If you have been following CEO Sales Strategies since the beginning, you will recognize that this week’s guest is none other than Mitch Russo, CEO of MindfulGuidanceLLC and also our first ever returning guest. Listen in as Doug C. Brown and Mitch discuss licensures and certifications, business growth strategies, and more.
Mitch Russo started a software company in his garage, sold it for 8 figures and then went on to work directly with Tony Robbins and Chet Holmes to build a $25M+ business together. He is the author two books, The Invisible Organization, and Power Tribes – How Certification Can Explode Your Business which have helped thousands of companies scale rapidly. Today he’s here to help Coaches solve an age old problem with his new coach practice management system called ClientFol.io
Visit his website: www.mitchrusso.com
I have a returning guest and his name is Mr. Mitch Russo. The reason I asked Mitch to come back is because I wanted to talk about one of the ways to grow your company, which is to increase the number of your salespeople but not necessarily internally paying salaries and things for salespeople. Mitch has a unique spin on how to do that and it’s under certification and licensure.
I thought it’d be a very interesting topic for those of you who are open-minded because it’ll allow you to drive more revenue to your company. Why I say open-minded is because a lot of times, people are thinking, “This couldn’t work for my industry or my company.” What I found is there are variations that work for any industry or any company. It’s not 100%. As Mitch describes, it’s not for everybody. You’re going to get a lot out of this episode.
We’re also talking about a software that Mitch developed on the frontend. I’m certainly plugging that software. The reason I’m doing that is I’ve reviewed the software and the software is cool. Check it out. If you have any questions, contact Mitch and he’ll go from there with you. That’s it. Let’s go to the interview and talk to Mr. Mitch Russo.
Mitch, welcome to the show.
Doug, it’s great to be here. Thanks for inviting me to your show.
It’s great to have you. You’re my first return guest ever. For those of you reading, please pay attention because I don’t invite anybody back for the fact of trying to fill a spot. Mitch and I have worked together for years. He was the CEO of a company called Business Breakthroughs International and I was the President of Sales and Training. I worked for Mitch but I learned a tremendous amount from Mitch about how to grow companies. You’re going to learn a lot here. We’re going to talk about increasing the number of sellers that you have for your company.
One of the things I want to do right out of the gate, Mitch, if you don’t mind, is you have a software background. You wrote and employed this cool software called Clientfol.io. It’s a great service for anybody who’s coaching or consulting people. I also see there’s a cool bunch of features there that people who are selling could use as well. It’s not just like, “This is a coaching or consulting software.” It’s a software that people can track and be much more productive on their conversations and things going on.
From being a salesperson most of my life, I get in seventeen directions per week and then I forget stuff. Somebody calls me out of the blue and I’m like, “What was my conversation with them before? What was the note that I had before?” I had it happened to me embarrassingly enough. Your system seems to pull everything together for people. Do you want to give an overview?
The name of the software is Clientfol.io. I was trying to get the cool factor there with the .io extension and make it a word. I did it, which is fun. The reason I created Clientfol.io is because I needed this to track my conversations, to make sure that the people I’m talking to got what I promised to send them, to even make records of all these conversations and to create a way for me to rapidly move from session to session or call to call without doing a lot of admin. That’s why I built the system.
I tried as many other solutions as I could figure and I found everything else like this to be far more expensive, far harder to use and far too cumbersome to make real use of. I released this product and we have done a new feature release every two weeks since the release. The system is amazing. It can accommodate unlimited clients for every single individual who’s using it. You could add coaches or add team members for $20 per month per team member. It’s economical as well.
The ROI is immediate because one lost sale is worth way more than that to most people. Mitch, you might appreciate this. I was invited to a sales consulting call. This gal came on and went, “I lost the sale.” I’m a guest on there listening. She goes, “I lost the sale because I didn’t put a note in the system to follow up with somebody.” She goes through the numbers. Long story short, it was a $250,000 annual commission on a recurring product that the average lifetime value was five years. I was shocked. For $20 a month, she could have had that notation in there. The saddest part about it is the client was looking for her but couldn’t find it but then found another distributor of the product and bought it off the other distributor.
