Closing with confidence: Nigel Thomas' 3-step sales process

“We have two ears and one mouth for a reason – you need to listen.”

In Nigel’s opinion, listening is one of the most undervalued skills in sales. Salespersons need to be excellent listeners.

Because if you don’t listen, you don’t know what the prospect needs.

And if you can’t understand their needs, you’ve already lost the deal.

Nigel Thomas is the CEO of Alpha Inbound, a marketing agency that runs paid social campaigns for DTC brands.

In this episode of On the Flip Side, Nigel talks about:

- His 3-step sales process.
- Setting up next steps and knowing your ICP.
- 3-door closing technique.

Kushal: Hi there. Welcome to “On the Flip Side”, a podcast for anyone who wants to live their best sales life. We're going to be talking to buyers, sales managers, SDRs and AE's about things like, what does it take to be a great sales manager? Or how can you go home happy month after month? So let's dive right in. Hi there. Welcome to “On the Flip Side” with Wingman. I’m Kushal, and today we're joined by someone who has successfully led Alpha Inbound, a marketing agency, to run paid social campaigns for seven and eight figure D2C brands. Nigel, so great to have you on the show.

Nigel Thomas: Pleasure, thank you so much for having me here today.

Kushal: So I know you're here to talk really about your three step sales process that you follow over at Alpha Inbound, but even before that, can I just say that your cold email to me was probably one of the best that I've received in recent times? Because it was personal to the point and really respectful of my time as well. And I hear that you get 80% open rates as well. Give us some secret sauce before we dive in?

Nigel Thomas: Yeah, for sure. So I think I was talking to someone about this yesterday, but you know, 4 billion people use email around the world. So for people who say that cold emails don't work anymore, my question really to them is, let's just step back and challenge that for a minute. 4 billion emails – what you're telling me is that one person out of those 4 billion doesn't have personality anymore. So if you don't take the time, you know, you do the time to do the research to make them laugh, to give them a smile, to make it personalized… People are human, at the end of the day, you know. A lot of people have very stressful days and very stressful jobs, I'm sure you have a few stressful days yourself. And they want to be cheered up, they want to have a smile on their face. So if you can get them with that human touch, and of course, it's you know, you've got it from a sales side, be persuasive, and we can go into all those kinds of principles, but from my side, it's really about standing out, but just being human with people and taking the time. So instead of sending out a huge batch of emails, take your time. And I think you'll really be surprised, because I'm a big component of going out there and making the ask, but you'll be surprised of what doors will open if you knock on the right ones.

Kushal: Okay, great stuff there. Now, moving on to your three step sales process. Let's dig right in. I'd love to hear from you.

Nigel Thomas: Yeah, sure. So I learned in this process, I don't want to take all the credit. So a consultant in our last agency that I was working with, he had essentially built the sales team for a SaaS company that was sold for like 124 Million, he built the entire sales team. So from that, I learned a lot about B2B sales. And it's somewhat, it's gonna sound somewhat simple, but it's essentially a discovery call, an audit, and then really a sales or a demo call however you want to slice it, but it's pretty much listening, we're doing our analysis, then we're selling. So you've also got to bear in mind that it's going to be different industry to industry. So from our side, with the audit, you know, we're looking at the entirety of these brands' ecosystems. So I don't want to get too technical into that. But the point is we're doing our due diligence, but you'll understand why that's important in a second. So the first thing with sales is you need to control everything. Now, my ex-partner told me that I'm a control freak. So in sales that works pretty well for me.

Kushal: You’re in a good place. I think it’s right ace then.

Nigel Thomas: Yes, exactly. It does have its disadvantages – double edged swords. But the point is, in sales, you do need to be in control. And it's not a manipulative kind of control. It's, you're the expert kind of control, and you need to lead people through a process. So when you start, yes, you're going to have some small talks and back and forth. But as soon as you show up to that call, you need to have tenacity, you need to have conviction, you need to know what you're saying, how you're going to say it. 

And the first thing you should do on every single call, is have a preamble. So for example, you know, here at Alpha Inbound, we're a direct to consumer marketing agency, we work with seven, eight figure brands, and we help them get more customers with Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. Now how our discovery process works is we have a quick chat with you, we understand your current challenges. And if we can help, we'll do an audit of your business. And then what we'll do is we'll put a custom built roadmap for you guys. And we'll just, like, put it on one more call, show that roadmap. And at the end of that call, if it makes sense, we'll talk about moving forward on the project. Does that sound good? Okay. If they say “Yes” now, you've psychologically got them to agree that you're the expert. And you've just taken him through that entire three step process that we're going to talk about today. Now you've got full control of the call. Then, what you want to do is start asking questions. Too many humans on this planet forget, we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. You need to listen. Listening is one of the most undervalued skills in my opinion, throughout sales and life and business. So what you need to do is you need to ask questions, you need to really, really listen, shut down everything else, you know, your notifications, phone's off, get rid of all of it. If you can really listen to someone, they will massively appreciate it and the insights you'll get off, that will be tremendous. I promise, just that alone will increase your sales skills tenfold. But then from there, you need to dig in, you need to ask follow up questions. Sorry, did you want to cut in here and ask me a question?

Kushal: I just have a question there, which is really, you know, your preamble sounds incredible, by the way, I think it was really less than 30-second sort of recap of you know, what the company does, what will really help folks with and also how you run the process. It sounds like it's a mix of kind of setting the agenda for the engagement rather than just the call.

Nigel Thomas: Yes, it’s the process.

Kushal: And also somewhere priming the audience in a way for what to expect. So I think those elements really come together really well and talk to your point about really controlling the conversation.

