John Jantsch: Hey, this episode of the Duct Tape marketing agency podcast is brought to you by Rev.com. We do all of our transcriptions here on the Duct Tape marketing agency podcast using Rev.com. And I’m going to give you a special offer in just a bit.
John Jantsch: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape marketing agency podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Ian Altman. He is a leading authority on accelerating business growth and sales. He’s also the co-author of the best selling book, Same Side Selling: How Integrity and Collaboration Drive Extraordinary Results for Sellers and Buyers. So, Ian, welcome to the show.
Ian Altman: John, thanks for having me back.
John Jantsch: So, let’s just get the title out there, there are a lot of sales books, lots of sales methodologies, what does Same Side Selling kind of bring that’s new to the world of sales?
Ian Altman: Well, it’s really a modern approach. If you think about it, almost every sales book that’s ever been written either uses a game metaphor or a battle metaphor. And in a game, you have a winner and a loser. And in a battle, the loser dies. And then we wonder why we end up in this adversarial position between buyer and seller. And the model that we put forth in Same Side Selling is a puzzle metaphor that says, “Look, with your client, you have a bag with puzzle pieces in it. They have a bag with puzzle pieces in it.
Ian Altman: Unless we sit down side-by-side at a table and put our pieces on the table, we don’t whether or not we have a fit. So it’s not about persuasion or coercion. You can’t coerce somebody if they’re puzzle pieces don’t fit your puzzle.” And so, it’s much more even-handed. It’s not a beauty pageant, “Pick me, pick me.” It’s more, “Do I have something that’s of value for you? And can I help you better than somebody else?” And if so, we have something to talk about. And if not, may not be worth our time.
John Jantsch: So, I’m picturing the person who just got their quota for this quarter who is listening to the show saying, “Yeah, but … Yeah but … I …” Right?
Ian Altman: Sure.
John Jantsch: I mean, so how do you get that person to think … Because this is probably a long-term approach, right? I mean, you’re saying there are times when you have to say, “We shouldn’t be together. We shouldn’t play together.” So, how do you get that person who’s being driven to make a number?
Ian Altman: Well, so here’s the interesting part. We have all these case studies in the second edition of Same Side Selling that profile companies that achieved extraordinary growth, while actually pursuing fewer opportunities. So, old school was a sales and numbers game. You just have to make so many phone calls. And our approach is, it’s not about … If you recognize that it’s not about persuasion or coercion, it’s about finding the best fit, then instead of just saying, “I want to speak to anybody with a pulse.” You say, “You know what? These are the three problems that a business … as a business, we are really good at solving.”
Ian Altman: And if I can find people who are facing those challenges. I’ve got a pretty good chance of capturing their attention. And these are problems that are significant enough, they’re likely to spend money to solve them. As opposed to the old school was, “Let me get anybody with a pulse. And now that I’ve got them with a pulse, let’s hope that maybe I can get them to slip into a coma and they’ll accidentally sign a contract.” And it’s just a futile way to go about trying to grow your business. So, in many cases, it’s about narrowing your focus, rather than broadening your focus.
John Jantsch: Yeah. I’ve been saying for years that I think a lot of times the company that can explain or communicate the problem the best, is probably the one that’s going to get invited. But what about … I mean, I do also know … Like I get calls all the time, “I have a broken website, come out and fix it.” Well, that’s sort of the problem, but it’s not the real problem. You know?
Ian Altman: Yeah.
John Jantsch: And a lot of times our clients don’t know what the real problem is. They just know where it hurts.
Ian Altman: Yep.
John Jantsch: So, how do we define where it hurts in a way that ties back to what we can do to bring value?
Ian Altman: Well, so for example, let’s say that somebody offers IT services to law firms. So, they could say, “Well, we help businesses that have problems with their IT services.” And the problem is, everybody who does IT service is going to say the same thing. But what’s actually going to move the needle for the law firm? Well, what’s really going to move the needle for the law firm is once they recognize that they’re losing billable time, once they realize that their technology issues are impacting their ability to attract and retain younger associates who they want and need to grow and have succession planning.
Ian Altman: It’s understanding that they might be impacting their firm’s reputation when things don’t go well. So, I wouldn’t say, “Oh, I fix IT issues.” If I was them, I would say, “Well, our clients come to us.” And this is something we refer to in the books as a Same Side pitch. “Our clients come to us when they’re facing one of two or three major problems as a law firm.” One is that they’re having IT issues that’s causing them to lose billable work and billable time. So, they’re partners and associates are getting frustrated because they’re spending time on something. And then it gets lost. They have to recreate it.
