How to Generate More Sales by Building Relationships

Sales isn’t just about making a conversion. According to Mitch Axelrod, it’s a holistic process of attracting, converting, and keeping customers.

In this episode, Mitch Axelrod — CEO of The New Game of Selling — gives expert tips on how to improve your sales process by leveraging relationships with your existing client base.

Author of The New Game of Selling, Mitch Axelrod has helped clients generate over $3 billion of revenue with his revolutionary selling system. Mitch is also a prolific teacher and speaker, having given keynotes at more than 3500 seminars and taught at NYU, USC, Notre Dame, and more.

In this episode we discuss:

  • How the sales landscape has changed
  • Leveraging the buying cycle to boost conversions
  • Learning from existing customers to engage new customers

Host:                Josh Fonger 

Guest:              Mitch Axelrod

Duration:         35:44

Please Note: The following is a computer auto-generated transcript and will include some inaccuracies.


Josh  0:00
Welcome to the Work The System Podcast where we help entrepreneurs make more and work less using systems. And I'm your host, Josh Fonger. Today we have a special guest, we have Mitch Axelrod. With over 40 years of entrepreneurial experience behind him. Mitch is the number one best selling author and creator of The New Game of selling a book and philosophy that turns out old sales methods in favor of more effective ways to attract, convert, keep more customers and multiply profits. Having delivered 3500 seminars, probably more than that and workshops and created and generated 3 billion revenue for clients, which is truly a sales legend. Not content with simply turning profits, not content with simply turning profits. Mitch strives to teach others the art of modern selling, having taught at NYU, USC, Notre Dame, and more. Alright  Mitch, looking forward to jumping into a lot of your content. So why don't you give us the backstory? How did you become this pro in selling?

Mitch  1:00  
Well, I had a financial planning firm for 10 years. And I use seminar selling as my marketing seminar selling into a free consultation when I call the second opinion, who became a very effective marketing technique I've used for like 35 years now. So I did a presentation and I drove people to unemployment. This is back 4030 years ago, after 200 seminars, the Girl Scouts of America paid me $25 because they had to in their charter. And I said, wow, I'm a paid speaker. And I like doing this much more than I like money. So after my wife and I lost about a million dollars in the deal, and she was eight months pregnant, I had to make a career change. What happened was I got into selling full time. And I started training most of these training, because I had been in sales my whole life. And the first program I put together was called 21 Ways to Double Your Sales. That became a hit as I was licensed into a good insurance company for $1,000. I sold 1000 units of it on space Ed. And I realized, well, I'm in the right place. And that was 30 years ago. And over the 30 really more 30 years of training to a million people in high performance selling and service techniques. And I created the Brand New Game of business, the new game is selling the new game of service. So that became kind of my brand. And it had to be new and had to be different. I didn't want to repurpose, you know, the same old. And so I took all the models, frameworks and systems that I use in my business, added some new ones. And to it now probably half a million people. The New Game is selling and the new game is serious. So that's how it all came about and 40 years, 41 years into the game and still as excited as it was when he got into it.

Josh  3:25  
Wow, that is a long and awesome career. I I want to ask you a question that I think only you would be able to answer which would be what has changed recently, let's say in the last 15 years, that you've seen change in the way that people sell? And maybe what do you think is going to happen in the next 15 years? Because you've kind of been there a long time? What what's, what has changed? And yeah, where's it going?