It happens every day. It’s worse when you have a client relationship. If you don’t stay on top of that relationship, no matter what it is, whether you’re in sales, consulting, training or even a therapist, if you don’t keep track of this stuff, you’re not going to get the results that you promised. That’s why it’s important to have a system to do all of this for you.
I remember the old days when we used to keep stuff on spreadsheets before CRM. That’s how old I am. I remember getting a call from somebody one time and they started talking to me about this and that. I’m like, “I can’t remember.” I’m looking for my file card to figure out this conversation with this person and what is it. I used to write them on note cards back then. Lo and behold, I didn’t have it.
I did make the sale to my credit but I had to do a lot of backpedaling, try to figure out and stay as open and evasive as possible to the conversation. If somebody’s selling, you don’t want to do that. It’s that simple. You want to be able to relate immediately to what they’re saying. I remember looking through your system. You can go in there, click on something and up comes the notes. You have a relevant conversation, notes, recordings, all kinds of stuff in there. It was cool.
Check it out. Readers, you’re going to love it if it fits your needs, by all means. Here’s the other thing, Doug. You know this about me. I never stopped improving the products that I create. If you become a Clientfol.io subscriber, you need something and it’s not there, let me know. Who knows? It might be there the next day. Tell me and I’ll do my best to add it for you.
Not only are you a software guru who built the company and sold it for a little more than $10 million, if I remember correctly back in the day but that was back also when an eight-figure business was worth a lot more than an eight-figure business. With this numbers, we got to at least double or triple those numbers. You started that up from scratch, on an idea. You self-funded it, for the most part. I remember talking to you about this.
One of the things I wanted to talk about on this show with you is how do you increase the number of sellers for your company but do this in a cost-effective manner? You were doing this like a genius back then before a lot of people were even doing this in the software business. Were you building out certification, partnerships or something of that nature? I’ve talked a lot about building agencies, which is getting a bunch of people to sell your stuff and paying them a commission but you don’t have to come out of pocket for it.
You also specialize in licensure, certification, helping people and it’s called Power Tribes. I know you’ve helped a lot of notable people take this concept and employ it into the business. Can you talk about why is it so important to get more people? It seems obvious but why is it more important than ever to get people out there selling for you, moving your product or service through and reducing your overall sales cost? It’s what it comes down to it. Could you speak to it?
Let’s reference a book that most of us have read at some point in our lives. It’s called The Art of War by Sun Tzu. In The Art of War, what he talks about is how to win a war. You, me and probably everybody who are reading are at war with the forces around them that are trying to make them fail. That’s the government, the tax system and your competitors. The bottom line is this. If you don’t have a Salesforce, then you don’t have a company. If you do have a Salesforce, the success of that Salesforce is the success of your company but here’s the problem. Building a Salesforce is expensive. If there was a way to build a Salesforce for free, even better, where the salespeople pay you to sell your product, I would imagine that you’d want to do that.
Tell us more, Mitch. I know what’s coming.
This is the whole idea behind creating a certification. Certification means that I have trained somebody and I’ve indoctrinated them into the processes that I do. It’s like I create clones of myself. If I were, in this case, in technical support or sales, I would create clones of myself, I’d deploy those clones all over the world and I’d have them do what I do. There are three separate components of how to do that. The first is the training environment. We have to make sure that the training that you take someone through delivers 100% competence.
I was lucky, Doug, because as you know, I helped Tony build the training program he built. We set up with Lightspeed VP some years ago. The side benefit that I didn’t even know I was getting was that Tony taught me about how people learn. Once I understood that, it was a huge a-ha moment. If you do those specific things that people need in order to learn, then the bottom line is that you have trained them to 100% competency. We do that. I work with my clients to take them through that entire process. That’s step one.
Step two is if they’re going to pay you $10,000, $20,000 a year to be certified, they’re going to need an ROI. We know lots of people who sell coaching certification for $10,000, $20,000 and there is no ROI. You get a beautiful certificate that I could put right here behind my Zoom window and show you that I’m certified. Anyone you can imagine, some famous coach’s techniques. We don’t necessarily give you a certificate. That’s not important. Instead, what we do is we give you clients, leads and we build a system that you can immediately step right into and create new clients with.
