Set Up Your Supply Chain With Sam Jacobs
Lindsay Tjepkema: What's the most important ingredient for a truly engaging podcast? The equipment? Well, that helps for sound quality, but not so much on engagement. The subject matter? Not so much, because that's, well, subjective. I propose that it's the interviewer. The interviewer is the one who sets the tone and guides the conversation. They dig into the good stuff that no one else has heard before, and can make a lackluster interviewee into a star. But, what makes for a great interviewer? Is it something you're born with, something in your personality? Can you learn to be a great interviewer? Could you be the next Oprah or maybe Tim Ferris? Or are you doomed to live with the aspirations limited by talents that you just don't possess? Well, I'm here to tell you that there's hope, but it's going to take some work. I'm Lindsay Tjepkema, CEO and cofounder of Casted, the first and only podcasting platform made specifically for B2B marketers, and this is our podcast. Sam Jacobs is the host of the Sales Hacker podcast. With well over 30, 000 downloads and counting, the Sales Hacker podcast has earned quite a following among salespeople. While the show has seen a lot of success, Sam will tell you that it's been the result of a lot of work. First, they leveraged the Sales Hacker community, but second, Sam will tell you that he works hard to be a great interviewer, and thanks to his sage wisdom shared on this show, you can work on honing your interviewing skills too.
Sam Jacobs: Sam Jacobs, I'm the founder of Revenue Collective, which is a private membership for high growth operators all over the world, people in revenue leadership positions, and I'm also the host of The Sales Hacker podcast.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Sam, thank you so much for being here, and I want to hear the story behind the mic, so to speak. How in the world, I mean, Sales Hacker is such a big show. How did it get started?
Sam Jacobs: Well, I wish I could say it was my idea, but it wasn't. It was Max Altschuler. Max Altschuler is the founder of Sales Hacker, and just a friend and an entrepreneur and a business person. They were creating all of this written content, and he reached out to me and I don't know why he chose me besides our friendship and besides the fact that we've known each other a while, but I am the founder of this community and I moderate dinners and sort of other events all the time, so maybe it has something to do with that. Maybe it has something to do with sort of the quality of the insights that I was sharing in other forums. But, he reached out to me, it was sort of December of 2017 and he said," Would you want to be the host of the Sales Hacker podcast?" Of course, I said yes. The origin of it was that. We sort of debated the format for a little while. We wanted to make sure that it was interesting and real and authentic, which I thought we could make it. We started sort of putting the supply chain together of how to produce the show, how to make the show, and we launched, I think in March. The first show that I recorded, I was actually in London on a Zoom with a friend of mine, Kiva Kolstein is the chief revenue officer at a company called AlphaSense and we were recording it across the Atlantic, and we've been off to the races from there.
Lindsay Tjepkema: That's really cool. How did you take idea into production? What did that look like? Where did you start?
Sam Jacobs: Well, the thing that's obviously most important from my perspective was that, or the biggest unfair advantage that I had as a host was that Sales Hacker had a built in audience already. It's sort of liked that Ferris Bueller line," If you have the means, I highly encourage it," which is, Sales Hacker already had an email distribution list of a hundred thousand people, and all of the production work that you can do or want to do is useful, but it's obviously a lot more useful if you have a megaphone or a speaker that can enhance whatever the message is that you're saying. There's a couple of different parts to how we sort of do it, but the first is, and I know there's folks out there like Harry Stebbings and people talk about the hours and hours of preparation that go into every interview. I don't do hours and hours of preparation, to be completely honest. I think if you're a reasonable listener and interested in other people, I'm not sure that you need hours and hours. But, at any rate, you do need some kind of supply chain. There's a lot of the things that I don't do. We put together, A, the guest list. We started reaching out to people and inviting them to be on the show. We then created Google Docs, as you've done Lindsay, to say, here's the standard questions that we ask, here's background on the show. I then looped in my assistant who helps me on my regular business to create the one- pagers and ensure that we create the links for the recording software that we use. We use Zencastr currently, and just create the links, create a Google Drive folder. There's a production team that helps take in the audio in rough form and then put it into a show. We figured out, what are the segments that need to be recorded? A couple of things that we do that make it easier, we do everything in one take. I recorded a show yesterday with a VP of sales of a public company, and he said," I assume this is highly edited." I said," No, it's not. It's not highly edited at all, my friend."
Lindsay Tjepkema: Edit yourself as you speak.
