In this episode of The Sales Transformation with Collin Mitchell podcast, Collin talks to Justin Kline about his journey from traveling around the world to creating his own company. Presently, Justin is the CEO and Managing Director of Markerly, an influencer marketing agency and technology company.
Justin talks about cutting his teeth with creating his own company after his return to the United States. While this didn’t make him an instant success, he took all the lessons and skills he learned to different jobs, before eventually giving into the entrepreneurial bug again. He talks about dealing with rejections, and the mental technique he has developed that has helped him turn even the worst rejections into learning opportunities.
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Collin: "I think sales is the number one skill that you need as entrepreneur because even if you have the best product, but you don't know how to get people to buy it, or to care about it, then it's never gonna be successful."
Justin: "Everyone is kind of like a child. We're all just children. You have to be nurturing. You have to be understanding. They might have a temper tantrum. They might not want something. And that's okay. You still treat people with respect, ask them for feedback. 'Oh you don't want to invest, why? What about the business model do you not like? What could be changed to make it better, to where you'd want to invest?'"
Justin: "I feel like it's important to be persistent, even if you know that they're not gonna buy it. It's like, 'I know you're not gonna buy this, because you're not returning my call. But tell me why, give me a reason. Because think that's important information that you should always expect of a prospect. Don't just take nothing for an answer."
Justin: "It's not that time consuming if you just want to get like 1,2,3,4,5,6 influencers, like to make content for you. You can do that on your own. But it's when you want to have like, 30 people a month, or 20 people a month, putting out content constantly. You need to have a dashboard, track everything, and you want to have this engine running at all times. Then it gets increasingly more difficult and more complicated."
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[00:00:00] In the world of sales, you either sink or swim or breakthrough to the next level. My name's Colin Mitchell. And this is sales transformation, a new kind of sales show designed to bring you through the epic life-changing moments of elite sellers. So you can experience your own sales transformation.
[00:00:24] All right. Welcome to another episode of sales transformation. We've got a special guest as always today. I've got Justin Klein. He is the founder over at Markley Lee, where they sell influencer marketing services. We're going to dig into, uh, his story, his experiences, and pull some learning lessons out of there.
[00:00:40] Uh, just as interest range from philosophy, ethics, history, blockchain technology, software engineering, data analysis, and invited. Startups, uh, Justin, welcome to the show. Well, thank you Colin for, for having me, uh, good morning. Yeah. Um, man, you have a lot of interests there, so I don't know if we'll have time to cover them all.
[00:01:01] At least not today. We might have to do a part two there, but uh, you know, just kinda take us back. Like where did your professional journey start and then how did you end up, you know, in entrepreneurship? Yeah, for sure. So. Let's see. Well, when I got out of school, out of college, I wanted to do music. And like, I was actually like traveling around the world, like, um, just playing shows and like street performing and stuff.
[00:01:28] Um, and then, uh, decided to, you know, come back to America and get a real job. And, uh, that started in, uh, in advertising. Uh, and I was, I was actually managing like all the inventory for this site called Drudge report. Um, And then from there, um, I moved to a company that was in the advertising space as well, called add this.
[00:01:53] Um, there's also a sharing widget, like on all these, like basically enough sites to like cookie the entire internet. And we have like, Yeah. We have like all these cookie pools where we're like slicing up all these audiences and selling the data for targeting, like for advertising campaigns. Um, and I was managing, um, like those ad campaigns and then, uh, yeah, and then I decided to, to start markedly, uh, One of the, um, one of the software engineers there, um, at ad this who like, you know, we, we worked together a lot and, and, uh, just worked really well together.
[00:02:30] So we were like, yeah, let's, let's make this sharing tool like, and we want it to like, basically mark really started as like a, uh, Pinterest for texts, essentially. Um, you know, the idea was that like all of the world's most, uh, most interesting information, uh, would be highly. Um, and like anyone could go in and be like a layer on top of articles basically, uh, where, like the most interesting stuff is already highlighted kind of like, you know, getting like a textbook or used textbook, like in college or something.
