Double Your Consulting Revenue and Lessons From Over 100,000 Sales Calls: Interview with Chris Goegan

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MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: Hi everyone! Welcome to another session of the Consulting Success Podcasts. Today I’m happy to have Chris Goegan.

Chris is a Canadian that escaped to sunny California. He’s a marketing consultant with a focus on the online world and has generated over $65 million for his clients in the last 10 years. Today I’m looking forward to have Chris share his story with you.

Chris, welcome.

CHRIS GOEGAN: Hey, thanks. Hi, Michael.

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: So let’s start off with something that really blew me away when you told me for the first time. And that’s that before becoming a consultant, you worked in sales for a period of time. And during that time, you made over 100,000 sales calls. Is that really the number?

CHRIS GOEGAN: Accurate to the exact like one number, no, but it’s pretty darn close. I calculated out and it was over 100,000 cold calls that I’ve made.

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: Wow! So I guess my question to you then is what did you learn from all those calls about sales? You mentioned to me at one point something about kind of the high pressure versus resistance and so on. But really, what did you learn from making all those calls?

CHRIS GOEGAN: Well the biggest thing I learned, Michael, is that cold calling sucks. And then beyond that, just the whole philosophy like what makes the whole selling process easier is if you get good at qualifying people and just taking down all resistance, letting them feel in control of the whole process, and making it easy for them to buy.

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: You just mentioned that cold calling sucks. A lot of people feel that it’s still a necessity in certain business environments. Were you not successful at it? Why do you say that it sucks? What’s the alternative?

CHRIS GOEGAN: I was very successful with it. At first I wasn’t. I was extremely unsuccessful with it and it was horrible. I hated it. But then you know eventually, you stay with something long enough, you figure it out and you get good at it.

And so, I’m not against cold calling. I think it’s a great source of lead generation, and a great way to get leads and clients. It’s just a matter of like is it the best use of your time? So like in other words, are there better ways to have clients come to you rather than you just like having to hammer phones all day long?

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: That makes good sense.

Is there a tip or two that you could offer just around cold calling with those people right now that are making those calls that need to do that? Is there just one thing that maybe you could share that you kind of learned when you look back? I know you’re saying that you start off being unsuccessful with cold calling but really was able to make it very successful. Looking back, is there one thing that helped you to bridge that gap?

CHRIS GOEGAN: Yeah, like a couple mindset things that really helped is first of all, just getting clear on what my goals were and just making activity goals. So like, say, for instance today I’m going to make (whatever your number is) 10/20/50/100 (whatever it is) calls, and forgetting about the results of those things, and just basing like how you feel about yourself based on whether you hit that goal or not.

So it’s like if your goal is to make, say it’s 10 cold calls, get those done very first thing in the morning. Brian Tracy [03:42] wrote a book about this a long time ago called ‘Eat the Bigger Frog’ or something like that. It’s like if you know you have to eat a frog in a day, is it better to wait for end of the day to eat it or just get it done at the beginning of the day and eat it?

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: Right

CHRIS GOEGAN: This is coming from a – I used to be a big time procrastinator. It was a big emotional thing for me to overcome. So just setting a goal, say, every day or pick certain days ‘I’m going to make cold calls.’ and on those days ‘I’m going to make X number of calls.’, and then just make the calls. You make your 10/20/50 (whatever the number is calls). You feel good about yourself. If you don’t, then it’s like ‘Okay, well crap. Why didn’t I make that number?’ And then initially just forget about the results.

I know that sounds like kind of counterintuitive because everything’s based on results. But just…

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: Yeah, but I can see how powerful that would be because most people start off not with setting the goal of just getting something done, but of actually – well in the case of making cold calls, you’re always thinking about the results, right? And so when you get rejected, you feel down. Obviously, different people view it in different ways but that’s usually one of the biggest obstacles of continuing and moving forward. And what you’re suggesting is don’t worry about the results. Obviously, you want to do a good job and you want to see results, but to get going, put the focus on just getting the calls done and not really worry about what happens during the call. Just kind of focus more on the action as opposed to the results at the outset.

CHRIS GOEGAN: Yup, absolutely.

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: Powerful

CHRIS GOEGAN: There’s a saying I picked up over the years that said like ‘Anything worth doing, is worth doing crappy until you can eventually figure it out and get good at it.’

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: Right. I like that. That’s a great lesson to share. Thank you.

CHRIS GOEGAN: Yeah, you’re welcome.

Just the other point on cold calls is just like approach them just like you’re talking to a friend at a Starbucks or Tim Horton’s. Just don’t try to be someone you’re not. Approach it just like you’re talking to a friend, and then obviously, have like a general benefit question that you ask them initially.

