Episode 155 – How a Consulting Firm Got to $5 Million in 6 Years Without Making a Single Sales Call Using Content Marketing – Member Case by Andrea Fryrear

Attend this session to learn how to make growing revenues easier by implementing content-driven inbound marketing. In this session you will learn what real content marketing is- why it works, how it is different than fake content marketing, how to engage an audience, create compelling content, use tech to scale, how content marketing scales a founder’s impact exponentially, ways to convert time wasted creating thought leadership into time well spent generating revenue, and ways to get started.


Greg Alexander [00:00:15] Hey, everybody, this is Greg Alexander, the host of the Pro Serv Podcast, brought to you by Collective 54, the first mastermind community dedicated exclusively to the needs of the boutique professional services space. On today’s episode, we’re going to talk about content-driven inbound marketing. Now, why are we going to do this? Well, many of our boutique pro serv firms are trying to increase their business development efforts. I should say increase the efficiency of those. And when you’re an expert, content marketing is an effective strategy because it allows you to demonstrate your expertise. So with us today we have a fantastic Collective 54 member. Her name is Andrea Fryrear. And, I’ve had a chance to consume some of her content. And in my humble opinion, she does this better than most. So she was kind enough to join us today and share her wisdom. So, Andrea, would you please introduce yourself and your friend to the audience?

Andra Fryrear [00:01:15] Yeah, absolutely. Hi, everyone. My name is Andrea Fryrear. I’m CEO and co-founder of Agile Sherpas. We teach enterprise marketing teams how to apply agile principles and practices so that they can become more effective and efficient and ultimately, the strategic partners that marketing should be, and not just a bunch of burned out order takers.

Greg Alexander [00:01:36] Okay. Fantastic. All right. So let’s let’s start with would you please just provide, an explanation as to what this kind of jargony, term content driven inbound marketing like, what is it and how does it differ from the traditional marketing strategies?

Andra Fryrear [00:01:52] Yeah, it’s really more much more about an audience and about solving people’s problems than it is about talking about yourself at all. So whereas typical marketing might lead with kind of features and benefits, what do you do? And all of that kind of marketing stuff, inbound and content is there to deliver value to people who might never become your customers. And then when they actually are ready to consume whatever it is that you provide, they will reach out to you. That’s the inbound piece. They’re going to raise their hand and say, love everything you do. I’ve been a fan for years now. I’m ready to buy. And so it’s really focused on them and what they need. There’s a lot of overlap, especially when you get into distribution channels and how you get your content out in front of people. That can overlap with what you might be doing with more traditional marketing activities. But really, it’s all centered on the audience, all centered on providing value and way less about what it is that you do as a firm.

Greg Alexander [00:02:56] Okay, that’s an excellent grounding definition. Why don’t you share with the audience a few examples where you’ve implemented this for your own business and what the results were.

Andra Fryrear [00:03:07] This has been our bread and butter from day one. So we have up until kind of latter half of last year, never made a sales call like never done an outbound sales call for the six years that we were in business. Our main channels have been our blog, where we publish once or twice a week and have done so for six years, and I do a lot of speaking as well. So those are our main channels we’ve gotten into, like YouTube and some of that in the last year as we’ve tried to diversify. But the blog has really been our, our core, launching pad. And we got to 5 million in revenue this way. Just deliver value, deliver value. And people fill out a contact form on our website and some of them follow us for years. And, you know, they get our weekly emails and they learn and learn and learn. And then they finally are able to build momentum internally to bring us in, or they get promoted to a place where they have budget to hire us. And and then it’s the shortest sales cycle in the world at that point. They already I already love everything we do.

Greg Alexander [00:04:14] Yeah. You just described Nirvana for our audience getting to 5 million in revenue with never making a sales call in six years. I mean, that’s an incredible statement. So congratulations on that. And and it’s really a proof point that if you give value, if you educate customers, they’re going to come to you because they’re going to say, hey, you really know what you’re talking about. And you haven’t been selling me. You’ve been we sometimes we forget we’re services firms, we’re in service of the client. And that needs to be reinforced with our marketing efforts as well. All right. Well, firms that haven’t done this yet, they’re new to this. Where do you recommend they start? What are the first steps to take?

Andra Fryrear [00:04:52] You really have to know your audience, because you’ve got to be resonant with them in the content that you create. And this isn’t just their job role or the kinds of firms they work at, or any basic demographic stuff. This is what is keeping them up at night. What hurts them enough that they will go to the internet and try to solve it right? They’re going to be hunting for a solution and you want them to find your content. So you have to know what are they looking for? And then in that same vein, you need to know where they are going to try to solve that problem. Some people, some kinds of searchers are still, you know, Google search, just general search engine stuff. Other people are really heavy into LinkedIn or YouTube or other search engines. And so you have to know where they’re at already so you can be there too, especially early on. You can’t be on every channel. It’s just too much to distribute everywhere. So you got to pick a lane and get really good at it and then diversify over time. But if you pick the wrong lane, you’re not going to see a lot of impact. So you really got to take time to understand people, and you can interview existing customers and prospects to find this out. People are usually pretty open and transparent about where they go for their information. And the other thing that I would say is don’t build on rented land. This is a kind of phrase you hear in content a lot. You don’t want to spend tons of time building up an audience somewhere that you can’t control. So, you know, Twitter, YouTube, even LinkedIn. They control those algorithms. They control how your content is showing up so you can get eyeballs there and you absolutely should. But your goal should be to convert them into an addressable audience of your own, right? Get them into your database somehow, give them a downloadable resource that they’re going to give contact information for. Get them to subscribe to a weekly, daily, whatever cadence needs to be an email, communication that you give. And so they become you control the access to those people at that point. So you can start them out on another channel, but you want to get them into your universe as quickly as you possibly can. And then also, this isn’t going to happen at court in a quarter. This is a long haul multi over the this should be a lifetime endeavor for our firms that you’re just committed to doing forever. And so you can’t think of it as something that will start and stop, in a quarter or even one single year. You should see results and, you know, a pretty reasonable amount of time, a couple quarters, but you’re not going to stop at that point.

