Duct Tape Selling

Ep #8: Marketing Makes Better Salespeople with John Jantsch

JohnJantschPhotoOur special guest this week is John Jantsch. John is a popular speaker, marketing consultant, and best-selling author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine, and The Referral Engine. He is the creator of the Duct Tape Marketing System and its consulting network that trains and licenses small business marketing consultants around the globe.

John’s widely popular blog was chosen by Forbes as favorite for marketing and small business. His podcast, a top ten marketing show on iTunes, was called a “must listen” by Fast Company magazine. Huffington Post calls him one of the top 100 “Must Follow” on Twitter and Forbes named Duct Tape Marketing one of the 100 Best Websites for Entrepreneurs.

John’s latest book, Duct Tape Selling, shows how employing the strategies of today’s inbound marketing will maximize sales results. It is full of practical advice for small and medium businesses, helping them to develop sales superstars. If you think Sales and Marketing don’t mix, you are in for a surprise. Don’t miss this episode!

Listen in:

On Today’s Episode We’ll Learn:

  • How the role of the salesperson has changed over the years.
  • Why buyers don’t need salespeople as sources of product information today, and what they are really looking for.
  • The importance of building relationships with people well before they realize they want to buy from you or refer others to you.
  • Employment security vs. employability security.
  • The origin of Duct Tape Marketing concept.

Key Resources:

Book Website: Duct Tape Selling by John Jantsch

Amazon: Duct Tape Selling: Think Like a Marketer—Sell Like a Superstar

Amazon: Duct Tape Marketing Revised & Updated: The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide

Amazon: The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business to Market Itself

Amazon: The Commitment Engine: Making Work Worth It

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Full Episode Transcript:

