When you’re launching a small business in Los Angeles or want to grow your customer base anywhere in the world, you need a guide with experience and inspiration. Finding a coach who’s been in your shoes will give you the support you need to reach those goals. To get the “cheat codes” to rapid success, Amanda Benson-Tilch, host of The Ask Amanda Show, talked with Elias Scarr, an entrepreneur who turned his years of experience in sales into a coaching business called Sell It Like Scarr.
How a Service Industry Background Prepares a Successful Entrepreneur
Whether it’s stocking shelves at Trader Joe’s (like Elias) or working on the Levi Wall at Miller’s Outpost (like Amanda), when you work in service to the public and interface with people, you learn a lot about communicating.
“I worked in restaurants, because I wanted to try that out to see what that was like, and then I became a bartender,” Elias said. “I learned how to sell and play and have fun with people, which is really my angle for selling. I really encourage the fun and joy of spending time with people and building relationships.”
He cut his teeth on small businesses in Santa Clarita including some Taekwondo schools. “You can learn a lot about communicating in studying martial arts and in sparring and fighting,” Elias said.
He later went to work for Results Fitness, another Santa Clarita small business.
From bartender to shelf stocker, jobs in retail stores, gyms, and restaurants help you develop relational skills.
“Being a people person, I think, is what makes you a good communicator and good at sales, and knowing how to leverage it,” Amanda said.
First Thing: Get a Business Coach
“If you want to fast track success, you’ve got to have a coach – for anything,” Elias said. “The best people, those at the very top of their game – in a sport or anything – have coaches, usually multiple coaches.”
A coach has the knowledge base to help you establish small business goals and motivate you toward that trajectory. In Elias’ case, the student became the master when he became a coach himself.
“Truly understanding the value of having my coaches – that was how I really understood where my passion is,” he said. “I love coaching, and I love teaching, and I like being super specific, because unlike most people, I love selling. I love sales and communication and all the challenges that come with that, and customer service. So, it just took off like a runaway train. I had great support, great coaches in my corner, and now I’m working with colleagues to help people make business a little bit easier than it can be.”
Elias’ first boss at Trader Joe’s was instrumental in teaching him how to take care of customers, an ethic that was imprinted on him. He then spent 10 years working for Results Fitness.
“That’s where Alan and Rachel Cosgrove, the current owners of Results Fitness, took me under their wing and put a tremendous amount of focus on continuing education for me,” he said. “They sent me from one training course to the next and really accelerated that learning process. Then, as we’d gotten through the hardest part of Covid, both of them pulled me aside and said, ‘It’s time to go. This is as much as you can grow here. It’s time for you to start your own thing.’”
The Freedom of Entrepreneurship
“The freedom is definitely, I would say, the biggest benefit of being an entrepreneur,” Elias said.
One of his greatest lessons came from an 11th grade chemistry teacher at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, who wrote in his yearbook: ‘Discipline is freedom.’
“Thinking of it in that way, of having my own business, being able to work from home and coach from home,” he said. “I can travel, I can work with people who are all the way on the other side of the country and across the world.”
With clients as far away as the United Kingdom, Elias has experienced the shift away from working with local businesses in Santa Clarita to wide-ranging expansion through remote communications.
“The freedom of being able to do what you want allows you to focus on what’s truly important,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t have the freedom to do that, to focus on what’s important, because you have to focus on what has to be done, what must be done, what everybody else wants you to do.”
Entrepreneurship enables you to singularly focus on:
- What you’re good at
- What you love to do
- What people need
- What you get paid for
The Art of Sales
Individuals with strong marketing skills sometimes refuse to be classified as salespersons. They have a fear, or a hangup, about sales.
Two Myths About Sales
- You either have it or you don’t
“There’s a belief that either you’re personable and you’re charismatic and you’re fun and you’re an extrovert and all the aspects that make sales a little bit easier – or you don’t have it,” Elias said. “We can flip that switch and see sales and communication as a skill. And anything that’s a skill can be learned, practiced, and improved.”
Start seeing it as a skill and put time into it.
“If you want to become a better cook, you study and you try more things and you cook more often,” he said. “If you want to get good at a specific lifting technique, you practice that technique and you go up in weight and increase the challenge. It’s just like anything else – it’s not as difficult as it seems. It’s a skill, like anything else.”
- You need to become skilled at everything
“People tend to feel like they have to balance out all their skills, as opposed to doubling down on what they’re good at,” Elias said. “The biggest trend right now in sales is authenticity. On social media, super filtered pictures are a lot less popular,” he said. “When people shoot videos there isn’t a lot of makeup and there’s not a lot of showmanship. It’s just organic – me to you.”
Authenticity is a business superpower right now.
