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EPISODE #026

#26 Tips to Accelerate Sales with Bill Toon

Bill Toon joins the Sherpas Cave this week. We discuss tips on how you can accelerate your sales!

 

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Transcription:

Speaker 1:

From his first job flipping burgers at McDonald’s and delivering The Washington Post, Craig Willett counts only one and a half years of his adult life working for someone else. Welcome to The Biz Sherpa podcast with your host, Craig Willett. Founder of several multimillion-dollar businesses and trusted advisor to other business owners, he’s giving back to help business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs achieve fulfillment, enhance their lives, and create enduring wealth. The Biz Sherpa.

Craig Willett:

This is Craig Willett, the Biz Sherpa. Welcome to the Sherpa’s Cave. Today, I’m really excited to have with me, Bill Toon Jr. Bill is a good friend of mine, but he has a lot of experience in sales and marketing. Today, we’re going to be focusing a lot on that. I’m grateful that he’d take the time to be with us and open up the secrets to success that he has experienced in his life. Bill, welcome to the show.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Craig, thank you for having me. I’m really excited about this.

Craig Willett:

Glad to have you. So, tell me a little bit about—tell us all about your background, where you started, if you have some education insights you want to give. Because sales and marketing is something I think you can’t learn by a textbook. So, experience is a real teacher, I believe. But—

Bill Toon Jr.:

I agree with you. I’m a Southwest kid born in New Mexico, raised in Arizona. But in my career of working for Dow Chemical twice, General Electric twice, in different businesses, I’ve lived in Connecticut, New Hampshire, Michigan, Atlanta, Arizona three times, LA.

Craig Willett:

So, you could say if you’re in sales and marketing, be ready to move around.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Yeah, be ready to move. Be flexible, if you want to move up the ladder, especially if you’re in Corporate America.

Craig Willett:

Yeah. Well, speaking of Corporate America, you have a lot of experience, as you mentioned in Corporate America, but recently you made the move to be a business owner, tell me a little bit about that.

Bill Toon Jr.:

I did. My career spans about 30 years, it’s always been in sales, in some form or fashion of an individual contributor of all the way up to a large P&L as a senior vice president. But in that, it was customer-focused, and it was selling product to them, and then just doing it in a profitable manner. But that 30 years has involved, as I said, Corporate America, but I also worked in a small family business that my father had started and I actually helped an injection molder with his sales and marketing plan and spent about 18 months with that person who happened to be my mentor.

Craig Willett:

So, you got a little bit of flavor for entrepreneurship and small business in the process.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Exactly. And now, I’ve started my own which was a—and I’m blessed to be able to have those two small family businesses that I worked in. But there came a choice in my life where I needed to do something different. Did I go back to Corporate America? Did I get back on the road? I was traveling 75,000 to 220,000 air miles a year.

Craig Willett:

Wow, that’s a lot of time away from family and from home base.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Exactly. And that took a toll on the life as well as my relationship with kids and my wife.

Craig Willett:

And so, now, what’s it like to go and blaze your own trail?

Bill Toon Jr.:

Well, my wife doesn’t ask me anymore like, “Are you going to go on a business trip,” and get me out of the house. So, we’ve normalized that at the house.

Craig Willett:

That’s good.

Bill Toon Jr.:

But now, it feels good, because you’re able to finally get into balance in your life. You’re finally able to enjoy. Living in Utah, it’s wonderful, especially with the Jeep that I can go a lot of places and both in the winter as well as the summer. And I’m really enjoying this beautiful state.

Craig Willett:

I think a lot of business owners might say, “What are you talking about having time on your hands?” When you start knowing a business, it monopolizes your time. How do you view that?

Bill Toon Jr.:

It’s a forced balance that you have to do. And obviously, there’s a lot of late hours, there’s a lot of time when everybody’s asleep that you sneak into the office and you’ve got to do your QuickBooks, you’ve got to do other things that you probably didn’t have to do in Corporate America.

Craig Willett:

Oh, okay. So, yeah, you take on a lot of different roles other than your specialty. You have a lot of different hats as a small business owner.

Bill Toon Jr.:

You do.

Craig Willett:

Great. Well, I’m glad you’d come today. I really want to know and help our audience know what some of the common traps are in a business owner’s face as they try to grow their businesses. But what do you find as things that typically trip up business owners?

Bill Toon Jr.:

I found that owners that trip up, the trap is they don’t have a rhythm. They don’t have a cadence that has processes and tools in place. You also find that an owner will try to wear many hats, will try to be the operations person, the CEO, the accountant, the HR person.

Craig Willett:

By necessity, sometimes.

Bill Toon Jr.:

By necessity sometimes.

Craig Willett:

So, that inhibits developing the rhythm or an expertise in sales and marketing, even though they may have skills?

Bill Toon Jr.:

Exactly, exactly. And there comes a time when they’re going to have to hire somebody, they’re going to have to delegate and allow them. And I call it the “delegate and elevate,” where you can finally work on your business and not be in it. And they probably say that the other thing is not having a clear sales strategy. And a lot of people are like, “What do you mean—”

Craig Willett:

Yeah, what is that, a clear sales strategy?

Bill Toon Jr.:

Yeah, exactly that you’re in the sales world and that’s all you believe. But no, it’s the days of Henry Ford, and a black Model T—which color would you like, black or black or over. Having a great service and a great product only goes so far, and then competition is going to come in, and you’re going to have to get aggressive, but you need to have that sales strategy that will further and make your product or service that you’ve got sustainable.

