Perry Marshall Interview on 80/20 Insights – A Must Read For All Marketers

By: Jack Reamer |
 September 20, 2022 |

Have you heard of Perry Marshall?

If you haven’t, he is the best-selling author of the book 80/20 Sales & Marketing- The Definitive Guide to Working Less and Making More

The Cold Email Podcast had the opportunity to hop on an interview with him.

This is a highly recommended book for any b2b sales team or marketer. It’s one of our favorites and we strongly suggest that all our listeners give it a read. 

This article will share the main takeaways from the interview, which mainly discusses expert-level tips and tricks about outreach.

(But you can also listen to it below.)

(And if you’re interested in having 1 qualified lead per day for your b2b company, please hop on a free 15-minute consultation call with Salesbread. With over a decade in lead generation, we know how to get our clients those qualified leads.)

Perry Marshall’s origin story – From struggling engineer to best selling author

Perry’s story is quite the inspirational one.

About 19 years ago he was laid off from his job as an engineer, while his wife was only just 3 months pregnant. 

As you can imagine, this is a nightmare situation for any young family to be in.

He scrambled around trying to make a living in Chicago at the time, and the engineering positions he pursued didn’t work out.

From here on, he ended up going into sales. 

The problem was though, that with any new career there is always a steep learning curve.

Perry mentions that he really struggled in sales for the first few years; he got fired a few times, and he ended up being in tons of debt, and really struggled financially. 

This turned though when he discovered direct marketing.

He stopped chasing prospects through cold calling and started letting clients come to him through the internet. 

Eventually, he became a decent marketing consultant as he says.

But the real success of his marketing came from really understanding the 80/20 principle.

He mentions how most people understand the 80/20 principle,(that 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers, and the other 80% of your customers only produce 20% of the business) but what he didn’t know, was how you could actually apply this principle to just about everything in your business and life.

This epiphany changed his entire outlook on everything in his life.

Because of this in-depth understanding, Perry MArshal went on to write 

The Ultimate Guide to Google Adwords, which is the world’s most popular book on Google advertising.

He also wrote the Ultimate Guide to Facebook Advertising and because of this Perry Marshall became well known in the marketing space. 

Here’s an example of the 80/20 principle

Let’s say that your most expensive product is $1000, and you have 100 people who have bought it, the 80/20 principle guarantees that 1 one of those people will eagerly spend $52 000 with you, and not just $1000. 

They have the money and they want to spend it. All you need to do is put the right thing in front of them. 

Or… Here’s another example. (You can even apply this principle to cold email.)

Go look at your email inbox right now. 

What are the last 100 emails that came in? One of those emails is as important as all of those other 99 emails put together. 

It might take you 2 hours to go through 100 emails for example. 

When you realize that emails are not equal, customers are not equal, prospect lists are not equal, traffic sources are not equal, and ads are not equal; everything is ridiculously unequal. 

And that’s okay because the universe made it that way. 

And when you realize this, your mind opens to a whole lot of new possibilities. 

If you are interested in reading 80/20, you can order it off Amazon. You can also check out Perry Marshall‘s website at

How to apply the 80/20 principle concretely.

Everyone knows that the first 2 years of any new business is usually a bit shaky. Perry was in business for about a year and a half and he had a few clients, and he thought to himself, I have one really good client and a few clients who weren’t as great. 

At this point, he was giving away a free cd on his website. 

And he asked himself: 

  • How many people have bought anything from me at all? 
  • How many of these free CDs have I given away? 
  • How many clicked on the link but didn’t request the CD?

He realized that the 80/20 fractile worked its way all the way down, from his biggest client to “the ants.” (As he says in the interview)

This gives an entirely new dimension to sales and marketing. That it’s a numbers game, but the numbers that matter, matter even more than Perry initially realized. 

Because there are people who say yes, but there are also the “super yes’ers and the super super yes’ers.”

So you really need to spend your time in these really hot zones where things are hyper-effective. And stop treating all your prospects as equal. 

Why is this important?

As a prospector, you might have a list of 10 000 potential prospects and you need to realize that they don’t all matter equally. Because maybe only 20, 25 or even 1 % of them are going to make up your sales. 

So what does this mean?

A few things, for example:

Number 1: 

It means that you need to figure out how to take better care of your top clients (the clients who convert.) Which may mean upsells, premium products, etc.

Number 2:

It may also mean learning how to spend less time with the handful of clients that make up the support tickets. This might mean firing these clients who are in this bracket.

So when you sit down to do marketing, it means looking at your prospect list and only targeting a segment of that list. 

Think about this… Racking the shotgun

The best story in the 80/20 book that people tell and retell is this one. 

Perry had a friend in high school who dropped out of school at 17.

He went to Las Vegas and literally became a professional gambler. (Much to his mother’s dismay. She lit candles almost every night in prayer for her son that he would stop gambling.)

