Ever wonder why Michelin tires took a (seemingly) left turn into publishing restaurant guides? Find out the answer to this and more when you join Verse.io CEO David Tal and Principal Ally at Allies4Me, Craig Andrews, as they sip cocktails (and tea) and discuss the crucial role serving the customer plays in building strong relationships and maintaining customer loyalty.
David Tal: Hello, everybody excited to be with you today and very happy to have the next guest we have with us, Craig Andrews, Principal Ally at Allies4Me. Craig, how you doin’? Welcome to the show.
Craig Andrews: Oh, thank you. I’m doing very well. How about yourself?
David Tal: Doing great. Thank you. It’s been great to meet you at the conference here in Las Vegas and get to spend some time with you and excited to have our team spend more time with your team as well.
Cuz you guys are doing some really interesting things. So for our audience, why don’t you go just a quick high level of what you guys do.
Craig Andrews: Okay. So we’re marketing consultants and we work specifically with people who have high dollar products or services that have long sales cycles that require a high level of trust.
And so the other way we like to put it is, if you can buy it on Amazon, we’re not right for you.
David Tal: So give us a couple examples of some of the types of customers you’re working with. What kinds of products?
Craig Andrews: So in the B2C space, it would be financial advisory services, so the trust is about as high as it gets.
You’re asking somebody to hand over their life savings for you to manage. We do some work in professional liability insurance for attorneys and we’ve done things in hearing aids, which although it’s a consumer good, they’re very expensive. So things that people are gonna take more time in the consideration phase, they’re not gonna go straight to a website and just purchase.
David Tal: Awesome. And tell me a little bit about what your company does specifically for these different businesses.
Craig Andrews: Let me frame it this way. We like to think of things in stages of courtship. You start off with an introduction, then you have a conversation.
If conversation goes well, then you have coffee. If coffee goes well, then you have dinner. And then if dinner goes well, then you have commitment. And we would actually go one step further on the tail end, after somebody becomes a customer, we have a couple stages there that we try to engineer so that they’re delighted.
We have a, what we call a delight stage. And the key element is when somebody makes a big commitment or a big purchase they have buyers remorse and self doubt. And depending upon what type of exit clauses you have from the contract, that can be a scary time. So what we try to do is engineer something after they’ve signed the papers that they don’t know that’s coming. It’s not a deal sweetener, but an extra gift, not a shirt or a mug or some crap like that.
But something that speaks to their core values or their core reason for engaging. And what that does is when you do that, and it comes as a surprise, if you do it well, they realize that your goals are their goals, and It helps put away that buyers remorse and self doubt.
David Tal: That’s awesome. And so kind of sweeten it at the end when it’s unexpected, when it’s not part of the deal, but give ’em a little extra love show ’em you care and really try to fortify that relationship.
Which is what’s gonna build loyalty in the long run. I love what you said about that kind of five steps to commitment. And interestingly very early on in that is conversations, right? Starting conversations, which, I won’t get into cuz that’s what I scream about all day long, and why we’re having conversations and cocktails.
But tell me a little bit about some of what you’ve been seeing with your customers. I know you, you pay a lot of attention to the customer journey in making it one coherent, kind of stream of experience. How do you guys look at that journey and what are you seeing ahead in that field?
Craig Andrews: So the interesting thing is we’re, at some level, if we’re talking about conversations, we’re ripping off a strategy that the Michelin brothers did to sell tires.
I don’t know if you know the origin of the Michelin guide but it goes back to 1900. The Michelin brothers were trying to figure out how to sell tires. And at the time anybody that had an automobile was rich and they had a driver to drive it for ’em. So the Michelin brothers decided they would rate restaurants and ins in the French countryside away from Paris, and they would write it up in a guide and they would give it to the chauffeurs, who then would ingratiate themselves to their bosses.
By saying, Hey, I know this wonderful spot in Deauville and there’s a few restaurants there. Why don’t we drive up to dove for the weekend?
David Tal: There’s a Michelin restaurant there. Isn’t there.
Craig Andrews: Well, that’s the thing. Yeah, that’s the, that’s where Michelin came from.
David Tal: Well, I’m just putting that together.
Craig Andrews: That is the origin of the Michelin stars.
David Tal: Oh wow!
Craig Andrews: And so what happened was the show first became more valuable to their boss. by recommending these wonderful ins and restaurants, and they would drive up to do Ville or wherever, and they’d wear out the tires on the way there, and then they’d drive back and wear out the tires. And when they needed new tires, who were they thinking about?
They were thinking about Michelin.
