— in times of anxiousness or unease, I always turn to what I enjoy doing best. During these hard times, I recommend finding a creative outlet for yourself. Whether that turns into a full-time career is up to you! But, remember to have fun.
As a part of my series about how to be great at closing sales without seeming pushy, obnoxious, or salesy, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Belosic.
Jim Belosic is CEO of SendCutSend, a high-tech, rapid-manufacturing company specializing in the precision cutting of a variety of metals and aerospace materials. An avid hobbyist and maker, Belosic often found himself in need of specialized parts in small quantities to create his passion projects. Frustrated by vendors only willing to supply large and costly orders, he saw an opportunity to create an online-based solution in a niche market. After investing $2.5 million in cutting-edge equipment and software development, Belosic created a service for tinkerers, hobbyists, and small manufacturers throughout the country to create and deliver products in a timely and cost-effective manner.
Belosic was previously the co-founder and CEO of Pancake Laboratories, a software company based in Reno, Nevada best known for its flagship product, ShortStack.com — allowing businesses to build lead-generating social media contests, promotional campaigns, and landing pages.
Thank you for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this career path?
I have always been a maker and a car guy. Ever since I was little, I enjoyed taking things apart to see how they worked and then putting them back together, including computers. Eventually I taught myself some basic software programming to make some of my more complicated projects come to life. This love of software led me to start a small software company that focused on marketing for small businesses. The company was great, and it helped (and still does) a lot of people reach their marketing goals. But, I still had a passion for building tangible products. As an avid hobbyist, I oftentimes found myself in need of specialized parts usually requiring the use of outside vendors. In my experience, the local guys had certain capabilities and equipment, but oftentimes were very old school, and would take weeks to get me a laser cutting quote, let alone get the parts made. Frustrated, I decided to create a company that blended modern software and customer service with automated manufacturing technologies to simplify the process for a laser cutting online quote and production. From there, SendCutSend was born, and with it, the power for tinkerers, hobbyists, and small manufacturers throughout the country to create and deliver products to their customers without the habitual hassles of working with a laser cutting service.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
As expected, no one really took a bunch of software guys with absolutely zero manufacturing experience seriously! But, our team has a passion. So, naturally, we ignored the nay-sayers and set out to use our knowledge and past experience as problem solvers who are adept at complex computer code to create functions that worked for us. In turn, we created a full-featured customer-facing app providing customers with an instant laser cutting online quote, transparent job tracking and full delivery information in real-time. With the creation of the app, our team also created a powerful optimization machine for every internal process they conduct. The lesson here is to listen to yourself, if you have a good idea and a track record to prove you can do the work, go for it! Through this process, it could be said that we became experts in laser cut metal manufacturing.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
At SendCutSend, we’re constantly looking at ways to remove barriers preventing students, makers and hobbyists from accessing high tech manufacturing equipment and that is at an affordable cost. Our company gives anyone who has access to a computer, access to multi-million dollar laser cutting equipment. In turn, our hope is to eliminate DIY headaches that often happen when using consumer-grade equipment and manufacturing techniques by instead reducing the cost of high-tech, high-precision laser cut metal parts in low quantities.
In 2020, we tackled an ambitious software and process improvement project that allows our customers to track their custom cut metal order at every step of the process. It also provides valuable real-time manufacturing data back to our in-house engineering team. The project was designed from the ground up to help everyone who needs a hand full of parts, fast, the opportunity to receive them without paying a fortune. To do this, we’re automating the traditional laser cutting process as much as possible, keeping efficiencies up and prices down. The end goal is to eliminate the need to request a quote, call someone to place an order, or drive across the state to get laser cut metal parts made.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
One of my good friends and SendCutSend’s Chief Technology Officer is Jacob Graham, he is someone that I’ve worked with for years and greatly admire. I like to say he’s the brains of the operation whereas I am the creative side but we’re able to both bring our unique strengths to the table. Jake can bring a difficult project to life and is talented at doing the heavy lifting with software engineering.
For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit why you are an authority on the topic of sales?
I first entered into the laser-cutting manufacturing market as a consumer, and I have very high expectations. Having such high expectations force you to reevaluate your sales strategies. I also am the company’s biggest proponent and I actually use what we sell to other people.
Let’s shift a bit to what is happening today in the broader world. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the COVID-19 pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty and loneliness. From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our families and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
During this time of uncertainty, we’ve heard from many of our customers (who were originally using us to make parts for their hobbies and/or side hustle) that they are now using their hobby as a full-time career. They have turned their hobbies into a new career path because of what they can create with us.
This strikes a chord with me — in times of anxiousness or unease, I always turn to what I enjoy doing best. During these hard times, I recommend finding a creative outlet for yourself. Whether that turns into a full-time career is up to you! But, remember to have fun.
Ok. Thanks for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. As you know, nearly any business a person will enter, will involve some form of sales. At the same time, most people have never received any formal education about how to be effective at selling. Why do you think our education system teaches nearly every other arcane subject, but sales, one of the most useful and versatile topics, is totally ignored?
I think there is an assumption that only some people are ‘good at sales,’ and it’s like being compared to an athlete or an artist. It’s almost like people think that being good at sales is an innate trait that cannot be taught, which I think is untrue. From my experience, if you are passionate or well-educated on a subject, you can learn the tools to help you sell. Passion, knowledge, and tenacity go a long way in making a sale.