[00:03:01] And like it's all, all the important stuff's already highlighted. Um, that was kind of like the idea, uh, for like news articles and we got on a ton of sites, like thousands of sites. Uh, and, uh, you know, we, we were getting a bunch of traction. We got into this program called 500 startups, and then we decided to pivot, uh, into influencer marketing because we would have had to raise like a crazy amount of money.
[00:03:26] I, I didn't want to do that. Like I wanted to grow more organically and, you know, I, I just, uh, I don't know. We, we just wanted to monetize it like more quickly and they were kind of pushing us to do that. So yeah, we got into influencer marketing back then. It was very blunt focused. So like all the data that we had was really about.
[00:03:44] For that. Um, and we already built like all this tracking technology, so we could like track how far people were scrolling down pages and that the stuff they were even like copying and pasting on the websites. Um, and we were able to use that information. Um, determine whether a blog post was, um, accurately like, or fully read, um, you know, like now we have that for video, like, you know, how much of the video did they watch?
[00:04:11] Well, we had that for blog posts. Um, and then, yeah. And so like influencer marketing back in 2012, when we started the company, it was very. Much, uh, you know, like mom blog focused and it's obviously evolved to include like so many more platforms now. Like most of our work is probably on like Instagram and Tik TOK at this point.
[00:04:34] And like, Um, but yeah, so now we build tools, um, and are a full service, uh, influencer marketing agency, uh, so that, uh, brands can, can spin up these influencer campaigns, like really quickly. Um, we provide like a very turnkey solution for. Interesting. Okay. All right. So I want to a lot to unpack there. Um, but I want to go back to traveling around the world.
[00:05:05] Playing music sounds like music is your passion. Um, and then kind of realizing like, yeah, I mean, your, your words are, you said I gotta get a real job, right? Um, not that play, music's not a real job, but. You need to pay the bills, whatever. Right. Um, do you still, do you still play music and was that tough to sort of give that up and, you know, go get a job?
[00:05:26] Yeah. You know, I do play music, but it's, I kinda like it more as a hobby. Cause like I felt I was playing like so much to where like my hands were hurting and like my forearm, like I just, I, I feel like I was just like really like wearing myself out. Um, I got a little burned out from it. Um, And I was just like, and I felt like a jukebox, like just playing like a lot of the same songs over and over.
[00:05:50] And I was just like, all right, I gotta like, I, and then I had like my girlfriend who like, uh, who's my wife now. Um, and like I had left to get like, go traveling, gone and go travel the world though. And like, that was, she wasn't too happy about that. And she was like calling me back. Um, so there was like a bunch of stuff.
[00:06:07] Um, that kind of was the impetus to, to meet. Uh, coming back to America. Uh, wow. I mean, I could see, you know, uh, getting burnt out, um, you know, playing, cause you sort of have to, rather than you want to. The fun of it, I guess. And yeah, and I, like, I was kind of obsessed and I was like playing like 12 hours a day, like just constantly.
[00:06:36] And I mean, like my arm was going to fall off. Like I was like getting like carpal tunnel stuff going on. Oh my gosh. It was bad. What was the most interesting place you got to play music or that you got to visit during that time? Ah, let's see. I really liked Croatia. I thought that was pretty dope. Because it's just like so beautiful and, uh, split Croatia is really cool because like all of the, um, it's like a city that is, uh, it was built around like all these Roman ruins.
[00:07:13] Hmm. Which is really cool. So you can like, you're basically like parts of the city you're walking basically in like Diocletian's palace and like the original floor of the palace is there, but you're like outside and there's like restaurants there now, but like you see like the old columns. Um, so it's, it's really cool.
[00:07:33] Like culturally. And then it's on the water. So that's cool. And, you know, it was really affordable. Like things were pretty cheap, but there were lots of tourists. So like I would like street perform and make a bunch of money. Um, and yeah, it was just a lot of fun. Very cool. Very cool. All right. So, all right.
[00:07:50] So then after, you know, kind of deciding to, to close that chapter and go get this job at this, uh, uh, which I believe is, you know, somewhat of an agency, right. Um, was that a tough transition?
