Increasing sales & improving your sales strategy

Interview with Chris Dawson

Increasing sales & improve your sales strategy | Chris Dawson Interview

We were delighted to have the opportunity to interview Chris Dawson, director of 6th Door and the Sales Dojo.

We talk sales, sales strategy, reviewing your internal processes, and Chris provides real-life examples of the work 6th Door has done with sales teams around the globe.

6th Door has spent years listening to what people want and sharing their passion and experiences with businesses around the world. 6th Door focus on how to increase your sales, effectiveness, and customer experience. Through their renowned workshops, sales training programmes, and coaching they have helped thousands of people reach their goals, inspire others around them and communicate at a whole new level.

The Sales Dojo is a bit like “Ted Talks” for the sales industry and is ideal for self-employed professionals and smaller businesses. The Sales Dojo is also a podcast and clubhouse room.

You can learn more about 6th Door and the Sales Dojo via the following links:

6th Door 

The Sales Dojo

Click on the buttons below to listen to the interview on our podcast or watch via YouTube

Increasing sales & improving your sales strategy

Interview with Chris Dawson

Sales Dojo Logo
6th door logo

We were delighted to have the opportunity to interview Chris Dawson, director of 6th Door.

After spending over 20 years in the sales arena Chris has held nearly every role from door-to-door canvassing through to national sales management and training for FTSE 100 companies. Chris trains and develops teams nationwide including clients ranging from BT Canon Europe through to Smaller Earth, Hilton Group, and ACC.

Chris is also a fellow of the Institute for Sales Management and a member of the Association of Neuro-Linguistic Programmers. He teaches sales skills at the University of Liverpool and helps salespeople around the world with the Digital Sales Dojo. It is a bit like “Ted Talks” for the sales industry.

The Sales Dojo is also a podcast and clubhouse room.

On today’s show, we are going to be picking Chris’s brains on growing, and retaining, B2B introducer relationships, overcoming client’s objections, converting more sales, and increasing repeat business.

Chris hope all that did not make you blush. How are you? How has your start to 2021 been?

– I am great. I am really good. 2021 has been crazy. We are pulling 15-hour days at the moment. We are getting ready for the rest of the world to unlock and doing some really cool stuff. So yes we are having a really good year so far.

Over the course of the last 12 months have you seen buyer behaviour change at all? Whether that is related to the pandemic or not? I am thinking in particular things such as cold calls or emails?

– Yeah. So, it is an interesting one, but it is kind of counter-intuitive you would think that through the pandemic, the buyer behaviour may have been a bit less receptive, maybe a bit colder, but actually, it’s gone the opposite way.

So, I think it is this natural human craving for interaction. Cold outreach has actually been welcomed far more than it was pre pandemic. People are quite happy to have a conversation. They might be harder to get hold of because they are not in offices and it is harder to get numbers but through cold calling, definitely, and through the use of new technology, everybody’s caught up with using video chat now which has opened up a lot of sales teams already, but the prospects weren’t, and it’s added a really cool extra step into the sales process.

Buyer behaviour is dependent obviously on the sector that you are selling into but, people crave human interaction, they crave people. So, the salespeople who have embraced that and maybe gone away from this spray and pray email approach, or the marketing approach, and gone for direct selling, it has been a great time.

For property professionals, a lot of the work that they receive is quite heavily based on introducer partnerships. As a result of networking, thinking of mortgage brokers, as an example, they may well have estate agents or surveyors or IFAs that introduce to them. If you were looking to start from scratch, or perhaps you are looking to grow your introducer network, how would someone go about that? What would your recommendations be?

– Okay. So, I think first of all you’ve got to really understand what networking is. If you just starting out. It is not a form of direct selling. Networking is 100% about giving. It is the servant leader position.

You need to go and find all the people that you can help but not with your goods and services, but who can you introduce them to?

That is almost the definition of a network, isn’t it? So obviously LinkedIn is massively powerful now. If you are just starting with this now, it is easy to go networking looking for who can you do business with? I would say, if you want to grow your network fast and generate business, look for who does business with the people that you want to do business with.

