A little background on the author, Chet Holmes. He worked for Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett's billionaire business partner. Berkshire Hathaway's portfolio companies were the test lab for many of the techniques. Chet doubled revenues for one of their businesses three years in a row, eliciting the following response from Charlie: "Chet, are you sure we are not lying, cheating or stealing? In all my years in business, I've never seen anything like this." Keep in mind this was a business in a declining industry--print advertising.
The Ultimate Sales Machine draws from Chet Holmes' expertise shaping sales and helping firms grow. In this summary, we’ll highlight the key facts you should take away from this great read.
In The Ultimate Sales Machine, Holmes defines and highlights twelve key strategies for running and turbocharging a successful business. These lessons have a wide scope, but focus on specifics such as time management, marketing, training, hiring, and conducting productive meetings.
Read on to learn these top strategies and improve every aspect of how you conduct business.
Strategy 1: Time Management Secrets of Billionaires Holmes starts by highlighting time management strategies. Good time management allows people to optimize their actions and minimize repetition. Holmes created a six-step time management schedule to help you get the most out of your working hours, by eliminating wasted time and unnecessary steps.
Step 1: “Touch it Once” Rule Taking immediate action with everything you do helps you avoid repeated actions.
For example, you can use this strategy when responding to emails, reports, letters and memos. First, you’ll need to assess whether you have time to deal with it. If you do, open it, read it and work on it, or allocate an appropriate time to act on it. If you don’t, leave it untouched until you have time.
Step 2: Make Lists Making a list helps you concentrate on high-priority items and get your work schedule organized.
Holmes recommends making a daily to-do list with a maximum of six important things you need to accomplish. Begin with a master list of the things you should complete in the near future. Then, pick out six items to add to your list each day.
Step 3: Allocate Time for Each Task Plan how much time you’ll give to each task on your to-do list. This ensures that you can address all the items on the list.
Your time allotment for a work day should never go over six hours. You’ll need the extra flex time to handle emergencies and unexpected issues.
Step 4: Plan Your Day Plan your day to the hour, so you can actually accomplish your six important tasks.
Step 5: Prioritize Prioritize your six tasks so the most important one gets done first. Place each item in the correct time slot when you plan your day - making an hourly calendar can help.
Step 6: Throw Things Away Holmes’s time management guide concludes with the question: “Will it hurt to throw this away?”
Ask yourself this question about emails, letters, and other messages that come across your desk.
Toss the things you don’t need at all, as well as the things you’ll need in the future but can easily get again. If someone else needs to handle the item, forward it as soon as you can.
Strategy 2: Instituting Higher Standards and Regular Training To set (and raise) performance standards, you should give your employees a better understanding of your company’s objectives.
You can radically improve your employees’ understanding with deliberate, regular training. Employees often encounter situations they haven’t been trained in, and end up just guessing what to do.
Holmes gives you training tips to help your employees, and makes a case for repetitious training. Repetitious training reinforces knowledge and makes room for practicing new skills. Holding a single time management training equips your workforce with tips and tricks, but repeating the course every quarter lets them master the techniques for daily use.
Holmes also stresses the importance of choosing your training methods wisely.
He recommends lecture-format training for subjects that involve a lot of information and data, especially for the first session. Group-questions training allows your employees to seek clarity and tailor the information to their specific responsibilities, making the training more memorable.
Demonstration training works well when you need to teach people how to perform a certain task. For example, during a demonstrated cold call, your employees can hear and react to a new script. Demonstration training becomes more effective when paired with a follow-up session of role-playing training.
Finally, hot-seat training improves your employees’ skills in areas they’ve already received training for. You’ll watch an employee perform a skill, then ask them questions until they can see where they need to improve or react differently. Hot-seat training helps your employees get personalized feedback and work on their individual weak areas.
Strategy 3: Executing Effective Meetings Holmes observes that most company meetings revolve around communicating news, ideas, or information. However, he claims each meeting should either solve a problem or improve your business.
For example, instead of calling a meeting to report a drop in customer satisfaction, you should call a meeting to change procedures and policies to boost customer satisfaction.
Keep your meetings focused with the same format each time. Begin by writing the purpose of the meeting on a whiteboard, in the form of a question. For a meeting about an issue with product returns, the question might be:“What solutions can we offer our customers at the point of contact without having to stop and seek manager approval?”
Each employee will then spend three minutes writing down answers to the question. Next, they’ll share their ideas as you write them on the whiteboard. Finally, take a vote to determine which ideas best solve the problem.
Let your top talent try out the most promising solutions first. For example, a star customer service rep can take a call from an unhappy customer and offer solutions the group agreed on, like offering a replacement or a full refund.
If this gets positive results, settle on a deadline for testing the concept with other customer service representatives. Document each step of the new process and file it in the training manual. Now, you can hold another meeting to discuss the results and further improve on the idea.
With these steps, you’ll get the most out of your meetings, with actionable improvements that boost profitability and success.