Mitch  3:51  
Where's your crystal ball here? Well, I think that selling used to be something you did to people. All right, you know, you have the money and I got the product, the objective is get the money out of your pocket. Now in the past 10 to 15 years selling especially with The New Game of selling. It's something you do with people. And my philosophy, my methodology is all about collaboration. You're in the game to assist people on the journey wherever they're going. In fact, I was the first person that talked about the buying cycle 30 years ago, whenever it goes into a selling circle. And the difference is monumental when you think about it. So my game was always to align with the buying cycle. And one of the most powerful questions, start giving you some real meat here that you can ask people is are you ready? Or are you getting ready? I realized early in the game That there are three different types of clients: new clients that I don't have yet existing clients, and past clients or dormant inactive clients. Well, to get a new client, I figured the best way to get a new client was to drop your fishing pole, where there were hungry fish, rather than spray all over the place and then find out after you put in a lot of time, you have somebody who's not even close to ready. So the attraction part of the new game of selling is all about what something I call go dunk, you walk up to the center of the bullseye, and you go join right into the center of the bullseye. And when you go join a pool of hungry fish, you could be a lousy conversion, lousy qualifying, but you'll have great results. Now, if you improve your qualifying by finding out where they are in the buying cycle, rather than you being in your selling cycle, you know whether they're ready or getting ready. And then it's much easier to convert those people because you're going to focus on those that are ready. So that was a really big change that we introduced to the marketplace, probably contributed a lot to the third 3 billion of revenue that we generated. The other thing is, with a second group existing clients, I found that most companies I worked with, didn't come close to getting the maximum value, added their clients and didn't come close to providing maximum service. Because the old model attracted him, convert out, convert them, and then do it all over again. And the most expensive client is a new client. So we say hey, at the point of conversion, you can go one of two ways, you can go back to the start, and you're the most expensive part all over again. Or you can ask your client, a simple question. What's next? I like simplicity, the brilliance of the new game is simplicity. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. The first quote in my book by Leonardo da Vinci, I found that if I could make the selling process, the buying process, the relationship building process, simple. Anybody could replicate it. And that's where we've had great success. So we say at the point of conversion, if you go through a series of questions with a formula called the five Q formula, it's five questions in service. I'll give you the first question because not one and 100 companies ask this question. Why did you buy from me? Why did you buy from us, that gives you if you get enough answers from your customers, that gives you what I call USA. Now most of us know the USP unique selling proposition. But the vast majority of companies, they just pluck it out of the air they shoot after and they hope it hits a target. The USA is your unique service advantage. It's what makes you unique and different from the customer's point of view. And the only way you can get that information is to ask your customers, why did you buy from us? Okay? And so that leads into a sequence of conversations that starts talking about where are you going in the future? What else can we do? Now, marketing has become pretty sophisticated over the past 15 to 20 years. You can do all kinds of things with systems as you know, with work the system, but it still comes down to relationship capital. And you know, the trucks about serving people. But you know, I still find that almost everywhere I go, everybody I patronize they're too many systems and not enough human contact. So we find that where you build relationships inside of a good system, and then a system that enables you to build good relationships, your customers will actually tell you what they're going to buy next. And if you know what they're going to buy, why they're going to buy it, and when they're going to buy it, you have a pretty good chance of being first in line when it comes time for them to make the decision. And then you get to the third group, which is past customers during customers and active customers. a goldmine for companies. They figure, you know, oh, they bought once they know they're done. But remember, if you're in your buying cycle, people keep cycling through, you know, they get satisfied when they buy something, then they get dissatisfied, but not ready and then they get ready. So they're constantly cycling through a buying cycle for your selling cycle, he only really hits you to match the buying cycle perfectly. Otherwise you like the past like ships in the night. So we say the house is selling so nobody cares about your selling cycle, if you're in a pool of hungry fish, they're gonna always be snapping away and looking for bait. And so when you put those three parts together, a much better chance of attracting new people, a great opportunity to maximize current people, and then a tremendous chance to reactivate past customers that are no longer active.

Josh  11:04  
So that does a lot there, I got a whole page of notes already. So with the current situation that we're in right now, and this podcast will live on for a long time, but it's a down market, right. So in a down market, whether it's caused by a pandemic, or whatever it might be, where should people be going first, new, existing or past with the wild?