[00:08:05] Well, technically. Okay. And actually missed. I left out a piece. Right. When I came back, I actually started a company. Um, do you remember like the daily deal site? Like, yeah. And there'd be like, there'll be like a, a, there'd be like a, a ticking clock of like, oh, this deal runs out. And like, you know, three days and 12 hours and six seconds.
[00:08:32] Exactly. And yeah. And there's like Groupon and living social, and there were like a ton of them, like back then, like, cause they were just starting to like get popular. Um, and so, like I had an idea, I was like, oh, there are all these daily deal sites. Like, why don't I just aggregate them all, put them all on like all the daily deals.
[00:08:51] Right. So you can just sort through, and it doesn't matter if it's from Groupon or living social or like, whatever. Right. Like, because there were so many back then. Um, so. Scraping all of the sites and like, you know, pulling in all the deals and, uh, but that didn't work out because like I ran out of money and like, I, I wasn't like I was technical, but like I had never done anything like that at the time.
[00:09:16] Um, so I was just like, kind of in over my head. And then I was like, all right, I'm just going to, I'm just going to go. Apply for jobs or whatever. Um, but yeah, that was, uh, that was like maybe like five months before I got the real job. Okay. Okay. And so, I mean, you went straight for entrepreneurship, uh, right out the gates.
[00:09:40] So you clearly have that bug, right? Definitely. Yeah. And I'm guessing. I mean, it sounded like a great idea, but not as, not as easy to, to, to pull off, uh, I suppose, right. I mean, if I were to do that now, like it'd be a piece of cake. Uh, I feel like, but yeah, back then, like, I mean, I got, I got it up and it was working.
[00:10:04] Um, but like we would've needed like a lot more money I think. And like, I was so young, like, and I, it was just me and like, I was just like hiring like random people, um, like that, that knew how to code and stuff at the time. Like, and then I taught myself how to code, um, like pretty soon thereafter. And I learned a lot, right?
[00:10:23] Like. How did you know? Right. Like my SQL queries and I learned about scraping. Um, and, uh, yeah. And it definitely helped, you know, build a foundation of knowledge, um, that I would later end up using. Um, yeah. Did you, did you, um, Did you get many customers or did you guys sell much in that time or was it more just like building and learning, you know, skills?
[00:10:51] Yeah, it was more just building and we got, we got it up, but like the scraping needed to be maintained. Um, and I couldn't do it at the time. Uh, like, so we were, I hired a company to do that. Um, I basically just ran out of money and I was like, all right, fuck this. Uh, and yeah, and I just like moved on and yeah.
[00:11:15] Okay. All right. And so then you got the job. Um, and talk to me a little bit. It sounded, I mean, I'm not sure, but I'm just, you know, uh, uh, was it a short stint there, or how much time did you spend in that job before you felt, you know, you're ready to then dive back into entrepreneurship? Well, so I was there for like a year and then I moved to another company, uh, And I was there for a little over a year.
[00:11:41] Um, and, uh, and then, yeah, and then, uh, they, they actually like that company was very entrepreneurial. Uh, the founder of that company, it was really awesome. And he like had someone who was a friend of his, who worked at 500 startups come and talk to the whole company about what 500 startups was. And so was.
[00:12:01] Hm, like they're basically endorsing this. Um, and, and so I had like, uh, a direct contact, um, to help me, like if I had an idea. I could, I could hit them up and be like, Hey, I have this idea. Get in the 500 startups. Like, so it was kind of like a cool little foot in the door. Uh, and I think like that made me want to start a company even more.
[00:12:25] Um, and then, uh, yeah, then I, yeah, then I started it and then like I reached out to him and he's like, all right. Yeah, this is cool. Like you guys are in basically. And then we moved to, uh, to mountain view and. They re they like invested some money and written some money out there and yeah, the rest is history.
[00:12:46] Yeah. That's cool, man. I mean, anytime, you know, you work for somebody who. You know, invest in their people and in not in only a way that serves them. It's pretty awesome. You know, not everybody gets that sort of opportunity where it's like they support and encourage you to, you know, grow whether it's with, you know, them or beyond being with them.
