Sales Podcast Alert!

A few weeks ago, a former colleague of mine, Mike Petrosyan reached out to me and asked to tell my story (thus far) in sales. Sales people aren’t born, they’re made through constant practice, discipline and drive to master your craft.

Mike and I worked together 12+ years ago, during the recession and very challenging times. The sales environment those days were very different than today but kudos to Mike for staying in touch and working on his own journey. You have to have the “Why” to keep growing as a professional, everyone’s path is unique. Here’s a sneak peak of mine:

Bonus: I use the word “Lame Sauce” at some point.

Bonus 2: The book I was thinking about is “Sway” (

Thanks Mike!

Drop “the hustle” Mantras

I used to love the hustle rally cry, dearly, but I can’t take any more odes to “the hustle” anymore. Because it’s hollow and without any depth or purpose. 

For most of my career, I chose to interpret “the hustle” as a way for those with very little to outsmart those with a lot through clever steps and genuinely outwork the competition. Finding leverage where you had none. Beating out the more experienced person that may be more talented but lacks hunger. Doing things that weren’t supposed to scale or even work, and making it happen. Grit to succeed above all else. 

Yet while my original interpretation was once connected to the term, I can no longer pretend that it is. The hustle has become synonymous with the grind. Pushing through pain and exhaustion in the chase of a bigger carrot but never appreciating the last carrot. Sacrificing the choice bits of the human experience to climb the ladder of success. I can’t connect with any of that.

The grind doesn’t just feel apt because it’s hard on an individual level, but because it chews people up and spits ’em out in bulk. Against the tiny minority that somehow finds what they’re looking for in that grind, there are legions who end up broken, wasted, and burned out with nothing to show. And for what?

Even more insidious about the concept of the hustle and its grind is how it places the failure of achievement squarely at the feet of the individual. Since it’s possible to “make it” by working yourself to the bone, it’s essentially your own damn fault if you don’t, and you deserve what pittance you may be left with.

Its origin from a dog-eat-dog world has been turned from a cautionary tale into an inspirational one. It’s not that you need to hustle to survive, it’s that you seek the hustle to thrive, and still at the expense of yourself and others.

Now this opposition mainly comes from a lens focused on the world of creative people. The writers, the programmers, the designers, the makers, the product people. There are manual labor domains where greater input does equal greater output, at least for a time.

But I rarely hear about people working three low-end jobs out of necessity wear that grind on their popped collar out of pride. It’s only the pretenders, those who aren’t exactly struggling for subsistence, who feel the need to brag with bravado about their beat.

It’s the modern curse of having enough time to try to find a meaning to it all. And when an easy answer isn’t forthcoming through shallow inquiry, you just start running from the void. But you can’t outwork existential angst. At best, you can postpone it. Or temporarily bury it. But it doesn’t go away.

The truth is you’re going to die, and it’ll be sooner rather than later, the more feverishly you devote your existence to the hustle and its grind. Life is tragically short that way.

What really gets my goat, though, is that it doesn’t even work. You’re not very likely to find that key insight or breakthrough idea north of the 14th hour. Creativity, progress, and impact does not yield easily or commonly to brute force. It comes with patience, inspiration and situations you don’t put yourself in because you’re working yourself to friggin’ bone and have no time to experience anything. 

You want to be more productive? That’s great. First, of course, figure out what you’re actually trying to be productive at and make it happen. Then learn how to manage your time to focus on that without sacrificing everything else. Everyone loses if you’re just staying in the office for the sake of staying in the office. 

Here’s my cheat sheet and counter to the hustle:

1) Get a great night’s sleep. The studies on sleep deprivation and its cognitive effects are unanimous and devastating. You take a bigger hit on your productive and creative powers through lack of proper sleep than almost any other neglect.

2) Get plenty of fresh air. The latest studies on effects of CO2 accumulation, volatile organic compounds, and other indoor air quality killers are shocking. And unlike sleep, it’s far less known just how much cognitive impairment you can suffer from poor air quality. Running outside in the morning has been my saving grace later in life, so much do I wish that I discovered this earlier in my life, it would have saved so much built up stress. 

