Noah Kagan's secrets to success in sales, marketing, hustling ... and life
Here's an interview I did with Noah Kagan, one of my favorite hustlers on the world wide web. We talk about sales and marketing tactics, business strategies, regrets and most importantly: the inner game of hustling.
If you think you're not a natural-born hustler, or you wonder whether you have the stuff it takes to succeed in sales, watch this 3-part interview. Noah shares simple, yet powerful exercises you can do to develop the attitude that will lead to success.
Oh, and if you're an awesome salesperson or designer, there's a job opportunity here for you ;).
(The quality of the recording is terrible, and there's a part missing in the middle, but as much as this video sucks on the outside, the awesomeness is within).
Steli: Right on, I think we’re recording. All right guys, this is Steli Efti with Close. I have Noah Kagan with me today which is a super honor to have. He’s one of the web’s original O.G. super hustlers, hence why I wanted him to jump on an interview.
I think Noah, what you’ve been doing for the past few years has been pretty educational to most of us, pretty awesome stuff. So I wanted to share more of these ideas, views, experiences with everybody that’s checking out the Close blog on a regular basis and wants to get their hustle game on to the next level. Noah thanks for joining us.
Noah: Thanks for having me, dude.
Steli: Why don’t we … just before we jump into my questions and really get hands on, on that, why don’t you give people a little bit of your background story of where you’re coming from, where you are today and where you want to go next to set the right context for the interview?
Noah: Sure, I started making a ton of crappy websites. I made Craigslist for college students, no one used it. I made a tech college text book exchange, people used it. I think what I’ve always really liked is I liked sales and I like to code. So I’ve always felt in between that. If you search my name you can find all the stuff I’ve worked on. But all I’ve done over and over again is on like, “Oh, that’s really cool. I want to do more of that stuff,” or that company is doing exactly what I believe in and what I want.
I just go do that and then I try to keep the word out there as much as possible. It’s like on Facebook I wanted to get a lot of girls, that needed a lot of finance. I have Sumo I just found products and I’m like, “These guys are awesome. I don’t know why I’m working and don’t know about them.” Then our biggest product now called SumoMe.com which is like – it basically solves everyone’s number one problem, which is how do I get more customers? Yeah, so it’s what I’ve been doing, just keep going towards the things that I really enjoy.
Steli: You’ve described yourself as a hustler before, not only in private but also in public. What does that mean to you? What does it mean to be a hustler in your own definition?
Noah: Could we swear?
Steli: Yeah, fuck yeah.
Noah: I just don’t know, sometimes I fucking offend people. I think a hustler is someone who’s not a pussy.
Steli: Okay, elaborate.
Noah: It’s interesting because I don’t know if it’s something that can be taught or not taught. But I think someone who’s a hustler, or whatever the term is, is that they are able to deal with rejection, because I think the difference between people who are making it and hustling and getting success is that they’re willing to persist when it’s painful for others. They’re willing to go to the gym and even not at the gym, they’re not just playing around they’re going through the pain. That pain and that rejection is where you get bigger muscles or where you get the success that you’re looking for.
I feel like every day, most of my day I’m facing rejection. I used to joke, we’re like Al Qaeda, that you can’t stop us. That joke never goes over. People are like “He’s Al Qaeda? I don’t understand this guy. I don’t understand him.” But the point and I think that’s what it comes down to is that just persisting and persevering when things don’t always seem as good as they could be or things are tough.
Like people who know me, “Hey Noah, can you do this for me?” or “Hey I want that job.” And I don’t do it, as a test, always, I’m like, “No, sorry I’m really busy.”
One out of 100 follow up with me.
Everyone else is like, “Oh great, thanks for the response, bye.”
It’s basically a clear indicator that they didn’t really want it. They didn’t want it badly enough. It’s cheap to send an email. I feel like a real hustler is that they’re like, “I’m going to go to the person’s door. I’m going call them.” Or like my buddy Eric Ruiz. Eric Ruiz is a hustler. He wanted a job at Wades. Do you know Eric?
Steli: No, I don’t think I know that Eric.