If we do our job and you pay your money, our goal is to get you 5X to 10X return on your ROI. How do we do that? That means that we have to take some of the money you paid us and use that to create lead flow for you. Here’s the nice thing about it. When you have 10, 20, 50, 350 people paying you $10,000, $20,000 a year, even 15% of that is enough marketing to get a group started moving. That’s only one thing that we do to bring leads in.
The second thing we do is we hire an internal PR intern and we train them on how to get speaking engagements for our certified consultants, coaches, certified partners or whatever name we want to give them. At this point, they’re sitting around booking, speaking engagements locally for our members. Out of the blue, they might get a phone call and say, “Bob, are you busy Thursday night? Can you speak to the Los Angeles Bar Association on what it is that you do?”
You’ll be mentioning Clientfol.io, our products or whatever they are. Bob will say, “Are you kidding me? I’d love to.” That’s free. They didn’t do anything to get that. They didn’t even know it was coming. These are the upside surprises that we engineer into your system. The third piece is culture. It’s the most important of all. Culture must be self-correcting. What we do is we engineer and create a culture system before we admit even the first person to our little group.
I can imagine people reading this are going, “This sounds interesting but will it work for my industry? I do solar panels and I sell those. I’m a manufacturer. I’m a software company.” Can it work for any industry or for most?
I’ll be honest with you. It can’t. The reason that it can’t is because there are some industries that don’t require skill. For example, if what you’re looking to do is expand your solar panel business, then I would say do more advertising. If you want to have people on the street, then hire kids to go door-to-door and put fliers in mailboxes or something. If you have a product that requires skill to implement, then it’s perfect.
I’ll give you some examples of the clients that I’ve had. Software companies are a perfect fit but we’ve worked with real estate training companies, companies that do relocation of people in their homes and companies that train corporate communities on culture. We’ve created a certification for them as well. Amazingly, those are the people who start by saying, “I don’t understand how this could ever work for us.” Within 90 days, they had their first certification class and generated $400,000 in seven days after launching.
The reason this works is because people are starving for ways to create their enterprise. You might say, “Mitch, this sounds a lot like a franchise.” The truth is it’s very much like a franchise. The key difference is that the company that creates it does not have to go through the rigmarole of franchise law. That’s the most important thing. When I work with a client, I provide all the legal documents they need to make sure that everyone they bring on board as a certified consultant is exactly set up so that they do not become a tax liability or a legal liability to the company itself.
What I find interesting here, Mitch, is the certification component is taking an agency and putting one great step above and beyond what most agencies do. By the way, when he’s talking about Tony, he’s talking about Mr. Tony Robbins who Mitch and I had the pleasure of working with. When I was talking about the solar company, the reason I asked that is because I know people will be going, “It wouldn’t work for my industry.” The reality is they could take a component of what you’re talking about in the certification.
They could create certified solar experts and then let them go and sell their products and services. That’s what I would call building an agency model. What I love about what you’ve done is you’ve taken and amplify that so that they’re paying you an annual subscription that you can utilize for marketing purposes to generate more for yourself and for them as well as a profit center for your company. You still get the expansion of sales through increasing the number of sellers that way. It’s brilliant.
It works. It’s practical because we do it all the time.
A lot of people like to be certified. You can see XYZ coach, consultant or methodology. I remember when you and I were together, there was something called The Sedona Method. I remember Guerrilla marketing had a certification program. The reality is that people love collecting these certificates. For nothing else, they get interested, start doing exactly what you’re teaching them to do and then realize they can make money out of this thing then that kicks in. That’s part of the reason why everybody reading should say, “Let me stay open-minded and see how this could potentially work with my industry or my company.” It wouldn’t have been thought of in the software business way back when but you were able to pull it off and get 350 people that were certified, paying you an annual fee plus selling your software services.
Plus, attending my annual symposiums, we would generate $350,000 right out of the symposium every single year. Remember, that’s $19.89. With COVID, things are a little different, but the bottom line is that the concept works no matter what. The other thing I wanted to mention to you is that we have statistics on what you were talking about. Fifteen percent of people who buy certification will never ever make money with it because they want to be an expert in whatever it is that they like and want the status of being certified. They’ll pay every year to maintain that.
