Selling Ketchup popsicles women wearing white gloves, as the saying goes, should be just another day at the office for a polished salesman. Selling is a prehistoric art, before there was a wheel or a lightbulb people were selling each other to literally put food on the table. There is no getting around it, if your in business you need to know how to sell or you don’t have a business. It is especially important to people with non technical backgrounds in business. People like me can’t code, I’m no engineer, I’m not even all that good at excel…I have a management degree. The kind of qualifications that make an employer think to himself, what would I even get this guy to do? The answer is I better damn well know how to sell some stuff, starting with myself. I would assume there are a lot of people who fall into this category, no defined job from their education. Sales is the answer. If you can sell somebody’s stuff they will give you a job. Why are sales people usually the highest paid in any organization? Because they prove their worth. If job cuts ever have to be made management looks at the risk advisors and other consultant like people they keep on staff and question if they are really needed. Sales people are justified, you have x number of them you will sell roughly x amount of product. This role sticks around like an enforcer on a hockey team. There are usually many more talented people who were just as tough who never make the NHL, the problem is they aren’t fighters from the start. These players are just above average forwards who coaches keep on a comparison basis. The fighters are kept around because that’s what they do and every team needs one so the decision is already made for the coach.

There is a big difference between knowing sales is important and actually knowing sales. After all they don’t teach you this in college (another issue) so how would you know where to start, unless you worked selling T-shirts at Bootlegger for 3 years during  high school (sarcasm). Truth is that experience really would have helped you start to learn the craft but like anything else that isn’t taught in schools these days it is possible to learn on your own. Either employers aren’t yet aware or we aren’t good enough at showing them yet but there is this tool called Google where you can find anything you want on the internet and learn just about anything for free. Find some influential people with strong backgrounds in sales, follow them on twitter. Find their blogs, subscribe to their RSS. Find other similar blogs. Watch video seminars and sales pitches. Watch feature films dedicated to selling. Read books, ebooks. Try writing sales copy on a simple landing page using a small investment in google adwords to drive some traffic, monitor it see how you could make it better. Look at what sites are converting well, what does their copy look like. Go try and buy something, pay attention to what questions the sales person asks. It really is possible to learn a craft without getting a degree that proves you are good at it. However in sales, to perfect this art you really do need experience. If you want to go all in on your effort to become a good salesman get a job selling something door to door, or cold calling.

“That seems like a lot of work. I already have a degree and I deserve x amount of dollars without learning anything more” haha ok well first of all you should look at school as the beginning of your learning not the end. But I will point out some of the key attributes that great sales people have so you can try your luck with no preparation if you dare.

The thing I love most about sales is how closely related it is to talking to women. If at any moment in a sales meeting your thinking to yourself my date would be faking a cell phone call or pretending to be violently ill right now chances are you aren’t going to sell anything. (disclosure: I am not a pickup artist nor a professional salesmen so take advice with consideration) From my experiences asking good questions is THE most important thing in either scenario. There are many theories about manipulating via Yes trains and other techniques which I’m sure work great however I will keep this very basic. Using questions to connect to a positive emotion and relating that to the product you are trying to sell is the ultimate goal. Selling an experience. For example say your selling a kite to a dad. You don’t start listing it’s features and bragging about the artwork on the kite, you probably won’t even talk about the price right away. You ask have you and your son ever been to disneyland, if so do you remember the look in his eyes the moment you walked up to those gates. He probably started running around with uncontrollable excitement. This kite that will give him that same type of excitement and all you need is a little wind and your backyard. If you want that proud parent feeling when your kids light up with excitement you need this. And so on and so on….. Another important thing is you need to whole heartedly believe you are selling for the customers benefit, what you have will improve their life somehow and you are making the world better by giving people the opportunity to buy it. The last tip in this short summary on sales is again back to emotions. Have you ever noticed how good sales people make you feel good about what you just purchased. You want to tell someone about it right away, buyers remorse usually does not exist. The best way to leave that impression is take genuine interest in your customer. If you let them know you resonate with them and you care about their decision and their lives this will take you a long way. Exactly why sales people are so good with names, when you call someone you’ve only met once by their first name they are usually impressed, giving that person an immediate sense of trust in you.

In the movie the boiler room they depict stock brokers making high pressure sales calls. This movie was famed as a classic must see for business grads depicting great sales techniques. Personally I would say the movie is pretty average but does have some good take away points for sales. In phone sales, prepare rebuttals. This applies to any sales really, anticipate people’s excuses and prepare for them. Also, up sell. It is much easier to sell something that is 100,000 is you first get the customer to agree on a 60, 000 product and work your way up. Finally, qualified leads are so important. You don’t want to waste your time selling to people who aren’t at all interested, initiate interest and close, period.

