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Automating Your Business to Help Scale with Greg Hickman (Part 2 of 2)

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Picking a focus for your agency or consultancy will accelerate your ability to scale and automate parts of your business. Greg Hickman has done both, and he wants to help you to do the same thing in your business.

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Check out the four sales fundamentals every top performer masters, how to use value-based selling to increase your leverage, and how to improve your remote selling skills as the world becomes more virtual. 

Mentioned in this episode:

Apply for a strategy session with Liston
System.ly
Infusionsoft
Active Campaign
Jeff Walker
Bonjoro
Schedule Once
ClickFunnels
SalesMessage

For more information on remote selling and a complete list of links mentioned in this podcast, visit this remote selling article on our website.


Automating Your Business to Help Scale with Greg Hickman (Part 2 of 2):

Full Transcript

Liston Witherill:
Welcome to Modern Sales, a podcast for entrepreneurs, business owners, and salespeople looking to have more and better conversations with your perfect clients. You’ll get a healthy scoop of psychology, behavioral economics, and sales studies to help you create win-win relationships. I’m your host, Liston Witherill, and I’m pleased to welcome you to Modern Sales.

Liston Witherill:
Thank you so much for being here. It’s good to be in your ear and for you to share this time. I really appreciate it. I don’t take it lightly. I’m trying to deliver so much value to you that you never hit that unsubscribe button, so thank you so much. I’m so glad you’re here.

Liston Witherill:
Now, in today’s episode, I will be talking to Greg Hickman of System.ly. That’s System S-Y-S-T-E-M.L-Y. This is part two of our conversation. So if you didn’t listen to part one, go back to yesterday’s. Download it. We will be here waiting for you when you are ready.

Liston Witherill:
Now, before we get into Greg’s discussion about automation of your business and using systems effectively in your business, I want to let you know if you are looking to scale sales at your company, I’d love to talk to you. All you have to do is go to liston.io/strategy where you can apply for a strategy call with me. It’s very simple. Takes less than two minutes. I will have an automated response and a manual review of whatever you say, and I’ll let you know if there’s a fit for us to potentially work together. If so, we can talk. The whole process will take maybe a couple days at most. That’s liston.io/strategy. Greg, what should I do to improve my automation from people filling out my lead form?

Greg Hickman:
There’s a lot to unpack there.

Liston Witherill:
Such a loaded question because you don’t even know what the automation is.

Greg Hickman:
Yes. I mean, I don’t know what your current process is, or what you’re selling, or how you currently sell it, so I definitely can’t answer that question.

Liston Witherill:
You don’t just have a canned answer for that?

Greg Hickman:
Yeah. The answer is it depends on some of the stuff that, well, let’s talk about.

Liston Witherill:
Okay, cool. So yeah, why don’t we start with, what does it mean to automate parts of your business? And maybe strategically, how do I think about what systems I should have in place before I even go on to the choosing the tools and implementing the tools part?

Greg Hickman:
Yeah. So obviously for your listeners, agency owners, consultants, service providers, more often than not, I’d say probably a guest north of 90% of you, are selling via the phone or some sort of conversation. So I think the first thing is automation has a bad reputation in that I think a lot of people think automation turns into transactional, put my business on autopilot, which does not exist. But you need to look at automation for how it can, I say, make you more scalable, right? Everyone’s talking about scale these days, scale to whatever figures. But scale is not a destination, right? You can use systems, process people, automation to be more scalable, essentially meaning your capacity can take more and you can still grow without things breaking. I think that’s what we need to focus on, is how do we use automation to increase our capacity, and capacity in sales, and capacity in fulfillment.

Greg Hickman:
And as service providers, most of you listening don’t need hundreds of thousands of leads to be more scalable and hit the revenue numbers you want. It’s probably even closer to hundreds, right? So for service-based businesses, like how service-based businesses consider and should consider and think about automation is way different than how someone who’s selling like a $47-a-month membership or less, sub $1,000 course, would use automation. Because you need to first understand what is your scale factor. What I mean by that is like what areas could be improved so that you can become more scalable?

