Land mines: Make Your Pitch Continue to Work After You Leave

I recently was a featured speaker at a SalesHacker event at Projective Space in New York City, and while I spoke about many topics from my book, I spoke for the first time about the topic of sales land mines and it seemed to generate quite a bit of questions both at the event and afterwards, and I realized that while I teach this method a lot, I have never written about it.

To be clear, I do not mean to make light of all of the tragedy in the world relative to land mines, but it is a term that describes a particular sales tactic well.

Land mines, in sales-speak, are tactics that make sure that when you are not around, your sales pitch will resonate and continue to work for you after you are gone.

Please remember me always

The first type of land mine that you should be using is the one you leave after they have said no or not now.  You will be using words to set a land mine that will sit in the back of the prospects brain and then <boom>  go off at just the right time and trigger a call to you.

For example, I did some selling for an e-commerce company a few years ago, and we knew that in that industry, Black Friday & Cyber Monday, was a very, very critical initiative for all of the companies.  It was so important that most of the year, there was still thought around what and how the Black Friday / Cyber Monday sales would affect the rest of the year.  Therefore, whenever I got a final “no” from clients, I would leave them with the phrase, “I completely understand and appreciate your time.  I will let you know that our current customers have had a lot of success using our technology to significantly improve their Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.  And many of those customers benefitted by having our technology in place long before.  So, as you think about your November plans, don’t hesitate to call me, and I’d be happy to talk about whether we can be helpful or not helpful based on those plans.”


The land mine was set.

What very often happened, was 1 to 3 months later, my phone would ring or I would get an email requesting another meeting.  WITHOUT my prompting.

Why?  In most cases, my prospect sat down in a meeting with a superior and talked about the current strategy.   And more often then not, this person was asked about their Cyber Monday strategy, and/or if they were doing absolutely everything they needed to do and/or if they had exhausted all possible ways to make Cyber Monday successful.


The minute that superior made those comments, my voice was in their head saying “I can help you with your Cyber Monday plans… I have had success in the past.”

By making sure I left with my critical pain point firmly placed in their heads, I knew that I could rely on this land mine to do the work when I was gone.

What is the one major problem that you solve that you have a reasonable expectation that your prospect’s boss will ask about needing a solution later on?  If you don’t have one, then you should certainly think of one, because not only is that the perfect land mine, but its a perfect way to grease the close.

Beware all those who follow me!

The second type of land mine is one you place for competitors.  In order to properly place this type of land mine, you must truly understand your unique advantage over the competition and how you can use that information.

If you know that you are part of a bake-off, or even if you aren’t sure, you can place land mines that will give your prospect pause when he or she hears from that competitor or does the research into your competitors.  What I typically do, is to treat my unique advantage as a pure given of all great products which, rather than bashing your competition, gives you a way to discredit their approach without mentioning them – and instead letting them blow themselves up.

For example, the first company I founded was a dispatch and vehicle location software firm, and what made us very unique was that our software was very device and network agnostic which meant that customers had a lot of flexibility – which we considered very important at the time because wireless networks were in their infancy and you couldn’t rely on a single network easily across your entire fleet.  So, whenever I went into prospects, my pitch always included some words like this, “Since coverage is so spotty everywhere and the market for wireless providers is so fluid, you will see that the best products in the market will support all the major networks and also a variety of devices so that you have flexibility in a system that you will likely need to have last a decade.”  I knew that none of my competitors had the beadth of network and device coverage that we had, and I also knew that their pitch was that having tight integration with a single network and device gave you the best experience.”

I, however, placed a land mine that said, “My flexibility will give your system longevity”



When my competitors walked in, they had to answer the barrage of questions about, “What happens if that device manufacturer goes belly up?”  “What happens if that network goes away or is acquired?” “How do I make sure your system will still be able to support me in 6-10 years.”


The land mine that I set for my competitors allowed THEM to have to deal with the aftermath of doubt I placed in them.  Since I told them the best systems all did what I did, then they immediately were not one of the best systems.  They had to explain why they didn’t support something so basic to a great system.

