Kristin Zhivago is the President of Zhivago Partners. She is a revenue coach, digital marketing expert and author of Roadmap to Revenue. In this episode you can learn about:
- The role of Mindset in leading marketing
- How to sell the way your customers want to buy
- The buying process vs. The sales process
- The difference between Brand and Branding
- The benefits of a “No Jerk” policy
Before we get a chance to speak with Kristen, it is The Leadership Hacker News.
The Leadership Hacker News
Steve Rush: South Korean baseball fans may not be allowed to watch their favourite teams live at stadiums due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but NC Dino stands where not empty, thanks to life-size cardboard cut-outs of portraits sent in by their fans. The Korean baseball organization league season kicked off this month after a five-week delay due to the coronavirus; all games were played however, without any fans in attendance. No fans were allowed in, even though the league reopened. Dino marketing manager Parc Jung-Un said, we thought about ways of giving enjoyment to fans and motivations to players, but keeping everybody safe, the club had more than 60 fans participating by sending their own pitches in, along with their favourite players and even their pets. Han Dong-Su a 38-year-old baseball fan said outside the stadium. I can’t go in, but my avatar is cheering the team on instead of me and it just feels like I’m in the stadium. The club also set out cardboard, cut-outs of characters of other fans, of other teams and declared it support for them on Twitter. The South Korean team are getting support from baseball teams across the United States and across the world and more and more fans are set to send their cardboard cut-outs in to support the teams virtually. It was a major marketing hit, it is allowing a connectivity to the club while at the same time, promoting a togetherness, which of course connect fans loyalty and is demonstrating some great marketing leadership. That has been The Leadership Hacker News. If you have any news insights or crazy stories that we could share with our listeners, please get in touch with us.
Steve Rush: I am joined on today show by Kristin Zhivago. She is the president of Zhivago Partners. She is a revenue coach, digital marketing expert and author. Kristen, welcome to the Leadership Hacker Podcast.
Kristin Zhivago: Thank you very much, nice to be here.
Steve Rush: Keen to get inside the mind of what a revenue coach is but before we get into that, just tell us a little bit about your backstory. So you’ve been a leader of Zhivago Partners for a number of years, and you’ve worked through Silicon Valley for a while. Just tell us a little bit; about what you have done and tell, us maybe a little bit, about how you’ve arrived, where you’ve arrived?
Kristin Zhivago: So I started selling when I was really young and discovered really early on through some painful experiences that you need to know what you’re talking about before you can sell it. And that painful experience was in a technical environment and I just was so embarrassed that I didn’t know what I was talking about, that I decided to devote the rest of my career to selling and learning everything I could about tech, and I’ve been doing that ever since. It never stopped.
Steve Rush: Can you tell us a little bit about that experience?
Kristin Zhivago: Yeah, I was the first woman to sell machine shop tools in the U.S. as far as I know; the Pratt & Whitney Distributor told me that was the deal. He gave me a catalogue and you know, I was back in the days of miniskirts and I just went out and sold. Called on companies back then I was in San Diego. There was a small Silicon Valley growing and in San Diego and there was one machine shop foreman who kind of called me out. You know, everybody came out to see who was there and why she was in the machine shop. This was back a while ago and he asked me, you know, why is your drill bit better than the one I am using now? And I didn’t have an answer, and he said, honey, you better learn this stuff before you go out and sell.
So that was my big fat, embarrassing moment, you know, as a senior in high school and I thought, you know, when you’re senior in high school, you think you’re hot stuff. And man, I just slunk back to the car and that’s when I made that life changing decision, and been following that ever since, been a really great thing. Anyway, so started an agency in Silicon Valley, did that with my husband for a long time. Then the Macintosh came along and I said. Why don’t you retire? I am going to go out and help people market in house because they were all using the Mac to do stuff in house and I ended up inventing myself as a revenue coach and I basically taught CEOs and entrepreneurs how to sell more by understanding what their customers really wanted to buy and how they wanted to buy.
It did a lot of marketing and sales turnarounds for companies of all sizes, including Dow Jones and did a lot of work for IBM for a number of years, writing instructions for their marketing people, so it was fun. But as I got older, I started realizing that the digital marketing stuff was really confusing business owners, especially those that weren’t digitally astute themselves. Decided to help them and opened up a Zhivago Partners, which is a digital agency in 2017. That is where I am now, have a wonderful worldwide virtual staff and specialists, and core infrastructure people and we are just having a wonderful time.
