Kent Billingsley is the founder and president of The Revenue Growth Company, where he has spent a career helping thousands of CEOs and business owners around the world grow their “sales, profits, or revenues using their existing resources.”
For over 30 years, Kent Billingsley has found success in various business and speaking roles. He has worked at startups, taken executive roles in big corporations, and traveled across the world for “international keynote speaking, management consulting, and executive workshops.” These engagements took him to more than 30 countries on 4 continents, where he helped “over 1000 companies and thousands of CEOs, presidents and business leaders grow their companies faster, smarter and better.”
Kent Billingsley has various specialties. These include his “proven expertise in management consulting, executive development, and strategic leadership in over 70 disciplines including areas such as: business growth, leadership development, change management, strategic and tactical marketing, sales organization design and leadership, communications message and content, to partnership development and channel design and management,” among others.
As the leader of The Revenue Growth Company, Kent Billingsley has guided the organization to success for over 15 years. They owe their success to their efforts in “solving the most challenging problem facing CEOs, business owners, leaders and salespeople.”
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Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Kent Billingsley: I started my corporate career right out of college in Dallas, Texas at a division of PepsiCo, Frito Lay. After climbing the ranks for five years I went to work for Ross Perot at EDS (bought by GM and then HP). EDS is a technology services company who created the concept of “outsourcing” in the 60’s. During my term, in the mid 90’s I was asked to form an internal management consulting team to analyze the strategic business units to uncover and discover how to optimize their growth and profits. That success with business transformation projects quickly promoted me to chief strategy officer (CSO) and chief marketing officer (CMO) of Asia Pacific. About a billion in sales and 11,000 employees in sixteen countries.
In 2000 I came back to the states to help build out an explosive growth public software firm called Micromuse, Inc. I grew my division from $2M to about $38M in 2 ½ years. My sales teams achieved an astonishing 98% sales close rate for about 3 years. In 2002 I was ready to retire with tens of thousands of share of stock (bought by IBM in ’05).
Many of my CEO friends had asked that I write a book about explosive growth and business optimization. But since I only have about a half dozen cases studies I instead starting helping them with their companies. Almost twenty years later myself and people who work with me have helped thousands and thousands of entrepreneurs, CEOs and employees become embarrassingly wealthy with their companies.
Today I have over a thousand case studies and have put the roadmap, formulas and methods into a book called Entrepreneur To Millionaire — How to Build A Highly Profitable Fast-Growth Company and Become Embarrassingly Rich Doing It. It is a four phase recipe for creating wealth inside a business and not spend a dollar doing it. Mark Cuban has written the forward for the book and said he wish he would have had this roadmap when he first started. He clamed the book a must read.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Kent Billingsley: Starting my management consulting firm right after 911 was quite challenging. I had targeted large tech companies and VPs of sales to offer sales optimization. But after about 9–12 months I had almost no traction. I was burning through money and couldn’t figure why the value proposition wasn’t connecting. During some “authentic” talks with some prospects the VPs of sales shared either they didn’t need help or they were scared of help.
One day I started to call back one of the retained searched firms that had wanted me to interview for some CEO roles and I stopped dialing. I said, I have not sold everything I own, so I will find a way to make this business work. I “ate my own dog food” (used my other methodologies) and went back and worked through becoming Revenue Ready and Market ready and then went back out. In less than a few months I signed several major long-term contracts.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Kent Billingsley: After a couple of years in business I decided to invest and put on a major public marketing event. A friend owned a wonderful movie theater with the big leather chairs and in aisle dining. He sold me on having the public paid event at his theater as it had the most expensive audio video set up in all of Dallas, Texas. The venue was filled with people who had spent several hundred dollars to be there.
The day before I cracked a tooth in three parts during lunch I but couldn’t go to the dentist or even take any pain medicine that might jeopardize my voice or cloud my thinking. Thank goodness for my friend’s expensive PA system. The day of the public event with the venue packed everything started off great. Then about fifteen minutes into the event I was ready to show my first video to further prove a point. All the lights went out and the PA system shut down.
