I’ve decided to write a series of blog posts about sales — well really sales, marketing, persuasion, self-promotion, etc. Basically how to instill the desire in people to take the actions you want them to take — and make sure they follow through with it, while treating them with respect (ie not being a douchebag). So while I might use terms like “sell”, “buy”, “customer”, these are just placeholder
There’s a lot to cover so this will take a while. I’m going to pour everything I know into these posts – backed with examples, phrases to use, research and more. I hope it turns out to be really useful for readers. Here’s a list of the chapters I have in mind so far, with a brief description of what I aim to discuss.
Life is sales – Achieving almost any goal in life involves getting other people to do things (for you, with you, etc). You’ve had to sell people on things your entire life – it’s time to get serious about it.
Why smart people suck at selling – Smart people focus too much on facts and on being right. They think the force of their arguments is what will win people to their side, when that’s usually only a minor element of the process.
People buy feelings – Human beings do things because they think it will make them feel a certain way. Figure out what that person wants to feel and show them how you can help them get it.
Sales is a relationship – No matter what you are selling – a widget, a web app, a political candidate or worthy cause – the key factor in the sale is the relationship.
Get inside their heads (and hearts) – A successful sale starts with questions – lots of them. You have to really understand where the other person is coming from. Never start with you.
It’s all about how you tell the story – We are a story-driven species. The stories are the ideal vehicle for conveying information and stimulating emotion.
Help them kick ass – The focus is not on why your thing is awesome. The focus is on how your thing can help THEM be awesome.
The proof is social – Like throwing a party, selling becomes a lot easier when you already have some people. Sometimes it’s better to let others do the persuasion for you.
Take away the fear of buying – People are more scared of the downside than they are enticed by upside. Allay their fears and win the sale.
Fit the ask to the task – Make it easy to say yes and hard to say no. What you ask for and how you ask for it matters – and it varies depending on the situation.
Followup, followup, followup – It’s never over. Remember: it’s a relationship. Stay in touch with people even after they refuse. Keep building that connection and providing value. Positive persistence = winning.
Special Report: Self Promotion / Personal Branding – Self promotion is a special kind of sales. Here’s how to sell yourself, without looking like a douche.
What do you guys think? Is there something you want covered that I’m missing? How can I do this in a way that best serves you? Let me know in the comments.
I had the opportunity to attend a really cool conference over the past weekend called The Behavioral Economics Summit for Startups that is focused on helping startup founders and product designers understand and drive user behavior. There were some great speakers like Dan Ariely, Chris Anderson and Hal Varian.
Here are some notes on the talk Dan Ariely (Duke Professor & best-selling Author of Predictabyl Irrational) on the psychology of money and payment systems. Hope you guys find this valuable!
The paradox of money
Money is a tremendous invention – on the same level as the wheel
Extremely useful but because it’s so versatile, makes it hard to think about
Shadow Value of Price
When you buy coffee – you should ask: what else could I do with this $2.50?
The rational approach is to consider alternative uses / tradeoffs
Doing this with money is hard – it’s easier to think about what to do each day
Envelope Thought Experiment
Imagine you got an envelope with $1000 cash each week
How would you spend it?
You’d spend a lot early on, but then realize later the trade-off value of the money
We studied Intuit customers – this is the pattern we see with people’s spending their paychecks
Credit cards and other things make it hard to see financial horizons
Nice Speakers Thought Experiment
Imagine buying either $700 Sony speaker set vs $1000 Pioneer speaker set
Most people go for the better, pricer Pioneer speakers
New comparison: $700 sony + $300 only in CDs/DVDs vs $1000 Pioneer speaker set
Now – most people choose the speaker + CD package over the Pioneer
Why? It is easier to imagine the value of $300 of CDs
vs the diluted value of $300 spread across all kinds of things (despite the fact that you could buy CDs or anything else with the $300 saved from buying the Pioneer)
Considering Trade-Offs When Buying Cars
Went to a Toyota dealership and asked people:
What are you giving up in order to buy this car?
First got blank stares
Then people said – “Well I’m giving up buying a Honda”
No one said – “I’m giving up 700 lattes, 4 weeks of vacation, etc”
People Vary In Ability/Willingness to Make Trade-Off Comparisons
Turns out poor people are better at weighing the differences compared to wealthy people
When dealing just with cash – the difference is more clear/obvious that if you buy one thing (food) you can’t buy something else (shelter)
Also seen in the difference in Presidents: George W Bush vs Dwight Eisenhower
Bush said his budget increased the defense budget because the price of freedom is not too high
Eisenhower talked about how the cost of a single destroyer could house more that 8000 people
As I mentioned in my last blog post, I’m at South by Southwest Interactive, one of the biggest tech conferences in the world. It’s my first time and I’m meeting a lot of cool people and learning lots. I haven’t been to too many panels but on Friday night I got to see Andrew Warner of Mixergy interview Gary Vaynerchuck, Ze Frank and Tim Ferriss in person.
I love watching the Mixergy Interviews – Andrew is able to get big name people to get really honest and open about their successes and their shortcomings. This evening was no different. Each of the folks here have done amazing things and thanks to a mix of Andrew’s probing questions, the candor of the interviewees and perhaps a bit of drinking, we got to hear a lot of real talk.
Here are some takeaways.