Steve Rush: That is awesome and it is really interesting to notice that in many successful entrepreneurs like yourself, there’s seems to be that epiphany moment, that moment where something’s happened in their life, where they go, Grrrrrr, this is it. I’m going to head in this direction. Great it was so early for you in your career.
Kristin Zhivago: Yeah.
Steve Rush: You talk about a revenue coach. What is the role of a revenue coach?
Kristin Zhivago: Well, as I said, I did a lot of marketing and sales turnarounds, so I’d go into a failing marketing department or failing sales department and I always thought I could do it in two or three months. And it always took eight, I mean, it was just the reality and after a while I knew that, of course but it takes time to get the current team where they’re at. Fire the jerk if there is a jerk, you got to get rid of them because he’s dragging everybody else down. He or she and put the right people in the right jobs and get the processes fixed. 9 times out of 10, the biggest problems were always processes and I found that in all of my revenue coaching work, so I had literally have interviewed thousands of customers and worked with hundreds of CEOs and entrepreneurs and that is the biggest problem. They think they know what the customer is thinking and they don’t. So there is just a lot of stuff that you have to work on to turn things around and, make it a profitable exercise and make sure that you are marketing to the customer and doing the right thing.
Steve Rush: Often businesses, I think, tend to market with their own lens don’t they? Their own perception of, what their customers want and how does that kind of play out in the work that you do, changing that perception?
Kristin Zhivago: Yeah, that ended up being the main job of my career. In the sense that every time I went to work for a company, I would ask them what was important to their customers. And they had a list of, you know, 5 or 10 things that they really believed were important to their customers. Then I go out and interview their customers and their customers had a completely different list, so I knew that they were off the Mark. They just were not hitting the customer where the customer lived.
Steve Rush: Right.
Kristin Zhivago: And going back to processes, I realized that I had this sort of this famous quote now attributed to me, which is that branding is the promise that you make, but your brand is the promise that you keep and they are not the same quite often. The tools that people have to keep their promises so that their brand actually matches their branding are the people, the processes, the policies, and the passion of the leader. And there’s one other, I can’t remember at the moment, it’s a lot of P’s. Anyway, the biggest one that was always a problem was the processes. They usually had pretty good people, if the guy wasn’t a jerk, they had good policies, made good decisions, but the processes were terrible and people suffered under that, and even in the age of apps that we’re living in now. Where you are only as good as your apps, processes are a big deal, which is why when I started this company. The first person I hired was an app whisperer and infrastructure assistant kind of person who helped me build the systems, which is basically what Amazon did. You know, Jeff Bezos. It was a process centric company and he just plugged in all these other products into the processes that he built.
Steve Rush: It is really neat and I particularly liked that quote by the way, branding versus brand. Branding is what you send out isn’t it but brand is where you make that emotional connection with your customers.
Kristian Zhivago: Well, it is keeping your promises is whether you do what you say. If you say, we care about you and you leave them on hold for 15 minutes, when they first call, or they go through voicemail help. Well guess what. Your actions say, just the opposite, which is why people get angry at big corporations, because they make all these glowing promises in their ads and everything. We care about you and all that, and then you try to interact with the company and it is not like that at all. They are like your worst enemy kind of thing. They are stopping you from trying to achieve your goals. They don’t understand you. They don’t understand your mind-set
Steve Rush: And mind-set plays a big part and I guess we will come to pick some of that in a moment. I am keen to explore with you. We had a great conversation the last time we spoke where we share some similar views around the whole buying and selling principle. In my coaching and consulting career. Not once if I found anybody who likes to be sold to, but they still have sales driven teams. What is your experience about the kind of the dichotomy of buying versus selling?
Kristian Zhivago: Well, you bring up a really good point. Every CEO I have ever talked to, doesn’t like to be sold to, and yet they hire salespeople and they go out and they hunt and they make a hundred cold calls and gets through to one person. That system is very broken; it is almost as broken as you can get in a business system. It just does not work and customers have gotten so good with caller ID and everything. They don’t even pick up their phone. They just wait to see who it was and if, they think they really wanted to talk to them, they are going to leave a voicemail. I have probably bought something off a cold call, maybe once out of every three years or something like that. Maybe it is once out of every year. I don’t know, but it feels like more and every CEO is the same way, but they don’t treat their customers that way. They assume that these, you know, marketing has a lot of language about targets and a shotgun approach and, you know, rifle. We treat these folks like they’re animals that we’re hunting down and it doesn’t, really work. It is kind of insulting and just calling someone out of the blue and thinking, or assuming that they are going to be in the market for your product at that moment, we’re kind of forgetting that there’s a moment in time when somebody wants to buy what you’re selling. And that moment is very urgent and that moment drives all of the marketing things people do. Search engine optimization and they go out and they search, they talk to their friends, they read reviews, all of the things that you need to do to be there when they’re ready are so much more important than just sending a guy out.
