I do everything wrong

I was speaking with a potential consulting client the other day and as I hung up the phone, I realized that I had done everything on the call wrong.

In fact, as that fact settled in and I reflected on the way I conduct the rest of my business, I realized that I do pretty much everything wrong, all the time.

And so I was like, “Self, you’re off track. You’re getting sloppy. You need to stop what you’re doing right now — playing on Twitter and chatting with people aimlessly and answering unimportant emails and whatnot — and get to work on the things you’ve been neglecting. Maybe create that ‘Store’ page you’ve been meaning to create, or put up some of the cool new testimonials you got yesterday.”

So then, fully motivated, I got up, turned off the computer, and went to the theater to watch that movie Daybreakers because I like vampires.

I do everything wrong in my business. It’s retarded. The call I had with that prospective client was just one shining example. So, for the sake of illustration and because I heard that both Legion and The Book of Eli sucked, let’s take a look at what I did incorrectly:

1. I told my prospect that I didn’t have a clue about some of the things he wanted to know.
The rule is supposed to be that when someone asks about something that is sort of within your ability to learn, you say yes now and learn how to do it later. But instead, when he asked me about something foreign, I said, “Sorry, I know nothing about that.” I added that if he wanted, I could probably look into whatever it was for him later on.

2. I referred my competitors.
The guy I was talking to was interested in my unique breed of “personality marketing,” but also asked if he should maybe focus more on using AdWords to drive traffic, or try harder to get good rankings through search engines. So I told him that I knew a guy who is a genius at generating automated AdWords traffic (Clay Collins) and another guy (Michael Martine) who is an SEO whiz. Then, I gave him both of their website addresses and told him that if that was the direction he wanted to go, to tell Clay or Michael that I said Hi.

3. I didn’t push the big sale.
At the end of our call, my prospect indicated that he’d like to hire me for coaching. He asked how many sessions I thought would be optimal. I told him, “This is the part where I’m supposed to say that unless you buy five hours, you’re wasting your money. But instead, I’ll suggest you buy whatever you’re comfortable with.” And with that, I left it to him to decide.

4. I didn’t offer a fast-action discount.
A really good sales tactic is to get someone to act fast (while they’re still pumped up from talking to you) by offering a discount if they buy NOW. I thought about doing that, but didn’t. Instead, I told him to get back to me “whenever.”

5. I didn’t care if he hired me.
Yeah, work is good and yeah, money is also good. But I’m kind of woo-woo about such things, so the concept of “meant to happen” comes into play — at least in my mind. The way I saw it, he’s either “one of my people” or he’s not. If he is, then he got a feel for how I roll, would like me to help him, and will be back. And if he’s not one of my people, then it’s probably best we don’t work together anyway.

Now, you could play that call back in a sales training course as an example of what not to do, but it’s how I handle every call. It’s how I handle every email. I say, “Here’s the info you’re looking for. Here’s how I can help you. If you want to do it, awesome. And if you don’t, no hard feelings.”

I don’t upsell current clients. It’s not that I think it’s not a good idea; it’s simply that I’m too lazy to do it.

I don’t optimize my own site to attract search engine traffic.

I don’t blog often about what I do for clients in order to establish myself as an expert, and I certainly never blog about technology tips and hints anymore. Instead, I blog about my shitty insurance plan and how well I did on a fitness test.

I don’t write to clients in a “professional” manner.

I hardly ever send email my mailing list, and when I do, I don’t include the sales link three times.

I blatantly, unashamedly ask people to use my affiliate links so that when they buy stuff, I’ll make money.

I swear, write about my vulnerabilities, and generally am not normal.

You take that “what not to do,” where I scored a big fat zero, and you multiply it by the number of people who contact me and the number of days I persist in backwards marketing. And somehow, all of that together adds up to a lot of clients, a lot of referrals, and a good chunk of income.

Why enough wrongs make a right

I guess I should be clear that this is a musings post (or maybe an anecdotal post that was fun for me to write) and not an advice post. I don’t totally understand why my “wrong” approach works, and I’m not really suggesting that you pursue it.

But I do have a theory.

See, some of you were reading my litany of mistakes above and getting the wrong impression. I’m not bragging about my flaunting of the rules, and I’m not saying that everything I’m not doing would be wrong to do. Could I benefit from a chain of upsells? Of course I could. Could I sell more — and still sell with integrity — by offering bonuses and discounts to urge someone to buy sooner rather than later? Yeah, absolutely.

