Welcome to the Business Marketing Agency podcast with Barbara Griffin, regular tips and tricks for business owners who want to market their business online.
Barb Griffin: Hi Everybody! Barbara Griffin here from the Business Marketing Agency – and today I’m really quite excited! – because I’ve actually managed to grab James Schramko for a chat today.
James is a very special person to me because – basically, I wouldn’t be in this industry if it wasn’t for him. He pretty much taught me everything I know. He’s a global Internet marketing guru; he has an SEO firm, he’s an expert traffic strategist, he speaks at international events – but more than that, he actually specializes in business growth.
He’s a ‘systems guy’ – he’s so much more – he’s a #1 podcaster – James, thanks so much for having this chat with me today!
James Schramko: Gosh, I hope I can live up to that introduction, that was pretty cool!
Barb Griffin: Haha, thanks! No, you totally can! I’ve been pretty much learning from you for probably four years now…
James Schramko: Well, you’ve really implemented a lot of the things we’ve talked about, and you’ve done very well for yourself, so it’s exciting to see that.
It’s such a vast area – no-one can be a master of all of it. But it sounds like we’re going to have a fun chat today!
Barb Griffin: Yeah, look – the topic I wanted to talk about, because I’ve been feeling a bit ranty lately, is ‘The Client From Hell’. Just cause I thought it would be kind of fun.
But just before that, we both basically have an online marketing agency – would you call what you do that, really?
James Schramko: I think in my case, I’m more of a vendor, so I tend to be a wholesale supplier to more agency-type businesses, and I’d say an agency is more ‘business-to-customer’; so I do have a handful of end-users who I work with, but at the higher ‘agency rates’. But most of my customer base are sort of vendor/wholesale business to business supply.
Barb Griffin: Yeah, so you actually don’t really deal with ‘the business’, you deal with the agency that manages the business’s marketing?
James Schramko: I’ve pretty much got myself back one layer from customers from hell, haha! I mean, when you take on that front line position, you really have to have a lot of energy and patience, and sometimes have to bite your tongue – deal with all this ‘customer is always right’ stuff.
And frankly, I’m at a point in my business where I sort of don’t have as much patience as I used to have. I used to sell for a living, face to face – and for years and years, I put up with that front line stuff.
And I’m now actually enjoying being a layer back. But we still occasionally have a customer from hell in our wholesale division – you know, because we still have customers – we have hundreds and hundreds of customers –
Barb Griffin: Yep – and I’m one of them!
James Schramko: – Yeah, I mean, you’re a customer! And I’ve got hundreds of customers like you who are buying some kind of traffic service or business coaching, or website development, and – you know, you’re going to get a percentage!
A percentage of your customers are gonna be crazy; and then there’ll be a percentage that are just amazing and incredible; and there’ll be the vast majority who are just sort of normal!
Barb Griffin: Yup. Have you ever found that a client started out good, but then turned bad? And do you think there’s any way that you can tell that a client’s going to be bad, right from the beginning – or is it just stuff that happens, do you reckon?
James Schramko: The things that will make a client bad – if they change – it’s usually got to do with their situation. A lot of the time when you’re dealing with bullsh$%&% – it’s because (and I don’t know if we can swear on your podcast!) – but a lot of the time you’ve got this stuff coming through because they’re under pressure.
And quite often it’s because they are incompetent, or disorganised – or had not communicated very well with whoever the stakeholders are, in whatever project they’ve taken on.
And you can do a lot to filter from having bad customers. Usually – but not always – a crazy customer is going to signal it really early on in the cycle – like before they even become a customer. They might be asking weirdo questions; they might have a hostile attitude; for us that is a red flag, and we…
Barb Griffin: Yeah – or wanting to have heaps of Skypes before they buy anything –
James Schramko: Yeah! I mean, what’s that all about! That’s – literally, you get the chance to train your customers before they buy. And if they can’t comply to the filtering or the training, prior, then they might not be the right customer for your business, because – those squeaky wheels, they really do mess with the machine.
And rather than putting oil on the squeaky wheel, I prefer to just eliminate it – or replace it.
Barb Griffin: You helped me with something recently. We decided that.. I had a client that we were doing really good work for, until… We had a great conversion rate – I think 16% on Adwords – and then one day they cancelled. And that sort of had coincided with their PPC funding running out.
And we decided that perhaps that client wasn’t really levelling with me; that there was something else going on that they maybe didn’t want to disclose. So the reason that they became a bad client, and cancelled or didn’t pay – was actually, possibly, they had difficulties.
Yeah, they weren’t levelling.
