Chris is currently working at VUURR, specializing in Post Modern Sales and he also wrote the Post Modern Sales Manifesto. He is also the Founder of Levers and Connectalytics.
→ His works at VIR and specializes in postmodern cells
→ What is Levers
→ His the writer of the Postmodern Cells Manifesto
→ The difference between modern and postmodern sales
→ The results of modern sales may be diminishing over time
→ Postmodern sales is the future of sales
→ Collaboration is becoming increasingly important in sales
→ Recognizing the power balance shift and the role of everyone in sales is key to the success of postmodern sales
→ And a whole lot more
Bronson: Welcome to another episode of Growth Hacker TV. I’m Bronson Taylor and today I have Chris Connor with us. Chris, thanks so much for coming on the program.
Chris: Bronson Thanks for having me. Glad to be here.
Bronson: Absolutely. I think we’re going have an interesting discussion today. It’s going to be unique maybe compared to some of the other guest.
Chris: I definitely have a good time with it.
Bronson: That’s right. And so you currently work at VIR and it says online that you specialize in postmodern cells and you’re also the writer of the Postmodern Cells Manifesto. So this is to be a little bit of a theme going on with you, this postmodern self thing. So before we get into postmodern. Tell us what is modern cells? Let’s start there.
Chris: So I patterned this on, you know, similar to how people hear postmodern in terms of art or religion or other things. And, you know, modern sales is the stuff that people know about right now. You know, it’s your your Glengarry Glen Ross. It’s your, you know, car salesman. The coffee is for closers. And if I could, would just. And and all the really, you know, pushy and kind of slimy stuff that most people think of when you hear salespeople sell sales has it’s a four letter word for a lot of people. Mm hmm. You know, no one wants to be sold to no one likes talking to salespeople. And, you know, we all get telemarketers or those things in our lives. That’s modern sales. That’s what the world has grown up with. And that’s the old world. Yeah. Much of the way that, you know, modern art went back to the old style things and postmodern was the next step beyond postmodern sales is what’s what’s coming next. It’s actual sales for the coming world.
Bronson: Yeah. Are your modern sales diminishing? I mean, no, they work to some degree. I mean, you can fight it and make it work a little bit. But is it diminishing, you think, over time the results people get from it?
Chris: I do. I think it is diminishing. I think it’s definitely on the downward slope is still the prevalent way that most salespeople work and act. And so it’s something that most of us are comfortable with when it comes to like, I know what I’m getting into. I step into a car dealership, you know, I know what I’m going to talk to the manager at some point and I know that I’m going to have to do these things. And there’s a lot of the pushing and the going, but I’m used to that. And so I kind of like and I say this to someone I used to sell cars. I’ve I’ve had my shots. I’m not contagious, don’t worry. But, you know, people come out of the dealership very defensive when you go to buy a major appliance or furniture or those sort of things very similar. You get very defensive because you know you’re going to be sold. Yeah. I mean, this is why places like Circuit City and Best Buy have such a bad reputation where you know you’re going to go in to buy a TV and then they’re going to push the warranty and monster cables on you and and, you know, these sort of things because they’re hard to get. Those upsells, you know, cell phone places, you start as bad reputation and they’re still pretty bad about that. Well, you need a otterbox case and you need the, you know, AppleCare plus plan and the extra coverage in case you get roadside assistance and and those sort of things. And so I think it is still very prevalent. I think probably a majority of sales experiences people have today are still like that. But I do think that trend is going to start shifting very quickly. The democratization of information online, the ability now for a lot of consumers have as much or more information than than salespeople is really starting to shift that over time.
Bronson: So it’s kind of the the balance of power is shifting. The power is not in the dealerships hands where they know the actual margins and no one else does the exact exactly how far they can actually go with the discount. Now, we know the margins better than they do. We can look at the Amazon prices and say, look, Amazon has zero margins. We know that’s the actual cost, you know, or something close to it.
Chris: If you’re buying a new car, anyone, any one of the will go online to Edmonds.com and find out what the actual dealer invoices for any new car on the lot. Mm hmm. And the minute you can do that, you’re already ahead of most salespeople, because most car sales will really have that access to that number.
Bronson: Yeah. And so that kind of leads us into post-modern sales, because obviously, if modern sales are broken in some way, then what is the next thing? And I think you’re right, there is a next thing because the ethos of the Internet just doesn’t even work with modern sales. It’s still there to some degree, and it’ll always be kind of lingering in the background because things take forever to die. But the ethos of the Internet is very much something different than modern. So tell us, what is post-modern sales a kind of a high level, and then we’ll get into the details of it a little bit.
Chris: Sure. So the term postmodern sales came to me over almost two years ago. Holy cow. I’d actually been doing a podcast with a friend of mine who is another sales guy. He’s a sales trainer in town. And we’d been talking a lot about kind of the changing world of sales and whatnot. And I had had a bout of insomnia as all good ideas are born from. And it was sitting in my living room floor and started writing and the idea of postmodern sales really started to resonate. Like, first off, that’s a great three three word term that nothing Google for it didn’t exist. No one had the domain, so I merely spent ten bucks on the domain and I started really writing. What does postmodern look like knowing what we know about modern sales? Postmodern sales is what’s coming. It’s the future. And the balance of power with information is. One of the key things, knowing that everybody is on equal footing when it comes to knowledge. Now, sales has always been a he who has the knowledge, has the power sort of world. And now that everyone has the knowledge, what does that mean? Yeah. You know, what does it mean in a world where collaboration is just as important over, you know, who wins the deal? Yeah. You know, the world where, you know, people want to build relationships both online with entities and with people that they can trust. And I’m not saying that didn’t exist in the past, but I feel like the current technology and the current trends in society point even more towards that. Yeah. And so focusing on all those things and really recognizing that people want to be sold differently, people still want to be sold. People still are going to have a need to buy things. Mm hmm. But it needs to that transaction, it has now shifted the power balance to the middle instead of being on the sell side. And so being able to recognize that is the number one most important thing in sales. And then the other real key tenet for me is that everybody in some role is in sales. Now, whether you are the receptionist at the front of the doctor’s office to the, you know, school crossing guard, you are representing your organization in a selling fashion because every transaction, either with money or emotion or time, is realistically a sales moment for everybody.