What is the one unique advantage that you have, that you HONESTLY believe that every system should have?  Make that a given.  Rather than talk about it as if you are unique in delivering that – treat this as if its should be a given in every great system  and let your competition explain why it doesn’t matter.  You are immediately elevated, and you will find that more deals will close.

Set those land mines!

What land mines are you setting that let a deal work for you when you are not around?




Your fonts need to match if you want to fool me

I believe in sales karma.  I don’t like it when people just blatantly ignore my emails or requests for meetings and I’d rather they just simply reply NO.  So I’m very careful to never simply ignore emails and requests that come to me.

But, if I ever send a blast email, it is clear that it is a blast email.  I personally subscribe to the notion that you should be doing your homework and researching companies to make sure that you are responding in a way that matters to the prospects.  If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be spending so much time on FunnelFire.

Last week, I received a request for a meeting, and I was very busy, and I did not respond.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  First, because I was honestly busy and trying to ensure a successful launch of a major partnership for FunnelFire.  Second, because it was very clear that it was a very bland and generic request for a meeting and not directed at all to me.  The email did not show any understanding or appreciation for my business.  It had no knowledge of where my company was at, or how we were going to market.  All of this information is readily available, and had this sales rep been using FunnelFire – available to him in a matter of seconds.

I still planned to respond because, as I said, I believe in sales karma, and then his follow-up email came thru.


OK… so the original email was clearly a blanket email that pretended to be a custom email, but I was willing to let this go. However, the follow-up email is SO clearly a cut and paste, that I’m not going to respond NOR will I grant him a meeting.  (I do plan to respond with a link to this blog post but that is it.).  What makes it obvious?  The fonts that he used to insert my name and company name into the email are different from the rest of the email.  This action makes it 100% clear that this person doesn’t really care about MY business nor does he care about taking 5 minutes to learn if I’m even a candidate for his product.  And to make matters worse… the product he is trying to sell is about customer success!  How does he think I will believe he knows ANYTHING about customer success when he has proven to me that he is sloppy in his communication with prospects?

This sales rep has lost any chance of doing business with me because he was sloppy.  How many of your efforts are being lost because of being sloppy or lazy?  If you want your prospects to pay attention, don’t PRETEND to care about their company and how you solve their pain.  ACTUALLY care.  Take the time to research them, and their companies problems, and where they are in the life of their company and more.  Prospects are 5X more likely to talk to you when you have insights into their company.  Take the time to do the research.  Fill the email or call with information that helps them understand that you understand the value that you will provide for them.

Fonts matter.


My Book Available NOW on Amazon

front-coverI know that I’ve been very lax on new posts here – but its been for good reason.  First, because I’ve been hard at work at FunnelFire – which is moving along very well.  Second, because I’ve been putting all my writing effort into finishing my startup sales book.  It’s taken a while (I do not recommend trying to write a book AND launch a start-up simultaneously).

It’s available on Amazon now in paperback and kindle versions.

The book takes many of the themes on this blog and puts them into book form, organized nicely – and I expand on most of them.

Thanks for reading and now I will get back to more regular blog postings.

Damn You Kevin Costner

Ask most people what the key line is from Field of Dreams, and nearly everyone will say:

If you build it, they will come.

On a near regular basis, I talk with people who subscribe to this methodology.  If you build a great product, if you send out the mass emails, if you do all these things – well then customers will magically appear and money will start to flow.  There are quite a few stories these days about how salespeople will become irrelevant because people will just magically find web-sites and buy stuff.

Go watch Field of Dreams again…  the ACTUAL line in the movie is

If you build it, HE will come.

Everything Ray is doing in the movie, is all about reconnecting with his father.  It’s about ONE person.  So.. if you really subscribe to the philosophy in the movie, well then, you may get ONE customer – but certainly not a stream of them.

Granted, product designers may tell you that you need to design with a specific customer in mind, and all of that has merit in product design, but it doesn’t translate to people magically become customers.  The reality is that products don’t matter, solutions do.  And even if you have a great solution, it doesn’t mean automatically that people will use it.  You need to sell it, and sales is hard.

