027 Justin Foster goes from ranching to sales to spiritual branding– come on the journey

justin-foster-300x300

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:

  1. Tell the truth.
  2. Find out what their needs are.
  3. 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:

  1. It has to improve humanity.
  2. You can invite others to join your mission.
  3. 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:

  1. An authentic voice.
  2. Consistently memorable experience.
  3. Compelling story.

Unfortunately, brands usually miss some things along the way:

  1. Lacking the will to want to be a brand.
  2. Lacking the courage to be different– you can’t just be slightly better. (“Don’t be a karaoke singer– make your own music.”)
  3. 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:

  1. Give them a product that doesn’t suck.
  2. 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”)

 

 

The wine whiskey…

Ben Milam Bourbon

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.

Ardbeg 10YO blancReuben 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.

Where to find Justin:

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

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026 The totally awesome networking strategy Chris Wike uses that you should use too

Chris Wike

Chris Wike is an attorney at Hajjar Peters here in Austin– not exactly someone you’d think to turn to for Sales for Nerds.

Lawyers can’t sell and market like everyone else. There are regulations and ethics rules and approval rules that limit what you can do. For example, if there’s a lawsuit against a business, lawyers can’t reach out and offer to help them with a specific case (unless it’s an existing client). If you want to run an ad on TV or send out a mailer, or even publish ads online, you need to get approval.

You can argue whether this is a good consumer protection or incumbent-driven efforts to make it harder for young lawyers (maybe some of both?), but that’s the reality, especially in Texas.

So, in this episode, Chris walks us through selling as a lawyer…

  • How Chris starts relationship building with folks you might not expect and how it  gives him control of his career.
  • Chris’s rule for networking.
  • How he manages referrals.
  • How Chris gets meetings with high level people.
  • How Chris hosts networking events– this is a crazy good idea that you should start doing right now.
  • Why Chris doesn’t like retainers.
  • Chris’s strategy for networking outside of his own events.
  • How Chris tries to set himself apart as a service provider (great advice for any service provider).
  • Why it’s great that clients may not care what you’re telling them.
  • How do you give great value to clients.
  • Chris’s 2 rules for working with people and what he wishes students would learn in school.
  • A crazy internet lawyer ad. (And here he is getting busted for contempt.)

Plus, I interject with my philosophy on people and tell you how to get an inside track to Sales for Nerds.

Chris and his partners have a 1500 bottle cellar in their conference room.

wine wall

But you don’t need that to take advantage of Chris’s killer networking strategy.

The wine…

resign grenache2015 Godspeed Granache from Resign Wine. Yummy blend of 80% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre– the grapes are California, but the company is actually based here in Texas.

(As the producer notes, this label is supposed to yell, “f it! I’m out!”)

 

Where to find Chris:

p.s. I couldn’t make the last event Chris threw, so I’m now “banned for life.” 😉

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

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International Women’s Day– Some Sales Inspiration

Some awesome women have come on Sales for Nerds– here’s a quick recap:

There’s tons of great advice here, whether you’re a man or woman.

And even if you’re not in sales or marketing, if you ever want to convince someone to do something, especially something new, different, and perhaps scary, you are actually in the same field as those in sales and marketing.

025 Christina Bell on Sales as a Sorting Exercise

Christina Bell

Like most of my guests, Christina Bell never intended to get into sales. She comes from a family of teachers, but needed to take a job, any job, after graduating.

She did a great job (which she credits in part to the training program) and started to train other sales reps.

Finally, she was a teacher and was welcomed back to family Thanksgiving. 😉

In this episode, Christina shares her philosophies on sales, including:

  • Why sales is a sorting exercise, and why this is the key to everything else.
  • The mistakes people make trying to push people too fast (and keeping them around in the pipeline too long). This is gold.
  • How to make conversation and ask questions productively.
  • How to make conversation flow, and how many people shut it down.
  • How do you know if you’re dealing with a real opportunity? Or just someone looking for some free consulting?
  • Why people talk about what they do the wrong way (and how to do it better).
  • Another good reason you don’t want to cut your prices.
  • Your responsibility in managing your pipeline.
  • Much, much more…

 

 

The wine…

Starmont Pinot Noir
Another yummy, fruity Napa(!) Pinot Noir. What can I say? This time it’s a delicious 2013 from Starmont.

 

Where to find Christina:

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

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024: Bryan Payne gets thrown out of school, starts companies, and completes Iron Man triathlons

Bryan PayneBryan Payne is a serial entrepreneur, salesmen, Iron Man (12 times over), and general man of adventure and humor.

