Ian Altman grew his first business to value beyond $1 billion. He’s the bestselling co-author of Same Side Selling, a keynote speaker, and host of the Grow My Revenue Business Cast.
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Contactually – Ian’s small business resource
Exactly What to Say – Ian’s Top Business Book
Same Side Selling – Ian’s book
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3 Value Bombs
1) Focus on the results your business gives rather than business as a resource.
2) Own up for difficult situations even if they are not your fault.
3) Use a process that’s easily understandable for your clients.
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(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
[01:02] – Ian lives in the Washington, DC area with his wife, 2 children, and 2 dogs
[01:39] – His area of expertise is in helping entrepreneurs have their message get heard and help their people sell based on value versus price
[02:34] – Share something we don’t know about your area of expertise that as Entrepreneurs, we probably should: Think and talk more about the problems you solve than the things that you do. Sell results rather than a resource
[04:27] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: In 2001 Ian’s business was doing really well, and then 9/11 happened. Then and there, he realized his business was diversified through the financial industry — which was greatly affected by the bombing. After 9/11, they lost 60% of their revenue in 2 weeks. The hardest part was having to lay his people off
[06:43] – Entrepreneurs must think about ways to avoid catastrophic events in the future
[07:00] – “Own the situation”
[08:52] – Entrepreneurial AH-HA Moment: In Same Side Selling, they talk about different concepts in determining a good opportunity. Ian’s client said he wasn’t getting it, so Ian illustrated it with a drawing in 4 boxes. The client instantly understood what he meant upon seeing the illustration; Ian looks down at it, thinking “why didn’t I put this in the book?”
[10:36] – Have the vision to see what makes things easy for people to process
[11:42] – What is the one thing you are most FIRED up about today? “It’s really helping the non-sales people become the rainmakers”
[12:51] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “Fear”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “Listen to your friends when they identify your superpower”
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – Contactually
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – Exactly What to Say – “it’s a brilliant book of little phrases”
[15:50] – When you meet someone, make sure you’re enticing their interest and disarming them: let them know you’re not just selling something. Learn how with Ian’s FREE Gift for Fire Nation: IanAltman.com/fire
IA: – ignite away, my friend.
JLD: Yes. Ian Grooves first business it’s a value of beyond $1 billion. He’s a best-selling co-author of Same Side Selling. He’s also a key-notes speaker and host of the Grow My Revenue Business podcast. Ian, take a minute and fill in some gaps from that intro and give us just a little glimpse of your personal life.
IA: Well, so I live in the Washington D.C. area. I have two dogs, two children and a wife I don't deserve. So, I mean, that's the – that's the biggest thing people need to know. And in my prior business, I used to fly over 175,000 miles a year because we had licensees and joint-venture all around the world. So now as a key-note speaker, I fly almost as much, but it's a totally different lifestyle.
JLD: Well, I'm excited to kind of talk about maybe your transition from where you were to where you are now today, but I really want to get into right now where you consider your area of expertise. What is that, brother?
IA: Well, what my clients will say to me is that I have this ability to help them have their message get heard and help their people sell based on value versus price. Because so many organizations get trapped trying to compete on price and it's not a long-term, sustainable model. Or they end up in these adversarial positions with their clients.
And so, I’ve had the good fortune working with really talented business leaders where we’ve been able to help their businesses double and triple in a matter of a few years, whereas before they were somewhat static. So, the great thing for me is seeing those people who were under stress now just in a position of total relaxation and really enjoying what they’re doing. And so, that's something that it seems easy to may, but there’re many things that those people do that I could never do.
JLD: Well, what something that we, not just a typical entrepreneur that doesn’t have that same skill set, what do we need to know that we probably don’t?
IA: Most of it comes down to thinking like the customer or client rather than think like the seller. So, we always think in terms of, Well, I want to make this sale. I want to get in front of this person. And what we really have to do it pivot and think, Well, why is it in that persons best interest to do what I want.