Greg Alexander [00:07:34] You know, I would just add to that excellent answer is that for founders, this is a high leverage activity. Meaning let’s say you spend an hour writing a blog and it goes to your subscriber list, which could be a few thousand people. So one hour to a few thousand people. It’s a one to many approach. It’s a high leverage activity. You know, we’re all time starved. So this is, a really good use of the founder’s time. All right. Let’s get into kind of content creation itself. So what are the key elements of creating compelling and effective content specifically for inbound marketing?

Andra Fryrear [00:08:08] Well, building a little bit off of what you just said, that idea of build something one time, and then you can also reuse and atomized the content. Right? So you and I are having a great conversation here. I know that you’ll you’ll cut it up and reuse it in a lot of different ways. And so like we do interviews with coaches, we cut those up and put them on YouTube. You transcribe it, it becomes a blog. And so thinking about all of the different ways to use and reuse what you do. I’m also a big fan of thinking about your own buyers journey and mapping content to where it falls there, so you want to be across the whole journey. Like we talk about our content as someone who is aware of their problem, but they don’t know what the solution might be, or they’re someone who is aware of the solution and is seeking for, guidance on applying it. And so we want to give value no matter where people are. And so, you know, thinking through what are the steps that someone might go on during their whole buyer’s journey to get to you at the end, and then make sure you’ve got content that’s going to guide them across all of that. I’m a big fan of also finding one pillar piece of content. Right. What’s and it’s it’s big. You put a lot of emphasis on it. And that’s where you drive a lot of your traffic and your, content too. And it proves that you know what you’re doing. It adds a lot of value. And then it can be the thing that converts them to a subscriber of your own. And so it’s pretty close to the end of that buyer’s journey. So those are, yeah, places that you can get get started.

Greg Alexander [00:09:53] Yeah. You know, to add to that, the pillar piece of content that, that we use at collective 54 is my book, The Boutique How to start scale and sell a professional services firm. And everything kind of pivots off of that. So we’ll have, a strategy around top of the funnel, which is to make people aware of their problems and, and make them aware of needs and needs that they have that maybe they’re not aware of. Then you go to the middle of the funnel. So I’m thinking about buyer’s journey here. That’s more solutions based. So they’re now aware that they have a problem. What are the possible ways to solve that solution. Now when you get to the bottom of the funnel, it’s more things like case studies and testimonials and references and things because they’re looking for, you know, how do I know this is going to work? Like what are the proof statements? So for those that are listening to this, particularly members, maybe an easy way to get started is think of top of funnel, middle funnel, bottom of the funnel. That’s kind of a simple buyer’s journey. And then map your pillar piece of content and all of its derivatives along the way. All right. My next question is around metrics and measurement. You know, our audience are founders, and if they don’t get an ROI on their time investment, they bolt. So how do you measure this?

Andra Fryrear [00:10:58] It can be difficult, honestly, to get sort of end to end attribution and understand where your content is showing up. We hear from our prospects all the time. We love your content. We’ve read and we’ve seen. Right. And that’s anecdotal. It’s nice validation. But it doesn’t prove that all of the time. And sweat. But you put in is actually doing it. But I think again, mapping it to that sort of funnel view. Right. So what’s a top of funnel metric that you can get hold of that shows you your content is working there. And that can be really basic like kind of reach sorts of, of numbers. So that’s, you know, social following across your, your channels that you’ve chosen your search engine presence. Right. How many terms are you ranking for and how much is your organic traffic growing month over month. But then you need to track conversion rate there, too. So how many of those people become part of your addressable audience? And that’s easy to keep track of because you should have an email management tool of some kind, and you can see the growth of that month over month. And if it’s not growing, then you’re not converting, you know, people from the top to the to the middle. And then that last one, the sort of bottom of the funnel you should be able to understand when you’ve got content influenced leads, right? If they downloaded your pillar piece of content and you know, they did that before they were a lead of some kind, you can tell that it’s influencing their decision to come to you as a prospect. So it doesn’t have to be this massive, you know, multi attribution model. But you do need to be able to tell if it’s working, especially if you’re asking people on your services team to contribute. They need to know that the time they’re devoting, the time you’re devoting is turning into prospects and eventually money.

Greg Alexander [00:12:55] Yeah. You know, you talked about, the email list. Let’s talk about technology for a moment. An email management system is one tool. I would I would imagine amongst many. I know some of our listeners right now probably saying this sounds great, common sense. I should be doing this. Oh my gosh, that sounds like a lot of work. What type of tech tools can help, you know, make this easier?

Andra Fryrear [00:13:18] Yeah, I will say there is a lot of craft involved here, like the creation of really top notch content is hard. And so things like ChatGPT, for instance, I think we have to talk about AI here who can help you, right? It can help give you ideas. It can help you brainstorm titles, subject lines, keywords, things like that can give you an outline. Please do not make ChatGPT your content team like you will. You will not break through, right? It’s it’s going to be generic kind of icky noise content that will not it’s not going to get you what you want. Use it to make you more efficient. But it’s not your content team. So I will say that. But then also there are lots of ways that you can get this stuff out of your head. You know, talk to just a recording device of some kind and then get it transcribed. If you’re not a writer, it’s not everybody’s core skill set or just, you know, turn on your camera and and talk to your audience, right. Be authentic. Talk about a problem. People love that. It doesn’t have to be high production. But then there’s other kind of foundational tools. You do need some kind of email or CRM. Going there. I’m a huge fan of a tool called Spark Toro, which helps with audience research. So like people who Google this term, what podcasts do they listen to and what YouTube channels do they subscribe to? What other websites do they tend to visit that I might want to have a guest post on? It’s a great way to get really granular information so that you’re where your audience is and you’re answering the questions, that they want.