Normally a beer drinker, he was a good sport about having some wine on the podcast (and didn’t seem to mind too much).

This episode is a bit longer than usual, because there were just so many interesting episodes that I wanted to hear about, and I think you will, too.

For example, learn how Bryan and his brother got clever when starting their sales career chocolates to raise money for their elementary school.

Then hear about how he started a lawn care business in high school that he grew to 13 employees, and which he sold to one of the actual adults working for him.

Learn how he was the only student in his class not to go to college (and how he got expelled) and what he did to get his first job instead. It’s not conventional, but probably applies even more these days.

Then Bryan gets into how he accidentally landed his first official sales roll, and what did to be successful.

Plus,

  • Why he quit to start his own company.
  • The big bet he made on technology (and how the same technology almost killed the business).
  • How he acquired a business for almost nothing and turned it around from bankruptcy (hint, it involves pricing)
  • How be built up a capable, motivated sales team with almost no capital

In addition, learn:

  • “48 Hour Rule” for moving quickly
  • 1st Principle of Sales
  • What song you should listen to if you want to appreciate 70s music (I don’t agree with this one)
  • Why Bryan loves millennials (seriously)
  • The completely unlikely way that Bryan got into doing Iron Man triathlons.
  • How he got hundreds of resumes with a simple, no-bs story (here’s the actual story)

 

 

The wine…

Stephen Vincent Sonoma County Pinot NoirAnother yummy, fruity Sonoma Pinot Noir. What can I say? I like them.

 

Where to find Bryan:

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

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Episode 23: Rohan Kale escapes the grind, starts a video marketing company, and travels the world

Rohan KaleRohan Kale is an international man of mystery. Ok, not so much mystery, but certainly adventure. He was on the typical track of a talented engineering student in India, grinding out 100 hour weeks for a big software company.

Wanting more, he made some bad choices, and got sucked into online gambling.

Needing to get away from that, he made his way to Germany. (He’ll explain why, and how we learned German and got a job at Daimler after arriving with no German language.)

Once again wanting more– to have the freedom to travel and explore the world– find out how he decided to start an online video marketing company (naturally, without knowing anything about video production).

In this episode, Rohan discusses:

  • How he got his first customers, before he even had a website, while he still had his day job.
  • The channels he used to get conversations and how he closed with no track record.
  • How he scaled his initial marketing efforts.

Plus, some tips from on a pro on how to craft your own videos, including:

  • Common pitfalls, especially the “Curse of Knowledge”.
  • The importance of a good script.
  • How to make different videos for your home page, for demos, and for support.
  • The simple setup you can use to get started.
  • When to use YouTube and when to use Wistia.
  • How to turn your videos into other forms of content.

Plus, get some travel inspiration from Rohan’s travel schedule and adventures at Oktoberfest.

Prost! (Or “cheers!” in German, as I learn.)

 

 

The wine…

Monchhof RieslingMönchhof Riesling, 2008. As I mentioned, if I think of it as “wine”, I find it way too sweet. But if I think of it as “dessert in a glass”, it’s pretty good.

Rohan was drinking a Helles beer from Munich. Helles (“helles” means “bright” in German— this beer was developed in response to the popularity of lighter Czech lagers in the 1800s).

 

Where to find Rohan:

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

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Episode 22 Laura Roeder on Growing a Consulting Practice, an Online Products Company, and a Software Firm

Laura Roeder of MeetEdgar.comLaura Roeder makes business look easy. Her latest venture, MeetEdgar.com, made it to a million in revenue in the first year. She had her own SXSW panel at 29.

But like any great story, the nitty gritty details are where it gets interesting.

Here, Laura discusses:

  • How she accidentally got an advertising degree.
  • How she got her first clients for her consulting business.
  • Why she decided to go into marketing online courses.
  • How she got the idea for MeetEdgar.
  • How to connect with thought leaders online.
  • How she actually got that SXSW panel.
  • Why most social media updates miss their audience, and what you can do about it.

 

The wine…

Kim CrawfordKim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, 2016 (not 2006 as I accidentally stated).

Nice and fresh. Probably not going to win wine of the year, but very pleasant and drinkable, on its own or with fish, light chicken, or spicy food like Indian or Thai. Also an easy wine to try if you’re not really into wine because it’s crisp and smooth without the tannins of red wine or the butter that some people don’t like in chardonnay. (@kimcrawfordwine)

 

Where to find Laura:

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

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Episode 21: Michael Katz on Winning by being a likeable (human) expert

michael-and-emilyHow do you differentiate yourself when your competitors are also experts?