Mitch  11:30  
Everybody knows what their cycle is to get new customers. But it's a much shorter path to go to existing customers now, especially for a service service, business, and past customers. Because many of those past customers have anywhere between 20 and 40% of your past customers have cycled again. So they could be ready to buy again. Or they could be soon to buy again. But if your focus is on the front end of the process, you're going to ignore those past customers. So it's a very easy communication to reach out to past customers and, and and do a simple campaign. You may know, it's funny, I'll give you a reactivation formula. It's so it's so simple and obvious, but we don't do it. What got you into the game? What took you out of the game? What will get you back into the game? In whatever your game is. Alright, so hey, we're just curious about doing a survey. What made you buy from us? What did you buy from us to begin with? Question? Why are you not buying from us anymore? Is it something we did? Reading and communicating? Got you, you know, companies leave customers long before customers leave companies. Customers want to stay with a company that they're that my philosophy is love to serve people, and they reward you with their money. Well, if you love and serve people, and you know what, how they want to be loved and served, and you know what they're looking for, you can always re engage with them, even if you haven't talked to them in five years. I have clients for 2025 years, sometimes you go four or five years between time and then one day, boom, you know why? Cuz the relationship is strong. And I probably accelerate that if I reach out to them more, you know, but even I get stuck in the new client syndrome. It's like a knee jerk reaction. So what I call this is the ultimate profit model. All right, it's a way that you can take better care of your existing customers and reactivate and reignite your past customers, and turn customer service, which in many companies is an expense department into a new business profit center. And that helps you generate more top line sales without virtually any expense. It also enables you to save mid line marketing expenses and advertising. So you don't have to create a whole new marketing or advertising campaign to reach past customers and existing customers. So essentially, you're redirecting money from low yield assets, front end promotion, to assets that have higher payoff higher yield existing and past customers. It can provide a quick burst of energy or birth activity because you have trust built. You have credibility built on them once, which means they've already favored you with their money. You don't have to prove yourself to them. They're basically untapped assets. And it's a lot more if you have a team of people, it's a lot more inspiring to talk to somebody that knows you. Now, unless you did a lousy job, in which case, then maybe you want a graph to new customers. But, you know, the fundamental underpinning of this is that you're serving people well, okay. And years ago, I kind of came up with the trusted advisor, I did a lot of training in the insurance industry. And at the time, they were converting from product sales people to full service, they needed to be not products. They need to be smart. So I had a philosophy, provide value and advance, become the trusted adviser, and then provide an adequate solution, you didn't have to have the best solution. Nobody knows what the best solution is. Today, I call it the trusted voice of choice. When you think in terms of what I do, helping companies generate more top line revenue, and bottom line profit with no middleman expense, I want you to think of me, I want to be that voice inside your head, I want to be the most trusted voice of choice. So if I don't get your business, I'm always in the game for business. And if I can't help you, I send you to somebody who can. So I want you to always come to me for a second opinion. It's funny that what I did in my financial planning practice, I carried forward and then developed the whole model of second opinion marketing. And I've trained about 100,000 people in Second Opinion marketing, you know, in our culture, something about the second opinion is like it's worth more than the first opinion. Now, if you have something wrong with you and the Emperor sick, you go get a second opinion to make sure it's right. And if it's not, now, you've got a real conundrum. So I've always felt that I want to be the second opinion. Because I want to either refute what you did or confirm, hey, you're doing it just right, continue doing what you're doing. So all gold, I wanted to hit on one thing that I want to clarify for me. So in the ultimate profit model, you mentioned customer service becomes a profit center, instead of an expense. What kind of things? And maybe this depends on the business that you're in. But what kind of thing should the customer service department be doing? Already, everyone's customer service? What should they be doing? To make sure that these things all happen? Well, the very first thing is you have to change the mindset and the culture of the company. To recognize getting a customer, you essentially make a sale to get a customer, you don't get a customer to make a sale, you make a sale. Very often, not always, but very often, it's the least profitable sale, because you've got all the expensive marketing in that first sale. Alright. So the whole philosophy of the new game of selling, which is really converting to the new game of service, once you get a customer is that your impact and your influence to become an indispensable industry leader. And really like being a talent magnet is to help that customer measure tangible results. Number one, and I call it q one and Q two quantitative results. That's measurable, whatever results they're looking for. But q two are the intangible value, that qualitative value. That's why I recommend our five Q formula five questions of service. The very first question is Why did you buy from us? What was the deciding factor that made you pick us versus someone else? All right. Which by the way, when you get enough customers answering that question, you can then change your upfront marketing by using the four of the most powerful words in business. Our customers tell us I don't care what you tell me. Nobody cares what I tell him. But they sure as hell care what my customers say. So when I know why my customers buy from me, and they'll tell you things you would have never. I had a corporate Vice President, back in 1983. I'll never forget this changed my business. You know, I was saying, I'm in service sales and you know, things like that. And I was pretty good with my value proposition. I said, I'm just curious, you have consultants and here, you have trainers on staff. Why did you hire me? He says, You were the only guy who talked about marketing, sales and service as one holistic process, you got us to break down the walls, literally. And now, we are great at attracting, converting and keeping customers. I said, dinner's on me, can still do that? Can I say that? You say I'm the best in the world. And helping companies attract, convert and keep customers. So when somebody then asks me what I do, I say, Well, my clients tell me, I'm pretty good at attracting, converting and keeping customers. Which of those Would you like to do better? one statement? And a follow up question. And I qualified everybody in 30 seconds. Why? If you don't want to attract anymore, convert anymore, or keep anymore? Jamie, somebody who does, you know, that was it. And I got that by asking my client, which I might have come up with that phrase, but not likely, because I think the seller speaks, you know, I'm too close to my own stuff. And I do this for a living. But we're all too close to what we do to really articulate it in the language of the customer. Alright, so that's the first question service. And I'll give you the fifth question. I can't give you more because it's our secret sauce. But I've given you a fifth month. How can I serve you better now? And in the future?That question has led to a fortune for me and my clients. Why? Because what it says is that you're not into, you know, I came into the insurance industry was so funny. My first manager says, Mitch, when you get to check, get the hell out of the house. Yeah, he did that. I said, What are you talking about? I might just schmooze with people I know. He said, No, don't give him a chance to change your mind. I said, What kind of a business is so afraid of their customers? That you run out of the house? And I said, I'm not going to do that. I'm going to ask him some questions. Well, the questions I asked him, I essentially pre frame the next sale, like, what do you want to do next? Oh, I took out $250,000 with life insurance. Maybe I shouldn't invest $5,000? Well, maybe, maybe I should buy this building. They would tell me what they're going to do next. Okay, when are you going to do it? Why not? right now. I used to walk out of there with two sales. And my manager could not descend. I was not following his advice to get out of the house after the first sale. And I said, that's so stupid. I spent all this time with them. Why don't I, you know, get as much as I can for myself, but to open as best I can. So when you follow the ultimate profit model, you're following, really the ultimate service model. Because invariably, people have more than one need, one desire, one want. And if you just open up the dialog, they'll tell you everything you want to know, you know, plus, it gives you a chance to get a testimonial and endorsement or referral. What you can do if you make the sale and run, you know, so I said how back then, you know, we used to go to customers in their house or in their business. Today, a lot of it's virtual, but still the same thing applies, you know? So it's a process, what you might call a system that really builds on the relationship. And it says, we're where are we going to be? Not you, but where are we going to be as a relationship a year, two years? Three years down the pike?

