Outbound sales is, undoubtedly, one of the hardest things to master when running your own business, especially if you don’t have any prior experience in sales.
And even if you do, it can be frustrating, feeling like you can’t get your foot in the door with potential clients or not knowing which sales strategies are worth trying.
That said, one tried-and-true approach to sales is a simple one, focusing on sales as relationships (rather than revenue), and who better to break that down for us than David Asarnow.
The founder of Business Nitrogen, David is an entrepreneur, trainer, speaker, and business growth mentor who’s grown two companies to 8-figures — $10M and $45M, respectively, and both in less than five years.
He also once sent a shoe to the VP of a company, literally getting his “foot in the door” for future sales conversations and proving that sometimes the best sales tactics are the most out-of-the-box.
In this episode, David outlines more strategies like this and how you can take the same approach, building relationships that turn into sales down the road.
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Intro: You know those moments when you’re doing what you love in your business, maybe it’s standing onstage or creating content, whatever it is, you’re totally immersed, and time just seems to slip-by? This is called The Flow State. At Speaker Flow, we’re obsessed with how to get you there more often. Each week we’re joined by a new expert where we share stories, strategies, and systems to help craft a business you love. Welcome to Technically Speaking.
Taylorr: We are live.
Austin: We are live, boom.
Taylorr: Look at us.
Austin: We did it.
Taylorr: We made it, Austin.
Austin: I’m so proud of us.
Taylorr: I know.
Austin: David, welcome to the show, man. It’s so good to have you.
David: It’s an honor. Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Austin: Yeah. We believe strongly in relationship building here as the primary focus when it comes to sales and marketing, which teaser, is the topic of today’s conversation. And a lot of people do that really badly, and you don’t. The first time we heard from you was with a perfect Loom or a Bomb Bomb video or something. Very obviously you did that personally for us, it was awesome. And so, from the second we had an impression of you, we were like, this guy does it the right way. So, thank you for leading the charge and we’re so excited to have this conversation with you.
David: It’s my pleasure and honor and I have to say it’s a process that I’ve used for over 20 years, in how you perfect direct cold outreach to build relationships with people. And not only have we had a conversation since then, but look, we’re now talking about sharing ideas and how people can use it to get speaking opportunities to grow their business. It’s absolutely amazing.
Taylorr: Yeah. This is probably the first example where a podcast episode has come from a cold outreach pitch, not relating to be on our podcast. So, you made it to the Mile High Club, my friend. So, nice work.
Austin: We were so blown away by this dude’s ability. That’s why we’re here today.
Taylorr: That’s why we’re here. Yeah, exactly. So, take it from us.
Austin: Yeah, so good job, man. And look, context for people that don’t know David, you have a very successful background. Right now, you’re running business nitrogen. We’re going to talk about that a bunch today. But from what I understand, you have two either previous companies that you’ve made an exit from or maybe that you still operate that are both doing $10 million plus one that’s closer to 50 million, I think. So, you have a very successful track record as a business owner. Can you just give us a synopsis of kind of the journey that’s got you to where you’re running business nitrogen now?
David: Yeah, absolutely. Well, the first wasn’t a business of my own. I actually worked for a company and I was there for five years and I had a vision on creating a new division. And so, from scratch I said I want to go here. And the company said, well, we don’t do well targeting the big companies, the billion-dollar companies. And I said, well, I believe that I can. And so, they gave me the keys and gave me an opportunity. And I grew that from, the first year I got to about zero to 1.4 million by year two it was about 22 million. By year five I was at about $45 million in revenue with $9.2 million in profit to the company’s bottom line.
Austin: Wow. Successful division.
David: Yeah, it was very successful. And from there I started a franchise company and within two years we were in the franchise 500 recognized, by year four we were top 15 franchise and by year five we’re over $10 million. And so, one of the things I did when I was 40 years old is what do I want to do with the rest of my life and how do I want to serve people at a higher level and how can I take everything that I created and have utilized over the years? So, I made a decision. I said, that’s what I’m going to do. And the funniest thing is I said I was going to be a speaker and oh my gosh, that was the hardest thing that I ever tried to do on my own and speaking with your audiences.