So, if I connected to you, Sean, and I wanted to do work with you. That is one connection. I train sales teams across the world. If I connect with a recruitment agency, they have access to hundreds of sales teams. So, I only need to make one connection to access a massive useful network.

If you are just starting out networking do not fall into the trap of only networking with the end-user, for your goods and services who may be connected to a much larger network than that because that is what it is. It is about plugging into other people’s networks not just creating your own.

When you have secured those kinds of partnerships and you are working well together, you could go through a spell where for whatever reason the work drops off. Or in such a competitive market, people are wanting to take that introducer from you. How would you try and build such a strong rapport that unless there was an absolutely ludicrous offer or set of circumstances, that relationship would stay loyal? How would you ensure you retain those introducer partnerships?

– So, first of all, I think you’ve got to be really realistic. That loyalty does not truly exist. Because this is the B2B world and if somebody came to me and said, we can give you a far superior product at a superior price you know, a better price that would increase your margin and save you all this stress Chris, and I believed them then I am going to do it.

This is business at the end of the day. However, there is rapport.

There are ties there that you can only get them as strong as you can. For me, the best way you can do that is, get your clients, a client.

If you act as an introducer, if I generate you business then you are not going to want to sabotage that relationship.

So, if I am always…. and this goes back to your networking, if you were a client of mine, Sean, but I regularly sending you leads, introduced you to people who then want to do business with you, I am now not in a supplier-customer relationship. I am just a member of your team and that creates a massively superior bond.

I mean, there are a million ways to go about this, but if you wanted a top tip, it would definitely be – always look to your network for who could you create business for your customers with? It is not an unbreakable bond, but it is a really strong one.

Converting leads. it is all very well and good having the introducer partnerships whether you are getting them online or whether they are referrals from another introducer.  I suppose especially when they are being referred to you from an introducer, really looking after them and securing that good feedback is crucial.

What would your advice be for trying to maximise the conversion rates from lead to signed up client?

– A lot of people make the mistake here that think it is all about clever negotiation skills or using 1980 sales language “closing people down” really quickly.

It is far simpler than that. In the relationships that you build, it is about moving people through the sales pipeline as smoothly as possible. The best advice I would give on that is to keep your funnel as filled as possible. It is all about being aggressive at the top of the sales funnel.

So, if you are halfway through the sales process with an organisation and they may be considering your competition, or they are ghosting you, if you have got an empty sales pipeline and you desperately need that customer you will make mistakes. You will not ask the important questions.

You will not be confident enough to walk away and you will end up in a bad place. If you have got a completely full sales pipeline because you are always prospecting every week. When you are halfway down that pipeline or moving people forward, you will ask the right questions. Everything about you will be more confident.

If you want to convert them you have to be able to not worry about converting them, and the only way to do that is to have an incredibly full top of your funnel.

It changes the questions you ask, the confidence you have, how hard you push people, your willingness to walk away.

Just do not forget in every deal, you are 50% of that deal. If you are not, then you are losing. Keep your sales funnel as full as possible.

When you have been training people in relation to the early sales process has much changed over the years? Is it still the same as it was in terms of, perhaps you do the phone call and you keep your rapport there, or because of so many multi-digital channels do people need to be agile and keep in touch with people across email, phone, social media, etc?

Or is it more subjective? Finding out what works for the person at the other end and tailoring your approach to what suits them?

– There is a part of tailoring it. Some people just like to communicate via email. Some people wish you would just pick the phone up but all the research from your likes of SalesLoft, Connect & Sell, etc, and when I say research they talk with 8 million sales professionals these are proper stats, is to use multimedia touchpoints.

It massively firms up your chances. So, if you are phoning somebody, email them, connect with them on LinkedIn, and send them a text message, then your chances of moving that sale forward, go up by… I think it came out as about 80%.

If you just stubbornly repeatedly call somebody then your chances are going to go down. So yeah, embrace all channels.

But it depends where in the sales pipeline you are.

So, I try and move things forward as quickly as I can to get in the space where you can send somebody a WhatsApp or a text message. If you think about it, Sean, all your business boring stuff lives in your emails.

All your friends and your family live in your text messages and your WhatsApp’s. The second you can get that then how your relationships are perceived completely changes.

On LinkedIn, it is a social media, so it is a bit of 50-50 there.

