Appointment setting still remains a complex step in client acquisition. In this episode, Michael Zipursky interviews Joe Pici of Pici & Pici, a sales trainer and speaker who has helped organizations book more appointments and close more deals. From a football coach to a business consultant, he shows us his and his wife Dawn’s road to becoming one of the most sought-after business consultants. Join Joe as he enlightens us on cold calling, outreaching through LinkedIn, material development for trainings, and so much more.
I’m very excited to have with me, Joe Pici. Joe, welcome.
Thanks for inviting me in, Michael.
Joe, you’re a sales trainer and speaker. You help organizations and their sales teams to book more appointments and close more deals. Your clients include Aflac, Hilton, Nationwide, NFL, McDonald’s, Deloitte, a whole bunch of others. Take us back. Let’s get started at the beginning. How did you get into sales consulting, training and speaking?
I got into sales consulting by first having to get into sales. I do believe sales trainers should have to have a prerequisite of selling or they should presently sell. We found ourselves in a really bad situation financially. Part-time, I started selling. From there, we went full-time in selling. Because we were successful people, they were throwing us on big keynote stages all around the world. About 2003, we were sitting at a convention and I said to my wife, “There’s a big gap in skill-based training in sales and communications. We need to fill it.”
Even before you got to that place, how did you even get into sales? What were you doing before you showed up that day at the convention?
I was an American pro football coach and my wife was a voice coach, a former singer. Collectively, we didn’t have a business background. We found ourselves having to learn the business.
How does a football coach get into sales?It’s very easy to get in sales but very hard to stay. Click To Tweet
It’s very easy to get in sales. It’s very hard to stay in sales.
What was your first sales role or what was that first sales experience for you?
It was direct sales. It was network marketing because we can’t get in part-time, but they weren’t teaching you how to sell. It was more schmoozing, which is not my personality. We had to start reading, attending and developed our own methodology and realize that sales was lead generation, booking appointments and having consulate sales presentations over and over again. That’s what we missed.
I’m interested in that because a lot of people have similar experiences, whether in network marketing or even they recognize sales is important. Getting into it and doing something about it, you made that leap. What was going on in your mind that made you decide, we could continue selling whatever we’re selling in network marketing. I did Cutco with knives back in the day and write a whole bunch of stuff, which was a great experience but I didn’t then necessarily go in and go deeper into the world of sales in terms of deciding to consult, coach, train and speak in that area. What made you decide, “We’re going to get into this area deeper?”
When we were on those keynote stages and we got to know people really well, we realized most people didn’t have a methodology for selling. We looked at the hardest aspects of sales which are multiple ways of generating leads, creating the right messaging, being able to pick up that phone and qualify and book a quality appointment and then have more consultative sales, not transactional. As we started to dig into that, we realized something else. There wasn’t a lot of skill-based training going on. It’s more motivation and strategy.
When you said you were on these keynote stages, this was network marketing events?
You saw people are pumping up all this energy, dancing and whatever else is done. It’s not typically my style but that was happening and it’s missing some real meat. The substance, the details are missing here. When you had that realization, what did you then decide to do with that discovery or that idea?
First thing, we launched Dawn into becoming a communications trainer. She got certified in DISC.
Dawn is your wife, Joe, just to clarify?
Yes, we’re partners. Even looking at the model of human behavior DISC, we also saw that most consultants trained material. We started looking more at adaptive behavior so we created our own methodology. What happened was when Dawn was talking to a company, I got her little gig, the owner of the company said to me, “This is the first consulting job I had. Your wife says you’re good at teaching people to use the phone.” I said, “No, sir. I’m good at getting people to book quality appointments.” Just like that, we had to go home and learn how to write a proposal. We sold training and then we went in and did it. In our first year of consulting, speaking and training, we made six figures without a website, without beautiful materials that we have now. We only trained on things we did so it had authenticity. We were raw but we produced really good results. That was the beginning.
