Why selling gets a bad rap

I think selling is a noble profession. I’ve sold during my entire professional career. However not everybody shares my view.

Selling in general gets a bad rap. That’s because salespeople have one of the worst human qualities… They are dishonest pieces of shit.

I know because I’ve been there myself. There were a few times that I lied to make a sale. It wasn’t because I wanted to add another $100 to my commission check. It’s because I wanted to keep my job.

The few times I did it, I didn’t feel great. Two times the customers came back and it totally bit me in the ass. After the last time, I swore I wasn’t going to sell like a scumbag again.

What’s even more alarming is when my supervisors found out, they kinda didn’t care at all. I think in the back of their minds, I was just doing my job and being a good company man.

Which is an uncomfortable truth about selling. A lot of the top salespeople and even executives are liars. I haven’t worked for one company where the top reps, or even top executives, were nothing but snake oil salesmen

I’ve even worked for two companies where the Presidents got canned for abusing funds or embezzlement.

My all-time favorite Dan Kennedy book is his collection of autobiographical essays called, My Unfinished Business, in which he talks about lying to get ahead.

In the book, he talks about how he lied to get his first sales job. He also lied to a customer about his portfolio, showing a client his own piece. Miraculously, the client knew about the portfolio piece, didn’t care, only cared about getting results and worked with Kennedy for years.

Anyways, Kennedy has this to say about lying:

The dirty little secret behind the start of a lot of hugely successful careers and enterprises is that they were ignited by lying, or at least stretching the truth, padding the resume.

I assure you, I’m not alone. If you read autobiographies and interviews a lot and look for these admissions, you’ll discover plenty of successful entrepreneurs confess to lying to get ahead. Hugh Hefner, one of my entrepreneurial heroes, tells of starting out in business with two different letterheads. One for the fledging magazine that preceded Playboy, called Stag Party, the other for his fictional distributing company boldly named Nationwide News Company. When he needed to be the publisher or editor or VP of Advertising of the magazine, he used the first stationary. When he needed to be the President of the magazine distribution business, he used the other. His actual business consisted of a typewriter on a card table, vision, balls and not just one, but two big lies.

The shocking, rarely mentioned, nearly universal secret behind great successes: they’re liars. They have deliberately, intentionally lied to gain advantage. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone actually endorse or advocate this. But this is a reality. Make of it what you will.

Of course, I prefer telling the truth. Telling it, selling it, hearing it. But honest enough to tell you, there are times when nothing but a lie can do the job. Any entrepreneur who insists otherwise, well, he’s a liar.

Of course, there are a few key reasons to tell the truth while you’re selling.

One, which is obvious, is to avoid any legal trouble.

There’s an HBO movie that was recently released called Bad Education with Hugh Jackman as a Superintendent of schools in Long Island. Later in the movie, his school finds out he expensed all types of crap: Fancy clothes, first-class trips, plastic surgery, and financed his lifestyle with taxpayer money.

His supervisor asks him pointe blank when this started and Jackman’s character said one day he paid for a slice of pizza with the wrong card, the school’s card, and he was going to reimburse the school the following Monday. Then he added, Monday came and went and nobody cared.

That’s an example of how one bad one little lie can cascade out of control. It happens, and Presidents and CEO’s feel completely justified until it snowballs and gets completely out of hand.

The other reason is it’s just good for word-of-mouth. Telling the truth makes you credible and trustworthy to do business with. I’ve worked with handfuls of sales reps that I wouldn’t trust to sit near my lunch.

And if we’re on the brink of another economic recession, it’s more important than ever to find trustworthy people to do business with.

There’s a saying, “If you can’t hide the family skeleton, at least make it dance.” If you can’t hide behind a lie, at least tell the ugly truth and stand by it. It might not paint you in the best light, but I assure you pretty much no one gives a shit.

John

Write emails that don’t get ignored with my guide: Email List Loyalty

Name brands vs generic store brands

A few weeks ago I had a plugged ear. It wasn’t infected but I could barely hear anything out of it.

As doctors do, sometimes they prescribe a medicine that works, and sometimes they don’t. Mine wanted to rule out any seasonal allergies so they wrote a prescription for Claritin D.