Embrace all the channels possible and be aggressive at the top of the sales funnel.

I think that’s great advice. Using LinkedIn as an example, I remember way back in the day, I would not really get many direct messages and if someone wanted to connect to me, I was quite excited. Whereas the spam that I have been getting on the DMs was interesting. I only really understood it when I started to reach out to a few people on DM’s, who I was connected to, I hope in a friendly way, but you are tarred with the same brush. I found that interesting, that even myself, I noticed that if when people were wanting to connect with me I was almost negative about it from the off. And if you got a DM, I was negative about it before I even had a look in there at the content. It has just been abused by so many people.

– Well, this is the big shift in cold outreach and prospecting is….. well, the buzzword at the moment is personalization. But it is really true.

You have got to if you are going to slip into somebody’s DM’s – it is a horrible phrase I appreciate, or you are going to send them a cold email or a cold phone call is going to be made, you have got to make that person very aware that it was specifically them that you wanted to speak to.

They are not just one of a hundred calls you are going to make that day. And this is where the big split between telemarketing and telesales comes.

So, if somebody sends you, and we have all had these on LinkedIn, haven’t we Sean? You get a connection request, you accept it, And immediately an eight-screen long sales pitch appears in your inbox. It is just an archive immediately. You just do not engage with it.

But if it is really personal and it’s not trying to take the sales process too far this is the real shift where there are extra stages added now. I just want five minutes of your time. That is your first sell.

Not would you be interested in reading my brochure and me telling you how we are going to help your company. That is way down the line yet.

It is, Sean, I have been reading some of your posts. I found that I really agreed with some of your opinions on this, apart from this one, and then maybe do something really personal. Would it be crazy for us to get 10 minutes in the diary to maybe have a chat further, really personal, really relaxed, and then it’s just a 10-minute chat and you move it that way.

It is the same on the phone or a text or however you are doing it, and you are doing this all the time. So, it is a lot of work now because it is real personalization. But people warm to that a lot more than just your old-fashioned spray and pray that is out there. Especially DMs on LinkedIn.

How much of what you do is strategy-based in terms of the actual process and how much does the national linguistic programme work come in? I have not done anywhere near as much as you, it is something that I have done for my own personal benefits. I can totally see how I think those things will complement each other massively. I am interested in what balance I suppose you see them in. Is one more important than the other? How, would you explain that in terms of how you teach those areas under the sales banner?

– So, the NLP side of it really is an overarching brush. To me NLP, and you know it has got a lot of flaws by people who have promoted it wrongly, it is a process. It is about using language.

Well, that is what salespeople do. So, your process is incredibly important for three main reasons. If you have not got a sales process you cannot teach anybody else what you do. Because everything you have done is just off the cuff. So, it has got to be teachable. You cannot repeat it.

So, every sale you create, if it has not followed the process, has just been luck, and really importantly, it’s not scalable without a process.

If you have one salesperson following a process you can have 20 salespeople following the same process. You can scale your business. We look at that process and it is the fastest way to see where you need to train.

They could be losing all that potential business in the middle of the pipeline, the end of the pipeline, or early on. That is where you should focus the training.

The NLP side is just the language that you use. That is not necessarily neuro-linguistic. It is just linguistic. But this is what all salespeople need to do is embrace and learn and love language.

This is the tool of the trade. Gone are the days of turning up at a minute to nine, put your tie on, finish your toast and say, “I will just phone someone”. If you do not take sales seriously you are never going to make serious sales anymore.

I completely agree. It is also more important how you talk to yourself. I think that that was the main reason I did NLP from a personal development point of view really rather than interacting with others. So, my main problem was making sure I was talking to myself in the right way and handling my issues correctly.

With 6th Door, what led to you creating 6th Door, Chris? And tell me a bit about those early days setting it all up and getting it up and running…

So, 6th Door, I have been in sales, I know you know, my backstory, Sean, and everybody has got the same story, haven’t they? But literally from the womb, I have got no other skill. I cannot make stuff. I am rubbish with tools. I can barely use a knife and fork. All I have ever been able to do is talk to people and do sales.