Nigel Thomas: Yes, exactly. And look, the other thing is these people on so many calls, so we say controlling, but it's making their life easier, like all they need to do is show up and they're literally taken through an expert process. The point, I think, is that instead of controlling, the best way I can put it across is as being a professional, you know, we're showing up on these calls. We're not here, like, in our basement, like turning on with the light half on. We're showing up on the camera, and we're going to be professional. And the thing is that's so important, because obviously when you get to the pricing, it's all part of the package. First impressions last the longest, you've got about three seconds to make yours, probably less. So it's just so powerful. But anyway, so we're asking these questions. And now we need to ask follow up questions, we need to understand the pain, the problems. So this is of course going to be product dependent. But you need to ask open-ended questions and then follow up and really figure out why they have had problems, usually with this product before, you know, what they're looking at in the market and in the competition. And the thing here is, if you're taking this knowledge, and then you're going to use it on the next call. So if you don't have this then the rest of the process doesn't work. Now, as you get to the end of that first call, it’s equally as important, you need to have next steps. So from our sides, we like to try and get access to things in their business so we can audit it, or we set up an email. But the one thing you must always do on a discovery call is set up the next call. And I'm not talking because this is what most people do, I'm sure you're aware of this yourself is “Okay, I'll get in touch with you via email, we'll set up a call” or they let the prospect say that if the prospects telling you they're going to get back in touch with you, you've already lost, the sale isn't happening, or you've lost complete control of the process. So you need to say to them something along the lines of “okay, just so we can stay organized… Again, I appreciate you've got a really busy schedule. How about we just get a time on the calendar for next week? I'm open at 1pm Eastern next Thursday. Does that work on your side?” Most people like honesty, I can't remember, maybe it was like one person ever who said “No, they didn't want to do it”. Most people are gonna say “Yes”, because you're making their life easier. Again, coming from a place of events. 

Kushal: So are you saying, it's better to, in your experience, better to set a time for the next meeting versus saying I'll send you an email and send over my calendar to set up time. 

Nigel Thomas: Yes, 100%. I've done it both ways. It's a massive game changer and here's another trick. When you send them the email, do it over the call, sorry, the calendar invite. And someone showed me, I can't remember the exact statistic, but if you get them to accept the calendar invite on the call with you, it's something like they're 50% more likely to show up for the next call. Because psychologically now they’ve just done another commitment. So a very small thing. But if you can just say something along the lines of, again, just so I know when I look back at the calendar, could you just kindly accept that I can be very sympathetic and understanding? Can they accept that just so I know, when I look back at the calendar, you know, the meeting was definitely on so I can prepare for it. Everyone will do it. Again, not had a person who's declined that. Like, honestly, so 80%, 90% of people show up for my calls.

Kushal: I think that's an incredible idea. And it's really funny, but as a prospect, I don't think anyone has ever asked me to do that, you know, I accept an invite while I'm on a call with them. I can already see why it would be so powerful. 

Nigel Thomas: Yeah, exactly. 

Kushal: And it also shows the real confidence on the part of the person you're speaking with for them to be so sure of the fact that there is indeed a next step involved that there is a fit that they have found and hopefully they've convinced you that on the call itself.

Nigel Thomas: Yeah, and look, you told me when we started this, there's a lot of SDR’s and sales leaders listening. For me, I don't claim to be the best salesperson around. But the thing is people who have conviction can run rings around sales professionals who've got 20 years of experience. And that's often why founders sell their products incredibly well, because they believe in it more than anyone else. And that's the problem you've obviously got with the sales team. It's transferring that conviction over. But yes, to your point, anyone I talk to I want to move to the next stage, I fully believe with my heart and soul that I can help them because if not, I'll just tell them, and we won't go to that next stage, I won't set up the next call, I'll just say, look, at this point in time, it's probably not the right fit. What's the point in wasting my time and their time? We might as well just be honest with them. Does that make sense?

Kushal: It does, it makes an incredible amount of sense. So let's say you've got, you know, me to accept the invite. What happens next?

Nigel Thomas: Yeah. So obviously, at that point, we go through our process, we're gonna go to the next stage, which is auditing their business. And again, for people who might not be in E-commerce, I'm gonna keep this pretty short but essentially, we're analyzing everything. So from our side, we know that we can definitely help these people out, again, and we can really customize the target, so we're going to set with them, because most agencies, they've got case studies from different brands, and they'll just try and apply general knowledge to this business. We want to go again, you talk about the personalization, that personalization goes for the entirety of our sales process. I want to make sure the CEO, their experience, they feel so cared for, and they feel like we're taking the time. So the audit is a four-hour process. And this is from top marketing professionals in our business. Now, just before they get on the next call, something that we've included in our process recently is we send them over a 30-minute video going through the entire back end of their business. And what I'd say, I actually say in the discovery call now, “by the way, I'm going to send you a video an hour, sorry, a day before the call”, and you talking about priming people, the amount of micro commitments are in a 30-minute video, and pretty much because again, you got to think about it. If you get an email saying, Hey, something the subject line, something along the lines of pre call video analysis, the first line reads, “Hey, Nigel, just, we just audited your business or something along the lines of prior to the call, here's a quick 30-minute video to break down your entire business, and see where all the problems are and how we can fix them”. As a business owner, considering you've just told us you've got all these problems, of course, you're gonna watch that now you've just watched a 30-minute video, buy a serious amount of value in there, more than most agencies charge for. And now they really are primed for the call. Now, when we get to the call, the demo or the sales call, this is now where we're going to start selling. Now again, yeah, go for it.

Kushal: So it sounds like with this process itself, with this step rather, you're giving away a lot of knowledge for free in some sense, because you've obviously put in like you said almost 4-hours’ worth of work into it. Would some argue that it's maybe putting in a lot of effort upfront for a deal that you might not close. Curious, do you have data that kind of shows the deal won rates from that step to the next? But of course, that's a separate thing. But also, you know, what would you say to folks who might say, you know what, this is too much effort upfront?

