Using Your Book to Build Your Business with Ian AltmanMay 10, 2023
Ian Altman is one of the world's top expert on sales, with his Same Side Academy rated as one of the top 5 Sales Development programs globally.
But instead of focusing on sales, we talked about how he has used the book he co-authored, Same Side Selling, to attract clients to his business.
We also touched on having a podcast and everything else with the same name as the book, producing an accompanying book workbook, updating a book five years after its release and so much more.
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Anna: So Ian, Ian, let's talk. You just said words that were literal music to my ears, which is the book sales were basically a rounding error compared to the millions you've made sort of, off the book, or as a result of your book, please elaborate.
Ian: Well, I think that many times when we write a book, some people have this idea that I'm going to make a ton of money on the book itself. And in Same Side Selling, we wanted to change the way people sell and the way they approach sales and marketing. And in doing that, you realize that look, some people are going to read the book and implement everything, get what they need. Other people need additional tools that help them get there. So we have a journal that helps people implement the concepts, I deliver Same Side Selling Immersion workshops around the country and around the world for that. My keynote addresses are typically called “Same Side Selling.” And then we have a whole membership site called the Same Side Selling Academy, which is a digital platform that has live monthly coaching in addition to a whole wealth of information all centered around same side selling, so it kind of became a broader brand. And the book is, if you think of it this way, it's a almost free entry point for people to say, yes, I agree with that philosophy. It can change my business. Now I want more. And it also serves the people who say, I read it. I get everything I need out of it. Fantastic.
Anna: Mm hmm. So in what order did it come? Was the book part of the initial plan or did the book come after the business and all the other things?
Ian: So the book came first. So I was, I was helping people with sales. I had grown my prior businesses to a pretty good size. I mean, we built a business from zero to a couple billion dollars in value. Like I'm sure there are many businesses that are larger, but by most standards, it's not a bad run. And, and so when I stopped doing that, because I was totally burned out, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. And people said, you always seem to enjoy helping other people grow their businesses more than you enjoy growing your own business, which I think to this day is still true. And so I set out to kind of help people do that. And as I was teaching different approaches, I met my co-author Jack Quarles, who Jack is a guy who’s spent two decades in purchasing and procurement. We found that we had a lot of ideas in common and wrote this book about how do you avoid that adversarial trap between buyer and seller. Had to get on the same side kind of putting a puzzle together. And as part of that, any training or or education or talks I was giving before morphed into Same Side Selling. Because what I was doing before didn't quite have a name, didn't have as consistent of a methodology, contextual models, all that. Now there's a whole framework and language around it. So to teach something else would be confusing for people. And so you know, we've been dealing with, quote, Same Side Selling for the last decade or so.
Anna: Okay, and so, so was it while you were working on the book that you thought, oh, this could be a program and a podcast? Or was it after?
Ian: No, I wasn't that smart [laughs]. It was more like, hey, we need to get this book out. And this will be great. And then it was, and then I thought, wow, this would be a really good idea. And obviously I've built, since I built businesses before, I was thinking about okay, how can, how can I help people more in this area and that area? And I think one of the key distinctions is, I wasn't so much thinking about what are the different revenue sources. And what are the different, what are the different levels. It was more, okay, so there's some people who are gonna need, who are gonna get everything they need from the book. And in the book, we talked about this idea of the same side quadrants. And I said, look, all you need is a blank sheet of paper. Draw a vertical line down the center, a horizontal line across, you create four quadrants. And people said, well, do you have like a journal that does that? I'm like, well, it's like a blank sheet of paper, vertical and a horizontal line. After a couple of years of people asking me every single week, it’s like, you know, maybe we should create these journals. Now the journals are really popular because it also gives people their questions, watermark, and kind of guides people through how to have discovery conversations with potential clients.
Anna: Mm hmm.
