Category Archives: sales

Reducing friction

There is a lot of friction in buying a new house. Agents. Lawyers. Notaries. More agents.

I recently helped design a social media campaign for a client. The campaign was less successful than it could have been because there was too much friction. The process to participate had too many hurdles and some people abandoned it before completing.

One of the most effective things to do to improve your business (not always the simplest but the most effective) is to remove as much friction as humanly possible.

Then remove a little more.

I know a lot of companies that ‘secret shop’ their competitors. Many should secret shop themselves first, with an open mind and a critical eye toward removing friction. beat Intuit’s Quickbooks because it was web-based, but they weren’t the first web-based money management system. A tool called Wesabe was around first. But to use Wesabe (back then), users had to download a .csv from their bank’s website and upload it to their Wesabe account. (I can’t fathom the meeting where that level of friction got approved.)

Friction killed Wesabe.

The lack of friction made millions. $187m to be exact.

Netflix took share from Blockbuster by removing friction. With Blockbuster, you had to drive to the store. With Netflix, you just had to go to your mailbox. (Blockbuster quickly followed suit.)

Redbox is taking share from both by removing even more friction. With Redbox, you don’t need a mailbox or even an account.

Think of the amount of friction in a typical Verizon store. Now think of the lack of friction in an Apple store or a Chipotle or a Starbucks.

The simple act of not having to sign certain credit card transactions under $25 removes friction and saves both the retailer and the customer time, saving companies like McDonald’s and others millions of dollars.

Most airlines did a decent job of removing some friction with online check-in and handy touch-screen kiosks. Unfortunately, they stopped there.

Think of the loads of friction in a typical primary care doctor visit. My friend Jay Parkinson is completely reinventing health care delivery, and he’s doing so by removing friction from the process.

I can stop by my local dry-cleaner, leave my shirts on the front counter and smile and wave to the owner in the back. In three days, I come back and my shirts are clean with light starch.

If he can remove friction from his business, you can too, right?

Flowtown knows what you’re wearing

OK, they may not know what you’re wearing but there is a good chance they know your customers better than you do.

Flowtown uses emails from your customer database, (you do have an email database for your customers, right?) and can tell you interesting and valuable information about those customers.

I recently met the founders of Flowtown online. They are wicked smart guys with a product that is immediately useful to almost any business.

Below is my interview with Ethan Bloch.

Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Ethan Bloch and I’m the Co-founder and CEO of Flowtown.

Why should companies use Flowtown?
Because social media is hard and Flowtown turns social data in dollars.

How much does Flowtown know about someone from their email address?
Name, Age Group, Gender, Occupation, Location, Influence and almost every Social network they’re on.

Really? Wow. Do you know what I’m wearing right now?
I think you’d prefer I didn’t say ;)

So this would allow companies to do more targeted campaigns. For instance, if only 10,000 of their 100,000 members are twitter users, they could do a focused campaign, right?
Totally, way more focused. For example if you’re not on Twitter it would be annoying to get an email saying ‘Hi Clay, we’re building out our presence on Twitter…” you’d be like “I’m not on there, why are you sending me this?” On the flip side we’ve found that if you know someone is on a network and you mention that in your email, the performance of that campaign skyrockets.

Is Flowtown a replacement for traditional email systems like Flowtown, AWeber or MailChimp?
In the case of mainstream email service providers, I don’t think Flowtown is a replacement but rather an enhancement. For example we’ve built an integration with MailChimp where any MailChimp user can come to Flowtown and in 3 clicks dump a ton of demographic and social graphic information back into their MailChimp list and then use MailChimp’s segmentation feature to get more relevant with their subscribers.

You guys are adding interesting new features to Flowtown pretty quickly. Tell us about some of them.
We just launched an influence calculation (powered by Klout), where now when you import a contact list we’ll show you your top 50 influencers, which you can use to do 1-on-1 outreach i.e. we’re showing you the 20% that will drive 80% of the results, in respect to getting noticed and building buzz.

In fact everything we do at Flowtown is ran through this ‘Pareto Lens’ – early on, internally, Dan and I would speak of Flowtown as the 80/20 marketing filter for business.

Tell me about your partner, Dan Martell. How did you guys meet?
He’s a Rockstar – we wouldn’t be anywhere close to where we are today without Dan.

We actually met on Twitter back in September 2008. Did an IRL meetup, discovered we’re both passionate about marketing and moving the needle for business and the rest is history…

Tell us what your typical day at Flowtown is like.
I wake up around 6:30 and immediately touch base with David (VP of Engineering), he’s on EST so by the time I get up I’m already playing catchup.

