Michelle Tillis Lederman worked in the finance department, crunching numbers, until a chance trip to Japan and an interesting coaching experience led her to launch her own business, helping people connect with each other better.
The “recovering CPA” has written several books, and her latest, The Connector’s Advantage: 7 Mindsets to Grow Your Influence and Impact was what led to this conversation.
In this episode learn:
How to achieve your goals faster, easier, and better with help from your connections (and feel better along the way)
How to bring your natural strengths and “unique charms” to conversations, instead of trying to force yourself to be someone else (especially helpful for introverts)
How to find points of connection
How to be stay in a place of curiosity and openness instead of jumping to conclusions, and why this is so important
How to keep connections alive and healthy, without being fake
The importance of picking up the phone and calling people, even if you’re busy (yes!!!)
Plus, Michelle takes notes as our conversation leads to ideas for 2 blog posts. 😉
And again– we’ve actually got video for this episode. See below…
Michelle had a bottle of Poland Springs. 😉 With summer in full swing in Texas, Reuben switched to white, a Ribbonwood Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.
Unlike most of us, Diane grew up with a father who was “everything good about sales”. Yet she still hated the thought of going into sales.
Learn how she overcame that fear and followed in her father’s footsteps as an honest, authentic, problem-solving sales rep.
Diane, is an author (see book recommendation below), advisor, award-winning-speaker, host of the Accelerate Your Business Growth, member of the Newsweek Expert Forum, and the National Small Business Association Leadership Council.
(As a side note, we have been trying to schedule this interview for a while, but I needed time to get around to reading Diane’s excellent book, Succeed without Selling, and when we finally had an interview scheduled, Diane lost power.)
In this episode learn how:
Diane changed her perspective on selling so she could be herself.
To understand what prospects actually need, so you don’t assume everyone is a prospect.
To network effectively not to sell, but to build your community.
To define your target market and research people.
To get introductions.
To go for the conversation, not the sale.
To use LinkedIn effectively (do you have your high school on your profile?).
To be “you”– if people do business with people they trust, how can they do business with you if you’re not authentic. (“Stop lying!”)
To ask budget questions.
And again– we’ve actually got video for this episode. See below…
Diane had a glass of 19 Crimes Snoop Cali Red (just look at this bottle). Despite the name, 19 Crimes is an Australian brand, playing off the crimes that could get English people deported.
Reuben had a glass of Chateau Bucasse from Madiran, Gascony in the southwest of France. It’s 60% Tannat (see wikipedia entry here), 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cab Franc. If you have a Costco membership, grab a bottle for $14 (it was recently featured on ReverseWineSnob.com as a great deal).
Alan Weiss is perhaps the original consultant to consultants, author of the seminal Million Dollar Consulting (and dozens of other books on business and life).
Million Dollar Consulting was my lifeline when I started consulting, so I’ve always wanted to Alan to come on Sales for Nerds because if you haven’t read his stuff, you need to hear his advice.
In this episode learn how Alan:
Turned around a money-losing division early in his career, with a brain dead simple tactic you should be using now.
Realized that hourly billing was unethical.
Saw how tech consultants become a “pair of hands” instead of a “brain” and commoditize themselves
Asks questions to move up the corporate ladder to decision makers.
Taps into the emotional needs of buyers so they can take action (“logic makes people think, emotion makes people act”).
Uses a “helping” instead of a “selling” mindset to interact with decision makers as peers.
Builds a verifies trust quickly.
Also, Alan notes that there are a lot of excellent consultants who can’t market and a lot mediocre consultants who are great at marketing. Most consultants are too timid– they try not to lose business instead of going aggressively to win business.
Alan also offers a simple 3 step plan for building pipeline.
Call everyone you know. “Don’t hide behind email.” Can I get an “amen”? Ask for referrals. (Want an easier way to do this? Try Mimiran, the CRM for solo consultants who hate “selling”, with Call Mode included in free and paid plans.)