Sales might mean marketing, and it may mean door to door sales, and it may mean everything in-between, but you have to sell your product.  I meet too many business people that just build their product and assume that everything else will fall into line once they get the product out the door.

Sales has changed for sure, but it has not disappeared and it will never disappear.  Customers are typically way more informed on you and your competition then they ever have been before.  That’s why I’m building a product to help salespeople keep their research edge called FunnelFire.  Having all the information, and knowing who you are talking to is very important so that you can properly identify why your solution matters to this potential customer.

I will argue that the changing landscape has made salespeople even MORE important.  SEO gaming, low barriers to entry, the ability to easily look bigger than you are, global competition – all make getting your SOLUTION into people’s hands even harder.  Discovering your product is hard.  Competing with deep pockets and keeping up on search engine techniques are hard, competing with a product sold from half-way across the world in an age where webinars make travelling less important (not unimportant), new technologies coming at you faster and faster – all of this makes the right sales team more important than it ever was.  And it is the companies that realize that they need to invest in sales, and sales tools that will succeed.  Leaving sales as an afterthought will be more a sign that your company will fail than that it will succeed.

Field of Dreams actually never delivers advice that sales people don’t matter until the final scene when the huge line of cars comes and, after ignoring the advice that he needs to worry about money (sales), magically he is saved.  This very well may be the case when you are building a ball field for angels with a direct connection to heaven; however, for the 99.99% of other businesses, you better find some great people who like to sell – because that is how cash will get into your company.

“Building a Business” means something very different to me.

I saw this post today on VentureBeat about free courses being offered by Stanford to “Build Your Business


It doesn’t matter how much “cryptology” you use, or how good your “graphical models” are, or how “creative you are”  if you can’t get people to buy the product – if you don’t have people who want to PAY you for it.  You will eventually go out of business!    (BTW:  are they seriously trying to teach how to be creative?  isn’t that in your nature or not? of course, I feel the same way about teaching you how to be an entrepreneur, you either are or you aren’t – it can’t be taught).

On the same day, there was a post on Business Insider about how Tumblr ignored revenue for too long and is now feeling the heat.

I say it over and over again, your product does not matter if people don’t want it.  It has to solve a critical problem.  And if you aren’t thinking about sales from day 1, you are already too late.  You don’t build a product for product sake, you build it so that people will buy it – so that you can bring in revenue and make a living for your employees.  Spending some angel’s money or some VC fund’s limited partner’s money just for fun is NOT what being an entrepreneur is about – and it always shocks me that business schools have not figured this out!  There is only one common thread in EVERY company in the world – and that is selling.

In every company that I have started, revenue has always been the main focus in inception.  If I couldn’t think about how the company made money, I moved onto another idea.   The revenue can certainly be indirect, but there has to be a monetization strategy somewhere – otherwise you are just spending investors money “playing company.”

When I have been brought into companies to rescue them, it is always about bringing revenue in- and its certainly much easier when there are plans for this from the get go.

So… certainly take these free classes from Stanford – but don’t forget that “building your product” does not mean “building your business”.  If you are building your “business” then revenue should 100% be a component of that discussion.



The Best Jelly Donuts: Bold Pitches Are OK if You Can Back Them Up

  On Long Beach Island, NJ, there is an italian bakery, Ferrara’s Italian Bakery, that has a sign outside their shop claiming that they have the “Best Jelly Donuts On The Planet.”  This summer, every time I passed the shop, I was struck by this sign.  That is a really bold statement.  When you make a bold claim like that, I am compelled to find out.  I can’t let a statement like that go unchallenged.  Already, their marketing/sales campaign is working because… well…  if you make a comment like the best on the planet then I am compelled to come in and at least purchase a donut.

I went in one day and purchased a dozen for me and my family.  Six powdered and six with cinnamon sugar on top.

The verdict?


