Sending hourly invoices to your client can get awkward really fast. Same thing for project-based consultants. But what if you can secure a contract that says, “The contract value is this much, but you pay me over the period of time”? And what if as a consultant, you can deploy the assets as you go? Well now you can do so by making the switch to subscription-based consulting. Jeb Blount, CEO of Sales Gravy, says that subscription is just a monthly revenue. He has had an incredible experience with this type of service model, and so has his clients. Nobody resented anyone because both sides knew exactly what they were getting – and everybody was winning.
Jeb Blount is the founder and CEO of Sales Gravy, a training development and self-acceleration advisory company that operates globally. He is the author of nine books, including an upcoming one called Objections: The Ultimate Guide for Mastering The Art and Science of Getting Past No. Their practice focuses primarily on customer-facing activities, whether in training or optimizing a company’s sales organization. Sales Gravy focuses on how human beings grapple with other human beings for influence.
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Grow Revenue In Subscription-Based Consulting With Jeb Blount, CEO Sales Gravy
I’m very excited to have Jeb Blount joining us. Jeb, welcome.
Thank you very much for having me on. I’m excited to be here.
I’m very excited, too, to be doing this interview here with you and let’s just get things started. For those who don’t know you, aren’t familiar with work Jeb, just take a moment and share what you do.
I’m the Founder and CEO of a company called Sales Gravy. We are a global training, development and self-acceleration advisory company. One of the most respected in the world these days. Along with that, I’m going to the author of nine books, including my brand new book that’s coming out in June called Objections: The Ultimate Guide for Mastering The Art and Science of Getting Past No. I travel all over the globe speaking to leaders and salespeople. Our practice focuses primarily on customer-facing activities, whether we’re doing training or whether one of our consultants is working with a company to help them optimize their sales organization, whether it’s customer service, leadership or sales. Everything that we focus on is how human beings interact with other human beings to influence their behavior.
Let’s take a little bit of a travel back in time, before you had Sales Gravy and before you acted as a consultant and speaker and so forth, you worked at a company called Aramark. It looks like you work your way up that organization to a position of VP of Sales. I’m interested, what actions and mindsets did you practice that really allowed you to achieve that level of progress and growth within that organization?
I started there right on a truck. Basically, driving a truck, wearing a uniform. I have my name on it. I progressed from doing that job when I was 25 years old to a Vice President’s role when I was 34 years old in a big company. My career there was like a rocket ship. A couple of things, one, being able to get stuff done and primarily the stuff that I was getting done was selling stuff, so creating revenue. I learned it in a very early age that if you could create revenue, that the world was your oyster. People would get out of your way, you would get opportunities. The ability to very quickly do that made all the difference in the world. The second thing that I did was tap into an incredible gifted group of leaders who guided me and mentored me along the way. I was an unbelievably fortunate to have these, these leaders come into my life. Mary Gartner was one of my first leaders. I worked for a company called Nutrisystem before that, to leaders like Steve Donnelly and Chris Dods who were just instrumental in helping me make a difference.
One of my early leaders, a guy named, Roger McKie, when I got my first big promotion, he gave me some of the best advice that I’ve ever been given and it’s advice that I used relentlessly in my job. He said that, “Your role as a leader is to make yourself obsolete. Everything that you do is about finding a way to find other people that can do your job better than you can do it so that the company will always find something more important for you to do.” I took that advice to heart and build teams where essentially I got to a point where they didn’t need me anymore and the next opportunity would come along. A lot of it was the same old thing that you hear from everybody. It was dedication, hard work, surrounding yourself with good people and keeping a great attitude. I got lucky a couple of times, but most of it was just good mentors that gave me great advice that I paid attention to.
The gift of mentorship and coaching and support along the way certainly one’s that played a very big role in our growth as a company. At what stage did you start then going out on your own? What was that transition like? When did it happen?
