Episode 9 : Don't Stop Selling

Posted by John Williams on Oct 16, 2020 7:00:00 AM

Understanding how to navigate sales during a pandemic can make even the most seasoned business owner's head spin. John Williams shares his thoughts around why it's a good idea to continue to provide services and offering products EVEN during a drop in the economy and especially during a pandemic.

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John Williams Episode_Podcast


Episode with guest: John Willams

Great Game of Business Coach 

(This episode was recorded in April of 2020.)


Announcer  0:00  

Welcome to the "Change the Game" podcast, where we share stories of open-book management and highlight capitalism at its best. Thank you for tuning in to the sixth episode of the "Change the Game" podcast with special guest, John Williams, a huge advocate and champion of employee ownership, who recently retired from Central States Manufacturing. This episode was recorded during the COVID 19 pandemic crisis in April 2020. Here's your hosts, Rich Armstrong and Steve Baker.


Steve Baker  0:30  

Hey, good morning, everybody. It's Steve Baker with the Great Game of Business. And I'm here with Rich Armstrong. Hi, Rich.


Rich Armstrong  0:36  

Hi, Steve. Good to see you.


Steve Baker  0:38  

Yeah, really, this is about as close as we get anymore, right?


Rich Armstrong  0:43  

That's right. I would say that I miss you in the office. But as much as you traveled, I'd never see you in the office anyway, so it's good to see you.


Steve Baker  0:52  

Yeah, it's good to see you, man. It's been a busy week. Guys, we're really happy that you're here and we're thrilled that you join us, and take some time out. One of the big messages we want to get out is, you know, we're being very positive but realistic, we're facing the brutal facts, but also looking for the bright spots. And we want you to know that you are not alone. We are here. And there's a whole lot of people out there that care about you and want to support you and give you ideas. That's what this program is all about. 

We did get some questions throughout the week. I think we're just going to kind of wait till the end, because some of them will be answered by our guest, John Williams. As an example, I've got one here that that I thought was interesting: "I prefer to sell face to face. Taking time to travel to meet with potential customers has always served me well. Obviously, that doesn't work right now. What advice do you have?" I mean, this is why John's on here, right? We're going to be talking about what should you be doing right now. We had Jack Stack on to talk about, you know, take the fear out of the organization.

We had Liz Wilder to talk about, you know, how to treat your people and how to keep business going. And do you have to take cuts here and there, and all of her strategies. We've been talking about cash, cash, cash. Now, John's going to help us talk about revenue, revenue revenue, and I'm kind of excited about it. For those of you who don't know him, John Williams, is actually just recently retired from Central States Manufacturing, where he had roles all throughout. I'll let him tell his story. But he's also known as a huge advocate and champion of employee ownership. And I would just like to welcome John Williams. John, how are you today?


John Williams  2:31  

I'm good. Thanks for having me, Steve. 


Rich Armstrong  2:33  

Morning, John. 


Steve Baker  2:34  

You know, John and I just did a workshop for two and a half hours with one of our coaches, Anne Claire Broughton, during the NCEO virtual conference. And so it's good to see you again, John. I actually see you more than I do Rich, I think.


John Williams  2:51  

I'm glad to take some of the pressure off you, Rich.


Steve Baker  2:54  

 Yeah, definitely. John, could you kind of tell us about you, a little bit about your background and where you've been and where you are today? And then we'll kind of jump into some other questions.


John Williams  3:06  

A little bit of my background: I started out my career in maintenance and operations and manufacturing, and then ended up in in sales and marketing. So for the past 14 years, up until January of this year, I worked for a company called Central States Manufacturing. They sell, manufacture and distribute metal building products and packages and metal roofing across the United States. They're a 100 percent ISA company, they're employee-owned. They have 10 locations and around 900 employees. A lot of the concepts and the way they do business today involves Great Game principles, from their stake in the outcome to their flowing decision-making down to the lowest levels to their transparency to financial literacy.


Rich Armstrong  4:14  

Hey, John. Well, thanks for joining us today. I think this topic, as Steve mentioned earlier, is just very, very timely. What I remember back when we had Jack on the very first show is that he stressed three key actions everybody should be taking as we work through this crisis. And one of the very first ones, I think Steve referenced was, Take the fear out of the organization. First take care of the people; make sure that they're safe, they're healthy, and there's no better way of helping to take that fear out and, you know, transparency and education of really where we're at and what all of us need to do to work through this. That next step, that next action, he said is then you got to take care of the financial side of things, right? Where are we in terms of our financial position, specifically our cash position? And making sure that we've communicated that. How do we flatten the economic curve, right? But the last point he made, which probably didn't resonate as much in the first show, as it does now, is how do we now prepare for the upturn? We can't take all of a defensive posture in this, we have to take an offensive approach to this and maybe even create our own upturn. So can you talk a little bit about what, John, right now what should our people in businesses be doing?