Nigel Thomas: I'd say you don't know your customers well enough, I'd say you don't know your ICP. If you know your ICP inside out, you'll be able to filter those people out in the discovery call. If you don't know that you need to do more research on your market, that's what I tell those people.

Kushal: That makes a ton of sense. And what about your deal won rates you typically see, you know, what's the conversion rate look like between, you know, the audit and video and then the next deal flows? 

Nigel Thomas: Everyone who comes through our audits, since we started this business, 50% of the deals have closed.

Kushal: I think that's an incredible number, which really goes to show the amount of value that you're really putting into the audit video, but also in you know, the discovery process that you run, and like you talked about really knowing your ICP really well. I know there's a bunch of questions that I can ask you around all of these things. But we're going to go ahead to the third step in this process.

Nigel Thomas: Yeah, sure. And just to point out that 50% also includes some people when we did the audit that I couldn't filter out, and we said we couldn't work within that. Now, I also want to preface, we are still a growing startup, we should hit a seven figure run rate in the first 12 months. So we haven't put as much volume as I want into that thing, which obviously that's going to be challenging. But I do, again, if I put the time in I coach people right and when we bring on our full on SDR team, which should be at the end of this year going into 2023, I have confidence we'll be able to keep close to it. And yeah, I'll be honest. It took a lot of time to build it too. A lot of time to build out the ICP and to build that process and constant iteration, there's still so much room for development. So for anyone out there, you can do it, it's just not going to be overnight. But it's honestly a joy for me to speak about this process now with you. Because I know the bottom of my heart is helping people so much. And to show up, I mean, I quote, I read the other day from someone which is, “Confidence is a luxury for the hard working” and I really do believe that. If you put in that hard work, you show up on these calls, you know, with things inside out, you've done your research on the market and the prospect, you can have so much conviction and confidence just in your preparation, makes all the difference in the world. 

So for the third part of the process, the sales and demo call. Now we're going to go back as well as the audit, we're going to create a slide deck. Now this is really important. And this is what I learned from that consultant. So now we're going to go back to the discovery call, and you should have taken some notes. But on that discovery call and I should have mentioned this before, for every single sale, I'm not sure if you've heard of this qualification process yourself before, but we've got the BANT acronym. So BANT happens with every sale, budget authority need, timing – they've got to hit all of these markers to get through the filter. That's extremely important, great for sales team leaders, by the way. Now, when you're on this sales call, you go back to the discovery call, you go through the BANT process, you should be taking notes against all these points. Look at the pain and the problems. Take the three biggest pain points, then when you're developing your slide deck, talk about the three unique selling points of your business, but customize it to their three biggest pain points. So when you go through the slide deck, and they're on there thinking, wow, well, this is obviously the slide that they show everyone. And then as they're going through, they're like, “Wow, this is exactly what I need”. Well, of course it is because he designed it exactly for you around the pain point she told us because we listened to you properly on the discovery call. And before you get to the unique selling points. The first slide should always be the current situation. So the current situation and what's happening right now go through that at the start getting to agree to it. So they know what their current situation is, then go through the pain points, and then get to the product benefits and the desired situation. And then obviously, you know your investment timelines and moving the deal forward. And the last part is the three door close technique. But you might have some questions before I get to it. 

Kushal: I'd love to hear about the three door technique actually.

Nigel Thomas: Yes, so for this one, this is really putting the power in your prospects' hands. So most people when they close, try to close someone, of course, they just ask them the question, you should always ask by the way, if you're a salesperson, you're not asking for a deal, you're not doing sales, you're just taking orders. That's me just being brutally honest, I learned that the hard way myself. So you need to ask. But when you ask, what you should do is present them with three different options. You see this with SaaS a lot. So obviously, you know, you have the Minimum Package recommended and then you have the Higher Package, the Premium Package. But essentially, you want to make a recommendation, first of all, you want to get their permission. So I'd say to you, you know, I've actually got a recommendation, if you wouldn't mind me sharing that. Okay, no worries. And now we've got the slide on the screen, the three different options. So this is the minimum we'd recommend are our minimum package. 

Now, based on what you've told me based on my current experience, and then obviously insert here something very specific to their current situation, I recommend that you go for this package here, which is the recommended the middle package still going to be good for your profit margins, then, if you want to say but if you really want to push the boat out, and you really want to be a bit more aggressive, we also have this package, although the ball’s in your court. So what do you feel like it'd be the best option for yourself? Now, you've literally just given them three options. People want to make a decision, trust me. So now you've just put the power in their hands to make that decision. And instead of them thinking, don't be closed by a salesperson, they're now thinking something completely different. They're thinking, you've already got them thinking about which door to choose from. And psychologically, this is so powerful.

Kushal: So just today, I was in fact reading about decision fatigue, and just what it kind of does to our brains, the fact that we have to really make so many decisions from the time that we wake up in the morning. And interestingly, I think Jeff Risely actually wrote about something today. I think, interestingly, he talked about how maybe it's easier to have meetings with your own team members earlier during the day, especially when you have to make a decision on a meeting. I'm just wondering, and it'd be interesting to actually see if there's any data on you know, whether more deals close, maybe slightly earlier in the day when people maybe aren't fatigued by making so many decisions. 

But also to your point, I think really kind of getting, giving three options to people, I think, and just really making them easy, making it really easy for them to say, “You know what this one works for me,” I think with a lot of selection of situations, but also as a prospect. Sometimes you're given so many options, and you don't really have a clear path. No one really does the work of laying out the pros and cons for you. No one really makes it very easy for you to choose. And you'll be like, you have to think through too many things. I think that's what at a psychological level, like you said, I think that's what stops a lot of decisions from being made on time. So as a prospect, I can really see the value in really making it easy for your prospect to really be able to respond to you.

