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

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

“Selling Is Begging”

Whenever I present the Sales for Nice people webinar, I like to start off gauging the mood of the room, by asking:

What does ‘selling’ represent for you, what thoughts or feelings come up?

Usually, people say things like ‘awkward’, or ‘necessary evil’, or ‘helping’.

But the other day, someone dropped ‘selling is begging’ in the chat.

Wait, what? No! Hell no!

See, this is why I’m in this business, teaching good people to sell ethically.

Because ‘selling is begging’ is an opinion based on an incorrect view, on many levels.

It supposes that we need something from our buyer, want something from them.

But we should want something for our buyer, instead.

Before anything, we should want for them to make the best possible decision at this point in time.

Which can be a yes or a no, it all depends.

And when you make your selling a process of helping them make that decision, there’s nothing awkward, or evil about it – and certainly nothing beg-y.

I’ll never tire of saying it:

Selling is the oldest profession in the world.

It’s inherently, fundamentally human. It’s how psychology and communication works.

Even chimps sell.

Because in the end, selling really is nothing more than offering something of value – be it time, product, food, attention, care, protection – and asking the other:

Wanna trade?

You do it every day, all day long, and so does everybody else.

So if there’s anything conflicting about sales in your experience, remember this:

You’re looking at it the wrong way.

And if you want to learn how to look at it the right way, go here.




That Doesn’t Work

“PDFs no longer work as a lead magnet!”

“Email marketing is dead!”

“Advertising campaigns are a waste of money!”

“You can’t sell SaaS on Twitter!”

No matter where you look, you’ll find a guru proclaiming hard truths about this thing or the other.

And it’s really tempting to take their claims for true, but then you’re doing yourself a disservice.

Because whether something does work or not, depends on many moving parts.

Blindly following the advice of someone means you let someone else do your thinking, and that’s never a good idea.

If you want to get a return on all the time and money you put into your business, you need to think for yourself.

Email marketing still works, if you do it right – and I can attest.

SaaS can certainly be sold on Twitter, so long as you focus on building an audience and connections, instead of pushing product.

Advertising campaigns can be very profitable, provided you do plenty of research first, start small, and persistently run A/B tests.

And yes, PDFs still work as lead magnets, so long as you have your audience, their problem, and your messaging dialed in.

Whenever someone says something no longer works or is impossible, you need to ask yourself why.

Why do they say that? What context is it in? What audience or offer does it relate to? What other, ‘better’ thing are they trying to sell you instead?

It’s not that the claims are always wrong, or that there’s always nefarious intent behind it.

It’s that you need to think for yourself, critically and analytically.

Because business is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous, all the time.

Which means it’s foolish to blindly follow 3rd party advice.

Your business is 100% unique, and no matter what teachings or best practices are out there:

If they’re going to work for you, you’ll need to think, and roll your own.

If you want some help with that, I’d be more than happy to spend 20 minutes and talk through your plans and questions.

Just send me a message, and we’ll set up a time.



What Do You Do, When a Buyer Ghosts You?

It’s one of the most annoying parts of being in business:

You engage with a prospect, you have a great conversation, they really like what you do, and then:

“Cool, let me think about it. I’ll get back to you.”

And then they don’t.

You send a followup email, and get no reply.

But why?

They need your work. They said they wanted it. You’re right for each other!

Several things to consider:

For one thing: Everybody always has a reason for what they do, or don’t do.

In the other person’s world, their not following through on what looked like a perfectly ready sale, make perfect sense.

So with rule #6 in mind (don’t take yourself so seriously), make sure you don’t fall in the trap of making it about yourself, or getting annoyed, or blaming them for their foolishness or whatever.

There’s a million things that can happen in life, that prevent a person from proceeding to buy

So keep your cool, keep an open mind, and make it about them.

Next, ask yourself:

Were you actually talking to the right buyer?

Did it only look like a good fit, or was it actually a good fit?

Because we all have confirmation bias, and we all want to believe that when they say yes, it actually means yes.

But did it?

Or were they just not comfortable enough to say no?

Truth is, the majority of sales conversations should never take place to begin with.