John Williams  5:36  

Well, I think all of those things that Jack talked about are important. And there's no doubt about it, you have to have cash to sustain your business. You know, when things turn back to normal, or they start to turn back to normal, I mean, even today, you're starting to hear some states starting to open up businesses. You know, you can have all the cash in the world, [but] if you cannot produce any sales or revenue, all that cash is not going to matter. So, I think during this pandemic, whether you're closed and you're not generating any revenue, or you're one of the essential businesses that are allowed to stay open, I think there's some things that you need to be doing and continuing to do to either grow your revenue now, protect your brand, or to start growing that revenue when your business is allowed to open.


Steve Baker  6:41  

Yeah, it's the lifeblood, isn't it? You've got to fill the top of that funnel. And I'm sure a lot of people are going to be going, okay, well how exactly do you do that, you know, when people aren't spending money? You know, that's one of the things that comes up in the questions. Can you walk us through some of the tips that you would give people in the community? How do you keep focused on the top line?


John Williams  7:04  

Well, the first tip that we'll talk about is really don't cut your lifelines. And your lifelines are your revenue, and the margins that are generated from those revenues. And let me give you an example: Central States Manufacturing in 2008, which was the last major recession in the United States, they grew around 16 percent. And then in 2009, they grew another 18 percent. And let me put this in perspective. So on March 8 2008, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was around 11,900. And on March 1, 2009, it was 6,600.


Steve Baker  7:59  

So half, basically.


John Williams  8:01  

And at the same time Central States, was growing 16 percent and 18 percent, respectively. So how did they accomplish this growth? And the explanation is very simple: they never stopped selling. All of their competition was cutting back all of their expenses, including marketing, including advertising, including sales resources, which included people or service for those customers. And Central States did not cut those key expenses that were responsible for growing revenue.


Steve Baker  8:37  

Did you pick up a ton of market share at that time?


John Williams  8:41  

Yes, we did, and because of that concept. I mean, when companies or organizations see a recession or they see something like we're going through now, their automatic reaction is, I've got to save every expense I can. But at some point in time, the recession will be over; COVID will be over. So while it's understandable that you have to stay in business, that you have to preserve cash as much as possible, there are some things you can do to either maintain that brand, or grow some sort of revenue, until things get back to normal. And that's what these tips are designed to help with, because it's not going to be easy. You're going to have to be creative, you're going to have to think of things that you've never done before. You're going to have to do it with limited resources, whether that be cash or people, but there are ways to continue to do it.


Steve Baker  9:44  

Yeah, Rich and I keep talking about, you know, this isn't our first rodeo at SRC and certainly Rich has been here much longer than I have. And if you go back in time, I mean, we're not the only ones that have been through this. Can you give us some examples of other businesses, other industries through the years?


John Williams  10:02  

Another good book to read that kind of puts this in perspective is from Tom Peters, and it's really called "The Circle of Innovation: You Can't Shrink Your Way to Greatness." You cannot save enough expenses to overcome no revenue. It's just impossible to do. And if you go back in time and look at the recessions in the United States, even going back to the early 1920s, there's an article that forbes.com posted, called, "When a Recession Comes, Don't Stop Advertising." But even going back to the 1920s, and talking about dry cereal, Post at the time own the market. And there was nobody even close. But during that Great Depression, they cut back significantly on their advertising budget. Well in the meantime a rival comes along, Kellogg's, and they doubled their advertising. And the main thing they did was invested heavily in radio. And they came up with this little jingle of "snap, crackle and pop." And after that, the effect was Kellogg's profits grew by 30 percent. And they eventually became the category leader and took over Post. 

Another one of those examples, you can go back to the early 70s when the energy crisis came along. And then the government was issuing its first miles-per-gallon report.  Toyota and Honda and Volkswagen were the major imported vehicles at the time. And Toyota had moved all the way up to second behind Honda in fuel efficiency. And Toyota was experiencing strong sales at the time. But when the economy took a hit, there was a strong temptation within Toyota: "Hey, we've got to drop our ad budget." But they resisted. And they eventually overtook Volkswagen as the top imported car because of that. 

And then you can go back to the 1990-91 recession, when companies like Pizza Hut and Taco Bell made a decision not to cut back on their advertising and promotion. McDonald's started dropping it. As a result, Pizza Hut increased their sales by 60 percent, Taco Bell grew 40 percent, McDonald's declined 28 percent. So those are just some historical examples, you know, of what companies did during a recession, or during hard times. And when times went back to normal, how they improved. 

