How to Close 90% of your Pipeline with Jeff Koser
How can you automatically populate your sales pipeline with only people matching your ideal client? Jeff Koser has the answer.
Jeff Koser is a successful entrepreneur with over 30 years of experience in executive sales management, consulting and business strategy. He wrote the book on it. Actually an award winning book, Selling to Zebras. Jeff has appeared on some of the largest B2B sales podcasts over the past couple years and he always leaves listeners with something that increases their sales effectiveness.
Zebrafi is a Salesforce Salesbot that will populate your pipeline with AI matches to your ideal client. Listeners of The People Catalysts podcast will get this service free! Just reach out to Jeff for the details.
LinkedIn: Jeff Koser
Amazon: Selling to Zebras
Barnes & Noble: Selling to Zebras
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Read Along as Karla and Jeff discuss Closing 90% of your Pipeline
Karla Nelson: Welcome to the People Catalyst podcast, Jeff Koser.
Jeff Koser: Hey, Karla, thanks for having me back.
Karla Nelson: Hey thanks for being on the show again. So glad to have you back, Jeff. What you been up to?
Jeff Koser: Oh boy. Quite a bit. That sounds like a bit of a loaded question.
Karla Nelson: I know. It’s been a while. Gosh, I think it’s been about a year and a half.
Jeff Koser: It has been a year and a half. Yeah, We’re figuring out new ways to grow a business. That’s what we’ve been up to.
Karla Nelson: Well, you know what? It is definitely an ever-evolving thing, right?
Jeff Koser: It is.
Karla Nelson: I mean, even think about in the last year and a half, and even current times, how we’ve been pushed online and those that have not had a strategy really, in acquisition of new business, they’re thinking about whole new and different ways that we’ve been talking about for a long time, Jeff,
Jeff Koser: Then this makes them even more relevant, doesn’t it?
Karla Nelson: Absolutely. If you could just take a couple moments and we always love to hear from our guests, their entrepreneurial roadmap and how did you get here? Because most people did, it was like an accidentally, on purpose kind of situation. How did you start out with, Zebrafi is your company, but what is the evolution because when you launched it, I’m sure we weren’t in this digital age of sales acquisition and focusing on online marketing and, or gosh, Salesforce wasn’t around. Share with us a little bit about that entrepreneurial journey.
Jeff Koser: Well, I, my first position out of college was at NCR Corporation. I was selling computers and back then, software was almost free, and computers were expensive, but it was really the software that solved a business problem, but that’s not the way anybody looked at things. In my first three years there, I learned a lot, but I didn’t really figure out where I fit until I joined a startup computer company. That startup computer company had great software solutions that they used to sell their hardware. So, as they flipped that paradigm on its, on its ear way back when, it was all about solving the business problem and finding the person that had that problem. That’s where I got the bug.
Then I joined software company and it was an ERP company called Baan, and we grew it from nothing here in the U S to three quarters of a billion. I knew I loved working with technology companies, software companies, and innovation in general. I liked helping companies that even if, I mean, like Google on the, and Amazon, on the Amazon World Web Services, AWS. That’s where we host. They’re a $10 billion company, but they’re really a $10 billion startup, so it isn’t really a size thing, right?
Karla Nelson: I love that. A billion-dollar startup.
Jeff Koser: It’s an attitude, right?
Karla Nelson: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jeff Koser: That’s what I love. That was my journey, and Zebrafi is all about helping them sell value in a way that focuses on the customer, on a customer where you fit. it guides a salesperson with software to have conversations that solve a business problem that, that executive, that you’re across the desk from would actually, or over Zoom with-
Karla Nelson: As we are so used to these days. Right? I’m Zoomafied.
Jeff Koser: Exactly. You are and you were telling me you’re one of the original, right?
Karla Nelson: I’ve been on Zoom since they launched. One of my clients utilized it, it was telemedicine company. They said, “You’ve got to use this platform.” I used it. I was like, “Oh my goodness,” because way back in the day we were using WebEx, right. Which is now I think GoToMeeting right, and GoToWebinar. I think they shifted their name. Not sure if they acquired them or changed it, but the technology was interesting. It worked sometimes.
Jeff Koser: Right.
Karla Nelson: Not everybody could access it, remember, and then when Zoom came out, it was so awesome because it shifts to who’s talking right and it automatically understands that and knows that, which really creates that relationship that you want. You’re never going to get 100% over video, but wow, you can get pretty darn close. Right. I mean, you can definitely-
Jeff Koser: I think so.
