Statistically, 95% of consumers look at a review before they make a purchase. However, 82% of those specifically seek out negative reviews before the next purchase. Interestingly, when people found that the product is too perfect, they begin to doubt it and even stay away. Revealing all of these things is sales philosopher and the author of The Transparency Sale, Todd Caponi. Todd shares a unique way of selling which is to lead with our flaws and becoming transparent. Learn as he takes us into this fresh point-of-view backed with neuroscience that could change the way we view sales forever.
Continuing with the talk on sales is the Pitch Queen and host of Success Unfiltered, Michelle Weinstein. Helping those who want to make money but are not good at it, she talks about the ways you can generate new clients and even attract people if you are in the podcasting space. She touches on her Shark Tank experience and shares some pointers for business owners on knowing when to hire a sales consultant, and more.
We had Todd Caponi and Michelle Weinstein here. Todd is a sales philosopher. He’s the author of The Transparency Sale. Michelle is the Pitch Queen and she’s the host of Success Unfiltered. We’re going to talk about all things sales.
Listen to the podcast here:
Transparency In Sales with Todd Caponi
I am here with Todd Caponi, who is a sales philosopher and he’s the author of The Transparency Sale. It’s nice to have you here, Todd.
Thanks for having me.
I know we have some friends in common. Cindy Gordon introduced us originally. I want to know more about you, and on purpose, I didn’t get to know you until we got on the interview because it’s more interesting that way. I want to know a little bit about your background and how you got to know Cindy and what led up to this point.
My background is a little crazy. I’ve been a sales philosopher and I’ve always been a big nerd for how people buy and how the brain works and all of that. I’ve been the Chief Revenue Officer of a fast-growing tech company here in Chicago called PowerReviews for four years. Before that, I was on the sales leadership team of a company called ExactTarget based in Indianapolis. We grew with them to a successful IPO and then Salesforce.com bought us for about $3 billion back in 2013. I’ve got some experiences like that before but all of a sudden, I came up with this revelation about the world of selling and where I see it evolving. I put a proposal together for a book and I got three publishing offers. I ended up taking one and left my job. I’ve now dove into this new world of speaking, training and consulting that I’ve been doing.
It’s hard to get book contracts. What was the unique angle on your book that you think was appealing to the publishers?
When you think about what PowerReviews does, I was running sales for them. PowerReviews help retailers and brands collect and display ratings and reviews on their websites. If you’re on Vineyard Vines or Crocs or Jet and you’re buying something and you look to the right or below it, you’ll see the reviews. That’s what PowerReviews does. They were the engine behind that. We did a study that looked at consumers when they buy something online. 95% of consumers look at a review before they make a purchase they are unfamiliar with. They’re trying to predict their experience and 82% specifically seek out the negative reviews before the next purchase. As consumers, we’re trying to predict what our experience is going to be like. If everything’s perfect, we don’t believe it to the point where a consumer is more willing to buy a product that has an average review score between a four-two and a four-five.
A four-two sells better than a five. Imperfect, when the website is acting as the salesperson, sells better than perfect. I looked across at my sellers and I thought about my past and I’m like, “I’ve been teaching sellers to position our products as perfect and we’re driving people away when we do that. Is there an opportunity to lead with our flaws and be transparent like Amazon or one of these websites do with displaying cons right next to the product? What if we did that?” The minute I started doing it, the sales cycle sped up. Win rates went up and we made it hard on our competitors. It was amazing. I was like, “I think I need to write about this.” That inspired the book.
I know on Amazon everybody’s having all their buddies write good things, especially with books. I don’t know how much I rely on book reviews, but for products like clothes and stuff, I think I do. When you go to the negative, you want to say, “What’s the thing that this person is annoyed by? Is that something that’s going to annoy me?”
I’ve gotten into this author circle here. I’ve talked to a number of them and one guy called me and said, “Todd, I’m so mad. I got a negative review of my book. I got a one-star.” The one star was about the length of a vacuum cord. Apparently, this consumer clearly put the review under the wrong product. I told him, “You validated the rest of your reviews by having a one star in there.” As upsetting as that may seem, it makes the rest of them look valid. When you look at mine, ironically my review score is a four, eight, five, but the most helpful ones, when people click on Amazon’s most helpful, it’s the fours. People view the fours as, “This must not be one of Todd’s buddies. This person is here to tell the truth.” Ironically a couple of people put fours because I talk about that in the book. It was a little backward.