[00:13:09] Totally. Yeah. Okay. So, um, okay. So tell me, uh, how, how did that go? So you moved out there, uh, what was that like? It was that experience. I mean, there's a lot of. Successful salespeople that go into entrepreneurship. Right. And I think sales is the number one skill that you need as an entrepreneur. Right.
[00:13:28] Because even if you have the best product, but you don't know how to, you don't know how to get people to buy it or to care about it, then it's never going to be successful. Right. So, uh, moving out there, raising money, um, what was that journey like? Tell me a little bit more. Yeah. I mean, we'll raising money.
[00:13:45] That's like all sales, right. Um, cause you gotta sell your idea. Um, and so something when you have nothing. Yeah, yeah. Especially if you're like pre-revenue or like pre-product even. Um, yeah. Yeah, it's a grind. You got to like talk to so many people and there's so much rejection and it's such a drain. Um, and you just gotta be, you know, uh, persistent and, uh, you know, like every, no gets you closer to a yes.
[00:14:14] Right. And just like have that mindset. Yeah. How much rejection did you have to deal with before you got to. Oh tons. I mean, dozens. I mean, cause we like what was cool about farmers startups is that like we had access to like all the main VCs. Right. Um, so we could, we could like hit them up and they would like take us seriously because we were like part of the 500 startups crew.
[00:14:39] Um, so we got a lot of meetings. Um, but we were like in this transitional period, right? Like we were, we were like pivoting the company while we were raising money. Um, And that is not easy, right? It was not easy to. Raise while you're pivoting. Um, and we, we ended up doing it and it worked out, but like looking back, like we, if we had like, not taken that one meeting, like, you know, like we probably would've run out of money and I'd be somewhere else.
[00:15:11] I, I don't know. I'd have like another company. I don't know where I'd be. Um, but sometimes you just gotta keep pushing, um, and, and let the seeds grow. Um, Yeah. So, um, I'm curious, like the early, what did you learn early on, like in your maybe, you know, first couple of pitches, um, where you had to deal with rejection, you know, that, uh, what's helpful, you know, moving forward to improve the pitch.
[00:15:42] Yeah. I mean, I, I think just being real with people, right. And understanding that like, these are like, oh, we're all humans, right? Like, it's not like you're talking to some divine person. Like, you know, every, everyone is human and, uh, you know, I LA I like have this tickler file system. And like every day, like I pull the files out and I look and like to remind me of things.
[00:16:11] And like, I have this one reminder and it's like, uh, you know, everyone is a child. And it just like gives me perspective, like, okay. Yeah. Every, everyone is kind of like a child, like we're all just children and like, you know, so you have to be nurturing. You have to be understanding. They might have a temper tantrum.
[00:16:31] They might not want something. You know, and like that's okay. And like, you know, you still like treat people with respect, ask them for feedback. Oh, you don't want to invest. Why, what about the business model? Do you not like, what could we change to make it better to where you'd want to invest? Right. Like, and I think like asking the right questions like that is important.
[00:16:54] Um, I don't know what, like what have you experienced? Like what, like in rejection, like how do you deal with it? I'm curious. Yeah. So, you know, A lot of times rejection or when you hear nos or you often hear, you know, objection. Right. People think like, oh, an objection. Like I got to have like the secret weapon or the silver bullet to deal with this particular way of object, you know, people objecting or rejecting what I'm trying to do.
[00:17:24] And it's just not true. Like there's people are just too damn dynamic to like have every right answer. Right. And if you deal even just dealing with it as like an objection. Is is, is already starting off in a negative way. Right. They're really just questions or concerns, which can open up for more dialogue.
[00:17:42] Right. But I think a lot of people often get stuck or that stings or they attach it to their self-worth. Yeah. They take it just so damn personal that, you know, Hey Justin, you're telling me no. And that must mean that, you know, my product sucks. My business models suck. I suck and it's kind of crippling and I don't know what to do then.