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Welcome to the Brainfluence Podcast with Roger Dooley, author, speaker and educator on neuromarketing and the psychology of persuasion. Every week, we talk with thought leaders that will help you improve your influence with factual evidence and concrete research. Introducing your host, Roger Dooley.
Roger Dooley: Welcome. This is the Brainfluence Podcast; I am Roger Dooley. With me today we have John Jantsch; he’s a marketing consultant, a speaker. He’s been the author of several best-selling books including Duct Tape Marketing, The Commitment Engine, and the Referral Engine. His latest book is Duct Tape Selling: Think Like a Marketer, Sell Like A Superstar. Since we’re all about marketing and sales – although sometimes those two don’t meet – we’re looking forward to this discussion with John. Anything else you want to add to that, John?
John Jantsch: Just that I’m happy to be here and I appreciate you sharing the book and the information in the book with your community.
Roger Dooley: My pleasure. My pleasure for sure. I’m going to start by telling you something that not too many people know about me, John. I started off my career very early on as a salesperson. I was actually a sales engineer. I did just a couple years of straight engineering work and then got into sales engineering. This was really back in the ancient days of classic sales where I was located in a remote office. There were another salesperson and myself and a secretary and we were in a building, an office building, that was pretty much filled with offices like ours of people who were remote from a headquarters office, but they had this well-established office everywhere.
In fact, the people in the office next to me were high end cookware salespeople, the sort of people Zig Ziglar was originally in his career, where I’d go out and persuade people to buy 500 dollar sets of pots and pans. Sales has changed a lot since those days. How do you characterize the changes over the years?
John Jantsch: I think the biggest thing that people need to realize is it hasn’t been so much that sales or marketing has changed as much as the buying has changed. The way in which we find out about companies, the way in which we find information on the products and services that we want to buy, and really even all the way down to the way that we transact business with companies, has changed so dramatically that it’s certainly creating an overhaul in the way in which marketers, certainly over the last five or six years, have gone about their business.
I think that sales and the sales profession in some ways has lagged behind a little bit in adopting some of those changes. Probably the biggest one – and it’s really the essence of the subtitle of the book, Think Like A Marketer, Sell Like A Superstar – is that I do think that salespeople have to now start employing some of these new inbound techniques and some of the ways that marketing companies are finding to be found, like producing content and worrying about things like search engine optimization and reputation management and building authority and expertise, so that when people go out there on that journey now searching for products and searching for companies, or even just really starting to think about their objectives, that they’re finding us, they’re finding the content that we write, and they’re connecting with that content and realizing that we can deliver value long before we ever try to sell them something.
Roger Dooley: If you take an average salesperson today and they’re not maybe as successful as they would like to be and they get your book and want to change the process, do better, where would that person begin assuming they’ve been following perhaps not the traditional sales model, which I know is kind of outdated for today, but they’re trying to follow up leads that are coming in from marketing and doing the sort of things that salespeople do, maybe trying to generate a few of their own. What’s the starting point?
John Jantsch: I think probably the biggest one, it would be a mistake for me to take somebody who is, as you said, really just following the process their company gave them and most of that is to follow up on leads and close deals. It would be a mistake to say now you need to be blogging and podcasting and doing all these things that ultimately I believe you need to be doing, but that it’s a long term building process that to a large degree I think there is a hierarchy to it. In other words, if you’re that person that’s been doing the traditional stuff, the first thing you need to do is start figuring out how to listen better before you ever really start thinking about how to say things or create content on your own.
What I mean by that is to really start using some of the tools that allow you to plug into what your prospects or your market or your actual customers are saying and doing and thinking online, because they’re sharing that information now publicly in social networks. You can go in and make a list of your clients and follow them on Twitter and you can go into LinkedIn and find your clients and start discovering who else influences them, who they influence, who they’re connected to, who they could introduce you to maybe even.
Really mining all of this rich data and setting up what I call, and have been calling for years, listening stations, is really to me the first step because it will make you so much smarter. It will give you, I think, a competitive advantage. It will allow you to learn about not only your clients but about their industry. If you follow a lot of what I talk about, the nice thing is I’m not smart enough to write a book that’s all theoretical. I have to just tell people what I do and what tools I use and how to do it. This book really gives you, I think, a very specific road map for exactly how to do what I just described.
Roger Dooley: The initial step would be to start using social media perhaps a lot more extensively than in the past and not necessarily starting off at a really high engagement level but being a little bit more passive and listening. Then I presume that would lead to actually engaging more via those channels.
John Jantsch: No question, because what you’re going to do is once you set this up and you start paying attention and you make it a routine, all of a sudden you’re going to see a client or a prospect or somebody that seems like they might be somebody you should connect with asking a question or sharing an insight in a group on LinkedIn and you’re going to start immediately thinking “Oh, well I can answer that question,” without selling anything. I can point to a resource that I found, or that I’ve been following, or that I’ve been using, and I can point that out to that person.
Over time you start developing relationships with people before they even have a need maybe or before they even realize they have a need for what you sell. That’s really how you then start getting referred. That’s how you start getting introduced. That’s how people start thinking “Okay, next time I have that challenge or that need for an insurance policy or something, I’m going to remember that person that seems to really be pretty insightful.”