The transition was the story you hear from a lot of people who were coming of age in the last decade. We hit this bump in the road in 2007 and 2008 called the great recession. That bump in the road caused a lot of changes and risks in the business world. The company that I worked for, Aramark, one of the things that drove that business was employment. When there was mass unemployment, when the recession hit, the company had to downsize and make a lot of changes and I happened to be one of those changes. Otherwise, I’d have been there for my entire life. I would have never left the company. I found myself in this situation where I had to make a choice and the choice was do I go back out into the corporate world which I could have done easily and find another job with another company or do I start my own business? I’d always wanted to be an entrepreneur and it was something that was in my heart, but honestly I was scared to death of leaving the comfort of a paycheck. I was making a lot of money so it wasn’t a little tiny paycheck. It was a big old paycheck and I had a lot of benefits that came with it and stock options.
I went on interviews, I talked to headhunters and I was in a position to move to another company. I just kept thinking about maybe writing a book and doing something on my own. I can’t tell you that I had some grandiose plan because I didn’t. I didn’t have any idea of anything. I just knew that I could sell, and I was comfortable with that and I had a couple of ideas around Sales Gravy. I made the fateful decision to strike out on my own, knowing that at the age I was in my late 30s at the time that going on my own and becoming an entrepreneur, in essence for the corporate world would make me unemployable. I was burning the ships at the shore and charging forward. It made all the difference in the world, but it was a very difficult decision to make. I didn’t necessarily have a real plan for what I was going to do. It wasn’t until four months into it that I realized that I needed to come up with a plan or I was going to starve to death. That’s what you see Sales Gravy now was essentially born, although it took six, seven years for us to iterate to the place where we are now.
You mentioned that you had a lot of fear. Fear of the unknown and leaving the comfort of the corporate environment. How did you overcome that fear? What was the real impetus for you to say, “I’m going to do this. I’m facing the fear, but I’m going to overcome it and I’m going to move forward.”
I didn’t overcome the fear, I just dealt with it. I was afraid of the entire time. I began the process of building out Sales Gravy. I made a couple mistakes early. I figured out that I couldn’t make money with what I was doing. I was fortunate in that I had been a pretty good saver for most of my life. I had a solid nest egg that I could depend on for income. My wife is working and I was burning a lot of our income, our savings. That was a tough conversation to have with my wife over the dinner table. It wasn’t until years later that I quit being afraid, but I would wake up every night in a panic and a sweat thinking, “I’m going to fail” That was what drove me. I wasn’t thinking about what the opportunity was. I wasn’t thinking about how great I might be. I was thinking I stepped out of the comfort of the corporate environment, of the place where I knew what to do and how to do it. I started building my own thing. I was afraid that I would have to go crawling back or that I would have to face my wife and say that “I didn’t make it” or tell my friends that I gave it a good try but didn’t work. End up in a lesser role than I had before, and have to start all over again.
All of the worst case scenarios would go through my head. What it pushed me to do was I doubled-down and worked twice as hard. Back in those years, it wasn’t unusual for me to be working at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. I’d be so tired, my entire body would hurt. I still remember physically just aching. I’d been up for so long working. I was working so hard because I didn’t know what to do. I was having to run into walls and go, “That hurt. Let me do that again.” I was cold-calling. I was driving. I was building content. At the same time, I was building a website. I was trying to find customers. I was sweeping the floors. I was getting coffee. I went from working in a corporate office with two assistants and living the high life, working in a Fortune 500 company in the executive level. It is a little bit like being a rock star in some in some respects. I went from that to sitting in my office down in Florida in my flip flops, dialing people up and begging them to do business with me. I had to learn everything from the ground up and at the same time I’m writing my first book. It was fun. It was exhilarating. I enjoyed the work. If I didn’t enjoy the work, I wouldn’t have done it. I was always under the cloud of, “What if I fail?” That’s not how everybody does things. Just how I did things.
I don’t wake up in the middle of the night anymore and worry about whether I’m going to fail my business. We’re going on twelve years old. The business is sustainable. It’s almost to the point where if I wasn’t here, the business could continue. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re getting to that place. I may be two years away from being able to say, “This business can live without me being in it.” I don’t have that anymore, but that’s what drove me, was my fear of failure. I didn’t want to lose. In some cases, it allowed me to use brute force to figure things out and to get through some bad days where everything was going wrong. I know this isn’t the story that everybody wants to hear. Everyone’s to hear the superstar story or the Superman story where you’re down and you crossed over the threshold and you said, “You can’t bother me anymore.” That’s not how it worked for me. I had to grind it out every single day.