Those are the two big mindset points.

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: All right. Well let me get us back on track here because I’m not really doing a very good job here of guiding the interview the way that I was planning. But just what you mentioned, I think, is such a powerful idea and concept that, for me at least, I could see how that can be applied to not just cold calling but a lot of different things just with regards to productivity. So I want to dig into that a little bit for everyone listening because I think there’s a lot of value there.

All right, let’s get back to this. And speaking of back, where I want to go right now is to first find out a little bit more about you and what you were doing before you actually got into the consulting world, and being a consultant. So you were in sales. Can you just tell us a little bit about kind of your journey to the point of starting to get into consulting?

CHRIS GOEGAN: Yeah, absolutely.

I actually started off – if you wanted to clock back a little bit from there – started off in engineering. I have a degree from Kettering University. It was General Motors Institute when I went there. My degree is in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Business and Electrical Engineering. I started off working for Ford Motor Company.

I would get thrown into like all the crappiest __[06:58] of the plant. I worked in an engine plant. And since I was a new kid on the block that they hired – there’s a cereal long time ago called Life Cereal and the commercial was like ‘Hey, let Mikey try it. He’ll try anything.’ If you’re old enough to remember that, that’s kind of how it was with me when I was working at Ford. I get all the crappy jobs. It’s like ‘Hey, let’s give it to Chris. He’ll do anything.’ Of course I would because I’d get fired if I didn’t perform.

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: Yeah, for sure.

CHRIS GOEGAN: So I got all the crappy jobs and also got all the cool high tech jobs. Why do I mention this as far as marketing goes? Well as an engineer, I learned how to go in to a manufacturing plant and find where all the problems were, figure out what was causing the problems, and start putting fixes in place and also putting like measurements in place like for everything. It’s like it’s the back of the dashboard and kind of like see how things are going in the key areas and know what needs to be improved and what doesn’t.

And that was really a powerful concept that played out in the sales and marketing because sales and marketing is about knowing a process, and then looking at different steps in the process, and just see where you’re good at and where you’re not good at, and focus on the biggest opportunities.

So from engineering, I jumped into sales just for pure selfish reasons. I want to get married at some point, and have kids, and give my wife the option of staying home, and engineering – there just wasn’t enough money in it for me. So yeah, I got into sales. I was bad at it. I had some really great mentors over the years that had helped me, and eventually like figured it out.

So along the process of learning sales, I was so bad at it to begin with and it was really like a struggle. And this one guy who was training me one time, Jeffrey Hansler, he said – he actually enjoyed like watching me struggle because it was amusing to him. So he kind of like helped me just learn a lot about – it’s not just product knowledge. It’s about knowing people and why people do the things they do, and behave the way they do.

He taught me basic people skills. If you don’t understand people skills, there’s a great book called ‘Sell Little Red Hen! Sell!’ by Jeffrey Hansler, I think, is probably the best book I’ve ever read on people and understanding why people buy, and the different personality types.

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: If you just repeat that again for everyone listening?

CHRIS GOEGAN: Yeah, absolutely. It’s ‘Sell Little Red Hen! Sell!’ by Jeffrey Hansler. If you want to understand people and why they do the things they do, it’s a phenomenal book to read. It’s a very short read too.

My journey in the consulting came after banging the phones, doing 100,000 plus cold calls, having several thousand face-to-face meetings, interviewing over – gosh – 8,000 or something like that business owners. I just didn’t like cold calling and I want to like just turn the table and have people coming to me. So I just looked at the principles that was working really well when I had an interested prospect and meeting with a business owner, took work there and just applied it to marketing. I found out like after time, it’s like __[10:29] probably a lot of same things or people that you’re familiar with and people listening to this will be familiar with; people like Dan Kennedy and Perry Marshall – people like that. They all basically were marketing the same way using lead generation pieces and stuff like that, and that’s basically how we sold. And then when I started marketing, that’s how I marketed. And then when I started like kind of learning more, I just made – it was like ‘Okay, well these guys, it’s working for them as well too.’

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: So Chris, let me just ask you. You’re in a sales job. You went from working in Ford as an engineer into sales. You’re tired of making all the cold calls. You’re kind of ready to go on your own. What is the first thing that you do now to start generating business for yourself and working as an independent consultant?

CHRIS GOEGAN: The very first thing I did or the very first thing I __[11:18] for people to do?

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: Oh you mean, so they’re not the same thing? How about we cover both? What did you do, and then looking back, what should you have done differently?