Roger Dooley: Do you think this process of engaging by social media creates friction, at least in some companies, where an individual might be pigeonholed? You are dealing with these three products in this particular geographic territory and so on. Of course, social media really doesn’t know those kinds of boundaries. Is there an inherent conflict that’s potentially brewing where suddenly a person’s developing a relationship and it’s not with somebody who is specifically their potential account?
John Jantsch: I think there’s a couple things to address there. First off, I think part of that is a misconception because of the way that people see people using social networks. Just because you can talk to the world doesn’t mean you have to. I think that so many marketers have actually turned some of these social networks into broadcast channels when in fact I think that if you do nothing else but, let’s say, those three state territory you described, you actually just start honing on and narrowcasting some of your … Obviously that’s all you can sell to. You probably don’t care about 10,000 followers; you care about 30 of the right followers. You start using it as a tool to mine and research those people and start interacting with those people.
The other part I would suggest is that I think that one of the things that you’re starting to see occur is organizations are starting to really understand the value of sales reps and salespeople who get this idea of connecting at a much deeper level. I’m starting to see large companies that are making territorial and customer assignments based on somebody’s depth of infiltration into a network. In other words, a very large company rather than just saying “Oh, you’re the San Francisco rep so that’s your territory,” they actually start looking at their people because they can. They don’t have to be geographically located so often anymore, and they can start looking at their people and saying “Look, you’ve got 47 connections into this company. You’re a first level connection on LinkedIn with these three VPs that are going to make the decision about this product. That’s your account.”
I think that we’re going to start seeing a real cultural shift go on over the next few years in how organizations start measuring and monitoring and maybe even compensating based on people’s ability to use some of these tools to connect.
Roger Dooley: That makes a lot of sense because originally the concept of a sales territory, even back in my day, was defined pretty much by how far a sales person could reasonably drive to visit a customer. Eventually, it simply got to be unproductive. Although, when I think about it, the whole process that we were going through at that time was incredibly unproductive where we were trained sales engineers and we’re selling pretty high end capital equipment that might cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, or occasionally even millions, but we were encouraged to make in-person cold calls on prospects and even do drive-by. There was a company that might possibly be a potential customer. I would just pop in and …
John Jantsch: They’ve got a smoke stack. Let’s go call on them.
Roger Dooley: Yeah, exactly. In retrospect it seems almost ludicrously unproductive but at least that’s how territories were defined. You can only go so far. Obviously now, maybe is there going to be a whole different way of slicing and dicing this do you think?
John Jantsch: I think you’re already seeing that. A lot of what you had to do when you showed up on that first … Even if you were invited, a lot of what you had to do with that plant manager, whoever you were calling on, was teach them about what you do and about your products and about the money that you could save and all the things that you might start educating them on in the process of trying to get them interested in becoming a client. Now when you show up for that first call, they’ve already got all that information. In fact, they’re able to run calculators and seeing case studies and listen to what some of your customers have actually said about what you’ve done for them.
Obviously that drive-by now, if we were going to do the virtual version of that, is much different than in the days when they actually needed you for information’s sake. Now, to some degree, what they need for the salesperson to be doing is to be showing them ways how they might think about that ten times in a way much bigger. I think that by itself has really changed the entire sale process because when you’re coming out for the first time you may actually meet that person now, in many cases you may be pretty far along in a collaboration with them on how to actually do an installation, as opposed to just showing up, explaining what your company does.
Roger Dooley: Yeah John, you mentioned compensation and that’s kind of an interesting area. The problem that I’ve seen with a lot of sales compensation plans is that people will game them. they will always go for – not always but in many cases – will figure out how to maximize their income and play that game. You may want to introduce a new product but if that product is difficult to sell or takes up a lot of time explaining it to potential clients, salespeople will avoid that and go for the easier sale in order to maximize revenue.
Also, there’s the whole thing about to what extent compensation really drives desired behaviors in customer service and this sort of thing. I know Dan Pink has written a lot about that and how sometimes results-oriented compensation is not the best way to do something and doesn’t even produce the desired benefits. How do you think compensation has evolved-
John Jantsch: I think one of the things you’re really pointing out is the division between sales and marketing and service that exists in a lot of organizations. One of the symptoms of that difference is the way in which sales people are often compensated. In many cases they’re some of the most compensated – I don’t know, what’s the best way to say that? The most highly, there we go. Finally put all the adverbs and adjectives together – the most highly compensated individuals in an organization because of the compensation, and in many cases they are really over-protected, they’re overly guarded.
I think that what happens is they end up, because of these silos that get erected, they end up actually having objectives that are different and are not completely in line with the customers’ needs. As you said, if you have a culture that says marketing’s supposed to go out there and generate leads and sales is supposed to close deals, and then they pass it off to the service people, then there’s no wonder that there’s a disconnect because they are in many cases really not on the same page in terms of how they work together. In fact, I think the sales people are often … I hear this all the time from service people, that the salespeople, in their attempt to get the deal, will promise almost anything. Then of course the service people have to deliver.