Jeb, the story that you’re sharing here is the real story. The one that may not end up in Inc. Magazine or Fast Company. Some quick success that most people tend to read about or think about. What you experienced is what a lot of people go through, but just don’t talk about. How did you justify to yourself and to your wife, reaching into your savings and taking that money to build your business? A lot of people who are new to consulting or they are at a stage where they want to grow their business further because they’re at a plateau, look at their situation say, “I know I need to do more. I know I need to invest more into myself, into my business,” but they’re afraid to do it because they look at their savings as their retirement plan, their security, and they essentially hold off investing in themselves. What was going through your mind? How did you actually justify that to yourself and to your wife that it was worthwhile?
I remember saying to my wife a lot, “Trust me, I got this.” She’s our CFO and we’re phenomenally successful as a business. If you just looked at it from a purely income standpoint, we don’t worry about money. We don’t worry about anything. We make enough money to cover anything. We invest most everything we make back into the business. There were a couple of things that drove my ability to do this. One is that we live a pretty lean lifestyle and even in my heyday as a corporate executive where I was making a ton of money and I had every privilege you can possibly imagine. We were pretty tight with our money. No debt, no expenditures that you would consider it to be extravagant. We 00:13:54dialed in a little bit tighter and we focused on that. I was working to succeed, not necessarily working to make money and that helps. It doesn’t mean that we didn’t have to tighten a few things up here and there, but we already lived an austere lifestyle. That’s one of the things that I tell people all the time and especially young people, “You want to be an entrepreneur, stop spending money. You can’t live an extravagant lifestyle and at the same time build a business because your money has to go number one to investing in the business. The business comes first.”
I was saying, “Trust me,” and sometimes I look at her now and I wonder if she thinks back on those days when maybe she didn’t trust me, but she did. We’d been together since high school. We’ve got a long relationship where that trust was already established. We’ve been together for two years. That may have been a little bit difficult. That’s another thing that I think we discount sometimes when you’re building a business, but the person that you’re married to is going to have a big impact on whether or not you’re going to be successful in business. I happened to marry the right person. That’s extremely important. If your partner or spouse or whoever it is in your life that you share your life with is not on board, it can be difficult. When I say on board, that doesn’t mean that they’re gung ho because certainly I think a lot of it was just a fascination that I was doing this. There were a couple of tough conversations about the money that I was spending on building a website. It wasn’t like we sat down and justified it. We didn’t sit down and spell it out. I just did it. I moved forward and did it and I was very careful with my money. Very careful how I spend things.
Part of the reason that I was up at two in the morning, with my body aching, was instead of spending $50,000 to pay someone to build my website, I just learned how to build a website and did it myself. I still do things like that. As we’re speaking, I’m in the middle of adding some stuff to my LMS. I could easily pay somebody to do this, but I can knock these things out. I’m getting these things done and that allows us to run lean and be smart with our money and invest it back in the business. I also came from a business background. I came from a company that taught me that profit is important. Your job is to make money. Always my focus was on making a profit. Everything that I did, every decision I made was understanding that I was going to make mistakes, but I couldn’t make mistakes that broke the business. That was number one. When I was making decisions, I needed to make decisions that would be focused on how I would have a margin in any of any dollar that I brought in. It took a couple of years to start making money. I had to invest in the business up front.
Once we started making money, we always made money. No debt, never took out a loan, never borrowed money, never had an investor, never done any of those things. The tradeoff was working in some cases, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen hours a day, every single day. It’s been almost twelve years since we started the business. I’m working. I’m going to work tomorrow as well. I usually work seven days a week, every single week. I work pretty long hours, so does my wife, who is our CFO now. She left her job and came through the business once the business grew. We still do that. We do it because that’s what it takes to run a successful business and make it go. Now, “Do I dream about a time when I don’t have to work seven days a week?” “Yeah.” It may never happen because that’s the price you pay if you want to be an entrepreneur.
