“You and a client spend $200 at a strip club; how do you get your company to pick up the tab?” This is the kind of stuff that salesmen deal with all the time, says Michael Markette. And he ought to know. After 10 years selling high-tech products, Markette went into sales consulting, and last fall he founded Salesguy.com, and its parent company, Markette.com.
Salesguy.com is practical; it has a national jobs databank, links to hundreds of sales-related sites and lots of situation-specific advice. But what makes it distinctive is its water-cooler content, which ranges from stupid-blonde jokes and Viagra cartoons to cigar banter and stock talk. Below, we asked Markette to explain his vision for this guy thing.--DT
Seattle24x7: Mike, there’s a decidedly male slant to Salesguy.com. Why?
Markette: Actually, 40% of our readers are women now. When we started out, we were much more focused on men just because we wanted to quickly carve out a niche. We set up a focus group, looking at the salesguy life and mentality. We went to sales offices and listened to the dialogue, the jokes.
Seattle24x7: How often do you update Salesguy.com?
Markette: Every day; hourly in some cases. We post 26 sales-specific unique pieces of content per day. The content comes from trainers, and we’re a member of about 70 affiliate programs.
Seattle24x7: Who are your competitors?
Markette: Sales.com is already out there, and Interact.com is launching a big sales portal soon. The key difference is Salesguy’s complete irreverence. The site has the serious tools–the training, the news–but at the same time, it has the jokes, the stories, the stock tips.
Seattle24x7: What response have you had to the site?
Markette: The number one reaction is: You guys get it. We connect with salespeople on an intimate level. Not only do we talk about things that aren’t in the company manual [like whether to go gambling with a client], but we also talk about them in a funny way.”
Seattle24x7: How many users do you have?
Markette: This is a strategic time of growth. Last week, we finished a Seattle campaign that included print media, transit signage, outdoor billboards and radio spots. It netted over 10,000 new users. Recently, we’ve been adding 700 new readers per week.
We’re planning a similar national ad campaign. There are also some viral mechanisms on the site, such as sound bites and articles that salespeople enjoy e-mailing to each other. And we send out a newsletter every two weeks.
Seattle24x7: What’s up with your wacky billboard on Fourth Ave. South that says, “Write Great Fiction,” and shows an expense report below?
Markette: Jon Baugher, our Head Salesguy, came up with that. We think it strikes a cord with anyone who has ever filed an expense report. I’ll tell you what: ever since Jon came up with that campaign, I’ve been watching his reports very closely.
Seattle24x7: What about new products?
Markette: LeadSwap.com is launching around April 3. It’ll be a place where sales reps can join networking groups or form their own, getting leads instantly. SaleSyndicate.com is a B2B hub that will launch around May 1. It’ll help sales trainers and consultants sell their products/services to salespeople and sales managers and keep tabs on how they’re progressing.
Seattle24x7: What’s your business plan?
Markette: Salesguy.com and LeadSwap.com are vertical portals that should bring in 22% to 25% of the company’s total revenue through advertising and e-commerce. But most of the revenue will come from SaleSyndicate.com, which will take a cut from all transactions made on the site. A year from now, SaleSyndicate should have a critical mass of users. The next step would be to deepen our product offerings and user profiles, so that people are no longer consciously thinking of coming to us to do business. We want to be the daily tool for every sales trainer, manager, recruiter and consultant.
Seattle24x7: What’s your funding situation like?
Markette: So far, we’ve been funded by angel investors, and recently we got a cash infusion and software from Onyx Software Corp., which makes database tools and other software for account and territory management. We’re now looking to raise more funds and partner with groups that enable salespeople to use the web and excel at their jobs.
Seattle24x7: Are you hiring, and in what?
Markette: Recently, we’ve been adding three or four new people a month. Most of them are in programming and design.
Seattle24x7: Finally, Mike, are you going to stick with the “guy” profile?
Markette: I think so, but it’ll continue to evolve.
Deirdre Timmons, a founding editor of Sidewalk.com, is a regular contributor to UnderWire.com.
14740 NE 95th St.
Redmond, WA 98052
Phone: (425) 895-8771
Major investors: Onyx Software Corp.