The Ultimate Sales Machine — Chet Holmes

Hannes Kleist
11 min readNov 17, 2021

Buch-Review — Hannes Kleist — 20.05.2020

My main motivation for reading this was the sales part: How to build relationships with our clients and help them efficiently. The book certainly delivers on that.

Especially his approach to becoming the trusted guide of our clients speaks to my sentiment.

Only half the chapters deal with sales, though. The other covering time management, running efficient meetings and hiring.


96 percent of all companies fail within 10 years. And that force, my friends, is ‘pigheaded discipline and determination.’”

Alright. Let’s buckle up.


This is where most executives fail. Building a sales machine is not going to be about doing 4,000 things; it’s going to be about doing 12 things 4,000 times each.

4,000 seems a bit random. I will go with the usual 10,000 hours for a start.

1. Time Management

Alright. That I did for the last 10,000 hours. Check!

We broke the company down into nine “impact areas” and held weekly one-hour meetings in each area.

Interesting. We are basically improving it 1% every week. We do the same with our scrum retros after every sprint.

If you do that for a year, you improved by 67% in a year 17x in 10 years.

If you touch it, take action.

Word! Especially with emails. I clean my inbox every day.

When you have a long list, you generally do the easier, less productive tasks just to trim down the list.

I keep two lists. -Must-do: **In my email inbox that I work of first-in-first-out. -Might-do: **I put in Trello

main person responsible for growing the company, then you personally must spend at least 2.5 hours per day growing your company.

Good advice. I tried hiring people for this. But as always in life: You need to get to 80% before you can outsource any core work.

Touch it once. Make daily lists of the six most important tasks to accomplish. Plan how long each task will take. Assign time slots for accomplishing each task. Focus on the difficult projects first.

There is a catch in this. If you are a master-procrastinator like your’s truly, you will prioritize “urgent” (but lower priority tasks) over important (but uncomfortable) tasks.

2. Instituting Higher Standards and Regular Training

We never had formal training. We train our developers on the job via code review and the rest of the team by watching me.

When designing your training programs, remember that repetition is the key to preprogramming your company or department to run like a machine. But in reality, without continuous follow-up, very little sticks from a one-shot training. The Spot Quiz In the companies I’ve run, spot quizzes are an institution. What are the six steps to time management? The 12 steps to get an appointment? The seven steps to selling? The six questions they’ll ask every prospect?

Alright. The next time we scale, we will do this.

3. Executing Effective Meetings

This constant attention to what I call the “three Ps” — planning, procedures, and policies. Most entrepreneurial companies don’t install enough of the three Ps.

Oh, we do. We actually maintain a very detailed handbook.

Don’t be tempted to have every one in your organization test and perfect the procedure at the same time. You will spend a lot of money with lower-level talent trying to figure something out. Instead, have the higher-level talent perfect it and then train the rest.

That will work in a hierarchical company where you hire lower-level talent. If you run a company of smart creatives, you need to turn the process on its head. If you try this top-down, you will get ignored. And no amount of pleading, begging, incentivizing and threatening will help you

4. Becoming a Brilliant Strategist

Alright. Here comes the content marketing part.

“Education-based marketing,” creating an opportunity to educate prospects. This is a long-term, strategic approach to the sales process.

Twenty years of research has shown me that there’s always a very small percentage of folks “buying now.” Three percent. My research further concludes that 7 percent of the population is open to the idea of buying. The remaining 90 percent fall into one of three equal categories.

This is exactly our issue. We can target people who will only be in the market for a week over a 24-month period.

You will attract way more buyers if you are offering to teach them something of value to them than you will ever attract by simply trying to sell them your product or service.

So here is how he pitches:

I’m going to be going around to all the [type of business] over the next few weeks and presenting this information.

Using FOMO (fear of missing out), here.

But we only do these at a time when we won’t be disturbed, so we can get in and out quickly. What’s a time when you can sit and have a good educational experience without being interrupted?

That’s quite something…

We have another program where we buy you lunch. We call it a “lunch-and-learn.”

Oh, that is awesome. Who would say no to a free lunch + some deep insights?

It made it a lot easier to get appointments. It enabled you to get in to see just about anyone — including the 90 percent who were not buying now.


Since the information was so good, it established the salesperson as an expert rather than merely a salesperson. Since the information was so good, it gave credibility to the salesperson. When you begin any meeting with real data and hard facts, the sales material at the end of the meeting has a lot more credibility.