These donuts are light, fluffy, filled (no..actually..stuffed) with incredibly delicious jelly and are just silly good.  I left wondering why they limited their claim to only the planet Earth because I can’t imagine a Martian being able to make a donut that tasted better than these donuts.

Part 2 of this masterful sales and marketing plan is that because these donuts were so friggin delicious, I HAD to go back and sample lots of other things because, clearly, there must be lots of great things in there.  And…indeed there was.  Nothing that struck me quite as much as the donuts, but delicious enough that I was not upset by any purchase there.

Bold statements work well when you can back them up.  Imagine the tone of this article if I thought the donuts were just meh, or worse, if they were bad.

When you are selling and you have great confidence in your product, you can make bold statements, but make sure that they hold up.  Prospects will punish you and worse, not trust ANYTHING you say if they find you making comments that are blatant overreaches.  Maybe you are the best, but you should be able to prove it with facts or metrics from current customers.

When you have a bold statement to make, and you CAN back it up, well then go ahead and make that statement because then you get the same effect as part 2 of the bakers plan… people come back for more because they want to find out what other great things or claims you have – and even if they aren’t as great as that first claim, you will still get credit for that first amazing claim.

It’s a common mistake that I see too many sales people making, where they think that by building themselves and their product up with massively bold statements, they are in fact, hurting their own chances at a sale because they put EVERYTHING that they say into question.  The better bet is to make sure you are truthful about your claims, your comparisons to competitors, and all your other claims.  Your prospects will reward you with their signature on the dotted line.



Sales lessons from a pop song: “Call me, maybe?”

My five year old daughter has been walking around the house over the past few weeks singing constantly, “Hey, I just met you and this is crazy, but here’s my number.  Call me, maybe?”  Carly Rae Jepsen’s song is incessantly catchy, and is therefore in my own head constantly.   It does not help that I picture this cute five year old bouncing around singing it.

Of course, i hear the words and I think of how it relates to sales – in particular how it relates to “not so great” salespeople.

Every  tradeshow / networking function that I have ever attended essentially starts like this:  You show up, meet a bunch of people for the first time, you exchange business cards and other contact information, and then hope that it will lead to business.

In the song, the woman is handing a phone number over to a person that she barely knows, is declaring her undying love for (“before you came into my life I missed you so bad”) without any knowledge if this person is the right person for them, but has already decided that he is.  She is placing all her hopes and dreams on this chance encounter and is already convinced that this is the right person.

If this person that she has met is indeed the most perfect person for her, then why in the world is she waiting for him to call her?  She should call HIM!?  In sales, if you hand out a bunch of cards, and then wait for the person to call you, then you are certainly not going to be headed for the Quota Club.  You need to pick up the phone and ask for the business.  Salespeople feel good when they are busy.  They leave lots of phone messages, distribute their entire stock of 500 business cards, and are then convinced that the business should come to them.  They are convinced that they are selling.  They are not… they are making noise.  When salespeople aren’t actively pursuing the prospects that they have identified, then they are not selling – they are simply collecting a salary.

Another line in the song is, “all the other boys, try and chase me, but here’s my number so call me maybe…”  She rebuffs all other boys in favor of this one perfect guy.  Again, a bad, bad sales practice that happens way too often.  How many times do salespeople try to find that perfect deal, or chase that one amazing deal that will make their careers, and ignore the rest of the really great potential deals in front of them.  As a sales manager, I have had to force sales people to stop focusing on “that one amazing deal” because they were forsaking the rest of their pipeline.  Sales, is very often a numbers game, and in order to make your own quota, you need to be working as many deals as you can simultaneously – including that one perfect deal.  However, it is easy to slip into spending WAY too much time on that one deal that you think will make everything great.  You can make a lot of money on little deals along the way waiting the the kingpin deal to close.

Often, the little deals lead to the big deal.  In my first start-up, I worked this little tiny deal and made it successful.  About a year later, this manager left his company and went to one of the largest companies in the country, and he gave me a call to help him out there.  A small deal turned into a very large deal.  The woman in the song places all her hopes on this one guy deciding to call her, when perhaps the real perfect match is one of the other people she has ignored while looking at the one prize.