“What that means in relationship to somebody who might have a fear of sales is to double down on what you’re really good at,” Elias explained. “If you are great at being diligent with follow-up and being organized and having the numbers and the data, then sell that way. If you’re good at building relationships and sitting down and having coffee and conversation, you can sell that way too. There isn’t just one way to do it — find out what you’re good at and find a good coach and then double down on that skill.”
Confidence in Sales
It’s hard to sell something that you yourself wouldn’t buy.
“Having confidence around what you’re selling — it doesn’t matter how you look and feel being in front of people or an audience or on social,” Amanda said. “If you truly believe in the product or the service that you’re selling, it’s going to come across no matter what.”
Believing in your products and services is an integral part of sales.
“If you think about high-level persuasion and selling techniques, and marketing and communication techniques, you can use those powers for evil. If you don’t believe in something, you can trick or you can manipulate somebody,” Elias said. “The biggest difference between manipulation and persuasion is intent.”
Intent is where confidence comes from. To generate that confidence, it’s just like building muscle – get the reps in.
A lot has changed for consumers.
Consumers want control of their data now more than ever, so they’re not as inclined to sign up for offers and give out their personal information.
“People want to believe that their data is safe,” Elias said. “There are some baselines – bank data and credit card data is always something people worry about. But it really comes down to that one-on-one relationship. They want to know: ‘Is my data safe with you?’”
It’s not a new concept – it relates to sales in general.
“Trust theory has been around for years, and I don’t think it’s going anywhere,” Amanda said. “It’s just shifting the way that we look at it.”
Convenient Shopping/Ease of Payment
Coming out of COVID, everybody wants everything delivered, using Alexa, Google, and Amazon, etc.
“We are in this this odd generation where we are living through the fastest acceleration of technology possible,” Elias said. “As much as people want Alexa and Amazon and all that to bring stuff to their doorstep, most businesses are still struggling with ‘we only take cash.’”
The younger generation uses digital wallets. Many don’t even carry cash, and everything is on their phones, so if you don’t accept Apple Pay or some form of digital wallet, then more than likely that consumer’s not going to shop there.
“There’s actually a restaurant down the street that only accepts credit cards,” Amanda said. “They don’t accept cash because they don’t want to count, they don’t want to be liable, having the banker’s truck come and pick up the cash drops, all the extra fees, and then human error with counting cash.”
Coaching Strategies to Help Business Owners
Finding the Friction
“As a coach, before we get into any kind of high-level sales skills or tactics, I look at where’s the friction?” Elias said. “What is making it difficult for your customer to find your product, buy your product, or understand what your product is supposed to be. Those are big things.”
A coach is a neutral third party who looks at such aspects as:
- Business operations
- Website quality
- Sales training
“I recently did some coaching for a Santa Clarita business and I evaluated their website and there was so much information on the product that I was overwhelmed,” Amanda said. “I asked, ‘What am I actually buying?’ I recommended that they dumb it down and just give me two points. I like to say, ‘My dad’s 78 – can he figure this out?’”
Provide bullet points and let the product sell itself.
“People look at improving sales as having a better closing or getting more leads,” Elias explained. “What we should be doing is improving sales through efficiency. Can I take an hourlong sales process and make it 15 minutes? Keep it simple. If you make it easy for people, people will do it.”
Referrals and Reviews
Birdeye is a business platform Amanda uses at Burbank Fitness Club that’s successfully improved the gym’s Google ratings and reviews. It’s a texting app that can help a business engage with customers.
“Referrals are essential,” Elias said.
People look at ratings as well as the number of reviews a business has.
“The number of reviews matters, because it’s become difficult to find trusted sources of information,” he said. “I don’t think reviews are something you can ignore. Data shows that 92% of happy customers are willing to give a review and a referral, but just 8% of the sales force asks for them. Your sales will get better if you ask.”
“In order to achieve a 5-star review it comes down to customer service,” Amanda said. “At the gym the number one priority is to greet everyone. In today’s self-checkout style, it’s a unique level of customer service.”
The front door is one of the most underrated points of service in any business.
“It’s ignored, and people tend to forget that enthusiasm exists on a timer,” Elias said. “The minute somebody comes into your business, enthusiasm is high because they’re excited about what they’re going to do or what they’re going to see or what they might find or what they’re going to buy. That’s the peak of enthusiasm and then it starts to wane. We have to constantly refill that meter.”
Refilling the meter is done by acknowledging that the customer exists.
“You need to communicate ‘I see you, you’re here, you exist, and I’m excited you’re here,’” Elias said. “That goes a long way in the customer experience.”
Walking in the door is going to set the tone for everything that happens in your business.
“And then as they’re leaving, you have the opportunity to set the tone for the rest of their day,” he said. “If they’re thinking about you while they’re gone that’s really the ultimate power of a customer experience.”
If you want referrals, your people must think about you when they’re not physically in your place of business. They have to have a reason to think about you and it’s best if it happens organically.
“Just treat somebody how you want to be treated in a relationship,” he said.