Treat networking as a process to set up subsequent meetings. Forge connections, don’t aim for sales.
Host events that offer value to your ideal client. (Virtual or in person.)
When you get meetings with prospects:
establish a trusting relationship– offer value from the start
look at the client’s issues (not just “pain”)
create conceptual agreement on what needs to happen– objectives, measures, and value
“pour cement”– offer to have a proposal for them the next day, with a meeting scheduled to review it the following day. Ask if there is anything other than fees that would prevent them from selecting one of the options you will give them.
Why buyers care about more than saving money and avoiding pain.
How to uncover the personal objective behind every business objective.
Signs the client trusts you
Why doing things internally is harder and more expensive than hiring you
Why businesses need to keep climbing
How to be a peer and not a subordinate
Why Alan is optimistic about 2021 and why you should consider volatility and disruption offensive weapons
And again– we’ve actually got video for this episode. See below…
Alan enjoyed Marietta Cellars Armé cabernet (which has a little merlot, malbec, and petit verdot blended in). This goes for about $26 from the vineyard and Alan says it will go well with any steak. Reuben had some Franciscan cabernet sauvignon (looks like it was a cab interview).
Bob Burg is the co-author of The Go-Giver (along with several other books), a former Gold Gloves champion, and so much more. Bob started off with a book called Endless Referrals.
Bob notes that people connect with “stories” more than instructions. Bob wanted to take the premise of his first book– Endless Referrals, which was that all things being equal, people want to refer people they know, like, and trust, and turn it into a story or parable. Bob, in his modest way, says that the best thing he did for that book was get John David Mann as the co-author to make it more of a story.
After boxing and college, he was a broadcaster on a TV show, but knew that wasn’t for him, so he got into sales. He floundered because he didn’t have any real training. Found some books in the book store, which was harder to do back then, and his sales results started to improve.
Bob believes that you can achieve anything (within reason), if you have a predictable, improvable system.
People who say they don’t like “selling”, don’t like what they thinking selling is.
“Selling is discovering what the other person does need, want, and desire, and helping them get it.”
Bob believes that sales people are needed more than ever, they’re just not needed as information dispensers.
The Trade Secret is giving… being a go-getter– a person of action, is great, just don’t be a go-taker.
Shifting your focus from getting to giving– constantly and consistently providing immense value to others– will give you great results. Nobody is going to buy from you because you have a quota, or even because you’re a nice person– they buy from you if it is in their interest.
In the book, Bob and John introduce the 5 laws…
The Law of Value– give so much more in value that you price. The buyer and the seller both profit from the exchange.
The Law of Compensation– your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.
The Law of Influence– your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first.
The Law of Authenticity– the most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself. Hard to show up as ourselves if we can’t identify and embrace your strengths. 3 weaknesses (ignore, mitigate, changed)
The Law of Receptivity– the key to effective giving means staying open to receiving. Horrendous messages… Giving and receiving are two sides of the same coin (not giving and taking– that’s different). Have to be willing to price appropriately.
Bob notes that all 5 laws are congruent with human nature– you’re not trying to make yourself or someone else someone beyond human capabilities.
Bob thinks we absorb a lot of unhealthy messages about prosperity, that the way to achieve wealth is to be dishonest and/or mistreat people. He recommends some other folks to counteract this, like Randy Gage, Bob Proctor, Sharon Lector (Rich Dad, Poor Dad), Ken Honda (Happy Money).
A lot of people feel they aren’t good at sales because they’re not big talkers– but selling from listening, not talking.
To get started being a go-giver, build on your successes. Ask “how can I add value to other human beings?”
And again– we’ve actually got video for this episode. See below…
Reuben had some 2106 Chateaux Chemin Royale from Bordeaux.
I got introduced to Ellen Melko Moore when someone suggested I take her free LinkedIn Profile Audit. I was skeptical (naturally) but decided to give it a go. I was impressed and immediately invited Ellen to Sales for Nerds. (If you’re reading this, you should book a free audit session, too!)
