Martin Stellar - Coach & Consultant for ethical sales and business growth

Martin Stellar - Coach & Consultant for ethical sales and business growth

What a Blind Kid In My Canoe Taught Me About Trust

Blind kids trusting me – it broke my mind in a very good way

I drove my canoe onto the beach and hollered: “Who’s next?”

The point of the bow was just beside Rachel’s knees, but she didn’t see it.

Rachel didn’t see anything, because Rachel is completely blind.

Her teacher stood beside her, holding her hand. “Would you like to go in the canoe with Martin?”

“Yes!”, she shouted. “But I’m afraid to…”

Her teacher prodded her a bit, but she wouldn’t move.

I climbed out and walked through the surf to where they stood, and knelt before the girl.

“Here look, touch the canoe”. I took her hand and put it on the plastic.

She let go of her teacher’s hand and started running both hands around the canoe, the bow, the seat.

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Millions of Years of Evolution Are Complete: Finally, There You Are. (Romance Free of Charge)

He picked up his guitar, sat down on the edge of the drummer’s stage, and played the first chord.

Instantly, his face lit up.

His eyes scanned for me in the crowd, lighted on me, and he smiled a tiny smile while making a “perfect!” signal with his hand.

It was the first time his band had employed a roadie who played the guitar – and therefore was actually able to tune one to perfection.

Dude was happy. So was I.

I remember standing there, listening to the song.

It was a funny yet romantic tune: About how fish crawled onto land, evolved into earth-dwellers, evolved for millions of years, finally culminating into the summit of perfection: You.

Aw… so romantic.

Clever little number, it was.

My point?

Get the right man for the job. Any job.

If you want your guitar tuned fine, fit to play sweet songs, get a guitar-playing roadie, and not a Harley-riding hulk who sets up the drum kit and then wanders off to flirt with some girl in the audience.

(I saw it happen. The whole band was calling him from the stage. Hilarity ensued).

If your car breaks down, get a skilled mechanic.

If your Large Hadron Collider breaks down, get a Quantum Mechanic (credits go to Colin Beveridge for that one).

If you want to eat vegetarian food, don’t go to a steakhouse and pick the single veggie dish on the menu (seriously).

If you want to get your website designed right, get a designer who understands marketing and can go beyond creating  ‘pretty things’.

And if you want to learn how to market, promote and sell your work – without having to resort to sleazy, car-salesman tactics, get the LEAP Newsletter.

Because like I always say: Marketing in itself isn’t dirty – it’s only the unethical bastards who give it a bad name.

Or, that James Bond quote: “It isn’t the bullet that kills – it’s the finger that pulls the trigger”.

Marketing is just a method for showing up to people – whether it’s good or bad depends on your own ethics.

And that’s something you control.

Do it right, and people will actually thank you for it.

How do you do that – doing it right?

That’s what you learn each month, when the LEAP Newsletter lands on your doormat.

And here’s where you can make sure that happens –>



The Difference Between Doctors and Salespeople, and Why it Matters to Your Sales

“People distrust salespeople, but they trust their doctor”.

I looked at him and thought about what he had said.

It’s curious, but it’s true.

And while I agree that we should be able to trust our doctors, the wholesale, 100% blind faith that many people put in their doctors can be grossly mistaken.

Without even getting into all the things that are wrong with the pharmaceutical and medical industries: A doctor is a human being.

He’s not all-knowing, and he’s not perfect. Doctors make mistakes, just like we all do.

Second opinions exist for a damn good reason.

But, people often place blind faith in doctors, just because there’s a diploma on the wall.

Because that diploma gives the doc unmistakable authority.

Sales people, or vendors, or indeed entrepreneurs like you and me, we don’t have that going for us.

We might have testimonials, a license, or a diploma of some sort – but we don’t wear a white coat and stethoscope.

Which means that for guys and gals like us, it’s mighty difficult to get a prospect to trust us enough to do business with us.