Karla Nelson: Share with us, with that, in building relationships, in regard to technology, I love what you say about sell value. Can you share with us Jeff, your philosophy a bit on when you sell value, how that ends up building that relationship? One is identifying and you were talking about that, right? Which is find the person that has the problem, right? Have a software solution that fixes that problem, and then I think through selling value, a lot of, it’s the value, but it brings the opportunity of building the relationship as well.
Jeff Koser: Yeah. It’s a relationship founded in business principles, right, because that’s what’s expected today. Relationships are earned. Most executives don’t need another friend. They really want you to solve a problem they have, that you do particularly well. They want to know that you’ve done it for others that are just like them. Then maybe, just maybe, you’ll develop a deeper relationship with them and become friends, but it’s an earned process.
Karla Nelson: Well, it’s interesting because, I don’t know about you, Jeff, but almost every one of my friends I do business with. Right? It’s like this both and concept. I remember when I was really young, my dad always used to say, “Karla, don’t mix business with pleasure.” I was like, “Huh?” I didn’t understand that exactly. Then when I got older and I founded my first company and I started realizing, I really love working with business owners and entrepreneurs, and I found myself going on vacation with them. These were the people that I went out to dinner with and every, and I told my dad, I was probably 24 or 25 at a time. I was like, “Dad, I don’t think that was right, because it’s, this is the quote, ‘Don’t mix business with pleasure’, only if you’re not any good.”
Jeff Koser: You were ahead of that too.
Karla Nelson: Because when you’re good at it, of course, you’re going to mix business with pleasure, right?
Jeff Koser: Because they’re like minded people.
Karla Nelson: Yeah. You have a great time with them. You’re doing, you’re solving a problem for them, right? But I think you’re right about that Jeff, is the mindset a long time ago was separate them. I do not think that that is the mindset of today. It is, the ability to connect with likeminded people has just grown exponentially.
Jeff Koser: I think when it’s authentic, it works, and that’s the key.
Karla Nelson: Yeah. Authenticity is definitely … Then, and think about how much more authentic that we’ve been pressed into these days, right?
Jeff Koser: Yes.
Karla Nelson: Of just being real instead of wearing the mask and you can’t hide anymore. Right? That’s the other thing is, if you don’t do a good job, you’re going to be sought out and identified. I mean, reviews are a thing. The internet is a thing, right? You can’t hide anymore behind any mask. If you’re not good at what you do, you’re going to be, because people want to know, like you said, what are the other people that you solve the problem for? Right?
Jeff Koser: They do.
Karla Nelson: They want to know that, and we have to share that information. If you don’t do a good job, the opposite ends up happening. Even though I do actually think reviews, you have to take them with a grain of salt because most people do reviews because they’re mad, not because they’re glad, so it depends on what platform-
Jeff Koser: Is it time for your review, Karla?
Karla Nelson: Yeah, exactly, exactly. It does depend on what platform, but at the same time, that’s a big key thing, is this authenticity and transparency that has been brought to the table too. That is, was not something even when I started 10 years ago, but think 20 years ago, right, when most people hopefully most, and it wasn’t most businesses, but larger companies just got started into email.
Jeff Koser: True.
Karla Nelson: We didn’t have that. You know, I worked at a title company. We were still typing grant deeds on properties, on electronic typewriters. Look what we’ve done in 20 years. I mean, that’s unfathomable, right?
Jeff Koser: True.
Karla Nelson: To think how the sales process has changed so significantly and delivering the sales, whatever it is that you’re selling and how fast you’re delivering it. Can you share with us a little bit on the, how you guys utilize this software and that you can utilize your internal software, but then also work with and integrate with Salesforce as well, to use the data in your platform to almost create like, and a lot of people understand Facebook or social media, in creating a pixel, which is a, this is my ideal client, and let me go find more of them based off of all of the background data, that again, wasn’t available to us until recent years, to find those what we like to call look-alike, clients like this is my best person. How do I find more of my best client to work with, to create that value?
Jeff Koser: Sure, I can. It starts maybe to dovetail back with the path that we went down. Prospects expect us to do our homework. They, and especially now, no one, no executive, no prospect is going to allow us to waste their time. Time is even more important to us now. We’ve gotten more-
Karla Nelson: Even though we can do everything faster, is that hilarious?
