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10 Sales & Marketing Gurus That Started From the Bottom and Now They're Here

You've probably heard someone say "turn to an expert" when seeking advice, guidance, or instruction. But what qualifies someone as a real expert? Who are the geniuses of marketing and sales today?

Well, we call them gurus because they've guided anywhere from hundreds to thousands of people with their knowledge and experience.

Let's make some introductions.

What Makes Someone a "Guru?"


A marketing or sales guru is someone who has achieved a high level of success within their respective industry.

They've put in the time, developed the expertise, and earned the experience to be creative thought leaders who offer knowledge that can help their “followers” achieve more within their careers.

5 of the Top Digital Marketing Gurus You Can Learn From

There's always someone new who wants to shout to the world that they've got the keys to the kingdom of digital marketing. But all that talk means nothing if you don't have the experience and results to back it.

Here are five people that definitely do:

1. Marcus Sheridan

Marcus Sheridan started his professional life as a pool guy. Fresh out of college in 2001, he and two friends began installing swimming pools with a single beat-up pickup truck as their office.

Nine years later, Sheridan's company overcame the collapse of the economy and near bankruptcy to become one of the largest pool installers in the U.S. with the help of incredible innovations in inbound and content marketing.

Sheridan took the techniques he learned and started a sales, marketing, and personal development blog – The Sales Lion. His brand has become synonymous with content and inbound marketing excellence, being featured in multiple industry publications.

2. Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk is another marketing genius who came to guru-hood by developing his talents marketing a family business.

In his case, he began his career as a leading wine critic, and under his leadership grew his family's wine business from $3 million in sales to $60 million using innovative inbound marketing techniques and strategies.

Using his webcast, ecommerce, email marketing and competitive pricing, he grew the Wine Library into a $60 million business.

Gary and his brother, AJ, also founded VaynerMedia. Using the techniques he pioneered with his family's business, VaynerMedia provides social media and strategy to Fortune 500 companies.

By 2020, VaynerMedia had grown to 742 employees and grossed $131 million in revenue.

3. Al Ries

Al Ries solidified his position as a marketing guru in the days of traditional marketing before digital marketing was even born. His industry standard book, written with co-author Jack Trout, Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind, has become an industry standard on the subject.

In fact, Ries. along with Trout, is credited with coining the term “positioning.” His branding concepts are at the heart of content and inbound marketing.

Ries has won numerous awards, including being named one of the most influential people in the field of public relations in the 20th century by PR Week and was inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame in 2016.

Today, he has partnered with his daughter, Laura, to bring positioning into the digital world through Ries & Ries. Together, they co-authored the seminal manual on positioning in the digital age, The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding.

Ries is an in-demand speaker and continues to influence the marketing industry today.

4. Neil Patel


Neil Patel is a blogger, SEO expert, and entrepreneur who owns renowned marketing tools Crazy Egg, HelloBar, Kissmetrics, and more.

Comparatively younger than the other gurus on this list, Patel has built a multi-million dollar online business with his thorough understanding of how search engines work and what it takes to build a brand. His clients, like Amazon, NBC, and General Motors, can vouch for him.

Patel's personal blog focuses on SEO education and digital marketing techniques that teach readers how to increase their monthly website traffic and start converting effectively.

His expertise and work has earned him the label of one of the top 10 digital influencers according to Forbes.

5. Seth Godin

Another active blogger, Seth Godin has an entire library of popular marketing books that he's published. Most of the 18 that he's written, like Linchpin or All Marketers Are Liars, have been featured on major publishing sites and translated into more than 35 languages.

Godin has had years of experience practicing different marketing techniques for the likes of Yahoo and Squidoo in their prime. He also developed the idea of permission marketing, where consumers decide if they want to be subjected to marketing or not.

He takes the knowledge he's learned from that time and shares it with the world in short articles on his blog, which garner thousands of social shares daily.

5 Influential Sales Gurus You Should Know

Salespeople will be the first to tell you that there's never a reason to stop learning in their line of work. Thankfully, there are sales pros who are happy to share their expertise when it comes to sales and leadership techniques in today's market.

1. Jim Collins

Jim Collins earned his guru status through research and academia. He teaches leadership with a focus on identity and brand development. He explains how they go hand in hand when creating a sustainable innovative business.