Bronson: Now, it makes total sense. I think as we get to the details is going to make even more sense for audience why the you know, the person at the front desk, why that touch point is almost as important as many of the other ones that we associate with sales. You mentioned word relationship and one of the first tenets of postmodern sales, according to you, is that relationships and interactions are valued over transactions. I’m going to this a little bit. What do you mean by that?
Chris: So so the manifesto. I patterned it off of the Agile Manifesto. So I come from a software background. I’ve worked in the tech industry for most of my career, and the Agile Manifesto was something that spoke really heartily to me. And, you know, the Agile Manifesto was laid out in a very same way. It’s there are, you know, things that we value over other things. Now, the things on the right side are just important too, but we think the things on the left side are more important. So the first line of the manifesto is relationships and interactions over transactions, where obviously as a salesperson, you have to push numbers, you have to, you know, keep the lights on and your business. But one of the things that I’ve always tried to do really well and this is got me in trouble when I sold cars because dealerships didn’t think this way. But it’s worked really well for me as I’ve moved into a more modern world, a more post-modern world where I meet with people all the time and I first off want to find out what they’re all about and find out how I can help them. And it helping them isn’t what my company can do. I have no problem saying, Hey, you should go talk to Broadstone or you should go talk to so-and-so or Hey, we may not be the right fit for you right now, but I can see where you might be later. In the meantime, here are some things you can do that you can do on your own so you don’t have to waste this money outlay. You know where in the modern world it’s all about getting that sale, even if it’s not the right thing for the customer, it’s getting that sale. And for me, it’s all about making sure that we’re building the right trust and pulling the right relationships that the customer knows that you’re really doing for them, not for you. Yeah.
Bronson: And it seems like my focus on relationships because the world is post-modern in so many ways. You actually will have more transactions because you’re going to have a reputation of caring and actually being honest and truthful and accurate and not trying to drive the hard sell by a deadline. And so you actually get more of both just by coming out a different way. I mean, do you agree with that?
Chris: I agree 100%. And I just finished Dan Pink’s new book To Sell as Human, and he actually talks about the term servant selling, you know, basically playing on the term servant leadership where, again, you’re building with their best interests in mind, not yours. And that does it build you a great reputation. It builds you the kind of, you know, thing where people say, hey, you should go talk to Chris. He may not be able to help you, but you’ll definitely know who can. Yeah, and I think the other piece it really comes out of that is I think good salespeople in the postmodern world are connectors. They’re the kind of people that are going to, you know, have a wide network that they have access to and that they’re going to have a pretty varied range of even things that seem totally tangentially related. They’re going to be able to know either who to talk to or who to know that will talk to them. Yeah, I have people ask me all the time, I had some ask me to say, Hey, I’m looking to get a new stereo in my car. Do you know somebody? I haven’t been in the car world in years, but I still have that network. I saw those people. I might be able to talk to you and so people come to me for that stuff. And that’s that is really powerful for me. And so like my Twitter background, my Facebook background, they build on that, my, my logos for those, you know, show a network and show me connecting people because that’s that’s what makes my day. I love referring business to other people. I love closing business for my company, obviously. But you know what? I can help someone else out and therefore help two people out at the same time. That’s almost as awesome. Yeah.
Bronson: I get the feeling you’ve read Dale Carnegie a few times.
Chris: I’ve actually never finished the book. It’s in my Kindle. I’ve read it and I know the concept. I’ve been doing up sales, training, things. I just have never. Actually finish the book. I need to get there.
Bronson: You do it well. I don’t know if you really need to finish this at all. But the second point of post Marcel’s is establishing value over lowering price and rate. Now, this is going to be important for, you know, the entrepreneurs and the startups listening because they’re the very I don’t know, they’re very insecure about pricing and they feel like they need to be cheaper than the competitors and they want to, you know, be the cheapest rate. And they feel like Wal-Mart is the only model or Amazon is the only model. So explain to us this establishing value over that.