You need to select your potential clients with extreme prejudice.

That’s one way to reduce the number of people ghosting you: be more specific in who you do, and don’t, engage with.

Finally, what can you actually do, when it happens?

First, here’s what not to do:

Don’t write to say ‘Just following up’ or ‘Checking in’.

Instead, here’s two things you can do that actually might work.

The first one, I learned from Dean Jackson, of the ILoveMarketing podcast:

Send an email that says:

“Are you still looking to [obtain outcome]?”

For example, I might write:

“Are you still looking to increase your conversion rates?”

That’s it. Sign your name, hit send.

Or, you could use a method I learned from Chris Voss, of Never Split the Difference fame:

“Having you given up on increasing your conversion rates?”

Both of these are designed not to get the contract, but to restart the conversation.

Because that’s the biggest mistake we make, when we try to bring a ghost-buyer back to life:

We try to close the deal, get the contract, sign the client.

But precisely because something happened in their world that caused them to go radio-silent, your pushing through on that is going to turn them further away.

Instead, what you want to do, is ask a question that leads to a dialogue.

And very often, very soon, you’ll learn that there was something missing, or not right, or not ready, in their world.

In that conversation, you can address that matter, which means they’ll feel taken care of, and that will enable them to re-think and enroll themselves.

That’s how you deal with a buyer-turned-ghost.

How to avoid this kind of situation altogether, is what you learn in the Sales for Nice People 1 on 1 training programme.



How to Build a Runway

How to build a runway

I’ll bet it must feel really sexy, for a business to be looking for investors.

Pitch decks, meeting influential people, all the money that they could invest in you…

Especially at a time like this, when there’s a lot of money sloshing around.

A time when investors have a hard time identifying companies that they would actually want to invest in.

So there they go, all the startups and SaaS companies, pitching their hearts out.

Didn’t Andy Warhol say that in the future, everybody will get their 15 minutes of Shark Tank?

Oh, right. Never mind.

Anyway, it makes sense to look for funds.

A business needs to grow, invest in resources and development, it needs runway.

And if an investor gives you that runway, then you can finally move, and scale up. Right?


Unless a business makes the grave mistake of ignoring the revenue potential they have.

Sure you can try and sell your business to an investor – but you can also sell your product to a customer.

If you need funds, sell something.

If you do that, in many cases, you don’t need no damn investor.

Of course it doesn’t apply to all companies.

But almost every day I see businesses that are looking to raise a round, completely ignoring the potential they already have, for building their own runway.

And that’s just stupid.

No matter what type of business you run, you can generate revenue with two very simple things:

1️⃣  Intelligent analysis and segmentation of your audience (i.e. paying, and non-paying subscribers)

2️⃣  Email marketing, sharply adjusted to the different segments

And that’s where the majority of companies leave a ton of money on the table.

They have no idea who their audience really is, what segments exist, and what psychological motivators for buying those people have, and:

They don’t do anything to engage with those people, don’t do any email marketing that’s valuable and meaningful.

Or, indeed, that builds up a relationship that leads to a purchase.

But if you do segment, and you practice email marketing?

Then you too, very likely, can build your own runway, bootstrapping your way to growth, without ever needing an investor.

That segmentation and email marketing, that’s something I’ve been doing for years.

And if you’d rather bootstrap than raise rounds, I can help.

Let me know if you’d like to talk.



On Selling and Entitlement

There’s a popular idea, that if we’re good people and we’re in business with a purpose, we don’t need to do any selling.

That our heart is so much in the right place, and our product or service is so good, people will seek us out and sell themselves.

“They know I’m here. They’ll let me know when they’re ready”.

But that’s entitlement.

The most galant and good-looking knight would be foolish to sit in his castle, and expect fair maidens to show up and knock on his door.

And no matter how good of a person you are, or how good your work is, that does not mean you’re entitled to people showing up and throwing money at you.

Which, if you are a good egg, is something you’ve probably noticed.

No, if you want people to benefit from your work, and you want your company to thrive, you have no choice but to engage in marketing, and in having the kinds of conversations that enable a buyer to say yes.

