, did you use tonic did you put it into a cocktail? Did you, you know, how did you mix it and so.

Nicole: Well hold on of course you’re gonna put it with with with tonic and put a lime in it right.

Peter: Well, lime or lemon. But but but I also like to have you heard of have you heard of an Aperol Spritz?

Nicole: I think I, maybe I’ve seen it on a menu. Tell me what it is. I might need to have one.

Peter: It’s an Italian drink made out of bitter oranges called Aperol and you have it with a bit of Prosecco and a bit of soda water. It’s really refreshing in summer so wrong season for you guys. But what I like to do as I like to reinforce it a little bit with a bit of gin. So I put actually gin, Aperol Prosecco and bit of tonic water in there instead of the soda water. And it’s sort of my version of the Aperol Spritz. So you can actually mix and match it up quite a bit.

Nicole: Well, you know, I’ve been to Sydney one time, and I was at a rooftop restaurant looking out over the water. Do you know you probably know the one I was in. And I we had a drink. Pimm’s.

Peter: Pimm’s. Yeah, Pimm’s cocktail. That’s English drink. Yeah.

Nicole: It was fantastic. Anyways, I digress. I have little Sydney moment in my head. So they they do a fantastic job during and then what did they do post? What did the company do post?

Peter: Basically, you care. You show that you care? Right. And by the way, that’s not that’s not by running an NPS survey? I don’t know anybody that likes to fill in an NPS survey. Do you?

Nicole: No, we’re all survey fatigued, actually.

Peter: So I think it’s actually pretty insulting to the buyer when you send them an NPS score, and you say, we want to know this, and can you do some work to tell us what we want to know? But there’s nothing in it for the buyer. The worst thing is that most most surveys, that people that put the survey out, they collect the data, and then there’s nothing coming back to the people filling it out. So they go thanks for the data. And then there’s a black hole. And there’s there’s nothing. And so next time, they asked me to fill out a survey. I go, well, nothing happened last time. So why would I do it again this time, so we get survey fatigue. And it’s pretty unrewarding, right? 

So here’s, here’s what I suggest to my clients and their business. You do not ask for NPS. NPS is very convenient, because you get a numerical score that you can compare to last time, but it’s also damn lazy. What I say is you actually ask your buyers about things that they want to say not that things that you want to know. So you ask only three questions, actually, four, but three, three questions. One is, what are we doing well? What could we do better? Very importantly, next one, what else should we be doing that somebody else is doing and we’re not? And then the fourth optional question is, can we contact you about your answers? Because we want to know more. 

Nicole: That’s fantastic. 

Peter: Yeah, it’s more work, right? Because you don’t just add up a few numbers and create an average. What you actually have to do is actually listen and read the stuff that they’re saying. And then almost the most important thing out of doing a survey is you go back to the people that have responded, either in a in a newsletter or in a report or individually, if you want to, to say thank you for providing your feedback. Here’s what we’re going to do about it. Just so they know that they’ve had they’ve made a difference, right? Or if you decide not to do anything about it, just say that. Say here’s, here’s why we’re not going to do anything about it, because something right. And they go, I get it. But the worst thing almost you can do is ask them to do work for you and then not give them anything back.

Nicole: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. So the questions were, what are we doing well, what can we do better, what else should we be doing that we’re not doing? And can we contact you about your answers? Did I get it right that time? Awesome. I got my notes, I could read my writing time.

Peter: Ahh, you got your gold star. But the, obviously the survey is going to be anonymous. And the fourth question is there so that they have an opportunity to give their contact details so you can reach out them. So that’s, that’s why it’s there.

Nicole: Yeah, that’s fantastic. Yeah. And I couldn’t agree more, you know, I do a lot of organizational development work. And inside of companies, they’re doing engagement surveys with their employees, which is the same thing. When people tell me we should do an employee engagement survey. I’m like, not unless you’re willing to respond. Because you will make everybody very upset. If you if you do not respond to whatever they say, whether they’re there what whatever they’re saying is legitimate or not legitimate, you still have to respond, you have to make a statement on what’s been what’s been put in front of you. And I love that. And don’t you think too that, you know, you’re talking about people, you know, doing the numerical thing, the quantitative measurements. I think the gems are in the qualitative information anyways, I mean, that’s where you’re gonna get your little gem.