I got to my local pharmacy, and even though I already knew this on some level, I still got hit with sticker shock… Drugs are insanely expensive and overpriced.

So I started actually taking a closer look on the shelf, and compared prices and the quantity I needed.

There were 2 types of drugs. There was the major name brand drug, and then there was the generic store brand drug.
Given a choice, the majority of people will hands down pick the name brand drug, even if it’s grossly more expensive. This is for a few reasons:

  • Big pharma companies hold the product patents, so they get a head-start on selling drugs first
  • That means they advertise first and get brand recognition over time
  • Not to mention the slick candy-like packaging

And even though it’s been proven that generic brands have the same strength, dosage and results as their name-brand cousins, most people can’t help but resist the invisible tractor-beam pull of the bigger name.

And when my doc handed me my script, she told me to buy over-the-counter Claritin D, which is a lot more memorable than an over-the-counter antihistamine, which is what the drug really is.

But the secret of the name-brand stuff is really the social aspect. The majority of name brands don’t have to pay to advertise as much because most people do it for them in everyday conversation.

And we do this with tons of stuff. We just don’t realize it…

  • Coke instead of Cola
  • Clorox wipes instead of Cleaning wipes
  • Tylenol instead of Acetaminophen
  • Vasoline instead of Petroleum Jelly
  • The pink bottle Pepto Bismol is a doozer, Bismuth subsalicylate

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I haven’t even talked about breakfast cereals or canned vegetables.

Even though in my mind, I knew it was the exact same drug, I could still feel the powerful pull of the name brand drug. It was like the dark side of the force calling to me. I had to overcome years of Claritin D’s name brand recognition in my head to save some dough. But ultimately I overcame its dark Sith Lord mind-games, and bought the store brand.

But it was a fight. I had to overcome years of corporate brainwashing.

If you think the brand name is bigger, so it must be better, then that’s just not the case. Bigger brands are just better marketers.

John

When having a great product just isn’t enough

I’m gonna let you in on a little secret, I’m kind of a beer snob. Always have been.

In college, when most of my friends were buying 30 packs of Keystone Light for $10.00, I mostly bought 6-packs of Yuengling for $5.99. Yes, in the early 2000’s, you could really buy 30 beers for $10 bucks. They didn’t call it ‘thirty stones for ten bones’ for nothing.

Side-story: A guy who lived in my hall freshman year was such a big fan of Keystone Light, he wrote a letter to the company and complained after they changed their slogan from “Always smooth, never bitter” to just “Always smooth.” He actually got an apology letter back from the head of marketing with a full explanation of the change.

If you can create loyalty like that, you’re golden.

So as you’ve probably noticed, in most states, non-essential businesses are completely shut down. And yeah, states like Montana and South Dakota pretty much never shut down to begin with, but let’s be honest, there’s not much there anyways.

And of course, restaurants have taken a massive hit. Those mom and pop places who don’t do take-out or delivery options are completely shut down.

Those who are open are losing a good chunk of their margins due to delivery apps like Door Dash and Grub Hub.

But even though I believe most of this will be short-term, companies are either adapting or bracing for impact.

I saw a perfect example of this at the closest grocery store near me. There were 2 guys behind me in line and they couldn’t stop licking their wounds.

They were either complaining about their hours getting cut or they were completely furloughed, and just wringing their hands about what’s going to happen next.

As they were having their own pity party, a cash register near us opened up, and some old guy behind them whizzed right by and proceeded to checkout immediately. And these poor suckers didn’t even know what happened.

Here’s a pro-tip. If a pandemic ever hits us again, go to smaller markets or deli’s to buy groceries. Their staff actually prevent customers from hoarding. These were the first places I saw that were stocked with toilet paper again. I also saw a cashier stop a “Karen” boomer from stocking up dead in her tracks. You won’t get that at Wal-Mart or even regional supermarkets. Their employees just don’t care and the general population completely floods those places.

Anyways, back to talking about beer. Similar to restaurants, some breweries are really hurting right now. Stone brewery in San Diego laid off a good third of its staff. Tap rooms across America are closed and a good chunk of their staff are furloughed until further notice.

However, there’s a newer brewery near me called Frog Alley that opened up its doors about 2 years ago. And even though it’s still wet behind the ears, here are some of the things they’ve done since quarantine.

