Brandon Lee


How I launched and grew an $18M company without selling

I learned a lot from Stephen Covey in 1999. I still cherish the simplicity of the book. 

I learned that 7 simple habits, when applied, can make anyone successful. When I started my 2nd company, By Design Publishing in 2002, I used “Think with the End in Mind” as a guide for a lot of decisions. I applied it when we built  our sales strategy too. 

The results from this rule when applied to our sales strategy was selling by not selling. 

Selling my not selling is even more valuable now in digital and social media than it was back in 2002. But, most companies are building sales strategies and systems that are the opposite. A digital enablement program should focus on enabling teams to start and have conversations with ideal customers and current customers. Digital selling is not about selling. It should be about using digital to start conversations with ideal customers in the most efficient manner possible. 

 Digital and social media are the fastest channels to create conversations with ideal customers. Plus, with digital, our behavior, when done with this as a strategy, can create more conversations with ideal customers at a massive scale.  This means it accelerates sales pipelines. 

Digital and social have been used WRONG for sales for too long. Digital is a channel for communication. Too often, sales people forget a few very simple things that could dramatically change their sales success and stop sharing company brochures as social posts and using messages to ask for demos. 

  1. Buyers don’t want to buy. They want to solve a problem or achieve a goal. 
  2. Buyers prefer to buy from people who they believe are good at what they do AND who they enjoy doing business with. 
  3. Buyers are quicker to talk to people who they don’t feel are trying to sell them something

So when applying Think with the End in Mind, this is what I came up with as my end in mind. 

I want to build a company where, as a vendor, we are  the most important and most connected to our customers. Now, this is part strategy but it is also who I am as a person. This is how I choose to do life in business. This is not a manipulative strategy. It is an extension of who I want to be in life and the company culture that I choose to build.  

How we sold to accomplish this goal

  1. Go where our ideal customers spend a lot of time. Back in 2002, it meant conferences mostly. In 2021 and 2022, it is digital platforms and social media.
  1. Spend time and money on things that are important to them as a human rather than their title. Let me explain, when any of us treat others first as a human being, rather than their title and what it represents to us, then we can connect at a more personal level. Plus, they prefer to be treated that way. 

And, I prefer to live my life this way. 

  1. I learned, the more you give, the more you receive. I know that sounds a bit pollyanna but Zig Ziglar had his paraphrased version of this 100% correct. “You can have everything you want in life if you just help enough people get what they want in life” 

Our marketing and sales activities revolved around providing breakfast and cocktail parties at conferences. It also revolved around sponsoring events that were most important to our customers rather than those that were most important to us. 

We used the events that we sponsored to meet our ideal customers. Our focus was to get to know them, ask them questions and learn about their business and their lives. That was our intentional focus. 

It was our intentional focus because no one ever wants to be sold or made to feel that they are being sold. 

But, they like to do business with people they like. So, we used our marketing budgets and our time to be in situations where we could meet our ideal customers, serve them a good breakfast and coffee in the early morning at conferences. We also provided good drinks and fun environments in the evenings. 

This is what our ideal customers liked and wanted. For us, it was how we created conversations with them. 

Created Conversations! 

One of the huge results By Design Publishing experienced was a lot of traffic to our booth. We had friends who would come to the booth, hang out with us and as a result, a lot of them purchased from us too. They also invited their friends to come with them to our booth. They also told their friends about our awesome product and customer support.

We sold by not selling. 

Our customers purchased from us because we put ourselves into the right environments, our behavior created conversations that our customers enjoyed and welcomed. 

Our ideal customers welcomed conversations with our sales team. 

“So what does your business do again?”  It was a question that opened the door and invited us into a sales conversation.  However, we were not selling. We were just having a conversation. We needed to be sure that we were excellent at what we did. Our sales team had to be knowledgeable and valuable to our customers. 

Just starting conversations is not enough. But, it is the best way to start conversations with ideal customers. 

Digital is the ideal communication channel to use this strategy. 

It is less expensive than conferences. It is cheaper than getting on airplanes to visit clients

It can be used every day which means larger reach. 

It can be implemented from your entire team even if they are working from home. 

Use your digital presence and behavior to start conversations. The sales opportunities will follow.  I am not sure how many companies have the patience to follow this model. But, I do know the results are worth it. The strategy may “feel” a little slower but the results of full pipelines with qualified customers who want to talk with you is faster than any sales and growth strategy I have ever used. 

I’ll be happy to share the strategy with you if you would like to have a conversation about it. No selling, I promise.  

Close Menu