Sell more by doing less

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Perry Marshall

Perry Marshall

80/20 Sales and Marketing

Perry Marshall is the founder of Perry S. Marshall and Associates, which consults both online and brick and mortar companies on generating sales leads, web traffic, and maximizing advertising results.

When Perry Marshall was laid off from his engineering job, he made a career change.

“I went into sales,” says Perry, founder of Perry S. Marshall and Associates and author of 80/20 Sales and Marketing. He thought, “Well, [sales] shouldn’t be too hard.”

But despite endless cold calling and pavement pounding, Perry rarely hit his sales quota. “I ate bologna sandwiches and ramen soup for three years,” he says.

Today Perry works smarter, not harder. That’s how he took one of his companies from $200,000 a year to $4 million in four years. Then he sold it for $18 million.

And Perry hasn’t made a cold call in 15 years. “My customers come to me,” he says. “I’m in the position of deciding which customers I want to do business with, not begging. I think everybody should aspire to be in that position.”

In his Mixergy course, Perry shows you the secret to selling more by doing less. Here are three highlights from the course.

1. Devote Yourself to the 1%

devote yourselfWhen it comes to sales, most people focus on the ones that got away.

For instance, “you send an email, and 14% of the people open the email, and 3% click on the link,” says Perry. “Everybody’s mentality is, ‘I want 100% of the people to open the email.’”

Then they obsess about how to get the other 86% to open it. “And it’s a mistake,” he says. “It’s a huge mistake because they won’t. They never will. There’s nothing you can do about it.”

So what should you do instead?

Exclude more prospects

“Sales is not a convincing-people process,” says Perry. “It is a disqualification process.”

So instead of trying to convince the 86%, focus on the 14% who are actually interested in your product. Then, reduce that 14% even more.

“What you’re trying to do is whittle it down, whittle it down, whittle it down,” he says, until you have the top sales prospects. And once you know who your top prospects are, you can figure out what they really want.

“The fact is, the guy at the top is going to be 50 times more interested than the guy at the bottom,” says Perry. “I guarantee you, he has the money and he’s got a problem that he wants solved, and your job [is] to focus on the 1%, the 3%, the 5%, and to pretty much ignore everybody else.”

2. Choose the Right ER Patient

Sometimes a prospect likes your product, but isn’t ready to buy.

“[They say], ‘Oh, we might get around to doing that in two years,’” says Perry. “I cannot tell you how much of my miserable sales career was spent chasing people around who…had no sense of urgency, and I’m basically sitting around counting my think-it-overs.”

Perry used to think that sooner or later, the think-it-overs would buy. But they didn’t. “They’re not going to buy anything from you, probably never,” he says. “You can’t live on that. You can’t eat that.”

So how do you know if a prospect is worth your time?

Look for a bleeding neck

Focus on prospects who have a real sense of urgency.

“Do they have a bleeding neck?” says Perry. “Who gets the emergency room staff to actually pay attention? You walk in, you’ve got a broken arm, they’re like, ‘Here’s a clipboard. Sit down. We’ll see you in a couple hours.’ Somebody comes in and blood is spurting out of their neck, or they’re choking or something, man, they are on it.”

In sales, a prospect with a bleeding neck is urgent to solve their problem, so urgent that they want to buy your solution now.

3. See What’s Invisible

Starbucks knows that its customers will pay at least $1.40 for a cup of joe. But they didn’t stop there. They somehow knew that those same customers would also buy $2,700 espresso machines.

“They don’t sell very many of those,” says Perry. “But you don’t need to sell many. The fact is, if you don’t have a high-end espresso machine, if you only sell cups of coffee, you’re leaving a whole bunch of money on the table.”

And an espresso machine can make all the difference. “Whether you sell an espresso machine or not may determine whether you stay in business,” he says.

So if you don’t have the sixth sense, how do you figure out how much you can charge for a premium product?

Identify hidden profit centers

Get big insights with small amounts of information using the 80/20 principle.

“Say I’ve got a Starbucks, and 10,000 people come in the store every week,” says Perry. “The least anybody spends is $1.40. If you go to and you plug that in…it’s going to tell you that you’ll sell $2,700 to one customer every week.”

So what $2,700 product should you sell? “That’s [up to] the creativity of the marketer…but probably it’s a high-end product,” he says.
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Written by April Dykman. Production notes by Alex Champagne.

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  • mrjeffrivera

    This is so excellent and exactly what I needed to hear right now. My question is, this would be great advice for nonfiction authors but how about fiction authors? Finding that 1% that love your type of novel is one thing but how do you find those that have a bleeding neck when people don’t need fiction, they need nonfiction?

  • Martin S.

    Maybe appeal to fans of a particular theme or type of narrative? I’ve never been much of a fiction reader, but when I find a book I like, I’m usually disappointed about how difficult it is to find more books like the one I just read, not just more of the general genre.