Greg Alexander [00:15:03] Let’s talk about challenges. You know, you mentioned some of them just in the course of our conversation, but, are there any obstacles that, you know, you want to put emphasis on and make people aware of? I think it’s talked about.

Andra Fryrear [00:15:20] Yeah. It’s very tempting to talk about yourself. Right. To always lead and land on your solution. And certainly that should come, right? The point of this all is to get you customers, but you also have to present alternatives, right? Which could include just not doing anything right. Keep consuming our content. Do it yourself. Always a valid choice, or give them other ways to solve their problems. You’re earning trust then. And so when you do say, hey, we’re the best people to solve this problem for you, they’re more likely to trust what you say. I would also say consistency, like a lack of consistency, can be a challenge. It’s better to commit to a lower cadence of publication and stick to it, than to be like, we’re going to publish every day for a whole month, right? And you’re going to burn out and you’re not going to stick with it. So twice a month consistently for a year is better than it’s like a New Year’s resolution, right? If I work out every day for a month and I don’t do it for the rest of the year, I didn’t probably help myself. But if I did it twice a month for the whole year, that consistency is better for me, over the long term. And then you also have to think about your distribution, creating great content. It’s not a they build it and they you build that they will come kind of situation. People are busy. They have a lot of demands on their attention. So you need to think about how you’re going to get your great content out in front of them. Don’t try to be everywhere. Pick a couple of key channels and get really good at those before you diversify. But you you gotta get your content out in front of people. Or it’s just kind of alone and sad on your blog.

Greg Alexander [00:17:00] All right. And my last question is, does this cost a lot of money or is this something a bootstrapped founder can can do in a bootstrapped way?

Andra Fryrear [00:17:09] Absolutely can be bootstrapped. Very, very cost effective. For instance, we don’t have any other full time content people on my team. I do a lot, but we have a part time person over in Bulgaria. He’s been with us for years. He’s super fast and efficient. He’s gotten to know our business and our audience. So he’s really great and and an effective part time resource for us. And so whether it’s like leveraging a VA to transcribe your like brain dump on to, you know, a recording device or just somebody to copy edit you right to if you’re not a great writer, just go brain dump right and get somebody who that is their craft to to nuance it for you. But it can be done with just a little bit of investment. There’s not a lot of tools, right? Like you said before, a lot of this is common sense, especially for those of us that talk about this all the time. We’re in sales calls all the time. That’s another great thing. Every question you get in a sales call, if you answer it more than once, it should be a piece of content somewhere. Your service delivery people, if they’re getting that question while they’re talking to clients, that should be a piece of content. And it’s an easy then they know how to answer it, right. That’s their job is to answer that question so you can get them to create content really, really easily and cost effectively. It just has to be a priority. You have to set aside time. That’s the big resource. Here is just the time, to get it done.

Greg Alexander [00:18:44] You know, maybe a little advanced tip for those, overachievers out there listening. You know, everything we do now is is recorded, whether it’s through zoom or Gong or what have you, because we’re living in a digital world and these recording tools have AI, capability. And you can set up settings that says, in Andrew’s case, you know, highlight for me the questions that the prospects ask. And then at the end of every single call, the literally send them to you. So now you’re just having a conversation with the prospect. You don’t have to worry about jotting down notes, and that builds an archive over time. And then maybe you look at it once a week, once a month, once a quarter, whatever it is. And you can clearly see what the information needs are of your target audience based on the questions they’re asking you during sales calls. So just an advanced tip. All right, Andrew, we’re out of time. But, I want to on behalf of the members and even those that are members that are listening to this, I really wanted to to thank you for coming on to your story of leveraging this technique of getting to 5 million with never making a sales call in six years is incredible. I mean, it really is. So thanks for coming on the call, and we really look forward to your, upcoming Q&A session that we’ll have with the members.

Andra Fryrear [00:19:54] Me too. Thanks for having me.

Greg Alexander [00:19:55] Okay. All right. A couple calls to action for those that, that are listening. So if you’re a member, please attend Andrea’s, Q&A session where you’ll get a meeting invite for that. If you’re not a member, you might want to be go to collective 54.com and apply, and we’ll have somebody follow up with you. And ironically, if you just want to learn more and consume some information, consider my book. It’s called The Boutique How to Start, scale and sell a professional services firm. And you can find that on Amazon. But until then, I wish you the best of luck as you try to grow, scale, and exert your firm.

Episode 142 – Why Recruiting for Sales Positions in Small Service Firms is Different and How to Adapt – Member Case by Carter Hopkins

Recruiting for sales positions in a small service firm is not the same as recruiting for sales positions in large service firm, or in a product company. This session will help you avoid making costly hiring mistakes as you build out your sales team.


Greg Alexander [00:00:10] Hi, everyone. This is Greg Alexander, the host of the Pro Serv Podcast, brought to you by Collective 54, the first community dedicated to the boutique professional services industry. On today’s episode, we’re going to discuss recruiting salespeople into a small services firm, which is a very precise recruiting process. And we have a wonderful role model with us today. His name is Carter Hopkins, and he’s a member of Collective 54, and he runs a firm that this is what they do. They recruit for sales, and he’s successfully done this for several of our members. So he’s got a lot to offer on this topic. So, Carter, it’s good to see you. Please introduce yourself to the audience. 

Carter Hopkins [00:00:59] Yes, they’re great. Thank you so much for having me. Honestly honored that you asked me to be on the podcast. So, yeah, I’m the founder of Pursuit and we are a sales and marketing recruiting firm that specializes in helping our partners scale out their sales and marketing function with top talent. 

Greg Alexander [00:01:16] Fantastic. So let’s jump into it. So my first question is how is recruiting for sales positions inside services firms different than recruiting for a similar role in a product company? 