Some of the people I respect most in this realm teach people to do the very things I don’t do, and this leads to a strange set of contradictions in my mind: I ignore most email marketing; email marketing is good to learn. I close poorly; good closings can benefit clients while boosting sales.

I think the reason I can operate in spite of eschewing so many of these “right ways” has to do with the fact that I am very clearly not a pro, bent on separating my clients from their money in order solely to line my pockets. Not that all pros do this… but there are a lot of shysters out there, and they DO play by the rules.

Instead, it’s incredibly, incredibly obvious that I am just an ordinary guy. I fuck up; you can hear my dogs or kids in the background of my calls; I lose my train of thought when I’m talking.

Just like an ordinary, everyday person.

Just like my clients.

Just like you.

It might help, in terms of sales, to polish my image… but leaving some of the tarnish there just gives me a more obvious level of truth.

Look, I don’t have a moral to this post. I can’t tie it up neatly, and say, “Here’s what you’ve learned today.” I’m just jamming here. I just find it interesting that the boundaries of authenticity can apparently be pushed much further than I ever would have thought. I don’t seem to need to be an internet pro. Apparently I can get away with being good at what I do, without the sparkles and glitter and e-commerce razzmatazz.

That’s good news. Because what you see here is truly what you get. And what’s awesome is that authenticity is easy. I don’t have to do something that’s not natural to me, that I have to learn and remember.

Maybe this is part of the lesson behind the Third Tribe, or maybe it’s not.

All I know is that if you believe there is one best way to do business online, you’re mistaken. Rules are made to be broken, and I’m living proof.


  1. Max says:

    Nice. Do it different, be a real person. BTW Zombieland *****.

  2. Johnny says:

    Ooh, falling in love with me? Cool, but my wife is going to be all jealous and shit.

  3. Archan Mehta says:


    Once again, I have to kick myself in the seat of my pants for not having discovered you sooner. Man, what have I been doing with my time? Your blog rocks, dude. I enjoy reading every post, which is like a true revelation, to be sure.

    However, I am happy now I know what to read and what not to read. Thanks.

    Once again, I am charmed by your sense of humor and some of the good-looking gals who leave comments on your blog with their cute photographs. Wow. And, if I may say so, you look quite a dasher too.

    By the way, thanks for sharing a few really novel ideas: you are not perfect; you are just another human being; and you want to make a quick buck while your clients think you are actually raising the bar. And we can hear your children and wife as background noise. Nobody does it better, not even James Bond.

  4. Johnny says:

    Archan, you definitely win “commented on the most posts in the shortest period of time” award. It’s quite a coveted prize.

    Glad you dig it. Stick around!


  5. I hate it when clients call me. Last time I knocked my stapler off my desk and then dropped the phone whilst I was trying to pick it up. The client really wasn’t happy that he’d phoned a proofreader and reached someone apparently working with a wrecking ball.
    I’m now certain that the reason I do so very badly on the phone is that I’m trying to remember all the things that I ‘should’ be saying. If Johnny is right, then I really need to forget all about marketing, listen to the client and respond to their query honestly.
    That really sounds too easy, but I’ll give it a try.

  6. I am so with you Johnny. I use to sell vacuums door to door and I changed their old school presentation that they had once. Everyone was pissed off because I did it. I got the whole if it ain’t broke don’t fix it spiel…yea whatever guys! I said.

    These people were so close minded I couldn’t take it anymore, they still think tell lousy phony jokes works and they think that hammer closing a person into buying a $2000 vacuums is AWESOME.

    WHOOOOOO I GOT THEM!!!! Some of these people use to say after they left their home. Wow! isn’t it? I am glad I got out.

    I always felt good when I left the house thinking okay I made that customer happy, damn did they want that product, all I did was help her make the decision.

    I don’t know if this comment really resonates with this post, but I felt like telling you the story.

  7. Johnny says:

    Wow, vacuums door-to-door? I didn’t think that was done anymore. I imagine it’s next to impossible nowadays.

  8. Mezna says:

    I don’t mind if being “blunt” is part of your image, but there is no excuse for using the word “retarded”. As a writer who has a brother that has developmental challenges, that word is about as offensive as saying faggot. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t use it as a term to insult people who are not able-bodied–it’s still extremely offensive and NEVER ok to use. Are you going to start saying faggot or homos too because you don’t follow the rules? I highly suggest learning more about the implications of this word, and why it’s as offensive as using the terms nigger or faggot. This writer won’t be recommending you to any of her friends.


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