That’s a good thing to know though. When they first came out with reviews, people trusted them, but then you started to hear all the things. Everybody always wants to play the system and the people who do reviews, it’s almost like the people fill out surveys. There’s a certain person that likes to do it. Sometimes the bad reviews, it has to be so bad for me to write a review. It’s time-consuming and that you’re going to get scathing from the people who give you the low reviews.
That’s why when I looked at that, the four-two to the four-five thing, I immediately went to neuroscience. I’m like, “What happens in the brain to cause people to be more trusting of imperfect than perfect. When you think about the world of selling, let’s say you’re selling something big, whether it’s a piece of technology or equipment or a house or whatever it is. We all know that what we’re about to buy into when I bought my house here, I knew that everything wouldn’t be perfect. When the realtor is presenting my house as being perfect like, “This is the greatest thing you’re ever going to buy,” I ended up going and doing more homework on my own. The realtor or the seller lost control of the process when I started doing that. I don’t believe the realtor because they’re painting this perfect picture.
That’s what we as consumers do. If that realtor came to me and said, “Here’s what’s awesome about the house. Here are a couple of things that are probably going to annoy you. There’s no light in the master bedroom. The builder believes that you should use lamps and they did not put any wiring for lights.” I’m like, “That’s weird.” Some of those types of things, first of all, build the trust I have in the person selling to me. Second of all, the person selling to me maintains control of the whole process because I do not feel like I have to go do more homework on my own. That’s the magic of this whole leading with your flaws and transparency is you build that trust, which is obviously key, but you maintain control and you speed the whole cycles and you end up with more referrals as a result.
I was in sales for many decades and I can remember a lot of what we were taught was to paint a picture. I’ve had some people on my show who say, “It’s great to paint a picture,” and others who say, “No, that’s not the good way.” When I was in pharmaceutical sales, for example, I remember one guy. I was telling him, “If you’ve got a patient, they’re going to call you in the middle of the night. They will wake you up. They’ve got a migraine and you’re going to have to go. They’re going to go to the ER and you’ve got all this pain that you have to deal with. If they could take this medication, it would save you and the patient all of these problems.” I was painting this picture in his mind and he looks at me and he says, “I don’t care if they go the ER. That comes out of somebody else’s budget.” I mean, not to go to you. Do we still do that? Do we still paint pictures or is that not the way to go?
It absolutely has to be. The way that our brains are wired is to make decisions based on feelings and emotion and back it up with logic. The only role it’s used is to justify the decision that you made. Antonio Damasio has got some amazing research in a book called Descartes’ Error. It’s about a guy that had a tumor on his limbic, which is that midbrain where the emotion happens. When it was removed, the connection broke and essentially the person could no longer experience emotion and also could no longer make decisions, which is amazing. Let’s say you’re going to go present and you’ve got a room full of people that are thinking about buying from you. Emotions and story painting that picture is what brings people together. Emotion and stories bind and where logic polarizes. We see that in politics all the time, where the more that we layer logic on, the more people get embedded in their previously held beliefs. We’ve got to paint pictures. We’ve got to tell stories because that’s what brings people together into a consensus type of sale.The more that we layer logic on, the more people get embedded in their previously held beliefs. Click To Tweet
The whole neuroscience behind all of this is fascinating to me. I wrote my dissertation on emotional intelligence, and I’ve been writing about curiosity and perception. All the things that I write about ties into what you’re talking about there and then how much emotions play into so many aspects of the business. You hear emotional intelligence and they go, “We know emotional intelligence is important,” or whatever. They have certain ideas about certain things being important, but they don’t grasp it for some other areas. You’ve probably seen the Phineas Gage story that they talk about for emotional intelligence where he had his brain pierced in the part that managed emotions and all of a sudden, he’s not as nice, friendly and wonderful as he used to be.
He’s more impulsive and his emotions are unreliable. It teaches us a lot to learn about how everybody else thinks. In sales particularly, it was interesting for me to take these personality assessments. I worked in this one company where they had us put our personality type on our cubicle. We did it with Management By Strengths, the color one where you’re either blue, green, red or yellow. Do you think that we need to do that with people? To put them into categories somehow in our mind like, “This guy’s an extrovert, this one’s a direct,” or whatever term you want to use. Does it help you with sales at all to do that?