Roger Dooley: Certainly that’s not true, John.
John Jantsch: Then the service people are like “They said what? They said it could do what?”
Roger Dooley: You sold what?
John Jantsch: Then they’re left to fix it. I really advocate this idea of doing away with the departmental structure, or at least departmental mindset, and think in terms of having a results department or a profit department or a relationship department, whatever you want to call it. That these have to be seamlessly integrated and that salespeople need to be brought in to help to find the ideal customer and the core message and how and when to generate leads, and that the marketing people need to go on ride-alongs with the salespeople and start really talking to the customers and seeing the challenges that the salespeople have.
Certainly the salespeople need to stay involved long after to the sale to think and act like an advocate for the customer to make sure that what they promised actually gets delivered, and that they measure the results. I think that in many organizations what I just described would take a pretty massive shift in culture to have happen.
Roger Dooley: I think it can be hard to choose the right metrics even to reward and compensate, or even simply to appraise a person for. A few years ago I was president of a company; we had an inbound telephone-based sales operation. We had an individual that was consistently our leading salesperson. She generated more sales … Every week whenever we had a contest of some kind; she was nearly always at the top. We thought she was doing an amazing job and encouraged other folks to emulate here.
Then we look at the data in a different way; we looked at how much revenue was extracted from each incoming call. In fact, she was at the bottom of that list compared to some of our others. What we found we were encouraging was very quick, abrupt termination of phone calls. If a customer had a complex sounding problem or a bunch of questions, she would figure out how to get that person off the phone as quickly as possible so she could go onto the next one and hopefully close a sale because many of the customers knew exactly what they wanted and it was just an order placement process.
This was a real shocker where suddenly, by rethinking the metrics, our best salesperson turned into our worst. That was a real eye-opener when we did that. There were other salespeople who didn’t look to be all that productive but they were able to extract more revenue from every call.
John Jantsch: I think that that actually speaks volumes to what I’m really suggesting in this book, is that some of the activity that I’m suggesting like writing and connecting at a different level and maybe getting on the docket to speak at industry conferences – some of that will take away from how many dials did you make today, how many calls did you make today, obviously.
I think if organizations start realizing that that long term approach then is going to get those salespeople invited in for bigger deals – deals that maybe have a longer life sales cycle but that are ultimately much larger than the person who is out there just pounding the pavement is going to find – I think you have to take both the salespeople and the sales leadership, or organizations in general have to realize we’re building an asset here that allows us to not only generate more revenue but ultimately probably allows us to be much more profitable. We have to invest in that and we have to measure and reward and train for that type of activity as opposed to really discouraging it, which is the thing that a lot of companies do today because they’re after that quick sale.
Roger Dooley: Definitely. Moving up that hierarchy from the salesperson who’s starting to both monitor social media and engage the right kind of people, you emphasize ultimately becoming an expert, becoming an authority in your space that your customers and potential customers will look up to or look to for advice. How does a salesperson accomplish that? Another question is: how many experts can you have in the field? In other words, one person doing that is great but if every salesperson tries to do it, it seems like you end up with an awful lot of content generation and noise and nobody really emerging as an expert, or very few of them. Maybe a few will but there will be a lot of noise in there.
John Jantsch: The good news is not everyone will do it. We are a long, long way before that becomes an issue. The competition of salespeople, even those listening to the show today, that will actually take action – even if they go through and read the 308 pages in the book – very few will actually take action. We just know that for a fact, so I don’t see that as a real issue.
What I do think is that, from a competitive standpoint, typically if somebody’s considering a couple companies, four or five companies maybe, for a purchase, my belief is that as they go out there and they look and they start seeing that this person is more connected, this person is speaking … I’m talking about an individual salesperson. This person is speaking at a conference or they actually hear them speak at a conference. I just think that that is going to attract people to really want to seek them out because there is that third party endorsement that really comes from being seen as an authority.
Authority sometimes is a word that’s bantered around a bunch. You can be an authority if you are found more easily than the two other salespeople that are representing the companies that you’re after, so it’s not matter of saying “Yes, I’m going to be a household name.” I think that the way that buyers now make considerations about who they’re even going to let into the inner sanctum now has a lot to do with your reputation that they’re able to really ferret out pretty easily.
Roger Dooley: Do you see some conflicts there with sales management, either because they think that “Hey, stop foolin’ around on social media. You don’t have time to be writing stupid blog posts. You’re supposed to be out there closing deals, calling on customers, and that sort of thing,” or feeling threatened where if a salesperson does start achieving some visibility and success, where suddenly the manager feels threatened or they just feel that this person is outshining the company and it’s becoming more about them and us and our products.
John Jantsch: I think that has always existed; that dynamic of politics in organizations has always existed. I don’t think that this is necessarily a new problem at all. The short answer is yes, there will be people in organizations that have that response and I think that you as the individual salesperson … I think you really need to view this as that you’re building an asset. This is an investment in yourself; this is a career. If your sales job and what you’re doing for a profession is a career, you have to look at what do you need to do to invest in yourself.
