044 John Livesay on Better Selling through Storytelling

John Livesay

John Livesay becomes the second guest to return to Sales for Nerds (catch his earlier episode on how to pitch here). Now he’s back to talk about “Better Selling through Storytelling”, which of course is the name of his new book.

In this episode, John goes into why storytelling is so important (it’s how we actually learn and communicate, not just by dumping facts on people), and how to do it effectively. In particular, John goes into:

Story Structure

Each story has a framework.

  • Exposition (the who, what, when, where, why)
  • The problem– if there’s no problem, there’s no drama
  • The solution
  • And the resolution– what life is like after the solution

How to Move up the “5 I’s” Ladder (whether in sales or in the dating world)

  • Invisible
  • Insignificant
  • Interesting
  • Intriguing
  • Irresistible

Note that most small business are stuck on the first 2 rungs.

The way to move up the ladder is to tell stories (you may have heard them called “case studies”) about one person so that other people can see themselves in the story. These stories will find their way to your buyers and pull them in if you do a good job.

Of course, this means picking your niche so that your story resonates with the other people in that niche. Don’t worry about going too narrow (this should sound familiar from Aaron Ross’s advice on nailing your niche). Your story will still resonate, just not as powerfully, with nearby niches. This is still better than telling a more generic story that applies to everyone, but resonates with no one.

To all the way to the top of the ladder, John (of course) tells the story of meeting Michael Phelps, and how his coach asked if he was willing to train on Sundays. When Michael said that we he was, the coach said, “great, now we have 52 more training sessions than the other swimmers.” This is John’s way of getting us to think about what we can do or offer that no one else can.

Weaving stories together

The buyer wants to see their story in your story about other buyers. They also need to know your story (although we typically focus too much on this part, and not enough on the others). So how do we weave these stories together?

First consider 3 unspoken questions a prospect has. Not: do I know, like, and trust you? But: do I trust, like, and know you? In other words, do I trust you enough to even listen to anything you have to say? Then, do I like you enough to want to listen? And finally, moving from the gut, to the heart, to the head, do I know you (and that you can do the job)?

If you can do that, you can use the case study to weave the stories together.

In this age of more and more information and technology, storytelling is more important than ever, but in John’s view, everyone can be a good storyteller.

Handling the negatives

Don’t get put off by objections– they are buying signals. And don’t forget that it’s not the job of your prospects, strangers, or even your kids to make you feel good. As John writes, “that’s why they call it self-esteem.”

Side note: some slides I often like to use:

The Wine (& Whisky)

John enjoys some Stag’s Leap Chardonnay.

Earlier that morning, I’d had a wisdom tooth out. They told me to avoid alcohol for a couple of days (not because of any health issues, but because it would hurt). I was tempted to just skip having a drink with John, but that didn’t seem right. I also didn’t want to open a bottle of wine if it was too painful to drink. So I decided to have a sip of whisky as a test. All good. So I had a glass of Caol Ila Islay 12 year old scotch.

(I was trying extra hard to concentrate and felt that I wasn’t doing a great job, but John said it was a good conversation.)

Where to find John…

Better Selling through storytelling cover

Get John’s book: Better Selling through Storytelling

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

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com (the easy CRM for people who are awesome at serving clients and would love some help getting more, but hate “selling”). You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android, or Player.fm.

Also, if you can get a free “fill in the blank” hero proposal template. Remember, a proposal is a story, not a brochure.

If you’ve ever struggled with a proposal, check out the “official” Sales for Nerds online course on Sales Proposals the Right Way (coupon link for listeners).


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041: Laura Briggs on SEO for the busy small business owner

Laura Briggs

Laura Briggs is a former middle school teacher, so nothing phases her. ūüėČ Like so many young teacher, the structure of the educational system left her burned out and she entered the digital freelancing economy as a freelance SEO writer.

She’s done TEDx talks on freelancing, and just released her first book, Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business.

In this episode, Laura pulls back the cover on the mysteries of SEO, which can seem so daunting, complicating, and time-consuming that many of us punt on it. Punting is not a great move. Here are some key things to take away:

