In this Edition of Relationship Marketing Weekly, I had the pleasure of interviewing Aviation Business Consultant Mark Leeper. Mark gives his insights on how critical it is in the sales process to not making it about you, but making it about your prospect.. Mark shares several amazing stories that any sales professional or business owner will see incredible value in. He’ll also explain how much success he’s had within his own personal business by incorporating a relationship marketing strategy as well as with sharing the same strategies with his clients.
Kody Bateman: Everybody, this is Kody Bateman. Welcome to our Relationship Marketing Weekly Show. I’m so excited to be back on. We had a week off last week. We had a lot of stuff going on at our company here and we had a lot of new introductions at our company and our company is called – my company is called SendOutCards and we’re a support system to help people with their relationship marketing needs.
But the purpose of this show is not to feature SendOutCards at all. It’s to feature success stories of people who are being nice to people. That’s really what this show is about. It’s about people sharing their stories from all different industries on how to – basically how to be nice to people, how to follow up with people, how to create genuine relationship with people and then the results of your business are phenomenal.
Rather than me just preaching, I just bring guests on and let them tell their own stories. We have an amazing guest on from a highly unique industry today. We have with us today Mark Leeper. He is the owner of Seabright Company. He and his wife Carolyn own a company called Seabright Company. They are aviation business consultants based out of – close to Phoenix, Arizona. Mark, welcome to the call today.
Mark Leeper: Well, thank you so much and again, I will thank you for the opportunity to be here. Yeah.
Kody: Well, we had a chance to visit prior to the show starting and I will tell you it just – this is fascinating. I hope everybody who’s listening in hunker down, grab a notepad, because this guy has got a wealth of information. Coming from a very unique background, in fact one that – I would love to just have you sit and tell your story. First of all, if you can just tell us a little bit about your background, about your family’s background and how you got in to what you’re doing now.
Mark: Well, I will start with the fact that we’re an aviation family. My father was a United States Air Force pilot, fighter pilot in the Korean era and end of the 60’s and 70’s and my father-in-law, Carolyn’s dad, was a World War Two ace. He flew P51s and Spitfires.
Mark: So we’ve got several pilots in the family. I’ve been a pilot since 1980 and our son is about halfway through his training also and hopefully headed to the International Guard to fly F-15s. It’s what his mission is. So I went to college back in the 80’s and got about two-thirds through school and embezzled my college money and headed out to the airport and spent my college education at that point on flying.
I did end up finishing but I’ve been a salesperson and sales coaching guy for over 30 years and that was my next move. When I was wanting to fly professionally it’s when everybody was coming back from Vietnam and there wasn’t a lot of opportunities back there. So I’ve always enjoyed people a lot and enjoyed selling a lot.
So I was in sales and sales coaching for many years and then in 2000, I was really lucky enough to have some things take place to let me combine my love of aviation and my love of being an entrepreneur together. So in 2000, we formed Seabright Company, Carolyn and I. We’re a huge company, the two of us, and we’ve been able to keep and retain great companies in aviation, primarily work with Fortune 500 flight departments through our customers and we’ve done – we’ve been real fortunate to keep this going for 16, 17 years.
Kody: So you have a very specialized business. You’re one of the fortunate ones to be able to couple your entrepreneurial spirit with something that you have a passion for, which is flying, and so you started this company called Seabright aviation business consulting. You were able to combine your entrepreneurial spirit along with your passion, which is cool.
I know you jokingly say it’s – we have this huge company. It’s just my wife and I. But you actually do have a pretty substantial company as you mentioned. You’ve got some high-end clients. Tell us a little bit about some of your clients and what you do for them.
Mark: Well, we have clients that are involved in electronic record keeping for a corporate jet aircraft and so we go into companies that are already having some success with their marketing. But they don’t have a sales process in place. They’re not experiencing the rewards. They’re not winning sales.
So we’re asked to come in and show them the sales process and we come in and of course show them how to get on the phone and lots of times, we will help implement the CRM system to help them get going. But the amazing thing is, is that the SendOutCards system – and I will talk more about that obviously – has been really the icing on the cake to make things work for these companies.
So we’ve been able to do that. Right now, we have three good size businesses that we conduct most of their sales, one of which I’m physically on the phone talking to their customers a lot. I really like to stay involved in the actual selling process and not just the coaching process, because it helps me stay fresh.
Kody: Excellent. So the relationship marketing tools that you use, you use for your own business, and you teach and coach your clients how to use it as well to follow up. You got some great stories. You have some great card-sending stories. Rather than me point out specific ones, you’re such a great storyteller, Mark. I just want you to just tell us a couple of stories about cards you’ve sent, cards your clients have sent and kind of the results that you’ve gotten out of that.
Mark: Let me go back to the beginning of my sales career, so to speak. When you and I chatted, I’m a fortunate person because I like people. Not everybody does. We all learn to work with most people. But I’ve always liked people. I started actually in the timeshare business, believe it or not, many, many years ago after school and how that process worked is a couple – usually a couple would go into a movie and watch vacations and they would come out and the salespeople would sit down with them and start talking to them about the program and of course we wanted to sell something that night.
