'Who Does That?'-- A Lesson For All Sellers

Two weeks ago, I got to spend time with Noel, a former co-worker of mine from the dot-com 1.0 daze.

When Noel worked for me selling ads at, he had his own online toy company on the side that made toys that glowed in the dark.  He sold them at raves.  I used to tease him that I would attend one of these raves to help him sell some glow sticks.  The thought of his 35-year-old boss showing up at a rave intrigued and mortified him.

Noel left IGN to start a street marketing and events company.  It was in the early days of Craigslist, and he figured out how to use CL to fill staffing needs quickly for street marketing “campaigns” and build a nice margin into the hourly rate he charged clients for staffing.  The company did well and Noel stayed on as a founder, but then moved on to launch his third company, where he currently works now.  

It’s a simple text-messaging management platform, so companies of any kind (he focuses on health care now) can manage thousands of text messages to thousands of people all in one place/platform.



Noel’s tech development team lives and works in Seattle, his business development team is outsourced out of New Jersey, and he lives in Costa Rica just because.  Just by happenstance, he texted me that he was in Philadelphia for a conference as I was preparing to get on a train in Washington DC to return back to New York.  I jumped at the chance to see him and hopped off at the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia to spend the night in the city of brotherly love.

We met up around 6 p.m. and talked well into the evening.  We talked about our old TEAM at IGN, we talked about our wives, our kids, and we reminisced about the time he and I came up with the idea that you should be able to “hail a slice” from a pizza taxi instead of walking around looking for a pizza place.

We of course talked about his current company. He shared how hard it has been these past nine years to get his current company to a place where his success appears easy.  I asked him about the events marketing company he started after leaving IGN, and he said it’s still around.  

He then shared a story that stuck with me enough to write about, because there was a simple lesson in it for all of us selling for a living.

Noel told me about a sales call he went on when he first started the event marketing company.  The meeting was with an ad agency in San Francisco looking to execute an innovative street marketing campaign for a new car launch.

He knew his small start-up couldn’t handle the full implementation of this marketing project, but he also knew the ad agency had to first figure out if what they'd promised their client could even be executed.  So Noel created a “feasibility proposal” suggesting that he and his small team do a mini test campaign and report back to the agency how to best move forward.

Noel put a deck together to present to a very senior agency executive. The executive opened the printed, bound handout and looked at the very first page that simply read “$60,000.” He asked Noel, “What is this?”  Noel said it was the price for the test campaign he was presenting.  The agency executive then asked, “Who does that?”

Noel felt bad and explained he assumed the executive would be wondering how much the program would cost, so why not address it upfront.  Then, with purest intentions, he offered to rip that page out and place it further back in the deck.

Noel’s company won the opportunity.  It was the biggest sale for his start-up at the time.

Ad-tech (and publishing) salespeople spend a lot of time in meetings talking about their product or service and how they do what they do.  Meanwhile, the buyer waits for the cost to be mentioned — or worse, has to ask, “How do you get paid?”

Leading with price on the first page is an eye-opener for sure.  Leading with a page on the specific benefits your program or product will deliver, followed directly by the cost, makes a lot of sales sense.

If you can’t get a buyer to agree to the benefits you will deliver, and immediately consider the costs to experience these benefits, then talking about your product or service seems senseless. That’s how Noel sees it.

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