Greg Hickman:
And for service-based businesses, specifically, obviously, ones that sell over the phone, the scale factor is often in fulfillment. It’s really like the two … If you look at the transaction as like the coin, no pun intended because it’s money, the coin, on one side is the sales conversation, how do we take prospect and turn them into a paying client, and on the other side of the coin is how do we onboard them and deliver their results successfully. If we look at systemizing and automating those two areas alone, you can find massive efficiency and leverage as a service provider. So if you use automation to deliver the result that you get your clients in less time, with less headache, with less effort, you’ll likely be able to serve more clients.

Greg Hickman:
So imagine if you just set up the right systems on the fulfillment side alone, and we’ve seen this happen time and time again, you could often double your client capacity. So if you could only support 10 clients a month, how would your business change if you could now support 20? You probably have those amount of leads available in your pipeline if you’re doing any sort of lead generation. So it’s not like you need to go get thousands of new leads. You just need to be able to support more clients.

Greg Hickman:
So I look for how do I use automation to tap into that scale factor. So new client onboarding and client delivery, if I can streamline those systems, I’m using automation effectively, thus increasing capacity. And on the front side of that coin is the sales process. Well, maybe because I’m the only sales person I can only handle X calls a week. Well, if I use automation correctly, maybe I’m having less calls but more with the right people, which could increase your close rate, which could increase number of clients you have, which could increase sales numbers. If you have the right system, now you can have a multiple sales rep situation. Now you could double the number of calls that you’re having with the right people.

Greg Hickman:
So it’s just those two areas alone, if you use automation correctly, could 2 to 3X business in a relatively short window of time. So how do you use automation? It’s like I look to where are service providers most likely the bottleneck, and it’s in fulfillment first and then in the sales process second, and that’s where I start all the time.

Liston Witherill:
So let’s go to fulfillment. You said there are two kind of common use cases. One is automating the client onboarding process and the second is automating some of the client delivery.

Greg Hickman:
Yeah.

Liston Witherill:
On the latte, can you give an example of what some automation around client delivery might look like?

Greg Hickman:
Yeah. So typically, the caveat to this is if you have a service menu that is massive and every single time you start with a new client it’s like starting from scratch, automation is always going to be difficult for you.

Liston Witherill:
Right. By definition it needs to be repeatable.

Greg Hickman:
Yeah. But it needs to be repeatable. It needs to be standardized. This is why we talk a lot about productization. We get a lot of service providers that they want to have these systems set up but it’s like the variables are just too many. It’s like your focus is diluted. So the caveat is I’m assuming that you guys are all selling something specific. And when you’re selling something specific that you could essentially deliver over, and over, and over again, there’s probably specific touchpoints and milestones within that delivery that you can be leveraging automation.

Greg Hickman:
So as an example, when we would get started, when we were selling these webinar packages, when someone gave us the money, they’d go through a three-part training that basically essentially set the expectation for how we would work with them. It gave them a form to fill out that gave us all of their login credentials, a repository to capture a lot of their creative assets that we needed. And one of the trainings basically said, “Do these things before we get on the first call.” By the time we get on the first call, they’ve already gotten us all the things that we needed, they understand how we work, and they’ve already started thinking about a lot of the things that I’m going to need them to be thinking about when we get started working.

Greg Hickman:
So most service providers, it’s like you pay them and then you show up and the kickoff call is a disaster. It’s like you’re both trying to figure out what the hell is going on, and usually starts off with a really poor experience. It’s like that experience alone could make your client super happy. So it’s like instead of the client showing up to the call, I always say, and I learned this from one of my mentors, is how do you prepare the client so that on that kickoff call they’re already ready to get started, they’re not getting ready. They show up to the call. They’ve done no work, and now that call is inefficient, and likely there needs to be or three more calls to get what you need.

