For two decades, Michael Humblet experienced all the sales roles that ever existed. Then, four years ago, he decided to look for a new job because he wanted to spend more time at home instead of travelling. But a two-month break beforehand helping scaleups and startups changed the course of his life…
Now Michael does two things: helps companies grow by sharing content and training around becoming a better salesperson and runs the B2B content agency Chaomatic.
“You know, it’s funny,” the author, speaker and sales expert says. “My mother always said to me, ‘The world is for those who dare’. She said it every single week but remained a nurse for the rest of her life. So I learned not to be afraid and to open a door and see what happens.”
For my podcast, Michael and I chatted about how sales is like “swimming in a lake of rejection”, perseverance when posting on social media, and why selling is still so important in a world of abundance.
“The funny part is that, ever since four years ago when I started working independently, I never do real sales anymore,” Michael says. “I started a personal brand and went on a journey of being me – and it’s hard to be really you. But the more I was me, the better it worked.”
Michael does sales in a different, subtle way. He believes that the evolution of the internet towards capturing data in decentralised places “means that the personal brand – you – will become even more relevant. Because it will be you who will start driving business in the longer term. Because it will be you who will be controlling attention and trust. And brands will gather behind you.”
“That doesn’t work anymore,” says Michael. “So we go to something else: inspiration. We explain our expertise. And you can do this in many forms, from drawings to mini blogs. You inspire people to become whatever they want to be.”
By creating content you intrigue people, says Michael. They try to implement the learnings you share but eventually figure out they can’t and go to the person who’s helped them out – you – to request your services.
“So, if you switch to content making instead of doing the classic sales talk of ‘me, me, me, product, product, product, service, service, service’, you’ll win,” says Michael. “It’s a very natural, non-salesy and long-term strategy that actually builds your personal brand.”
Stop being the hardcore salesperson, says Michael. “Just be you and explain to people what you know.”
Dedicate at least six to eight weeks to publishing content online, Michael suggests. “Most people do it for one, two or three weeks and then they say, ‘It’s not working’. But the thing is, when you start to post, your buddies ”like” all this stuff. And then after a month the people you know get bored of your face and stop.
“And you think ‘nobody loves me’, but your true audience – the prospects, the people who will buy from you – they would never “like” or comment. But they will click on the link you’ve shared.”
Michael explains that you get a peak in the beginning that then drops. But if you continue posting your content for six to eight weeks, he says, suddenly the peak goes up and you have a completely different audience because consistency creates trust. Those people – the prospects you want to reach – don’t trust you in the beginning but will over time.
“That’s the magical thing,” says Michael.
When people start posting online, their content is usually aimed at friends and family on Facebook and Instagram, says Michael. So, if you suddenly start creating content on a B2B platform like LinkedIn, it feels like you’re exposing yourself.
“Let me tell you something very weird,” says Michael. “Doing LinkedIn for four years, I have 24,000 followers and only once have I had somebody attacking me. And the reason is very simple: LinkedIn is a professional platform and everybody has a boss. So everybody’s afraid to really go in and polarise and do crazy stuff.”
Whether it’s drawing, writing or video, Michael says you should use your favourite medium as a way to connect with people on social, because if you like it then it’s the one thing you’ll keep doing.
Many people spend two hours deliberating over a LinkedIn post that’s not all that interesting, says Michael. To create successful content, he suggests starting with the end and then explaining what you mean. Talk from your strengths.
He shares an example:
Imagine you work in a company and are a marketeer. You’re selling some hygiene products. Should you talk about the actual products? No, you should talk about how you market these hygiene products, because that’s what is interesting for your prospects.
On the other hand, if you’re a salesperson in the same company, you should talk about use cases, problems, examples, and questions that your prospects ask you.
“Just answer the bloody questions,” says Michael. “Don’t overthink it. Start with the end, experiment and just try.”
Keep going, says Michael, and you’ll get better results when posting. He does warn, however, that the algorithms on social platforms keep changing, so you need to experiment with the publishing times that work best for you. For instance, posting in the school holidays, on Friday afternoons or Monday mornings – all quiet times on a business site like LinkedIn – may not get you any reach.
You can always experiment, says Michael. But he also warns not to detour too much from your core topics and embrace consistency.
When Michael first started posting his sales-related content, he recorded “very fancy-pants, difficult videos; deep dives in forecasting, five-minute stuff that not a lot of people care about”.
Needless to say, they didn’t really work. But then he made a series focused on extreme basics, including a video called “What is Sales” that’s now the second-most-watched clip on his YouTube channel.
“And then I realised I was overthinking this,” says Michael, adding that “a lot of people think too much, and then when they finally post, the momentum is gone. So just set the first step and don’t think the whole world will read it. You build your audience as you go. Don’t be afraid of that.”
Michael explains that, despite his seemingly confident persona, he’s always hated using pushy, in-your-face sales techniques like cold calling. Because of this, he learned how to sell in a different way and also built up an alter ego for the times he’s performing as a salesperson or even a speaker in front of an audience.
“I kind of built a persona a little bit bigger than life… And it protects me,” he says. “If I’m on stage, I really dare to say stuff that’s polarising. But if I had you one-on-one, I’d never do that.”
Imagine you’re on stage, says Michael. The most interested people are in the front rows writing everything down. And you might think that these are your target audience, but that’s not the case. Those people are there because they really want to learn from you and then do it themselves.
Your true audience – the people who’ll buy from you – are the people in the back, says Michael. “They come to me later, give me their business cards, say we need to talk and then leave,” he explains. “I call it the anonymous aspect of sales.”
He compares this with a scenario on LinkedIn where he creates a post and includes a link. Even though he may have a healthy number of views and likes, if no one is actually clicking through to watch his videos, it’s not all that useful. When you go into sales techniques and social selling, he points out, it’s the people actually clicking on your links that are your true audience.
One of the mistakes Michael claims to make often is making compelling, creative content that garners noise and attention but forgetting to put a product behind it.
“I still make this mistake every single day,” he says. “And I tell it to a lot of companies, you start with the product and then you work your way back.”
He gives an example of planning a webinar series during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic where 1,500 people signed up to attend but then he forgot to remind them to come.
“I need to hire people to help me with that, because I will, for some reason, forget and avoid it!” he says.
Voila: how to sell on social media without being salesy. To learn more, check out my podcast episode with Michael.
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