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I was wrong about sales, 3 things I learned that doubled revenue in 2022

I’m going to be honest with you: I hated sales.

I began my career in customer support, and often felt like we were cleaning up messes sales reps created. And we were underpaid to boot!

Never mind the number of times sales reps would @here in our support Slack channel about the totally super urgent question (but also could answered by a help doc if they tried looking).

This aversion to sales stunted my growth in the early years of building Centori, but let’s be honest: I also sucked at it.

I was terrible at cold email, I was too afraid to cold call, and when the stars aligned and someone requested a demo, I bungled it.

I got all kinds of advice - get over myself, just do it, hire someone, outsource it… but being hard-headed I never followed through on it. Earlier this year I put my pride and prejudice aside, and decided that I better learn to appreciate sales otherwise I’d never get Centori off the ground.

I’m now at 6 straight months of closing new customers and more than doubling revenue from last year I can say with confidence that I was (mostly) wrong about sales. It works, it doesn’t have to be terrible, and there’s a lot more to it than spam emailing.

In fact, sales starts from the minute someone hits your website to getting on a call with you. Here’s 3 lessons I learned to turn things around.

1) Learn good (enough) copy

You don’t have to join Mad Men, but you do need to know your way around a web page. There are two things I’ve learned that will radically transform your copy:

  1. Be clear, not clever
  2. Make it about them, not you

Be clear, not clever

I’ve tried dozens of ‘landing page formulas’ and lists of ‘power words that convert like crazy’ but none of them worked. Here’s what they don’t tell you: clear is better than clever, and clear will sell.

So many people try to be cute or clever because see big brands doing it. Here’s the catch though, no one buys the big brands because their copy. They buy them because they are the big brands.

If you are not a known entity, you had better be clear if you want to sell. Good copy is hard, but by being halfway decent at copy you’d be surprised by how far you can get.

I wasted a lot of money on landing pages that were clever. It wasn’t until I prioritized clarity and brevity that things started to take off. Our H1 in 2019 was “It's content marketing, not rocket science.” Now it’s “SEO is a zero sum game. We’ll help you win it”

It’s still a bit clever, but it’s also much more clear. And it sells.

The original h1 does not tell you anything about what we do, or what you’ll get from us. The second does (winning at SEO, and we’ll help you). We get more traffic than we did in 2019, but we convert at a much higher rate due to this one simple change.

Make it about them, not you

People care way more about themselves than you.

I know, we all have awesome products that we care about - but it’s the cold, hard, truth. It’s also a strength, because if you talk about your customer instead of yourself you will see a massive improvement in your copy.

I made this mistake. All I talked about was how great our SEO tool is, and how awesome our SEO coaching is, and we’ve got keyword research tools, and analytics tools… and you’re already bored.

By focusing on the problem my customers have (no traffic from Google, no idea how to get more), and the problem in the state of the world (SEO can be really hard and crowded), I can position our framework for building an SEO strategy as the key to success.

Already that’s a lot more interesting! It’s also different from what most other companies in our niche are doing, therefore we stand out.

These two principles made the biggest difference in my copy, and I know they’ll make a difference in yours. If you trim the fat and pivot it over to your customer from yourself you will see results. Try it for one week and see how it goes.

2) Make it dead-simple for people to take the first step

Once you’ve hooked them with copy, now it’s time to make it dead simple to convert.

There’s two things here:

  1. Make it obvious
  2. Make it a no-brainer

Make it obvious

Far too often I see web pages with one CTA, or even worse multiple and all for different things.

Put a big CTA on your website, and throughout your homepage, all directing the visitor to do one thing. Whatever that one thing is, it depends on your sales process. The key is to make it one thing.

Having too many CTAs is confusing and diverts where your leads are going. Confusion costs you leads, you need one action for them to take and it needs to be simple.

For us, that one thing is a free consultation (more on that below), for you it could be a demo, or to sign up for free. It depends on what you’re selling and what your customer needs to know or do before they buy.