If you were in a political or you’re in a culture where it’s just no-no, it’s discouraged, but you listen to something like this, you read a book like Duct Tape Selling, you think “You know what? This is the way forward,” then you need to invest in yourself much like your sales manager may have done when they went back and got an MBA at night. I think that if you have to blog at night, if you have to start making connections off the clock so that you can meet your call quota that’s been set up for you, I think that you need to make that investment in building the asset. Once you do build a reputation for authority, even if it threatens your sales manager, you will provide better service to your company, you will be a better asset for your customers, and ultimately if you need to, many cases that asset that you build is portable – you can take it somewhere else.
Roger Dooley: I think that’s a good point. I’ve started and managed a number of entrepreneurial businesses and one of the questions that I always got from potential new hires is “What about employment security? Is it shaky or am I assured of a job?” I would emphasize it “Well, If we’re solid and if you perform well, we have a really good expectation you’ll be around for a long time, but what’s more important than employment security is employability security, and that when you work with us, we will be helping you develop the skills you need so that if something happened to our company a year down the road, or you had to relocate or something, that you would have the skills you needed to find a job.”
To me, the employability security is a lot more important than employment security. Today in particular, there really is no such thing as employment security. Doesn’t matter if it’s a large company, a small company – it really doesn’t exist.
John Jantsch: I think the people that really get that, the people I write about, the superstars, the people that are already doing some of things I’ve talked about – I don’t even think they look for, as you said, job security. I think they’re looking for a situation where they can grow, where they can perform, but they typically have the confidence and the posture that there are a lot of places that could happen.
Roger Dooley: Maybe I’ll back up a little bit, John, to the whole duct tape theme. I kind of like the concept; it has sort of a MacGyver-ish approach to marketing and selling. What was the origin of that name?
John Jantsch: I always tell people that I spent tens of thousands of dollars on market research and fretted over it for about two years but the reality is that I just one day said I want to turn marketing into a product almost and go out to people and say this is what I’m going to do, this is what you’re going to do, the results we can expect, and here’s what it’s going to cost.
In order to do that, I felt like I had to give it a branded or product-y sounding name as opposed to an advertising agency name. I just one day fell upon Duct Tape Marketing because it just felt like the perfect metaphor for what’s it like to grow a small business. I had been a small business owner myself by that point for about ten years and had always taken the approach that was simple, effective, and affordable. It felt like duct tape really encapsulated that idea and that metaphor. It didn’t hurt also that there’s this odd affection for duct tape, especially in the United States. The name has proven to be one of the best things I’ve done.
Roger Dooley: Interesting you mention the United States. Does the name translate well to other cultures?
John Jantsch: It doesn’t translate.
Roger Dooley: Or do people look at you very strangely and what on earth does that mean?
John Jantsch: It doesn’t translate nearly as well. In fact, my book has been published in about 15 languages and most of them change the title because it just wouldn’t have any relevance. The Portuguese title is something like Marketing That Is Low Cost and Effective.
Roger Dooley: I’ve noticed that. I think Brainfluence is in about six or seven languages now and very few are literal translations, partly because it’s a play on words that doesn’t translate very well. Often it seems that in some other languages their very literal approach or very straightforward to naming works best.
I guess we’re getting near closing here so that’s an excellent time to bring up the question about closing. Something that sales people have always emphasized is closing. Zig Ziglar and others have written books about closing and the 20 ways to close and this sort of thing. Is closing still an important skill for sales people, and are there any new approaches to closing in these days where we’ve got social media and a totally different environment of communication and transparency?
John Jantsch: I think that part of the problem is that the connotation so often is get somebody to do something they’re not ready to do. Unfortunately, that’s the connotation and that’s the negative connotation at least. The fact of the matter is salespeople will always be measured on closed deals. The need to get a contract to close the deal is still there but I think the implication of how that’s done with the old fashioned manipulative ways or hard pressure ways that people have long employed, I think those days are completely over.
I say instead of always be closing, the new ABCs are always be connecting. I know for my business I don’t sell million dollar pieces of equipment but I sell a service that for some people is quite expensive in a consulting environment, and we don’t ever really say “Okay, are you ready to move? Have you made your decision?” We just continue to drip information and we continue to show value. We actually, before a deal, we start treating a prospect as a customer. Before we ever get the deal we actually start consulting with them; we actually even have processes built as part of that journey where they’re going to start experiencing what it would be like to work with us before they ever sign the contract. I think that that today, that idea of starting to deliver value, is how a deal is closed today. People ultimately sell themselves and decide yes, how can we get started?
Roger Dooley: John, I really appreciate you taking the time to be here and I would highly recommend your book to our listeners. That again is Duct Tape Selling: Think Like A Marketer, Sell Like A Superstar. John, if folks want to connect with you, what would be the best place, or places?
John Jantsch: There’s a couple ways. The book itself we have a site for at duct tape selling – it’s just You can find out more about the book and lots of resources there that I list throughout the book. You can always connect with me at Free newsletter, podcast, blog, lots of eBooks and things there too so you can learn about the way I think and have been preaching for maybe the last ten or twelve years now.
Roger Dooley: Great. John, thanks so much for joining us on the Brainfluence Podcast today.
John Jantsch: My pleasure, Roger.
Thank you for joining me for this episode of the Brainfluence Podcast. To continue the discussion and to find your own path to brainy success, please visit us at


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