I don’t think so. I think that we as human beings, our brains are 99.9% the same. We have those little intricacies around introverts versus extroverts and how people like to do things. I joke about with sellers and salespeople that before the information age and the digital age came to light, it was easy for sellers to sell because they were the source of all information that you would get if you were going to buy something. The information age came about and if you didn’t change, you became the equivalent of a drive-through attendant. Buyers would come with all their research done and say, “I want this and this, and this is how much I’m going to pay for it,” and you try to upsell them a bag of fries. That meant that we had to become more like almost personal trainers where we needed to start going, “What are you trying to accomplish? You can do more than that. I’m going to put together a plan to help you do that.”
Now with the proliferation of reviews and feedback and all this decision science that’s come about, I believe that sellers are like personal trainers. They become more like doctors. They need to start diagnosing issues and start using decision science to be able to be most effective. Looking across the sales community, I don’t think we need to get too far too fast. At its simplest level, if we grasp this idea that imperfect sells better than perfect and that emotions and feelings are the way we make decisions through stories, we back that up with the logic and help buyers on that journey to predict what their experience is going to be like. That’s step one. Step two, years from now when we have artificial intelligence running our lives and sellers need to change again, that next step may be required. I don’t think we’re quite ready for that.
It’s so interesting to see how many different skills you need to have in sales. You have to be able to listen. You have to be able to diagnose issues. You have to be able to ask the right questions. That pulls out why I wrote about curiosity in some respects. I have several mortifying examples of things I did because I didn’t listen or do the right thing. I tell once in a while about when I was in pharmaceuticals. I gave three product presentation to this doctor. I was so proud of myself that I got through all three products. I got on the elevator to go get my samples, and the door was about to close.
This guy gets on with me and since I am an extrovert, I can’t handle being quiet for three floors. I said, “Do you work in the building?” He looks at me and he goes, “You just detailed me.” He was the guy I sold to and I didn’t even look at him. I gave him all three products sales without asking them any questions and without having any conversation. It was the most mortifying thing ever. We get these things where you do these stupid things. It’s all about building relationships and listening and it’s a lot of the soft skills. Where are all these sales people getting this training?
There are a lot of old school methodologies out there. I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but the Gallup Organization put out a study around the least and most trusted professions. Every year, it’s the same. Always at the top are veterinarians and nurses, then the bottom three are telemarketers, car salespeople, and the bottom is members of Congress, which is funny. It’s because of this whole idea that salespeople can’t be trusted. They come and do the things like you said they do. They just talk at you like, “I’m going to throw a bunch of features, benefits and logic at you and hope something sticks.” There are so many resources out there.
If you look across the sales community, there’s a new role that you probably hadn’t even heard of many years ago and now every company has it. It’s somebody who runs what’s called sales enablement. The sales enablement professionals are popping up and now they’re becoming departments. There are societies and communities of these people that are learning from each other and then taking these learnings to these organizations. The world of selling is evolving so quickly that these enablement people are required. Now, these communities, societies and groups that are bringing these ideas together are what’s required to get the salespeople off the bottom of that list. I think they have to. I can’t imagine a couple of years from now, salespeople still being the least trusted profession and still being a valid profession.
We had great product training, especially in pharmaceuticals. The intensity of that training, if you didn’t get 90% or something, you’d lose your job. It was so intense, the words and everything that you had to memorize: products, body functions and all that. They trained you in sales, but it wasn’t so much listening or interacting as it was, what you should say to the doctor. When I was in real estate, they don’t give you any training. When you are in mortgage sales, I had the most helpful knowledge in some respects because I got some underwriter training. Understanding the process behind what other people do past the sales process or in the review process or the support process, I always thought that was important. A lot of the places, at least when I’ve worked in the past in sales that they needed to help the conversational, emotional intelligence, transparency part of it. When you say transparency, what exactly do you mean by that?
Transparency, imagine you’re going to go buy something, let’s say it’s something pretty complex. You’re probably going to go do homework beyond the claims of the seller. You’re likely going to do a search online and say, “What is it like to work with this company? What is it like to buy this product?” I’m looking for reviews on this product. What are they going to find? As sellers, if you’re hiding any of that and you think that you’re going to get away with that, that your buyers aren’t going to find it on their own, you’re kidding yourself. The idea of transparency is to understand exactly what your product’s pros and cons are. Be able to message that in a way that hits that for two to four-five if we’re thinking about eCommerce.
Position your products as being imperfect and make sure that your customers can predict what their experience is going to be like. One example of that, imagine you’re a furniture retailer. Wouldn’t you think it would be incredibly easy to beat Ikea? With Ikea, that whole experience is a nightmare. You go in, there’s no sales person to help you. You’ve got to write down the code. You’ve got to go to the warehouse, get the giant box onto a cart that doesn’t have brakes. You’ve got to jam it into your car like you’re playing Tetris. You get home, you’ve got a couple of injuries, you open the box and the instructions are the worst thing you’ve ever seen. Yet, Ikea continues to be the largest furniture retailer in the world for eight years in a row.