3) Get regular exercise. This isn’t about “staying fit” or “looking good”, although those are noble reasons in their own right. It’s about what moving your body does to your brain. And it’s good. These are moments to connect with your body and you should cherish every moment you have to connect closer within yourself. 

4) Read some classics. You probably read the equivalent of a few books a month in tweets, hot takes, and other low-calorie material. What if you shifted some of that consumption to not just what’s most recent, but the best humankind had to offer over the last few millennia? I’m all for great business books but I’ve found the more you are able to disconnect from the constant stream of business thought, the better you are when you return to that space. The influences compound and tickle your creativity in more profound ways than I can list. 

5) Say no. Engage with fewer things but at a higher intensity. Stick with it. Stop chasing so much.

6) Meditate on the regular. Your mind is a muscle, and perhaps the most important muscle you have, it needs work as well. I find myself quick to react when I pause meditation for a spell versus when I’m in the zone, I tend to listen more, reflect on my decisions and generally be more thoughtful in both business and personal life. 

7) Find a coach. Someone who is disconnected from your business and can offer you radical candor and accountability on yourself without needing to tie it to a business outcome exclusively. 

Finally: for God’s sake, relax. Pumping your mind full of anxiety about whether you’re getting enough, doing enough, chasing enough, good enough is no way to live. Background stress like that is literally lethal. 

Put in a good day’s work, then close the damn laptop. Stash the iPhone. Waste some time on the rest of the human experience. At this time of the year, eat some duck. Watch a shitty Xmas movie. Help decorate that stupid tree. Cuddle up with your kids or someone that’s young enough to appreciate the intense intimacy needed in the early years. There’s a desire for time from kids, asking to play, asking to be a part of things, perhaps they’re aware of how fleeting these years of intimacy will be with their family. Dare to be so bold as to embrace the beautifully ordinary every now and then.

Then help me whack the hustle with a shovel and bury it in the backyard. We can plant a tree in its honor, and maybe sing the best song we could every write, because after all, we’ll be more creative in the process.

Days filled with this crew make everything complete. Whether it’s non stop singing around the house, imaginary bear hunts on trails, Pickles vs the world in soccer or just cuddling for indefinite periods of time, being a father gives me a reason to continue to progress and be the best I can be. Happy Father’s Day to all you fathers pushing to be your best for your crew (at Fort Funston)

My daughters deserve nothing less than what they’re worth

Equal Pay Day was first created in 1996. Back then, the National Committee on Pay Equity, an all-female group of volunteers, coined the term to bring awareness to the discrepancy in pay between men and women. It was not about women receiving less pay than men for the same work, it was about women as a whole, making significantly less than their male counterparts. Since then, a Tuesday in April is chosen each year to be Equal Pay Day, because that date represents how far into the next week (or next year) most women must work to earn what men typically earn in the previous week. Because Hired has unprecedented access to salary data – both candidate preferences and company offers – we’ve taken it upon ourselves to study what the wage gap looks like for tech workers specifically for the past four years in our annual State of Wage Inequality in the Workplace study.

For the first time in four years, the wage gap has shrunk slightly from 4% to 3%. This may seem small, but represents a major leap from awareness to execution. We’re seeing small changes happening across the board. Last year, men were offered higher salaries for the same role 63% of the time but that dropped to 60% this year.

Yes, companies have taken an active approach in shrinking the gap but our data points toward a bigger culprit: women are being paid less because they ask for less. More importantly, women and men (outside of California) are being asked for what salary they’re currently making and not based on what their skills are worth. This only perpetuates the problem by continually stacking on top of the existing wage gap and pushes the issue down the road for the next company to solve when they choose to hire. The only way to fix this issue is for women to understand their value in the marketplace as opposed to basing their next salary off of their previous one. I personally feel proud as Hired has paved the way on encouraging transparency at the beginning of the process but also has been committed to informing the marketplace, regardless of gender, of their worth. Women ask for less money than their male counterpart 61% of the time, which is an improvement from the year prior at 66% of the time and 69% in 2017. We’re definitely headed in the right direction but significant work still needs to be done. Building awareness through data is key in arming women with the understanding of their worth will build the collective confidence needed to ask for more.

