We've done an amazing interview with the sales expert Paul Essery from mysalesguru. We talked about how important sales skills are and what you can do to scale your business.
Watch the interview at our Knowledge Hub or here:
Here the transcript:
Michelle: So hello, Paul, nice to have you here today.
Paul: Thanks for inviting me.
Michelle: So what about you? Could you give us a short introduction of yourself and what you're doing?
Who is Paul Essery?
Paul: OK, so my name is Paul Essery. I'm the founder of a small online sales training and coaching business. The first thing I will say to people is I'm not a proper business person. I mean, my grand plan in life with 16 was to travel the world and go climbing. That's what I wanted to do. But I was never able to figure out how to make any money out of that. So although I had a good time, don't get me wrong, I had a ball traveling the world with my mates and climbing and visited a lots of interesting places. But really, to cut a long story short, I became an entrepreneur really to fund my climbing hobby. And over the last, I don't know how many years, I've had four businesses, this one is my fifth - two technology businesses, two consultancy stroke training businesses. And when I started out in business, I was hopeless at selling. I mean, I was just hopeless. I couldn't have sold a cold drink to somebody dying of thirst in the desert. I mean, I was just hopeless. But I was smart enough to realize that I needed to learn. And really the last, you know, I don't know how many years I've been - I've been in business about 40 years, actually.
What many entrepreneurs are struggling with
All that time has really been a journey about learning how to sell. And over the years, one of the things I realized is that actually lots of entrepreneurs struggle with the same issues around sales. I mean, everyone needs to sell. I mean, you can't be an entrepreneur unless you sell because you need to get customers. You need to get investors, you need to get suppliers and so on. So you have to be able to sell really to be an entrepreneur. In fact, to lead any business really, you need to be able to sell. So I began to realize that there were a set of common problems. And really that when I left my previous business, I was the managing director of a technology business up until a little while ago, and I decided I sold out, that I decided to start this business. I was wondering what to do. So I thought, well, I know how to solve a lot of those problems for people, for other entrepreneurs. I also did a big research project into how entrepreneurs sell. So I learnt a lot about how other people approach sales as well as me. And really the upshot of that is that I've got a very simple sales model, that really seeks to address those common problems that most entrepreneurs have. So it's not the be all and end all this sales model will do everything. You know, it's about addressing the main issues that most entrepreneurs and business people have in sales so that they can be significantly more effective. I mean, one of the issues about sales is lots of people do what I did because they tried to learn and there's nothing wrong with that. But it does take a long time and you make a lot of mistakes along the way because you make mistakes, you lose a lot of business. And actually, you know, there's a quicker way.
Michelle: And what is that way?
How to learn to sell more quickly
Paul: OK. So, learning to sell is fine, but inevitably you make a lot of mistakes and you lose a lot of business. So, you know, if I was to go back to square one, I would learn to sell straight off. I would try and get some good training straight off because, you know, it pays for itself very quickly if it's good training. So that's why and what I see a lot of entrepreneurs making the same mistakes that I made. You know, they do this. They just do the same things wrong that I did, you know, and it's good to be able to help people. You know, I like working with entrepreneurs. So what I do at the moment, really, I'm coaching people. My book, my work is just coaching other entrepreneurs on how to sell - It's sort of a coaching program. The other thing we're developing is a storytelling project, which is all about using storytelling to create sales stories, which is a very effective method of selling your products or services. So that's me really, in a nutshell. Does that answer your question?
Michelle: Yes, thank you very much. And I think you mentioned some of the answers you might give me for my next question, which would be, can you tell us why it is important to know how to sell? And I think you've touched on that already.
Why is it important to know how to sell?