Noah: He’s a young hustler. He’s got an okay music taste which we’ll talk about later possibly. Erick wanted a job at Wades. Instead of saying, “Oh, I’ll apply and send my resume and put my finger in the air and pray that I get a job,” he literally walked into their office said, “I want to meet the CEO right now.” Met the CEO, is like, “Hey, I'm going to help do sales for you guys, where should I sit down and start working?” and got the job.
I think that is the epitome of what a hustler should be. Is that you want something bad enough. You’re willing to persist in a non-annoying way to accomplish it.
Steli: I couldn’t agree more with you. I have 100 stories I would want to share but in the spirit of actually getting most out of your hustling brain to the audience... Let me ask, when you said you don’t know quite if it’s something you can learn or not.
So if hustling is all about pursuing things without the fear of rejection or persisting despite rejection, what is that fearlessness? Is that really in the genes? Is that related to upbringing? If you have been brought up by a family that was pushing that or stimulating that, the ability to actually face rejection and overcome it, what do you think? Is it really personality? Is it environment and nurture or nature? How are you thinking of that?
Noah: My father was a salesman. He sold copiers door to door more or less. I didn’t really see him get rejected or not. I didn’t see that but I think one of the key things that he did and I think this is where …. I think it’s a factor of two things.
One, you have to want it enough. Like if you email me only once about something, you really didn’t want it enough.
Two, you have to practice. I’m still afraid. I still get afraid. To practice, I’ll go through some examples.
When I was a young kid, my dad would pretty much negotiate for everything. I was so embarrassed. I was like, “Can you just let it go? Do you always have to ask for things?”
I’ll get to some things that your people can – if you’re watching right now and you’re like, “I just want to get better or “I’m afraid,” or “I want to become more of a better salesperson.”
If you’re selling something you really love it’s easier because you’re like, “Hey, it’s a no-brainer I’m helping you.” I’ve always thought of the best sale as an education or a no-brainer sale where I’m like, “You have to do this.” I’m sad for you, but in terms of the straight practice part a few things that I would recommend.
Number one, if you’re trying to start your own business, here is one you could do. It’s called the 30-dollar challenge.
The 30-dollar challenge is how would you make $30 today? Hustle your ass off to make $30. The thing is, it’s not too much that you can’t do it. It’s not too little. A lot of people are like, “Oh, I could do that easy because a friend of mine will give me $30.
Go get $30 in and I think that’s the real difference, is that the real hustler will say, “Let me go do this. Let me struggle and I will get it.”
Other things that I can recommend is do the coffee challenge.
Coffee Challenge is something that I’ve made popular which is, I want you to go to Starbucks and you ask for 10% off. That’s it, you don’t say why. You can tell them, “Oh, my friend Noah told me to do it.” Don’t do anything else. The whole point is for you to feel uncomfortable. Then when you do it you’re like, “It’s not so bad, I can do this.”
A lot of people – my favorite responses are, “I’m a salesperson. I’ve done this for years. I’m not afraid of that.” Then just keep practicing and stay sharp. My brother thought he was such a bad ass. On his birthday we went and did it. He was like, “I don’t ever want to do this. I’m a little scared.” Just fucking do it, don’t be a bitch about it. I think what you have to do as a salesperson or become more of a hustler or become more fearless is continually push yourself on that.
One of the things that I do now is that, it’s uncomfortable. Is that in airports I do the newspaper challenge which is I go up to people reading newspapers and I ask for them.
I’m like, “Are you done reading that? Can I have your newspaper?”
I’ve had people who’d be like, “I paid for this.” I’m like, “I know, can I have the sections you’ve already read?” Then half the time they’re cool, half the time they’re not.
I think the whole point that I’m trying to make is that it will never be easy. They’re just never like, “Oh yeah.” You can just ask anybody anything, I'm super great at it.
But I think part one, find something where you genuinely believe you’re helping them and part two just keep practicing in smaller ways to build up that confidence.
