Morgan & Westfield Deal Talk
Exclusive Interview with Craig Klein
In this Deal Talk Episode, we talk with Craig Klein, founder and CEO of SalesNexus.com in Houston, an online CRM and email marketing developed by sales people for sales people.
Craig gave us a brief background about himself, how he started at first, and how his experience led him to develop SalesNexus. He also gave emphasis about creating a good relationship with the customer in order for your business to succeed.
Key Points From Our Conversation
Customers want to be treated as important.
You have to dig pretty deep. You have to be good at asking questions and listening.
You have to be prepared to adjust your approach depending on where that customer is in their buying cycles.
Start thinking about your own customers.
Jeff: Welcome to Deal Talk brought to you by Morgan & Westfield, I'm Jeff Allen. If you're a business owner, entrepreneur, or investor this is the place for you. Our mission here is to educate and inform you with real conversations with real small business experts, including fellow small business owners like you to help you build a highly successful business you can one day sell at a price that truly reflects your commitment and accomplishments.
If you could sit down with two or three of your best customers today what do you think they'd tell you about their relationship with your company? What do you think they really think? Are they truly satisfied? What are you doing to manage your important customer relationships to keep them satisfied? My guest has some important thoughts on this. His name is Craig Klein and he's president and CEO of SalesNexus at salesnexus.com. Craig, welcome to Deal Talk, good to have you.
Craig: Thank you Jeff, I'm glad to be here.
Jeff: We appreciate you, Craig. In kind of a nutshell, just tell us a little bit about yourself, about your background and what Sales Nexus is all about.
Craig: Sure. I'm a sales guy from way back. I got into sales shortly after I graduated from college and ended up being the VP of sales for a couple of different energy service companies here in Houston. And so I've managed salespeople and I tried to use CRMs and struggled with that and learned some things about what works and what doesn't. And that's really what the genesis of SalesNexus was. I wanted to build something that I thought would be the kind of tool that I wanted to use as a sales manager.
Jeff: That was really my next question, what motivated you to create SalesNexus. And really so what you're saying it was kind of a combination of the experiences that you had and some of those experiences being kind of negative in wanting to build something that was better to help sales managers work with their sales teams to do a better job of managing those customer relationships that are really, really important today, Craig, and we'll kind of get more into that in detail in just a moment. What is one of the biggest challenges that, Craig, I'm wondering that you faced in your own company SalesNexus kind of maybe in the very beginning? Maybe you didn't necessarily see it coming, or something that developed over time as a startup business, something that you had to overcome and how did you overcome that issue?
Craig: As a small company in a very big market competing with some really, really big players we've always had a struggle to just get visibility in the marketplace and be part of the conversation. The way I would say it is there are thousands of purchase decisions made in our market every day and only a small percentage of them are we even on the table. That's always been our struggle. And when we started back 13 years ago it was kind of the early days of internet marketing. We've always struggled with the balance between online marketing, inbound marketing is what a lot of people call it now, versus good old fashioned sales and outbound cold calling and those old tactics that I grew up on. And making those two worlds work in harmony.
As a small company in a very big market competing with some really, really big players we've always had a struggle to just get visibility in the marketplace and be part of the conversation.
Jeff: You've been there and done that, and right there you talked about in your bio page there on the salesnexus.com website that it all started for you knocking on doors. You've made a lot of phone calls, a lot of cold calls, and seen a lot of people. What's changed do you believe, Craig, over the years in terms of customer service? Is it the customers themselves, the salespeople - I mean, how we're taught to sell to them? What in your view has changed in the customer service business over the years?
Craig: That's a great question and it's a hard one to answer because there's a lot of moving parts in there.
Jeff: Right, correct.
Craig: There's certainly been, I think sort of a shift in the balance of power, if you will. The customer's much more in charge today than they were. In other words back when I got into sales in my early days it was all about going out there as a very aggressive sales person and sort of beating the customer into submission, for a lack of a better way to say it. But that just does not work now. They have so many different options. If you're that kind of salesperson, you show up in somebody's face, you might give them the idea that there's a product that I might want to look into, or a type of product. But if they don't like you as a person, or your approach, or your company, then all you've done is motivated them to go look for your competitor and they can do it in seconds.
Jeff: It's really interesting you bring that up, Craig. It just points to the importance that the internet has really played in a customer, Joe consumer at home, maybe he's looking for auto parts or what have you. Maybe his wife is in the next room looking for an outfit or a gift for relatives for Christmas or what have you. It doesn't matter what it is we’re talking about. But as you talked about, there's so much information available these days really with just a click of a mouse and right there in your keyboard, or whatever you're using at home to access the World Wide Web. With all of those choices, with all of that information, and so many companies competing on price, you're right. The customer really does seem to hold all the cards.