James Schramko: Yep… and it’s almost always about them. I mean -I went into a shop yesterday, and the guy before me at the counter threw his money down at the shopkeeper, and he was obviously drunk. And the shopkeeper said ‘Hey, you know, don’t throw your money down like that.’ And the guy said ‘What’s it to you, what’s your problem?’
And he goes, ‘It’s rude, don’t throw your money at me.’ And, they had a bit of a tiff, and the drunk guy took his things and walked out. And I said to the shopkeeper – ‘It’s not about you! He doesn’t even know you. He doesn’t care about you. He’s drunk. It’s about HIM. It’s his problem, not yours – so don’t take it to heart.’
And – that’s really what most bad customers – unless you’ve deliberately or accidentally done something to really rev them up – and look, we all make mistakes – and sometimes we just have to ‘fess up and say, ‘Well I’ll take full responsibility for this. I’ve been a poor communicator’. Or, ‘We messed up. Sorry about that. Let’s make it right.’ – I mean, there are those scenarios – But if you do get a fruitcake customer..
Barb Griffin: Definitely.
James Schramko: … and we assume that you’re going to get the occasional one – remember that it’s mostly about THEM. And you may or may not want to delve into the reasons why – but sometimes… I mean, I have had some absolutely psycho maniac abusive screaming crazy people – and I know that it’s nothing to do with us.
They’re just at a bad place at the moment, and we’re just the current target. And you know, you get bullies; you get people who are having severe financial trauma – and your service is like the ‘make or break’. And if it doesn’t work out, they’re going to make it your problem, because they have no other options!
They’re basically in a compromised situation. And they will try and take you down.
Barb Griffin: Mmm hmm. Yeah, that’s kind of a sobering thought. Look, I learned a lot from you about – in the beginning, when I used to get my clients, often, from a web development job first, like, they wanted a site built or they wanted some website maintenance – I used to do what I thought the rest of the world did, which is – you know, do the work and then invoice the client.
And sometimes they would be very slow to pay, and that would cause me to have cashflow difficulties, because I’d already paid my staff. And I actually started invoicing 50% upfront; and now sometimes 100% upfront, and boy! – has that made a difference!
James Schramko: Well, you’ve transferred the risk, really. Because once the customer has their stuff, there’s not as much motivation for them to pay you.
Barb Griffin: Yeah.
James Schramko: And that’s the thing: you’ve actually flip-flopped that. You’ve gone from being paid late after already paying your team – so you are cashflow negative – to cashflow positive; where you get paid first and then you pay the team! You can actually sit on that money and do something with it in that period.
So in my case, we get paid upfront, and my team get paid twice a month. So I’ve actually always got more cash than what we have to pay out. And if you’re – hopefully – doing business with a profit, it can continue to grow, and you can be self- funded from day one, if you take that cashflow positive approach.
Barb Griffin: Yeah, totally. I also wanted to talk about terms and conditions. I’m a ‘freedom fighter’ and I don’t really like contracts or terms and conditions, and I wanted to be that kind of new age girl for my clients as well.
But through a few naughty clients, I’ve found that I had to have terms and conditions, and I’ve now introduced them. Now, did you always have those? Do you think they’re really important?
James Schramko: I’m more interested in protecting the livelihood of myself and my family, so, you know, with six people that I’m responsible for, I don’t want to have to sell my car because some maniac sued me because we did nothing wrong!
I mean, did you know – there’s actually people out there who deliberately go out and try and engage in deals with the full intention of manipulating you into some legal case, so that you can get a payout –
Barb Griffin: I seriously didn’t know that!
James Schramko: You know, like when you go to the bank – and they put the money behind, you know, in a vault, and they have bars and there’s locks on the doors – that’s not for you! It’s not for me!
It’s for the guys that come in with balaclavas and crow bars! I mean, there are people out there who will take advantage, and manipulate; and have different ethics or morals to what we might have. So it’s not for every customer.
However, I do have terms and conditions; and I do have business insurance, and I do have proper legal structures in place. So that should I get a maniac, I can tell them to go get !@#$%! And at the end of the day, there’s not much they can do about it, and I’m not compromised.
Rather than having to bend over backwards and suck it all up, and feel like my soul is being stripped out of me piece by piece. Which is the way it used to be when I worked for someone else – for a big brand like Mercedes Benz – it was really rare that I could really say what I thought when someone was doing us over.
And when I say ‘do us over’, I mean – people would come in at the last minute and place an order, and spend the next week shopping around to get a better deal; and then they would cancel or void their contract, and demand their money back.
And they were being all difficult about it; and you’d done nothing wrong! All you did – was show these people the product, and serve them, and offer them tea and coffee, drive them around in four different vehicles, sign up the contract – and then they wanted to go and be assholes about it, and shop around and get better deals, and make it your problem.