Another 15% of people who buy certification are buying it for a corporation to create an internal system that later they could use for their internal clients or internal users of their stuff. There are many models and flavors of certification. The most important element of being certified or building a certification system is to make sure that there is an element that requires another human being to help someone implement it to its highest potential.
Are you saying that you can internally have your clientele become certified and be an internal sales system or an external sales system for your company?
Yes. Not only that, but you can even do it with the government. For example, we have one client who I’m not allowed to name that has built certification and deployed it inside a government agency. That certified consultant inside this particular agency is responsible for something like 18% of their government sales budget. They still pay them every year to stay on board. This is why it’s such an incredible concept, and it works so well. We mix the combination of entrepreneurship and mastery into the same place. At that point, all we’re doing is giving people the little coloring book step by step. “Stay within the lines. You’ll make money if you do what we say.” Most people who do will make money.
The cool thing is comparing this to franchising, which out of the gate, you got to have $100,000 to even think about getting the legal done for the franchising in most states or more. Also, you’re paying as the franchisee a percentage of your overall revenue and sometimes additional marketing spend, moneys that are coming out. Essentially, a franchise is paying for this in a certain way but they’re also regulated by the franchise on what they can and what they can’t do. I would imagine with a certification, correct me if I’m wrong, they could use that certification component to fulfill what you do in your company or what your clients would do in their company, but it also leaves that person open to be able to have other offers as well. It’s not regulating them to, “You’ve got to have XYZ and that’s all you can ever think about.”
I want to add to what you’re saying about the franchise. There’s this thing called franchise law but there’s not just one franchise law. There are 50. There’s one for every state in the United States. There are 1 or 2 states that don’t have any franchise law. The bottom line is that you have to be compliant with all of them if you’re a franchise. $100,000 would be getting out easy and getting out cheap on legal expenses to set up a franchise.
The difference here is that you are captive. You are a franchise owner. You have that branding on your sign outside your store or outside your business. You must buy all of your supplies from that franchise. You must pay a monthly or yearly fee plus a percentage of everything you sell. On top of that, sometimes you don’t even own the business itself. This is a huge downside to franchising.
The upside is that for good franchises, they’ve perfected their business model. They know what works. You don’t have to experiment. They’ll give you all the guides and you implement them. That’s great. You got to want that. It has nothing to do with what we’re talking about here. As a certified consultant for my company, you could be a certified consultant for Doug’s company or a certified coach for somebody else. It doesn’t matter.
There’s one other thing too, Mitch, that I caught in what you were saying. In a franchise too, you have a pretty high overhead in that franchise. Let’s take McDonald’s, Taco Bell, a junk franchise or whatever it might be. You’ve got the cost of vehicles, the cost of building and the cost of insurance. You got all kinds of things. It’s a heavy buy-in to get into some of these huge franchises if you can get into them at all. The majority of the franchisors are going to require owner occupancy or the ownership to be the person who’s working in the business.
When I was studying franchises, there were a few out there that will allow you to be an investor and walk out of it. There’s a very highly intensive capital layout to get a franchise. You’re captive in that capacity. The franchise needs to do that in order to keep the brand but with certification, people can get into certification at a very modest cost. Because they’re selling expertise, it’s a very high-profit margin. Doing a $1 million franchise and taking home $129,000 or selling $150,000 worth of a high-profit could net out the same money when we look at cost versus return. Unless the goal is to build a multitude of franchises and try to sell them off, certifications even make more sense.
The other thing about the flexibility here is that when you become certified, you sign an agreement with the company that you become certified with that clearly states that you’re A, not an employee, B, you’re not even a person. You’re a company. You must be a legal corporation in my world to get certified and to have certification. Why is that? This way, we avoid any issues related to taxation where the state taxing authority might someday come back and claim that you are an employee. If you’re a separate corporation and you treat them as a vendor, that can’t ever happen.
That’s interesting because I know a lot of people. Even when we had a company that we were working with, we were subjected to that. Each state would come back periodically because we had representatives all over the world and say, “By the way, unemployment insurance, this and that.” Even though, they could work anything they wanted to work. I have run into this in different businesses. We all have to be careful of this because each state has its laws regarding that as well. The bottom line is that if you don’t have to deal with that headache, it is a lot easier to run your business than dealing with all that taxation and multiple governments all across the United States.
