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Episode #188
Chris Filipiak

The Truth about Sales & Selling in Consulting

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Summary

Through everyday transactions whether online or in-store, making sales and selling to people is a concept that is familiar to a lot of us. However, from a business standpoint, it is a practice that consulting businesses should be well aware of. Michael Zipursky is joined by Chris Filipiak, a sales consultant and coach who runs his own consulting business helping agencies with sales function. Chris shares his personal journey of truly understanding what sales is and highlights the importance of understanding how you think, how you feel and how your actions are related to making a sale. He also shares that the key to making a sale relies heavily on getting those stepping stones in place and knowing the system very well.

I am with Chris Filipiak. Chris, welcome.

It’s great to be here. I’m excited to be on the show and provide some value.

We’re definitely going to have a good show. Chris, you’re a sales coach and you run a consulting business helping agencies with the sales function. You’ve sold everything from big data, marketing tech solutions for Fortune 50 companies to your independent consulting services. What I’d love to get started with is to have you share from a sales background. Sales always came naturally to you. Do you feel like a natural-born salesperson or is it something that you had to learn and develop over the years?

CSP 188 | Consulting Sales

 

I’ve always been in sales one way or the other, from doing trading cards as a kid as an elementary student to owning my own landscaping company when I was eleven years old, and dragging my lawnmower around the block to selling boy scout popcorn and trash bags door to door. The thing is even though I was doing sales work at that time and had some success and sold professionally for other companies, it never felt like a salesperson. I didn’t understand sales and I sucked at it. It made me uncomfortable, and there was a lot of fear. Now, I actually feel like I understand what’s going on with sales at a deeper level. I’m in a relationship and in love with sales. I want sales to be synonymous with love. I think I’m at that place right now where there’s a ton of love in my sales and it’s less about just trying to make a sale.

Eventually, you show that because at a young age, I never sold lemonade or I don’t have memories of doing those kinds of things. At a fairly young age, I was working in a used sporting goods store doing sales, I also did Cutco Knife sales and things like that, but I never fought out myself as a salesperson. First of all, I had to believe in the product or the service that I was selling. I always looked at it as building relationships and having conversations with people. One specific experience I’ll never forget is as I was working in this used sporting goods store called Sports Junkies. It still exists in Vancouver at a different location. I worked at one of their earlier locations. I was maybe in maybe elementary school or first couple of years of high school. I remember one lady, I was selling her some shoes. She went over and told the manager, “This guy, Michael, he’s just amazing.” I was thinking, “Why am I amazing?”

Being a salesperson is a gift to the other people to exchange energy and help someone get to where they’re going. Click To Tweet

I didn’t know that much about the actual product. It’s used stuff and we didn’t get a lot of training on sneakers or snowboard boots or whatever it was. I realized what it is. I asked her a lot of questions and tried to serve. I tried to be as helpful as I could be. I still look at sales like that. Do you have any thoughts that you have on that topic? I think there’s a lot of people who have challenged from a mindset perspective that sales is an uncomfortable place or even an uncomfortable word for them. It creates a bit of pressure inside their chest and certainly in their minds. What would you speak to on that topic?

We could spend days talking about this, and it’s such a beautiful question. I think that’s why I embrace being a salesperson and recognize that it is about helping people. It’s a gift to the other people to exchange energy and help someone get to where they’re going. My mentor says that sales isn’t something that you do to someone, sales is something that you do for someone. When you’re starting out a business, I have a family, I have four children, I’m the main income provider, I need to get deals done because I need income and revenue coming in so that I can pay. I’m bootstrapping a business. You’re in this scrambling energy.

From that needy place, that feeling, and you can’t see it, but I’m pointing to my stomach. From whatever the achiness that’s going on there, when you’re showing up from that place, it’s difficult. That’s when through a lot of work, through the internal work and understanding the external strategies and tactics, I realized that sales is about helping people. I say that with an asterisk because what people think is help in a sale, there’s the help of your service that moves someone from where they are to where they want to be. The help you’re providing in a sales conversation looks very different. I love that you use that term service, but for me, it really shifted where I’m going in every conversation. How am I helping this person, how am I showing up neutrally, with none of my shit going on, totally knowing that I am taken care, of that I don’t need anything from you, any nothing from you? That allows me to show up, and that’s when things transformed for me.

