Like many business owners, Laith Hofayz was confident the service his company offered was world-class but found the process of attracting new business a challenge.
“We target very large corporate organisations with minimum sales of £1 billion a year, many over £50 billion,” explains Laith. Since he set up his training company ImpactSkills Training Ltd. three years ago to help managers, directors and executives achieve peak performance in communication skills, he has attracted such clients as the major international accounting and consulting firm Deloitte; two of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, Sanofi-Aventis and Johnson & Johnson; global strategy consultancy firm, Roland Berger Strategy Consultants; global interactive marketing services company, Acxiom; Ford; VeriSign; leading hotel groups Marriot International and Sheraton; as well as the NHS; Barclays Bank; the Royal Bank of Scotland and luxury brand Burberry.
Getting those kinds of clients is no easy thing. “They are very difficult to acquire in the first place,” says Laith. “It requires a huge amount of rapport and relationship building. Instilling a sense of trust is crucial. It’s about getting them to believe in you as a person, because I strongly believe that people buy people first. Once they have got past that, or they know, like and trust you then they actually want to work with you.”
He knew from experience that once prospects had tried the company’s ‘Showcase’ event, a free three-hour ‘taster’ for executive presentation skills, they would be keen to explore the relationship further.
“Once they know, like and trust me I invite them along to a Showcase [the taster event]. It’s a very elegant business model: I don’t sell to them, I invite them along. If they can attend, great. If they can’t, there’s no hard sell. When they come along, we absolutely deliver world class presentation skills. They take away an awful lot of materials: a DVD of themselves, a tip card, and a workbook. And it is very interactive, it’s an awful lot of fun, and to date we have never had a bad testimonial. Of course, that is absolute credit and testament to my trainers.
“Once they have come along to a Showcase, we have then captured their imagination and they have warmed up to us considerably. We have given an awful lot away not only in valuable content, but physically given away goodies which really help that they can keep and revisit at any point in the future. They walk away with at least two or three skills that they can implement immediately.
“And the kind of feedback I get is brilliant, such as: ‘I’ve been on many presentation programmes, never been on one where I can actually walk away with tools or skills, or strategies that I can work immediately’ and ‘Your trainers are very tough, they don’t let us get away with anything.’
“I can grow accounts very quickly once we are in there. Once we’ve got them to come along to one of our Showcase events, I can grow them exponentially and I know that is where my talent and expertise lies.
“What I wasn’t so good at was finding new business.” And that’s when he turned to Digital Lighthouse for help.
“I wanted to get between six and 12 blue-chip companies as clients,” he says. “When I say ‘half a dozen’, I mean having a good relationship with half a dozen over a year. So from not knowing them to them actually booking repeat business from us in the space of 12 months, which might sound like a ridiculously small target but is actually a pretty tough target.”
Fiona Challis, Digital Lighthouse’s Sales Expert, quickly identified how Laith could attract more prospects revamp the company’s sales message, particularly its literature.
“What Fiona is exceptionally good at is selling. The ‘softly, softly’ approach that I had been using worked but only to a certain level. She took our message to the next level very quickly just by changing some phraseology and key words.
“She helped with the copywriting our choice of words and headlines on emails and with offline brochures, paperwork, letters, flyers and so on.
“I needed to revive the interest in our emails in the very early days of the company, I was getting very high response rates but that dropped off. I needed to resurrect that interest and increase our open rates.
“I started to spend a lot more time on the headlines, and the subject fields of emails.”
The effort paid off and the open and click-through rates of the company’s emails to prospects doubled from 8.1% to 17%, which meant more qualified prospects were going along to the company’s Showcase events.
“Doubling the open and click through rate meant twice as many prospects were clicking on the right buttons to go to a landing page, or a squeeze page and signing up. It immediately doubled the amount of qualified leads who came along to a Showcase.”
Fiona also identified how Laith could convert more Showcase attendees into actual buyers.
“She asked me, ‘What are you doing at the end of the Showcases?’ My approach had always been very consultative, and very tentative. I had always been a bit reluctant to sell hard at Showcases.
“I asked, ‘What can we do?’ She said, ‘Offer them what you do next.’ And it was as simple as that, and that’s exactly what we did. I began to tell attendees, ‘What we do next is a three-day seminar, ‘The Complete Executive’ where you’ll learn the other six presentation skills.
“And thanks to Fiona’s copy, word choice and brilliant headlines, we have secured three multi-national global organisations, which will grow into seriously big accounts. And I’m working on another two at the moment.
“Those leads came when I actively pursued a strategy to actively up-sell at the end of the showcase. That has made the difference.
“I’m absolutely delighted because the company’s growing, and we are flat out basically all the time now. We are outsourcing and doing all sorts of stuff to mitigate our time. So it’s all good stuff.”