If you want to learn how to sell, how to win in business, and how to get new customers, this article is for you.
How To Sell In 2019
Sales, sales, sales.
It’s something I don’t talk about enough, but it is absolutely the foundation of my career. I’m challenging myself to go deeper in 2018, because it is 1000% the bedrock of business. And if you don’t understand that, you will lose.
When I think about making something happen in the world, i.e selling something, getting a donation, getting voted for in an election, whatever the “transaction” is, I always break down my strategy into sales and marketing. Obviously, and for anyone reading this, you know that I spend an enormous amount of time talking about brand, the importance of marketing, awareness and gathering attention which sometimes distracts you from my foundation in sales. Marketing and branding is only one part of the equation. Ultimately you need to facilitate transactions if you want to stay in the game. Numbers don’t lie and sales is absolutely the foundation of your business. There is simply no other way.
So there’s a few tried and true strategies, tactics, learnings and interesting parallels about “how to sell” that I want to share with you. I have been a salesman my whole life, from operating lemonade stands to selling baseball cards, wine, and multi-million dollar scopes at VaynerMedia. I can safely say that over the last 35 years I have seen an enormous amount 😉 I have sold to the masses and to some of the most important CEO’s CMO’s and Brand Managers of Fortune 100 companies looking to optimize their return and improve their ROI.
The vulnerability with marketing is that sometimes it can be very up in the clouds and no one understands the direct KPI. What is the transaction? Where is the sale?
So, that’s what I want to focus on because I think a lot of people here could have a lot more success if they eliminated a few important things.
Why You Can’t Grow Your Business
#1 Laziness. There’s a lot of shortcomings when sales are automated. In most businesses, it’s a high-touch 1-1 conversation where you are attempting to bring value to the other person. It’s not a LinkedIn messenger bot that is going to do the trick.
#2 Being tied down by the idealistic vision of how you made your money in the past. The world is changing! And the way you were successful yesterday definitely won’t be the way you are successful today. You need to look forward and become utterly unromantic about what you did in the past that got you “here.”
The one thing I’m most passionate about, and I think many of you guys and gals reading this can agree with, is that in the landscape of sales, all of the communication in our society has had a fundamental shift over the last decade.
Technology has changed the way we sell, and most of your actions as salespeople aren’t rooted in that reality. It’s all out there, you just have to go out and take it!
Sales is About Attention
You’ve heard this one before but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Your religion in sales has to be attention. Before you even think about how to sell your SaaS product or your wine, or your agency, or your open house or your book, or whatever it is, you have to understand where the consumer actually is.
Where do people spend their time? Is it LinkedIn? Google AdWords? Email? Twitter?
Is it at an event? On YouTube? A sports game? Their office in midtown? Tell me where they actually are and more importantly, where do their eyes and ears go? The unbelievable arbitrage of the internet now allows you to truly “know” more than ever about the end consumer and then react to that information to reach anyone at any time. It doesn’t matter if they are the CMO of BMW or Rick the carpenter in Hunterdon New Jersey. 99% of the time your customer is going to be searchable and accessible online. And for those of you that don’t know, consumers now spend 10 hours a day in front of their screen with roughly half of that time spent on a mobile device. Clearly, the internet and our glowing black boxes have our attention 😉
How To Manage Customer Relationships. Automation Is Not The Full Answer
A stunning amount of people reading this article are not going to be as successful in sales, because they’re not willing to work hard enough. They love automation. They love all these tools, and bots, and auto-replies and apps and services and startups and CRM’s that they think are going to solve the problem. But the truth is, sales is about people. You have to build relationships first. You have to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and empathize with their position. No app is going to teach you that.
Real relationships take real time. You’re going to have to spend hours trying to interact, engage, and provide value in order to win. Luckily, through social media and the internet, you can do just that. You can create and distribute content, you can search employees by title or name, you can identify customers by geo-location, or individuals who like products that fit your niche. All the information is there, you just have to go online and figure it out. I’m as bullish as anybody on AI and CRM’s and message bots but those things are only going to put you on third base. It’s your emotional intelligence and tact and unscalable human effort is what takes you home.