Peter: But if somebody says, okay I’m giving you 8 out of 10, and here’s why. That’s not really giving you the information that you need to be better. You know, it’s just a, what they call a vanity stat, right? Where you go, oh, we got a 7.8, we got a 9.4. But it’s actually meaningless, unless you understand what’s behind it.

Nicole: Right. 100%. I agree, I think the qualitative stuff is way more important. So I pulled up a picture so I could reference it because I wanted to get it straight in my brain. And you can go directly to Peter’s website, and you can take a look. He’s got the old sales funnel up there, he’s got the buyer focused one up there. And the one thing that you have at the very top is the brand promise. Talk a little bit more about that, because I think that people they don’t understand brand or the promise that people are that they you know, that we need to make to people.

Peter: Okay, so the other thing that happens a lot is that people confuse the brand promise with the value proposition. The brand promise is quite, quite frankly, if I’ve never heard of Nicola Greer. And I’ve come across her website or logo or something. I want to know as a buyer, what experience can I expect from doing business with Nicole Greer?

Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. So it’s going to be vibrant, full of energy and enthusiasm, and I’m going to help you build a vibrant culture.

Peter: See, you’re confusing it with value proposition. What, what’s the feeling that somebody gets from doing business with you?

Nicole: They have a good time and they fix their problems.

Peter: Okay. So what I do with my clients is I give them a tagline, a motto or slogan that can either be a sentence, or just two or three words that succinctly describe the experience you should be expecting from doing business with them. So, I’ll give you a couple examples if you like.

Nicole: Okay, and then you’re gonna help me with mine. Right?

Peter: If you want to, absolutely.

Nicole: Say yes.

Peter: Yes. So the one is, there’s a there’s a, an IT services company that does, you know, backup and recovery and the usual IT stuff from as an outsourced service for the for their clients. And the the, the founder and owner and CEO is a very technical person, right? So not not much of a sales bone in their body, but very, very adept with technology. So the slogan was originally something very technical. And after he and I workshopped, this in a one on one scenario, we came up with this tagline for them. And the tagline is, we’ve got your back. Right. And instinctively, you know that these people are looking to do the right thing for your business as a buyer, right. So you go, oh they’ve got my back, which means that even when I don’t know that they’re there, and they’re doing stuff in the background, I know that they’re there for me and fixing stuff.

Nicole: That’s right. All my files are backed up on the server. I’m good to go.

Peter: Yeah, it’s it’s such a simple way of expressing the feeling that I want to get from an IT outsourced services provider, right. I want to feel that they’ve got my back, and everything’s under control. So with that single tagline, they can, they can now convey to their prospective customers what the customer can expect from doing business with them. The other one is a three word slogan, this is another California company. They do go to market strategy on, for product strategy for them for their clients. And we came up with a three word slogan for them. It was competency, speed, success. 

And in just three words, you can imagine in your own mind, what it is like to do business with them. They know what they’re doing because they’re competent. They don’t dilly daddle around. They’re fast. And the the end result is they deliver results in the end. So I go, yeah, I want to know more about them. And the beautiful thing now is that they used to have a 32 page slide deck that they used to introduce the company to a prospective new client. Now imagine what the client felt like walking through 32 slides. 

Instead, what they do now is they flash the logo up, with those three words competency, speed success. And they ask the client what what does that mean to you? What do your, what do those words mean to you, Mr. Client? Mrs. Client? And at the very first part of the meeting, they give the client the opportunity to speak about themselves and in the context of this vendor. And they’re having a dialogue right from the start without needing to go through half an hour of slides first. So it’s much more refreshing for the client. And it’s like, it doesn’t feel like selling to either party.

Nicole: Yeah, well, for years I have used and test this, Peter. So I have said for years that what I provide people are strategies, systems and smarts and then maybe value proposition is to build a vibrant culture. What do you think about that?

Peter: I think it needs work.

Nicole: Alright, so what would you do to change it. Help a girl out. I need all the help I can get.

Peter: We’ll talk offline Nicole, no problem.

Nicole: Okay. All right. So the first thing is brand promise. And then we have products and services. And I do think people are all over the place with what they offer. And especially if they’re consultants, like myself, that kind of thing. But it’s very important to know your products and services and your value proposition. So just because, you know, you think I need work, too. So just to help a girl out, what’s the difference between the brand promise and the value proposition? Make that clear in the listeners mind.

Peter: It’s very easy. So the brand promise is how it makes you feel working with us. And the value proposition is what’s in it for you.