This is a really interesting topic and I think that depending on who you ask, you’re going to get a different viewpoint or perspective on that. One thing I want to explore here is your background Jeb is a sales guy. In the corporate world, you were doing sales. Obviously, you’re very good at it. Then when you went out to be a consultant, to be your own boss and build your own business, you have to sell, but this time not somebody else’s product or service but you. You’re your own. You mentioned that you made some mistakes in the early days. That you were working long hours to be able to make it successful. A lot of people might say, “Jeb, you’re a sales guy, so naturally sales would come to you and so you should just be successful from the start.” Clearly, you also encountered some challenges. What mistakes did you make early on? Then I’m just interested in exploring how did you actually go out and land your first client?
I built Sales Gravy as a job board. I realized about four months into building Sales Gravy, I initially, built it as a portal for salespeople and I thought with information, we can sell ads, that type of thing, and realized that I wasn’t going to make any money doing that. We sold ads but that wasn’t the type of ads we needed. I remember sitting outside of my son’s elementary school and I’m walking through the scenarios, “Where’s the money?” I knew I wanted to be a training company. I knew I wanted to go speak and I was getting a few gigs from people that knew me. Folks that had worked at Aramark or worked at other companies who were throwing a bone to me here and there, but it wasn’t nearly enough to sustain the business. What I needed was to create monthly recurring revenue that allowed me then to invest in the platform that I needed to go be a trainer, consultant, keynote speaker, workshop deliverer or that type of person.
Nobody knows who you are. It’s a pretty tough sell. I’ll tell you the truth, I can sell anything. The hardest thing that I sell is me. The hardest things I do, if someone’s on the phone with me and they say, “We want to hire you,” it’s almost better for me to find someone else to handle that conversation than me, because A, I love what I do so much that I have a bad tendency of giving it away for free. For everyone, don’t get any ideas. Don’t l call me up and asked for free, but I probably would give it to you because I liked doing it so much. The flip side of it is that it’s difficult sometimes to sell yourself as a product. I’m great at selling and I’m willing to admit to you honestly and openly that I suck at selling myself.
How did you get over that?
I still suck at it. I didn’t. I underpriced myself. I got gigs and I built a platform, but at the same time I built Sales Gravy job board. In 2010, we became the market share leader in that space. If you’re generating $100,000 a month in ad revenue, it gets a little easier to get over selling yourself. If I don’t get enough margin in selling a workshop or going out and doing a training, I’ve got a consistent form of income coming in. What I realized was I sucked at selling myself. That’s why I built the job board. I needed to create something that was profitable but generated a lot of recurring revenue so that it would give me the buffer to learn how to sell myself. I’m still terrible at it. I’m way better at it than I used to. One of the reasons why my wife came to work with me was that she realized how bad I was at it. She was, “I’ve got to help you get better at selling your own services.” Not a problem selling an ad. If you wanted to come to me and post jobs, that was pretty easy. I could sell that all day long, but that wasn’t personal. I know this is a weird conversation to have, especially if people who are consultants, but this is a tough thing. I sold something that I was good at selling and I built the business into a couple of million dollars a year selling nothing but online ads.
There was one point in 2010, 2011 that we have so much cash coming in and we were just trying to put it in places. It was wild in my business started growing. At that point, when you start having that confidence, it gets easier, and then you realize that I got to bring someone in with me that’s better at selling me than I am. I started bringing in salespeople. We begin iterating from there and then we begin to shift in the business. My biggest accomplishment over the last 36 months has been shifting the business away from online advertising for jobs into a pure play consulting and training and development company. We’ve done a nice job of doing that. It was a very difficult thing to disconnect from a consistent stream of revenue. The job still exists. We still have a sales team that works with it, but we don’t worry about that anymore. It’s not something that’s that important to us so that we can focus on where we are more profitable and we’re growing and then building out a group of people around me that can do the same thing that I do and that allows us to scale and build into clients.
The whole thing was iterative. I remember starting and just picking up the phone and calling my first customer and I called and called and called. It took me awhile. I finally got somebody to buy something from me. It took two years to get back for first enterprise level customer. I sold ADP but that was only after I’d sold thirteen of their recruiters into using my platform to recruit salespeople. Then I got Verizon. I picked up AT&T. I picked up Sprint. I picked up Edward Jones, the who’s who of companies. It just took a while for that to happen. The same thing with training and development, it was the same thing. Although training and development and consulting got a little bit easier as I got a broader platform. I got more well-known as an author. I have the benefit that a lot of people don’t have. That is because I’ve written nine books and because I’m in airports and bookstores and I’m all over the place on social media, it’s a lot easier for me to generate leads than people who are just starting out, but I don’t want to discount the fact this has been twelve solid years of grind to get to that point where I can say that.