Ellen was on the path to become an English professor, but after a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and a lot of work towards her PhD, she realized she was on the wrong path. She loved writing and teaching, but not the politics.
In this episode, learn how Ellen:
Figured out how to get paid to to talk about great books (and why I still have a great book sitting unread on my bookshelf).
How her “supertight” branding for this venture landing her a consulting gig with Oprah.
How she ended up on TV, and what that taught her about communication, especially coming from academia.
How this led her to help other people create “Supertight” brands, and why she focuses on LinkedIn.
Learn about the “Bitchslap of Truth”– no I’m not making that up
Here’s some of what Ellen covers in this episode about building a great brand:
The first rule of branding (via Dan Kennedy), and why Ellen thinks “Sales for Nerds” is a “Supertight” brand. (What do you think?)
Why you shouldn’t worry about your brand ruling people out– you should focus on making it strong enough to rule people in. (Note that even toilet paper marketers target certain niches– so unless your offering has broader appeal than toilet paper, you need to niche, too.)
It’s often hard to target your brand effectively, because you’re close to it, you don’t want to miss out, and emotions are involved. Get help, from a professional, from a friend, from a peer, etc. (Ellen quotes the stat that 10,000 people per day are moving into consulting or coaching– we don’t know if this is true– and most of them won’t make a lot of money. If you’re one of those people, make sure your brand stands out.)
If you want to have a successful brand, focus it on a subsegment of the market that you can help that has ATP (Ability-to-Pay) and ETP (Eagerness-to-Pay). You can often find people with one or other (or neither), but you need both.
People tend to buy from the first expert who educates them– why not have your LinkedIn profile do some of the work?
Plus, my bonus tips on expanding or narrowing your niche: expand if sales are too easy, contract if sales are too hard.
Learn some simple, powerful LinkedIn tips:
How to optimize your profile– and why it’s probably hurting Ellen’s eyeballs and heart. Make it more about your ideal clients and less about you. It’s about “teaching, not marketing.” Make sure you use the About section to give a “state of the union” for your ideal client.
Take the time to follow Ellen’s advice here— she’s already helped me improve me profile a bunch, with more to do, but if you check out my LinkedIn profile, you can see I’ve put into action some of her advice.
How to send and process connection requests (you wouldn’t walk up to someone in real life and say “you’re amazing– you want to buy my stuff!” but people do this on LinkedIn all the time), plus how to get Ellen to automatically accept your request.
How to use content effectively, including tips for video (and why most content falls flat)
It was too early for Ellen, but Reuben had a glass of Furthermore Pinot Noir from Sonoma.
Michael Greenberg comes from a long line of entrepreneurs on both sides of his family. But his parents didn’t want him to be an entrepreneur. He dropped out of college, enrolled in a coding bootcamp and joined a startup, but it didn’t turn into the next big thing.
In this episode, Michael shares some wisdom on staring a consulting practice and how to use podcasts to do guerrilla sales and marketing, including:
How to know if you’re ready to start a consulting practice on your own.
Why startups and small companies often hit the wall and stop growing.
Who to invite on your show to boost your own authority and exposure (and get leads).
How to get great guests, either locally (not so feasible right now) or virtually.
How to plan a “story arc” across multiple episodes that not only gives your listeners a coherent narrative, it also forms the basis of other forms of content, including e-books and book books. (Hmm, maybe I should I be doing a better job here.)
How to have a conversation with guests that doesn’t feel like a sales pitch and doesn’t feel awkward for you or your guest. (The podcast is really about selling you, not your services.)
How to prepare questions and segues to keep your interviews flowing smoothly.
Why you shouldn’t worry about promoting your podcast too much.
How to plan your initial podcast launch, including how many episodes you need, and how to use “Allied Guests” to set you up for success.