B2B Sales Work The Exact Same Way
The problem I think people encounter when they consume my content is that they don’t think what I talk about maps to B2B sales. I’m operating 150M dollar revenue business, so 90% of my time is spent selling B2B. It’s my bread and butter as an entrepreneur and the engine that powers my 800-person marketing agency/holding company VaynerX.
The one thing a lot of people don’t realize is that the same tactics for B2C apply to the B2B environment. In fact, I think it’s actually a lot easier to sell B2B than B2C. With platforms like LinkedIn, you can literally filter by industry, job title, location or company to find exactly who you are looking for.
If you’re an agency in New York, you can go to LinkedIn, type in New York City, and filter by profiles who have the title “Marketer, or Marketing” in their headline.
You send 1 free message via InMail, and now you’ve got the ball rolling. (keep in mind people spam on LinkedIn and email every day of the week. The key is for your opening message to bring value instead of extracting value.) i.e Starting the conversation with a free tidbit that might help their business by saying “Have you thought about?” is you giving value vs. you saying “Can I see you to sell you something?” which is trying to set something up that brings me value instead.
And the greatest thing about B2B is there is almost always a disproportionate return. You can sell scopes for hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions by convincing 1 key decision maker within a single company. You don’t need 20,000 people to say “yes” like you would if you were selling t-shirts or a book. You need 1 CMO to agree that you’re agency is going to be their new AoR and you are off to the races.
Sales is About Relationships and Research
Like anything else in life, I think it comes down to putting in the work, providing value, building relationships and doing the research. Nowadays, you can apply the same tactics of building your brand or personal profile to selling someone in the B2B space. Once you have found their LinkedIn page, take a second to see if they have an Instagram or Twitter. Do the research and understand what they care about and what they consume.
The secret to social media is that everyone is posting content about what they love, what they care about, what their interests are, or what they are trying to accomplish for FREE. Find someone’s Twitter page and look at what they share. Are they posting about sports, food, the movies or music? Are they re-tweeting content from a personal friend or another client of yours? Are they tweeting pictures of their honeymoon or maybe their dog? Try to get a sense of what they are into so that you can interact and engage.
Start liking their content, replying, retweeting and trying to provide value.
They love the New York Jets and so do you? Comment about Quincy Enunwa’s touchdown last week. This builds awareness and the beginning of a relationship. Without asking for anything in return, begin to provide value.
Answer tweets when they have a question, heart a photo when you have time. All of this really matters.
One day they just might click on your profile and see that you are sales rep, or a VP or biz/dev person at a company. They might just need your services which is when either you or they reach out.
Go in soft, provide value, provide value, and build relationships. I can’t tell you enough how many times I’ve won big business through Twitter.
I have tracked CMO’s, followed their content, engaged, liked, commented and replied, built a relationship over a 3-5-9 month period which has opened the door for me to either discuss or win their business at some point down the line. It’s also an opportunity for me to help them hire talent, or give them insights on new platforms because the ultimate game of sales plays forever. The reason I have done so well in sales is because I don’t do things with the expectation of a return. I do things to provide value, no matter what.
It’s the same thesis that was described in my second business book, The Thank You Economy. It’s the notion of providing so much upfront value to an individual, you can actually guilt them into buying shit, especially if all your actions are predicated on not expecting anything in return. When the energy of your tactics is to convert, you will most likely lose. When your energy is to disproportionately bring value and let the chips fall where they may, you will win. It will change your behavior, it will change the energy of the execution and it will change your game.