(I jumpstart my day by using a strategy from Leo at Zen Habits:

I’ll do a brief skim of all the new email that’s came in make sure there’s no bombs going off and then then I’ll work on 1-2 of the most important tasks I have scheduled for the day, for the next 3 hours, usually product, sales or biz dev focused, this could include new product mocks, coding, emails, phone calls, brainstorming and white boarding.

After those 3-hours are up I start going into a more ad-hoc mode, where I’m answering email/tweets, talking to customers, closing new customers, working with David on new features, bouncing around the bay for meetings, testing new features, breaking things and syncing up with Dan.

Later in the day/evening is when I go to the 30,000+ foot view of life, this includes research, reading (going through my Instapaper) and planning.

What did you do before you started Flowtown?
Right before I started Flowtown I was producing/hosting a video show called WSYK? (What Should You Know?) which was syndicated by Revision3. And I was a marketer full time at Cake Financial, a start-up that was recently sold to E-Trade.

Where do you hope Flowtown will be in 3 years?
Flowtown will be responsible for raising the bar on customer experience/service, by helping all businesses care for their customers like Zappos cares for theirs.

What’s the plan then?
Not sure if I’ll be ready, but I want to help fill the massive void in education. I hated school growing up and think there’s a lot we can do to improve the experience for children everywhere.

You’re from Baltimore. Please tell me you’ve seen the Wire or we’re ending this interview right now.

“You come at the king you best not miss.”

I love The Wire. My favorite character is Omar and if you don’t know why just watch this.

Thanks, Ethan.

If you want to try Flowtown yourself, enter your email address here.

Layering snowballs

With the right temperature and a little wet snow, anyone can make a snowball, but my friend Jimmy makes them all day, everyday, in sunny San Diego.

I had another excellent call with Jimmy and a potential client today. After the call, a light bulb went on and I realized what makes Jimmy such a great entrepreneur.

He only thinks in snowball.

Every component of every deal has the capability to snowball. Everything has high probability growth potential. I can’t ever remember Jimmy discussing a deal by saying, “that’s what we’ll sell. That’s that and we’ll move on to the next deal.”

It’s always designed to snowball.

But here’s the key. The snowball isn’t just for Jimmy, it’s for the clients too. He is a master at layering snowballs. Many deals involve three or four parties and Jimmy is particularly skilled at identifying each party’s needs; what they want and what they can give up without much pain. He sees multi-faceted win-wins like a Grand Master chess player sees so many moves ahead. And then he authentically articulates these win-wins so the clients see them too, which makes the sale that much easier.

How do I know Jimmy will be successful?

Eventually, a bunch of layered snowballs create an avalanche.

[photo by: nata]

The Second Sale

Too many marketers focus solely on the first sale.

I was leaving Las Vegas today (Nicholas Cage was nowhere in sight) and with my stomach sensing that my culinary options would be limited once on board, I decided to grab lunch while at the gate.

My best option was Moe’s Mexican Grill. I had never eaten at a Moe’s but a burrito sounded good and it was very close to my gate. The next option was a Starbucks five gates away. Clearly, my first visit to Moe’s was one of impulse and convenience.

While waiting in line, I perused the menu.

The Homewrecker brought to mind a joke a friend recently made about about Gisele Bundchen.

The Jon Coctostan quesadilla brought me back to about 136 hilarious late night viewings of Fletch with my good friend Ben Lower.

Joey Bag Of Donuts made me think of the former Green Bay Packers center Frank Winters, who teammates would lovingly refer to as Frankie Bag Of Donuts.

Ruprict triggered memories of laughing uncontrollably at Steve Martin’s hilarious character in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. (Why is the cork on the fork?)

I physically smiled. A few funny item names on a menu immediately triggered happy memories.

Then something happened.

Moe’s workers seemed more upbeat than your typical airport food service employees.

Moe’s customers seemed happier and less haggard.

Moe’s burrito tasted a little better than I expected.

Was all this real or a placebo effect leftover from the menu that made me smile?

It doesn’t matter.

I won’t drive miles out of my way to go to Moe’s but if I’m hungry and they are an option, the choice is easy.

If I’m alone, I get to smile at the menu again (maybe they’ll have some new items by then – I would love to see an Underhill Steak Sandwich). If I’m with a friend, I get to share their enjoyment of the inside joke.

By having a little fun with their menu, Moe’s locked up the second sale.