Ian: As part of that, at the same time, it was we were teaching people and people would say, okay, so now, now how do you support if I have remote people? How do you reinforce these concepts? Oh, you know, we'll create a digital platform. Now admittedly, I ran a software company before. So with the Same Side Selling Academy is likely way over-engineered compared to what anyone else of rational thought would do. But you know, but we, also a lot of our clients are large enterprise customers, and they'll have, you know, 100 reps in the Academy…
Ian: Getting coaching, getting reinforcement, things like that. And it gives a dashboard of who's done what and who hasn't. Are they attending the coaching sessions? Aren't they? Are they there for 20 minutes? They there for the whole time? What kind of questions they’re asking. Everything gets transcribed, edited down. But the idea is that in each case, what I'm thinking is, okay, which part of the audience am I not serving? And how do I serve that segment of the audience? I think that the trap some people fall into is, how can I get people to pay me money for something instead of how do I serve the audience? And then the money will follow.
Anna: Yeah, yeah. So how lengthy is this online program? It practically sounds like college. Is it, is it hundreds of hours of videos?
Ian: It's a lot of stuff. It's a lot of stuff. So, and it's all organized. So you can, you can do a full text search and find the needle in the haystack. So if someone said, oh, I'm talking to a prospect, and they ghosted me, you just type, you know, client ghosted me. And you'll get every conversation that we've had in life coaching sessions, etc. that mentioned that phrase. And if we have an hour-long coaching session in our community, that might get edited down some months to 10 segments, some months to 18 segments. Each one is an individual clip that gets full text index that gets categorized, and that way people can find exactly what they're looking for. Because if you have hundreds of videos, and you just organize them by date, good luck if you're a user. You're never going to use it.
Ian: So instead, one of the things that we learned, and this is not something we implemented day one, but we figured it out over time. Because like with anything else, you implement things, you make mistakes, and then it gets better. That's why we have a second edition of Same Side Selling. The first edition was fine. And then we're like, ooh, people also need these other things that we don't have. We worked with our editor to come up with, okay, how should we change this? And we actually thought about, should we just create a whole new book? And I was like, no because it's still fundamentally Same Side Selling, we're just going to create a second edition. And what we did, interestingly, is for the Kindle version, we actually just updated the electronic version. So anyone that had the Kindle version automatically got the second edition. So we weren't trying to monetize it. We were just trying to give people updated information. Now of course, that drew, drove a ton of sales.
Ian: But because people were like, wow, this is so cool. They like, they could have, when you release it, you don't have to do it that way. And we did. And in fact, we had to kind of go back and forth with Amazon to say we're updating this like, well, it's, but it's a new book. We're like, but we just, we don't want to charge people again. And at the time, I don't know if they'll let us do it today, but at the time, they said, okay, and that's what we take advantage of.
Anna: It's really, I, I can't believe you talked Amazon into that. Because you know, plenty of people do second editions, third editions of their books. And yeah, you got to pay for that.
Anna: So how long between the two? How long did you wait to update it?
Ian: It was about five years. About five years between the two.
Anna: Yeah, keep going.
Ian: Go ahead.
Anna: No, you!
Ian: Okay, so, so it was about five years between and part of it was that, right after we released the first edition of Same Side Selling, I was explaining to people, here are the types of questions you want to ask. And people said, well, we have trouble remembering this. And I was sitting with a client, and I said, look, it's real simple. There are kind of four things. Think of it like, almost like a quadrant on a sheet of paper. So let's just organize it this way to take notes. And then as I wrote it, I'm like, that's really helpful. That should have been in the book. And it was like, okay, we'll just talk about it and explain it to people. And then after a while, it became something that I was really well known for, is the same side quadrant. And I'm like, it's kind of funny, because people would then see me speak at an event, talk about the same side quadrant and say, but where is it in the book? I didn't find it like, well, it's, it’s not in the book.
Anna: Mm hmm.
Ian: And so we realized, there were some, there were some elements there we needed. There were things that Jack and I, in, the orig-, in the first edition, we thought, this story absolutely makes this chapter. And then with the benefit of hindsight, you're like, that story adds nothing to that chapter whatsoever. And our editor was so polite in not telling us that. But you know what, we need to, we need to create a better story there. And we need to add more stories and more examples and case studies and things like that. And that's what we did. But it was more… It wasn't, okay, how do we create another version? It was, we feel like something's missing to this story for people. So how do we, how do we better serve the audience with an updated version? And then honestly, our biggest challenge is that Amazon still has one or two copies of the original version that we can't get them to take down. And periodically, somebody buys that and says, well, I got the wrong version. Like, somehow we did something, which of course, we just send them the new version, because I just, I don't want the, the user to have a bad experience. But you know, that's neither here nor there.
