Why You Can’t Motivate Anyone (And 16 Things You Can Do Instead)

May 26th, 2015

Why You Can't Motivate Anyone In Sales© Alexskopje | Dreamstime.com

 I am not a motivational speaker.

While I am occasionally described as one—and I do speak at conferences, annual meetings and other events—the fact is that I’m not. For the simple reason that I can’t “motivate” anyone. And neither can you.

Whether you’re talking about a prospect, a member of your sales team, a volunteer, or anyone else in your business or personal life, you can’t motivate them to do what you’d like them to do.


Because motivation is internal. It’s personal. People decide what to do—along with when and how to do them—based on their own reasons, beliefs, and attitudes. You might have a dozen good reasons why you think someone should take a certain action, but they don’t because of their own reason. Which may be stupid, pointless or completely irrational. But it doesn’t matter, because that reason is theirs.

The good news is that you can tap into those personal reasons, beliefs, and attitudes to influence people. And there are lots of ways to do that.

So while you can’t motivate, you can:

1. Inspire
2. Encourage
3. Excite
4. Pressure
5. Cajole
6. Educate
7. Threaten
8. Incentivize
9. Guilt
10. Beg
11. Embarrass
12. Scare
13. Persuade
14. Shame
15. Manipulate
16. Trick

Which of these approaches you take will obviously depend on the situation and your relationship to the person you’re hoping to influence. If you’re trying to get a prospect to make a decision, you may want to inspire or excite them. If you’re after better performance from an employee, you might need to incentivize or threaten them. And if you’re dealing with someone who’s unethical, dangerous or mentally unstable, manipulation or trickery may actually be your best bet.

Whatever approach you use, keep in mind that in order for it to be successful, it has to connect to something the person cares about. So learn what’s important to them, what excites them, what scares them. Discover what they want more of and less of in their lives. Teach them what they don’t know and help them see the opportunities and dangers they weren’t aware of.

When we talk about “motivating” others, what we really mean is “influencing” them. The difference is subtle, yet important. You can’t motivate anyone but yourself. However you can potentially influence everyone you interact with. Learn about the people around you, develop your influence skills and you’ll see more sales, higher productivity and more success.

Twelve Powerful Ways to Open Your Next Presentation

May 19th, 2015

Ways for a Speaker to Open a Sales Presentation© Andresr | Dreamstime.comSuccessful Business Presentation Photo

In my last post, I cautioned you against using six terrible ways to open a presentation. Many of you kindly messaged me through various media and asked, “Okay Mr. Smarty-pants, big-shot, sales expert—how should we open our presentations?”

A fair question if ever there was one.

Because the first few seconds are critical to hooking your audience’s attention and establishing your credibility, opening your presentation strongly can mean the difference between failure and success. Whether you’re crafting a sales presentation for a big prospect or you’re preparing to be the keynote speaker at an industry conference, employ one of these twelve tactics to start your presentation off on the right foot.

1. Share a powerful quote
A good quotation can be funny, enlightening, or inspiring. Some can even do all three at once. The trick is using a quote that hasn’t been repeated to death. For that reason, avoid commonly shared sayings like Einstein’s “imagination” quote or Aristotle’s “excellence is a habit” quote. There are plenty of quote resources online. Invest some time to find a particularly good one.

2. Cite a startling statistic
Texting while driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than driving intoxicated. 90% of Americans live within 15 minutes of a Walmart. In 2012, there were 12.6 million victims of identity theft. More people own a cell phone than a toothbrush. 58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school. Every second, more than an hour of video is added to YouTube. Every industry has statistics that will surprise—and thus engage—an audience. What are some of yours?

3. Tell a relevant story
Stories are inherently engaging. Scientists have proven that our brains are hard-wired for listening to stories. So if you’re delivering a sales presentation, tell a story about one of your other customers and how your product or service impacted them. If you’re a speaker at a convention, tell an original story—something that happened to you or that you witnessed. Don’t tell “public domain” stories (Cortez burning his ships, the “starfish” story, etc.) and never steal another speaker’s story. Few things will damage your credibility faster or more permanently.

4. Make a bold, contrarian—even controversial—statement
I open one of my seminars by stating, “Selling more of what you sell has nothing to do with what you sell.” By challenging the orthodoxy that the merits of the product or service are all-important, I get the audience’s attention.

5. Show a stunning visual
Due to inflation, a picture is now only worth 763 words, but that’s still a lot. What visuals would grab your audience’s attention? Consider a concept drawing, before and after pictures, or an historical photo.

6. Ask a question that makes the audience think
My good friend—and fellow speaker—Mary Kelly often asks her audiences of executives, “Who are you grooming to lead your company in 20 years?” She gets blank stares as answers, followed by excuses that they’re focused on the here and now. “And that is the problem,” she replies, having completely hooked them.

7. Show a video
Videos can be very effective as long as they are short, emotional, and relevant. One is plenty. You don’t want to come across as the host of a clips show. And be sure that you have permission to use it. Just because it’s on YouTube doesn’t mean it’s fair game.