How much time you need to invest in a podcast-based marketing strategy.
Plus, get Michael’s very Sales-for-Nerds-friendly tip for helping nervous CEOs before a VC pitch.
Enjoy, and feel free to suggest how I could use Michael’s advice for Sales for Nerds. 😉
The Wine & Whiskey
I got to enjoy some Cooper Jaxson Pinot Noir from California, and Michael had Bernheim Original Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey, which apparently has a distinct, smooth flavor because of the wheat. (Hmmm, I need to try that.)
Damian Thompson is founder and Chief Training Officer for Salesability, focusing on sales training for small business owners who don’t like sales. Sounds like the kind of guy we need to have on Sales for Nerds!
Damian started out selling newspapers, then did door-to-door sales in college. After college, Damian’s first “real” sales job was in enterprise software security. Then he’s help big companies set up a new sales office in foreign countries. He “burned the suit and tie” in 2011 and started trying to build his own business online. He moved to the Philippines, and started building an outsourced sales business. But it was hard. Then he did some copywriting and lead generation on demand, but was doing sales coaching to pay the bills.
Finally, he realized that he should focus on the sales coaching, with a particular attention to skilled creators who are reluctant sales people. Because they don’t like it, they don’t treat it with respect, so they never get really good about it. Their passion keeps them afloat, but they never build the sales process to grow beyond themselves, then they make the “$100,000 mistake” but hiring a savior salesperson, who then fails, because they were never setup for success. Here’s more of what Damian learned…
Damian’s definition of a real business is having revenue come in that you don’t have to touch.
Damian says there are a lot of charlatans like Grant Cardone. There’s also a lot of noise from SaaS companies like Steli Efti from Close, Aaron Ross from Predictable Revenue (see Aaron’s interviews on Sales for Nerds here and here) that doesn’t necessarily apply to the typical small business. Most sales training is run for big companies selling to other big companies.
Sales is a process– there’s no such thing as a natural born sales person. Once you take it on as a process, engineers can be great at sales.
There’s no such things as multitasking– time management is a huge problem for founders who struggle with sales.
Make sure you do prospecting every day, even when you’re busy with other stuff, or your pipeline will dry up and you’ll be in big trouble.
What you shouldn’t doing?
Trying to automate too much. You can’t automate empathy or insight. Mass cold email is terrible.
Fear the telephone. Pick up the phone (or Zoom or Skype) and call people. “Email for marketing, the phone is for selling.”
Charge too little. Everyone expects to be on time and on budget. Getting the first dollars is always the hardest– because they have to trust you. Note that you’re not selling your time– if you spent a lifetime learning to do something quickly, that’s valuable. It’s about the goal you help them reach.
Fail to sell against the status quo– by failing to establish consequences for inaction. Damien uses a personal example– I’m trying to lose 15 pounds– I know how to do it and I even tell myself that I want to do it, but I’m not doing it.
Skipping over the early qualification stages to try to speed to the end of the sale. Don’t ask “just enough questions to write a proposal.” Then you end up harassing the wrong prospects, and you’re constantly following up without giving any value, and you decide you hate sales.
Not having a system for sales. You are in control– just because someone asks you for something, doesn’t mean you have to give it to them. Don’t be not in control. Don’t let your prospects bully you.
Taking time with the wrong prospects. These people are happy to waste your time.
Not setting up sales reps for success. Typically when business owners hire operational help, they know how to do the process they’re hiring someone to do. But in sales, they don’t have a process, so they hope that a magical sales person will fix everything, but they’re not set up for success.
You have to “go the gym” every day. Your personal trainer can’t work out for you. You have to spend time on sales.
And you have to ask decisively for the next step. For example, you ask a web lead for a 20 minute call. But what happens at the end of that call? Is it a proposal? If so, do a live proposal review and schedule it on the call. Then what happens when you present? You ask for the business. Sometimes they say yes, sometimes they say no, but have a decisive next step for the “I have to think about” people.
