Seven Ways to Increase Your Visibility and Credibility

January 29th, 2010

With all the attention on social media over the past couple of years, it’s easy to forget that face-to-face networking is still extremely valuable. However, it isn’t enough just to meet people at networking mixers once in a while. People need to really get to know you. And they need to remember you, like you and trust you before they’ll want to do business with you. So try one or more of these tactics to speed that process along.

1. Volunteer
Every organization needs volunteers, and savvy networkers jump at the chance. People will see you in a position of responsibility and service. You also get a chance to showcase your talents and learn new skills.

2. Work the Registration Table
You’ll meet virtually everyone who attends the event. More importantly, they’ll meet you.

3. Donate a Door Prize
Your product or service will be showcased in front of the entire crowd. And everybody loves to win things. For maximum effect and goodwill, make sure the prize is an outright gift rather than a discount or coupon.

4. Join Committees
In most organizations, the majority of the work (and the majority of the networking) occurs in committees. Because committees typically meet on a regular basis, you get an opportunity to see the same people frequently, giving you all ample opportunity to get to know each other well. By the way, this is also where you will often find the “movers and shakers” who you most want to meet.

5. Write Articles
Virtually every trade association and business group has a newsletter, magazine or journal. And they are all in need of articles of value to their members. Contact the editors of these publications and ask about needs, schedules and editorial guidelines. Write according to their guidelines and include your contact information for the authorship credit. (Bonus Tactic: Be sure to get reprints to include in your promotional materials.)

6. Speak for the Group
Speaking at your group’s events can give you valuable exposure at absolutely no cost. Anything from a ten-minute talk to a two-hour seminar can serve your audience while positioning you as an authority in your field. And everyone wants to meet the speaker!

7. Host an Event
For several hours people will see your facility, employees, products and/or services. You can even take guests on guided tours and give away samples or coupons to increase your impact. To reduce the cost, time and effort involved in hosting a networking event, consider sharing the event with a caterer or restaurant. You provide the location, they provide the food and you both get the credit. And the exposure!

Use these seven tactics to raise your profile in your community and you’ll see your sales increase as a result!

Five Tips for Getting Your Voice-Mails Returned

January 26th, 2010

Get Voice-Mails ReturnedIt’s ironic. People have more phone numbers than ever before, yet it’s harder to actually reach people than ever before. Which means whether you’re using the phone to follow up with leads, prospect for new customers or close sales, you’re going to have to deal with voice-mail a lot. Here are some powerful tactics that will help make sure your message gets returned.

1. Slow Down and Speak Up
Most people speak too quickly when leaving a message. The result for the listener is often garbled names and unintelligible phone numbers. I have received messages that I couldn’t return because I couldn’t understand what the caller was saying. Make sure people hear what you want them to hear. Speak slowly and distinctly, enunciating each word (and especially numbers) carefully. Speak with enough volume so that your recipient won’t have to strain to hear you.

2. KISS Over the Phone
Voice-mail is not the place to let your inner Dostoevsky free. Do you like listening to long, rambling messages? Neither does anyone else. Keep It Short and Simple. If you don’t know exactly what you’re going to say when you hear the voice mail prompt, hang up, compose your thoughts and call back. If you’re prospecting over the phone, never leave your sales pitch on someone’s voice mail. Instead, tantalize them with a benefit or mention the name of the person who referred you. You should be able to do either or both in a matter of seconds.

3. Get Specific
Don’t just say, “Call me back.” People are more likely to return your call when they know the reason for it. Tell the person what you are calling about and what you need from them. This will also give them a chance to come up with the information, action or decision before they get back to you, saving both of you time and aggravation.

4. Make It Easy for Them
Even if the person you’re calling already has your number, giving it to them in the message saves them the trouble of looking it up. Be sure to leave your complete phone number, including area code and extension. And to prevent playing phone tag, let the person know when you will be reachable at that number. You may also want to leave an additional number they can reach you at, depending on when you want them to call back.

5. Be Happy
Of course you’re disappointed that you didn’t reach the person you wanted. But don’t let that come through in your voice. People will be more likely to respond if you sound enthusiastic and upbeat. Smile as you record your message and let the person know that you’re looking forward to hearing from them.

We all hate voice-mail. But it’s a fact of modern business life. Rather than get upset or frustrated, use these strategies when confronted with a recording and before you know it, you’ll be talking to a real, live human being.