I have nothing against sales. I have been in sales half of all my life. In my own company, I have always had like an 80 or 90% closing rate. I know how to sell, but selling is not really selling anymore. Selling is being there when the customer has a need for what you sell. It is showing up when they go looking and then answering their questions, the buyer’s journey is nothing more than a series of questions that need to be answered to this buyer satisfaction. And the minute you answer in a way that turns them off or something, they’re not going to tell you, we all play poker when we’re being sold to we’re negotiating. We don’t say, Oh man, you just blew it. I am probably one of the few people in the world that actually does stop the sales guy and say, you just blew it because I can’t help myself. You know, I feel sorry for him, but I will say, you know, what you just said is an absolute turnoff and I will not buy from you. We are done and he would be just like….
Steve Rush: Good feedback!
Kristin Zhivago: Yeah.
Steve Rush: And I guess the sales, person’s just going to get lucky if the customer is in that buying space, unless you really understand that customer need. And you understand the journey that they’re about to take in that buying process, right?
Kristin Zhivago: Yes, but again, there is a timing problem. I mean, it is like going after somebody who is married and just, you know, trying to get them to love you. And it’s like, no, excuse me, I’m married. It is kind of like that. I mean, if you are happy, where you are, nothing they say is going to make you change your mind. If you are unhappy and you are looking for a solution. Well, then you’re going to be going out and looking for a solution and your mind-set will be, I have to solve this problem and you leave breadcrumbs all over the place, looking for a solution and the trick is people have to be there when they go looking in that specific mind-set. And that’s how we get leads for our clients, we figure out what that specific mind-set is and it’s very specific. Then we advertise to that, so to speak, we put the message out. We say those words, that appeal to them in that mind-set, so we are basically hunting for mind-sets and they come looking for us. It is a matchmaking thing.
Steve Rush: Got it, and your whole approach now is driven through that whole mind-set driven marketing approach, isn’t it? Tell us a little bit more, about how that came about.
Kristin Zhivago: Yeah, I am actually going full scale on that. I am just about to launch it, so you are getting a preview, but is the idea that if you understand very specifically what their mind-set is, and the way you do that is as I pointed out in my book. Roadmap To Revenue, How To Sell The Way Your Customers Want To Buy. In chapter three, I explained exactly how to go out and find the information among your current customer, so you can basically reverse engineer a successful sale and create new sales in quantity because you will understand their exact mind-set and once you have that, then you want to make an offer that appeals to that specific mind-set. And that leads to an outcome that both of you are happy with. Customer gets what they want and you get what you want. You get a sale. It is a formula is very simple and the reason it is so hard is because people…I know that, you know, in my book, I talk about discovery debate and deploy, so you discover you debate and you deploy, which is how marketing should work, but people always miss the first part. They don’t discover, they assume and that assumption is very dangerous and very expensive.
Steve Rush: I have experience that as a buyer too, having then ended up with perhaps the wrong solution as a result.
Kristin Zhivago: Oh yeah. That is really sad. I mean, regrets are in…especially when you are buying a B2B, but even in B2C, I mean, buying regrets are very sad because you have spent the money. You have gone through all that trouble to get the right thing up and in the case of say enterprise software; you have trained all your people. Then you discover we have all had this experience now because we have all had software long enough where you get the whole thing set up and then you discover there is a got you, that’s a deal killer. It is a showstopper. It is like, wait, I remember I have one of my clients before I showed up who had a group working for him. They had this great software program and he started to put his whole business on it. He spent a hundred thousand dollars and then they discovered that it did not interact with their mail program. Now you roll your eyes and say, well, excuse me, but it was some interaction thing where when the lead came in, you know, they would be alerted and this was a little while ago. Now everybody assumes that is going to happen, but he had to stop the whole thing. He wasted a hundred thousand dollars, and all that effort and all that excitement and training and everything for something that did not work, so buyers are sceptical. I mean, I used to say we are selling software and a scepticism swamp because people have been burned so often.