Craig Willett:

That’s a really good response to have something be sustainable. What can a business owner do to better manage growth and all the other aspects of the business so they can keep a focus on sales and marketing, so that that doesn’t die out? Because if you’re not selling, then you’re dying, right?

 

I mean, everybody has—people say, “Well, I don’t have to sell.” Well, even if you have one contract, and that’s all you work on all the time, you have to renew that contract. So, you have to be selling, finding out the needs to be able to renew a contract, even if you’re just in a service business. So, I don’t think there’s a business owner out there that could dismiss the fact that sales and marketing is a key component.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Right.

Craig Willett:

So, what can they do to manage the other aspects and balance personal life, but keep the business growing?

Bill Toon Jr.:

There has to be a non-negotiable forced balance of life. And there’s four quadrants. It could be your faith, it could be your family, personal life, and then work. And I’d probably say that that ought to be the order, at least in my world, and really try to bring balance to your life. But I also have something I called SAMO, which is strategy, analysis, methodology, and organization. And I’ll talk a little bit more about that, most likely in our conversation, but it’s a matter of having those four pillars in your business and then just executing. But I think that there’s some in it—

Craig Willett:

So, putting some processes and some systems in place that don’t require you to reinvent the wheel every day and make you spend even more time in the business.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Yeah, and have a foundation that you’re not building this profitable revenue management on quick sand. That you’ve got this foundation and these pillars, but you know what, and I also find that small business owners really missed the boat when it comes to who they hire. And I’m a strong believer—and it’s probably by necessity—I’ve always hired people smarter than me, which I try to—

Craig Willett:

You’re trying to imply that wasn’t hard?

Bill Toon Jr.:

Yeah, exactly. And that they really need to surround themselves with great people, create a vision, and then get out the way, let them do what you’ve hired them to do it and—

Craig Willett:

But that’s hard. It’s your baby as a small business owner. You want to get in and say, “Hey, wait, let me show you all the things about this. Here’s how I did it.”

Bill Toon Jr.:

Right. But I have to challenge you to go back to the traps, go back to the balance in the business, that if you aren’t hiring great people and giving them the vision and the right job description and getting out of the way and letting them, there’ll be times you’re going to have to put in controls and pulse measurements of what they’re doing.

Craig Willett:

Right.

Bill Toon Jr.:

That’s all just, again, this cadence or this rhythm of running a business.

Craig Willett:

I like that idea. It takes a little bit of capital to have, to be able to hire people and allow them to do that. What are some of the key tips? I know a lot of business owners want to know, how do you grow revenue? I mean, that seems to be, right, the thing that gets measured most. You go to renew your bank loan, they want to see, did you grow last year? They don’t want to see sales down.

And they don’t want to just see units up, they want to see the dollars of sales up too. And so, you can’t lower the price to get the sales, as far as units up to last year, but have the profits be lower. So, what’s the key? You obviously have worked in that your whole life, so you have to know some tips and some tricks you can share today.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Well, I go back to that phrase, I said SAMO—strategy, analysis, methodology and organization. But my organization that I’m part of, the Sales Xceleration, we’ve been around for many years. And if you look at—we’ve surveyed thousands of small business owners, when we start an engagement with them.

And in that time, if you look at strategy, only 12% of small businesses actually develop a written revenue plan that has a knowledge of competitors, has strategies around margin and these other things. And so, only—

Craig Willett:

So, pricing, profitability, who’s your competition.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Exactly.

Craig Willett:

And where is your customer.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Yeah.

Craig Willett:

What are their needs?

Bill Toon Jr.:

And then, he goes on further. You go to analysis—only 11% of our clients when we start actually have sales goals, quotas, KPIs, metrics, compensation, time about that.

Craig Willett:

What’s a KPI?

Bill Toon Jr.:

Key Performance Index. And I would say, it’s just the metrics that as you have a cadence and you’re looking at that strategy down the road, and are you going to meet your number for the year, then, yeah, then you should be doing certain actions, like calling X number of customers a week, visiting this many customers, have this many lunches, and all these metrics that you might have that are pre-determined.

Craig Willett:

Wow.

Bill Toon Jr.:

And then, you go down to one step that really blew me away when I started, was that only 7% of our clients when we started actually had any type of CRM or customer relationship management tool, and had it to where they would put sales process into it and use that as a tool.

Craig Willett:

To follow up and—

Bill Toon Jr.:

As to how you’re going and as a database for your customers, and allow you to do digital marketing campaigns from that database.

Craig Willett:

Wow.

Bill Toon Jr.:

So, only 7% of thousands of clients that we’ve worked with.

Craig Willett:

Wow. So, you could say the small business world is ripe for that. I remember, somebody told me you get what you measure one time. And so, if you’re not measuring activity, you’re not measuring sales, you’re not measuring margin, then it’s a wish. So, if you’re measuring, then you have the behaviors or the activities that lead to sales, right? And that’s what you try to get people to do.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Right. And there’s the old saying, trust but verify, inspect what you expect. But then, the last one on the O, only 12% of our customers or clients or small business owners actually have a job description for their salespeople, onboarding process, continuous training. They don’t do any of that—

Craig Willett:

Somehow that comes as no surprise. I mean, Corporate America, right, has the ability to do that and has  to to standardize things. Small business, it’s hard for the owner to sit down and write the book on it. So, maybe that’s where somebody like you comes in. You can come in and help with whatever that manual is, or have outside training, because it’s hard as a business owner to be balancing the books, negotiating with the bank, hiring the people, negotiating the contract to purchase your product, ship it, and then you’re supposed to have a sales manual and manage the Salesforce?

