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Telling Your Brand Story to Boost Sales with Raj Nathan aka “The Startup Hypeman” (Part 1 of 2)

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Ready to tell a story that makes your clients stop dead in their tracks and start working with you? Raj Nathan, aka The Startup Hypeman, helps startups and consulting companies tell their story so they become superheroes.

Up next…

Check out the four sales fundamentals every top performer masters, how to use value-based selling to increase your leverage, and how to improve your remote selling skills as the world becomes more virtual. 

This episode is Part 1 of 2. Go check out Part 2 when you’re done here!

Mentioned in this episode:

Raj’s Website, Startup Hypeman
Book a Strategy Call with Liston

For more information on remote selling and a complete list of links mentioned in this podcast, visit this remote selling article on our website.


Telling Your Brand Story to Boost Sales with Raj Nathan aka “The Startup Hypeman” (Part 1 of 2):

Full Transcript

Liston Witherill:
Welcome to Modern Sales, a podcast for entrepreneurs, business owners, and salespeople looking to have more and better conversations with your perfect clients. You’ll get a healthy scoop of psychology, behavioral economics and sales studies to help you create win-win relationships. I’m your host, Liston Witherill, and I’m pleased to welcome you to Modern Sales.

Liston Witherill:
Now, in a second, I’m going to be talking to my friend Raj, RajNATION, of LinkedIn fame and various other forms of fame. But before I get into that, I wanted to let you know that if you want any help scaling up your sales, getting more leads coming in the door, and having an effective and scalable sales system for your agency, consulting firm, professional services firm, I’d love to chat with you. I’m sure there’s various ways that I can help. All you have to do is go to Liston.IO/strategy to apply for a strategy call there. Super simple. So without any further ado, I would like to welcome you my friend, Raj. How are you?

Raj:
I’m doing well, Liston. Long time listener. First time caller.

Liston Witherill:
Yes. Well, thank you for being here. I appreciate your presence here. Now if you could, give a little bit of background about who you are and what you do.

Raj:
Yeah, so I think I’m probably the only person who can claim the title of entrepe-rapper or rap-preneur, and what I mean by that is I am an amalgamation of sorts. I am an entrepreneur through my company, Startup Hypeman. I also am a hip hop artist. I’m even a yoga instructor. But really all that stuff for me comes down to a core reason of trying to put more expression into the world and using stories too, to bring that out in other people and in companies.

Liston Witherill:
Yeah. I noticed in the pre-interview, we went over a few questions and you said that the driving force in your life is expression. What do you mean by that?

Raj:
When I think about what viscerally makes me mad, like at my core, it is when I see people feel like they are unable to be themselves and essentially communicate in a way that gets out the voice they want to get out. So through several processes but then whittling down to getting to that why of expression, I think the final cherry on top was I was like, “What’s the thing that pisses me off the most?” And yeah, I guess there’s like world hunger and things like that. I’m not saying those things don’t matter. But like-

Liston Witherill:
In business let’s say.

Raj:
Yeah, like in like a day-to-day basis, it is when I just feel like someone doesn’t feel like they can be their authentic self and they can’t put their voice out there and they can’t truly express who they are and what they want. And I don’t even necessarily mean just strictly from a business perspective. I just mean from like being real with someone, right? You can sniff out BS a mile away, and the thing that turns me off the most about people is when I can smell that they’re putting on a front.

Liston Witherill:
So one of the ways this is translated in your work of course is that you help startups effectively tell their stories, express themselves, be their authentic selves. Of course this podcast is designed for agencies, consulting firms, professional service firms, people like you and me, Raj. How would you recommend they think about storytelling? Why is that something that they should be thinking about and how would it help them?

Raj:
Emotion is at the core of why we buy, and I think you’d agree with that, right? I’m sure you’ve probably said that on the podcast before.

Liston Witherill:
I would.

Raj:
So how do you generate emotion? By relating to your audience. How can you best relate to your audience? By telling a pretty good story. Sort of what we rely on at Startup Hypeman is entertainment. That’s the fundamental guiding principle is use entertainment to educate and borrow from the world of entertainment to tell stories. So if you are an agency owner, if you are a consultant, how can you look to the world of entertainment and get inspired by that to talk to your customers, to talk to your prospects?