  • They started local home delivery. You can send an order via email or website and have your beer delivered in less than 24 hours
  • Instead of local concerts, they hold Facebook live sessions where they have musicians play free concerts
  • They made their own hand sanitizer and donated a ton of it to local hospitals and clinics

And the funny thing is I don’t even think their beer is the best in town. It’s still good, but there are breweries near me that sell way better tasting beer.

But the difference between the places that make A+ beer and Frog Alley is the latter really knows how to promote themselves. Granted social media is not my preferred marketing method, but they’re at least constantly cross-promoting their platforms and cross-selling different opportunities.

Meanwhile other breweries are literally just bracing themselves for impact.

They’re not trying anything new or delivering their beer to anyone. They’re just merely existing and holding their breath until the rest of society re-opens.

So in most cases, it’s not hard to adapt. You just have to keep your eyes open. There’s a bunch of breweries now that will ship beer to you directly regardless of where you live.

But for God’s sakes, whatever you do, make sure it includes developing and promoting to an email list.

John

Write emails that don’t get ignored with my guide: Email List Loyalty

Buying Facebook ads to use the laziest marketing method

Have you ever seen a Facebook ad, and you just know it was someone’s first ad?

Everyone knows what a typical Facebook ad looks like. It’s got:

  • Some sort of hook for a headline
  • A video or a photo to draw you in
  • A couple good first sentences to make you want to read more

But then a pizza place about a mile from where I live posted an ad and it got my attention recently.

Here is the whole ad:

Wednesday April 29th thru Sat. May 2nd.

Feeds a family of 4

Stuffed shells

– 6 meatballs or sausage

– Toss salad

– Bread $29.95

Ziti with Vodka sauce with chicken

– Toss salad

– Bread $29.95

Seriously, that’s the whole ad. Nothing more.

Listen, I love simple. But that ad is just pure laziness.

And I’m sure Facebook was happy to take their money regardless of whether it performed well or not.

The ad doesn’t have a single headline or visual and includes absolutely no compelling copy.

It doesn’t consist of a single story or attractive hook.

And forget about even offering a freemium or any type of lead magnet.

That’s completely out of the question. Apparently writing this ad was too much work for them. They don’t even post a phone number or a website at the very least.

In its favor, I actually saw a few comments where locals were actually interested.

That’s the only positive side, and it’s not much. I’ve seen Facebook ads where the comments are vicious and the business owner is completely ripped apart. In my opinion, this pizza place got off easy.

I don’t know where this business is financially, but my wife told me there were maggots in the restaurant when she ate there once, if that’s any indicator.

But if I was a marketing consultant giving them advice, I’d say Facebook ads aren’t for them.

I’ve seen better pizza marketing with just a colored flyer and some coupons.

Maybe check out some offline methods and find out what other pizza joints are doing.

At least studying their competition would be a first step in the right direction.

John

Write emails that don’t get ignored with my guide: Email List Loyalty

“You’re not selling the way we want you to sell!”

Have you ever had a job where you said to yourself at one point, “There’s got to be a better way…”?

Years ago I took a job as a B2B sales rep at a local telecom company in my area.

Like how most people get a job, I got that job through a really great friend of mine. One afternoon, we met for lunch, talked about the job and the pay, and then he referred me to his boss who was in charge of hiring.

I interviewed and ended up getting an offer. I was super excited because that job meant I could finally leave my retail job at the cell phone store. It meant I didn’t have to work nights and weekends, and I could finally get my social life back.

However, my first day on the job, I attended the Monday morning sales meeting where management was doing its Monday morning quarterbacking in front of the other 15 reps. It was at this meeting, I realized there was a big problem…

There was only one week left in the month of September and hardly anybody had hit their quota for the month.

Even though I worked in retail, I left a job where leads came to me, and now I had to bust my ass to generate my own leads. I guess life is full of trade off’s.

In my first year, I did alright. My bosses all liked me, but the hardest part by far was the cold-calling.

I basically had to call a ton of businesses and it was truly a numbers game.

If I made 10 calls, it would result in 1 or 2 real conversations. 10 of those real conversations would result in 1 or 2 appointments. 10 of those appointments would result in 1 or 2 sales

Not only did I have to make a ton of calls to generate leads, but I also had to call to follow up after all of my appointments to close those deals.