So I’d built up a bit of resistance. And you couldn’t really say what you think to those people.
Barb Griffin: Yup.
James Schramko: But I did have this mentor once, and he did tell them what he thought. And it was just such an empowering moment, where I’m like, ‘I need to have my own business!’
Because – when push comes to shove, I want to be able to tell someone that I don’t think it’s fair and I don’t think it’s right – and I want to be able to put forward my position on it. And as a consequence, we have around about just under 1% refunds across all of our products and services.
We don’t offer risk reversal like other people. We don’t give people – we don’t say ‘Oh look, just test drive it and if you don’t absolutely love it, then just ask for your money back!’
We’re not interested in that. It’s like; ‘Hey, we’ll give you trials’, or ‘we’ll show you how it works’, or ‘here’s all the results we get’, or ‘you can speak to these people about it – but only order if you know that that’s what you want.’
And we’ve found that that approach has worked really well.
Barb Griffin: Yeah. Look, you sound like you learned a lot about these clients from hell when you were at Mercedes. Did you sort of bring that knowledge into your online marketing business, so that you already had that set up from the word go, or did you learn more about clients – bad clients – during that second business?
James Schramko: No, I’ve been learning my entire life! And – I mean, even when I was 20 years old, or 19, I worked for my grandfather as a timber broker in his back yard – on the telephones – and people would buy timber from us, and we would find them the best deal, and then order it, and we would get a percentage commission.
But then I noticed builders would sometimes try and wiggle out of the deal – or, order from us and then order somewhere else, and then cancel our order when it arrived on the truck – I mean, crazy stuff!
Or they’d try and trick us – they’d order a massive quantity, like, enough to build a small building – and then they would get the first delivery, enough to just sort of build a little cubby house, and then they’d cancel the rest of the order. And the whole time, they only intended to build a cubby house! But they wanted the rates that you get for building a massive building on the timber. And they were trying to trick us.
So, I’ve been aware of the way that people play games. And it’s also called ‘Ducks and Drakes’. And I’m aware of some of the things you can do to prevent that happening. So, getting paid upfront is awesome.
Barb Griffin: Definitely.
James Schramko: Having clear terms and conditions is awesome.
Barb Griffin: Yup.
James Schramko: Having filters in place – like an over the top customer who’s giving you attitude before they buy – that’s the best time to say, ‘You know what? We’re not the right company for you. We recommend you go check out blah blah blah.’
And so people shouldn’t even be able to buy from you if they’re not the right customer for you. You should clearly say who you are not for; and you won’t attract the worst kind of customer. Especially if you’re asking for money upfront.
If you say, ‘this project is going to be $10,000. I’ll just send over an invoice now. Who would you like me to invoice?’ and they’re like ‘Hang on, don’t we get to pay afterwards?’ Say, ‘No, actually, you get to pay first – and that way, our prices are lower. If you got to pay afterwards, we’d probably be charging $15,000 because some people wouldn’t want to pay, or they’d be slow to pay, so we’d have to build in debt collection and we’d have to write off some of our fees; and of course our contractors – we wouldn’t be able to get such good contractors because they’re not going to get paid quickly, and stuff.’
So, yeah. That’s how it works.
Barb Griffin: Look, yeah, I totally agree. And I think that, if you’re a new business, and you kind of feel grateful about the first few clients that you’ve got, you don’t really have the confidence to be like that. But after a while, you do get confidence in what you’re doing. You feel much more.. like… normal about saying to clients, ‘Okay, great! I’m going to send you the invoice to get started, and when that’s paid we can have another chat’, or however you do it.
I think that comes with time, and it doesn’t take long.
James Schramko: Yeah, and I think that some customers are actually feeling comfortable about your confidence when you ask for payment upfront. I mean, if you can choose, then surely you must be good!
Barb Griffin: Yeah. Now – I just had a question for you – this is the sort of thing that I’d ask you in our business coaching sessions, but I thought I may as well ask you on this podcast in case someone else can find it useful. You’ve got terms and conditions that you like clients to agree to before they do business with you, and for you it’s often a checkbox that they fill in online before they pay.
But how would you recommend that people like me would get client to agree to terms and conditions, if the sale is made offline, like, with an invoice?
James Schramko: Well, you can actually use online document agreement services; where they have to tick or sign to say they approve the terms and conditions.
Barb Griffin: Oh yeah, that’s a good idea.
James Schramko: I did that with someone where I bought some training videos. I did a licence, and they sent me an online contract that I had to agree to the terms and conditions of how I’m going to use the licence. And then I was able to pay for it. But generally, even at a minimum, you could send them an email saying ‘Look, we do have some terms and conditions that you need to be aware of. Before we proceed, I need you to read these and then just reply back and tell me that you’ve read them and that you understand them, and that it’s okay to proceed.’