He began his career as part of faculty at the Stanford School of Business, where he received the Distinguished Teaching Award in 1992. His rise to guru-hood took 25 years of research and practice in the field of leadership working with companies in the social sectors, including healthcare, education, government, and cause-driven non-profits.

He has authored several definitive texts, including Good to Great and Built to Last, that explore the changing trends in marketing, sales, and brand identity.

Today, he is an in demand speaker at business leadership, sales, and marketing conferences, where he expands on his many concepts for developing the leadership characteristics needed to navigate and grow a business in today's disruptive, chaotic environment.

2. Don Cooper

Don Cooper got most of his sales knowledge managing a delivery company in Washington D.C., where business grew an average of 38 percent per year.

He's honest about doing a lot of research on his own time in order to be a better sales trainer, speaker, and business coach. Covering everything from prospecting to pricing, Cooper offers both industry and company specific insights in order to help businesses boost their sales.

Recognized as an engaging and pithy speaker, Cooper brings over 20 years worth of experience into his content-packed presentations, where he introduces unique strategies and ideas.

3. Colleen Francis


Colleen Francis was listed as LinkedIn's #1 Sales Influencer to Follow in 2020 for a reason.

She has a true passion for sales and getting results that's put her on a path to success and guided her toward uplifting other businesses as well. Francis has first-hand experience with how fickle, confusing, and saturated the market can be and has faced those challenges head on.

Offering sales training and coaching, Francis shares sales advice regularly to both educate and inspire. Her blog, The Sales Leader, and video seminars present strategies that take salespeople to new heights.

4. Grant Cardone

Grant Cardone is a bestselling author and social influencer who puts in overtime to motivate his fellow salespeople. Working with businesses of all sizes, he provides sales tips, sales process insight, and unique strategies to help bolster their productivity.

Cardone's influence really took off after he published his book, The 10X Rule. On the wings of the book's success and the development of a $1.5B portfolio, he's been able to launch conferences, seminars, and even start an entrepreneurial network.

Fully embracing the power of social media and video platforms, he shares most of his advice through YouTube, Twitter, and shows he's produced on his TV network, Grant Cardone TV.

5. Jeb Blount

As one of the most respected sales pros across the globe, Jeb Blount has changed the game with his insight and knowledge.

Blount has written eight bestselling books on how businesses can reach their full potential. He's in high demand as a keynote speaker and is famous for tailoring workshops and training programs to clients and audiences.

Known for making complex concepts and ideas simple and tangible, he's become a trusted advisor to large organizations across the globe.

Tips to Become a Better Marketer in 2020

Not everyone can create a marketing empire by 30, like Neil Patel, or will be recognized as the top sales influencer by LinkedIn, but that doesn't mean you can't try to work toward that level.


Here are a few quick tips on how to further establish yourself in digital marketing:

Develop Partnerships.

This is one element that marketers often overlook on their quest for better metrics and epic content. Building bridges with other companies (that aren't your competitors) can really bolster your lead generation strategies.

Look for companies that share an audience with you. You'll be able to funnel leads and customers to one another and bolster your businesses.

For example, a pet adoption organization can partner with a local veterinary clinic, passing off responsible pet owners to one another.

Analyze Results.

Looking at your data on a regular basis can help you make better, more informed decisions when it comes to developing strategies for your business.

You have actual metrics and analytics available to you to help you judge what's worth your effort and what isn't.

Be Innovative.

Being experimental is a good thing, especially in marketing!

We're in an industry that's constantly adapting and evolving, so finding new ways to engage leads and customers should always be encouraged. Consumers are always looking for the next big thing with their waning interests and fluctuating attention spans.


From creating innovative digital techniques to promoting family businesses to being at the forefront of the digital era, these gurus earned their status the hard way: by taking chances and seeking opportunities.

For some, their rise to guru status was a case of being in the right place, at the right time with visionary ideas. For others, it was the result of decades spent honing their craft.

But, the bottom line is that all of these marketing and sales experts have worked hard to attain their status.

Today, they all enjoy their position as thought leaders in the industry and continue to educate and influence their followers in their respective fields.

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Rob Steffens

Rob Steffens

I am the Director of Marketing here at Bluleadz. I'm a huge baseball fan (Go Yankees!). I love spending time with friends and getting some exercise on the Racquetball court.