Build a social media audience and don’t be afraid to get your book in front of them. The more social you are, the better.
As a part of our series about “How You Can Grow Your Business or Brand By Writing A Book”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Justin Mark Weeder.
Justin Mark Weeder is a psychology nerd turned sales coach. He’s the creator of the LISTEN Method for closing sales, and the founder of The Covert Closer — a sales coaching and consulting agency based in Denver, Colorado. Justin teaches his students how to collaborate with their prospects, ditching the high-pressure ‘sales terrorist’ techniques that are popular today.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share a story about what motivated you to become an expert in the particular area that you are writing about?
I’ve been in sales for over fifteen years, but I’m not the typical gregarious salesperson. In fact, I’m a nerd. I started working at Circuit City (remember them?) when I was 17 years old, fixing computers. You can probably imagine the archetype — nerdy, gamer, socially awkward, and really into computers.
One day, our laptops department was overran with customers, and the manager asked if I would come help. This particular manager was known in the store for being obsessed with selling extras; extended warranties, printers, laptop bags, etc. His team complained to us ‘techies’ all the time that he put so much pressure on them to sell accessories. Naturally, when he asked me to go help a customer, my heart started beating out of my chest at the thought of ‘selling’ — but he reassured me. “Here’s this checklist. Just go down the list and ask them if they want this stuff after they decide on a laptop.” OK, I thought, I’m capable of following a checklist, it won’t be that bad.
And it wasn’t that bad. I met a friendly couple who wanted to buy their daughter a laptop for college. They had a bunch of questions, which I knew the answer to, and was happy to share. Eventually, they decided on a rig and asked me to ring them up. I saw the manager watching me from the corner of his eye, so I pulled out my checklist and started asking if they wanted to buy extras: “So, it doesn’t come with a bag, do you think she needs a bag?” I asked.
“Oh. Yeah, she will need a bag, let me see.” The customer went and picked out a laptop bag and brought it back. “Great choice in bag here. Do you want to get her a mouse?” And they went and picked out a mouse.
“Got the mouse. Do you want to get anti-virus and anti-spy software?” I asked again, just going down the list. But their response this time caught me off-guard: “Do you think we need it?”
Without even thinking, I responded, “Yeah, absolutely. I fix a lot of computers for people who didn’t have any kind of anti-virus and it can really slow down the computer and make it hard to get anything done.”
They both looked at each other and said, “We definitely need that. Go ahead and add it on.”
This continued in the same fashion all the way down the list. They agreed to everything. Including the extended warranty. After they left, the sales manager came up to me and gave me a high-five. “Wasn’t that fun?” He asked. Yeah, it was fun. It was A LOT of fun! For the entire rest of the day, other people from the computers department and almost every other department came up to me and congratulated me on the sale. My name was at the top of the sales board for most of the day. I was on cloud nine. I was hooked.
From that point on, sales felt like my ticket out of poverty. I grew up poor and knew that I had to find my own way in the world. I also knew that formal education was not an option because I have ADHD that was undiagnosed at the time. Mastering selling became a fun way to learn psychology and create a career for myself without going the traditional college route.
Can you share a pivotal story that shaped the course of your career?
In 2012, I had been selling software for about four years, and I got fired. It was totally my fault, but truth be told, I didn’t want to be there anyway. Funny how that works out. Anyway, for the next six months I paid my bills with unemployment and professional poker. My roommate at the time was a skilled player and taught me how to bet and win — eventually I had built up a five-figure bankroll.
Everything was going great until I left for a weekend to play a tournament in Vegas. When I got home, there was an eviction notice on the door, and my roommate was gone. I called his cell, and it was disconnected. I tried calling some of our mutual friends, and they hadn’t heard from him either. I figured he was just out on some kind of bender — he was known to party hard.
No big deal, he must have forgot to pay rent. I went to get some cash out of my lockbox (that was well hidden) where I kept my poker bankroll. It was gone. I’ll never forget realizing in that moment what happened. How naïve could I be? Why didn’t I keep this money in the bank? Well… because I was afraid of bill collectors garnishing it. My life was a mess.
Turns out my roommate was a heroin addict. He made off with my lockbox — not sure how he got it open, but where there’s a will there’s a way, I’m sure. Now I’m being evicted, and I have no money and no job. The thing about poker is it takes money to make money. If you don’t have a bankroll, you can’t survive the inevitable ups and downs you’re likely to face in the game.
That meant I had to do the millennial thing and move back in with my mom. In a 7’x9’ room that would have been more suited as a walk-in closet. Oh, and living with mom wasn’t free. I had to get a job, and fast. I remember being at Goodwill looking for a suit, and I saw Grant Cardone’s Sell or Be Sold in the books section for 2 dollars. I figured what the hell, I’ll check it out.