CSP 188 | Consulting Sales

 

Just playing devil’s advocate here but also in a position where a lot of people might be at one point or another. What if you do need to make the sale? You’re saying being in a mindset, in a position where you’re operating from, there’s no attachment. Do whatever you want, I’m here to support you, help you to make the best decision for you. What if you’re the consultant on the other side that does need that income, does need that revenue? It could be because you’re getting started or it might be that you’ve had a nice pipeline of business and then a pandemic comes along, COVID shows up and now clients are pausing, whatever it might be. What advice would you offer that person who is in a position where they do need the income? How can they operate with that level of confidence when they do need the revenue?

The level that I’m selling at now, having done the internal work and understanding what sales is about, is so much higher. Years ago, I was doing deals that were 25 times smaller than the deal size that I’m doing now. It’s a totally different level of awareness and understanding about what’s going on. I think with the people when you’re getting into business, the goal is to learn this as quickly as possible because it will transform your business. You have to understand that bringing money into your business is based on cause and effect.

It’s not a mystery and the cause is making sales, but it’s not selling any one person. You have to do the sales activity and have the daily sales motion. Whether that’s relationship nurturing or it’s cold calling, or whatever your strategy is for your business to make sales, create conversations, have conversations, you have to do that stuff consistently every day. If you’re desperate for revenue, you have to do the activities that allow you to make sales, but you don’t show up in the sales conversation to sell. I’m not here to sell Michael. I’m doing sales activity, and from that based on cause and effect, I’m going to bring money, I’m going to allow money into my business. That’s what I would do.

Most people tend to be desperate or in a position where they are putting a lot of pressure on that one conversation because they feel like they need to make it. Would you say that in your experience, it’s often the same people that are not putting in the consistent work to build their pipelines? They’re not going through the motions, not making the calls, sending the emails, or doing the follow-ups or is that not true?

The biggest thing that I see with my clients is inconsistent activity. That shows up in your results. You’re trying to make a sale or you’re trying to sell someone instead of helping them. When you do that, they feel that. They pick up on that energy and it sets up a double binding message or showing up needy. They’re going to be like, “There’s something wrong with that dude. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t want to buy from him. I don’t want to buy as much as I normally would from him.”

Sales isn’t something that you do to someone. It’s something that you do for someone. Click To Tweet

That’s what we see as well. The person that typically feels a lot of pressure around having to make the sale feels that pressure because they don’t have many opportunities. If you’re up to bat and you only have one chance, you’re going to feel a lot of pressure, but if you know that you’re going to be able to get up and have multiple opportunities, if you strike up one time, it’s okay. In a couple of innings or whatever, you’ll be back at it again hopefully, you’ll have another opportunity. You feel a lot less pressure in that one conversation because it’s just one out of many. If that’s your only conversation and you don’t see many new conversations coming up in the not-too-distant future, then you’re going to feel a lot more pressure around that typically. That’s at least what I’ve observed over the years and with many clients as well.

That comes back to the importance of having a system, of working that system consistently. I’m glad that you said that’s also what you see with many of your clients and they’re just not as consistent as they could be. Chris, you talked a fair bit about having a sales system. What I’d like to do is to hear from you a little more about what actually is a sales system in your mind, what does it look like, so people can better understand some of the best practices. Before we do that, you touched on inner work. You actually used the word inner work at least 2 or 3 times. I’d like to understand what does that inner work look like. What part of that do you feel is connected or contributed most to you being able to increase your typical deal size 25 times over that period? Three different things to explore there, but I’d love to go through each one with you.

You keep track of them. I’ll just talk and answer them the best I can.

Number one, what is inner work to you? What does that look like? What have been the main takeaways that you’ve had from it?

I love that earlier we were just talking about the pressure to make a sale. Let’s use that as an example. Here’s what I want the audience to understand is, you’re creating that pressure. You’re giving meaning to something external from yourself and creating that yourself. There’s no pressure that actually exists for you. How you’re thinking, that this is pressure, that I need to make this sale, because this is the only money that I can think about, is determining how you feel. How you feel is determining the actions that you’re willing to take, which is showing up funny to the sale and it’s impacting your strategies and tactics going. “I need to only focus on that.” The inner work is understanding that how you think determines how you feel, and how you feel determines the actions you take, which determine the results that you create in your business. It starts with your thinking, which means you have to understand how to think accurately.

What have you found, Chris, in regards to that in your personal journey? What’s been most helpful for you? Is it a book or resource or whatever that you feel like made just the biggest difference in understanding that, seeing that, and then be able to act on it in an effective way?