CHRIS GOEGAN: So what did I do? I went out little bit naïve, a little bit over-optimistic about the work it would take and the time it would take to have a thriving business. And so I would encourage people to keep their 9:00-5:00 going as long as they can while they’re building their consulting business or whatever their business is on the side until that’s producing some revenue or at least make sure you’ve got a big enough nest egg [12:05] so you can invest in marketing.

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: Yeah, definitely. Good advice. So what do you actually do? When you went out and you now finish working as a sales guy, how did you get your first client? What were you actually doing? Give us a little bit of an insight into that experience.

CHRIS GOEGAN: Sure. I’d always been really good at relationships. In sales, I always focused on the relationship; not on the transaction. And so when I went off on my own I had a small handful of people who I developed good relationships with over the years. I actually talked to them, told them what I was thinking about doing before I got off on my own. I just ran it by them. They thought ‘Hey yes, it’s a great idea.’

It was basically like testing my business seeing if it would sell or not because I was taking clients where I was already selling successfully to, and my whole purpose was like “If I tell them about this, I wanted to hear them say ‘Yeah Chris, that’s a really good idea. And by the way, can I hire you to do some work for me?’” because if they were like good prospects for me and good clients for me, if I told them what I was going to do and said ‘Yeah, it’s a great idea.’ but they didn’t want to hire me then I had a business problem.

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: So you were doing this while you were still working in sales?

CHRIS GOEGAN: Yup

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: So you’re kind of testing the waters, keeping a bit of a safety net, and then that led to – through those conversations – to potential clients?

CHRIS GOEGAN: Yup. Absolutely. I just made sure that it wasn’t interfering with what I was doing in my sales job.

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: Let me ask you this, how long ago was that since you’ve been a consultant?

CHRIS GOEGAN: I was about – gosh, I don’t remember – ten years ago?

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: All right, so ten years…obviously a lot’s happened from ten years ago until today. When you look back at your career to this point of being a consultant and running your own business, are there maybe one or two things that really played a role of helping take your income or the number of clients you’re working with to a whole new level?

CHRIS GOEGAN: Yeah. This probably will be an answer that you would expect to get. I actually started listening to my wife.

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: Okay, tell us more. What do you mean by that?

CHRIS GOEGAN: I kind of get these ideas in my mind and I really sell myself on them, and I think how brilliant I am, and what a great idea it is. And so in the past I would make mistakes of not gaining wisdom and perspective from people that really wanted to help and want to see me do well especially my wife.

She’s got great insight and she’s great at seeing landmines. I’m great at seeing opportunities. She’s great at seeing landmines. It took me a while to clear the wax on my ears so I could actually listen to her. When I actually listened to her and listened to her viewpoints objectively about potential problems, and then act on them…

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: Can you give us an example of something new that you are all gung-ho about but your wife was saying “Hey Chris, watch out for this or that…”? Can you share one example with us?

CHRIS GOEGAN: Yeah. In fact not too many years ago – maybe like four-five years ago or something like that – I had like a good measure of success with helping clients, and helping them market their business. And then I got this wacky idea in my mind that I want to be an information marketing guru guy. I had somebody like telling me ‘Yeah, your stuff is really good. You’d be really good at it.’ And as talking with my wife about it, she’s like “You know Chris, I don’t think you should leave your core business – the core of what your business is all about is like working with people, helping them grow their businesses to sell your information because what you know is great. It’s solid.” She goes “You’re excellent at helping people.” and she goes “But I don’t think you’re quite at that point where you should be jumping in an information marketing world.”

And I’m reading all these different newsletters saying you got to get into it, you got to get into it, you got to get into it. Well, for my specific situation, the timing wasn’t right for me to get into it. I kind of jumped in with two feet. I neglected the core of my business which is consulting, helping clients grow their businesses. I didn’t do too well starting off in information marketing. It was a different world. I just all of a sudden realized that “You know what? I’m not really geared up for this right now.” If I would listen to my wife, gosh, there’s months that I wouldn’t have lost had I only had the wisdom to hear what she was saying.

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: So really you’re saying that to that point where you’re maybe a bit closed and wouldn’t really consider other ideas from people you know you would run with an idea if you had it, but one thing that really helped you was gaining a bit of perspective and considering thoughts from your wife or other people that you respected to, I guess, gain a bigger perspective in making decisions.

CHRIS GOEGAN: Yeah, I can’t state strong enough how important that is because I used to run off of my gut a lot. My gut’s really telling me to – I pray about it. It’s like ‘I think God is really telling me this.’ And so I would act off of feelings way too much. What it did is I quickly realized that, you know what? Feelings and emotions can be __[17:58] of us all and make us lose the good which we should be doing, and take us in directions that we shouldn’t be going.