Remember The Milk

No, I’m not talking about the excellent, GTD-enabling task management tool or the amazing performance by Sean Penn.

I’m talking about crystallizing and being able to articulate your one key message.


If your spouse sends you to the store just for milk, you bring home the milk.
If they ask you to pick up milk, Cheez-its, Windex, apples, paper towels and oh yeah, make sure you pick up the dry cleaning, you might remember everything except the milk, which was the most important item.

The same is true when you’re giving a presentation or are in a sales meeting.

The client or audience is going to remember the one thing you tell them.

If you only tell them one thing.

If you drone on and on about how great you are and how many services you provide and how many features your product has, your main point will be forgotten in the grocery bag of stuff you just dumped on the table.

Identify your ‘milk’.

Sell just the milk.

Forget about the Windex.

Are you in the right building?


It seems obvious. Who you sell to depends on what you’re selling. But it is easy to caught up in the excitement of your product or the fact that you finally have a sales call that it can be easy to forget whether the buyer is even in the room.

Let’s say you’re selling a big company on an enterprise wide social media campaign. Are you selling the IT department? Will the CIO approve the project and write the check? Or is it the marketing department and the CMO will write the check? Is sales involved? Is the check big enough that it will need finance approval?

Are all the buyers in the room? Are they even in the same building?

3rd prize is…you’re fired.

Alec Baldwin’s phenomenal speech as Blake in Glengarry Glen Ross is even more true than when the movie was released.


Now, more than ever, it is critical to be the best in the world. The internet has flattened everything out. If your customers want something else, your competitor, or the next, or the next, is just a click away.

Choice has become infinite, so being the best in the world is paramount.

There is good news, though. The same internet that flattened everything out and requires you to be the best in the world has a hidden secret. It allows you to define the size of the world. If you find yourself at the bottom of Blake’s chalkboard, the internet allows you to define your own chalkboard and write your own name at the top.

Staying there however, is another story.

(warning – clip contains adult language)

$10,000 for waffles

Radiohead, U2 and Trent Reznor have publicly embraced some innovative new ways to sell more than their music. They sell an experience.

Josh Freese, former NIN drummer has a new album (titled ‘Since 1972′) and he has decided to take the whole “souvenir / experience” model a little further. OK, a LOT further.

This is brilliant. I for one, hope he sells out all the packages.

From Idolator.

* Digital download of Since 1972, including 3 videos

* CD/DVD double-disc set
* Digital download

* CD/DVD double-disc set
* T-shirt
* “Thank you” phone call from Josh for buying Since 1972. You can tell him what you like about the record that you purchased, or what you thought sucked. Ask whatever you want, like “Is Maynard really THAT weird?” or “Which one of Sting’s mansions has the comfiest beds?” or “Are Devo really suburban robots that monitor reality or just a bunch of dads from Ohio?” or “Why don’t the Vandals play more stuff off the first record?” It’s your 5 minutes to yack it up. Talk about whatever you want.

$250 (limited edition of 25)
* Signed CD/DVD and digital download
* T-shirt
* Signed drum head and drumsticks
* Go on a lunch date with Josh to PF Changs or The Cheesecake Factory (whatever you’re into)

$500 (limited edition of 15)
* Signed CD/DVD and digital download
* T-shirt
* Signed cymbal and sticks
* Meet Josh in Venice, Calif., and go floating together in a sensory-deprivation tank (to be filmed and posted on YouTube)
* Dinner at Sizzler (get your $8.99 steak and “all you can eat” shrimp on)

$1,000 (limited edition of 10)
* Signed CD/DVD and digital download
* T-shirt
* Signed cymbal, drum head and drumsticks
* Josh washes your car OR does your laundry … or you can wash his car
* Have dinner with Josh aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, Calif.
* Get drunk and cut each other’s hair in the parking lot of the Long Beach courthouse (filmed and posted on YouTube, of course)

$2,500 (limited edition of 5)
* Signed CD/DVD and digital download
* Get a private drum lesson with Josh, or for all you non-drummers, have him give you a back and foot massage (couples welcome)
* Pick any 1 member of the Vandals or Devo (subject to availability) to accompany you and Josh to either the Hollywood Wax Museum or the lunch buffet at the Spearmint Rhino
* Signed DW snare drum
* Take 3 items of your choice out of his closet (first come, first serve)
* Change diapers and make bottles with him for an afternoon (after hitting the strip club)