I worked my way up through my career, right to the top of the corporate ladder. I saw where that was going. We parted company a decade ago now. I had my sales training company already to go.

The goal was to help people, but it was not specifically a sales training company. It is the goal of the company to help people change their outcome by changing the language that they use. The vehicle for that just happens to be sales because that is the fastest way to change your outcome by changing your language.

In the early days, I thought I knew it all. Every year that goes by, I realise I know less, and less, and less as the world’s opening up, which I’m sure is a journey that most business owners have been on.

I will tell you quickly, the first sales meeting I had, my company was three days old and we got an inbound lead from a recommendation about me from my corporate days.

I went to see this MD of a multinational multi-billion-pound organisation. I was only used to corporate rates and what we had paid other people. They said, “Oh, we’ve got three people in our care team. We just want to upskill them a bit. Could you do us a half-day or a day’s training?”

Brilliant. I will not say on your podcast, what I quoted them, but it was a ridiculous amount of money, and they did not even question it. They just said yes. Off we went, and I thought that is it. Lamborghini’s all-round – cracked it. Very long story short, we did the training. It was all wonderful.

Then they never paid the invoice. They never paid the bill. That was my first foray into running this company and it was legal proceedings and I have not been on any less of a learning curve ever since which I love every day. There is always something new that is going to happen.

Especially interesting is in the course of the last decade, arguably there has never been so many changes in terms of human behaviour, sales, digital transformations, as an example Facebook’s probably only what 13/14 years old now. 12, 13, 14 years ago you have incredibly low Google pay-per-click rates, high email marketing open rates.

Then when you think now, when people are talking about like Bitcoin, NFTs (non-fungible tokens), and things like this.

Then when you look at things like clubhouse and all the other platforms, then you have got voice that you would imagine is going to have a serious role to play later in the decade.

How have you found going through that journey? Has it changed your sales techniques and the way you operate or actually, is it just that’s the medium and the training and the process you go through with people is pretty similar?

– No, part of my role is you have got to keep up to date, the sales world has changed unbelievably. If I were training now what we trained 13 years ago to people, it would not work.

It is a different world. The one thing I really loved though is that the inside sales as it is, 15 years ago, it was called telecan. It had a certain stereotype to it and certain things that people did not like. That role has really evolved to inside sales, the STR role where they need to use social media and email and they need to learn about language, and I think the professional image of it has really raised, which I am really proud of. I would like to think we have had a hand in that, especially with the sales dojo work that we do.

But yes like all businesses, you have got to keep up. When the sun rises in the morning, you have got to get running. The world has never changed as quickly as it changes now. So, you have got to have that open mindset to learn in a growth mindset more than ever before. But that is brilliant, isn’t it?

Totally. Could you give us some examples of how you help businesses or how you help professionals give us some examples of what actually looks like in the process in terms of you coming in, what that entails what that looks like for the end client?

– It is split into a number of factions and especially with the way the world’s been, we can help pretty much everyone.

We help smaller businesses who maybe have not got a training budget and they say, we have got one salesperson. Okay, we will run open courses where you can buy a seat and you come online and you learn a set course, which you only buy a ticket for the course you think will help. So, it could be B2B cold calling. It could be negotiation.

90% of the work we do is all very tailored though. So, the process would be an organisation like a Camp America, Smaller Earth, a hotel chain whatever, would approach us and say, right, we have got a team of 15 inside sales reps. They are on the phone every day. They are trying to set demos for our account execs, etc. Our numbers are down. The dial rates up, we are not just getting there, What can we do?

So, the first thing we do is listen to those calls. We want to get to know the team. We want to hear exactly what they say and what they are doing, how much of that they are doing, basically as much information as we can.

Then we want to have a discussion of where do you want to be?

We know where they are, what they are doing, and where they want to be.

Then we design completely tailored training to take them on that journey.

So, for example, Smaller Earth approached us a number of years back. They supply camp leaders for Camp America, Camp China, Camp Canada everywhere. They said, “our conversion rate on phone calls is around 13.5%, and we would like to increase that to 15.5%”, which on the numbers they were doing was a huge increase.

We spent a day sat with the team, making calls ourselves, listening to what they were doing, build some training, and coaching around it.