So, I never did it on my own. I ended up becoming a speaker for Tony Robbins and Chet Holmes. When Chet was alive, they had Business Breakthroughs International and I used what I knew becoming a business speaker, and I did become their top closing speaker within 90 days from launch. And frankly, it’s because I could leverage my background. Most people who are teaching business; frankly, haven’t built one but two eight figure companies. And so, I was able to use the skills, but the funny thing is, how I built the first business to $45 million was an outreach strategy, just as I did with you, except I mailed a sneaker. Seriously, for my first big sale was I mailed a sneaker in a FedEx box to McDonald’s, the head of product development. And it said Ken, because he didn’t return my call. So, I said, Ken, now that I have my foot in your door, may I please have five minutes of your time?
David: I said, I’ll be calling you on Friday at 10:00 AM to talk about how I can help McDonald’s increase their brand recognition and profitability.
Taylorr: They’re lucky you didn’t send a foot.
David: I sent a size 14 sneaker. So, there you go. But it was brand new.
Taylorr: What did you do with the other one?
Austin: A sneaker, or two sneakers? Was it a complete set of shoes?
David: I sent one sneaker.
Taylorr: Well, because the other one is good for another touch point, you know what I mean?
Austin: Of course. Yeah.
Taylorr: Yeah. You get a two for one there.
David: Here’s the funny thing.
Austin: Cost of acquisition goes down.
David: Cost of acquisition goes down. And I wasn’t thinking creatively back then and it wasn’t a pair of say, I could have been creative. Hey, if you want the other one, I’ll give it to you when I come see you.
Taylorr: Oh, yeah, that would’ve been good.
David: I didn’t think about that back then. But I did call. And the funniest thing, and this is really important for anyone who wants to use an outreach strategy because things like this and like sending a custom video, as I did to you, it only works if you’re real authentic and you do your homework ahead of time.
Taylorr: That’s right.
Daivd: And you’re willing to have the conversation in what’s in it for them. Anything we do in marketing and sales and operating as a fractional CMO for so many thought leaders and companies. My company, nothing’s about you, it’s all about who do you serve and how can you add value. So, when I called on Friday, the secretary or the assistant who answered the call, has been taking my call and never put me through. She laughed and she says, oh, you’re the sneaker guy. And I said, yes, I am. Now, she put me through to Ken and Ken said this. He said, that’s creative, you have five minutes. Go.
David: He turned up the pressure. Right? And one of the things I want people to think about if you follow this kind of strategy is, people aren’t going to, they’re going to put the pressure on you. It’s almost like, okay, great. Let me see what you have. Right? And this is where you have to hold to your plan, whatever that plan is. I had two questions I wanted to ask Ken, who are the best vendors you do business with and why do they serve you better than anyone else? And if the best of the best could serve you better in any way, how could they serve you better? And he laughed at me.
He said, you have five minutes and that’s what you want to know. And I said, yes. And he told me, and I said at the final question, he said, I have one more question. He said, you have 30 seconds left. And my question was this, if I could show you right now, I could not only meet the best of the best, but I can show you how I can meet the needs that they’re not doing for you, would you give me 15 minutes in person? To which he said, what are you talking about? So, all you need to do is earn that time to have the conversation with the person that you want to serve. Now, fast-forward, it turned into an in-person meeting. That 15 minutes turned into an hour and a half that turned into a multi-hour meeting with their entire product development committee. And six weeks later it was a $1.6 million contract.
David: That changed my world in how I looked about client acquisition. So, instead of, today, we didn’t have ads back then, but instead of just blasting ads everywhere, making a decision, who do you want to serve? How can you serve them better than anyone else? If you’re a speaker, what stages do you want to be on? Why do you want to be on? What conferences? What companies can you serve better? And coming up with a very intentional strategic campaign that is targeted on serving them.