Sales is like golf, you can always get better at it. Don’t worry, no one breaks par their first year.

What would Steve do?

If Steve Jobs were 22 and about to finish university what would he do? I know, if it was his real life he wouldn’t still be in college and he’d already have started to build one of the most famous brands on the planet. Let’s pretend he didn’t. He instead partially succumb to the voices of school = success mantra but it was driving him nuts. He was stuck in the walls of a university waiting to graduate like the he was waiting for the end of a prison term. I think what makes Steve such an admirable person is because there is no way he would put himself in that position in the first place. We couldn’t even imagine Steve adhering to someone else’s ideals of what was necessary to learn or any voice of authority at all. But, in this case Steve would have a fire burning in his stomach. Things need to change and he would be the man to change them. After hearing more about his earlier years since his death it became apparent he was naive to anything not working out his way. He didn’t drop out of college after the first semester thinking what happens if this was the wrong choice? What if I don’t succeed? I would bet that thought never even entered his mind. In this case however I don’t think he would dwell on the fact that he was wasting time in University but learn from it and move on. The faster you fail the faster you learn. The real mystery is with all of the new social media tools how would Steve initially present himself as a person. Some people stand out in the social world because they are experts, some because they are famous, some because they are funny and some because they are respected. At this early stage he would be none of those things, yet. Maybe he wouldn’t have cared for social sites or tried to earn respect by footwork. Instead he probably would have been focused on creating and let the products speak for themselves. However he isn’t just the type who leads by example, he’s articulate and was known for making anyone believe what he believed. All this in mind, Steve wouldn’t be applying for jobs final semester of University. His time is too valuable. He would have a strong belief in what needed to be changed, be looking for anyone who would hear what he had to say about this topic and set out on a mission to fix it. Then or now he would have made an impact on the world. He really didn’t care what other people thought, he was out to make a beautiful product and convince the world they needed what he was making. You can’t help but admire his confidence.  Rest In Peace Steve.

The Power of Why

From about age 3 we start questioning everything. Our curiosity of the world is bursting at the seems and there isn’t enough answers out there to satisfy us (until we discover google). But what happens to that curiosity? As we get older we just start accepting things for what they are without question. In general we are easily manipulated consumers, whether that be by price or by popular trends our purchasing decisions are far from rational. I’m sure you are guilty of at least one of these purchases that you know was a ridiculous amount to spend on that item but you just felt you had to have it. Don’t feel bad, research has proven that our reason for decision making actually has a biological explanation. It has to do with how the brain is made up. The front part, or the neocortex, is responsible for rational thought and language. The middle part, or the limbic brain, is responsible for all our feelings including trust and loyalty however has no capacity for language.The truly great companies are the ones who can talk to that middle part of our brain, or as Simon Sinek describes in the Golden Circle, the why. They don’t sell us on features or benefits. That stuff has a place but it isn’t in marketing. The most powerful quote from any of Simon’s talks or books is “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. Read it again, it’s important. This might seem like some type of self help or cliche business leadership quote but it is fundamentals. Why does it seem that people who aren’t really motivated by money always rise to the top in their field? It’s because they are so passionate about that topic they would rather be working on their product than anything else in the world. This didn’t really sink in for me until I read one analogy in Simon’s book Start With Why, he told a story about a boy on a track and field team in high school who was disabled. He would always finish well behind everyone who entered the race, having exhausted himself to the point of passing out. The point of the story is every time he would run, by the time he was on his last lap everyone had already finished and they would come back out and finish the race with him. The thought of competitors supporting each other like that seems crazy until you realize the boy’s “why”. He’s racing for himself. Each race he know’s he won’t place, he’s out there to beat his personal best time. This solidifies that point that if you are competing against everyone else no one wants to help you but if you are competing against yourself everyone wants to. If your company or brand isn’t selling based on “why” then you probably have been forced to use manipulations to move product. Spending huge amounts on advertising, offering price discounts and promotions will make people buy. But those purchases are usually one-time impulse buys and by no means loyal customers. The same is true for hiring. When you manipulate people with bonuses and offers of higher salaries their “why” becomes skewed. They are no longer working to serve a higher purpose, they are there for the money. Another perfect example of this from Simon’s book is when Steve Jobs brought in John Sculley to be CEO and help run his business. Steve had the inspiration but he needed someone who could execute. The famed marketing whiz from Pepsi was bribed by a huge salary to move to Apple and help out. John didn’t believe what Steve believed, he didn’t understand Apple’s “why”, he simply made the move for the pay. A few short years later Scully actually fired Steve from the company, the man who had hired him as CEO! Steve realized his mistake in manipulation and after regaining the position of CEO in 1996 set a clear vision and redefined Apple’s why; to challenge the status quo and think differently, they do this by making their products easy to use, user friendly and with beautiful design. It seems simple but it has driven a cult like following for Apple products. This has again been shown with the Iphone 4s selling 4 million units in the first 3 days, that’s more than double it’s previous record of 1.7M for the Iphone 4.