In generating in your first year six figures, were you implementing your own expertise and experience of booking appointments? Were you doing that for your own business or was it you knew someone that landed on the first gig, you did great work and then referrals created the next clients? What were you doing to get those first few clients?
We were leaving network marketing. Network marketers were not going to pay the fees we are going to charge in corporate training. The people we knew were not going to be a good target market for us. We had to learn how to say what were we going to be delivering? Who was most apt to need what we did? We generated a lot of cold leads. I picked up the phone, gave a value proposition, started sitting down and it just started to happen. The key here is that we only train, speak and coach on what we do. We were training what we did to get them to sit down with us. It sounds raw, but that’s the foundation we built our whole business on to start.
The reason why you had this foundation in terms of setting up appointments and bookings and all that was because of what you experienced through network marketing. Is that correct?The cold call is not to get an appointment or sell anything. It's to find out if they qualify. Click To Tweet
In network marketing, they weren’t teaching those skills. Our back was against the wall. We were $350,000 in medical debt with no way out. We weren’t learning it here, who was teaching it? We would start pulling things from maybe a little bit of Zig Ziglar and some of the giants. They were going on the surface, more on mindset. A lot of it became trial and error. One night, when I got 56 noes on the phone, I said, “You better get better at this or you’re not going to make it.” We started digging into scripting and we started developing scripts. As they would work, we started building foundations there.
Joe, many consultants, when they hear you say that you made 56 calls and got 56 noes, that’s the exact reason that they don’t want to be making calls. There’s a big fear around picking up the phone and using the phone. That’s an area that you run bootcamps and trainings on. It’s called beating the fear of the phone. Where do you think that fear comes from? The second part is how can people overcome the fear of the phone?
Number one, I got 56 noes because I didn’t know what I was doing and I was calling the wrong people. Nobody has to go through that. When we looked at why are people afraid of the phone? Why are people afraid of outbound sales? What we realized was outbound sales and the phone, most of the speaking and training on it is for that A-type personality, which is only 10% of the population. We had to develop a training that any behavior style would feel comfortable. Instead of looking at it as hunting, we teach fishing. We have a much higher percentage of people getting conversions but also they’re not looking for a yes, we positioned it that they’re looking for somebody that may want to sit with them because they deliver X result. When I go do corporate training or people come to our bootcamp, the outbound phone calls are only a piece of the training but we spend a full day before we get on the phone. We don’t like the 92% success on getting “through the gatekeeper.” We don’t use any tricks and gimmicks. It’s authentic scripting.
I’d love to look a little bit deeper into some of these more tangible things for everybody reading this. Let’s say that a consultant wants to reach a senior level decision-maker at a bank, whether it’s a regional bank or an international bank or some other large organization, whether in financial services or otherwise. They look at it and go, “These are busy people.” I’ve found who I should call, who I need to connect with on LinkedIn. How do I set a meeting with them? What would you advise them? What would you take them through?
First of all, they have to look at what is my product and what does it deliver? That’s most important. The decision-maker is whoever answers the phone. I treat everyone at any level like they’re making a decision. I’ll give you an example. I cold-called TSA Homeland Security one day, just as a wild dare. I wasn’t expecting anything. This guy answers the phone. I said, “My name is Joe Pici of Pici & Pici. Is this a great time?” The lady says, “What is this all about?” I said, “I specialize in reducing conflict, increasing productivity, and reducing turnover.” She said, “I don’t know what to do with that.” I said, “Would it be worth a few minutes for me to show you how you can reduce some of the issues you’re having at the gate?” She immediately put me through to the decision-maker, the head of Homeland Security in DC.