Steli: I think that’s a really important point because most of the people when they hear somebody like you, they’ll think, Yeah that’s cool. Noah is already amazing at this. He’s born, as a baby he was out hustling other babies. He can’t help himself but being so awesome. But for me this shit is hard. I have to learn. I feel shame. I have something like shame which he doesn’t seem to have. I have all these emotions that are stopping me and all these reasons, rational reasons why I can’t do the things quite the way that he describes. I think it’s important you bringing up that you’re still sharpening the saw and working on that skillset.
Maybe – is there any example that you have today in your business versus the day-to-day asking for 10% off on a coffee or speaking to a stranger or a foreigner to practice the hustle muscle? Anything today where you can think of the last few weeks or months where you tried something really big with your business or tried something that was uncomfortable to you and you actually failed at it?
Noah: I would say I feel that way every day. Specifically, is that I’m trying to hire a designer. A designer, I’m cold emailing people probably – and this is no joke, 10 to 16 hours a day now. It’s basically getting rejected all day long. It’s like, “Oh no, I’m too fucking hip for you. No I don’t like your personality. No I already work at Google.” I literally got that email, I’ll show you. This email came from a guy who’s a really good at design. He said - I don’t know if you can see it but it’s like, “Fuck you,” is what he said, “I’m going to stay at Google for now.”
Here is the thing to think about. This is what I do. One you’re going to die so you [inaudible]. Secondly, I think the thing is two parts. Not that it always has to be two parts but two things that are interesting are one, I know that it’s going to be hard.
I tell myself that it’s going to be hard for the next two to three weeks doing this. That alone helps me accept that I’m going to get that all day long.
I’ve seen this in businesses. I’ve started a few that have made seven figures and they do well. I’ve seen a lot of people – we have of course Monthly 1K and we’ve helped literally over 5,000 people. I know a lot about how to start a business. I’m not saying – and I’ve also failed so I have some experience. The point I was going to make is that most people just need to accept that it’s going to take six months of shit or a year for them to finally get there.
There are businesses like Close and there are businesses like WPCurve, businesses like AppSumo that the difference between them is we are going to go through pain for six to 12 months to finally start making money.
Like my first year I made $12,000. Now this year I’ll make $100,000 plus. I’m not going to get on the details but that’s 10x over – but it took me four years.
I think if you can persist and know it’s going to be hard, that’s one thing.
I think the second key thing that people need to get better at when they’re doing their hustles is debriefing. This is my new word of the next quarters. The debriefing part is: What is not working? What is working? Then how can I do more of what’s easier?
With designers I’m struggling because I’m basically going up to girls at bars and being like, “What’s up girl?” I’m not as good looking as you and I’m balding here. I got my terrorist beard on, so it’s a harder thing.
But what is working is friends’ referrals is working, some ads. I’m running ads, that’s working and doing smaller gigs. Instead of me going up and being like, “Quit your job. Come join my party.” I’m like, “Hey, here is $200, do you mind doing this small project with me?” I think the thing is not just being like a bulldozer or being a steamroller, but saying, “All right these parts of the hustle are easier and these are working well. These ones aren’t. How do I just try and focus more on the things that are easier and that are going to be working better?” I just don’t think people do that enough in general.
Steli: Yeah, I mean that’s a really good point. I like calling it debriefing. Frames it in a way where people can actually look at the things that are not working and the things that are working and try to ask the question why.
It’s a good practice to get a little bit of a distance and you’re not as emotionally involved because I think what’s really hard on the emotional side of the hustle is because you’re so consumed by your business and the things that you’re trying to accomplish, the pain really hits hard when something doesn’t work. It feels so significant and so huge, but if you have just enough distance, if you look back at things that really bothered you or your failures ten years ago, they seem really tiny and they seem insignificant. You might even laugh about things that seem super life-changing at the moment.
Let’s talk a little about instilling a hustling attitude in the company. I wonder when Noah is looking to hire people, designers for instance. Are you looking purely at – what’s the skillset?
Is this somebody is just awesome at designing or how much do you go for culture fit?
How much of the culture fit is actually about the hustle?
How much do you look for people that are intrinsically hustlers?
