Lassi Lankinen

Know your strengths, recruit for your weaknesses, and outsource smartly.

February 19, 2024

Your sales journey started in childhood. How has your early exposure to sales influenced your approach to entrepreneurship?

A great first question 😍 As Zig Ziglar put it: "You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” And I did start learning the trade early, without actually realizing it.

My father was an entrepreneur and was responsible for sales in his company. I was always curious about how he seemed to know everyone and get along with them.  

When I got older I started going along to meetings with vendors, to fairs and so on I got to observe the master in action. I only later realized when I became a salesperson that I had adapted a lot of my basic sales instincts from my dad.

The best salesperson is a Chameleon getting along with people from different backgrounds and cultures.

Let’s talk about Servant Sales Company. What led you to start a solopreneur route?

When I started at Finders Seekers 3 years ago I already mentioned to their founding team that I hope this is my last workplace. The journey at Finders Seekers taught me many things and I am super grateful for it.  I feel like I achieved so much as an employee and I finally defeated Bowser and saved the princess. It was time to do things for myself!

Last year I had one of the big life-changing moments. My daughter was born in July. One might think that becoming a father (#lattedad anyone? 😀) is not the best time to become a solopreneur. But for me it was. I thought about it as YOLOpreneurship. We only have this one life and we should invest it to do the things that feel fulfilling. Creating a work/life balance for me meant going solo.

The start was not easy. The economy is not good. My first customer went bankrupt. The new baby daddy life was more intense than I anticipated and I got constantly ill.

Seneca the Younger said a long time ago  "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” I have seized the opportunity and making my luck happen every day now, despite the obstacles 😊

What is Servant Sales? What types of companies are a great fit for Servant Sales?

I have always done servant sales, without realizing it. I never wanted to become a salesperson. This meant when I got the chance to do sales I had not adapted any magic tricks for selling. (using win-lose psychological tools to close a deal, telling white lies, etc.)

My silver bullet was doing the right thing. I Only called someone if I believed my product would help them. I tried to discover within 15 minutes if we are a fit and if not, I would tell it and also explain why. This was a massive time saver and enabled me to be friendly with everyone.

Over time always having the servant mentality proved to be highly successful and customers were super happy to be references for me. I knew I had discovered a different way of selling and that I truly enjoyed it.

Servant Sales is what happens when Servant Leadership and Coaching start a serious relationship together. A salesperson is first and foremost a servant. A servant to the company and the customer.

When effectively implementing the Servant Sales attitude a company can find a steady growth path. Forget quick wins and blindly following activities. Discover the real bottlenecks and make sales more FUN!

I especially enjoy working with tech startups and scaleups. If you are a founder of a startup, you should FIRST sell and then do anything else. How to get started? Talk to me 🤝

If you are a scaleup with an existing sales team then I can audit your sales process, and sales meetings and help you win more business without the need to sell sand to Sahara.

Servant Sales Company offers these services:

🥭Sales Director as a Service
🥭Sales Workshops
🥭Sales Audit
🥭Sales Coaching

Sales framework - How do you end up with your framework?

I have been in sales since 2009. This whole time I have done A/B testing, studying, observing the best, and taking it all in. I have sold products/services to 24 countries.

In 15 years I have met with over 5000 people all around the world, sometimes at an event, sometimes onsite, but mostly online. When I started in sales it was not uncommon that I had 30+ meetings online per week!

I have won over 600 deals during my career. Deals range anywhere from a couple thousand € deals to a Million € transactions.

I have recruited salespeople from many countries to several different companies and I have had the honor and opportunity to lead sales teams of various sizes during my career.

I have successfully conquered new markets, but I have also failed spectacularly. And learned.

I have gone through a burnout process, including a 9-month career break. I know the pressure of sales, but I also know the joys and successes.

All this experience and the love for sales. That makes me a sales artist. 😀 And that inspired me to develop the Servant Sales Framework.

With your extensive background in sales leadership and international business development, what key strategies have you found most effective in building successful sales teams and expanding into global markets?

First things first. You need to know your Ideal Customer Profile. You need to have a founding team that can sell. Before going global, make sure the sales 101 is covered.

As much as I would like to give some silver bullet strategies for building a successful sales team, I think the biggest learning there can be is that there is nothing like that.

But I will leave you with this, know your strengths, recruit for your weaknesses, and outsource smartly. One person rarely knows it all.

Ask smart questions before expanding:

  • What do the current customers love about your company and product?
  • How easy it is to buy your product today?
  • What markets match your ICP the best?
  • Would you benefit from having someone audit your sales process before investing heavily to grow your team?
  • What is your budget for expansion?
  • Can you outsource a part of the sales process? For example booking meetings for your experienced salespeople.