Paul: Yeah, so, I mean, again, there's no rocket science here. I mean, you know, if you're leading a business, whether you're the CEO or whether you're the an entrepreneur, you know, you've got to be able to sell your ideas to people. So if you can't sell, you can't get investors, you can't get customers, you can't get suppliers. You can't get staff. So it's a very important skill. And most successful entrepreneurs are good at selling. In fact, there's research that shows that 80 percent of self-made billionaires spent a big chunk of time in sales earlier on in their career. And, you know, if you want to be a billionaire, you need to sell a lot of stuff, dont you? So it's a pretty good skill to have, you know, and more importantly, you've got to persuade people to buy into your ideas. And that actually is the more important thing. It's more important to be able to sell your ideas and sell your products then. Actually, you know, selling your ideas comes first. So you can't really be as successful, you know, it's very unlikely you're going to be a successful entrepreneur if you can't sell, if you don't learn to sell.
Michelle: So it's important to sell not only your products or services, but indeed yourself.
Paul: Yeah, yes, absolutely.
Michelle: Okay. And from your experience, what makes people buy products or services?
What makes people buy?
Paul: So that's a very good question and obviously it depends on the product, doesn't it? Depends on the product and service. So the reason people buy it depends on what you're offering. You know, if you offer them something they don't want, they're probably not going to buy it. So a critical issue is understanding what customers want. But that's very easy to say. It's much more difficult to do. So, you know, there are lots of things, you know, I mean, there are lots of ways of doing that. But it depends on the nature of the product or the service. But let me give you a little example of one of the problems that you see. So I've got a couple of goddaughter's and when they were young, they used to come and stay. I mean, they still come and stay, a bit less often because they're in their 20s. And I used to do stuff with them that their mom wouldn't let them do. So we would do face painting. And she was very tidy. So I would do stuff that was messy just because it was fun. And the girls loved it, of course. But one of the things we used to do was sort of baking. So we would bake pizzas and bake bread and stuff like that because the kids liked it and I liked doing it. One time, we decided to make pancakes. I mean, it's pancake day this week or it was last week. We decided to make pancakes. And one of the interesting things about pancakes is that, I mean, we made them in the conventional way. You know, you put the batter in a frying pan and you know. And my little goddaughter, Laura, she used to like sweet stuff. So she used to really like things like Nutella and chocolate spread and, you know, stuff like that. So we would make pancakes, Nutella pancakes, and she would say "Oh, I love these pancakes. They're absolutely lovely." But of course, her mother was like "You shouldn't feed her that because it's full of sugar." Right? And that's one of the interesting conundrums in selling, right? It's very easy to sell people stuff that they want. And, you know, there's nothing wrong with that. If people want Nutella pancakes, then that's fine. You know, there's nothing really wrong with that. And people have got to think, people can make a choice. But let's say you want to buy legal advice or financial advice and what you want is not what's necessarily good for you. Yeah, there's a conundrum there. So it's a bit like the pancake. You know, Laura wanted the pancake, but as her mother pointed out, it's not necessarily very good for her. And that's often true when you're selling professional services of one type or another.
So one of the interesting conundrums is how you persuade people to buy things that they don't initially like because they want something else, because they think that suits them. But actually, it's not necessarily the best thing for them. And that's a very interesting conundrum. And in fact, that's at the heart of one of the big problems in sales, because if you, I mean, my view of sales is that sales is helping clients choose the right product or service. And if you focus on helping clients choose the right thing, then all the ethical stuff goes away, you know, all the scandals we've had about mis-selling insurance and pensions, all the rest of it - all that goes away if you focused on selling customers the right thing. But it's easier to say "This is the right thing" than it is to get people to buy it, particularly if it doesn't necessarily look attractive to them in the short term. So there's a conundrum there. And that's the bit of sales. That's the hard bit.
Getting people to buy what they want is not difficult. Getting people to buy things that are good for them, it's a lot more problematic. And really, that's one of the things that I spend a lot of time with my clients, is helping them understand how to persuade clients that the expertise that they offer will really help them rather than perhaps some of the misguided ideas that clients have, not because of very malicious reasons. It's just they may not understand the issue. They may not be familiar with it. They may not be very experienced. They may be working under a set of wrong assumptions or whatever. I mean, we all get things wrong. There's nothing said about that if you see what I mean. But the challenge of sales is trying to persuade people to buy stuff that's good for them that they don't necessarily think is going to be good for them. So that makes sense?