And so, if we start thinking more about the problems that we saw rather than just describing what it is that we do, then we’re able to capture someones attention. They say, Wait. I'm experiencing that problem. And this comes back to this research I’ve done with over 10,000 CEOs and executives on how they make and improve decisions, and I run through this exercise. The questions they ask come down to what problem does this solve? Why do we need it? And what’s the likely outcome or result?
So, if we speak in those terms, then when someone hears of this, they say, Wow, I have that problem. I’d like to have that result. Maybe this person’s worth talking to. And then we’re selling results rather than selling a resource, if that makes sense.
JLD: It does make sense. And Fire Nation, I really want you to take a second and just think about that for a second. Shift from you, the person you’re trying to sell something to somebody to, who’s that person that you’re trying to sell something to need? What are they thinking? What are their problems? What are their obstacles? What are their struggles? And how can you best identify with them? So, shift yourself from you to them, to your clients, your potential customers and say how can I best position myself in this situation from this current position now?
Ian hasn’t always been so great, brother. You’ve had the ups. You’ve had the downs. You’ve traveled the 100,000s of miles. You know, sometimes things just don't work out, and that's what I want to talk about today is your story of not just a time that something didn't work out, but what you honestly consider your worst entrepreneurial moment to date. Take us there. Tell us that story.
IA: Dude, it could bring me to tears, but I’ll try and tell it again. So, in 2001, our business was doing really well. We were diversified across different industries, and then 9-11 happened. And we realized that we were diversified. We were diversified with insurance companies, with financial services, with banks, which all happens to be the financial services industry. And post 9-11 we lost about 60 percent of our revenue in about two weeks.
And the hardest part of that wasn’t that, Oh, could we rebuild this? But every time we hired somebody, and let’s say somebody got married. Somebody bought a house. They had children. They got a dog. I felt like, as the entrepreneur and CEO, Wow, look, I’ve created this opportunity and look at these people building this life. This is great. And the hardest thing was losing 60 percent of your revenue and you have to lay people off, it was devastating, personally, that these people who I considered like family to me, we couldn’t support.
Now thankfully, a few years later, we grew the business back up. We sold it and then grew the combined company that values over $1 billion. But, man, that period of time was absolutely devastating to me when, you know, I wasn’t getting paid. I was writing checks every month into the business and just laying people off. I mean, it just, you know, I just –
JLD: Yeah, what was the worst moment? What was the moment in time that you just remember right now with the pit in your stomach? Describe that moment.
IA: The worst part was sitting there, talking to the employees says what am I going to do now? And I'm look across from this guy thinking, I don't know what he’s going to do and I don't know how I'm going to explain to my wife the check I just wrote to the business so I can keep the other people employed. That was the hardest thing because I was trying to show empathy for that person. I’m thinking to myself, Dude, I know exactly how you feel because I don't know what I'm going to do, either.
JLD: Ian, what’s the biggest lesson? Like, what can our listeners who have experienced moments like this, will likely experience moments like this because this is the cyclical nature of life in business and entrepreneurship. What can you breakdown for us? What’s the takeaway?
IA: There are two key things. When that happened, people said to me, Well, there’s nothing you could’ve done. And I don't like to think that way. I think as entrepreneurs our job is to always think what could I do to avoid this in the future? So, in every business I’ve grown since then, I always look at diversification of, so what if something catastrophic happened to this industry? To this type of client? To that sector? And I just believe the biggest Ah-ha moment is that you have to own the situation and you can always make an excuse about some external factor.
And candidly, 9-11 is not something that any of us could’ve predicted or anticipated. But I think as soon as you own it and say, Okay, so now what can I do differently? Then you can put something into place. If you think of yourself as a victim, you will be.
JLD: Fire Nation, try to put yourself out of business every single day. Like seriously. Sit down and say, What could potentially happen in this world? Whether it be a natural disaster, an economic disaster. Whether it be a compet – Or whatever it might be. What could it be that could potentially put me out of business? And think through that exercise.
