The Snowball System
Many people want to grow a business, increase client referrals, and spark momentum. At the same time, people resist sales efforts and struggle with developing business.
How do you grow your business without selling your soul?
Mo Bunnell is an author, speaker, consultant, and founder and CEO of Bunnell Ideal Group (BIG). In his book, The Snowball System: How to Win More Business and Turn Clients into Raving Fans, he shares his knowledge and experience in helping businesses grow.
I recently spoke with him about how to be more likable, gain referrals, improve business development, and create teams that have momentum.
Be Strategically Helpful
Why do so many people have such a negative feeling about sales?
The word “sales” is loaded. For many people it conjures up being pushy, dishonest and selfish—and that the salesperson stuff they try to push on others, whether they need it or not.
This is sad because when selling is done the right way, it’s great for all involved. It helps create a future that didn’t exist before. It’s long-term focused. It’s about the other person.
This is one reason we have to use code words for sales: business development, relationship building and the like. “Sales” is just too charged to use with some people.
In The Snowball System, we say sales is “being strategically helpful.” When people do that, everyone wins.
Experts Are Made
Can anyone learn the skills of business development?
Without a doubt, yes. And that’s different than a lot of people think.
My favorite researcher on expertise is Dr. Anders Ericsson out of Florida State University. He’s widely known as the worldwide exert on expertise. He says, “Consistently and overwhelmingly, the evidence showed that experts are always made, not born.”
We’ve trained comprehensive sales skills to over 12,000 professionals. I’ve seen people in all roles, at all starting points from all areas of the world. With that context, I’d add this: “Nearly everyone has a few natural tendencies that will help them with sales. Maybe they’re gregarious, are inquisitive or relentless in pursuing goals. But being great at sales requires dozens of skills—it’s a complex craft worthy of its own study. No one is a ‘born salesperson,’ and everyone can improve. It’s no different than learning a musical instrument or a sport. Some people are naturally disposed to be have a higher upper ceiling, but anyone can improve. And anyone that’s great learned it and earned it.”
Once people have that mindset, they can learn to love selling and become great at it. It just takes knowing the skills needed and an ongoing system to incrementally improve over time. The Snowball System breaks down every skill needed to become great at sales.
3 Ways to Be More Likable
What are some ways to get people to like you?
First, some context. Likability is a soft skill that leads to hard results. Dr. Jerry Burger out of Santa Clara University has shown that people spend more money with those they like.
So, how do you become more likable? We cover five ways in The Snowball System, but here are three:
- Find commonality.Burger’s research shows we like others we have things in common with. And, the more uncommon the commonality, the better. Takeaway: ask more questions, and more follow up questions, to find things you authentically have in common with others. It’s in the question asking and steering of a conversation where we stumble across commonality.
- Create mutual benefit.Adam Grant’s research at Wharton has found that one way to deepen a relationship is to find mutually beneficial ways to help each other. Takeaway: to be liked, we not only need to be helpful, but we need to ask for help, too. This can be counterintuitive, especially when we’re selling to very busy, senior people. But, in the asking for help we give the other person the great feeling of helping someone else. Asking for an easy introduction, a short testimonial and advice is a great way to start.
- Stay in touch, often.
This third one is based on science called the Mere Exposure Effect. In short, the more often we see something (or a person) the higher the correlation to liking. We simply must create opportunities for interactions with those we want to like and whom we want to like us. We can’t wait for the world to create these. My favorite quote we say often: “The world will steer us to the easy relationships, not the important ones.” Takeaway: create a short list of your most important relationships: write down the most important ten people to your selling success. Then, schedule an hour each month to proactively add value in their lives: send a thought piece, give them a call or anything that would be meaningful to them.
Implement these three takeaways, and you’ll be well on your way.
“The world will steer us to the easy relationships, not the important ones.” -Mo Bunnell
Talk about give-to-get and how it works in business development.
The Give-to-Get is the most effective tool I’ve ever seen to create demand. Simply put, it’s offering an hour or two of your time to start solving a prospect’s problem without charge.
Why does it work so well? It’s the only method I’ve seen that engages all six heuristics Dr. Robert Cialdini summarized in his epic book, Influence:
- Starting with giving triggers reciprocity. People want to repay those that give to them.
- A Give-to-Get provides an easy step to get started—no long contracts or negotiation. It starts the relationship in the direction of a purchase, and it’s easy.