That wording is chosen intentionally:

Selling does not have to be pushy – and it can be fun and an act of service, if you make it about the other person, and what it is that they most need.

To learn that, Andrea Pacini of Ideas On Stage is hosting a webinar tomorrow, where I’ll explain how to do just that, using my LEAP Framework for Ethical Selling.

There’s a few seats left, and you’ll find it worth your time.

Registration is here:

Sales for nice people

See you there!



How to Get Introductions, and The Problem With Binary Questions

One of the best things that can happen for your business, is getting introductions.

For example, a while ago I had a friendly chat with an entrepreneur, who introduced me to a friend.

Once I spoke with that friend, it took about 30 minutes for her to hire me for a paid speaking gig.

No selling required – she brought it up, simply because I was the recipient of the right introduction.

And when you have a good conversation with someone, it’s perfectly natural to ask for an introduction.

But, there’s a right way, and a wrong way to ask.

Most of the time, it’s “Do you know anyone who…?”

No matter how you finish the sentence, it’s the wrong start.

Because it’s a binary question, meaning the other person will look for a yes/no answer.

“Hmmm… do I know anyone…? Sorry, can’t think of anyone just yet. I’ll let you know”.

Consider instead asking “Who do you know, who…?”

When you frame the question that way, it’s not binary, but open.

The result is that the other person will start flipping through their mental rolodex.

“Well… I know James, Jim, Jill, John, Janet, Julia – oh wait! You should totally talk to Julia!”

People will be happy to make an introduction, because it makes them look good (the most valuable person in a network is the connector).

Your job is to make it easy to make an introduction, and you do that by asking the open-ended, non-binary, “who do you know?”

Which reminds me:

Who do you know, who is a good egg, and would totally benefit from 1 on 1 live training on ethical selling?



When Everything (Seemingly) Lines Up – and You Should Say No to the Sale Regardless

Had a great first meeting with a potential client, the other day.

Everything lined up:

We had shared values, he was coachable, he liked my approach – perfect fit.

When asked what the next step was, I suggested an initial consulting session at $400, and then he’d we’d figure out how to move forward.

Told me: “Yes, sounds good!”

But then: “I’ll need to let you know tomorrow – I have another consultant booked in for tomorrow, and I want to give the guy a chance”.

Warning sign, but not unfair or unreasonable.

Besides, this prospect is highly conscientious, so it makes sense to give him space to reflect and do due diligence.

The next day though: no news.

Bigger warning sign.

Day after that:

“I’m going to let you know on Monday. That guy wasn’t the right fit, but somebody else showed up that I want to talk to first”.

Ah. Not a warning sign: a kill-sign.

I mean, I still wanted to work with the guy, but:

I don’t want to be on somebody else’s hook, and I don’t want to be involved in some sort of Chinese-bidding war.

So I told him:

“Let’s take the deal off the table.

“Happy to talk again in the future, but I can only work with people if it’s a ‘hell-yes’ for both sides.

“If you’re undecided and it’s not hell-yes, we’ll have to call it a no”.

Maybe you think it’s dumb, to kill a potential deal.

After all, the guy has big plans and he’s got the money to pay for them.

Would have become a lucrative, long-term client.

But what would you prefer:

Engaging in a long, protracted conversation where someone isn’t able to make up their mind, and you have to try to convince them?

Or would you rather be talking to prospects who are on-board, certain, convinced, ready to get started?

It’s not your job to convince anyone.

When a buyer engages with you, and you present your “This is what I can do. This is how it works. This is the price”?

Then it’s their job to convince themselves that it’s right – or not right – for them.

The best thing you can do when a prospect keeps you in limbo, is simply – and politely – take the deal off the table.

Because remember: there’s countless people you could work with, but there’s only one you.

You are the prize.




P.s. Check out my 1 on 1 training programme for ethical selling, if you want to learn how to handle your sales process in a way that protects your sanity, your time, and positions you not as a commodity, but a highly desirable steward of your clients’ results.

Interested vs Committed: Don’t Misread the Signals

Human interaction is a game of signals.