Carter Hopkins [00:01:31] Absolutely. I think a. You know, for me, recruiting for sales in general is so different than any other type of recruiting out there. And that’s really the reason I started our company eight years ago, is because I there are a million recruiting firms out there. There’s not a lot of sales recruiting firms. And I believe sales recruiting done well is very, very different than recruiting an engineer or recruiting somebody in I.T. or something like that. And the reason why is it’s it’s it’s not as much about the resume. It’s a lot of it is about the intangibles. It’s about the person. And there’s no certification on a resume that’s going to sell anything. And so, you know, our approach to sales recruiting and don’t get me wrong, a lot of times we are looking for specific things on a resume as well. We’re looking for those intangibles that you may not necessarily be able to to see on the resume. And I think that makes it a little bit different, as well as recruiting for a professional services firm and sales within a professional services firm. Just the motion is a lot different than it is when you’re selling a product, you’re selling a product. A lot of times it’s the same sales pitch over and over and it doesn’t really have to be a solutions based sell. And when you’re recruiting somebody to a professional to sell within a professional services firm, it’s not tangible. Your the sell itself looks so different than it does when it is one product and you’re selling it the exact same way every time. Yeah. 

Greg Alexander [00:03:12] I agree. That’s a that’s a really good point to bring out. You know, sell services. You’re selling the intangible as a product, as a tangible. That’s a very different emotion. So that that’s a good ad. All right. Let me let me ask the next question, which is, you know, our our membership, because you’re a member and, you know, this is is focused on boutiques, which is code for smaller firms. So let’s talk about the size dimension. So when you’re recruiting sales positions for a small company as opposed to a large company, how is that different? 

Carter Hopkins [00:03:44] Yeah. Working at a big company. Opposed to working at a small company is so different. And you know, the thing that I would encourage members that are listening to this is when you recruit, you need to sell for what you are. And be very upfront and honest what you are with these candidates. And if the candidate is the right candidate for your small firm, that will excite them. If the candidate is the wrong candidate and you’re in, you are going through the good and the bad about working for a small firm, it will scare them away. And so for us, you know, for me, I started the company eight years ago and we’ve built it out. And, you know, I have when people come in to interview with me, I have to tell them, hey, it’s it it’s not a huge firm. We may not have all of the benefits for a lot of these sales reps that are coming from from big firms. What I see is they have a ton of resources. They have a marketing department, they have all of these different resources that they have access to. And then you throw them into a small environment and they’re not used to that. Like they’re like, Hey, where’s where is the client marketing collateral? It’s like, Well, I don’t know. You may have to create that kind of small firm. And so, you know, I think for me personally, I love small business, obviously. And if you sell it correctly, because to me, there’s a lot of advantages of a small firm. Candidates want to know that they can move up quickly. And I believe that you can in a small firm, they want to know that there’s not as much team in to work through. In a small company like that. There is a big company. They want to know that they have access to the founder. There’s a lot of selling points that you you can talk to candidates about that are true. But I would also say almost sell against your opportunity. Hey, here’s what it’s not in the interview process and what it will do. We’ve lost candidates that I liked and I thought could have been good, but they didn’t want that. And I would rather know that in the interview process than figure that out four months down the road and have them leave. 

Greg Alexander [00:05:43] Yeah, I like that. So against it, that makes it’s kind of reverse psychology. And I agree with you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen our membership and even outside of our membership, people get enamored, you know, with the person with 20 years of industry experience, you know, try to bring him in to this small firm. And it’s a trainwreck because they can’t scale down to a small firm. They’re used to being surrounded by all these resources and small firm. It’s it’s largely, you know, building the plane as you’re flying the plane. And you need scrappy people that can make it happen. And sometimes these big company people, they have a really hard time scaling down like that. So that’s a mistake. We’d like all of our members to avoid making speak. 

Carter Hopkins [00:06:25] And I think real quick on that, Greg, another selling point that I believe in small business for is if you’re in sales, you want to try to you want to try to create value within your company as an individual. And I believe it’s easier to create value for a sales rep in a small company than in a big company. And the reason why is because when you work for a big company and you walk in there and the name on your shirt sells itself, yeah, it’s really hard. You’re very replaceable. Yeah, very replaceable because the company’s buy, the buyer is buying from the company and not from you. When you work for a small company and you walk in there. And when we were a, you know, a six person company that preceded you, and our sales rep walks into the room and says, Hey, we’re pursued. They don’t know who pursuit is. So they’re buying from David. They’re buying from a person opposed to buying from a company. And so for me, that’s one of the reasons I always we work with a lot of small companies, and that’s one of our selling points to candidates about going to a small company. You may miss out on some benefits and some of those things, but you’re able to create so much more value for the company, which in turn creates value for yourself. 

Greg Alexander [00:07:33] Yeah, good point. So let’s get to one of the biggest mistakes that members are making right now, and that is they’re over hiring in the sales leadership role and they’re hiring for it too early. Yeah, you and I have spoken about this previously. I’d love for you to share with our members why you think this mistake is happening and maybe what to do about it. 