Make it a no-brainer

We’re past the bright-eyed view of the web and buyers are skeptical. You need to make the value crystal clear, and show that there is indeed something in it for them.

“Talk to Sales” is a boring CTA. So is “View pricing”. I know HubSpot uses it, but people don’t buy HubSpot because the copy wow’d them (what the hell does ‘Grow better’ mean, anyway). For folks like us that no one has ever heard of, you need a carrot at the end of the stick.

For us, ‘Book a free consultation’ gets the job done. It implies that they will get something for free (they do), and it allows me to vet them as a buyer. It’s a win-win.

3) Educate, don’t convince

This one is the biggie. It was also the most transformative lesson for me in how I approached sales.

Remember the story from the start of this article? I thought sales was some sort of malicious trickery. It can be, but sales can also be about guiding your prospects to make the best buying decision possible. That means educating them. While I’m a pretty bad liar, I am good at education and this approach was right up my alley.

I did a fair amount of sales calls in 2021-the first half of 2022 and while I had a decent close rate (they are high-intent after all) that’s nothing compared to my close rate in the past few months.

Instead of just having a 30-minute discovery call that peters out into “uhh I dunno would you like a demo?” I offer a free 45 minute consultation which allows for 15 minutes of discovery and then a 30 minute training.

This training follows a simple formula:

  1. State the problem
  2. Show the path forward to the solution
  3. Share a case study of following that solution
  4. Present yourself as the guide to bring them there

Here’s how it works for us, for example:

  1. The web is extremely crowded and most people get nothing from SEO
  2. You need a strategy and to think differently about your website
  3. Customer A had a 1000% increase in organic traffic, and customer B beats Amazon in their product category
  4. We offer coaching and software to implement this framework and support your team, would you like a demo?

In the past 4 months after implementing this, my close rate from these calls is north of 50% and I've more than doubled revenue from last year. I’m still doing around 1-2 consultations/month, the difference is I’m actually able to close them with this formula.

Again, these are high-intent calls because they booked a 45-min consultation however I will say that this works so well that I had someone who started the call saying they weren’t interested in buying and they ended up making a pitch to their CEO as to why they needed to work with us.

If you really believe that your product/service will make a positive difference in someone’s life, this call is where you educate them on how and show that you care.

I don’t want to just drop a deck here for the whole world to see, but if you leave a comment with your email address below I’ll send you a copy.

Resources that helped me and may help you

I hope this is helpful in your own sales journey. I learned these three things over the past year but they did not come out of thin air. I’m a big reader, and found the following books extremely helpful:

  • The Ultimate Sales Machine by the late Chet Holmes. There’s a revised edition but even the original edition is absolutely fantastic on its own.
  • Marketing made Simple and Building the Storybrand Framework by Donald Miller. Miller is a brilliant writer, and truly does make marketing (and marketing messaging) dead-simple.
  • The Copywriter’s Handbook - just a good all-around book on the art of selling with words.
  1. 1

    Thank you for the piece, do you have a similar list of resources on landing page conversion?

    1. 1

      No problem!

      That's pretty broad, got anything in particular you're interested in? I found the book 'Marketing made Simple' to very helpful for landing page copy.

  2. 1

    Consultative Sales will always win the day - as you have pointed out. The consultative role places your (potential) customer at the centre of discussion and why they are looking for you to help them solve a problem. Would you like a sure fire way to kick your SEO services up a notch - Contextually Accurate, Objective and Relevant Metadata (Keywords / Tags) from any subject matter text - Automatically? I can show you how in a matter of minutes - for FREE ! Drop me a note... Success@Doc-Tags.com Cheers, Rod

    1. 1

      Thanks!