Bill Toon Jr.:

Exactly.

Craig Willett:

So—

Bill Toon Jr.:

And you’ve got to juggle it all. But again, I go back to somehow you have to figure out, how do you afford to hire a few people around you that are specialists in this? And it could be a fractional basis. It could be a full-time employee. But there are roles out there that you need to have to be able to run these businesses.

Craig Willett:

So, I guess you could really say that, quite frankly, there isn’t—you can’t afford not to hire somebody in these areas.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Exactly. Whether it’s full-time or it’s fractional or part-time or consulting.

Craig Willett:

Great. If you’re growing revenue, there’s a lot of ways to do it, right? I mentioned one, you just cut prices so much that people are calling you up because you’re giving it away. And that can generate sales as far as unit volume, and potentially dollar volume. But how do you know as a business owner, how do you know as you run a sales organization that you can protect profitability?

Because I think that’s one of the concern business owners have is, “Hey, I’ve hired somebody, and I’m afraid they’re going to give it away. And I don’t want them to give it away, because I’m used to this good profit margin.”

Bill Toon Jr.:

It’s all in the details and the planning. And there has to be a specific plan as to what your revenue is, what your products are, what the profitability is going to be around that. And then, you’ve got to build—once you have your margins and your product and your sales plan built, then you build your compensation to reward your sales people for selling those higher margin products.

Craig Willett:

Oh, I see.

Bill Toon Jr.:

And send them down that path that this is what’s important, but then you take a step further is to where you’re actually having regular reviews of what your revenue is, what your margins are, which products you’re positioning. So, that way you can pivot or adjust and if it’s going down that wrong path of profitability.

Craig Willett:

So, that’s why I have the checks and balances in place and have a system that allows you to maintain that profitability. How much leeway do you give a sales force on pricing?

Bill Toon Jr.:

Each business in each industry is different. And it really depends on how much margin they have in the first place, how much competition is out there, what the market pricing is giving you. It depends on what you’ve defined as your value proposition in the marketplace and how many people have an illness—companies have an illness, that you’re the only one that can provide that cure.

Craig Willett:

Oh, okay. So, you have a lot of ability to maintain pricing.

Bill Toon Jr.:

You have.

Craig Willett:

When you’re unique.

Bill Toon Jr.:

But the two additional points on that, I think that are real important is you’ve got to avoid that slippery slope of discounts. Of always meeting them on price, because all that means is you don’t have the right value proposition.

Craig Willett:

Right, because you’re not valuing your product enough, how is somebody else going to?

Bill Toon Jr.:

Exactly. And you’ve got to stand firm on what your value proposition is. You’ve got to do your homework in advance, which is a key component of marketing. And the last point I’d make on this subject, is that you really have to have the courage to be able to walk away from that unprofitable customer. And I know back, when I first started, that customers were King and that you do whatever they said. And that’s because there was always plenty of margin, and there weren’t a lot of competitors.

But today, it’s okay to shake hands with a customer and say, I love you, but I don’t have the ability to meet the needs that you have as a company. And maybe we can do business in the future and walk away from it.

Craig Willett:

That takes a lot of character to do that, not everybody wants the sale. So that takes a lot of leadership to be able to do that. Now, you have a lot of experience in Corporate America that probably gives you a pretty good track record in growing revenues and growing profits in divisions. Tell me a few stories that you might have about those experiences that you’ve had in Corporate America that can translate into something practical that small business owners can use.

Bill Toon Jr.:

I have two, I have Dow Chemical and General Electric. And the Dow Chemical, I just love Dow. I love the people, their current President CFO was in my training class at a college.

Craig Willett:

Oh, really?

Bill Toon Jr.:

And, and he’s a great leader, and he belongs where he’s at. But what I loved about Dow is that you had a lot of high IQ people that you were surrounded with a lot of PhDs and chemical engineering, chemistry scientists. And I was blessed to be part of a group that actually went out and invented products that were needed based upon demand, three years, five years, 10 years out.

Bill Toon Jr.:

And that was a global job in two different business units within Dow Chemical. And—

Craig Willett:

So, you learned early on the need to innovate based on future customer needs, so that you are bringing unique product to market.

Bill Toon Jr.:

You’d have channel partners. You’d have other organizations like IBM, who has a slew of PhDs that are working on intellectual property, and that we would bundle with our intellectual property. And if we could build those together, then we could solve a solution. And we did.

The PlayStation 3, five years before it rolled out with those great graphics, it was done because of an invention where we had disruptive technology to replace chemical vapor deposition in the semiconductor manufacturing process with a spin on dielectric, which is completely disruptive. And that was done years in advance and at board level decision-making at Sony, Toshiba, IBM and Dow Chemical.

Craig Willett:

Wow.

Bill Toon Jr.:

So, it was wonderful that you could work with such high IQ people and solve what you knew were going to be the illnesses in the future.

Craig Willett:

I think that’s great, because I hear time and again as I interview people on this podcast that one of the secrets to business success is knowing what your customer’s problems are, and being able to solve them, sometimes even before they really realize what they are and you provide a better way for them to do that. And so, that uniqueness allows you to build revenue and growth. What are some other experiences you’ve had?

Bill Toon Jr.:

The customer intimacy that you just described, second to none back in the GE Plastics days, led by Jack Welch. And I was—

Craig Willett:

What a great business leader he was.

Bill Toon Jr.:

I was there in the early parts of my career. And you knew certain things that you were going to absolutely work 24/7, but you were also going to play 24/7. And it was to the point where, you would have that experience of playing hard, working hard with not only your peers, but also the customers were involved in that.