David Tal: Wow. That is quite the strategy. I didn’t re I didn’t understand that backstory before, so I just thought they pivoted hard. no, from tires to reviewing restaurants and that’s super interesting.
Craig Andrews: What’s bad is, or harder is a lot of people have caught onto this type of content strategy.
So what used to be an UN uncrowded space is now very crowded. And the quality of content that you have to put out and the way you have to position it is getting a lot harder. Yeah. It used to be, you could have, some dopey guide and was the only one on the internet. So everybody would download it.
Now you have competition. Back to your point about conversations, I think the industry term for these things are called lead magnets and we don’t like that term. We kind of find it a little bit mercenary. So we actually call ’em conversation starters. Yeah. So when you’re saying that you’re all about conversations, the content we offer to try and get people engaged, we literally call them “conversation starters.”
David Tal: I love that because I think everyone should be measuring their funnel and progress through the lens of how many conversations are you starting. Too many people talk about leads and I think there’s a whole paradigm shift happening in the marketing world around.
It’s all about how many conversations we’re striking right up with customers. I know it sounds obvious, but so many people look at it too much of a: Step one, step two, step three lead. They look at it as part of a funnel, but it’s the conversation that builds the relationships that wins the business.
Exactly. And so it’s the most important part of it. Very interesting. Yeah. Tell me a little bit about you, you’re in Austin now, but you grew up in Maryland. What took you to Austin?
Craig Andrews: So I took a circuitous route in high school, I was not what they would call a model student.
So I actually went in the Marine Corps for six years outta high school. And the Marines took me a lot of places. Most commonly, they took me to North Carolina. And so when I got outta the Marines, I went to NC state and I lived in North Carolina for a long time. At the time I was doing marketing for semiconductors high tech. And there was a company that had been recruiting me to Austin for a couple years. And finally it made sense. I moved to Austin and ironically, within two years of getting here, they sold our division and they sold it to a big Dutch company.
And I’d worked for a big European company before, and I decided that was better suited for different people. And so I went off and started my own thing.
David Tal: Yeah. And now you’re Principal Ally, which is a title you guys use for president, essentially CEO or president?
Craig Andrews: Well, everybody has a title. And we don’t have a whole lot of title differentiation, but it kind of keeps our focus. We try to do in the same way that we rename lead magnets to conversation starters, because we believe that puts us in the right mindset. The title ally puts us in the right mindset to serve our clients. And so I’m Principal Ally. Everybody’s some type of ally.
We have allies and we have principal allies. Yeah. And that’s about basically it, but yeah, I’m the president of the organization.
David Tal: But talk about. Using nomenclature and words to instill a certain feeling or emotion in your role. I mean, that’s so interesting. I’d love to look at how I can apply that internally.
But I love that you guys do that and you’re so aligned with your mission, which you know is kind of to be your customer’s ally in helping ’em solve their biggest problems.
Craig Andrews: Yeah. And I think it’s, I mean, it may be subtle, but I think it’s so easy to lose track of who we’re serving and the worst person to lose track of is when you quit serving the customer, whether it’s us working through our clients to serve their customers or us serving them, when you get to that point, things start going bad.
Yeah. And it’s just too competitive a world to not be relentlessly focused on serving your customer.
David Tal: Being as consumer centric as possible. Yeah, I know. It’s Amazon’s stated mission, right? To be the most consumer centric company. And I think they’re doing okay. I haven’t checked recently, but I think they’re doing okay.
You said you work with the companies that have big ticket items, long sale cycles. So presumably these are people that aren’t clicking through and buying something automatically like Amazon, right? To your point. They are coming on websites. They are filling out forms and then companies are reaching out to them to qualify them presumably, and book appointments, consultations.
Craig Andrews: Yes. You bring up an interesting point that we’re covering in our talk at the conference today. There’s a huge disconnect that happens between the customer and the sales team when they get on the initial call. So according to HubSpot data, 60% of customers wanna connect during the consideration phase.
So they haven’t made up their mind yet. They’re trying to get better educated so they can make a better decision. Well, sales folks get on the call and they’re trying to qualify ’em. And so you have a little bit of a disconnect. So one of the things in our framework is we say, don’t try to sell your core offer.
When you get on the phone with a prospect, don’t sell the core offer, recognize where they are in the journey. They’re trying to self-educate. And so we have something we call a first time offer, which is like a coffee date in that relationship model, low risk, low commitment. It has a number of traits, but one of the things it does, it helps the prospect self educate so they can make a better decision.
Now you hope they choose you, but you have to give ’em the freedom, again, mindset of serving the customer. You have to structure it so they have the freedom to decide not to work with you at the end of that.
