The great business icons who have gone down in history have one major thing in common: they’re enormous risk-takers. They don’t give a f*** about coloring inside the lines. They break new ground without permission. Sometimes they fight the system.
In the IDGAF interview series, I chat with business people who aren’t afraid to swim against the current or speak against the status quo. Together, we explore the downfalls, reality and hard truths in business today. In this interview, we’re talking about why customers don’t care about your brand, your product and your opinion — and we’re not holding back.
Today’s conversation is with Dom Cappuccilli, the Founder and CEO of The Clean Sell, a company that helps various kinds of businesses to reach out to real-world target customers and understand what their best go-to-market strategies are for expanding in the US.
Before finding his inherent passion and moving hell and earth to pursue it, Dom has done some wild stuff including switching careers and moving from LA to New York with no job and no understanding of what he was going to do next. Despite not finding his calling until he was in his late twenties, and keeping in mind that every business has a price, Dom took a chance and launched The Clean Sell off a credit card. Although he ended up with an excellent career path, he admits that it was “terrifying”.
“You don’t really think about it when you’re doing it at the time, at least I don’t, I’m just like ‘okay, this is the next thing I need to do’. Then you look back, and you’re like ‘holy shit, I can’t believe I took that route’”.
What made you go in this direction? I ask.
“I think it came down to me by being a pretty terrible employee,” he laughs.
Not only does Dom’s company helps businesses build sales processes from the ground up, but it also critically helps them tell a better sales story.
In your opinion, what is a sales story? I ask.
“Most people’s sales story is like, ‘here’s why I started the business, and let me tell you all the great things about my product and how awesome it is. It has that feature, and we created it to bring value in this way.’ That’s a huge mistake,” Dom says, “nobody cares about you and your product — customers care about themselves and their problems.”
“Nobody cares about you and your product — customers care about themselves and their problems”
Dom pushes point further, emphasizing that companies need to shift: “You need to shift the focus from yourself to the people that you’re solving the problem for. And when it comes to storytelling, it’s not important to tell the story of your product. It’s important to tell the story of the problem that your product solves.”
He explains that most sales stories are 80% about the brand and 20% about the problem that it tries to solve. “It really should be the opposite… If you don’t start with the solution, you don’t earn that credibility, and people won’t listen to you.” Dom believes that when you’re able to tell the story of the problem, people tend to inherently trust you.
.@TheCleanSell: If you don’t start with the solution, you don’t earn that credibility, and people won’t listen to you 🤔
The Clean Sell founder reveals his simple template about telling a sales story. To begin with, he attempts to identify the problem that his client has. Next, is finding out what that problem is costing them. After that it’s offering a solution — a new approach on how to solve this issue. Finally, he demonstrates how he fixes these problems for other people. It’s not only about focusing on solving the customer’s issue but most importantly, being tempted to solve it. “So that is a good sales story, and the focus of a good sales story is never on you and your opinion. You’re a function to help your clients solve their problems” he says.
According to Dom, even though companies invest years into building their vision, they’re too committed to their products and who’s the right target for it, rather than dealing with their customer’s situation. He, however, understands their perspective because Dom lives this product every day: “I’m the person who did product development. I’ve built this platform, and I’ve thought about its features. But they [companies] are in too deep into their own product”.
What can companies do, then? I ask.
“Go talk to ten of your target customers and interview them about their problems and never mention your product.”
“Yeah. Don’t mention your product at all. At least not until you’ve interviewed them and understood their problems in relation to what your product solves. It’s really that simple, the audience and your customers need to tell you where your product goes. Now you don’t need to be committed to a vision that doesn’t have their opinion”.
“It’s really that simple, the audience and your customers need to tell you where your product goes”
When coaching brands, Dom makes it clear that what they assume actually doesn’t matter at all. “I don’t care about your opinion, what I care about is getting out of the room and speaking to the people that you’re actually going to be selling to. I want their opinions. I don’t want your opinion in the room.”
Dom explains that in B2B, for instance, companies need to find out not only who their buyers are, but what they actually care about, their problems, and how their products accomplish customer goals easier.
I ask Dom about his time as a writer and whether we need to be superb at writing and delivering our sales stories successfully. He admits that his journalism skills helped him understand conceptually how to tell a good story to his clients; however, in business, it’s more about “Can you empathize?”
“The best salespeople I know are the ones who are empathetic, and the best entrepreneurs I know are the ones who are empathetic. And what it is, is they see it: They’re able to connect to the pain that other people have.” Dom says empathy is a primary human emotion and without it brands can’t succeed. “Businesspersons must emotionally help clients to solve their problems via the product that they can trust.”
“The best salespeople I know are the ones who are empathetic, and the best entrepreneurs I know are the ones who are empathetic. And what it is, is that they see it: They’re able to connect to the pain that other people have”
When it comes to something like being a good scriptwriter, you don’t need to be an empathetic person, but “when it comes to selling, it’s more of a relationship,” Dom explains, “the empathy piece is central. I think it’s central in all of it, but I think it becomes more and more central when you get into bigger deals. People really have to trust you and understand that you have their best interests in mind, and you can’t ever fake that.”
If you’re a business person and you feel that you’re pushing boundaries in your company or daring to do something against its system, then send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and make your voice heard.