What Business Are You Really In?

January 22nd, 2010

What Business Are You InDo you know what business you’re in? I don’t mean what industry or field or segment. I mean, what business you’re really in?

And don’t say “the solutions business.” That’s a cliché. It’s also inaccurate. Many of the things people buy aren’t solutions to anything. Yet people still buy them.

No, what you’re really in, is the fulfillment business. When somebody buys what you sell, they’re hoping to fulfill some physical need and/or emotional desire.

A family vacation doesn’t necessarily solve any problem, but it does (ideally) fulfill a variety of individual wishes. (Each of which can be very different.) Similarly, when a business buyer makes a purchase, they’re hoping to meet some need of their company, but they’re also trying fulfill their personal desire to advance, earn a bigger bonus or at least, not get fired.

So in what ways is your product or service fulfilling to your customers? What organizational needs and individual wants do you fulfill?

Think beyond the physical needs. (The “problems” we’re taught to solve.) What are your prospects’ hopes, dreams, desires, fantasies, fears, longings? That’s what they’re really buying. So that’s what you should be selling.

You Are Not Your Prospect

January 18th, 2010

You Are Not Your ProspectA common mistake salespeople, business owners and professionals make is believing our prospects are just like us. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, odds are good you have little or nothing in common with any given prospect. And it’s critical to understand this. Because if you treat your prospects as if they were you, you’ll miss out on a lot of sales.

Among the potential differences between you and your prospect:
• Likes
• Dislikes
• Values
• Priorities
• Concerns
• Experiences
• Biases
• Income
• Risk tolerance
• Impulsiveness
• Need for details
• Communication style
• Decisiveness
• Sense of humor

Which means:
• An approach that makes you comfortable could be a turn-off for them.
• What you think is overpriced they may think is a bargain.
• A color you can’t stand could be their favorite.
• Knowledge you take for granted they may have never heard before.
• Issues that aren’t a concern for you can be deal-breakers for them.

Above all, it means you have to sell your prospects what they like, not what you like. And you need to sell to them the way they like to buy, not the way you like to buy.

So get out of your own head and into theirs. Rather than assume your prospect is anything like you, find out about them. Ask questions to discover their likes, dislikes, experiences, etc.

And respect the answers you hear. Your prospect’s values, priorities, concerns and so on may be very different from yours, but they’re just as valid. In fact, if you want to increase your sales, they’re even more important.

Four Sales Lessons from Schoolhouse Rock

January 13th, 2010

Last week was the 37th anniversary of Schoolhouse Rock. The short educational cartoons debuted on January 6, 1973. I mentioned this fact on my Facebook page and the response was tremendous, with people recounting their favorite songs.

Amazingly, after close to 40 years, an incredible number of Generation X’ers still remember songs like Conjunction Junction, I’m Just a Bill and Three is a Magic Number. To this day, many of us can still recite the preamble to the U.S. Constitution thanks to Schoolhouse Rock.

How would you like your brand, company or product to stick in people’s minds like that? Whether you’re a salesperson prepping a presentation or a CEO planning your company’s long-term marketing strategy, here’s what business professionals can learn from this classic Saturday-morning staple

1. Keep It Simple
Schoolhouse Rock managed to distill the complex process of how a bill becomes a law into a 3-minute song. Was it a comprehensive explanation? Of course not. Not only was such detail unnecessary, it would have been counter-productive.

The more details, the harder a message is to understand and remember. The way the cartoon explains the legislative process, a five-year-old can grasp it. Can the same be said for your sales and marketing materials?

2. Repetition, Repetition, Repetition
Repetition aids memory. In each song, the key concept is repeated several times. And each cartoon was repeated every few weekends. Repetition aids memory. In your sales presentations, repeat your key points several times. In your marketing campaigns, choose frequency of impression over the sheer number of people reached. Because repetition aids memory.

3. Make It Catchy
Schoolhouse Rock lyrics are catchy. They just seem to stick in your head. (“Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?” “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, get your adverbs here…”)

How can you make your sales presentations and marketing materials catchier? Borrow the tactics great writers employ:
• Stories
• Characters
• Alliteration
• Metaphors
• Similes
• Rhyme
• Meter
• Onomatopoeia
• Humor

4. Have Fun!
The reason we Gen X’ers learned all this math, grammar, science and civics is that we had no idea it was educational. We just thought it was fun. Nobody wants to be “educated.” (What images and feelings does that word conjure up in your mind?) But everyone wants to have fun!

