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


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


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


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


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


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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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Get the episode now on iTuneslisten on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android, Player.fm.

Episode 18: Ben Seigel on Website Planning

Ben SeigelToday’s guest is Ben Seigel. Counting on fifteen years professional web experience, Ben handles project management, web design and development. He specializes in Craft and ExpressionEngine CMS.

Ben runs the Madison Web Design & Development Meetup and volunteers each year with Junior Achievement. In his spare time, he enjoys bicycling, music, travel, spirited conversation and pretending to do Parkour.

We discuss how Ben got into the web design business, his processes, getting the best results for a project and your client, design simplicity, and three quick tests you can try on your website to see if it meets industry standards for 2017.

In this week’s show:

  • Building awareness of a growing medium
  • Systematization
  • The intake process is all about the business owner
  • Planning isn’t sexy
  • Interrogating a problem
  • Keeping it simple
  • Ben’s top 3 quick tests for your website

Links:

Today’s wine:

  • Bartenura Moscato from Italy, 2016Winemaker’s Notes: Crisp and refreshing, semi sweet, with lingering pear, tangerine, nectar and melon flavors on the finish. Perfect with dessert or fresh fruit, or sipping poolside.

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Ben is a self taught web designer and developer. In the late ‘90s, Ben was running a lawn service and got his first computer to do his books and get online. After learning to code and design in his spare time, he got a job making websites for law firms and, after a couple of years of experience, broke out on his own.

In the early days of his agency, sales and marketing largely depended on running print ads, having conversations with business owners, and referrals to get his business up and running.

Building awareness of a growing medium

At the time, the idea that every business should have a website was relatively new. So it was important for Ben to identify the right businesses to target for his service and draw their attention to this growing online medium.

By pointing to competitors or to other local businesses, people began to get on the ‘idea train’ and understand the value of having a website. As the concept spread, it made the sales process easier.

And by being the person to educate these businesses early, Ben was able to establish himself as an expert and grow a sizeable client base at a time when the industry was growing.

Systematization

As the agency has grown, Ben has systematized processes in the business. One of these is contracting – to make contract and proposal writing easier.

He has created a standard set of feature descriptions and language for the parts of a website. From what clients get for initial mockups and designs to what they’re going to get for a branding design.

For the terms of the contracts, Ben adds a new line or paragraph to his terms and conditions every time he has a bad experience with a client – whether fault lies with the client or the agency – to avoid making the same mistake twice.

Ben’s time is roughly split: 40% on sales, 40% on client work, 20% managing other people.

The intake process is all about the business owner

Being able to translate your expertise into layman’s terms is crucial in the process of selling. It’s not your chance to talk about how smart you are and how much you know about technology, it’s your chance to figure out the client’s needs and what those needs mean to the project.

Don’t feel the need to describe your solution right away; let the client describe their problems so that you can develop the appropriate solution.

Within every organization there is a lot of institutional knowledge that can be hidden. Often people don’t know what they know because they have been working in their industry for so long.

As a result, sometimes what comes out of doing this kind of planning can be not what you expect.

It can even mean you discover that the project they have in mind is not going to give them the required return on their investment, and so you advise them against hiring you for it. This kind of honesty can develop trust; in many respects we are all sceptical around a salesperson’s claim that they are there to help you. Because we’re thinking that they’re just there to make money.

But by showing the value of uncovering this information through the intake process, and having it lead wherever it leads, you’re showing that you really are there to help.

Planning isn’t sexy

We don’t get excited for planning meetings, for digging through company strategy and bringing in employees from across the business to get their input. Site designs, logos, and new technologies are much more exciting.

Planning is hard work. But when you do it thoroughly, you have a defined and structured set of requirements that are based on the needs you have identified.

Without spending the proper time on planning, you end up with cookie-cutter sites with generic designs and copy that don’t deliver the results you need for your business.

Interrogating a problem

Continuing to dig and asking probing questions throughout the process is not only great for building relationships, it uncovers all kinds of unexpected requirements and ideas.

By continually asking ‘what am I not asking you?’ and by speaking to new people within an organization, you can uncover valuable information that can shape a project.

Keeping it simple

Ben likes to keep things as simple as possible when building clients’ websites.

Everyone wants to keep things simple in theory, but in practice, projects can often unwittingly become overly complicated.

Ben gives the example of a restaurant. There are three key things that people want to find out when they are looking for a place to eat:

  • The hours
  • The menu
  • The location

There may be other things that people want to find out, but in its most basic form, a restaurant website should contain those key pieces of information, on a page that loads quickly and responsively on all devices.

Cluttering a page with social sharing features is not a top priority and can complicate the user experience.

Likewise, keeping content within a page strictly relevant its subject is important to the user experience and engagement as a result of that.

Daring Fireball is an excellent example we give of simplicity in design and user experience. In both design and content, this site keeps things minimal, displaying only the content that matters with no extraneous features.

Ben’s top 3 quick tests for your website

Ben advises three things that everyone should look out for on their website in 2017.

  1. Responsiveness — all websites should now work across all devices (mobile, tablet, desktop).
  2. Load time — if users have to wait too long for your site to load, they will leave.
  3. 3rd party tests & feedback — have somebody who is not emotionally invested in the site have a look around your site, ask them to perform some basic use cases and observe any friction or faults that they encounter along the way. This will give you some things to fix to improve your user experience.

You can test your website’s load time here: GTmetrix

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Episode 17: Anil Dash on tech lessons for sales and more

Anil DashAnd 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 wine…

OK, there was no wine in this episode! Anil doesn’t drink wine. Or coffee. Plus, we recorded in the morning.

Let me know if you think it’s missing.

 

Where to find Anil: AnilDash.com@AnilDashFog Creek Software

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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