This discussion, entitled, “How To Be Great At Sales Without Seeming Salesy”, is making an assumption that seeming salesy or pushy is something to be avoided. Do you agree with this assumption? Whether yes, or no, can you articulate why you feel the way you do?
I agree 1,000%. If you feel like you have to be salesy or pushy when marketing a product then you might have a bad product or the wrong customer.
For me, good products sell themselves. As a salesperson of a great product, you should be able to play matchmaker, pairing up the right products and services with the right customers. I’m a firm believer in recommending a competitor or another product if what I’m selling does not match my customer’s needs. This has always paid off in the long run.
The seven stages of a sales cycle are usually broken down to versions of Prospecting, Preparation, Approach, Presentation, Handling objections, Closing, and Follow-up. Which stage do you feel that you are best at? What is your unique approach, your “secret sauce”, to that particular skill? Can you explain or give a story?
Customer followup is definitely an area that our team excels in. This is an area that is often overlooked by small businesses. Traditionally, once a sale is done, the business looks for the next sale without realizing that the next sale might be from an existing customer. If you build a report with your customer, there is always an opportunity for a future sale.
We go several steps further and communicate with our customers at every step of the process. From programming to laser cutting services, to post-processing, final quality check, shipment, and then follow up once they receive the product — our customers are completely in the loop. This communication allows us to set expectations and give confidence to the customer. Oftentimes we’ll receive additional orders once they see that their custom cut metal is being produced, even before it’s shipped. Once the order is in the customer’s hands, we follow up to make sure they are satisfied, and we ask for photos of their project. It helps continue the conversation with the customer, and we get some great examples to use in our marketing and social media as well!
Lead generation, or prospecting, is one of the basic steps of the sales cycle. Obviously every industry will be different, but can you share some of the fundamental strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
Make sure you’re not trying to be all things to all people. It can generate a lot of clicks, but very few strong leads. When we first started, our marketing message was attracting tons of visitors and clicks, but not many of what we would call our perfect customer. Using language and keywords to weed out or scare away some bad matches can kill traffic numbers, but really helps when it comes to conversions. Using language that only your best customers will relate to is a huge part of the process. Getting the messaging correct requires you to understand your audience better than anyone else. For me, I’ve been my own customer for many years, so it’s easy to get the message across.
Also, it’s important to be clear upfront about what you don’t offer. Get the leads to disqualify themselves so that you can focus on the leads that are a good fit.
In my experience, I think the final stages of Handling Objections, Closing, and Follow-up, are the most difficult parts for many people. Why do you think ‘Handling Objections’ is so hard for people? What would you recommend for one to do, to be better at ‘Handling Objections’?
If someone has an objection to our product or service, I don’t really want them as a customer because it would be a constant uphill battle to meet their expectations. If there are objections on things such as price, speed, and quality, I’ll offer alternatives — but I really don’t push for the sale if they don’t seem to align with what we can offer. Changing our process to satisfy a demanding customer isn’t scalable or sustainable for us.
‘Closing’ is of course the proverbial Holy Grail. Can you suggest 5 things one can do to successfully close a sale without being perceived as pushy? If you can, please share a story or example, ideally from your experience, for each.
- Offer testimonials. Find repeat clients who are willing to publicly endorse your company and who can provide examples.
- Offer access. Once you have identified your brand ambassadors (those that will publicly endorse your company), recommend that your potential client reach out to them. This way, they can get real feedback.
- Give them time to decide. Let customers know that you can honor a certain deal for a long period of time, and let them sleep on it. Yes, I know this is the opposite of creating a sense of urgency but this is the ultimate way of not being pushy. Giving the customer time to decide shows that you have confidence in the product. One of my favorite things to hear as a customer is “here’s our offer, feel free to do your research.” You never hear that from salespeople who know that they are ripping you off.
- Offer a money-back guarantee.
- Offer the best product or service you can and focus on the product.
Finally, what are your thoughts about ‘Follow up’? Many businesses get leads who might be interested but things never seem to close. What are some good tips for a business leader to successfully follow up and bring things to a conclusion, without appearing overly pushy or overeager?
It’s important to use good notes and lots of them, or a CRM system. Oftentimes a customer will ask us for a material that we don’t stock or a process we don’t offer. We make sure to note these requests for two different reasons 1) it helps us understand the demand for new products, and it allows us to follow up with the customer should we offer those products or services in the future, and 2) we don’t always get the sale, but the customers appreciate that we remembered.
As you know there are so many modes of communication today. For example, In-person, phone calls, video calls, emails, and text messages. In your opinion, which of these communication methods should be avoided when attempting to close a sale or follow up? Which are the best ones? Can you explain or give a story?
There is no right or wrong communication method, it’s up to the customer. Ask customers how they prefer to be contacted in the early stages of your relationship. And then, respect their request. If someone says “I prefer text,” then do it!
Ok, we are nearly done. Here is our final “meaty” question. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’m not sure if this is the greatest good to the greatest number of people, but I would love to see a cultural shift away from a college education being the end-all-be-all. There are so many people that go deep into debt for an education that they may not be able to use. I wish it was more socially acceptable to go to a trade school or through hands-on-learning while on the job. I want my kids to know that they should try a bunch of jobs so that they can find something they love. If you decide on a career that requires college, then enroll and get that degree. But you might find a career (like marketing or sales) that takes talent and experience, without all the debt and takes less time than a traditional college education.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you for the interview. We wish you only continued success!