033: Vanessa Van Edwards on How to Captivate People

Vanessa Van Edwards Vanessa Van Edwards is lead investigator at the Science of People—a 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’s 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 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.


You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on AndroidPlayer.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 iTuneslisten 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. 😉 (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. 😉

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


Château Teyssier Montagne-Saint-Émilion 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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What to make of the Apple Watch

One year in, the Apple Watch business is probably as big (bigger?) than Rolex. It’s also a flop, according to many folks. I don’t have one and don’t want one. (I haven’t worn a watch since I had kids. I didn’t want the clasp to hurt them when I held them. I haven’t missed it.) But when Apple put so much attention into the watch project, I was curious to see what they would create.

I’ve played with the device a few times at the Apple store, wondering what I was missing. Unfortunately, rather than make me realize what I was missing, I could barely figure out how to work the thing. When Apple wanted to pay homage to watches of old, I don’t think they meant the part where you try to hit all the buttons in different orders to see how to adjust the hour for daylight savings time, or figure out if your alarm was set. But that’s what it feels like. Unlike the intuitive, simple interface of the iPhone and iPad, I have to know which button to push, or which part of the screen to touch, or maybe I need to turn that world’s tiniest scroll wheel. And depending on what I’m doing (if I actually manage to launch an app), those actions cause different things to happen. Sure, I didn’t spend that long trying, but I’ve tried several times, and apparently this problem doesn’t go away even if you own one.

In the watch world, “complications” are a good thing. For most people, they’re a bad thing. I think Apple tried to do too much. They launched the iPhone without 3rd party apps (and rightly fixed that, later). They could have made a great watch, a great fitness device, and a great notification device. (I haven’t experienced notifications, but people who actually like their Apple Watches tell me that subtle notifications are the best part.) The could have let notifications from apps on the phone go to the watch without those third party apps running on the watch (for now). (I also expected the interface to be more like the old iPod, being able to use touch on the sides of the bezel, without having the thickness and energy needs of a touchscreen, but what do I know about this stuff. I also thought that you’d be able to configure a few wrist motions to make it easy to do some key things without using your other hand.)

Anyone have a watch from Apple or other “wearable” competitor? What do you think?

Moving into Sales? Don’t Panic (Here’s How)

When you have a technical background (and a technical mindset) and you have to go on your first sales call, there’s a natural tendency to panic. Some people avoid this by having no idea what they don’t know, so they don’t panic until later, when they realize they’ve screwed up chances to make lots of money and work on interesting things.

While panic is an useful mechanism to remind you to take step back and take a deep breath, it’s not a good response in a sales situation. (Or any other situation, really.)

Of course, that’s easy to say, but panic is sometimes hard to avoid. I was on an early morning flight to meet with a prospect that a partner had arranged. This was a great opportunity, but the partner had been guarded about the details. It sounded like something we could help with, but I wasn’t sure what to expect. The thing I didn’t want to do was fly across the country for nothing (especially on a 6am flight). But the uncertainty was making me nervous.

As I sipped on my coffee, I looked down at my crisp white shirt and made a mental note to not spill coffee on it. As I finished my coffee, I looked down at my shirt. I had somehow spilled not a drop, but an oil spill’s worth all over my formerly clean white shirt.

Panic set in. Then, I took some deep breaths. (This is probably the most important physiological thing you can do.) Surely, I’m not the only klutz who’s spilled coffee on his shirt before a meeting, right? Right?

When I got off the plane, I found one of those overpriced stores that sells clothes to people who spilled coffee on their shirts. I paid the price, which I would never have done under normal circumstances, and went to my meeting.

We were in a big conference room where the table was big enough to have a gap in the middle. Lots of people were there. That was good, in a way, because it meant that this was important. It was also bad, because I’m introverted, and a much prefer a direct discussion with 1-2 people than a presentation with 8-10 people, who I can’t possibly know well.

Fortunately, the prospect had a problem that they wanted to talk about. I was interested in learning about it, and thinking about how to solve it. I thought about a mental trick I developed to help me deal with situations like this. How would I handle this if these people were friend’s of a friend? (Which in a way they were, as they were close with the partner.) How would I act if there was no money involved, someone just wanted some help with something? Suddenly, it doesn’t feel like “sales”. The awkwardness is gone, and I could just try to be helpful.

The day went well, and we ended up with a six-figure deal. And I didn’t spill anything on my shirt on the way home.

Don’t panic. Just be helpful.

(For tips on how to make 3 essential mindset shifts when moving from a tech role into sales, click the big green button in the sidebar.)