What about the early on? For the consultants that’s reading this and saying, “I don’t have a job board or any product that’s generating a consistent a couple of million dollars a year for me. My real goal and aim is to win more of those logos, of those top tier Fortune 500 types of companies. If they don’t have that consistent external side income, and they don’t have all the books yet either, what would you suggest? What is in your experience the best strategy or approach to get in front of corporate clients?
I didn’t have a book. I didn’t have a job board, I didn’t have any of that. I had to make some decisions, “Where can I get revenue that makes it easier for me to sell me?” I’ve picked something that I knew. I understood that jobs was something that people are willing to pay for, that companies are willing to pay for it. I just found that. That was me sitting in a car in front of my son’s elementary school. I still had to build. It took two years to build it out. That’s not the path that everybody takes, that was just my path. I just realized that if I had regular recurring revenue, it was going to be easier for me to do the things that I wanted to do because then I wouldn’t be worrying about whether I need a revenue. It’s a simple thing. If you’re a consultant, it’s the same thing. What you’re going to have to do is you’re going to have to go take a client that underpays you so that you can get revenue coming in. Then you got to build a little bit of more margin in your life and then you got to go get another one and another one and another one. It’s one at a time.
What I do from a consulting standpoint now and what I would suggest consultants do is, I don’t take on a lot of project-based stuff. We do take some on where we have a project. I’ve got a couple of big companies that will do a three month project for them around a sales playbook or an onboarding program, but most of our consulting clients are on a subscription basis. They’re on a monthly retainer. They’re paying as a subscription and then we work our services into that. Being able to look ahead and see and “I’ve got that revenue coming. I’ve got that money coming in,” it allows me then to relax and then provide their services. If you’re an individual consultant, all you’re doing is selling your time. I’ve got a little bit of a different problem now and that I’m selling other people’s time and I still have to be able to support that with my administrative team and operations team. If I’m a consultant and I’m starting out with nothing, a, “What am I good at? What am I great at?” B, you’re probably not going to reach into a Fortune 500 company and picked off a consulting contract immediately. I’d probably be in the SMB space, initially and then leverage that up because the people in the SMB space have a tendency to move into the larger company space.
Let’s say that you did what I did. You’re in your late 30s and you dropped out of the corporate world and move into a consulting world, the very first thing you need to do is call everybody and ask them to give you work. That’s what I did. I just called all my buddies up. It wasn’t enough to sustain me, but it was enough to give me work and it wasn’t the kind of work that I wanted because I didn’t want to take handouts from my buddies, but I needed my buddies to give me those handouts. That’s what you do. That would be the very first thing that I did. I crashed job fairs. I’m a former corporate executive. I would go to job fairs with flyers and get kicked out by security. I cold-called, I knocked on doors, I picked up the phone, I got told, “No.” I called my friends and ask for anything. We go back to fear driving, if fear drives you, I’m not afraid to go in and do that. I can tell you this, if you’re a consultant and you’re sitting around waiting for people to call you, if you’ve got your head to the sky waiting for it to rain with your mouth open, I got news for you. It isn’t going to happen. It just doesn’t work that way. You may get a random project, you may leave your old company and they may hire you on as an independent contractor to come back to them, but you don’t have any diversity in your portfolio at that point, and you’re going to be at the whim of that company.
