Some of my potential customers get periodically surprised when I (CEO of the company) answer the sales phone line. After a few seconds of silence not knowing what to say to a guy that they’ve watched on YouTube for 5 hours, they ask me “How come the CEO of Shopping Cart Elite is doing phone sales instead of running the company?”
The answer is, I am running the company and I enjoy sales. On average, I try to make time to speak to three potential customers per week. If you were one of the lucky ones that got surprised and asked me that question, then you will enjoy reading this very detailed post on WHY I do it.
When I speak to clients it helps me better understand how the customer perceives our brand, and sometimes I get a really good idea for content for the blog which covers the customer’s pain point.
Truthfully there is even a bigger reason why I do it, and here is the full story.
When we first started in the eCommerce back in 2001, it was just two of us, me and my brother. Since there were open source shopping carts on the market at the time that would NOT work for our new business, we decided to create our own. We had $20,000 to start the business and by 2005, when we reached our peak gross sales of three million dollars before we realized that we hit a dead-end. We were paying $125 per hour for data entry and data management, which today is a minimum wage job. There was no way of getting inventory levels from our drop ship suppliers; there was no technology to automate the product synchronization process between multiple marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon.
It was frustrating that we were paying thousands of dollars for security consulting to address server issues and audit the software for compliance. We had to hire in-house designers to update the website at $60 per hour. When we had to address random website issues, test new releases, and pay for servers, our monthly expenses exceeded $40,000 in development. These unnecessary expenses were depleting our profits.
In 2006, we officially stopped growing. We realized that for us to continue growing we would have to hire more engineers to automate parts of our business, and therefore more expenses on the payroll. As the economy started to slow down, we had to find a new way to address our software and technology needs. Paying half a million dollars each year for a small eCommerce business was ridiculous. We sold our eCommerce company and started to focus on figuring out a permanent solution for eCommerce businesses.
A NEW JOURNEY
When we sold our eCommerce company, we made it a goal to take everything we’ve built thus far and create the world’s most sophisticated shopping cart. We wanted to address everything that stopped us from growing beyond three million dollars per year. I am extremely passionate and deeply involved in this technology problem. Being an eCommerce expert, I knew what the eCommerce industry needed.
The industry needed a platform like eBay and Amazon but for eCommerce websites. The platform would use the same template that can be re-skinned allowing us to uniformly enhance the technology every month and everyone could benefit from the enhanced features without affecting the graphic design.
There are over 500 shopping carts on the market, and none of them were addressing the problem that Shopping Cart Elite was trying to solve because if they did then all of the Fortune 500 companies would be using them instead of paying million for custom software development and third party plugins.
OUR HUGE OBSTACLE
We took Shopping Cart Elite out of BETA in 2009 and started marketing it. We decided, what the heck! We have an extraordinary product, and it will sell itself. So we funded a $50,000 marketing campaign and felt truly confident that we were on the right track.
Two months later, we signed up 40 clients at $99 per month, and $50,000 disappeared. I couldn’t believe how hard it was to sell software, and I couldn’t believe people did not see the value for what we’ve built. New entrepreneurs did not want to invest any more than $99/mo. They presented questions such as, “how do you compare with Go Daddy $9.99 Shopping Cart, and why is your hosting $29 while this other Shopping Cart is only $15”.
How do you answer that question to a complete novice who has no idea what he is talking about? People only hear what they want to hear, you can’t try to explain complicated technical terms, it doesn’t work. At one, point I sat through a four-hour conversation arguing with an individual about why it makes sense to buy our $99 per month software instead of $9.99 per month from Go Daddy, just to LOSE his patronage at the end. It was apparent twenty minutes into the conversation that I had lost him in the details.
What made me frustrated is how other companies were closing ten million dollars per year with less powerful software, and we couldn’t even get past $100,000 a year.
I dropped my daily responsibilities, bootstrapped the development of Shopping Cart Elite from savings, and hit the books on how to sell software.
I invested hundreds of hours in every marketing course, and out of all the courses, there were only a few that actually made a difference. I only regret that I wasn’t introduced to these courses and principles in the very beginning.
In 2010, after implementing the new strategies, our company closed over a million in sales compared to $250,000 a year prior.
Today, we are a team of sixty, and as our software gets more sophisticated more clients join us. The most recent bundle we released called www.groproject.com put us on a path to close eight figures without actually charging the client.
I am going to list a few courses, books, strategies that helped us A LOT and perhaps it will help you.
- eMyth – (www.emyth.com) Helped us reposition our company and brand to focus on the right type of customers. They helped us create a real brand for Shopping Cart Elite which created a culture in our company. Once the brand and culture was embraced we were able to get our marketing and sales team (including overseas staff) to become as passionate about the product as the founders.
- Traction – (Traction) Helped us get our shit together as a company, today we implement every strategy in the book, and this is our company bible.
- Jordan Belfort – (Wolf of Wall Street) This guy is a monster, closing $1.5 billion with a few dozen high school students in the 1990s. There is no better teacher in the world that can teach you sales. He has a movie coming out played by Leonardo DiCaprio this year that I can’t wait to watch. I took his $5,000 training course that is worth every penny (Yes I do own a copy of it and MAYBE… you can borrow it if you become a client of ours).
- Oren Klaff – (Pitch Anything) His course is complimentary to Jordan Belfort, closing $400 million in venture deals he is a great sales and marketing teacher. His techniques inspired us to write the Shopping Cart Elite Pitchdeck as well the Shopping Cart Elite PowerPoint Presentation.
Speaking of the PowerPoint vs. Sales Script vs. Winging It
- Winging It – If you are a talented sales person you can try to do your own thing and sell on the phone. Usually you end up missing critical points in your pitch, you don’t say the right things, and your sales conversion will not be consistent. In addition, you will never scale because you can’t teach others to be you.
- Sales Script – Even though Jordan Belfort preaches a sales script, I could not do it effectively and neither could my staff. Even though I was able to pull it off to sound natural, I got extremely BORED with it and didn’t want to sell anymore, it took the fun out of selling. What was worse is my staff sounded like retarded robots reading the script, and reading scripts has been so overplayed by telemarketers in boiler rooms that most of our customers can detect it right off the bat. We do still use scripts for call center appointment settings, but not selling.
- Power Point – Not just any power point, but an illustration only with no text. I used to pitch Shopping Cart Elite via Screen Sharing and the potential client would look at a black screen 80% of the time. After watching this video, I realized that I am not utilizing the most powerful sales technique “Emotional Visual Triggers”, and then I got a brilliant idea that if I made illustration images only with no text, than the whole sales staff could relate to it like a story.
My three year old memorized a story by using visual cues from a book, and after three days she was able to tell me all about it without even referencing the book. I figured if a three year old can do it, then our whole sales team can do it. All I had to do is write a compelling visual story.
IT WORKED! I am able to hire a marketing consultant and he can be as knowledgeable as me in just 2 days by using the visual PowerPoint and telling the story in his own words instead of using a script.
If you are pitching anything, physical product, service, or products. You should implement review all of the courses above and start with a visual presentation for your product.