AMA sales: why not every customer is created equally, and why most sales training programs are teaching the wrong things - with Stan Peake

Stan Peake
Jan 11, 2018

As a breakthrough business coach, I've worked with a lot of businesses who are busy, have lots of customers, and yet can't seem to sustain profit. Yet there are others whose businesses seem to require less effort, and yeild better results - HOW?

In sales training, we teach 'golden rules', closing techniques, overcoming objections, and product knowledge up the wazoo.  Do sales trainers ever ask customers how they want to buy, and cater the training based on their input? We did and their answers were solid gold!

In this AMA, we're talking customer segmentation, acquisition, and retention - plus (of course) your questions on anything related to sales, customers, and scaling your business!

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What is the worst part of marketing? How can one business remedy this area?

Jan 12, 12:32PM EST0


you are thinking like an entrepreneur!

I can't speak to the 'worst' part of marketing, but one of the biggest gaps I see is the ability to generate ROI (return on investment). In short - getting clients results!

Is it worth $5000 to get a few more facebook likes or Twitter followers? It seems to me that marketers have a hard time justifying ROI, or that "it's a moving target" or a "long term game".

In a perfect world, as a business owner I should know that I'm out $5K - $10K today that will lead to $15K+ within a year.

My answer on how any marketing business can remedy this is to have kick ass strategies and robust metrics. Have ideas better than mine, and then track them and prove to me your worth!

Am I asking too much? Help us out there, rock star marketers!

Jan 12, 1:24PM EST0
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What can you give as best advice to online marketers? Should they continue to use social media as their channel?

Jan 12, 6:21AM EST0

Hi Japhet,

The advice I would give to online marketers is to continue to innovate and research. Innovate their approach, be it the channel they attempt or the messaging they use (this is where A/B split tests work great); and research what their ideal customer is consuming. What are the most popular websites, news feeds, and other media and online recreational consumption patterns.

Marketers have to make sure they are where their customers are, instead of dominating a strategy & hoping your market catches on - dominate a market by knowing what they want and giving it to them.

Jan 12, 11:00AM EST0

What should be the profit margins best enough for any business? Is 20% good enough?

Jan 12, 5:11AM EST0


20% is a really good benchmark, but it depends on the industry. Some industries run over 10 or even 12% cost of goods sold (COGS) in labour. In furniture manufacturing, 14.30% of a company's gross revenue is paid to their team. (see www.bizstats.com/reports/cost-of-labor.php). These companies still need to pay their lease, material costs, marketing, credit card processing fees, etc. Those expenses add up and 20% might be unrealistic. My last business was in the health and fitness space, where industry leaders were cranking out 15% margins, and laggards much less.

I'm a big fan of a 'triple-bottom-line' approach. Would you rather own a business that generates a 20% return but has to cheap out on paying your team to do so, or a business with a 14% return wherein your employees love the corporate culture, and you have built in social impact and philanthropy mechanisms wherein your community is better because of your business?

There is no magic number, so I encourage all business leaders to consider more than one bottom line.

Jan 12, 10:51AM EST1
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How best can we market inventions and other startup products?

Jan 11, 7:48PM EST0


Thanks for asking, though I have to be honest. I have a lot of experience in sales from in the trenches selling to in the boardroom strategizing, and in the owner's office coaching.

My marketing experience is through collaborating with executive teammates who ran marketing, and advising clients on best practices. Read: I'm much more effective in sales than I am marketing.

I also am not an inventor. I have coached one inventor in my career, and it was more to do with his overarching business processes, helping him to write his business plan, and helping him with his sales strategy.

I disclose this because I want to be honest - I might not be the best guy to answer your question. That being said, here's my best shot...

My advice would be to hone in on the product features or benefits that separate you from your competition (patent these if you can), especially if these are particularly important to your target market, or particularly effective at solving their pain points.