Carter Hopkins [00:07:59] Yeah, I think so. Here’s kind of what I see. And we have the opportunity to work with some professional services firms, and a lot of times it’s on their first sales hire and you know, they’ve been they’ve been the CEO and they’ve been selling more or less and they may not even wait to sell. Yeah, they may like the delivery side of things and they may be specialized in that, but they find themselves selling and then they listen to Greg and they listen to collective 54. They go, Hey, I need to scale out my sales team. And and they reach out to me. And a lot of times they want us. They want a sales leader. They think that they want a sales leader. That can be a player coach at first that can come in and is going to be an individual contributor. And then go into sales leadership. Right. And what I find is, you know, they want somebody that’s been leading people. Mm hmm. Because they want them to own that sales function. But the hard part about that is somebody that’s been leading people. It’s very hard for them to go back and to go back to selling all day, every day. Right. And they end up frustrated and it ends up not working out well, in theory, in my opinion, from what I’ve seen. And so, you know, I always in most I won’t say always in most scenarios, I believe in hiring somebody that’s going to be a straight sales rep. That’s a little bit probably junior that has no problem reaching out 30, 40 times a day. The person that’s been leading other people to make 40 calls a day is really hard to get them to go back to making 40 calls a day. And what I’ve seen. Yeah. And so, you know, I always cash is king. Right. And like people, how you get cash is you get people that are selling it. I believe your first couple of hires. Most of the time it’s important as long as you can put them in the right atmosphere. It’s important to to find somebody that’s okay with getting out. It’s selling all day. Would you agree with that? 

Greg Alexander [00:10:00] I agree 100%. I mean, listen, individual contributors in sales, it’s a grind. And it is when you get to a mid point in your career or maybe even later on in your career, going back to the grind is just culturally a very difficult thing to do. And for our community, if you think about it, you know, most of them are, you know, early in the development of their sales function in general. So hiring an individual contributor to start with and using that person to kind of be the guinea pig or the test lab, if you will, to figure out what works for you. And then once you understand that maybe that person has the ability to grow into the sales leadership job, if not, at least you know what’s needed now, because you had that junior person in there grinding all the time. So, so really good advice. Speaking of which, I wanted to get to the next question, which is. 

Carter Hopkins [00:10:46] Yeah. 

Greg Alexander [00:10:47] Our members. The stereotype of our members, if I could place it on them is this. They’re absolutely brilliant domain experts in what it is that they do. And that’s the reason why they’ve been able to build their firms, is because of their, you know, intellectual horsepower and their expertise. But they didn’t come up through sales most often. Therefore, they really don’t know what good looks like. And they have out of whack expectations. So they hire somebody and they think sales are just going to miraculously come in and they don’t understand that there needs to be a whole system in place. So can you tell us a little little bit about what expectations should be like and how to avoid this mistake? 

Carter Hopkins [00:11:32] Yeah, I would always I would even caution a lot of times what I see is people want to go hire the person that’s been doing it for 15, 20 or 20 years that says they have a Rolodex of contacts and they just move over the business and all of a sudden they’re making all this money. And where I talked to founders that have made a lot of mistakes is they’ve hired people that say that. And then they get in there and they don’t they don’t do anything. Sales is not easy. It’s not that’s why their sales reps make as much money as they make, is because it’s hard and it is a grind and there are no shortcuts to it. And, you know, I I’m going to quote as a friend, this is sales consultant Gregg Stanley. So I’m not going to take credit for it. But how he talks about it is it’s like a houseplant. You go you go buy a houseplant. And if you don’t put that houseplant in the right environment, it’s going to die. And, you know, and then what ends up happening is the plant dies and you don’t know if it was the environment or if it was a bad plant. And a lot of times you think it’s a bad plant, but really it’s a bad. It’s a bad it was a great plant, but you put it in a bad environment and it died. And so that really hit home with me because I watched that happen time after time again, where you have to create a sales environment and you have to have somebody within your organization to set up that right environment. When I say environment, accountability, KPI is a sales atmosphere where they don’t they they don’t feel like they’re flying solo when the day’s tough and they made 40 calls and they haven’t talked to one person all day long. Like you have to put them in an atmosphere to where they can thrive. And it may be like, Well, Greg, how do I do that if that’s not my background? Fortunately, I love sales. You know, when I started the company, that’s my passion and my background. But for a lot of founders, that’s not their domain or expertise. And I would just say like. I believe in. If it’s not going to be you owning that function, hire a sales consultant that helps you set up that environment correctly from the get go before you go hire that salesperson to put him in that environment overall. And then also don’t think once you hire that salesperson as the CEO or as the founder, you’re just going to be hands off and all of a sudden money’s going to start showing up. You’re going to have to be involved in training, in teaching and coaching the whole way through. 

Greg Alexander [00:14:01] Yeah, I love the house houseplant analogy. You know, when I was in the sales consulting space, I used to tell my clients, Listen, you don’t put a football helmet on Tiger Woods. Yeah, but if you hand him a golf club, you’re going to win Majors, right? So it’s matching the talent to the environment and making sure that you’re putting the talent in a position to win. And it’s very often not understood. And I think your advice of maybe renting a sales consultant that can build your sales environment first. Yeah. Then recruiting in the talent is the way to go. 

Carter Hopkins [00:14:35] Well, and I’ll say the last thing I’ll say to that, Greg, is be patient. Like if you have to play the long term game, far too often I see people playing. A short term game is like, you know, they’ll call, will fill a position, they’ll call me like, hey, never sold anything. It’s like, how long it been? It’s been a month and it’s like, man, it it you have to play the long term game with some of these you know, these people in your organization as well because it’s going to take time to figure it out, especially if you’ve never had anybody doing it before and you don’t have a playbook. Yeah. 

Greg Alexander [00:15:05] All right. Well, listen, we need to wrap this up, but I’ve got a few calls to action here for the listeners. So. So if you’re a member, keep your eyes open for the meeting. Invite. That’ll be coming to you shortly for the private Q&A session that we’ll have with Carter. You’ll be able to ask him direct questions, will go into much greater depth and more able to do in a short podcast. If you’re not a member and you want to become one, go to collect 54 Ecom and submit an application and we’ll get in contact with you. And then if you’re just someone who wants a little, little bit more, I would drive you towards our book. It’s called The Boutique How to Start Scale. And so a professional services firm written by yours truly, Greg Alexander, you can find it on Amazon. But Carter, on behalf of the membership, I appreciate you being here, making a deposit into the collective body of knowledge and I look forward to our upcoming member session. 

Carter Hopkins [00:15:59] Thank you, Greg. 