[00:18:03] Right. And they just leave it there. But what I love about what you said is like getting feedback. Okay. What is it that you don't like about the business model? What is it that you, you know, maybe like about the product, right. Um, because in a lot of cases, people are doing. A little bit confused or have additional questions or concerns that haven't been addressed or answered.
[00:18:25] And you maybe haven't asked the right questions to address them. And because they don't have enough information or they haven't fully understood the information that they've been getting. Sometimes people needed to be told the same thing three times in a few different ways till they actually fully understand it.
[00:18:41] Um, and no doesn't always mean, no, it might just need that. They're not there yet. And they need further explanation. Uh, and sometimes. It does mean? No, but there's two different types of nose, right? There's no, with like a legitimate, good reason. Like, no, I don't want to invest in your product because I'm already doing something that's very similar.
[00:18:59] That's a good reason. But you saying no? Um, no. Um, because I'm concerned about this thing and maybe it's something that you haven't addressed yet. Well, that's no, without a good reason and that, you know, can have further dialogue to maybe get them to it. Yes. Yeah. I agree. And I think. Getting that? No, like getting to the no, or the, yes, I think is also important.
[00:19:21] Like, I feel like a lot of salespeople. They will hit up someone a few times. Like, Hey, you just following up, did you get my proposal? Did you, you know, like, and they miss just following up. Yeah. And I'm like, the person doesn't get back to them. And they're like, all right, I give up, you know, I feel like it's important to be persistent.
[00:19:42] Like even if you know, they're not going to buy it, it's like, okay, I know you're not going to buy this cause you're not returning my call or whatever, but like, tell me why, like tell me, like give me a reason. Right? Because I think like that's important information, um, that you should always expect of like a prospect, uh, like don't just like take nothing for an answer.
[00:20:06] Right. I know like, I mean, I'm an example right now. You know, I don't lose a lot of deals. Um, but when I do, I want to know why, and not because I want to like then figure out how to better sell you, just because I want to know, like, Hey, was there something wrong with how we delivered this presentation? Was there something wrong with how.
[00:20:28] Articulated the value to you. Um, did we miss something in the discovery process about what your goals really are and what happens if you don't solve those? Like, you know, I want to understand the reason behind it and, you know, people don't like to hurt people's feelings, people don't like conflict. So for them to tell, you know, in the.
[00:20:47] It's hard enough. Right. But then for them to tell you why they said no is very challenging for a lot of people and they most likely won't give you that information unless you make an effort to actually ask for it. And even then they still might not give it to you. I'm not even mad about getting to know.
[00:21:04] I'm more mad of like, okay, I got to know, but I don't know why that upsets me more. Yeah. That's the worst because then you can't, it's harder to, to iterate and to get better. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. That feedback. I've said this a bunch of times, but you know, that feedback from the people that told you no, or rejected, you know, uh, investing in you or buying your product or your service, that feedback is way more valuable than the person who said yes and thinks you're the best thing ever.
[00:21:33] Right. Totally. A hundred percent. Okay. So tell me a little bit about, you know, What you guys do today? You know, what problems are you solving? Just give me the whole kind of high level. Uh, you know, I'm super curious about it. Um, I'm sure I'll have some more questions, but like, what problem are you solving for folks today with, with the work that.
[00:21:54] Yeah. So we work primarily with like consumer brands and, uh, you know, it's very much, uh, you know, a content type of product, but also an advertising product. Um, that's, that's the cool thing about influencer marketing? Um, it's that like, you're getting real people to create real content, to reach an audience that follows them for the content that they create.
[00:22:18] So. It was really cool channel, um, you know, that you can use to, to reach people and it starting to become like that, you know, like that box, that brands need to check. Like they need to have an influencer strategy because like everyone is doing it. They understand the value. Um, they have to do more than just TV ads and billboards and like banner ads on websites.
[00:22:40] And they know that. Uh, and you know, reaching people in this, uh, type of way is very impactful. Uh, you can not only just, you know, see like immediate sales, but you also are getting like tons of content value that you can then repurpose on other things. Um, and, uh, it allows you to kind of like inject this into all of your other marketing.