Ian Altman: The second thing that causes is, all of the sudden they now miss deadlines. They potentially could lose those clients longer term. And the third thing is that man … because they have all these IT issues, the newer and younger associates they’re trying to attract say, “Man, you guys aren’t relevant. How come I can’t just access this stuff from anywhere, anytime? That’s what we’re looking for?” So, for the right firms, they tell us that we’ve got a solution that streamlines all that, so those problems go away.
Ian Altman: But the way we approach it, “Man, it’s not the right fit for every firm. So, I don’t yet know if we can help you. But if that’s something you’re facing, I’m happy to learn more to see if we might be able to help.” And the whole idea is that at no point am I really talking about the technology.
John Jantsch: Yeah. The fact it’s almost still relevant, right? I mean, if you could fix those problems, I don’t really care how you do it.
Ian Altman: Exactly. If my solution was, I have 1500 gerbils in a back room. You’d have two questions. One is show me 20 other firms that are getting results from that. And the second is, is it legal? Right? And if both of those pass muster, you’d be like, “Dude, you don’t even want to know how we solved it. But our IT is humming.”
John Jantsch: So, one of the kind of core foundational elements of this book or your approach. Is this idea of finding impact together. So, you want to unpack that idea?
Ian Altman: Yes. So, the idea of finding impact is that we used to have this notion of always be closing your ABC, made famous by Alec Baldwin and Glengarry Glen Ross. So, always be closing. And instead, we want to think about finding impact together. Meaning, if let’s say, and using the same example, if someone at a law firm said, “Oh, we have IT issues.” “Well, yeah, but is that really causing enough angst in your firm to make it worth solving this?” So, what we’re trying to do is uncover, is that issue driving enough impact?
Ian Altman: Is it important enough to solve, to make it worth our time to help them find a solution? Because there are some things that people face that are kind of a nuisance, but they’re never going to spend money to try and fix them. And the most frustrating thing in a business is when somebody appears to be interested, and you spend weeks or months working with them. And you lose to a non-decision. And they just say, “Nah, we’re going to stick with what we have.” And you think, “Why did I waste my time with these people?” So, finding impact together is a series of questions that we ask to figure out, is this problem likely something that they’ll spend money to solve?
John Jantsch: So, I can hear Alec Baldwin, “Sit down, coffee is for people who find impact together.”
Ian Altman: Yeah. That’s right.
John Jantsch: Something like that. Anyway. So, one of the … As a fact, you dedicate an entire chapter to this, this idea of finding people that are sufficiently motivated to invest in a solution. Because I think they’re … It’s really easy to find people that are leaking oil. That part’s actually pretty easy. But how do we find the difference between those people that clearly need us to help them and the ones that are motivated to invest in a solution?
Ian Altman: Well, so it’s simple questions. It’s things like … So, someone says, “Yes, we’re having this IT issue.” And you say, “So, what happens if you don’t solve that?” And what you’re trying to do is be curious to see if they can convince you that the problem is really worth solving. So too often what happens is someone says, “Oh, I’d like to solve our IT issues.” And people come back and they forecast it at 90% because someone said, “Oh, they contacted us about IT issues.” But if you ask the question, “Well, so what happens if you don’t solve it?” “Oh nothing, it’s been going on for years. And no big deal.” “Huh, okay.”
Ian Altman: So, that’s a big challenge that if you don’t have these sorts of questions, you can be chasing rainbows all day long. So, you were talking before about, what does the person who’s got a quota, deal with? Well, the reality is, that that person who’s got a quota, needs to recognize that you can … What if they could double their growth rate while pursuing 40% fewer opportunities? And we have case studies of companies who have done that. So it’s just about narrowing your focus to the people who matter the most. And having a method for doing it. Because candidly, the way most people evaluate a good business meeting today, doesn’t really give you good insight. And it’s kind of funny how people do it.