How do you approach sales in the software industry, especially in promoting agile methods, and get a win-win outcome?

The world moves fast. You compete with companies globally. Especially after covid companies globally are now used to buying software remotely.

When I coach C-level and Senior salespeople I question their process. Often people want to do a  good job. So if there is a sales process, hard-working people tend to follow it.

However, your prospect does not know the sales process. And if they want to buy after the 1st meeting. LET THEM!  If the product you are offering helps them become a better company, don’t let your sales process get in the way of the deal 🤗

How do you integrate emotional leadership into your role? How can one become better in emotional leadership?

The first step is admitting that people are not perfect. Even you, or me 😊 I have turned to coaching and therapy to enable me to understand my own emotions better.

How can you become better? Know yourself first, decide you want to be better next and choose the methods for improvement last.

Cold emails and cold calls. When are these good strategies and when are they not?

😍 The good:

Both Cold Emails and Cold calls work. But I would maybe replace cold email with cold Inmail in Linkedin.

You should do cold contact all the time. It helps you clarify your message and discover your ideal customer profile.

Cold emails and calls do work when you take time to research the company and person before contacting and always tailor your phone call and message. I am not a big believer in having one size fits all. By making fewer calls, better chances are that you will have more fun doing so and also better results.

When I started in sales the benchmark I was told that I needed to call  100 times a day to book 2 meetings. I thought to myself - what a shit job 😅 I decided that I want to book way more meetings than 2 per day but I do not want to call more than 20 times. Result - after a few weeks I had constantly over 5 booked meetings per day with a record of 13 per day. Way better than the company average of 2. Over time I got so good at cold calling that I booked over 85% of the time the prospect picked up the phone.

In modern sales having a personal brand helps you do cold contacting better. So be active on Linkedin, it helps you in this aspect too.

😅 The bad:

Blasting out an email automatically to 10k people? Calling anything and everyone with the same pitch without thinking if the product is relevant at all? So many companies still use these tactics. Don’t do that. Pretty please!

You said a not long time ago that “Sales have a bad reputation and in Finland, it ranks amongst the lowest desired professions”. Why the bad reputation and what can be done to change that?

Many of the articles are behind a paywall to back up my claim but in the yearly questionnaires about desired professions sales as a profession usually end up in the bottom.

There are many reasons for this, I am naming a few below:

  • A lot of negative publicity. It is a common occurrence that a newspaper makes a big story about a B2C salesperson who sold Sand to Sahara. The latest example is the Gigantti scandal.
  • Salespeople in the store are incentivized to sell people services and products they do not need. If you ask a random Fin to visualize a salesperson they usually visualize a magazine or phone subscription salesperson cold calling them. Let’s face it, this is rarely a great experience
  • In POP culture salespeople are often pushy car salesmen (yes, white, middle-aged, and male)
  • Some people see sales as a way to get rich fast or die trying. It is one of the professions where you can earn top dollar with little educational background. This type of salesperson is there for themselves and focuses on maximizing short-term gains

What can be done about it:

🥭 We need examples of salespeople who are successful by doing the right thing.
🥭 We need to change the image of salespeople, the best salespeople are listeners.
🥭 When we think of sales we should think about all the positive impact it has. With good sales results come good financial security, and well-paid jobs for everyone.
🥭 Sales is not an individual effort, it is a joint effort of the whole company and credit should be shared.
🥭When we think of qualities of the winning sales person we should think about the empathetic human being who is there to start long-term relationships

You worked in sales in different countries. What are the biggest differences you have seen?

Oh wow - your questions are too great 😀 I could write a book about this topic 😅

But a few examples. In Denmark, I had no sales at all for a long time. I didn’t get it why. But I was not ready to give up. I called up 30 companies I had met online and failed to win.

I then organized an event in Copenhagen to meet them. To start the event I offered everyone Danish beer. We had awesome Smørrebrød and Aquavit for lunch. We laughed. Nothing changed in our product. I didn’t try to sell anything. I just wanted to have a good time.

After the event, I got 20 customers in a matter of 2 months. Lesson? In Denmark meeting someone face to face and sharing a laugh and potentially a beer is the difference between a sale and no sale.

Another example is from Germany. I found out that if we agree on a very specific timeline and action plan for getting to a deal in the first meeting, the deal is very likely to happen. If this kind of process was not agreed upon, no deal was done as the prospect was not interested in the product.

How AI can affect the future of sales?

For a solopreneur, it means that I can multiply myself to be worth 2 or even 3 FTE 😀

In general, in B2B sales, I believe in human intelligence + artificial intelligence = winning formula.

Without knowing the context AI can guide you in very limited ways. A human still needs to think of the best way of creating input and taking the insights of the output.

