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Radical Sales Differentiation and Value, with Bill Cates [Episode 800]

Bill Cates (author of “Radical Relevance”) and I talk about what is means to be radically relevant in order to cut through the noise and grab a buyer’s attention. I always enjoy talking with Bill. He’s a straight talker. And I really enjoy his emphasis on how sellers need to get out of their own heads about what differentiation is and what value is. Because if your buyer doesn’t think you’re differentiated and doesn’t believe your “value” to be valuable. Then, it’s not, is it? We’re also going to dive into a handful of Bill’s 17 Rules for Relevance and how use these to be critically compelling to get buyers moving and keep them moving.

Episode Transcript

Andy Paul: Bill Cates. Welcome back to the show.

Bill Cates: Andy Paul. Great to be here. Thank you.

Andy Paul: Yeah, pleasure to talk to you again. It’s been awhile.

Bill Cates: Yeah, but you know, I keep doing new stuff, so we better talk every now and then.

Andy Paul: Well, true. Put out new books and so on. So where have, where have you been sheltering in place?

Bill Cates: Annapolis, Maryland, not Indianapolis, but Annapolis, Maryland.

Andy Paul: Marylandn.

Bill Cates: Apple Maryland, once the capital of this nation for a little while on the Chesapeake Bay. Beautiful place. Naval Academy.

Andy Paul: it is a gorgeous place. yeah. I went on a recruiting visit to the Naval Academy before my senior year of high school. It was a gorgeous place.

Bill Cates: Yeah. Very cool.

Andy Paul: Yeah. And actually I had a good friend who used to live there, his wife, I don’t know if we talked about this before his wife had started, Caroline’s cake.

So you ever heard of Caroline’s cakes?

Bill Cates: I have heard of Caroline’s Cakes. Oh, she started that must is her name, Caroline. I hope.

Andy Paul: She is unfortunately she’s passed away, but, but, but yeah, they started to become quite a sizable, you know, small family owned business, making these incredible cakes, that each one I think weighs about 10 pounds, but man, are they good? Then they’re famous for their Southern seven layer caramel cake.

Bill Cates: Oh man, that that would be my dream cake. And now, now you’re making me hungry

Andy Paul: Well, you got to go online. CarolinesCakes.com.

Bill Cates: I will.

Andy Paul: And if my buddy Chick is listening to this, giving a plug and, yeah, we just had one, we sort of tried to pass a couple of weeks during the shutdown with one of those cakes. part of the reason we’ve my wife and I have both put on weight is. Yeah, anxiety eating at the time, but

Bill Cates: They call it the COVID-19.

Andy Paul: Just like the freshmen 15. Yeah. Yeah. I, I got a few of those. Now trying to wean myself off that, so, but anyway. All right, well, good Annapolis, great place. So, we’re here to talk about your new book, Radical Relevance. Sharpen your marketing message cut through the noise, win more deals. So, first question is, is it’s no longer enough just to be relevant. You have to be radically relevant.

Bill Cates: Well, I think we live in a, in a Radically Relevant world. If you give a couple examples, a Google, the ultimate relevance machine, you have a seven word search, you type into words, and it already knows where you’re headed. It’s all built, right? The algorithms are built for relevance. Amazon, YouTube, all of that stuff.

And then here’s my favorite example is, Billboards on the side of the road. the electronic ones are programmed with a lot of the data from the driving apps, Waze, Google maps. And so the advertisers change the ads based on the demographic, driving by the sign at any given time of day as some of these signs.

Yeah. Some of these signs have pollen counters in them. Pollen sensors, I should say. And when the pollen level hits a certain, certain level, it triggers ads for yeah, exactly. Alegra pharmacy target, you know, CVS, whatever. And so, yeah, I mean, so, so we live in a radically relevant world. We also know. That it’s so easy to really learn about your prospects, at least something about them, that it it’s just plain silly and foolish to not, bring some knowingness to the table in terms of your sales and marketing.

And people expect that, right? I mean, how many emails and phone calls and other things we get from people that. They have no clue who we are. They’re just spraying and praying. And, and, and so we don’t pay attention. The brain doesn’t pay attention. The brain doesn’t want to waste time on that nonsense.