Austin: Oh, man, there are so many golden nuggets in there. But two things that I think really stood out to me about this, though. And you can confirm whether or not my sort of reading into this is accurate, but there was no magic formula that you just explained. There was no silver bullet phrase or like, say this and you get the deal. There’s none of this bullshit. What you explained was think creatively, do something different than what everybody else is doing and put in the effort. Just do the work. Do the work, do it in a creative, fun way. And that led to the meeting and the next meeting and you just took it one baby step at a time.
And I think the thing that I’m trying to point out here is that, that skillset is available to anyone. No talent required. Anybody can take a minute to think about what other people aren’t doing and do the work. And in fact, that puts you in a unique category, because most people won’t do either of those things. So, anyway, I like the way you think about this. I think it’s attainable for anybody.
David: It totally is. And it’s funny because I generated for myself and my clients over half a billion dollars in revenue. And everyone says you could sell ice to Eskimos. I’m like, no, I can’t. I can only sell the ice if I believe the Eskimo needs the ice, because I’m building a relationship with them. I do not have a fancy phrase. I don’t have anything. I listen. My grandfather told me we have two ears for a reason, to listen 66% more time than we talk. So, so many times we get excited about who we are and what we have and we just want to blurt it out to the world instead of asking, we’re getting intentional and thinking through ahead of time what are their potential problems and how can I serve them?
And then coming up with a plan to put yourself in front and build a relationship and maybe a little bit slower this way, yet it works. I remember, oh, gosh, I was early on in my career, this is before I built all of this. And one of the senior guys in the company said, you work way too hard. I play golf five days a week and you’re working all of the time. And within two years I was top three salespeople in a company to 300, it was my first job. Except I remember calling in this guy, Sam. And Sam, I’d meet with him once a month and I’d take him to lunch and he said, why are you calling on me?
He’s like, I buy from your competitor. I’m not buying from you and I’m not going to. I said, let me ask you a question, Sam. My competitor screwed up, who’s the first person you’re going to think of? He smiled. I said, no, seriously, who are you going to think of? He said, you. I said, eventually they will screw up and you will give me that opportunity, won’t you? And he laughed, guess what? Three months later I had my entire product in that company. So, it’s taking the long game approach, but the long game approach gives you that stability and that high trajectory, I believe.
Taylorr: Yeah, you’re totally right. I want to dive a little bit deeper into this because we’re talking about direct outreach and I hear God, Austin, I don’t know how many conversations we’ve had over the last five years on this subject, bu.
Taylorr: I hear voices in my head from all of those moments, which is like, it’s not worth my time to figure out who to reach out to and put that into my system and start following up and I’d rather just find a database and find somebody to generate leads. I’m just going to go to Fiverr and have somebody find all of these leads and blast emails off to people. And the key phrase here is, it’s not worth my time. I would imagine you’ve run into this, right?
Taylorr: How do we flip the script on that? How do we get people to think differently? Because the three of us in this room know wholeheartedly what you’re talking about works and we deeply believe it even more than the spray and pray ad strategies and coldly list mailing and automated cold outreach and all of this stuff. How do we flip the script to get people to realize that this is worth your time. The way to generate business and build relationships is through this mechanism.
David: Well, I can share because two things. One, as a fractional CMO for companies that also has a marketing agency that runs funnels, that runs traffic. So, I have the measurement on one side. I also, as you know from our previous discussion, have a cold outbound email agency. So, for our company alone, we send over 60,000 emails a month. So, I can measure and track and guess what? You know that what I’m talking about we actually do. And it’s helped me build tens of millions of dollars, right?
So, here’s what I can say. The people that you want to reach, especially if you’re a thought leader and a speaker, the amount of time that they are spending on Facebook and Google or YouTube or Twitter or any of the sites that are going to come up is minimal. And if you’re hoping that you’re going to be found by spraying and praying and just running traffic and those who raise their hand, you’re missing out on probably 90% of your opportunity because you’re now competing with every single other person out there.