You Can’t Sell The Unsellable
One of the most fascinating aspects of sales, that most people don’t understand, is that in truth, you can’t sell the unsellable. When I try to understand the ecosystem and analyze why people aren’t winning, it’s because they have built an enormous mental barrier for themselves around partnering with the right brand or selling to a specific CEO. The truth is, the real world doesn’t work like that, and you can’t be romantic about who gives you the opportunity. There are a million and one reasons why a certain company or executive won’t work with you. Even if your product is 10X better than the competition. Perhaps their brother-in-law is married to the CMO of their in house agency, or the investors in their company have a long a storied relationship with companies in the midwest. Or maybe they have multi-year commitments and can’t break their contract. You have to be practical when it comes to sales, and you have to be willing to take the opportunities right in front of you.
Of course, I want to work with every Fortune 100 brand, but because of the market dynamics, and complicated politics that are in play, it’s easier said than done.
I come into every business meeting feeling massively optimistic that the person on the other end is going to buy from me. And when they don’t, I immediately “check out.” I’m not romantic about it.
There’s just no point in wasting time on trying to sell someone who is opposed. It’s the same reason that CEO’s of publicly traded companies don’t make investments that hurt their stock price, in the year that they are operating. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just the truth, and if you want to succeed in business you need to let that go.
Stop debating or “convincing”, and let history and merit be the judge.
Branding Is The Best Way To Sell
A lot of salespeople don’t think about brand building. They think a lot about how to convert people on a phone call or in an in-person meeting. But they don’t think about the long term relationship that can be formed via brand.
For example, I’m able to command high rates as a speaker because I don’t sell my audience courses. I don’t sell people on mastermind groups. That’s why I have so many who are willing to come and pay for a conference ticket to hear me speak, and why events are willing to pay me so much. I built a personal brand.
The biggest companies in the world don’t actually sell. They brand. Think about Apple, Tommy Hilfiger, or Mercedes Benz. There’s a certain image that comes to mind when you think of their products, and that’s what ultimately drives you to purchase. Not a sales funnel.
Adapt Don’t Complain
And the fact of the matter is, you don’t get to dictate where the consumer spends their time, money or attention.
It goes back to the same idea of marketing in the moment we live.
You have to use the right tool for the job.
You don’t get to decide whatever 13 to 25-year-olds want to do with their hair, their clothes, their bodies, their cell phones, their friends, their time, or their money. You just have to observe and react.
If you want to win in sales, you need to be utterly unromantic about consumer behavior. You need to observe, analyze and adjust to where the consumer actually is. No one can deny that social media takes up our time.
If every 14-year old in America spends 8 hours a day on Instagram, then so be it. You are not going to beat the market. You just have to accept the trut, and adapt to it.
And if you are intelligent, and you understand that you have no control over THE MARKET, then you begin thinking about where the potential upside is. There’s nothing I can do about the fact that people like taking selfies. It doesn’t matter what I think social media and its positive or negative effects on youth. It doesn’t matter what value judgment I place on it.
Now, as I contemplate that, what would be a good business idea to arbitrage those opportunities? That is exactly how Snapchat was born. It’s the truth and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
If you want to win, you have to be practical with your understanding and execution. You have to go where the consumer actually is, and use the right tools to reach them. If you know that 2.1 Billion people spend their time on Facebook .. It’s time to consider running a Facebook Ad. If you’re a fashion company that plays off of it’s aesthetic, maybe it’s time to make an Instagram account and get serious about it. If you’re a B2B CMO of an agency, LinkedIn is the place to go.
If you’re targeting people above 30, email still works!
You have to figure out where people actually are and deploy all of your energy into arbitraging that opportunity.
And when the tides change… Move on. You have to learn to be unromantic about whether it’s Facebook today or Snap tomorrow. Whether it was Vine or Tumblr or Vidler in the beginning and now it’s Instagram, HQ, Anchor or Musical.ly.
That’s my advice, That’s what you need to do!
(P.S) One of the more detailed executions in sales (a.k.a business development) that I have put out in recent months is the $1.80 strategy for Instagram. Here is a link.