Software has been around a long time now, and people have been disappointed and I don’t know how many project management systems I’ve gone through myself. Probably 35 or 40 of them really, truly testing and trying to figure it out, making it work until you find the right one, and when it’s good, it’s really good, but getting there is hard and everybody promises that, Oh yeah, no problem. It is all good. You know, it all worked, we can make it work and then it does not work, and you are out all that time and money, it is very frustrating.
Steve Rush: Given that, we have so much more data, in our hands now and marketing can be more scientific. What do you think the reason is that organizations spend a disproportionate amount of time getting their marketing right? Versus getting their sales channels right.
Kristin Zhivago: Well selling is very understandable, so somebody who is a finance guy or an engineer or something, it seems very black and white. You know, you send a guy out there, you make a hundred calls and every day or every couple of days, and you know, you’ll see results. I mean, it just seems like arithmetic. If you beat enough bushes, you are going to shake something out of the tree or whatever, I am using for my analogies. So it makes sense and it ignores the customer’s mind-set completely. I mean, it even ignores the fact that they hate cold calls and they don’t like being approached by salespeople and they do everything they can to avoid them in their own life, but they think it’s okay to do that to their customers, search for their prospects.
Steve Rush: Very true.
Kristin Zhivago: And another thing they do is they think that the salespeople are bringing back market data. And the way I get around that is I look at the CEO and I say, okay, your salespeople are going out there talking to customers and they’re coming back with valid customer data, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, you know, we hear from them and they call us after the call and blah, blah. Okay, so when was the last time you told a salesperson, what you were really thinking while you were being sold to? Crickets, because they never say, like I said, they’re playing poker, they’re negotiating. They don’t want to tell the guy what they’re really thinking. Unlike me, where I actually stopped the thing and tell the guy that he’s got a real problem here. Because I feel sorry for him, CEOs won’t do that. They are just going to let you be stupid, and you go through the whole thing and they shake your hand at the end of the call. Then the CEO goes right back to his computer and starts Googling the solution again, because he knows he is not going to hire that guy or that company, so they will not tell you what they’re really thinking while you are selling to them. However, the secret, the big thing that I learned was that there are more than happy to talk after you have sold to them and they are happy.
They have invested in you and they want you to succeed, so they don’t mind. People are basically unless, they’re jerks. They are basically helpful and they’ll spend 30 minutes on the phone with you. You ask open-ended questions, so you would get what they are really thinking. Not what you think, they are thinking with a survey or something where you are making them do multiple choice or whatever. But you really just doing that discovery and finding out what they really think about that subject, and getting the truth out of them. And then turning that into report that’s anonymized and categorized by question and answer so that the executives in the company finally get to see what people are really thinking, why they bought from this company, not the other company, what the competitors did, what they think about, what their concerns were, what their biggest problem is. And that gives you a map, I mean, every single time we’re talking hundreds of times that I came back in with this information and the CEO and the other executives were in the room. They were having that V8 moment. You know, where you slap your forehead, I could have had a V8.
Steve Rush: Right.
Kristin Zhivago: It was like, oh geez. I had no idea that people were feeling this way about us or gee, did they know that we made that mistake? Hmm, that is bad. You find the good stuff in the bad, and you actually understand who you’re selling to for the first time and you respect them and you know, they’re smart. Cause that is the other thing. Sometimes people think their customers are not that smart. Customers are pretty smart, people buy things from the time they’re five years old and probably sooner now because of iPads and you know, Amazon and stuff. So we are experienced buyers and we know what we want and we know when we get it and when we’re getting it from somebody and when we’re not, it’s very black and white. So they finally see the picture and then they start making good decisions, decisions that make sense and decisions that lead to more revenue and grow the company. That is what a revenue coach really does.
Steve Rush: That makes loads of sense, for me. Your book Roadmap To Revenue was named by Forbes as being one of the top marketing and sales books written and love to get a little bit of insight as to the key principles that you mentioned earlier. So in your book, you’ve got those three stages of discovered, debate and deploying. We covered off the discover bit, a little earlier on. In the debate stage, that is really, what you focus on the round that buying process. Tell us a little about that.