Because I promise you, I promise you, Fire Nation, if Blockbuster had thought through that, they probably would’ve been like, You know what? We need to recognize that the world’s online. The world’s going to be watching movies online. We need to get there faster than, you know, they left and Netflix’s door wide open.
Walmart. I mean, come on. You tell me Walmart couldn’t of have squashed Amazon way back in the day? But they didn't recognize it. Air-BNB. I mean, you tell me that Marriott or Hilton couldn’t have come up with something like that with the resources and the contacts they have? They didn't do it. They got fat. They got lazy. They got sloppy. And frankly, they all deserve to fail. And every one of them is probably going to on some levels. I mean, Walmart’s getting crushed left and right and they’re scrambling. Blockbuster is, you know, I don't even think my niece who is 7-years-old will ever even hear the work Blockbuster. I mean, that's just the world that we live in.
So, Ian, let’s shift now and talk about one of the greatest ideas that you’ve had to date. Because you’ve had a lot. You don't need to may be pinpoint this is your best idea ever, but what’s one of the greatest ideas? What was one of your Ah-ha moments? Tell us that story.
IA: Well, the Ah-ha moment I don't even get credit for, it’s one of my clients. So, in same side selling, we talk about these different concepts to determine what’s a good opportunity. And it comes down to with your client in a meeting, understanding the issue they’re facing. How that impacts them. What the results are that they would consider successful, and who else is impacted? So, it’s those four pieces.
And I was sitting with a client, and I'm trying to explain this to him and he says, Look, I don't quite get it. And I said, Look, it's really simple. And I take a blank sheet of paper and I draw a vertical line down the center, horizontal line across, making four boxes. I said, Look, when you’re meeting with a client, in the upper left write the word, Issue. In the upper right, the word Impact. Lower left, Results. Lower right, Other’s Impacted. And he goes, Oh, it makes perfect sense. And I look at the sheet of paper, I'm like, Why didn't I put that in the book?
And I think, because it's something that we now call the same side quadrants. My clients use this all the time. There’re journals they that they distributed to their teams and it provides a guide to navigate them through sales meetings to make sure that they’re not going on a business date, but they’re actually doing business.
And I would love to tell you that it was some great idea that I had, but it was more a client that says, Well, can you draw it out for me? And as I did, all of a sudden it was like, Wait a minute. That makes perfect sense. So, it's a silly, simple thing that makes it easy to reinforce concepts that people can apply to grow their business.
JLD: Frankly, you're giving your client too much credit. I mean, they might have led the horse to water, but you had to drink, Ian. You have to actually drink that water. And you did. So, in just one sentence, what do you want to make sure Fire Nation gets from that Ah-ha moment? Break it down.
IA: Really, it just comes down to having the vision to see what make things easy for people to process. So, for example, if I'm on stage somewhere and I role-play and people go, Wow, that was really cool. It doesn’t matter. If I can't teach it to them, if you can't make it so that your team can execute and implement your ideas, then it doesn’t matter because you can't scale beyond yourself. So, it was about how do you convert this into something that is teachable and repeatable that anybody can follow.
JLD: Fire Nation, it’s three simple words. Curse of knowledge. We all have it. When we know something, we just assume other people know it. When something’s obvious to us, we just assume it's obvious to everybody. Not true. Uh-uh. No way. It's the curse of knowledge. Don't let it hamper you moving forward. Break it down to simple terms. Let other people know the simple process that it is. Because guess what? We don't all have time to master all things. You master one thing and then break it down to a simple process for others. It’ll take you far.
So, Ian, with everything we’ve been talking about today, it is today. What are you most excited about right now?
IA: It's really helping the non-sales people become the rainmakers. So, it's a belief that I have, which is going forward. The subject matter experts or the non-sales people are going to be the true rainmakers in organizations generating the most business. And so, I built this thing called the Same Side Selling Academy, and it's this community I was hoping to get a few people in, and it turned out a lot more than a few people came in who were just looking to grow with integrity. And it’s just a great environment.