How is this applicable:

Relating back to Simon’s golden circle; the center ring is why, the next outer ring is how, and finally there is a what on the outside. This is the strategy that effective companies use when getting their marketing messages across to the public. They start with Why they are doing it (what they believe), they go on to explain how they plan to do it and finally what product or service will get them there. Starting with why lets people build trust in you as a company or brand especially if that person’s beliefs align with yours. Think about when your meeting someone for the first time, if you find out that you both went to the same high school there is immediate rapport built. That person is more likely to actually listen to what you have to say instead of just nodding along. As great companies get bigger and their visionary leader continues to hold a strong sense of why there becomes no difference between his/her values and that of the company. This is how strongly they believe what they believe. Most of these leaders aren’t even concerned with the competition. Everyday they are focused on making their company better and more efficient than anyone else. So make sure you can define why your doing what your doing it builds brand advocates and you need those those for your company to reach scale. Finally don’t lose sight. Always keep the why in focus and people will start lining up for your products too.

My Own Why : This book has had a huge impact on me. My short term goals are being thrown out for a clearly defined destination. Maybe the reason the book resonated with me so much is because my beliefs do resonate so closely with Simon’s. My reason for doing things is I love hearing new ideas and new ways of thinking about things. I also love being a part of helping someone turn what inspires them into something real, whether that be a change in jobs or starting a business, anything. Knowing you were a part of making someone’s life fulfilled is an awesome feeling. I’m really excited because my why does align so closely with the project I’m working on I hope to change a lot of lives with the company. BTW the destination is: Leading people by being a servant to followers and helping to inspire people to pursue what inspires them.

Fascination, where it comes from.

People I find fascinating include: Will Smith, Mark Zuckerberg, Sean Parker, Jack Dorsey etc..

Brands I find fascinating include: Nike, Apple, Scotch & Soda, Bang & Olufsen, Toms, Red Bull etc..

Before knowing much about what triggers fascination it’s easy to see that popularity and success must be part of it. Just because those adjectives are common to both of these lists doesn’t mean it’s true for everything fascinating. If you happen to meet a person who has traveled the world, experienced hundreds of new things and has the stories to prove it I would definitely say this person is also fascinating. The problem is when trying to market a brand, whether it be yourself or a company it can be much more difficult to portray the qualities that would lead other people to be fascinated. Sally Hogshead has this process down to a science and has been trusted by companies like Nike, Cole-Haan, Target and Coca-Cola to help their brands become more fascinating too. She wrote an amazing book on the topic called Fascinate: 7 Triggers of Persuasion and Captivation. In the book Sally presents these triggers that ultimately lead a consumer into a purchase.  If I decided not to tell you what these triggers were I would be using a powerful one myself; mystique. The other 6 she highlights are: Lust, Alarm. Prestige, Power, Vice and Trust. My initial suggestions of how fascination is created in popularity and success both fall into these triggers. Popularity could be considered prestige or lust, when other people are doing something we tend to lust for it.  Similarly things of prestige usually carry a sense of being popular. Success could be consider as trust, she points this trigger out as the most important. That could be because it is the hardest to earn and the easiest to lose.

If you think about it, being fascinating as a brand is a lot like a guy trying to pick up a girl at a bar. The same triggers are all available and if none are used I can guarantee you that girl won’t be interested (or fascinated). That being said this book is a good “scientific” look at why people become fascinated. But “to fascinate” should’ve always been your goal anyway. I don’t think any guy goes to the bar with a list of his best traits ready to recite to any willing girl, or any product sells itself solely on functionality.

This ties into a TED talk that Simon Sinek gave about selling the “why”. Through very enlightening examples he makes you realize that companies who are set up for failure are those who explain the what, how,  and why, In that order. In these companies a lot of times no one even knows the why. Where as great companies are built around the why. Their company can change direction and take different paths because they are always focused on the same end goal. These almost always successful companies don’t start out with an exit in mind or a big payout, they believe that they have a legitimate solution to an actual solution. Simon goes on to explain that if you continue to talk about what it is you believe people will adopt that belief as their own and become advocates of your company.

Basically if your marketing a product you need to stop thinking and start feeling. People make decisions on emotions, find one that is most appropriate for your product and tug on it, hard!

Take a second next time you make an impulsive purchase to think, what made you buy that? I’ll bet it wasn’t the features.