  • The biggest misconception is the feeling that SEO is so complex that you have to pay someone thousands of dollars per month.
  • The first thing you need to do is figure out the most important keywords for your business. “For your business” means the words that your customers use to describe their problems, not the the words you might want to use to describe your offerings.
    • You can use tools like UberSuggest to help find keywords.
    • YouTube (the world’s 2nd biggest search engine) is also useful. Just start typing in the search bar and see what YouTube suggests.
    • What do people describe as their biggest problems, when you meet with prospects in person or on the phone.
  • Excluding bad fit visitors is as useful as including good fits. You can be explicit about who is a good or bad fit, right on the page.
  • How many keywords do you need? (Keep in mind that “keyword” is really a “key phrase”, of 3-6 words, not a single word.)
    • Use the “keyword” about once per 100 words. Don’t “stuff” the keyword unnaturally into content in an attempt to trick Google. Write for the human reader first.
    • Use specific “long tail keywords” to get more specific, and get traffic from your ideal prospects. For example, ranking for “tennis shoes” is going to be hard, because you’re competing with folks like Nike. But if you say “the best tennis shoes for marathon runners”, you can target much better.
    • You can link to blog posts, which can provide more variation than the “static” service pages on your site.
  • Post at least once per week. (!!!)
    • You can post about your core business, but also “complimentary content”, like “what do eat before you play tennis.”
    • Create a schedule that you can sustain.
    • Work in the medium you enjoy, and then repurpose (for example, if you are comfortable talking, then record a video and have someone transcribe it as a blog post, or vice versa).
  • Backlinks are hard because you don’t have control (on multiple levels). Work on the stuff you can control first. Link properly within your own site, and also link to resources that you cite in your writing. For example, in writing for attorneys, Laura might cite research from hospitals or government sources.
  • Remember that the human reader is the priority. Even if you can somehow trick Google into sending you traffic, what’s going to happen if you don’t write for your ideal visitor?
  • How much time do you need? You need to spend some time upfront. But, once you have a routine, you can batch, bimonthly or monthly, by setting up a calendar and creating a lot of posts or videos or whatever else. This should take at minimum 2 hours per week, but again, you can batch your work. Do what works for you.
    • For example, Laura prefers to carve out one day per month to crank on content. Even for YouTube, Laura will switch shirts between videos and crank out 4 videos. (Too bad this strategy is dangerous for Sales for Nerds.)

Grab a copy of Laura’s new book, Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business: The Complete Guide to Starting and Scaling from Scratch. If you’re a freelance writer, this is a no-brainer, but even for other kinds of service freelance businesses, you’ll find a lot of great stuff in here.

One awesome gem from the book, regardless of whether you’re a freelance writer: the deadlines that you commit to are up to you. Don’t drive yourself crazy.

The Wine

Laura is enjoying some red sangria (“the way I get my serving of fruit”).

I enjoyed some Shannon Ridge Petite Syrah.

Where to find Laura…

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

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com (the easy CRM for people who are awesome at serving clients and would love some help getting more, but hate “selling”). You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android, or Player.fm.

If you’ve ever struggled with a proposal, check out the “official” Sales for Nerds online course on Sales Proposals the Right Way (coupon link for listeners).


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040: Steve Benson on Successful Sales Meetings

Steve Benson is the CEO of Badger Mapping, an app that literally helps sales reps solve the Traveling Salesman Problem, one of the canonical hard problems in computer science, and also very important in the real world. While Steve works in mapping and has a degree in geography, he’s got a background in field sales, becoming Google’s top enterprise sales rep in 2009.

Yet he didn’t have a grand plan to combine his love of geography with practical real-world careers.

He started his post-MBA career in sales at IBM, but was only passionate about the software, not the hardware and services. Joining Google and being close to the Google Maps team, he had a lot of geographical thoughts swirling in his head.

How to run a successful sales meeting:

  1. Get in the right headspace before the meeting. Focus on value. Describe the product like you’re describing a vacation. There’s a different sound in your voice than if you’re describing a product that we’re not really excited about.
  2. Have a pre-call before the meeting. Make sure you know the #1 thing your contact wants to get out of the meeting. Set an agenda.
  3. Don’t just drone on about features– talk to the pain and the needs.
  4. You’re not trying to do training– you can do that after the sale.
  5. Wrap up, make sure you’ve covered what the prospect needs, and agree on the next steps. Set aside time to do this.
  6. Flip the script and put your “dinosaur feature” at the beginning.

How to handle price objections (and other objections, including disagreement among your champion’s colleagues) proactively. (Also see Terry Hansen’s episode on objection prevention and handling.)


The Wine

Steve enjoyed some 2015 Smoking Loon cabernet sauvignon.

I had some 2014 Wind Gap Ni-Pente Pinot Noir.


Where to find Steve…

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

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com (the easy CRM for people who are awesome at serving clients and would love some help getting more, but hate “selling”). You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android, or Player.fm.

If you’ve ever struggled with a proposal, check out the “official” Sales for Nerds online course on Sales Proposals the Right Way (coupon link for listeners).


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039: Sean McCool on copywriting

I got to know Sean (and his cohost, Jonathan Taylor) when I joined them on their Persuasion by the Pint podcast.

Since we are clearly kindred spirits when it comes to podcasting, and Sean happened to be visiting Austin and I hadn’t really done an episode about copywriting, we got together to give you some great stories and practical tips on writing copy, which I know is a tough challenge for a lot of people.