Talking with Craig Klein. Craig is the CEO of SalesNexus at salesnexus.com and we're glad to have him. We're talking a little bit about the importance of customer service to your business. And if you're not paying attention to your customers, I mean really paying attention. It's nice to get those orders in. We all know that at the end of the day, it's important to our bottom line and paying our people that we get those orders in, we generate that revenue. But we never do know when that revenue stream, when those orders could stop. Maybe we think we're doing everything right but we can't really take it for granted.
Craig, building customer relationships is so important and we all know that it is. We just talked about it. Why is it that customer service often seems to take a backseat in the sales process itself? At least we think we know what we're supposed to be doing in order to get people to buy from us. But the customer service aspects, the process is more than just calling someone up, telling them about our product or service, telling them about the price, and then getting them to buy. There's a method to all this madness isn't there? Why have we forgotten that or why is it we don't know what that method is?
Craig: I'm optimistic about that question. I think all of this change that we've undergone over the last 10 years or so, 10 or 15 years, is really the beginning of, like I said, the balance of power shifting and customers will demand what they're going to demand. And obviously customers want to be treated as important. So the market's going to force all of us in business to get good at customer service or we're not going to survive. I think that if your approach is in your sales process, when you first get engaged with a customer or a prospect, if your approach is very aggressive and all about you and what you want from the customer, that's telling them what they can expect after they hand over their money, right? As soon as you've got their money you're going to say, “Sayonara” and move on to the next guy. Customers are becoming savvy, they know that, they could smell that. So you've got to demonstrate your focus on customer service in the early stages of the relationship, not just after you've won the business.
I think all of this change that we've undergone over the last 10 years or so, 10 or 15 years, is really the beginning of, like I said, the balance of power shifting and customers will demand what they're going to demand.
Jeff: Let's talk a little about that then. Let's go ahead and key in on that. How do you do that or what's the best way to do that, Craig?
Craig: It's an evolving art of course and I think it's mostly about being able to get yourself in the frame of mind of seeing what's in the best interest of the customer rather than yourself. Especially for salespeople who are frequently motivated on commissions and things like that. It's very difficult for them to see beyond wanting to get that sale closed. But if you can slow yourself down and really ask the customer questions about their world, number one: you'll be able to help them find the right solution. We all have lots of options, and bells and whistles, and not all of them fit every customer so you can help them navigate that because you'll understand them more clearly. But also and more importantly the customer often, especially when we're talking about technology products, the customer really doesn't know what they need. They don't really understand what you're selling them.
You have to dig pretty deep. You have to be good at asking questions and listening. And if you can do that, first of all it's still very rare. Think about your experience with salespeople over the last couple of years. It's relatively rare to find somebody who really takes the time to really understand you and is willing to deviate from their script to really go where you need them to go with you. If you do that, you're setting yourself apart from the competition. You're really actually bonding with the customer in a really intimate way, which is very powerful. The risk with teaching this kind of technique, to salespeople especially, is that sometimes once they go there and then they quickly switch into closing mode, it makes the customer feel like they've been manipulated. That can be more damaging than anything. It's got to be genuine, that's the point. You have to really care about your customers, really want to actually get them something that they're going to be happy with over the long term.
In the technology space, I think that's one of the great things about the types of business models that have been coming to the forefront, like subscription business models. We're in a subscription business model. So it's in our direct interest to keep our customers as long as we possibly can. We've always made it a focus to make sure that when we engage with the customer they're going to be a customer for a long time. In fact, I'd rather find out that it's not going to be a great fit for you upfront and never have your business because most of my costs are in the first few months helping you learn to use the technology. So if you're only going to be around for six months or a year, I don't really make any money. If I really get to know you as a customer and really understand your needs, and you really are going to be able to leverage what I have to deliver for you, then you're going to be customer for years and you'll be highly profitable for me, and of course you'll be a good reference client. You'll refer me to your friends, and so on and so on.
We've always made it a focus to make sure that when we engage with the customer they're going to be a customer for a long time.
Jeff: A really interesting thought there, Craig. Do you think that part of the problem is with those early conversations that a sales person would have with a prospect, or a lead, comes from the idea that, "If I tell this person everything that I believe that they should know, they're going to buy today. They've got money today, otherwise they wouldn't be shopping for something from me. They wouldn't have picked up their phone to call me." I believe that providing them with all the information that they're looking for to help them make their purchase decision, I'm going to get that sale because they've got that wallet sitting right there next to them.
Craig: Sure. I think that's just a human problem, that’s human nature, right. We think that we can convince people by telling them what we think. Anybody that's ever been married knows that doesn't work very well, right?
Jeff: No, indeed. It sure doesn't. We're going to take just a brief time out and we're going to come back in just a moment. Customer service should not be dead. I don't think it should be. I don't think Craig thinks it is. I'm Jeff Allen, I'll continue my chat with Craig Klein, relationship management expert and CEO of SalesNexus, when Deal Talk gets back in 60 seconds.
