86: Work Yourself Out of Business with Marie Hale

Marie Hale is the CEO of @revenue, an innovative sales and marketing company that empowers small and medium-sized business owners to create and lead successful sales teams as well as execute full scale marketing strategies. We talk about the benefits of having a solid management blueprint, Professional Love in sales, and the key features in a custom-crafted CRM system.

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Work Yourself Out of Business with Marie Hale

Our guest is Marie Hale, the CEO for @Revenue. @Revenue is an innovative marketing and sales collaborative that empowers small and medium sized business owners to create and lead successful sales teams and create and execute full-scale marketing strategies. Mary, welcome to the show.

Thank you, Steve. I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks.

Yes, it’s been some time that we talked. I think it’s even, it was in the old year, last year. So it’s great to be back together again. So let’s start with your entrepreneurial journey. So how did you end up creating this company called @Revenue and what’s been your journey?

So, I learned at a very young age that I was highly unemployable. My brain went a lot faster than everybody else’s. I always had a bigger vision than everybody else had. And so when I had an opportunity, after trying to admittedly explain unionization to belly dancers, which was not an effective conversation, to start a business, I just kind of jumped in and I was about 22. From there, I had just, you know, when you get in there and you get in with good people, opportunities present themselves. I became the executive director of eWomen Network, which was a national PR, marketing and media company.

And really what I started seeing was that there were a lot of random acts of marketing happening. And I saw frustrated business owners everywhere. I saw people that were trying to scale businesses that simply couldn’t even get movement, let alone growth. And then I found a CRM and I said, oh, this is my love language, this I understand. And so at that point I started my first agency, which was Lipstick Logic. And in 2016, I partnered with my husband, my life partner, Jim, who was my sales coach. And we put sales and marketing under the same roof, which really revolutionized what was happening in small business.

Because typically people point at one another across the hall and say, you don’t get good enough leads and you can’t close. But when we thread those things together and do it from a place of authenticity and professional love, you create a culture of sales within the organization that everybody can embrace, even the folks that don’t want to be thought of as a salesperson.

Authenticity in communication is the cornerstone of the modern sales process—listening, understanding emotional needs, and offering solutions that genuinely address personal and professional challenges. Click To Tweet

Okay, there’s a lot to unpack there. So, so how, so first of all, how do you match marketing and sales? I mean, I often hear marketing salespeople bickering that, you know, the marketing person says that I’m delivering you the MQLs, the marketing qualified leads, and the Salesforce is gonna give me SQLs, sales qualified leads. So there’s a disconnect sometimes, and people don’t know, okay, what is the turf of marketing? What is the turf of sales? So, tell me a little bit about how that work together.

So, I think the worst thing we’ve ever done is put marketing and sales in two different offices, or even two different campuses within organizations. Because the market changes, especially since the pandemic, the way that people make decisions change. We’re all in executive fatigue, right? Like our executive function is not as fast as it used to be. Our limbic system is absolutely wiped out because of all of the change and uncertainty all the time.

And when you separate your sales and marketing, those pieces may be felt by sales, where because people are doing things like having a hard time making decisions, they have pandemic brain and they don’t remember things the way that they used to, or they’re simply coming from a place of fear that’s tripling the sales pipeline, sales is going to see that as an unqualified lead, whereas marketing is going to say, well, it checks this box, this box, and this box. Where that true qualification lies is honestly in the emotional context of where that person is coming from and the salesperson’s ability to connect with them authentically.

We’re not in a transactional world anymore. And so creating a constant feedback loop of what’s working, what’s not, what I’m hearing, what’s different as I debrief my sales calls and actually think about what happened as opposed to expecting everybody to get on the phone and joyously buy whatever it is you happen to be offering. That’s where we start to uncover what is truly happening in the marketing.

So, I think I get the authentic thing, no one likes to be sold. So you have to authentically communicate to people so that they don’t feel like they are being manipulated, but they are really being listened to and their needs are being met through the product or service that you are offering, I guess. What about professional love? What does it mean, professional love?

Oh, that’s a big one. Professional love is caring enough about the person, the prospects, the team member across from you, to ask the hard questions, and to go a lot deeper than most people will. Because let’s face it, we came from a broken sales system where everything was features and benefits, right? And so people would get features and benefits vomited on before they’d ever really been given a chance to answer questions like, I understand that you’re interested in our service, but tell me a little bit more about how not having this work is impacting you personally. How is it impacting you emotionally? We understand that sometimes it’s financial, but the real reasons that people buy are personal and emotional. And not a lot of salespeople go into a conversation looking to talk about somebody’s feelings.