The only way to do this is to bust your rear end, get few customers, prove yourself out, get a referral, get the next one, get a referral, and get the next one. The hardest thing you’re going to have to do is scale yourself. If want to run a lifestyle business, I’ve talked to a consultant just yesterday. He’s like, “I know exactly what I needed to make for me and my wife to be comfortable.” If that’s what you want to do, that’s cool. Find out what you need to be comfortable. If you’re like me and you’re like, “I want to grow and build and scale and build something bigger.” Then you’re going to have to think about what point in that space you begin jumping off and bringing on the next person, which by the way will be the hardest thing that you ever do. There’s no magic pill here. You have to pick up the phone, you have to call people, get off the email and don’t just blanket people. Pick up the phone and call people and start with people that you know. That’s the fastest, easiest way to get something and be humble and take what you can get. If you’re just starting out and recognize that what you get now, it will I be what you’re doing then that tomorrow, but you build a reputation. You get some work going, you’re going to have to live at a lower lifestyle than you were planning on it first. Then you grow that and grow that and grow that and grow that and add on the client, add on a client, add on a client. There’s no other way. It’s just a grind. That just it’s just how you do it. I know that people want a magic pill and they want an easy button, I wish there was one. There’s just not one. That’s just how you do this.
Jeb, you mentioned that you have productized your services so that you deliver them on a subscription ongoing, recurring basis. Share with us for a moment in a bit more detail, what does that actually look like? What are people getting when they are subscribing to your services on an ongoing basis?
When we look at our customer base and the way customers come to us, basically, if you were to draw a rectangle and put four quadrants on it and the lower left hand quadrant, it’s called events. Events are basically our primary place. 90% of our business comes in through an event. An event is someone calls us and they want us to do a workshop for their conference or sales meeting or we had some calls in and say, “Can you come do a keynote for us? We’ve got 30 people we need to do a training for.” Typically, most of our stuff comes into that space. If you move up to the upper left hand quadrant, that’s licensing. Licensing is when we have intellectual property, training property, what have you, people want people want to license that. Typically, with larger companies move from events into a licensing agreement. We have projects. Projects primarily, we have building out sales playbooks for companies. They’re starting up, they need help. Building out sales, on boarding programs, sales compensation, helping a company figure out what their infrastructure is should be. What’s should inside sales look like? What should outside sales look like? Account management versus hunter, those types of things. We have a proprietary process for helping people understand that, walking the process.
We do assessments of sales teams and even operations teams. We have integrated partnerships. The integrated partnerships are our subscription services. Essentially, in those relationships, those organizations have said, “We want you to be part of our company.” What we’re able to do is we’re able to slot in an event. We just lead a training event. For example, I’ve got an expert in inside sales. We have an inside sales team and we need somebody here with us once a week. That just is on our floor coaching people. We need executive coaching, we need to do some hiring assessments here. We want to license some of your product, we want to use your learning management system. We have a platform called Sales Gravy University, we want to subscribe to that and be able to use that for our training. The integrated partnership is take every single thing that we do and take a client and then say to the client, “What do we need to do to help you grow your sales faster?” That’s essentially what we are. We’re a sales acceleration company and what do we need to do there? We’re able to plug different things then, but because we have a recurring revenue process or scheme in this situation and longer term contracts, it’s easy for us to deploy our assets.
We have limited assets like anyone else and into those organizations and everybody wins. We can predict what our revenue is going to be, which is important, if you have limited assets and our clients are able to predict what their spend is going to be so they’re not paying on a project basis or they’re getting nickeled and dimed over here, over there. Their overall cost goes down and our ability to be agile goes up, while at the same time our risk of deploying an asset and missing out another revenue source goes down because we’re able to deploy that asset in there. Consultants have ask me about this all the time, “How do you do that?” There are two things that I tell people. One, I asked for it. I don’t like project-based stuff and I know like hourly stuff because I’m doing hourly stuff I always feel bad when I’m sending them an invoice and you that get questioned on my hours. I don’t like project stuff because when the project’s over, I spent all of my energy on a project and now it’s over. I’m in feast or famine all the time. What I do is I just say, “This is what I recommend. That’s how I do it.” Some people don’t want to do it that way.
I’ve big companies in the Fortune 500 space who come to us on a project by project basis, but in those cases the amount of revenue we get for those projects is large enough to offset the risk of deploying assets into those projects temporarily. I was up in Boston recently in a consultant who is in my space, was asking me how do we get all these subscriptions? When I say subscription, it’s just a monthly revenue. It’s a contract that says, “The contract value is this much, but you pay me over the period of time.” Then I deploy the assets as we go. “How do you do it?” “I ask for it.” I just started asking for it because I realized I was happier in those situations. My client was happy in those situations and nobody resented anyone because we all knew exactly what we were getting and everybody was winning.
