And we’re back… with Anil Dash, CEO of Fog Creek Software (maker of Fog Bugz and Glitch, and incubator for Trello and Stack Overflow).
Anil’s full bio runs for paragraphs, but a few things beyond his current CEO role:
Served as an advisor to President Obama’s Office of Digital Strategy.
He’s a big Twitter person (we got introduced by a mutual follower). Time magazine named him one of the best accounts on Twitter in 2013, and he’s the only person to ever be retweeted by Bill Gates and Prince.
He helped start the social media revolution with Moveable Type in the early 2000s, and he’s been blogging since 1999.
He’s had hardware, software, sales and and executive experience, and he’s a big believer in linking together domains that are often separate.
He started his own company instead of going to college.
We cover a lot of things in the interview, but here are some key points:
How Anil got past his aversion to sales and reframed his perspective (this sounds familiar on this podcast, but I still love hearing everyone’s personal journey).
How he didn’t learn to do marketing until much later, and what he did instead (and how he learned how important marketing really is).
The importance of “non-zero-sum” incentives.
Taking the concept of “bus-proofing”, so important in the technology world, to the sales world.
A simple way to encourage more diversity in hiring, and why it’s good for your company.
Why tech is lurching its way to becoming the new “Wall St”, wealthy, powerful, and detested.
The E-Myth, by Michael Gerber. Written in the 80s, this book has a lot of insight on people who start a business because they’re good at doing the “core” task of the business, often without appreciation for the other critical tasks like sales and marketing.
Creativity Inc, by Ed Catmull on how Pixar works hard to maintain a creative, open culture. Sure, you may not be churning out Hollywood blockbusters, but there are a lot of lessons here on how to create and keep a healthy workplace.
Building on last episode’s discussion of avoiding digital distractions, productivity expert Maura Thomas takes us through attention management.
(Maura is also an author, having written Personal Productivity Secrets, and Work Without Walls. She has her own productivity consulting business, Regain Your Time.)
Maura never intended to get into this field, but she was a “Kelly Girl”, as they were called back then and ended up working at a productivity company with David Allen, (grand)father of Getting Things Done (also known as “GTD” to productivity dorks).
In this episode, Maura dives into:
Why we tend to measure productivity the wrong way.
Why “time management” doesn’t work anymore.
Why the “2 minute rule” has been corrupted into bad advice.
How Maura got into productivity by accident and ended up working with David Allen the (grand)father of Getting Things Done. Plus, where she agrees with David (and where she disagrees).
The difference between “action” verbs (like “plan”) and “actionable” verbs (“call Joe”), and how this relates to productivity.
How to build up your ability to focus, including some specific hacks Maura used on herself when she was trying to write a book or convince herself to exercise.
The 3 areas of Attention Management (one of which discussed a lot in the last episode).
How being mindful can help you not only be more productive at work, but also in your relationships.
How to control your attention for your purposes, while everyone else is trying to steal it.
As Jill mentions, she didn’t write this book because she started as an expert in this, but “to save my life”, because even Jill Konrath has challenges with getting things done and handling the constant interruptions of modern life.
Here’s a short clip:
In this episode, Jill talks about:
The completely accidental way she got into sales (this is becoming a pattern, right?).
Why sales was a great fit for her, against all her preconceived notions.
Why she started her own company.
How she got overwhelmed with the very technology that was supposed to help her.
Why our brain is not optimized for modern life and how it leads us down the wrong path in the modern world. (And what happens to your IQ when you multitask.)
The real reason she wrote this book (to save my life)
How family emergencies forced Jill to prioritize even more ruthlessly (crossing of the “nice to do’s”, and “like to do’s” and focus on the “have to do’s”. (And why having a “don’t do” list is as important as having a “to do” list.
How Jill used to use her calendar, and how she changed to be more effective with her time.
The practical suggestion from Jill’s book that Reuben put into place the next week.
The surprising amount of time top sellers spend selling
How to use the Pomodoro Technique to get started on tough tasks (Jill says she gets more done this way than with any other technique)
Plus, hear how this interview caused me to violate my own productivity rules. 😉
Predictable Revenue is one of the best books about sales to come out in the past decade. There are so many great things to recommend it, but one thing I love is a book that makes me change my mind. Marylou Tyler authored the book (along with Aaron Ross), after starting her career writing systems code. (This might be the biggest change from coding to sales in Sales for Nerds history.) She’s now got a new book out, focusing on the front of the funnel, called Predictable Prospecting.
In addition, Marylou took this episode up a notch, not just with the great advice I expect, but she enlisted a mixologist friend to come up with a special sangria recipe for you (thanks, Jeff Naples). After a successful coding and sales career, Marylou starting sales consulting for companies like MasterCard, Bose, and Apple.
In this episode, Marylou goes into:
How she moved from writing code to sales, and how she used her engineering background to go from “freaking out” to sales success.
How she set up a sales process before CRM and relational databases (“anything you do more than once can be part of a process”).
How she took the stress off herself and improved sales results systematically. Hint: don’t try to fix everything at once. Focus on what needs attention first and A/B test it.