Are you the chief hustler, the person that drives the business forward and everybody else in the company?
You don’t really care that much of how much of go-getters and hustlers they are. All you look for is people that have skills and can actually accomplish a certain thing in a given area of expertise.
Noah: For the designer role, I think a lot of it – I mean I can always pick my own staff. Is that what’s really important to me is just attitude. I think once they’re at a certain skillset, they’re just good or not. It’s just a certain cultural fit for ourselves. I think a little too humble sometimes. We’re not really braggarts. We don’t go out and boast about ourselves. Maybe we should and talk about some of the accomplishments.
I think that’s a big thing is that our attitude is mellow. I think one of the things that I’m really happy with the team we have now is that everyone is very reliable. I’d rather have someone effective and reliable, but I’d rather someone more reliable than effective.
Noah: Because reliability is predictability. When you can rely on something, one it just makes things much easier and smoother moving forward. When you start running a business, you realize predictability in revenue but billing people is how you’re able to grow a business. If things are all over the map, you can’t know how they’re actually going to be turning out in the future but then you’re like, “This is the forecast it makes it just frankly easier.”
I would say like in salespeople it’s interesting. We’ve gone through different – I think we’ve had 10 or 15 different salespeople. The person we have now is our best one is Anton. He’s insanely good. I don’t really have to motivate him. I don’t have to tell him what to do. I don’t have to set his sales quotas. We just hired someone who does it himself.
If I could hire more like that – I am hiring more like that. So people want to learn how to sell really well, if people want to learn how to work in a seven-figure business or an eight-figure business, we are hiring salespeople.
Part of it is we can teach certain things but also Anton, if I left him alone he would just keep hustling because that’s his nature. I don’t think that makes sense for the developers.
I’m not looking for a developer who’s going to go out and be like, “I’m a hustler make something happen.” I’m looking for a developer that frankly is reliable. Not just smart but reliable with a good attitude.
Steli: Awesome, now let’s talk a little bit about some tactics; some actionable things that people can take to improve what they’re doing. We talked a little bit more about the philosophy of hustle and can it be learned or not and the emotional side of it like dealing with rejection and really going forward although you anticipate that things are going to be really hard.
Now let’s say I feel like I have that but I’m still a diamond in the rough. I need to learn how to write better emails. I need to learn how to make better pitches in person or on the phone.
What are some of the rules, some of the tactics that you’ve seen applied really well? How do you send emails when you send emails? How do you select people that you want to send an email to? Would you have to make a pitch either to an employee, a customer or press whoever you’re trying to convince of something? What’s the structure that you use and the way that you think about putting together a really fucking awesome pitch and sending really great email?
Noah: I think the overall thing is if you’re trying to accomplish something, let me just say a few things. One, I get emotional. I know you’re like, “Oh no, when you face rejection you have no fear,” but no, I get sad.
Like there’s this designer I really like. I start fantasizing about him. I’m like, “He’s going to be so great. We’re going to go get drinks and he’ll like working out with me. Then he doesn’t respond or he says he’s busy then yes, it does suck. I think that’s what I’m saying. As long as you know it’s going to suck for some period of time it makes it easier when it does suck.
In terms of actual hustle tactics, I’ll just provide a mantra to make it easier: If you’re doing what everybody else is doing, you will not succeed.
That’s it. If you’re sending email to close a deal, there are 10 other people sending an email to close the same deal as you.
I had this really crazy epiphany a few days ago and I realized that I’m super naïve. When I’m hitting on a designer does that work for me via a LinkedIn boring request? There’s 10 other companies doing the same thing. They all have food and lunches and all this shit. I think what you have to realize is that if you’re doing the things for sales the same way everybody else is doing you are not going to succeed.
Steli: How do you know what everybody else ….
Noah: Here is the thing, so if you’re trying to close a sale, let me give you a way of thinking about it that’s worked well for me. What would I do to close a sale if my life depended on it?
I’d tell you I would not send a fucking email to close a sale if my life depended on it. I would get in my car or my scooter or my bicycle or an airplane and I would show up in person.