A month into professional gambling, he realized that it was harder than he thought it would be, so he went to a bookstore that sold gambling books.

At the store, he got into a conversation with a guy who ran a professional gambling ring.

He asked this guy if he would teach him how to become a professional gambler and the guy replied: 

“For a percentage of your winnings, I will teach you how to do this.” 

They shake on it, and he jumps into the guy’s car and off they go. 

Perry’s friend asks the guy: “So, how do I win at Poker games?”

The guy says: “To win at poker, you need to play people who are going to lose. Those people are called marks. You want to play the kid who just got here from Wichita on his grandmother’s inheritance money and thinks he’s going to get rich in Las Vegas.”

So the friend asks: “Where am I going to find that guy?”

And the guy says: “Here, I’ll show you.” 

He pulls into the parking garage of a strip club, and they walk in. There’s loud music, and women, and noise, and people drinking.

It’s rowdy. 

The guy then pulls out a shotgun, and he opens the chamber, slams it shut and it goes “chi chish”, in the middle of this noisy club. 

In the corner, there are these biker guys, and they shout:

“HEYYY, who did that?”

The owner of the club comes over and says to the guy: “What’s going on here?” 

And the guy assures him everything is okay, he’s just teaching the lad a lesson. 

The guy then says to John (Perry’s friend)… “Did you see those guys over there turned around when they heard that noise?” 

Johns like yes.

The guy says: “Don’t play poker with them, because they’re not marks. Play poker with everybody else.”

This is called racking the shotgun.

And it’s the same in sales

Everything you do in sales is like racking the shotgun. People either open your email, or they don’t. They either read your email, or they don’t. They click on the link or they don’t. They spend the money or they don’t. They go on the webinar or they don’t.  

This is going on all the time. 

You need to find your mark.

Using the 80/20 principle as a hack for list building

Look at your list, and ask yourself the question:

“What shotgun already got racked, where I could figure out they turned their head; Where I could push some people to the top and some people to the bottom.” 

In direct marketing, they call this a compiled list versus a response list. 

A compiled list is, “all the people who live in this zip code” for example. 

Whereas a response list would be all the people who subscribed to your magazine, or who went to a trade show, or people who donated more than $125 to a charity, or who bought a piece of industrial equipment.

It’s easy compiling a list of contact information but it’s harder to actually look for the evidence that that prospect actually went to a trade show, or subscribed to a specific magazine. 

The point is: A minority of people respond, and a majority of people do not respond. 

You need to look for signals. You need to look for something someone did, which gives us something to talk to them about. 

An example is if you are selling a graphic design service. Instead of reaching out to everyone and saying: “Hi my name is Rick, and my company specializes in graphic design… etc”

Rather reach out to companies who have hired 3 graphic designers over the past 2 months and they all quit. 

This would be a much better conversation to have. 

You could say:

 “Hey I’ve been following your blog for a while, and I noticed you just let 3 graphic designers go this past week. That must have been stressful. I’m going to do you a solid and do two mock-up designs on the house, I want you to be wildly impressed, would this be worth a quick conversation?” 

…and then you can head into a conversation from there. 

You need to find your starving crowd and go after those prospects first. 

The importance of personalization and diction in copywriting

You never want to say the same thing that everyone else is saying. Because otherwise there’s no point in saying it.

The same applies to Facebook ads, Google ads, and cold outreach (whether it’s via cold email, social media, or even Linkedin); 

You have to stand out. 

You need to think: “What can I say that nobody else can say?”
For example:

With cold email outreach, Perry mentions how he tries to say something that no spammer would say. 

How do you get this correct?


So even if you have a lot of people to reach out to, remember to be ultra-specific with your offering.

If you are saying something that no other spammer would say because it’s so granular you will see results. 

The same goes for using lingo that only a specific tribe of people would use.

Meaning, that the folks who understand what you’re talking about get it. You’re in the crowd because you speak like them.

The problem is that many people use Jargon to sound as if they know what they are talking about, but they actually don’t understand it. 


An example is, of companies hiring content writers off Upwork for example, and just telling them to write about something on a specific topic. 

Perhaps they need to write about a specific tech product.

They might use the right jargon, but they don’t actually understand what they are writing about, and this generalization comes across in their writing. 

How would you get a cold prospect to respond to your outreach message using extreme specificity in your copywriting?

When it comes to writing messages for cold outreach, remember you have 2 sentences, sometimes maybe 4, to get the prospect to engage with you.

So here are some ways that you can get a prospect to reply to your messages.

  • Use their language 
  • Shared commonalities – You could mention that you’re reaching out to them because someone they trust referred you.


“Hey, John Surname, said this about our tools, should we talk?”

  • Use extreme personalization and specificity. Mention something about them that you read about them.


“Hey Michaela, loved your article on XYZ, would love to connect with you on Linkedin.”