I said the exact same thing, only when I say I specialize in reducing conflict, increasing productivity. He said, “Do you have any idea who you called? I am the head of Homeland Security. I’m into training division. You don’t just cold call Homeland Security.” I said, “Would it be worth fifteen minutes for me to show you how to reduce some of the issues you’re having at the gate and reduced turnover?” He could have said no and if he did, it was no big deal but he goes, “Call me back at 9:30.” He had a room full of people. I honestly had a contract in two weeks. He could have said no. I lead with benefits. It doesn’t matter if the janitor answers the phone. I treat everyone with respect and it’s amazing how it takes me to who I need to talk to.
What I’m getting you say, Joe, is it’s all about first of all making sure that you understand who your ideal client is, then making sure that you have a message as your value proposition that speaks to their paying points, the results they want, what they care most about. You go in without the pressure of feeling like you need to make a sale rather you go through your script which is sharing the value proposition. If it resonates with them, it resonates. Plan the next step of fifteen minutes time the meeting. If it doesn’t resonate then what? Do you dig deeper or you go to the next person?
I don’t believe in overcoming objections. People say, “Joe, you’re great at sales.” No, Joe’s great at finding buyers because one of my target markets as I work with speakers, trainers, coaches and consultants, not on speaking, training, coaching and consulting but how to take their intellectual property and talent and make money with it. If you’re a speaker, trainer, coach, or consultant, and I say, “Michael, my name is Joe Pici of Pici & Pici. Is this a good time?” “What’s this all about?” “I specialize in helping speakers, coaches, trainers and consultants make money with their talent and intellectual property.” You go, “Joe, I’m doing just fine.” “Fantastic, Michael. Have a great day.” I’m done.
People get beat up as they think they’re supposed to talk you into it. I’m going to give you a paradigm shift. Here’s for your audience. When people are saying, “Joe, you’re a tough guy. You don’t mind cold calls.” We have eighteen ways to generate leads. Do you know what one of them is? The cold call. It’s not to get an appointment or sell anything. It’s to find out if they qualify. When people are driving an hour and a half to go to a chamber of commerce luncheon, that’s great. They spent two hours there and an hour-and-a-half back, they spend half a day. If I spend half a day on the phone using a value proposition in a target market, I’m going to get some meetings.
Joe for someone going, “That makes a lot of sense. I’m excited to start doing this,” where’s the best place for them to get the contact information or those people? Do you use a specific service? Do you purchase a list? Do you do research online? What works for you? What’s the best process?
I never buy a list. There are some good list services out there. I have found a lot of lists have been done over and gone over. What happened to us after our third year doing what we’re doing, we hired a coach. We spent a whole lot of money for one day in his studio. Everybody needs a coach, a consultant and I sat with them and he looked at me, he goes, “Joe, I’ve seen you and Dawn training. I’ve seen you here. I see Dawn there.” He said, “You’ll get better but there’s not that much more room.” He said, “Joe, I don’t know anybody that can pick up the phone and get an appointment. Joe, you have a very consultative sales presentation.” I go, “You’re blowing smoke. What are you telling me?” He goes, “The rest of your life is lead generation and brand expansion.” Once you master selling, it’s, “Where am I going to get leads?” I don’t have time to tell you all at lead generation but our number one lead generator is LinkedIn.
What are you doing on LinkedIn that’s working so well for you?
Many years ago, we were not on social media. We signed a check and my wife took a year’s long courses on all the different mediums. At the end of the year, she said, “Joe, our target market is on LinkedIn.” She said, “Joe, your target market is not on Facebook.” You don’t need to spend any time other than LinkedIn. I need 90 days because most people are using LinkedIn more as an inbound tool.” After 90 days, she had done her homework. She created a methodology that if you can teach me this stuff, you can teach anybody how I mine leads and use it as an outbound tool. Companies and individuals hired Dawn. She’ll even do it on Skype a couple of hours in.