[00:23:07] Um, and so. When people come to you typically, are they just really starting to get started in influencer marketing? Are they maybe have already started to dip their toe in there and coming across some challenges? Um, tell me a little bit more about that. Our sweet spot is definitely for companies that have been doing it and want to scale it, um, because you know, Our minimums are kind of high.
[00:23:39] Um, but we'll get from time to time, like a startup and like, you know, they're, they're interested in, you know, usually, um, you know, they'll have smaller budgets and sometimes we can make it work it, you know, depending on the project. Uh, and other times, you know, I, I just let them know that. Like just reach out to a few people that you think would be a good fit.
[00:23:59] Um, you know, look at their followers, make sure they're not fake, uh, make sure that like, you know, their content is in line with like, you know, your brand's ethos and all of that. Yeah. You know, try it out. Like it's not, it's not that time consuming. If you just want to get like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 influencers, you know, like to make content for you.
[00:24:20] Like you can do that on your own, but it's when you want to have like 30 people a month or 20 people a month, you know, putting out content constantly, you need to have a dashboard to track everything. Um, and you want to have like this engine running at all times, like then it gets increasingly more difficult and more complex.
[00:24:41] Mm. Hmm. And so are you, is it sort of like agency services plus tack? Like what does, you know, what is like a, what does that look like? Yeah, so we're very much a technology enabled service. Uh, you know, because we are using a ton of technology on the backend and data to, uh, you know, to, to enable us to, to, to, you know, run these campaigns, um, in the most effective, most efficient way.
[00:25:09] And then we also have, um, some technology that we will license out to various clients. Um, so, and we're also working on a couple of SAS tools that we're going to open up to everyone and, uh, it'll be a lower price point and it's it's it's good. Yeah. So we're, we're working on that. It's probably going to be over the next six to.
[00:25:31] Eight months until we, once we launched that stuff. Um, but super excited about that. And, uh, yeah. It's uh, and so, and you mentioned, you know, most of the work you do is like Instagram tick-tock right? Apparently is the platforms that you play on. Um, you know, I'm even starting to see, I don't know how much work or time you spend on like, LinkedIn, right.
[00:25:54] In more of like a B2B context, but, um, Influencer marketing is just now starting to become a thing on LinkedIn where people will have following and get engagement. You know, B2B, SAS companies are, you know, essentially putting dollars behind people, promoting their stuff. Um, have you, you know, w what are your thoughts on that?
[00:26:18] Have you, have you, um, looked into that at all? What do you, what do you have any thoughts on where that might. Yeah. I mean, I think you're right. Like LinkedIn is great for reaching, uh, you know, more of that B2B audience professionals. Um, and yeah, as LinkedIn, you know, uh, grows and as the, you know, their users follower ships grow, uh, there will, uh, probably be an increasing demand.
[00:26:48] For, for like the influencers in the B2B space on LinkedIn? Um, I, I think it's definitely a growing category. And, you know, I think, uh, you know, there are definitely opportunities. Like if you, if you have a B2B company and, uh, you know, like what's a good example. Like, like if you so, uh, like hardware for data centers, right.
[00:27:10] Then it might make sense to reach out to like a bunch of CTOs or like, you know, uh, engineers like that are related to that space. Um, yeah. To, to get them to try out the products, um, to test the products. Um, and ultimately if they like it, um, then they feel, you know, they want to feel like they want to share it with people to, to promote the products.
[00:27:34] Yeah. Yeah. Well, Justin, thanks so much for coming on. Really, uh, enjoyed learning a little bit more about your. Um, any final thoughts and, and really just where's the best place for, for folks to get into your world if they wanted to. Yeah. So, I mean, check out my company, mark early.com. Uh, it should be in the show notes and, uh, I have a website, like a personal website.
[00:27:57] You can check out. Hello, Justin cline.com and, uh, yeah. Um, I'm also on LinkedIn, so you can find me there too. Awesome. Awesome. We'll drop the links there in the show notes for everyone. If you enjoyed today's episode, please write us a review. Share the show with your friends really does help us out, and we're always listening for your feedback.
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