$5,000 (limited edition of 3)
* Signed CD/DVD and digital download
* T-shirt
* Josh writes a song about you and makes it available on iTunes
* Co-direct a video with him for the song about you and throw it up on the YouTubes
* Josh gives you and a friend a private tour of Disneyland
* Get drunk together. If you don’t drink, we can go to my dad’s place and hang out under the “Tuba tree”
* Stone Gossard from Pearl Jam will send you a letter telling you about his favorite song on Since 1972

$10,000 (limited edition of 1)
* Signed CD/DVD and digital download
* T-shirt
* Signed DW snare drum from A Perfect Circle’s 2003 tour
* Josh gives you a private drum lesson OR his and hers foot/back massage (couples welcome, discreet parking)
* Twiggy from Marilyn Manson’s band and Josh take you and a guest to Roscoe’s Chicken ‘n’ Waffles in Long Beach for dinner
* Josh takes you and a guest to Club 33 (the super-duper exclusive and private restaurant at Disneyland located above Pirates of the Caribbean) and then hit a couple rides afterward (preferably the Tiki Room, the Haunted Mansion and Tower of Terror)
* At the end of the day at Disneyland, drive away in Josh’s Volvo station wagon. It’s all yours … take it. Just drop him off on your way home, though, please.

$20,000 (limited edition of 1)
* Signed CD/DVD and digital download
* T-shirt
* A signed drum from the 2008 Nine Inch Nails tour
* Maynard James Keenan, Mark Mothersbaugh from Devo and Josh take you miniature golfing and then drop you off on the side of the freeway (all filmed and posted on YouTube)
* Josh gives you a tour of Long Beach. See his first apartment, the coffee shop on 2nd Street where his buddy paid Dave Grohl $40 to rip up tile just weeks before joining Nirvana. See the old Vandals rehearsal spot, the liquor store he got busted at using a Fake ID when he was 17 (it was Dave from the Vandals’ old ID). Go check out Snoop Dogg’s high school. For an extra 50 bucks see where Tom and Adrian from No Doubt live. For another $25 he’ll show ya where Eric from NOFX and Brooks from Bad Religion get their hair cut.
* Spend the night aboard the Queen Mary and take the “Ghosts and Legends” tour. (Separate rooms … no spooning.)
* Josh writes 2 songs about you and both are made available on iTunes and appear on his next record (you can sing back up on ‘em, clap, play the drums, triangle, whatever)
* Drum lesson OR foot and back massage (once again … couples welcome and discreet parking available)
* Pick any 3 items out of Josh’s closet

$75,000 (limited edition of 1)
* Signed CD/DVD and digital download
* T-shirt
* Go on tour with Josh for a few days
* Have Josh write, record and release a 5-song EP about you and your life story
* Take home any of his drum sets (only one, but you can choose which one)
* Take shrooms and cruise Hollywood in Danny from Tool’s Lamborghini OR play quarters and then hop on the Ouija board for a while
* Josh will join your band for a month … play shows, record, party with groupies, etc.
* If you don’t have a band he’ll be your personal assistant for a month (4-day work weeks, 10 am to 4 pm)
* Take a limo down to Tijuana and he’ll show you how it’s done (what that means exactly we can’t legally get into here)
* If you don’t live in Southern California (but are a U.S. resident) he’ll come to you and be your personal assistant/cabana boy for 2 weeks
* Take a flying trapeze lesson with Josh and Robin from NIN, go back to Robins place afterwards and his wife will make you raw lasagna

111 Ridiculously Obvious Thoughts on Selling

A phenomenal ebook on selling from the one and only, Tom Peters.


On 24 January 2006, Tom spoke to a group at GE Energy, and he posted seven PPTs and two PDFs for the occasion. Among them were a PowerPoint presentation titled 89 Ridiculously Obvious Thoughts About Selling Stuff, and a PDF document titled “90 Ridiculously Obvious Thoughts on Selling.” By 28 January, four days later, the piece had grown into “111 Ridiculously Obvious Thoughts on Selling,” and made available on our website as a simple PDF. It was then picked up by our friends at ChangeThis to be produced as a manifesto. Thus, Tom’s collection of sales theorems evolved into its final form, which you find below.


The Leech Lake Knife Company

A great story. A purple cow. Phenomenal design. A Free Prize Inside. An army of customer evangelists. Scarcity.

Pretty phenomenal marketing from a 70 year old who has never heard of Seth Godin.

Don Canney has a superpower. He makes the best fillet knife in the world.