Jeff Koser: Yes.
Karla Nelson: It’s true, though right?
Jeff Koser: Yes.
Karla Nelson: We’re like, we used to use fax machines and snail mail, and now we’ve got-
Jeff Koser: but, with all of us working from home and maybe rekindling some of those relationships, we’re also more guarded about them. So, we’re not going to let anybody waste our time.
Karla Nelson: Good point.
Jeff Koser: We have to be careful about who we try to connect with, because they’re going to be more careful about allowing us in. It’s really profiling your prospects, which is nothing new and that, but that’s what a zebra is. I mean, a zebra is your perfect profile customer and you look for prospects that look just like that. What you were talking about was, we wrote a book on this and there’s more to it than, than just this concept, but Selling To Zebras, which is our award-winning book was all about starting with accounts and customers where you fit particularly well. But the problem with that was, there’s seven attributes to that. You can score them. You can strategize each one. They change different colors, which aligns with your colored pens you were telling me about.
Karla Nelson: Yeah. You made me think of the Zebra Stripe gum, by the way that I loved when I was a kid, right.
Jeff Koser: I remember that.
Karla Nelson: It had a whole bunch of different colors. They changed colors. I love that.
Jeff Koser: But the problem with this was, you had to create it and you had to go through the process of creating it. We thought about this, Karla, and we thought, what if you could just choose a customer that’s a really good one and ask for more that look just like that? That’s our latest creation. We call it Find Similars. It’s a sales bot. It works inside of Salesforce and it works inside of our software. But you literally just go to an opportunity and you say, “Now, this is a good customer.” Or maybe it’s one you’re just about to close and you say, “This is going to be a great customer.” You just click on a little button and we deliver up to five more that look just like that one, and you don’t have to know anything more about them.
Karla Nelson: That’s super cool. Well, that’s exactly why a lot of people use the pixel piece on Facebook.
Jeff Koser: Yes.
Karla Nelson: But as you know, that doesn’t work well for corporate America, right, or finding business owners. I mean, that is a B to C strategy where this is a, probably a little bit more. It could be B to C, but it’s just a larger … You’re not going to necessarily find those individuals utilizing other platforms, especially with social media. Because, just like you said, they’re not going to let you waste their time. They’re not spending their time there.
Jeff Koser: No, well, they, unless they have grandchildren maybe.
Karla Nelson: Exactly.
Jeff Koser: An executive potentially, but a lot of executives are young and just having their own kids. Yeah. This is a B to B solution. It is finding companies, and it just, what it does is it saves you a lot of time in looking for and composing a list of places to start. It starts you in just a little better place.
Karla Nelson: That’s awesome. Then once individuals have that information, right, with this ideal customer, from there, what’s the next step in building that relationship?
Jeff Koser: Well, what we teach is that now you have to go, our software is telling you, they’re just like this customer. Now, go find evidence that they have similar business issues that you solved or would benefit from the gain that you created for others that did look like them. That’s then, how you penetrate at a meaningful level. We help guide the conversation to the development of a business case. It’s always measurable, even if it’s esoteric things, and we take it a step further. We actually give you software that becomes the catalyst for those conversations, because you use it live. But the first piece, the sales bot that finds similars, so we’re actually trying to use a principle that we’re teaching customers today to, to do, which is give something to somebody for free, that doesn’t necessarily benefit you. That’s what we’re doing with the sales bot. We’re making this available to your listeners for free.
Karla Nelson: Oh, that’s awesome. Okay. You’ve got to share with … That is amazing. Okay.
Jeff Koser: Isn’t that cool?
Karla Nelson: That is super cool. Okay. Yeah. That, and especially because you guys used to do this offline, right? Then you develop the software over time. Right? Isn’t that-
Jeff Koser: That’s right.
Karla Nelson: That’s incredible. Can you share with us a little bit about how this AI, right?
Jeff Koser: That’s right.
Karla Nelson: This bot is finding this data and information and being able to go, because, there are so many different data points we have, right, and so many different areas that we can identify and grab that data and look at it. What are they, how does that work?