And so we’ve got to start focusing and focusing and focusing. And so the more we learn the narrower and we’ll talk about it, the them narrow, we get in our focus in terms of our market, in terms of our bullseye and the target. the more our message is gonna resonate. With that prospect and they will then give us the time of day so we can spend some more time with them.

Andy Paul: Yeah, I always find it interesting. And I was just having this conversation with someone right before this interview is, is, you know, why given that, that we have enough data to know that, you know, being more niched, more specific, more educated about our, our focus, you know, our target customers that the vast majority of people are still, as you said, are just sort of spraying and praying. I was like, why? Why? Right. It just seems contrary to human nature to keep doing that. Unless I guess it works to some degree

Bill Cates: Well, I mean, it’s a pure numbers play and, and, it’s not very efficient from a dollar standpoint, depending on what you’re paying for it, of course. I mean, one thing you need to look at any businesses look at is cost per opportunity. Right? What does it cost you to get in front of someone? I don’t care whether it’s pure internet based or, or not, there’s still a cost to getting in front of people. And so any business, it should know what that is. I think part of it, some cases that’s ignorance, just not knowing they haven’t really, you know, been taught, trained, know how to do it. They don’t think about it. Some people are lazy.

I think else, people, when you get down to the tactical level, sometimes they just don’t take the time. Or maybe it’s, it could be a leadership management failure, in the sense that they give people these scripts to use whatever. Yeah. I mean, you know that the, the last interview we did was all about my, my processes around referrals and introductions.

And I’ve seen people who. Well, get a referral that get introduced to the new prospect, and then they go into their canned approach. you know, they don’t use the information they could be learning, you know, from, from this, this person who knows them, there’s cold research, which you get on the internet. And then there’s a warm research that you get from the person who knows them. And we should be using both.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Well, you said in the book upfront, the two challenges for sellers and marketing message overwhelm, and then inertia and they’re connected.

Bill Cates: Yes, they definitely are. I mean, the marketing message overwhelmed will we’ll create inertia. people, you know, hiding their head on the sand, whatever it is related to what you do, right. People will avoid it, put it off. That you have to, you know, sometimes the inertia is caused by the incumbent, right?

There was someone else that they’re working with thoroughly happy with that person, but the devil they know is better than the devil they don’t know. I think some, you know, prospects are lazy, and so how do we get them out of that? Well, you know, I use a physics metaphor. Isaac Newton, the first law of motion, a body in motion will stay in motion and body at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.

Right. That’s inertia. And so we got to become that outside force and you know, not real force, but we’ve, we’ve got a slap them upside the head, metaphorically slap them up beside the head to get their attention. And what’s the best way to do that. Well, it’s an introduction from someone they trust.

Right. So that’s how this ties into all the work I’ve done with referrals is that if you get introduced by someone that person already knows, likes and trusts, then you’re on their radar. They’re probably going to give you the time of day and maybe set up a call, you know, anything short of that, it’s tougher.

Sometimes you can be, you know, have some element of differentiation that really makes you stand out and will attract their attention. Sometimes you can be, you know, say something a little controversial, which will, you know, act as that kind of outside force to grab someone’s attention. THere better be something behind it, it better not be a bait and switch. you know, so for instance, there’s a book out that says stop asking for referrals.

And in the book. Oh yeah. And in the book that gentlemen says, well, I didn’t really mean that, I, you should be asking for introductions. Now I believe in that we should be using the word introductions more of these days, but to me that’s a little bait and switch trickery.

And so we have to be a little careful about that, that cleverness and that, you know, counterintuitive approach. But nonetheless, it can work. I mean, I’ll say for instance, I’ll say sometimes referrals are worthless. And then I’ll say, I know, you’re wondering why is the referral coach saying referrals are worthless, while they’re worthless and we get introduced, unless we get connected. So then we, you know, we build on that as opposed to don’t do this. Oh yeah. Okay. It’s okay to do it. That’s kind of disingenuous.

Andy Paul: Yeah, well, you just raised, you just raised the point. So tell people what you see as the difference between a referral and an introduction.

Bill Cates: yeah. So, an introduction is, is kinda. I have three. All right. So word of mouth, referrals and introductions.