And the key thing is, I'm sure that they didn't have all the resources at the time. But they were creative. And to find that creativity, it's not just done in the minds of leadership or management; this is the time to get all your employees involved. And many games work excellent at the start, many games on creating what can we do different now? How can we still promote our brand? How can we still promote how we do business and why we're here? How can we generate other revenue? Right now is the time to do that, to connect with your employees, which, in reality, we all should have been doing anyway. But now it's very, very important to just go up to your employees and talk to them about, you know, we're looking at creating some different revenue, how can we grow revenue? And all you have to do is ask them four simple words: "What do you think?" And here's another tip; I'll throw this in as Tip Number 6. Don't just ask your salespeople what they think; ask everybody. Salespeople are going to be too close to it. Ask operations, ask manufacturing, ask admin, ask HR. They are the ones that are going to have the creative ideas on how to increase revenue. Ask your entire organization.


Rich Armstrong  14:23  

Hey, John, we've known each other a long time and I've always known you as kind of the ultimate road warrior as the vice president of sales and marketing at Central. And every time I'd meet you up on the road, you were always going somewhere; it just never was home, it seemed like. But you know, we're all trying to get used to all this virtual connection, and for salespeople it's always been they really depended on that idea of face to face connection, that personal connection and it's a challenge for them right now. But we were talking earlier about how sometimes there's some other things you can do to still make that connection. Can you share a bit about how you would approach that in this kind of environment?


John Williams  15:04  

Sure, and this is tip number two, and it's really entitled, just put the keyboard down and pick up this old thing that they call the phone. It works wonders. And I know it. And for us that have kids, or children, you know, if you try to call them, they'll never answer the phone. If you text them, they'll text you back, like within two seconds. But that's the key point in all of this. The key point is you want to stand out from the crowd. And I've got an idea on this: my email has probably quadrupled since the COVID crisis, from people trying to sell me something, marketing companies, all these types of things--people trying to sell you things. My phone calls have dropped from those same type of people. And I'm going to assume that a lot of salespeople are working from home, they're not traveling, they're not seeing people face to face. And the easiest way to manage salespeople is through emails, okay? Send out 50 emails a day. And do this. You can track them, you can track the message, you can do all that. But guess what? Since my email has quadrupled, I have done what? I've stopped reading my email; they go straight to the trash. I still listen to my voicemails. And I'll talk a little bit about that message here in a second. But really, just pick up the phone, stand out from the crowd, is just a simple message. You can leave a voicemail, you may not get anybody. But I think that is one of the tips that you could use today that everybody else has seemed to get away from. At least you've got a voice.


Steve Baker  16:56  

And that kind of makes me think about something, John. You're naturally very warm,  people like you, you attract people. They say some people are born salesman. They do. I've heard that all my life. And I think it almost gives people permission to say, Well, I'm not in sales. So I'm going to go do my thing. But right now, it's got to be all hands on deck, and everybody's got to be selling. And I remember not long ago, Dan Pink, who wrote "Drive," he wrote a book called, "To Sell is Human." And one of the things in that book that I found so fascinating is they did a word cloud, some researchers did a word cloud around "salesman," and it was all big words like "smarmy," "sleazy", "greasy," you know, gives us a perception of salesman. Maybe you can help us clear it up. How would you even begin to approach the idea of everybody selling, everybody helping with revenue? How would you deal with that?


John Williams  17:47  

I think the key thing is including everybody, just like I said earlier. Don't just bring your salespeople into a meeting and say, What can we do about sales? Okay, if we have no revenue, and we did decide to pay our employees, what can we do with those employees? What can we do right now that will let everybody know why we're in business? And what is our brand? What is our service model? You know, how can we continue to do those things? And I would just almost bet that the majority of the creative ideas, the things that you would never think of, are going to come from somebody other than salespeople. Okay, because salespeople's immediate response is going to be like the question you mentioned earlier: "Oh, I'm a face to face seller; if I can't work face to face, I can't do anything." And that's natural, because they are close to it. They have their blinders on. And they're too close to the action to back up and look at it. So that's why I would encourage you to include all of your employees, and this is not some executive think tank, either, okay? Remember, executives are the furthest away from what's really going on. And they usually are the last ones to know about anything that's going on. So include all employees, it's very, very imperative during this. This is where your ideas are going to come from.


Steve Baker  19:17  

Can you think of any examples that you've had along those lines, in your experience, of where someone has come up with a really good revenue idea or a sales idea or something that were on the front lines?