Jeff Koser: What we’ve done, we’ve spent the last couple of years using AI and machine-learning and we’ve scoured the internet and we’ve ingested over a million companies and we’ve gone and scraped their website and scraped information about them. With, just with a website identifier on your existing customer and industry designation in Salesforce and a region. A state could be the region, for example. We then use those pieces of data to go find, interrogating our database, those companies that correlate the most. It’s more than just industry. It’s more than size. It’s about culture. We’ve actually, part of our secret sauce, is we’ve taken what we always developed in inside of-
Karla Nelson: That’s my purple pen, Jeff.
Jeff Koser: Okay. We used your purple pen.
Karla Nelson: Principles and Values.
Jeff Koser: Exactly. That’s what came out and when you built the zebra with seven attributes, with some of that culture, some of that, some of the values, right.
Karla Nelson: Which, is so true.
Jeff Koser: Yeah.
Karla Nelson: But, I mean, to be connected by core values, as a principle foundation, makes everything else actually move easier.
Jeff Koser: It does, because you, when you connect with someone that is, there’s alignment along those important lines, it’s they care about hearing from you because they know you care.
Karla Nelson: Well, and I would imagine that utilizing this really also, if you have a customer that you’re in alignment with, you’re going to close deals faster, for sure. I mean the sales cycle is a big, one of those challenges, right? With business and you open a conversation and close a conversation. I’m going to guess your customers are seeing the actual sales cycle be a lot faster.
Jeff Koser: We actually measure three things with every client that we have. One of those is sales cycle length, so speed of the sales cycle. The other is average deal size, which also increases. The other is pipeline close rate, so the percentage of deals that you pursue, more of those will close. Those three things are things that we stake our reputation on. Because we know we can move those three metrics.
Karla Nelson: Well, those are good metrics to be moving in sales. Why do you think the average deal size goes up? It’s interesting to me.
Jeff Koser: Well, because when you call on someone that really, that you know needs you. Now, it’s just a matter of finding the right executive that has that problem or could benefit from the benefit that you’re going to bring, that’s probably not a real good sentence, but then the person that could benefit from the benefit. But when you’re calling on that person and that company, they need you.
Karla Nelson: So, essentially, their problems. They’ve got a headache and you’ve got an Aspirin.
Jeff Koser: You have the cure. The idea is to figure out where you fit so well that you have competitive differentiation, and when you have competitive differentiation, you’re worth your asking price.
Karla Nelson: Yeah. Okay. That makes sense. Now, you’re not negotiating and you’re not a commodity any longer.
Jeff Koser: Correct.
Karla Nelson: I want to go back to something that you had brought up, because I think this is critical. Finally, the masses, I think they were thrown into it here, right? Since all of us are working remotely these days is that you, how you start the sales conversation, right? You had stated you need to be compelling, but that value-driven, how do you give something away unselfishly, right, to bring value to them in order to start this conversation, because this is not something new, I don’t believe.
Jeff Koser: No.
Karla Nelson: But it’s something that I think now, is been made aware to those that weren’t really understanding that information wants to be free. Just like you, you wrote a book, right? You unveiled the curtain, right? You open the kimono and said, “Hey, this is what you can do.” But then people still have a challenge in doing that. But, in sharing that information and creating that value and not being scared to do that, to create that opportunity, what has been your experience in that regard? Especially, we could probably look at this prior us all working remotely, to now, working remotely, because I’ve seen a major mind shift in that regard.
Jeff Koser: I think it, like you said, it was relevant before. It’s more relevant now. It takes some creativity to figure out what do you offer or what could you offer to a prospect of value that wouldn’t directly benefit you? But that is what is important. If it does truly benefit them and they do have an interest and they raise their hand, that’s ultimately what you’re asking them to do, is raise your hand if you’re interested. If they are, they’ll, most people are good people and they want to reciprocate. They want to give something back when you give them something,
Karla Nelson: Oh, this is Cialdini’s book, Influence. Anybody who hasn’t read it, best, one of the best marketing books ever. Then number one, he goes through seven impactful influence principles, because it’s a psychology book, actually turned marketing book. Number one is giving and reciprocation of that. We are compelled and you’re right. I love how you say Jeff, that most people are good people, because I get so tired in the media of how they, focus on the fringes. It’s like, that has not been my experience, is that most people want to give, and when you ask them what they want to do and their dent on the universe, even though they might not know it specifically, it really comes down to two words, help, people. `That’s just, truly what people, and so when you give, I think I agree with you that reciprocation, that interest right?
Jeff Koser: Right.
