My 20 Year Goal
As you may know, I hate the word “I” or referring to myself, especially when it comes to selling. However to provide a little context and the reasons why you will be reading the program below, unfortunately I will have to break some of my own cardinals rules in the process. Already used three I’s and only three “you’s”, which is 1:1 risk reward (more on that later).
For as long as I can remember I have always been selling something. Back in elementary school I was hustling Pokemon cards learning about supply and demand, in high school I was running and blowing up my candy hustle where I learned that once you say “this will last forever”, it's usually just about to end. No matter what I am working on, I will always be ‘focusing on improving’, not ‘resting on my laurels’ and this is a rule that I’ve not broken in over a decade.
After that I had a crack at a trading blog, however I had no clue what the fuck I was doing and that died a quick death. Though, The Stock Blog can still be found on Facebook. Of my 50 free members from back in 2008, 10% of them are Trading Experts members now, talk about a long ass sales process (that we will hopefully help speed up through this program).
After the candy business and beginning my trading career, I started up a vending machine business where I learned how the point of the sale was a way to benefit the customer (not my own pocket) with proceeds usually going to a charity of their choice. This was a crutch that was needed to expand that business.
I ambitiously tried to expand onto my college campus and even met with the Dean, business plan in hand (pre him telling me I could never get a job on Wall Street). He listened patiently to my pitch, but the words “non compete, Sodexo, and lawsuit” crushed that plan. I still learned about margins and volume, a gumball cost me around $.01, and would sell for $.25 (huge margin) yet the $.25 of Skittles or M&Ms cost almost $.12 (shit margins). Guess where I put my focus? Fucking gumballs! Vending machines were cool but gumball machines paid. In business most want the glamor, I just wanted the quarters.
During my time in college I also started and ran one of the most profitable frats (PIKE) on my campus (after my departure they were kicked off campus the following semester). Don't ask me about frat stuff as I find it corny. However from a business standpoint, when you run it, you are making decisions daily. Granted they were absolutely useless decisions, but decisions nonetheless.
The major takeaway was learning how easy it is to sell things when you don’t have a monetary incentive or any real risk at hand. What do I mean by that? Well, members paid dues, and we used those dues to invest in t-shirts that we got for $5 a pop and sold for $25. Essentially for every brother who paid $200 in dues, I was able to turn them into a $1,000 a semester brother, which was 2X more then most expensive frat on campus. We were the cheapest and had the largest bankroll, so it did not take long for us to become the largest on campus. Given my prior sales experience I worked selling shirts to my favor. No one wanted to do the work, however the work entailed knocking on every dorm room and asking a simple question. Granted half these dorms were housing women and they were my target market for more than just the monetary reason. I always brought a pledge around with me to carry the inventory and to give me the sense of authority. Each semester I was able to sell hundreds of t-shirts to girls on campus, and would get their numbers to “deliver the shirts” to them (as a result our parties always had a great ratio). Also all our profits were tax free since fraternity tax treatment put us essentially in the same category as a not for profit charity.
From there my first big chop came from selling blenders while in college, yes blenders like the ones you use to mix up your protein shake. I was buying wholesale from my customer service job on the low. I was always in the top 5% of the highest sellers each month yet I only worked a 5th of the time compared to my full time real world adult peers (who were twice my age). I learned pretty quick that people don't buy on Mondays at call centers, they call to complain about the product (their lives really), so there was no TGIM for me! Friday, Saturday and Sunday tend to be when people open their wallets in the real world and also at call centers, so that was where I cleaned up.
It was no coincidence that at the same time all the 40 hour a week grinders were off at home relaxing, I was closing sales left and right, and as I am writing this, nothing has changed. It’s Friday at 9:51 PM on 4/20, most of my peers are either at the bars, maybe even lighting one up. Sure I might miss the pregame, but I can still make it to last call. That sales job was the first time I started keep stats on my sales (index card lesson), I kept a little notebook where I tracked my number of calls and my sales for each day with a pen and paper like it was 1902. A prime reason why I was able to always be one of the top salesmen is because I knew my numbers to the penny, inside and out. If I sold over $1,000 before lunch I would treat myself to 2 buffalo chicken slices at Hollywood Pizza across the street and a Dr Pepper (costing around $7), if I didn't then it was $1 ramen noodles and $.25 worth of my own Skittles from my own vending machine at my job. Yes I was one of my own best customers, if you can't believe in yourself who will? Does it count as a profit if you bought the inventory and sold it to your sell for a 100% markup?
Back to the ‘Blender Ben’ days as my friends use to call me, they would call up and say exactly what I told them (instead of being greedy and taking the sale) I made sure it was a random rep who would be getting these $1,000+ orders and $40 commissions (we got 4% if we sold over $10k a month, 3% if we were under, I was never under $10,000 in sales, not once). They would call, order 5 blenders, say the magic words to get the best deal, would call back two weeks later to “complain” and would get an $80 credit to “save the sale”, which my friends got to keep for making two 5 minute phone calls, an easy incentive for a broke college kid (people respond to incentives). You might be thinking that sounds like a set up, if you are, shut your noble ass up, their cost basis on these blenders was $28 and sold them for $300 and ripped their customers off, so bite me.