And would you want to take advice on differentiated service from someone who spent over a decade working for a cable company?

It sounds crazy, but in this case, you should.

Michael Katz did in fact spend over a decade at a cable company. But then, through a series of happy accidents, he became Chief Penguin at Blue Penguin Development, helping small services companies market better. He’s also been quoted in the WSJ, the NYT, Business Week Online, Forbes, Inc, USA Today and more. Plus, he’s won an award for humor.

Hear about those happy accidents (well, they seem happy now) and more, including:

  • How he quit his stable job during the internet boom and failed.
  • How he accidentally stumbled on a niche and how that turned into a great business.
  • Why he doesn’t care about SEO or Google ranking.
  • Michael’s 3 step process for being successful in services (some of this advice may start to sound familiar to regular listeners).
  • Michael’s “Sports Illustrated” Rule for successful marketing newsletters.
  • How your marketing is like going to the gym (and Michael saves me a lot of time, right on the show)
  • How Seth Godin has been stealing his best ideas for years (remember the humor bit)
  • How being authentically yourself at work and beyond makes life so much easier.

Michael’s also got a new book (it just happened to come out between the time we recorded the interview and the time it’s published, which is why we didn’t talk about it on the show) called The Likeable Expert, 121 Insights to Start Your Day and Grow Your Business.

likeable expert

Bonus: Get the first 15 tips free here on this page Michael set up just for listeners.

The wine…

8796499443742I enjoyed a(nother) glass of 2013 Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. A nice, up the middle of the road cab. (It’s pretty expensive on the Franciscan.com site, but you can get it for $15-18.)

Yes, this was from the episode with Aaron, saved thanks to the Vacu Vin Wine Saver (really handy for enjoying a bottle over the course of a few days).

.beer-smokedagger-can.. and the beer…

Smoke & Dagger black lager from Jack’s Abbey in Framingham, MA.

Where to find Michael:

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

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Episode 20: Aaron Ross on going From Impossible to Inevitable

Aaron RossFew authors have had the impact on sales that Aaron Ross has had over the past few years. His first book, Predictable Revenue, called “the sales bible of silicon valley”, he co-authored along with Marylou Tyler, who was on Sales for Nerds in Episode 14.

Now he’s back with From Impossible to Inevitable: How hyper growth companies create Predictable Revenue. This time, Jason Lemkin, former CEO of EchoSign, leader of SaaStr, and more, is his coauthor.

This book breaks done how companies can grow quickly and sustainably, with 7 steps:

From Impossible to Inevitable Cover

  1. You’re not ready to grow until you Nail a Niche.
  2. Overnight success is a fairy tale. You’re not going to be magically discovered. You need sustainable systems that Create Predictable Pipeline.
  3. Growth exposes your weaknesses and it will cause more problems than it solves—until you Make Sales Scalable.
  4. It’s hard to build a big business out of small deals. Figure out how to Double Your Dealsize.
  5. It’ll take years longer than you want, but don’t quit too soon. Make sure you can Do the Time.
  6. Your people are renting, not owning their jobs. Develop a culture of initiative, not adequacy by Embracing Employee Ownership.
  7. Employees, you are too accepting of “reality” and too eager to quit. You can Define Your Destiny to make a difference, for yourself and your company, no matter what you do or where you work.

Aaron does all this while he and his wife raise 12 kids (!!!) (mostly adopted, for those wondering how that’s even possible for such a young-looking guy).

You might think that Aaron’s some sort of superman, or at least a cyborg, but what’s great about his books is that he admits that this is hard. There’s no “X easy steps to winning.” In fact, the books include painful episodes in Aaron’s life, and the admission that things will be hard and tiring.

His whole career in sales started because he didn’t really know how to sell. He never thought about sales, and certainly never thought he’d end up the author of best-selling sales manuals.

But when his first company failed because he didn’t have the sales chops he wanted to have, he joined Salesforce.com. He was employee number 150, which gave him a bit of stock, but not enough to get rich, and he was “on step up from the interns.” He helped build the outbound engine that developed leads before handing them off to account managers. This helped salesforce grow rapidly and efficiently.

However, it wasn’t until he left salesforce and was consulting with another company that he realized how critical it is to specialize your prospecting (early funnel) and your account management (late funnel).