Raj:
If you look at anything that people gravitate toward, it is in some way entertaining to them and a story is being told, right? So I think on the consultant agency owner side, you’ve got to stop talking about what you do in terms of like … Stop treating it like it’s an academic paper you’re writing for your high school English class. It’s funny, the more entrepreneurs I work with, the more I see that’s what they lean towards because that’s how we were all raised I guess, but be more like a TV show, be more like a movie, less like this academic mindset.

Liston Witherill:
Can you give an example, and I have one in mind specifically, but do you have any examples in mind of the academic approach versus being more entertaining?

Raj:
Yeah, so one of the companies that’s in my Accelerator program right now, I’ve had to talk them off this ledge a few times where I’m reviewing their elevator pitch and the way they wrote it is like, “If you are wanting to be in a position of blank,” and in the moment I’m blanking on what their exact specifics were, but it was very much … I’m like, “We’re not kings and queens talking to each other. We’re just real people here at the end of the day.” I was like, “Talk like you would talk in real life.”

Liston Witherill:
Yes. Not the King’s English.

Raj:
Yeah, exactly. You’ll also see too in people’s LinkedIn bios. Oh my God. Tell me if this sounds familiar. Just think of a generic LinkedIn profile. In their little summary section at the top, they’ll say, “I’m a goal-oriented, results-driven team player who thrives in collaborative environments and supports competitive workplaces.” That’s like what 99% of LinkedIn profiles are.

Liston Witherill:
That was a very good freestyle by the way. Yes, I have read that about a thousand times. You’re totally right.

Raj:
Have you ever walked up to someone in person and said, “Hi, I’m Liston. I’m a results-oriented, goal-driven team player who thrives in collaborative work environments?”

Liston Witherill:
You know, it’s funny, I recently had a guy on talking about cold email, Jon Buchan. You can go back and listen to that if you missed that episode. And then I’m having someone else on, Jason Bay, to also talk about cold email, and one of the things that I find the most hilarious about all forms of outreach or attempting to make business connections is that for some reason we think people stop being people when they’re working. They no longer communicate like a normal human being, so I have to recalibrate the way that I talk, which obviously is ridiculous on its face, but also I’d always ask people like, “Hey, if you got that message, what would you think?” And they’re like, “Oh, it’s spam.” Right. Exactly.

Liston Witherill:
Okay. So basically one of your pieces of advice is write the way you would actually speak to someone. If this felt uncomfortable actually saying it to someone, you’re off base. Now one thing you mentioned is helping people tell their story, so I was hoping you can tell a little bit about if someone wanted to create a narrative … By the way, what do you mean by story? Why don’t we start there?

Raj:
Yeah. So I look at story as a few different avenues, but it’s essentially what is the theme you are trying to get across to someone, what is the value proposition and how are you communicating that? What’s the way you want to communicate that through your voice, through your tone, through your language?

Liston Witherill:
Okay. And if I’m a consulting firm or a startup, I’m sure the process is the same either way, what are some of the first steps that I need to take in order to start to construct the story?

Raj:
I am an advocate that the step one should always be your elevator pitch, and there are people who will disagree with this, and some people will say, “Ah, you don’t need an elevator pitch. Just tell me who you are,” and I’m like, “Well, yeah. Well what do you think that is? That’s what an elevator pitch is.”

Raj:
I really believe that this is the best starting point because if you cannot communicate a value, your value, in under 60 seconds, you’ve got no chance in 60 minutes. And some people will be like, “Well I know, but if I had more time, then I can really get into it,” and it’s like, “Yeah, but that’s the problem. You’re going to really get into it and you’re going to confuse people even more.”

Raj:
So if you can whittle it down to what is this, who are you, how do you help people, what do you do in less than 60 seconds in that elevator pitch, you’re going to set the foundation for those larger conversations, the meetings you actually have. To me, the elevator pitch is not just a 60 second message. It is the bedrock for your company’s brand. It is essentially saying who we help, who we are, what we do, and then anything else that you do messaging wise is pretty much to just fill in the blanks and support what you said in that introduction.

Raj:
The analogy I like to use is think about a movie, right? To me the elevator pitch is the movie trailer, and we don’t go and see movies if the movie trailer was terrible. We’re not like, “Oh, that movie looks awful! I really want to see it,” unless the Rock is in it, in which case we’re going to see it anyway.

Liston Witherill:
It’ll probably be entertaining at least.