Greg Alexander [00:16:00] Okay, take care.

Episode 141 – The Secret to Big Sales: How an Executive Sponsor Program and Executive Language Wins Clients – Member Case by Carajane Moore

What role should the Founder of a boutique professional service firm play in the process of acquiring new clients? That of an Executive Sponsor. And how can a Founder perform in this role with excellence? By using executive language. Attend this session and learn about executive sponsor programs and executive language. 


Greg Alexander [00:00:15] Hi, everyone. This is Greg Alexander, the host of the Pro Serve podcast. Brought to you by collective 54, the first community dedicated to the boutique professional services industry. On today’s episode, we’re going to talk about executive sponsor programs, what they are. Why you should care. Why you should deploy them. Who should own it, how to do it, etc., etc.. And I’m joined today by a member of Collective 54. Her name is Cara Jane Moore, and she’s an expert in this area and she’s got a lot to offer on this topic. So, Karajan, it’s great to see you. Please introduce yourself and your firm to the audience. 

Carajane Moore [00:00:52] Well, thanks, Greg. It’s great to be here. I’m CaraJane Moore, president Hunt Big Sales, co-owner and Hunt Big Sales is a boutique professional services firm, and we work with the small and mid-sized businesses to help them grow very rapidly by landing large accounts. 

Greg Alexander [00:01:07] Okay, Very good. All right. Well, let me let me start at the top. So what is an executive sponsor program? 

Carajane Moore [00:01:14] Well, actually, an executive sponsor program is more of an approach to how you go about sales. What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to increase that reality in your pipeline. We’re trying to add some assurances in your forecasting and to increase the close rates of of sales. And so an executive sponsorship is about an approach that’s going to allow us to do those things. So an executive sponsor then is somebody that is at the highest level of the organization you’re going after to secure new services. Right? And so they’re at the highest level that have the business problem that you solve. And that’s really important because oftentimes we end up trying to sell us sell benefits and services instead of solving business problems. And really all biotech firms do is solve business problems. And so they’re at the highest level who have the problem that you solve and then also have urgency to solve it. So what we’re talking about is an approach that allows us to secure those types of people so that they can help us through the sales process to close. 

Greg Alexander [00:02:23] Okay. So why do you think this approach and I like that word is the right approach for our community, which is made up of founder led boutique process firms? 

Carajane Moore [00:02:38] Sure. So as a smaller firm, as a founder led, oftentimes founders are involved in the sales. So one, it’s easier for them to get to the owners of the prospect companies they’re going after because sales, when you’re solving business problems happens at a higher level in the organizations you’re hunting than the managerial levels that maybe sales reps are only able to get to. So first and foremost, we have to get to that higher level and an executive is the easiest way to do that. But you can’t teach your salespeople how to do that as well. So one, that’s true. Two, we’re trying to solve business problems. And so you need the executive sponsor inside that organization because if it’s a larger opportunity, they’re going to be the ones that are going to be making the decision to buy. But even if it’s not a big opportunity, it’s a regular sales opportunity. If you’ve got the person who has the problem, the chances are you’re going to get more information and better information than your competitors on landing that piece of business, because you’re going to understand the nuances of the problem versus working with procurement who has no problem. And we oftentimes get lost in the idea of procurement h.r. Training some of these departments who actually don’t have problems. They’re hired to execute someone else’s problems. 

Greg Alexander [00:03:57] Very good. So if you think about a boutique and the lifecycle stages of grow, scale and exit, in your opinion, is there a good time to start this, a bad time to start this? Like where in a lifecycle should a small services firm think about an executive sponsor approach? 

Carajane Moore [00:04:19] Actually, I think that executive sponsor should start the minute you start if you’re selling, which there’s no way we could be in business if we aren’t selling right. If you’re selling the best way to get efficiency and effectiveness and clarity in your sales approach is only speak to the people that have the problems you solve, not their proxies. Mm hmm. 

Greg Alexander [00:04:41] So some of our founders, actually quite a few, are some of the smartest people I’ve ever met. And when you talk to them about their domain, I mean, you literally go back on your heels and you say, oh, my goodness, this person really is an expert. It’s one of the reasons why I love the professional services industry. However, they’re not great salespeople, not because they can’t be. It’s just they were never trained. They don’t want to be you know, they really love kind of the content of their job. So how do you get them? To be the executive sponsor and sell, Empower. Sell the power. 

Carajane Moore [00:05:19] Yeah. So power to power selling is really important. And although they’re the executive for their own organization, we’re trying to secure the executive at their prospects organization, right? Yep. And because they’re a subject matter expert and they are an owner, right. Or he as a founder, they have some gravitas that allows them to get in that door to begin with, which is why most professional services firms grow based on their network of the founders. Right. And we’ve talked about that and seen the founders bottleneck. And then at that particular point in time, as you’re having conversations, all you’re doing is adding clarity to the rules of the process that both you and your prospect are going to go through to determine if you’re the right solution. So we’re not doing anything unethical or behind the doors. This is all clean up, but we’re just making it clear. So even though they don’t have sales backgrounds or they don’t even want to sell, it’s about having an easy conversation. It’s just as simple as me saying, Hey, Greg, we’ve been talking and it sounds like what we’re talking about, I can solve the problem that you’ve got. And in your end, you want us to continue to look at that. But you and I both know there’s some nuances and we’re going to need to get our teams together. So I have to bring my team together. You have to bring your team together. They have to spend some time kind of working through the details. And I just want to make sure before we get started that you’re willing to be a part of that process, that you’re willing to stay engaged, that you’re willing to give me access to your team and data as necessary to go through the sales process. You’re willing to make it a priority. You’re willing to add clarity when maybe some of the people in your team have conflicting ideas or the urgency overcomes the importance and we get into a logjam and getting data and access. Would you be willing to do that for us so that we can work through this process to determine if we can solve this problem the way you need it in the timeframe you’re asking? It’s a that’s all it takes. 