Within a fortnight, we got them from 13.5% to 23.5%, so, we massively escalated it.

The thing that is always interesting is whatever issue we get called in to solve it usually turns out not to be the issue. Quite often, it sounds ridiculous, we get called Grandma and people will do what we ask, even though their bosses ask them to do the same thing, but they will do it when we ask because we are Grandma that comes in and with a fresh set of eyes it is like.

When you are in your own business you can be blind to what is going on because you are so involved in it.

We have got a completely open look at it. We do the deep dive. We design the training; we deliver the training, and we try and smash the results for them.

It is funny. When you said Grandma, I was going to call you a physio because that is quite often what a physiotherapist says. You come in with your back problem as an example, and they go, “you know what the problem is your hamstrings, or it’s your sciatic nerve etc, etc.”

I think it is great what you say in that I do not know what I was expecting really but it was just a pleasant surprise that you said, we get our hands dirty. It is important to see with your own eyes where you could make those easy wins, make the changes where the weaknesses are, rather than like you say, being a bit blind to it because it is very hard.

Everyone is very good at making recommendations about other people, or other businesses or whatever, it is so hard when you are in there because a day becomes a week, a week becomes a month…

– Well, there are two aspects on this.

So, one of the things I was really keen on when I set 6th door up I purchased, and I was on a team that purchased, a lot of external training for the corporate world. Every time we had sales training organisations come in and they did this very cool training, and it was really interesting.

Every time I said the same thing to them, “that’s brilliant in theory, could you please pick the phone up and show me?” And nobody would ever do that. They would never do that. And I immediately lost all faith and belief in them.

I was really keen that “no we’re going to put our money where our mouth is”. Any inside sales training, we do, where its warranted, I will pick up the phone and I will make calls for that person.

Quite often, we set the meetings and it immediately gives you a hundred percent belief in what we are trying to train out.

The other part of that though, which was really important, is we go in and look at what’s going on because quite often it’s far less work than people think is needed.

As an example, a number of years back a big nationwide company approached me regarding their field sales team. We have got 15 field sales agents with a company car, a massive salary, and expense account, all around the UK. We are just not closing the business. We think they are not working properly. They are shy. They had a real dig at the sales team. We need you to do this training.

We have to say, well, okay but we will be the judge of that. So, I just went out on the road for a few days with some of the reps and they were brilliant. They were absolutely brilliant. But one part of the sales process, let them down.

We would sit in a meeting for an hour. We drink cups of tea and we would make the rapport and the small talk, and it was all lovely. And then they go, “well, it was so nice to see you, Sean.” “Listen, why don’t I give you a call in a couple of weeks and we’ll sort out another meeting.” And Sean will go “yeah, that’s great.” And off we go.

Then they would wait two weeks, and they would phone Sean, and he would not answer so they would wait another week and then phone him again. And he would answer, but he was busy. So, then they would send them an email a week later. This went on and on and after eight weeks they would then get the second meeting which had the same content as the first meeting.

Instead of doing weeks of training and incurring huge expense, we just said “everybody, you are not allowed to leave the meeting until you have booked the next meeting”.

Now they go “Sean, lovely cup of tea. It was great talking about that. Listen, whilst we are here, get your diary out. Why don’t I come in next week on Thursday? I will bring that sample for you. And we will discuss this, this, and this?” and Sean will go, “yeah, that is brilliant.”

All of a sudden that eight weeks was one week. That one tiny tweak and it completely changed the results because it took 90% off the sales cycle for them.

This is where we shoot ourselves in the foot quite often, if you want to look at it in ones and noughts, they were all ready with a huge training budget, and we said, “no let’s do a two-hour session with them.” And that was it and we got them the results.

It is imperative that you do that research. Really look into what’s going on.

I think that is great. I think for me as well it is great what you are saying there because I think that is another thing for leaders, which I am quite big on. I would not expect the owners to do it but certainly, people at management and operational levels should have a little go at most things in the business and prioritise the things that you are looking at outsourcing or have got a big cost to them. So, you might not want to bother yourself over the little things but say you were going to invest in marketing. Perfect example. That is something that I do think you need to get your hands a little bit dirty on, or at least put the time and do the research on it, so that when people come to you for that beauty parade of options you can smell any BS. If you ultimately have not got a clue, when it comes I think to marketing or websites, digital things, it can lead to expensive mistakes.