In fact, a survey conducted by Britt Beemer for American Demographics found that 70.1% of respondents would switch to a different vendor if the company was more fun to do business with. And the beautiful thing is, having fun can cost you little or nothing!

Keep these strategies in mind as you put together your next sales presentation or marketing effort. Your message will stand out from the crowd, connect more effectively with your prospect and be more memorable.

In other words, IT WILL ROCK!

25 Ways to Leverage LinkedIn

January 7th, 2010

By guest blogger Paul Castain

After several months of getting no results from being on LinkedIn, I had to face the hard, cold reality that I had basically shown up, sat on the sidelines and expected the world to beat a path to my computer. So I changed my approach and started actually using LinkedIn. Wow, what a difference! Here are 25 powerful lessons I picked up along the way.

1. Change your expectation of Social Networking. There is no quick fix, silver bullet, get rich quick. This is a long term strategy to say the least. Kind of sucks, huh? Well, I think it’s safe to say that thanks to this economy, many things are now long term strategies, so perhaps a little patience is in order! Social Media Jedi Master Chris Brogan says “It’s not the kind of project where you show up, build your profiles, friend a few people and call it good. It’s a lot like tending the farm.” Be sure to check out Chris’s blog by visiting

2. Put some thought into your profile. Make sure it does justice to the wonderful brand we call you! Want to improve your “Googleability”? Then by all means make your profile public by clicking here

Thought: Do you want your connections visible to everyone in your network? Do you have some clients that may get a tad pissed if they find out you are doing work for their competitors? Then click here and change that bad boy

3. Use a cool tagline to help set you apart from the masses. Examples: Craig Wilson is the Chief Appreciation Officer of his Sendout Cards business. Mi Amigo Hank Trisler isn’t the President of The Trisler Companies…He’s the Supreme Commander! Desire McBride is The Print Diva. My favorite is John Hudson who is The Dark Lord of Staffing. Our biggest challenge these days folks is being memorable. These people get it!

4. Join Groups. The biggest mistake many people make is joining groups in their industry exclusively. I think that’s great, but you better branch out. I mean, how many widgets do you think other widget dudes are gonna buy from ya, Gomer? My advice to you is to join some sales groups as well. First, it will help you keep your finger on the pulse right now since sales people are pretty much out there on the front line. Second, you will pick up some good best practices. And finally, sales people can be a point of entry often overlooked in getting in the door. I would also recommend that you join some industry groups for the verticals you want to penetrate.

Did you know? You can join up to 50 groups. When you share a group with someone you can usually send them a direct email without paying for inmails.

Did you also know? Emails sent through LI have a much higher open rate than traditional emails. Can you leverage that as a sales rep? Damn right you can!

5. Get off the damn sidelines! This is where I screwed up big time. I joined groups but didn’t participate. Get the feel of your group. Contribute! Add value. By the way, doesn’t this help make you more visible and help with the whole branding thing? If you do it right it does! Start your own discussions in those groups. This is how you stand out! What are some thought provoking, appropriate discussions you could start in your groups?

6. Want to look like a Grade A, A-hole? Then spam the discussions with ridiculous infomercials on your company, start discussions that are blatant self promotions or get cute and start a discussion with the old “For the rest of the story, click here.” That’s how you build a brand as a jackass real quick.

Do you belong to a group that is littered with spam and self promotion? Tell the group moderator and if that doesn’t work, then put your efforts in elsewhere. They aren’t worth your time!

7. Facilitate your discussions for God’s sake! This is by far one of my biggest pet peeves on LI. If you start a discussion and then disappear, you are an idiot! You not only display bad manners in doing the disappearing act, you allow your discussion to go inactive sooner. Why wouldn’t you want your discussion up at the top of the first page of discussions? Isn’t that a great visibility position? Check out my rant on this subject here

8. Show appreciation for those who contribute to your discussions. First, you should always thank people in the discussion with a simple “Thank you for your input (insert name here)” By the way, do we all enjoy being acknowledged in front of our peers? Do you think acknowledging contributions encourages additional contributions as well as folks following you to other discussions and groups? Worked for me. The other way I show appreciation is by sending a thank-you in a quick email. It’s a great door opener and helps me differentiate from the masses!