Josh 24:30  
Yeah, I love it. I was gonna ask you about a system. I think that's a great system, right there is every company should have a system for as you're closing the sale, what are you going to do immediately afterwards to serve that customer in a mutual way? That's great. Now, the question that goes in the back of my mind is okay, so I sell them something. And they tell me they want this other thing afterwards. Should I try to provide that myself? Did I try to find a partner? Should I say, Oh, you should go buy that down the street? Or, you know how, you know, engage? That'd be really captivating that customer forever. How do you where's the lines?

Mitch 25:12  
There is no line. It's like, there is no box? Because they get out of the box. No, I throw the box away. There is no box, there is no mind. If you provide the service, and it's suitable, why would you not now face your sphere of influence or your service or products? Yeah, I recommend somebody else. I want to be the quarterback of my client relationship. All right, I want to be the central hub. You know, they talk about strong ties and weak ties. I want to be the hub of my client. Now everything I can provide, that is in their best interest I want to provide. But hundreds of times my clients have said, well, I want this or I want this. So okay, let me see if I can recommend, would you like me to recommend somebody, you trust me if I have somebody to recommend? It's your decision what you do, I'm not going to be responsible. But I'd rather recommend somebody that if nothing else, you can get a second opinion? And then I'll call you up Josh and say, Josh, I got somebody suitable for you. Could you give them a good second banyon on what you would do if we were in their situation? And that's an issue that cements me.

Josh 26:37  
Yeah, I think that's great. And instead of overthinking it, just ask the question, if you do it, or you help them find a solution, but either way, you're the quarterback, I think that's a really good way to think about that. This is for any I mean, whether your service, you know, service provider, or you're doing oil changes, it's the same kind of thing. Same same kind of question to really maximize the value you can provide. And do it. Well, you're right with the customer. Very cool. So with our time because we're running short on time, what is a question that I should have asked, you mentioned, but I didn't ask you during this interview?

Mitch  27:17  
Wow, that's good. Well, I think, you know, in terms of systems, we're thinking formulas, and, you know, recipes and systems, and you're, they're very impersonal. The question is, how can you really build relationship capital, in such a way, that whenever any problem pops up in your customers head, you pop up in their head, too, because you become such a resource? You know, I've always been a resource. And clients come to me with questions that have nothing to do with my expertise. You know, so when you get to the point, I'm not saying every business is like this. But if you have a personal relationship with somebody, you'd be surprised at the kinds of questions or issues they come to you with? Because they don't know who else to trust? You know, so I always found that there's like two axes, there's a trust axis. And then there's the track record. When you're new in business, you don't have a track record. What do you do when you start now, you can't bank on, you know, track, record credibility, high trust. Now, that should sustain itself through business. Throughout however many years you're in business, as you develop a track record. Now, the track record speaks for you in the trust is implied, but the tracker good starts to take a more prominent role. So it's like, you know, as when you look at your systems, first thing I say is, how does that system serve the customer? Because if the system doesn't love and serve the customer, it can actually be an impediment in terms of getting the relationship built. voicemail, hell prompt, press this press that press that, it's like, Is there a human in the house? No, you have to go through five touch screens to get to a human, and they do everything they can to prevent you from talking to a human. why they're in that mindset that customer service is an expense. But imagine if you could every single time and customer calls a problem, you can turn that problem into a new business opportunity. You might have a different point of view. And in the early 80s when I was actively Training companies, I was screaming at the top of my lungs, stop shipping customer service out of the country, that mindset is going to come back to haunt you. Because customer service, it can be the most profitable center in your business. And you're shipping it somewhere else that people need to speak the language. It was an incredible time I saw you know, thousands of companies shipping service app thinking, or to save so much money on service. Never thinking, oh my goodness, we just decapitated our relationship capital. And that's what happened. And now we're paying the price of it. You see so many companies that bring in customer service back realizing that it's a fertile ground for opportunity.