- Social Proof. A properly designed Give-to-Get includes all decision makers on the buy side. You’re providing something of value—it’s appropriate for you to ask for key people to attend.
- The Give-to-Get interaction will provide dozens of opportunities to find commonality, mutual benefit and potential follow-ups.
- You’re much better able to show your big brain by beginning to solve your future client’s problems instead of talking about how you’ll solve them.
- Frame your Give-to-Get as the big deal it is—not everyone gets an investment like this.
A great Give-to-Get provides value to the client, is relatively easy for you to deliver and needs to make hiring you an obvious next step. How to do this is nuanced, and there are dozens of examples in The Snowball System, but this quick answer will get you going.
How to Cultivate Referrals
What’s the best way to cultivate referrals?
There are a couple keys to success when it comes to cultivating referrals.
By far, the number one issue is asking for them. So many professionals shy away from asking, like they’re putting the client out. But, when we look at a referral as a way to provide the great feeling of helping and that mutual benefit is good, we should feel great about asking.
Once we’ve put our inhibitions aside, the next key is asking with a feeling of importance. The best referrals are asked for when there is nothing else on the agenda—asking for the referral is worthy of a meeting or call on its own. Many slap the “ask” on another call in the last five minutes. This lowers its importance and power. Make it a big deal, educate the client on who is a great referral, and, if possible, ask for a specific introduction to someone. If it makes sense, even offer your client a Give-to-Get session they can offer their friend on your behalf. This makes the introduction a win for everyone.
Follow these guidelines and the floodgates will open.
How do you best create momentum in teams?
This is one of my favorite subjects, one I talk about with leaders all the time. Here’s the super quick answer:
- Create growth themes.Pick the areas you want to emphasize and proactively invest in. Maybe it’s a specific set of clients, a new product or a geographic area. Where can you have disproportionate impact?
- Select lagging, then leading, indicators of growth.What’s going to be a win at the end of the year in the growth theme area you chose? That’s your lagging indicator, things like profits generated or deals won. Here’s the key: then choose leading indicators of success. These are behaviors you can measure across your team on a weekly or monthly basis. Maybe it’s hours spent selling or Give-to-Gets offered. If you choose them so they are defined as being 100% in the control of your team, you’ll have the most success. Example: choose Give-to-Gets offered, not This way, they’re in 100% control of their numbers. All control. No excuses.
- Build an ongoing process for review.How often will you compile results, share them transparently across the team, share learnings and motivate them for the next cycle? Figure out your procedures up front—then, the magic is sticking with them.
- Cultivate a Winning Team Mindset.Some really cool research came from studies done by Dr. Marcial Losada a few years ago. He and his team found that the highest performing teams had a ratio of positive to constructive comments of 5.6 to 1. High performing teams are oriented toward positive improvement, and, at the same time, not afraid to give constructive criticism (in the right ratio!) Too much positivity? You’re hollow. Too much negativity? You’re a jerk. Figure out how to promote your team’s ongoing success by finding ways to authentically praise, while being direct and helping people improve when necessary.
Follow these four steps to blow the doors off your team’s goals.
Tell us more about the snowball system and how you developed it.
Whew! It’s been a lot of work to write a book that covers every single skill needed to be great at sales. I’m lucky we had trained 12,000+ people and had a proven system to use, but it was still so hard to layer writing a book on top of running the business. Our training is top tier and expensive and I really wanted to write a book so I could get our methods in the hands of people just starting their career or who were just starting a business—people that couldn’t afford our training.
I had been making excuses for about a decade when I realized I was the one in my own way. I could find the time to write the book.
My COO, Darla, helped me realize we could work together to do this. Following the four-step process above, we creatively found themes where I could free up a little time each week. My leading indicator was hours spent on the book project. (It was amazing how motivational it was to track this. If I had a low week, I wanted to improve the next. If I had a great week, celebration!)
My weekly process was to calculate my hours on Friday afternoon at 4 pm and to select my book to-do items for the next week. Then, I wrote a small celebratory journal entry about that week’s progress.
As I write this now, I haven’t missed that little ritual for 167 weeks. It didn’t take that long to write the book, but I found the weekly ritual so valuable that I pulled in other aspects of my life and kept it going.
That little four-step process works for so much more than selling and business development.
It’s not just for organizational growth, it works for any kind of growth.
For more information, see The Snowball System: How to Win More Business and Turn Clients into Raving Fans.