Nigel Thomas: Yeah, definitely. And if you've done this process right, by the way, because this is why I get on some of my sales calls, you get words of conviction back to you. Things like, “Yes, this is exactly what I need. Yeah, we need this”. And I've even had it before where there was only on a couple of occasions. And I think that dial it in more, it'll happen more. And I'd love to, I love, I love it when this happens, I really do, because it means you've done the process. Where people, you'll get to like the halfway through and they're like, “Nigel, I need this, let's just go for it”. I don't even have to wait until the close because you've nailed everything. And you've taken them through this process. And again, you know that they genuinely do need this. So you're helping them and they understand that you've now got the trust and respect. And they get conviction from their side. And honestly, as salespeople, for anyone listening, I'm sure they can understand that feeling. That is just the best feeling in the world, you feel like a million dollars.

Kushal: Which is why they really say that sales is therapy in some way. It's really about understanding of prospects well. And if you do it great, if you do it well enough, then you hopefully get the same feeling back because you've built up that trust, like to separate them. I think that's really the magic of sales.

Nigel Thomas: Yeah. Well, it's interesting, you say that, because when I was being taught by an art consultant, he was like the big closer in his business, they always brought him in to close the big deals. So I was thinking, “What's he gonna say? Is he got these, you know, secret words that he says?” And then he just told me, “No, actually, I'm just a human, I just have a conversation with people, I get people to open up to me, I open up to them, I tell them stories” which is, of course, very important. But ultimately, you just literally be honest with people. Sometimes you got to forget all the psychology and NLP and everything else, and just really care for people. And you'll be surprised how far that goes. Because they've not had it very often. And when you get that, and you can open up and touch someone like that, they really do resonate with it, and they will often do the right thing for themselves.

Kushal: I love that last take that they will often do the right things for themselves. I think, you know, kind of if both the prospect and you know, the person who's pitching, the salesperson, they both are on the same page about what could really work for them, then it should just be a matter of kind of sharing the right story, having conviction. And then it shouldn't be so difficult to close. That side sales can be hard. So all of my full respect for people who do this day in and day out. Nigel, I feel like we should almost not ask considering all the conviction you showed in your process and clearly in your work in what is your mission in life. But I really like to understand what would you be doing, and this is, you know, kind of moving a little bit ahead, what would you be doing if you weren't in this current job?

Nigel Thomas: That's a good question. By the way, just the last thing I'll say in the processes, if you do have a catch-up, if you do need to catch-up calls, they don't move forward then, make sure you get that in the calendar as well. The process continues like that. But to answer your question, what would I be doing in life if I wasn't doing this role? I don't know. Before we started, I was honest with you. This is the first time in my life that I've ever felt good at something and that's business, by the way in entrepreneurship. So I don't really see a different path really. I think…

Kushal: You probably having enough fun here. 

Nigel Thomas: Yeah. And I think you need that like to be really successful, I think you need to have that conviction. Because the people who are wondering and they're thinking, should I do this? Should I do that? They're not the people who are driving forward. So of course, take your time to think about it. But for me, I wouldn't rather be doing anything else business than business, honestly. 

Kushal: Okay, moving on to what is the second last question of our segment today. If you could give a shout out to someone in your industry, in your life, who would that be?

Nigel Thomas: In my life and industry, so it's actually one of our team members. Her name is Maria Garn, she has changed my life. She gave me the best advice I've ever gotten from anyone. And she said this to me. She said the best gift you can give anyone is believing in them. The best person to believe in is yourself. 

Kushal: That's incredibly powerful. 

Nigel Thomas: So this is a person, she helped me express myself more, you know, I was a nervous wreck, a few years back, got bullied a lot, was introverted in my head even though I knew inside I was extroverted. And she helped me express myself more to the world and made me look in the mirror and actually be a little bit proud, not quite there yet, but a little bit proud of what I see back. And, again, for anyone out there listening, especially in sales, believe in yourself, but make sure your actions map up to your belief. There's no point in just vision, you know, having a vision of where you want to go and sitting down and doing nothing about it. If you want to go somewhere, sure, you've got to, you've really got to put that destination into the sat nav of using this analogy, but you need to turn on the engine and drive and guess what, there's going to be a few bumps in the road. So believe in yourself, but take action, and then you create this positive feedback loop and it's incredible. It's honestly incredible.

Kushal: Okay, great. Here's the last question for our segment today. Wrong meanings only is the name of the segment where I will give you a word or phrase and you have to give me what is the wrong meaning for that particular phrase? 

Nigel Thomas: The wrong meaning?

Kushal: Yes. A wrong funny meaning. 

Nigel Thomas: Okay.

Kushal: Okay, so let's try with the first one is “Digital Marketing”. What is it not?

Nigel Thomas: Yeah, what digital marketing is not is, I can spice this quite a few ways because I know a lot of the pain points in my industry. It's not a game. It's not a casino, I'd say that. It's not a casino, don't go gambling.

Kushal: Nice. “TikTok”.

Nigel Thomas: TikTok. Okay, TikTok’s not for kids.

Kushal: “Paid Social”, that's the last one by the way.

Nigel Thomas: Yeah, sure. Paid Social, so I've got a good one. Paid Social’s like petrol, it's dangerous in the wrong set of hands.

Kushal: Okay, great stuff. I love it, Nigel. Thank you so much. I've had incredible conversation with you. I think a lot of these things that you said will really resonate with, you know, whoever listens in. So I think that was incredibly powerful. Thank you so much for taking your time for us today.

Nigel Thomas: No worries. Take care. It's an absolute pleasure to be here.