The sales manager becomes the sage.

If someone gives you something of value, you want to give back.

Reciprocity at work here.

The expert and strategically designed presentation made selling idiot-proof for the salespeople. The sales reps went around to business owners with a three-ring presentation binder that stood up on the desk. They flipped through the panels and showed the information to all the prospects. I recommend using PowerPoint whenever possible, but the point is that every rep had the same material to present.

I actually like the idea of a binder 😂

5. Hiring Superstars

DISC stands for four aspects of the personality: dominance, influence, steadiness, and compliance.

Alright. Here comes his weakest part. He is looking for the 80ies relentless and pushy salesman.

I do not understand how this fits into the educational and relationship building part of sales.

Anyway: Here is his job advert:

Don’t even call unless you are an overachiever and can prove it. Come build an empire within our fine, progressive company. We are in the XYZ industry, but we don’t hire backgrounds. We hire top producers. If you’re average, you can earn $ 50K with us. If you are a star, you can earn $ 300K plus. Young or old, if you have the stuff, we’ll know. Contact us at…

On hiring questions:

Another technique I use is to ask them to “write down five questions you want to be asked in the interview that will show your best side.”

That definitely will make them comfortable. But why is that important?

My mother was so blindly encouraging that if I’d told her, “I want to be a bank robber,” she would’ve said, “Oh son, you’d make a GREAT bank robber.”

That’s my mum as well 😂

The term quick to caution means that when children want to try something new — climb a tree, jump off the diving board, be adventurous — the parent holds them back, rather than encouraging them and being there in case they fall. My parents would have let me march into hell for a heavenly cause. That’s how I raised my children, and they are both strong and fearless about what they want and how to get it.


He goes on to use situational behavior style questions. We use something similar.

  • What events or influences from your childhood shaped who you are today? What are some of the biggest challenges in your life?
  • What was the toughest sale you ever made? (Make sure you ask for all the details and step-by-step specifics of this experience.)
  • Tell me about a time in your life when the odds were stacked against you but you overcame them and succeeded.
  • Have you ever practiced and reached a high level in any area beyond just getting by in life?

He finishes with:

Why did you leave your last three positions? Were you unhappy? Why? Tell me about a disappointment or disagreement you’ve had with a boss and what happened. Name two weak points of previous bosses.

He is weeding out the a#!holes

6. The High Art of Getting the Best Buyers

When Charlie Munger put me in charge

That is a bit annoying. He is name dropping Charlie Munger a lot.

I did a market analysis and found that 167 of them bought 95 percent of the advertising in the top four magazines. Suddenly executives who had never heard from us before were now hearing from us so intensively from every direction that within six months we had 28 of them in the magazine.

I love the idea. You can focus your sales, your marketing, you can manually stalk the 100 companies.

I have a rule about selling: never lie.

Aha. Well, he is using his words intentionally to create false images in the minds of his leads. How is that not lying?

They simply called each one and spoke right to the receptionist. They said: “Hi. We’re doing our annual survey and we’ve got just two questions: can you tell us what type of computer system you have and how old it is?” A full 99.9 percent of the receptionists just answered the question.

Alright. That is quite a nice way to research.

7. The Seven Musts of Marketing

Advertising Direct mail Corporate literature: brochures, promotional pieces Public relations Personal contact: salespeople, customer service reps Market education: trade shows, speaking engagements, Chet-style marketing efforts as described in Chapter Six, Internet: your Web sites, email efforts, and affiliate marketing

He lists stuff here :-(

8. The Eyes Have It Attract and Close More Buyers

We human beings remember 20 percent of what we hear, 30 percent of what we see, but 50 percent of what we both see and hear. Obviously your communication impact nearly triples when using visual aids over not using them.

True. But it somehow feels weird in a Zoom call to walk people through slides.


  • State of the industry, how times have changed
  • Five trends that could put you out of business or send you to the stars
  • Some solutions every one should know to succeed
  • How you can be ahead of the pack in every way When you’re presenting to clients, you can tell them that they have problems. It sounds worse and puts them in the mind-set to be open to solutions.

9. The Nitty-Gritty of Getting the Best Buyers

You find a dream neighborhood of your best buyers, you need an organized, consistent, and relentless program to win them over as clients for life — no matter how many times they tell you they’re not interested. And that’s the key: you are actually expecting and planning for these dream prospects to say no several times, and these rejections will not cause you to give up.