Greg Hickman:
So if you put some training and some warm-up before that, they show up to the call ready. So I’m using automation to do that. Then say it’s like, “Hey, okay. Kickoff call goes well. Here’s what’s going to happen next. You’re going to go through X, Y, Z.” So on the back end, I can check a box in my automation and now it sends out a couple emails over the course of the next two weeks with maybe some specific assignments or even just touchpoints saying, “Hey, at this stage of the game here’s what we’re working on. We’ll be in contact soon.” Then, that automation will go to my team and say, “Hey, this should be done by now. Where are you at? If you’re ready, schedule the conversation with the client.” So it’s like it is the kind of glue that connects all of the client touchpoints.

Greg Hickman:
So if it can make my delivery team have to think less about all of the steps, I’m streamlining when they need to show up. So it’s not about removing humans, it’s about making them more effective, right? It’s about how do I make them have to do less so that when they are working, one, they can support more clients and, two, that they’re less likely to make these little mistakes that typically would fall through the cracks, like a specific communication and things like that.

Greg Hickman:
So the automation can notify my team when they should be doing something based on the timing. And if you deliver the same thing over and over again and you have an ideas, hey, by week three this should be happening and you should have X, Y, Z from your client, send a reminder to the team member. Hey, you haven’t heard back from the client on this yet, have you? Yes or no? Yes? Okay, fine. No? Now it kicks off emails to the client saying, “Hey, where are you at with this thing?” And it becomes like checking boxes, moving them through the milestone. So it’s about how do you now map your delivery experience and where these touchpoints might happen so that you can start eliminating some of those little things that happen that fall through the cracks because you’re dealing with humans.

Liston Witherill:
Yes. And we’re messy creatures.

Greg Hickman:
Yeah. You’re just making humans more effective on the delivery process. So I look at it as a little bit of warm-up, which is use automation to deliver, and then different milestones that your team is getting reminders to request and check in on certain things. And based on the if-then statements, you’re then checking in with a client to make sure that they’re moving through at the desired pace. Does that make sense?

Liston Witherill:
Totally. You’ve talked a little bit about sort of enhancing. We’re making superhumans as a result of this automation, but I’ve personally, maybe not intentionally, over automated things, but certainly have had automation fails, which after they’ve happened enough I don’t get too embarrassed. I just go, “Oh, I need to fix that.” But some people get pissed off when they see it. How much automation in your opinion is too much? When would we know that we’re crossing a line where this should have been done by a person and we’ve automated it and that’s become a really shitty experience?

Greg Hickman:
Yeah. Again, it probably dependent on what people are delivering. But I think if you’re trying to automate every single … Like in service-based businesses, I think minimal automation is appropriate in that think about how you are making the human’s life easier, not replacing the human. Because when you start to do that, especially if there’s some unique characteristics of how you deliver what you deliver, the number of scenarios that could then become possible that you need to try to map out is really crazy, and that’s where you can create room for error. That’s why I always say the best automation starts manually. I think a lot of people …

Greg Hickman:
I can dream up some really cool automation, but if that’s not how it would have been done manually, then it’s not going to be that effective. So I think go through your current delivery process. And as you’re going through, pay attention to how you can use automation to make your life easier, not replace yourself. I also think how you use it in from a email copy to if you send them to a video, always be thinking about how you can personalize it. Because for some reason, I don’t know why this is, I got this question while I was speaking once. So how do you not dehumanize the experience when using automation? And I say, “Don’t dehumanize the experience.” It’s like when we jump into these tools, it’s like all a sudden now when you write emails you talk like a robot? Why?

Liston Witherill:
Yeah.