Raj:
Yeah. Right. And then it’ll probably break box office records. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the Rock’s good look, charm or anything like that or his muscles, so I don’t have that benefit of just having a shitty trailer and then a better movie than the trailer was. So you got to kind of think on that terms. How do you set the table for people so that way the larger story is something that they actually want to buy into? So starting point is elevator pitch.

Liston Witherill:
Yeah. There’s a book called Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday, and his suggestion, I’m not sure if he came up with this or if it came from somewhere else, but he calls it one sentence, one paragraph, one page. And so for any creative project, any business you want to create, he recommends, boil it down to a sentence, boil it down to a paragraph and only then can you write out a full page. If you can’t communicate it in a sentence in a way that your grandma can understand it, you’re screwed right off the bat, and it sounds similar to your advice.

Raj:
Yeah, I was actually just talking to someone yesterday about this. It’s like if you cannot communicate this while drunk, you’re still too complex about it.

Liston Witherill:
Right.

Raj:
One sentence, one paragraph, one page thing, right? It’s all the same story. It’s just what avenue are you using that story in? Is it the teaser, is it the extended trailer or is it the full movie? But at the end of the day, you’re not changing the story, right? You’re just finding what’s the commercial version versus what’s the full length feature film version,

Liston Witherill:
Right and each form allows you to add depth and nuance, I’m assuming.

Raj:
Exactly.

Liston Witherill:
You said you should be able to tell it while you’re drunk. What about someone who’s in a space where there’s a lot of competition and it feels like it’s been done before? Do they need to focus on being clever or how do they sort of tell a story that stands out and doesn’t sound like everybody else?

Raj:
Yeah. So let’s break down what an elevator pitch could look like a little bit more. So the formula I always give to startups when I do my workshops and in the online program and everything is we’ll start with the high level conceptual strategy, which I call the superhero strategy. The idea here is you have to look at your company as a superhero because what do superheroes do? They help and they save people. Just like your company should be helping and saving someone from something.

Raj:
Now what most entrepreneurs do is they try and save the day too soon. So if you think about Batman, when does Batman come in and save the day? When the bank has been robbed, when Joker blows up the hospital, when there’s crime in the streets, when there’s some calamity, some travesty going on. Batman doesn’t show up … I don’t know what it’s like in Portland today, Liston, but is it a sunny day?

Liston Witherill:
No, actually. It was yesterday, but no, it’s foggy today.

Raj:
We’re into the fall now, so there’s not many sunny days you’re going to get there, but let’s say it’s a nice summer day, right? Batman’s not showing up if it’s 80 degrees, kids are at the park, people are taking their dog for a walk. He’s not like, “I’m here to save you.” If it was Lego Batman, he would, but not regular Batman.

Raj:
So if you think about that, and Batman only comes in when there’s something wrong happening, if your company is Batman, you can’t come in and save Gotham on a sunny day. So what I mean by that is in order for a superhero to exist, there’s got to be three things in place first. Number one is a damsel or a dude in distress, number two is a village on fire, and number three is a super power that can be activated. When you have those three things, then dah, dah, dah, the superhero can come in and save the day.

Raj:
What I hear a lot of entrepreneurs do is they jump straight to the superhero. They’ll say, “We are an app that blank. We’re a consulting company that does this,” but there’s no context for it, right? You’re Batman on a sunny day. So you’ve got to generate some emotion, some empathy up front and to give people some context.

Raj:
Now your damsel or dude in distress is a target audience, your village on fire is the core problem they’re experiencing and super power is your unique approach to that; superhero is your solution. So to communicate in that format, now you’re taking people on a journey that’s going to sound different than what most other people say, even if you provide a service that’s pretty similar to everyone else.

Raj:
So that’s the high level conceptual framework, which I always recommend jot down bullet points for each of those categories. From there you can then use this specific elevator pitch formula I call que pasa. Now, do you know any Spanish, Liston?

Liston Witherill:
I know enough to know that means what’s up, yeah.

Raj:
Exactly. Que pasa means what’s up. So I always tell people when you pitch your company, all you have to do is tell people what’s up. Que Pasa. PASA is an acronym. P-A-S-A, Problem, approach, solution, action, action meaning like ask or call to action; what do you want them to do? Very simple way to talk about your company, and again, you’ll be able to take them on an emotional journey in the process because if you highlight a problem up front, what you’re able to do is you’re able to get on their side. Instead of again, saving the day too soon, you’re able to identify something wrong and then give a reason for why you exist.