Anna: I know. I mean, yeah, I have a book that was published in 2007 that we've updated in Amazon. So people were like, I got your book and they show me and it's the wrong cover and I’m like, eh, stop! How different were, are the two versions? Like it, can you say by page, how many pages are different? Or…
Ian: I would, I would say it's about 60 plus percent the same.
Anna: Mm hmm, mm hmm.
Ian: So it wasn't quite, it wasn't quite a 50 50. I'd say that 60 percent we probably didn't touch. But we reviewed everything, meaning it wasn't like, oh, let's just add these things, leave everything else the same. We went every paragraph, every sentence, and kind of, does it need this, doesn't it? Does this tie in well to this other concept or doesn't it? Is this story still relevant now? Okay, get rid of it? How do we better illustrate that? So it wasn't like we went into it saying, oh, we only want to edit this much. Or what needs to edit, we need to add at least as much. It was more we knew we were including some concepts that were really valuable. And it was a question of what was the right amount to get that done.
Anna: Mm hmm, mm hmm. And so when did the podcast come along, in that hole?
Ian: So the, the podcast, the Same Side Selling Podcast, let's say, sort of about 350 episodes and I do one a week. So it's about, call it six years or so.
Anna: Mm hmm.
Ian: About six, six, almost, I guess, almost seven years now. And so, probably a couple years into it. And my business used to be branded as a business called Grow My Revenue. And it used to be the Grow My Revenue Podcast. And then it became the Same Side Selling Podcast. And what a, what a good friend of mine, who is a marketing savant, said is, well, that's interesting. So how many brands do you want to establish? And how many brands do you want to manage? Or do you want to manage just one? Because when you go on stage, just about everybody says, oh, it's Ian Altman, he wrote Same Side Selling.
Ian: So you could name it something different. But like, why? And, and at one point, he said this, this one friend of mine says, so, Same Side Selling is the book. But then you're Ian Altman, and then you have the, you have Grow My Rev-, what is Grow My Revenue? Like, what's the name for the companies? Like, why are you making your fans work that hard?
Ian: I’m like, that's a really good point. So, you know, sometimes you need good friends who will hit you over the head and help you realize that maybe you should do things differently.
Anna: I mean, you're talking to somebody who had a podcast about addiction recovery when she was running a publishing company. And, and anybody listening to this knows, I think I'm on name seven for the podcast. And guess what? I'm in the process of releasing a book by the same name. It took me that long to realize the genius of just naming it all the same thing.
Anna: We get over creative sometimes.
Ian: Well, and it's, in the ideas, well, this is subtle. And it's a subtle difference. So I need to name it something different. And the only people who care about that is us [laughs]. We're the only ones who care about that subtle difference. Instead, it's like, people will say to me, oh, well, can you come speak at our event about same side selling. They don't even know what that means. They just know like, well, that, that concept works for us. And now, when I, when I speak, there's businesses I work with on how they can better recruit. And we call that Same Side Recruiting. Now, I don't think, I don't think I'll write a book on same side recruiting. But it's all tied back to the same brand.
Anna: Mm hmm.
Ian: And so, if you're fortunate, you come up with ideas that people get that concept, and they don't, they don't confuse it with something else. And like, you know, every once in a while, someone will say, so same side sales. That's the, that's the furthest it gets from same side selling.
Ian: Like, I can live with that.
Anna: Right. It's pretty close. Alliteration, always good.
Anna: So does your book lead people into the training program? Or is the training program, that's a pretty in depth? So most people don't need that level?
Ian: Yes. You know, it just, it depends. So there are some people who, they just need to get a change in direction and change in approach. And the book isn't everything they need. Other people that read the book, they see about, they see information about the same side quadrants, and they think, okay, well, there's got to be a tool that helps me do that. And then they, then they look at the quadrant journal and that helps them. Then people say, you know, I want to learn this stuff. But I don't necessarily want to go to something on site. I don't necessarily want to make the investment to bring, bring Ian into work with my team. But hey, I can send a bunch of people through this program for the next year. And they'll get better at this.