John Jantsch: Well, it’s funny. Again, I go back to my example that happens to me every day, is you know, people will call us and say, “Yeah, we need a new website because the old one’s really outdated. But we’re not probably going to pay that much for it because we don’t really get any leads from it anyway.” You just want to like go, “Well, I know why you don’t get any leads from it.” But you know, that’s one of those cases where I’d rather not even pursue that person. Because even if we … because I think the …
John Jantsch: Of course, a lot of the folks you’re dealing with are sales folks and sometimes they … you know, once the contract’s signed, they walk out the door. But in my world, where maybe we are going to actually deliver as well, the worst thing we can do is sign a client who doesn’t have the proper motivation. Because they’re going to be a pain in the butt.
Ian Altman: Yep. Well, and keep in mind, what you could do is when that person calls up you can say, “So when people call us, they’re usually looking for a solution at one of three levels. At the basic level is ‘Hey look, we know exactly what we want with our new website, we just want someone to be able to execute exactly what we want.’ And that’s what we call the Effective Level. The next level, we call this The Enhanced Level. The Enhanced Level is someone who’s going to introduce some new ideas to you, some new concepts and maybe some new technologies to bring your website to the next level. At the highest level, is what we call The Engaged Level. This is where somebody is tied in with your business goals and objectives. And will recommend digital marketing agency strategies that can help achieve those results that are measurable and repeatable. So, which level are you looking for?”
John Jantsch: We call those in my world, Build, Grow, and Ignite.
Ian Altman: Yeah.
John Jantsch: Exactly what you just described.
Ian Altman: Yeah. So the idea is that then what you’re doing is say, “Well, so what are you looking for?” Because guess what? The person who just wants billed, probably doesn’t matter. Right? The person who just wants effective, may not be your ideal client, but they may be great for somebody else, just not for you.
John Jantsch: The episode of the Duct Tape marketing agency podcast is brought to you by Rev.com. There are so many ridiculously valuable reasons to order transcriptions. You can write entire blog posts, heck, you could write an entire book by just speaking it and having Rev put together a transcript that you can then just bring on home. I mean, if you want to record a meeting so that you have notes. Again, over and over, there are so many good reasons.
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John Jantsch: So, another significant change I think in the world of selling is that because the buyer, in a lot of cases, has access to a lot of information. Some of it’s really good. Some of it’s misleading. But nonetheless, they feel like, in a lot of cases, they’re pretty educated. So, how does a salesperson now, bring their value up by teaching?
Ian Altman: Well, so there’s a couple concepts behind this. A lot of it comes down to helping the client understand, not only, what the other impacts could be to their business of not solving this. But also, how other people may be seeing results that may or may not resonate with them. And so, if we can give people a structure for these meetings, it works really well. Like I said, what happens historically is, somebody comes out of a meeting, and we’ve all heard the sales rep who’s excited about a meeting they go, “Oh, John, I had the best meeting. We had scheduled to talk for only 15 minutes and the meeting lasted for an hour. And oh my god, man, the two of us, man, we got together and we just clicked. We connected. It was amazing. It was magical. And we’ve already agreed that next week, we’ve already set up a time to meet again.”
Ian Altman: And the problem with that is that it would be a fantastic way to summarize a good meeting if it had been set up on an online dating site. But it’s not a good way to evaluate a good business meeting. And so, one of the things we added to Same Side Selling is this notion of something we call the Same Side Quadrants. And in the Same Side Quadrants, the idea is that it’s a method for taking notes in a meeting so we can have mutual understanding with our client about what might be important.
Ian Altman: And the idea is, on a blank sheet of paper we draw a vertical line down the center of a page, horizontal line across it, creating four quadrants. In the upper left, we take notes about the issue that they were interested in talking with us about. And that might start by just saying, “Hey, what inspired you to meet with us today?” “Oh, you know what, Johnny, we’re just thinking about getting a new website.” “Okay.” And you might ask questions like, “How long’s this been going on? What have you tried in the past? What’s working? What isn’t? Great.” And then we ask this great question that says, “So, what happens if you don’t solve that?”
Ian Altman: And now we move from taking notes in the upper left quadrant of issue, now we move over to impact and importance, which is the upper right quadrant. And that’s where we’re trying to quantify the impact of their organization of not solving the problem. And also try, and discover how important is this compared to other things on their plate? So, we’ll get information about that. Then, we have to acknowledge, and I know that you speak about this as well, that just because you pass money, doesn’t mean it’s successful.