Sam Jacobs: Yeah, exactly. It's edited in the sense that if you accidentally reveal material, non public information on this, which I don't know why you would, but if you do, then, yes, we can have that edited. But, this is not like a reply all or some kind of inaudible media thing, or The Daily, we're putting hours and hours of production into the sound design and all of that. Really, just trying to create, the quality is in the engagement with the interviewer and with listening so that you can ask interesting questions and sort of get something interesting out of them.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah. Tell me more about that. I mean, because, yes, you already had a community, but how did you transition yourself in a way that is pulling out those great interviews? Was that just super naturally to you, and then you've grown over time, or was that something you had to work at? What did that look like, you as podcast host?
Sam Jacobs: Well, I mean, the honest truth is that, I was a DJ in college for college radio. I host a lot of events. I'm a reasonably good, and I'm not saying this because I think I'm great at everything. There's a lot of things I'm terrible at, but this was one particular thing that I knew I would be good at. It didn't take a lot. I mean, I have a perspective and a point of view, and my perspective and point of view is that in any type of these interactions, I'm trying as much as possible to probe below the generic surface and get at something interesting. I think the other part of it is that my specific background and expertise, which is in building companies and being a sales or revenue leader, gives me, A, credibility, and then B, helps me provide and ask much more specific questions and much more tactical questions. Because, again, what I'm trying to do is I'm trying to think about it from the perspective of the listener. I go to so many conferences, I listen to so many people speak, and it's just useless bullshit most of the time. It's just so generic that it really, you can nod sagely and act like you're listening, you're hearing something super insightful, but it's often not very insightful. I'm trying to uncover the specific details. The reason that I can do that is probably because I come from the industry of the people that I'm interviewing. I know the jargon, I know the vernacular, and I also understand their job. If I did not have any of that, I think it would be much more difficult.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Absolutely. You had, obviously, the background, which, who knew that being a DJ in college would serve you so well later on, right? You just never know as you're going through life, what's going to come back around. Then, also having a show that's so much in your wheelhouse, which I think seems like a given, but I think quite often it's like," Hey, what could we do that's different," and," Obviously this person needs to be our host, but are they best person to be that host and to really know that subject matter expertise?" I think that that's something that's really worth exploring before you start a show, too.
Sam Jacobs: Yeah. I mean, I think there's certain forms or venues where I just feel, again, I mean, it just relates to my own, I have confidence in a few areas, but one of them is my knowledge of startups and how revenue organizations work and how they need to be built. That gives me credibility. Then also, I'm just trying, there's a balance, because I don't want to create any kind of adversarial relationship with any of the people that I'm interviewing, or not conflict, but I do want it to be interesting. I'm also trying to balance my own authenticity and trying to bring some elements with just me as a person into it, without making it about a diary or making it strange or super emotional or anything like that. But, trying to bring myself to all of these interviews so that my humor, my perspective on life is sort of dripped in there so that it's not, again... That's why sometimes people are, they look at the questions on the Google Doc and they say," Can we ask other questions?" Honestly, most of the time, I don't even look at the Google Doc, or look at it sort of a little bit, but mostly I'm really just trying to listen. I'm trying to listen to what they're saying and then react to what they're saying and make it be an actual conversation. In that case, we're going way off script all the time.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah. I think that's the good stuff. I mean, that's actively what you and I are doing right now. There's a fine balance between preparing your guests and saying," Hey, we're going to talk about X, Y, and Z. This is kind of where your head should be before you hop into the interview." But, also, we're going to actually have a conversation and go where it takes us so that it's interesting. I'm not saying," Okay, that was a great answer. How about question number three?" Right?
Sam Jacobs: The biggest challenge within the context of these, first of all, if you're doing... Obviously, I run a business, this Revenue Collective business, which is focused on supporting and enabling revenue leaders, many of whom are people that I interview. But, I think there's probably two big challenges. One, this is an existential challenge, which is, if you're doing a podcast on roughly the same topic and you're interviewing roughly the same kind of person every single week, you have to find the interesting thing for yourself, because as much as I love sales and marketing, I have a lot of other interests in life, and coming back to the same topic over and over again, it's not that it's grueling in any kind of physical sense, but you got to find ways to maintain the interest level for yourself. Second thing is, sometimes you just get hosts that they're just not giving what you need. Not hosts, guests. First of all, they don't realize that the point of the interview is for them to speak, not for you to speak. They have short, sometimes curt, monosyllabic answers to questions and I find myself having to continue to probe and prod.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Tell me more.
Sam Jacobs: Yeah, exactly.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Let's dig into that further.
Sam Jacobs: Exactly. It can get a little awkward. I mean, there's rough patches, but I'm always surprised sometimes at people that I personally didn't enjoy the interview, and then I get feedback from the audience that these are the ones that they really like. I can't always tell. I think I can tell, but it's about trying to stay in the moment and trying to listen and trying to extract something interesting over the course of the interview.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Let's go back a little bit, again, to the formation of the show, and you had this unfair advantage of you already had a community. I'm interested in, what did launch look like? Did you have a ton of shows or a ton of interviews recorded before you launched? Was launch what you thought it would be? How did that all work?
