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.

listen-on-apple-podcasts-sales-for-nerds

You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on AndroidPlayer.fm.


Get alerted when there are new episodes (1x/month):

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!)

listen-on-apple-podcasts-sales-for-nerds

You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on AndroidPlayer.fm.


Get alerted when there are new episodes (1x/month):

Summer Reading List

Who doesn’t love the summer? People trying to schedule podcast interviews, that’s who. 😉

Sales for Nerds will be on a monthly schedule because it’s just too hard to coordinate schedules right now.

With that in mind, here’s a summer reading list, pulled from recommendations from past episodes, with a few added bonuses.

Books on Overall Productivity

Sales and Marketing

Organizational and Management Challenges

 

  • 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.

Fun Beach Reads

  • The Three Body Problem (book one of a trilogy), by Cixin Liu. Science fiction that will pull you in.
  • Shoe Dog, by Phil Knight. The memoir of the Nike founder. Surprisingly gripping account.

Nerdier Beach Reads, but not about Business

Summer Wine

I usually prefer red, but when it gets into the triple digits in Texas, some Sauvignon Blanc starts to sound good, like the offerings from Kim Crawford in New Zealand.