And you knew, you would never get out hustled on a deal. And that you would throw every bit of resources into that deal to be able to solve that customer’s need. But on the other side of it too, is you knew you would never lose a deal. due to a lack of a relationship and your targeted customer.

Craig Willett:

Really?

Bill Toon Jr.:

There was that much determination and resource put behind it, that you would know that customer, and we’re talking about down to who’s sweeping the floors, up to who’s the CEO of that organization. That you had relationships throughout there, and you were aligning your resources at GE, to the resources of the customer at each level, which is a wonderful experience.

Craig Willett:

I like how you put it because I think that’s really key, it’s the intimate relationship. I think we lose track of that. We think we live in a world where you click to order nowadays, and I think for some commodity-type products, that probably is the best way. But there has to be in the world of small business where you’re offering some unique proposition, whether it’s a service, whether you’re a dentist, or whether you’re a consultant, or you have a new product that you’re manufacturing, you have to intimately understand and know your customer to be able to fulfill their needs.

And I like how you put it to know from the person that sweeps the floor to the person that’s sitting in the boardroom. If you know them and develop that relationship, then you’re going to be able to respond, and you’re going to be able to be evolutionary with your company and continue to develop the product to suit the need.

Bill Toon Jr.:

As an account manager, I was able to change a territory in two-and-a-half years, from 4 million in revenue to 17 million in revenue.

Craig Willett:

Whoa, whoa, wait a minute. Let’s hear about that.

Bill Toon Jr.:

And then, I—

Craig Willett:

How did you do that?

Bill Toon Jr.:

That was a wonderful experience. The first when I walked in there, I called customers and they would hang up on me the minute I told them I work for General Electric. I was so proud to work for them.  And I’d call them back and I’d finally get them to say, listen, I’m not the guy that they fired before me, I’m a different person. And then, I found out that they had this productivity selling technique where I could bring other resources throughout the whole General Electric Company to my little plastics customer in Rio Rico, Arizona as an example. And be able to go in there and bring in an expert that could do set up time reduction for the injection molding machines and the presses.

Craig Willett:

Wow.

Bill Toon Jr.:

And if I could help them save money, then all I asked was for equal, and whatever I saved in competitor share, or can I raise your prices half of what I saved you. And obviously it was a win-win for everybody.

Craig Willett:

Wow.

Bill Toon Jr.:

And I started doing that everywhere. And all of a sudden, the value and the relationships at every level in that organization became something that allowed us to generate more revenue and knock out competitors.

Craig Willett:

I like that thought because people are on new technology, little leery to make a major investment upfront. So, if you offer to partner with them, “Hey, we’ll bring the solution, and if we save you money, we just want to partner then. We’re going to take the risk and we’re going to share in the revenue. So, you didn’t just increase the units of sales or the number of occurrences, you just actually took something evolutionary that was saving them money and were able to grow revenue based on a different way of looking at the revenue model.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Exactly. And you’d have six sigma black belts that would accompany you and it was all process related. And again, I go back to, if you love your customers, you’ll eventually understand what’s keeping them up at night. And whether it’s in accounting, their books, I even took forklifts off of customer’s books and did a lease—buy-leaseback with them.

Craig Willett:

Wow. So, you found ways—I like that, because so often I think it’s easy to get stuck in this. Here’s the revenue model. Here’s my revenue proposition to you. But I think it takes more than that. I think it takes being able to look at what is revenue, and why would someone be willing to pay me for this. And sometimes we have to put that model upside down. So, you went from, was it 4 million to 17 million?

Bill Toon Jr.:

Correct. In about two-and-a-half years, and really set the foundation for my sales career that’s it’s more than features and benefits. It’s a value proposition. It’s a complete package of that relationship between the two of us.

Craig Willett:

I like that, because I think that’s a key for small business owners to step back and look at, “Am I  pricing right for what I do? And am I really delivering a product that is making a difference? And if so, how can I price that best?”  Because so often, we think, oh, it’s second nature to us. I’m solving a problem. I know how to do that in my sleep, but to them, they haven’t been able to solve it. So, there’s got to be a way to capture that premium.

Now, that leads me, I thought, when you first told me that, and I don’t know who else is watching today would have thought the same thing I was thinking. And that is, “Oh, so you went from 4 million to 17 million.” I thought, “Okay, you went in and hired three more salespeople and trained them.” But that’s not what your answer was.

Craig Willett:

But I do think it’s important to talk about managing a sales force, because there’s a lot of businesses who have that chance in the first three to five years of being in business to have more than one salesperson. And how do you do that? How do you go through the process of managing a sales team?

Bill Toon Jr.:

To manage a sales team, trust is number one. There has to be a trusting relationship, no matter what your title is, amongst everybody on that team. And that’s a leader’s responsibility to create that environment of trust. And—

Craig Willett:

So, you’re talking within the team, or also within the company?

Bill Toon Jr.:

I’m talking about anybody. As an example, you have a sales leader and you have a sales team. But they’ve got to be able to trust the sales leaders, boss or vice president, they have to be able to trust people that are in support roles. And it just has to build this environment of collaboration, trust, trial and error. It’s okay. And it’s transparent and it’s authentic leadership.

Craig Willett:

Because we live in a different world today, I don’t think there’s a lot of trust, anywhere. So, how do you engender that from the beginning? I mean, even starting with a sales force of one or two. How do you develop that trust?

Bill Toon Jr.:

But you know what, it becomes communication, communication, and if I didn’t mention communication, that—

Craig Willett:

Oh, really?