John Williams  19:27  

Yeah, I can think of several and Kevin Walter, who's a Great Game certified coach, he spoke a couple of weeks ago, and just the things that they're doing, they never would have thought of serving single meals. They were a catering company, but their business was, you know, serving 200 or 300, or something like that, you know, to where they could be profitable, but all of these ideas, you know, he mentioned that they float up from the bottom and said, hey, let's try this. Let's do this. And it's not that they got away from their core business principles of who they are and what they do. It was just to find a way to keep revenue coming in, to promote their brand, to maybe possibly find a new avenue of revenue stream. But that stuff comes from the employees; it didn't come from the owners or the executives. They're the ones touching it. They're the ones that see it every day. They're the ones who are going to have the answers.


Steve Baker  20:40  

And our mantra is always people support what they help create. 


John Williams  20:43  

That's exactly right.


Rich Armstrong  20:45  

John, you mentioned earlier about the loads of emails that we're getting. And there are so many desperate sales and marketing messages being sent every day and email and social media and everything else. And I was just curious if there was anything that you could offer up to the community in terms of ideas, how to kind of separate us from all of those? How can you, you know, support sales and marketing through all of this noise? How do you stand out?


John Williams  21:16  

I would say that you would probably need to approach it a different way than you would under normal times. Like, if the normal sales process, you know, especially in closing or something like that, you're going to be more asking for the order: can I quote a job? And that's going to be your message to them all the time. How do you get them to close? How do you get them to place an order? Well, I think now you should probably soften that up a little bit because I think you need to start off with empathy. And it's really just adjusting your message and adjusting your tone. 

Because let's face it, this pandemic, it's affected every facet of people's lives. You know, a lot of times things can be going on at work, but once you go home, all that's gone away. It's at work, I'm dealing with this problem in the organization; I'm kind of in a bad mood tonight. But with this thing, it's affecting you at home and at work. It's not going away, you know, it's affecting every part of your life. So I think it's very, very important that you approach all of your communication with empathy first. And Dave Scholten, who's a Great Game business certified coach, I haven't heard it expressed as good as this: he said, "Just assume everyone is not okay, before you approach them." And that's the best way to do it. Because you don't understand the struggles or the situations that all of these individuals are going through, whether that's their business, the company they work for, or what's going on with their personal life, or their family life. Are they dealing with somebody or a family member they know that has got this or has passed away from it? 

And when you do it, I think the key thing is sincerity. And the way that you can be sincere is really just have a normal conversation with them. You know, make sure it's not scripted. You know, a lot of salespeople like the scripted elevator speech, what I'm going to open with; for this, I would throw that in the trash. Because even if you're on the phone, they can tell if you're reading something. Just have a normal conversation just like it was your friend. One key thing is stay away from the buzzwords like big introductions, like don't start off a phone call or a message or an email with, you know, "During these unprecedented times," and "We're all in this together." Yes, we understand all that.


Steve Baker  24:03  

Wait, that's how I started this program.


John Williams  24:05  

And I get it. But Steve, I think you sounded sincere.


Steve Baker  24:12  

I am, but I'm with you. You're right. I mean, it's weird, because in the last few weeks, a lot of those words have become just meaningless.


John Williams  24:18  

They have, and the reason is--they're not meaningless, because they do mean something--but everybody has become numb to them. And they seem inauthentic when you hear it so many times over and over and over and over, all throughout the day, TV, newspaper, radio, all the time. So I wouldn't start out with those buzzwords, I would stay away from them. And a good example is it could just be this, it could be like: "Good morning, Steve. My name is John Williams. I'm the business development manager for Central States Manufacturing in Lowell, Arkansas. I realize you probably have a lot on your mind right now. I just called to see if there's anything I can do to help you or your company. If so, I'm happy to help; please don't hesitate to call me." That's it, that's all you have to do. And for your existing customers, you can offer them things that they may need. You know, during a sales process, you're really trying to identify—you know, NWPs is what I call them. That's an n, w and a p: it's really their needs, their wants, and their pains. And if you understand them, their needs, wants and pains right now, probably are very different than they were in January.


Steve Baker  25:45  

Mm hmm.


John Williams  25:46  

So it's really understanding what those are. Don't assume what they need or want, but try to dig in and find out what those are. And then help them get the resources. Maybe, you know somebody that works at a bank that can walk them through the application process for the PPP plan, and the SBA loans. Maybe you have somebody in your organization that's the credit manager that could give them some tips or ideas on how to manage your receivables through times like this to increase your cash flow. It's just anything that you can do, but you need to talk to them and understand what those needs, wants and pains are. And that way, as salespeople, your job is to provide solutions for your customers and your prospects. And that's the way in these times that you can do that.