Chris: So I think you are right in the head. People are deathly afraid of charging too much. Mm hmm. And they should be afraid of charging too little. But there’s a perception that people buy on price. And I think for certain things, for very commoditized things people do, people buy toothpaste and shampoo and milk on wherever they can get it. The cheapest. Mm hmm. But people don’t buy the cheapest cars, and they don’t buy the cheapest cars because that’s something else. There’s other perceptions about the car. You drive it everyone about cheap cars key, and they’d be killing it. And no one had ever drive a mercedes or a Lamborghini. But everyone talks about wanting to have a mercedes or an AMG or a Lamborghini or of Iran or whatever in their driveway. Mm hmm. And what that means is those guys have established value, and that value may not necessarily be monetary. There’s things that that item says about you. You know, if you own a mercedes that talks about you in a different way or if you own a Rolex watch that says something about how you value your appearance and how you project other people and whatever it is you’re selling, be it a physical good, a meal. I mean, restaurants do a great job of this. Some of the best restaurants don’t serve the best food, but they put on a great atmosphere. Mm hmm. I mean, I’ve had some great food in little dumpy horn oil places. Mm hmm. But the atmosphere is what makes it because it’s authentic, and it builds a value. Like, Oh, I’m getting literally tortillas from a dude who just rolled them out behind that wall. Mm hmm. Like, that’s a value, you know? So you’re getting an authenticity of that value, or you’re getting a a exclusivity thing. This place is only open on Tuesdays for 3 hours. So if I get in, I’m super awesome. Mm hmm. You know, so you build those other values, and when you’re selling, like startups do this a lot, as you know, you’re selling online. You know, you want to build a value of this is going to do whatever problem it is. It’s going to solve that problem. Mm hmm. Or you’re establishing a value exclusivity mailbox. The iPhone app, the does mail just did this. They did that exclusivity thing where they basically let a slow trickle of people in. And when you open the app, you said, oh, there’s 18,000 people in front of me and there’s 37,000 people behind me because that’s how much demand is. So they built their own little demand engine by establishing a value, Hey, we know that this thing is going to be great, but we don’t want to overburden ourselves. So we’re going to slowly let people in so we can get get the bugs worked out until everyone’s in. Here’s where you’re at. You know, Apple does this. Apple computers aren’t the cheapest. We all know this. And they’re a trite example, but it works in this case where I can get a comparable specs to the MacBook Air I have in my computer in my lap right now, I can get the new Lenovo yoga. One of my coworkers has one of the it’s a great machine and it costs a little bit less. And it does more, but. Apple is building trust in the it just works and you know it plugs in with everything I already have and I mean the ecosystem and it works on my iPhone. So they’ve built that value over time, and I think a lot can be learned from companies that do a good job of building values beyond money. It’s about showing how this is going to solve your problem in a way that is comfortable and says something about you.
Bronson: Yeah. And the way you said it, you know, it’s about showing them the value and the way it solves a problem and those kind of things. I think it’s important because sometimes we think about value only in luxury brands like only the Mercedes, only the Apple. And we don’t really think it’s like, Well, what is my little startup going to do with luxury? Like, I’m not a luxury brand, but luxury value or different luxury is one kind of value. But authenticity is another kind of value. Understanding your needs, you know, false scarcity. I mean, the all the things you mentioned, there’s different kinds of value. And the goal is to show that value, whatever it may be, instead of just focusing on price as the only indicator of value, because sometimes it’s not even an indicator of value at all.
Chris: Exactly. Price is a very small part. Things like automation or time saving or, you know, making a difficult thing easier or, you know, access to things. Founder’s Card does this right. People that have a founder’s card and it’s a known thing in the startup world, you know, you pay a monthly membership, but it gets you access to things that you wouldn’t have access to other sites. And that’s their value. Their value isn’t the little full metal card. All that is cool looking, but the value is I know that I can go to events where people I wouldn’t normally have access to are going to be or I’m going to have discounts on things that I use anyway in addition to the other things that it gets me out of. My name’s on a list somewhere so other people can have access to me that may want to.
Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. And the third point is that customer collaboration over haggling and negotiation. So talk to us about that, because it’s hard to imagine anything except haggling and negotiation in the sales world.
Chris: And I think that’s one of the things that will change the fastest way as we move from modern to post-modern sales. And I think we’re already starting to see that now. You see places. General Motors tried this with Saturn back in the nineties, with the one pricing, the non-negotiable pricing. CarMax does this now on used cars in the car world. Apple doesn’t discount their prices. You know, JCPenney, you know, obviously Ron Johnson went from Apple to Japan to try this with, hey, we’re not going to the big discounts. This is just our pricing scheme. Server knows what’s up. They’re trying to get away from that. You know, I’m waiting for the Groupon. I’m waiting for the 20% off coupon. I’m waiting for the buy one get one deal because I know that I’ve established value over time as a seller. So I know that when my customers come in, I’m going to be able to do this. I think Zappos does a great job of this. And again, another overused example, but they do it really well. Zappos doesn’t have the best prices on most shoes they do on some. Mm. But what they do have is they have all the tools to allow you as a customer to work with them, you know, they mail you shoes, you try them all to do that, you mail them back and they’re very nice about it. Mm hmm. And it’s a painless process. And they work with you if you call Zappos. And I’ve told salespeople I’ve mentored before, if you want a good experience to learn something, pick up the phone and call Zappos and see how long you can keep them on the phone. I guarantee you’re going to want to hang up before the guys apologies. Yeah. And most salespeople, that’s not the case. Most sales people want to get you in the door, on the phone, buying something right away and then off the phone saying move on to the next one. Zappos actually decides they want to work with the customer. And I think that’s a model that’s going forward. And you’re starting to see this a lot with as software goes, you see people that do the little lift thing is support right there on their site or you see people that respond to emails at 9:00 at night on a Sunday night. I’m not saying need to work 24 seven to do this. Well, if that’s the expectation you set, that’s what you’re going to start looking out for. And I think that gets a lot of reputation. Southwest Airlines does this again, another overused example, but they actually try to work with customers and try to have a fun experience as well. And again, their prices are cheaper most of the time and they don’t do the nickel and diming with this. The bag fee is, you know, $5 for this and $7 for that and and all that. But they’re honest about upfront, hey, we do this so that your tickets are less costly. Mm hmm.