Ian Altman: So, what can we measure together? What are the tangible results that would be meaningful? So, that we know we’re successful. Because gee, if at the end of the project I want to have a high-five moment with you. I want to make sure that you and I both agree that it’s high-five worthy. So what does that look like? And that’s in the lower left quadrant. And then the lower right quadrant, we take notes about who else might need to be involved. And of course, sales people have been taught to ask the worst questions on the planet about who else needs to be involved.
Ian Altman: Because they ask a question like, “Well, who’s the decision maker?” When you ask that question, it’s kind of like saying, “So, John, I realize the company wouldn’t possibly entrust that this to you. So, who is the decision maker?” And it creates this instant adversarial tension. Instead of … But what if instead, they said, “So, John, who else would have an opinion about the impact of the organization? Who else is most directly impacted by this problem? And who else would have an opinion about how we measure this? And who might think we’re totally crazy for measuring the things you and I already discussed? Who might chime in at the 11th hour, we haven’t heard from before?”
John Jantsch: Yeah, because a lot of times there are people in companies that maybe don’t have to approve a deal, but they can sure kill it, right?
Ian Altman: Exactly. So, those people, to know who they are. And then ask a simple question which says, “So, what’s the best way for us to include those people in a way that’s comfortable for you?” And so now what we have is we have this sheet of paper that … We actually produce these journals that people can use, these Same Side Quadrant Journals. And the idea is that people can take notes in all these quadrants and at the end you have what amounts to a concise business case for that client that determines whether this makes sense to move forward or not.
John Jantsch: Yeah. And I’m guessing you also advise. I know that I’m sitting here thinking, if I was going to go through that process, I would make sure that that was in a proposal as well. That we agreed on these things. And that’s why …
Ian Altman: Absolutely. Yeah. It’s what we call a concise business case. There’s a whole template and a format for it that we tell people. So this is what you send to the client afterwards, which is all their words. So, it talks very little about your solution. It talks, almost exclusively about here’s what you shared with me. And the funny part is, that the client will often say, “You know, we had never thought about it that way before. But, man, you guys totally get us. This is awesome. We can’t wait to move forward.”
John Jantsch: So, you’ve already provided value, maybe more so than anybody else that’s tried to sell them anything?
Ian Altman: Exactly. So, in terms of educating them, you’ve now helped them understand why this problem is worth solving. Now, keep in mind, you educated them using their own information. But now, they walk away, because here’s the thing, they’ve just convinced you that this is a really serious issue. And guess who else they convinced? They convinced themselves.
John Jantsch: You know, and what’s interesting when you talk about that impact, you know, sometimes you get somebody to see that the impact of growth revenue and profit and whatnot. But we work with a lot of small business owners that are getting the life sucked out of them and if they could solve a marketing agency problem, maybe they could actually sleep better at night. And I think we could … Sometimes we underestimate the value of those intangible things that have impact.
Ian Altman: Absolutely. I mean, people who are wealth managers, for example, most of their message, because they can’t guarantee a return for people. I mean they’re precluded form even talking about returns. But what they can do is say, “Look, people come to us because they’re just … today they don’t feel like they have a plan.” So, it gives them a lot of angst. They’re looking for peace of mind.
Ian Altman: They want to know that they have a plan laid out that they can count on and rely on. And, “Gee, so zero to 10, how well do you feel you’re positioned for that today?” And it’s like, “Oh, I don’t know, like a five.” ” Okay. Why five?” “Well …” Right? And now the waterworks start. “Well, because I can’t do this. I can’t do that. I’m not sure if my kids are going to be able to go to college. And blah, blah, blah.” “Okay” Now, we got a real conversation.
John Jantsch: So, one of the things that I’ve certainly discovered over time doing this, you know, I have no problem asking hard questions now. Because the opposite is terrible. But somebody starting out, sometimes they may not feel the posture to be able to get in a conversation about impact with somebody because “Hey, I’m just theoretically here to sell you XYZ. Do I have permission to ask about impact?” I’m just suggesting that that’s probably a problem that people feel. Is that?
Ian Altman: Well, so here’s the thing, if I tell somebody your job is to go out there and sell this stuff, whether people need it or not. Then, I’ve just created my own problem. If I say, “Your job is to determine first and foremost if these people have a problem worth solving.” And you can be totally transparent with the clients and say, “Look, we just don’t know whether or not this is going to have enough of an impact for you to make it worthwhile. And if this problem is significant enough to make it worth solving, so, I just want to ask you some questions. Because the last thing we want you to do is spend money and buy something that isn’t worthwhile for you.”