Kristin Zhivago: Well, during the debate stage, I then want to educate them to the type of buying journey that we are talking about and one of the biggest contributions I think I make in the book besides teaching people, how to discover. Is that there are basically four types of products and services in the world based on the amount of scrutiny that the customer applies to the purchase. So there’s light scrutiny, medium scrutiny, heavy scrutiny, and intense scrutiny. Light scrutiny is impulse, cheap purchases, the candy bar at the checkout counter, you know, the tabloid magazine, whatever. Just one or two questions. Can I afford this? Can my waistline afford this? Should I buy this or not? That is light scrutiny. Medium scrutiny are products and services are things like clothing, where it’s still pretty much one person making the decision and there’s maybe 10 or 15 questions will this fit? Do I like the colour? You know, maybe you are, worried about your significant other liking it or not but it’s a pretty simple buying process.
Heavy scrutiny is when you really are making a big purchase in the B2C side, its cars and houses and things like that. There is a contract; there is a sales person of some sort and I always think of these salespeople really should be sales guides or buying guides. They help you make the buying decision in an honest, straight forward, you know, what are your trade your way? So it is like the trade-offs, the things you need. What is your main concern? Okay, well this will work or maybe it won’t, that’s really what we need now rather than people who are out hunting. That is heavy scrutiny, then the B2B side. Those are big enterprise software programs or programs. You are going to run your business on. Something you make a deep commitment to, that is a big deal, and it costs a lot of money and then intense scrutiny, products and services are those where it’s everything that the heavy scrutiny is, but you get married. It is a long-term contract. It is like two or three years and maybe it is a big consulting thing. That is where they are making airplanes, you know. Boeing or something, so the reason that I came up with this is because of the gap that I kept finding between the company mind-set and the customer mind-set, and I had to close that gap somehow. And I kept seeing people who were selling light scrutiny, products and services as if they were heavy scrutiny, products and services. Like you don’t need a newsletter to learn how to chew gum kind of thing. It just was silly.
Steve Rush: Right.
Kristin Zhivago: And the same thing with the high scrutiny products and services, where they were treating it as a branding exercise, where all we have to do is just get the word out to everybody. And we’re a great, and we can do this for you and make this big promise, but they weren’t able to answer the very specific questions that the buyers had. Again, the buyer journey, which I was one of the first people to talk about selling as a buying journey is again, a series of very specific questions that need to be answered to the buyer satisfaction in order for the sale to be made. That is basically it, they weren’t answering those questions. They did not equip their salespeople to answer those questions and these are end of the funnel questions. We talk about the funnel where they are really close to buying, and now they just want to have three questions answered.
Steve Rush: The big thing here is getting on the agenda of that customer and consulting almost with that customer in that buying process, right?
Kristin Zhivargo: Yeah, you are their advocate. You are on their side. You are trying to figure out what you can give them will actually satisfy those requirements. In an honest, no BS kind of way. That is really what buyers want.
Steve Rush: Right.
Kristin Zhivargo: And nobody gives it to them.
Steve Rush: And there is a lot of psychology involved here too, isn’t there, so the whole principle around calling somebody a salesperson versus a buying person, like a buy an advocate or buying a system.
Kristin Zhivargo: Or buying guide or yeah, whatever the word is.
Steve Rush: Yeah, companies still have not quite caught on to that, have they?
Kristin Zhivargo: No, because again, it is so easy to just put a guy on the phone, you know, it just makes so much sense. You go out and you hunt and when you think about it, it’s pretty crazy the states that we’re in right now, because the buyers have completely rejected that approach. Yet we have a whole industry. I mean, there are millions of sales consultants and you know people out there who are continuing to help people get on that phone and make those calls and, you know, go for dialling for dollars. We are still doing that and the customer has left us in the dust. I mean, we are selling buggy whips in time when people are driving cars. It is that bad.
Steve Rush: Right and I think also my experience of sales people is the agenda shift from; I need to make a sale versus I need to help you buy is also the biggest thing that as consumers we are now really attuned to aren’t we?
Kristin Zhivago: Yeah, you are so right. You know, the salesman’s agenda, the minute he opens his mouth, I mean, it’s just, okay. I understand you are trying to make a quota. That is all you care about is closing the sale. Well, I don’t want to be closed. Nobody wants to be closed, it is like, okay, okay, okay, make a decision quick, quick, quick. Okay, it is going to all going to be fine. No problem, just sign here quick, quick, quick. And people know, like I said, this is scepticism swamp. They have grown up buying things and regretting those purchases and dealing with the, you know, one of the things that people totally ignore when you are selling B2B is the, reputation whiteboard. When I was doing marketing and sales turnarounds, I would be an entrepreneur working in a very big corporation and the first thing I learned was when you start that job, you get your own little personal whiteboard.