Closing with confidence: Nigel's 3-step sales process

“We have two ears and one mouth for a reason – you need to listen.”

In Nigel’s opinion, listening is one of the most undervalued skills in sales. Salespersons need to be excellent listeners.

Because if you don’t listen, you don’t know what the prospect needs.

And if you can’t understand their needs, you’ve already lost the deal.

Nigel Thomas is the CEO of Alpha Inbound, a marketing agency that runs paid social campaigns for DTC brands.

In this episode of On the Flip Side, Nigel talks about:

- His 3-step sales process.
- Setting up next steps and knowing your ICP.
- 3-door closing technique.

Kushal: Hi there. Welcome to “On the Flip Side”, a podcast for anyone who wants to live their best sales life. We're going to be talking to buyers, sales managers, SDRs and AE's about things like, what does it take to be a great sales manager? Or how can you go home happy month after month? So let's dive right in. Hi there. Welcome to “On the Flip Side” with Wingman. I’m Kushal, and today we're joined by someone who has successfully led Alpha Inbound, a marketing agency, to run paid social campaigns for seven and eight figure D2C brands. Nigel, so great to have you on the show.

Nigel Thomas: Pleasure, thank you so much for having me here today.

Kushal: So I know you're here to talk really about your three step sales process that you follow over at Alpha Inbound, but even before that, can I just say that your cold email to me was probably one of the best that I've received in recent times? Because it was personal to the point and really respectful of my time as well. And I hear that you get 80% open rates as well. Give us some secret sauce before we dive in?

Nigel Thomas: Yeah, for sure. So I think I was talking to someone about this yesterday, but you know, 4 billion people use email around the world. So for people who say that cold emails don't work anymore, my question really to them is, let's just step back and challenge that for a minute. 4 billion emails – what you're telling me is that one person out of those 4 billion doesn't have personality anymore. So if you don't take the time, you know, you do the time to do the research to make them laugh, to give them a smile, to make it personalized… People are human, at the end of the day, you know. A lot of people have very stressful days and very stressful jobs, I'm sure you have a few stressful days yourself. And they want to be cheered up, they want to have a smile on their face. So if you can get them with that human touch, and of course, it's you know, you've got it from a sales side, be persuasive, and we can go into all those kinds of principles, but from my side, it's really about standing out, but just being human with people and taking the time. So instead of sending out a huge batch of emails, take your time. And I think you'll really be surprised, because I'm a big component of going out there and making the ask, but you'll be surprised of what doors will open if you knock on the right ones.

Kushal: Okay, great stuff there. Now, moving on to your three step sales process. Let's dig right in. I'd love to hear from you.

Nigel Thomas: Yeah, sure. So I learned in this process, I don't want to take all the credit. So a consultant in our last agency that I was working with, he had essentially built the sales team for a SaaS company that was sold for like 124 Million, he built the entire sales team. So from that, I learned a lot about B2B sales. And it's somewhat, it's gonna sound somewhat simple, but it's essentially a discovery call, an audit, and then really a sales or a demo call however you want to slice it, but it's pretty much listening, we're doing our analysis, then we're selling. So you've also got to bear in mind that it's going to be different industry to industry. So from our side, with the audit, you know, we're looking at the entirety of these brands' ecosystems. So I don't want to get too technical into that. But the point is we're doing our due diligence, but you'll understand why that's important in a second. So the first thing with sales is you need to control everything. Now, my ex-partner told me that I'm a control freak. So in sales that works pretty well for me.

Kushal: You’re in a good place. I think it’s right ace then.

Nigel Thomas: Yes, exactly. It does have its disadvantages – double edged swords. But the point is, in sales, you do need to be in control. And it's not a manipulative kind of control. It's, you're the expert kind of control, and you need to lead people through a process. So when you start, yes, you're going to have some small talks and back and forth. But as soon as you show up to that call, you need to have tenacity, you need to have conviction, you need to know what you're saying, how you're going to say it. 

And the first thing you should do on every single call, is have a preamble. So for example, you know, here at Alpha Inbound, we're a direct to consumer marketing agency, we work with seven, eight figure brands, and we help them get more customers with Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. Now how our discovery process works is we have a quick chat with you, we understand your current challenges. And if we can help, we'll do an audit of your business. And then what we'll do is we'll put a custom built roadmap for you guys. And we'll just, like, put it on one more call, show that roadmap. And at the end of that call, if it makes sense, we'll talk about moving forward on the project. Does that sound good? Okay. If they say “Yes” now, you've psychologically got them to agree that you're the expert. And you've just taken him through that entire three step process that we're going to talk about today. Now you've got full control of the call. Then, what you want to do is start asking questions. Too many humans on this planet forget, we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. You need to listen. Listening is one of the most undervalued skills in my opinion, throughout sales and life and business. So what you need to do is you need to ask questions, you need to really, really listen, shut down everything else, you know, your notifications, phone's off, get rid of all of it. If you can really listen to someone, they will massively appreciate it and the insights you'll get off, that will be tremendous. I promise, just that alone will increase your sales skills tenfold. But then from there, you need to dig in, you need to ask follow up questions. Sorry, did you want to cut in here and ask me a question?

Kushal: I just have a question there, which is really, you know, your preamble sounds incredible, by the way, I think it was really less than 30-second sort of recap of you know, what the company does, what will really help folks with and also how you run the process. It sounds like it's a mix of kind of setting the agenda for the engagement rather than just the call.

Nigel Thomas: Yes, it’s the process.

Kushal: And also somewhere priming the audience in a way for what to expect. So I think those elements really come together really well and talk to your point about really controlling the conversation.