Added to that is the veritable army of uncouth salespeople in the world – you know the kind: they’ll happily sell you an encyclopaedia no matter how little interest you have in owning one.

You go buy a second hand car, and it turns out to be a lemon.

And by and by, ‘selling’ acquired a terrible reputation, as if the very act of exchanging something for money is bad.

Whereas actually, a GOOD salesperson has your best interest in mind. If he’s got any ethics and humanity.

It’s silly how things have turned out, since selling is a fundamental aspect of human nature.

It’s part and parcel of society.

In the hunter-gatherer days, you would bring home your harvest of berries, and I’d let you warm yourself by my campfire.

Sale = made.

The fact that these days we use currency in the exchange is immaterial.

The mechanism is the same as ever.

You give me something that solves my problem, I give you something in return.

Tell sell is human, as per Daniel Pink.

What’s not immaterial is how badly the mechanism, and human psychology, are being, and have been, abused by loathsome unethical marketers.

Which makes it all the more difficult for good and righteous people like us to sell our product or service.

But it can also give us an edge over the baddies.

Because if we do put our ethics to use, and we make it our business to solve problems and avoid – or even outright reject – a sale when it wouldn’t be right, we stand out like an honest man in Congress.

Like that clothing company last week: I coulda gotten the sale. He’d have paid, and I’d have done the work.

But it wouldn’t have helped him and so I turned it down.

Trust starts with you.

With knowing that you’re there for the other person, not just for yourself.

And if you consistently communicate that message, people will over time come to trust that your solution is right for them.

Takes time, but it’s worth it.

Learn how it works in the next issue of the LEAP Newsletter, which you can get your hands on right here –>



Pushy Cat Thrusting Her Agenda At Me = I Don't Trust That

“Oh but Martin, this cat would just be perfect for you. Purr-fect”.

She was, almost literally, purring.

“Yeah but I told you: Right now, I don’t want any cats”.

She went on: But he’s so charming and sweet and likeable. Really your kinda cat”.

“Sure. But I really don’t want any cats.
Besides, I’ve seen two cats die of feline leukaemia and it’s not pretty.

“If I’m going to have another one, it’ll come from a home and I’ll have it immunised right away.

I don’t want another stray cat with that disease.”

Feline leukaemia is also called cat-Aids, and it’s highly contagious. Hence my insistence on getting a clean one, this time round.

Which I wasn’t about to, but still.

And she went on: “But how can you know until you see him?

“Really he’s special”.

Bored, I changed the topic of conversation.

What was happening there is that she had an agenda: this cat comes into her house and demands food.

Which she gives since she’s a kind-hearted person.

But wouldn’t it be just great if she could offload the lil gremlin on me?

She didn’t tell me that, but it was clear enough.

Tried to bore me into accepting.

It’s the worst possible thing you can do when you try to sell something.

You can’t go and be pushy.

You can’t hide your agenda.

And, you can’t allow your prospect to get the feeling that you’re desperate.

All those things, they break trust.

When people get the feeling that there’s something more important (meaning: you) behind the sale, more important than their own problem getting solved, there’s no sale.

No trust? Door closed.

And, next time they’ll need to find a solution for something, they’ll look elsewhere, because you left them with a niggling feeling of ‘something not quite right’ – if not ‘don’t trust ‘em’.

Trust matters.

It’s why Chris Brogan and Julien Smith wrote Trust agents.

And they’re no dummies.

So, put your cards on the table.

Explain what you can and can’t resolve for people.

Ask for the sale.

And thou shalt profit.

As will the buyer, by purchasing something that actually solves their problem.

LEAP #8 deals with trust, which is why it’s aptly called ‘The Trust Issue’.

You can get it here.

If you want – because I ain’t about to get pushy about it.



Speaking of Trust – The Correct Answer is: "Sorry, We're Out of Croissants"

I think this is why the guillotine was originally invented.

Let me ‘splain.

The other day I was out for an early morning walk, listening to a podcast.