      Just a bit of feedback: around 3% or so of people will be in the 'buy now' mode where they are interested in buying what you are selling, the other 97% are not actively looking to buy (learned from the Ultimate Sales Machine). You read one post I wrote and immediately jump into selling me something, and here's the problem:

      • I'm not problem aware, I don't have this problem
      • I'm definitely not solution aware, and not looking for a solution
      • I don't use Word, so I can't use this product
      • Too much jargon, I don't know what 'Contextually Accurate, Objective and Relevant Metadata' means and I don't see how that solves my problems

      Before you jump to the sale, add value to ME, yes I know this is selfish but most people are (even if they do not admit it). Selling me your product does not add value, but taking a moment to learn about my problems or provide a (educational) solution that solves my problems does.

      I mean all this advice to be helpful, it does seem like an interesting product even though it's not for me. The best thing you can do is identify your target persona, and create something of value for them that showcases why they need your product.

  3. 1

    Awesome piece. Thankyou

  4. 1

    Solid idea. Thank you for sharing.

  5. 1

    Hey, great to hear you’re having success with this! Closing rate of 50% is VERY good - in most industries it’s more around 1%. I.e. for every 100 calls you might set 1 appointment. Are we talking about the same thing here, or did you mean something else?

    1. 1

      Thanks!

      To clarify, I'm not cold calling - this is my close rate for inbound leads to customers. So when someone comes to the site, converts, and sets up a call my close rate for those calls is 50%.

      1. 1

        Thanks for clarifying! That totally makes sense now :)

  6. 1

    Great write up, this is exactly what i needed, thanks :)

    1. 1

      Thanks glad it's helpful!

  7. 1

    Great analysis. We made it clear! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. 1

      Thanks glad it's helpful!

  8. 1

    That write-up is really awesome, thanks for that Tyler. My favorite part is "Be clear, not clever". This is not only applicable for writing copy, but in so many other areas, e.g. logos. People put so much thought into their logos art and try to tinker with creative negative-space etc and at the end it is this overcomplicated doodle that no one will ever remember.

    1. 1

      Thanks! That's probably the best, but hardest, lesson. It also makes the biggest difference IMO. I use Hotjar to keep up to date on how people interact with my website and the difference between clever and clear was pretty substantial in people scrolling down the page or clicking through to our pricing page.

      Copy is a fluid thing too. I think a lot of people feel they need to get it right when you can (and should) experiment to see what sticks.

      Glad this is all helpful, and best of luck in keeping things clear over clever!

      1. 1

        Hotjar is great, but I am too deep in 'mouseflow' which has helped me a lot to see where people are confused. Can highly recommend

  9. 1

    Hmm would u think this would work in cold mailing(your last part)

    1. 1

      It depends on a lot of factors, but mainly on your ideal customer profile.

      Cold email never worked for me because people get a lot of SEO spam emails and outreach so they would immediately tune it out, but I know cold email has worked for other people.

      In the early stages, it's important to focus on what works. For me that's referrals, organic search, and ads, so those are the channels I focus on. I'd give cold email a shot just to see if that's a channel that can work for you, and double down on it if it does work.

      **EDIT

      Just wanted to add, that if you're cold emailing it's best to keep the email short and to the point. Long emails never perform well. Cold emails going for a sale depend on your customer profile and product, one thing I've been toying around with for cold email is to not go for the sale (which every SEO company does) but offer the free training. Chances are slim any random person is at a stage to buy, but they may be more open to joining a free 30minute webinar.

      The point is, experiment with your outreach and funnel until you get something that works.

      1. 1

        Well thanks for reminding me that I'm not the only one who gets EMails like: "Get good seo to be no.1", or "your Website is not assed by google go to xyz".

        I got to know for the first time that we should not go for a sale on first mail(most handbooks that I read says the opposite). No wonder my cold mailing sells are 0.

        1. 1

          No problem! Experiment with it to see what tactics work best. I'd definitely recommend reading the Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes. It's a fantastic primer on sales and shaped the approach I've taken this year.

          1. 1

            Thanks will check it

  10. 1

    Thank you! it is very helpful for me

    1. 1

      No problem, I'm glad to hear it!

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