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Jeff: Welcome back to Deal Talk, I'm Jeff Allen with sales and customer service expert Craig Klein, CEO of SalesNexus at salesnexus.com. Talking about the importance of managing those customer relationships, very important indeed. Craig, thanks very much for staying with us. I was kind of wondering if you might be able to share some thoughts that you have about some of the more common problems that your own customers at SalesNexus come to you for resolution on. Small businesses face a number of issues when it comes to reaching out to their prospects, whether it be directly or online. What are some of the problems that your clients are coming to you saying that they're having?
Craig: Sure. Believe it or not CRM has been around for 20 plus years, and believe it or not there are still a lot of businesses that have not ever adopted one. One of the answers to your question is: some businesses, a lot of them, are just looking for a place to put information about customers and share it with the team. So what the sales guy learns in the first conversation is there so that six months later when the customer calls in and talks to the customer service department they have that information. The very basic need. But there are still a lot of companies operating out there without that today, believe it or not.
But the other thing that we run into a lot is people that are... maybe a business that has been sales driven and had some level of success. Maybe they've been around for 20 years or maybe they're relatively new but their initial growth has been fueled by salespeople doing what salespeople typically do. And now they're beginning to invest in online marketing of one form or another, pay per click, banner ads, whatever. Driving traffic to their website and people are signing up for this or that on their website. And the salespeople are treating those inquiries through the website as a lead. What most businesses don't understand initially is that those inquiries, leads, whatever you want to call them, have to be treated very differently than a typical lead. If I refer you to my brother-in-law and say, "Hey Jeff. You really need to talk to my brother-in-law, he really needs what you sell", that's one thing. If you call him tomorrow or two days from now, he's not going to know the difference.
But if you just came to my website and filled out a form asking for some information and I wait until tomorrow to call you, I've already lost. Because what's true... There's a lot of studies out there about this, but you’ve probably filled out a form on not only my website but two or three of my competitors’ as well. So it's really whoever gets there first takes control of the conversation. You've got to respond quickly. And then you have to be prepared to adjust your approach depending on where that customer is in their buying cycles. That's the problem that most organizations have. They think about their sales process, and we have a series of steps that we want to move a customer through, and we just want to push them through that process as quickly as we can. And we sometimes lose sight of the fact that they have their own buying process and we can't necessarily speed them through that process. A lot of times, especially on the web, people come to your website and ask for information. They're really just at the very early stages of thinking that they might need something like what you offer. They haven't even decided to make a purchase yet, they're just looking for information. What are the options? What should I be concerned about? What are the risks? What are the potential costs? Those kind of things. The point is, the salesperson’s got to be prepared to really figure that out in the first conversation. Get in touch with them quickly, determine where the customer is, then you have to have some kind of system that's going to manage staying in touch with that customer if they're not a super-hot lead ready to buy right now. You've got to almost gear your approach to their pace. They may tell you, "Well, I'm thinking about buying something towards the end of the year." That means your sales person should not be calling him every two days for the next six months, right? But you might want to have some kind of automated email drip campaign or something like that. And that can all be automated. It's not very difficult and it's not very expensive anymore. It's just a matter of really trying to get inside the head of your buyer and understand the sequence of questions that they ask themselves, and the information that they go looking for as they ask themselves those questions. And then positioning yourself to provide that information.
Get in touch with them quickly, determine where the customer is, then you have to have some kind of system that's going to manage staying in touch with that customer if they're not a super-hot lead ready to buy right now.
Jeff: I think the important things here Craig Klein are that we'd never want to assume that the customer is ready to buy right away, ASAP, really in any circumstance, unless of course they come out and say, "I'm ready for one of these. I need of these today, or tomorrow, or whatever the case may be." Another thing that's important is that we need to manage these relationships or contacts. From documenting the time that we talk to these people, our customers, their names. We want to make sure that if there's something that they mentioned in the message during the conversation about when they might be ready to buy or resume the conversation, or give us any kind of idea about timing of their purchase that we document that as well and we set up our future contacts, our re-touches accordingly. We get back in touch with them at a time that they're going to want to talk to us a little bit more toward, in order to kind of move that conversation forward when it's convenient for them.
Craig: Right. It's not hard to do once you start thinking about your own customers. Typically your sales team will be able to tell you, what are the five things that customers most often ask us for or about. Those are really the triggers. Each of those questions tells you a lot about where they are in the process. And again, if you want to just create a campaign that will offer them the answers to those questions, that's as powerful as anything. Essentially, what you're doing is you're positioning yourself and your company as their guide through the buying process. Especially when it comes to technology, most people are very scared about the process. It's overwhelming, they don't feel qualified to make these kind of judgments, they don't understand all the details. They're kind of uneasy and if you can position them as their trusted advisor, you are all of a sudden in the driver seat and your competition- the pricing and features and things like that is secondary to that trust that you build with them.