And only when you get the receipt back, can you move forward. And possibly, a print out of that email could be some kind of evidence or proof that there was a process in place. What you really want to avoid is a verbal agreement, or a verbal contract, because they’re pretty flimsy to take anywhere.
And – you can rest assure that the guy who says ‘Listen, I don’t need a contract, I can do deals on a handshake’ or whatever, they’re usually the ones who are gonna screw you over the hardest.
Barb Griffin: Mmm hmm. Now, I had a situation where I was dealing with a client, and then there was a middle man. In fact, I’ve had this happen to me twice. Once when I was originally dealing with the General Manager, which was fantastic, then the General Manager got head-hunted and I got shunted over to a Marketing Manager who didn’t really know what time it was. And with another client, they got busy and introduced someone in the middle to sort of ‘deal with me’ – and both of those times it was a bit of a nightmare.
And I found it was because the middle person wasn’t really the decision maker in the same way; and also because they were more ignorant than they’d like to let on.
James Schramko: Yep! So, one of the questions I ask on our write-up sheet, which is a sales templates, is ‘Who is the decision maker for this purchase?’ And I don’t want to be dealing with… I have this great expression, that a customer taught me once – he said, ‘You want to deal with the butcher, not the block!’
You really want to be only dealing with the decision maker.
Barb Griffin: Yeah. What say the butcher’s appointed the block to deal with me? How do I… ah.. tell them that’s not really working for me? Or – what would be your advice?
James Schramko: Well you could say, ‘That’s not what we agreed to. You were the decision maker when we went into this agreement. If you want to change the agreement, then we could review it, but it will be a revised costing as well to take into account all this slack that’s going back and forth, because the guy you’ve appointed to deal with us has no idea what they’re doing, and that’s very frustrating for us. In fact, you may not even qualify to be a customer any more.’
And I’ve sacked customers before for dicking me around; for pushing me on to someone who is not useful; and I won’t deal with it.
Barb Griffin: Yeah. I’m kind of almost but not quite at that point!
James Schramko: Well, the problem is – for a lot of people, they need the customer. And they’ll say – ‘Oh James, but I need the money! I need this customer.’ Well, that’s because you are building a business that’s too dependent on only one or two customers.
My advice would be to get many customers, so that you can afford to let them go! And; here’s the thing – you might be listening to me saying, ‘Oh, Gahd, I’d love to do that!’ or you might be thinking ‘Oh, I’d hate to deal with you!’
But the point is, it doesn’t matter. The people that who I am dealing with are getting incredible service and value, because they’re the right people with the right product and they fit the customer matrix that we best serve.
Barb Griffin: Yeah.
James Schramko: And if they don’t fit, we shouldn’t be dealing with them. And there’s a couple of customers who I’m not right for, and I’ll tell them straight up, you know, ‘I’m not the right person for you. I think you need someone who’s going to be more…’
Like for example the one who wants to talk and talk and talk. I just want to say, ‘Shut up!’ Like, I get it. Like, in the first sentence, we got the point. And like, we don’t need to talk about it for seven hours, just to make the same point 16 different ways! So I have a short patience for that. And that’s why I’ve deliberately targetted a wholesale market instead of a retail customer.
Barb Griffin: There’s that 80/20 rule. I’ve never experienced… I’ve *lived* that 80/20 rule! Once I had 10 or 20 customers, I could really tell who was the 20% who was taking up 80% of my time.
James Schramko: Drop them.
Barb Griffin: And who were… Yeah!
James Schramko: Just drop them. And I did that at the beginning of this year, actually. I was looking at my stats, and I noticed that the bottom 40% of my customers generated 2% of my revenue. And I’m like, screw that! So I stopped selling cheap front-end products. I dropped my $29, $59, $39 products altogether.
It’s basically, you can have as many free podcasts as you want, you can have a free video every day on superfastbusiness.com, but if you want to buy something it’s $79 or a hundred and something dollars, and it’s recurring. And now – just a few months later, my bottom 40% of my customers generate 6% of my revenue, and they’ve already bought, in the first few months of 2013, the same as what they bought for the whole of 2013 in actual dollars. So my whole business lifts up by letting go of those front end cheap product customers.
Barb Griffin: So how did you actually let go of those customers? Did you just remove your cheap products?
James Schramko: Yep. So there’s no option to buy them any more. So they’re either, okay, well, I’ll just stick with the free stuff, or I’ll step it up and go for the next value up.