And word of mouth is people talking about you and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s good. It’s important. We should all be getting some word of mouth. Now some businesses can thrive from that right. Restaurants, except for when there’s a pandemic, but restaurants, movies, books, certain things, you know, thrive on the word of mouth. They need it. But there’s a lot of other businesses like an accountant or a financial advisor or a few, you know, other kinds of businesses, that word of mouth isn’t going to be enough and it’s not necessarily going to be the right people.

So then the, the, the referral is kind of Call George Use My Name. Right. It’s kind of industries called a referred lead. Well, guess what, George doesn’t pick up his phone anymore, especially if he doesn’t know who’s calling and he’s wondering why their friend gave his name out to someone who doesn’t know. So forget that, that’s going to voicemail. Right.

And so an introduction of course is when you’re actually being connected, introduced, you know, Laura Meet George George Meet Laura. That can be done in person. That could be done over the phone. A lot of people are doing with an email. I call it an email handshake.

But now, you know, you are able to follow through on that and you have someone to talk to be it virtually, or, you know, email or whatever. And so we, we need to think in terms of connections and, and I tell people that they’re, they’re not really done in, in this conversation until the connection been been made.

So they, you know, have a way to reach out to someone who knows they’re reaching out. They’re interested in hearing from them a good quality connections been made. So that’s the basic differences.

Andy Paul: Yeah. And I think the critical point for our sellers to think about is, is an introduction has made if  there’s a handshake, the virtual handshake. Otherwise, yeah, referred lead is a good way to look at it.

Bill Cates: Yeah, it’s just, I mean look, can it work a little. Yeah, sure. I mean, you know, there’s word of mouth works for some businesses to a certain degree. Yeah, of course. I mean, we should all be getting unsolicited referrals. We should all, I mean, that’s a barometer of our referrability. We should, we should all be getting some of those.

If, if you’re not, if you’re not having some of your clients or customers talk about you to others, then you better examine that relationship and the value that’s being perceived. Right. And certainly some businesses lend itself to that more than others. But that’s kind of a barometer as far as I’m concerned.

Andy Paul: Well, it raises an interesting question is, is so yeah. How do you, how do you cultivate that? Right? I mean, it’s, it’s obviously won’t be able to cultivate your, your users to, you know, give you these introductions, you know help with the word of mouth. What should you be doing?

Bill Cates: Yeah. So, Well, first of all, you got, you’ve got to create what we call engaged clients or engaged customers. And engaged customer or client is someone who’s who. appreciate your value. They like the ideas. You suggest the, the educational elements of your process, the questions you asked to get them thinking in ways they haven’t thought before and responsive service.

And that’s all kind of the value part of the relationship. And then the other part is the personal connection, the personal side of the relationship. And I call it business friendships. You know, it’s not like you’re best buddies and or whatever, but, but your business friends and anybody listening to this knows what I’m talking about. Cause they’ve had them. and, and that’s kind of, to me, that’s the secret sauce of creating advocates because when you do a great job for people and you know, some will talk about you without you even asking, and then there’ll be receptive to you asking, and you can make, get some introductions and all that.

But then when they really like you too, then they want to help others with your value, but they also don’t mind helping you. And so. Right. And so they take a stake in your success a little bit, like you’ve taken a stake in their success. And so that’s the secret sauce to really creating a lot more advocates for our business.

And advocates typically will, number one, one, you know, advocate for you. Obviously they’re going to, you know, recommend you. Vouch for you, but they’re also gonna pay attention to the connection. They’re going to make sure the connection goes through. They’re gonna, you know, they’re going to bug you. Hey, if you call my friend yet, or they’re going to bug their friend, you call my purpose.

And that that’s what we want ultimately, as advocates. And one of the best ways to create advocates, especially this business friendship is, client events, client appreciation events, customer appreciation events, where you get together with people in a social setting. There’s all kinds of things that businesses do to just to get to know people and, and, and take that relationship to a higher level.

This is particularly powerful in, in professional services, any kind of professional service business. And so then, you can start to use those events for actually ways of getting introductions, too. so, you know,

Andy Paul: Well, it’s like you see, yeah. Tech companies have a basically user events, right. Where the users come, but then they bring their friends-

Bill Cates: They do.