Don is an avid fisherman who has a home on beautiful Leech Lake in northern Minnesota. It isn’t unusual for Don to have filleted hundreds of fish after a day of fishing.

Years ago, Don noticed that his fillet knives got dull very quickly from the initial cut behind the gill. When making this cut you are cutting down into the scales that protect the body of the fish from the razor sharp teeth of other predator fish. With a nod and a wink to Mr. Charles Darwin, Don set out to redesign the traditional fillet knife.

Don used his education in metallurgy and material science to design a high carbon/semi-stainless alloy steel that is then hardened and tempered to Don’s specifications. The blade is extremely thin and flexible but the most unique and effective feature of this knife is really what sets it apart. The top is a sharp hook and top two inches of the backside of the knife is razor sharp.

Don didn’t just redesign a knife, he redesigned the process of filleting a fish.

Don’s Leech Lake knives are not only beautiful and extremely durable, they work unlike any other fillet knife in the world. When a Leech Lake knife owner meets a fellow fisherman, it is impossible not to show and talk about the knife.

You can’t buy Don’s knives on Amazon. Don prefers to sell his knives personally, one by one at the many sport shows he attends every year. This gives Don the ability to hand engrave the blade, “Made especially for your nameyear of purchase“.

Also, each knife comes with a nice leather sheath in which Don puts one standard size Band-Aid. Even though he warns people, everyone forgets and cuts themselves on the sharp upper side of the knife.

With a flexible, paper thin blade, many owners are worried about sharpening it themselves. After reminding you that it should only need sharpening once every couple years, Don offers to sharpen it for free, either at any of the sport shows or by mailing it to him. People that attend sport shows usually go every year, so after using your knife for a year, you go back to Don’s booth and buy a couple more for friends or family.

You can buy a basic fillet knife for $12 almost anywhere. Don’s amazing, hand-built knives cost $90 and are worth every penny. You get a lot more than a knife.

My Dad visited with Don at the Minneapolis Sport Show yesterday like he does every year. Don is getting older and he doesn’t do as many shows as he used to but he was still there, affable as ever, selling new knives and sharpening old ones, adding small but important personal touches that also help owners continue to tell his story.

Everyone is an entrepreneur

lemonade-standWhen you were 4 years old, you were an artist (until someone said you weren’t).

When you were 7 years old, you were a poet (until someone said you weren’t).

When you were 12 years old, you were an entrepreneur with your lemonade stand (until someone said you weren’t).

When you got your first job and your second and your third, you were a salesman. You sold yourself.

So we’ve established that you’re an artist, a poet, an entrepreneur and a successful salesman. The world needs you! What are you waiting for?

The perception of the prospect


In sales, the perception of your prospect is always true.

If they think you are spamming them, you are.

If they think you are sleazy, you are.

If they think you are pressuring them, you are.

But there is good news…

If they think you are accommodating, you are.

If they think you are authentic, you are.

If they think you are patient, you are.

If your intent isn’t pure, the words you use to sell won’t matter. If your intent is perfect, your words don’t have to be.

Your business plan is incomplete.

Many business plans include things like mission statements, values, demographics, competitors and market share data. Those are important but too often they are given more weight than the three critical components of any effective business plan:

1) The Story
2) The Marketing Plan
3) The Sales Plan

The Story

What is your story? What is the story you are telling the people who buy your product or service? What is the story they are telling themselves? What is the story they are telling their friends, neighbors or family? Who else is going to be there? What are they going to experience?

Your story gives you the chance to tell your customers why this is a dream come true for them.

The Story feeds…

The Marketing Plan


How do people find out about it? How do you reach them? How does it spread? Who is talking about it? Why are they talking about it? Who are they telling? How often? In what format?

The Marketing Plan is a road map for how your story will spread.

There are three primary mistakes are made with The Marketing Plan:
1) Too much of the overall business plan is devoted to The Marketing Plan, forgetting about The Story and The Sales Plan.
2) The Marketing Plan is too focused on buying advertising to interrupt and yell at people…
3) instead of focusing on building and enabling the organic, viral component necessary for the idea to spread. Remember, a friend passionately telling ten friends about your product or service is more valuable than a thousand billboards on the busiest highways.

The Marketing Plan leads to…

The Sales Plan


Sales exist when the money changes hands.

Who will buy it? Where will they buy it? From whom? Are there coupons? Discounts? Joint ventures?

Just like your business plan should never contain the statement, “And then a miracle happens…”, your sales plan shouldn’t contain the statement, “And then someone will want to buy it.”

Is your business plan complete?