It’s understanding the law of cause and effect and some of what I would call the fundamental or the universal laws of how things work. With sales or with money, money comes from making a sale, which comes from doing sales activity consistently. That’s based on cause and effect. It’s not based on luck or all of this raise your vibration stuff. That’s where people get mindset confused, I don’t even like to use that term a ton, but that’s why mindset matters. You have to have the right thoughts with the right actions combined. I love Wallace Wattles’ book, The Science of Getting Rich, vision, purpose, faith, gratitude. Those things set up clarity on what you want, the constant expectation of having it, purpose, which is action. It’s awesome.
That’s what I mean by internal work. This is the point I wanted to make, is when you’re feeling the pressure, when you’re showing up with pressure or you need to make a sale, that’s you focused. You are told to be thinking about yourself. When you’re in that space, you have blinders on to what is possible for the client. In my personal journey, I didn’t understand that at first. It’s only been in the last couple of years that I understand where I get love, freedom and connection from. It’s not from the people I’m selling to, I’m showing up to give those people something.

What would you say has contributed most? You mentioned your deal sizes increased 25 times. That is significant. If you can make it a bit more tangible for us, what have you done, what are the shifts been that have allowed you to increase your pricing successfully?

Neville Goddard and his book, The Power of Awareness, talks about the fact that man’s chief delusion causes other than his own state of consciousness. You can read and listen to the recording, but that’s how you think. The thing was I wasn’t thinking about my business in a way that allowed me to do those deals. Two things were happening. I wasn’t seeing the opportunities to sell the market what it wanted, or to give or provide the service that the market wanted. That’s something that I’m actually doing a big thing around. I knew what I wanted to do, but it was doing the work to figure out what the market wanted to pay for now. What was going on in the mind of my audience, and how could I change my offering and being willing to change my offering to provide a service that the market wanted?

That was a huge difference. The other difference was getting comfortable doing that level of deal size. Just having the confidence in myself, knowing that I’m good enough, loving on myself, building up the awareness. Those size deals were there when I started my business. They were there years ago, I wasn’t allowing myself to see them and ask for them. It’s the same people that were in my phone years ago. Instead of doing those small deals with those people, now I’m doing much larger deals and solving bigger problems.

Chris, I want to make this tangible and easier for people to grasp so they can also then be able to implement it. Can you take me through an example of what are your typical deal looked like before?

I started off doing sales as a service. People would put me on contract with them month-to-month contracts doing outsource sales for them using my systems. I would try to do a retainer plus commission on that. That went fine. That allowed me to build up my expertise about what was required for me to sell successfully. What did the systems and the people? What were the strategies to do that? I got to the point where I was like, “Now I know how to do that myself, how can I help them build a sales team that can replicate that?” I went from doing sales to helping build a team that could do sales for that business. I started doing that in four-week blocks, doing an initial step one assessment and revenue roadmap, and I would sell that individually.

I moved to a 3 or 4-month engagement. Go like, “We can do an initial step one, plus an initial build phase, and get here.” It was going, “If you want to scale your business from $2 to $4 million or $5 to $8 million, whatever you actually want to do, it’s going to take some work.” That’s talk about a 6 or 12-month engagement, that’s talk about bringing in these bench members. You can program your CRM, that’s fine. Work with a recruiter and packaging bigger deals to actually get the work done required and talking about that in a real way. Not like, “I’ll just come in for four weeks, and all of a sudden,” you’ll have an amazing sales team, you’ll go from 2 to 4 months with no problem.

What I’m hearing you say, Chris, is you started off providing the service yourself. You were the implementer, you were the doer in the organization, which for some organizations, they would look at you the same way that they might look at it as an employee or a contractor doing the work. What you ended up shifting is rather than doing the work, you position yourself as someone that can enable the work to happen, but not by you. You simply would guide, help with a strategy, get all the different pieces together. It sounds like where you are now is looking at a more comprehensive picture of, “Here’s where we currently are, here’s where we want to be, here’s the things that need to happen in between. I’m going to help you to essentially put the right system and best practices in place and then guide you through that so that you can create the higher-level results.”

CSP 188 | Consulting Sales

 

You, yourself, aren’t picking up the phone, calling, sending the emails, doing the follow-up. You’re doing the business or the sales for them, you’re supporting them to have a team in place that can do that stuff. The impact that you can now create is significantly greater because it’s not one person doing something anymore. Now you’re nailing it to the whole organization, however big they are, to essentially all of them can now do the work or whoever you put in place can do it so that the impact can be greater because it doesn’t hinge on you anymore. Is that correct?