To put a finer point on that, there was a point in time where I was dealing with six individual states on legal complaints against us related to this unemployment insurance and unemployment law thing. That’s when I finally figured out how to fix the problem. That’s when we went and implemented a completely different system, which saved us. All of our lawsuits went away. Almost immediately after that, we never had a problem again. That’s what I teach my clients to do when they build certification, so they never have any of these types of problems.
Mitch, people want to get a hold of you because I imagine they’re reading and going, “He’s a smart guy. I want to talk with this guy.” I will vouch for you. He is a very smart guy. What would be the contact information that you would like to leave for everyone?
First of all, you can go to MyPowerTribe.com and that will take you through a quick three-question test to see if you qualify. If you do, you have a chance to fill out a form and chat with me. That would be great. The bottom line is that you’re always welcome to contact me directly. You can contact me at Mitch@MitchRusso.com as well.
Mitch, before we depart, I’d love to touch on this point. What’s the difference between certification and licensure?
Licensing is a very interesting topic. I’ve done a lot of work with licensing. Licensing is temporarily giving someone a set of rights to use information, a procedure or a process. Once you license something, it has a start, finish, scope and duration. Let’s say you said to me, “Mitch, I love how you created this whole system for signing up new people to be on your show. I’d like to license that.” I’d say, “Sure.” We would figure out how many times you need to use it, what timeframe and what location. In all of the parameters, we make sure that you have the ability to use it as you need. At that point, you say, “Mitch, how much is it going to cost?” I come up with a price and you say yes or no.
I know I’m asking the obvious question but do you think more companies are available to use licensure? Can any company use licensure? My answer would be yes, most could. Is it a depends thing again?
Licensing means that you have something someone else wants to buy, use or access. If you have something like that, by all means, figure out a way to license it. I work with clients on licensing all the time. Doug, if anyone in your audience would like to have a quick chat, no charge, get a hold of me and let’s talk about licensing.
Mitch, you and I have known each other for a long time. I feel safe asking this question over this show. Anything I didn’t cover or anything I should have asked you from your perspective that you wish I had?
No. I just want to remind everybody that Doug and I live in the happiest state in the country and that’s Florida. We’re both very happy to be here. Join us in beautiful Florida.
For those of you who don’t know, Mitch and I are both from the New England area of Massachusetts. We used to talk a lot about the snowstorms and the sub-zero degree weather.
We don’t miss it.
Mitch, it’s been a pleasure. I appreciate you being on here. I encourage everybody to go to MyPowerTribe.com. Check out Mitch’s software whether you’re selling, a coach consultant, have a company that has salespeople or want to keep better notes and information on your clientele. Check out Clientfol.io as well. Mitch, thanks for being here. I appreciate it. You’re my first return guest. I don’t say that lightly because I don’t let anybody on this show because I want to keep the highest quality for people reading. I know a lot of people got a lot out of this.
Thank you, Doug. It was great hanging with you again. We’ll do it again soon.
Was that great or what? We got certification and licensure. We even talked about maybe spinning that off and do an agency-type of plays. For those of you who go, “I don’t think certification or licensure will work for my business,” there are always variations on the theme. What’s cool about certification is once you know how to do this and you can employ it into your company, you can get people to pay you an annual fee for maintaining the certification. People love certification. The reality is it’s more feet on the street out there, bringing more business into your business. The same with licensure.
I thought Mitch brought up some excellent points. One of them was if you don’t have a Salesforce, you don’t have a company. I can hear marketers going, “That’s not the case.” The reality is that you do need a sales team and a Salesforce in some capacity because when you go to sell something of a certain size, you’re going to have to have a conversation. It’s that simple. Think through that.
If certification or licensure makes sense for you, contact Mitch. If you want to talk about how to dramatically grow your revenues and/or your profits, increasing those two, reach out to me at Doug@BusinessSuccessFactors.com or DougBrown123. That’s my LinkedIn. We’ll go from there. Thanks for being on here. If you enjoyed this, as always, I ask you to please go and rate this show. Rate it as a five, if you will. Let me know what you want to know next. I’ll be happy to talk about it. I’ll continue to keep bringing you more great talent here. Go out and sell something. Make some money for your success.