Always ask for a meeting until you get a yes or no. If someone isn’t willing to get on a call with you, will they give you thousands of dollars? There’s nothing you can do with sales skills to sell something to someone who won’t get on the phone with you for a few minutes.
The person who wins is usually the most honest. So if you feel like you’re getting brushed off, make sure they have permission to say “no” without hurting your feelings. (And then ask what you could have done differently.)
Here’s the question to ask: one a scale of 1 to 10, and you can’t say 7, how big a problem is this? If they say a 6 or below, it’s not worth pursuing. If they say 8, 9, or 10, ask for more information on why.
Now go PICK UP THE *$@& PHONE!!! Or Zoom or whatever. (Here are some tips on doing video calls— especially important since face to face meeting are off the menu for now.)
I got to enjoy some Chateau Fongaban Bordeaux from Puisseguin-Saint-Emilion. (In the episode, I mistakenly pronounced, or tried to pronounce it with an ‘R’ instead of an ‘F’ and the beginning– you can look at the label and decide if that’s a reasonable mistake.)
Amos Schwartzfarb was an English major turned rock climber who accidentally stumbled into entrepreneurship and sales.
Now, with 6 startups under his belt, and with experience advising dozens more as the head of TechStars Austin, he’s distilled major sales lessons into his book: Sell More Faster: the Ultimate Sales Playbook for Startups (which was part of the Sales for Nerds bookshelf giveaway).
In this conversation, we talk about the strange path Amos took to sales (even by the standards of this podcast), and some of his early struggles with sales, and what helped him get much more effective.
We also dig into the W3 framework (who?, what?, why?) that Amos lays out in the book, including:
When to narrow or broaden your niche
The difference between customer development and sales, and when and how to do each one
Why the important part of “what?” is what are they buying, not what are you selling
The importance of “digging the hole”– doing the actual work, and what that means
We got to enjoy some Qupe Syrah from Santa Barbara county. Highly recommended.
Tukan Das, CEO of LeadSift, comes from a computer science background, doing his research on sentiment analysis. He used machine learning to analyze topic-based sentiments, like “I love Steve Jobs’ vision, but I hate the latest iPhone”, which has positive and negative sentiments in the same sentence. (Tukan notes that computers have even more trouble with sarcasm than people.)
Tukan was comfortable writing code, not with sales and marketing. So when he started LeadSift, he hired a sales person. This was a mistake, because he had a “glorified idea”.
At that stage, “it’s almost impossible for an outside salesperson to sell.”
It took almost a year to realize the problem, and then Tukan had to step in, after a lot of developers building custom code based on sales requests that weren’t really the right fit. When Tukan started running sales, he first insisted that they couldn’t give anything away. People had to pay some non-zero fee. Then he switched from month-to-month to 90 day paid pilots. (They picked $99/month, almost out of thin air. One prospect insisted on paying $500. From that point on, they went with $500.)
For the first 2 years, they focused on outbound emails. In 2016, they got about 6 meetings per 100 contacts. 20% of those meetings that were a fit became customers. So they got about 1 customer per 100 contacts.
Tukan emphasizes that each contact required several emails, LinkedIn follow up, and a lot of persistence. About 30% of the emails are personalized, 70% is template. (Note that LeadSift has some capabilities to make this easier.)
They also got rid of their slide deck presentation. (Hallelujah! How much time have we all wasted in PowerPoint hell?) They would tell stories based on the specific needs of the prospect, along the lines of John Livesay’s better selling through storytelling.
Tukan also learned to not take rejection personally. Sometimes people would come back later when the timing was better. Sometimes they don’t. It’s ok.
After a seemingly successful sales meeting with a Fortune 100 prospect, followed by ghosting, one of Tukan’s advisors gave him some great advice:
Customers who do not understand your value proposition don’t owe you anything.
So now Tukan asks people to tell him upfront if there’s not a good fit.