I think that’s the number one thing that I think most people neglect. Is if you really want to close a sale, if your life depended on it, how would you be treating that one sale?
I think most of people are a little like, “Yeah, let me send an email.” They didn’t respond, “Okay, I’ll give up, bye.”
I think the other thing that most people are doing incorrectly when they’re doing sales is that I don’t think they spend the time to actually listen to what the person really needs help with. They think they are. I got a call from a popular tool company. There were like, “We need to talk to you, to talk to our account manager to talk this stuff.” I was like, if you would have just engaged me for a minute what I’m up to, what I’m trying to do …
Noah: What I’m trying to – some of the tactics. Obviously the one that’s become more common into this is, “Is there any reason you wouldn’t work with us today?” you can use that in any format. When you’re getting … did I freeze again? When you’re getting a job, “Is there any reason you want to hire me today? When you’re doing a service, “Is there any reason you wouldn’t work with our company?” Tool, “Is there any reason you wouldn’t sign up after 12 months?”
Then they tell you why they wouldn’t.
Then you see if you can answer them or not, and you don’t or you do and you close the sale.
I like one of the tactics that you talked about which is, and you did it in one your blog posts which is that at the end of any – at almost at the end of any call I always say, “Hey, I have my calendar open. I’d love to schedule a time for us to check in again. How is this day and time?” because most of the times whenever you get off the phone, everyone goes back to the busy days of their lives so you have to reschedule the checkups.
Other things I like to do. I like real-time chat. I really love when I’m on G Talk or Skype. It just makes it easier for you to talk to the person when there’s issues. Otherwise it’s like hey, let me email. I don’t know if they got my email. Did it go to Spam? Are they checking on email or the application?
I think the ultimate thing that I’m actually starting to realize now which has been pretty interesting is just like one or two things.
One, what makes the person look good to their boss? What makes you look good to your boss?
And secondly, really understanding their ROI metric? What is it that’s ROI for them? For a lot of SumoMe.com clients it’s page views because page views equals ad dollars. If I say you make this much just for a page view. If I can double your page views, it sounds like that’s worth $10 million to you, is that right? - Yeah. - If I’m only $20 a month that sounds like it’s valuable, right? - Right.
I think the more that you can understand the priority – because what’s funny in sales is sometimes people just come in and sell like, “We do this, we do this.” I’m like maybe their actual priority is something over here. I think if you can understand what their metric of success is then it’s much easier for you to be like, “Yes, I can help you increase that or no I cannot.” And not actually sell them but just be in touch with them.
Steli: Yes, that’s awesome. I think you said you had a couple of little diamonds in there, really useful advice.
A, I love the question of, “Is there anything today that would stop you from … hiring me, working with us, joining our team?” I think that’s such a brilliant question because it in part it allows the other person to openly talk about the issues they might have or the things that still stop them from believing that they should do business with you or whatever you want them to do.
It makes it comfortable for them to actually bring these things up and openly talk about them. That’s awesome, it’s brilliant and as you said, once it’s out there, now you can actually manage it. Now you can actually see if you could respond to it, if they’re actually right and the issue they have or the problem is something that’s insurmountable or if you can actually point them into a direction of, “No, we can totally deal with this and here is a solution to the mental roadblock that you had.” I think that’s a brilliant question. It’s an awesome question. I’m going to take in to my arsenal and teach others as much as I can.
Noah: I think the thing is if you’re trying to do sales is that if you have something that you really think is helpful for someone – one of the things that’s been interesting for SumoMe.com we’re going to start charging for it early next year [early 2015].
I’ve been doing phone interviews with people. I think it’s funny because you can actually see these phone interviews as sales calls. But they’re not sales calls. It’s actually me, I take an hour and I say, “Let me just hear what’s up with your business. Let me help you with your business.”
If it’s parts that I think SumoMe can help them. I’m like, “Oh yeah, maybe you should upgrade,” or, “Do you think this is something you’d want to upgrade to and they’re like, “Yeah, that actually would be great for my business.” That’s all I’m really ultimately doing so I don’t think it’s sales calls.