Liston Witherill:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Do you have any or have you studied copywriting? Do you have any background or studying?

Raj:
No formal training.

Liston Witherill:
Okay, so the PASA sounds like a very common sort of an iteration of a copywriting formula where we would always start with the problem 100% of the … like there’s no formula that exists that doesn’t start with the problem because that’s what you need to contextualize. One question for you about your superhero formula though. Have you heard of StoryBrand? StoryBrand.com? It’s a book and-

Raj:
I don’t think so.

Liston Witherill:
So this guy basically marries marketing messaging to The Hero’s Journey, the famous Joseph Campbell, the Monomyth, and what he says is your company is the guide, not the hero; your customer is the hero. And I think one of the dangers of someone thinking about themselves as the hero or the superhero coming in to save the day is they’re already a little bit too focused on themselves and not focused on the other person. Is that something that you see some of your clients suffer from?

Raj:
So it’s a good point, and I know that there’s a lot of other strategies or advice out there that says … like I’ve heard a million times make your customer the hero. I agree. The idea of that superhero strategy framework is you are ultimately making the customer the hero by only coming to them because they have something wrong. So you think of yourself as a superhero, but if you understand that you only exist because they need saving, you’re ultimately making them feel better at the end of the day, which is the goal. You’re solving their problem, which is the goal.

Raj:
So I agree, make your customer the hero, but I think where people … for as many times as I’ve heard that, I don’t think it makes it easier to tactically come up with something because then what everyone does is they focus entirely on their customer, but what they do is they just start painting these pictures of how great the customer can look, but they never contextualize why they would need to look that great in the first place. So my whole idea of your company is the superhero is to give that context first and ultimately make sure that the customer at the end of the day is sitting front and center.

Liston Witherill:
Totally. Okay. So I had to press you a little bit on that one.

Raj:
Yeah. No, I’m happy you did.

Liston Witherill:
One thing you mentioned separately before we recorded this was that you really believe that storytelling helps companies, both in their marketing and in their sales. So one-to-many and one-to-one. It helps them garner attention and then it also helps them convert people into customers. And I know you have a success story to share with us, so I was hoping you could contextualize your work with Wicked Reports through how story helped them in both their marketing and sales.

Raj:
Yeah, so Wicked Reports is a company, software as a service, SaaS company out of Boston. They are a few years old at this point, and they’ve built a really good product that works. It’s a marketing analytics software designed for eCommerce brands.

Raj:
Now, going into working with them, they were very product-focused and very feature-focused, and their demos were these screen share calls where they would show every possible element of the software.

Liston Witherill:
I have 12 features to cover in the next five minutes.

Raj:
Yeah, right. So when I talk about story-based sales, so it’s got like three layers to it. So there’s the elevator pitch component to it, and bear in mind, your elevator pitch is something that you can use in your top of funnel marketing to draw people in, but then you repeat it once you’ve got someone on that call or on that demo because repetition is going to get people to remember. Just because they saw it once doesn’t mean they know it in their heart and their soul, so repetition is good.

Raj:
But then when you look at most of these demo calls, in the SaaS world here’s out 99% of the demo calls work. I would imagine in the agency and consulting world it’s very similar to the SaaS world too, where they get a customer on the phone or a prospect on the phone and they might ask a couple of questions and they dive right into their screen share, or if it’s a consultant, they’ll dive right into talking about what they do and how they help, et cetera.

Raj:
Again, there’s no journey there. So if you’re looking at a 30 minute call, here’s what the breakdown should be: 10 minutes of asking really good discovery questions to understand why are they even on the phone with you. The next 10 minutes, take them through a strong sales deck that tells a story, and I’ll come back to the components of that in a second, so that gets you to minute 20. The following five minutes if you’re selling a software product are to actually do that screen share and show what the thing actually is. Now if you’re a consultant or agency and you don’t actually have a product to demo, then you either expand your sales deck story another five minutes or you just have another few minutes to play around with and get their feedback and ask questions.

Liston Witherill:
Can I just add, I think social proof is really important. If you can, demonstrate the product so that you may spend some time on a case study or two.

Raj:
Yeah, definitely. The final five minutes is determining next steps, and this is where a lot of people cough it up is they’re like, “Oh, so what do think we should do next?”

Liston Witherill:
Right. I totally agree.

Raj:
Really? You just asked your potential customer how your sales process should work? So you’ve got to create guidelines for them and say, “Sounds like we’re in alignment here. Here’s how our process looks like from here. How does that match up with you?” And then they’ll tell you how it aligns with their timeline.

