Microsoft's best salesman ever

He closed IBM and screamed... a lot

Good Morning and Happy National Spaghetti Day. It’s estimated that the global pasta market hit $68 billion in 2023, and will reach $99 billion by 2030. If “pasta salesman” was a job, we’d be all over it. Great product. Easy sell. 🍝 

In today’s Follow Up:

  • Sales lessons from Steve Ballmer 🗣️

  • A sales discovery question tip❓️ 

  • Sales around the internet 🖨️ 

  • Sales jobs, LinkedIn & a sales meme 😂 

Sales Lessons from Steve Ballmer

If we had to describe this guy in one word, the word would be Electric.

If you’re unfamiliar with Steve Ballmer, here’s some of his stats:

  • CEO of Microsoft after Bill Gates (2000-2014)

  • $110.9 billion net worth (10th richest person on Forbes)

  • Owner of the Los Angeles Clippers (paid $2B in 2014)

  • Closed Microsoft’s first deal with IBM (1980)

Steve Ballmer’s story starts in 1974 when he met Bill Gates at Harvard.

After graduating from Harvard he joined Proctor & Gamble where he got some sales training and became a brand manager before going back to school to get his MBA from Stanford.

Steve Ballmer’s Linkedin

But that didn’t last long…

In his first year at Stanford, Bill Gates called him up and convinced him to drop out and join Microsoft. Of course, this seems like a no brainer now, but at the time, most people didn’t even know what software was.

Ballmer took the risk, dropped out of Stanford, and joined Microsoft as Bill’s assistant (aka, the coffee and donuts boy). He joined as employee number 30 with a $50K base + 10% commission on new profit + 5% equity.

Steve Ballmer’s LinkedIn

As soon as he joined, he got right to business…

IBM approached Microsoft to make the operating system for their computers, and Ballmer became the salesman for the deal.

When IBM came the first time about their personal computer, I became the salesman on IBM. Why? I knew how to wear a tie. I was about the only guy around the place and Bill said, ‘You have a tie and a suit, why don’t you come to the meeting?’

- Steve Ballmer

After the IBM deal, Ballmer quickly rose the ranks and held the VP title for Marketing, Engineering, and Sales, before taking over as CEO in 2000 when Bill Gates retired.

Ballmer is often referred to as a lunatic, loose cannon, crazy CEO. But there’s no doubt that he was an effective salesman.

So we dug up the top 3 sales lessons we can learn from him.

Let’s dive in. 👇️ 

1. Talk Their Language 🗣️ 

At a 2006 Windows conference, Ballmer got on stage and screamed “Developers! Developers! Developers!”, over and over.

Steve was rallying the Microsoft ‘troops’ and letting them know their mission was to recruit more developers to the Microsoft system.

But when Ballmer went to sell to a group of corporate executives, his language changed from “Developers! Developers”, to “People! People! People!”. 

When asked about the change in his language, Ballmer said:

The way information technology decisions are made in a company is really complicated. You really have four points of view, and we have to work with all of them. End-users, central IT, line-of-business executives, and then the business leaders, who could be the head of sales, finance, or operations.

To sell a solution to an executive, he needed to help the executive sell it to the end users. His customers said "Whatever the business message is, you have to help us with the air cover.

Speak the language of your buyer, and help your buyer sell internally.

2. Belief and Enthusiasm 🙏 

No one loved Microsoft more than Steve Ballmer. *Yes, even more than Bill Gates.*

From his on-stage freakouts to reports of throwing a chair across the room. Steve was passionate about everything he did, and believed in Microsoft’s mission and products.

Prospects and customers can tell when you believe in your product, and it makes selling a whole lot easier.

If you don’t like what you sell, find something you can get excited about.

3. Learn How to Tell a Story 📖 

In a USC Commencement Speech, Steve said that being able to tell a story is one of the “most underappreciated skills in business".

And he’s not talking about sitting by the campfire and telling a good story.

A story is just a “clear, simple, concise way to convey the value of ideas in your head”. Too many people focus on telling others “what we should do” rather than learning how to “tell the story of why their idea brings value to others”.

The best way to share the value of your product is through a story.

Bonus: Be Hardcore

Steve says that being “hardcore” was one of the reasons Microsoft was successful. He describes hardcore as a combination of “tenacious, dedicated, passionate, and committed”.

If you want to know what he’s talking about, here’s Steve giving a ‘hardcore’ speech after buying The Clippers. 😅 

What is your favorite Ballmer sales lesson?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Sales Tip of The Day 💡 

Once you’ve asked all of your questions on a sales call, try ending with:

🗣️ I think I have a good understanding now, but is there anything I didn’t ask that I should know about?

This will uncover any areas you missed, and help you understand what’s top of mind for your prospect.

Sales in the News 🗞️ 

  • Sentiment in the tech industry is improving, but the job market for tech sales hasn’t fully bounced back. Experts believe this downturn has reset expectations for tech industry workers who haven’t experienced a previous down cycle.

  • 10 confessions from car Salespeople.

  • The big change happening to SDRs, Customer Success, and Customer Support.

  • When an AE closed a deal that was set up by his SDR, the AE got $5k in commissions, while the SDR got almost nothing. Should the AE get their BDR a gift card or cash?

Cool Jobs at Cool Companies  

Checking in on LinkedIn 👀 

Tbh, we do love our ice cream….? 🍦 

Sales Meme of the Day

What did you think of today's newsletter?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Want to advertise in The Follow Up? Click Here