Greg Hickman:
Write an email like you would write an email as a human being and use that email in your automation. You don’t need to be a robot or you don’t need to act so transactional in your content. We have videos that go out like of me sitting like this. For those of you that obviously are listening, you can’t see me, but I’m in my office and it’s like, “Hey, we got your application. This is what we’re doing.” They see a video of me. It’s not just we got your app. We’re reviewing it now. I’m like, “Hey, check out this photo of my wife. I’m a real human being. This is how we operate.” You can make it fun, you can make it interactive.

Greg Hickman:
I just think it’s funny when people are like, “How do you make it not robotic?” And it’s like don’t be robotic. Which goes back to what would you say if you were to send this thing manually? Well, just send that. Just don’t send it manually. Minimal amount that you see time savings to start. Then if you see opportunities to add more, just slowly layer it in. But it doesn’t really take much, but it does take planning. That’s the thing. Don’t jump into the tool and start trying to build. Dissect your current process, map it, and slowly add layers of automation, and you’ll know when it’s too much. And then just back up a little bit.

Liston Witherill:
Well, generally, in my experience, people will tell you if they didn’t enjoy something that you automated.

Greg Hickman:
Yeah.

Liston Witherill:
That’s always a good sign is to kind of listen to what other people are saying.

Greg Hickman:
Well, what’s funny is actually when you do it right, you’ll get emails, like we get a lot, where people are like, “Wait, was that automated? It was so personalized.” And sometimes I’ll be like, “No, this actually was sent manually,” because it was. And they’re like, “Oh, man. It just seems so … It was sent at the right time. Everything felt like perfect.” I was like, “Well, that’s because we pay attention and we get notified when certain things happen so that we can engage with you manually.” We have five or six different email templates that we might send in that manual scenario, but they are sent manually and then they’re personalized. So when people aren’t sure if it’s automated or manual, that’s I think when you know it’s done right.

Liston Witherill:
Yeah, I agree. On the manual side, I think one moment of delight that a lot of people comment on that I try to provide is if I get an email, especially from someone filling out, say, my lead form and I’m a fit or they’re a potential fit to work together, I’ll just record a quick video and send it off and say, “Hey, thanks so much. Here’s the link to my calendar.” I’m saying their name and I’m referencing something so they know that I recorded it. But people love that.

Liston Witherill:
And what I always find fascinating about it is it often takes me less time to record a video than to write a well-constructed email. So it’s like a double win for me. But those moments of delight I agree with you are great. I would also point out that that comes through an automation. I’m seeing a form completion in my inbox which is prompting me to then record the video and send an email template with it.

Greg Hickman:
Yeah, exactly. We use a tool called Bonjoro. You might’ve heard of it or your audience might’ve heard of it. It’s super cool. So we set it up so that any time we get a new client I get a notification in it. There’s an app. So I get a notification, and I open up, and it says the person’s name. I tap on it, and I hit record, and it’s a video. I’m like, “Hey, Liston. What’s going on? Thanks for joining name of program. I’m Greg, I’m super pumped to be working with you. Here’s what is about to happen.” And I kind of give them an expectation. Then I can hit send and it automatically goes to them. So that’s a human touchpoint. It does take me time to do that subtle little thing, though. I just get a notification on my phone, and I have a couple of times throughout the day where I’ll check. And if I have one, I’ll record it. Otherwise, I just go on my day. So it’s not like I’m not reactionary to it. I plan for it. But the automation tees me up to have the personalized experience. So super cool.

Liston Witherill:
Interesting. I’ve never heard of that. I’m going to make a note of that.

Greg Hickman:
Yeah, set it up. It’s awesome.

Liston Witherill:
We can’t finish conversation without you recommending some of your favorite tools. Now, I know the tools are secondary, so let’s preface it by saying that. But what are some of your, other than Bonjoro, some of your favorite automation tools?