That book completely changed the way I look at life. There’s a quote, “Life doesn’t happen TO you. Life happens BECAUSE of you.” It was maybe the 2nd or 3rd time I read the book that I truly understood what that quote meant. It hit me like a ton of bricks because on one hand, I felt as if I could finally control my own destiny, but on the other hand, I felt the crushing responsibility of knowing that I couldn’t blame where I was in life on anyone else but myself.
I knew I should have been looking for another job and not playing poker.
I knew that something was up with my roommate and his behavior had been strange.
And on and on.
I put the book down and didn’t come back to it for a few months. But when I did, I committed to improving myself every day, learning how to really sell instead of bully people, and starting setting (and crushing) goals. Had my roommate never put me in that spot of adversity, I don’t know where I’d be today.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Are you working on any new writing projects?
I’m currently running a mastermind for entrepreneurs that teaches them ethical and low-pressure sales techniques. Most of the sales training out there on the market for entrepreneurs is hard selling, high pressure, and pushy. I call it bro-closing. Many professionals find it difficult to adopt the attitudes and energy necessary to be successful at bro-closing.
That’s why I developed the LISTEN Method — a collaborative approach to handling sales calls, specifically objections and stalls like ‘I can’t afford it’ and ‘I need to talk to someone else’. I’m in the final phases of editing for a book I’ve written on the method as well that tells the story about how I developed the approach over the past 15 years in professional selling.
Thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. Can you please tell us a bit about your book? Can you please share a specific passage or story that illustrates the main theme of your book?
My book is called The Covert Closer’s Code, it’s a guide for sellers to develop the right mindset for being successful in sales. As a sales leader in the tech space, I realized that the number one issue my team struggled with was their own mindsets. Looking back at my sales career, nothing clicked into place for me until I figured out how to show up every day ready to win, and full of confidence. For those who don’t possess these traits naturally, it takes a lot of hard work to rewire your brain to achieve it.
Here’s a passage from the book you might enjoy:
Do you complain? Most people do. The average person is a victim. Everything is someone else’s fault. Bad things always happen to them. There is no personal accountability. They are victims of circumstance. It is only by forging a steel backbone with careful thought and discipline that people break free of their victim-hood and become creators of circumstance. A creator of circumstance is that person you know who seems able to accomplish anything. Nothing phases them; nothing deters them from their goals. They’re always reaching new heights in their business, income, relationships, fitness, and personal happiness. Does that sound like someone you’d like to be?
Step number one: you have to take full responsibility for your life. You have to realize that everything in your life is up to you. The old saying “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me” stands true in any situation I’ve ever been in. Let me give you an example:
Prior to DIY, I worked at an electronics store called Ultimate Electronics. Working there was a blast. Not only did it inspire my love for A/V, but the people I worked with were a riot. We made amazing money and educating people on A/V technology was a hell of a lot of fun. I met some lifelong friends while working there and also made connections that would serve me in a big way down the road in my career. I learned my first major lesson in presentation skills and attachment selling and had the pleasure of working under two amazing leaders who inspired me and helped make me who I am today.
At the tender age of 19, I drove a 3-year old vehicle, lived on my own with my friends, partied every single night, had a fake ID, and was making 1,000 dollars or more per week. This job was incredible. I had never earned that kind of money before, and I loved it. I was addicted to it. Commission-based sales had improved my life in a massive way. Ultimate Electronics was the best job I’d ever had.
I was fired from Ultimate Electronics for being late. And I was late often. Usually by one or two minutes. I had been written up twice for it already, and the General Manager, Derek, told me that the next time I was late was the last time. Well, in typical Justin Weeder fashion, I was late again two weeks later. Derek had said he was done, and he was. I’ll never forget the feeling in my stomach when he handed me my last check. I had a big start to a HUGE month and that check was sweet, but let’s be real here, it was a stupid fucking reason to get fired from a 60,000+ dollars per year job at 19 years old.
I used a lengthy justification story that involved an unnecessary breakfast trip in my excuse, but the details aren’t important. What is important is how I handled it: Like a child. I sat in my car and bawled my eyes out like a toddler who’d dropped his ice cream. I didn’t think it was fair. I didn’t think it was my fault, and I didn’t take responsibility for it happening for years.
The point is, life was trying to teach me something. That’s what life does; it throws curveballs and lessons at you until you learn them. If you don’t learn, it continues to throw curveballs until you figure it out. Then it throws you something completely different!
You are a successful author and thought leader. Which three character traits do you feel were most instrumental to your success when launching your book? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Sure! I’d have to say organization, consistency, and surrender are the three character traits that were most instrumental to my success when launching my book.
Organization because when I sat down to write the book, it felt impossible. I always had this huge lump in my chest like I needed to climb a huge mountain. It felt like such a huge task, and I thought I’d never get it done. I almost gave up. I couldn’t muster the motivation to write because it felt like such a big project. My coach asked if I had made an outline yet, and I said… “What’s an outline?”
Once we got the outline hammered out, writing the rest of the book was as easy as following the second two traits.