Professional love is caring enough about the person, the prospects, the team member across from you, to ask the hard questions, and to go a lot deeper than most people will. Click To Tweet

Are people open to talking about their feelings to a salesperson?

Yes, but an opportunity where you can set an agenda and say, hey, you know, listen, my expectations today are to find out if we really are a good fit for each other. And I want to ask a lot of questions and some of them are going to be uncomfortable. I want to talk about money. I want to talk about how this is impacting you. Is it okay to ask those questions? Getting that permission up front is critical because people truly want to be understood. That number one on our needs list is to have somebody understand us. And we are also programmed to answer questions.

You know, if you think back to when you were little and you heard your mom ask you something and you didn’t respond, you know the tone in her voice that came next, right? I asked you and you’re going to give her an answer. The same scenario plays out when we were in a sales conversation. People are programmed to answer. And if they don’t want to answer the question, at least then you know where you are. And you can bring up that softening statement of, hey, Steve, remember in the beginning of the conversation where I said I wanted to ask you some tough questions? Here’s one of them. And it softens it and it gives them the opportunity to open up. But it takes practice. It is not for the faint of heart. Because we’re all scared of, you know, saying the wrong thing or…


Rejection, but truly understanding someone and taking the time to show them professional love is not only going to win you clients, it’s going to win you evangelists. Most of the time, the folks that are certified in our sales program, the leads that don’t work with them, at about 35 to 40 percent, they’re sending them referrals. So now what is the quality of every conversation? What is the value? What is the intrinsic ROI or the KPIs? It becomes much more expansive and you start to build a personal brand.

Okay. Well, I’m going to ask you more about that, but I’d like to take a step back and ask you about how you built your business, the management blueprints that you use, like business frameworks to build your business? Can you talk about that?

Absolutely. So I think like most entrepreneurs who built their wings on the way down, you start and you dabble. Michael Gerber is absolutely one of my heroes. He actually, with all of the people that I’ve met in my life, when I ran into Michael Gerber at an event, the only thing I could say to him was, oh my God, nice shoes. I was so flustered. But really understanding that you’ve got to take that E-Myth principle and apply it over the company so that you’re constantly working yourself out of a position and that an expensive job is not where you are gonna end up, was our first foundation.

From there, we really started to build what’s referred to as a hub and spoke company, which means that we’ve got a central core of employees and then we have subject matter experts that we work with. This allows us to be highly flexible in the market and fairly recession proof, right? We can flux very easily. We need traction a little bit. We’re always looking at making sure that we’ve got highly productive meetings, that we’re running our L10s in a way that’s brand aligned for our organization, but making sure that in every major team that we have, there is an And I think the idea of an expander and a container has been the most critical for us. It’s also called a visionary and an implementer.

Okay. Expanded container, I like that.

That one’s from Barbara Corcoran, she. That was her principle, when she started building her real estate businesses. And she’s right for those of us that are expanders. You need somebody to tell you to sit down.

So more grounded.

Just a second.

That makes sense. Okay, so in terms of the e-myth, so what are the principles that most influenced you from e-myth? You mentioned working yourself out of the business, elevating yourself to higher positions, going from doer to manager to entrepreneur. Anything else that kind of touched you in the Gerber system?

You know, and I would love to credit this to Mr. Gerber, but I think this was some advice that I was given very early in my career, is in that space of moving from doer to manager to leader, we always had people write their own employee manual as they were hearing from us, so that there was a level of congruity, right? Because what I say and what somebody hears is not always the same thing. And so as we really started to focus on that doer-manager-leader trail, we had this incredible log of SOPs and branding behaviors and things that we could go back to and refine. And so each person began to follow the system of working themselves out of a job. And if that meant that we were gonna help them launch their own company, that’s exactly what we did. We wanted them to be able to grow beyond us.

Okay, so that’s awesome. So people have documented their job and so that they could delegate it and they’re looking for the opportunity. And as well as you were looking for the opportunity to promote them to something more valuable. You said a company and sometimes it ended up being outside of the business.

