Episode 98: Robbie Samuels – Developing an Audience Before Establishing an Offer
Multi-passionate entrepreneur and TEDx speaker Robbie Samuels shares how he established a thriving business as a virtual event design consultant and executive Zoom producer after the pandemic affected his career in networking. Tune in as Robbie explains how it’s possible for people to engage online and build lasting business relationships with them by using the right digital tools and ensuring an event or a meeting is an enjoyable experience for your target audience.
He’ll also discuss the power of leveraging your network because, for him, most of the people you need to succeed are already within your reach. It’s all a matter of engaging and deepening the relationships you already have. More inspiring pieces of advice from Robbie are in store for you in this episode, so make sure you listen until the very end!
Visit Robbie’s website to know more about what he does as well as SmallListBigResults.com for more details about his book entitled, Small List, Big Results: Launch a Successful Offer No Matter the Size of Your Email List and also get all the bonus material, which he calls The Big Results Tool Kit.
Robbie Samuels 00:00
Making sales social is about engaging your likely audience, your likely prospects as you build the offer so you are truly co-creating with them, building a runway so that you are identifying both prospects and (unintelligible) referral partners while you tweak and iterate the process. So when you finally have an offer for the market, the market is welcoming it and cheering you on, not saying like, “Who are you? What’s this?” Everything I’m doing, I want to make sure that there’s an audience before I put a lot of energy, money, and time into creating it.
Bob Woods 00:32
Welcome to the Making Sales Social Podcast! Featuring the top voices in sales and marketing. Join hosts Brynne Tillman and Bill McCormick. As they discuss the best tips and strategies they are teaching their clients so you can leverage them for your own virtual and social selling. You can also listen to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google Play. Here are your hosts Brynne Tillman and Bill McCormick.
Bill McCormick 01:10
Welcome back to Making Sales Social. I’m Bill McCormick.
Brynne Tillman 01:13
I’m Brynne Tillman.
Bill McCormick 01:14
Brynne, who’s joining us today?
Brynne Tillman 01:16
My good friend and really so excited to have Robbie Samuels here. We met probably one of my last events prior to the shutdown in the outskirts of Philadelphia with a group called Heroic Public Speaking and he had come down from Massachusetts at the time. We really connected. We had dinner together, we stayed in touch, and then even through the pandemic, we had some conversations on and off, and now he’s practically my neighbor because he’s moved down to Philadelphia. Robbie, welcome to Making Sales Social!
Robbie Samuels 01:50
Thank you. It’s really fun to be here. Thank you, Brynne.
Brynne Tillman 01:54
So I’m thrilled to have you. Tell everyone a little bit about you and a little bit of your story.
Robbie Samuels 01:59
Well, prior to the pandemic, I was best known as a networking expert. I wrote a book about that topic about networking at conferences, did a TEDx on that topic, coached people, had a group coaching program, and essentially all that came to a pause in March 2020 because the skills that I’ve been teaching around eye contact, business cards, shaking hands, and body language was no longer let’s just say relevance for the moment. I leaned into trying to figure out how to share value with my network, how to show up and be of service. And lo and behold, that led to me going from shuttered to six figures in eight months. And essentially, I have a thriving business now as a virtual event design consultant and executive Zoom producer. And part of the reason that was possible is that I’m a business growth strategist. And along the way, over the years, I’ve been working one on one and in groups, helping entrepreneurs identify the audience for their offer. And I treated myself like a client last year, and it was a great result.
Brynne Tillman 03:06
We’re thrilled because you have helped so many people everywhere I turn, anyone that needed anything regarding how do I use Zoom? What is a breakout room? Oh, you got to talk to Robbie Samuels. I’m like, “I know him. He’s my friend.” So you became really famous for these online events. So that’s great. So I know, Bill, you have your thing to say, go ahead.
Bill McCormick 03:28
I’m looking forward to getting into this, my brain is going in a few different directions but before we get to that, Robert, we ask every guest the same first question to kick things off, what does making sales social mean to you?
Robbie Samuels 03:39
Well, I think that nothing should be created in a vacuum and that’s one of the mistakes that I think every entrepreneur makes, including myself. So making sales social is about engaging your likely audience, your likely prospects as you build the offer so you’re truly co-creating with them building a runway so that you are identifying both prospects and likely referral partners, while you tweak and iterate the process.
So when you finally have an offer for the market, the market is welcoming it and cheering you on not saying like, “Who are you? What’s this?” So, I don’t do anything without socializing at first, including the title of my book, the subtitle of my book, the contents of my book, like I have a new book coming out, which is why I’ve been thinking about this. I mean, in everything I’m doing, I want to make sure that there’s an audience before I put a lot of energy, money, and time into creating it.