It’s like hung around your neck. It is just a small letter size thing. I mean, it is just, you know, my imagination of what this thing is, every time you make a mistake, there is a black mark on that whiteboard. And it there’s no eraser, nobody ever forgets that you were the one that put in that enterprise program and the whole thing failed, or that you didn’t make your quota or whatever it was or you said the stupid thing to one of the top executives on a bad day. You know, whatever it is, every time you screw up, there is a black mark on your whiteboard, and so one of the mind-sets of the corporate buyer is keeping those black marks off that whiteboard, avoiding corporate embarrassment. It is like one of the main drivers, the bigger the company, the bigger the issue. Because if you get too many black marks on your whiteboard, nobody will even pay any attention to you anymore in a meeting, they will just roll their eyes.
Oh yeah, there is Bob again, you know, well, don’t pay any attention to him because he did that terrible thing back in 1979, we’re never going to forget it. And the only way to get out of that in many cases is to just people that have that problem, they have to leave the company because nobody’s going to respect them anymore. Nobody is going to take their advice. They are not part of the team they have been rejected. So that’s, what is driving. That is the biggest driver is the embarrassment factor, and yet we don’t address that at all when we’re selling. People will just, you know, act like, Oh, well, you know, you just go out there and you are going to get all this and you will be a hero and the guy’s like, yeah right, I’m going to be a hero. If this thing fails, I am going to be toast.
Steve Rush: My favourite sales person’s line is when they call you up. And the first line is, don’t worry. I am not trying to sell you anything.
Kristin Zhivago: So guess what, you have just started the relationship with a lie.
Steve Rush: Exactly, right.
Kristin Zhivago: I mean it is terrible. It is terrible, the way we treat people, when we are selling to them. It is really rotten. It is like bait and switch and you lie to them. When people say that to me, I say, oh, okay, well, gee, it is 7:30. I am trying to eat dinner and I don’t know you, I’ve never heard from you before. Tell me really, why you are calling. If you are not trying to sell me something, do we know each other? You know, have we met before? I mean, people really should not call me because I am terrible about that stuff, I am so sick of it.
Steve Rush: We have a bit of fun with it in our family too, which we should not do, right?
Kristin Zhivago: No
Steve Rush: Because people are trying to make a living and we get it. But equally, if we’ve also been consumers of selling, we recognize those patterns in people’s tonality, In particular when somebody says I am going to sell it, I am not trying to sell you something and we know they are and our hackles go up as consumers don’t they? So heading over to your “Deploy” stage, what transpires here?
Kristin Zhivago: Well, This is just classic, you know, carrying out projects. I mean, truthfully, once you understand the mind-set of the customer and you have made a proper offer to that mind-set, then you have to say, okay, where are they looking for us? That is the biggest thing. Are they in social where they actually go to social to buy from us? Or are they just going to social to see what we’re tweeting about? And they would only do that as part of their buying process, but they have to find us when they go looking and you know, Google still owns 95% of the search market, so guess what? That is one of the places you go and search engine optimization. Where you are using your content and you are getting out there. There is, some ways to get on the first page of Google. I am not going to say what they are right now, because I don’t want to give it away.
Totally honest, a good content driven kind of way, but there’s also advertising and advertising does work these days. That is where we are getting the most far leads for our clients. That fast stuff, there is sort of two things that happen. There is the quick get leads as fast as you can stuff. Then there is sort of the back end. You need to be there as they’re looking around, especially if you’re selling a heavier intense scrutiny product or service, they are going to check you out before they talk to a salesperson and another famous quote, which nobody attributes to me. But I really was the first person, as far as I can tell, to say in the stage of the web, by the time a person talks to a salesperson, they’ve already gotten 60 to 80% of their questions, 60 to 80% of their questions answered before they get a salesperson on the phone.
So they just want answers to those remaining very specific questions. They have already checked your site. They have checked your reviews. They have gone and talked to other people they have, you know, gone through Google and looked around. They have done a lot of homework and got 80% of their questions answered. Now they come to the sales person who by the way, is not trained to answer those very specific remaining questions and instead he wants to start his PowerPoint at, we were founded in 2001 and everybody’s in the room. Oh God, do we have to sit through this now and go through the whole thing. They have two or three questions. If your marketing is really working, which by the way mine does which better do or I shouldn’t be talking to you. By the time they get to me, they have two question and I sell a very intense product or service I sell, you know, we are getting married.