Checked that the sun had correctly risen (somebody’s got to make sure), and then I decided to treat myself to an espresso and a croissant at one of the local panaderia-cum-coffeefshops near the beach.

On display were pastries, cakes, rolls… but no croissants, which is what I was really in the mood for.

“Do you have any croissants?”

The girl looked around the shop, the shelves, a brown paper delivery bag on the floor… “Yes.

“Be seated, I’ll bring it over”.

When she came, the coffee was good.

The croissant however, was a left-over from yesterday.

Instead of the fluffy, airy texture, all the layers had clumped together with the butter, turning it into a sort of dense, greasy cake.

I ate, drank, and paid.

And, I’m never going back there.

Because I no longer trust that they have my best interest at heart.

Ah, but you say, she wanted to please you, she was glad that she could satisfy your request.

And yes: I agree that it’s a commendable attitude.

But the problem is that a croissant is best when it’s fresh out of the oven.

At the end of the day: not really worth it.

The next day? Not fit for sale.

Like my french teacher used to say: “You get these tourists in Paris, they go buy croissants and take them home, to keep for tomorrow’s breakfast in their tent. They just don’t get it.”

You buy a croissant, you eat it.

People in France routinely get shot for doing what this girl did.

I jest, of course.

But if she had told me: “There’s one left, but it’s from yesterday, it’s not the same thing”, she’d have won me over instantly.

Selling no, when you know you should?


Selling something half fresh or half apt, just so you can say yes?

Backfires more often than not.

In this case, the experience confirmed the rumour in town, that the place really isn’t all that good.

Sometimes, no is the best answer.

Especially if you’re a freelancer.

If you’re flooded in work and you know you won’t be free to give a new client your all, you should say so, instead of taking on the job.

I know it’s hard, we all want to be liked, and saying yes to people is a great way to achieve that.

But be careful.

You’ll find that the more open and transparent you are, the more people will trust you.

And without that trust, people don’t buy.

Being very clear about who should or should not buy, that’s a terrific way to show people that you can be trusted.

It shows that you’d rather miss out on a sale than you would getting it while knowing it wouldn’t be right for the buyer.

Like my newsletter: that’s not for everyone.

It’s only going to help people who are on a mission, who have an unstoppable drive to learn and to grow and to implement.

Not for people who want a quick fix or a miracle solution.

So if you’re the former and not the latter, and you want to learn trust building-strategies, sign up before December 31st.

I’m trying to persuade my psychologist friend Juana to let me do an interview, because she’s one hell of a smart cookie, and she knows a LOT about trust.

If she’ll let me, I’ll include the transcript as a bonus.

Access here –>



P.s. A reader pointed out that yesterday’s email contained no mention of yoga pants at all. *hangs head in shame* Sorry ’bout that, won’t happen again ;)

"You Saw Me Do It Wrong, and You Didn't Say Anything? I Couldn't Walk for a Week!!!"

Here’s a story about someone I’ll never trust again:

The moment I tried to get out of bed, I knew something was very wrong.

It was made clear by the fact that as soon as I woke up and tried to roll out of bed, a hideous and sharp pain in my back took away my breath.

Ouch very much.

The day before, I had gone to a yoga class.

Not just regular yoga, but Tibetan Yoga.

A lady in town had given me the impression it was A Very Spiritual Thing.

Not that I cared about that part: After 12 years in a monastery, I’d become to be pretty cynical about what people in the world tend to call spiritual.

Good exercise though – now that was a different thing. I sure needed some.

And Tibetans aren’t stupid people, so I figured the system might be wholesome and thus I went and gave it a try.

At some point, doing the triangle posture, I knew something wasn’t right. I could feel it.

Imagine you stand with feet apart, arms outstretched.

Bend sideways, till your fingers touch your feet.

In normal yoga, you bend and stay that way, breathing a number of times before carefully coming back up.

In Tibetan yoga though, you go down, and up, and down, and up again, like 5 or 8 times in a row.

That’s really heavy on the lower back, so in order to prevent damaging yourself, you need to carry part of the strain with your abdominal muscles.