Bronson: Now, that’s great. And then the final point is that long term partnerships over rigidly defined roles. Explain that to us. I’m not even sure what you mean by that.
Chris: So I’ve had the most conversation probably about this line, and it is a little more vague. This one really speaks to a lot of the old school buying process, the RFP world, the you know, I have to go through procurement to get sign off from six people and I can’t touch this thing because it’s not in my realm. And this one really ties a lot more into kind of the changing way. We work as a as a society, not just in sales where, you know, there is now a cell department. In a marketing department, an advertising department and a development department. Those things, those lines are all blurring and those lines are all becoming one because the world is moving so quickly that you can’t wait for a thing to move through three different committees because by then your competitors already done it, failed at it, and moved on to the next thing that that that really defined structure, that rigid hierarchy is changing very quickly. You start to see this a lot in startups it actually embraces very well is you see a lot more flat organizations where you don’t have this giant tree structure where you can’t talk to the CEO, have to talk to somebody who talks to the manager, who talks to the VP, who then talks to the CEO and it might come back down the chain at some point. That world is going to die. The world is way too quickly for that. And I think empowering employees to build those partnerships with people in other organizations as well as within your own is going to be one of the most valuable things going forward, both in changing the way we buy and the way we sell. Yeah, but also in obviously the way we work.
Bronson: Yeah. You know, and in just here you kind of unpack postmodern sells. It’s great because I feel like people, you know, that, you know, approach a company, approach a startup they may not build a point to, oh, they’re doing premise two really well or oh, they’re doing premise four really well. But intuitively they know something’s right. Like they feel connected, they feel a relationship, they feel like they’re being cared about. They feel like they’re not just, you know, a cattle being moved through the process in the herd. So I think, like consumers are very in touch with this ethos, whether they can actually tell you why or not. And I think that’s important for startups to really hear, is that this stuff matters, whether people get it or not.
Chris: Right. And I think that that is one of the things that’s the kind of thing that if you do well, it will go transparently. They’re not going to recognize of the fact, oh, wow, that was a really painless process. And they may not have I you said they may not be able to put a pin right in Y, but they’re going to know. Wow. Oh, deliver Bronson was awesome. I want to do more like that. Mm hmm. Who else does business that way? Or how can I do business more like that? How can my customers have that same experience? Because it does. It feels way more natural. It feels a lot more human. And shockingly enough, you know, one of the biggest feedback things that sales people get is I want to be treated like a human. I want to feel like I’m more than just a conquest for you. Yeah. As you’re going through the selling process, I want to know that you actually care about what’s going on for me, and. And that’s just the way sales used to be. Yeah. You know, you hear about the daughters of people in the, you know, everyone knew their mailman, knew the milkman and those sort of things that’s gone away. Mm hmm. Let’s bring that back, because it works, especially as people want to be more connected.
Bronson: Absolutely. You know, I think about like when I when I think about my day, it’s like when I go home to my family, you know, I’m obviously very relational. It’s not a transaction. You know, when I help do chores around the house or when I, you know, do whatever with my kid, like none of it’s transactional. And so the more I can blur the line between work and that, probably the better off I’ll be if I can just treat the people I work with all day, like friends and colleagues and coworkers and, you know, champions alongside me. And then I go home and I do the same thing. It’s going to be better for everyone because we are just humans. At that end of the day, the constructs of corporations is something we’ve made up. It’s not something inherently that’s a race.
Chris: It’s a complete societal construction and it has value. But I think you’re right. And as a parent, you hit it right on the head, treat your your interactions with your your clients and your customers and your coworkers and other people in industry like you do with your family. I mean, I’ve got three kids. I have three daughters. I get home and they don’t want to hear about, well, this takes 7 hours to do this. We can’t do that. I don’t want to negotiate over bedtime. They just want to say, well, can I stay up five words so I could do this with you? You know, they want to have those conversations and they want to be treated as a, you know, actual value to the conversation, even though they’re like my I have a six year old and a two year old and a baby. And, you know, they still want to have that same interaction. And unfortunately, salespeople have always treated their customers like kids. But in the way that, you know, we treat parents, you know, it’s bedtime. You have to go to bed right now. You don’t do that. You can’t do this. I mean, how many times did someone call the customer service said, well, I can’t help you. I can’t do anything about that. Any sales person or any customer service person that says that’s against policy, I can’t do that. There’s an instant fire in my book because that’s not the way the world works. You’re not empathizing, you’re not caring, you’re trying to build relationship at all. You’re just saying, Well, the book says, I can’t do X or I can’t do X. Yeah. And you know, without understanding why. Yeah.
Bronson: And startups are so uniquely positioned to take advantage of post-modern sales because they don’t have to buy into the bureaucracy. They can do it any way they want because they’re already a rebel in every other way. Why not be a rebel in how they view sales itself within the organization? You know, so what?
Chris: Especially because they’re generally smaller organizations, they have the flexibility as small companies to start with this and build into the culture. Or build it right into how they do things. And it makes it much easier to do as you get large. You know, Facebook obviously is a monolithic organization now, but, you know, they’ve started a lot of processes in their world when they were, you know, five or six guys and are able now to continue that now that they’re five or 600 guys, because they built that into their system and they built that into their culture and their way of being. If you can bake this type of thing into your sales organization from the beginning, it gets to be very easy to scale this out. So when you’re as big a Salesforce or, you know, AT&T, this is the way you work. And that’s what Zappos did and that’s what sells. I started when Southwest Air was working to find airports. They built this culture of we’re going to treat the customer like family. Mm hmm. And they’ve been able to maintain that. Now that they’re, you know, the third biggest airline in the US.