Career “Hacking”: Step 1

The idea of building a personal online presence has been apparent to me for a while now. Although beyond a passive twitter presence and linkedin profile I have been basically non existant. This was mainly because I found it hard to narrow down to a specific field. Michael Ellsberg wrote an amazing article in Forbes called The Paradoxical Secret of Obsession Worthy Branding. This led me to his guest post on Tim Ferriss’ The four hour work week blog and eventually to start my own. In the guest post he proposes a challenge to follow the steps he outlined as a path to getting what you want without a formal education. In my case I’m currently in my last year of a Commerce degree, which all along I knew was basically useless so this was the perfect nudge to get started with my online presence. Then comes step 1: Picking a field of study. There are a lot of different topics I’m interested in and by nature I tend to jump around from subject to subject based on the day. Because of a project I’m currently working on (I’ll explain later in this post) and what will be most beneficial to me I’m not going to be specific. I will focus on the skills that it takes people to become successful in any business; SALES, marketing and leadership.

After reading Michael’s articles I needed to consume more. Yesterday Is when I discovered him, I watched a video of him presenting to the Thiel fellowship and marveled over his insight. Today instead of class I bought his book “The Education of Millionaires: It’s Not to Late and It’s Not What You Think” and read it front to back. It resonated deeply with me because of the project I’m working on now and my own non-ability to get a job.

The project: Last year having fallen into some consumer debt I decided to take evening classes and  work full time to get back in the black. However up until then the only jobs I had were manual labour and construction. These paid great but didn’t lead to the office with a view job I was hoping a degree was going to get me. Avoiding the temptation of more money I tried desperately to find a “desk job” that would give me some experience and something I could put on my resume or give me an “in” with a company I could turn to once finished my degree. Impossible. Literally Impossible. The worst part was I know some fairly affluent people around the city I live in who I imagined would be able to get me a job no problem. Not the case. I ended up wasting basically a whole semester working barely part-time as a beer rep. During this period of frustration, as per most founder stories, I decided I needed to come up with a solution. A lot of my friends were facing this problem too. Every chat about business school seemed to end in “Yah my degree is worthless there are no jobs for management majors. I have no idea what I’m going to do after University”. These weren’t useless people either, smart, competent people (I would add myself to this group as well) who had plenty to offer companies, simply could not find placement. My solution, described using Michael’s theory of paradoxes, was to flip the script on hiring and try and associate an idea people are not accustomed to. Employee’s Picking Employers. The way I plan to achieve this is to scrap the conventional job postings. Potential employees make portfolios of themselves, their skills, their achievements, their work, anything that describes them. The difference is to show employers these things rather than just state them as claims in a resume. We will encourage these potential employees to show or teach us what they can do in videos. This service is aimed at the students entering college right now, unaware of the bleak outlook of the future job market. But also those kids in school already or just finishing who are forced to take low paying jobs just to pay the interest on their student loans.Yes, I am aware of LinkedIn and it’s business network. But what I’m attempting to do with this project is much deeper than a social network without jellow-shot pictures. Its personal, a community of students who in a way can help each other find the best jobs possible. This is possible by using student reps to represent the company offline on each campus. I believe this product can coexist with social networks and conventional job sites for 2 reasons. One, kids need jobs. And not spoon to mouth jobs, jobs that reflect their skills and ability and the compensation that comes with that. Two, resume’s are going the way of the dinosaur. HR people hate weeding through piles of them, and they don’t give an amazing person the chance to prove they’re amazing, especially when they have little experience. I will explain further in later posts but that is the just of it, I’ve been working on it for a while now and hope to have it out by the end of this semester (little more than 2 months from today).

Back to the book. It is great I would recommend it to anyone pursuing a career as an entrepreneur or thinking of heading to college. There are a couple quotes that stuck out for me “These days all employees are entrepreneurs- entrepreneurs in the business of you” and “Your own human capital, this is your greatest investment” . These two quotes are found on the same page in the book and are both very true. You can learn anything you want on the internet these days, you have no reason not to be great at whatever it is you chose. Just as a homeowner invests in their property, invest in your self, in your own education. At the end of the day it is all you have. Because as the book points out and we are all becoming aware of your piece of paper BA isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Another very powerful quote form the book is ” You are not entitled to anything in this world until you create value for another human being first. Second, you are 100 percent responsible for producing results. No one else”. Powerful stuff. A few years back a mentor of mine gave me a piece of career advice. Do what you love, love what you do. So simple yet so profound. This book reminded me of those words. Had I not been solely focused on making money in previous business ventures I might have found success at an earlier age. The point about accountability is also huge. Excuses have got to be one of my biggest pet peeves. I try to surround myself with people who take accountability for their actions so that I will never fall into the habit of making excuses. This is sometimes easier said than done but I feel I am very self aware when it comes to where the responsibility lies for seeing results.

I’ll end with my own answer to a question from the book. The question is posed by Peter Thiel and reads “Tell me something that you think is true that very few people agree with”.

A. I believe passion trumps experience 9 times out of 10.