Hull, England
Married to Heather. Son Liam, 11
BA from University of Western Ontario; Executive MBA from University of Calgary
Career Highlights:
20 years as a 'lucky" sales person and 15 years as a 'lucky' entrepreneur

Entrepreneur Elias Taps Triggers to Sales Success

Craig Elias has discovered a unique approach to building business over the years.

He does this by turning more prospects into loyal customers through the harnessing of trigger events to repeatedly get to the right people at exactly the right time.

Elias, the creator of Trigger Event Selling™, and the Chief Catalyst of SHiFT Selling, Inc., is a highly sought- after speaker and trainer, delivering unique, compelling and relevant content.

Elias helps people identify the specific Trigger Events that create demand for products or services, discover which decision makers experience the Trigger Events identified, and close more sales by getting to decision makers who experience Trigger Events before the competition.

‘‘For years you have been conditioned to believe that there is no such thing as a silver bullet in sales. We can tell you there is a silver bullet in sales, it is called ‘timing’ getting in front of the right person at exactly the right time. When you have the right timing the sale almost happens by itself – no challenges getting to the customer, understanding their dissatisfaction, presenting a solution, or closing the sale,’’ says Elias. ‘‘Every single day decision makers experience a Trigger Event that turns them from prospects into customers.’’

Elias says that for almost 20 years he was just a lucky sales guy with an incredible knack of showing up at the right time with the right people. He was a top sales person.

One day that luck ended and he reflected on his success or lack of success. He realized it was not so much luck but timing. In the reflection, he realized there was an opportunity for a business in trading information on the way of being first. He started a company called Inner Sell. Elias ran it for five months and got involved in a billion-dollar-idea competition, in which he took home the top prize of $1 million US.

The author of the best-selling book SHiFT! recently spoke with Business Edge.

Here is an edited version of the conversation:

1. You talk about three keys to sustainable growth. Can you share with our readers what those three things are?

Be first, be preferred, be chosen is really the framework around being able to grow a business from a new customer and revenue perspective. If you can nail those three things, everything else becomes a whole lot easier. From a sales perspective, if you can do those three things it’s easy.

2. Who are the best people to target as potential customers?

I’m a big fan of two things. Focusing on people that have money, authority and influence to be doing it up far enough up the organization so they make decisions quickly. But it’s also those people that have recently become dissatisfied with the status quo.

3. Explain what you mean by status quo.

Status quo can be viewed as people that are happy with what they have and they see no reason to change. Here’s what’s interesting. What people don’t understand is that the status quo is not just your competitors but it’s also your competition.

So if a competitor does the exact same thing that you do, the competition solves the same problem or delivers the same value outcome by using a completely different product or service. For example, if you own a jewelry store your direct competitors are other jewelry stores. But your competition is any other way a guy could say to his significant other I love you - flowers, chocolates, perfume. So the competition is another way to solve the problem by using a completely different product or service that delivers the same outcome or value.

4. What turns decision makers into more motivated buyers?

What happens is that the motivated buyers are the people that are in what is called a window of dissatisfaction. These are people that are unhappy with what they have. They’ve been too busy solving other problems. They haven’t done anything about it yet. And these motivated buyers are created by events that trigger their interest in doing something differently or triggers dissatisfaction with the status quo.

5. How can readers determine the best Trigger Events for what they sell?

For me what’s interesting is that for 20 years my sales managers have taught me this process called a lost sales analysis. Analyze the sales you lose, hoping, with the emphasis on hoping, you can figure how to win more. The way that I come at this problem is how do you analyze the deals that you win? How do you do a won sales analysis? And how do you ask a few key questions so you understand what was the event that made somebody want to become a customer? When did those events happen? And what was it that you have that made them say ‘I want to buy from you instead of somebody else?’ What you’re listening for . . . are verbs that describe the value of being a customer.

6. How do you get the attention of these motivated buyers?

You pick up the phone. You find a way to create something which I would call a seven-second sale. How do you find a way to ask a question, or say something, in such a way that asks the question ‘how do you do that?’

7. What should people say when they talk to them?

You need to use verbs that describe the value of being your customer . . . The intent is you can’t actually tell them. If you tell them you actually lose the opportunity. The right approach is to say ‘oh I would love to ask a few questions and do some research and come back and have a call in a week or two. When can we schedule that call and who else should be on that call’?

8. What about word of mouth?

Research basically says that word of mouth outperforms every form of paid advertising by a factor of two. And what happens when people hear it the first thing they do is go to Google. If they don’t go to Google, they go to the number two search engine on the planet which is You Tube. What they do is search for certain keywords. For me, one of the things I love about social media is owning profiles, or in some cases domain names, related to those keywords that they might

use - those two-or-three-word combinations. People aren’t on Twitter looking for you. They’re on Google looking for you. But what they do is they find your social media profile and your competition then is on page two or page three.

