Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant. His books include Self Marketing Power: Branding Yourself as a Business of One and Selling Saturdays: Blue Chip Sales Tips from College Football.
He is a frequent media guest featured in major publications including Investors Business Daily, USA Today, Chicago Tribune and the New York Times, along with regular appearances on television and radio stations. Jeff also writes a bi-weekly “Beals Motivation Blast” which has approximately 11,000 subscribers.
In addition to his speaking and sales consulting engagements, Jeff also serves as executive vice president at NAI NP Dodge Commercial Real Estate Company and is a co-host and producer of an award-winning business talk-show on Radio.
Jeff holds a Master of Arts degree in Political Science and a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Q&A With Jeff Beals
Question1: Before we get to your Social Proof ebook, can you tell us a little bit about your sales consulting business. What kind of services or guidance do you provide to your clients to help them with sales?
Jeff Beals: Thank you for asking. As a speaker and sales trainer, I have presented to countless companies and associations of all sizes in 42 states in the U.S. and four additional countries. As a consultant, I help companies improve their sales policies and procedures plus recommend systems and training changes that will result in higher retention of sales reps, higher conversion rates and ultimately more closed deals. As a coach, I work with sales leaders and c-suite executives to improve their success. I typically coach sales leaders but have coached CEOs and COOs on occasion.
How to Get More Impactful Testimonials
Question2: Now, I just finished reading your ebook “Social Proof: How to Get Glowing Testimonials and Valuable Referrals.” Interesting real story about how lack of testimonials led to the loss of a million-dollar sales deal, and the importance of getting testimonials that your leads can associate with – similar people from the same city, industry, social circle, etc. My question – How to collect more impactful testimonials? How to choose the right person or company? What makes people want to give you good testimonials?
Jeff Beals: First and foremost, you must always do a good job. If you’re a salesperson, it means listening carefully to clients to make sure you know exactly what they value and then deliver products and services that exactly match their values. If you have done a good job, most clients want to give you testimonials.
Ideally, you should seek testimonials from people who are influential decision-makers. The more prestigious the testimonial provider is, the more powerful the testimonial. Additionally, you want to make sure the testimonial provider is relevant to the new prospects you are targeting. Finally, he or she should have a good grasp of what makes you special vis-à-vis your competition.
To make your testimonials more effective, you have to get involved in the writing process. At a minimum, that means you need to coach your client/testimonial provider what to say in the testimonial. Remember, these people are your happy, satisfied clients, which means they want to say wonderful things about you. It’s your job to make sure they say things that will be most useful for you in your pursuit of new clients.
Because your testimonial providers are most likely busy, you may have to write the testimonial yourself. This is more common than most people think. If your testimonial provider takes a long time, you can follow up and say, “Is it okay if I write a possible testimonial that would be from you and then send it back to you for your approval?” Most testimonial providers will be relieved that you offer to do this.
It’s a win-win-win situation: they get to help you; they don’t have to take their precious time to write it; and you get a valuable testimonial you can use in your marketing efforts.
Question3: What is the best form of a testimonial? Is it better to get it in video, or just text? Does it work better as an image, with a photo of the person providing the testimonial? Should we do all of these?
Jeff Beals: There is no form of testimonial that is necessarily better than another. You probably want to have a few testimonials in each form of media. Some clients respond well to video and have no problem clicking a video link to learn more about you. Others think video takes too much time. I can read a testimonial much faster than it takes someone to say it on video. Use a couple different media to appeal to different types of prospective clients.
How to Get More Referrals and Use Them Effectively
Question4: Now, about referrals – widely acknowledged as the best source of leads that convert at over 50%. How does an organization get more referrals? Is there some process, technologies, best practices to be followed? For instance, some companies offer rewards to their referees, while others simply say thank you. Which one is better?
Jeff Beals: Just as I mentioned when discussing testimonials, the first step is to do an outstanding job for your existing clients. If your clients love you and your company, they will be far more likely to give you a referral. If you know you have done a good job, you’ll be confident in asking for referrals.
There’s no set time in the sales process when you are supposed to ask for a referral. That said, it’s probably best right after you have done a great job and your client is basking in your good work. Some sales pros are hesitant to ask a client from long ago. Don’t fret if time has gone by. Simply call and say something reminded you of them and how much you enjoyed working with them. Then ask for a referral. For some past clients, you can use the anniversary of the sale as an excuse to call and ask for a referral.
I don’t personally offer rewards for referrals other than a genuine and sincere “thank you.” Again, I work really hard to build a trusting friendship with my clients. I try to do an absolutely outstanding job for them. When I’ve done a great job, it’s almost like they want me to ask them for referrals.
I’ve done some work for one company off and on for a couple years. I eventually asked the Chief Sales Officer for a referral, and she responded, “I was wondering why you never asked me for that!” It was almost as if she was a bit insulted that I hadn’t yet asked for a referral.
Question5: Coming to the next part of the ebook about cold calling – It’s getting more difficult to call up complete strangers on the phone. What can we do to make it work better, with a higher chance of getting through and converting the call into a qualified sales lead?
Jeff Beals: Yes, cold-calling is losing its effectiveness, because prospective clients are time-starved. They simply don’t have the time to chat with salespeople on the phone, especially B2B clients. Additionally, it’s hard to establish prospective client value on a cold call, which inevitably makes the experience feel “salesy” to the call recipient. That’s ineffective because as the old saying goes: “People love to buy but they hate to be sold.”
Despite the rapidly declining effectiveness of cold-calling, we still need to use the telephone to reach prospective buyers. That means we have to find a way to warm-up our phone calls. I know of no better way to do that than to get a referral.
Hands down, the single most effective way to cut through the clutter and actually get a busy decision maker to talk with you is to use a referral. In an era when buyers are jealously protective of their time, a referral from a trusted source is your ticket to the show. The higher up a prospect is in a company, the more important referrals are.
How to Get Raving Fans Instead of Satisfied Customers
Question6: There’s a very nice bit in your ebook about the Godfather of Influence Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. I’ve also read a recent blog post you wrote on Raving Fans, a book by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. No doubt it’s more beneficial to have raving fans instead of just satisfied customers. Question – how do you go about getting raving fans?
Jeff Beals: At the risk of sounding repetitive, it comes down to three simple things: building a trusting friendship, figuring out what they truly value without making assumptions and then delivering products and services that exactly satisfy what the client values. There’s really not much more to it.
Now in order to find out what your clients truly value, you need to listen carefully and be fully present when you talk with them. To build trust with your clients, you need to be a good communicator, consistent in your behavior and you must pass moments of truth when they arise.
A moment of truth is when you are faced with a choice of doing something in your favor or the client’s favor. If you choose the client’s best interest over your own, you pass a moment of truth. If you pass lots of moments of truth over an extended period of time, you’ll have a career-long client, the type of person who would bend over backwards to write you testimonials and give you valuable referrals.
Question7: Any more sales tips and advice for our readers?
Jeff Beals: You bet! If someone is kind enough to give you a referral, they are showing trust in you. They are trusting that you will treat the referred prospect with respect and dignity. They are trusting you will do a great job. In exchange for this trust, you owe it to the referral giver to keep him or her in the loop. That’s especially important if the referral giver is expecting some sort of commission or referral fee. Notify the referral giver each time the sales process passes a milestone and certainly notify him or her when the deal closes. It’s simply a matter of courtesy.