The way I look at it is they tell the world, “You’re going to experience these things in your buying journey, but your end result is going to be modern Scandinavian design furniture that you didn’t pay a whole lot for.” When I think about that from a business perspective, it’s great. What are we not going to be good at so that we can be good at the things that we think matter and then positioning that to your customers like, “These are the things that we don’t do? We don’t do those so we can be awesome at X, Y and Z.” I believe that’s transparency. When I said there was a second thing, I have to impart the words of Tyra Banks. She has a book that came out called Perfect Is Boring, but she coined this term, flawsome. Flawsome is to embrace your flaws but know that you’re still awesome. If you’re going to be successful in sales, embrace your flaws. Know that you’re still awesome. If your product’s not awesome, you’re probably not going to be there long anyway.
I agree with what you said on all that. What it brought to mind was the sign, and I’m sure you’ve seen that, “Come in and try the worst meatball sandwich that one guy on Yelp had his entire life,” or whatever it was. Everybody else started to do that. You get one cute idea. If you look that up on Google, everybody’s saying come in and it’s the worst thing ever. It doesn’t work anymore. It was a cute way of saying that no one’s perfect and making light of it, but once something’s out there and these companies have these bad reviews. It’s great if you’re at five and it brings you to 4.2. What if it’s really bad? What suggestions do you have? Do you address it?
You have to embrace your flaws. Sometimes I see people that take the negative reviews that they’ve got and they tried to beat up the people and tell them that they’re wrong. I don’t know who goes for that. Every company makes mistakes. When you make a mistake, you own it. If it results in a one-star review on your site, go own it. Most of these websites where they leave reviews, you can put in replies. If you’re a restaurant and there’s a Google review that you don’t like, you can go in and reply to it. The ones that have been successful at it have been the ones that say, “I’m sorry you had a bad experience. We’re taking your information, we’re learning from it, we’re making adjustments and why don’t you come back in and we’ll buy you lunch next time.” Things like that make a huge difference.Imperfect sells better than perfect. Click To Tweet
There are many sites and everybody’s rating everybody. Each industry has its own site. My husband’s a plastic surgeon, he goes to RealSelf.com and they do all that back and forth. That’s so hard when you get something personal to that level. There are many areas of sales and I’m always interested in hearing about how everybody’s doing the different types of sales these days. There is so much great software. There are many ways to track it. It’s a much more interesting thing to be in every year. I could see your book would be something that many people could use. I’m wondering if you wouldn’t mind sharing how people might get your book, find out more about you and contact you.
The book is called The Transparency Sale. You can get it anywhere books are sold. As you can imagine, somebody like me, I wrote my first book. There’s a Barnes and Noble two miles away from here. I, my wife and kids were in there and I walked over to the business section and saw it on the shelf and I almost burst into tears. It’s the coolest thing ever when you have that happen. Literally, the book is available hardcover. It’s called The Transparency Sale, my publisher has the designer designed the cover as a transparent acetate cover, so it looks super cool on the shelf.
I love that. I couldn’t believe it when I saw that. I was like, “This is the coolest thing.”
I thought so too, that was great. I wish it was my idea. It’s out on Kindle and then I did the audiobook myself. I read it myself, which is a lot of fun. It’s a total bucket list thing for me. I don’t know if I would do it again, but it’s on every audiobook provider that you can find.
I didn’t even do my own audiobook. My favorite audiobook narrator ever is Dion Graham and I got him to do my book. That was the coolest thing ever. I give you a lot of credit because it’s one of the hardest things. People say it’s brutal, so congratulations. It was so nice to have you on the show, Todd. Thank you so much. I’m so glad Cindy introduced us.
That was a blast. Thanks for having me.
Selling For The Unexperienced with Michelle Weinstein
I am here with Michelle Weinstein, who’s known as the Pitch Queen. She works with CEOs at billion-dollar companies to help them land national retailers. She even pitched her way onto ABC’s Shark Tank. It’s nice to have you here, Michelle.
Thank you so much for having me. It’s an honor to be here.
This is going to be fun. I was looking forward to this. I want to get a little background on you, in case people aren’t aware of what you’ve done in the past. Can you give a little background on how you became the Pitch Queen?
