Matt Roberge on Sales Style, Numbers & Focus

I’m proud to say that today’s article is written by my son, Matt Roberge. He’s the founder of Salt Lake City Bookkeeping and has grown a very successful lifestyle business. He fishes every day when he’s in Montana and skis every day when he’s in Utah and his clients love him. Enjoy!

What is your sales style?
I’m a bookkeeper therefore; I like things balanced, organized and done right. There is very little room for creativity or thinking outside of the box in bookkeeping. It is either done right or done wrong. However, I am also a small business owner which means sell or die. Stay ahead of the competition or get out of the way. I’m sure you can relate to that. The golden question is how do you sell and sell well? Everyone has their own sales style it is just a matter of finding what works for you.
Sales by numbers
My brother Mark Roberge wrote a pretty compelling article that got published by Harvard Business Review recently. It was called “The Science of Building a Scalable Sales Team.” If you haven’t read it you should as it is very well written and some part of it will speak to you in regards to your sales process. The part of the article that really spoke to me was the analytical end of things. Most people probably cringe when they hear the terms quantitative analysis and regression analysis but this part of the article made sense to me. 
Analyze your numbers to help define a sales process that works for you
  • What is your sales goal this week, month, quarter or year?
  • How many new customers will it take to hit that sales goal?
  • How many leads will it take to produce those new customers that will allow you to hit your sales goal?
  • How many
    • blog articles will you need to write,
    • networking events will you need to attend,
    • cold calls will you have to make,
    • current customers will you have to ask for referrals from etc.
  • ….in order to produce those leads, that will produce those new customers, which will allow you to achieve your sales goal?

Selling with purpose

Why do you want to sell more? To make more money? Wrong. Why is it wrong? Because I’m writing this article that is why. I think that if most people truly thought about that question they would come up with the same answer a freshman in college answers to this question; “so what do you want to do with your life from a career standpoint?” Correct answer: “I don’t have a fricking clue!”
I don’t think most people sell with a true purpose in mind and that makes their sales process unnatural.
I sell because I want to make more money. But why do you want to make more money?
I sell because I want to retire someday. Buy why do you want to retire? What are you going to do when you retire?
Everyone at our company sells with the vision of a lifestyle. I make it very clear when we hire anyone that we work to live. Our employees are very outdoors oriented. When we sell, it is so we can ski one more powder day, take one more mountain bike ride or catch one more fish.
When you sell with an actual purpose that you believe in it makes everything more natural.
How to sell when you are not a salesman
It is pretty funny that a lot of people that end up in sales claim “I’m not a salesman.” The truth is if you are a small business owner you are a salesman, whether you like it or not. Recognizing that you are in sales (even though you may not be if that makes sense?) is absolutely critical to the success of your business. It took me a long time to realize and admit that I am in sales. I didn’t want to be in sales because it is what my dad does and my brother does and I always wanted to be different. I didn’t want to be the same as anyone. I wanted to be unique. And then it hit me (back to my 2nd point) in order to spend the majority of my year skiing and fly fishing I HAD TO SELL. I was in sales, but I’m not a salesman. So what did I do?
You first have to realize and accept the fact that you are in sales. You then need to stop freaking out that you don’t know what you are doing and get help.  As I mentioned already, I happen to be related to people that were willing to help. A few things you can do to learn how to sell:
Hire a sales coach – a sales coach can move you up the learning curve of selling. They can also guide you through situations as they present themselves. It’s much easier to learn with a mentor than to go it on your own.
Google – obviously there is a ton of information out there. Find good blogs and sales advice resources, read them regularly and shape your own sales process.
Work at it – No matter what job you have there is always a first day. You can’t have a job without having a first day at it. You just have to keep at it and get better.
Happy selling!

35 thoughts on “Matt Roberge on Sales Style, Numbers & Focus

  1. Great article. Many strong points made.I feel that having validated quantitative data is one of the most important steps in holding yourself and your business accountable when trying to sell new business, grow financially, and generate forecasts and budgets. It allows the business to be steered in the right direction while keeping your foot on the gas pedal.