Bronson: Yeah, it’s great. Now, as I was looking around online, I looked at how you described yourself in some of your profiles. And you’re already describing yourself, by the way. You do give people a great window into who.
Chris: You had a lot of help.
Bronson: But one of the things you say is you call yourself a hacker of psychology and words. What does that mean?
Chris: So I work in the software world. So, you know, all of my guys are hackers with code. You know, they write and build amazing things. And I actually have a background in development, but I’m so bad at it and so out of practice that the days of writing code are real bad thing. So rather than hacking on code, I hack people, I hack psychology, I hack the way things are said in the way words are used because words are just as powerful, spoken or written as any interaction in your software. And so I focus my day on changing the way we think about things and change the way we say things verbally and written to to make it make it that we were reflecting the right things for our customers and for us down the road. So I test and I play with all different types of wordings. I test and play with all different types of, of, you know, just thought processes and try to get people to act in certain ways just to see what happens. It’s an experiment that I’m hoping to learn more about, one, how that particular person reacts. But also, you know, how does that work in the grander scheme for for organization?
Bronson: Mm hmm. Now, that’s great. You know, because we hear about hacking in so many other realms. You know, obviously the code hackers on this program, growth hacking, right know, sales is a part of that. And then, you know, we also hear about copywriting. So that’s kind of gaining some momentum, but we don’t really hear about it with the spoken word as well. And I think it’s really important. I mean, if somebody were just to rewatch this interview, you’ve done a number of things or you’ve tried to hack psychology and we’re just talking, you know, like you’ve used my first name, you know, at least two times now. Like that’s hacking psychology, a word that people usually don’t recognize. But when somebody does it and you’re on the receiving end, you recognize it, right? So there’s always you’re in here and.
Chris: You hear your name personally hit it. This is the number one thing I teach sales. But first thing, if you can say someone’s name, it activates parts of their brain that make them like you more.
Bronson: Absolutely. And you’ve already done it. And I can instantly attest to it and I try to do with other people as well.
Chris: Chris Yeah, but I watch it for now. I’m on to you.
Bronson: That’s right. That’s right. The other thing I noticed on your online profiles is this I think was from a few years back, but it might still be relevant. You said that you were in human to geek relations. What does that mean?
Chris: So when I when I first started back in the software world, I was working at a company and we were able to pick our own fun titles. And when I was thinking about what I wanted my title to be, when I was first recruited to join the company, they the person that brought me on said and they were a friend of mine. They brought me, I said, what I’m looking for. I need someone that can interface with the developers and understand what they’re saying and be able to help, you know, bring that geekiness down to a level where our customers can understand it and make that make sense for everybody. And so I said, oh, kind of like, you know, human to geek translation. And it just stuck. And so I ran with that as my title for a while because that was a lot of my day was using my development background, using my computer science background to understand what the development team was talking about on the technical side of things, and be able to put that in a system where non-technical people could understand. We had a number of clients who were very non-technical, from golf people to people to medical people who have their own language and things that they are very passionate about but they don’t understand LDAP from FTP from, you know, Gmail, they don’t know. Those are just important to them. I might as well be speaking Greek. So being able to translate in a system where this is going to interact in this way for you and put it in a very user level was just a natural thing for me. And it’s I actually have a lot of fun doing that. It’s anyone that does tech support for their family has to explain why you don’t double click certain things. And you know, you do things this way, does this naturally, and it’s a difficult thing to do.
Bronson: Well, yeah. Do you think a startup should be on the lookout for someone with that kind of role? Because the think about engineers and they have to spend so much time writing code, there is no time to do relationship building at all. So then you bring in somebody that’s going to be there. But if they don’t speak the coding language to some cursory level, it’s hard to really kind of bridge the gap, you know, to the world. Do you think they should be on the lookout for someone like you?
Chris: I think I think they should definitely try to find either a person who can write code, but also talk to people. In fact, I’d do that first, or I’d find a salesperson that understands code. But I would I would spend 60% of my time trying to find a developer that I could teach to be in sales before I found a sale, cause I could teach about development. But I think having having that skill set, having that ability to kind of be a daywalker and walk both both sides is, is very valuable. Going for anything technical is going to have to be explained to people that may not especially new and innovative things. You know, if this is a brand new thing, you have to explain why this is important.
Bronson: Yeah. And it speeds up the sales process because you don’t have to circle back to the team to get the tech answer every time you’re in a meeting with somebody. You can just speak confidently, know this is what it does is what it doesn’t do. It probably won’t ever do this. This is probably on the roadmap. Like you can just move that, you know, past those phases so fast.
Chris: Right. The old world. The old way of doing this was your sales engineer. Right. It was. You had your sales guy go out with one of the technical team who was your sales engineer, who would basically answer the technical questions, and then the sales guy would spin it, however necessary, for the customer. Nowadays, that role needs to become one. And that’s that’s where that that human to geek translation role is a very postmodern role.
Bronson: Yeah. Now you’re in postmodern sales at VIR. So tell us what is ver v? You are.