Which I didn’t. How was I to know?

The answer is that I shouldn’t have known: it’s her task as a yoga teacher to notice that I’m doing something wrong.

And, she did notice.

But she just didn’t tell me.

Which can be quite dangerous in a sport where you routinely bend yourself into a pretzel.

A week later I told her I’d been in bed for two days, and was still in enormous pain.

“Yes, I noticed you weren’t doing it right.”

I was gobsmacked.

She knew, and she didn’t tell me?

“I’ll make sure to tell you next time”, she concluded.

Meanwhile, I thought to myself: “I’ll never put my trust in you again”.

A teacher is someone you should be able to trust.

Especially a yoga teacher.

But as a business owner, you need to be trusted as well.

Because if people don’t trust you, they don’t buy your stuff.

And achieving that trust can be hard.

Because we have an amygdala – cutely known as ‘the lizard brain’.

It’s an area in your head that runs mostly on autopilot, and its main task is to keep you safe.

It’s always on, always looking out for you.

When you have a hunch, when you feel that something isn’t right – that’s your amygdala talking to you.

It’s a highly paranoid, incredibly alert piece of kit – and it’s fast.

It puts your foot on the break even before your conscious mind sees the brake lights go on in front of you.

The lizard brain sees danger everywhere, and it activates reflexes as soon as something is wrong.

It also send signals to your subconscious, when something isn’t right.

Which for you as a business owner is a problem: Something as simple as not having your phone number on your site can be enough for a visitor to doubt.

And when there’s doubt, there’s no sale.

Trust matters a lot.

More than you might think.

And, it’s incredibly easy to break it, right at the moment someone is trying to convince themselves to buy from you.

Which is why the January issue of the LEAP Newsletter is going to be all about trust, and how to earn more of it.

How it gets broken, how it’s built, how you can increase it – and how to avoid making the mistakes that destroy trust (and sales).

So that in 2015, you’ll know how to be more trusted online, and how to get more sales as a result.

Access here –>



"Are You Doing Anything Fun This Christmas Eve?" (The Answer is Not What You Think)

“Not really, just…“

I paused and thought for a moment: “Yes. I’ll be on Twitter”.

No my friend, I’m not a social outcast: I just like being alone.

Besides, I don’t have any special feelings about the event.

I remember as a kid, it used to be a duty, getting dragged along each year.

And I can still see myself in the doorway of the living room in my grandparent’s house.

Aunts and uncles in the overcrowded room, one next to the other, on chairs brought in from upstairs and the garden.

And I’d have to go greet each one of them, one by one.

Uncles would smell of cigars.

Aunts would have a prickly chin or a scary mole when I leaned over to kiss them a greeting.

Fun times. *shudders*

Anyway, I could say I was traumatised, but my therapist assures me I really am over it now, and pats me comfortingly on the back while handing me the invoice.

Point is, I just enjoy being alone, and for me Christmas is pretty much a day like any other.

For others though, it’s not the same.

Some people would absolutely love to spend time with family and friends, but aren’t, for one reason or another.

And I find it painful to think how badly that must hurt, on a day like this.

So the other day on Twitter, I asked myself: “What about those people? How must they be feeling? What will they be doing tonight and tomorrow?”

Then: “What can I possibly do, in my own small little way, to make a difference?”

Because making a difference is what I’m here for.

So I invented the hashtag #XmasSolo, with the purpose of hopefully finding and connecting with a few people who do wish for some company, but don’t have any.

People who would like to see something other than the constant retweets and ‘buy my stuff’.

Can I actually make a difference?

Who knows.

If I can make one person smile, I consider it mission accomplished.

But if you’ll help me, it might be two. Or three.

So if you’re in the mood for some giggles, and you want to make a nice friendly gesture, hit me up on Twitter:

Use the hashtag #XmasSolo, and retweet with that hashtag whenever you see me or someone else tweet something warm and caring.