Nicole: Okay, all right. So the brand promise is more of a feeling that you get. So I feel secure if I work with your IT company. 

Peter: Pretty much.

Nicole: Because you’ve got my back. Okay. All right. Fantastic. All right, we connected all the dots. And I was trying to think in my mind when I was, you know, studying up before I got on here with you is that, you know, it says proposals, and then it says CX and you’re just talking about the customer experience there that goes right back to the pre the during in the post? Do I have that? Right? Okay, so I should make sure I had all of your letters correct. All right. Well, finally, at the bottom of the funnel, you’re talking about, you know, these buyers become advocates for you. So, so just talk a little bit about how do you turn your buyers into advocates.

Peter: Okay, so firstly, you give them a good pre, during and post experience so that they come back and buy more from you.  If you do that, well, then they will, they will be tempted that they’ll they’ll actually recommend your business to other people, because you’ve done such a great job with them, and you’ve given them such a great experience. So they’ll go, Nicole, you should talk to these people as well. They really, they really know what they’re doing. They’ve done a great job for me. 

So that’s called referral selling. Right? And and so people dally dabble in referral selling they go are asked when I think about it, and then I go like, you know, can you refer me to somebody else? And it never quite works because it’s not structured. So you actually need to have a referral process in place. And you need to know when to ask, who to ask or more grammatically correctly, whom to ask, and how to ask. And I teach my clients all that as well. And then you need to have a structured process in place that actually measures your referral activities. 

So it’s not just I’ll do it when I think about it. And you know, I forgot. It’s actually you measure each of those three components. And you measure how many, how many people were asked, and how many referrals you got out of that. And then what sells eventuated, what revenue drove came out of those referrals. So if you’ve procedurized your referral selling, your sales funnel will actually not like look like this, your sales funnel will actually look like this. Because again.

Nicole: Oh, it will be an hour glass, 

Peter: Hour glass, the bow tie you you call it what you like, but you actually get more business, again, by doing the right thing at the bottom of the sales funnel. Sorry, at the bottom of the buyer focused sales funnel, so that it almost becomes, it feeds itself.

Nicole: That’s fantastic. That’s fantastic. So what else do you think needs to be on the scorecard or on the the key performance indicator? So we’re going to measure our referrals? What are the other things that you that you measure? I mean, obviously, sales, but what what else? What are the other things that a sales department should be looking at?

Peter: Okay, so this may be a bit controversial, a bit of heresy to some salespeople. But.

Nicole: Gosh, they’re all leaning in to hear this. Go ahead.

Peter: But I think sales revenue should not be the only or even the main indicator of a salesperson’s success.

Nicole: What’d you say? All right, tell us tell us why since you’re going to stir the pot here.

Peter: So here’s the thing that brings us right back to the beginning of what we talked about, namely that we don’t want to ambush salespeople. We don’t want to treat, make people feel like they’re just a sales opportunity. A revenue opportunity and not a human being and not a relationship. So we also need to measure the quality of the customer engagement as well. 

Nicole Greer: Tell me how you do that.

Peter: But first, let me tell you what I mean by that. And that is, if we hit up 1000 people with a spammy email, and we tease off 998 of them, that that’s not going to be a great result next time we send them an email, right? So there is a clear message there that that hitting and running. And praying and spraying does not achieve a good result anymore. Especially now since the pandemic and people have become more sensitized to this sort of thing. And especially since the pandemic more and more people are doing the same thing. And people are disconnecting. Do you allow that on apple iOS, there is now a feature that lets you turn off, that lets you send numbers that are not in your directory straight to voicemail.

Nicole: I did not know that.

Peter: Yeah, so numbers that are not known to you. So if a number calls you that you don’t know.

Nicole: Not in my contact list is what you’re saying, right.

Peter: It goes straight to voicemail, because there’s so many people that are called on their mobile, unsolicitedly from strange numbers wanting to buy something that Apple’s actually put a feature in place, but that diverts them to somewhere else. So that goes to show how big the problem is, and doing more of the same thing is not going to give you a different result. So anyway.

Nicole: That’s right. Well, they’ve all left the podcast now because they’re all Googling how to figure out how to set that setting. So Peter, we should have saved that to the end, I’m just saying.