I’ve worked with some massive companies. I previously had a freshly prepared meal company and I worked with companies like Costco and The Vitamin Shoppe and was pitching some of the biggest retailers getting my products in there. My whole journey stemmed from back in the day I was a financial analyst. I couldn’t stand sitting in a cubicle all day long. I learned that I love being with people. One of the things that I realized in my last company was that I was good at a few things, but I wasn’t good at a lot of other things.
One of the things I was great at was establishing genuine, lasting long business relationships. That’s how I became the Pitch Queen. I had to close my last company. I was sitting down with a friend, his name is Sean Croxton, and I said, “I’m not sure what I’m going to do next.” We made a list of all the things that I loved about what I did at my last company. Even prior to that, I had a part-time gig at Nordstrom out of college. I was good at doing upscale women’s clothing. I was in the mortgage business. I was a loan officer and then I got my real estate license.
I’ve done real estate, and everything was all about not only that entrepreneurial life, but it was about the sales element, the relationship building and the conversions. That’s what became the Pitch Queen. I’ve pitched investors, buyers, clients. The Pitch Queen, I don’t think it’s more so a pitch. It was how do I come up with a name that’s not my own? A lot of women are in the online space. I might get married one day and my last name might change. If I’m the Pitch Queen, then it doesn’t matter what my last name is. That’s how the Pitch Queen was born. That’s how I got my name.
It’s an interesting backstory because you and I have a lot in common. I sold mortgages, real estate, pharmaceuticals and just about anything you can imagine I’ve sold. It’s interesting when you were talking about the good and the bad things, the things you like, the things that you don’t like. I can remember when I was in pharmaceutical sales, we were sitting around a table and we were talking about what’s the best part of your job? I remember some of the things they listed, I thought, “That’s the stuff I hate the most,” and that was their favorite thing. They love driving. I’m thinking, “Why would you like that? The worst part of my day was the driving.” I’m a nerd. I like doing my expense reports and the financial stuff, paperwork and stuff. I didn’t mind and they thought I was insane for that. It’s important to know what you’re good and you’re bad at. Sometimes you’re good at things that don’t make you money. What if you want to make money but you’re not good at it?Emotions and feelings are the way people make decisions. Click To Tweet
For anyone who wants to make money, but you’re not good at it, the sales related items in your business, that’s the only way you can generate new clients. It’s the only way you can get your products on the shelves. It’s one of those things that you can learn. If you’re an entrepreneur or you own your own business, you signed up for 24/7 sales career. There’s no way you can work with a client or sell your products online if you don’t have any knowledge of the word and the background of what a sale is, a sales conversation, a relationship, anything like that. It’s important that it’s an area that you start researching and learning.
I have a podcast that I can help you with. If you listen to it, you can learn a lot. It’s totally free. It’s Success Unfiltered. There are many resources out there. I would say if you want to do your own business or you’re an entrepreneur and you’re out there hustling every day, the sales element is crucial to your success because if you don’t have topline revenue, then you have a hobby. It’s like if you go get a job, like in pharmaceutical, they’re giving you a list of leads. They’re giving you people to call on, they’re giving you the doctors to reach out on, but if you created that company on your own, you would have to create your own leads. You would have to create your own call list. You would have to create all of that. If you just want a job, then go get a job because they’re doing all of the marketing to get you the leads in order to call them.
You’re bringing up some interesting points about the types of sales and some of the things are easier to sell than others. You have Success Unfiltered, your podcast. I have a lot of people who listen to this who want to do a podcast and they want to monetize it. A lot of people I know use it as a loss leader for other things. They either want to speak or they want to consult, or they want to do other things. Other people are trying to sell advertising space and that’s challenging for a lot of them until they get a certain number of downloads. Do people ask you a lot about that? I’m curious, what advice would you give to people who are in the podcasting space.
It’s all about your sales process. If you are a podcast host and you are looking to get a sponsor on your podcast, that’s the same thing as you’re doing a pharmaceutical sales thing or if I’m selling a home or if I am raising money. At the end of the day, it’s the exact same cycle. We have to understand the prospecting. Prospecting is which advertisers are you going to reach out to? For me, one of my first sponsors on Success Unfiltered was Logitech camera. I had to build a relationship. I had to craft an email that would capture their interest. I had to make sure that my pitch was in their best interest and was a benefit to them. Granted, I was a big fan of their products. I still am, I use them all the time.