Strategy 4: Becoming a Brilliant Strategist Holmes appreciates that it’s difficult to get in front of potential buyers. In this section, he uses his expertise and experience to show you how to create these opportunities.
Holmes mentions three types of executives: the tactical executive, the strategic executive and the ideal executive. The ideal executive ranks in the top 1% and thinks both tactically and strategically.
Holmes notes that education-based marketing is a proven strategy to reach buyers:
1. Offering an education that helps the buyer gets more buyer interest.
2. Good, useful information automatically repositions you as an expert in the mind of the buyer. (You’re teaching them things about their own business that they might not know.)
3. You can strategically present that information in a way that sells your services far better than simply pitching your product.
Education marketing focuses on building rapport with clients for long-term relationships, rather than just trying to sell a product.
Holmes uses a shoe-selling pitch to illustrate the value of education marketing. If you try to sell shoes by cold calling customers, you’ll only sell to a few customers actively seeking new shoes in the short run.
However, if you cold call prospective customers and offer a free educational brochure about their feet and their health, you will reach customers who are actively seeking new shoes, and also build a rapport with future customers. Uninterested customers will have something to think about, which may make them decide to buy new shoes sooner.
A sales pitch can prompt your customers to make a purchase now. However, an educational marketing pitch offers customers greater value, builds rapport, and offers solutions to their problems. This builds interest in the product (or the solution to their problem).
Strategy 5: Hiring Superstars The fifth strategy revolves around your hiring practices. How do you recruit talent for your business?
Holmes defines superstar employees as employees who shine even in bad situations with no training, poor tools, and bad resources. Within a few months, the superstar employees will outperform your best people.
You should always strive to hire a superstar, no matter how large or small your business is, or what position you’re hiring for.
Holmes outlines the steps for finding, interviewing, and hiring these employees who will propel your company to success.
First, you’ll design a “Help Wanted” ad that attracts the kind of talent you need. Holmes claims that if you place an ad for an average employee, you’ll attract average applicants. An average ad might state: “Customer service representative needed for a growing company. Pay based on experience, position includes a 401k plan and health benefits.”
On the other hand, an advertisement targeted at a superstar employee could read: “Outstanding people person needed to take care of our customers. If you are smart, outgoing, fast-thinking, and quickly able to solve problems, we need you in our customer service department.
This position is in the furniture industry but we hire star performers, not backgrounds. Pay based on performance and many bonuses and incentives are available for top performers. If you know you have what it takes, contact us at…”
When you have a few prospective applicants, it’s time to conduct interviews and net your superstar performers.
Once you get some concrete information from the applicant about their background and skills, probe further to see if they have the personality and character they’ll need to excel. Assess their strong points with questions about their challenges, achievements, and what they take pride in. Determine if the person is self-reliant, confident, empathetic, influential, compliant, or dominant.
Once you feel that you’ve found the perfect employee, close the interview with an attack. Holmes says this helps show whether the applicant really fits the bill of a superstar employee. Superstar employees, he says, know their value and won’t easily back down from a challenge.
Holmes gives an example of an “attack”: “You seem like a nice person but I really need to hire a top performer for this position. To be truthful, I don’t get the impression you’re really a superstar.”
He claims that an applicant who thanks you for your time and leaves isn’t really a superstar. However, if they disagree with you and take the opportunity to further sell themselves, or outright argue the point, then you may have found the right employee.
Superstar employees have tremendous confidence and faith in themselves and their abilities. They believe they can succeed at any job. These employees can take your business to the next level.
Strategy 6: The High Art of Getting the Best Buyers
Your “best buyers” help reduce sales efforts while increasing sales. This key strategy helps you find your best buyers.
Holmes stresses that you need to identify your target or “best” buyer so you won’t waste time selling to the wrong people. For example, a business that sells research aids to law firms might pitch the firm’s librarian, since their department uses research aids. However, this could be a poor decision: the librarian might not be in charge of the final buying decision.
Instead, businesses should direct a pitch to the real “best buyer” who can make the decision to buy now. In this example, that might mean tailoring the sales pitch to the law firm’s management committee.
You can identify your best buyers through an affiliate program. Look for a business that sells to the exact target buyer you want to reach, but that doesn’t sell a similar product or service. If you team up with this company, you’ll easily access your dream clients with minimal advertising costs.
Strategy 7: The Seven Musts of Marketing
Every outstanding marketing program, according to Holmes, contains seven “musts” that can turbocharge your sales efforts:
- corporate literature
- direct mail
- public relations
- market education
- personal contact
- the internet
A business must have a solid advertising plan for a chance at success. The advertising should be response-generating, attention-grabbing, distinctive, value-focused, and have a call to action.
Your ad needs to stand out from the crowd with an attention-grabbing headline.
For instance, the headline for a healthcare insurance ad could read: “How much would you pay to save your own life?”