Gary is the author of Crush It! and The Thank You Economy (affiliate links), but is probably best known for his popular videopodcast – Wine Library TV – which is about to reach 1000 episodes and has helped him sell millions of dollars worth of product from his family-owned business. Here’s what I got from Gary:
Building a business with your family, especially your parents, is HARD. Gary and his father would get into big fights about Wine Library. Even though the fights were always about what was best for the business, they were still painful and frustrating. Gary ultimately chose not to work with his father on another venture, Cork’d (which he ultimately spent “around 7 hours” working on) because he realized he wanted to own the whole business and his father would have always held that over his head. Now he’s focused on VaynerMedia which he co-owns with his brother – also challenging, but much better because they have more of a peer oriented sibling-sibling relationship.
Have an irrational belief that you are the best Gary, who in some ways is quite humble about himself and his achievements, also has held the belief that he is The Man and better than pretty much anyone. He talked about how his mom built him up so much that he was honestly surprised that he wasn’t the best looking guy he knew when he was in his mid twenties. When he first started working at Wine Library after college, a woman in his town made a remark along the lines of “Aw, that’s so cute that you’re working at your Dad’s company.” and all he wanted to do was say “Lady, you don’t know anything. I’m going to blow this business up. Your son knows dick compared to me.”
While we’re on the topic of awesome … wanted to post this great video from a few years ago. The world we live in is such a diverse and interesting place with all kinds of cool stuff going on. MythBusters, Dirty Jobs, Storm Chasers, Man vs Wild, the Deadliest Catch … these shows are all about exploring the weird and crazy.
By connecting us to that sense of wonder, curiosity and exploration, the Discovery Channel strengthens their brand significantly with the people they who should be watching Discovery Channel shows. Good for them.
My friend Jae asked me to answer a question on Quora with this title – and I ended up writing a decent sized post on the topic that’s currently the top answer to the question. (This is the magic of Quora!) I thought I’d share and expand on my answer for the benefit of my blog readers so here goes:
It’s obvious what technical people do at startups – they write code. More specifically with web app firms, there are usually front-end engineers (that configure how the user interacts with the app) and back-end engineers (that deal with stuff like the database that holds all the app’s information & the business logic of the app that runs core functionality). It’s sometimes less obvious what roles exist for non-technical people. I’m guessing that’s what the person asking this question is wondering.
Startups typically have a high technical to non-technical ratio in their staff. I’d say it varies from 1:4 to 1:10 or greater, depending on the business. For example, a business like Groupon relies heavily on having lots of non-technical people (mostly sales staff) on the ground at various cities calling up businesses to get them to offer these mega deals and marketing people to get consumers to sign up for the mailing list. On the other hand, a startup like Wolfram Alpha will be looking almost exclusively for technical people to help them build this insanely AI-heavy app.
Typically an early-stage startup will have one founder or early employee doing almost all of the business stuff (see Spencer Fry’s amazing post: What’s a Non-Programmer Do?) They’ll focus on hiring technical talent until maybe they’re around 8-10 people and then start adding some more business openings. As the company grows, the ratio of Technical : Non-Technical employees will get smaller. One of the commenters on my Quora answer said that Google is now at about a 1:1 ratio. Interesting!
But enough talk – on to the actual positions.
MARKETING – this is an umbrella term to cover all sorts of channel: email, social media (facebook/twitter), blogging/copy-writing, events/tabling, community management (for forums or other user-generated-content focused startups), public relations, SEO & SEM (search engine optimization & marketing) to name a few. This is a big area for non-technical people to get in, especially in B2C sites that need to get a lot of broad adoption by a wide variety of users.
SALES – B2B companies especially are looking for people to work in sales. B2C companies, less so, except for bigger ones like Facebook, Yelp, etc. This can be a tough position – you have to be aggressive and get sh*t done as your performance is extremely measurable. On the other hand you learn a lot and are directly responsible for growing the bottom line, which is really cool.
SUPPORT – it takes a special person to really like support, but for both B2C and B2B sites, having great, dedicated support people who go all the way for users/customers is essential. Think about Zappos – people LOVE them because they’re support is unusually awesome. This is a great place for non-technical people to get a foot in the door.
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT – People think this is a sexy position/title/department but it’s often a nicer way to describe sales. *Real* biz dev is about forming partnerships with other organizations that augment your business. Think Nike + iPod or Foursquare + SF Giants, etc. Typically these go to people who have contacts and “executive presence” and can charm potential partners while also making deals that add real value to the company.
RECRUITING - startups usually start with contract recruiters to help them hire, but as they get bigger, they may look to hire someone to work in house. This role is typically filled by someone who has a lot of contacts with technical people and has some experience in the industry in hiring/evaluating talent. It’s a hard job to do well.
ANALYTICS – this role is usually found in more established companies. People to crunch numbers to help sales, marketing or product development make decisions. Good for ex consultants/bankers but rarely are these decision-making roles
PRODUCT MANAGEMENT - some might dispute my putting this in “non-technical” but it is true that most product managers do not *actually* write code. Granted most of them *have* written code in the past. But it is possible to be a product manager without having a technical background. You have to quickly learn some of the language, understand how software development works, write really clear specs and mostly importantly – have a powerfully vision of the product that users will love.
As most of you know, I work at isocket, an 8 person B2B company that powers self-serve advertising for web publishers. I came up with the title myself and it is “Customer Scout”. I do a lot of Sales and definitely some Marketing and Support, plus a smattering of everything else. One of the great things of startups is that you get to do a little bit of everything.
Did this get you psyched up about joining a startup? Read the mega-blog post me and Derek Flanzraich did on how to get a killer startup job - it’s specifically geared towards non-technical people!
Jason Shen is a Presidential Innovation Fellow at the Smithsonian. He cofounded Ridejoy, a Y Combinator backed ride-sharing startup and his work has appeared in Vanity Fair, Outside Magazine, Lifehacker and more.
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