I am going to make sure that your company grows. That is my responsibility. That is big, intense kind of thing, so they have done all their homework. They have decided they want to do business with me already. And they just want to know, am I interested in taking them on? When can I start? How much is it? They have three questions. So one of the whole philosophies behind this heavy, medium light scrutiny thing is that if you can get through your marketing to the point with a heavier or intense scrutiny product or service, to the point where by the time they come to you, they have two or three questions. If it is a light scrutiny thing, man, you have done your job. That is the goal.
Steve Rush: That is really clever, I am really focused. I love it, so as a leader of marketing agencies, too, you have led people and this part of the show. We already want to tap into your leadership thinking if you had to distil your years of leadership into, let’s say your top three leadership hacks, what would they be? Kristin.
Kristin Zhivago: I think the first one is don’t assume. Never assume because when we assume we think we know it all. We think we know the answer, so you really have to always be curious, keep asking, keep trying to figure out, keep being humble, not only with your customers, but your partners, your staff just assume that you don’t know at all. And by the way, I didn’t get to this point until, you know, after my fifties, because you have to get over yourself. In order to get past that point of thinking, you know, at all, or wanting to know it all or needing to know it all, you really have to get over that and just keep being humble that you might in fact, learn something today from somebody else.
Steve Rush: Right?
Kristin Zhivago: And that is the key, because if you do that, then you are going to understand the customer’s mind-set. You are going to understand your staff and what they want. What makes them happy and try to give it to them and the second one is, make it a nice place for nice people to work. I have a no jerk policy, clients, vendors, our staff, absolutely. The minute anybody puts their hands on their hips, that is it we are done because we don’t do that around here, including me. I am not allowed to put my hands on my hips either by the way and that makes it a, culture where it is a nice place, a happy place. It is a safe place for good people to work and they love it. They love it. It is just so wonderful. You are not being stopped and by the way, the definition of a jerk is somebody who makes it harder for other people to do their work. Nice people try to make it easier for you to do your job. They try to help; they try to give you what you need and a jerk does just the opposite. Everything is a struggle. You never get a good decision. They love everybody paying attention to them because they don’t know the answer. It is a power trip, so we have a jerk free environment and it is a wonderful place to work.
Steve Rush: I think I am going to be sharing that with my clients and colleagues. Hey, do you have a no jerk policy?
Kristin Zhivago: Yeah, exactly.
Steve Rush: Because ultimately we put up with a lot of BS from people.
Kristian Zhivago: Yeah.
Steve Rush: Unnecessarily, but if it’s, you know, right from the outset, people understand, this is the way we do things. This is the environment we’ve got, just creates the right tone from the start. Isn’t it?
Kristian Zhivago: Yeah and it helps you help your customers too, because one of the reasons it is hard for employees to help customers is because their boss is a jerk. So they have to work around that somehow. And if your boss a nice person who wants to help the customer. Oh gee, guess what, you know, you are all on the same page. Customers happy, you are happy. The boss is happy, so it is really a wonderful way to go.
And the third thing I would say that I’ve learned is never give up, never give up. I mean, no matter what is happening. I mean, I learned that in Silicon Valley, we had many recessions in Silicon Valley where people would think the Valley was dead, so when my husband and I were running an ad agency, we made this poster to call the Valley lives, and we sent it around. People put it up in their conference rooms.
And it was just about the fact that there’s always money flowing somewhere. And there’s trillions of dollars that change hands every single day in the banking system. Used to be 3 trillion, I think it is up to 5 now or something, but it’s a lot of money. Somebody is always buying something somewhere and you just have to figure out who is it? What do they want? How can I help? What is their mind-set? How can I address it? Make an offer that will appeal to them in that mind-set. There is always a way to make money. If you are humble and you go after just that one thought that you are trying to help somebody achieve something. How can I take what I do and apply it to that? And by the way, that’s a big deal right now with COVID and all this stuff’s going on with this virus, same thing.
Steve Rush: Sure is.
Kristin Zhivago: What do people need? How can we help?
Steve Rush: If not even more so now just understanding their lens at a different level. Right?
Kristin Zhivago: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Things are different. This thing has radically shifted us. All of us, the whole world has shifted. It is a big deal, and so people are going to approach things differently and prioritize things differently and need different things. And we have to understand quickly what those mind-sets are.
Steve Rush: So we affectionately called this part of the show Hack to Attack, and it is where we learn from our guest’s. Period in their life or their career where things have not gone well, or they may have screwed up, but they have used that lesson. That is something that is now positive in their life. What will be your hack to attack?