That’s correct. There’s still some tactical work that I’ll do for my clients, but I don’t do sales for other people anymore. It’s not ultimately good for that business because I’m holding all the competency of the business for making sales and the business itself isn’t developing any sales competency. I think that’s a critical function that a business has to figure out how to do. It’s how to make sales. Especially in consulting, consultants can’t outsource their sales effort. It’s just not going to work. It’s an expert-level consultative sale. Your business has to develop that competency.

Talking about the pricing, so the deal size has increased. I can see how the progression of the scope of work has shifted from you just doing the work to now enabling and guiding and setting up those structures and so forth. How did you switch your pricing strategy? It sounds like you start off with a base fee on a monthly basis plus a percentage of commission that you would regenerate above a baseline or whatever. Fast forward to now, what is the progression or shifts that you made in reaching the pricing model that you use?

Most consultants are full-time employees. They’re being paid to do a job within a company or a business. They’re like, “I want to be a consultant. I’ve built up this skillset, now, I’m a consultant.” They end up having a financial set point that’s tied to what their wage was as an employee. That’s the first thing, understanding that we get attached to these financial set points. What you have to start to think about is, “What am I helping this business owner, this person that I’m working with create for themselves, and what is the value to them?” That’s what it comes down to. What is this creating for them both from a financial and emotional ROI?

When you’re getting into business, the goal is to learn sales as quickly as possible because it will transform your business. Click To Tweet

You can put pen to paper and do risk-adjusted value. My contribution to that overall value is 10%, 20%, and then risk-adjusted because it might not implement or take is less and figure out that, but it’s understanding what it’s worth to them. For me, so many of the businesses I work with fire tons of salespeople. What’s the cost of hiring and firing a salesperson in terms of opportunity cost, of recruitment fees, salaries, training, confusion? Hiring and firing a salesperson cost a consulting business or a B2B business $100,000. If you can help salespeople be successful and scale a business, that’s incredibly valuable. The shift is it’s not what your time is worth or what your knowledge is worth. It’s the value created. I almost feel like I’m in MBA school. It’s cliche again because there are always different pricing strategies, but it’s going like, “What is this worth to you? Why do you want this? What will this create for your business? How much time does it save you? For a CEO, if I save you eight hours a day because you’re not on strategy sessions, what’s that what’s you?”

You’re shifting from starting off doing the work and thinking with more of that employee contractor mindset of a number of hours or what you were making before you became a consultant to shifting to the focus on the actual client, what is the value for them. What is the potential return on investment for them, how will it make their lives and their businesses better? You are then tying in your contribution to that so that it’s a win-win for both parties where you’re compensated very well. They’re also very happy because they look at it and say, “I’ve received a great return on that investment.” The other part that I think some people may not catch on right away is this. As your contribution, your involvement in the value or the impact is being increased through the work that you’re doing because you’re now involved in a bigger scope, that also means you can capture more compensation from that.

You’re involved in more parts as may be potentially some more risks, there’s definitely more value, but that’s also going to then lead to greater compensation opportunities for you because there’s more on the table for everyone to capture and benefit from. Chris, I wanted to ask you. The third thing was the system. You have a system for sales, and I know that this could be a very long discussion to go through it all. As a professional service, you work a lot with agencies. What does the system look like? How do you define a sales system and what are the important aspects or parts of that people should be thinking about that would help them to see better results?

My business is going through an evolution on this because I’m originally an engineer from Ford Motor Company. I was an industrial and operations engineer, which is the integration of human and machine systems. Sales is the same thing as making Ford F-150. You have people, you have technology, and you have to mash those together, so you get a kick-ass vehicle. From doing sales as a service, I started to understand all of the pieces that were required to allow the system to run or allow the person to get in the system and drive the car. I like to think of it as stepping stones across a river. Most businesses don’t have any stepping stones. Everyone has to get in the river and swim, and it’s hard to make it to the other side, whereas if you can give the salesperson nice, big stepping stones to put in the river, then it makes it easy for people to buy from that business.

Loosely, I’ve been calling those stepping stones, people, strategy, and technology. I’m actually thinking about shifting those around a little bit, but it comes down to daily sales activity. What are the things required to drive daily sales activity, which creates conversations? What tools and activity sets required based on your goal that you can reverse engineer down from your goal? What do those things look like? How are you implementing those? A good example would be doing an executive round table. One of the things that I do is a monthly executive round table. I have to send out invites for that every single day.

Chris, just to clarify for people who might not understand or be familiar with that concept. You’re sending invitations to people who could potentially be clients of yours in the industry where you gather them together, facilitate a conversation, or have some different perspectives, may present a little bit. You’re doing that with a small more intimate group as a way to position yourself as an expert, build a relationship, and therefore also build businesses. Is that correct?