Greg Alexander [00:07:21] Yeah. I mean, that was such a beautiful summary of it. STEM to stern. I marvel at your ability to take the complex and make it simple. Let’s, let’s consider a use case here. So let’s say I’m the founder of a 50 person consulting firm and I’m trying to scale my firm, which means I’m trying to solve for the founder bottleneck and replicate myself and others and be a great delegator and build a team. So because of that, I have a business development function of some kind of sales function, and they’re out there trying to win new clients. Where how is the labor separated? Like who does what and when does the founder parachuted? 

Carajane Moore [00:08:07] Sure, absolutely. So generally, if you’re on the earlier aid of that lifecycle, right, as a founder, you’re going to be more involved at the beginning of the sales process and then again at the end when you’re closing, as you’re scaling to your point, you should be able to turn over some of those, what we would call traditional prospecting activities to somebody in the business development department who is able to then sell the services. And as a founder, depending on the size of the transaction, whether you should be involved or not really is played at that point. So if you’ve already got somebody in business development and we’re trying to get to the highest person within that organization, you should be able to turn that over because they have to be a seasoned salesperson. If they’re trying to get to an owner. If we’re selling power to power, owner to owner, then they have to have enough. Business acumen and be able to do executive language speak to get in. And there’s three secrets to landing large deals you get sent to whom you sound like. So if you don’t sound like the executive, you’re going to get deferred down to a manager or director. You stay with whom you impress, which means you have to be able to continue conversation and an engagement at that executive level, and you close and grow with those who believe, which means you also have to be convincing. And so that’s part of where maybe a founder comes back in because they’ve got the resources they’re committing to. Yeah. So you should be able to transfer that to a salesperson, but they have to have that executive language, that executive presence and that business acumen to be able to be at that level, to have those conversations. 

Greg Alexander [00:09:47] So let’s talk about the executive language. And I know that your firm has an executive language program and how critical it is. And I think it’s so relevant to our community because our founders, they speak in jargon. They speak in like their domain expertise. And if you’re going to be power to power selling to an executive, the person inside to they don’t even understand all the three letter acronyms. So So how can one of our members get themselves trained on executive speak? 

Carajane Moore [00:10:24] Yeah, absolutely. Well, like you said, we’ve we’re launching a new program, Big Sale Secrets, and it’s really about mastering that executive language to close more deals. And that’s that language is more it’s less about the details. And this is one of the things that I think is really important. Executives buy to solve a problem of the future. They’re buying a better future. So they don’t need to know the details of how what we’re doing to solve that problem is going to happen. That’s what their team is for, to evaluate. So executive language is talking about the bigger concept, the bigger idea. We’re talking about money, not price. Right. We’re talking about leading through influence, persuasion and executive through some of the data. And especially if we’re talking about our founders speaking jargon, we’re going to back it up. We’re going to lead them through data and the analysis of that data to implications. And as executives themselves, they’d rather make a decision off of an option. So you have to be able to place the options that don’t include you as a part of the decision making framework for your executive buyer, then provide the recommendation for that choice. And so by putting in some of these conversational arcs and tools, how do you use napkin math so that we’re not into the precision, but we’re giving the big picture idea bullet points, bite sized, but a full arc of concept for executives to make a decision now. So our video program does exactly that. And then we’ve added C suite fluency because it’s a new language, right? So we have to become fluent in it. And what we’re learning is in today’s world, we want to consume information so rapidly, but we don’t take the time to practice and perfected. And so when you’re learning a new language, you have to practice that language. I don’t know about you. I try to do Spanish on a Rosetta Stone, and I could read it and I could I could understand it when they said it, but when I tried to say it back to them. Error. Yeah, error because I couldn’t get the role of the hours and all. I mean, it was, it was really fun and my daughter’s just fluent and I can’t write. Well, that’s the same thing when we’re talking about salespeople or founders trying to learn how to speak at an executive language, which is not their day to day language because they work with their own peers. And if your founders are those very, very smart people, but they’re the subject matter experts in their business, they’re going to be jargon based. Yeah. So we have to elevate them into business based conversation. 

Greg Alexander [00:12:59] Yeah. You know, I’ll share a story with the membership. I made this mistake that Cara Jane is talking about. When we first hit the market with collective 54, we would talk about helping a services firm grow, scale and exit. And I thought everybody understood what that meant. And I had several people say, What are you talking about? And finally someone said, So Greg, what you’re really talking about is going to help me make more money. You can help me work smarter, not harder, and you can help me get to an exit bigger and faster. And I almost kiss the person. I’m like, Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m talking about. So we have since taken that language, which is their language, not my language. I was using industry jargon and it wasn’t, it wasn’t landing. So using their language is what really happened. And that’s what this executive language program is about. All right. One more question for you. So let’s say I’m a member and I’m listening to this and I’ve now been inspired, you know, to go implement an executive sponsor approach. What obstacles should I anticipate? 

Carajane Moore [00:13:55] Well. So first and foremost, the first obstacle and I know this seems really obvious, but everybody misses it if you’re going to go ask for an executive sponsorship. Oftentimes people are afraid and it’s our side that’s afraid. So we kind of say it. We don’t really lay it out or. And so the biggest obstacle that we find is we work with companies to get them to do that is their own teams fear to actually go have that conversation. What I will tell you is when you’re actually speaking to executive, they are absolutely thrilled that when you have a problem, you’ve got a process, you’ve got a plan, and you know exactly how to execute it. And they know where they’re supposed to step in. They are grateful for the conversation. They’re not resentful. And so first we have to get over the fear. That’s the first piece. The other piece is if the answer is no, that tells you a whole lot of information. One, if they say, no, I don’t want to be your executive sponsor, it might be because they’re not the right person. Right? Might be because they’re just kicking tires and they’re not interested. Right? Answer Stop wasting our time. Right. So there’s nothing to be afraid of. This is just an easy conversation. Right? So those are some of the key obstacles. The last thing is, it depends on who you’re selling to. If you are in big situations in which you can’t speak to anybody, you can’t ask for an executive sponsor at that particular time, even though you might be able to gather more information. Right. If you’re speaking to municipalities, we have to be careful about the language we use. We don’t say executive sponsor because that sounds like we’re for you to win versus others. And that’s not what we’re asking for. We’re asking for to guide us through the sales process like they would anybody else. Right? So government, military contracting, some of those types of things, the language has to be tweaked just a little bit. And we’re not asking them to sign an agreement and we’re not even asking them to favor us. We just have to be careful. That’s an obstacle in some of those organizations that you have to be aware of. 