Rich Armstrong  26:45  

John, I really love that you pointed that out. And what I'm hearing you say is that, you know, we're reaching out to our customers, right, and connecting with them. But we often say hey, we're here to help, you know, but we don't follow that up with, maybe here's exactly what I need to help. I saw a tip the other day that says don't just call your customers and say I'm here to help. Call them with an intention to show that you can help and you offer some help and what you can specifically do for them. And I think that's just great advice.


John Williams  27:17  

And I think calling them up now and for example, kind of following up on that quote: "Am I going to get this job? I'm just wondering, am I gonna get this job? I need to know by the end of the day, I'm going to get the job. Okay, call me back." I would not do that. I would not do that right now. People have serious concerns. Let them know that you were a resource before this happened, and I am a resource and a problem solver for you now. 


Steve Baker  27:46  

Yeah, solutions I love that. 


John Williams  27:48  

Now here's the reality of the situation. A lot of companies are not going to change their suppliers during this. Maybe some will, maybe some won't. Maybe some will because they have to because maybe their supplier shut down. If they don't have to, there's a lot of other things they're worried about. However, if you approach this the right way, when things go back to normal, they'll remember that you were there. You were there to provide them that contact for that SBA loan, you know, that tool to manage their cash flow. All of those simple little things like that, they'll remember that. And they'll think, "Man, my current supplier never offered me any of that stuff. Where were you when I when I needed the help?"


Rich Armstrong  28:36  

I think you've I think you've answered this, John, but we had a question on the Q&A that kind of relates to what you're talking about. It says as our sales team, we are beating our competition by supporting our partners instead of trying to sell to them. The hope is that we can solve problems through our materials so everyone wins. We still need to perform this year, but not at the expense of our partnerships. And what his question is, is do you think this is the best approach for the long term? And do you have any other suggestions for sales departments during these challenging times?


John Williams  29:12  

There's definitely going to be some uniqueness depending on the industry you're in and what you're selling, whether you're selling a service or a product. It sounds like this question is that they're looking at long term, they're looking like okay, how do I want to protect my customers in the long term, and that's the thing to do. This is called planning to me, if anybody didn't know what that is. It's just simple planning. Knowing that someday, we will be out of this and things will go back to normal. So whatever you're doing right now, I would suggest that you prepare yourself for that day and I know that sometimes you're trying to get by day to day, but never lose that thought, or never lose that idea that there's going to be a tomorrow. And don't do things that are going to prevent you from being successful tomorrow today.


Steve Baker  30:16  

So I like the empathetic approach, the idea of walking a mile in their shoes, understanding their pain, and their wants and their needs and not just pushing what you need to push; you're a resource. And I like the long-term view that you're taking, right, the idea that we're in this together, really actions instead of words. That's pretty cool. John, what are some of the opportunities that that you think businesses have now? I mean, things have changed radically. I think I told you guys the other day, that it's been very frustrating that while we're at home, it's really great. But Joanne's favorite soda isn't being made or distributed right now. I think that people are at home more, so the big bottlers are focusing their energies on the big brands instead of the little offshoots, that sort of thing. So, what I'm saying is, if anyone has diet cream soda, my address is 4690... But, I mean, the thing is, there's opportunities where there's also this weirdness. So with all these changes, you know, can you give us some examples or some thoughts on that?


John Williams  31:15  

Yeah, and you can break this down really into two separate groups. You've got companies and organizations that are doing really well during this, you know, that have been classified as essential businesses. And, you know, if you think about liquor stores, their sales are increasing, and the restaurants are closed, you know. And so normally people that would have dinner, or have a glass of wine or something like that, you know, that's just another outlet for them. And these could be some customers that never went into their establishment. So there's other discount retail stores, like all the Dollar Generals, you know, the small family home grocery store in town. For those that have always shopped at big box retailers, maybe like Target or Walmart, or Kroger, or some of these others, because they said, you know what, I don't go to Aldi, I don't have Dollar General, I like this store, I like these brands. Well, now those people have those customers coming into their store, because there may be outages, it may be crowded. So there's new customers coming into those stores as well. So business providing financial guidance, you know, for small businesses, owners looking for help, you know, the need for that. 

And something as simple as the manufacture of plastic eating utensils and takeout boxes. Think of the increase in business that they're doing. And then on the other hand, you have businesses that are not essential. And what do they do? Their revenue stream has completely cut off; they're closed, from restaurants to barber shops to salons to whatever that is. But however, there are things that both of these businesses can be doing right now, to either promote who they are and what they do, or to increase that revenue. And, for example, the companies that the revenue stream is totally shut down. You know, there's a company that I know that they chose to pay their employees through this, but rather than their employees stay home, they have outlined some community service projects that they can do safely and legally, and to help their community. And it's just a way of not only helping the community, but also showing not only the community, but your employees who you are, and why you're in business. And there's points and times, you know, that you can give back. And really, the businesses that are essential, you've got all these new faces coming in. So it's important to stay true to your core business. If your core business is service, make sure that you don't substitute service for something else, because you've got a whole new audience, and not only your existing customers, but you have a new audience. And they're looking so if you're dropping service because you're so busy, and you're making mistakes, then this will not be good for your business long term. So do whatever you can do to maintain the service levels that you had before. And don't sacrifice those. 