  2. Matt,This is an interesting post. I fought the sales thing for year. Then finally I stepped back and noticed, that ALL I DO is sales. I’m selling myself, selling my company, selling my products and services, selling, selling selling.Being a small business the owner is always a salesperson. Just because I realized I was a sales person, didn’t make me good at sales. Reading books, blogs and other things on sales didn’t make me great at sales. Working with a great coach and mentor however really did help tremendously. I still have a long ways to go in order to become the salesman I hope to be, but understanding this and working on it regularly helps. Having fun helps even more.I have to say, I love what you have created and I am a bit jealous. I love skiing, mountain biking, hiking and just nature in general. The idea of turning this into a lifestyle is refreshing for me. One day I will move from Texas to get more skiing and hiking in. Doing this today is an important lifestyle choice and I respect you for that. I’m sure it DOES truly effect your sales. I recently started a music site on the side to test the Inbound Networking concept, and because I am also passionate about music. Honestly, I haven’t felt this alive in ages and this comes across in sales conversations. So creating a style that gets you excited and having fun is a powerful dynamic! Keep rocking it and maybe one day I’ll catch you on the slopes!

  3. Matt claims he isn’t much of a salesperson but 10 minutes into our first telephone call, he had my credit card number.Matt does our bookkeeping and has become a trusted adviser. And his office has a “kickass” view.

  4. Terrific post Matt. I’ve read hundreds of posts on this subject that don’t come anywhere close to teasing out some of the observations you’ve made. I’d like to especially applaud you for the your statement about selling with a purpose that leads to a natural process. (This is so spot-on it’s uncanny!) You’ve actually tapped into a very deep and complex concept with such a simple phrase. I don’t know if this is a result of your father’s and brother’s input or intuition, but you have hit on some key points that are often missed by so-called sales professionals with decades of experience. Being successful at anything, let alone sales, is nearly impossible if you don’t have a healthy life/work balance, and if you don’t feel totally comfortable in what you’re doing and, more importantly, how you do it. Focusing exclusively on quota, commissions, and a rigid or arbitrary process inexorably leads to cynical, manipulative, and counter-productive behavior. Certainly not a recipe for personal happiness and long-term relationships with one’s customers. Finally, I want to mention that Alta is my favorite lift-served hill, and that you have to be the world’s coolest bookkeeper ever!

  5. Matt – You captured it so well. What I felt coming through was your passion for your what you do – both professionally and personally.

    To be successful small business owners must have passion like you do and that makes “selling” not feel like sales. While there is a lot to selling, it is so much more fun (like lots of challenging things) to be passionate about your company, product and as you say so elegantly and simply – your purpose.

    I often am guided by the concept that it is not the destination but the journey. I think you are showing us how to enjoy the journey.

  6. Matt, you ask my favorite question, why? When that becomes clear, everything becomes more natural.

    I recently told my teens they should consider themselves lucky, they live in a place that most people work their entire lives to be able to live in.

    Personally, I sell so that I can continue my cliche life of a writer in the Maine woods with her dog.

    Oh, and change the world- even if it’s only my own.

  7. Awesome post Matt. Thanks for the shout out. You have done a great job recognizing the importance of sales as a business owner. So many entrepreneurs and business owners shy away from this skill but it is probably the most correlated to success.

    I have always been a fan of your perspectives on purpose. You have been an adviser to me in this area. We have a philosophy for our managers to “understand the personal goals of your people and explore synergies between these goals and the mission of the company”. These opportunities are everywhere and often overlooked.

    Thanks for your insight!

  8. Dale,Thanks for the comment as it is pretty spot on. First of all don’t be jealous of me. Though I did fish today with the dog I still worked a full day and then stacked wood until dark. I’m sore and tired. So you are going to move from Texas huh? But why?Digging the music site and I hope that you continue to pursue that passion. That feeling of being alive has a real reason behind it. No friends on a powder day…catch me if you can.

  9. Awesome post Matt. Thanks for the shout out. You have done a great job recognizing the importance of sales as a business owner. So many entrepreneurs and business owners shy away from this skill but it is probably the most correlated to success. I have always been a fan of your perspectives on purpose. You have been an adviser to me in this area. We have a philosophy for our managers to “understand the personal goals of your people and explore synergies between these goals and the mission of the company”. These opportunities are everywhere and often overlooked. Thanks for your insight!

  10. Adam,Thanks for the praise though I’m not sure I deserve it. I guess the deep thoughts are really from my life outside of the office. I was asked to write this several weeks ago. I have been fishing a lot and thinking about what to write. When I sat down to write this it came out quickly and naturally though several weeks of thought went into it (and a ton of fishless casts). I agree on the life/work balance, I think it makes you happier, healthier and more successful. If you make it back to Alta you should catch up with our team for some runs.

  11. Nancy,I think that you missed that I am a bookkeeper and not a real estate agent. If you need me to calculate the profit or loss on your sale no problem.Just kidding love ya.Remember tight line and rod tip down.