Brynne Tillman 04:33
I love that collaborative mentality that, you know, we’re not creating in a vacuum we’re creating with the people that are going to consume it. So I love that.
Bill McCormick 04:42
So, you know, Zoom is here, and it’s not going anywhere. I just got an email today. You know, McKinsey came out with a report just recently that said that more than 70% of B2B buyers prefer virtual interactions with salespeople. In fact, that same report I think says 74%, said that they’re going to require the first meetings of sales reps to be virtual because they don’t want to go through the rigmarole of checking someone and taking temperatures checking (unintelligible), you know, God forbid, we have to check things but anyway, so I’m curious to know, what are some of the things as a sales rep, as I said, that I should know in using zoom for virtual meetings. So what’s different? Because it used to be I was just talking the other day with folks, you know, we go from meeting to meeting now like, I mean, literally, where we used to drive between appointments and have that kind of time of calm, cool down and, you know, I can kind of take, we don’t have that anymore. It’s like, “Oh, my God, I’m late for the next one, click off, click on” so what are a few tips that you would give for sales reps in leveraging Zoom, leveraging video to have a first sales meeting with a client or prospect?
Robbie Samuels 05:54
The first thing I just heard from that I want to address, Bill is that I want all of us to acknowledge that we are the arbiter of our own schedules and there is no reason that things are back to back to back to back to back. If it would benefit us and our company to have a 15-minute buffer, a 30-minute buffer before taking calls, or maybe four phone calls in a row, and then a large break to take all your notes and wrap them up, we need to build that time in.
So just because we can go back to back to back to back, doesn’t actually mean it’s the best thing for ourselves, for our longevity in this work, for our “Zoom fatigue,” whatever you want to call it. But I do think Zoom and any similar platform, I’m most, you know, tied to Zoom, brand-wise, but I think there’s a lot of benefits. In particular, Zoom has a feature now where you can enable the live transcription, which means that when you’re done with the call, you get you know, it’s a computer-generated transcript that we don’t have time to rewatch all the replays of all the content we’ve recorded. And I’m never going to, it’s like a proverbial stack of books next to my bed but I can do a quick search through a transcript to try to identify problem language or to see whether a certain word was used.
And to just like, to quote somebody, I mean, I think that’s so amazing. Before, we would have to actually run an audio file or video file through a third-party service like Otter.ai, or Rev.com and now we could just remember to enable it, is built-in and there are so many benefits to that. I believe it’s possible to engage people online and to create that relationship, I’ve met more people and had deeper connections in the last 18 months than in the three years prior. And I know and like a lot of people, so I’m big in person like I taught people how to network in person. For me to say it’s all possible, it’s just that we have to be thoughtful about how we’re leveraging not just digital tools but also analog tools and making sure an event and a meeting is really, truly engaging and welcoming everybody.
Brynne Tillman 08:09
I love it. I like to ask, because I know I want to move in the direction of building the audience during social but before we go there, I want to ask on Zoom, when you’re in a business development role, when you’re in a sales role, do you have any tips for making that a little more engaging? Or I know you have tips, what are some of your tips?
Robbie Samuels 08:36
I mean, I have been looking at you the entire time we’re doing this call. And a lot of people don’t do this, this is the simplest thing we can do. It’s free, it requires a tiny bit of training on our part. But if I just did this the entire time looking down or looking over whether I’m looking over at you in the gallery or looking over at my notes the whole time or looking over at my other screen, I mean like I think that looking at the camera and there’s lots of things you can do to train your eyes to go up there you can — my favorite actually is someone I know puts googly eyes above their camera like literally (Brynne: Oh, I love that) they glued some googly eyes. But you could take a picture of someone or your pet or something you love and like cut a tiny little hole in the bottom for the camera part. Have that be something you look at.
You can you know put arrows from like the sign here stickers. I have a little tiny piece of tape and I know that it’s to left on my green light and you just, I just make sure. I know that this is the first step towards engagement because of hurting my eyes throughout the whole call is like really a missed opportunity for connection. And everything else we do are bells and whistles compared to this, like this is baseline. Know enough about your content to not have to be staring down the whole time.
Brynne Tillman 09:53
So I love that and I need to hear that because I’m looking at you from my, like I’m looking at your mouth move and then, but you don’t see that you see me looking down because your picture is below mine, so I need to hear that. I did a whole presentation that was recorded for an outbound conference and I was looking at the side the whole time.
Robbie Samuels 10:14
Right now there are three of us. So you could actually drag me from the bottom to the top row and move me underneath your camera.