I went on to deliver almost seven hours of content almost yelling to be heard in the back of the room, while drawing diagrams and figures on flip chart paper. The event turned out great because I signed some new clients. However, the most important thing was one of the attendees was a CMO of a small start-up. Her company only had revenues of a couple hundred thousand. She convinced their CEO they must be in my high intensity revenue growth program. They were in program for about two years and eventually the company generated a yearly run rate of $3OM.
My biggest takeaway was to never count on technology. Since that time in presentations in countries all over the world, crazy things have happened at venues. You must be prepared for anything bad to happen — because it probably will.
Jerome Knyszewski: Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Continuously solve marketplace problems and find ways to make money doing it.
- Learn how to create wealth (cash on hand, cash flow and working capital) inside a company by increasing top line without burning money and resources doing it
- Stop pushing products and services and start pulling with value — must work to building and deliver quantifiable value propositions to the market
- Must have at least one strategic transformation initiative going on at all times — more if the company has the “change muscle” to do them — but having one puts a company in the top 1 tenth of 1 percent of companies
- Master competitive dominance to own their space
Jerome Knyszewski: Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?
Kent Billingsley: Being a “purpose driven company” or being focused on something bigger than their products and services is an important attribute of a great company. Culturally people are all working to be better stewards of the environment, society and the world. Being purpose driven shows a higher level of thought, maturity and value of a company.
There are many benefits of being “purpose driven” providing “give back” or sustainability and here are three of the most important. It can attract new or better clients, 2) attract and retain top talent, and 3) attract investors and stakeholders.
Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
Kent Billingsley: By the term visit I assume you mean either a website visit or a in store walk in or any kind of sales conversion? I will answer you question in a counterintuitive way that has helped my clients generate millions (even billions) up to ten times faster.
Strategies to convert and there are a lot of them all fall into the bucket of reactive. What I mean by that is those strategies — whether they are hard are soft approaches — all about converting the demand that is created. To dramatically increase the conversion time, quality and repeatability leaders must focus on how they “create demand”.
Here is a client example using SEO. One of our clients was spending a fortune on SEO and had earned (paid) their way to the number three position for their space. It took time and a lot of money to get there. However, they were getting a lot more leads but their conversion rates weren’t really much improved so they were still getting their fair share.
The big mistake they were making was their SEO phrase was all about who they are and what they do. It wasn’t motivating, differentiating, or compelling. But it did generate more leads — while spending a ton of money to get them. Kind of break even.
After working with them I discovered an interesting statistic. Companies who did a thorough evaluation (not SEO leads), not a price check, chose this company eight out of ten times for this particular service. That became their new SEO phrase. Find out why companies who do a thorough analysis hire this company 8 out of 10 times…
When you clicked the link to their website everything on their site supported that claim and actually taught new prospects the right way to procure these services. Why this is so important is this approach created much higher quality demand by filtering out the “price shoppers”. Now conversion rates off the web not only went up but were of much higher quality.
To optimize conversion rates it all starts with “how” you create demand.
Jerome Knyszewski: Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
Kent Billingsley: Too many companies are killing themselves to “out do the customer experience”. What happens is they either set expectations way too high or they eat up all their profits trying to satisfy people who might never be satisfied.
I think it’s critical to capture the perfect balance between what the client or customer expects and what you can exceed.
One of the best examples is Southwest Airlines. Year after year in good and bad economies SWA is embarrassingly successful. As a customer you know that you are going to be part of “cattle call” seating based on certain size groups when you arrive. In the past you knew you would be served peanuts as your in flight meal. They had to ban peanuts now because of allergies. But you also knew that SWA would take off and land at almost the highest rates of all the airlines. In addition, the flight attendants wouldn’t put up with any crap, but would smile when they told you “no”. The point being is that everyone who flew SWA knew exactly what to expect and what they would get.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Kent Billingsley: You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow me on social media:
Twitter — here
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!