Consistency because without it, the project could have dragged on for years. At the beginning of the project, I decided how many words a book of this kind for my niche should be, and then I decided I wanted to write the first draft in 30 days. Next, I divided the total words by 30, and it gave me around 1500 words per day. I told my coach to hold me to that standard, and that’s what I did. Every day, without fail, I would write 1500 (sometimes more) words, and nothing less.
Surrender because when I was one or two chapters in, I started becoming harshly critical of my work. I remember thinking one night, “I’m just writing words to write words and get to my 1500 words goal. This is pointless.” My face felt hot, and I had a lump in my throat. I read over what I had just written, and it was total trash. I deleted it and started over. The second time, I was determined to write better prose because I was so disgusted with what I had written before.
It came out a little better. But I was happy with a little better. And for the first time in the journey, on that second go round, I hit a flow state. It was like the words were just pouring out of my brain naturally. It wasn’t perfect, but later I found many seeds of great ideas and stories that made the book all that much better. I learned that keeping to an fix number of words every day would allow me to create that flow state, and that the rough draft was just that — rough. I had to surrender my attachment to creating an incredible manuscript and let my intuition and daily work take the driver’s seat.
In my work, I have found that writing a book can be a great way to grow a brand. Can you share some stories or examples from your own experience about how you helped your own business or brand grow by writing a book? What was the “before and after picture?” What were things like before, and how did things change after the book?
Well, my book was kind of a flop! I had no idea how to market it, so it didn’t take off like I had hoped. That’s a small price to pay in the change in my reputation and confidence, though. Prior to finishing the book, I had a limiting belief about myself that I couldn’t finish anything. Once I finished that book, I knew I could finish anything that I wanted to, I had written a whole book!
It was an incredible feeling, and just confirmation that creating a plan, sticking to the plan no matter what, and surrendering to fate is truly the recipe of success that most people completely overlook. As the popular quote says, most people miss opportunity because it’s dressed up as hard work. It couldn’t be more true, except now I have a great loving relationship with hard work.
If a friend came to you and said “I’m considering writing a book but I’m on the fence if it is worth the effort and expense” what would you answer? Can you explain how writing a book in particular, and thought leadership in general, can create lucrative opportunities and help a business or brand grow?
I would say the fact that you’re even considering it means that you need to buckle down and do it. That goes for any friend, even if they’re thinking about a fiction book and don’t have a business or brand to grow. For friends with a business or a brand, I would say it’s worth at least 100,000 dollars expense to get it done. Now, most books don’t cost that much that are written by entrepreneurs, but that’s 1/10 or less the revenue that will come as a result of being able to say that you’re a published author.
Being a thought leader gives you authority in your industry. That means that the prospects you’re selling to will come in with a pre-determined know-like-trust factor. Numerous studies show that in competitive markets, where services are similar and prices are comparable for the same value, prospects vote with their heart — they go with the seller they trust. When you have authority in conversations, you can influence decisions with much less effort, and sell your products for more because you’re no longer competing on price.
What are the things that you wish you knew about promoting a book before you started? What did you learn the hard way? Can you share some stories about that which other aspiring writers can learn from?
I wish I knew how impactful (and relatively easy) it is to become a best seller on Amazon. Even though some people will roll their eyes at the ‘legitimacy’ of this distinction, it matters. It helps your book sell because you come up in the suggested or best sellers list. You also have the privilege of listing ‘Best Selling Author’ on your resume.
When it comes to promoting your book, hire a professional! They know all the tricks, they know how to set your profiles up, how to choose the right keywords, and how to build up an audience quickly that will catapult you into best seller status on the first day.
Beyond that, I would tell aspiring writers to do podcast tours to promote their books as well. Podcast listeners love knowledge and will eat it up — and hosts are always looking for more guests to keep their content new and fresh. Present your book as the solution to fixing an old problem in a new way, and you’ll be able to book quite a few interviews pretty easily.
Based on your experience, which promotional elements would you recommend to an author to cover on their own and when would you recommend engaging a book publicist or marketing expert?
If you can help it, I wouldn’t do any of it on your own. You should provide the content — the book — and let a professional who knows the industry promote it. You’ll get further, faster. If you’re in a place where the expense of that is too much, then I would say to spend 1–2 hours per day building a social media audience by being active on one platform and being as helpful as possible. Doing this right will make sure you have a built in audience to launch your book to, and it will help with sales!
Wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your own experience and success, what are the “five things an author needs to know to successfully promote and market a book?” If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Decide the purpose of your book. Will you be telling your own story or a story about your clients and their transformation? Or are you presenting information to be studied and consumed?
- Consider the narrative you want to tell. Follow or combine the seven story structures, even if it’s your life story.
- Find a good way to modify or improve on the ‘old way’ and use that to introduce your ideas as something completely new.
- Build a social media audience and don’t be afraid to get your book in front of them. The more social you are, the better.
- Hire experts and mentors.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
Frank Kern! Because he is the president of the internet
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent. We wish you continued success with your book promotion and growing your brand.