Even if you don’t have a huge sales team, even if you’re just one person doing everything, you still need a way to focus on your time and energies on these different activities. As they write in the book:

Specializing your roles is the #1 most important thing for creating predictable, scalable sales growth.
Even if it’s just marking different times in your calendar for different activities.
What else did Aaron learn?
First, the importance of “Nailing your Niche”.
This comes up again and again, but “you’re not ready to grow until you nail a niche.” This doesn’t mean you can only work in your niche, but you need to have one and nail it. It makes everything easier.
While consumers tend to buy what they want, business tend to buy what they need. If you’re talking to people and they say, “that’s cool”, but they don’t buy, that means it’s a nice-to-have.

Once you’ve got your niche nailed, you can use your:

  • Seeds (word-of-mouth)
  • Nets (marketing– including testimonials, which are a form of word-of-mouth)
  • Spears (outbound targeted marketing and business development)

Aaron also offers some tips on how to handle the overwhelming number of possible sales and marketing activities, with what he calls “cake vs icing.”

The cake is the core thing that helps your grow your business. For Aaron, it’s writing books. For Jason, it’s being active answering questions on Quora. (If you’re in the software world, you should follow him.) Do that one thing well, and then you can use that in other ways (the “icing”). Don’t try to do everything, or you’ll never get anywhere. Aaron blocked out Wednesdays for a year to write the the book. For Aaron, social media isn’t very interesting, so he hires someone to help him with that part of marketing.

As a pricing guy, I also appreciated Aaron’s view that you should spend as work trying to double your average deal size as you do finding and closing twice as many deals. As Marc Andressen says, “raise prices“.

Aaron also provides some tips on how he manages the family schedule (“one day at a time”). If you’v got less than 12 kids, no complaining. 😉

The wine…

8796499443742Aaron couldn’t partake, because he was in the middle of the morning California time, plus, while he really wanted a glass of wine, he knew it would put him to sleep which is not good when you have a short workday and a huge household logistical puzzle to solve each day.

However, I enjoyed a glass of 2013 Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. A nice, up the middle of the road cab. (It’s pretty expensive on the Franciscan.com site, but you can get it for $15-18.)

Where to find Aaron:

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

Get the episode on iTunes (check out the new Apple Podcasts– nice!)

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Episode 19: Brennan Dunn on Sales without Selling, the Benefits of a Classical Education

Brennan DunnBrennan Dunn, who you may know from Double Your Freelancing [price] fame is an internet marketing whiz, but he didn’t start out that way. He was pursuing an electrical engineering degree when he decided to switch gears (and schools) and study Ancient Greek and Latin.

Then he started doing internet marketing, almost accidentally, learning the in’s and out’s of lead generation and conversion on behalf of clients.

He did freelance development, then started, grew, and sold an agency based on what he’d learned as a freelancer.

Then, based on what he’d learned running an agency, he launched a software app (Planscope). To help Planscope customers be more successful, Brennan launched the Double Your Freelancing online course (the course I wish I had started, as we discuss in the interview), which boasts over 10,000 members.

Building on that experience, and how he tried to hack his site to be a more effective marketing tool, Brennan launched RightMessage, to customize website messaging based on visitor profiles.

It’s a long and interesting journey, but one that builds on itself.

In this episode, Brennan discusses:

  • 2 key strategies he uses for making sales without selling. Both are great.
  • How to understand what your customers are buying, which is often very different than what you think you’re selling.
  • The complete (series of) accident(s) that led to Double Your Freelancing, which he grew into a 7-figure business.
  • The system he uses to understand a market, develop an offering, and then sell that offering in a low-touch, scalable way
  • The importance of a good message and strong positioning, which helps you sell in a low/no-touch channel, and how that led to Brennan’s latest offering, RightMessage.
  • How his classical education provided a foundation for successful sales without selling.

 

Today’s wine:

  • Leyda Pinot Noir 2014 (I describe it as a nice Pinot Noir with a bit of a “Chilean bite”– this must be the “red acid fruit” described below.
  • Tasting Notes: An expressive and fruit driven, cold climate style of Pinot Noir, showcasing red acid fruit together with spiciness and floral notes. Its strong expression makes it an ideal example of the maritime valley. In the mouth it is fruity, juicy and fresh, with good acidity. The tannins are soft, sweet and well rounded.

Where to find Brennan: @BrennanDunn, RightMessage.io, DoubleYourFreelancing.com (he’s on LinkedIn, but not really)

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @MimiranMimiran.com, LinkedIn.

 

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