Anna: Mm hmm.
Ian: So it's almost like, I mean, it wasn't done intentionally I like to say it was. But it's almost like, hey, you can buy the book and it's almost a zero investment. And as part of that, you can listen to podcasts and everything else. All those things cost you almost nothing. The journal costs a little bit more than the book. Okay, it's still a pretty low investment. Then it's oh, now you can get into the Academy. That's gonna cost you the equivalent of about 85 bucks a month, for the year. Okay, I can do that. Then it's, okay, well, now we want to do one of these Same Side Selling Immersion programs with our team. And, but we want to, we don't care if it's just our company, we’ll go with other companies. Those people might invest, you know, low, in the low 1000s of dollars. And then when I'm doing a program just for a company, or if I'm doing a keynote or something like that, then they're paying 10s of 1000s of dollars. And then there are people who say, can you help me grow my business more strategically? Sure, those are, those people are investing more 10s of 1000s of dollars on top of that. And it's just a function of, I look at it, there's people who will say, well, we want to, we want to go, you know, the top level right away. My answer is usually, you know what, why don't you just give people a taste of this and see if it resonates with them? And if it does, then we have something to talk about. And if it doesn't, then you don't want to invest in it any further.
Anna: Mm hmm.
Ian: Which is probably the opposite of what people would think someone who's teaching about sales and business growth would say. But I think most people, what they forget is that, if you get a client who's not a good fit, they suck you into the vortex of evil.
Ian: And then they're the bane of your existence and you wish you had never met them.
Ian: And so, I would rather people take an incremental approach. Now, I have the benefit of not being in a scarcity mindset because I ran a business that was successful enough that I can truly just look out for making sure my clients are always well served. But having done that, this business has grown to a pretty good level over not that long of a period of time.
Anna: Mm hmm. Yeah. So, um, is there like a lead magnet in the book? Should people do that?
Ian: People should. I should. we don't. So it's, we, we take the approach of benign neglect. And, and poor marketing and then hope that it all works out. And it thankfully has. In the, you know, we actually, we actually do more paperback and hardcover sales than we do electronic sales. Because if you think about it, I speak at a lot of events. So people will order 300 bucks, 500 bucks, 1000 bucks, 2000 bucks for that event. So there's a lot of books that go out and in hardcover. I think the next time we do a print run, we’ll probably include something about, you know, here's where you can learn more about the Academy and this and that. Not so overtly. But just more, it's kind of stupid, because right now it’s, hey to learn more, you can go to Same Side Selling dot com (www.samesideselling.com). But they don't really know what it would be. And have something on the inside of the back cover that says, hey, here are additional resources for you, would probably be a smart thing to do. We just weren't that smart.
Anna: Third edition, third edition. So somebody who's listening who says, wow, I'm writing a how to book, they probably don't have the sort of infrastructure that you have with all the… You know, with the huge business and then the courses and stuff, what would you recommend that they do?
Ian: I would, I would recommend that the first thing to do is think about, so if people read this book, what are they going to need next?
Ian: What's going to serve them? So if you think about it, like, for example, when I talk about these different types of programs. So I speak to all sorts of different audiences. Sometimes I'm speaking at an industry event where there might be 1000s of people there, all from different companies. Sometimes I'm speaking at an event for a company, and it could be a big company. Or sometimes I speak at these CEO leadership groups, where it's businesses that might range from 1 million to 100 million in size, which is a pretty broad range. And there's 20 companies there.
Anna: Mm hmm.
Ian: And what you have to think about is, what, what serves well, each of those audiences? And how do you package in a way that’s simple for them? So like, when I used to do these workshops, I would say, oh, and it's so much per person. And what I realized is, though it's a convenient way to think about it, it didn't really serve the audience well. And for me, if I'm trying to personalize things for the audience, I needed to limit the number of companies there not the number of people. And all of a sudden, if I had, if I had 30 people from three companies, it was easy. But if I had 20 different companies, there's no way I could personalize it for people. And so then I said, okay, now we do these, we limit it for, we limit it to 10 companies max. Here's what it costs per company. That gives you two seats and then each additional one is an incremental cost on top of that.