Bill Toon Jr.:

It has an open communication. But I also believe—just like I believe that the best salesperson is the one who listens 90% of the time to the customer, and doesn’t sit there and talk. And I think that a leader has that responsibility also, that they talk less than their people. And because they’re hearing, and they’re putting pieces of the puzzle together as to what’s going on in that team or in that individual’s life, both personal and professional, and truly understanding that person, so you can actually give them guidance, coach them, and help them in their journey within their career.

Craig Willett:

So, taking an authentic interest in the people tends to build the trust.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Exactly, exactly.

Craig Willett:

If you’re struggling to figure out how to have people gain trust in you, right, they have to trust you, so you have to take an interest in them to where they feel that you care.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Exactly. And a spinoff of that communication, though, also is you’ve got to have that, that rhythm of communication of feedback, both positive and development feedback. And I know my cadence and my rhythm is to have a weekly conversation with the sales team, and then have a monthly recap, and then have official documented quarterly and annual reviews that are working on their strengths, given the data. That’s not opinion, it’s factual, here’s the data. And then, on the business development or the development needs of that person, the personal development needs, that they can sit in an elevator with the CEO at the end of the year. And within that elevator ride, they can tell that CEO what their strengths are and what their development needs are and what they’re doing to build upon both of those areas.

Craig Willett:

Wow. That’s pretty good. So build on the strengths, identify where the weaknesses are and development opportunities and identify, and encourage it.

Bill Toon Jr.:

And many times, those development needs aren’t because the person’s imperfect and has done something wrong. It’s just where they are in their evolution of their career.

Craig Willett:

And I think that’s a healthy way to look at it, otherwise it could come back to be a little perplexing.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Probably the last thing I’d say in this would be have fun, make work fun. And I’ve always told my wife that if I’m laughing and if I’m cracking jokes and having a good time, that means that there’s money in the bank. It’s because—

Craig Willett:

So, she knows to get serious when you’re not.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Exactly. And she’s given me guidance in my career before, that, “Hey, you haven’t been laughing lately. How’s it going at work?”

Craig Willett:

That’s interesting.

Bill Toon Jr.:

It becomes true.

Craig Willett:

Yeah, and have fun. Sometimes I think—I had a friend, he told me he started a business and in the business he had—it was a sales organization—but he had a slide that people could slide down. I think of that as fun. But I think the fun you’re talking about is really enjoying what you’re doing, enjoying the relationships you’re building, enjoying the people you’re interacting with.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Yeah. And a great sales leader will actually develop competitive-type scenarios within the team. And we’ll have contests, we’ll have trips that we’ll go on as a team. I was blessed to go to a lot of Masters golf tournaments when I was at GE.

Craig Willett:

Hey, lucky you.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Yeah. Been to Toronto Winter Olympics on GE due to a contest.

Craig Willett:

Wow.

Bill Toon Jr.:

I mean, there’s all sorts of things that—

Craig Willett:

And small business owners probably can’t afford those types of trips, but they can probably do something.

Bill Toon Jr.:

They can do something. And there’s two things really that drive employee satisfaction. One is just a general recognition, that they’re valued, that they’re loved, that they want them there, and that you appreciate what they’re doing. But there’s also just some sort of reward. And it could just be small. It could be a dinner for you and your wife or something like that, and as an award for hitting a milestone.

Craig Willett:

Wow, that’s an interesting perspective. Even the small things matter. That little recognition, getting something that maybe others didn’t get, but to you personally recognizing, “Hey, you did it.” I know, I talked to somebody the other day, who was an employee and started out in the factory. And he said that the owner liked him and wanted him around and bought him a whole life insurance policy just to try to show him how much he appreciated him and wanted to keep him there.

Something that others weren’t getting, not that he felt he was better than others, but the owner certainly recognized some leadership characteristic. He came to become the president and CEO of the company someday, starting out in probably one of the entry level jobs. But, yeah, you never know what they’re going to become.

Craig Willett:

And when you trust and believe in someone, that’s a really strong motivation. I like that.

Bill Toon Jr.:

You do that for your child, why wouldn’t you do it for an employee? That’s putting food on your table.

Craig Willett:

That’s a great observation. So, I’m wondering, we talked a little bit about sales, I’m wondering about marketing. Marketing is an evasive term, because it’s so all encompassing. And you mentioned some CRM, customer relationship management, tools that are out there. But what role does a marketing plan play in developing or growing your revenue?

Bill Toon Jr.:

So, I’ve got a marketing degree. And it’s interesting that what I was taught in marketing versus what marketing is today is completely different.

Craig Willett:

Really?

Bill Toon Jr.:

Today is more of an IT-type of role, heavy, technical, very digital-driven. And right now, marketing really plays a key role in the top of the sales funnel for the sales team. That they’ve got to bring in qualified leads, they’ve got to be experts in influencing social media, use of AI, use of drip campaigns. I mean, all these different types of digital or electronic marketing that’s involved. But then, marketing also plays a critical role in developing the language that you’re going to communicate to the outside.

Craig Willett:

So, there’s a message, there’s a brand.

Bill Toon Jr.:

A lot of that’s branding, and again, developing that value proposition. Because—

Craig Willett:

So, that takes it a little bit away from the digital. So there is still this creative, come up with what’s going to resonate with your target audience, your target market, but then there’s also the implementation of how do you harvest and identify leads within that target market.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Exactly. And so, you really depend on marketing to develop that customer persona, that then becomes a qualified lead that is done through the digital marketing side. And once you’ve defined all of that, and man, it’s about messaging. It’s about creating that communication, both internal and external.