I think that maybe for a lot of people who aren’t hustlers or salespeople and want to be, don’t ever think of yourself as doing a sale. Think of yourself as doing an education. You are an educator teaching them about things they may not know about that you could benefit them, if it’s important to them.
But think of yourself as an educator and I know that mind shift might help a lot of people when they’re selling to someone.
The other thing, this has actually been a really interesting thing that I’ve done over the years. If you’re doing sales, one of the most valuable things you could do is connect that person with another person, so either a former customer of yours or current customer or another partner that would help them. What happens there is that if you can help them right away, fine.
If you can help them right away yourself it’s fine, but regardless is that they will always put that value back on you of like, “Wow Noah connected me with that guy.” I do it genuinely. I’m not just doing it like, “I have to do one connection because that’s the quota.” I do it because I’m like, “You really need to talk to this guy because I think it will help you.”
I think if you’re aware of that when you do a sale, it makes it much easier for you always to try and be in the mindset of how can I help this person and selfishly yes, how can I also help myself if I generally think it will benefit both of us?
Steli: That’s awesome. That’s a great strategy and not something that I typically thought of as being super proactive earlier on in a relationship with seeing this as an easy way to create value, create value and stand out from the crowd.
The other thing I love that you said was really actually listening. Most people think – I always say there’s a distinction between hearing and listening. Most people think just because they hear the other person speak, they’re really listening but there’s a massive difference and listening with the intent of understanding somebody.
Actually trying to go, if I really wanted to understand them, do I already have enough information and not just stay at the surface level but really go deep and go, “You told me that you need two red buttons in our product, but why? Why is that important? How would you click those buttons? What do you do today instead of clicking those buttons? What does everybody else in your team think about this?"
Actually truly understanding somebody rather than just taking the words out of their mouth and go, “Oh cool, two red buttons. We have two red buttons, you should buy our product,” and really going for the close immediately without truly understanding the other party. I think that’s super crucial and something most people totally confuse about sales. They think it’s all about talking and it’s actually all about asking the right questions, listening. Then selling is easy as you said. It’s like educating them, uncovering that you have a solution once you truly understand what their problem is.
Noah: I mean it’s funny because I think what I’ve always – I mean, not as an arrogant thing but people are like you’re very good at asking questions. I know it’s because of my mom. It’s a Jewish mother thing. If you have a Jewish mother you’d know. But I think if you had to do a conversation and you have to do 80% of the questions, you will be a good salesperson. Then maybe 20% you’re like, “Yeah, I can actually help you with that. Oh yeah, here is exactly what you should do. Thank you, give me the money.”
Steli: We talked about a bunch of stuff that’s really I think super crucial. What are some of your hustling heroes? Who are the people that you look up to and you go, “Holy shit, the things that this person does, the way they approach things are just putting me shame, making me want to raise my game both inspirationally as educational. Who are the people that you look up to as the real true super hustlers of the game or people that inspire you to put your game to the next level?
Noah: The guys at Bounce Exchange are hustling really hard. I’ve been seeing them and that’s hustle hard. There’s guys I’ve learned something in sales like Zig Ziglar is a good guy for sales, like Jeffrey Gitomer, Keith Ferrazzi I learnt from him.
In terms of local people or internet people Tim O’Neil, I sold against him for Face bookings. That guy was just like a straight beast on sales. I’ve been trying to recruit him for days. He’s been tough.
You know who’s done really well too, How About We Team, they’ve actually been able to get a lot of partnerships, if you see how about losing a ton of different newspapers? I think they’ve done a really good job. A buddy of mine, I know you’re asking for someone big but everyone …
Steli: No, no these are actually better because there are some names everybody already recognizes. It’s better to highlight some people that maybe some people you’ll…
Noah: This guy named Lloyd Ambrost who works at OwnLocal.com. I think what I respect is people that persist over a long period of time. It’s easy to do anything for a month. It’s harder to do something for two years when a lot of people doubt you. I think anybody who’s done sales consistently it’s a very hard thing to do.