AI has been here already a long time. I have used it in prospecting, writing emails, and content creation for a long time before Chat GPT.

In sales, the more efficient you are, the more successful you tend to be. In this AI related tools play a big role. When you can create offers and emails in 1/10 of the time it used to take you, then you have more time to meet people. When you can with ease get the right kind of prospects in your pipeline, again you have more time to meet people.

So in essence, admin work for AI, sales work for the salesperson.

How to keep sales still human with the growth of AI?

People buy from people. This will stay true for a lot of B2B transactions in the future as well.

Solopreneur and a dad, how do you deal with the work/life balance, and how do keep yourself productive?

For the first 6 months, honest answer. VERY BADLY 😅 Learnings from that.

☕ Do less, only top-priority customer work should be done. If there is energy end of the day, then other things. As an example to this day, I have not yet updated my LinkedIn profile, or the website of the company 😅 WIP
☕Accept chaos
☕If possible embrace chaos
☕Sleep and nap as often as you can
☕Exercise only if sleep is in order

Favorite tool and why?

Currently, it has to be ChatGPT 4 with its browsing, analysis, and Dall-e integration. I use it daily and I have used it in responding to these questions. Can you guess which questions? 😀

Word of advice

Lassi Lankinen 2024: “It is better to sustain an injury than slowly become a cripple”

How ChatGPT 4 interprets the sentence:

"It is better to sustain an injury than slowly become a cripple" seems to be a metaphorical expression, emphasizing the idea that it's preferable to face a sudden, acute challenge than to gradually deteriorate or weaken over time. This could be interpreted in various contexts, such as personal growth, decision-making, business strategies, or even physical health.

In a personal growth context, it might mean that it's better to face a difficult or painful situation head-on, even if it hurts initially, rather than let oneself gradually lose strength, confidence, or ability due to inaction or fear. In business, it could suggest that a company should take bold, risky moves rather than slowly lose its market position.

The phrase also has an element of urgency and action, suggesting that timely and decisive measures are often more beneficial in the long run than prolonged indecision or passivity. However, it's important to note that such expressions can be interpreted differently based on individual perspectives and the specific context in which they're used.

Why I live by this sentence: I don’t want to live my life in fear of failure. I also do not want to stop doing things I enjoy because I am scared.

As an example 2 years ago I started ski jumping. A childhood dream of mine. You can imagine how hard it is for a 90kg office worker to jump from a ski jumping hill.

It is one of the scariest things I have done as an adult. Even the smallest of hills are STEEP. And once you put your skis on the rails, there is no stopping. You have to jump. And the only way to learn to jump is to jump and fall. And fall I did. I broke my shoulder in trying so currently the hobby is on a break. But I will come back 🔥

One book, one person to follow/ that inspires you, and one song?

🥭 Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman. If you read one book this year, let it be this one 🤗

🥭 A person to follow and who inspires me is a tough one. I am choosing Frank Martela. I am lucky enough to have met him on top of reading and listening to his books. This is my favorite quote from him: “The search for meaning in life is not a solitary philosophical quest but a journey that is enriched by connecting with others and contributing to their well-being."

When we realize that we never were and never are individuals, we begin to feel better and connect with the people around us.

🥭 I’m going to have to choose two songs—one in Finnish and the Other in English.

Paleface - Talonomistaja

Highly relevant today. With all the crazy things happening in the world. We need thinkers like Palefece to put our thoughts into songs.

Queen Innuendo: I heard the song first time as an 8-year-old boy and did not understand the lyrics. Somehow the music and the depth of singing of Freddie Mercury still got me. Later on in life, I went back to the song and when I had a burnout in 2014 I was old enough to reflect on the meaning of the word Innuendo and truly appreciate the lyrics of the song. The song helped me tremendously in my road to recovery.

“Through the sorrow all through our splendor
Don't take offence at my innuendo
You can be anything you want to be
Just turn yourself into anything you think that you could ever be

Be free with your tempo be free be free
Surrender your ego be free be free to yourself”

🥭 Bonus super duper TIP, for background music when working an easy choice is:


Born in North Helsinki (Paloheinä), I moved almost every year of my life altogether to 39 different addresses. Lived in various places in the Metropolitan area of Helsinki, Minnesota, Düsseldorf, Dublin, London, Utrecht, and Amsterdam.

A reckless adventurer who doesn’t take life too seriously.

Live in Helsinki with my partner Ella, baby Lilian, and a cat Helmi. I am very active on Linkedin, feel free to add me and follow my most common hashtags:

#sales #lattedad #solopreneur #servantsales #entrepreneurship #nopönö #saleshaiku #inhimillinenmyyntikulttuuri

My company website (WIP)

Picture credit : Anthony Benoit

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