Andy Paul: -and they act as the sales people, you don’t even need the sellers to sell.

Bill Cates: Exactly. You know, and even though it’s a user event meant to be mostly centered around, you know, the, the, the product obviously, and the technology and, and all of that, however, there’s the social aspect to it. And then of course, the sales reps can schmooze with the users and, and you just start to develop these relationships.

You see it with large companies, small companies, anybody can, can be doing this sort of thing. And this, by the way is, you know, back to the book of relevance. This is how you remain relevant with your clients, you know, how do people say, how do you stay relevant? Well, I keep talking to my clients and I talk to them on a social level. I talk to them on a, on a business level and I find out what their challenges are on both levels, you know, to a degree on the personal. And that’s how you stay relevant is, is having these kinds of have a closer relationship. To me, radical relevance, it starts with like a relentless passion for just delivering a great product-service relationship to your client. It’s got to start with that. And it’s about getting to know those people in ways that, you know, the average business wouldn’t take the time and energy to get to know them. And that’s how you stand out.

Andy Paul: Yeah. That’s rule number nine. Relevance begins with client obsession.

Bill Cates: Wow. You actually were, actually looking at the book

Andy Paul: I read the book, so, so, but I think that’s, that’s true. And they’re companies stand out for this. I mean, Amazon, obviously for the larger companies world now, at least by value. Yeah, they have, they have this legendary obsession with, with customers and improving the customer experience. And, and, to your point, you know, your rule number 15 is your clients aren’t mindreaders, or you say prospect and clients, but, but if you want to have, you know, build this community of, sort of raving fans is you gotta talk to them.

Bill Cates: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, you do. And you know, the way I, I see the world through- I used to joke in the book. I, I used to see the world through the glasses of referrals and introductions. Right. That was how do we leverage these great relationships? What are different ways to do that, product services, right? How do we take whatever we’re doing, whatever the project, how do we add an element of referrals and introductions or word of mouth to it?

And of course now I’m seeing through bifocals, I guess. Now I’m also seeing through idea of relevance and value proposition, but they go hand in hand. I mean, one of the reasons I got into this is, I was interviewing a bunch of salespeople and I was for a conference I was speaking at and I said, all right, so you get some referrals. I go, yeah, great. You know, what do you say to these prospects when you call them or reach out via email or whatever. And their, their value proposition was so lame that, I go, I got to write a book on this, right?

Cause that’s, I’m helping people meet more people, but they’re not going to make the sale or get the appointment if they don’t know what to say. So this is fundamental, right? How you talk, how you believe in and talk about your value is fundamental to your success. And it’s why see a lot of folks who are newer in sales, not succeed because they never truly got inspired and believe in and an emotional connection.

To the value. I don’t care what you’re selling. Right? You’re if you’re selling a product, you’re selling a service, you’re selling B2B, you’re selling B2C, whatever you do has an impact on a person. And if you can figure that out and know it and believe it. Know, you’re doing good work, then that set up session and that’s, that’s, you know, how you be more relevant to them and bring better products and solutions and answers to the questions and that’s how you become referrable.

So they all go together.

Andy Paul: So yeah. Back to your point about value though, I mean, value is this certainly in sales, it’s one, of it’s become a cliche, right? I

Bill Cates: It has.

Andy Paul: what, what is value? And I think this is really important for sellers to understand. Cause it’s, it’s yeah, they talk about creating value, delivering value, but if you ask them to really quantify that, be specific, what’s the value. They really don’t know for the most part.

Bill Cates: Well, and also value is in the eye of the beholder, right? So we may be thinking we’re bringing value, but we don’t really know until we hear it. So. w I mean, one of the things I teach is something I call a value discussion. where we want to check in and we want to say, you know, how we doing? You know, we’ve been through a process to get to this point, or we just talked about a lot of things is meeting, you know, what stands out as the most valuable.

So we want to check in and see. we also want to pay attention to value recognizing statements cause prospects, clients, customers, they all say good things about us. Hopefully some of them are saying good things about you. And, and so now we know value is being delivered, but, you know, value is what value is ideas, it’s perspective.

