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About

I'm Liston, and I'm curious about how people make decisions and why they do the things they do. That curiosity has led me to study politics, economics, psychology, and now I apply what I've learned to sales and marketing.

If you’d like to track me down in other places, you can connect with me on LinkedIn.  I also host the popular Modern Sales podcast, and appear regularly in other places like Saleshacker’s virtual sales summit, on podcasts, or write my own extensive blog here.

I’ve educated hundreds of thousands of people through my podcast, writing, webinars, workshops and courses.

I’ve trained teams at a multi-billion-dollar company, and I’ve worked with independent consultants and small firms. I’ve run my own firms, and I’ve run sales and marketing at successful firms. All of it is to achieve the same end, my vision for the world:

To make 100 million world-class, ethical communicators who can effectively sell their best work and ideas.

Being persuasive turns out to be a pretty critical skill in sales, marketing, relationships...in everything you do, really. Which is why my sales advice is all about ethical and effective communication, drawing upon lessons from psychology, advertising, and even neuroscience.

Why I Write

I write because I need to. It's just something I have to do. Back in 1999 I began writing music, then I studied and practiced copywriting, and now I write here on this blog. And I often write about questions that don't yet have good answers, and I strive to simplify complex topics.

Over the last few years, I've focused on selling services. I was looking for a workable system to sell agency services for years, and just kept coming up empty.

The sales literature I found was terribly out of date, based on selling products, and incorporated little science about how people make decisions. I also found that salespeople often created miserable buying experiences, and the sales content I found reinforced their shitty behavior. You can feel pushed around, like you’re nothing more than a number on a spreadsheet somewhere. Then there are those gross people who manufacture urgency like they’re selling T-shirts or camera accessories.

It can feel like you’re being lied to, and like the sales profession is telling you that’s the best way to sell.

Bullshit. There's a better way.

I wanted a system that was ethical and had some grounding in science. Alec Baldwin’s famous “coffee is for closers” speech was written in 1984 – we’ve learned a lot about brain science and human behavior since then. And that information should influence how we market and sell ourselves and our firms.

So I created Serve Don’t Sell, a sales methodology for agencies and experts.

A Brief History of My Life

I grew up around computers. I built my first PC when I was 12 years old, and it’s been a love affair ever since. I’m fascinated (and sometimes disgusted) by all things tech, and have spent my life in or around technology.

In 2011, I graduated with a master’s degree in environmental science and management from UC Santa Barbara (go Gauchos!). I went on to run the client acquisition program at an $8M environmental consulting firm. I helped the firm grow to $12M in revenue in three years – also supported by a rising economy and a group of talented consultants – and learned a lot about sales and marketing. While there I helped close a $1.2M deal, which showed me how much I’d not like to work with the government in the future.

Part of my work at the firm was whipping our digital marketing presence into shape. I launched a new website (that we spent far too much on), and figured I’d whip up an email newsletter. The week of sending out the first newsletter we landed a $50k project from a past client, and I knew I had to learn more about this digital marketing thing.

While running the client acquisition program at that firm, I learned that 1) you can’t build authority or pricing power without content and intellectual property, 2) most experts are great at their jobs but lack formal sales training, and 3) firms with inferior people and services regularly beat us out because they were better at marketing and selling themselves.

I left that job in 2014 to build my digital marketing chops, starting my own boutique consulting firm. In 2018, I decided to focus my energy 100% on marketing and selling professional services. It’s what I know, and I love to work with really smart people.

Getting Personal

Me and my wife, Kristiana, on the Oregon coast.

I live in the green and gray Pacific Northwest in Portland, Oregon with my beautiful wife Kristiana and our dog, Mojo, and our cat, Link. I love to lift weights, play basketball (my first love), and listen to music. My second love is hip-hop music and I believe the heyday of hip-hop was early 2000s underground. Feel free to start a public argument with me about it.

I grew up in Los Angeles – okay, the San Fernando Valley if you want to get technical. I graduated with BA in Political Science and Economics from Cal State University Northridge (go Matadors), but I sure am glad I don’t have to breathe the LA smog or sit through the traffic anymore.

Funny story about me and my wife. We moved in together after dating for just 2 weeks. We’d known each other for about a year and a half, but we were graduating from grad school and she was planning to move back home with her folks because neither of us had jobs yet. I suggested we move in together instead. It was selfish though – I knew I’d regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t at least try to make it work. This year we celebrated a 6 year wedding anniversary, and it’s a reminder that sometimes risks pay off and love wins.

Where to Go Next

If you’re looking to educate yourself about selling services, you can head over to my Start Here page and find a bunch of free content to get you started.

And if you’d like my help in building a sales process, I work with a small number of private clients. My rate starts at $20,000 for a minimum 3-month engagement, and I work with professional services firms (accountants, lawyers, software development, marketing and web design, consultants, coaches, and the like). If you’re interested in working with me, head over and send me a message from the contact page.