  • Ask the prospect a question

Tips on taking an entire sales page and boiling it down to selling points that really matter

80/20 is something that you have to have a little bit of faith in until you verify for yourself that it’s really true.

So 80/20 says that if you have a 1000-word landing page, that 50% of what that page is saying can be expressed in 1% of the words.

So what’s 1% of 1000? It’s 10. 

10 words.

80/20 says that you should be able to convey 50% of the meaning of a 1000-word page in 10 words. In fact, it virtually guarantees you that you can and if you haven’t it’s because you haven’t tried hard enough. 

(Remember 1% x word count.)

And this principle could work for anything. If you have a slide deck for a demo, 1 slide could convey as much meaning as all the 49 slides put together.

How do you find the most important takeaways? 

Ask yourself or your client:

“When you’re in a meeting, doing your demo, where does the “light bulb” turn on for the person on the other side of the screen?”

And a lot of the time, when you ask yourself this question, you might realize when people are actually surprised when they find out about x. 

How to find your true marketing self

Perry also created something called the Marketing DNA Test. 

He tested out this theory for months. The basic core of this truth is that in order to become a successful marketer, you need to be truthful to your own talents.

For example, there are some people out there who are just born salespeople from the beginning, they could sell ice to an Eskimo. 

Perry calls these people hostage negotiators. 

Then, there are introverts who spend months and months in their cave, just writing copy.

Then on the day of the launch of their campaign they hit send and all of their work gets published and they bring in tons of dollars. 

These two types of people are completely different. 

But what would happen if the introverted writer became the hostage negotiator?

It wouldn’t work, because it’s not part of who they truly are. Marketers need to be true to who they are and own it. 

The five power disqualifiers

Sales and marketing are not a “convincing people” process. It is a disqualification process. Because 80/20 says that 80% of the people that you might try to sell something to, you shouldn’t even talk to them in the first place. 80/20 starts with what you don’t do, and it starts with what’s not going to happen before it focuses on what’s going to happen.”

If you can make this reversal then you won’t be chasing people anymore.

You need to think to yourself: “Which 99% of people is this product or service actually NOT for?

Here are 5 things to use when trying to figure this out:

1. Do they have the money? 

If they don’t have the money, your product is not for them.

Stop talking, persuading, and doing demos. Just stop. If they don’t have the money they are not buying it. Remember you are not for everyone.

2. Do they have a bleeding neck?

People who do not have a source of pain will not have the urgency to buy anything. When people part with their money it’s because they are unhappy, or uncomfortable with something. (And preferably terribly unhappy and terribly uncomfortable).

These buyers are going to write you a check for your services because they are in pain, or their project is late and they are desperate.

Remember all of us, (marketers) sell one of two things:

  • Pain relief
  • Or an endorphin rush. 

The endorphin rush works for people who are selling luxury items to their target audience. And not having an endorphin rush when you want one is painful.

3. They buy into your unique selling proposition

What is the unique thing that only you do? What can you offer that is unique to anyone else in your field? What guarantees can you offer?

4. The ability to say yes

Most people that you try to sell to, have the ability to say no, but they do not have the ability to say yes. They don’t have the authority. You have to recognize this right away. Who are you talking to? The gatekeeper or the decision maker? 

Contact the first person in line on your list who is most likely to say yes.

This is one of the first things that you need to figure out. Don’t be afraid to ask. Yes, it might be uncomfortable but it’s all racking the shotgun questions. It takes balls to rack a shotgun.

How do you find this out?

You can use any method. Whether it’s asking them in person or asking them to fill out an online survey or even doing research beforehand. Anything is game.

5. Does it fit their overall plan?

Do your services or product fit in with your prospect’s overall plan?

For example, if you’re selling a kitchen remodeling service, a couple who is moving to Seattle in the next 3 months, isn’t going to be interested in your services. It doesn’t fit into their plan.

If you write these 5 things down… (and before you hire a freelancer off Fiver to build you a list, or before you call anybody;) If you know that you are trying to knock off the above 5 disqualifiers before you actually engage with people, your value just went up.


Because you’re not like your service or business has no value. You’re actually reaching out to people who really need your services and who are willing to pay you what you want.

The 5 disqualifiers have to be planned out before you even get a dollar from anybody.

Books Perry suggests all marketers and salespeople should read.

During our interviews, we always ask which books are recommended. Perry Marshall recommends reading the bestselling book, The  Star Principle by Richard Koch

This book is about, “are you even in the right business, to begin with” and if you could adjust your product offering until you are really in the sweet spot, what is it?

You can also buy Perry Marshall‘s marketing books here:

Get in touch

If you enjoyed this interview, great. There are many more interviews from marketing and sales gurus to check out on the podcast

Interested in getting 1 qualified lead per day? Reach out to us below.

9 + 11 =