Craig Willett:

I like that in some respects, because I know I’ve been the—I don’t want to say victim—but I’ve been identified that way by people who’ve been able to get me to see messages often enough to where I respond and buy something. But sometimes you don’t want to be overwhelmed by it either, though. There’s sometimes too much contact can be a little bit annoying. What do you say about that?

Bill Toon Jr.:

And especially when it’s automatic, it’s AI-driven. I’ve got—when I do some lead generation and mining, I’ve got strict instructions on how we build it, that I want to reach out once like on LinkedIn, and LinkedIn Navigator. I want to reach out once, if they connect with me, there’s many software programs that tell you within a nanosecond, then send them a second message and say thank you for connecting and that. And then, everybody knows that that’s like a bot. And that one that—

Craig Willett:

That’s doing that right.

Bill Toon Jr.:

So, I want it to be more human. And I’ll either do it myself, the second reach out, or I’ll have instructions that wait a day or two, and let our connection sink in, and then approach them like a human being would do.

Craig Willett:

Oh, wow, I think that’s great. That’s interesting that you can make it more personable, because I think that’s one of the dangers. But one of the things I’m walking away today as I sit here, and say, if I were starting a small business today, or I owned one right now, I would definitely try to get to understand artificial intelligence. Start to understand and implement—because there are a lot for small businesses of this customer relationship management, CRM software out there. But make sure you personalize it and make sure you bring it to a personal level so that you’re using it as a reminder and as a motivation, not as an annoyance.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Right. And truly—versus when I’ve got my marketing degree—today, truly is a global customer base, that you physically can’t do it by yourself and get to everybody or do your messaging. That’s why you have to use social media, which is also a global platform. And also your digital marketing becomes that and you can get overwhelmed if you try to do it all by yourself.

Craig Willett:

Yeah, that’s a lot for a business owner to undertake unless they really, that’s all they want to do all day long. So, how do you develop—what are some keys to developing a marketing and sales program this cohesive?

Bill Toon Jr.:

You’ve really got to get down into the weeds and you have to be specific and well-defined about what your products are, who your competitors are, what type of margin you want to have, the KPIs that you’re going to use, your sales processes.

Craig Willett:

So, these are really the fundamentals of starting a business. Anyway, you have to know what problem your product solves and who is going to be your user. It’s easy to say, “Oh, everybody will want to use my product,” but that’s a fallacy.

Bill Toon Jr.:

It is.

Craig Willett:

There’s no way you can be all things to everyone. And so, when you define those, you really—once you have those defined though, how do you implement it? So, you get into the weeds, but sometimes it’s easy to stay in the weeds. So, how do you get out of the weeds then to implement?

Bill Toon Jr.:

We go back to what I’ve been preaching about the over communication. And that’s communicating within your organization as to what products and services you had, and also educating the outside world that you have specific niche that you solve problems in. But that leads into the value proposition. That there’s, as I stated before, not many companies still today, when I’m talking to companies, I asked about their value proposition and they bluntly throw out something of what they do.

Bill Toon Jr.:

And then, I’ll go and I’ll ask another person in the organization, I’ll get a different answer there. Ask another person, and you get all these different stories of what they think that the value proposition is. But that’s one of the first things that I like to do with my clients is let’s really define what the value proposition is, so we’re on the same page. So, everybody’s customer facing and everybody has the same message.

Craig Willett:

That’s interesting. You know what I’ve done successfully in one of my businesses, is I went out and I trademarked the value proposition. And it became what we put on our signs, what we put in all of our messaging, and that is “Own for Less than Rent.” And that was for office buildings. But that was the value proposition and everyone knew it.

And so, when a sales call came in, the sales force knew how to orient them to understand and walk them through that process of owning for less than rent, and it made marketing messaging easier. It also made the buying properties easier. It made hiring contractors easier because we all had one common goal. And we knew who our target markets were that we were after.

Bill Toon Jr.:

So, you knew the segments that you were playing in and who the customers were in that. And then, it sounds to me, like the final point I’d have on this is that everything is actionable. And like an HGE leader and then he went allied to Larry Bossidy when he just made it real simple: plan, execute, and deliver.

Craig Willett:

Yeah.

Bill Toon Jr.:

If you had a detailed plan, then it’s a matter of everybody pinning their ears back, going out and executing it. And the natural byproduct of that execution is that you’re delivering whatever your commitments are.

Craig Willett:

Right. Yeah, you deliver your commitments. You deliver results to the company. You deliver exceptional product to the customer.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Exactly.

Craig Willett:

That’s interesting. I like that. So, I think there’s one thing to where it really has to start. And I don’t know if this is hiring your first sales person. But when I think of small businesses that I associate with, one of the challenges is going from somebody who might be charismatic, and a good salesperson, as a business owner or entrepreneur, to being able to delegate that to somebody else.

And hiring, basically, your first sales manager, somebody that you’re going to bring in, to not only take over your role in selling, but also being able to then recruit and train and execute with the Salesforce. What are some keys to being able to hire? Because I think that’s a stumbling block a lot of small business owners—it’s easy to get sold by somebody coming in, a  sales person. But how do know it’s the right fit? And how do you find—what are the characteristics of a good sales manager?