Nigel Thomas: Yes, exactly. And look, the other thing is these people on so many calls, so we say controlling, but it's making their life easier, like all they need to do is show up and they're literally taken through an expert process. The point, I think, is that instead of controlling, the best way I can put it across is as being a professional, you know, we're showing up on these calls. We're not here, like, in our basement, like turning on with the light half on. We're showing up on the camera, and we're going to be professional. And the thing is that's so important, because obviously when you get to the pricing, it's all part of the package. First impressions last the longest, you've got about three seconds to make yours, probably less. So it's just so powerful. But anyway, so we're asking these questions. And now we need to ask follow up questions, we need to understand the pain, the problems. So this is of course going to be product dependent. But you need to ask open-ended questions and then follow up and really figure out why they have had problems, usually with this product before, you know, what they're looking at in the market and in the competition. And the thing here is, if you're taking this knowledge, and then you're going to use it on the next call. So if you don't have this then the rest of the process doesn't work. Now, as you get to the end of that first call, it’s equally as important, you need to have next steps. So from our sides, we like to try and get access to things in their business so we can audit it, or we set up an email. But the one thing you must always do on a discovery call is set up the next call. And I'm not talking because this is what most people do, I'm sure you're aware of this yourself is “Okay, I'll get in touch with you via email, we'll set up a call” or they let the prospect say that if the prospects telling you they're going to get back in touch with you, you've already lost, the sale isn't happening, or you've lost complete control of the process. So you need to say to them something along the lines of “okay, just so we can stay organized… Again, I appreciate you've got a really busy schedule. How about we just get a time on the calendar for next week? I'm open at 1pm Eastern next Thursday. Does that work on your side?” Most people like honesty, I can't remember, maybe it was like one person ever who said “No, they didn't want to do it”. Most people are gonna say “Yes”, because you're making their life easier. Again, coming from a place of events. 

Kushal: So are you saying, it's better to, in your experience, better to set a time for the next meeting versus saying I'll send you an email and send over my calendar to set up time. 

Nigel Thomas: Yes, 100%. I've done it both ways. It's a massive game changer and here's another trick. When you send them the email, do it over the call, sorry, the calendar invite. And someone showed me, I can't remember the exact statistic, but if you get them to accept the calendar invite on the call with you, it's something like they're 50% more likely to show up for the next call. Because psychologically now they’ve just done another commitment. So a very small thing. But if you can just say something along the lines of, again, just so I know when I look back at the calendar, could you just kindly accept that I can be very sympathetic and understanding? Can they accept that just so I know, when I look back at the calendar, you know, the meeting was definitely on so I can prepare for it. Everyone will do it. Again, not had a person who's declined that. Like, honestly, so 80%, 90% of people show up for my calls.

Kushal: I think that's an incredible idea. And it's really funny, but as a prospect, I don't think anyone has ever asked me to do that, you know, I accept an invite while I'm on a call with them. I can already see why it would be so powerful. 

Nigel Thomas: Yeah, exactly. 

Kushal: And it also shows the real confidence on the part of the person you're speaking with for them to be so sure of the fact that there is indeed a next step involved that there is a fit that they have found and hopefully they've convinced you that on the call itself.

Nigel Thomas: Yeah, and look, you told me when we started this, there's a lot of SDR’s and sales leaders listening. For me, I don't claim to be the best salesperson around. But the thing is people who have conviction can run rings around sales professionals who've got 20 years of experience. And that's often why founders sell their products incredibly well, because they believe in it more than anyone else. And that's the problem you've obviously got with the sales team. It's transferring that conviction over. But yes, to your point, anyone I talk to I want to move to the next stage, I fully believe with my heart and soul that I can help them because if not, I'll just tell them, and we won't go to that next stage, I won't set up the next call, I'll just say, look, at this point in time, it's probably not the right fit. What's the point in wasting my time and their time? We might as well just be honest with them. Does that make sense?

Kushal: It does, it makes an incredible amount of sense. So let's say you've got, you know, me to accept the invite. What happens next?

Nigel Thomas: Yeah. So obviously, at that point, we go through our process, we're gonna go to the next stage, which is auditing their business. And again, for people who might not be in E-commerce, I'm gonna keep this pretty short but essentially, we're analyzing everything. So from our side, we know that we can definitely help these people out, again, and we can really customize the target, so we're going to set with them, because most agencies, they've got case studies from different brands, and they'll just try and apply general knowledge to this business. We want to go again, you talk about the personalization, that personalization goes for the entirety of our sales process. I want to make sure the CEO, their experience, they feel so cared for, and they feel like we're taking the time. So the audit is a four-hour process. And this is from top marketing professionals in our business. Now, just before they get on the next call, something that we've included in our process recently is we send them over a 30-minute video going through the entire back end of their business. And what I'd say, I actually say in the discovery call now, “by the way, I'm going to send you a video an hour, sorry, a day before the call”, and you talking about priming people, the amount of micro commitments are in a 30-minute video, and pretty much because again, you got to think about it. If you get an email saying, Hey, something the subject line, something along the lines of pre call video analysis, the first line reads, “Hey, Nigel, just, we just audited your business or something along the lines of prior to the call, here's a quick 30-minute video to break down your entire business, and see where all the problems are and how we can fix them”. As a business owner, considering you've just told us you've got all these problems, of course, you're gonna watch that now you've just watched a 30-minute video, buy a serious amount of value in there, more than most agencies charge for. And now they really are primed for the call. Now, when we get to the call, the demo or the sales call, this is now where we're going to start selling. Now again, yeah, go for it.

Kushal: So it sounds like with this process itself, with this step rather, you're giving away a lot of knowledge for free in some sense, because you've obviously put in like you said almost 4-hours’ worth of work into it. Would some argue that it's maybe putting in a lot of effort upfront for a deal that you might not close. Curious, do you have data that kind of shows the deal won rates from that step to the next? But of course, that's a separate thing. But also, you know, what would you say to folks who might say, you know what, this is too much effort upfront?