It’s it’s ways to look at things differently. It’s you know, it’s helping people do a better job, be more effective, more efficient. understand what they’re buying better. There’s lots of ways to bring value. and I believe in leading with value, every sales person, every business, every marketing, because our society is so in tuned to not wanting to be sold to, that, right, we have to lead with some, some help. Here’s a way I can be of service to you. Even if we don’t do business. I know there’s a way I can serve you in some way. And that’s value, right? You show up with a prospect and you see they’re doing something that they could do a bit, a little bit differently and better.

You teach them. You don’t expect to get paid for it. You just teach them, you show them. That’s value, and then they start to like you and they start to trust you. And they see that you have other points of value. And so it doesn’t have to be this mysterious thing. It’s just very specific things we can do with our prospects and clients.

Andy Paul: Yeah. And I, I started taking it a step further. I mean, for me it is those things, but it’s those things only if they help the buyer move closer to making a decision.

Bill Cates: Right. Well, I think there’s both. I mean, I think there’s value in the decision process and then there’s just value. Just a way to help them ask them.

Andy Paul: Right. But if you look at the chart, but they have to have to help the customer in the context, why are you talking to them? Because hopefully they’re evaluating, making a decision about how to solve this problem, how to achieve a certain outcome or whatever. And, you know, you can consume some of their time and if it doesn’t help them in some dimension in making that decision about what to do, it doesn’t mean, you know, it could be small progress, but it’s progress. There’s no progress. Maybe just wasted their time

Bill Cates: Exactly.

Andy Paul: And then there’s no value in it.

Bill Cates: Yup. I hear ya.

Andy Paul: So that’s why I agree with you. It’s, it’s those things you’re talking about, insight, questions, data, whatever, but it has to be in the context of did, did we help you move forward? And because you were talking about that being compelling, really critical or critically compelling, I’m sorry. Let me get that straight critically compelling to your point about inertia is to get them moving and keep them moving. And if you have meetings with your clients where you’re not delivering something that they perceive to be valuable to helping them move closer, making decision, they’re not moving forward.

And therefore in my, in my world, in my experience, it’s not valuable to them.

Bill Cates: Right. No, it makes sense. It’s good

Andy Paul: Alright, we had violent agreement on those things. But I mean, I think that, and you have this quote from Ardith Alby in your book, about yeah, it’s looking different, which I, that was a great quote, looking different in the marketplace isn’t about what you or your company does it’s what your clients receive from what you do and, and yeah. It’s yeah. Get away from the features and benefits and, and what do people get from investing in your product.

Bill Cates: Yeah, I have, one of the rules of relevance that you already mentioned. The book has 17 of them, and one of them is only differences that matter, matter. So, yeah. You know, there’s a lot of conversation around, well, what makes you different? What makes you different? What makes you different? A lot of people struggle with it, possibly because they don’t have a good target market. They don’t, they don’t have this relentless passion for their, their clients or customers. So they don’t know how they stand out, but, you know, it’s, it’s, some people have superficial differences. And so, but that doesn’t matter. So I’ll give you an example. I do work a lot of financial companies and there was a trend for a while where financial advisors were building their websites to reflect their hobbies: fishing, dogs, cooking, whatever.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Yeah. Being personal and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with conveying- but they were, they were seeing that as part of their, the differentiation of their brand. But that’s not a differentiation that matters. I mean, it might matter to someone else who fishes.

And so if you, all you want to attract is people who fish well, then I guess that could be a differentiator, but it really doesn’t have anything to do with financial planning. So only does it matter matter another example, a banking client of mine. One of their, what they called unique selling propositions was the fact that they had been in business for 127 years. And I said, well, so what?

Andy Paul: Yeah. Founded in a garage.

Bill Cates: Yeah. Okay. That’s different. Yeah. Okay. I get it. But how does that benefit me? If at all? And a younger person may say, well, you know, they’re probably old and they’re probably out of date and stodgy and don’t have the latest apps and someone old, older might think, okay, that’s good.

You know, they’ve been around for a long time. They’re not going anywhere. But we don’t know that unless we communicate in a way that’s relevant to our prospect, it has no value to our prospect if it isn’t relevant to them. And so what I had them do is I had them go through this, a list of theirs and, and translate every one of those, those features that they thought were benefits into actual, real life benefits.