And obviously a lot of people went up; they went up to the next value product, where they got all my products for $79; and it was a win for me and a win for them. They’re getting much better value than spending $39 on one product, they’re now getting like 20 or 30 products for $79. So I’m helping them make a better choice, and at the same time I’m ending up with a way better customer. And so that’s ‘price filtering’.
Barb Griffin: Yeah. Look – you know, before we kind of move on from the old client from hell topic, I just wanted to say that I’ve learned so much from my clients from hell. My good clients and my bad clients is what has made me put systems in place, fine tune my terms and conditions, get confidence enough to deal with people and say ‘look, that’s not acceptable – we’re going to change this’ – and I think it is actually valuable learning.
James Schramko: Oh, totally. And a lot of the times your customers from hell – they’re like ‘alpha testers’! They’re the ones who will show you every single flaw in your business, and if they’re right – it’s important that you embrace it and make the changes. I consider them the ones who help you set the bar. Because if you can set the bar on your worst customer, then every other customer is going to think it’s amazing!
And I had customers from hell when I was selling Mercedes Benz; and if I could satisfy them, then the rest of it was easy. If I could put in a process that satisfied the biggest whinger – cause I didn’t have a choice back then – I couldn’t fire my customers! – And especially when I was shooting for awards, like Top Salesperson in the country – there’s no way I was going to deny myself a sale, because of the valuable points. So I embraced these crazy lunatics, and then I re-set my bar for those people. And the rest of the people thought I was incredible!
Barb Griffin: Yeah. Cause look – in the end, the point that I wanted to make about this is that we are running our own businesses, and clients will treat you like you allow them to treat you. You are responsible for your own reality; it’s your business, you make the rules. If you don’t like a client, change it – change your terms, change the way you deal with them and you do have the choice.
James Schramko: Ah, exactly right.
Barb Griffin: And you know, we’re not here to whinge about clients from hell; we’re just here to discuss how you deal with them when you get them.
James Schramko: Well, that’s it! The whole point is – don’t complain about it – do something! In the beginning of the year I logged in to my business coaching, and I found the people who were not participating, and I unsubscribed them. Sent them an email and said, ‘hey, just letting you know – I don’t think you’re getting great value from this, so I’m just giving you a holiday from it. If you want to come back later, let me know, but for now, I’ve unsubscribed you.’ And they really respected me for that. Because I don’t want someone buying my stuff if they don’t use it, and if they don’t get value from it, cause it’s going to ruin my track record.
Barb Griffin: Are you talking about Silver Circle?
James Schramko: Yeah.
Barb Griffin: Wow. I didn’t know that you did that, haha!
James Schramko: I do! And if people aren’t active, I let them loose.
Barb Griffin: I’m going to give a big plug for Silver circle later, because it’s actually what this all sort of hinges on, but before we do that, I wanted to ask you about joint ventures from hell. Because, you know, you’ve been in quite a few joint ventures, I’ve done a couple, well quite a few actually – and I just wanted to know – what’s your pearls of advice about getting into them.
Why you would want to get into them; and do you do an exit strategy first? Basically, how do you evaluate whether a JV is a good idea in the first place?
James Schramko: Okay. So basically, my thoughts on this are – it’s almost never a good idea to do a JV, haha!
Barb Griffin: Wow!
James Schramko: Secondly, most partnerships end up as sinking ships. Thirdly, the biggest risk is not if it goes badly, but if it goes too well, because that’s when it gets greedy and difficult… when there’s actually a reward or money up for grabs, then that’s when people show their true character. Not when it’s like – there’s no money, and it just fails.
Usually they fail because everyone thinks the other person is going to do all the work, and they’re secretly just lonely, and they want someone to hold their hand and do all the work for them. That’s usually the built-in default setting.
Barb Griffin: Definitely.
James Schramko: Secondly, if it goes really really well you’ve got to be well-matched, because otherwise, unless you’re moving at the same pace, it gets lopsided. And anything out of balance does not last. So, I’ve learned so much about this. Absolutely do the exit before you go into it. So – I think the only joint venture that I’ve got now – in my entire life – is podcasts. And the reason I do that is where I can’t replicate it by myself.
I’ve already got my own podcast on Superfastbusiness.com; and I also had Internetmarketingspeed. But I’ve got two other ones; I’ve got Freedom Ocean, and I’ve got Think Act Get. And with both of those, my co-host brings something to the show that I can’t bring. Like Ezra, for example. He’s crazy! He’s completely out there, totally radical – hippy, e-commerce specialist – I’m not an e-commerce guy, I’m not a hippy. I don’t eat 25 bananas in a day! He’s just off the richter scale compared to me!
And he brings something to the show; he brings some magic.