Which meant a TON of time calling and wasting time. I knew in the back of my mind, there had to be an easier way.

One day I came up with the idea of sending marketing emails to my prospects. My plan was to send great content directly to their email to be helpful, earn their trust and earn myself better positioning.

Those who opened my emails, I would consider warms leads. Those who unsubscribed I considered not interested.

I would still have to make calls to generate more leads because management monitored phone calls like a hawk and wanted cold-calling regardless. No exceptions. They wanted reps to sell their way or the highway.

However, my email marketing plan would definitely save me tons of time following up after appointments, and I could sort the buyers from the tire-kickers, and close my deals faster.

I took all the emails that I saved from business cards, put them in a spreadsheet and uploaded the list as contacts. In retrospect, that definitely sounds spammy, but I didn’t have the luxury or time of creating an offer with an opt-in form at this point in my life.

I wrote my first email and sent it to all of my prospects. I don’t even remember what the email was about. I remember it was just something i wrote that was informative and educational about telecom.

Within a day, I got a phone call from a business owner I hadn’t spoke with in nearly a year, about around the time I started the job. I had chased him down for months after we met but he was never available. And here he was calling me back.

He wasn’t interested in buying, but he referred me to his brother, who was another business owner, and just bought a new building and was looking to get hooked up with phone and internet.

I met his brother, and within a week, proposed a deal to get him service and he was taken care of. A normal deal through cold-calling would’ve taken me weeks or even months to close. Plus I never would’ve uncovered that opportunity by being a stranger.

I knew emails had the power to close deals, but referrals too? Hot damn!

I didn’t generate tons of referrals at that job, but it was the first step of my journey into working smarter and not harder.

John

Write emails that don’t get ignored with my guide: Email List Loyalty

An email that sells ice to the eskimos

I’ve already detailed this here and here, but I’ll say it again. Most of the recent emails I’ve seen these days are just plain full of crap.

Companies are just relentlessly copying each other, sending out emails to their entire lists saying, “we’re here for you” when in reality, the last thing they want to do is be there for you.

But I saw one email last week that was actually smart. It’s not perfect, but it recognizes tough times and it tries to get the word out anyways.

It’s an email from a company called Vacasa, which allows people to rent vacation homes. I’ve used them before and they’re very easy to deal with.

But right now, the tourism industry is in the toilet. Simply put no one is taking a vacation right now except the mandatory staycation that the government has forced on us.

And historically, that industry always suffers during a recession because hospitality and tourism only thrives in good economies. After the housing crisis in 2009, the tourism company I worked for took multiple hits in revenue year after year.

But whoever wrote this email and pressed the “Send” button clearly has a brain. Here it is:

Subject line: Got cabin fever?

We hope you and your loved ones are staying healthy and safe during this challenging time. We’re as committed as ever to delivering memorable travel experiences—and for now, we’ll keep sharing inspiration so you can start dreaming about the future vacation we all know you deserve?

The cure for cabin fever

Few things sound better right now than a private escape in the woods—just you, some peace and quiet, and maybe a couple marshmallows toasting over a crackling fire. If you’re feeling cooped up at home, cure your cabin fever with this tour of stunning, secluded cabins across the country.

*Shows a few vacation house photos*

Book confidently. Stay comfortably.

Your vacation time is valuable, which is why we’re here for you every step of the way. With around-the-clock customer support, easy check-in, dedicated local teams, and professional housekeeping — you can count on Vacasa wherever you’re headed.

Here’s what this email does right:

  • The subject line is kinda clever. Yes, everyone is completely over being trapped inside their homes.
  • It’s not addressed from the company President or CEO.
  • The email isn’t full of paragraphs no one is going to read. It’s mostly visual with a few paragraphs.
  • They actually have good looking cabins in the email. All that’s missing is an Instagram post saying, “Would you stay here with no internet for one year for a $1 million dollars?”
  • Their call to action is just to check out their rentals options. They know at some point after this coronavirus mess, people are going to want to get away, so why not get options in front of them now?

Anyways, this email is proof that you don’t always have to follow the rest of the herd off the cliff. There are people, in good times and bad, that are looking to buy something, and that includes taking a trip. And even though people might be stuck by themselves, they don’t have to be stuck at home to have a good time.