    If you can get your message out to the relevant subreddits/fanclubs/facebook groups, you might just find the kind of fan who wants a new book *now*.

  • Angel Daniel Gonzalez

    You say people don’t need fiction compared to nonfiction, so swap out “bleeding neck” for “super freakin’ hungry”. Now, we just reframed the question, right? Where can we go find people who are hungry…No! Starving for fiction? Checking fiction books on goodreads, then following the rabbit trail of reviews (good and bad) to people’s profiles might be a good start. You can always reach out to them. You can check out what people are saying about particular fiction via twitter, amazon reviews, or even reach out to fiction bloggers who have a rabid following. Maybe bloggers who cover fiction books could be your bleeding neck ER patients….they need material to write about.


    Great advice. I love it! Perry shares some unforgettable advice here.

  • Bob Hiler

    You can create fiction fans with bleeding necks by using cliffhangers to create information gaps between what they know and what they want to know. After all, how many times have you watched a bad movie to find out what happened?

    For instance, will Clark Kent get together with Lois Lane in the next book? Or is Lois still in love with Superman? In other words, use cliffhangers involving characters that readers care about. In fact, you don’t even need to write a whole fiction book to take advantage of this approach. Some writers write “episodes” that they pull together as a “season”: The author of that successful series (I haven’t read it, I’ve just heard about it) is Sean Platt and he talks about his approach here:

    Publishing short fiction “episodes” would also take advantage of an MVP approach. If readers don’t care about your characters, you’ll learn that quickly after writing a chapter or two, instead of writing a whole book.

    Another very successful writer who used this approach is Hugh Howey who published Wool 1 as a novella.

  • Gemma_Laming

    Jeff, let’s get something straight here: you’ve got something to sell.

    All Perry is saying is find those people who WANT what you’re selling. That goes for fiction, non-fiction, jazz and Claude Monet. Perry puts bleedin’ necks because it grabs attention from the kind of people who buy from him. What you need are those people who would enjoy snuggling into bed with your book – or their half hour commute with it. Either way, for them it’s a great read. The $20 they spend on your book will be well spent by the time they walk out the door of the bookstore, let alone get to the end of chapter one.

    So how to go about it. Two directions for you – firstly the character of your book. Taken broadly it’ll fit into some category. Find out who likes that sort of thing and why.

    Number two: find the kind of people who like what you say to them. They’ll fit into some kind of category too. Cross match them to character group 1 and you’ve got something to start with. Don’t take it as final, listening to them is the most important thing you can do.

    It’s why I advertise my copywriting services with the keyword “Louis Armstrong” ;-)

    Hope this helps!

  • Gemma_Laming

    Martin, when you say “when I find a book I like, I’m usually disappointed about how difficult it is to find more books like the one I just read” – I might put my mind to that one …

  • Gonzalo Paternoster

    I love the coffee machine example. Create am upsale so I don’t leave any money on the table.

  • Steve Rigell

    Why can’t I access the course content?

  • Arie at Mixergy

    Steve, I’ve sent you an email about your account.

  • Kate Deliso

    I tried to buy the membership but your system says my credit card is declined:( the credit card works everywhere else, so I’m not sure what is a problem here). Do you have other payment system such as paypal?
    Thanks for the answer.

  • Jer Ayles-Ayler

    Funny how things change! I recall a previous interview (a long time ago…) Andrew did, during which Perry’s name came up. Andrew didn’t have a clue. Finally, 2 serious “masterminds” converse and share their conversation with the rest of us. I’ve been a contributing fan of Perry’s (even got an autographed Google Adwords book I’ve worn out in front of me) since late 90’s. Just downloaded this MP3. Can’t wait to take my kayak out into the back-bay right this minute and LISTEN/LEARN!

    Thank you, Andrew and Perry. A long-time Mixergy Premium fan!


  • jasminepowers

    This it the realest thing I’ve read in a long time. This makes me feel so much better about my approach because I was scared that qualifying folks and making a feeling of urgency that I needed folks to have in order to excite me, but this is how this guy had been winning. LOVES IT!

  • Arie at Mixergy

    I’m glad you could really use this in your approach!

  • Geoffrey Barrows

    I’ve been a “student” of the 80/20 principle since reading Koch’s book in ’99. I’ve applied it brutally to my own technical work since then as well as enjoyed Tim Ferriss’s recycling of this principle. I would like to think I know this principle. But I’ve never seen it used to generate a curve to predict what value is left on the table (e.g. the $2700 espresso machine vs. the $1.40 cup of coffee)!! This is friggin’ clever!

  • Arie at Mixergy


  • Tom Laramie

    “Devote yourself to the 1%” I wonder how that concept would work in ones personal life? Only surround yourself with people with whom you are truly interested in, learning more about and learning more from. Not that the other 99% are not important, just that they are not on the same path as you. Certainly has me thinking. Thanks much!

  • mrjeffrivera

    Thanks, Emma!

  • mrjeffrivera

    Great suggestions everyone. Thanks!

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