That is such an important lesson that can be applied to many different areas of business growth. Just ask for what you want. Put it out there because if you don’t, you’re not going to get it, but if you do, and many others have experienced it as well who have done this, you can often get what you want. Thank you for sharing that, Jeb. I want to ask you about your brand. You have Sales Gravy, which is your company. It’s a well -established brand. That’s where you work with your clients, but you also have the Jeb Blount brand right where you have videos and you put out content. How do you see those two in terms of supporting each other and why not run everything through Jeb Blount brand or everything through Sales Gravy. You have these two distinct brands which obviously are working together, but I’m interested in your thoughts on why you run them as separate entities?
Let’s go back to the four quadrants. If we go back in the four quadrants, number one place where people come to us is through events. The reason they come to us for the events is because I’m a well-known commodity in my particular niche. I’ve written nine books, several of which have been international bestsellers. I’m published in pretty much every language on earth other than probably in North Korea. North Korean is a language. My new book is out in Chinese. It’s moving in Chinese is as we speak, before the book even came out. People know who I am. We drive our own conferences, I do tons of keynotes and the because of that, people call in. Sales Gravy, didn’t write the book, I wrote the book. If you look at any of my book cover, SalesGravy.com, it’s on the book cover, not JebBlount.com
That was a decision that I made in 2009 and that was, “What am I going to be? Am I going to Jeb Blount, the brand? Is that going to be on brand or I’m going to have a brand that can live without me?” I made that decision. In Sales Gravy, it’s an interesting name. People don’t forget it. It’s not a very corporate name. We’ve struggled with that to some extent. I think in the early days people didn’t take it seriously because of the name of the company, these days is not so much a problem. For me, the two brands are intertwined and they’re not separate from each other. One is the way people interact with me, the human being is Jeb Blount. My name’s not Sales Gravy, it’s Jeb. People read my books and people consume my podcast and look at my videos and come to my conferences. My company, Sales Gravy, has got to be able to survive without me. Otherwise, if something happens to me, then my company folds up at the same time. There are some brands out there like Zig Ziglar where his family’s been able to keep that moving. Dale Carnegie, in the 1920s when he was alive or earlier and they’ve been able to keep that brand going. That was just a decision that I made and people have questioned my decision from time-to-time, but so far I haven’t been wrong.
When you say for the brand to be able to live beyond you, if that’s the way that you choose to or for some reason that that should happen, is it also connected to the potential and the opportunity to sell the business at some point?
Who would buy Jeb Blount? If you think about selling your business, if you’re a consultant, you sell your business and you’re everything to the business, then first of all, you got a couple of problems. One is if you sell the business, you have an earn out. If you have an earn out, you’re not going to get all the money for your business upfront and the likelihood that you get your earn out goes down exponentially. Plus if you were the business, it’s not sellable. All you have is maybe a portfolio of clients in your name. If you want to sell your company, you have to be able to sell something that is beyond you. I’m not in a situation where right now my company could go on without me, but we’re close it. If something happened to me tragically, we would probably survive, but it would be difficult. We’re not far away. We’re a couple years away. Not that I have any aim to sell my company at all, I hope that when I’m 90, I’m still running this company. I’m not looking ahead. I’m not one of these people that says, “One of these days when I get out, one of these days when I sell my company.” I love what I do. I wake up every day and I’m happy so I don’t have any desire to sell. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t build a business to sell the business.
You should create a business that is sellable and to make your business sellable as a consultant, you can’t be the business, you just can’t be the business. You talked about a proven or productization of your systems and processes. That would be one of the key things that you would need to do in order to sell your business is have a system and a product and a process. For Sales Gravy, part of the product is our intellectual property which I built because I wrote the books and then built the training programs, then built the curriculum, then built up the licensing for those particular products. Part it is the process that we go through for building playbooks and in doing basic sales acceleration consulting. You as a consultant, as you begin looking forward, I think everybody must say, and this is my opinion, “How can I sell my business?” If you are under the illusion or the delusion, either one that you can sell your business because you’re knocking down $750,000 or $1.5 million or somewhere in that neighborhood in individual consultant with a book of clients. Maybe you’re a little higher than that, but it’s pretty hard to go higher than that for all by yourself.