David Tal: And almost approach it, not from a position of, I have someone on a zoom now I need to close them but more so I wanna take a consultative approach to really understand where they’re at, what they really need. Hey, sometimes we’re not the right solution. And there’s no better way to build trust than to say, you know what? I could sign you up, but you probably wouldn’t be as successful as if you looked at this service, which really caters to what you really need.
And we’re not the best in the world at that. We’re the best in the world at this. I think that creates so much trust and it’s rare because people are just trying to make quotas. But when you really build a relationship and you really care about the consumer, you also care about their success, not just about them helping you get to quota. And I think that’s an important differentiator.
Craig Andrews: Well, and there’s something we can’t hide, unless you’re a bonafide sociopath and I’m not trying to be sarcastic. Sociopaths can disconnect their body language from their emotions. Most of us can’t. And so as hard as you may be trying to not sell or appear like you’re selling, you come off salesy, you come off salesy and as soon as somebody realizes they’re being sold, they put their guard up.
David Tal: Yeah. Cause cuz they’re in the information gathering stage. It’s a long sales cycle, especially in your world with your kind of customers. And same for verse. We work with the same kinds of customers, insurance and healthcare and solar, mortgage. These aren’t people that are clicking through and getting a mortgage. They’re clicking through and they wanna know, well, how are you different from them? And what are your rates? And same about solar. So many people are trying to inform themselves first before making these big decisions. And this is a 30, 40, $50,000, job. These are big investments.
And so we also take that same approach of being consultative, to build that trust, but ultimately to really understand what the person needs, right? Because when you do that, you can actually offer the perfect solution and your company, ours, and so many others, they don’t have one solution.
We have a family of solutions to cater to different aspects. And so it’s about how you actually put those ingredients together perfectly for this person. It’s like being a chef and having a picky eater come and say hey I really want to learn about what they like, they don’t like spicy.
They don’t like garlic. They love seafood. And then you can actually present them the perfect dish that they’re gonna love and be delighted and invite their friends to come to dinner with them next time. And I think a lot of people are just trying to sell them the lobster as quickly as possible.
Craig Andrews: Well, one of my buttons is when somebody comes in and tries to fix a problem they haven’t taken time to understand. And I can pick up on it quickly. They start offering solutions. I’m like you haven’t asked me three questions. How do you know that this is the right solution? And I would imagine others are very much like that.
If they, and again, they just pick up, you’re just trying to sell me. Yeah. You’re just trying to sell me. Whereas if you actually help, ’em solve a small problem, then it’s much more likely that they’ll trust you to solve a bigger problem.
David Tal: Absolutely. So, let’s turn to a bit on the conversion metric side of things.
You’re helping these companies. Let’s take an insurance company. For example, you help ’em build the website, optimize it, create the campaigns, create the ad driving traffic. Now someone fills out a form. Now the company is hopefully gonna engage them quickly and follow up. Where do you see the drop off usually in that handoff?
Craig Andrews: Yeah. So the biggest challenge is always the transition from marketing to sales. And it’s really hard. And for the tone to not change, and even if, in marketing we’re always trying to make sure we’re using the language of our client and using it, we listen to what, how they say things, the way they frame them. And if we’re making adjustments, they’re just mild adjustments. So that it still sounds like something that the company says when they get a customer on the phone, but the disconnect comes. I had a professor say, tell me how I’m paid and I will tell you how I will act.
And so when you have a team that’s paid on commission, they get somebody on the phone and it’s. They’re sitting there trying to close ’em. And so they’ve had all this marketing material come in that’s all about, let me serve you, let me help you, let me help you educate. And if that tone changes too much then they’re like, whoa, something just happened. I’ve been tricked. And that’s hard to overcome.
David Tal: Absolutely. Do you experience your customers having drop off from the moment you’re generating a prospect to the moment they get ’em on the phone?
Craig Andrews: There’s drop off at different levels. I mean, the so I had something we see somewhat frequently, somebody will fill out one of the the forms to get one of our conversation starters and they get an email that delivers the piece of content.
They get the piece of content and they immediately unsubscribe from the email. That’s a drop off. We’ve even had somebody mark that email delivering the content they just requested as SPAM. And so you have a drop off there and you just have to accept the fact that the world’s made up of a variety of different people.
Yeah. And they’re probably not a good match, good customer for you or for our client. We’ll put people in nurturing campaigns and try to warm ’em up. And some people drop out of those campaigns. So you have a little bit of a drop off there but a lot of them will, as they, as you continue to engage ’em as long as you’re continually delivering value, they see you as a source of value.