Sam Jacobs: It worked, again, like a lot of it to Max's credit, and honestly, to the team. Colin Campbell, we work with a production company called Sweet Fish Media. A, yes, we had a bunch of shows in the can, already recorded. B, we were always focused on figuring out what is, again, I used this word a few times now, or phrase, but supply chain. How do you create a process? Max is obsessed about scalability, repeatability. This is what he focuses on. He wrote Hacking Sales, and his whole perspective on life is hacking as a metaphor for finding efficient mechanisms to reproduce interesting and authentic content and communications and interactions and businesses. We were always focused on where's the repeatability, what are the things. That's why at the beginning of every show, I ask about the baseball card, which is the person's profile, as you did for me, Lindsey. Then we go into the interview. We have a segment at the end of the show. We structured, A, the segments. We made sure that we had the same music. The funny thing is, the music is my music because I was in a band for many years.
Lindsay Tjepkema: No way. That's awesome.
Sam Jacobs: Yeah. I mean, my perspective is no conflict, no interest. I always want to create conflicts of interest wherever I go so that I can... We layer in the music that I had as a sort of subtle way of promoting it and getting another third of a cent from Spotify.
Lindsay Tjepkema: That's so fun, I love that.
Sam Jacobs: Yeah. I mean, the launch went pretty well. I think we had, I don't know, 4, 000 downloads for that month and maybe, I mean, I didn't know what to expect. At this point, we're doing 31,000 downloads a month, which I think is pretty good.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah.
Sam Jacobs: I obviously would hope that, I want it to continue to grow. What we saw, which is, again, this is not rocket science, is that we would release the show on a Tuesday, downloads with spike on a Tuesday. I said I really love that spike when I look at the graph in Libsyn, which is the analytics platform that we use and the distribution platform that we use. How do we get more spikes, and that's why we started doing a show on Tuesday. Also, I'm always nervous about just the format of making it too long. My Tuesday interviews have historically been 40 to 45 minutes, and so I wanted to create something much, much shorter. On Tuesday, we do the main interview, and then in that same recording session, we press stop and then we record a five minute to 10 minutes snippet that we call Friday Fundamentals, and we put that out on Fridays. That's a way of, A, getting another spike, and, B, presenting another format to the listeners that is much more digestible and highly tactical. It's also a way of creating for the guest, they're the guest for the week, as opposed to the guest for just one show. But, it started at 4, 000, and it's not about the one episode, it's about making sure that you do it every single day, week, period, and that you have really very reasonable expectations, and it'll pay dividends over 12 months and 24 months and 36 months, not necessarily over one or two weeks. I don't think anybody should expect anything special over the first time that they launch. I think, like with anything, people's sort of differentiated expertise in the modern world, it's not about having one interesting idea, but it's about the ability to consistently have interesting ideas, because one interesting idea, you can't hold back your best insight for the day that you think you're going to be the most popular. What you have to be able to do is consistently produce interesting insights.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah, it's so important. That is so important. Having authentic conversations as the core, and in some cases as the full, not only the foundation, but as your marketing strategy, that's how it should be. Right? I mean, going and talking with people where other people want to listen in to those conversations, right, and then sharing those conversations, and using that as the centerpiece. That's how it works. When you do it right, as you have, it changes everything because people want to listen in to those conversations. They want to be a part of what you're doing, and they reach beyond their speakers to be a part of what you're doing. First, they want to listen in, and then they want to be a part of it. That's incredible. That's exactly how it should work.
Sam Jacobs: Yeah. I think, again, my point about the download number isn't to continue to brag or anything like that. It's more that the numbers are somewhat abstract, but the things that are not abstract are the message that you start to get, and you only need to get a few of them. It doesn't need to be a hundred for people to write to you and say," Hey," I mean, these are real. I got a message from somebody." I moved from Detroit to Austin, Texas to take a sales job, and the entire time I listened to the Sales Hacker podcast." Or," I listen to you every morning when I'm working out at the gym," and you realize that the ability to be in somebody's head, which is, when they put their headphones on, that's where you are, is incredibly intimate, incredibly personal. It's a real privilege. It's really cool, just to just think about this idea that you're sharing this time with people, I mean, really specific personal moments that they have throughout their lives. I mean, listen, if you're some kind of B2B software company where you have any kind of meaningful average contract value, you don't really need a million people to listen. You need a few of the right people to listen, and if those people convert into customers and you have a good product with good lifetime value, the act of producing a podcast alone can be super transformative.