I went from one end of spectrum to other end of spectrum. Like now when I’m looking at doing things, obviously I’ll think about it, and pray about it, and talk with my wife about it. Then I’ve also got almost like a mini Board of Directors where I bounce things off of. I’ve got a coach that I bounce things off of just to make sure that my head’s on right, and I’m not going off of some crazy gut feeling. Getting wisdom, I can’t tell you just how vital and how important that is to short term and long term success.

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: What kind of results have you seen from taking that approach in your business? I mean, has it increased your income? What are the kinds of results you’ve seen from doing that?

CHRIS GOEGAN: Gosh, my income has increased dramatically. The types of clients I’m working with has completely changed. The value of my clients has changed from maybe like couple thousand dollars a client to $20,000-$30,000 to six figures for clients, and also looking at some potential seven-figure deals with some clients.

How I approach selling the clients changed greatly as well too. Basically what it did is I stripped away my narcissism and it was just a really good humbling experience for me just to understand that I really don’t know everything. There’s some things that I’m really good at, and there is like areas where I’m not good at. It really helped me understand that. Not seeing it as a weakness but seeing it as a strength where I can just focus more on what I’m good at, and then have this perspective to help me.

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: And that’s so key too, right? Is focusing on your strength rather than on your weaknesses is advice that I’ve always heard before. It makes a lot of sense.

So you were just talking the size of the deals, and clients and projects that you’re working with. I know that you took one company from doing about $6.8 million to $15.2 million in about 2 ½ years. Can you tell us a little bit about that story and what you were doing for that client?

CHRIS GOEGAN: Yeah, they were a manufacturing company. They were already successful.  They actually already had about $14 million-$15 million in that range, and then they lost some big clients due to attrition. The product line just went away. So they needed to fill it in. When I started working with them, I looked at ‘What do these guys actually really selling?’ They weren’t selling their actual physical product. It’s like they sold peace of mind. The whole thing – they would manufacture parts for companies like Oakley, and bunch of medical device companies. They really sold peace of mind. Basically, we’re going to get your part to you when we say we will at an agreed upon price. Doesn’t matter what it takes. If we have to deliver stuff at midnight – whatever. We will.

Once I understood the psychology – going back to ‘Sell Little Red Hen! Sell!’ – once I understood the psychology of why people buy then it really helped me look at ‘What are their core strengths – this company’s core strength is working with? What do the (target) clients, what are their core things that they’re looking for? And got rid of a lot of people that just wasn’t a match, and then just only focused on marketing and selling to the clients where what they really wanted was a match for the core competencies and core strengths of what this company could deliver. And then completely changed how we started relationships with clients, changed value proposition of how we started our initial engagement with them, and made it just a much more relaxed pace, much more comfortable for the prospects to open the door, let us in, starting to work with them, and then just giving us more and more and more business.

The growth of it was – it wasn’t meteoric – anything over two syllables is hard for me to say.

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: I know what you’re saying. It wasn’t like it came from nowhere. It was built-in from before but now you pretty much helped to bring it back because it disappeared.

CHRIS GOEGAN: So yeah, for instance, like first year sales we brought in like an extra $100,000. Not a big deal at all. They’re wondering why they hired me. It was like ‘Just be patient. Just be patient.’ Second year, it was like $2.5 million. So $100,000, $2.5 million, and then by middle of the second quarter, the business had doubled.

You know that’s what I think too. I think people lose perspective on how long it takes to actually really grow businesses until they’re actually producing like large significant volume of business. Instead of looking at 30 days, 90 days, you got to have a longer look like a year, or two years, three years perspective.

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: All right Chris, thanks for sharing that experience and story.

We have a few questions that have actually come in for you. I’d like to get your answers on these. This one is from John. And John says ‘What is the best way to obtain permission from clients to use significant engineering projects in marketing pieces?’ You’re the marketing engineer. What are your thoughts on that, Chris?

CHRIS GOEGAN: Good question, John. Working with clients – how do you use them as examples? Well, the best way is always to talk to the client and see if it’s okay if you can use them as an example. A lot of times, people don’t want to use specific examples with them. In fact most of my clients, they’re paranoid of other people learning what they’re doing because they don’t want their business to go away that they worked so hard on.

What we do with them is basically we take their case study without divulging specifics about the company, the industry, their product, and sometimes, not specific numbers if they don’t want. So meaning it’ll be hard to find what company…

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: So you’re giving a picture enough of the case study so that people can see the types of results that you’re able to generate without divulging any information your client doesn’t really want to share.