They could say. So what this means to you is this, or how this will show up to you is this, right? And so now. They have things to talk about. And a lot of people confuse platitudes with differentiators. And what I mean by it as if any, if almost any business can say it, then it’s not a differentiator when I’m in front of an audience.

I go, all right, raise your hand, if you use the fact that you really care about your clients and you bring customize solutions and you know, most of the hands go up, I go, all right, well, cool. Literally it’s not a differentiator. If everybody in the room does it. right. So, and it doesn’t mean, you know, talk about those things.

I’m not saying you don’t talk about them. Just don’t expect that to be a differentiator. It’s gotta be something different.

Andy Paul: The differentiator can and should be the experience the buyer has with you going through their, their buying journey.

Bill Cates: After. Absolutely. It’s it’s it’s yeah, that’s one of the biggest places and it doesn’t have to be the whole experience that makes you different, but there’s certain ways you do things that bring more value, more, you know, pleasure, peace of mind, saving time, saving money, et cetera. That does differentiate you from other people.

Andy Paul: Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s amazing, you know, talking to sellers who think that it’s all about the product. And on one hand they’ll say, well, you know, buyer’s emotion enters into decision making and so on, but then they don’t factor that into, well, what’s the experience we give the buyer, you know, during their buying journey, which we know from research is this incredibly complex thing that they go through a somewhat blind, because they don’t have a lot of experience maybe buying this type of product. So they’re sort of making it up as they go well, Yeah, what’s what’s how can you help them with that? You know, if buying and I believe that, you know, buyers generally as, as a mission, once they look, we want to quickly gather information to make a good decision with the least investment of time and money possible.

Well, how do you help that by helping them go? How are you helping them achieve that through how you sell to them?

Bill Cates: Right. And you know, that’s a lot of what makes you referrable. It’s not, I mean, the product and, and, and end service and end product could be part of that, for sure. But it’s mostly the process of doing business with you, right? So it’s a process you took them through, as you say, through that buying journey that at the end, they go, wow, this is great.

Better than I expected. I, I know I made the right decision, by the way, you know, you helped me with this. And, and so when they talk about you, they don’t just talk about this as a great product. They talk about. You know, the prospects of getting of learning about and buying it. Absolutely. That’s what makes you referrable and you, and you can become referrable before a sale.

If you have a great process, if you’re educating folks, right. And all of that, you can be referrable even before the sale’s made.

Andy Paul: Yeah. I mean, I agree that’s happened for me a couple of times. I mean, but it’s to the point you, you know, companies in the work, you, and it really is you as a, as an individual, That at the end of the day, oftentimes yeah. Offering to make an introduction of you, not your company there are there making an offer to introduce you to somebody then their networks, some of they’re connected with someone that you could help. Alright, well, Bill, unfortunately we’ve run out of time, but, so how can people learn more about your book and get in touch with you?

Bill Cates: Sure. I, I appreciate that. A couple of tools here, some free stuff. we have a report that a guide, I should say, that’s free to your listeners. it’s a nice combination of, kind of good reflection of what we talked about here today with the things I’ve been doing around referrals and introductions for years, and, and my new material in the book, radical relevance, and it’s called, exponentialgrowthguide.com.

So go to exponentialgrowthguide.com. And you get that it’s free. And then a, the book, Radical Relevance, obviously we’re books are sold, meaning Amazon. And, you know, audio and Kindle and all, but, it’s more than a book. Yeah. And if, if I may, there was so much I wanted to put into the book, but I didn’t want the book to be so large that people wouldn’t read it. Right. It becomes daunting and that doesn’t do any, anybody, any good.

So I created a Radical Relevance Toolkit, and essentially it’s a lot of the things that a lot of the very tactical and nitty gritty kind of things that I didn’t put in the book that, that you get, if you get the book. And so within the first several pages, it tells you how to register the book and you get access to the radical relevance toolkit, and just go to radicalrelevancebook.com, radicalrelevancebook.com, and, and you’ll get into my world. We’d love to help you. I’d love to see how I can be of service.

Andy Paul: Excellent. All right. People check it out, bill. Thanks a lot.

Bill Cates: Thank you, Andy.