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Selling your product, whether B2B or to a consumer, requires having a thorough understanding of your customer. If sales are lagging, there's a good chance that your focus needs to shift back to the customer, and your company's mission. Change is hard, and sometimes having expert consulting is what you need to to really make a shift in strategy and have lasting results.
Recently, our CEO sat down with a consultant who helps B2B leaders develop marketing and sales strategies to drive growth. In this blog, Hollywood Branded explores how being about the buyer leads to a competitive advantage with the input of Todd Hockenberry, founder of Top Line Results.
Todd and Top Line Results specialize in leading top line revenue growth at small and medium-sized companies with a focus on B2B, manufacturing, technology, and capital equipment. For over 10 years Top Line Results has been a leader in educating and helping B2B companies adapt to the new realities of Internet-driven changes in buying behavior. Top Line Results is a Gold Level HubSpot partner and expert at using online tools to drive significant new leads and revenue for clients.
Todd is the co-author of "Inbound Organization: How to Build and Strengthen Your Company's Future Using Inbound Principles". He resides in Orlando, Florida with his wife Leanne, their three children, two labradors Crash and Walter, and Kiki the dog cat.
Question: What's your background? You seem to have a lot of experience in sales.
Answer: I started out in the automotive industry, and I was working with automotive suppliers for a number of years, and then I moved on to running sales and marketing for manufacturing companies. I did that for about the first 20 years of my career. And then just almost exactly 10 years ago, I got fired, which was a little humbling, and never happened before. It was right in the middle of the great recession, and I was selling lasers and nobody was buying lasers. So, the market's just kind of dried up. And I found myself kind of sitting with my wife saying, "What are we going to do with the rest of our lives? What are we going to do?" And I realized that I had been part of teams that had grown companies significantly.
All the businesses that I'd worked for up to that point had grown significantly. So I said, "Look, I'm just going to have my own company, and we're going to do our own thing, and go teach people what we know and help them grow." Very soon after that, we realized that the clients we were working with had no idea about how to generate leads online, had no idea how to create content beyond just a flyer or a catalog, no idea how to use, certainly not social media at the time, even email marketing, learning how to use that to kind of create value in it, and educate people. They were used to... These companies were used to going into trade shows, or advertising in trade magazines and just hammering people with product, product, product, and compete on price, and really didn't understand how to do it.
So, we started to work with companies, and it was great, because we ran some new markets where people weren't creating a lot of content. So, there was a lot of room to run. And our early clients saw massive success, just huge amounts of it lead increase, and sales growth. I remember one of the first case studies we ever did, the subtitle was, "How to grow your business 86%, and do half as many quotes in one year." So, that was actually, it was a real story from an actual client who saw that much growth, actually doing less quoting than they did before. It was so targeted, and so focused on the right audience. So we've just been kind of moving from kind of inbound marketing and moved in inbound sales, and really just trying to help companies understand how to apply these ideas.
Now, it's consulting and advising across the entire organization where we're now talking to CEOs about why it matters that the way you think about your mission, and the kind of culture you have, and how your service department responds to questions or issues, and how you send bills to people, and how you do things like terms and conditions. I've never met anybody that disagrees with our basic premise, because if you just think about all the companies you work with, and all the companies you interact with, think of the interactions which you feel good about, and you're happy about, and then stack those up against the ones you're not happy about. And it's probably eight or nine to one negative to positive for most people. Or if you're lucky, most of them are just neutral.
So, people would say to me all the time, they'll say, "We're all customer focused. I mean, of course we're customer driven. I mean, of course we put the customer first." And it's like, "Yeah, no, you don't. If you did, more people wouldn't treat people the way... Like most of the company's ideal with would treat you."
Question: What I love about your philosophy of what we're talking about, taking inbound marketing that we all know about, inbound sales, but bringing in inbound into your organization, because everyone with all of these things, a big hurdle for people I think is thinking about, and structuring it where you are not pushing across what you want to be pushing across, but you're actually working in an environment where you're educating, and you're giving information, and advice, and entree into what the customer actually wants, including how they want to be treated, I'm assuming at least.
Answer: Yes, exactly. I just finished doing something that was like kind of a, one of the my life goals. I just finished up in the spring semester, teaching a class at a university, and I taught intro to sales. And one of the first things I did on the first class, I wrote on the board, "Selling is." And then I wrote a blank line. And I asked them, "What is that? Fill in the blank." And it was amazing the answers I heard. These were college sophomores to seniors, and I got, "Selling is pushy. Selling is annoying." I got a lot of that stuff. "Selling is kind of a little bit around teaching." But the one word I didn't get was the one word I think is actually selling, and that is helping.
And problem solving is helping. I grounded into their heads, selling is helping, and anything you're doing in your sales process, if you're not helping, then you're not doing the kind of sales that people want. I'm dealing with a large media company right now, and they're kind of struggling with this issue, and they have a cadence for their salespeople. It's kind of like we have to do 40 calls a day, or 40 touches a day. And it's so arbitrary, and it just ends up being this kind of just repetitive, I'm going to pound on you and tell you, "Relent and buy something from me."