We use it more in a way where I’m looking to get somebody to look at my profile and that starts my sales process. I was on the phone with a potential client, he’s up in Atlanta. It’s a startup but it could be very lucrative. I said, “If I handed you a pen, could you put your sales process on the board?” He said, “I know my manufacturer.” I said, “I didn’t say your manufacturer. I said, your sales process.” I will tell you, 95% of the companies I go into, “I don’t care what name they are.” There is not a concrete sales process. There’s not a concrete messaging. There are not concrete skills. They allow salespeople to sell they want the way they want to.Leadership doesn't have quantifiable results for a long time. Click To Tweet
On LinkedIn, are you outreaching to ideal clients in a similar way that you’re using the phone where you’ve identified someone who you believe is an ideal client, you get in front of him with your value proposition? Is that a similar approach to what you’re doing on LinkedIn where you’ll connect with someone?
Let say you looked at my profile. I say, “Thanks for viewing, let’s connect.” I’d go to your contact information. If your phone number was there, I’d call you. In the National Football League, a guy looked at Dawn’s LinkedIn profile, it’s all he did. Dawn send it over to me. I reached out to him, “You went on Dawn’s LinkedIn profile. What compelled you to look?”
Joe, you’re looking very closely at who views your profile.
That’s one way though.
If you see that they’re an ideal client then you’ll reach out to them to initiate a conversation.
Because of my skill on the phone, I call anybody and I give my value proposition. They opt-in or opt-out because we have a B2B business, we have a B2C business. We not only serve big companies but we also have a big business on individuals for our bootcamps, for consulting.
Why do you do that? Some people would look at that and go, “Isn’t that a distraction?” Why not just focus on one or the other? How can you create the highest level of results in one of these areas if you’re spending some of your time working in the other area? I want to know your thoughts on that.
The word niche is always used. I believe you can niche one of two ways. You can niche your target market or you could niche what you do. We niche what we do. For example, our B2B market, that’s when we go after corporations. I was in Philadelphia, I was in Boston, I was all over the place. However, next Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I have a three-day sales bootcamp. Thursday, Friday, Saturday I have a speaker bootcamp. In the evenings, we do DISC certification. I will tell you, that B2C market, that’s a lucrative week.
What percentage of your revenue would you say comes from the large organizations versus the individuals that you work with?
We have silos of our business. If you were to look at our business, we have corporate training, we have bootcamps, we have one-on-one coaching, we have keynotes. Our two biggest revenue producers are our corporate sales training and our bootcamps. Your lowest revenue-producing activity is going to be one-on-one coaching. If I’m speaking to consultants and you were coaching with me, until your brand got strong and demanded it, I’d be careful. My one-on-one coaching fee is worth it. It wouldn’t have been worth it in the beginning.
That’s your focus and how you work in a focused manner to build a brand. You have these two different markets that you’re serving. The way that you’re putting them together that makes sense for you is that the focus of what you’re teaching and training on and speaking on is constant. Whether you’re working with a larger market or the smaller market in terms of size and individuals or organizations, it’s still on the same topic. That makes it all one for you.
Michael, when I sit down with people, I don’t sit down with an individual or a company to sell them a product. I sell them a result. They determine how they want to use me. Therefore, do they want to send people to our bootcamp? Do they want me to go into a corporation? I had a lady fly in one-on-one in my studio and paid me more than some corporations because the value was there. Nowhere on our website is our pricing and we sell results. They determine how they want to use us.
It’s your wife and yourself in the business, Joe. Did you ever have the feeling or the desire to grow beyond, to build a larger team?
Michael, here’s the challenge for Joe Pici. I built a good mousetrap. We built such a uniqueness in the marketplace. We wanted to be able to compete with the elite. I’m ranked number three in the world but when I sign a contract with people, they point at me and they’d go, “Don’t send me in a licensed trainer.” Licensing works for people. That’s a business model but because of the uniqueness of what we’ve created, I have so many clients that want me, not a certified trainer.One of the biggest challenges for consultants is consistently getting clients that will pay them what they are worth. Click To Tweet
Let’s say you could certify someone that does what you’re doing exceptionally well to the level that your clients would feel that, “There’s great value in this.” They don’t care if it’s Joe or if it’s Tim or if it’s Susie. They’re getting the result that they want at the end of the day. Would you want that? Is that a sign that’s ever been on your mind that, “I’d like to grow where we can generate revenue without my direct involvement, I’d like to have a team?” Or have you always been very intentional around, “No, I want this business to be my wife and myself running the show?”