Greg Hickman:
Yeah, I like to keep it really simple. We’re certified in both Active Campaign and Infusionsoft, so I’d say one of those two. If you are not using any sort of marketing automation tool, I do think Active Campaign is the way to go. That’ll be your sales CRM, your email automation, all of the campaign automation, ability to send email broadcasts. That’s like the nucleus, right? That’s like the core. Little things like Bonjoro are enhancements, for sure. A calendaring tool, right? We use ScheduleOnce, and that gets integrated with Active Campaign. And then some sort of landing page tool. We really like ClickFunnels. It’s just super easy to use for almost everybody, and we’re able to give landing page templates to our clients pretty easily.

Greg Hickman:
So with those three things alone, calendar tool, automation tool like active campaign, and a landing page tool, you could literally do almost everything that you need to do to enroll clients and generate sales conversations. So those would be the minimum ones. You can get fancy a little bit later. I really like Salesmsg, which is like a SMS text message platform that integrates with all these tools. And we do this manually. So someone gets on our calendar, we have someone on our team that’s reaching out via text message to confirm that people are going to show up to the call. There are very personalized messages, and we use a tool called Salesmsg for that.

Greg Hickman:
So we’re reaching out proactively, manually in a very systematic way before all of it. But, text messages I think are great because with all of the stuff that’s going on, the distractions we have, everyone’s on their phone, whether it be Facebook Messenger. That’s why bots are huge. Messenger chat’s huge. But text message is still super amazing, especially for service-based businesses. We’ve been starting to send out updates to our clients via text message also because they seem to like it more because it keeps them out of going into having to be on Facebook.

Liston Witherill:
That’s interesting. You mentioned lots of tools there. Where do you think is the threshold where people should start thinking about putting automation into their business? Do you think about it in terms of revenue, or maybe number of leads coming into their business, or number of clients?

Greg Hickman:
No. I’m hard pressed to … And I think this is different. I think I kind of take the opposite stance than most people. I don’t believe there’s really any too early of a time to start using automation and reap the benefits. In fact, if there’s people listening who are solo artists, solopreneurs, maybe they have a couple contractors, I believe that automation is the best first hire that you can make. What, 200, 300 bucks, even on the high end? You’re never going to find an employee for that amount of money. Good luck. And it can do so much for you in duplicating your efforts and saving you time.

Greg Hickman:
Now, the caveat to that is if you’re just getting started in business and you still have no idea what you sell or who you serve, yeah, it’s probably a little bit early. But if you’ve been in business and you have clients and you have some money, there is literally … I see no reason why you shouldn’t start installing some of this stuff in your business because … And if you’re just ambitious, right? If your intention is to grow, while you might only have a handful of clients right now, if you want to sell more, well, why not install a proven sales system using automation first and use some light onboarding? Now you can probably create a better experience for the new clients that you get right out of the gate. So, yeah, I don’t think it’s … Unless you just launched your business and you have no clients yet and you don’t even know what you deliver or who you delivering it to, I don’t think you can do it too early.

Liston Witherill:
All right. Well, thank you so much. You’ve been an amazing guest. You’ve given tons and tons of value. For all of the people who are now lining up waiting to track you down and stalk you online, what’s the best way for them to get in touch with you?

Greg Hickman:
Can I give two?

Liston Witherill:
You may. I’ll allow it.

Greg Hickman:
Cool. So we have a free on-demand training that kind of breaks down how we approached all the stuff that we’re talking about, some of the kind of key elements. That’s a system.ly/webinar. It is an automated webinar for your convenience. And if you like what we’re talking about, you can schedule a conversation with us as well about automation. But you’ll kind of get a gist for a little bit deeper on what we talked about today in that presentation.

Greg Hickman:
Then we have a free Facebook group also called The Systemized Business Launchpad where I just draw on my iPad and share stuff all the time about this stuff. So if you have questions and you’re really unsure about what platforms to be using, are right for you, or anything as it relates to automation, it’s just a community of service-based businesses trying to create leverage using automation.

Liston Witherill:
Awesome. Well, thank you so much for being here, Greg. I really appreciate it.

Greg Hickman:
Yeah, thanks for having me, too, man. Appreciate it.

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