Anna: Mm hmm.
Ian: And that way, if six companies show up, it still financially works for me. And, and I stick to it. If, if 11 companies want to come, one of them's on the waiting list. People will be like, oh, well it’s my buddy’s company, just one additional company. I'm like, I can't do that. Because I know this is the limit that I can serve that audience. And I think that for my advice to people is always think about how you are well, serving your audience. Because the people that sign up for my programs now, almost 100% of them are people who came from someone else who said, wow, they sent their team. And they said that they have doubled their business in the last year. And their sales cycles went from nine months to three months, and their margins went up. When are you doing one in my area? Like, that's where you want to be. But if you don't serve your audience, you're gonna work a whole lot harder.
Anna: Mm hmm. So somebody who, let's say they have a how to book but, and they want to coach and they want to use the book as a way to bring people into that program. Do you think, you know, sort of a, a quiz or something? And then a course, and then how would you recommend they go about that?
Ian: You know what? It’s gonna be different for each business but usually we have to tap into is, what problem are you solving for that audience? And the first thing you have to do is get people to say, yes, I have that problem.
Ian: Right. So I mean, you know, you wrote a book on addiction recovery. I believe that's the first step is people acknowledging do they have a problem. So it's the same sort of thing in business, which is, if people don't believe they have a problem, they don't really care about your solution, your coaching. So many times in business, what people do is they talk about, well, here's this coaching I provide, and I do this, and I do this, and I do that. Scrap that. Instead say, well, when people are looking for my help, they're usually trying to solve one of these two or three major problems. They either have this issue, this issue or that issue. And then you can start creating content all about those issues and problems. And what happens is someone reads it and they think, wow, they totally get me. Or they watch a video and they say, yeah, that's me. I mean, if you look at my podcast, more than half the episodes, I mean, we have case studies and success stories and different authors on and people talking about different things that can help. But fundamentally, most of the topics come down to, what's the biggest mistake people make when it comes to this, or this or that. Because the people who want to hear that topic are the people who are facing that issue.
Anna: Right. Right.
Ian: And if your message resonates, they're gonna get it. So it's, it, it comes down to, do you have this problem. And then let me do a quick, quick assessment and see if I can help you. You know, which category you fit into. Oh, you have this? Great. Best advice I have for you is read the book, here's this online resource I have, you'll be all set. I mean, it's kind of funny. I can talk to three different companies, and sincerely say to them, hey, in your case, this is what's best for you. And have three different approaches for each of those companies, because I have different offerings that hit at different levels for them.
Anna: Yep, yeah. So, so one way is literally to just put something in your book that says, want to book a free talk, you know, with me, and, um, and to really just look at it as a point of service. Like, talk to somebody for free or whatever, for 15 minutes, see if you can help them and go from there.
Ian: Yeah, and you can even say to people, look, if you want to get a sense as to whether or not I might be able to help you. Then there's a quick 10 question assessment that's on my site. It'll give you a report back, and then I'll reach out to you and let you know if it's something I think I can even help with. So that's a, that's a concept that we teach called disarming, which is, look, if you say, hey, you can schedule a call with me, so that maybe I can sell you my stuff. No one's signing up for that.
Ian: If you admit that most of the people you talk to don't need my help but some people do. And so here's this assessment that will give you some insight. It'll give you a sense of how you compare to other companies in your space, other businesses like you, other people like you. And if, if there are additional resources, I think would be helpful I'll share those with you. Well, now someone goes, well, I'll fill that out. Because it's going to give me a sense of how I compare to others, or what resources might be helpful. If we say to them, hey, you can schedule a time so I can try and sell you stuff. No one's signing up.
Anna: Yeah, yeah. And bonuses. You know, there is a way you could put bonuses in the book and people sign up for your newsletter list, and you're explaining, but I love this. And you can just do software, quiz software that's pretty easy to get.