Greg Alexander [00:15:58] All right. Very good. Well, listen, we’re out of our time here, but this was really intriguing. And I’m so looking forward to the private Q&A session we’re going to have with the members where members can ask you questions directly. And I’m sure there’s going to be a ton of them. But, Caroline, you’ve been a wonderful addition to our community. You’re always a giving member. You’re actively participating. So on behalf of the entire membership, I just wanted to thank you for all that you do for us. 

Carajane Moore [00:16:22] Oh, well, thank you. I love being a part of C 54, and I keep referring everybody I can because I think it’s a great organization and a great structure for professional service firms like mine and yours. So yeah. 

Greg Alexander [00:16:35] Okay, so audience members, three calls to action. So if you’re a member, keep an eye out for the invitation that’s going to come for Carajane’s Q&A session. If you’re a candidate for membership, go to collective 54 dot com and submit an application and we’ll get in contact with you. And if you’re not ready for that, just want to learn more. Go to Amazon and find my book. It’s called The Boutique How to Start Scale and Sell a Professional services firm. And we talk about lots of topics that hopefully resonate with you. But thanks for listening. And until next time, I wish you the best of luck as you try to grow, scale and exit your firm.

The Unseen Consequence of Neglecting Sales & Marketing: A Wake-Up Call for Custom Software Development Firms

The Unseen Consequence of Neglecting Sales & Marketing: A Wake-Up Call for Custom Software Development Firms

The year is 2023, and the global economy, relentlessly stirred by fluctuating trends and financial pressures, has dealt a heavy blow to professional service firms—particularly the custom software development houses. These firms, once lavishly blessed with burgeoning budgets, have come face-to-face with the painful aftermath of their own negligence: systemic underinvestment in sales and marketing.

Over the past decade, buoyed by an era of abundance, boutique professional service firms effortlessly navigated the path to their financial targets. This period of corporate wealth, coupled with the world’s relentless march toward digital transformation, catalyzed an unprecedented demand for custom software solutions. But beneath this seemingly golden age lurked a dangerous assumption held by these firms’ technical geniuses: the belief that their good work alone would suffice to attract prospects and keep the pipeline humming. The dogma that “good work sells itself” and that clients would automatically broadcast their satisfaction was almost religious in its conviction.

Herein lies the crux of their arrogance: “Who needs to be good at sales and marketing when there’s a perpetual stream of opportunities?” This flawed assumption has proven perilously short-sighted in 2023. Firms that were once profitable and expanding are now facing contracting revenues, slimmer margins, operational losses, and even layoffs.

Unsurprisingly, these once-cocky founders believe they can abruptly flip a switch and rectify this situation by merely getting “good” at sales and marketing. But a harsh truth awaits them: Excellence in business development is not achieved overnight. It takes years to build a robust sales and marketing foundation—just as it takes years to hone software engineering skills.

So, what is the founder of a boutique professional service firm, particularly in the software development space, to do? Swallowing a sizeable slice of humble pie seems to be in order. They must heed the wisdom of Warren Buffet: “Only when the tide goes out do you learn who has been swimming naked.” The tide has gone out and these founders have been swimming naked. They must commit to a multi-year investment of time and resources to cultivate world-class capabilities in business development. Failing to do so will condemn them to a vicious boom-bust cycle dictated by the economy’s natural expansion and recession rhythms.

Building an enduring boutique professional service firm—one that thrives in times of prosperity and recession alike—requires the ability to consistently and predictably win new business and garner expansion revenue from existing clients. This moment signifies a stark division between the strong and weak leaders.

The weak leader, in the face of adversity, retrenches and relies on the good fortune of a recovering economy to rebound. But such a leader will never construct a great firm; they will merely float with the macro environment’s ebbs and flows.

In contrast, the strong leader invests heavily in a robust business development function during challenging times. These leaders are driven by an intolerance for their future lying outside their control. They aim to build resilient, enduring firms that can weather stormy times as well as they can bask in glorious periods.

Which type of leader are you? A true entrepreneur who bets on himself during times of uncertainty, or a small business owner masquerading as an entrepreneur afraid to do what is required?

Now is the time for a call to action. For many of these founders, a decade-long stretch of prosperity means they have never navigated a recession before. These uncharted waters leave them clueless and desperate. The solution? Join the Collective 54 mastermind community. Surround yourself with seasoned role models, mentors, coaches, and peers who have weathered these storms before and can guide you forward. Here is an example of a member of our community from the software development sector that should inspire you. By joining, you can surround yourself with remarkable peers like this. 

Failing to heed this advice and continue underestimating the importance of a robust sales and marketing foundation could mean the difference between merely surviving or thriving in the demanding world of custom software development. As the economic tides recede, don’t be left exposed. Take control, equip your firm for the long haul, and build an enduring legacy. 

Which approach do you believe is more effective for boutique professional service firms?

Cast your vote and join the conversation. The insights we glean from this poll will help illuminate the path forward for software development firms and other professional service providers alike. Let’s use this opportunity to learn from each other, adapt, and grow stronger in the face of adversity.