Nigel Thomas: I'd say you don't know your customers well enough, I'd say you don't know your ICP. If you know your ICP inside out, you'll be able to filter those people out in the discovery call. If you don't know that you need to do more research on your market, that's what I tell those people.

Kushal: That makes a ton of sense. And what about your deal won rates you typically see, you know, what's the conversion rate look like between, you know, the audit and video and then the next deal flows? 

Nigel Thomas: Everyone who comes through our audits, since we started this business, 50% of the deals have closed.

Kushal: I think that's an incredible number, which really goes to show the amount of value that you're really putting into the audit video, but also in you know, the discovery process that you run, and like you talked about really knowing your ICP really well. I know there's a bunch of questions that I can ask you around all of these things. But we're going to go ahead to the third step in this process.

Nigel Thomas: Yeah, sure. And just to point out that 50% also includes some people when we did the audit that I couldn't filter out, and we said we couldn't work within that. Now, I also want to preface, we are still a growing startup, we should hit a seven figure run rate in the first 12 months. So we haven't put as much volume as I want into that thing, which obviously that's going to be challenging. But I do, again, if I put the time in I coach people right and when we bring on our full on SDR team, which should be at the end of this year going into 2023, I have confidence we'll be able to keep close to it. And yeah, I'll be honest. It took a lot of time to build it too. A lot of time to build out the ICP and to build that process and constant iteration, there's still so much room for development. So for anyone out there, you can do it, it's just not going to be overnight. But it's honestly a joy for me to speak about this process now with you. Because I know the bottom of my heart is helping people so much. And to show up, I mean, I quote, I read the other day from someone which is, “Confidence is a luxury for the hard working” and I really do believe that. If you put in that hard work, you show up on these calls, you know, with things inside out, you've done your research on the market and the prospect, you can have so much conviction and confidence just in your preparation, makes all the difference in the world. 

So for the third part of the process, the sales and demo call. Now we're going to go back as well as the audit, we're going to create a slide deck. Now this is really important. And this is what I learned from that consultant. So now we're going to go back to the discovery call, and you should have taken some notes. But on that discovery call and I should have mentioned this before, for every single sale, I'm not sure if you've heard of this qualification process yourself before, but we've got the BANT acronym. So BANT happens with every sale, budget authority need, timing – they've got to hit all of these markers to get through the filter. That's extremely important, great for sales team leaders, by the way. Now, when you're on this sales call, you go back to the discovery call, you go through the BANT process, you should be taking notes against all these points. Look at the pain and the problems. Take the three biggest pain points, then when you're developing your slide deck, talk about the three unique selling points of your business, but customize it to their three biggest pain points. So when you go through the slide deck, and they're on there thinking, wow, well, this is obviously the slide that they show everyone. And then as they're going through, they're like, “Wow, this is exactly what I need”. Well, of course it is because he designed it exactly for you around the pain point she told us because we listened to you properly on the discovery call. And before you get to the unique selling points. The first slide should always be the current situation. So the current situation and what's happening right now go through that at the start getting to agree to it. So they know what their current situation is, then go through the pain points, and then get to the product benefits and the desired situation. And then obviously, you know your investment timelines and moving the deal forward. And the last part is the three door close technique. But you might have some questions before I get to it. 

Kushal: I'd love to hear about the three door technique actually.

Nigel Thomas: Yes, so for this one, this is really putting the power in your prospects' hands. So most people when they close, try to close someone, of course, they just ask them the question, you should always ask by the way, if you're a salesperson, you're not asking for a deal, you're not doing sales, you're just taking orders. That's me just being brutally honest, I learned that the hard way myself. So you need to ask. But when you ask, what you should do is present them with three different options. You see this with SaaS a lot. So obviously, you know, you have the Minimum Package recommended and then you have the Higher Package, the Premium Package. But essentially, you want to make a recommendation, first of all, you want to get their permission. So I'd say to you, you know, I've actually got a recommendation, if you wouldn't mind me sharing that. Okay, no worries. And now we've got the slide on the screen, the three different options. So this is the minimum we'd recommend are our minimum package. 

Now, based on what you've told me based on my current experience, and then obviously insert here something very specific to their current situation, I recommend that you go for this package here, which is the recommended the middle package still going to be good for your profit margins, then, if you want to say but if you really want to push the boat out, and you really want to be a bit more aggressive, we also have this package, although the ball’s in your court. So what do you feel like it'd be the best option for yourself? Now, you've literally just given them three options. People want to make a decision, trust me. So now you've just put the power in their hands to make that decision. And instead of them thinking, don't be closed by a salesperson, they're now thinking something completely different. They're thinking, you've already got them thinking about which door to choose from. And psychologically, this is so powerful.

Kushal: So just today, I was in fact reading about decision fatigue, and just what it kind of does to our brains, the fact that we have to really make so many decisions from the time that we wake up in the morning. And interestingly, I think Jeff Risely actually wrote about something today. I think, interestingly, he talked about how maybe it's easier to have meetings with your own team members earlier during the day, especially when you have to make a decision on a meeting. I'm just wondering, and it'd be interesting to actually see if there's any data on you know, whether more deals close, maybe slightly earlier in the day when people maybe aren't fatigued by making so many decisions. 

But also to your point, I think really kind of getting, giving three options to people, I think, and just really making them easy, making it really easy for them to say, “You know what this one works for me,” I think with a lot of selection of situations, but also as a prospect. Sometimes you're given so many options, and you don't really have a clear path. No one really does the work of laying out the pros and cons for you. No one really makes it very easy for you to choose. And you'll be like, you have to think through too many things. I think that's what at a psychological level, like you said, I think that's what stops a lot of decisions from being made on time. So as a prospect, I can really see the value in really making it easy for your prospect to really be able to respond to you.