8. Discuss information about the audience
Your audience doesn’t care about you, your company, or your product or service. They care about themselves. So opening by mentioning issues, facts, concerns and opportunities that directly relate to them is a sure-fire way to get them to listen.

9. Craft an analogy
Metaphor and similes are terrific tools for making complex or unfamiliar concepts understandable and relevant. Ask yourself, what is this situation like?

10. Relate a statement made to you by an audience member
Talking with your audience before you speak is a great way to uncover stories, issues, factoids, humor, fears and more. And when you open with something an audience member told you, you’re not only guaranteeing relevancy, you’re demonstrating that you’re attentive and a good listener.

11. Ask them to envision a scenario
Asking your audience to visualize a scene is a great way to get them emotionally involved immediately. And this tactic works equally well with both positive and negative scenarios. “Imagine a world in which everyone has access to clean water.” “What if you got a call tomorrow telling you that you just suffered a massive data breach?” The words “imagine” and “what if” are powerful for getting your audience to envision what you want them to.

12. Use a prop
I once walked on stage with a feather duster in my hand. As I held it up, I described a similar feather duster from my youth. When the object’s significance became clear, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. What props could help you make your point?

There you have it—twelve ways to begin your presentation with panache and impact. Choose an approach that is appropriate for the both the audience and your personal style. Experiment with different options to see which ones work best. Practice and hone your openings to maximize their impact. Your results will be more engaged audiences, more invitations to speak, and of course, more sales.

Six Ways NOT to Open a Presentation

May 12th, 2015

Ways Not to Open Sales PresentationsWhether you’re delivering a sales presentation to a prospect, an internal briefing within your company, or the keynote speech at a conference, the first words out of your mouth have the power to make or break your effort. The way you open your presentation impacts your credibility and tells your audience whether or not they should listen to you.

Too many salespeople and speakers lose their audience immediately by opening their presentations poorly. To avoid their fate, don’t open with any of these six things:

1. A Joke
Newbie presenters are often counseled to open with a joke, on the theory that it will capture the audience’s attention, get them laughing, and start things off on a positive note. However, if you’ve heard the joke, odds are your audience members have too. Which means it’s not funny and instead, a waste of their time.

2. Your Company History
Your company has a long and glorious history. And if you tell your audience all about it, they’ll be impressed and your credibility will go through the roof. The reality is, nobody cares about your company’s history except the people it employs. I once watched a CEO stand up and walk out of a sales presentation because the salespeople were detailing their company’s history and the CEO decided his time was too valuable for that. Needless to say, the sales opportunity left with him.

3. Apologizing
Starting your presentation by apologizing for the weather, the room setup, a schedule delay, or the simple fact that there’s a meeting at all, undermines your credibility and signals weakness to your audience.

4. A Stupid Question
Despite what your parents and teachers told you, there is such a thing as a stupid question. Queries like “Who here would like to earn more and work less?” or “How many of you want to double your sales immediately?” are so obvious they insult the audience’s intelligence. And when an audience feels insulted, they tune out the speaker.

5. Telling Them What Else They’d Rather Be Doing
Opening with comments like, “I know you’d all rather be outside on a beautiful day like this…” or “I recognize that you have a lot of pressing work on your desk…” implies that what you’re about to say isn’t very important, which tacitly gives your audience permission to stop paying attention.

6. Talking About Yourself
Many speakers start their presentation by telling the audience their personal history, their accomplishments, their awards and so on, believing that recounting their success builds their credibility. But talking about yourself can be even worse than talking about your company, because not only does nobody care about you, but it can come across as bragging, making you seem arrogant. That’s a sure-fire way to lose your audience quickly.

With today’s audiences ready to whip out their phones the moment you lose them, you can’t afford to sabotage yourself with your first few words. Avoid these six mistakes when crafting the opening to your presentation and you’ll at least have a fighting chance.

What other terrible ways of opening a presentation have you witnessed? Share them in the comments below!

Photo © Andreypopov | Dreamstime.com – Young Businessman Discussing Work

When and How to Say “No” to a Customer

May 6th, 2015

Sales Speaker Discusses When and How to Say No to a CustomerIf you’re in sales or customer service, you’ve been taught that “the customer is always right.” But that’s not true. Sometimes we have to say “no” to a prospect or customer. But when exactly? And how?

Listen to my appearance on Breakthrough Radio with Michele Price. In this 8-minute segment, I discuss why it can be crucial to say “no” sometimes. You’ll discover how to know when those situations occur and how to turn down a customer request without damaging your relationship with them. You’ll also hear about one of the biggest mistakes I made as a speaker early in my career.

To listen, just click on the link below. Or to download the segment to listen later, right-click the link and select “Save Target As…”

When and How to Say “No” to a Customer: Don Cooper on Breakthrough Radio (mp3)

To learn more about Michele Price and listen to her interview other business experts on Breakthrough Radio (which I strongly recommend), check out WhoIsMichelePrice.com.

© Aydindurdu | Dreamstime.comBalancing Yes And No Photo