Brynne Tillman 10:20
Oh my god, how easy is that? And now I’m really looking at you and the camera. (Robbie: Right? Smart. Yeah.) I got what I needed. That was awesome. Mic drop.
Bill McCormick 10:30
I got yelled at. So I’ve got to build. I’ve got to build buffers into my schedule. But yeah, I mean often, so I look at the dot. There’s a, on my camera there’s a white dot. That’s what I look at all the time. But it does, there is a, got to weigh it because a lot of communication is nonverbal.
Robbie Samuels 10:50
I, actually, your peripheral vision is quite good because when I’ve got a gallery full of people, I can see when someone’s smiling or shifting, I’ll call their name. That’s another form of engagement to acknowledge, “Oh, yep. Brynne gets it. Now Brynne’s gonna give me a big smile.” (Brynne: Yeah) Right. And like, over time, I have cultivated those people into being regular attendees of the events that I host because they now feel identified as part of that community. I mean, I think that’s part of this, is like, how do you help people feel like they’re there part of the experience?
Brynne Tillman 11:23
I will tell you, putting you right under the camera is such an easy thing. And now it’s so easy. I love that. So talk a little bit, one of the areas you are so strong in is building an audience, building people that want to attend your events, building this online network. So we’ve been saying sales, but salespeople need to network. They used to go to trade shows and conferences, and, you know, business card exchanges and now mostly they have Zoom for networking.
Now, I have done a few networking events. One of them, I went to one that you were in, and I’ve been to somewhere we’ve just sort of showed up. I’m like, “Oh, look, Robbie’s here!” Right? So that’s been kind of fun. And I’ve had a better connection with some people from these Zoom networking events than I ever have in an in-person loud room with a keynote that I’ve got to get to and like, oh, and then “Oh, I want to get to the crabcakes.” Right, like all those distractions are gone, but talk about how do you draw in an audience? How do you build an audience for networking?
Robbie Samuels 12:31
Well, yeah, because I mean, there’s audiences for what you’re trying to sell. The thing I would just say about that is that I tend to work with entrepreneurs, particularly entrepreneurial women in their 50s and beyond, who are working on their product-market fit and lead generation once they figure that piece out. And, for me, I’m always telling them to lean into their existing network and go find people who know, like, and trust them. And I have a whole process called Wake up Your Network, which is giving you an opportunity to really identify people who would recognize your name and you would love to hear from out of the blue and then deciding whether they fall into the bucket of likely prospect, likely referral partner, coffee chat, or we’ll snooze them for now, and save them for the next version of whatever I’m trying to sell, or do or build.
So I just think, for whatever we’re doing, whether it’s an event, or it’s a product or service, or whatever, that us understanding who are those people, that are go-to people in our network to help us spread the word, make introductions, you know, to me, we’ve already met 80% of the people we need to know to be successful. That is a belief that I have, and a lot of us think about networking in the context of going to events, and you know, spraying and praying our business cards, but 80% of the people we’ve already met. So what are we doing to really leverage, engage, connect, deepen, whatever word you want to use with the people and remember them? Because it’s not who you know, or what you know, it’s who you know, who knows what you know? And I’ll even add, and will they remember you?
So when my events things started, I will say that within two days of struggling, I came to accept what was happening, I had been listening to Rachel Maddow, so I kind of saw the writing on the wall, and everything was gone. And I was really trying to figure out how to show up and add value in a world that no longer needed my services. And my peer network, I was meeting with a peer mastermind, kicked me in the butt and told me to go create something that networking for me was not happening only at events. And so I wrote “Nine Ways to Network in a Pandemic” and then thought that night, Thursday night, I should do one of these and that is how the first Virtual Happy Hour got scheduled for Friday at five on March 13, 2020. People say, why is it Friday at five? It’s like because I got the idea seven o’clock Thursday night. So I’m impatient. So I want to get going.
So I hosted that that week and I’ve hosted it every week since including on Christmas Day, and it’s 18 months later and we’re still, you know, building community and collaboration and credible engagement. So I will say a big piece that it’s consistency, showing up consistently, other pieces, continuous improvement. Every time you speak or host online, or pretty much do anything, we should get 5% better. And so what I did those first few times and what I do now, nothing, do not compare the two, right? Don’t judge me on my first three attempts, judge me on my last three.