Barb Griffin: Yeah. So let’s just talk quickly about your two memberships. You have a lower priced membership which is Fast Web Formula, that I’m a member of, but I forget to log in because I’m also a member of your higher priced membership, which has weekly coaching. And so can you maybe explain to people the differences between those two membership sites?
James Schramko: Yeah. Well, fastwebformula.com, there’s hundreds of people in there, it’s like 600 people. They range in experience and it’s sort of an intermediate – early intermediate, late intermediate, advanced. Really good people like Ezra in there – multi millionaires in there posting. So it’s a high quality really good internet business community. The next one up is Silver Circle. That’s for 6 figure business plus. Like, you have to be making 10 grand a month before you even qualify; because I can help someone who’s making ten grand a month or more a lot more, a lot faster – and it’s bringing together about 30 odd people, 30-40 people in that group, who are really motivated and kicking butt. And they get on a call every week and we’re accountable, and they can answer any question they want, and we move together, we grow together.
Even me – I post every day what I’m up to – and it’s inspiring to see what people are doing professionally and personally, but it’s – it can be lonely being an entrepreneur – and sometimes you talk to just normal family and friends, and they just look at you like you’ve got seven heads!
Barb Griffin: Yeah – totally!
James Schramko: So it’s good to be in a place where people ‘get it’, and they relate to it, and they’re on the same page. So that’s what that’s all about.
Barb Griffin: And also what I like about it – James mentioned he’s got 30, 40 people – the calls are split into three, so on any one call you might have 8-10 people. And there’s this amazing software that allows everybody – it’s like a group video conference – you see everybody’s faces. And it’s really awesome – there’s people from all over the world, it’s just great! But I also wanted to mention, one of the best ‘value for price of entry’ for your fast web formula membership is that you do a regular Sydney meetup!
James Schramko: Yeah! Every single month we go to – in most places actually where there’s members, they meet, usually monthly – and that is pretty cool. Like, I go to those – I think I end up going there from 7 o’clock to midnight – and for 5 hours straight, I’ll answer every single question people throw at me. And I visit different places. If I’m going anywhere in the world, I’ll find a local meetup and go to it. It’s member-driven, and that’s what’s cool about it!
Members organise it, it’s at local…
Barb Griffin: I have a feeling that I organised one of the very first member meetups in Sydney.
James Schramko: It was your idea, you started it! You started the whole thing!
Barb Griffin: Yeah! Me and Colleen Stalford started it.
James Schramko: You did, you started it, and I…
Barb Griffin: – And when you came along, we were like so stoked!
James Schramko: Well, I added this section to the community, and it just took off from there – and it’s been going for – oh, maybe 4 years now.
Barb Griffin: Yeah! and I’m one of the people that’s been sitting there at midnight, like – hanging off every word, and asking you about this – you get stuff from James that you wouldn’t get on a podcast or even on Silver Circle – if you go to those local meetups.
James Schramko: Yeah, they are fun! It’s cool. It’s amazing that there’s people all around the world with a similar thing. And when they come together, it’s really cool – cause you can’t really talk about this at any level with normal people. And I classify ‘normal people’ as the non-internet people who don’t really understand this language – it’s like a new language!
Barb Griffin: Yeah. I’d really like to talk just about what you do for people as a business growth specialist. Is that the good term that you like to call yourself? What you do in Silver Circle?
James Schramko: I guess so. I just help people to make things a bit simpler for themselves; and just to know what they should be focussing on. And for everyone it’s different; it’s quite customised. So I have a…
Barb Griffin: It’s not really like business coach though, it’s a little bit… how can you describe the difference between how you work with people, and what the average business coach – and there’s many of them out there – would do?
James Schramko: Gee, it’s a hard one – you know, I haven’t really worked with a business coach before, so I know a lot of them are grabbing like a Brad Sugars Action Coaching book and just sort of working through the chapters, but I’ve got a vast array of experience in the last 20 years, and I’ve consumed a lot of information, I’ve applied a lot – I’ve had a lot of successes in my own business, especially in the internet field. I’m also able to quickly identify where people can get wins.
I’ve studied under people like Jay Abraham, and all the business greats like Peter Drucker, Eli Goldratt – like, I really get those strategic things, and I can move into where someone’s at. I do a diagnostic. Firstly, they have to qualify to get in. And if they get in, then it means that I feel like I can help them.
Barb Griffin: Phew! I got in, yay!
James Schramko: We do a diagnostic to look for holes and gaps in the business, and we just go through all of the fundamentals, like cashflow, and strategy and systems and people.
