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.


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

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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!)


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.



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


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.


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



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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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.

016 Maura Thomas on Attention Management

Maura ThomasBuilding 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.

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

Books by Maura:


Other books mentioned in this episode:

Apps for mindfulness and meditation:

The wine…

verada2014 Verada Tri-county Pinot Noir, (a mixture of grapes from Monterrey, Sonoma, and Santa Barbara).



Where you can find Maura: RegainYourTime.com, @mnthomas, YouTube, Facebook

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

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


Listen on Overcast.fm.

Listen on Google Play.

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Episode 15: Jill Konrath on more sales in less time and eliminating distractions

Jill KonrathJill Konrath has written 3 best-selling books on sales, and now she’s out with a new book on personal productivity called More Sales in Less Time, Surprisingly simple strategies for today’s crazy-busy sellers.

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. 😉

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

Books by Jill:

More Sales Less Time

Other books mentioned in this episode:

  • The One Thing, by Gary Keller (who here in Austin created the biggest real estate company in the world)

Apps mentioned:

  • RescueTime— gives you analytics on how you’re spending your time on your computer.
  • Freedom.to— block websites that can drain your time.
  • Unroll.me— easier management of email subscriptions
  • SaneBox— automatically filters your email for you to show you the most important stuff (personally, I’m generally pretty happy with the way Google prioritizes email)

The wine…

I switched to cab for this one– a very nice 2013 Franciscan Estate Napa Valley cab which was quite good and made me think I need to get back to cabernet sauvignon more often.

Jill enjoyed “something white from the fridge.” 😉 She said she’s not used to having wine while being interviewed.


Where you can find Jill: JillKonrath.com, @jillkonrath, LinkedIn, YouTube

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


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Episode 14: Marylou Tyler on Predictable Revenue and Predictable Prospecting

MarylouTyler_06B_XparentPredictable 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.
  • How to write great emails.
  • And much, much more.

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

Books mentioned in this episode:


The wine…

Chateau De GrezelsI 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.

Marylou had some Lost Angels Pinot Noir (along with Jeff Naples’ Sales for Nerds Sangria).lostangelspinot




Where you can find Marylou: @maryloutyler, MarylouTyler.com, The Predictable Prospecting Podcast

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


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