No one on this podcast grows up aspiring to be in sales. I always enjoy hearing about the journey, and Justin Foster has had an amazing journey.
He grew up on a ranch– something we are more likely to experience through the mythology of the screen than in real life. While he loved ranch life, his home life was challenging.
He moved to Austin in 2014, and describes it as the first place that felt like home.
Justin started his marketing firm in 2003 with the notion that sales and marketing should get along. (Crazy talk, right?)
Justin got his first job in sales 10 years earlier, in 1993, because he and his wife had just had their first son, and he needed to make more money. He bugged an office supply company to give him a job on 100% commission, with no sales support, working a territory that no one else wanted. His sales training consisted of a product catalog. He became the top selling first-year sales rep in the company’s century-long history.
How did he do that? For one thing, ranching is hard work. He was used to doing that. So sales seemed much easier than ranching. Plus, he enjoyed talking to people, he always honest with people, and he had some charm.
He focused on small town governments and manufacturers, and a list of “maverick” accounts that other reps had tried to sell but without success.
Here’s the question he asked his buyer:
- What do I need to do to make you look good? (For some people, it was about buying local, or maybe about saving money, or just avoiding running out of office supplies.)
Then he’s say, “what you need to do to make me happy is order just one thing, and I’ll hand deliver it.”
Why is it so important for sales and marketing to get along? Shouldn’t this be obvious? Yes, but the rise of social media has changed the playing field.
Here are Justin’s 3 Rules for marketing:
- Tell the truth.
- Find out what their needs are.
- Be a human being. (This is hopefully starting to sound familiar to long time listeners.)
Branding is no longer the candy wrapper around the product.
“A brand is how other people experience what you believe”, whether you have a solo firm or Coca-Cola. Great brands are therefore spiritual experiences– Justin cites Patagonia, Yeti, and Southwest as examples of these great brands that create a connection beyond even the emotional level.
You connect with your mission. (A mission statement is evidence you don’t have a mission.)
A mission has few characteristics:
- It has to improve humanity.
- You can invite others to join your mission.
- It’s a bit terrifying. It can seem like heresy– because it goes beyond your role, for example, of making your quarterly numbers.
What do brands need these days:
- An authentic voice.
- Consistently memorable experience.
- Compelling story.
Unfortunately, brands usually miss some things along the way:
- Lacking the will to want to be a brand.
- Lacking the courage to be different– you can’t just be slightly better. (“Don’t be a karaoke singer– make your own music.”)
- You have to do the work and make it a daily habit (uh-oh, I’m in trouble).
The best thing you can do for your sales team is:
- Give them a product that doesn’t suck.
- Provide good branding.
But #2 can’t make up for #1.
How can people get started:
- Go to your website, and remove the “plastic flowers” — the jargon and other crap on your site.
- Look at “time on site” in Google Analytics– this shows how much interest people– you already have a transaction with them– they are giving you their time.
- Tell the stories of the people you are helping.
Most companies aren’t doing these things. Do them and see if your time-on-site goes up.
How do people find their spiritual mission and their roots?
- Write down what you’ve always known to be true.
- What would you be willing to commit civil disobedience over?
Justin notes that all industries are in chaos, and the only thing that cuts through the chaos is the truth. It can be hard for family businesses to brand because the older generation often ends up selling to their friends and can’t adjust.
You have to work on your personal brand, even if you’re not the founder of the company. It’s the one thing you can control. If you don’t like yourself, why would you expect others to like you? Self-worth is critical– confidence can be faked.
Books mentioned in the show:
The Go-Giver by Bob Burg.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown (“the power of choice can neither be giving away or taken away, but it can be forgotten”)
Justin’s enjoying some Ben Milam Texas Bourbon from down the road in Blanco.
Justin’s also using a giant ice cube for less melting and dilution.
Reuben has some Ardbeg 10 year old Islay Whisky. (Note the lack of ‘e’.) If you like it peaty, this is a great whisky for you.