Josh  30:52  
Yeah, that's a great point. Why don't people miss that? What is the reason why? Because I'm getting it and I understand it. But is there? Is there some truth to why they did it or that they're just not okay to try to figure out why they couldn't see?

Mitch  31:05  
Yeah, short term profits, because you could have a service department. If the service department only handles problems. If you're paying somebody $25 an hour, versus paying somebody $3 an hour. And you have a large enough company, the economies of scale, see how we could save so much money by shipping our service without thinking that that decision was gonna essentially cut off opportunities for new business for existing customers, and piss off your customers when a quality was known. They weren't talking to somebody who really could handle their issues. They were talking to somebody reading off a script. And like lemmings, when they realized larger companies realized they could save money. They wanted to save money, because again, the paradigm, the point of view, the perspective, customer service is an expense department, and I'm going on radio and television and doing interviews is a no no, no, no, stop checking them out. It's a profit center, I got a credit check and didn't care. It was a trend and it took hold. And it eviscerated customer service in the United States.

Josh  32:26  
I'm wondering also, and maybe you can tell because of experience, you track your sales team, you track your sales department, you track what they do in terms of growth, but you don't track the numbers of sales or repeat sales or additional sales rep sales traditionally, from a customer support team. And therefore the silos and they don't even acknowledge that there's a ton of sales happening and customer support. Is that part of it?

Mitch  32:53  
Yeah. And depending upon the company, you know, if they're enlightened, there's no walls between marketing sales and service. And the other thing is, if you can turn customer service into a profit center, and you then reduce your cost of marketing, right now, most companies unfortunately have one income source: sales. And to bookend expense departments marketing, obviously an expense, and they view service as an expense. Why has one VP of Sales said unnecessary evil? Yeah, I couldn't believe that I was zero. But wait a second. If you shift this paradigm, and you adapt the ultimate problem now and you say, hey, let's convert service into profit, you now have two income centers and dramatically reduced expenses, your bottom line could pop up quickly. You know, so it has a domino effect, where you could reduce or, in many cases, eliminate that you never eliminate marketing. But you can reduce it so much that you now have two income centers, one small expense barment and you change the dynamics and the valuation of the company and the profitability for the principles.

Josh  34:23  
Yeah, no, that's great, that's great. all makes sense. And it sounds like putting practices in as hard as we might think. More of a mindset shift. Well, this has been really, really helpful. Mitch, where can people find out more about you, your books, and the way you help companies now where should they go?

Mitch  34:41  
Well, actually, we got a great ultimate profit model book in and looks like this. And then I'm giving away my Building Down playbook which all the plays go to the And there's a 40 to 20 minute video there that I outline each of the six game plans, attract, qualify, convert for selling, keep multiplying and reactivate for service. And you can get a real sense of what our philosophy is and specifics. And then if you're so inclined, I'm even giving away a second opinion. Because I'm coming back from a health issue, regenerating myself here. And I'm giving away a chance for people to have me come in and say, here's what I would do if I were in your shoes, same thing I've been doing for 35 years.

Josh  35:44  
Awesome. Well, people will take him up on that second opinion, that's an opinion, that's a trusted one, where they experienced so much again, thank you for making the time. It's Friday afternoon. Appreciate it. I learned a lot. I hope everyone listening to this podcast did as well. And check out Mitch's stuff and check us out on Work The System next week. If you wanna watch the live stream, we do it here on Facebook every Friday, or you can check us out on iTunes or any other players. And if you want a copy of that book right there behind me, Work The System, you can download it for free at or you can buy a copy. And if you want a copy mailed to you for free. leave us a review at wherever you're watching this or listening to this and send us a screenshot of that review to info at And once a week, we pull a name of a hat and mail them a copy of the book. Otherwise again, Mitch, thanks again and I'll see you soon. 




Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up to receive updates, promotions, and sneak peaks of upcoming products. Plus 20% off your next order.

Promotion nulla vitae elit libero a pharetra augue