Initially when you start to sell something, you want to spit out a bunch of facts and figures and features and benefits and those types of things. I was struggling a little bit, trying to get people to buy this and I had a sales manager that would see this – that I wasn’t getting down the road like I should with my customers, my clients. He would come up to the table and within about 5 to 10 minutes make best friends out of these people.
Never a mention of the product. Would ask them about – everything about them. Always find common ground with them. They would be talking about baseball or dancing or something. He always found a way to get these people talking about themselves and I would sit there for 30 minutes and say nothing, almost fall out of my chair for boredom, just listening.
Then at the end of the 30 minutes, he would say, “Well, would you like to go ahead and do this?” and almost always they say, “Yes, we would Larry.” So I learned from this guy that the key to persuading people of course is making them feel something and making them feel something good about themselves.
So that’s what I translated into the SendOutCards business. So I’ve been able to use that concept in my sales process that I teach these companies. So I’ve got some pretty good examples of cards that we’ve sent out that have produced huge results in our life, our business life, and really done great things.
Kody: So before I have you share some of those stories, which are incredible, I just want to recap what you said because you’ve taught us today right now a very valuable point. It’s not about – in sales, it’s not about you. It’s always about them and I think this is what your mentor taught you as you watched him with those people is that he made it about them instead of it being about you and what you were trying to sell to somebody.
Always make it about them. It’s 100 percent of the time about creating the relationships, not about closing a sale. It’s about serving, not pitching. I mean we always hear about the sales pitch. It’s not about pitching somebody. It’s about serving somebody and your mentor taught you that and the stories you’ve told me that you do and that you teach your clients today to do convey that and you use tools to do it.
But you got one story about how one card that you sent generated a $150,000 order which is substantial business transaction for you. Can you share that with us?
Mark: You bet. Well, going back six, seven years, I actually picked the phone up and did a cold call to Aviation Business Consultants International, which they’re a specialization marketing company for the aviation industry.
I was actually calling them about SendOutCards. I really thought that the product would be a great product for them to adopt and use in their marketing business and unbelievably, they bought the thing on the spot. Paula Williams is her name. She said, “That’s the only product I’ve ever bought ever over the phone. It was so spectacular.”
So we became friends and I started becoming a source, a referral source for them because they would get people and help companies find interested leads. But a lot of companies just don’t have a sales process in place. They don’t have the follow-up process. They didn’t have SendOutCards, et cetera.
So I started to receive leads from Aviation Business Consultants as well. One of these leads was an advanced flight training company down in California. They dealt with Fortune 500 companies. They flew over 40 aircrafts in the desert and their CEO was one of the highest-decorated people out of Vietnam, a helicopter pilot. A tremendous businessperson also.
I had gone down in a group to talk about what they needed to do to start their sales. They were having a new division in their company and we had come back and it didn’t look like anything was going to take place and I sent one greeting card to their CEO and I had gone in to research him and his unit in Vietnam and found the units, the helicopters that they were flying, put a picture on the helicopter and just wrote in there, “Thank you for your service,” and “Mark Leeper”.
So I sent this card out and about six, seven days later, I’m sitting in front of Starbucks after dropping Carolyn off and I got a phone call and on the phone was his right hand person and he said, “I’ve got Mr. So and So on the phone. Are you available?” Yes, you bet.
I took the call and he says, “Are you the guy that sent me the card?” and I said – it kind of took me back. I said, “Well, yeah, I am.” He says, “Well, I want to hire you. Can you come down to see me again?”
So he says, “I will put my secretary back in line. She will pay for your fare.” So I jumped on the airplane a few days later and went down there and two years later, I had two years full of income and I also realized another dream of mine because I got to fly fighter planes down there for 14 months and I never thought I was going to be able to do that at age 55.
So that one card was a tremendous income and an experience that I never would have had without it. But just by complimenting him.
Kody: You know, one thing that I noticed when you were telling the story is that – I don’t know a better way to say it than to just say it like this. When you were talking about, “Hey, I decided to send them a card. I found out a little bit about him and I celebrated him in the card and then thanked him for his service,” what our listeners to understand – and I felt this from you and I want you to speak to it.
Mark, that’s not a strategy. What you did is not a strategy. See, most people in business think that what we’re teaching right now is a strategy. What you did is not a strategy. What you did is a state of being, just who you are. You really were thankful for this guy’s service. That’s what – I mean it’s not a sales strategy. No. You were thankful for a service and you wanted to convey that to him.
It’s really important for people listening here today that they make that shift and understand it’s not at all about strategy or making a sale. It’s about making connections with human beings. Can you speak to that a little bit? Because I certainly felt that from you when you told the story.
Mark: Well, yeah, you said it very well. Again, I like people and I really enjoy getting to know people. Whether it’s the clerk at the supermarket or the CEO of a big company, everybody is fun to talk to and you can always find common ground with people. You can find something that they’re interested in and if you can just listen to people and learn something about them and put something out that day that will make their day, great things come back every time.