Everything we do or say – or indeed, don’t do or say – gives others a signal.

Expert communicators know how to correctly interpret signals.

Pro-tip: you can instantly improve your communication skills by installing doubt-bias:

Whatever you think the other person meant: doubt its veracity, and call your assessment into question.

More often than not, we make interpretations and inferences based on confirmation bias, and we misread the message.

Calling your interpretations into question keeps you open-minded and makes the other person feel seen, instead of bypassed.

This matters a lot in the context of selling your work.

Because we all live with confirmation bias.

And all too often, that causes us to interpret signals that the other person is interested, as a signal that they are committed.

Clearly, obviously, those two are not the same.

And if you interpret an interest-signal (the buyer is interested in your solution, in the sales conversation, in how you work your magic) as a commitment-signal, you’ll react in a way that makes them tune out or back off.

Selling effectively really comes down to nothing more than correctly reading signals, and responding to the signals people intended to give, instead of the ones you think they gave, or the ones you want them to give.

As long as a buyer stays interested, and you don’t misinterpret that as commitment, the conversation will continue, and they’ll get more and more ready to commit.

That’s how you sell your work ethically, in a way the buyer enjoys, and thanks you for.

And how to do that to a masterful degree, is what you can learn here.



Are You Selling Them a Problem? (pt. 2)

One of the best ways to lose a sale, is ‘selling people a problem’.

And, it’s extremely easy to do.

“But wait!”, you say.

“I don’t sell a problem – I sell a solution!”

Of course, that’s what business is about: earning money for solutions.

But depending on how you communicate your solution, your buyer might perceive your solution to bring a host of problems that they need to deal with.

Like a developer I spoke to last week.

He’s building a super useful app, and since my business partner Antonio is an advisor to startups and investors, and the developer is looking to raise money, he wanted to show us what he’s building.

And what he showed us is definitely a solution for the user.

Except in the way that he presented the app, it constantly looked like hard work.

Extra time to spend.

More things to think about.

Lot’s of buttons to click.

All kinds of pages to navigate through.

And it wasn’t because there’s anything wrong with the app he’s building.

It was simply because his way of communicating and presenting wasn’t properly thought out.

He was communicating from the POV of an engineer, and missed the mark of speaking the language of the user.

As a result, what Antonio and I perceived was an extremely high interaction-cost.

I.e. for someone to decide to buy the solution, they’d also have to be willing to buy the problem.

So if this developer goes out to try and land an investor with that type of presentation, he’ll find it very hard to raise the funds.

Whatever you communicate, whatever problem you solve for people, always ask yourself:

Am I speaking the language of my buyer?

Am I, inadvertently, selling them a problem?



P.s. If my 10-week 1on1 training on ethical selling looks like you’d also be buying a problem, don’t buy it. If it doesn’t, here’s more info on how it works.

What Are You Even Talking About?

The majority of missed opportunities in terms of converting a prospect into a buyer, can be fixed with simple messaging.

In teaching, it’s said that we should speak at the level of understanding of the student – and it’s exactly the same in sales.

Makes no difference whether your buyer is talking to you or reading your website.

And, it makes no difference how good your offer is.

If you don’t speak your buyer’s language, there’s no sale.

Engineers and developers are especially prone to this.

Jargon this, API that, data-driven such-and-so, and your buyer goes “What?”

But not just engineers: we all tend to approach our messaging from our own point of view.

Doesn’t work.

Instead, you need to take your buyer’s point of view.

That’s why I always say:

Learn your people.

Find out why they are reading you, or talking to you.

Learn their fears & frustrations, wants and aspirations, and speak to them in the languaging that reflects those.

That’s how you get rapport, buy-in, and sales.

This is why researching your audience is so important, because that’s when you learn what words your buyers use.

And then you can use those words in your messaging, and they’ll go “Huh. This person gets me”.

When you’re talking to a buyer, listen closely to how they word things, and use that same wording in your statements.

You’ll be amazed how this will transform your sales conversations.

Also: you’ll be amazed how easily you’ll be able to sell, when you let me train you on ethical selling.



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