Because I’ve got my own team, because I’ve got my own businesses, and because I’ve run large businesses, up to 100 million dollars a year in sales, I’ve seen a lot of these things before. So I can help people, instead of them having to figure it out the hard way or the slow way or the long way. And then there’s still this mastermind factor, where they can mix with other members who might be able to help them. And I’m a good connector, so I can…
Barb Griffin: Which is absolutely invaluable.
James Schramko: It is. We have some amazing people in this group, so if I know anyone in the world who’s gonna help someone in my group, I will connect them up. I will send them an email introduction. Whether it’s applying for an export marketing grant, whether it’s hooking them up with the right person to run facebook advertising, or – it could be on any topic – if I know someone, I’ll connect them up, and then they’re on their own. It’s like – access to the rolodex as well.
And I do travel around the world meeting interesting people. It’s part of my research.
Barb Griffin: Look, in case you haven’t figured this out, James is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and there’s something that somebody told me once – I don’t know if it was your sister or who it was – that you were a teenage sailing champion! Is that correct?
James Schramko: That is correct, yes!
Barb Griffin: So ever since I got that little factoid, I’ve kind of had this impression of you as being – you’ve been a winner from day one – it’s like programmed into you from your youth. And you know, when you were at Mercedes, you were the number one sales guy and you ended up running the whole company.
You’ve just got that built into you, and you kind of won’t rest until everybody that’s learning from you also is number one at what they’re doing. Would you say that’s kind of… your thing?
James Schramko: Yeah. Well, from running a sales team – I mean, my job for a number of years – maybe a decade – was to hire, train and foster these sales people to be winners. So not only do I like to win, I had people under my care who – it was my responsibility to make sure they were the best sales people they could be.
So if someone is taking on my membership, then I do feel obligated. It’s my duty to help them succeed. I want to have a 100% success rate. And if they do what I tell them to do, and if they are really determined to get it, then they will succeed – and it’s just a no-brainer for them, and it’s really satisfying for me. I get a lot of satisfaction when someone goes out there and does something really cool, cause I believe that entrepreneurs are adding value – like, they’re creating things. They’re making podcasts; they’re making content. They’re creating solutions for problems that makes the world a better place.
So I feel good about that stuff.
Barb Griffin: Look, absolutely. Like, even my first mailing list business that I had in 2003 to 2007 – I was paying 5 different people 75 grand a year – so I was creating jobs, even though it was a virtual online thing.
James Schramko: Yeah, and I’m probably paying for a whole village in the Philippines! My salary is – you know, it’s getting up there – it’s not far off 7 figures a year in wages that I pay, and I can feel really good about the impact that has on the lives of the people that I employ; and of course all of our hundreds of customers, who we help with doing various things – we’re making their lives better as well.
I think it’s a worthwhile thing to do. I think it’s fun; and it’s challenging, and it’s exciting.
Barb Griffin: Yeah. And one of the things – it’s ironic, because you’re one of the top salesmen ever, but the way that you teach sales is that sales should be undetectable. Which I particularly love. It’s so cool if sales are undetectable. And you’re just really telling people – look, this is what we do, this is how it can help you, and this is how you get started.
Which… is sales, but I dunno – the way that you do it, it doesn’t seem like you’re being sold to. It makes the person feel like they’re deciding to do business with you.
James Schramko: Yeah, well that’s ideal. If the customer is the one that decides to buy, then that’s been done well. I probably draw from Neil Rackham from SPIN selling, but ‘a sale is that process of change from one situation to a better alternative situation’. So if you can help someone see that they’ll be better off for making the change, then a sale will be the result of that. So, it’s not forceful, it’s not aggressive, it’s not pushy – it’s not 27 tricky closes that you can tie someone down with. You know, I repel and reject all that manipulative hocus pocus mumbo jumbo 1980s sales crap.
It’s just about helping people, and making it clear how they’ll be better off. And if you do the work, and you really understand people’s challenges properly, and then you recommend appropriate valuable solutions, then the sale will naturally happen. So we make sales every day just by showing people how they’ll be better off, and what sort of results they will be likely to get.
Barb Griffin: Yeah, I had a really good Skype with a client who was asking me about doing SEO on a travel related site, and he ended up saying – Look, I want to give you our other site, too. The other site was the bigger badder groupon type deal site. And then he said, then once you’ve done that, maybe we can get you to look at our UK site too. I got 3 jobs out of the one, just by the client feeling comfortable that I knew my stuff, and could help them out.
James Schramko: Well, they’re going to respect you when you’re not carrying a club to the meeting! And bashing him around with it!