However, if you can find 25 people that you would like to speak for or do business with, depending upon who’s listening right now, and you actually took the time to go to their website to see how you can serve them, come up with a personalized message to introduce yourself on how you can serve them. I can venture a guess that at least 10% of the people that you send that personalized message to will have a conversation with you or more. I’ve had a higher percentage than that. I believe though, if you just follow the framework in the system, you’ll have at least 10%. So, if you go to 25, great. You have 2.5 or two or three people. For a speaker that can be 10,000, it can be $50,000, right? How much time did it take you to make that? Well, here’s the interesting thing.
A lot of the work you don’t have to do yourself. You can go outsource on Upwork or something, someone to do some data mining for you of all of the different conferences or within your topics, all of the companies. Who’s the person in that company that makes that decision? Have someone else present that data to you? So, then you just come up with the strategy in the campaign and then build a relationship. To me, you’re right. Most people and even our clients, they don’t want to take the time to do the custom videos. They’re like, well, can’t I just, now today they’re saying, well, can’t I just AI this and do the same video?
Taylorr: Yeah. AI added to our crest.
David: Yeah, gosh. They’re like, can I do the same video to everyone where all of a sudden it puts in their name and it has their website behind it like I’m reviewing it or doing something but it says the exact same thing. I said, you can do that if you want. It won’t work. It won’t work at the level anyway. I believe that if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. And if you really want to build a relationship with someone, take the time to do the research and do something personalized to them. One of the things that we have that I use as well is I sent you a video via email, but I also have video brochures here.
We can literally send a brochure to someone in a FedEx box instead of a sneaker. Usually this will be my first that we send out as a video brochure, a custom personalized message. And I can write a little something on the back to them. Obviously, I just happen to have this sitting next to me, but I wasn’t planning on talking about it. But these are the kind of things that you can do that are intentional. And the question is, do you want to go from a hundred thousand to a quarter million or a quarter million to a half a million or half a million to a million dollars? Or like many of our clients have gone to 2 million, 3 million, 10 million or more. How do you do that? Strategy plus intention and action. Plain and simple
Austin: Like it. And again, these are things that are attainable to anybody. Okay. And I think now, perfect segue into this fractional CMO thing that you do for people. I think that people probably hear that and have some sort of intuition about what that means, but I’d love for you to, A, define what a fractional CMO is and what they do and ideally, where in a person’s business lifecycle does it make sense to have a conversation with a fractional CMO?
David: Great question. And I can only talk about how we do fractional CMO.
David: So, what does that mean? If you could have the most amazing marketer in the world and have them on the phone or on a Zoom and they would actually map out your entire strategy and help you decide who do you need on your team and either manage your team. Because here’s the thing I can tell you, most speakers, and frankly, most entrepreneurs that are under $10 million in revenue, they’ll tell you, I did this on sheer effort or relationships, I don’t understand marketing and I don’t know how to connect marketing to sales.
So, that’s what we do as a fractional CMO. We’ll start and cast out the vision on what is possible. We’ll put people into our momentum multiplier model that we’ve created and it’s how do you combine, whether it’s the direct outreach efforts, the paid traffic, to relationships, to organic and tying it all together and then creating a journey. So, we’re crafting that potential customer journey and then driving people into how are we going to have that conversation with them. If it’s for a speaker, well, we’re going to figure out how we’re going to get that person to take the phone call, so that way we can show them how we can serve their audience. If it’s a business owner or it’s a thought leader, then all of a sudden, here’s what happens.
A lot of speakers, they’re speaking and speaking, I’m making half a million, I’m making a million dollars a year, and all of a sudden I don’t have any continuity revenue, I have nothing to sell them. Then all of a sudden, we may shift that into a challenge or a DSL or a webinar that then creates a most incredible compelling offer, a miko, that then gets someone to raise their hand and start getting into your universe.
So, as a fractional CMO-fer company, it is not just a here’s the map, plug it in. What is someone’s goal? What do they want to do in the next 3 years, 5 years, 10 years? If they are doing the speaking now, do they want to stay on the road or do they want to create a transition plan? And it’s creating that map that ties marketing and sales together. Because here’s what I can tell you, if you don’t understand marketing, you’ll think that I can just, I see this, not just hear it, I see it. Well, I just hired this person, they’re young, they’re out of college, they understand Facebook. Okay? And the challenge is you can waste a lot of money that doesn’t go to producing revenue for you.