And so I think consistently showing been offering value, being responsive to what people need, iterating. I mean, it’s, it’s really kind of hard to fail because you’re always going to be learning something. So even if something’s not working, like I can tell you all the things that I tried to sell at the beginning of the pandemic, that didn’t work but instead, I can tell you, I created multiple revenue streams that did work, right. So don’t get stuck and what didn’t work, learn from it, iterate, and I’ve not sold to that community like that. It’s not a community that I charge for but it is what absolutely launched all the referrals into all the other things that I do have is revenue. So and the credibility and my know-how, I mean, I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t decided to do that.
Brynne Tillman 16:10
That’s awesome. You know, it’s funny, one of the things that we teach, it’s a core piece of what we teach on LinkedIn is to take inventory of your existing connections and we say, we need to conduct CPR. Yeah, we need to breathe life back into them but we have to identify our clients, our prospects and our referral partners. And so you have our coffee people that would be referral partners, and in our mind, right, so from that, it’s how do you start conversations with them, but what you did was you had a place for them to meet when we were shut down and people were, you know, struggling to innovate, they needed the people, engagement and, you know, they had, with their kids and their dogs and you know, they needed that professional engagement, you took it to this whole other level of I have a safe place for you. And a place where, you know, we can talk about how does our business thrive in this situation? And we have a mutual friend, Lynn Williams, who said, I mean, you got her through the pandemic your group was, so you know, one of the most powerful things for her and I know, she talks about how grateful she is to that.
Robbie Samuels 17:24
That’s good to hear. Yeah, I mean, I joked Brynne, the first couple of times that people were just grateful to talk to someone online like they weren’t in charge of feeding, you know, like, we were trapped at home and tight. In its heyday, we had 50, 60 people every single week but there are people who’ve been coming weekly 50, 60, 70, 80 times, like, I mean, dedicated to this space. And those relationships, even if I don’t see them for four months, I’m not going to forget who these people are and vice versa. So I think that’s the key that change between in-person and virtual, was that in-person was annual, maybe monthly, but not every month, right? Monthly when you can get there.
I think I wasn’t attending things that were consistently week to week kind of activity (Brynne: CNI groups or things like that) Right, I wasn’t doing that. I think that’s where those relationships get strengthened and in person, that was a very kind of onerous thing to do. Like, ah, you know, take up the time, it was a real commitment. It was a lot easier to say yes in a virtual space and I think that really mattered.
Bill McCormick 18:28
Well, I was gonna say, and wouldn’t you think virtual levels the playing field because when I show up in an in-person event, I can go find Brynne and Robbie, we can stand in the corner, and we can have our little, our three and no more, four and no more and somebody comes up and talks to us, we kind of give them the death stare because we don’t want to talk to them. (Brynne: Not Robbie. He’s good at that.) No, no, he was part of our group. We, I included him.
Brynne Tillman 18:54
No, I mean, he brings people in, you should. Yeah.
Bill McCormick 18:58
But in virtual, you’re not able to do that you can’t go off on your own. It really levels the playing field. And I just think of the groups that I’ve been a part of in these last 18 months. And I’ve developed some really close relationships with people that I never would have met, that I never would have had — I may have had a phone call. It’s not the same, (Brynne: Larry Levine) Right, exactly. And now when I see them, it’s going to be like, “Oh my god, like long lost friends.”
Robbie Samuels 19:27
Do you remember when Twitter was still cool, and like no one was really on it? And we all talk about what I had for breakfast. I remember getting tweet introduced to someone. I was at a live event and someone said, you know you should meet. She’s not here, Twitter introduction. We follow each other and tweeted back and forth for a few months and I went walked into an event and she was standing there and she ran over gave me a hug. I feel like it’s like that. It’s like that intimacy of being the people who’ve explored this relationship online. And then you suddenly have an in real-life moment. I can’t wait to get back to hugging strangers. I mean, I can’t wait for that. And I also experience this online being great, yes, Brynne?
Brynne Tillman 20:06
Yeah, I was going to, here’s a quote by Brian Fanzo and his quote is, I’m going to tweak it afterwards but his quote, which is 10 years old now is “Social media does not replace a handshake but it turns a handshake into a hug.” So virtual meetings do not replace a handshake but will turn the handshake into a hug. (Robbie: Yeah.) So I just wanted to share that before I forgot. So I don’t know if you know Brian Fanzo is but…
Robbie Samuels 20:34
I love him. Yeah. He’s a great guy. One of the things that I’ve been focusing on lately with my new book is around how to turn this network that we all have into clients. And my focus has been research calls and really developing an audience before you develop the offer. And it’s it really, you know what it reminds me of? Mike Michalowicz’ Profit First book, like blew my mind but you know, in retrospect, it’s so obvious that we should treat ourselves like that, and like, take the money out before we spend the money on other things. You know, it just, it was sort of like “duh,” you know what I’m saying? I was struggling with this question. And I feel like it’s the same thing. Like, why would we create an offer without knowing if we had buyers?