As you look to become better and better at sales and consistently crush your quota, you should never be handing out cards, or leaving phone messages or emails and hoping that someone will call you, maybe.  You should be proactively connecting with the prospects, and also working as many as you can at any one time.




Long Sales Cycle? That is NOT OK.

I recently sent a note to an entrepreneur friend of mine whose company is doing well, but I heard thru the grapevine that he needed some help in the sales department – that things just weren’t moving along as fast as he would like them to.  So I reached out and let him know that I had some cycles available if he wanted some help putting together a sales plan, and figuring out how to accelerate his growth.

He very quickly, and politely replied that the type of sales planning and assistance that I do at QuotaCrush really wasn’t applicable because, “his product has long sales cycles and long lasting relationships.”

I sat there confused and bewildered for a few moments and then realized that perhaps he was missing something very completely obvious.  If your sales cycles are long – then perhaps that is a result of the fact that your sales people don’t know how to shorten it.  One of the biggest differentiators between good sales people and great salespeople are those that know how to close – and especially those who know how to close quickly.  Sometimes, this means getting the customer “half-pregnant” – or hooked on your product in a small way with a small close and then following it up with a larger sale.  Have a two hundred thousand dollar product?  Find the $99 / mo sampler.  Find something that gets people to become customers and up-sell them from there.

To be satisfied with a long sales cycle means to be satisfied with mediocrity.  I challenge anyone with a long sales cycle to find the shorter sale.  It exists.  It always does.  Part of what I show companies is how to find that smaller and quicker sale.  When you resign yourself to a long sales cycle, you will try to find salespeople who can tolerate a long sales cycle.  Who are sales people who can tolerate a long sales cycle?  “Good” sales people not great ones.  By definition, they are less hungry and less cash focused – which is what you want them to be.  The one exception to long sales cycles are those that sell exclusively to government agencies who are usually tied to large budget cycles.  EVERY other corporation has ways to spend money now to solve a critical problem – not every corporation will buy the shorter sale – but there will be some that will buy the shorter sale – and your overall sales cycle will shrink.  Unless you think like this, you are doomed to just accept the long sales cycle, get your investors to accept the longer sales cycle, and you are in a spiral downward.

What should you do?  Challenge the long sales cycle at every turn.  Challenge your sales team to shorten in.  Challenge your product team to build in ways to help the sales team get people a taste that wants them coming back for more.  This is the path to real success and building a sales engine that produces consistent and predictable results.

The second part of his sentence was also troubling to me.  He didn’t want someone short term because he needed long-term and long-lasting relationships.  A top mistake that companies believe is that people keep buying from you because there is a relationship with you.  In the “mad-men” martini days, this may have partially been the case, but it is no more.  Companies will buy from you consistently because you solve their problems.  I like to think I’m a great relationship guy and I’ve done sales for lots of companies.  What I think is great is that those customers STAY customers after I leave.  They aren’t tied to me.  Why?  Because I sell value and I sell great products that solve problems.  Its not about me.  I get that.  Its about the problems that the product solves.  If that product solves the problem that the company says it will, then those customers will outlive the product.  A salespersons relationship might be able to smooth over problems with the product based on relationship – but that isn’t why my friend needs long terms salespeople — and if you are planning for problems – then there are bigger issues at play.    You should never be worried about how long your salespeople will be around in your hiring process if you believe that you have a great product that solves a big need.

I responded to my friend with a note summarizing this blog post, and I have heard only silence since then.  My guess is that he truly believes that he has a unique situation and long sales cycles just need to be accepted.  Great sales people know this is never the case, but I suppose that is why so many companies struggle with sales – there are established beliefs that are hard to escape.

The reality is… if sales aren’t where you want them to be, if you aren’t closing fast enough, you need to question if you have the right team, the right process, the right pricing, etc.  Challenge it all and accept nothing as a fact of your sales cycle.