Plus this message is a lot better than the normal, standard “we’re here for you” coronavirus boilerplate email.

That’s it for now.

John

Write emails that don’t get ignored with my guide: Email List Loyalty

Tip-toeing around the minefield of social media

Yesterday I listened to the latest and greatest Your Mom’s House podcast with Tom Segura.

And Tom described how a recent Instagram post of his got flagged.

Keep in mind, the video that got flagged was just a simple conversation between Tom and his Mom in Spanish, and the flaggable part was when his Mom described some girl as a prostitute.

Below is the semi-paraphrased sound clip, written out below:

For it (the video) to be flagged as harmful and abusive language. It’s such as bummer that they’re such assholes with that shit.

And they’re not consistent with it. There is zero consistency with any of the social media platforms.

Like THAT is a violation?? Describing someone as a prostitute? They have to take that down for harmful and abusive language.

It happened because there’s no consistency of how they practice what their rules are. The point is this is not a violation of anything. They’re taking it down saying that I used harmful and abusive language and there’s no consistency to it. They just do this arbitrarily.

This is just another example of how none of the these fucking platforms know or care what’s going on.

YouTube does it too. Like YouTube even flags certain Coronavirus conversations. It’s unbelievable!

I checked my Instagram feed earlier and the account Netflix is a Joke just posted a video promoting Chris D’Elia’s new comedy special.

The absolute first subtitle on the video is, “Hey, Dolphins fuck people!” Like that language is any better.

In fact, check ALL of Dan Bilzerian’s feed. It’s all girls, automatic guns and pot. I guess if those girls were actually prostitutes, his posts would be flagged.

But someone calling someone else a prostitute. That’s crossing the line? Give me a break!

Here’s my point. If your business is using social media to promote your products and services, you need to reconsider using direct response methods.

You don’t want some invisible committee arbitrarily making decisions on whether your marketing is acceptable or not. You’ll never know whether they’re going to smack your hand or not. Or even when they’re going to do it.

And when these platforms do flag your content, they don’t give you proper feedback as far as how to improve.

Meanwhile with direct response methods, you can test and measure different subject lines, completely different messages, content, photos, etc.

You can constantly test, analyze data and actually find out what works and what doesn’t work.

Or if you want to hand someone else the keys to your marketing, be my guest…

The never-ending question of how often to send emails

There’s an on-going debate that keeps popping up.

And that question is how often should you email your list?

And there’s basically 2 camps. One camp is you should email your list as often as you can.

And the other camp is, you should email your list, but not too often. Only email your list when you have something really valuable to share. This side’s argument is too many emails are already  passed around, so if you send more emails, they’ll just get lost in the shuffle.

This latter argument is primarily driven by fear.

The fear is if you send too many emails, your list will unsubscribe in droves right after you immediately hit the “send” button.

And once they leave your list, they’re be gone for good. And then the fight to continue to grow your list will be an endless uphill battle.

But this fear of sending too many emails, is completely nuts!

Too many emails? Thousands of videos get uploaded to YouTube every single day. And no one complains about that!

In fact, there are some YouTubers, who I can’t wait to hear from everyday, simply because I love what they have to say.

And 9 times out of 10, it’s because they’re just entertaining to listen to.

However, in the past I’ve subscribed to some YouTubers who I absolutely loved, but they stopped uploading to their channel regularly shortly after the ad-pocalypse.

For example, I was a huge fan of the reaction videos that H3H3 uploaded. But then they slowly stopped. Instead they wanted to focus on their podcast which copied Joe Rogan’s.

And I get it. When the ad money stops coming in, why invest in something that isn’t making money? But there are other revenue streams besides ad money.

Hell, H3H3 even started their own clothing company. They could at least advertise their clothing on the backs of more reaction videos.

I’m also subscribed to Sirius XM, and listen to Howard Stern on a regular basis. If it were up to me, I would listen to Howard everyday.

Except, Howard isn’t on the air everyday. He’s on the air Monday thru Wednesday, and then Sirius just repeats those 3 days worth of shows for the rest of the week.

Not to mention, he’s in his sixties and he also takes entire weeks off on a whim. Then I have to wait until he gets back just to hear new material.