Michelle: Yes, it definitely does. But the question obviously is now, how can you persuade people to buy a product that they might not want or see the need for?
What Tinkerbell has to do with selling
Paul: OK, so imagine you were going to get married, right? Would you want, let's say you're going to have a white wedding, you're going to get married in a very expensive big white dress with the veil, all the rest of it. I'm not saying you are, but let's imagine that you are, for the sake of argument. Would you want to get married before you tried the dress on and had a fitting?
Paul: No, you want to make sure it fits, you want to make sure you look good in it. Of course. What I call that strategy: "Try before you buy" and you see that a lot. So, you see that a lot with clients. So, if you want to buy a car, most people want to do a test drive. I mean, sometimes they don't. I mean, I like golf. So I would quite happily buy another golf without test driving it because I've had a few of them. So I know they drive well. But most people would want to test drive a car before they bought it.
Another example, my other half likes to come back when we come back from holidays we go through the champagne region and she likes to try champagne, she goes to champagne houses and tries the champagne before she buys it. Nothing wrong with that. You know, she loves it. She chooses the champagne that she wants and we bring cases of it home. So "try before you buy" is a great strategy. I always say to people it's the first thing you should try. You know, get people to try your product because then they can make up their own mind whether it's the right product for them. Except if it's like the pancake and it's got sugar in, which is bad for you. So it works. It works to a point. But if you can't actually try the product, the reason you would purchase a product that you haven't tried is because you believe. You don't know because you haven't tried it, but you believe that it will do what you want it to do. So I believe that Golfs will always drive well. So I'm not really bothered about buying another one without trying it out because I've had a few of them. They've all been great and I'm quite happy to buy another one without test driving it. But if you don't know that, you have to make the decision on the basis of belief.
So the real issue about sales is how you get people to believe that your product or service provides the value that they're looking for. And if people don't buy your product, if people aren't persuaded by your value proposition it's because they don't see the value in it. They don't believe that what you're offering to them is particularly valuable or certainly not as valuable as the amount of money that you want to charge. And it's also an issue about pricing and whether they perceive it to be value for money. But as I said that's really about belief. So the question then becomes: "How do you get people to believe things?" Now, that's a really interesting question, isn't it?
Michelle: It is.
Paul: Does that answer your question? The short answer is you have to get people to believe in your product unless they can try it out first.
Michelle: OK. So it's all about belief. it's a little bit like the story of Tinkerbell, isn't it? With Peter Pan and Tinkerbell, and you have to believe in her or otherwise she would just die. It's a bit like that.
Paul: Yeah, and children believe that, don't they? And you see children, I mean, I remember my goddaughter when we watched that. I sat watching the Peter Pan, apparently she was very upset with the thought that Tinkerbell might croak in a movie. But when you're four years old or whatever it is, it's quite a big thing.
Michelle: It's still a big thing.
Paul: I'm sure you're right. I haven't watched Peter Pan for a while, but I'm sure you're right.
Michelle: Yeah. Well, OK, let's move on. So having known you for a while, I noticed that you do a lot of things that seem to connect you with people in business and Oxfordshire and beyond that. Has this kind of community building helped you and your business? And if so - how?
The Benefits of a Community
Paul: I mean, I'm one of those people that, I mean, I'm naturally an introvert. And one of the reasons why I started the BIG Gig - which you've been to, the event I run - is because it was when I started, actually because I wanted to do so. I wanted to try and experiment, actually. But the byproduct of doing it is that when I go to a BIG Gig - I know everyone there. Because the only way to get access is to contact me. I mean, if you want to come to a BIG Gig you have to contact me. If you want to come to the Movie Gig, you've got to contact me. So I always have an email exchange or a telephone conversation with everyone that wants to join in. So it helps me get to meet people without having to do a lot of networking. And I don't want to spend my life traipsing around coffee shops. I mean, not that you can do that, but you know, I'm not a great one for doing that. But the great thing about organizing those events is that if people want to get access to them, then they have to contact me. They give me a phone call or they drop me an email and I have an email exchange or a telephone call with them and then they participate. And over time, if they like the event, so people that like the Movie project or like the BIG Gig or like any of the other things I've done, that you get to know them. I mean, that's how I got to know you. Wasn't it, really because you got into the movie project and, you know, it's a very easy way to get to know people, and that suits my personality. I'm not particularly outgoing. I'm not particularly an extrovert. I mean, you know, once upon a time, I was very, very introverted. I'm a bit less so now and I'm quite happy.