Sean was also a good sport and departed from his usual pint into the wine world.

In this episode, learn:

  • The amazingly simple way Sean made $250 in high school to buy Christmas presents for his family and girlfriend.
  • How Sean flunked out of school, joined the military, got a sales job, and made it into the top 30% but could never quite make it to the top.
  • How he started a business with his dad (“we just about killed each other”) and decided he had to do something else.
  • How he got down to his last $26, and how what he did with it changed the course of his life.
  • How he could charge double or triple what his competitors charged.
  • How to write copy that people actually want to read (and what people usually do instead).
  • Simple, practical tips that anyone can follow to create great copy, like:
    • Record your sales calls, transcribe them and tease out the words and phrases your prospects use.
    • Take a webinar or sales deck and turn each section or slide into an email.
    • If you have an FAQ section on your website, turn each one into an email. (Or maybe you don’t have an FAQ section, but you do get certain questions frequently.)
    • “If you were writing for a friend, how would you say it?”
  • The W.O.R.D. formula for developing copy
    • Win the reader’s attention.
    • Orchestrate the reader’s desire.
    • Resolve skepticism.
    • Determine next action. (Doesn’t have to be a sale– it might even be a “give” instead of an “ask”. You don’t have to get them all the way to the sale all at once. Make their path small, easy steps.)

Much, much more…

The Wine

Sean is a big beer drinker, but was a good sport. We did an easy drinking California Pinot, the Ampelos 2014 from Santa Rita Hills.


Where to find Sean:

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

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com (the easy CRM for people who are awesome at serving clients and would love some help getting more, but hate “selling”). You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android, or Player.fm.

If you’ve ever struggled with a proposal, check out the “official” Sales for Nerds online course on Sales Proposals the Right Way (coupon link for listeners).


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037: Rick Middlemass on Sales Psychology

Rick Middlemass

Rick is the VP of Sales and Marketing for National Association of Sales Professionals, so he’s like an uber meta-sales person, but that’s not how he started. He got a summer internship knocking on doors for a painting company. Learn about his journey, and hear Rick’s insights on sales psychology, including:

  • Why you’re a sales professional if you’re a business owner.
  • What he learned his first day doing door-to-door sales as an introvert, and how you can use it when dealing with your own inner psychology.
  • How Rick became the #1 sales rep for a Cisco integrator, outselling many people who had been there long before him.
  • How much time to give yourself to do research before a call.
  • How information gets conveyed (55% body language, 38% tone, 7% words). This is why talking on the phone loses so much information.
  • (Check out the show Lie to Me for more on how body language reveals a lot about us.)
  • The importance of finding mentors, and why it’s not as hard as you think.
  • Pre-framing (don’t just punt it to the prospect), re-framing (getting back on track), and de-framing (backing out gracefully if there isn’t a fit) are 3 great skills to learn.
  • Learn to ask questions gently, but persistently.
  • Sales is not about directing, it’s about aligning and redirecting. (Don’t attack someone, they will put up a wall.)
  • The one thing Rick would like people to fix: don’t focus on yourself.


The Wine

Rick brings some innovation to Sales for Nerds by having champagne.

I make a move to Burgundy with Chateau de Santenay Bourgogne Pinot Noir, which is definitely more earthy than the California Pinot I often drink, but still accessible and it doesn’t have the deep earth flavors some people don’t enjoy.

Where to find Rick:


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

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com (the easy CRM for people who are awesome at serving clients but would love some help getting more). You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android, or Player.fm.

If you’ve ever struggled with a proposal, check out the “official” Sales for Nerds online course on Sales Proposals the Right Way (coupon link for listeners).


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033: Vanessa Van Edwards on How to Captivate People

Vanessa Van Edwards Vanessa Van Edwards is lead investigator at the¬†Science of People‚ÄĒa human behavior research lab. She is the national bestselling author of¬†Captivate: The Science of Succeeding With People, which was chosen as one of Apple‚Äôs Most Anticipated Books of the year. Her work has been featured on CNN, NPR and Fast Company. She has written columns on the science of success for Entrepreneur Magazine and the Huffington Post. Vanessa started her study of people as a shy teenager, trying to figure out how people interacted. This turned into a lifelong pursuit. When I read her book, I wanted her¬†to come on the show. Vanessa was kind enough to take time away from her 10 week old daughter to share her story and wisdom. There’s a lot of great stuff in here, including

  • When to practice your new tactics (and when not to).
  • One of the few things Reuben did right in college, and how you can apply this technique right now to help you.
  • Why we subconsciously use defensive body language in work settings, and what we can do about it (another great VVE technique).
  • Starting a conversation vs “sparking” a conversation.
  • Why everyone should do 6 months in sales of some kind.
  • Vanessa’s sales tip– don’t focus on sales, focus on stories.
  • Don’t hand out your props at the beginning of the meeting.
  • How to let other people impress you, instead of trying to impress them.
  • What to say, where to stand, and what to do at networking events.
  • How to share stories effectively, and how to know if your stories are too long.
  • How to ask for advice
  • Bonus: A tip that Vanessa has never mentioned before when people ask if you know someone…

Books Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People Captivate The science of succeeding with people               Other books mentioned:

  • Howard’s End, by E.M. Forster. One of the great works of English literature (so I’m told) with a great motif: “Only connect!”