So on the flipside, you might not be a celebrity or a social media influencer, but you might have ideas that are so good that other people want to hear from you more often than just every week.

And if you happen to have something to sell in those emails, that’s fine too.

If people like you and agree with you, they’ll definitely support you too.

So from here on out, when you’re writing an email, you should never feel gun-shy with the “send” button or the “sell” button.

If I hear “We’re here for you” one more god damn time…

Over the past month, I’ve received the same email from more companies than I know what to do with.

Every company I either currently do business with or have done business has pinged me. My cable company, bank, mortgage company, credit cards, financial planner, clothing delivery service, HVAC guys, airline, coffee store, the list goes on…

Literally every company I’ve ever submitted an email to has come out of the woodwork. And for the most part, it’s pretty much been the same email…

“We’re here for you… Blah, blah, blah. Please don’t forget us…” Something to that effect.

On one hand it’s great that I don’t have to pay delivery fees, which are nice. Unless I can think of something else, that is the only silver lining to this quarantine business.

These emails are mostly stupid for a few reasons:

  1. It’s the same message we have to hear over an over again. Kind of like state governments, nobody knows what to do so they’re just looking around and copying whatever anyone else does.
  2. There is zero call to action other than “contact us”. No links to content, videos or even sales pages to products. It is very anti-direct response.
  3. And even worse, companies have been sitting on these emails all this time, and they still can’t do email marketing the right.

I’ve seen a few stories from local companies adapting and actually helping out their communities, but they’ve only been posting on their social media.

These companies could easily take those same stories and repurpose them into a series of regular emails, while stilldriving sales online.

However, I have seen a few companies handle email during this time the right way.

The most successful series of emails I’ve seen have been delivered from Perry Marshall. Perry is an online marketer, runs a mastermind called New Renaissance and has written a book called 80/20 Sales and Marketing.

Check out one his videos here about how to sell during a crisis. It’s also worth subscribing to his list as well.

To opt-in, visit PerryMarshall.com

The other virus that’s currently number one in the country

Aside from the Big C, there’s another pandemic that’s sweeping the nation.
I was walking into the family room one night and my wife was watching a show called Tiger King on Netflix.

It had this eccentric guy named Joe Exotic, who had a bleached mullet, crazy shirts and owned a zoo full of Tigers. And he was spitting venom about a lady named Carole in Florida, who wore nothing but tiger print clothing.

It had my attention but 5 minutes in, I was like, ‘Why is this guy Joe in Jail?’
And my wife said, ‘Because Joe put a hit out for Carole.’

At the time of writing this, the show is currently the number one show on Netflix.

When I started watching it, I was hooked immediately. We mowed through 3 episodes in one night.

There are shows on my list I haven’t even started to watch yet. And yet with this show, I could not wait to watch another episode.

Now, I try not to go on Facebook for too long just due to its overall negativity, but I have noticed some of my friends have stated that they have no interest in Tiger King.

Here’s the thing about Joe Exotic:

  • For one thing his name is Joe Exotic
  • He’s got a mullet
  • It’s a bad dye job
  • He carries a gun
  • He’s loud
  • He has strong opinions and he’s not afraid to share them

Even in an age where there is more video than we know what to do with, he definitely cuts through all the noise.

Above everything else that’s on the surface, the guy is also 100% authentic, which that by itself will attract a ton of attention.

Just look at Bernie Sanders. I hate his policies, but people love him because he is the most authentic presidential candidate.

Always, my point is Tiger King doesn’t play it safe by any means.
And yet the majority of business owners out there just want to play it safe.

They would rather lock themselves in their store or office and would refuse to put themselves out there until they were completely out of business.

  • They don’t want to send rounds of emails every week because they’re afraid people on their list will unsubscribe
  • They’re afraid to put themselves on YouTube because they’re afraid of comments from people they’ve never met
  • They’re afraid to say anything too controversial because they don’t want to piss someone off

I could go on.

All I’m saying is don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. You don’t even have to change your hair style.

The option of not putting yourself out there is actually more harmful to your business, simply because you aren’t getting the word out.

Even if you have a mullet and wear pink sequenced shirts, a good portion of the people that stumble upon you aren’t going to care either way.