Skills are genderless, especially in a digital world 

One of Hired’s key tenants is to offer transparency with our data to inform tech workers exactly what their worth should be, regardless of gender, either in our State of Software Engineers and informing companies what candidates truly find important in our Employer Brand Health Report. Skills are genderless, and in the world of software almost all work is done digitally what factor does gender and race play in work production?

Since passing the Salary Privacy Bill, the bill which makes asking someone what they’re making currently illegal, California has made significant progress specifically in San Francisco / Silicon Valley where the wage gap is the lowest but still exists. However, female candidates in our SF Bay Area candidate pool represent only 22% of the entire pool compared to 31% in NYC.

Consider this: if the gender pay gap was eliminated, the US economy would add $513 billion in new income each year. Not only will this benefit women but also the economy by a considerable amount. Getting more states to adopt the Salary Privacy Bill is one step that will eradicate the existing gap and ensure that new paths emerge in where women are paid out for their skills and not their gender. Until that happens, women need to know their worth, have the data ready to inform their request and ultimately ask for what they deserve. More than any other method, empowering women through awareness is half the battle but the war is won in arming women with the confidence they need to ask for more, nothing less than their male counterparts, nothing less than what they are worth. As a father of two strong girls, my daughters deserve nothing less than what they’re worth.

Everyone hates to be sold, but loves a story.

Sell me this pen.

Made (recently) famous from Wolf of Wallstreet, but this question has been around long before that. It’s in this question that people can get the wrong idea of what it means to truly sell. After all sales is not about convincing, rather it’s about the story around why the pen itself represents more than an object, but solves a need that the person may or may not have thought they had. Said differently, a killer sales narrative doesn’t simply convince but motivates through emotion and inspires an action to solve a problem. In a world where many problems compete for priority, motivation to solve one of them more than others becomes the differentiator.

The key is the story, the narrative, the emotion that you can evoke from unraveling a story with imagery, words and conviction. However, before you even tell the story, you need to make people want to listen to you.

We all have caught on to scripts and cold calling tactics that list a bunch of product features. When someone regurgitates a laundry list of features you can watch the life slowly drain from my eyes. We live for more than features! Viva la Sales!

Storytelling Makes you Memorable 

Put simply, we retain information through stories. That cartoon you were watching when you were five. That story grandma told you when you were seven. When facts and data are framed within a compelling story, you will hold the listener’s attention and help them connect the bits of the story to their context.

The result of better storytelling is better retention. Rule #1 in sales is to be memorable. Rule #2 in sales is be influential. Rule #3 is to always add value. Rule #4 Listen. Rule #5 is none of this matters unless you nail Rule #1

If you pull off a great story but timing isn’t right, you’re effectively planting seeds for when your solution / service becomes more relevant. Think data breach if your selling security software or a recruiting efficiency solution when you get a big round of funding that demands you double your headcount. Guess who will come to mind?

Storytelling is becoming a respected technique that’s recognized for its effectiveness. The London School of Business did a study which confirms what was experienced by people who used storytelling as means to transfer information and convince people. In fact, when stories were used to convey the same information as when not used, retention jumped up by 70 percent.

Logic and Emotions 

Sales teams put together presentations that showcase their product in the best possible light. It’s very important that you know your product, its features and benefits, all that good stuff, but it’s not enough to get you to close. If you think this, you have to hustle much harder because your win rates are abysmal.

Features don’t sell.

Most decisions are made with both logic and emotions in play. When listening to stories with rich imagery and meaning, the brain is stimulated as a whole. When this happens, both emotions and logic are in play.

When demos, even conversations, are comprised primarily of stories, then the brain is gripped. If you can make a prospect feel, you’re in the drivers seat and storytelling connect us on a emotional level.