If you’re doing that, you have no business to sell. All you have is a lifestyle business. It’s not until you add people in that you create systems and that you begin specializing in a particular niche and get good at that particular niche that you have something that’s sellable. A lot of people don’t get our understand that, nor did I for a long time. As a business, the personality, the people in my space know and love and buy. There’s no reason for me to change that, but at the same time I’ve got to build a business that supports the families that work for me. I’ve got sixteen families that are involved in my business that we need to see and take care of. I’ve got to make sure that if my family wanted to sell the business or if we came to a place where it made sense to bring on investors so we could grow even faster, that we would have the ability to do that because we have something that be sustainable without my involvement always in the business. If that makes sense.
Jeb, I want to ask you, you’re very active on LinkedIn and in the social media sphere, it’s not just numbers, you have a lot of followers, but even more importantly, you get a lot of engagement. What is one tip that you can offer for people who want to get more engagement, want to create a higher level of authority, visibility and exposure in their own markets?
The answer is not what probably what people want to hear, but you have to work hard at it. It is a consistent commitment to posting and being a thought leader and writing articles and doing little videos and you’ve got this podcast. This is part of how you create engagement and connect with people. It’s probably the hardest thing that I do. I get burned out on social media a lot where I’ll run hard. I have a marketing person who does social media for us, but unlike a lot of people in my space, I do most of my work because people are engaging with me and talking with me. You’ve got to think about it. I’ve got a problem right now and that is that LinkedIn got good and hot and a lot of people are there. I’ve got a big Twitter following that I built over the years and I’m finding it hard to do both of those things. Likewise, because of Messenger and then there’s an Instagram inbox and a Twitter inbox and a LinkedIn inbox. Then people commenting on things on YouTube, I’m so behind and so overwhelmed with all the people that are communicating with me that I just can’t get back to. I’ve got 2,000 connection requests that are waiting that I can’t get to. It’s a double-edged sword. If you get good at getting the engagement, you’re going to pay for it because it’s going to take a lot of your time. I wake up every day, my first two hours of my day are nothing but social media, that’s all I do. Then I try to catch it during the middle of the day, but I’ll admit that I’m in that burnout period where I’m just so tired.
I think a lot of people aren’t getting into social media for one reason or another, but rather than you sharing a tactic or specific strategy, I actually appreciate that you’re sharing the reality of what it takes to be successful more than any tactic, more than any strategy, it’s the mindset, it’s the commitment to doing it consistently, but then also begin to hear what the other side looks like when you do get very good at it. Jeb, I want to thank you for coming on here. I appreciate it and having your perspectives, your insights, and getting a sense of your journey, obviously, a very successful one. Thank you so much. What is the best way for people to learn more about your upcoming book, to learn more about your company and to connect with you as well?
Barnes & Noble or Amazon, easiest places to go buy that. You can type my name in Jeb Blount. For most The brand new book is Objections, and if you’re in consulting, Objections, Sales EQ, People Buy You, Fanatical Prospecting, all books that would be relevant to what you do, but you can find those in most airports, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, wherever books are sold. I’m @salesgravy on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. I’m Sales Gravy on YouTube. You can pick up my podcast, it’s Sales Gravy podcast, on iTunes or Stitcher. Then of course connect with me on LinkedIn. I’ve got about 2,000 connection requests. Be patient. I’m trying to get a lot of people write me a note and I don’t feel good just clicking okay without responding to the note. You might actually get connected quicker if you don’t put a note on there, which is a sad thing because everybody says you need to put a note on because you can catch up with there. My website SalesGravy.com.
Jeb, thanks again. It’s been a real pleasure.
Mentioned in This Episode:
- Jeb Blount
- Sales Gravy
- Objections: The Ultimate Guide for Mastering The Art and Science of Getting Past No
- Zig Ziglar
- Dale Carnegie
- Fanatical Prospecting
- Sales EQ
- People Buy You
- Twitter @salesgravy
- Sales Gravy Facebook
- Sales Gravy Instagram
- Sales Gravy YouTube
- Sales Gravy Podcast iTunes
- Sales Gravy Podcast Stitcher