Steve Baker  35:06  

This has been super informative. I'd like to kind of shift a little bit and focus on some of the community questions, if that's okay. We'd like you to stay on the couch, as we do with our guests, and use your big brain and the wisdom of the crowd to hopefully answer some of the big questions that are burning out there in the community. Would that be all right?


John Williams  35:24  

Yeah, I do have one more thing. I think the one thing is to really control what we can control. And the things that we can't control, do the best that we can to deal with them. And don't be victims in this and try not to have that victim mentality. You know, Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, when the 1991 recession was coming on a reporter or something asked him, "Samuel, what about the recession? What are you thinking? You know, what are you going to do?" And he said, "Well, you know, I've thought about it, but I've chosen not to participate."


Steve Baker  36:08  

Words of Wisdom there. I love it.


John Williams  36:09  

And you can do this too. You can choose not to be a victim, you can choose to control what you can control, and deal with what you can. 


Rich Armstrong  36:20  

Speaking of the Q&A Steve, this is a really interesting question. Twenty-five percent of our staff is out at any given time due to illness and current quarantine. Sometimes we have to turn away business because we cannot make the customer dates. So how can we turn away business but ensure that they will come back to us later. It's easy to lose the customer and kind of hard to get them back. Thoughts on that, John?


John Williams  36:50  

Well, I don't know what industry you're in but I'll give you an example of Central States Manufacturing. Some people would think we're crazy. And maybe we were at the time. But if we ran out of product, or we were over capacity or something was causing it, we would go spend, sometimes four or five times that amount, and buy the product from our competitor and get it to our customer. Even though it cost us money. It did two things. Number one, it took care of our customer, and also showed that customer that we were willing to do whatever it takes to partner with them and keep their business going. Because that's what's most important right now. So think about short term versus long term; short term, is that going to hurt you? Yes. Long term, it's going to help you. So you may think about going down the road and buying that product and paying 10 times as much as you want to for it but at least you've satisfied the customer.


Steve Baker  37:56  

Yeah, that's inspiring, really. It's totally looking at the big picture. John, a couple of people came up with this one: how do you get people to agree to webinars while we're all at home? I find a lot of outside salespeople have more time on their hands, since they cannot do the sales calls. And so how do you get clients to agree to webinars right now? Any thoughts?


John Williams  38:19  

Well, it is hard, depending on your client base too, and how technologically savvy they are and all of that. But I mean, you can try some incentives to do it, you can have them on the phone and walk them through it. You know, and I don't mean this in a discriminatory way, but a lot of the customers like Central States had, you know, a lot of the younger generation are more comfortable with this. 

Steve Baker  38:54  



John Williams  38:55  

Yeah, the electronics part and the technology side of it. So if you're dealing with an owner who's not comfortable with that, say, hey, do you have a son or daughter or granddaughter or somebody in your store that's technical? Can they help you get this started? And we can walk you through it. So that's one avenue to go about it.


Steve Baker  39:16  

That's awesome. I like how you're just doing sales 101: remove obstacles.


John Williams  39:21  

Just remove obstacles. Don't just automatically say no. Before you say no, try to think of five things, five solutions for that customer before you say no. Don't ever say no; say, let me look into it and I'll get back to you.


Rich Armstrong  39:43  

There's a question too, that there's certainly a chance that we're probably not going to go back to normal, that there's going to be a new normal. Does this provide some new opportunities and different opportunities to solve and how would you go about that?


John Williams  40:00  

It is hard to say. And I think that's a lot of people's questions is, what's the new normal? What did I learn through this and what am I going to keep? And what am I going to go back to after this? Because I can, I spoke on an Aesop webinar a few days ago, and I was talking about simple states, and I talked to the CEO of the company, and for the way they do business, people working remotely was very inefficient for them. And it's because of their communication style, and they always, you know, with the meetings that they have, with the huddles that they have, and their constant communication and their speed to market, they felt like it was very inefficient. So for a company like that, they probably would go back to the way they've done it. But one thing that they did find out that's very efficient that they will keep is electronic bill of ladings. They deliver a lot of their stuff on trucks and trailers. And the reason they went to electronic bill of lading was so you didn't have to pass paper or sign papers. So now it's done that way. That was an efficiency that if this hadn't come up, maybe they had thought about it, but this really forced them to do it. And that's what came out of that. 