A part of my story is that after I opened @Revenue. Seven months after my husband passed with no notice. If we hadn’t had, we call it our wine truck theory. You’ve got to do everything as if you could get hit by a wine truck every day. So if we hadn’t had those pieces in place, when he passed, we would have lost a huge catalog of not only knowledge, but processes. And then just 16 months later, my best friend who had come to run the offices and keep us going and was helping me raise my daughter, passed suddenly from a pulmonary embolism. And she was holding all the cards as the office management and most of the onboarding management. a solid three months of trying to reconstruct Everett Rolls from CEO to office leader?

Well, I can imagine that’s very dramatic. And most companies, small companies, they don’t even survive if a critical person passes away because they don’t have the documentation. They don’t have people who can maybe close sales or they just don’t understand the bigger picture of the business. So that’s very, very remarkable. So how did you do that? How did you systemize your business so that you could carry on with the minimal disruption?

So, we rely heavily on a tech stack. It is absolutely critical for you to be able to measure the KPIs of the individual roles that you have and to make sure that there is absolute transparency. We use project management tools. We’re partnered with Teamwork, which has been a phenomenal partner for us. And every single process that we have, I kind of call it, you know, trying to make it available to the lowest common denominator. We have our templates set up so that with very little effort somebody could come in and know exactly what button to push and where to go, and how to do the next step according to a timeline. year.

It is absolutely critical for you to be able to measure the KPIs of the individual roles that you have and to make sure that there is absolute transparency. Click To Tweet

And is this still true? Basically, is this still true? Does this still work for where the market is gone? This allowed us to I mean, we had been functioning multinationally for years, but when the pandemic hit, we knew it wasn’t going to be a pivot. We learned to pirouette because we were doing marketing strategies for ourselves and our clients and going through things like the social unrest in social media and just massive fluxes, but we were able to take those best practices and take some of the emotion out of the shift and say okay if If I can just take the next step and the next step in the next step and know that my leader is going to keep me connected to the why, then we can keep moving forward. And that’s been an invaluable tool to us through every phase of growth. That’s awesome.

So, Mary, I’d like to switch gears here and talk a little bit about your business. You mentioned that CRM. So, tell us a little bit about why CRMs are important and what is a custom crafted CRM? What does it look like?

So, for those that are unfamiliar with CRM, that’s a client relationship management system. And you can, they come in flavors as big as Salesforce to some of the smaller pieces like Copper and Insightly. And basically the back end of a CRM is almost all the same. You’ve got pipelines, you’ve got certain actions that need to be taken and metrics that need to be achieved. And depending on the tool that you’re using, a lot of what, a lot of what used to frustrate me as we would get a client to a certain level, and all of a sudden, if we wanted to see something like a weighted sales pipeline, it was another $800 a year or $80 a user, and it would just go sky high.

As an owner, especially if you are not the only one doing biz dev efforts, if you don’t have the ability to clearly see what is in your pipeline, what the average closing cycle is, where people tend to fall out of the sales pipeline, you never have the ability to troubleshoot what may be going right or wrong within your sales process. And there’s also the additional support when we start to get into that customization of building things that are classically known as funnels or automated responses or whatever it is.

As you start to take those pieces and systematize them, that white noise that happens for every business owner and every salesperson starts to drop off because they know that the next six phases are handled. And as long as I can, as long as I show up and I, you’ve got to go into the CRM. That is definitely one thing that has to happen. And a lot of people forget that once they set it up. You’ve got to be in there and working. Use it, yep.

But this should be where all of the KPIs for your sales and marketing come from and where you do your analysis of every single ad and every single sales effort. Because even as an owner, a lot of times we can get away with selling on sheer personality, right? And we start to tell ourselves things like, I’m the only one that can sell in my company. There are no good salespeople. Well, salespeople are tough. They are. But if you’ve created a job that only you can do, you’re in for a long life.

CRM isn't just a system; it's the orchestrator of sales and marketing KPIs, revealing the path to success and offering insights into every ad and sales effort. Click To Tweet

You don’t have a business, you just have a job, as you said.

Exactly. So, creating a CRM that has a sales process in it that is followed and that you know you’re going through the same steps without a script, but systematically, gives you a point of reflection, is going to show you when there are things that you may be avoiding, because you’ve got some head trash or a limiting belief that lingers there, and it’s going to allow you to create systems that you can automate, delegate, and duplicate. And that factor of what can I do without touching a button? What can I hand off to somebody else that they can follow the exact same steps? And who can I be handing it off to? What should this person look like? Now you have actual metrics to back it up. We’re no longer hiring the sales savior just because they came from an impressive company and expecting them to be able to run our sales or to sell at our level.