  12. Carole,Why? A toddler can drill you with that question over and over until they get the real true answer.You can tell your teens whatever you want but they won’t listen, just ask my Dad. But you are right, if you are living your dreams then they are lucky. There is an old saying back in Alta: “my job is better than your vacation.” That one has always stuck with me.Have fun living the dream in Maine.

  13. Mark,And thanks for all the ongoing help with our company. I have no doubt we would be years behind where we are now if it were not for your ongoing input.Also, you still owe me a MT fishing trip…its good for the soul.

  14. Matt,Yeah, one of these days I NEED to get closer to the mountains. I moved to TX for my wife, but it is 10 drive to nearest ski slope. I get out once a year, when I’m lucky, on the slopes. I used to have season pass to ski slopes in PA I miss regular skiing badly.I’m cool with working a full day then hitting the slopes or trails (biking or hiking). This is a good day. Even stacking wood is part of my background. Growing up we lived out and used only wood for heat so all summer and fall were focused on cutting, splitting and stacking wood. It is a lot of work, but there is something to be said for a hard days work.Have a great day!

  15. Love the saying, now it’ll stick with me- thanks!

    Having been a teenager once myself, I never listened to my parents either. But I still remembered what they said. As a parent, you really want nothing more than their wholeness and happiness. 

    I can see why Papa is happy and proud.

  16. Gram,It’s funny. Most people seem to be working with the goal of not having to work. Then when they retire they don’t know what to do with themselves and go back to work. I think they are all crazy…I would be great at being retired. Thanks for the comment.

  17. Adam, Interesting that you wonder if Matt was influenced by his Dad or brother, I had to weigh in as his Mother. I think Matt totally ‘gets it’ and works to live. I would like to think that I may have had something do to with that. I have worked forever and can’t ever imagine not working. Except for one position, I have always had a job I loved. I have had many great jobs. #1 criteria for me has always been, “Will this be work to live?”. If I can pass on advice to anyone never live to work! Great job Matt but I think I am taking some credit for this (not Mark and Dad). Love what you do; work to live; work hard and play hard; carpe diem; live laugh and love.

  18. I am afraid for how good I will be at being retired….It’s going to look very different than Rick’s retirement…..I just hope my knees and shoulders can handle all the skiing, fishing and surfing that is going to go down!!

  19. Chris, I remember having the same mindset when I was closer to your age, but here’s what happened. I went to a sales seminar in Cleveland when I was in my 20’s. Dick Gardner was speaking to over 200 salespeople in the amphitheater. He told a story that ended with this lesson. “Find something that you love to do and would do for free. Then figure out how to make a living at it.”

    I did! I’m at our beach in Maine half of every week since April, plus a week in Utah and two weeks in Montana. We’re already planning our November trip west and probably another one in January and we’re talking about trips to Disneyworld, St. Croix, and Cancun in 1Q13. My retirement “look” hasn’t interfered with life so far and I don’t anticipate that I’ll have to change anytime soon.

    So, why would I want to stop doing something that I really like doing and am good at?

    BTW, isn’t Don older than me? More successful than me? and working longer hours than me?

  20. Chris,Great comment. My biggest fear is that I will not be physically able to do all the things I love when I can finally retire. I guess I consider my job and life semi-retirement? Sipping cocktails on the beach has never appealed to me from a retirement standpoint…though I do enjoy sipping the occasional cocktail

  21. WHERE IS THE PUSHBACK?Thanks for all the comments and discussion everyone. I enjoyed writing this, reading your comments and responding. I also learned quite a bit from you guys.Nobody questioned my choices? C’mon. Even I question what I am doing with my life and my career. Nobody wants to say “you are living in a fantasy world Matt…just wait until you grow up.”The problem is I don’t think I will every fully “grow up.”Have fun living your dreams in your own style.

  22. I love this Elaine. I have heard so much about you, I feel like I know you. What I didn’t know was how you shaped Matt (Mark & Rick). I love your philosophy on life. I have had a few crappy jobs, but for the most part I have been pretty lucky getting into things I really love. Marketing is one of those things and because of Rick, even Sales has become one of my passions. Anyhow, it was great hearing your thoughts Elaine! Have a great day!

  23. To dream the impossible dream

    We all choose what dreams to live and which remain dreams.

    Whether or not to live where the fish and deep powder are….

    Whether or not to coach your kids….

    Whether or not to travel….

    Whether or not to wait….

    I never want to be one of those people that spend more time waiting than living their dreams and I’m very proud that you aren’t either.

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