Kristin Zhivago: You talked about it, that humility experience when I was a senior in high school, and I went out to my car with my tail between my legs. I remember distinctly standing in that parking lot. You know, I had a 52 Chevy. I did not even go into my car right away. I just stood there in the parking lot, feeling the full-scale humiliation and saying to myself, man, I just screwed up. I mean, you know, I had the whole thing ready. They would have bought from me. I saw the sale, you know, when you are a sales person, it is like, I tell people, I am a recovering salesperson. You saw it, you know, that he could have bought, but he did not, and it was because me.
Steve Rush: It is such a vivid emotion for you still isn’t it?
Kristin Zhivago: Yeah. I knew right then, you know, and I was a singer. I was in show business. My whole family was in show business. I could hold an audience in the Palm of my hand while I was singing. You know, it was a big ego boost. And that’s the other thing. I mean, you really do have to get over yourself to succeed in business. That was that moment where I knew there was something more than just holding an audience, just being good at performing. It was something way bigger and way deeper, and I’ve just devoted my life to it. That is really the main thing, you know, and every time you go through a recession or something and you have to learn, but the other big thing for me was that, that realization, that the difference between the gap between the customer’s mind-set and the company mind-set is always amazingly large and they don’t even know it. They don’t even know how far off they are, so those two things were things that have just driven me and driven me and driven me,
Steve Rush: Brilliant stuff and the last thing we want to explore with you is to do a little bit of time travel now. And if you’re able to bump into Kristen at 21, what would be the one bit of advice you would give her?
Kristin Zhivago: Kind of the same thing, like get over yourself, you know, calm down, watch more than you talk, look around. It is hard to figure this out. You know, I mean, I am not stupid. So I knew I had smarts and when you’re smart enough to kind of get by in life. You have a tendency to think that, you know, you are pretty good. It was not that I was conceited, I was never conceited, but I had sort of a confidence in my own mental abilities and the problem with that is then you kind of like being right. And that’s a big mistake. It is a big mistake because honestly, I mean, I have people working for me now that every single day somebody says something that makes me slap my head and go, yes. Golly. That is a great idea. That is such a great idea. We are going to do that. You know, and I have gotten more satisfaction in my older times now. My advanced age, I am much happier with those moments than I am with me being the one that knew the answer. To me, that is just, okay, I got a lot of experience. I know what to do in certain situations. I usually have an answer, but I am very calm about it. It is not a big deal to me. What is really exciting is when one of our staff comes up with a great idea that I hadn’t even thought about. That is fun. It is really turned into a big high for me. I am so proud of them. I am so excited.
Steve Rush: Right.
Kristin Zhivago: So, that is the big thing.
Steve Rush: And it is also great leadership.
Kristin Zhivago: Yeah.
Steve Rush: Finally, we want to make sure that our listeners can get in touch with you and continue the dialogue where we leave off. Where would be the place that you would like them to go?
Kristin Zhivago: Best thing is just go to zhivagopartners.com I mean, everything’s there, my blog articles, my podcasts, my book and as we roll out this mind-set driven marketing, we are going to have a guide for that. That is coming out over the next month or so, so everything that I do is pretty much in that. I also write a blog for the up and comers. It is kind of a labour of love. It is called kristinswisdom.com and that is just for people getting out into business who really went through the school system and did not learn anything about business. And of course, you’re going to spend the rest of your life in business, so I’m just trying to help them understand what’s really going on and what really works and hopefully avoid some of the mistakes that we all make when we’re younger and full of our self.
Steve Rush: That is lovely and we will make sure that all of those links are in our show notes as well, so as folks are finished listen to this. They can actually just click into the show notes and go take a look. So Kristin it is just for me to say. It has been really lovely talking to you. There is some super hints and tips, and idea to help people think about the way that they approach marketing and certainly mind-set driven marketing for me I think where the future lays of organization and for business. So Kristin thank you so much for being on the Leadership Hacker Podcast.
Kristin Zhivago: I love it. You are great. I really enjoyed it, thank you so much.
Steve Rush: I genuinely want to say heartfelt thanks for taking time out of your day to listen in too. We do this in the service of helping others, and spreading the word of leadership. Without you listening in, there would be no show. So please subscribe now if you have not done so already. Share this podcast with your communities, network, and help us develop a community and a tribe of leadership hackers.
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