The Lost Art of Communication
There’s so much technology in our way, how do we overcome that?
“There’s an app that enables you to record a video message to your client, instead of just a QR code or asking for a review in an email. So, they’re seeing your expression and how passionate you are,” Elias said.
Technology is hurting us in our attempt to communicate.
“Sometimes when we implement or introduce new technology, we leave something behind,” Amanda said.
Business owners benefit most when they neither leave the old technology behind nor keep it intact, but instead combine the two.
“The ultimate goal is the blend,” Elias said. “Like reaching out to a customer by sending a video message if you get a lead online.”
You’re adding tools to your belt.
“We can’t refuse to communicate in the way that people want to communicate,” Elias said. “People want to communicate via text, so we’ve got to get good at it. You want to communicate via video, so we’ve got to get good at it. Other people want to communicate face to face or on the phone. Some tools we’re leaving behind, but now we’re just adding tools to our belts.”
Selling is just relationship building.
“If I was going to share one message with people it’s to understand that most people actually already know how to sell,” Elias said. “You have the skill set if you’ve ever convinced somebody to give you the last slice of pizza, if you’ve ever asked somebody to go on a date, if you’ve ever managed to convince somebody to stay and have dessert, or ever convinced somebody to look after your animals or house for you. If you’re talking, you’re selling. That’s literally all it is.”
The big secret behind getting anywhere fast is finding a coach.
“You won’t be able to keep up with Amanda’s R&D, her study on business, her study on communication, her study on sales, her study on growth in social media and tech,” Elias said. “But that’s a good thing, because instead of investing all that time, you invest in a coach.”
Your focus and abilities are different than a coach who helps your business thrive.
“You hire a coach that’s doing all this studying that you can’t possibly do because you’re too busy trying to sell cars or sell gym memberships, or sell tacos,” he said. “You don’t have time to study all this stuff. You’ve got to get the cheat code.”
The cheat code and the return on investment from coaching is probably one of the greatest ROIs there is.
“I got a business up and running in an extremely short time because I had great coaches,” Elias said.
Meet the Experts
Elias Scarr – Sales Coach/Communications Expert
With more than 25 years of experience in sales and customer service, Elias Scarr launched his own coaching business, Sell It Like Scarr, teaching entrepreneurs, managers, and their teams how to sell with confidence and sincerity. His primary focus is empowering people with the communication skills they need to earn the income and influence they deserve.
Elias has learned how to see through customers’ eyes, allowing him to bring a fresh perspective and actionable plans to the table for businesses through a mix of easy-to-use implement strategies, simple systems, and techniques backed by empathy and tough love. He’s coached for Perform Better, Perform Better Brazil, IHRSA, Results University, and the NSCA.
He has an “abundance mindset” and answers every Direct Message he receives. His website is Sellitlikescarr.com.
Amanda Benson-Tilch – Small Business Consulting
While you may notice her first by her wit and second by her infectious sense of humor, the next thing you’ll learn about Amanda Benson-Tilch is: She’s a problem-solver. Owner and Growth Strategist of Ask Amanda Consulting, she offers the skills, tools, and network it takes to get the job done — no matter the task.
Working with each client differently, she helps identify blocks, present solutions, implement them, and execute. And if she can’t execute, she’ll connect you to someone who can. She’s helped past clients improve their branding, operations, customer service, marketing, company culture, and more. She’s organized a company-wide rebranding and restructuring after it was bought out. And she’s helped small businesses in Los Angeles increase their growth without increasing the headache. From consulting to full-scale project management, Amanda steps in to help your business level up with ease.
In addition to her work with Ask Amanda, she’s also the Director of Business Development for Thomas Realty Co., a property management company in Burbank, where she oversees the growth of select tenants. Currently, she’s serving as the Managing Director of both Burbank Fitness Club and Burbank Center Apartments. Over the last year, she helped completely rebrand, renovate, and rebuild the gym, and she recently started the same process with their luxury apartments.
About The Ask Amanda Show
On any given day, small business owners and entrepreneurs spend most of their time putting out fires, solving problems and asking themselves questions like: “How do I brand this? How do I reach more people online? Why can’t I break through my revenue ceiling and reach the next level of business?” They often feel like an island – holding it all together without small business support, clarity, or the feedback they need to finally achieve their vision. That’s exactly why Amanda Benson-Tilch created The Ask Amanda Show. As a small business consultant, not only does she have the answers to the questions you keep asking, but she’s also created a podcast community that reminds you: You’re not alone in this journey.
Tune in once a month to get access to small business experts in Los Angeles and beyond, acquire nuggets of inspiration and answers to those burning questions preventing you from growth. Enjoy powerful guest interviews as Santa Clarita small business experts share their stories and provide actionable steps to help you grow your business. Whether you’re a business owner, aspiring entrepreneur, or someone looking to get more involved in your community, this is your show!