Other Tools & Resources:

  • Check out Vanessa’s site Science of People for all kind of goodies on improving your social interactions.

The wine

As mentioned, Vanessa had to take a rain check on the wine because she has a newborn that she’s feeding, but in her honor, I got to enjoy something from one of her favorite Oregon wineries, Argyle (it’s the 2013 Reserve Pinot Noir). It’s got a bit of fruit and bit of earth, but not whelming, and it’s got more body than a lot of Willamette pinots. Argyle Pinot Noir 2013¬† ¬†¬†bottle_0002_oban-14yo

Where to find Vanessa:

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com (the easy CRM for people who are awesome at serving clients but would love some help getting more). listen-on-apple-podcasts-sales-for-nerds You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android, Player.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.

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

You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android, Player.fm.


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Episode 13: How to Price

Few things cause as much anxiety as pricing. I get a lot of questions about this, so I decided to do an experimental episode just to delve into this topic.
We go into:
  • Why pricing is important.
  • Why it’s easier to underprice than overprice (and what that means for your pricing now).
  • What better pricing can do for your business and your life.
  • The high and low bounds of pricing.
  • How to get closer to the higher bound.
  • How to present price in the sales process.
  • How to negotiate.
  • How to move from hourly to fixed-fee pricing.

Get the episode now on iTunes, listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android.


Oban 14

Since I was just by myself, a glass of whisky means that I didn’t have to worry about saving the rest of the bottle– that stuff keeps.

Oban 14 has a nice taste, milder than the peatier malts I usually prefer, but with a little honey and vanilla to make it interesting.

 


 

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


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Episode 12: Caleb Sidel on moving from dev to sales, finding a niche, and more

Caleb SidelCaleb Sidel got a degree from Carnegie Mellon in computer science and mathematics. I don’t know if you can get an nerdier than that. ūüėČ (He also got a minor in French, which will come into play in a story at the end of the episode where Caleb remembers me not exactly representing Americans well in France.)
Caleb is a partner and co-founder at Strategic Growth Inc, a Salesforce.com implementation partner that has grown rapidly with a core of partners who are responsible for sales and technology. This means a somewhat different approach to sales (and sales training, as they grow the team). Caleb has a long, long list of Salesforce certifications that I won’t bore you with, but he’s deep into Apex code, the Salesforce API, and more.
In this episode, Caleb talks about moving “up the stack”, from implementing features for internal “clients”, to implementing features for external customers, to doing freelance consulting, to co-founding and growing a firm.
Caleb’s tips include:
  • How to find a niche from a technical perspective. We keep talking about the importance of a niche on this podcast, but what if you don’t know what your real market niche is. Caleb discusses why you can find a niche from the technical side in a way that defines your market niche for you.
  • Why all the partners at the firm have to sell (and keep up their tech chops).
  • The importance of passion, not just with your customers, but with your partners.
  • The really simple way they train their consultants to sell.

Plus, there’s that embarrassing story about me. ūüėČ

Get the episode now on iTunes, listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android.


 

Ch√Ęteau Teyssier¬†Montagne-Saint-√Čmilion 2012 bordeaux blend. Delicious. Very french, in a good way.


Where you can find Caleb:

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.   Sites mentioned in the Episode:


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Episode 4: Joe Williamson

joe-williamsonGuest: Joe Williamson, Partner at Alloy Partners, talks about:

  • how to price new products (brilliant stuff), including how pricing too low makes your prospects look bad
  • having an internal locus of control vs an external locus of control
  • what he learned from teaching at The Princeton Review
  • why he wouldn’t turn to sales books for sales advice (and the surprising persona of the best sales person)

Here’s the link to Episode¬†4 with Joe Williamson.


The wine: Joe doesn’t drink, but he helps me run an experiment on aerating the wine. Listen to get the results. (Hint, you may want to pick up one of the items in the show notes.)

Chateau Recougne 2012 Bordeaux. Pretty rich, definitely benefits from aeration, then mellows out nicely. Yum.

Chateau Recougne 2012


Venturi Essential Wine Aerator

How to Talk to Practically Anybody about Practically Anything, by Barbara Walters


Where you can find Joe: Alloy Partners, LinkedIn.

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

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