I’m not an entrepreneur, I’m a business owner and I’m aware of that. Entrepreneurs think scale. They’re exactly what you’re saying. I would like to scale. The problem is I’ve gotten so far into it that my clients tell me, “We want you.” To pull off of that, I could lose clients. We’re looking at other means. For example, we have our own podcast called Sales Edge. We believe that is scaling us because down the road it could get big enough to draw in an advertisement. It’s 100% content like yours. Sometimes you build a business in a position where the other aspect is I love what I do. I don’t have any hobbies. I get up at 3:30 AM, I get on a stationary bike and then I’m ready to roll. It would be great if the business could get outside of us. However, we didn’t position it that way in the beginning because we were looking to grow a brand and I believe brand from a result of what you do, not throwing money at websites. Those things are important but we have sold ourselves into our brand. Dawn is the expert on LinkedIn. We stay inside our lane there.
Looking back, in hindsight, knowing what you know and based on what you shared, is there something that you wish or at least think, “We could have done that differently and it would’ve been such a good thing?” You can’t go back and change time. For someone else who’s maybe entering your business for several years, for someone who might be two years or five years or even ten years in, is there anything that stands out to you that could have been a very strategic decision that you could’ve done differently?
Had we chosen a different topic? Leadership would have been easy.
Leadership doesn’t have quantifiable results for a long time. When I go into training, they get the results that day. I was up in Boston trained people that weren’t using the phone. They were using email and we convert it to 75% to appointment. We built such a uniqueness even side of our business. There are certain things that scale better. The communications part of our business would scale easily teaching people communications training and which understand, there’s another thing there. Who’s going to sell? In 2008, we went to the National Speakers Association Convention. You’re in Canada, I don’t know if you guys got mailed the way we did but the bottom dropped out here.
There’s impact across the globe, that’s for sure.
A lot of the famous speakers, the celebrities, they were hurt and their businesses had imploded. A lot of people got out. I’m sitting there with Dawn and I said, “We need to go home.” She said, “We spent money to be here.” I said, “I have high regard for these people but we’re tripling our income. I’m not celebrity status yet. We need to go home and find out what we’re doing.” We found out about Pici & Pici was we were as diligent about the business side of consulting, speaking and training as we were about delivery. The hardest thing to duplicate is not what I do, it’s how I get clients. If I take people on, I’ve got to sell to feed them or they have to sell for themselves. One of the biggest challenges for those consultants out there, the good ones, it’s not, “Are they good with their clients?” Yes, they are. It’s about, “Can they consistently get clients that will pay them what they’re worth?” That’s the hard duplication piece.
Some readers are going, “This Joe guy has a lot going on between corporate training, bootcamps and products.” Doing everything that the two of you, there’s a lot to manage. Take us into a typical day in the life of Joe Pici when it comes to running the business. You said you start the day at 3:30 AM?
Yes, even if I wasn’t doing what I’m doing, I wake up at that time.
How do you approach it? You’ve created a lot of intellectual property in books and courses. You speak and you train. What is your typical day look like? Do you have any rituals or principles that you follow that you feel are key to your performance?
First of all, I have my own priority management system. Everything has priorities. If I’m not with a client that day, if I’m not speaking, coaching or training, my first priority is selling. That always takes priority in my part of the business. We never develop material during work hours. Our material development is if we have a weekend off, in the evening. When you own your own business, you get to choose the twenty hours a day you work. There are no eight hours a day. You better love what you do. I get up early, after I’m on my stationary bike, I watch a video, I read a little bit, shower, protein shake and I’m rolling. If I’m not training that day, I’m going to be mining leads on LinkedIn. I don’t go to bed at night until tomorrow’s phone list and the to-do list is done. I’m not sitting here saying, “What am I doing?” It’s already done. As soon as the sun comes up and the bell rings, I’m making outbound calls.