After the blenders would arrive at their house, they would drop them off to me and I would turn around and flip those same blenders on Amazon for $300 to $500 over my cost (there was supply to buy, and I was the only demand on Amazon at that time*). I also had other friends list the same blender at even higher prices to make my offer look even more attractive. Something today that can get you banned from Amazon and a lesson I would later learn during Black Friday (even though I made $50,000+ profit in 72 hours of a completely different product years later). What was mind boggling was that there were times that people would buy the higher priced blender simply because the price was higher and they perceive the $498 blender to be better than the $387 one (all the while they were all my listings). I kept reinvesting the profits back into more blenders (as I do with my trading today) until similar to the candy business, my entire room was filled floor to ceiling with almost $50,000 worth of blenders that cost me $0 (the first order was made on my credit card, once they were sold, I paid off the credit card and used the profits to buy double, rinse and repeat).
Now at one point my business came to a grinding halt on Amazon, which was my own wrongdoing as I had asked my boss why he didn't sell on Amazon? (who was the cheapest guy worth $200 million you could ever meet). A week later he was on Amazon which destroyed the headlock I had being the only seller selling said blender (lesson again in supply and demand except I was on the wrong end of the deal).
Now I had a choice, I could either undercut him and sell the $50k worth of free blenders for around $10k or wait it out. Knowing he was a cheap rich man, the 25% cut Amazon took would be too much for him to bear over time. He famously dangled an all expense paid trip for the entire 100+ person staff to Cancun a year out if we exceeded our goal, which we did, only for him to renege 2 months prior to the trip (he still went to Cancun though). What were we going to do? We took it on the chin that's what we did. We know how to sell, however he knew why and that's why he was the boss.
Now all my friends thought I was crazy to hold out even my family, but I did, and he ended up pulling off Amazon a few weeks before spring break of my senior year (about 8 months later). As the blender money started to roll in, a few of my friends and myself went on what was supposed to be a 3 day trip to West Virginia University that turned into a 3 week trip that ended in the Bahamas. This was my first real light bulb moment, that selling things were the money was - not working for some hourly wage. In a 1 month span I made more selling blenders than it would take me spending 5 years as a customer service rep doing what I was doing. I quit that job and never looked back.
During these times I also planned and booked summer beach rentals for my friends, turning $5k deposits on a house into $20k from charging everyone flat rates and covering the costs of drinks and food. However after leaving college the buzz of MDW and shore houses died off just like the show. Fast forward years later and I am back planning even more epic vacations (Heli Skiing at the #1 Resort in the world, staying in mountain top villas in Costa Rica where the clouds blow through the windows as the sun rises, and staying at ocean front villas where wild pigs are our neighbors).
After college, the blender come up, and a few chats with some of my MIT friends, we figured out a way to arbitrage textbooks on Amazon, that quickly blew up to the point that my AMX bills were 6 figures a month and don't forget AMX are charge cards, not credit cards. You need to pay in full at the end of the month. Money management was a huge lesson during those times where I could be selling $20,000 in a day, yet was doing the math if I could afford to buy a bagel for breakfast. Amazon was my fifth business and the first business to eclipse a million dollars in sales, where learning the lessons about Uncle Sam came into play. I learned how to use my expenses in my favor and also expand the business by paying friends to do the tasks that I didn't have time to do (or wanted to do) while starting out my career as a prop trader in the city. I also learned that when you are paying people, no matter what they will always complain, so why not pay them less? A lesson that two years prior as a rep, I thought my boss was so greedy by paying us $10 a hour, yet fast forwarding to this business, I saw why he did it and virtually every major company under pays their employees for the same reason.
From there my next battle would be my first service business. Prior everything had simply been selling a product, however after a battle with UBER requesting one when there was still surge pricing at 12:01 on New Years and waking up to a $304 charge for a 2 mile ride, I had a lightbulb moment. The limo was purchased a week later and I no longer would have to use UBER’s service for over 5 years (out of spite). I even tried to get a F UBER license plate however DMV gave me a hard no. Now the limo was nowhere near a cash cow like quarter million dollar months selling on Amazon, however the lessons learned about selling a service, going above and beyond expectations, having flat simple pricing and focusing simply on the customer having the best time ever helped that business grow (referrals). The biggest (and most surprising) lesson was the more people paid for the service the nicer they were. All of my freeloading friends who I gave rides to for free yet I never once hung out with them one on one, were the first to complain about traffic in the city on a Friday at 5 o’clock. Or that the free bottles I provided weren’t chilled enough. Yet the clients who were paying $150 a head for round trip service in NYC were the most polite. Renting the Aston out and the thought of expanding into exotic rentals made me salivate (the Skittles) however that is a fucking tough business with razor thin margins and behind the glamour (if you are not a mechanic) you will fall flat on your face. So I rented out the Aston for a few weddings, $1000 here, $1000 there, $50,000 insurance check for a $100 repair, simple stuff. $10,000+ clutch repair (twice) both times the customer didn't pay for the rental or the repair. I had to take those on the chin with a smile.