Together, we just might shine a tiny ray of light into the day of a few people.

See you on Twitter?

Merry Christmas,


Your Car Won't Start. Is a New Paint Job Going to Fix That?

Spoke to that Oz fashion company yesterday, the one that asked if I can fix their conversions.

Had a close look at their site, and had the owner give me a description of their results since they started, two years ago.

What I saw was very interesting: A unique style, both in terms of the clothing styles as well as the overall branding.

A site with good design – much like a magazine, with a very strong and well-developed lifestyle angle.

A blog filled with well-written articles, complete with strong headlines and even some controversial topics.

Indeed the makings of a successful company – doing quite a few things very right.

But, people kept dropping out of the purchase funnel.

Abandoned shopping cart, over and over again.

Could I fix that?

I told him that yes, probably.

Explained that his biggest problem, the root cause of his lack of conversion, is that he isn’t building a relationship with people.

He’s sending ice-cold traffic at a catalogue page, and hopes that people will buy on first landing.

Which is a strategy that can work if you’re say, Nike – but if you’re a new player on the field, it’s hard to pull off.

Meanwhile, he’s got a professional SEO company pulling in traffic – that’s a cost for each and every visitor.

And each time someone lands and leaves, that money is lost.

And they have to spend another dollar to get another visitor in.

So the trick would be to focus the site on list building first, and getting sales second.

That way, he’ll retain names – individuals who gave permission to receive updates.

Next he sends those great articles at them, along with new designs or special offers.

Over time relationships form, trust gets built, and people start buying.

Top of mind, and all that kind of thing.

He saw sense in it and agreed.

But then he said: “Data doesn’t lie. We need someone to go over all our user data and statistics.”

To which I replied that I can have a look at reports, but that that I’m not an analytical mind: I’m about people, psychology, relationships – all those things that create trust.

He tells me that the first thing they need, is analysis of the data.

I counter: “It’s not the first problem you want to fix”.

He disagreed.

And so, I didn’t get the sale and he didn’t get my help.

Sure I would have liked to have gotten the gig: He’s a fun guy to talk to, I really like what they’ve built, and their angle in terms of branding and identity is spot on.

But what he’s trying to do isn’t going to fix his problem.

I mean, if your car doesn’t start, is your first action to give the machine a new paint job?

Of course not.

You call in a mechanic to look at the engine.

But essentially, he was asking me to ignore the engine for the time being and quote him for putting on a new coat of paint.

Wouldn’t be ethical to sell him that.

See, your site is a tool designed to generate interest and to be the start of a relationship.

Sure the numbers matter, and of course the data doesn’t lie.

But the data won’t get better if he doesn’t fix the actual problem first.

And in his case, the problem was simply that there’s no possible way for people to actually convert into anything but a buyer.

Sales happen along a path – that’s why it’s called a funnel.

And that funnel starts before they land on your site, and it doesn’t end when they make a purchase.

You need a larger view on the whole thing.

A visitor is a human being, a guy or gal with his own situation, problems, mindset, preferences – it’s a psychological totality and you need to deal with that totality.

Not with a statistic such as ‘sale or no sale’.

Simply extracting a few statistics out of the behaviour of a group of people isn’t going to work.

No matter how many data analysts you let loose on the problem.

He says he wants to look at the psychology later on.

I say it’s the first thing he should be looking at.

Because sales are psychology, and nothing else.

Anyway, here’s where you can get my psychological understanding to fix your own conversions –>



On Resonance. (In Which I Pretend to Be Scientific)

Yesterday a writer asked me on the Twitter what my favourite word is.

If you sing at a harp, it sings back to you.

Your sound causes resonance and that causes new sound.


It’s a massively important word.

In science, in life and also in business.

Much – MUCH more important than you might think.

The term ‘resonate with your audience’ is being flung around by all and sundry, but mostly people have no idea what they’re actually saying.

See, everything is energy.

Matter too is a form of energy, this much has been shown to be true.

“Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it.

“Match the frequency of the reality you want, and you cannot help but get that reality.