Brynne Tillman 21:19
So talk to me about the book a little bit and some of the insights inside the book that everyone would buy.
Robbie Samuels 21:23
The book is called Small List, Big Results: Launch a Successful Offer No Matter the Size of Your Email List. Now, that subtitle is really pointing to the problem, the little P, problem that everyone experiences. The symptom. They think the reason they’re not able to sell is because they have a small email list. So they go and hire people to help them build an email list but they already have a network.
So you could have a zero email list, a 100-person email list, a 2,000-person email list, it doesn’t matter. You have a network of people who already know, like, and trust you that you’ve probably known for 10,15, 20 years. And it’s a question of how do you wake up that network, and have those research calls, identify the problems that people are saying they have, which is, I call them their symptoms, but I call them little P, problems, because, in the minds of those people, they are problems but they’re not the problem that you see as an expert. And one of the things I think we often do is there’s a mismatch between the solution we sell and what people think they need. And so we’re selling a solution. And people are like, “I only have this little tiny problem. That’s not me.” And so we need to make sure in all of our marketing, all of our outreach, all of our conversations, whatever we’re doing, that we’re always helping people kind of think differently. So they’re not just thinking about those small P, problem but they’re becoming more aware of the actual problem and maybe realizing like you might be a person who can help them with a solution. Right? Like starting to see you as that guide. And then ultimately, it’s a question of what is the cost of inaction? If you notice a problem, and you have a solution, and you have a guide, not taking action? What, you know, and then the question is there a “now moment”? At that point, (unintelligible) is asking to work with you. Like I’m all about attraction-based selling, I’m not just pushing things on people that they don’t need.
So the book is really about that. The solution is not to build a bigger email list, the solution is to go and think about your network. But it also talks about goal setting and how working with 12-week sprints is a lot of storytelling. I have this idea that in between 12, so rather than quarterly goal setting, which is something I was an advocate for a very long time, and benefited from greatly that you do 12 weeks and then you have four weeks where you’re not focusing on all your goals, but you can wrap them up a little bit. Week one, it’s about reflect and assess what happens. Not the whole week, right, let’s take a couple of hours. Week two, take some time off. Relax and rejuvenate. Week three is about that “just in case” learning, which is, you know, the replays, the books, the podcasts that pile up when you’re really focusing on other things. And then the fourth week is about setting strategic goals with all that in mind for your next 12 weeks. When you focus on quarterly goals, there’s no downtime, you’re always taking from your goal time. If you take time off, if you do anything, it’s not focused on those goals. It feels like we’ve got to keep running. And I think there are problems as entrepreneurs that we don’t build in that downtime. So I’ve been doing that now for the last year and a half. And it’s been very helpful to see looking ahead, I have time off, built into my calendar, and time to do all these seats. These pieces.
Brynne Tillman 24:31
That’s awesome. I don’t. So I have to start listening to this. I’m the back to back to back to back to back until 9 PM every night. So I think I need to absorb some of this.
Bill McCormick 24:42
Yes, yes, I and we all do. So while we could keep going but we’re coming to the end of our time, Robbie. So thank you so much for being with us. Tell the folks how they can connect with you to find out more about you and what you’re doing.
Robbie Samuels 24:58
Well, you can go to smalllistbigresults.com and you will find not only a link to buy the book on Amazon but also all the bonus material, which I’m calling the big results toolkit. And I walk people through lots of these workbooks related to materials in the book, How to wake up your network, how to analyze the problem language, the 12-week sprint, what to do in between the four weeks, all of that’s actually as downloadable material. If you don’t buy the book, you can get the content either way. And I also would love people to join me any Friday, five o’clock Eastern nomorebadzoom.com and robbiesamuels.com is just the home for all parts of my business. I’m a multi-passionate entrepreneur. That’s the place where it all makes sense.
Bill McCormick 25:41
Brynne Tillman 25:41
Love it. Yeah, this is so much fun!
Bill McCormick 25:45
Thanks for being with us for another session of Making Sales Social and to our listeners, thanks for joining us. And this week as you’re out and about, don’t forget to make yourselves social. We’ll see you next time. Bye-bye, everyone.
Bob Woods 25:58
Thanks for watching and join us again for more special guest instructors bringing you marketing, sales training, and social selling strategy that will set you apart. Hit the Subscribe button below to get the latest episodes from the Making Sales Social Podcast. Give this video a thumbs up and comment down below on what you want to hear from us next. You can also listen to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google Play. Visit our website socialsaleslink.com for more information.