9. What about people that fill in forms on a company’s website?

I’m a big fan of having some content, not just pricing, and filling a form. The research from MIT says that if you follow up with that person and if you phone them in five minutes or less you are 900 per cent or nine times more likely to actually talk to that person. But what you’ve got to do is you can’t sell when you get on the phone. You have to ask the right questions. And for me, the three questions that you should ask are: Did you get the email that has the information you were looking for? When you heard about us or read about us what resonated that made you say ‘hey I should check this out’? The third question should always be something like ‘hey I’m curious, what happened recently that made this content more important or more relevant? What you’re looking for is what event has recently created dissatisfaction with the status quo?

10.That helps people be first but what about being preferred?

Now I’m first. Now I need to find a way to be the person that someone would rather do business with. So how do you get an advantage? How do you become the preferred vendor? What I’ve learned is people make decisions based upon emotion. And they justify with logic after the fact. What you want to do is find a way to be what is called their emotional favourites. And the emotional favourite is the person that they share information with that they generally don’t share with other people. You need to find a way to build a connection with somebody so you have something in common with them and by having something in common then you are more likely to become their emotional favourite.

11. How can social media help with that?

One of the things I’m a big fan of is a term called propinquity which is the impact of nearness. I’m a big believer that when people go to your LinkedIn profile they shouldn’t learn how great you are. They should learn who you are. When they go to your Twitter profile, there should be a visual up there that somehow represents something about you so they can make this emotional connection . . . By having these things in common with people and using social media to share it you are more likely to become the emotional favourite.

12. What about at networking events?

I’m a big fan of networking events. I’ve been on LinkedIn for a long time. I’m user 3,956 in LinkedIn. When you find a way to meet somebody see how soon you can find something in common with that other person. So I like to collect a business card . . . I have an application that I use that takes a picture of their business card, puts their information in my phone and sends them a LinkedIn connection request right away. And that then allows me to have their information and see the things they do on LinkedIn that I can then find the things we have in common and become their emotional favourite.

13. What can people do to convert more people into customers?

The challenge that most people have is that they have all these prospects but they’re not closing the deal. And the reason that they can’t close the deal is very often people can’t justify the purchase to other people. So the challenge is helping the prospects justify the decision. They want to become your customer. You become the preferred vendor. You got them first. But now they need to justify it and the way they justify that is through an acronym that’s called RIPES.

14. Please explain RIPES.

RIPES is basically the five ways that people justify a purchase either to themselves or other people. The five words that RIPES is: R stands for risk avoidance; I stands for image; P stands for productivity which you want to improve; E stands for expenses which you want to reduce; and S stands for simplicity or speed. The data basically suggests that somewhere close to 30 per cent of the time the person who is easiest to do business with was the one that was actually chosen.

15. Why is it so important to make it easier to become a customer?

People these days are really busy and the more effort it is to become a customer the longer it takes. What happens all too often is someone says, ‘I’ll get to that later’ and later

unfortunately ends up being never. If the customer has got five minutes, let’s do it now because you want to move them as far along in the process as you can. It’s a process that’s called first- call effectiveness.

16. Where should people get or share testimonials?

My preferred place if it’s a personal testimonial about an individual it should go on your LinkedIn page. For business, you should have a testimonials page on your website. Even have those testimonials and put them on your company site on LinkedIn.

Because there are more people on LinkedIn than there are going through your website. So leverage the fact that people are there. What I like about a good testimonial is if it’s from someone they already know or have heard of, that gives the testimonial even more weight.

17. What do you love about being an on-campus Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Bow Valley College for the past three years?

I think I have the best job in the planet. I’m helping students come up with ideas, launch ideas, grow ideas. My job is basically how do I turn more students into successful entrepreneurs. What I love about this job is you start with people who have just an idea and there are four keys to being a successful entrepreneur. Curiosity first. Confidence. Competence. And connections. They come to you with an idea. It gets validated. Then you build some skills and teach them how to pitch. This is a new competition on campus and these kids are completely different people when they’re finished with the competition. And you get to be the person that starts them on that journey to becoming an entrepreneur.

18.How can readers benefit more from peer mentoring?

When you’ve been an entrepreneur for awhile, it’s hard to find a mentor who can teach you. Peer mentoring is one of the things we’re going to start putting in place for the student entrepreneurs at Bow Valley College. I also do peer mentoring for TEC Canada. The power of peer mentoring is when you get to a certain level there’s not a lot of people who have done much more than you and the best place to learn is from your peers. So peer mentoring is about having these monthly meetings where you share your challenges, help each other solve problems and then hold each other accountable for the things they promised they would have gotten done in the last month.

19. Any last advice you want to share with readers?

My last advice is that if you want something just ask. What’s the worst thing someone says? They say no. No does not mean never. It just means not today and don’t be shy about going back a month later and then saying ‘has anything changed recently that makes me have more importance or more relevance?’ A really good example of this is a video if you go to Google and just type in ‘Steve Jobs just ask video’. It’s a very powerful message there.

20. Where can readers get a copy of your award- winning sales book?

If people want to get a free copy of my book, they can just go to my website which is ShiftSelling.com/Business-Edge and if they fill the form we will email them back the entire book in a PDF or Adobe Acrobat format right away.