Bill Toon Jr.:

That’s a sales leader, as people work for people. And if you keep that in mind, that sales leader has got to be a great recruiter. They’ve got to be great at cultivating and developing relationships. They’ve got to be able to mentor, coach, and have almost like the sports background of a football coach, where you have that mentality that you have a bunch of players. You’re going to have to communicate with them, you’re going to have to cultivate them, you’re going to have to mentor them, you’re going to have to coach them. But you also need to set a vision. So, that sales leader has got to be able to stand at the forefront and say, “This is where we’re going, this is why we’re going there and enjoy that we’re going to be on this journey,” and then set those goals, be able to hold people accountable for those goals. And while they’re holding them accountable, they’re still inspiring them. They’re still leading them. And they’re still making it fun in this whole journey of selling, which really is just another competitive sport event in my mind that it has all those attributes, right?

Craig Willett:

Right.

Bill Toon Jr.:

The people that are playing as well as the people that are coaching—

Craig Willett:

Isn’t that what you help do, though, now with your sales acceleration program? Your ideas to be able to help business owners identify the talent, the direction they need, but it also helps identify talent and bring in, help them hire these types of people, right?

Bill Toon Jr.:

Yeah. There’s almost not a word for what I’m doing. Because a consultant will come in, ask a bunch of questions, write a report, hand it to the owner and say, “Hey, good luck.”

Craig Willett:

Right.

Bill Toon Jr.:

And here’s the bill. Now, with what I do is I go in and ask the same questions. But then I say, “Hey, owner, if they want to stay involved in the business and want to still lead the sales team, let me just spend three or four months here, and work on the infrastructure.” Everything we’ve talked about, the SAMO, right, the strategy, the analysis, the methodology, the organization, which includes the people.

Bill Toon Jr.:

And I don’t believe anybody wakes up in the morning and kisses their spouse, their dog, their friend, or whatever and says, “Hey, I’m going to go to work today for 12 hours, and I’m going to absolutely be terrible and I’ll see you tonight.”

Craig Willett:

Right.

Bill Toon Jr.:

I think people get up in the morning, they want to achieve, it’s the human nature to be successful. And so, they go to work, they want to be in an environment that’s fun, that has great organization, has a great value proposition to their targeted customer base. But then, has a leader that has all these people skills but isn’t afraid to hold people accountable. Because I think that’s the key to this whole thing is that you’ve got to set the processes in place.

And then the last two things that really make a key sales leader is in today’s world, you’ve got to be technology-minded. You’ve got to be able to understand the CRM, understand how to gain insights on it on your KPIs, and metrics—

Craig Willett:

So, I’m taking notes on this. I know now I’ve got some characteristics. They have to have experience in these areas.

Bill Toon Jr.:

They do. And they have—

Craig Willett:

And they have to be willing to hold people accountable for activities and actions and results.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Yup, exactly. And then, the last thing that I’d say is that, that sales leader has got to be somebody that has a thirst for knowledge, for continuing education. And why? Not only to keep up with all the tools and the processes, and the inventions that are happening throughout different industries. It isn’t just a high-tech description I’m giving you.

This has happened in the chemical industry, real estate. It’s happening in many locations. But they’ve got to have this thirst for new knowledge and be a sponge, so they can teach and coach it to the people. The sales manager gets into a car, goes on an account call, they’ve got this windshield time that they can educate and coach and teach after they find out that they may be struggling with a certain technology.

Craig Willett:

Oh, wow. So, they can help identify and help bring them along with the tools that are out there that can help them increase their performance.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Exactly. So, I work on the infrastructure three or four months, but then there’s a lot of times it has an owner that says, sales is not my expertise. It isn’t something I enjoy. It’s not sales. And—

Craig Willett:

Sales, I hate rejection. So, can you find someone who will take it for me, right?

Bill Toon Jr.:

So, what I’ll do is I’ll stay a total of the year. I’ll work three or four months on the infrastructure, then I’ll run on a fractional basis, part-time. Be there weekly. I’ll work on their sales team, and that’s from hiring salespeople, holding them accountable, making strategy, comp plans, sales processes.

Craig Willett:

I like this fractional thing, because it seems easier for a business owner to take that on as a, financially, when it’s not looking at making a full-time hiring decision. And then, how do you hire your replacement, though, when you go, because at some point, the company is going to become dependent on you for that leadership. And I’m sure you don’t have time to work for them full time. So, how do you go about bringing somebody along?

Bill Toon Jr.:

Well, I think that if you’re doing the proper job internally while you’re there as a fractional sales leader, that you can develop talent to be able to take over for you. And then, in the chance that you’ve identified something or someone, then I’ve got a program to where I actually put them through a certified sales leadership program, and start grooming them and giving them these opportunities.

And at the tail end of my engagement, I empower them and I’m more sitting back watching them and giving observation as they start going. So, I transition from coaching just to salespeople to it becomes a coaching a sales leader, and then allows me to transition. And on the other end, we may have to go out and hire somebody and bring him in that I would do that with plenty of notice, because it takes a good three months to find the right person and bring him in, onboard them and get that cadence going, that you’ve worked so hard on that infrastructure to get into place.

Craig Willett:

Right. And if you don’t hire right, then that drops off and you start all over again.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Exactly.

Craig Willett:

And that’s the risk, I think, to small business owners is, sometimes one of the keys is to bring in outside expertise on a part time basis to help get there. And it’s like putting the training wheels on. Like you said, get a cadence, get things up and going smoothly, and then try to maintain that and keep it and grow it.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Exactly.

Craig Willett:

Very good. Well, no one can come on the Biz Sherpa podcast without being asked, probably the most embarrassing question that I always ask. And that is, what is your greatest failure? But there’s a follow up to it—what do you learn from it—because I think in their lives, a lot of secrets to success.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Absolutely. But when you asked me that question, I can come into something that’s near and dear to my heart in the last several years. In 2015, I moved my wife and a couple of kids from New Hampshire to Utah, and thought that it would just be a year. That I’d get transferred out with my company or find another job. And then, all of a sudden, our business exploded, which was positive.