There’s a full process on how and what do you say in order to attract a sponsor for your show. It’s not always about downloads. That’s one of them, however, what is it that’s unique about you? How are you related to that product? I love any product that I put on my show. I’ve got these vitamins from Care/of, they’re awesome. There’s a payroll service that’s amazing for entrepreneurs and business owners that have a one-man show like me and a bunch of other people. I had a company so similar to HelloFresh for so long that I can talk about it authentically or Lola, it’s all these organic products for females. I turned down sponsors too because I don’t align.
If I don’t align, I’m not going to talk about it. What I do is I created a prospect list. I had my whole system, I sent out emails and I set up phone calls and it’s a form of a sales process. You can’t just get a sponsor by sending a cold email. You have to go through the different steps of a process of building a relationship with someone and ultimately having it a win-win fo
r both of you. There are many elements to it. I do talk a little bit about it on some of my Coffee Is For Closers episodes, which are some of the Saturday ones on Success Unfiltered because it’s all about sales related topics.
I’m thinking of the people who I know who asked me that question since we got under that topic. I’m curious, do you ever advise people to hire people to do the sales for them? Some people see themselves as more the talent than the salespeople. For me, I’m like you. I have been in sales my whole life. Sales are all part of it, but some other people don’t see it that way. Can you separate it?
I think you can separate it. When is the right time to hire someone to help you with your sales? Maybe do you need to bring on a consultant to teach you? I do believe that in order for you to hire someone else, you need to learn the process yourself. I definitely don’t recommend hiring anybody unless you’ve learned it yourself. I’ll give you an example. I specifically work with accountants. I love accountants. I’ve talked to hundreds of them. One of the biggest things that I saw when working with accountants was that they didn’t have a sales process. If they had a call from a client, from a business owner to do their taxes or to do bookkeeping, payroll, whatever, they would take on anybody. A lot of men have said, “Michelle, can I hire a sales consultant to do this for me?” I said, “You can, however, you have to learn it yourself. You chose to open up your own firm. If you don’t have a sales process that you’ve implemented yourself, created yourself, executed yourself, how can you train anyone else to do it for you? How can you train them in the way that you want your firm to be upgraded?”
I have trained and work with a bunch of accountants, CPAs, enroll agents, bookkeepers, techs, you name it. Anyone who’s been in business for a couple of years, they have some higher value services to create themselves a sales process. From there, they can hire a sales consultant to support them. They have to create the process. Most salespeople like me, I’m not an accountant, but I can sell their services because I had been in the trenches. I understand it. I know what the challenges are on the consumer and client side versus what the accountant is looking for. If you’re a business owner, you need to figure it out yourself first, then it’s a good time to hire someone after.
There are many businesses, accountants, doctors, they don’t see themselves as salespeople, there’s about everything. It’s interesting how people will shell out money to doctors and not even think about it as a business sometimes. There are many ways of looking at sales. It’s changed a lot since the last time I was in a traditionally sales-oriented job where I work for an organization strictly selling. They’re getting more teams. They’re doing a little more relationship oriented than just here’s the phone book dial for dollars thing. You pitched your way onto ABC’s Shark Tank and I’m very interested in hearing about that because that’s hard to do. Tell me your idea that got you on the show and what that experience was like.
I pitched on season four of Shark Tank. It was with my last company, FITzee Food, which was a healthy prepared meal company. I pitched it in the early stages, so it’s probably a little bit too early, but I was determined to be on the show. I have watched every show. I was literally obsessed. When you’re obsessed, I even still have the spreadsheet, I created a full-on spreadsheet on every single pitch that was done, season one, two and three, all the deals, all the questions that were asked. This is not any different than what we were chatting about with how do you get a sponsor on your podcast or how do you enroll a new client. I did the same exact approach. I reached out on Twitter. I looked on LinkedIn for producers. I went to their website.
I reached out to get on season four from literally like probably five or six different angles and I got a callback. I didn’t even go to the thing where you wait in line for about eight hours and then you have 30 seconds to pitch. I bypassed all of that. If you think about how I was reaching out, if you think about the outreach on Twitter, the outreach here, the outreach there, it’s very similar to how you would prospect with leads. How are you going to find a new lead for your business? How are you going to find a new client? That was the first step that I did. I made contact with them and I did an interview after that. They had me submit a video interview. I submitted my video interview and that went well too.
They send you about a 200-page legal agreement after that. After 200 pages with my attorney, he was like, “If you’re willing, you don’t care if you’re going to make an ass out of yourself on TV, by all means, sign it. Whatever you do, they can tweak it however they want. You could probably have the best pitch and it can go sideways based on their editing.” I was probably one of the first few when they started recruiting for season four, but I was one of 140 people that they selected out of 30,000 people. You had practice pitches with a producer every single week. They helped you pick out your outfit. They tweaked your pitch every single week. It was so intense, it was like going to the Olympics for entrepreneurship.