Karla Nelson: … ends up sparking. I also think that with technology, we have the ability to impact way more people. It’s also louder though. How do you, then work with your customers to then, after they’ve got these potential new, look-alike, ideal clients to break through that noise with that compelling, hey, we’re differentiating ourselves between our competition because of X?
Jeff Koser: Good question. So, penetration, penetration messaging. I mentioned the phrase raising their hand. You have to have, give them some reason to opt-in, and make it their choice.
Karla Nelson: Permission marketing is a thing. We’ve been talking about it for a decade, but everybody’s getting it now. Right, Jeff?
Jeff Koser: I think they are, because we are more home-bound than we’ve been, for any of us. I think the things, the core things that were important to us have been brought to light, more so than before. We’re not letting anybody waste our time, even regarding our time, even more than before. You first have to be courteous enough to say, “Hey, I think this has value for you, but I’ll let you decide.” Then, if they opt in, then you have to be ready with your deeper research, which is along the lines of, you’re similar to my other customers. I found evidence that you have this business issue. I’ve solved it multiple times. What we like to add to that, is the quantification of it. If you solved it, approximately how much value could you create? That’s based on, you did your homework on them, but you also did your homework within your existing customer base to know that at that deep of a level-
Karla Nelson: That’s really cool because if I got a message like that, I’d be like, wow, wow, right? To say, I had this information. We worked with several customers. We’ve solved this problem. We think maybe potentially, you have this problem, and if so, we would like to see how we can support you in and solving it. Man, that would be powerful. That’s a powerful, powerful reach out, right there.
Jeff Koser: It works. If you also target … Most solutions that we sell, each of us sell, are appropriate to multiple decision-makers in a business. If you target as many of those decision-makers that would be truly relevant for what it is you’re offering, if you have reason to believe that they might be the right person, if you send it to multiple people at the same time, but you also reference the others you’re sending to, if you say something again, really respectful that says, “You decide if this is important to you, but I also sent it in case you’re not the right executive who would care about this, I also sent it to-”
Karla Nelson: Then they start talking about it.
Jeff Koser: That’s exactly what happens.
Karla Nelson: That’s really, and not only that, but unfortunately, Jeff in corporate America, people like to take credit for thing. If they got a problem going on there. Like, now all of a sudden you created a little bit of a critical mass, right, I’m saying?
Jeff Koser: You create a little bit, just a little bit of internal competition.
Karla Nelson: Yeah. That’s a good strategy there. I like what you said about finding the right one, because, if you focus and you have too wide of a net, the challenges is that you’re just creating a whole bunch of work for yourself.
Jeff Koser: Yes.
Karla Nelson: The search criteria and identifying it, is absolutely critical when you’re working in a digital marketing world, because I don’t want 200 people. I want five.
Jeff Koser: We agree. We feel, I violently agree
Karla Nelson: Because all you’re going to do is create a whole bunch of Zoom calls or conference calls or whatever, right? Trying to then potentially, figure it out, instead of talking to the person that has the problem and you have the solution. Well, I love this. This has been
so fun having you back on the show, Jeff. I love what you’re doing and how can our listeners get ahold of you?
Jeff Koser: Jeff at Zebrafi.com or check us out at Zebrafi.com. We’ll send you the information. I think Chris did, but if your people don’t have it, we’ll send you the information on how your listeners can inquire about getting a free copy of our Zebra Sales Bot.
Karla Nelson: Whoa, that’s amazing. I’ll have to make sure we get that in the show notes, so everybody can check it out. Then also, we’ll promote that on social media as well, because we’ve got a pretty nice following on LinkedIn and Facebook that aren’t always going straight to our website, but they listen in on iTunes or Spotify or Pandora. I didn’t actually realize that we’re actually on Pandora now. My team opened that out.
Jeff Koser: Cool.
Karla Nelson: Yeah, and it’s been awesome. Jeff, this is amazing. You’re fantastic. I really love what you’re doing here. I mean, talk about moving with the marketing times it’s and you’ve been understanding the fact that you give the software away for free, solve the problem for free, and the computers are what you pay for. I just think that’s classic marketing, right? My Microsoft built their name on it, right?
Jeff Koser: They did. Yeah, actually. That’s what made all of us at home, realize where the real value is.
Karla Nelson: I love it. I love it. Thank you so much. It was great to have you on the show, Jeff.
Jeff Koser: Thanks, Karla.