Chris: Correct. Ver is a digital analytics based marketing firm. We are basically professional growth hacking team for you. We come in and take a look at the analytics, take a look at what’s actually going on. Find out what the goals are with you and then work towards those. So we do a lot of PPC management, landing page optimization, funnel optimization as well as custom development to to make things go from there.
Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. Now I want to talk about your role in just a minute, but tell us when when verb meets a new client, what are some of the things that they always have to do? What are some of the things that is always broken with clients?
Chris: So analytics, most people say, Oh yeah, we have analytics installed and they have the tool lines of Google Analytics code on their site. And that’s 70% of analytics that’s going to get you the base details, but it’s not getting into the end zone, to mix my metaphors there. I mean, it gives you something, but it doesn’t get you nearly the data it has. If you have your proper goal flow, your profit funnel setup, and some of the more advanced things you can do the analytics. It’s it’s one of those tools that everybody uses, but nobody uses the full potential or very almost nobody uses the full potential of it. So that’s that’s one of the first things and that’s often set, you know, either incorrectly or set by old standards because people just they’ve changed the way things go with that. I think the other thing that we see very commonly are, you know, they’ve worked with some other agency that kind of gets SEO and kind of gets the way Google works. And so they have things that are sort of right or were right a year and a half ago. But Google’s changed those since then. And so there’s a lot of things that need to happen there.
Bronson: Yeah, you have to be on the edge of this stuff because, you know, a year does not make it, you know, stay relevant.
Chris: Now you’ve got to live and breathe it.
Bronson: Absolutely. Now, you say that on one of your profiles that you launch VER and its clients into bank breaking deals. I like that phrase. Now, you’ve already told us probably some of the ways you do that with the post-modern sales and, you know, hacking, psychology and words and being that geek to human, you know, relation ship thing. How else beyond that stuff? Do you launch ver virgin clients into big breaking deals?
Chris: You know, a lot of it is really the stuff we’ve talked, but I spent a lot of time with people. I spent all day yesterday at an early meeting with a client of clients working with another agency that’s going to do the branding and the design. And a lot of the the surface level things for the identity of the brand. And then they come in behind to do the optimization and the actual build out of the new site. I invested my day yesterday and just sitting in and learning about kind of the whys and the what’s in the where’s all this this new stuff is coming from. Yeah. So that when we get to the messaging side and we’re doing advertising, we’re doing optimization for them, we understand the foundation that they’re building on. You know, they need to be in that meeting. It’s not like we had no actionable steps that came out of the meeting yesterday, but spending that couple of hours there and building that relationship one and two, understanding the wheres and the what’s in the ice is going to pay off dividends down the road. When we get to the part where we’re writing ads with them and we’re doing landing page testing, we’re going to really be able to tap into those same core concepts at a level that we wouldn’t have if we didn’t have that understanding. It would take more time at least. So I do a lot of those things.
Bronson: Yeah. Do you find yourself having to build a lot of partnerships to kind of move things forward? Is that a big part of what you’re doing?
Chris: It is, and mostly because we’ve focused so much on what we’re really good at. We don’t like for example, we don’t do design and we’re very, very upfront about that. Most agency types say, Oh, yeah, we do everything and then they sub it out to somebody anyway. We’ve been transparent from day one. We aren’t the paint in bodywork, guys, but we are your engine and transmission guys. It may not look good when we build it. But it’s going to run like hell. But we know lots of people that can make it look good, too. So let’s hope you find the right paint and body work people to make the design work and make the color scheme. And those sort of things go. Mm hmm. And when they put that beautiful paint on top of the engine, the stuff we built, it’s going to look good and run like hell. Yeah. So that’s one of the things is we have a number of partnerships with other agencies that specialize in design or specialize in social or in PR, where there’s things that we could do if we wanted to put the time and effort into it. But we’re passionate about making our product work better and making their dollar spend further. So we focus our efforts there and build partnerships with people that can help support that role.
Bronson: Yeah. The times with my startups were formed partnerships. It’s always paid dividends. It’s always been great. Do you think partnerships is kind of underutilized asset for startups at least?
Chris: I think a lot of startups get it, but it is underutilized. I mean, stick to the things that you’re best at and know that so that you can find the people that can help accentuate your deficiencies. You know, if you’re really good in one place and not in another, there is nothing wrong with finding someone that’s really good at the thing you’re bad at and working with them and say, Hey, you know, this doesn’t work for me. I know it works for you. Can we share this or is there a way we can work together that we both get better? Yeah, and it’s that mutual interest thing that is where a partnership really works.
Bronson: And one thing I found kind of personally and with my friends is that when a startup is like really heavy on engineering and they have a lot of quality engineers, they’re more averse to letting other people do things. They just think, Well, we can build it. It’s only gonna take a couple of weeks when I can take a couple months, and they do it better anyway. And you should have partnered with them and built Synergy and Build delivers their audience also. And so there’s always more to come from just, you know, getting other people involved. So I think sometimes I’ve seen companies that are built by MBAs that are much more prone to partnerships because that’s the only tool they have, like they have to get people involved. And so that’s what they kind of go toward. Is that what you see as well?
Chris: I think that’s a good part of it. But there’s a lot of trust issues. You know, it’s it’s very scary to give that trust up when you build a partnership and say, well. I’ve never worked with broads before, but I know from everything I’ve seen and all the people I’ve talked to that he’s really good at this and I’m not. So I’m going to going to have to make that handoff there and hope. And that first time is really scary and it gets easier over time, but it is a scary thing the first time and that’s hard and especially a lot of people. And stereotyping a little bit. Developers tend to be a little more control centric than other people. And so it is very difficult engineering heavy. They are tend to be control heavy too. And so knowing that going in, you know, forcing yourself to make that jump and to do the scary thing sometimes pays off long term. But it is hard to do it the first time.
Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. Let me give you a chance to brag a little bit what have been some of the really big wins that you had for Vir? You know, through kind of utilizing, you know, postmortem sales and just spending that much time with the customers and all that stuff you talked about.
Chris: So we’ve actually had two times in the past year, we’ve had clients that their goal was I need my phone to ring. And so all of our ad campaigns, everything we did was targeted towards getting people to pick up the phone and call. And twice in the last nine months, I’ve had a call back from the client going, We need to back things off. I can’t answer these fast enough, which does nothing but make you feel awesome. I mean, when someone gets that phone call, you just grin because you’re like, Yes, just killing it. And we’ve had another we’ve had other times where clients have come to us and said, hey, we’ve tried to do this. Here’s what our conversion rates look like. Here’s our form filled out rates. And we’re able to to get in there and really dig with them. And when we find out what the real root cause is, you know, the surface level calls might look like it’s X, but when you start digging, there’s really three layers deep. There’s another thing that’s causing all of that. And when we spend that time and find those and then see a huge win, you know, a four times increase in the form, fill out a three times increase in conversion rate or a margin increase from 65% to 82%. That just feels awesome because you know that their investment in you paid off huge for them.
Bronson: All right. So let’s dig into those a little bit. Tell us what you can. All right. So, yeah, you’re making these phones ring and they’re ringing too much. I mean, what is that? Is that a great SEO strategy that took hold? Is that pay per click, you know, in the right way? I mean, what was the basic kind of fundamental building blocks to make that kind of work?
Chris: So in both cases they were well-executed pay per click campaigns with proper targeting and proper keyword structure to well built landing pages that grabbed and had calls to action that were amazing. So it was really a combination of my pay per click team and my web page team building awesome campaigns that worked really well together and hit that customers right where they wanted to be.
Bronson: That’s great. Yeah, that’s what I was looking for. Just, you know, what was the basics of of the play, you know? So that’s awesome. Now you’ve recently co-founded two very interesting companies. I think one is launch. I think one is still in beta. You can correct me if I’m wrong on that, but let’s start with Connect Olympics. Okay. What is Connect lyrics?
Chris: So Connect lyrics is a tool that allows you to push your Bing ads data at a keyword level into Google Analytics in the same way that Google AdWords does. So anyone that’s that Google AdWords knows, you can connect your analytics and it pulls all that data right in alongside. So you can see in your analytics right down to the keyword of campaign level, what’s working, what’s costing money, what’s what’s driving traffic, what’s not. Until connect looks, there was no way to do that with big data, very separate tools. Google opened up a new API that allows you to do some things and it solved the problem. We had. Obviously, you know, as many campaigns do run for clients both across Bing and Google and Facebook and LinkedIn, you know, being able to put that stuff side by side and really do a comparison of, hey, this keyword works really well on Bing, not so much on Google and vice versa. All these other keywords very valuable for us to be able to look at those things at a glance and make smart decisions for our client.
Bronson: Okay, so you’re not managing Bing within Google. You’re bringing the Bing data into Google for comparison analysis, is that correct?
Chris: Correct. Okay. So you’re not able to actually edit your Bing ads data from the analytics dashboard just like you are with AdWords. You have to log in AdWords and do it from there. You have to log in to Bing and do it as well here, but allows you to really make those judgments from a level of a marketer saying, okay, I’m spending ten grand this month, five on Google, five on Bing. Should I shift out to six on Bing and four on Google or seven on Google, three on Bing. You know, where should I spend that money to be most effective for me? We have a client there, an online online retailer where branded terms work really, really well for them. On Bing, on Google, not near as well. So a lot of their site campaigns work better on Google. So we spend heavily on branded keywords on Bing and much less heavily on branded keywords on Google. But some of their more specific campaigns for know targeting or lifestyle type we’ve target on Google because it’s more effective there than on big.
Bronson: Okay. So this is really targeted to a company that’s probably already running ads on being and Google, but they don’t get quite the data they need to make great decisions yet.
Chris: Right? I mean, the data is all there. It’s just a lot more difficult to get to. You know, the old way of doing this was doing, you know, your. All structure in your link back from your Bing ads worth the you saying and everyone has had to play those game and build those huge URLs. This makes that even easier for you. We are trying to get Facebook integrated as well so that people running Facebook ads can do the same thing with their data. We’re waiting on API access from Facebook to do that and eventually we plan on adding as many sources as possible to that.
Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. Now, tell me about Lever’s a little bit. It seems like it’s similar and yet different all at the same time. So what is levers?
Chris: So actually in the very near future, connected ICS is rolling into levers. It’s going be known as lever speeds.
Bronson: It’s going to be by thinking there was some similarity there.
Chris: There is lever lever speeds is going to be the base level of leaders. So what levers is designed to do and the whole goal behind levers is let’s look at everything you have about your digital marketing, your paper, click your SEO, your email marketing, any fixed costs you may have and find out much like Archimedes did, try to, you know, with the simple system and knowing that if I had a big enough lever, I could move the earth, find out which levers, move your marketing world in the best ways. So that, again, should I spend more money on SEO? Should I spend more money getting my email open rate better? Should I get more, you know, paper click budget so or increase my click through rate and find out what that lever is that’s going to be most effective for your campaigns and your budget so that you can make the most money and solve the most problems.
