Author: Kristin Zhivago
Publisher: Bristol & Shipley Press
Today, Norm Goldman Publisher &
Editor of Bookpleasures.com is honored to have as our guest Kristin
Zhivago author of Roadmap To Revenue: How To Sell The Way Your
Customers Want To Buy.
Kristin is a revenue coach who helps CEOs and entrepreneurs grow their companies. She works with them to improve the results from their marketing and selling efforts, but also works extensively on team building, leadership, corporate agility, and processes, so that companies are able to keep the promises they make to their various audiences. Kristin also helps companies make the shift from company-centered to customer-centric. She has interviewed literally thousands of customers for her clients and has become an expert on the customer’s buying process.
Good day Kristin and thanks for
participating in our interview.
How did you get started in becoming
a Revenue Coach? What exactly do you do and what keeps you going?
It was really a case of “find a need and fill it.” I started out in sales, got frustrated with the tools provided by marketing and decided to try to fix that by getting into marketing, working both inside companies and then ran an agency with my husband in Silicon Valley for twelve years.
When the Mac came along, it was obvious that most marketing activity would be going in-house, so my husband retired and I started helping people market in-house. I was a “rent-a-VP” for a while, turning around marketing, sales, and product management departments for CEOs for a number of years, which taught me a lot about corporate leadership and management.
Then I settled on what I do now, which frankly changes constantly, as I continue to find new ways to help people increase their revenue. I do a lot of leadership coaching these days, not only for CEOs and entrepreneurs, but for up-and-coming managers who have been given a tremendous amount of responsibility and who can be helped by someone who has stayed up-to-date with all the latest technical and management advances, but who has extensive experience solving problems within companies.
I truly love my work. Every day is
exciting; another opportunity to help someone gain wisdom and
knowledge, and confidence; to do a better job of managing their
employees and serving their customers; and to become leaders –
market leaders, thought leaders, and leaders of the people who work
Do you feel that most CEOs and entrepreneurs don’t use enough creativity when it comes to increasing their revenue? If so, why?
Wow! That is a great question. I guess I look at it a bit differently, though. It’s not creativity that is lacking. It’s that the creativity is misguided (on the input side) and misapplied (on the output side).
So on the input side, these executives are getting their information from people who work for them, who put a good face on everything they tell the boss. By the time a crisis gets to the boss’ desk, it’s really watered down. The whole first floor might be flooded, but what the boss hears is that, “We have a little problem with moisture, but we are working on it and should have it under control shortly.”
And people inside the company do not spend enough time actually interacting with customers, in a way that will help everyone understand what those customers want from them (it is not, for example, a “relationship” – only sellers want relationships), and how they want to buy from them.
You won’t get this information from “listening” to social media; you won’t get it from surveys, which are driven by internal assumptions; you won’t get it from customer support, which is only based on the unhappy customers – not the ones who bought and could describe that experience to you. And you certainly won’t get it from salespeople, who only hear what customers choose to tell them while in negotiation mode. Do poker players reveal what they are really thinking? Of course not. Do customers want a salesperson to know that they’ve decided not to buy? Of course not – that will only make the salesperson sell harder, which is a pain when you’ve already made up your mind. So salespeople only see part of the picture. They never get the whole story.
The great news is, customers are more than happy to tell you everything they were thinking during the buying process, after they have bought from you. This information, which you can extract using one-on-one phone interviews – conversations where you ask open-ended questions – is reliable information. By the fifth to seventh phone call, you will know what you should be doing – and what you can stop doing. You will know what they want, and how they want to buy it. You will know what kinds of changes you can make to your product – and they are usually simple, straightforward changes, such as improved documentation – that will make your product or service more attractive to buyers. You will know the promises that you keep, which can help you create and communicate your brand. All of this input is like money in the bank. This knowledge guides customer-pleasing decisions that lead to revenue-increasing activities.
As for the output, creativity can be misapplied if the input is faulty – garbage in, garbage out – but it can also be mismanaged. So let’s say the CEO is a brilliant strategist but not so strong in operations. These CEOs often assume that everyone can think as creatively and strategically as they can, and they also think that processes are a bore. So they are constantly frustrated; no one comes up with vision and everyone is running around doing things inefficiently. Massive frustration.
But if they provide the vision, and
hire a great operations person to work hand-in-hand with them to
build the infrastructure – the productivity machine – to turn
those strategies into reality, everything starts to work. I do a lot
of work placing people in the right positions within companies, so
that each person does what he/she does best, each playing a role in
keeping promises to customers. This is yet another source of new
revenue and growth.
The principal focus of your book
Roadmap To Revenue: How To Sell The Way Your Customers Want To Buy is
shifting from a company-centered approach to a customer-centric one
when seeking out customers and selling. Why do you feel this is so
If customers don’t buy from you, you don’t sell anything. So you must make it easy for them to buy from you. That’s why it’s so important.