When you make people feel things, that’s when they act. If we jump from what we should do anyway and that’s just make people feel good, if we jump to the next step, “OK. How do we use this in business?” nobody does anything without feeling something.
So if we make them feel good, usually that’s two-thirds of our job in terms of winning friends and winning deals, so that we can move our business careers along. So that’s where our card business is so incredible because it’s an interruption in the daily grind of email and Twitter and Facebook and all that stuff.
It breaks the monotony. It stands so far out of the daily regimen that you stand way out. Bart Ratliff sent me a card and I don’t know if the audience knows Bart because I just met him. But anyway –
Kody: Some people know Bart. He’s associated with our company and helps me with his program. Great guy and sounds like he sent you a card after he talked to you.
Mark: Yeah. So I’m in the SendOutCards business. So it’s not like I should be surprised or shocked. But anyway, so Bart sends me a nice card. I mean I’ve got it right here and he sends me a card out of the blue and it’s a picture of a ski boat that my dad built in 1967. I’m driving it. Our son is in the boat and I got this card and I opened it up and I went, “Oh my gosh. Where did you get the picture first of all?”
I just sat there and looked at this card for five minutes. I looked all over the house for Carolyn. I said, “Can you believe this?” and I’m in the business, you know.
Mark: So this is a good example of when you make people feel good, when you take just a little bit of time, great things happen.
Kody: Yeah, no question. By the way, I think Bart found that picture on Facebook. You had some kind of post on Facebook and he just cut and pasted it off of there and created it in a card and –
Kody: Technology is amazing. It’s funny because some people get cards. They’re like, “Oh, how did you get that picture?” We don’t realize we’re all out there on social media, so our pictures are everywhere.
Kody: So it makes it easy to do that kind of thing. That’s a great story.
Kody: You recently had a trade show in Las Vegas, the Aviation Trade Show and there was a really cool story that came out of that. Can you share that with us?
Mark: You bet. So one of my customers is involved in selling huge pieces of equipment for the red, green and yellow crowd, Caterpillar and such. So they had adopted the SendOutCards system and we’re using it. But I had the chance to meet them at the trade show and be in their booth and I was coaching them on how to get cards out to people and just helping them, a newer customer of mine.
So we had somebody walk up to the booth and I’m standing back because I’m not a representative of the company. But I did hear the conversation and it’s a big, tall guy with a Texas hat on and he was real interested in a piece of equipment. He said that he had to go a day early to go back to Houston, Texas because his granddaughter was dancing in a recital.
So he left. They shook hands and he left his business card and left the show. So I was speaking with the rep that I’ve been working with at SendOutCards. I say, “Hey, try this. Let’s send him a card.” Of course they had their laptops hooked up and I said, “Go into our card catalog. We’ve got nice stock cards.” I think it was in sports, whatever.
We go to Dancing and we went into Dancing and we found a really nice gal that was dancing on the card. I said, “Just send a card out that says, you know, I hope your travels were safe and I hope your granddaughter did great at her recital. Sign your name and put your phone number at the bottom. Don’t say anything about anything else.”
So that’s what he did and about a month and a half, 60 days later, he called me back and said, “You know what? The guy that we sent that card to, he just made a half a million dollar order with the company and the reason he got back to me was because of that card.”
Everybody else at the trade show loaded people up with brochures and bombed them with emails and all the things that we do to ship information out. But nobody shipped anything out that made him feel something and so this guy did and voila, there’s the sale.
Kody: Well Mark, that’s probably one of the greatest recaps, storytelling recap of what we are all about. That is relationship marketing at its very best, that story. I really appreciate you sharing that and all of the other stories. We love your spirit, brother and –
Mark: Well, thank you.
Kody: You’ve taken the time to be on this show today. Any final words of wisdom for our listeners?
Mark: You know, just thanks to you for founding the company and to Linda Westberg who is a sponsor that slipped me a little piece of paper that says, “You need to call Jordan Adler,” and Jordan Adler has been coaching me all these years and we’ve just been a lucky couple of people to be able to work with SendOutCards. So the system works and just don’t let how simple a greeting card sending is fool you because it’s the best device out there to sell anything. It really is.Kody: Well, thank you very much and thank you for the time you spent to be on the show. For all of those who have tuned in, if you want to learn more about what we’re all about, just get back with the person who shared this Facebook Live with you today and find more information about what Mark is doing, the system that he uses. We’re just trying to help people be nice to each other. That’s what it’s all about.
Next week, we’re going to be interviewing Tony Rubleski. He is a best-selling author and speaker and he’s going to talk to us about how he uses our system and how he reaches out and creates relationship with people as an author and as a speaker and of course he teaches others to do the same. It’s going to be a great show. He’s a super cool guy.
So again, Mark – and thank your wife too. I know she wasn’t able to be with us today. But I know she’s a big part of your business. Mark and Carolyn, we appreciate you so much and take care everybody. We will see you next week.
Mark: Thanks again.