Bronson: Yeah. So what kind of companies should be using levers? Who is that really targeted at?
Chris: So we’re targeting really there’s two targets, obviously. I think it’s the kind of thing that a lot of agencies are going to be able to use to help increase transparency and visibility for their customers, as well as make their lives a lot easier. And then anyone who’s spending a significant amount of money on digital marketing through, you know, online presence with, you know, landing pages, retail obviously is a natural market for it. But we’ve actually had some success with other clients as well. Pardon me, you know, that are that want to be able to track what they’re doing and how much engagement they’re gaining online. So if you’re spending money on ads or spending money, you know, selling stuff online, being able to track those things all the way through is super valuable. So we’re looking, you know, both at, you know, ecommerce type sites as well as enterprise sites where, you know, if you’re selling software or you’re selling services knowing, you know, if I’m spending eight grand to make nine, is that as effective as if I do a few other things and I can spend five grand to make nine for? I’d much rather do the latter, and I think probably most people would as well.
Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. Now it seems like you’re very in tune with kind of the pay per click world and more so even what’s broken about it. I mean, you’re actively building products, you know, connect Olympics and now levers that are really trying to fix and alleviate some of the problems with PPC. So maybe there are some things that you don’t have time to fix but, you know, are still broken. Give us a hat tip. What’s what’s something that some startup needs to fix about pay per click?
Chris: So I think pay per click in and of itself. The biggest thing is most people just don’t know how to use it. Well, it’s still a very complicated and kind of esoteric thing and doing a lot of the testing and a lot of the, you know, being able to kind of do things side by side is very hard right now. And that’s the problems we’re trying to solve, is how do I make it easier knowing that there are multiple ecosystems to spend my marketing budget on, not just in the paper realm, but also how do I track efficiency in paper versus SEO? How do I know if I’m better off working on my natural rankings versus paid? Where are my clients coming from? And it’s such an individualized and personal thing that there’s some math and some data around all of those things. But knowing. All the inputs from the customer side as well is the hard part. And so being able to get those and then do some of the math and optimization behind that is the real power that we’re trying to solve. Yeah, I don’t want to solve it cause I want to be first. So I’m working on that.
Bronson: But so really the problem is complexity because it is complex. And so if you can find a way to still be powerful yet simple, that’s going to be the kinds of products that can win in the PPC world.
Chris: Well, I think it’s it’s very new to. I mean, remember, you know, Google AdWords are really only a decade or so old. Mm hmm. And wide adoption in ads is really less than that. It’s probably six years old in their current platform. Facebook’s been public really, you know, in the public realm for six years. Mm hmm. And advertising has only been really around for about four or five of those. And so these things are still relatively new in the grand scheme of things. And so part of that complexity is just a. All right, this is that new shiny thing. What do we do with it? How do we really optimize for this?
Bronson: That’s great. Well, Chris, this has been a great interview. I have one last question for you. So knowing everything you know now, knowing what you know about postmodern sales and business development and partnerships and relationships and analytics and pay per click and fill in the blanks, all the stuff that you do, knowing what you know. Now, if you are back in a startup tomorrow that had zero budget to really do anything meaningful with and you were tasked with growing it, acquiring users, retaining users, monetizing users, how would you be spending your days? You wake up, you get a cup of coffee, and then you do what?
Chris: The very first thing I do a this is a book, a page right out of the lean playbook. If you’re not talking to your current customers and finding out what they really think, you are doing it wrong. I would pick up the phone and I would talk to every customer I have from the one spending the most money to the brand new. This one I started yesterday and find out why us? What did we do that surprised you? What are we not doing well that you need better at? What things can we change that make it easier for you and really find out for people that already had that relationship and that trust built with you what works? Because obviously if you have customers, you want to have more customers like those customers. Yeah, you know, in a perfect world. And if you have customers that aren’t very good. Ask them, Hey, what can we do to make you do more like this? Yeah. And your customers you love. What are we doing that attracted you? Who else is like you that we can bring in and really have those conversations? And this goes right back to the original build relationships and have the faith to ask those questions. And you might hear things you don’t want to hear. You’re going to hear bad things, and that’s okay. You have to take that and learn from it and not be upset when you hear things that don’t don’t jive with you and take it as this is something I can improve on, not this is something that they hate and they’re just hating on me to hate because you’re going to find haters. Haters are out there and that’s fine. But going to hate, haters going to hate. But sometimes there’s a grain of truth in that, and that’s where you got to find it. Yeah.
Bronson: You know, you know, winning at a startup is almost just being able to, like, not be affected by people that hate what you’re doing. I mean, I have incredibly thick skin, people’s opinions of me. Like, I realize, like they don’t really know me. They’re not really thinking about me. It’s just one minor touch point when they criticize me. But for the rest of their life, I’m nothing to them. Like they’re not thinking about me. Why am I thinking about them? Yeah, exactly. Just have thick skin and go from, you know, from kind of put down to put down. You’ll end up with something great because you’re the one gathering all the feedback when everyone else is afraid to even talk to people. And when you gather that feedback, you’re going to win. So I think that’s a great answer, Chris. Thank you again so much for coming on the program and kind of exposing a new way of thinking about sales and I think a lot of startups can benefit from.
Chris: Well, thanks for having me. I’m glad to help. Look forward to hearing some great feedback.
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