Customers are now completely in control of the buying process. Information about your company – your products, your services, your people, your processes, and your policies – is readily available, at the click of a mouse. Most of the information buyers are gathering is not created by you. The very information they use to make decisions, to weigh their tradeoffs, is completely out of your control.
Still, at some point, they will come in contact with your website, your salespeople, or your product, online or in a store. You must know what their questions are. You must know which answers will satisfy them. You must know what they have heard from others, what they are struggling with, what they wish you would do, what they’re willing to pay, and what your competitors are saying. Fortunately, the answers to these questions are as close as your phone and your existing customer list.
That’s what is so ironic to me. People engage my services because they are struggling with the answers to these questions, trying to make decisions with insufficient or misleading data. Then I interview their customers, and suddenly the fog lifts, and we know exactly what we should do. The information was there all the time, it was just that no one knew how to extract it.
We then combine forces – my experience solving these problems and all the great resources that the client brings to bear – to meet customer requirements and make it easy for customers to find them, appreciate what they’re selling, buy from them, and have a great after-sale experience.
Because people turn first to other
customers for referrals – via social media or reviews or even a
simple phone call – that after-sale experience has become the new
What motivated you to write your
book and what do you want your book to do?
I love helping business leaders grow their companies, getting from where they are to the next level. I work constantly, because it’s so much fun. I wrote the book to give everyone access to a simple, reliable revenue growth system that works – no matter what you’re selling, or who you are selling it to.
I honestly want every single business person in the world to realize that the secret to selling more is right in your backyard – that your own customers can tell you what you need to know, to increase your sales, if you ask them the right questions in the right way.
I want people to realize that their company is unique; they can’t “imitate their way to success.” When it comes to marketing, imitation is the sincerest form of stupidity. What worked for even your closest competitor will not work for you. Only you have approached your business the way you do; only you bring unique talents to your job; only your company has your culture. And what people think of you, from the outside, is different from what they think of your competitors. I want this interviewing technique, which I vetted over thousands of interviews for hundreds of companies, and the “business correction” actions that follow, to become common practice. It is easy, obvious, and it costs literally nothing, if you make the calls yourself, outside of some transcription costs. You can hire someone like me to make the calls, just to make sure that people open up all the way, and I am training others to do these interviews. But the point is, you must reach out – and if you do, you will be way ahead of competitors who are still throwing darts on the wall.
What was the most difficult part of writing your book?
Just getting it done while serving
clients full-time. And getting it right; you must proof and proof and
proof; you must hire others to proof; you must proof again. And then
there is everything that comes after – all the different versions,
the book’s website and additional resources, the speeches and
articles – all while continuing to serve clients full-time. It’s
been fun, though. I’ve met some wonderful people because of the
What was one of the most surprising
things you learned in writing your book?
That creating a Kindle version was a lot more complex than I first assumed, even though I have deep experience in digital publishing technology. The common myths about what will “work” and what actually does work – all the right tools and formatting – are miles apart. I finally found someone who keeps up with the minute and ever-changing requirements on that front, and am just finishing proofing an improved Kindle version of the book, one that treats bullets and sidebars more to my liking. We will be announcing it as soon as we get it out into distribution.
What do you think makes a good
I like books that give me a strategic
reason to pay attention to the author’s advice, and then jump right
into the “here’s how you do it.” I am very tired of books that
start with one idea and then provide dozens of examples to support
that idea. You simply can’t apply the information after you read
the book. It’s not enough to tell someone about an idea, and show
them how others did it, if you don’t also provide a literal set of
instructions they can use to put that idea to work in their own
What are you upcoming projects?
I am always providing new ways of increasing revenue in my blog, the Revenue Journal. We are also interviewing our own book buyers to see what we can learn about getting the book out to others and making it as easy as possible to apply the method in an organization. So I am following my own advice. I am also starting to work on a series of shorter, subject-specific guides to help CEOs and entrepreneurs grow their companies.
How can readers find out more about you and Roadmap To Revenue: How To Sell The Way Your Customers Want To Buy?
They can go to my BOOK SITE or FOLLOW HERE TO AMAZON, or their other favorite digital or retail bookstore. The book site shows all the reviews and provides additional resources. My own consulting site is Zhivago.com, and my blog is RevenueJournal.com
Is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered?
I would just like to say, to anyone who is struggling with how to market and sell, that there is an answer. You still have to do a bit of work to uncover it, but it is there for the taking, right now, and I spell out every single step in the book.
What you will learn through the interviews will surprise and delight you. Sometimes people are afraid to call, because they don’t want to learn about things that they may not want to change. But I have found the opposite to be true. What you learn confirms what you’re doing right, and makes it quite clear that if you just make a few changes, you will be in much better shape than you are now. It’s simple, really. People want to buy, you want to sell. Why not sell the way they want to buy?
Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.
Thank you, Norm. It was a pleasure.