The counterintuitive reason she focused on the top of the funnel.
The prospecting differences between inbound and outbound.
The key thing that drove her success, and why, after 30 years in the field and 2 books, she’s currently taking 5 classes to get better at it (along with a programming class).
How to set up “Question Trees” to improve your conversations and take the stress out of listening so you don’t have to think about what you’re saying next, but you can really listen.
I enjoyed some Chateau de Grézels 2014 Malbec/Merlot blend, a very interesting french wine that tastes heartier than most french blends (due to the Malbec) and more expensive than its < $10 price point would suggest.
Caleb Sidel got a degree from Carnegie Mellon in computer science and mathematics. I don’t know if you can get an nerdier than that. 😉 (He also got a minor in French, which will come into play in a story at the end of the episode where Caleb remembers me not exactly representing Americans well in France.)
Caleb is a partner and co-founder at Strategic Growth Inc, a Salesforce.com implementation partner that has grown rapidly with a core of partners who are responsible for sales and technology. This means a somewhat different approach to sales (and sales training, as they grow the team). Caleb has a long, long list of Salesforce certifications that I won’t bore you with, but he’s deep into Apex code, the Salesforce API, and more.
In this episode, Caleb talks about moving “up the stack”, from implementing features for internal “clients”, to implementing features for external customers, to doing freelance consulting, to co-founding and growing a firm.
Caleb’s tips include:
How to find a niche from a technical perspective. We keep talking about the importance of a niche on this podcast, but what if you don’t know what your real market niche is. Caleb discusses why you can find a niche from the technical side in a way that defines your market niche for you.
Why all the partners at the firm have to sell (and keep up their tech chops).
The importance of passion, not just with your customers, but with your partners.
The really simple way they train their consultants to sell.
Brian Spross got his degree in Mechanical Engineering, and he takes that meticulous approach to law. Brian’s firm specializes in law for tech firms, and I knew he loved wine, so I thought he’d be a great fit for the podcast.
After all, the legal aspects of business are critical to sales, but even more than sales, something that many technical founders don’t want to consider.
Brian provides some great tips, including:
When you need a lawyer.
How (relatively) inexpensive it is to set up a company, and why you must, must, must do this.
Why people don’t have good contracts in place (and what you can do about it).
How the “designed to…” approach from engineering is so useful in law and contracts.
Why your technical people need to read (at least) the technical parts of contracts and agreements.
Just because you got paperwork from a big, important company, doesn’t mean you have to sign it “as-is”.
Red flags for contracts that may cause problems down the road.
The simple way to pick your lawyer.
Plus, I recount the painful memory of the one time a client skipped out on an invoice.
Scott Ingram is the host of the Sales Success Stories podcast, which I’ve been enjoying lately. Scott’s interviews bring a lot of very specific, tactical advice which is great for people who want details.
I’ve tried to follow Scott’s lead in getting specifics.
In this episode, Scott explains:
How he got great mentors to help him get his network administration consulting company off the ground.
How referrals help, but they can only take you so far.
Why you should pick a sales process– don’t try to invent one.
Why we often fear sales, and what we can do about it.
The importance of having a niche (yet again).
How he created a great, nerd friendly sales shortcut.
Why it’s easy to recall bad salesmen, but hard to recall good sales experience.
Why women are overrepresented among top sales performers.
The promise and peril of The Challenger Sale.
How to align your sales process to you, so you can sell authentically (and why this is so important)
The importance of planning and ritual, including Scott’s morning routine (starting at 4:30).
Why there’s no replacement for “time in the saddle”
Scott was also super helpful as a fellow podcaster, using his (much nicer) setup, so this should sound better than previous episodes, too.
Matthew Pollard (“The Rapid Growth Guy”) comes on Sales for Nerds to talk about how he learned to sell and become one of the top sales reps in Australia, despite being extremely introverted. He took an approach that seems so simple after he mentions it, but I hadn’t heard of anyone else doing sales “self-training” this way.
In this episode, Matt discusses:
How he taught himself to sell, including the steps of the sale, how to turn features into benefits, and how to close.
How he taught his team to sell.
“People hate to be sold to, but people love to buy.”
Why if you’re doing too much “hard core selling”, your message isn’t right.
Why introverts have a long term advantage in sales versus most extraverts. (And how to take that advantage.)
Why he puts the message first, even before the audience.
Why you need to turn features into benefits, and benefits into stories.
Why stories are so important.
What can I do above and beyond the core functional skills/services/products to give my customer an amazing experience.
Why you don’t want to spend tons of time writing “educational” proposals– it not only wastes your time, it decreases your chances of winning.
If you confuse the customer, you lose the sale.
Practical steps on niching, including a real world example (and a meta-example of Matthew’s storytelling).
Why our brains are overwhelmed by input and we have to focus.
Focus on the people who love what you do– not the people you can never make happy.
Most people have been motivated by fear of not having enough money for most of their lives. They have a set of goals that are driven from here.
Why if you do what you love, there’s always more energy (as shown by Matthew in this interview after getting 4.5 hours of sleep).
The mistake people make in underestimating themselves.