Barb Griffin: Yeah! I had another client meeting the other day, and she’s a middle man. She’s a woman, but she’s a PR person. It was one of her clients, he’s kind of a bit of a celebrity in the animal niche, and I did notice during the call I was almost being devil’s advocate. Saying all the things that may not work and that we had to be careful of. But it had the opposite effect, of making them feel like I was almost not trying to sell them into a product, but just to educate them on what we needed to do to make sure it would work.
James Schramko: Well, sales has a heavy component of education in it. You help people understand their situation, and how the solutions can help, it’s good. And one sure way to have someone want to buy something is if they can’t have it.
Barb Griffin: Yeah. Now, a lot of my clients are actual physical businesses. Would you recommend a physical business would be a good fit for Silver Circle, or would it be better if the business had an online component, because that’s kind of your thing?
James Schramko: Well, remember I was running physical businesses for the first 20 years. So it’s fine! You know, I’ve had pretty good experience in a store – and physical business with stock, and that’s how I got such a deep understanding. I mean – I sold stock, time, and money, and still had to deal with all the administration – rent and overheads, and all the usual stuff. Logistical nightmares, geo specific targeted marketing, so it’s okay for that.
But certainly if they have an online component, that’s where I’ve really focussed lately, and it seems to be that most people in Silver Circle have some kind of interest in online, even if they’re not fully an online business.
Barb Griffin: Yeah, look – in my business, I’m often helping a non-online business develop an online component of their business. So let’s say they’re a glass supplier, I might be helping them develop an eCommerce glass ‘order your shower online’ type thing that they don’t currently have.
James Schramko: Yeah. In our Silver Circle, we’ve got videographers who go out and film videos and documentaries. We have swim coaches. We have a nutrition eCommerce store, that has actual food shipments, like real stock.
So all the traditional business things become important in those sort of environments. So, there’s not really a business that wouldn’t be useful, unless it’s like a government organisation or something where you jut cannot do anything – or you’ve got contracts that are locked down for years.
Barb Griffin: Yeah, and I think any business with a website – which should be all of them – there’s no business with a website that cannot benefit from targeted traffic, and that is basically James’ thing.
James Schramko: Yeah, plus the conversions and the hiring and the training and all the other stuff!
Barb Griffin: Yeah, wow! Well, I’m glad that our original rant turned into a bit more of a mellow discussion about business in general, I guess!
James Schramko: Well I think one of the common themes is – if you want to tie it back to customers from hell! – is that it’s pretty much a choice. If you run your business right, you don’t have to deal with them. And if you do wamt to deal with them, it’s a choice. And you can use them to re-set your bar.
Barb Griffin: Yeah, and when I’ve learned from James, I’ve learnt how to better systematise my business and basically funnel the clients from hell into a different direction, so that it’s a bit more of a hands-off process. I mean that after the consulation period, once we start the ‘doing’, then it’s much more systematised.
James Schramko: Yeah. I think if you’ve got a clear system that takes care of the customer, then they’re not going to pop up their head all the time looking for severe customisation, or trying to zag when you’re having them zig. You know, you can have good systems and processes without the person feeling like they are being processed.
Barb Griffin: Yeah, I think one of the best things I do in my business that sets me apart from other businesses is awesome reporting. Video reporting, reporting that they can show to the board, ROI, all the rest of it. But it’s also kind of like my downfall, because sometimes clients feel like they understand a little bit too much what we’re doing, and they think that they can take it on themselves. And then everything goes bad!
James Schramko: Yeah. Well I like to focus on the results rather than the mechanics wherever possible. So if you take the analogy of a car, help them understand that you’re able to drive them from here to there, without having to explain spark plugs and petrol and brakes.
Barb Griffin: Yeah, and teaching them how to change their own spark plugs.
James Schramko: Yeah, they don’t have to do that! Like the limo driver – he’s more interested in making sure you’ve got a bottle of water, something nice to read, and that he doesn’t talk to you for the next hour! And drive with the air conditioning off to save fuel!
Barb Griffin: Hey, it’s been awesome chatting to you tonight, James, thank you so much for your time!
James Schramko: Thanks Barbs – great to catch up always! And I’ll be speaking to you very soon on the next call.
Barb Griffin: So tell everybody your websites where they can find you – the things we’ve talked about, Silver Circle, Fast Web Formula – and the membership sites.
James Schramko: Okay, well I would start at Superfastbusiness.com, and if you need some kind of help, then there’s a products page there, and that should guide you to the correct site. In fact, tell me that you heard about me through Barbara Griffin podcast – and I’ll know that you must be cool!
Barb Griffin: Awesome! Thanks James! You Rock. Bye!
James Schramko: Okay bye bye!
You’ve been listening to the Business Marketing Agency Podcast with Barbara Griffin. For any questions, feedback or just to keep in touch, email me.