Jeff: Really, really important words of advice there, Craig, and I don't think those words will get too old or out of date. It's just really, really critical in this day and age. All of the retail space, service, products, whatever it is that a customer wants, these different industries all have become so competitive particularly online nowadays. You can't really leave anything to chance. And that's why upping your customer service game is so critical in this day and age. It used to be, Craig, you’d call an appliance repair service and you could get great service, they’d come out. Sometimes they wouldn't find anything wrong with your washing machine at all. But they come out and they take care of you. You could rely on them. And then we started seeing a shift in the way that companies would treat their customers. We all just felt like numbers.
Now, we're starting to see that things evolving a little bit, and coming back around, and we're knowing that the companies that treat us right. The ones that remember exactly how it is to meet our needs, what it was that we wanted in the first place and that they're there to provide service after the sale. Those are the ones that are going to continue to get our business. It's not so important I don't think any more really, in order to set yourself apart from the competition, to offer something at the lowest price. I mean, that's important., a lot of people are going to shop for price. But more often than not now, I think people are looking for companies to be able to provide them with service after the sale and provide them with some consistency. I think that's really, really key. And those are the types of companies that stand out to me. Your thoughts about that, anything you'd like to share?
Craig: You mentioned competing on price. Now, you can compete on price in this great, brave new world but in my opinion the way to do that is to really own it. Own that that's your advantage. And so in your communications with customers you need to know that when you approach them and say, "Hey, we're the way to get the best deal. We're the way to save money” then what are the questions that that's going to elicit in their mind? It's obvious things like, "Yeah, but are you going to be here tomorrow and what about the quality of your products?" and things like that. So put together some messaging around those things.
Jeff: Be absolutely clear, that's right. And you want to go ahead and set that up in advance and hopefully be clear in what it is that you present to your customer so that there aren't questions like what you talked about and how long are you going to be around? Do you have people to help me if I need repairs or something like that, really good points.
Craig you're on Deal Talk. We're always looking for ways to help business owners add value to their own business, something that will ultimately contribute to the bottom line and make their companies more valuable at the end of the day. And when I'm saying at the end of the day, when they're ready to go fishing, when they're ready to retire, when they're ready to enjoy life and enjoy the fruits of their labor, so to speak. What I'd like to talk about now, and we could kind of wrap up some things here in this conversation. How can CRM products- remember everybody, CRM, Customer Relationship Management products and services- how can they do that? How can what you provide at your company and others, similar companies, how can those services add to that value, that bottom line value of a company?
Craig: I think that when you're selling a company the most important thing is that you have systems in place, right? That when you're out fishing the business can operate and thrive without you. And so that's what a CRM is, in my mind, it's really a way for your team to operate with customers through a system rather than a salesperson who owns all the information about the customer in their own head. You and I have been talking about sales processes that match the customer's buying process. That's what a CRM really should do, is help your whole team coordinate around getting the customer what they need at the right time with the right message.
Jeff: If someone out there is interested in talking to Craig Klein about what your company can do for them and how you might be able to add value to their operation and their organization, Craig, how can they reach you?
Craig: Just go to SalesNexus.com.
Jeff: It doesn't get any easier than that. That’s SalesNexus.com. Craig, we've run out of time. This has been a great conversation. I hope that at some point we can have you back on the program and we can go into some greater detail.
Craig: Yeah, thanks Jeff. It's been a lot fun. I really enjoyed it.
Jeff: We appreciate you. Craig Klein, CEO of SalesNexus.
Deal Talk is presented by Morgan & Westfield, a nationwide leader in business sales and appraisals. If you'd like more information about buying or selling a business call Morgan & Westfield at 888.693.7834 or visit morganandwestfield.com. And make it a point to check back in with us again soon for valuable information and insight from our growing list of small business experts right here on Deal Talk. My name is Jeff Allen, good to have you on board today. We’ll look forward to having you back again soon.
Craig Klein's Bio
Craig Klein, CEO, Founder,SalesNexus
600 N. Shepherd Dr., Suite 301, Houston, Texas 77007, United States
(800) 862-0134 | (713) 862-0001 | Direct (713) 405-1117
15 years of selling experience from knocking on doors to building and managing a nation wide sales team.
Steeped in consultative sales training approaches including 5 years of Sandler Sales Institute training.
At SalesNexus, I focus on helping small and medium sized businesses grow by increasing their direct marketing efforts, maximizing marketing ROI and improving the effectiveness and efficiency of their sales operations.
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Morgan & Westfield Deal Talk - A Podcast on Improve Your Customer Relationships to Increase the Value of Your Company
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