“It can be no other way.

“This is not philosophy.

“This is physics.”

Sounds like the words of the venerable master Gwan Djin Hoo, spoken 3000 years ago in his cave atop Mount Everest, doesn’t it?


That was Albert Einstein.

Interesting, no?

Resonance happens all the time.

Every movement, every action, every thought causes a reaction of some sort.

And in many of those reactions, something vibrates, resonates, because of that initial action.

Some can be measured, some can be felt, and most reactions are completely imperceptible, and will stay that way until we invent more advanced measuring devices.

Much like Infrared light was invisible until someone invented an infrared spectrophotometer.

There’s resonance in everything.

Everything you do will have some sort of effect.

What you say to your website visitors, and the way your site is designed, and the page load time – every element affects your visitor in some way.

What you present causes them to resonate with the overall message.

If it’s strong resonance – they like you, and trust you – that’s beneficial and they’ll sign up and buy from you.

But conversely, if the resonance is small, or not positive, they’ll leave.

You throw a popup at them, and some folks will instantly close the page.

Others will read it, and take action.

That way, you filter people into two groups: you determine who will and won’t resonate with that particular tactic, and you let those who don’t resonate with it walk away.

A strategic choice.

And just the same, every element of your site is a way to create resonance – or not.

Which means that if you want your site to work for you, and get you people who sign up or who buy, you need to make sure the overall strategic conjunct aims for the right kind of people to take the action you want them to take.

Because if it’s not built right, you attract the ‘wrong’ type of people, or none at all.


A little, yes.

But I’ve got your back because it just so happens that I study resonance and messaging and psychology and persuasion every single day.

So if your site should work harder for you, why not let me write up a custom conversion optimisation report for you?

Get some real resonance with your visitors –>



Lucky I Didn't Get Married, and Why Some Sales Just Aren't Right

Before this day is out, my oldest and best friend will be married.

But I won’t be his best man.

I won’t even be present.

It’s not because he’s getting married to my ex-girlfriend.

She and I split up years ago, and the flame has gone very out, long ago.

It’s not because I wasn’t invited – to my great surprise, he did invite me.

Nor is it because I’m afraid that her family will await me with pitchforks and shotguns.

Though I do admit that I’d feel slightly concerned about having to face her mother.

Then again, my ex and I messed things up together, both of us. There’s nothing that I’m particularly guilty of.

Problem is, the invitation only came last week and tickets are hideously expensive just before Xmas.

Besides, I’m busy, I’ve got work to do and LEAP to write – I can’t just take a week of, spur of the moment.

Not that I mind: I’m not a big fan of weddings.

But I would have liked to see this one – it’s the first time my friend gets married.

First time she gets married too (yeah I narrowly escaped that dance).

Well, better him than me: I’m thoroughly enjoying my current state as a bachelor.


What does this have to do with your business?

Not much, other than that there’s a lot to be said for choosing carefully.

She and I – we just weren’t a good match.

And some prospects, well they’d be a bad match for you as well.

It’s easy to grab any sale you can, but sometimes you should decline.

Like yesterday: The owner of a fashion website in Australia gets in touch with me.

They lack conversion, and can I give them consulting?

Well sure I can.

But before booking them, I go to their site and have a look.

Nothing glaringly wrong, nothing that tells me why their visitors aren’t converting.

So I could easily close the sale and get a few hours of my time sold – but should I?

No, of course not. Not unless I know for a fact that I can solve their problem.

Not before I know more, not until I actually know what the problem is, and how to fix it.

Because if I can’t solve a problem for someone, I’ve nothing to sell.

And that’s what I consider ethical marketing.

Getting that sale would be easy, but I need more data first.

We’re in business to solve problems, so that people pay us for the solution.

Not the other way round.

Anyway, I’m off, I’ve got a Saturday to enjoy.

If you’re not getting enough conversions either, and you know that there’s conversion strategy missing on your site, go here to get a custom conversion customisation report –>



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