Who else has hustled really hard? I don’t know, if I could find someone that hustles really hard I would hire them. I think it’s even Close it wasn’t easy. I’m sure it’s like we had this thing. It’s not working, hey we’re going to keep going and keep going. That’s what I respect.
Steli: That’s one thing that I always tell people. We talked about this, about sales hiring consistency, being the key factor between somebody who might be okay or good or somebody that’s truly great is actually being able to bring it consistently every single day, every day no matter how bad their day was, no matter how bad or down they feel, no matter how great things are going. Just being consistent in the upwards is really hard.
Noah: I want to say two other guys Anton from AppSumo is good, he’s really good. I’m not a good negotiator because how I negotiate is this. “Steli, what would make you happy? That much, does that fit my budget? Yep, okay good you get it.” He’s like, “No, it’s this.” I’m like, “Yeah and that’s pretty good.”
The second thing I think is really interesting is we were doing this hiring process for SumoMe.com. We were hiring inside sales guys. If you’re interested in working with us, come on. Check out SumoMe.com. We had about 200 people apply and 15 made it to the final round. Out of those 15 we chose one. He wasn’t actually – he didn’t get the best results. His results weren’t the best but he had the best attitude and he had showed the most hustle.
Noah: He hasn’t started yet. So in three months you can ask me if that was actually a good choice.
Steli: We’ll do a follow up on that but how did he show the best attitude and most hustle?
Noah: I gave him a tracking sheet and a sales bible. I said, go and after a week he was the only one that went. With everyone else I said, “What are you doing?” I’m not a hard salesperson. I’m actually a soft salesman. I don’t really go and be like, “Give me your money.” But with these guys I’m like, “What are you guys doing? Do you want this job or not?” and everyone then started working hard but he was the one that was doing it consistently. Then I talked to him on the phone and actually with his sales questions he had most thought.
If you’re applying for a job, have three good questions. Everyone was like, “When was that Sumo founded?” I’m like just – he actually was thinking about, how are you thinking about the sales process? What are the common rejections? How are you planning restructuring the team as you go forward? What technologies should we use and how can I be better prepared?” I was like this guy has thought and he showed heart which is what we’re looking for.
Steli: Awesome and remember I know that lots of people that have watched this video either want to get into the startup sales game, get their hustle to the next level. I think that the opportunity of working with you and working with the kind of business that you guys are building is an awesome sales opportunity for anyone out there.
Maybe two examples as we are moving towards the end of the interview. Maybe you can think of a time where you accomplished something just because you pushed one more time or just because you didn't stop, you hesitated, you were just about to turn around and not approach the girl of your dreams at the bar but then you just turned around again, did a 360 and actually did it. It turned out to be successful in business.
Maybe another time where you wish you’d done that, where you think back and you’re like, “Ah, I think it’s like if I could have only pushed one more time or got over myself maybe things would have turned out differently and I regret. I learned from it but I know this was a specific example where I could have done better and could have made a difference.
Maybe sharing a good and a bad example for this as we’re winding up the interview would be awesome.
Noah: Sure so some of the time, whenever that thing goes in your head where you’re like I should do this. But maybe I should … anytime you start doing the left and right, maybe no, maybe yeah, I do it.
Last week I was at a coffee shop and this guy had a - I’m hiring a designer. On his laptop it was a really good design and I was like, “No, I’ll see him around. I’ll come to the coffee shop. We’ll be friends, it’s fine, I don’t know. Then I was like that’s the moment. So I just went up to him and I was like, “Hey man, I like your design, what are you working on?” he’s like, “I’m doing this and it’s finance." - "I worked at Mint, what are you up to?” he’s actually not a great designer but I’m glad that I overcame that moment of hesitation.
I think in terms of a longer term persistence I use followup.cc. I always recommend it. It’s my secret magic weapon. It’s a Jewish mother in your inbox, they never forget.
I literally would like … so what are different examples of this? This is a longer one. My dad passed away and so the lawyers on his house have taken over three years to give us the money for the house. I literally have a monthly reminder. I just keep bugging theim. My mom always says this phrase, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. That’s helped me be persistent. That was one thing where I bugged them every month.