Bill Toon Jr.:

All the changes that I put into place for three or four years of hard work were now coming to fruition. And we were making a lot of money. My division became one of the top divisions in the company. And our turnover went from 78% on the sales team down to 30%.

Craig Willett:

Wow.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Which was below industry average. And we had all these great things going. And I just kept commuting for another four years. But in that time, my father passes away in 2016 and I had to say goodbye to him on FaceTime, because I couldn’t get back to Arizona in time because it happened so quickly. And then, at the end of 2017, and I share this without shame, I share it so that parents can really pay attention and understand that it could happen anywhere, but at the end of 2017 while I’m in a hotel in Indiana, I get a call from my wife at 2:00 a.m. telling me that my daughter is on life support. My 25-year old daughter.

Craig Willett:

Oh, wow.

Bill Toon Jr.:

And she’s dying of a heroin overdose.

Craig Willett:

Oh, no.

Bill Toon Jr.:

And it’s not an addict. It’s not somebody that stole. This was a beautiful woman that was going to school and was working and went to a party and just didn’t come home.

Craig Willett:

Wow.

Bill Toon Jr.:

So, you ask about a failure, that especially when that happened, knowing that I was commuting, and putting work over my personal life, it causes all these what ifs in your life. What if I would have been there? What if I would have been more intimate with the situation? What if that night, I would have called her from my hotel room? All these things that you ask yourself, when it’s such a tragedy, and I’m telling you that, that took three years to get out of that funk of the death of a daughter, and especially in a manner where you possibly could have really helped out.

Craig Willett:

Wow. That’s life changing.

Bill Toon Jr.:

It is.

Craig Willett:

And sobering.

Bill Toon Jr.:

It is.

Craig Willett:

To think about.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Then you ask the question of what do you learn from that? I’ll go back to what I said about the non-negotiable part of a balance in life, that you’ve got that quadrant of faith, family, personal, and work. I let that get out of balance. And unfortunately, it cost me something pretty, pretty dear to me. And it took me a long time to get out of that mental part of it. My work never suffered. In fact, I jumped into work more than ever to hide from it.

Craig Willett:

Right.

Bill Toon Jr.:

Instead of addressing it. And I was blessed to have great leaders at my employer that finally came to me and said, “Hey, you need to go home and here’s a package.”

Craig Willett:

Wow. That’s a blessing right there. Not many people can be that honest. And I think it’s really great that you’re honest about that. I know, you said almost a forced structure in there to where you get that balance. And I can understand that it’s really easy, especially for business owners having been one. My wife tells me—I spent a lot of time.

One time, she said, “You’re going to spend more time with the important people and your children are going to grow up and not know their dad.” And so, I can relate to what you say. I changed. I resigned from a lot of different things and scaled back and changed some of the focus of my life. But it’s real easy to get out of there.

And whether it’s forced on us, or whether we view it as an opportunity to bring that balance because things are more important than the business success, more important than the money. And I’m sure as I listen to you, Bill, it’s a heart-wrenching moment to think about a daughter that you wonder, what could I have done? What if? And could I have had a better relationship, would she still be alive?

Bill Toon Jr.:

Exactly.

Craig Willett:

I’ve never had to face that. But I think it brings a whole different level of intimacy, a whole different level of engagement with the people you do interact with. That personal level you talked about. That intimate relationship with the customer, with the people you work with. How has that made a difference in the last two or three years?

Bill Toon Jr.:

Yeah, it’s made a big difference. During those days of GE, where you were working from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., and then working really hard but playing really hard and everything, I always had in the back of my mind that if I ever ran a team, I would force balance. And I did do that.

When I became a leader, I forced where, when I was traveling, and I traveled a lot to my sales team especially in my last leg of Corporate America with Schwan’s Home Service, that I would travel to all of our remote locations. But I would not let the leader go to dinner with me. I made them go home or go to the gym or go do whatever they want.

That I just wanted them during the day. We work really hard, we get everything done. And then, I would go back to the hotel by myself or whatever. I didn’t need them. I wanted them to have balance in their life.

Craig Willett:

Oh, wow. That’s a great concept. And I think it’s something we can all use. Bill, I’m grateful that you’d take the time today. This has been a wonderful insight into what it takes to be successful in sales and marketing, and how to build that inside of a smaller organization. And I think you’ve offered some great tips. I know it’s taken a lot out of your time and schedule, but I appreciate you doing this.

Bill Toon Jr.:

And I want to thank you for doing this, for giving back to the community with what you’ve done and taking your experience and allow people to have some platform to share best practices and help others, so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Craig Willett:

Well, I appreciate that. You got the gist of the purpose of the Biz Sherpa. It’s to inspire entrepreneurship and business ownership and to do it in a successful manner. Or if you’re a business owner already, sharpen that saw so that you can do an even better job. And I think the experiences of others, I think are the greatest teachers.

We could put together a book but I didn’t want to write a book. This is really about real-life people and experiences. And I think as you, as business owners connect with others, you’ll find that. You’ll sense that there’s a human connection that transcends dollars, cents, products and services. And people feel that and people—and you said at the beginning, people want to do business with people.

Bill Toon Jr.:

That’s right.

Craig Willett:

And so, I appreciate you being here today, you’re a good friend. And I’m grateful that we had this opportunity. This is Craig Willett, the Biz Sherpa. Thanks for joining us for this episode.

Speaker 1:

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