But, Rich, to answer that question, it all goes back to those NWPs: those needs, wants, and pains of the prospect or the customer that you're dealing with. And really having a conversation with them about what they are. And the difference in those are in needs and wants, they might understand the solution? And with needs, it's something that you have to have to operate your business. A want is I would like to have it. A pain is something that's causing them pain right now, but they have no solution. They don't have any idea how to fix it. So for most problems that you're trying to deal with, I always go back to that. And that's basically the sales process. But I kind of shorten it like the NWPs


Rich Armstrong  42:16  

Yep. Yep. It's interesting. Also, you mentioned a lot about how to tap into the wisdom of the crowd, right? And I think this is a good time to kind of sit back and think a bit about what that new normal may look like in your industry or your market, and what opportunities there may be available. Right? And you know, in our practice, about High-Involvement Planning, we often talk about growth and contingency items, is the ability to sit down and say, Okay, here's what we think the puck is going to be, here's where the new normal is going to be, here's where the market is going to be. What are some growth and contingency ideas that we can go through, and through the team, and not just from a leadership approach, but also the team being involved with all the different ideas. I think that's a real specific thing you can also do just to get ready for the new normal.


John Williams  43:08  

And I agree. I think at some point, it is important that you sit down, and I know the high involvement planning is a very important part of the process. But it would almost be worth it to have just like a mini-session of some strategic planning or high involvement planning just focused about what did we learn from this crisis? And what opportunities can we take out of this crisis and move them forward, that will make us better than what we were? Whether that's doing something more efficiently, increasing revenue, coming out with this product, whatever that is. So it may be the time to have start having some of those little small, outside of your normal strategic planning processes, and really focus in on this short period of time of what you learned as an organization.


Steve Baker  44:05  

I like the way you put those things together, both of you, growth and contingencies. Because, you know, it's regular day to day business for us in Great Game companies to talk about, it's not just a plan B, if you don't need it, it's new product and service, right. So the stuff that we use right now to recover from the current conditions, those might be our contingencies, if you will, but the same conversation will develop new growth ideas that we just can't do right now. So I think that's a really big conversation.


John Williams  44:35  

And if you can apply the old the leadership when you're doing evaluations with your employees, you always want to ask them, as your leader, what do you want me to start? What do you want me to stop? And what do you want me to keep? And I think you could apply this start-stop-keep as an organization to the situation that you're in now. So coming out of this, when it goes to normal, what do I want to start doing? What do I want to stop doing? And what do I want to keep?


Steve Baker  45:08  

Wise words, also found in our new book, "Get in the Game," sold where fine books are sold. Begin with the right leadership, baby, start, stop, continue. I love it.

Rich Armstrong  45:18  

John, I know you think about this a lot, but another question is: what do you think the new normal is going to look like? What do you think that's going to be like, for businesses and sales organizations?


John Williams  45:31  

I think it'll look very similar to what organizations and what life was before. What I don't know the answer to is the timeframe it's going to take to get there. Because I think people will get back to living their lives. And you can think about recessions or tragedies or things like that that's happened over the years in the United States. 9/11 was a huge tragedy, and people got back to living the way they did before that, but the timeframe that it took them to get to that point to be comfortable, I guess that's what I'm unsure of. But I'm pretty confident that humans are resilient, especially in this country, and that we'll bounce back and we'll live the lives that we once lived. And this will all be in the history books. It's just the amount of time it's going to take to get back to that.


Steve Baker  46:34  

We do have time for a couple more questions. But John, some of the chatter that's coming in on Q&A I wanted to share with you because I think it puts a real punctuation mark on   some of the things that you said. We've got one that say, "Well said, John: control what you can control; don't be a victim." I think that's a huge takeaway. And then Tim Ward says, "What I've learned today is to examine my assumptions I have of what my clients and prospects are experiencing, and find out what they care about now." So you've really given some wonderful things to think about, but also some action items. I want to say thanks again for that.


Rich Armstrong  47:12  

Now, here's an interesting question, Steve. We have run a GGOB growth and contingency exercise with our company. And we'd like to market a few of the revenue ideas that scored high on the exercise. For example, a new product. Are LinkedIn posts, Constant Contact campaigns, and company newsletters--those type of things--the best way to approach customers, since we can't see them in person?