Peter: Come back people. Please come back. So the the way that you find out what the quality of the relationship is, of course you ask them, right. And there’s there’s a number of apps out there that let you do it. But I think if you go back to what we talked about surveys and just say, well, how did we do? What could we do better? What else could we do? That if you just ask those three questions, then then you know, if it proves that you care, it goes to show that you care, and they’re probably quite happy to tell you what the experience they’ve had. Because if they’ve had a good one, they’re gonna say, yeah, great. If they’ve had a bad one they’re going to tell you too but only for the asking.

Nicole: And, and you, you aren’t doing a stellar job every time. Like you gotta, you gotta have enough humility and maturity to understand that you’ve got room for improvement. And I think sometimes clients, they they end up appreciating you and wanting to help you do better. I mean, they, you know, they see your potential. I’ve had a lot of times where clients have told me, this is what you need to do better, but they will still want to work with me, you know, but they they want the next experience that they have to be better. And if you’re not humble enough to get in there and get that information, you’re deep stuff, right?

Peter: But they also appreciate the fact that you’re asking them their opinion. 

Nicole: Oh 100% 

Peter: And let’s go back to what you said earlier about calling people cold calling you, you say you feel so empathetic to them that you actually are nice to them, right?

Nicole: I am. I’m nice to all of them.

Peter: So if they if they asked you to how did I do? You would probably give them your honest opinion, right? And they could learn from the experience and do better next time. So why not ask? So you gotta to measure the quality of your customer engagement as well as the revenue and all this, you know, numerical figures

Nicole: 100%. Okay, well, we have gone all the way through the sales funnel, we didn’t even talk about your book. So will you talk, when you talk about your book for just a moment, maybe we can have you come back and we can go chapter by chapter through the book and get the highlight the highlight reel. But I went to your website, and I got I got it downloaded today, but I did obviously did not read it today. But I did get a hold of it. I’m gonna get, it’s on my, you know, to do list as far as the books. I don’t know about you, I got a stack of books, this big Peter sitting on the table that need to be read, but your book is in the queue. So tell me a little bit about your book. And and the fact that people can go get it at your website, which is You can go right there and get the book. So tell us a little bit about that.

Peter: Okay, so I’m gonna hold the book up. So shameless plug.

Nicole: There it is! I love the name of it. It’s so awesome. Smarketing. Oh that’s so great.

Peter: It’s called Smarketing.  Sell smarter, not harder. It’s actually aimed at larger organizations that, that have a separate sales, marketing and customer success team. And it’s about how do you turn those three, usually traditionally separate groupings, departments into one revenue team.

Nicole: I love it. I just did strategic planning on Saturday all day long with a manufacturing firm, that was the customer service department. But we did have the Director of Sales in there. But we did recognize at the end of the day, that we’ve got to get so many more people on board on the same trajectory, same mindset, everything you’re talking about.

Peter: Yeah. So let’s have another session on the on the book, because the book is not just about how nice would it be if they could collaborate. It actually gives you the precise steps in order to do that. And it gives you some examples of where it already worked in organizations on three different continents. So let’s leave that for another time, Nicole.

Nicole: All right, I would love to do that. So last question. Before we set you free to start your day down there down under. So if a special listener was you know, leaning in right now giving you permission to give them one more little juicy nugget. One more little tip, what would you leave that special listener with? What do they need to know and take away?

Peter: Okay, so I would like you to go to my website, as Nicole said. It’s, and you go to the tab that says sales assessment, and you do a little test for yourself for free, on the website in about five minutes. And you can test your, how well aligned your sales funnel currently is with how the buyers want to buy. 

Nicole: Alright, so a little self assessment.

Peter: Even if you end up doing no business with me whatsoever, it will give you new insight and probably give you a fresh inspiration for your own business. So it’s totally worth doing.

Nicole: Okay, thank you so much. All right, everybody. It’s been my absolute pleasure to be with Peter Strohkorb today. And you can find him on LinkedIn, also on Facebook and on Twitter. So we’ll put all that in the show notes, and I appreciate your time and energy. Peter, have a wonderful day and thank you for your investment in the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast.

Peter: Why, thank you, Nicole. It was awesome being on your show. I’m looking forward to doing it all again.

Voiceover: Ready to build your vibrant culture? Bring Nicole Greer to speak to your leadership team, conference or organization to help them with her strategies, systems and smarts to increase clarity, accountability, energy and results. Your organization will get lit from within. Email And be sure to check out Nicole’s TEDx talk at

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