Raj:
So in that process right there what we’ve just created just process wise is a little bit of a story arc, but also in that specific sales deck, how you want to implement story-based selling is most sales decks, and I come from an agency background, keep in mind, so I saw this a million times. Most sales decks will start with the roster of client logos, then it’ll go into like “We’ve been in business for this many years,” or “We have this technology. Here’s our awards we’ve won.” Some combination of that will be the beginning of that, which you’re in the room with them. Why are you still trying to prove you deserve to be in the room with them?

Raj:
So what you need to do instead is … and here’s where an another entertainment analogy comes in. I think the musical Hamilton, which I love, is a great inspiration for how you should sell. Are you familiar with Hamilton?

Liston Witherill:
I am. I’ve seen it.

Raj:
Okay. All right, so you’ll appreciate this. In Hamilton, so spoiler alert, he dies at the end.

Liston Witherill:
For you non-history buffs out there.

Raj:
A man who lived 300 years ago is now dead, just in case he didn’t. As you know, Liston, there are three duals in Hamilton. So that final duel is Hamilton and Aaron Burr, his big character foil, his big nemesis the whole time. Now if they had just had the final duel without any context before that you’d leave the play being like, “Oh what a monster. How could you shoot someone cold blooded like that? What the hell?” But really what you do when you leave that play is you’re thinking more about the legacy of Hamilton, you’re thinking more about the character dynamics, et cetera. You’re leaving with the impression they want you to leave with because they did a good job of setting the table first.

Raj:
So there’s two duals before that final duel. The first duel, the 10 duel commandments, is literally to explain what honor culture was in the 1700s and then what the dueling process looked like. The second duel is to generate some serious emotional pull from you by the tragedy of his son dying, and you get it out of your system that that’s a sad thing so that by the time the third duel happens, you’re not crying that Hamilton died. Again, you’re talking about the legacy.

Raj:
So when you think about selling, think about it in the same way where you’ve got to come to terms on what world you both live in first. You have to agree to the rules of play and then you’ve got to show them there’s some departure happening. Something is changing. Like the times, they are a-changing, the tide has shifted, and because of that, new solutions are needed and that’s where you come in. And then towards the end of that is where I would put in that social proof, like do you have case studies, do you have testimonials? But that to me is how you structure a really good sales deck because you need to … If you dive right into, “Hey, we are this awesome company,” you’re walking in to just brag to them, and who wants to talk to someone who brags? Instead you can get on their side by showcasing, “Hey, here’s what the rules of play are.”

Raj:
So to come back to Wicked Reports, the way we’ve revamped their demo process is that breakdown I just told you, and then the sales deck that precedes the actual screen share demo is one where we start with talking about, okay, so if you’re an eCommerce brand, let’s say you sell lobster online, how do you find customers? Do you show them … like would you buy if you saw this same Facebook ad five times in a row? No? What if I showed it to you five more times? Are you now automatically convinced to take out your wallet? No, you’re not.

Raj:
So if you’re someone like this guy here, which is on the slide, who sells lobster, you got to get your leads to smell the saltwater. So that’s where we then go into, okay, what has changed in the eCommerce landscape, and we bring up the three new truths of eCommerce marketing, truths one, two and three. Then it leads into, well, here’s who Wicked Reports is and you have that que pasa elevator pitch baked right into there. Then it goes into here’s a case study.

Liston Witherill:
Perfect. Well, I want to hear how that actually worked, but we’re going to stop it here and leave you dear listener with a horrible cliffhanger. I’m doing an evil thing to you. But this concludes part one of my interview with Raj. Just in case you don’t listen to part two tomorrow, but I recommend you do, but just in case, and you want to get ahold of Raj, Raj, what should they do to get ahold of you?

Raj:
You can find me at StartupHypeman.com. I actually have on there a free download. It’s a free 10 minutes SaaS masterclass. It will apply to agencies and consultants as well. It’s just called a SaaS masterclass. You can also listen to my podcast. It’s called Discover Your Inner Awesome. And find me on the socials @StartupHypeman and @RajNATION, R-A-J nation.

Liston Witherill:
Love it. Okay. So we’re going to continue this conversation. If you’re interested in hearing more from Raj, make sure you subscribe to the podcast and listen to tomorrow’s episode. See you then.

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