Lindsay Tjepkema: 100%. I mean, it's just like your website. If you have a million of the wrong people or a hundred of the right people, you choose. Right? Same thing with your podcast. I mean, if you're only looking at downloads, that could be misleading, because you could have lots of people listening or lots of people subscribing, and so that counts towards your audience, but if they're not really reaching beyond that and engaging with you, then what difference is it really making?
Sam Jacobs: Yeah. I mean, you do need, whether it's you or me or somebody, you do need something interesting to say, because people have a tremendous number of options when it comes to what they're listening to, what they're reading, all of that stuff. There needs to be a reason and some kind of mission or some kind of reason for existence. Why do you exist? Why are you doing this, besides just promoting? Obviously, I don't think promoting your own business or promoting your own brand is interesting enough. It has to speak to issues and challenges that the people out there in the world are facing, and then hopefully you have a unique perspective on it.
Lindsay Tjepkema: What are some of your big takeaways for people who are listening right now who either are on the brink of starting a podcast, kicking around the idea, or maybe they already have one? What's the advice that you would share?
Sam Jacobs: Well, the one thing, what advice would I share. First of all, just be very intentional about disaggregating the components of production so that you can try to make them repeatable, because doing one podcast really is not useful. Doing anything one time is not useful. It's really about your ability to demonstrate you can do it consistently and show up every day, and expect that it's going to be a two to three year, maybe I'm being a little conservative, but expect that it's going to take some time to start seeing the results that you seek. That's thing number one. Then, thing number two, which we haven't really talked about, because I mentioned that, plugged into Sales Hacker already, but is, you have to be thinking about what's your promotion strategy and how are you going to get it out there. I think one of the things that we didn't do well enough that we still probably don't do well enough that we need to do is, we need to push the guests on the show to promote themselves. We have a limited source of new audience. We have the listeners, our current listeners. We have the listeners on our show that are telling other people. Then, we have the guests on our show that are telling their audience and their communities about their participation in the podcast. We really need to make it easy for them to share and easy for them to tell the rest of the world about the fact that they were a guest. But, that all starts with just simply making sure that they will do it and that you ask them to do that explicitly and directly when they are a guest. I guess the last thing, one other thing I would just say, if you're a marketer out there thinking about starting a podcast, and this comes from a marketing breakfast that I was at recently, but using the act of being a guest on the podcast as part of an account based marketing strategy to your customers and bringing in, if you're targeting Lessonly, to use an Indianapolis example, and bringing Max Yoder on the show because you want Lessonly to be a customer of yours, it's a very useful ABM strategy. It's not just about getting lots and lots of people to listen. It's about providing thought leadership opportunities to your target accounts and bringing them onto the show as a way of establishing some kind of executive relationship with them.
Lindsay Tjepkema: I think it all could fall under the big umbrella of, be strategic. Right? Think long term. Make sure you have processes. Make sure that you are thinking with the end in mind, and how you're going to promote this thing and how you're going to be strategic about the guests that you bring on in a way that's relevant to your audience, but also to your business.
Sam Jacobs: Absolutely. Listen, the one thing I should make abundantly and eminently clear, and I'm so grateful to Max for the opportunity, the podcast is actually one of the things that basically changed my life. Even at just 31,000 downloads, which again, for some people it's a lot, but for the most famous people or the best podcasters, it's really just a drop in the bucket. But, what it did was it gave me a global reach in a way that I really didn't have otherwise in a very authentic way, because it was my voice. I started talking about Revenue Collective on the podcast, and thank God, when I talked about my band when I was a college DJ, I got fired from the college radio station in UVA. But, when I talk about Revenue Collective on the Sales Hacker podcast, Max lets me do it. It's kind of free advertising, and that's the thing, Revenue Collective was just a community in New York only. We're in almost every city in the world now, including Indianapolis, and that came from the podcast. Our second biggest chapter is London. The way that that got started was the founder of the London chapter, Tom [ Glasson 00: 24: 18 ], reached out to me after he heard me talk about Revenue Collective on the Sales Hacker podcast. The podcast itself has this massive distribution channel, and the only real marketing that we do for the business that I run on a daily basis, which is still tiny, but growing. In terms of, how has podcasting helped me? I mean, it's created a very unique, authentic, and really interesting marketing vehicle and distribution channel for my voice related to my company, which has been a key part of helping us grow over the last 12 months.
Lindsay Tjepkema: That's it for today's show. Thank you so much to today's guest, and to learn more about them and see Casted in action with clips of today's show and related content, visit casted. us. Thanks so much for listening.