John Jantsch: Yeah. And that should right off the bat, let somebody put their, sort of, salesperson shield up, down, right?
Ian Altman: Exactly. Yeah, because it’s something we refer to as … So, the Same Side Pitch follows the model of Entice, Disarm, and Discover. So, in that example before, when I said, “Well, gee, our clients, these law firms come to us when they’re facing these issues.” Notice that after I describe the problems that we solve with great results, I said, “But, not everyone we talk to is the right fit for how we solve that.” And allows someone to say, “Oh, so you’re not like all those sales people who just swear that ‘Oh yes, we have the perfect solution for you. What’s your problem again?’”
Ian Altman: It’s kind of like if a surgeon came to you and said, “Hey, John. Listen, I can get you a great deal. I can get you in next Tuesday for this tennis elbow surgery.” You know, like, “Well, I don’t think I have tennis elbow.” “Okay, what if I discounted it? What if I can get you in on Monday instead of Tuesday?” And I mean, it’s like, “But I don’t think I have tennis elbow.” “What if we did both arms for the same price?” And it’s like, “Dude, I don’t think I have the condition that you treat.” “What if I got your spouse involved too?” It’s like, you know, just … That’s what it feels like. It’s awesome.
John Jantsch: But I think one of the things that you’re saying and I’m not saying it’s implied. But I think it’s worth reminding people. Is I think we have to have a good handle on what it is that we’re actually good at. What problem we solve, the right situation. I know, again, after years and years and years of doing this, you know within … Excuse me. Five minutes or so I can sort of say, “Yeah, this is going to be a good fit or it’s not. Or we can really help this person. Or we can’t.” And I think that comes over time. But I think that that’s something that people really have to spend some time wrapping their head around. You know, a client that’s not a good fit is probably not going to be profitable, it’s probably going to turn into a detractor at some point.
Ian Altman: Sure.
John Jantsch: So, how do people … This is a simple question but I think, you know, how do you advise that people get a real handle on what they’re good at solving?
Ian Altman: Well, it’s funny you say that. It’s one of the most challenging questions that I ask people. So, I’ll say this to one, “So, give me one of the problems that you solve?” And most often, their response is the description of their service. So for example, if I said to someone, and it wouldn’t be on your team because your team understands this. But if I said to somebody who did digital marketing agency, “So, what problems do you solve?” “Well, we build websites and social media campaigns.” “Okay. I don’t think that’s a problem. That sounds like a service that you offer. But what problem does that solve?”
Ian Altman: And so the example that I give people is using a term that a buddy of mine Bob London coined called an Elevator Rant. So, the idea of the elevator rant being the upside down version of the elevator pitch. Is that you get on an elevator, the doors are about to close. Right before they close someone sticks their arm in, the doors spring open. Two people representing your ideal client get on the elevator with you. The doors close. What would they be complaining to one another about something that when you hear it, you think, “Man, we can solve that better than anybody else. In fact, they’re lucky to be on the elevator with us. Because we can really help them.”
Ian Altman: And so, if you put yourself in that context, they’re not going to say, “Oh, you know, I need a digital marketing agency firm because I Google digital marketing agency and nothing came up.” Right? That’s not going to happen. But the might say, “Man, I’m sick and tired of spending all this money on advertising and marketing agency. But it’s not affecting how many people walk through the door and how many people buy our products.” Or, “I’m tired of spending money on stuff. But I’m not sure which stuff is working, which stuff isn’t. So, I feel like we may be spending money in areas that don’t matter and not spending enough in areas that do make a difference.”
John Jantsch: So, Ian, tell people where they can find out more about your work and Same Side Selling. And you’ve mentioned a couple tools and I think you have those on your website as well.
Ian Altman: Absolutely. So, if you visit SameSideSelling.com you’ll hear all about the book. And there’s the bonus material and case studies and the like. And then, I’m impossible not to find on social and online @IanAltman. So it’s IanAltman.com. And on just about every social media platform it’s Ian Altman.
John Jantsch: Well, Ian, thanks for joining us. And hopefully, we’ll see you out there on the road. Or maybe, somewhere in the Midwest even, soon enough.
Ian Altman: Oh, let’s hope so, John. Take care.