I'll give you an example - I love the story of GoPro (I also love my GoPro!). When GoPro was an emerging threat in the digital camera/ videocamera space, Sony took notice. They commissioned a team to build a better camera, with superior parts and features, and to do it cheaper. They succeeded! And GoPro destroyed their sales. Why?

The answer lies in knowing your market. GoPro doesn't compete with Canon or Nikon (or Sony). People don't look at megapixels or shutter speed when purchasing a GoPro. They look at the mounts. They wonder how easily it will fit on their surfboard, helmet, or skis.

Sony tried to compete with GoPro in the camera space. GoPro was busy dominating the adventure-capturing space.

So - know your target market, know your product, and know how to market your product in a way that your ideal customer actually cares.

I hope this was a useful case study to answer your question - if not I apologize!

Jan 12, 12:07AM EST0

What is the best way to tap the appropriate market for any business?

Jan 11, 7:27PM EST0

Hi David18,

One of the best ways I suggest tapping any market is to do a deep dive into the persona of the target market you are trying to create - a 'client avatar' if you will.

In the B2C (business to consumer sales) space, you might ask about your consumers;

- where do they live?

- what is their morning routine? (where do they eat breakfast, buy their coffee, and how do they start their day?)

- do they go to the gym? Belong to a social club? Volunteer?

- what do they drive? Where do they vacation?

- what are their major life goals? What are they worried about?

By asking these and similar questions, we can do two things.

1. We can learn to think like them, and make sure that when we write our copy and create our content or marketing collateral - we are speaking TO them, not AT them.

2. We can create a functional plan for where and how we might intersect with our idel clients. For casting a wider net, we know where to advertise. For more personal introductions and face to face meetings, we know where to spend our time networking.

These are the tips I've seen work the best for business at scale.

Might not always be the fastest, but it works!

Jan 11, 11:55PM EST0

When should the physical business shift to online marketing?

Jan 11, 6:59PM EST0

Great question Hazel1724!

I think the answer lies in when the company;

1. has growth needs & goals

2. Is responding to increased (or anticipated) competition

3. Is expanding to new markets with lower brand awareness

4. Is diversifying into new product and service lines (even if doing so in response to tech or industry changes)

5. Or they want to automate their physical efforts 

There are many possible reasons, but here are several to consider.

Thanks for asking!

Jan 11, 7:13PM EST0

How much budget should a business allocate to avoid overspending on a certain marketing activity?

Jan 11, 6:52PM EST0


I'm not sure there's a 'magic bullet' here in terms of spend; either in dollar or percentage amount.

I believe in tracking ROI for each individual marketing initiative, as defined by click-through rate, unique web visits, leads, calls, sign ups, email opt-ins, and any other metric associated with the initiative that you can measure. Every 3 - 6 months (depending on timeliness of the initiative), I encourage businesses to double down on those activities generating great results, maintain those that are doing there job, and cut back or stop those activities that have been given enough time and are yet to produce the desired results.

Each of these variables is different depending on the company, but I hope this helps!

Jan 11, 7:10PM EST0

From the three areas - customer segmentation, acquisition, and retention - which in your experience is the most overlooked by businesses nowadays?

Jan 11, 4:43PM EST0


I think most companies fail to do a proper segmentation exercise first and foremost. When done properly, this will show companies what their best customers look like, but also, who they should never try to sell to!

So many businesses are in such a rush to make a sale, they often sell to the wrong customer - short term gain, long term pain.

I also feel retention efforts are lacking in a big way - most salespeople sprint to the next prospect after they make a sale, instead of continuing the relationship, and wondering how else you can help (often leading to more sales!)

Jan 11, 4:48PM EST0

You say below "The ethics of the salesperson - acting in his customers' best interests - cost a little bit of money today but will lead to WAY MORE sales over time. " (it is a great answer btw and a great example, thank you!), how does that work with getting good sales people *now* though? Usually sales people’s pay is related to performance so in your example the guy selling the skates has won a life long customer to the shop/brand but has himself not gained much (unless he is the owner of the shop). So how do you motivate sales people to be like that - put long term goals first, if those are hitting their pocket now?