Vision Stories 

A perfect example of gripping the emotions of your listener are Vision Stories. Telling a story about why you’re inspired to do what you do, help who you help and most importantly, where you’re going inspire your listener to follow you. You (and / or your company) see the challenge/s that your listener faces today as a common challenge and more importantly see a world in which this pain goes away or is drastically reduced. You become the leader.

This visionary role is very effective but can blow up if not told with passion and conviction along with experience. If you’re young in sales, don’t pretend to be the visionary, rather place the visionary tag on your CEO or founder as the person who can look around corners to see what’s next. They’re the leader, you’re evangelizing a vision.

Who Am I Stories are effective in creating a bond with your prospect. Especially if you end up supporting the prospect in the post sale, you can tell how you will ensure their success no matter what happens. The bigger the purchase, the bigger the risk and when they hear someone that’s not just about selling them and handing off their success to someone else, its a powerful message. What you stand for can have compelling effects when what you stand for happens to coincide with the prospect’s success.

In addition to Who Am I Stories, you can add even more emotion in the mix with  Why Am I Here Stories which essentially showcase why you chose to do what you do which cultivates transparency around your intent. Prospects tend to become more receptive when you tell them what your trying to do because they humanize you.

Another method for Vision Stories is the FUD method (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt) which runs rampant in the software security industry as well as the insurance industry. The “Act Now or Else” mantra can be very compelling if you can back up your FUD method with stories on how people you spoke with before did not head your warning and are now suffering the consequences. The FUD method is effective when you use it in the ways your solution can prevent something bad from happening but it also is used as a cheap way to devalue competitors. If you need to use FUD to sell your prospect away from a competitor it means you can’t sell on value alone, and that wreaks of position of weakness sales techniques.  

Visualize their world 

There is no substitute in understanding the world your prospects live in. Knowing what they face each day, to include their pain and motivations, it’s nothing short of gold in sales. Smart sales people bring up common pain that a certain persona continually faces, but turning it into story form makes it visual.

Common stories can be success stories that relate your prospect to a similar challenge a customer faced, preferably in the same industry, and how they overcame that challenge with your solution / service that made them better because of it. The more you take the prospect through this process and insert color to the story, the better. Color could include initial doubts that they faced, how they took (what they thought) a risk on moving forward with the solution and what a difference it made to them personally and professionally. Cap it off with how you feel that experience is very similar to the prospect’s and have them start to visualize the same success in their world by asking compelling questions to cap it off.

“If this story was you, how would that impact the challenge you face today?”

Stories create Action

If you’re successful in making your stories relevant to the prospect’s situation and you were able to grip their attention, you are in a great position to influence their buying decision. The way you position your brand and your product in your stories is essential in getting that yes. The yes is the action, and quite easier said than getting so the call to action should be strong and authoritative. Your story needs to be in the center of logic and emotion to make sense and to cap off a great story, the action that the person must take should seem obvious, easy and rational. 

Here are some final techniques on capping a good story: 

Make it about them – Even when you’re talking about other clients or hypothetical situations, make it so that the client can see themselves in the stories and by the wrap of the story make it only about them. 

Keep stories straight to point – Be Hemingway and get to the point. You’re not writing or speaking an epic, just a case study that is intended to hook a prospect. If you prepare well, you’ll get the points across succinctly.

Use imagery – Learn to tell stories that paint scenarios. Stories are a great leap from dry presentations, but don’t make your stories dry! A great practice is to tell a colleague about your weekend and an experience that unfolded (doesn’t have to be epic) to start practicing the art of telling great stories. Aside from making you better at sales, it will make your life a lot richer. 

 Use humor – Great timing is a gift. If you have it, don’t afraid to make your prospect laugh here and there. Just don’t overdo it! There’s a thin line between clever and being a sideshow.

Sales is more about your product, service or solution, it’s about the value and who it helps. In order for prospects to truly hear you, they have to connect with you, remember you and like you.

Everybody hates being sold, but loves a story.