Okay. So that’s very interesting. So it’s automate, duplicate, delegate and elevate framework. So can you explain a little bit more detail what that looks like? Absolutely.

So doing a lot of work in the manufacturing industry, you can imagine that I walk into a lot of very silver haired people’s offices with lots of legal pads everywhere, right? And you can tell they haven’t touched their computer since it was set up the first time. When we take our clients through an automate, delegate, duplicate process, which is where we start, it literally is taking and looking at what you’re doing on a daily basis and identifying the things that you’re doing over and over again, and that have the ability to be put into an automation.

Whether that automation is sending you a reminder to make a phone call to one of your strategic partners on a quarterly basis, to full voicemail drops and text messages and you name it. Typically 60% of what is on a salesperson’s desk can be automated. And then we look for the points where it needs to be human. Because if we take the humanity out of our process, we’re losing the professional love that’s in there. The duplicated piece, that is processes. If this same process is happening over and over again, first of all, it should not be on my desk.

So what are the, what is the SOP for that? Do I own it or do I need to teach it to somebody and have them create it and put it into a project management system, put it into a place that triggers once a certain activity has been done, that they can absolutely know step by step with very little instruction, how to get that item off of, out to completion, and then delegate. And this is not abdication, it is delegation. You do need to walk with them for the first little while, but because you’ve been doing it and because you’ve been tracking it, you can now see KPIs that are gonna tell you if this is the right person to be delegating it to.

Because not everybody is going to be the right fit dependent on how your company is structured. And then as a team, for those on the receiving end of all of your brilliant automation, delegation and duplication, you’ve got to check in with the man find out what’s working, what’s not, and what could be made better. And we do a lot of incentivizing our team members, even our, we call them our revolutionaries, but our freelancers, of which we’ve got a bench that’s about 80 deep, to go out and get a certification in a different kind of project management or a different theory of whatever it is that you’re doing in this arena, and we’ll sponsor you. Let’s take a look at this from a different angle. And we create feedback loops that allow us to continually modify and elevate. Because if I track it, change it has to be part of your culture.

Automate, delegate, duplicate – the three pillars that not only streamline processes but preserve the essence of professional love within automation, keeping humanity in the equation. Click To Tweet

So, Mary, can you give give me an example of what it looks like to take a process into a project management application and then to automate it completely? Can you can you walk me through these phases?

Absolutely, so let’s see. Let’s take event management. So if you’ve got a podcast, right, and you are doing more than going out there and speaking for karmic brownie points. This is a lead generator for you or this is an establishment of expertise. When we look at the marketing calendar minimum. You’re not allowed to schedule it before six weeks. And in that we take in not only like there’s a specific task for gather assets from podcaster, send them this piece of information about to get connected so that we can have a brief conversation. And basically we can make sure that you’re not insane. And that is going to be a fruitful conversation.

And once they get passed along to that, then it triggers the system again to assign to the different team members, the design that needs to happen around the podcast, the packet of assets that need to be created for the client, a package of social media posts to be used for us, as well as for the guests that we’re having so that we can encourage them to do cross promotion with the least amount of effort possible. And it just kind of works its way down the line to where we hit the day of podcastery, how it goes through post-production and what the checkpoints are.

And within a week and a half of post-production, we’re either ready to put it out to various channels or to host a live, where we can take feedback. And every piece of every piece along the way has somebody that owns it has a template for it has the information that they need, and has the has the full vision of what the purpose is of this effort. And that purpose piece, that’s critical, because there’s a lot of folks out there that can push the buttons and move the levers.

But knowing what the end result and the goal is, that is the part that we constantly need to be connecting people back to. that come with each particular process. And thankfully, the tool that we use holds that beautifully, from creative briefs to recordings of conversations with the clients, so that if they need to capture their voice or if they need to go back for a certain piece, it’s all there, it’s transcribed, stamped with times, times and they can hear what was said as well as how it applies to them.

So isn’t that the project management piece where everyone has their tasks documented, you’ve got the processes, you’ve got the timeline, they know what they need to do and you’ve got the prompts perhaps in the system to remind them. How does the automation comes in? Do you consider that automation already because you don’t have to be involved or automation is when it’s only machines doing the work?