None of the outreaches are really helpful. It's just meeting some artificial metric that internal people set to drive so-called accountability, or to make them feel like they're actually working. But in reality, I'd rather have two really good, helpful phone calls a day that I can drive value, and create the beginnings of a relationship that I can build on. I'd rather have far fewer conversations if they're better, and more helpful than... And how many of you have ever done this? Have you ever sent a quote out to somebody? You don't hear back from them for a week? And then you call them back say, "Hey, I'm just circling back to see how you're doing, and see if you had any questions about that quote?"
That's the worst call ever. And again, I'm exaggerating a little bit, but the reality is a lot of our outreach is that. It's still annoying, it's still bugging people. It's still like, "Hey, when are you going to give me something?" It's not helpful. And that's where inbound has, the ideas behind inbound have seeped into marketing, and... What about service? I mean, a lot of the companies I deal with on the service end, service is like, "Well when they call us, we're here. They know how to find us." It's a reactive thing. I mean, how many people are really proactively helping their customers before they need a problem? Are they educating? They're teaching them, "You had our product for a year, these are the 10 things you should do to make sure it's working correctly." Whether you're getting value from it.
So, we're really pushing the ideas of inbound marketing back to the customers. To their current customer base where educate your customers, make sure they know everything you do, make sure they know the new ways you're helping your other customers like them. And in software, you hear a lot about customer success is kind of a new, a relatively new idea, and a lot of SaaS companies do this where they use the technology to monitor your usage of it.
HubSpot's a master at this. They look at how you use the product, how many of the tools you use. Are you getting more leads? Are you getting more traffic? They'll look at the metrics to see if you're successful. But every company can do the same thing. It doesn't matter what business you're in. You should think the same way. To me, that's applying the ideas of inbound marketing to your entire process and your entire business.
Question: Where else, when you're working with a company, what are you looking at? What are the red flags? Where are people going wrong?
Answer: I love red flags. First thing I often do is I'm going to look at somebody's website. I don't care about design, I don't care about graphics. I don't care about... I mean, unless it looks like it's from 1997. I look for the messaging. Is the messaging, is language on this site, is it about me, me, me? Or is it about you, you, you. Is the tone and the approach, even the voice, is it in the voice of the customer from their perspective, talking about them and their issues? Or is it me talking about me, and showing you pictures of my building and my equipment, or "Here's our products lists, here's how great we are." That tells me a lot about their mindset. It tells me the way they think about their business, and the way they think about their customers.
And then I, this is maybe sounds strange, but I oftentimes will look at company's mission, and I'll ask them, "What's your mission? What's your focus? What are you trying to do?" And it is, maybe it isn't shocking, but it is oftentimes I get this, "Uh, well, um, I'm not, uh, well." They don't know. And I was just in a workshop with a client that's a global company, name everybody would know. And the CEO is in the meeting, and maybe 30, 35 of the top sales and marketing people. And I asked that question, "What's your mission?" Right off the bat, right at the beginning of the workshop, I said, "Who knows the mission?" And the only person in the room that put their hand up was the CEO. One person. I said, "There you go. Not much of a mission if nobody knows what it is."
I learned this from Dharmesh Shah, at HubSpot, this is in the book, he talks about vectors where everybody in the company's a vector, and you have a velocity and a direction and everybody's pointed some way. But if you don't have a mission that unifies everybody's understanding of why you're here, and what you're supposed to do, and who you're doing it for, and what the expectations are, then everybody's going in different directions. To get everybody pulling in the same direction. You have to have a strong mission. And we teach people that's got to be tied to your customer, and it's got to be tied to how you help them, and the outcomes they get. The mission isn't to be best in class, world this, quality. If I see those words, it's garbage. If those are the mission statements, nobody knows.
So, I look at those two things up front a lot. And again, I shop a lot of our clients. I'm going to call them. I'm going to see how they answered the phone, or do they send me in some rabbit trail, whole of voicemail hell that I can never get out of. Do they want to hear from me? Or am I annoying them? I'm going to look for those kinds of things. I'm going to search around when look at things like Glassdoor, and see how other people, what they think of them working with them. I'm going to really try to get a sense of how people are treated by them, the experience they get working there, or doing business with them.
And again, I'm really surprised at how many companies don't do that basic kind of homework. And so, a lot of times for us, one of the first things we'll do is, we'll do, when if we get engaged with somebody, we'll do some in depth interviews with customers and prospects, and people who they work with that left. We want to understand from that-
And again, I'm constantly surprised at how many companies really don't understand why people buy from them. Those are the things I'm looking for red Flags wise. Nothing too crazy. It's just kind of put myself in the shoes of the customer, and try to understand what it's like to be around you.
With over 20 years experience in growing companies, Todd has so much great advice for your marketing and sales strategies. The full episode has even more content that you don't want to miss, check it out below!
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Topics: Business Advice, Podcast Interviews, HB Podcast