Jan 11, 4:41PM EST0


this is the age-old dilemma, isn't it?!

This is the role of the sales manager and business owner - structure your compensation plans in such a way that your sales team will be incentivized to act in the company's and the customer's best interests.

After all - compensation drives behaviour. Reward it when you see it, but even before that - define the results you want, and reward the activities that will lead to those results.

I hope this helps!

Jan 11, 4:50PM EST0

Have you used Social Media to drive traffic, sales to your business?

Jan 11, 4:36PM EST0

Hi Alyssa,

I have used social media to drive traffic. Hiring a business (or life) coach is a highly personal process, so my sales typically happen over a coffee (or several) to get to know one another.

Social media, particularly LinkedIn articles, podcast appearances, and videos on my corporate Facebook page, have really helped to gain exposure, credibility, and questions. 

In the last 3 years I remember getting one client through social media. Now, I primarily use it to add value to others, and stay top of mind in my network.

How do you use social media?

Jan 11, 4:41PM EST0
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I've heard that said a lot in sales circles "customers are like kids - they don't know what is good for them" would you agree? And does it really matter - where and how do you see the ethics of sales - do you sell what pays, what is needed, what is beneficial, what is wanted - all the same?

Jan 11, 4:14PM EST0

Lots to unpack there Jaredlindsey, thanks for asking!

Hard to answer the first part of your question (re: customers knowing what's best for them) with one answer. Therefore, I find the best approach is to ask questions. Some customers know exactly what they want, and how they want it, and how it will benefit them. Others know what they want because they've heard ABCD about the product and they assume that's what they need. Only by asking questions to get to the core of a customer's need can we truly take a perscriptive aproach to selling and know that we are providing exactly what they want.

The latter part can be answered using an example of the technique I just described.  A kid on my sons' hockey team needed new skates. He's 9 years old, and his dad wanted to get him the best skates. He was looking at skates that we $500-$600!!! The savvy sales person asked him questions, and then directed him to $300 skates because (his words) a nine-year old couldn't possibly get the benefit out of those skates, because he's too light to put enough pressure on the skates to force the expensive plastic to mold to his feet.

On the surface, he lost $200 - $300. That is misleading, however, in that this dad has told the story a thousand times, and now refuses to shop anywhere else!

The ethics of the salesperson - acting in his customers' best interests - cost a little bit of money today but will lead to WAY MORE sales over time. 

In business terms, the customer lifetime value is increased, the cost to acquire is not, no further marketing is required, and so while the first transaction is less profitable, the customer becomes infinitely more profitable.

Great question!

Jan 11, 4:22PM EST1

Kicking off!

Thank you so much to everyone who's posted a question so far - 25 already!

Keep the great questions coming - let's have a great hour everyone!

Jan 11, 4:00PM EST0

Really informative, thanks!

Jan 11, 4:05PM EST0

You're welcome Steven, thanks for tuning in!

Jan 11, 4:06PM EST0

What kind of professional fees are you expecting from your clients?

Jan 11, 10:50AM EST0


The fees I charge depend on the type of engagement a client is looking for. Some need an in-service or customized trainign program, which will vary based on need, time, budget, etc.

For my typical coaching services, I charge $1500 CAD (+GST) on a monthly retainer basis. As a bove, coaching an executive team would be customized based on the size of the team, their needs, and how much work we are doing together.

I did a market analysis survey when I started my business and my fees are on the low side, especially when measured against a clients results. One of my first clients in fact saw their profitability jump 175% in 3 months - my fees ended up being 0.6% of the increase in revenue for this client over these 3 months. For a coach who gets their clients results - it's a pretty easy business case!

That being said, make sure you are asking a prospective coach some tough questions;

How they've helped clients similar to you

How many businesses they've helped

If they've ever been fired by a client and why

What results are typical, and when have they not been able to show a client results

Who their ideal client is (this is an important one - any business who doesn't know their ideal client hasn't figured it out yet which often means they lack the experience to be great, or the passion and clarity to go after what they want and become a true expert in their field).

