Kean Graham: “How To Be Great At Sales Without Seeming Salesey”

Do you know your business could be much bigger than it currently is, but aren’t sure how to get there? I can help!

Sales is one of the most valuable skills anyone can have. People always need to sell skills to some degree whether it’s to get into a good university, get a job or even to get that first date. They all derive from sales! It’s a shame sales is not taught in schools, however, I think the deeper problem are the cultures developed in schools to only develop hard skills via memorization rather than application.

As a part of my series about how to be great at closing sales without seeming pushy, obnoxious, or salesy, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kean Graham.

Kean Graham is the CEO of MonetizeMore, an 8-figure ad tech company that is a Google Certified Partner with 100+ full-time team members remotely based across the planet. MonetizeMore was conceived in the mountains of Machu Picchu and has grown to $23M in revenues. Graham has traveled to over 90 countries during the 10 years that he has been growing MonetizeMore.

Thank you for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this career path?

I originally fell in love with the online industry when working for a large online classified network. The job was an immense learning experience but once the recession hit, the company decided to lay off the marketing department. I lost the best job I ever had but I was determined to turn the bad into something great.

Five days later, I’m on a plane to South America to go on a life changing trip. Four months into my backpacking trip I was on a four-day trek through the incredible Inca trail towards Machu Picchu. By the end of it, I was sitting on top of Wayna Picchu reflecting on my experiences throughout my trip. I have had the most fulfilling time of my life and it finally clicked:

I will work and travel when I want, where I want.

I have to start a digital business to enable this autonomous lifestyle. Seven months later I started the digital business called MonetizeMore which now offers this autonomous lifestyle to every member of our team.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occured to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

A digital nomad friend and I were on a safari in Okavango, Botswana during our digital nomad trip about a week ago. We were lucky enough to come across a pride of mother lions and their cubs feasting on a water buffalo they killed the previous night. The driver brought us dangerously close to them as you can see from this photo. As we got close, the lions stared right at us and got into pouncing position. One even got up and starting pacing.

We knew if we made any sudden movements or sounds, we could become lion lunch. I had my phone in my pocket and I couldn’t remember if the ringer was off. I was one impromptu client call away from being the next kill for that pride. Luckily, I had no calls during those moments that felt like hours and we got away safely.

I learned that there’s a time for business and there’s a time to be in the now. That was a time to be in the now and having any rings or buzzes could have messed things up in an even bigger way. Since then, I have turned all rings and buzzes off my phone unless I’m working and expecting a call.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Many large publishers that have ad space as a revenue source, have a major pain by having many ad revenue sources that have their own reporting interfaces. In order to find out the ad revenues they made that day and the overall ad revenue performance, most publishers copy and paste the ad revenue stats to an Excel spreadsheet.

We are curing this pain that many publishers experience with a PubGuru feature called unified reporting. Instead of publishers having to assign someone to spend hours on data entry, they can log into an interface to see their real-time ad revenue stats on one dashboard. In addition to this, PubGuru helps ad monetized publishers by solving the below pain points:

– No idea what parts of their publisher business are most profitable: PubGuru’s revenue attribution report provides revenue stats for each traffic source so they can decide where to invest in next.

– Publisher ad inventories tend to break often: PubGuru Ad Inspector crawls their page in real-time and uncovers any ad setup issues and how to fix them.

– No clue how to increase ad revenues: Smart notifications can be found in PubGuru to specifically recommend what to adjust on their site via step-by-step instructions to increase their ad revenues.

– Invalid traffic could destroy their business overnight: Traffic Cop detects and blocks invalid traffic to prevent any ad network account bans and revoked revenues. It also boosts traffic quality to entice bidding from the largest advertisers that watch traffic quality metrics per domain.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I couldn’t say all my success came from the mentorship of just one person but rather many. My Mother has been a huge inspiration in terms of raising me to be balanced, grounded, prepared and generous to those that deserve it. I can attribute my analytical skills and frugalness to my Father.

I learned a lot of important business lessons early on from a business consultant involved in many self-employment seminars that I took. I still use some of the core business principles today that he taught me.

I remember how shrewd he would be during the business plan phase. While it was tough at the time, looking back, people can be quite vague and fluffy with their business plans which leads to low quality execution. He would do a great job not accepting this and resting till every detail of our business plan was specifically explained so our business plans would be more executable.

For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit why you are an authority on the topic of sales?

I built MonetizeMore from scratch. I did everything for the company for the first three years and sales was a big part of making the company initially successful. One of the make or break moments of a B2B business is persuading another business to take a chance on you. I was asking them to take a chance on a startup that has no testimonials, no success stories and no track record to rely on.

I had to sell my initial clients on vision, hunger to prove myself and a clever pricing model. MonetizeMore wouldn’t exist ten years later with a 150+ team if I didn’t figure out how to sell.

Let’s shift a bit to what is happening today in the broader world. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the COVID-19 pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty and loneliness. From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our families and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

For those feeling anxious during these difficult times, I recommend the below:

Conversations: Making yourself vulnerable and to talk about your mental wellbeing can prove to be a great healing process and can promote greater awareness of your mental wellbeing. Talking about your problems with those that you can trust will alleviate anxiety and improve your relationships which is the source of support you’ll need through these difficult times.

