What I've Learned From Blogging Sales Machine

Last Updated Oct 28, 2011 2:44 PM EDT

Wow. I mean, seriously. Wow.

I've already received hundreds of emails from loyal Sales Machine readers who want to know when Sales Machine starts posting elsewhere. I expected a response, but nothing like this.

For those of you who haven't emailed me yet, find my email address via search on Google.

Everyone who emails me with a valid return email address gets a chance to win one of 20 free copies of my new book (based on the blog) entitled How to Say It: Business to Business Selling.
Rest assured, I will answer EVERY ONE of your emails personally over the next few weeks, as soon as I'm 100% certain where Sales Machine will land. (These things take time, as anyone who's negotiated contracts knows.)

Meanwhile, I thought this might be a good time to summarize what I've learned about blogging.

As of tomorrow, I will have written 1833 posts, comprising roughly 1.2 million words, which is equivalent to about 20 business books. There have been somewhere around 10,000 comments and many Sales Machine posts have earned thousands of "LIKES" on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Sales Machine has grown from a blog with about 3 readers to one of the most popular business destinations on the web. I've learned a lot during that process and most of it runs completely contrary to conventional wisdom about blogging.

The other day I was chatting with John Kremer, world's top expert in book marketing, explaining how I grew Sales Machine, and how, based on my experience, the "advice" that most people get about blogging is flat out stupid. He suggested that I collect my thoughts into a e-book and sell it for $500 a copy.

But you guys know me. When it comes to good ideas, I'm like the village floozy who should be charging for her services but can't resist giving it away for free.

So that's the reason for this post. Here's what I've learned:

  • Readers are Smarter than Bloggers. Overall, I've learned more from the comments from you guys than I have from talking to dozens of top experts. Some of the most popular posts -- the ones that people return to again and again -- came from Sales Machine readers. Yeah, I did rewriting (that's my particular gift), but the ideas from the readers, especially regular commenters, were original, thought-provoking, sometimes off-the-wall, and always fascinating.
  • Most Bloggers are Full of C**p. Let's face facts. One of the HUGE reasons that Sales Machine became so popular is that there wasn't much competition in the sales area. With the notable exception of Gerhard Gschwandtner's truly excellent blog, most sales-oriented blogs just exist to flog some kind of sales training program or service. The only blogs that are worth reading are those, like Sales Machine, where a journalist is PAID to write, independently of advertising. Bloggers who are just flogging products are useless.
  • Traffic Talks and BS Walks. In the olden days, editors and publishers decided what people probably wanted to read and assigned stories accordingly. With blogging, web traffic reports provide writers with daily, immediate feedback on what people are reading and what they're ignoring. The subject matter and direction of a good blog thus grows organically out of reader interest and response... rather than management guesswork.
  • Content is King. The experts say that the best way to get traffic to your blog is to write comments on other people's blogs with a link to your blog. I've done that about five times in the past five years. The truth is that the ONLY reason ANYBODY is going to read your blog is if you're giving them something (meaning content, ideas, opinions, etc.) that they can't get elsewhere. Putting content on somebody else's blog only make sense if they get LOTS more traffic than you. And you still have to have unique content.
  • Don't Avoid Controversy. While only a nut would bring politics, religion, sex, marketing stupidity, etc. into the conversation when making a sales call on a customer, blogging is all about telling the truth as you see it. This very much includes delving into areas of thinking that make other people uncomfortable. BTW, posting something just to get a reaction, when you don't BELIEVE what you're posting, never works. It's got to come from the heart, or it doesn't fly.
  • Never Grovel for Your Readers. Actually, I got this one from Seth Godin. He explained that having a product that "everyone likes" is the kiss of death. The only way you'll get 90 percent of your readers to LOVE what you write is if 10 percent of your readers HATE what you write. That's why I'm never afraid to suggest to complaining readers (if they're being silly or unreasonable) go read something else. My old editor used to go nuts every time I made that suggestion but, heck, it's how I feel about the subject.
  • Blogging is Live Action. Many readers have told me that they like reading the comments (including my responses) more than the posts. On a typical day, I spend more time responding to comments than I spend actually writing the blogs. When it comes to writing, it's far more fun to get into an argument and hash it out online than it is to bloviate in the post itself. What's really cool is when a reader "bests" me and I have to back down and admit I'm wrong. Sometimes that's the only way a stubborn guy like me can learn something new.
  • Some People Are REALLY Thin Skinned. Political conservatives, religious fundamentalists and strategic marketers must be the most insecure people on the planet, because anytime I say anything that conflicts with their opinions, they react with eye-rolling fury. By contrast, when I skewer various liberal shibboleths (which I do fairly frequently) or complain about, say, sales outsourcers, the response is generally polite and reasonable.
  • Sales Pros Know More than CEOs. Over a couple of decades, I've interacted with hundreds of both types, and I can tell you that your average sales professional knows more about business, about people and about life than your average CEO. And sales professionals are a heck of a lot more fun to hang around, too. Folks, I gotta tell you, most CEOs are borrrrrrrringggggggggg.....
Well, that's what comes to mind as I write on a Thursday, one day before the wildly successful run of Sales Machine on CBS/BNET draws its inexorable and inevitable close.

Remember: if you want to remain part of Sales Machine and get advice and ideas that you can't get anywhere else, email me.

TOMORROW: THE FINAL SALES MACHINE POST ON CBS/BNET