John Williams  47:40  

I'm not saying don't do it, because I don't know if anything can replace to me face to face in-person interaction. I'll start there, I think still that is the best by far in relationship building, in sales, with your customers or prospecting. I don't think anything will replace that. I mean, that's a human need. We are made to interact with each other. And if this hasn't proven that I don't know what will. But there are other things like staying on the phone. And I think email campaigns, social media, all this is good. I would focus on the message. Focus on the message and what you want to get across and what you want to say. And finding out what that message needs to be is go back to the needs, wants and pains of the market that you serve, both your customers and prospects. That's what you need to address. Because if you're going to address what you think they need, that may not be the point, you may not hit the point there. And you've wasted those time and resources with the message you're trying to send, whether that be through mailings, whether that be through emails. 

Now here's another thing that you can do that's kind of out of the box, like talking on the phone versus sending emails. When we're all at home, guess what one of the things I look forward to doing? Going to the mailbox. How many people now walk outside just to take a break and go to their mailbox? Maybe you try doing some mail, some old snail mail stuff. That's differentiating yourself and separating you from the crowd. I'm not saying it'll work forever. But it's just another idea. And I think really, it's control the message with whatever method you're using, and how you find out that message? Go talk to your customers and your prospects in the market.


Steve Baker  49:51  

I love it, man. We're going right back to basics, aren't we? It's pick up the phone and mail something and treat people like people. It's radical thinking, John!  What's wrong with you? Well, I gotta say, this has been so much fun and the hour has just about run out on us. But I did want to take a couple of minutes, Rich, if you want to ask one more question of John, please go right ahead and we'll wrap up here in a moment.


Rich Armstrong  50:18  

Well, I'd just make a comment. I mean, there are a lot of good ideas from our community and one of the organizations here senior age, said that they do some work with Medicare in person classes is what they typically have done. But what they've done is pivoted that to offering phone consultation and email presentations and walk them through it. So just different ways of delivering the same offering, but in a different way. Right? And exactly what John, I think, is talking about.


Steve Baker  50:51  

I'm going to throw this out to the whole group, because I have a strong opinion about it. But we have one last question here that we can get to and that is what's the role of leadership? And we're talking about the whole leadership team and establishing a new heartbeat for the organization. It can't be the same as it was before. So what's the role that leadership team should be as the heartbeat of the organization?


John Williams  51:12  

I think the main thing is really just get out and talk to your people. If you can't talk to them in person. call them on the phone. So in other words, if you're the owner of a restaurant, and you have 20 or 25 employees, take out 10, 15 minutes a week, and call each one of those employees. Don't call them and talk to them about, hey, what are we going to do when you get back? Just talk to them about what's going on in their lives. What did you do today? What did you watch on Netflix? What are you eating for dinner tonight? Is there anything I can do to help you? Those things go a long, long ways. They fix all kinds of symptoms, from everything. And you've got the time now. And just that will mean more than anything, I think.

Steve Baker  52:12  

Well, I'm going to say thanks, John, for being our guest, and our friend and an advocate for open book and employee ownership, and just being a good guy. I will tell the community that you are now one of our certified Great Game coaches, which is awesome, so you're part of the team, as well as all the other great things that I mentioned. Needs, wants and pains. So I'm going to offer everybody out there something for each one of those things. So first of all, your pain. Your pain right now is revenue, how do you get revenue into the business? We're going to offer you a free sales tools kit, which is really exciting, that includes a--how would you describe it?—it's really just sort of a way to lay out your sales plan?


John Williams  52:54  

It is, and it's just a simple spreadsheet to you know, lay out your plan with your cost of goods, so with your margin, to kind of give you some roadmap of where you think you're heading. And I know it's difficult, I know you're not going to have a lot of the information that you need to make a good, informed decision. But put something down and start from there.


Steve Baker  53:22  

So there's the pain, and that's free. And that'll come out with your follow-up email, everybody. Just click on that link and check it out. So if that's the pain, then what's the want? I would tell you if you want to get to the Get in the Game workshop, which is really based on a fine book that's available where all fine books are sold. And then finally the need. This is brand new. And we want to share it with you because you're listening to this show. It includes a full hour video course. This is part of high involvement planning, the growth and contingency model. It comes with the templates, the tool sheets, the entire kit. Again, I want to thank you guys so much. John, as always, it's a pleasure and Rich, you and I, man, we are committed, aren't we? We're gonna keep coming back as crazy as things are and as crazy as they might get, we're all better together, and we'll see you soon.

Topics: All-Star Awards, Employee Ownership, Great Game Coaching, engagement, Community

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Hosted by Rich Armstrong and Steve Baker the Change the Game podcast highlights true life stories of organizations influencing positive change by doing business differently. They’re teaching people how business works and closing the gap between the haves and have-nots. It’s capitalism at its best. Inside each episode, you’ll discover stories of entrepreneurs who are Changing the Game.

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