And that helps us accelerate the call. Now, one of the things that I heard you talking about this morning that really struck my interest was accelerating that conversational phase coming in via text, rather than relying on emails. And that really caught my attention because that is a real problem, especially since so many people are providing content.
It’s a lot harder to provide content that differentiates because the content that’s out there, it’s getting a lot better these days.
David Tal: Yeah. And, when people raise their hand and say, I’m interested in something and a white paper is maybe different, they’re not asking to be contacted yet. They’re just still educating themselves.
But when someone really raises their hand and says, I’m interested. One of the things that we always find with companies that we’re working with is it can take those companies hours or days to finally get back to those prospects. Oh, that’s horrible. Yeah. And there’s no worse experience as a consumer. I mean, I experience this all the time.
If I’m having plumbing issues, there’s a leak or my toilet is broken. I’m going down Yelp or wherever, trying to find somebody to help me out, and there’s nothing more frustrating than when you spend the time to do that and offering your business up and people don’t respond quickly to you.
It makes you feel like they don’t care. Like they don’t value you. And like you’re just one in a hundred others on their list. You’re not really that important. Right. And that, that’s why we really focus on trying to instantly launch a conversation, that conversation isn’t salesy it’s about how we can help you.
And trying to figure out where to send them. Who’s the best person, what’s the right team, What’s the right solutions department that can assist them with what they’re looking for? Because when someone does that and fills out a form, they’re usually asking for help. And so I see it as our mission to be there, to help them.
And you mentioned email and, I mentioned in the talk that email is important and. but with a 22% open rate it’s not the most effective way, right. To engage new customers and some people will have higher. But I think what’s really powerful about SMS in particular is the ability to instantly launch a conversation.
And for that consumer to be able to talk back on their time on their terms, in a very frictionless way, without pressure.
Craig Andrews: And, And I think that’s the key, it’s the, without. and that’s where the again, that’s where that disconnect comes in is moving from serving them to, trying to close ’em and being very obvious that you’re trying to close ’em.
David Tal: Yeah, absolutely. So what do you see coming down the pipe? What’s the future in your space? What are some of the technologies or strategies that are changing?
Craig Andrews: Yeah, before I even go there. What I would say is the future is what we’re all witnessing, the Fed just jacked the rates three quarters of a percent, after raising ’em a half percent, a month earlier I think selling is about to get very hard.
The definition of inflation is when you have too many dollars chasing too few resources, well in that environment, if you have resources selling is easy. Yeah. But we’re about to, I believe we’re about to move into an environment where it’s a lot harder. And so, let me approach it from the trends that I think will take place and then we can back it up with technology.
I think people that are, for lack of a better phrase, greedy salespeople, I think they’re about to enter a very hungry time. And I think life is gonna be hard for ’em. And I think companies that aren’t looking to add value and aren’t adding significant value are about to have a hard time.
David Tal: Yeah, market disruptions, just squeeze people out. Right. And then the stronger people. Don’t just survive, but they thrive during those markets.
Craig Andrews: Right. And there’s, there was a book that was published a number of years ago called the challenger sale. That goes all the way back into the great recession, just over a decade ago.
And they looked at 6,000 sales reps from across 90 different companies and they ran the data and they gave it to a data scientist and data scientists came. back And said look, we have five sales styles here, and each sales style represents 20%. I’m guessing they adjusted the sample to make sure everything worked out to 20% and what they found out, two key things. One 54% of complex sales revenue came from one persona. Wow. Second thing is it? Wasn’t the relationship builder? It was a persona that was called the challenger. Now that term is greatly misunderstood that people think of challengers as being confrontational. The challenger by that definition is somebody who challenges you to view the world differently than you presently do in a way that changes the way that you wanna do business.
And so the challenger we would like to say is the master of the pivot, I had a sales guy train me years ago, say Craig, when you run into resistance, turn around, run the other. He was a relationship builder. That’s the behavior, the relationship builder. Well, the challenger pivots and responds, but continues to challenge the customer in a general way.
But the other thing, and this is where this is relevant is they found that the challenger’s sales numbers didn’t change whether it was in the recession or not. But the relationship builder suffered the most. And so when we’re talking about change, I think that’s really gonna be what’s there. So let’s back that up with technology.
What’s the technology? That’s gonna have somebody coming in, asking for X and you realize they really need Y. How are you gonna facilitate that place, that conversation where you challenge ’em to view the world differently. And I do believe that’s gonna be through more conversational means whether it starts with what we call conversation starters, where they download a document with the hopes that it starts a conversation.