It should also have value-focus: “Without our insurance, you could be out thousands of dollars, or worse yet, never get treatment you need to survive.”
Finally, a good advertisement has a call to action that forces your potential customer to act: “Tomorrow could be too late, call now for your free quote.”
Public relations can also increase sales. Get your business covered in newspapers, magazines, and T.V. programs. To get your business featured, research timely topics and provide educational content.
A company that sells healthy snacks, for instance, could write articles on the dangers of childhood obesity for a newspaper. At the end of the article, boost marketing efforts with a link to your business: “For more information on this life-threatening trend, visit www.heathysnacks.com.”
You also need to use the internet to not only increase sales leads but also build relationships with potential customers. Offering free articles, events, newsletters or products builds brand loyalty. This helps a customer naturally think of your business first when they want to buy a product.
Customers perceive information-based websites as factual, not just as giant ads. Provide useful information on your site to give that perception. Customers will return and refer others to your website if it has lots of information.
Strategy 8: The Eyes Have It!
Holmes observes that how you present information can be more important than the information itself. Crafting a great sales presentation boosts your success. He gives these tips to increase your presentations’ impact:
Each slide should contain only three to four bullet points.
Use color to emphasize important information.
Do not spend too much time on one section. Your audience stays more interested and focused when you move at a faster pace.
Include factual information that teaches your audience something new at the beginning. This establishes relevancy and credibility for your product.
Use stories with corresponding images or graphs. This helps your audience connect personally with the problems your product solves.
Your presentation must focus on the individual customer’s needs and how you’ll help them solve a problem, not on the product’s great benefits.
Strategy 9: The Nitty-Gritty of Getting the Best Buyers
This strategy follows up on Strategy #6, which showed you how to identify your “best buyers.”
Strategy #9 helps you land your “Dream 100” clients, as Holmes calls them. This strategy gives you day-to-day, step-by-step tactics to get your top-tier ideal clients.
Choose gifts and create your “Dream 100” letter
Holmes advises you to send small gifts at least once a month to your dream clients, so they’ll notice and remember your brand.
For example, you could send one small, inexpensive stopwatch to the clients you’ve identified in your “best buyer” list. Alongside the gift, include a letter that says:
“Every second that you do not get our free executive briefing, ‘The Five Most Critical Insights in the Software Industry Today,’ you are losing money.”
Conclude the letter with information on your offer and how they can contact you.
Create your Dream 100 calendar and conduct Dream 100 call follow-ups
First, decide what to send your dream clients each month: a gift, articles, press releases, surveys, promos, or a newsletter. Next, create a calendar with a mailing date for each promo and the prospective dream client’s name and contact. Communicate with them in some way each month, and then follow up with a phone call.
The call gives you an opportunity to elaborate on the message from the mailing, and to answer your prospective client’s questions. Try to set up a meeting with the client so you can present your information in more detail.
Present the Executive Meeting
Once you secure a meeting, follow the educational marketing format from Strategy #4. End with a subtle solution: your product solves the problems you’ve highlighted.
Strategy 10: Sales Skills Once you have contact with your dream client, make the most of this opportunity. Holmes says sales is not just a one-off event but a seven-stage process:
- Building rapport
- Qualifying your buyer based on need
- Building value by matching your product to your customer’s buying criteria
- Creating a strong desire
- Overcoming objections
- Closing the sale
Next, you’ll need to concentrate on client follow-up and create a bond with the client.
Strategy 11: Follow-up and Client Bonding Skills
This strategy focuses on two vital topics.
First is what the author refers to as “post purchase dissonance.” This happens when an order marked as complete gets cancelled. In this case, the strategy that seemed like a good idea to the salesperson no longer looks good to you.
Second, Holmes mentions that you do not necessarily make the bulk of the money on your first transaction. Rather, you make money on subsequent transactions. These depend on the kind of relationship you have with the client from the start.
Moving up the clients’ social ladder from a salesperson to a friend helps you make these transactions, as you build a lasting relationship and trust with them.
Strategy 12: All Systems Go
This strategy measures the effectiveness of your efforts from the previous eleven strategies. This helps you tailor your goals and achieve continued success.
Holmes instructs you to turn your goals into daily affirmations. This repetition plants your goals at the forefront of your subconscious, so you’ll continuously strive to achieve them.
Next, Holmes suggests that you write down your goals. This forces your brain to begin creating that reality. For example:
“I make five sales each day”, “My business grows by X percent each year”, and “I only hire star performers.”
Finally, stay focused on improvement by measuring your effectiveness often. For instance, as a salesperson, you could make a daily chart that lists calls, follow-ups and their results. If the results do not increase after a month, you might need to become better at overcoming objections.
Holmes’s twelve key strategies show that successful business marketing isn’t rocket science. You just need to learn some critical skills.
Anyone can turn their business into the ultimate sales machine by mastering these essential business strategies. If you hope to turn your business around and outsell the competition, you need this book.