So, I would say that if someone wants a strategy and just wants an overview, yes, they can hire us for a couple of hours strategy session or a power day where we map out their entire program. If they’re at a half a million dollars in revenue right now or plus, and they want someone for an hour a week or two hours a week plus quarterly strategy. That’s what we do as a company. It’s not just me. I’m the chief CMO of the company, but I have three other people like me on my team that we strategize together and look at each of the clients. So, unlike just having one person, you have an entire team and a company and since I do have an agency, there’s things that we can plug-in if someone needs or we actually manage other people’s teams or their outsourcers, whether it’s a paid traffic or social media. So, we take the heavy lifting off someone so they can do what they do best, which is serving their clients.
Taylorr: Yeah. I’m kind of curious because the thought leaders are, and you’ve chosen this niche, it’s kind of unique, I wouldn’t say, business is business at the end of the day, but there’s a widespread of revenue streams that often come up in the thought leadership space, right? We’re not just talking about speaking, there’s consulting, there’s maybe licensing, very popular these days of product, maybe it’s a book, but a lot of time that routes through Amazon, bulk sales with keynotes and things, but also courses are really popular, memberships and so on. And so, I’m curious, does the marketing strategy change at all between product and service? Or do you find that it’s fairly much the same process? Let’s take direct outreach as an example, speaking, I could justify spending a lot of time making $10,000 per gig, right?
Taylorr: If I’m selling a course at 197 bucks, let’s say, is that strategy still the best thing to approach things with? Or do we need to adjust course because the offer is different and the price point is different? Can you enlighten us more on that?
David: Yes and no. So, two things. Yes, I would change the strategy and at the same time we’re doing it with people who have a product under $200. But what we’re doing is we’re using the strategy to say, who has my client, who has access to my client that we can collaborate together, there’s synergy between the companies.
Taylorr: Partnership marketing. Yeah.
David: Yeah. I’ll give you an example. I knew someone who we were talking and I told him what I did in the sneaker and he said, I’m going to up that, I have four people that I want to do business with, and if I do business with any of them, it’s worth a half a million dollars to me. He said, I’m going to get a MacBook Air, I’m going to get a custom skin on that MacBook Air, and then I’m going to mail it to them and they put it in a FedEx box, mailed it to their home, and it was at Christmas time. So, it was long as a Christmas gift. So, what do you think happened?
Taylorr: Probably got their attention.
Austin: He got a phone call.
David: He only got a phone call from two of them. So, two people got a MacBook, didn’t even return the phone. Now, we’re talking about really big people like billionaire-type people. One person said, this was fantastic, I can’t work with you right now; yet, I think we’ll work together in the future. And the other person worked with them. So, the strategy, if someone has access, that’s what we’re looking at here. Who has access to who you want to serve? And a lot of what we do with the thought leaders is not getting them speaking gigs. What we do is we create that backend model for them.
So, when they’re selling a product, okay, you’re right, $197 product to me, you use that to self-liquidate your traffic. So, that first sale, you’re not making any money in that first sale. What you need then is to look at what your value ladder is going to be. How can you serve people at a higher level and what can you create a value where people will spend a couple of thousand dollars, $5,000, a mastermind, 10,000, 15, $25,000 annually? Because then you can create a compelling offer to sell a lot of that at 197, self-liquidate the traffic and really where you’re making your money is on the backend. Did I answer your question?
Austin: It was so good. Yeah, I think you kind of answered that question in a way I wasn’t anticipating. Because it’s not, you throw out the mechanism entirely and do something totally different. It’s just that you shift to the people that you’re going after. And that makes perfect sense. And I think this is where we started getting into the avoidance of, you call them scammy, spammy sales tactics or something like that. You’re thinking completely outside of that. Forget the, and something that is on your website that this factors into a little bit here are funnels because people think about funnels a lot of the time and they think about that; low-ticket, very high pressure, quick fast sales, right?