I hope this helps!

Jan 11, 2:07PM EST0

What is your best advice for retaining/maintaining customers for long-term?

Jan 10, 5:45PM EST0


In two words - Be relevent.

In a longer answer - solve their problems, and add value to their lives - at all times.

As a business coach, if I help a company increase their profits in year one, and then fail to help them increase sales, profits, or productivity or employee engagement one iota from that day forth - how much longer do you think any company will keep paying my fees?

Pracitcally, I'm a big believer in obtaining customer intelligence. If you're an established business, create a focus group of your best customers, and ask their advice on your services. What do they love? What would they change? Send surveys to your entire customer base, and look for the trends.

So many companies spend all of their time and money strategizing internally - what they see and know about their business. Shouldn't we ask the people who pay the bills?

Find out what your customers want (that is aligned with your core competencies) and deliver it. Deliver it really, really well - and engage your customers to make sure they are loving their product or service along the way - and you will be spending very, very little on external marketing and ad campaigns!

Thanks for your question!

Jan 10, 7:37PM EST0

As a business coach what do you think is the best business to start this year?

Jan 10, 6:18AM EST0

Moissona this is such an important question!

So many would-be entrepreneurs make the mistake of leading with "where is the economic opportunity?" and forget two of the most important variables in deciding what business to start (or purchase)!

While Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, and legalized medical and recreational marijuana all present many investment and business opportunities (as a few), any entrepreneur MUST ask themselves the next two questions:

1. What am I BEST at? What skills do I possess that are (or are close to) rock star level?

2. What am I passionate about?

Research shows that up to 80% of our discretionary effort is tied to our engagement. As an employee, this is often tied to leadership and culture (ie the company vision and how they treat their team). As an entrepreneur, this becomes all about the work we do and the daily reality we create for ourselves.

There are a lot of opportunities, say, revolving around Bitcoin. However, if you are not a savvy investor, nor do you have a tremendous amount of financial acumen, or an analytical mind - you might not be the right entrepreneur to maximize this particular opportunity. You might also hate the work which means your input will be garbage and junk in = junk out. How can you make money?

So the short answer Moissona, is that in ANY YEAR - the best business to open is one in which you can apply your rock star skills to something you are very passionate about that helps people. That third element BECOMES the economic opportunity. The more people you can help, with whatever problem or pain point that they have, through your skill - is the heart of generating sustainable economic value (a business that lasts).

I hope this helps!

Jan 10, 7:30PM EST0

How did you end up being a business coach?

Jan 10, 12:43AM EST0


I end up telling this story all the time because there are some very applicable lessons to share!

In my past life, I was a fitness professional for 18 years. I started my own small personal training business in 1998, then closed it in 2003 to pursue some pretty amazing career opportunities with larger fitness chains. In 2008 I ended up buying into an existing health and fitness company, then in 2009 we were bought out while merging with a medical screening company.

By 2015, I realized I had lost my passion, but I didn't know what to do next. A LOT of self-work, a 360 degree review, speaking with mentors & coaches all helped point out that motivating and coaching others were my greatest gifts.

I had been in leadership positions since 2002, so without knowing it, I'd garnered 13 years of leadership/ coaching experience, and almost 10 years of business ownership experience - by the time I started my coaching practice.

I'd also gone back to school in 2014 (Royal Roads - a graduate program in Values-based Leadership) and 2015 (Sales Leadership through Executive Education at Queens), then did a certification in Cultural Transformation Tools (2014), Facilitation (2017), and as an Executive Coach (2018).

The short answer is that I was coaching people ever since high school (as a football coach). I'd always had a passion to help others reach their potential - and I always had a curiosity and a passion (bordering on obsession) for business strategy.

As a business coach I get to combine my greatest professional passions and live my dreams daily while I help others do the same!