Michelle: I don't see you as a very introverted person.
Paul: So you don't live with me.
Michelle: Yeah, true.
Paul: Sue would probably say differently when I skive off from doing the washing up and going to read my book. I mean, I'm quite a self-contained person, but, you know, it's like most things, isn't it? You learn. I mean I've given speeches and run webinars and courses and so you learn to do those things. But they're not my natural habitat, if you see what I mean. Does that answer your question?
Michelle: Yes. Thank you. Another question is, why should people seek support for their business from communities and other experts? I mean, you could always just go to the internet and try to find out what you are looking for.
If you want a good idea...
Paul: Yeah. So I think there's a famous chemist called Linus Pauling. I think he won the Nobel Prize for chemistry. And he famously said "If you want good ideas, first of all, you need lots of ideas." So the logic behind things like the BIG Gig is to get lots of people in the room focused on one problem. So you get lots of different ideas about how to solve that problem. And that's the value of it. And the problem lots of small business people have is that they work on their own or there's two or three of them or whatever. And they often do a lot of work in isolation. The value of being part of a bigger community is that you can talk about the kind of challenges you have and get ideas from other people about what to do about it and how to tackle those challenges. I mean, I think one of the interesting things about a lot of communities, though, is that people don't really do that. I mean, you know, a lot of the networking events and stuff that are organised, they don't actually focus people on talking about the issues. They just want to give you their business card. And that doesn't help build relationships. And ultimately, it's about building relationships in the B2B space.
Selling is about building relationships. So, the great thing about being part of a community is that you can hear about how other people have tackled challenges. So you can hear about other people's problems. You can think about how they did things and whether you can learn from that for yourself. You can ask people's opinions about things. You can say "I'm thinking about doing this. What do you think?" So you can use those communities, it's a great way of getting new ideas, of getting other people's opinions. You don't have to use them, but they're often very valuable. I mean, I'm a great believer in diversity of thought. You know, I don't want to work with people that think the same as me. That doesn't really help me. I mean, I already think the way I think. What I need is somebody would say "I've got a different idea". That's the valuable piece, and in communities with lots of people, you'll get lots more opinions and that's tremendously valuable. And, you know, you can get support sometimes. I mean, being an entrepreneur can be tough. Selling can be tough. Sometimes it's nice to have people to console you. To go get a beer with when you've had a lousy day. So you're having a big part of a community. A supportive community gives you that as well.
Michelle: Yeah, I agree. Hopefully it will be possible again soon, to go out for a pint or two.
Paul: You never know. Maybe, let's hope.
Michelle: OK, so before we finish, where can people find you if they want to know more about you and your business and want to contact you?
How to contact Paul
Paul: So if people are interested in what I do, they can go to my website which is "mysalesguru.co.uk". Mysalesguru one word. And I'm Paul, so you can email me at "email@example.com". And you can find me on LinkedIn at "mysalesguru" or Paul Essery. I'm on Facebook as well, but I tend to use LinkedIn a little bit more. And if you google "mysalesguru", it normally comes up very quickly on the list so you can pick up my email there and stuff that people will want to have. Is that helpful?
Michelle: Yes. Thank you very much. It was a really, really great talk. Very grateful for that. Thank you very much.
Paul: No problem.
Michelle: And I wish you a wonderful day.
Paul: Thank you very much. I wish you a wonderful day, too.