What time do you start making calls?
It depends on the market. There are some people whom I can call at 7:00 in the morning because once they get to work, you’re not going to hit them. I know my markets really well. There are a lot of sales books that say the best time to call people is between 10:00 and 2:00 on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. I’m going to tell you, I book more appointments from 8:00 to 12:00 on Monday. I close more contracts on Friday afternoons and that goes against everything you read. We have to be careful that we don’t fall into what everybody says.
At the end of the day, it’s taking consistent action, putting in the work. When you do it consistently enough, you can buck all those trends.
For example, I’ll get into the meeting room at 4:00 AM. Why do you do that? I’m crazy. That’s why you have me on your show. I’m in there and I’m going through my checklist, making sure. When people fly in from out of state, I make myself available and people know that. People will start coming in for coffee. We’ll talk, we’ll do some coaching. We train and start at 8:30 sharp. This is not a kumbaya training, this is intense. At 12:00, when they go to lunch, I make my outbound calls. I make 150 outbound calls a week, even when we’re doing bootcamp. That sounds fanatical, it’s not. I did an episode on habits. It’s one of my habits.
Let me take it back, a day in the life of Joe and Dawn Pici when we’re not speaking. I got up at 3:30, I did my thing. One of my podcasts is on checklists. Staging number one is where I take everything out and put it on the dining room table for the bootcamp’s checklists. I make sure Dawn is doing certificates for the people. I’m going over my final list. I’m going through every single thing that has to be done in the bootcamps. We recorded four episodes that day. I was making my target list for phone calls to be made. Everything was proactive. There are things that a lot of times consultants do from 8:00 to 5:00 on a Monday when they should be looking for clients.
That’s a good point because whether it’s between 8:00 to 5:00 or I’ll put the time there to the side, the big observation there was the opportunity for people to recognize that most often, it’s easy to do the easy work. It’s to create the content or whatever else it is and put off the sales and marketing. Those are the areas that you’re less comfortable with. There are more unknowns, more uncertainty, more potential “rejection” It’s the first thing to go. It’s the first thing that gets pushed back. You wonder why you’re not making the progress that you ultimately want to be making.
Sales comes first. When we did our first bootcamp, a lot of our peers said, “Don’t put on your own event. You’ll lose your shirt.” I said to my wife, “Make some fliers.” I called the hotel, rented it. In three weeks, I came back and I said, “You better start making materials.” He goes, “What do you mean?” I said, “I sold out the bootcamp.” She said, “What?” I said, “I sold out the bootcamp.” She goes, “Joe, I can’t make that stuff on the computer we have.” I said, “Dawn, I just put $50,000 in the bank, buy an iMac.” It’s not transactional but consultative, 82% of all sales happen between the 6th and the 15th contact. 68% of the population is a slow pacer, they’re not buying. Keep your funnel full. You’ll always have enough clients coming on.
Joe, I want to thank you for coming on here. It’s been great to have some of your wisdom and experience shared with us. I want to make sure that people can learn more about you and your work. For those who are reading, what’s your website address they should go through?
Number one, my phone number is 407-947-2590. If you ever want to have a complementary cup of Joe, call me. Our website is www.PiciAndPici.com. Here’s a free thing for you. You take out your phone and type in a number, 55678, go into tag and write, SalesEdge. Make sure it’s one word. Text that, it will take you to a splash page. There are free downloads with LinkedIn as well as sales and there are also videos on there that are all free. There are links to all of our podcasts. You’ll enjoy the podcast. Go on LinkedIn and connect with me, it’s Joe Pici. You’ll recognize me. I’m pointing at you.
Joe, thanks very much for coming.
It’s my pleasure.