The applicable lessons boiled down to transferrable skills. I was that trainer that could get you to do things you never thought possible. I never yelled, but I never accepted anything but your best effort. It turns out the ability to safely, in a caring way, challenge the hell out of people to get them to achieve more is a super valuable skill as a coach!

Also, in fitness we measure (body fat, strength, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, etc) regularly, and then perscribe a plan to improve. In business, I now measure profit, revenue, sales, operations, and more - and help create strategies and plans to improve - another critical skill!

In short, the lesson is very applicable to anyone looking to transition in their career.

Thanks for asking!

Jan 10, 7:21PM EST0

As a parent, what are your ways of teaching your own children about successful business?

Jan 9, 11:00PM EST0

Janineparco 07 this is a great question!

I think the best way we can teach our kids to be successful in business is to teach them these three foundational lessons;

1. Do what you love. Don't force them into a sport because of our own unfulfilled ambitions - and our son or daughter not making Div 1 hockey has ZERO to do with our abilities as parents. Expose them (to art, science, sports, etc) and then get out of the way

2. Teach them the value of a dollar. Buying your kids more stuff doesn't make you a better parent. In fact, buying them less sometimes does make you a better parent if it's done out of trying to teach them to appreciate what they have. You can't buy love, and we can't cave every time our kids want something. Overcoming adversity must be taught in small doses and in incremental ways.

3. Help other people. When we teach our kids to serve others, through volunteering or donating used clothes or unwanted toys - we set them on a wonderful path. Then one day when they grow up and they've found their passion and they can manage money - they will be a force to be reckoned with in business!

Great question & thanks again for asking!

Jan 10, 7:06PM EST0

Do you agree with the saying “Customer is always right”?

Jan 9, 9:02AM EST0

Such an important question Amna!

I don't believe that the customer is always right - however I do believe the customer should always come first.

Customers often lack all the relevent information relating to what product or service will ultimately meet their needs. They rely on what they know - which is why they so often bring a complex purchase decision back to price, or back to a singluar product feature that happens to be what they know about. This is why an educated salesperson exists!

That being said, without the customer - we have no business. So while the customer may not always be right - does that really matter? Are we there to win an argument against our customers, or are we there to satisfy their needs?

I believe in educating a customer where possible - not to correct them if wrong, but to add value to their purchase process - and then treating them like they are our only customer even if we have thousands more.

Great question!

Jan 9, 12:30PM EST1
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How many businesses have you helped since you started your practice as a coach?

Jan 9, 6:01AM EST0

Hi MichelleC,

So far I have been fortunate enough to have helped 61 businesses through my coaching business, plus countless more businesses and leaders through our books and speaking engagements.

My long-term career goal is to help over 10,000 values-based leaders live their dreams and make their communities better places. Some of these businesses contain several leaders, and some of these leaders are not included in the business count (I'm not even sure why I am towards that LTG - maybe 2000 so far?) - but honored either way to be doing the work I am doing and blessed to be able to do it for many more years - thanks for asking!

Jan 9, 12:36PM EST0

Can you point out what is not effective with the information/techniques/teachings that other coaches mostly give to their student/trainees?

Jan 9, 4:02AM EST0


So glad you asked this question!

I am about to release my third book, which is centered around customer-centric selling. We did a massive study on how customers like to buy, and the results dictate how we teach sales training and how I coach sales strategy to businesses.

What I see as the most common approach to sales training is to start with the company's best interests in mind then hope to somehow intersect with the customer's needs and convince them to buy.

Most sales training is therefore rooted in teaching product knowledge, closing techniques, and overcoming objections. In effect - company's start with what they need and try to sell it to their customers.

We teach - "what do your customers actually want?" and then - BE THAT as a company. This is how Uber, Netflix, AirBnB, and so many others have forever changed entire industries (and developed raving fans along the way).

Thanks for asking, and I hope this helps Yana!

Jan 9, 12:45PM EST0
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