When I was doing Facebook [inaudible] for games tagged.com, I really, really wanted them. I probably spent about six months bugging him. I didn’t just send him an email. I sent him a magazine subscription to Running because I knew he liked running. One of my favorite things with him was I said, “If you take a 15 minute meeting with me, I will buy you any pair of running shoes you’d like.”
Steli: Wow, nice that’s a good one.
Noah: Don’t send shit gifts. People are so thoughtless. I think one of the things that I’m good at is I’m observant and not arrogantly. I’m just good at it. I like being observant. I know he liked running and so then I just tried to make it worth his time to be with me. After six months he finally used us, and then we started making $2,000 a day. I was like that was good.
In terms of regrets, I have earlier regrets about being at Facebook and things I didn’t do correctly there. At Mint, I don’t really regret much. Let me think about it because I want to give you a good answer. I have my generic regret story which is, you remember that comedian Mitch Hedberg?
Noah: Check him out. He’s really funny. He always has stupid jokes and he’s a stoner. He’s like, “Hey man, you know escalators can never be broken. They just become stairs. Who’s doing the work, belts or the loop on jeans?” Stupid things like that. He came to Berkley and performed and I was like, “I’ll see him next time.” Then he died, he did a drug overdose. So I never got to see him again and that bummed me out.
In terms of the business, I think my biggest regret now is that and this is maybe because it’s more current and fresh. I regret that I didn’t spend more time doing recruiting sooner, because now six months later I probably could have hired a lot of people now or started six months ago, but instead of now what I’m doing in the holidays which is not a good time.
That’s a thing too it’s never a good time. Holidays, that’s for sale if you want to do something there’s never a great time. It’s like getting a speeding ticket, you’re always going somewhere.
Yeah, I would have tried to be a little more thoughtful or started sooner in that process.
Steli: Awesome, hey my man. This was super sweet. I think there’s just a ton of stuff in the interview that’s really useful and valuable. Also just seeing, I really appreciate you being authentic about hey listen, I also have these fears. I also feel shitty when somebody rejects me and letting down the façade that everybody thinks they see like there are these people that don’t have these feelings, that don’t have these feelings, don’t have these struggles, so hence that’s why they can be successful versus me, I have to deal with all these demons inside. I don’t feel that comfortable doing all these crazy things. No man, we all feel the same thing.
It’s just about some people learn the habit which I love, you’re inner dialogue, left and right and going, “That’s the moment where I have to do something."
Some people just build up the muscle of doing it anyways.
Noah: It doesn’t really ever get easier. If you want to do it in another way, you could always think of it as dating. When you’re at a place and you just want to go talk to someone. That’s really uncomfortable. It never gets easier just practicing it. Eventually you finding something you’re excited to go share with people.
Steli: I love that that’s the final note. Folks, it never, ever, ever will get easier. How is that for motivational inspiration at the end?
Noah: It’s a little sad, it doesn’t ever get easier. But I think it’s like as long as you’re doing things you want to do with good people then it makes it worth it.
Steli: Yeah, that’s awesome. Hey my man. I so appreciate your time. I appreciate your hustle and I’m inspired by it every day. Hey, quick before we hang up. We pitch now a couple of times from different angles people that are awesome at design or sales or anybody else reaching out or maybe seeing an opportunity of working with you. What’s the best email dude, to send you an email?
Noah: Find my email address and email me if you really want a job with me.
Steli: That’s what I thought you’d say next, it’s awesome. All right my man.
Noah: Most people like to put up a little barrier.
Steli: Barrier and that’s it they’re already out of the game. All right or even better, find his address and subscribe to some …
Noah: This dude, he’s like, “Yeah, man I got you Fishing Monthly,” I’m like, “I don’t fish.” All right I’m going to let you go.
Steli: All right my man, thank you so much. Thanks, bye, bye.
Find Noah online: @noahkagan , OkDork.com, AppSumo, SumoMe
If you enjoyed this interview, check out the interview I did with Gary Vaynerchuk too!