So, there is automation that is built into it through several different functions. When it comes to the funnels that are built for finding guests, vetting them and getting them scheduled for an initial connection. What used to take two and a half hours of work and follow up now takes 15 minutes, which is the actual conversation that we have with the podcaster. We have logic built into the system that leads them in and leads them out. We also use a tool called Crystal Nose, which is phenomenal. It’s an AI tool that reads their behavioral tendencies, according to the disk, we’re a big disk company, from their LinkedIn profile.

So I’m typically going into these conversations already knowing what their natural behavioral styles are and what it is that they’re going to need from me either as a guest or as a sales call. That automatically pops into my calendar and my client profile. The only points that we have to touch are really approving the initial, at least from a podcaster point of view, approving the initial person and making sure, again, not bunkers, Making sure that we show up in time to host the broadcast. And yes, there are technicians that have to do their part there are creatives that need to be involved. But because most of it is templated. We’ve reduced our full production time by more than 70% in the past year.

Nice. Mary, let me ask you about, another thing about your business is, what are the growth drivers of a CRM driven sales slash marketing agency? What makes you grow and be successful moving forward?

Cool. See, you tell me that and I want to talk about my big goal, which typically it’s my goals that drive a lot of this, which we have been truly committed to the small to mid-sized business market for the entirety of the organization’s lifespan, because we know that small businesses put more than 65% of the revenue generated back into the communities that they are in. They take better care of their customers, their clients, their families with the revenues that are generated and it builds a stronger fabric.

So our true goal as an organization is to move the profitability of small businesses in America by five points by 2030. It has not moved since 2009 where it slid backwards. This is a pretty big why. As we are gaining inertia and as we are growing as an organization, the things that really drive that growth have quite honestly been culture. We have developed a nonprofit called Forward Revolution, where when we saw people being displaced by the feminine recession, the diversity recession, and the great resignation.

We created a system of being able to upskill and reskill individuals to give them the opportunities that others quite naturally had, but taking care of them as humans first and making sure that there were resources for them mentally, socially, emotionally, and truly investing in them as people before we transact any business. That particular shift in our organization and making that available to anyone who was in need has allowed us to bring in referrals to other pieces of talent that share the same values that we do.

And in that referral process and in that expansion of why we are truly here, the clients that our values align to what it is that we’re doing, that are dedicated to supporting diversity initiatives and to finding new ways to truly care for the people on their team, which let’s face it, in small businesses, we don’t have a lot of money to throw at attracting talent or making sure that we keep top talent. They have begun to see a shift in what it is like to transact authentic business in this market. So I will say with my black little marketing heart that it does come with a tremendous amount of PR and being on larger and larger, more international stages.

And the other piece that has helped us truly grow, and I mean, we can go into, you know, basically Dev and call development and LinkedIn and all of that. Those are all strategies that we employ, but the real growth driver is empowering every person in our organization to focus on life first, give them money and choices, which gives them power, and then enable them to build their personal brand under our umbrella.

So whether they want to go open a company of their own, they want to stay part of the revolution, or they want to go work for a larger entity, they’ve had a place to grow and be nurtured and get back on their feet. And they’re taking us with them. They’re taking us with them into those companies and into those bigger markets, and so through that professional love lens, instead of having team members and clients, we have evangelists.

That’s awesome. It’s magic, very interesting. Well, thank you. Thank you, Mary, for sharing that so if our listeners would like to learn more would like to connect with you maybe would like to have some of the professional love rub off of them as well. Where should they do that should they go where can they reach you.

So, you can find me at Marie Hale on LinkedIn. It’s M-A-R-I-E H-A-L-E. Our websites are @revenue, which is a@revenue.com, as well as Forward Revolution is our nonprofit, FWD Revolution. From there, we’re on every social media platform and in every corner of the movement of change that’s happening around the great recession and the diversity recession that we’ve experienced. So if you are a company that stands for diversity, if you are somebody who is ready to shout from the mountains that this is no longer an acceptable work-life experience for folks, you are those that we are looking for. We’ve got a place for you.

Okay, pay the revolution forward. Well, definitely check out Marie Hale, CEO of @Revenue. So check her out on atrevenue.com and forwardrevolution.com and her social media assets. Thank you for coming to the show, Mary. It was fun chatting with you. And for those of you listeners who liked this conversation, stay tuned. Next week, I’ll have another exciting entrepreneur come to the show and tell us about their management blueprint. Thank you and have a great day.


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