Stay Busy: Boredom can fill you with negative thoughts and anxiety. Do your best to seize the moment by filling your day with positive activities. When have you ever had so much free time due to having to stay at home for most of the day. You’ll finally have that chance to learn another language, grow that skill you’ve always wanted to develop, re-kindle a relationship remotely and so many other possibilities.

Ok. Thanks for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. As you know, nearly any business a person will enter, will involve some form of sales. At the same time, most people have never received any formal education about how to be effective at selling. Why do you think our education system teaches nearly every other arcane subject, but sales, one of the most useful and versalite topics, is totally ignored?

Soft skills have always been underestimated. Some believe people are born with incredible soft skills. Some believe they are passed down from relatives. Most don’t realize that soft skills are learned and they can absolutely be learned in a formal education setting delivered by a well-equipped teacher.

Sales is one of the most valuable skills anyone can have. People always need to sell skills to some degree whether it’s to get into a good university, get a job or even to get that first date. They all derive from sales! It’s a shame sales is not taught in schools, however, I think the deeper problem are the cultures developed in schools to only develop hard skills via memorization rather than application.

This discussion, entitled, “How To Be Great At Sales Without Seeming Salesey”, is making an assumption that seeming salesy or pushy is something to be avoided. Do you agree with this assumption? Whether yes, or no, can you articulate why you feel the way you do?

Always make sure your sales pitch is customized to the audience. If it’s the owner, talk from a high-level and focus on profits. If it’s a middle manager, talk about how it’s going to make them look great to upper management. If you are customizing your language to the receiver, It will not seem salesy.

Many people have heard to customize their pitches, but most don’t go deep enough. By customize, I mean go deep! Don’t stop at helping them achieve their company goals, talk about achieving their individual goals. If you’re selling to a middle manager, talk about how your company is going to make them look like a hero to their boss and with less work too.

Find out who they report to, what motivates the individual that you’re selling to and dig in! You will have separated your company from the noise at that point and they won’t have a choice but to choose your offering. If it is obvious that the recipient and you are working together to determine whether your offering is a good fit for them versus being sold to, you are much more likely to close the sale.

The seven stages of a sales cycle are usually broken down to versions of Prospecting, Preparation, Approach, Presentation, Handling objections, Closing, and Follow-up. Which stage do you feel that you are best at? What is your unique approach, your “secret sauce”, to that particular skill? Can you explain or give a story?

Presentation: Something that is regularly missed in a sales presentation is customizing the presentation to the listener. It’s important to consider their motives and structure the presentation to them. If they are a middle manager, increasing their company’s revenues via an outsourced team might be best for their company but scary to them. That is a threat to their job!

It’s important you are cognizant of this, otherwise, you’ll lose the sale before it even started. A middle-manager wants to look like a hero to their boss. Therefore, it is key you position your offering as something that they can take credit for the positive results and show how the outsourced team will work in a complimentary fashion to their position and responsibilities.

I am a natural with customized communication and active listening. The combination of these two create a dynamite presentation that is more like a productive two-way conversation rather than me speak at the customer which rarely gets the sale.

Lead generation, or prospecting, is one of the basic steps of the sales cycle. Obviously every industry will be different, but can you share some of the fundamental strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

MonetizeMore has spent a lot of resources on inbound marketing for over 10 years and we’re a leader in our industry as a result. We get hundreds of organic leads every month in a niche industry while our competitors have to rely on AdWords and spam email campaigns to get new leads. As a result, our lead quality is much higher and has greater intent.

While content marketing has been our bread and butter, our fastest growing marketing channel is our Chrome Extension: PubGuru Ad Inspector. It has been growing in downloads quickly because it enables publishers to scan their ad inventories and find any errors that are costing them ad revenues or opportunities to increase their ad revenues. One of the toughest things is finding out what to do next in ad optimization. That is exactly what PubGuru Ad Inspector does and sometimes the smart notification will recommend one of our products since it solves that exact problem.

If you can provide a potential lead relevant and timely value for free, they will be entering your sales funnel with high intent. You also qualify them by offering them actionable data and the obvious next step. This could be in the form of recommending your product that would be most valuable to this lead or simply disqualifying them.

In my experience, I think the final stages of Handling Objections, Closing, and Follow-up, are the most difficult parts for many people. Why do you think ‘Handling Objections’ is so hard for people? What would you recommend for one to do, to be better at ‘Handling Objections’?

Handling objections are just another form of dealing with mini-failures depending on how the sales person positions it. Dealing with failure is very hard for most people. What most sales people don’t know is the sale hasn’t started till the lead has given their first “no”. If a lead hasn’t given a “no” at all during the sales process, expect them to go silent after the call is done. If this happens, you haven’t steered the conversation to be honest enough.