9. Avoid ninjas like your online life depended on it. It amazes me how many otherwise intelligent adults will attack someone online in front of thousands. Trust me when I tell you it will happen to you and if you are like me you will want to stick your virtual foot up their virtual ass. In a word, don’t! You won’t change ignorant people and you will damage your brand in the process.

10. Use a hyperlink in your signature when you contribute to a discussion. If all you do is put the old “www” it won’t read as a link. Here’s how ya do it the right way: Put a handy dandy http:// in front of your domain and viola. Check out how I do it.

Paul Castain
Vice President Consolidated Graphics

11. Don’t use the automated invites. They are lame and you will sound like every other clueless person. Take a moment to make your invite personal. Think about the power of first impressions and more importantly, the power of being memorable. Reference something you have observed about them in the groups, a point they made, their company, some common ground or simply:

Dear Jake:
I would be honored if you would join my network.

12. Minimize IDK’s. IDK stands for I Don’t Know. If you invite someone and they select “I don’t know” you get a real nifty snotgram from LI. If you continue to get them, LI can remove your ability to invite, because everyone has basically labeled you a dick. The real problem isn’t with LI, it’s the ignorance of the recipient. They simply don’t know how to tell you to piss off gracefully. That’s why you have to educate them.

Dear Jake:
I would be honored if you would join my network.

Should you choose not to connect, that’s fine, simply hit the “archive” button rather than the dreaded “I don’t know” button.

13. Start your own group. One bit of advice I always give in conventional networking is to get on a board in a leadership position. The same can be said for LI. I waited until I had enough involvement in the groups and started The Sales Playbook group. It’s grown by more than 2300 members in 3 months and has dramatically enhanced my brand. I’m also happy to say that I have done so by enhancing other people’s brands.

Come join our Linkedin Sales Playbook community by clicking here:

14. Post interesting articles in the news section. Use the “share” button to alert other folks in your network when you read an article of value to them. Comment on interesting articles. This contributes value to your group and keeps you visible in the process!

15. Add value to your network. One of the best ways you can do this is to be a matchmaker. Introduce them to people they want and need to meet. With so many displaced workers in these challenging times keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities. Not a bad idea to have a recruiter or three in your network while we are at it. Neil Wood replied to me privately when I asked for advice on some good branding books. He told me he had an extra copy of a really good book and sent it to me. Stacy Stateham has given her time very freely to folks that have needed advice and I too try my best to give value (even to my competitors, believe it or not) When you do these types of things ladies and gentlemen, you don’t create followers, you create evangelists spreading the good news of your brand!

Branding 101 Moment With Uncle Paul: Do you think it packs more punch when someone else says cool things about you and your company or when you self-promote? Sorry to get basic on ya but if you are on LI then you know there are many who didn’t get the spam memo!

16. Use LI as part of your pre-call planning. I think it’s an incredible way for me to get inside my prospect’s head by getting a feel for how they think in the groups, perhaps they have a link to a blog, etc. This is a great way for you to get the inside track!

17. Let people get inside your head. Use applications such as Amazon Bookshelf, Slideshare and links to your blog. People buy from people they trust. One of the first steps towards trust is familiarity. Make sure you give your network every opportunity to experience “Brand YOU”

18. Cross-pollinate your efforts. Put a link to your LI profile in your email auto signature.

19. Post interesting Status Updates. This is a great way for you to stay on your network’s radar screen. Avoid boring play by play. Donna Highfill puts inspirational quotes in her status updates. Others will put a link to a timely article, links to articles and blogs you have written. The key here is to stay on the radar screen by continuing to add value and avoiding over-saturation while taking it easy on the self-promotion. You also need to use your head. Trust me when I tell you that your network doesn’t find value in a status update that informs us that a bottle of Cuervo has your name on it or that you are having a meltdown. Make sure you comment on status updates from your network. Example: someone in your network just mentioned that they started working at ABC company this week. Leave a congratulatory comment, etc.

Tip: Scan the home page daily. There are tons of opportunities for you there but you have to remember everyone’s favorite subject is themselves, so make it about them!

20. Comment on the blogs of your connections. Doing this opens you up to their community. In today’s online world, it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you and who knows those who know those who know you and…well, you get the picture.

