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2020 Summit Special: The Rules for Aggressive Sales Growth with Justin Roff-Marsh

Today’s Summit Special is Justin Roff-Marsh. On a wet and windy day in Wiltshire, it is great to look at the video of Justin speaking at the Monkhouse & Company Summit in September 2020. 

Justin helps people revolutionise their sales function. If the question you ask yourself is, “if I double the number of sellers, will I double my revenue?”. And if you paused, or hesitated, or said no, then implementing Justin’s The Machine would give you some clarity. It fixes not just sales; it might even fix many bits of your organisation. But it certainly impacts sales, marketing, and customer service—the whole customer journey. 

Justin looks at it from the perspective of lean manufacturing. There are a couple of controversial things: no commission, no individual targets. Those are pretty difficult for some people to accept in the first instance. They feel that salespeople are coin-operated. So, challenge your bias and beliefs in how sales work or should work, or seek a solution to the problem in your business and listen to this twenty minutes of Justin Roff-Marsh magic from the stage at the Summit.

If in the end, you find yourself amazed and in need to find out more, you’re in luck because Justin is running one of his workshops in the UK on 26th May at The Management Lab on the farm in Wiltshire. 

So if you like this twenty minutes, head over to our Prescription for Growth page to get your ticket. You better be quick because there’s only a few left. 


On today’s episode: 

  • The three-step programme
  • Selling conversations
  • Persuasion

The three-step programme

Born in Cambridge, raised in Australia and resident in Los Angeles, Justin started his fantastic talk at the Summit, defining his accent as a “hybrid”. 

Right after that, he jumps straight into what he calls the three-step programme. Justin and his team are usually introduced to an organisation by the CEO or private equity. “Our mandate is always the same, figure out how to grow this organisation”. Then, three ideas are brought to the table. “You could think of these ideas as a three-step programme”

With a mandate to rapidly grow an organisation, the first thing that Justin and his team do is work to restructure the organisation so that salespeople perform only one activity, which they call selling conversations. “And by only, I mean they do absolutely nothing else”, says Justin. That means that if you work for this organisation and you come in with a card that has the word ‘Sales’ on it, you only have one decision to make: “will I work in this particular instance or not?”. 

If you choose to work, there’s no further thinking required. “There’s only one activity that you’re responsible for, and that is selling conversations”. And that will go on, selling conversation after selling conversation on repeat until you go home. Achieving that requires a restructuring of the organisation. 

So, that’s the first idea. If you want to grow your organisation aggressively, Justin’s first piece of advice is to “restructure those organisations so that salespeople do nothing other than selling conversations”. 

The second idea is that after restructuring your company, the next thing you want to do is carefully examine the activities performed in the field. “You want to look at each activity and ask yourself one question: does this activity absolutely have to be performed in the field, face to face with customers”. If you are honest, you’ll conclude that not every activity currently being performed face to face with customers actually needs to be. In fact, virtually none do. 

Justin reckons that when you identify those activities that don’t need to be performed face to face, “the obvious thing you can do is take those activities out of the field and move them inside to a central location”. And by that, he means an office in the UK if your market is Europe, not 27 offices spread across Europe. 

So that’s the second piece of advice.

The third one is straightforward. Remove your salespeople’s autonomy and remove their commissions. At these words came out, you could see the shock on the audience faces. To which Justin admits, “I didn’t say salespeople were going to like it. I said it was simple”. 

By doing that, he’s not suggesting that you take away their autonomy and invariable pay because salespeople are going to like it or because you’re likely to see an increase in performance – “even though you will”. He suggests that, in reality, taking away their autonomy and piece-rate pay is a prerequisite for the first two steps. As Justin simply put it: “you cannot restructure your organisation – so that salespeople spend 100% of their time selling – and you cannot move 90% of activities that are currently performed face to face with customers inside.” 

The important reason is that “it’s those first two steps that are what’s really going to move the needle.”

“So if you really want to give your organisation a kick in the pants and grow it aggressively”, those are the steps you have to take. Assuming that your business has good fundamentals. 

You have to take away commissions so that you have a “mandate that allows you to implement those first two steps consistently, unflinchingly and exhaustively in your organisations.” 

Selling Conversations

To achieve aggressive growth following Justin’s three-step programme, you need to be clear on what ‘selling conversations’ mean. We all know what the word ‘conversation’ means, but what about that other one, ‘selling’?

If you asked your Director of Sales to define the word selling, “they will have you believe that the word ‘selling’ refers to all the activities that a salesperson typically performs, which has a degree of circularity that should disqualify for many intelligent explorations into the subject.” 

So then, Justin takes a different approach to the same question: “but what’s the one activity that a salesperson performs that genuinely and inarguably generates value?” And what do we mean by closing? – Justin asked the audience – do we mean actually signing the paperwork? 


Drawing from the question what does closing actually means, the author of The Machine, demystify the idea of salespeople sitting with the customer wrestling. 

He goes back to his past in sales when they used to say, you move the pen, I’ll hold the paper. “That doesn’t actually happen, and in most of the cases, contracts come in by email or via DocuSign, right?”. So when we talk about closing, what we really are talking about is convincing persuasion. 

Justin then defines a selling conversation as a “conversation where a salesperson is persuading”. Now, if you’ve had a customer coming back for his seventh transaction, the amount of persuasion required will depend on your operational performance. “If you screwed up the last six transactions, a whole bunch of persuasion. But if you’ve done a good job, none.” Justin attributes this to “the magical thing called nurture”. 

It’s costly for organisations to move their business around the place. You’ve got all sorts of switching costs, including the risk. If you sell expensive things, the risk can be the highest switching cost. So if you transacted with an organisation more than zero times and sell a product of substance, and you’ve done a good job at keeping your promise, then there will be no persuasion required. 

According to Justin, there’s only one type of interaction where persuasion is required: “the first. The role of your salespeople should be to convince folks to transact with you for the first time. Because once they transact with you for the first time, they get to experience your operational efficiencies. And on account of switching costs, after they’ve experienced those operational efficiencies for the first time they’re hooked and no further persuasion is required.”

This will result in what we should call “a relationship”. But we don’t. We degraded that word, and we use it to refer to the personal relationship between the salesperson and the prospect. But the personal relationship should be overpowered by the commercial relationship. 

Justin’s recommendation is that salespeople should use their superpower exclusively to convince those that have never transacted with you before to do it for the first time. 

The end result of moving sales activities inside, says Justin, is we get to build what he calls “inside sales team”. We don’t want telemarketers. We want to take professional salespeople with whom your customers would like to transact with. We want them inside in an environment where they can comfortably have 15 selling conversations a day – many more than what salespeople is currently having.” 

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