But also think about what you’re doing if they have the opportunity to hit, stop or whatever the code is to stop the text messages. And the second you’re not serving them. They’re outta there. Yeah. But to be able to facilitate those conversations that help them view the world differently because they’re coming to you with a problem.
And if you answer their problem like everybody else out there, you have no differentiation and you’re really adding no value.
David Tal: Yeah. And if you look at like frequencies, someone said, when you’re on the same frequency, you connect with someone. You, I could be, I could call someone on the other side of the world and connect with them in an instant, because the phones are on the same frequency or the line.
And I think it’s the same in sales. It’s really about the customers at a certain frequency in a certain mindset. They view the world and you have to, I think, meet them where they are to truly understand the way they view the world. Right. And then you can start to show them a different way, a better way.
The way you see the world and frankly, it’s the reason why they came to you. They came to you because they wanna be convinced of something new. They want to be open to new ideas and together you can elevate that frequency backup and stay connected and aligned. And I think that’s one of the most powerful ways to really build that relationship.
David Tal: Yeah. So do you have any, do you have any quotes that would like a favorite quote or some kind of saying you guys have at the company?
Craig Andrews: Oh, well, one of our sayings is, “unless what you’re selling is both illegal and addictive, nobody wants to be in your sales funnel.”
David Tal: Awesome. We haven’t gotten that one before. That’s funny.
Craig Andrews: And then there’s some personal favorites. General Patton talked about one of his quotes, “a good plan violently executed today beats a perfect plan executed tomorrow,” or I think next week, something like that. But the whole idea of ‘come up with a good idea and just start executing and..’
David Tal: Don’t let perfect be the enemy of great.
Craig Andrews: And what’s really interesting. Then, if you look back at Patton’s success record, he was the only ally commander that field Marshall Ramel fear. And he would just get, he would say, here’s what we’re gonna do. And he would go do it at lightning speed and it allowed him to defeat a very powerful, very technically advanced German army.
David Tal: And that’s awesome. And I think that’s how, certainly startups, but any kind of growing company, I think, needs to look at the world. And you gotta move fast, you gotta be decisive and have conviction about what you’re doing and try it. So I love that. Thank you for sharing.
I know before we wrap up, I know you have some gifts for our viewers.
Craig Andrews: Yeah. So let me give a low intro. We briefly mentioned the first time offer. This is one of the cornerstones, what we do. It’s a we call it the coffee dates, low risk thing, and it has a few traits. It’s an irresistible offer. It’s an impulse purchase.
That means the coins and the cushion of your couch or the money on your wallet or the B2B equivalent of that. Most importantly, that means you want it to be a dollar amount that nobody’s ever gonna be held accountable for how they spent. So Mike’s removing that barrier that somebody can spend. And, eh, maybe I learned something if I don’t, I’m just out a few bucks.
It has to deliver a disproportionate high level of value to price. It has to solve a problem, but leave problems unsolved. And it has to naturally lead to the next step. We found that to be the most powerful trust building element in our whole framework, but I fumbled around for 18 months trying to get this right.
And I made, I wanna think I made every mistake in the process. There’s probably a few I haven’t made yet, but I made a bunch of mistakes and I figured out how to avoid those. . And so we’ve put that together in two forms, we have a guide to building a first time offer and we have a course on how to build a first time offer course.
And so anybody that’s listening to this podcast, if they would like those just go to the URL allies for me.com/trust. And just for clarification, the four is the number four in allies4me.com.
David Tal: We’ll put it there on the bottom as well on the video.
Craig Andrews: That’d be great. Yeah. allies4me.com/trustverse.
David Tal: Thank you for that.
Craig Andrews: Yeah. And just clarification on the course that gets you 23 days access to the course. And there’s a number of reasons that we limit it. One of the reasons is if there’s not a limit on it, you won’t use it. And we want you to change your business. We want you to thrive in whatever economy we’re entering.
David Tal: Awesome. I love it. Thank you so much for that. In closing, any words of advice, wise, words of advice for our viewers?
Craig Andrews: Oh wow. Wise words of advice. I, I think it just really comes back to when, in doubt, serve your customer. There’s Brian Eisenberg, somebody who’s famous in the conversion community said “you won’t achieve your goals until your customer achieves theirs.”
So just focus on helping your customer achieve their goals. I love that
David Tal: Something we say at Verse lot is “we succeed when our customers win.” That’s awesome. Well, thank you so much. Thank you for being on and best of luck to you ahead in, in the rest of the conference.
Craig Andrews: All right. Thank you.
Craig Andrews: Enjoyed it. Cheers.