21. Be consistent. You won’t build your brand worth a damn if you show up two days in a row, take two weeks off, come back for a day or two. This needs to be a daily activity. Remember, this is a long term investment. Don’t ever forget that!

22. Solicit Recommendations wisely. Use your head on this one. Please! One of the quickest ways for me to yell “Jackass” is when someone I barely know, hits me up for a recommendation. When I call them out on it, I’m usually given an explanation that they used the automated send to all feature, which is just plain stupid if you ask me. Be selective who you ask and be selective who you give recommendations to. Remember, it’s your credibility, dude!

23. Stop with the juvenile “I want to have the most contacts” BS! How in the hell can you realistically connect properly with 12,000 contacts? Seriously, dude! Better to have quality contacts. Be selective in who you ask to join your network. Be selective who you allow to connect with you too! Be deliberate and intentional. By the way, I’m in the process of writing a book. When I first started I didn’t know a thing about finding an agent, a publisher and all that fun stuff. I purposely hunted folks with experience in these areas and avoided contacts that had nothing to do with what I do or who I can impact.

24. Ask and answer questions to further position you as a thought leader. You can do this by clicking here:

Cool Tip: Want to get a better response and greater visibility when you ask a question? Choose the option to send the question out to up to 200 people in your network.

Hook a fellow Jedi up by suggesting someone from your network as an expert to a question. This is a nice way for you to continue to add value to your network and encourage a really cool thing called reciprocation!

25. Understand that you must move this virtual online stuff to real time or it’s absolutely meaningless! One of the things I do is make a goal each week that I will connect live (face to face, phone, coffee, lunch, drink, etc) with at least 2 people from my network. When I do, I make sure my time with them is about them, not me. My goal is to not only get to know them, but to find out who an ideal client would be for them, their goals, their dreams, their challenges.

I want to leave you with a bit of a challenge. One I wish someone had issued me when I first got on LinkedIn. Try these things for 90 days. Give it your all. Be consistent and do something daily to enhance your online brand. Give value to people unconditionally and don’t keep a scorecard. Learn everything you can and, if at the end of 90 days concerted effort you feel it was a waste of time, then move on.

I for one am quite pleased with my results. The Castain brand is alive and kicking and as a bonus, I’ve made some wonderful friends along the way. Also been talking to a few publishers, so it’s nice to be moving toward that important milestone in my life!

I want you to think about something else that many people don’t realize. Your LinkedIn experience is about community. All human beings want to be a part of something. Can you leverage that? There’s your million dollar question to chew on! 

Paul Castain is the Vice President of Sales Development for Consolidated Graphics, one of North America’s leading general commercial printing companies. He has trained, mentored and coached over 3,000 sales professionals and delivered numerous keynote addresses. He has authored numerous training manuals, articles, blog posts and is currently working on his first book for release in 2011. Feel free to email Paul at and visit the Sales Playbook blog.

The First Rule of Negotiating

January 4th, 2010

First Rule of Negotiating in SalesYou negotiate every day. With prospects, customers, bosses, co-workers, vendors—even with friends and family. And while there are hundreds of strategies and tactics that can help you negotiate more effectively, there is one rule that is paramount:

You must be willing to walk away from the deal.

This principle is the foundation of all negotiating approaches and its importance cannot be overstated. It is the single biggest determinant as to whether your negotiation will result in success or failure.

Because the moment you’ve committed to a particular outcome, regardless of what it takes, you’ve lost all your negotiating power. If you can’t say no, you’re doomed.

If your prospect knows you can’t walk away from a deal, they can take you for everything. Or they can dictate terms that are to your detriment.

Demonstrating your willingness to walk away, on the other hand, can give you enormous leverage in a negotiation. When the other side knows there’s a legitimate risk of losing what they want, they’re less likely to push you and more likely to agree with your positions.

I’m not saying you should run away at the drop of a hat. But you need to determine ahead of time what is acceptable and what is unacceptable, in terms of pricing, timelines, conditions and behaviors. You need boundaries, and you need to respect your boundaries before your counterpart will. (By the way, this applies to relationships as well as to sales.)

There are some deals that just aren’t worth it. There are some clients you’re better off without. Being willing to walk away will protect you from both, while improving your results in all your other negotiations.