The smart money route is the less glamorous one (the Gumball), a Toyota Corolla can get $75 a day on Turo ride and be booked 20 days a month, yet an R8 might fetch $200 a day and you’re lucky if it's booked 2 times in a month, and one repair will set you behind 6 months. However, I knew that I was not set out to be the owner of a limo and exotic car company simply because it was not my passion.
After the dip into the service business, I went back to my bread and butter which was selling products. The pivot now was into drop shipping which is now one of the most overplayed words used in today's wanna-preneur world. I would drop ship from china (never seeing, holding or touching my inventory) I had an endless supply that cost me $0, all I had to do was sell. I had 5 IG accounts up, and pretended to be a smoke show (I was selling to 95% men) so I was Claire with a huge set of tits. Now the lesson of truly caring about your clients was the primary lesson from that business. My friends also thought I was nuts to pretend to be a female, (a recurring theme). Ever buy something completely useless because some hot chick was talking to you, yet if it was a guy you would have told them to fuck off? That’s why I was Claire ;)
There was a time when one of my clients didn't answer my text and I didn't hear back from him for 2 weeks. I was on vacation in the devil's asshole (Vegas) not by choice, telling my friend how I was concerned about my client, he looked back at me as if I was fucking crazy. Only to find out that my client had fallen off a platform and fractured his spine and was in a coma for a few weeks (when he finally texted me back a selfie of him in a hospital bed). All of those clients could have easily shopped cheaper, however we had true friendships, I knew their kids names, their wives names, was invited to dinners and vacations that I had to decline, and most are still clients to this day. As with the others, I shut down this business too to focus on TE. Now the theme is recurring, I closed the business down as I could not put the effort of talking to 100-300 people a day into it, but still my real loyal clients started to come back to me, before it was a push, me pushing the sale and focusing on the upsell. Now it was reversed. They came to me, there was no need to discount or even try to sell (similar to the ease of selling T shirts in college) not only was I able to essentially double and triple my prices, it was now only 2% of the work. They hit me up when they needed something and that was it, I didn't have to prospect, worry about returns, nothing, just get what they wanted. The even bigger shift was since these were loyal customers. I fronted them their orders, taking an almost Amazon like route of reducing as much friction as possible. They told me what they wanted, I still up and cross sold much larger orders and all I would say is done, you'll have it in two weeks, I will follow up after it arrives. Then they would pay after they got everything they wanted which helped me turn average orders of $300 each into average orders of $1500+ each. Same story again, all my friends thought I was nuts, shopping for strangers and paying for everything up front on my own dime.
Sure some people stiffed me however it was simple they were off my list, they bit the hand that fed them, when the business came back to life it was again client focused first. How can I make their lives easier and learning about keeping account receivables in order was key too. Now after all of those lessons selling 7 figure plus of products and services and 6 of 7 businesses later, TE was the next one. The same theme, didn't matter how fancy we looked, or how many followers we had (all the fluff that rookies in the game think matters). What mattered was that we were in the trenches talking to hundreds of people a day while they all told me to fuck off (saying no), no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no and no. The primary lessons from a sales aspect were all on framing, anchoring, providing over the top value (with a big help from my partner Shake), and learning how to handle objections as well, and as TE continues to grow and expand there will be even more lessons to come.
Now I am telling you this story for a few reasons, number one, you can see that I have sold quite a few different products and services, learning from them all. More importantly as each new business was started, I was able to use prior lessons learned and each new venture has grown in both total sales and speed of sales (the only two fucking things that matter in business). My longer term 20 year goal is to have over a Billion dollars in annual revenue and if I can reach that goal, with 4 years at that level, becoming a billionaire is easily attainable.
Now you’re reading this and probably saying yeah sure you’re crazy, which is the same thing my dean told me when I wanted to get a job on Wall St, same thing my friends said about me buying an Aston and a Limo at 23, and the same thing they all said about each business. The difference is that each day that they say that's crazy, is another day that I am in the trenches selling the products or services that can help save my clients time, help them make money or make them feel better about themselves. Now if you can also learn from my mistakes and improve your sales skills that's awesome, what's even better is if I can get you to be an even better salesman than myself and we can work together and get towards my goal of $1 billion in sales and trust me there is always plenty to go around for a successful salesman. Remember employees are paid by the hour, salesman earn commission, that's the difference between players and kings.
From Bennett Zamani