I live in San Diego, California and they have an Olympic training center down here in Chula Vista. A lot of the people that go to the Olympics go there to train. They live there. Honestly, at times I thought I was in this Olympic training for entrepreneurship. It was super intense even to get the prep work. Every time you’re done with the producer on the phone, they say, “Michelle, everything’s going great, but just so you know, at any time you can be cut, at any time we can change our mind. It’s going good but there’s no guarantee. One of the things I learned was how to live in the unknown. When you can live in the unknown, I think like an entrepreneur or business owner, that’s one of the most crucial things you can learn because doing that whole Shark Tank process taught me how to live in the unknown.Sometimes, you're good at things that don't make you money. Click To Tweet
A lot of people get anxiety. They start freaking out. You don’t know where your next check is coming from in order to make your payroll. You don’t know where your next source of revenue is coming from in order to pay your rent. There are all these things as a business owner where you end up taking on all these clients that aren’t even good for you in order for you to pay or your overhead. I’m going off track. Long story short, a few months later, it’s time. They give you your dates. When you go up there, you go to LA, it’s on a Thursday. Friday is the pre-pitch, so you have to do your pitch in your outfit in front of the producers and their production team. If you pass that then you get to pitch to the sharks. I passed that and then the next day, either Saturday or Sunday, you get your time slot to pitch to the sharks. They do your hair and makeup. You set up your whole thing. They know absolutely nothing about you and then you go and do your pitch.
It was a great experience. They even have you meet with a psychologist after because it’s so intense that you blackout. I definitely did. My feet started to hurt when I did my pitch. I was wearing high heels and that thing went over an hour and then they start airing all the episodes. The weeks kept going by and the weeks kept going by and I was like, “I haven’t gotten a call. I haven’t seen that show.” You think they would give you a warning. For every single season you see, they only air two-thirds of what they take. About 40 of us never even aired. I got the email. It was in the fall of 2014 or 2015, I can’t remember, saying, “Thank you so much for being a part of Shark Tank, season four. Unfortunately, your episode will never air. We wish you nothing but the best. Thank you so much for being a part of this.” That was it as if that never happened.
All I have are two pictures and I have the whole experience that goes with it. You know how many athletes go to the Olympic trials and then they never make it to the Olympics? It was like that. I went through all the trials. I went through everything. I ran my 100-meter dash, but no one ever saw it. One of the awesome things on Success Unfiltered is that I have a Shark Tank veteran who comes on once a month on my show. I’ve had an array. Every single month I have a Shark Tank guest. We talk about the raw, unfiltered, true stories of what happened at Shark Tank. If you want to know what happens with more than just me, what I shared, you can listen every month. There’s a Shark Tank guest on my podcast, Success Unfiltered.
Just from being on television and the things you’ve done, when you see behind the curtain, it’s never what other everybody else thinks it is. What was the biggest thing that struck you when you were on the stage doing it? Was it at all what you would think it would be when you got out there and your feet were hurting, your heels and everything else is going on? Did they react the way you expected?
Part of me thinks that they have things in their ears, but you couldn’t see it because they like to banter and try to screw you up and catch you off guard and they argue. I’m not 100% sure what they were saying, but I thought that was a little awkward because in a real pitch situation and I’ve pitched too many investor groups around the country in San Francisco and New York and it was never like that. It’s one question at a time. On Shark Tank, they definitely fire off questions. At the end of the day, it’s a TV show. They are looking for drama. They are looking for how can we throw you off? What can we do to screw up? One of the things that I did was I think I prepared too much. I was so prepped. I was running Shark Tank practice pitches with my investors prior. I was like, “Anyone hit me with a question, I want to see how quickly I can answer it and make sure that I’m good with my pitch.”
What was their problem then that they didn’t pick it?
You never know. There are plenty of episodes. There’s nothing they tell you. You don’t ever know anything.
The sharks didn’t tell you they didn’t like your idea. They just asked you questions. Did they go, “I’m going to pass?” Didn’t they say that to you? Didn’t they say why?
The sharks tell you that they’re going to go off. The first shark, Barbara, they all love the food. They all love my protein bars. Barbara was interested in the protein bar business and she said, “Is it only the protein bars or is it with the food too?” I said, “It’s the whole company.” She said, “I’m out. I don’t do food.” Daymon was like, “Michelle, what’s the difference between what you do and what I have in New York City?” I said, “I didn’t have an answer for you except that our food is the bomb, but to pay the shipping charges, there wasn’t anything there.” With Mark, he liked it. I thought that there was going to be something there with Mark because I worked with a lot of pro athletes.