Ian: Yes, Survey Monkey. You can do it with Google Forms, you can like, there are different ways to do it. The key is, getting back to where we started, is consistent branding. So it would be the Same Side Selling Assessment. It would be like, it's funny, one of, one of my, one of my philosophies is that scripts are horrible. Like people always say, I need scripts for my sales team, and I'll say, okay, so have you ever been on the receiving end of a phone call of somebody reading a script? Yeah, okay, but it’s a phone call. How do you know? Well, cause it sounds robotic. Okay, so do you really want scripts? So we have something, we have a, a lead magnet on our website that says, you know, the, the, you know, here, here are seven scripts to grow your business [laughs]. And then like, as soon as you download it, it's like, yeah, there aren't really scripts. These are, these are alternatives to scripts. And like, we kind of make fun about it.
Ian: But it's, but it's just kind of funny, because it's, it's a common thing that people would ask for. And I'm like, Okay, I don't want to just bash scripts, you know, for no reason. But it's more like we made it kind of a playful thing.
Anna: Yeah, I love that. And a side note, you know, I end up doing sales for my company, even though I don't want to. People, you, kind of as the founder sometimes, because people say, I want to talk to you about this. Look, you know, and I talked to some sales trainer, and he gave me scripts, and I've never done quote, worse on sales than when I was following those.
Ian: Of course.
Anna: Because I just was so inorganic for me. Usually you know what my sales calls are? I'm not sure we're right for you. I really don't know that we're right for you. And they just want to give you money.
Ian: Yeah. And that's what and that's what it should be. Because the reality is, until you know enough about their situation, you can't possibly know if they're a fit for you. And it's one of the things that we spend a lot of time working with our user base about is, for our clients and our members, it's a matter of, look, you can show up in one of two ways you can either show up as someone who's there to sell something, or someone who is there to solve something. And if you show up as someone who's there to solve something, then towards the end of the process, you get to ask a simple question, which is, would you like our help?
Ian: And so it's something that's all integrity based?
Ian: And it's just a function of, are you having this discovery process where you're determining do I have a good fit? And if not, refer them to somebody else.
Anna: Yeah. Yeah. And yeah, I think if you approach it as like being of service, rather than just trying to make a sale, then you're not resentful. You're happy. It feels good to help people.
Ian: Exactly. And you also don't feel a sense of rejection if someone's not a fit. They’re just not a fit. It's not like you were rejected. It's, yeah, these people don't have a need for what I do right now. And I get inquiries from people who were like, well, we're, you know, we saw you speak at this event, it was amazing. So we'd like you to, you know, can you speak at our event? And their budget is equivalent to what most of my clients pay for my travel expenses for an engagement.
Ian: And I'm like, you know what, I'm really flattered. Here's some ways if you can get a sponsor this and that. Here are ways other people do it. If not, let me see if I can get you somebody who's in that price category who can help you.
Ian: And people will say to me, well, do you get a piece of that? No, but I'm just, I'm serving people who are trying to do the right thing for their audience. And you know, people get so nuts about, well, I can't possibly spend 30 seconds of my time doing something that's not productive. Yet these are the same people who will spend four hours a day just randomly responding to stuff on social media [laughs]. So you just focus your time differently.
Anna: Yeah, and I think that goes for anyone who writes a nonfiction book. You want to help people. And so, you know, as you so eloquently talked about, probably the way you're going to be the most successful is just by trying to serve. Forget trying to sell.
Anna: So this has been so great. Ian, thank you so much. If people want to find you, find out more about you, where should they go?
Ian: Anna, this is gonna come as a shocker but if they go to same side selling dot com (www.samesideselling.com)...
Anna: Oh, in my mind.
Ian: They will find me and of course, you can also find me at Ian Altman dot com (www.ianaltman.com) and on social media and most places at Ian Altman (@ianaltman). But so it's just I A N A L T M A N but Same Side Selling will get you there.
Anna: Fantastic. Ian, thank you so much. This has been illuminating.
Ian: Anna, I thanks so much for everything you do for your audience.
Anna: Well, and thanks audience for listening. Love it.