When you see someone post, Man, you know, I ran to this with a client, how do you think I should handle it? And before I respond, someone else in the community says, Oh, here’s what I did. And it's just – It's a magical thing that, candidly, people were asking about for years and I was just too stupid to create it. And now that I did, it's just a magical thing to see people interact that way.
JLD: And where can Fire Nation find out more about that?
IA: You know, just samesidesellingacademy.com.
JLD: Boom, keep it simple. Keep it simple. Fire Nation, Ian’s been dropping value bombs. More coming in the lightening round. But let’s take a quick minute first to thank our sponsors.
Ian, are you ready to rock the lightening rounds?
IA: Dude, I’ve never been more ready for anything in my life.
JLD: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
IA: Fear. So, when I was working for a company, my direct boss and the control in company sat in my office. And I was explaining to them how frustrated that I was that there was all this business out there that the company didn't want to pursue. And I said, Well, so how much? And I literally said on a whiteboard and laid out $100,000s of business that the company didn't want pursue. And they said, Well, why don't you do it? And I said, Well, no. I’m not allowed to. And they said, No, not here. Why don't you do it on your own? And I thought, Man –
JLD: You’re like, Are you firing me?
IA: It’s like, Man, it – But I'm not allowed to do that. They said, No, no. Give it a shot. And it's funny because the guy who was my directory port, this guy Bob, three years later I hire as my COO of my company.
JLD: What is best advice you’ve ever received?
IA: From an entrepreneurial standpoint, it really comes down to just that focus always on the client. The best advice, personally, I’ve ever received was a guy who – When I would speak at events, sometimes I would do role-play, sometimes I didn't. The guy said, Look, you should always do wide role-play because that's kind of your super power, you just don't know it. And I think that – I guess the best advice is, listen to your friends when they identify your super power because you can be in denial. But now having given, you know, 100s upon 100s of talks, that's the thing that always resonated with the audience.
JLD: Recommend one internet resource.
IA: The tool that I use most often is a tool called Contactually. It is a painfully simple CRM tool that just keeps me on top of following up with people, not losing track. Tracking opportunities in a simple way that’s just tied in with email. And so, for me, that's the tool that I use more than anything else.
JLD: Yeah, I’ve actually interviewed the founder. Great dude, great company. Check it out, Fire Nation. And if you could recommend one book, Ian, what would it be and why?
IA: My friend Phil Jones also speaks on sales. Wrote a book called Exactly What To Say. And it is just a brilliant book of little phrases that the people I’ve given it to carry it with them. And there are little bits in there that are just magical that get you to pivot a conversation in a way that Phil put together that is absolutely brilliant.
JLD: Well, Fire Nation, I know you love audio. So, if you haven’t already, sign up at Audible and you can get this book, for this audio book for free, or anyone that you want. Just head over to eofirebook.com. And Ian, I want to end today on fire with you giving us a parting piece of guidance. Sharing the best way that we can connect with you and then we’ll say bye-bye.
IA: The best thing is understand that when you meet somebody or when your initially talking to them, you want to make sure that you're enticing their interest and disarming the notion that you're just there to sell something. And it's something that I put together for your audience at ianaltman.com/fire, so that way there a video that just shows exactly how you can do that. So, you always show up as someone who is there to solve something, not someone who’s there to sell something. And anything you want about me, you can get at ianaltman.com
JLD: Fire Nation, you're the average of the five people you spend the most time with. You’ve been hanging out with IA and JLD today. So, keep up the heat and head over to eofire.com. Just type Ian in the search bar and his show notes page will pop up with everything that we’ve been talking about today. These are the best show notes in the biz. Timestamps, links galore.
And, of course, head over to ianaltman.com/fire for that killer gift. And Ian, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, we salute you and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
IA: Thank JLD.
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