At the time I had a lot of NFL teams working with me. I had a lot of NBA teams and we were providing them with the healthier choices for their flight meals and the meals for the players and sometimes even with the teams purchasing our protein bars. At the time, Mark liked everything. He just said he couldn’t see himself in that business. Kevin was probably the funniest. I’ll never forget this. I had made a Corcoran Caesar Salad for Barbara. On top of there were all free-range chicken, all grass-fed beef and premium protein. As we were going through the cost of the meal, he said, “Michelle, let me see that salad.” I said, “Okay, no problem. Here’s the salad.” I brought it over to him and it was diced chicken. He started taking each piece of chicken off the top of the salad and flickering it and throwing the chicken over the back of the seat.
Every single piece of chicken of the salad was gone. He said, “Michelle, now this salad would be profitable and now you can sell it. There’s no margin in this business, so for that reason, I’m out.” Robert shocked me. I had raised a bunch of money and he kept asking about the investments and the debt on the company. We were in a growth stage. I think I was only a year, a year and a half in at the time. I remember my protein bars, we had them baked, but even the ones that eventually got on the Vitamin Shoppe and that I pitched to Costco, they were in a cardboard box at the time of the show. I still have it. I kept it. He didn’t like any of the financial structure of the company, so he was out.
You ended up with FITzee Food. Is that still in effect now? Are you still running that particular company?
No, I’m not. I closed that March 27th of 2017.
Now, what’s your main focus? I know you have your podcast and what you’re doing. What’s the main business that you’re in at this moment?If you don't have topline revenue, then you have a hobby. Click To Tweet
The main business that I’m in is the Pitch Queen and it has a few different elements. My main thing is that I teach entrepreneurs how you sell without being sleazy. How you own your worth, so you never discount yourself in whatever it is your price, how you grow your top-line revenue by doing what you love. If you love what you do, the sales piece can be taught. I do that through my podcast Success Unfiltered. I have an online course called How To Think And Act Like An Eight-Figure Entrepreneur. What I’ve learned by interviewing so many people, especially all the eight-figure ones that are doing ten million or more in sales is their mindset piece as it relates to the sales piece. I do that over at EightFiguresSecrets.com. That’s my main thing.
Is that the main website? Is there a website you want to share or is that the main place to reach you?
You can go to SellWithoutSleaze.com if you want to learn more in-depth about how I teach entrepreneurs. How to sell without being sleazy, pushy, needy and how you can enroll more clients or increase the number of sponsors on your podcast, whatever that sales related activity is. If you want to learn how to think and act like an eight-figure entrepreneur and grow your business from that point of view too. They both go hand-in-hand and that’s at EightFiguresSecrets.com.
Thank you so much for being on the show. This is interesting.
Thank you so much for having me. It was always a fun chat and I always love remembering my Olympic days of my Shark Tank experience.
I’d like to thank Todd and Michelle for being my guests. We get so many great guests. If you missed any past episodes, please go to DrDianeHamiltonRadio.com. If you would like to have more information about Cracking the Curiosity Code book or the Cracking the Curiosity Code whole program of the Curiosity Code Assessment and everything else that goes along with it. You’re pretty safe if you go to CuriosityCode.com. I hope that you enjoyed this episode as much as I did. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.
- The Transparency Sale
- Success Unfiltered
- Descartes’ Error
- Perfect Is Boring
- The Transparency Sale on Kindle
- Michelle Weinstein
- Coffee Is For Closers
About Todd Caponi
Todd Caponi is a sales philosopher (if that’s a thing) with a passion for all things selling methodology & learning theory coupled with his new nerdery, decision science. Todd’s first book, “The Transparency Sale”, is on sale now. He’s a sales leader, having recently spent ~4 years building the revenue capacity of Chicago’s PowerReviews from the ground up as their Chief Revenue Officer (who, for his tenure, was identified as the fastest growing tech company in all of Illinois according to Deloitte https://bit.ly/2A1WHR8). Prior to that, he’s held leadership roles with 3 other tech companies, including ExactTarget, where he helped drive the organization to a successful IPO and a $2.7B exit through the acquisition by Salesforce.com. He’s a former American Business “Stevie” Award winner for VP of WW Sales of the Year, and also owned & operated a sales training company.
About Michelle Weinstein