CHRIS GOEGAN: Yeah, exactly. So yeah, you don’t want to say ‘Work with John Smith at ABC Corporation.’

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: Good advice.

This one’s from Sal. He says ‘Chris, as a marketing consultant, how do you come up with your consulting fee, and an additional fee for the marketing that they decide to do with you?’

CHRIS GOEGAN: Yeah, great question Sal. My gosh, that’s taken years of work. A great piece of advice for that is obviously – I initially started off selling my services for dirt cheap and then all of a sudden I’m like ‘Why am I charging that? That’s ridiculous. I need to raise the price.’

And so for every market there are sweet spots for what you should be charging and how much people are willing to pay. You definitely don’t want to give things away for free. I never start an engagement off for free with a client. I don’t believe in free. And clients don’t typically appreciate or listen if everything’s free.

A good thing, Sal, is to get with somebody like Michael or somebody to go over specifics of your situation and knowing how much your client’s annual sales are, and look at the prices that you’re charging. Sorry, it’s not like a real direct ‘Do this, this, this.’ but you really need information on your specific situation to really give you a good number. But typically, you just start off with something, and then if you’re selling it without getting any resistance, start increasing your prices until you have resistance. Once you have resistance, tighten up how you sell it and keep increasing your prices.

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: Good advice.

All right, Chris, for today’s action byte, we talked about you sharing a little bit about the engagement process and how to sell what you’re selling. Can you talk a little bit about that?

CHRIS GOEGAN: Yeah I can because one of the biggest problems I see with consultants is not knowing how to sell what they’re selling. They’re really good at the deliverable: the actual work that they perform for their clients. There seems to be like a lot of people struggling on the front end; how to sell what they’re selling.

Like for instance, I work with a client right now. He sells a product that’s in the tens of thousands of dollars. We went over how he was selling it so he’s basically going from a phone call to a meeting to a contract.

If you have a big step like that, if you’re selling a big ticket item – it’s not $100, couple hundred bucks – no big deal. But the higher ticket, the more touches and the more steps you want to put in there. What you want to do is you want to make it like a grease slide. Your initial meeting with them is to get them interested in climbing up the top of the slide, and then you want to have like a small dollar – and what I mean by small dollar is relative to their gross sales. If company’s doing $50 million, a small number might be $10,000/$20,000. If they’re dong $50,000 sales, then a small number might be couple hundred bucks. So you want to like pique their interest in the initial meetings to get them to want to give you a check for a small dollar amount to start them down the slides so you can start demonstrating the value that you can actually help solve their problems. And then after you do that then you come back around and sell like bigger packages and longer term commitments.

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: In that case, what you’re suggesting is even if you know that you can help a client with a much bigger issue that they’re having or do a lot more work for them, you’re recommending that at the outset, you don’t pitch that whole piece. You start off just by maybe presenting one aspect or one small issue that you can help them first approve, that you can do what you’re saying that you can do just to get the relationships started?

CHRIS GOEGAN: Yeah. Absolutely. I’ve also learned that I don’t really know everything upfront. I can analyze the situation of the company pretty quickly. But if you look back at your client list and clients that you’ve done work for, there are clients that you wish that you knew more stuff upfront before you went into something like larger packages with them.

Clients really appreciate that. It’s like ‘I could sell you a big package for $50,000 package for a year, but I don’t really know…’ – and this is something I say with clients like “Look, I don’t really know if we’re a good fit for each other. I’m confident I can help you based off what you told me, but instead of getting married, let’s get engaged and make sure that the relationship is right; make sure that you like me, I like you, and you feel very confident in me long term. So rather than me asking you for a big dollar. Let’s just start off with smaller dollar commitment, and then if it makes sense, then we can look at something bigger after that.”

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: That’s great advice – all about building the relationship and the trust, indeed. Thanks for sharing that, Chris.

Again, I really appreciate you taking the time and being so generous sharing with all the listeners.

CHRIS GOEGAN: You’re welcome. And Michael, thank you so much for thinking of me and allowing me to help find some perspective.

MICHAEL ZIPURSKY: My pleasure.

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  • See the Change Guy

    I love this! Great job, Chris and Michael. Thank you.

    • http://www.consulting-business.com Michael Zipursky

      Glad to hear it and thanks for letting us know :)

  • Steve

    Thanks! Look forward to more interviews.

    • http://www.consulting-business.com Michael Zipursky

      Steve, thank you and appreciate it.