Guy Kawasaki Interview: Why Sales Needs Empathy

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With over 1 million twitter followers and 12 books, Apple’s former chief evangelist Guy Kawasaki is no novice to marketing and social media. In my interview with Guy Kawasaki, Guy explains why you need empathy to succeed at selling, what tech founders can learn from the jewelry business about “selling the dream”, and reveals the book that changed his life.

Interview by Heather R Morgan, copywriter & sales/marketing consultant for startups at SalesFolk and Editor at Sales4StartUps.

Guy Kawasaki --- Sales4Startups Interview

Heather: You’ve said that the jewelry business is a tougher business than the computer business. What do you think people in tech could learn about selling from the jewelry business?

Guy: The jewelry business is a really challenging business because although the commodities are valuable, they are commodities. Although there’s no question about what the price of diamonds or gold are on a given day, but it’s all about selling on design and quality, and that’s not easy. Buying jewelry is about just weight, but selling is all about less definable things.

In the high tech business, it’s similar. You know how much the parts cost in a phone or computer. But if you’re selling, you aren’t telling what the parts cost. If you’re selling an entertainment device you aren’t selling it for $250 for the cost of the parts and labor. What you’re selling is about having the most songs, most movies, being the coolest, etc.  It’s about selling the dream, as opposed to cost of goods sold and labor.

Heather: What is the most important characteristic of a good sales person?

Guy: There are two important characteristics to a good sales person. One is determination–the unwillingness to give up and not take no for an answer. To keep trying even after faces repeated rejection. The other is empathy. Empathy for who you are selling to, and even to the people around them; for the consumer’s manager, spouse, etc. Empathize what’s going on in their lives and in their heads so you can understand that world to close a sale.

Heather: What advice would you give to technical founders about sales?

Guy: There are two big risks in any company. The first is: “Can you really make what you say you can make?” Questions like, “Can you complete the software? Can you find the cure for cancer?” People tend to focus on that risk as being the hard thing. However, my experience is that the hard thing is the ability to sell the widget, hardware, and software that you made. It’s firmly linear to go to finishing a product for most products (aside from the cure for cancer, which is a high risk path). People (investors) assume you can do what you say you can do. The bigger challenge is selling what you said you can do. Technical founders have to appreciate the fact that sales is just as important as engineering. If you can’t sell your product, you will fail.

Heather: How can startups compete against more established enterprise companies with sales and marketing when they have much smaller budgets?

Guy: Get on social media as fast as possible. Social media is probably going to be your main marketing mechanism because you probably don’t have infinite money. Luckily we live in a time where social is free. And that is a great thing for you.  Start with Twitter, Google + and Facebook. It’s a lot of work, but this is marketing. If you start a company and assume you have to do no marketing, you’re an idiot.

Heather: What companies do you find most enchanting right now?

Guy: That’s a hard question. Apple used to be, not so much anymore. There aren’t that many enchanting companies out there today.

Heather: Of all the books you have written, which is your favorite?

Guy: I’ve written a lot of books, so that’s hard to answer, but the most relevant for sales is Selling the Dream. It explains how to evangelize things.

Heather: As an introvert, how have you been able to make yourself comfortable as a salesperson and public speaker?

Guy: It’s simply repetition. You just have to do it a lot until you’re comfortable with it.

Heather: What’s your favorite book?

Guy: If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland. The book really changed my life. It empowers people to be a writer when you first start to write. It’s all about empowerment more than the skill of writing and grammar.

Heather: How did you devise your Twitter strategy for aggregating great content and posting it regularly and consistently?

Guy: It’s been something I’ve used with many channels for a while, but the main theory is stolen from NPR. If you provide great content, then you earn the right to promote. Give the people great things, and then you have the right to have a telethon. So I’m always thinking about how to create great content because that gives me the right to promote a product or platform.

If you or your company would like to be featured in a Sales4Startups interview, please contact Heather (at) salesfolk.com. You can also get in touch with Heather if your business is looking for help with your copywriting and content marketing. 

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