Nigel Thomas: Yeah, definitely. And if you've done this process right, by the way, because this is why I get on some of my sales calls, you get words of conviction back to you. Things like, “Yes, this is exactly what I need. Yeah, we need this”. And I've even had it before where there was only on a couple of occasions. And I think that dial it in more, it'll happen more. And I'd love to, I love, I love it when this happens, I really do, because it means you've done the process. Where people, you'll get to like the halfway through and they're like, “Nigel, I need this, let's just go for it”. I don't even have to wait until the close because you've nailed everything. And you've taken them through this process. And again, you know that they genuinely do need this. So you're helping them and they understand that you've now got the trust and respect. And they get conviction from their side. And honestly, as salespeople, for anyone listening, I'm sure they can understand that feeling. That is just the best feeling in the world, you feel like a million dollars.

Kushal: Which is why they really say that sales is therapy in some way. It's really about understanding of prospects well. And if you do it great, if you do it well enough, then you hopefully get the same feeling back because you've built up that trust, like to separate them. I think that's really the magic of sales.

Nigel Thomas: Yeah. Well, it's interesting, you say that, because when I was being taught by an art consultant, he was like the big closer in his business, they always brought him in to close the big deals. So I was thinking, “What's he gonna say? Is he got these, you know, secret words that he says?” And then he just told me, “No, actually, I'm just a human, I just have a conversation with people, I get people to open up to me, I open up to them, I tell them stories” which is, of course, very important. But ultimately, you just literally be honest with people. Sometimes you got to forget all the psychology and NLP and everything else, and just really care for people. And you'll be surprised how far that goes. Because they've not had it very often. And when you get that, and you can open up and touch someone like that, they really do resonate with it, and they will often do the right thing for themselves.

Kushal: I love that last take that they will often do the right things for themselves. I think, you know, kind of if both the prospect and you know, the person who's pitching, the salesperson, they both are on the same page about what could really work for them, then it should just be a matter of kind of sharing the right story, having conviction. And then it shouldn't be so difficult to close. That side sales can be hard. So all of my full respect for people who do this day in and day out. Nigel, I feel like we should almost not ask considering all the conviction you showed in your process and clearly in your work in what is your mission in life. But I really like to understand what would you be doing, and this is, you know, kind of moving a little bit ahead, what would you be doing if you weren't in this current job?

Nigel Thomas: That's a good question. By the way, just the last thing I'll say in the processes, if you do have a catch-up, if you do need to catch-up calls, they don't move forward then, make sure you get that in the calendar as well. The process continues like that. But to answer your question, what would I be doing in life if I wasn't doing this role? I don't know. Before we started, I was honest with you. This is the first time in my life that I've ever felt good at something and that's business, by the way in entrepreneurship. So I don't really see a different path really. I think…

Kushal: You probably having enough fun here. 

Nigel Thomas: Yeah. And I think you need that like to be really successful, I think you need to have that conviction. Because the people who are wondering and they're thinking, should I do this? Should I do that? They're not the people who are driving forward. So of course, take your time to think about it. But for me, I wouldn't rather be doing anything else business than business, honestly. 

Kushal: Okay, moving on to what is the second last question of our segment today. If you could give a shout out to someone in your industry, in your life, who would that be?

Nigel Thomas: In my life and industry, so it's actually one of our team members. Her name is Maria Garn, she has changed my life. She gave me the best advice I've ever gotten from anyone. And she said this to me. She said the best gift you can give anyone is believing in them. The best person to believe in is yourself. 

Kushal: That's incredibly powerful. 

Nigel Thomas: So this is a person, she helped me express myself more, you know, I was a nervous wreck, a few years back, got bullied a lot, was introverted in my head even though I knew inside I was extroverted. And she helped me express myself more to the world and made me look in the mirror and actually be a little bit proud, not quite there yet, but a little bit proud of what I see back. And, again, for anyone out there listening, especially in sales, believe in yourself, but make sure your actions map up to your belief. There's no point in just vision, you know, having a vision of where you want to go and sitting down and doing nothing about it. If you want to go somewhere, sure, you've got to, you've really got to put that destination into the sat nav of using this analogy, but you need to turn on the engine and drive and guess what, there's going to be a few bumps in the road. So believe in yourself, but take action, and then you create this positive feedback loop and it's incredible. It's honestly incredible.

Kushal: Okay, great. Here's the last question for our segment today. Wrong meanings only is the name of the segment where I will give you a word or phrase and you have to give me what is the wrong meaning for that particular phrase? 

Nigel Thomas: The wrong meaning?

Kushal: Yes. A wrong funny meaning. 

Nigel Thomas: Okay.

Kushal: Okay, so let's try with the first one is “Digital Marketing”. What is it not?

Nigel Thomas: Yeah, what digital marketing is not is, I can spice this quite a few ways because I know a lot of the pain points in my industry. It's not a game. It's not a casino, I'd say that. It's not a casino, don't go gambling.

Kushal: Nice. “TikTok”.

Nigel Thomas: TikTok. Okay, TikTok’s not for kids.

Kushal: “Paid Social”, that's the last one by the way.

Nigel Thomas: Yeah, sure. Paid Social, so I've got a good one. Paid Social’s like petrol, it's dangerous in the wrong set of hands.

Kushal: Okay, great stuff. I love it, Nigel. Thank you so much. I've had incredible conversation with you. I think a lot of these things that you said will really resonate with, you know, whoever listens in. So I think that was incredibly powerful. Thank you so much for taking your time for us today.

Nigel Thomas: No worries. Take care. It's an absolute pleasure to be here.

Closing with confidence: Nigel's 3-step sales process

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