I made that mistake a lot in the past. I simply gave up on the first no. Once you get over the shame of feeling rejected, you simply continue.

We ran outreach programs, were on the fourth wave we still got nearly the same opening and response rate as on the first.

Everyone respects persistence in the face of resistance.

I literally had a guy accepting an invitation because he loved our persistence to talk to him 😂

The offer letter we sent to these CEOs said something like, “As you know, we rely on the manufacturers to be successful. To that end, we have commissioned a study and found that you have some serious problems. To help make certain that manufacturers are successful, we are now making this information available at no cost to you.”

I love the way how he is pitching his content-marketing.

Six Simple Steps for Getting Down to the Nitty-Gritty

  • Choose your Dream 100.
  • Choose the gifts.
  • Create your Dream 100 letters.
  • Create your Dream 100 calendar
  • Conduct Dream 100 follow-up phone calls.
  • Present the executive briefing.

10. Sales Skills

Lead them through a series of questions in which you intensify their need from their perspective. Present killer data that truly motivates your buyer to take action now.

Just a tiny bit sleazy…

My salespeople ask questions such as: What is your biggest marketing challenge? What would it be worth to you if this challenge could be fixed forever? What does it cost you to not fix this problem?

How to handle objections

Always agree with an objection. The clients will drop their guard. You might say, “Well, that’s certainly a good reason not to invest in this today. [meaningful pause] But let me ask you a question: Is money the only thing standing between you and the purchase of this product?” At this point, if there are more objections, they will surface. If not, the client will say, “No, if I could afford it, I’d buy it.” This is called isolating the objection.

He then starts badgering the client with questions that he needs to reply to with “yes”.

ME: Do you believe that I will help you go to the next level? CLIENT: Yes. It went on like this, as I asked about 10 of these questions until the client finally agreed, in a fervor of decisiveness: “Yes. Let’s do it.”

If this all that it takes, to overcome pricing objections that the game would be simple ;-)

Another tried-and-true sales method is to assume the sale, saying things like, “Do you want that today?” or “Where do we ship that?”

This is called “assuming the sale”. I hate when people do that to me. I might buy just to get out of the awkward situation. But then I will cancel a month later.

Some more tips:

Other ways to induce people to buy faster and with greater enthusiasm include risk reversal and offering a free product or service with the sale. A money-back guarantee is a great way to take away objections, but the idea of offering a bonus that they can keep soups it up quite a bit.

On training:

There is nothing that increases sales skills like role playing.

Alright. Will do that, once I have our scripts down.

11. Follow-up and Client Bonding Skills

If you want to build the Ultimate Sales Machine, you need to have highly procedurized follow-up and follow-through.

Yeah. I used to suck at this. I implemented Pipedrive for all sales now, and try to come up with a good follow up every two weeks. I need to find better and more automated ways to do that.

Once you’ve made the sale, you may have achieved top-of-mind awareness, but if you are out of sight, you are very quickly out of mind.


Make the relationship fun and entertaining by incorporating into your follow-up such things as cards, letters, games, jokes, and gifts. Follow-up Step 1: Send the First Follow-up Letter Follow-up Step 2: Make the First Follow-up Call Follow-up Step 3: Share Something Amusing or of Personal Interest Follow-up Step 4: Throw a Party, Share a Meal, and Bond Like Crazy Follow-up Step 5: Send Another Fax/Email/Letter/Card Follow-up Step 6: Plan Something Fun That Can Include the Family Follow-up Step 7: Offer Something to Help Their Business Follow-up Step 8: Send Another Fax/Email/Letter/Card Follow-up Step 9: Offer More Help to Succeed Follow-up Step 10: The Ultimate Follow-Up; Invite Them to Your Home or Be Invited to Theirs

Well, that definitely ups the game.

12. All Systems Go

Attitude is the only thing we can control in life, yet it’s also the most powerful. You can’t control your spouse, your kids, the weather, your coworkers, or the economy. You can try to better understand each of them, but you can’t control them. All you can control is your perception and your attitude.

What a beautiful way to end the book.

If you want to “achieve” things in life, you set yourself up for disappointment and misery. You do not control most of that. Why then make your happiness depend on it?

Rather chose constantly improving yourself as your measuring stick!

Buy the book on Amazon

Hannes also shares sales strategy and tutorials for startups on YouTube and at his consultancy’s blog.



Hannes Kleist

MBA, 10 years strategy at ProSiebenSat.1, 5 years app startup (exited), 5 years digital agency, now helping startups with sales