Handling objections is like an art. You need to be creative, suave and use intuition. When a lead gives an objection, you must appreciate their disclosure as if you knew exactly what they were going to say. Once you’re experienced enough, you will be ready for objections that you’ve heard many times. It’s important to handle objections smoothly and gauge their body language to make sure your response doesn’t close them down. Your ingenuity will be key to overcome these objections. Each objection that is given is your opportunity to communicate more value that your business can offer.

‘Closing’ is of course the proverbial Holy Grail. Can you suggest 5 things one can do to successfully close a sale without being perceived as pushy? If you can, please share a story or example, ideally from your experience, for each.

Customize: Always make sure the pitch is customized to the audience. If it’s the owner, talk from a high-level and about profits. If it’s a middle manager, talk about how it’s going to make them look great to upper management. I used to never be able to sell to anyone below C-level until I realized what they really wanted. Once I started selling towards them looking like a hero to their boss rather than company benefits, I started closing those type of sales.

Talk About Them: People like to hear people talk about them. Only mention what is needed to be said about your company and then focus on talking about the positive benefits for them. Then you’ll get their attention! I’ve been on the other side of too many sales pitches that have gone 20 minutes+ without me being able to get in a word. By that point, I didn’t care what they were selling, I just wanted to get off the call!

Emotional Intelligence: This is the key trait that’ll prevent you from messing up the sale. An effective closer with emotional intelligence knows when to use each tool like empathy, active listening, compassion or humility to navigate through the sales process up until it’s the right time to close. My emotional intelligence is most valuable during heated objections that have the potential to kill the sale. Instead of reacting, I respond to de-escalate the objection and try to find a mutual understanding. Once I’m able to overcome some of the toughest objections, I’m in a good position to close.

Authenticity: An authentic closer never closes a lead that he/she thinks would not benefit from the offering. Authenticity can be sensed from the buyer. Being inauthentic by being too salesy is a great way to chase someone away. Be honest, let the buyer know that your offering isn’t perfect. They’ll appreciate to know what type of leads are not a good fit. People feel more comfortable to buy from people that are being real. I learned to minimize my hyperbole during sales as this detracts from my authentic selling strategy.

Ask for the Sale: You can do everything right leading up to the close but you’d be surprised how many Founders get too shy to ask for the actual sale. They’ll have ridiculous excuses like they don’t want to be bothered with paying you money or you charge too much. Don’t let any of your sales end without a closed sale or a firm “no”. Otherwise, you’re doing yourself and your leads a big disservice.

Finally, what are your thoughts about ‘Follow up’? Many businesses get leads who might be interested but things never seem to close. What are some good tips for a business leader to successfully follow up and bring things to a conclusion, without appearing overly pushy or overeager?

Follow-up is such an important step that is normally forgotten. We used to not follow-up and we missed out on so many sales as a result. People are sometimes too busy to read everything that arrives in their inbox, most inboxes tend to be very unorganized and some people read it and intend to reply but forget. There are many reasons that your sales pitch didn’t get a reply. Do them a favor and follow-up. Many will thank you for it!

We tend to follow-up with relevant articles to pique their interest, approach the pitch from other angles and ask if they’ve given up on the opportunity. Your goal is to reignite the conversation or to get a flat “no”.

As you know there are so many modes of communication today. For example, In-person, phone calls, video calls, emails, and text messages. In your opinion, which of these communication methods should be avoided when attempting to close a sale or follow up? Which are the best ones? Can you explain or give a story?

Text message should be avoided when closing a sale or following up. Text is not a good way to close a sale. Text message also can to be a bit intrusive because people tend to use it for personal conversations. Getting them on a call is a much better way to get them talking, dig up any objections and then overcome them enroute to the close. I’ve used text message or instant message follow-ups trying to close the lead and I found they were easily ignored. The goal should be to get them on the phone if you really want to close them.

Ok, we are nearly done. Here is our final “meaty” question. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

MonetizeMore is one of the pioneers of location independent businesses. We have proven that it is possible to run an effective business without any offices and over 150 full-time team members. Location and schedule freedom has shown to be competitive advantages for MonetizeMore in an industry where that is rarely offered. As a result, MonetizeMore has been able to acquire incredible talent, minimize turnover, out-innovate competitors and better tailor to international clients.

Now more than ever, people can see the advantage of remote work. MonetizeMore has been relatively unscathed since remote work is part of our DNA. We can already see the effect of the influence of location independent business pioneers like MonetizeMore has had on the technology industry. The pandemic has only accelerated the trend towards location independence. I believe in the next ten years when someone mentions a new business, the next common question is: “Is that business location dependent or independent?”

How can our readers follow you online?







Thank you for the interview. We wish you only continued success!

About the author:

Mitch Russo started a software company in his garage, sold it for 8 figures and then went on to work directly with Tony Robbins and Chet Holmes to build a $25M business together. Mitch wrote a book called “The Invisible Organization — How Ingenious CEOs are Creating Thriving, Virtual Companies” and now his 2nd book called Power Tribes — “How Certification Can Explode Your Business.” Mitch helps SaaS company founders scale their own companies using his proprietary system. You can reach Mitch Directly via [email protected]

Kean Graham: “How To Be Great At Sales Without Seeming Salesey” was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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