And I feel like a lot of our listeners don’t align with that. And they also don’t align with picking up the phone and doing a bunch of stuff that feels like it doesn’t have any end result. But what you just talked about, there is a high leverage way to be able to make a bigger impact. And that’s that strategic brain that you’re talking about here. It’s like how do you look outside of what everybody else is doing and what might work if you put in a bunch of time and effort and money but isn’t rock solid and instead let’s skirt around it over here to where you could build one relationship with one high-impact person that generates 10,000 customers for you. This is stuff that I know our listeners don’t think about because these are the conversations I have every day with folks.
David: And I am in the funnel world as you know, from my website, and we turn down most clients who come to us because most people just want to, I want a funnel that’s going to make me a million dollars. Okay.
Taylorr: Don’t we all.
David: If I could just print and repeat all day long, why would I even talk to you? What I do best is understanding who you serve, how you serve. Now, how can you create that compelling offer? Because when you create a funnel, most people start thinking, oh, I have this ebook and I have this guide. No, you have to start with the end in mind and know how you’re going to serve them. What are you going to offer them? And creating a compelling offer and then working backward.
In fact, I’m more than happy to share our momentum multiplier model, the chart of what we do. I can get you a link, I’ll get it uploaded online somewhere on the website and send you all a link for anyone who wants it. But everything, we start backward. We start with the offer, then we go to what is the most incredible compelling offer that you can make and how are you going to make money is number one. Then we’ll go through the journey crafting, then we’ll go to the traffic, and then how are we going to engage them on a one-time and consistent basis? Because so many people will drive people to their landing page. They have this offer and then they offer, offer, offer. No, you have to have at least three or four touches of value for every time that you ask them to do something or they’re going to tune you out or opt out.
Taylorr: That’s right.
Austin: I like the ratio there.
Taylorr: Yeah, for sure.
Austin: It’s a bit like mental framework. Definitely expectations. So, I’m curious, you’ve obviously done this for tons of people. You’ve experienced roadblocks that your clients have run into as they kind of navigate these strategies, right? Because let’s face it, you are painting a beautiful picture of a vision that everyone wants on this show. I can hear the hundreds of people right now listening, maybe thousands, so share with your friends. Thinking, wow, that would be incredible to have all of this. And so, they say, yes, let’s do it. And now they’re in the weeds. You have the strategy, we have the journey, now, we have the action that we have to take. What are the roadblocks that your clients run into and how do you find that they overcome them?
David: There are a lot of roadblocks, expectations, and it is not wave a magic wand and make a million dollars, although I can tell you that we’ve had dozens of people who’ve done seven and eight figures and mid eight figures and higher, starting with a quarter million dollars in revenue. So, we’ve done this and at the same time, what happens so many times that I’ve seen is people all of a sudden start seeing something happen on the funnel and they’re like, I don’t want to do the social anymore. I don’t want to create the content anymore. Can’t you just run ads for me?
And I would say that, that is one of the biggest challenges is that people don’t want to do the work, they don’t want to do the heavy lifting to be able to create the future that they say that they want. And I’ll tell you this, whether someone’s working with us or anyone, it’s not as simple as waving a magic wand, plugging into a framework or a system. We’ll try 15 things to find the one that really works the best. I will often tell people this, and it’s true. I have more patience than you do.
I have more patience to test and try because we will find out what will win. We just have to test and test, and once we have something that works, we have to continue testing, which means you have to create content. And so, does it have to do with offer creation? Yes. Does it have to do with a combination of social and paid? Yes. Does it have to look at who are the people that have access to my audience that I can target and build relationships with? Yes. It’s putting this entire plan and framework together and being willing to do the hard work and not just saying, I just want to go out and speak and take my content. Okay, yes, you can get some semblance of success that way. Yet, from what I believe that most people want, it just takes, we said it right in the beginning. Most people aren’t willing to do the work.