Even myself, like a lot of the people who are at the decision-maker level, they have gone through quite an academic journey. So, if you are self-employed, you have got to know everything about pretty much everything. Your accounting, your marketing, and everything else.

When you are going through a corporate journey I have not got a clue about a website or what they cost or what, whether you go HTML or WordPress or a template, or what is working in marketing or anything else.

Then all of a sudden you’ve got a big budget and you’re the one who’s got to choose which organisations to go with. And really what are you basing it on? It is really difficult. Testimonials? Well, by the time you got to that stage, everyone has got them.

Maybe you make the decision on price or who you have a rapport with? Quite often that ends in tears.

Sometimes the people you least get on with are sometimes the best at their job. I think that is huge to have that little bit of understanding. And like I say, the good thing for you is even if they have not done that, you go in and do that job for them by having a go yourself.

– This is where all salespeople should get really good. And this is where you get that partnership. The biggest part of your sales process should be discovery.

It should be properly questioning and properly listening to your prospects about what their issues are because quite often your prospective customer is not even aware of what their issues are or the extra ones, and it is your duty as a salesperson to be the doctor in that relationship.

I wrote about this the other day Sean, and you might have seen it, You do not go to the doctor and say, “I’ve got a headache.” And he goes “all right, take two of these.” The Doctor says, “okay, well how long have you had that headache? What do you think is causing it? Have you got any other symptoms? Or have you tried to get rid of that before? Is there a family history of headaches?” and they drill down and down and down, and if they’re still not sure about what to prescribe, they’ll go, “well actually I think we need to refer you to…” they’ll keep going.

It is very tempting in sales, and again it goes back to if your pipelines empty and you are desperate for that deal, the second-year prospect says, “Oh, well, we got a bit of an issue with this =  Oh, we can help with that.” You immediately prescribe your solution, and you miss out on all the other opportunities and even worse you might give them the wrong solution.

If you are confident enough to not rush that and do a proper deep dive with them, then one, they are going to love you far more because you genuinely have their best interest at heart. You are not the stereotypical salesperson who is just trying to get a deal.

Two, you get a far longer-term customer for that and you open up a world of possibilities.

For people who might be self-employed or individual consultants what would your advice be for them if they are interested in what they hear and they want to go on the website and look at what resources are there. If you are a bigger operation, am thinking particularly DA’s, or estate agent’s here, what would be the best packages or the best training resources or what would be the best thing that they could expect to come to you on and receive in terms of support and training?

– So, we have got so much out there now, Sean, there are two organisations I run now, one is 6th door, and we go in and we help and support sales teams and individuals through direct training.

The second one is the Sales Dojo which I run with my business partner Leon, and business partner Anthony, and we hold monthly events, or every three weeks, where we get guest speakers from the sales training world on. These are free to attend, come along. Ted talks for sales, as it is. We have also got the Sales Dojo podcast. We run a club house room. We do live sales calls on club house for you to listen into. We have got blogs on the 6th door website you can read.

Ultimately, if you want to learn more just get in touch I love to have a chat with anyone, and we always say “if we can’t help I bet we know somebody who can” because we have networked for a decade in the support and training industry. So, we are always connected, and it does not matter where in the world you are. We will know somebody who can help you. So yeah, just get in touch.

Brilliant. And what do the next couple of years look like Chris?

– Really exciting. On the 26th of April 2021 the Sales Dojo member platform launches.

This is where you can become a member of the Dojo and access a vault of videos from sales trainers,  coaches, and business mentors from all over the world. You can get access to the podcast, invites to events, Q and A’s, coaching. It is a salesperson’s dream.

We have been building this for 12 months now. We are really excited to launch that.

6th door is growing and growing and growing. And we have got a lot more international trade now. We work with people in Melbourne, in Canada, in Poland all over the place. I am not going to mention a book as I have been trying to write that for ages and it is not happening! Maybe we can mention that in another 12 months!

You can learn more about 6th Door and the Sales Dojo via the following links:

6th Door 

The Sales Dojo