That’s correct, and my existing clients as well based on just looking to facilitate a conversation. That’s what I would call a play that I run, that I have to have an email, CRM. What am I sending? What am I saying? Another example would be a discovery conversation. When you show up to a discovery conversation, what are you doing in that conversation? As a person, if you’re moving to co-creating a solution, what does that conversation look like? The system is that set of daily activities, plus whatever the actual sales workflow is, and the tools that the salesperson is using to manage that. It’s also having some internal strategies and tactics. Typically, in terms of businesses that I found make sales, they mastered people strategy and technology, those stepping stones. The key is getting those in place and operating well.

It could be your mindset, it could be your conversations, it’s your actual sales team, the salespeople, sales workflow, marketing workflows, getting that dialed in, getting that SOPs in place. I’m trying to simplify that because it can get complicated quickly. What it comes down to is that daily sales motion or that daily sales activity, those conversations and having clarity on what you’re doing in every single one of those conversations. Whether it’s a cold call or a connection call, a strategy session or a co-create the solution, or open up the business, you’re showing up like a bad-ass on there and going, “I got this, I know exactly what I’m doing. I’m showing up today. These are the activities that I am doing.” Also, mindset. How am I thinking? How am I warming up before my calls? That’s what I think of in terms of the system.

For someone, let’s say that they are the founder and it might be a solo consultant or professional services person or it might be someone that has a team of 5, 10, 15 or 30 people. Let’s say the founder is still the one who is doing the business development and the sales activity, but they’re also involved in many other aspects of the business from delivery to working with clients or giving presentations, whatever it might be. I know you work with agencies, so it’s not necessarily one person. What’s your typical advice for somebody who still has one foot in delivery or they’re spending quite a bit of time working in the business, but they are still the key and core person to work on the business to build the business and business development? What actions would you recommend for them or you think would be most helpful in building that pipeline and making sure that they are able to do on a daily basis work on that system consistently? Is there anything that you count on or best practices?

CSP 188 | Consulting Sales

 

It’s how I approach building teams. It depends on how involved the founder or the lead consultant is doing sales work. Some don’t want to do sales as well, they just make one sale a month or one sale every few months and that’s enough to sustain their business, but it can’t scale their business. When you’re transitioning from founder to apprentice sales, to small teams, the best way to do it is to build a system around that founder. They can consistently do sales work every day to whatever capacity that they can. Whatever activities they can’t get done, outsource those, part-time them, contract them, automate them. There needs to be a system around them so that they can sell a salesperson instead of a founder. You’ve prototype out or MVP out a little sales system around the founder, prove that out for a few months, and make sure there’s a daily sales motion. When you hire a salesperson, then you’re bringing them into something that’s already functional and working.

That’s the way that I think to do it. That way, your business is making sales every day. It’s going like, “We want to be at this level. These are the number of conversations we have to have. These are the activities we need to do.” Whether that’s relationship nurturing, or cold prospecting or any type of speaking, one to many conversations, you create all that. The other way you can do it is you can have a system build phase because the founder doesn’t want to sell every day. Build that out and then start to figure out who’s going to do those activities. Define the activities, figure out who’s going to do them, and go from there. I think that’s all. That’s usually what I recommend.

I just want to encourage everyone to go back and take to heart what we talked about earlier in this conversation, what Chris shared around doing the inner work. What I’ve observed is that in order for you to excel in the outer work of doing the daily work to build your business, what’s going to give you the motivation or the inspiration, and the commitment to carry that out consistently is going to be how you feel about sales and how you approach that. If you have a lot of hesitation or feelings that aren’t comfortable, because you’re not comfortable with the idea of sales, you’re probably not going to do it, and if you do it, you’re not going to do a good job at it.

It’s important for us to do some of that inner work to get really clear on, why are you doing it, how do you want to serve, how do you want to help, and how do you want to create value and be known and demonstrate leadership and value in the marketplace. From that position, it will become easier, you will become more excited by the concept of building the business that allows you to have more impact. Chris, I want to thank you so much for coming on here. I want to make sure that people can learn more about you and your work. Where’s the best place for them to go?

You can find me on LinkedIn at Chris Filipiak, and then my website, www.ChrisFilipiak.com. I’d be happy to have a conversation with anyone who’s uncomfortable with sales, looking to scale and grow, build out a first salesperson, and just generally wants to bring more love to their sales work.

Thanks so much again, Chris, for coming on.

Thanks for having me, Michael.

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