Twelve Ways to Screw Up a Handshake

May 30th, 2018

Twelve Ways to Screw Up a HandshakeShaking hands is such a sales basic that it’s amazing how often people get it wrong. And a bad handshake doesn’t just start a relationship off on the wrong foot (so to speak)—it can haunt you forever. Because people remember bad handshakes. A poor handshake can even cost you the sale.

What exactly constitutes a bad handshake? Here are twelve mistakes to avoid.

1. The Wet Noodle
A limp handshake conveys a lack of confidence and competence. And it just plain feels icky. Put some life in your wrist and fingers.

2. The Vise
This is the opposite approach—the death grip. It’s a blatant attempt to assert dominance. After being on the receiving end of one of these, most people will avoid you at all costs.

3. Hand over top
This is a more subtle way to assert dominance. By using an overhand grip, you force the other person to use an underhand one, which is ever-so-subtly submissive. Which can make them feel uncomfortable and trust you less Instead, offer your hand with your palm to the side. Or extend your hand in an underhand fashion, giving them the opportunity to be in the dominant position. It will make them feel more comfortable and confident.

4. Double hand
Using both your hands to completely enclose theirs is a classic politician’s move. Which is exactly why you should never do it. It reeks of fake sincerity.

5. Grabbing the arm or shoulder
Another common political tactic. Using the left hand to touch the forearm, upper arm, or shoulder is supposed to engender rapport, but unless you already know the person well, it typically feels like an invasion of their space. Keep your left hand out of the shaking process altogether. (Its feelings won’t be hurt.)

6. Pumping
Enthusiasm is great, but vigorously pumping your hand up and down is too much of a good thing. You’re saying hello, not trying to extract water from the ground.

7. Refusing to let go
This is yet another power play. Holding on to their hand well after you should have let go makes people feel trapped. And the message it sends is that you may trap them in other ways.

8. Finger grab
Grasping someone’s fingers instead of their palm signals that you weren’t’ paying attention when you reached for their hand. Which means you probably won’t pay attention in other parts of the sales process. You don’t need to stare at your hand as you extend it, but use your peripheral vision to guide your palm into theirs.

9. Probing
I’ve never personally experienced this, but I’ve heard a lot about it. The other person “probes” your wrist with their index finger. I have no idea why anyone would do this, but apparently some people do, and those who have been on the receiving end describe it as “weird,” “creepy,” and “revolting.”

10. Avoiding eye contact
Eye contact is critical to rapport. Neglecting to make eye contact when shaking hands is detrimental to it. Be sure to look the other person in the eye. Smiling is a good idea too, while you’re at it.

11. Wetness
This is a common problem at networking events. If you’re right-handed, you’ve been holding your drink in your dominant hand, so when you need to use it for a handshake, it’s cold, wet, and clammy. The solution? Hold your drink in your left hand instead. By the way, if you’re one of the 2.8% of the population who suffer from hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) keep a handkerchief handy at all times. (Get it? Handy?)

12. Being culturally insensitive
The above guidelines are for America and Canada. Handshake etiquette is different throughout the world. So if you’re traveling, don’t assume everyone shakes hands the same way. In some cultures, people use a very gentle grip as opposed to a firm one. In others, only people of the same sex shake hands. And still other cultures prefer not to shake hands at all. Do your research so you can be respectful. Respect is a tremendous rapport-builder.

Your handshake sets the tone, not just for the immediate encounter with someone, but for your entire relationship with them. Set the right tone with a confident—but not overbearing—handshake. You don’t need to dominate the other person, you need to connect with them. And a courteous, respectful handshake will do precisely that.


Physics and Your Closing Ratio

May 22nd, 2018

Physics and Your Closing RatioEvery sales manager I’ve ever talked with has agreed on one thing: The single biggest challenge salespeople have is closing the deal. There are two reasons closing is such a big problem. One is psychology. The other is physics.


That’s right, physics. Let me explain.

First, the psychology part.

When we’re selling (and especially when we’re closing), we have to deal with two big fears. Fear is a powerful motivator in ways both good and bad, so it’s critical for us to understand how these fears affect us and how to overcome them.

The first is the fear of rejection, a natural fear for most of us. Nobody enjoys being rejected—it bothers all but the thickest-skinned of us. So too often, we don’t make any attempt to close, because if we don’t ask for the sale, we can’t be rejected.

The key to subduing this fear is to remember three things:

1. The prospect wants and/or needs what we’re selling.

2. A sales rejection is not a personal rejection.

3. If the prospect says no, we’re no worse off than before.

The second fear is more pernicious because we’re typically not even aware of it. Most of us are afraid of being perceived as the stereotypical “salesperson” so commonly portrayed in popular culture: pushy, rude, slimy, underhanded, obnoxious.

Because we (subconsciously) fear being perceived as this stereotype, all too often we don’t really try to close the prospect. But closing is a critical part of the sales process, arguably the most critical part. You can do everything else right—prospecting, needs analysis, presentation, overcoming objections—but if you don’t close, there’s no sale.

Here’s the secret to overcoming this fear: understand that prospects need you to close them. Why? Physics!

The prospect is sitting there (or possibly standing there) in a state of inertia. Remember the Law of Inertia? “A body at rest tends to stay at rest.” Which means the prospect’s natural inclination is to do nothing, even though they need and/or want whatever it is you’re selling.

However, the Law of Inertia continues: “unless acted upon by an outside force.” That’s us! We need to be the outside force that acts upon our prospects to change their state. It doesn’t need to be a BIG force, however. It can be a gentle nudge.

So don’t think of closing as pushing the prospect into doing something they don’t want to do. Instead, think of it as nudging the prospect just enough to move them out of their inertia and into action.

When you think of it in these terms, closing is not at all pushy, rude, slimy or obnoxious. In fact, assuming this purchase really is in the best interest of the prospect, then not closing is a disservice to them, because it’s preventing them from enjoying the benefits of your product or service.

Remember, it’s not the prospect’s job to ask us to sell them our stuff. (Left to their own devices, they often won’t, due to that pesky inertia.) Instead, it’s our job to ask them to buy it. And they need us to do it. After all, we’re only battling fear. They’re battling physics.

Up Your Listening Game to Boost Your Sales

May 8th, 2018

Up Your Listening Game to Boost Your SalesWe tend to think of talking as the most important element of communicating, and thus, the most important element of sales, leadership, relationships, etc. But communication is a two-way street, and as Tony Alessandra points out in his book, Charisma, “When you want to win someone’s confidence, listening is just as important as speaking. Good listening draws people to you; poor listening causes them to drift away.”

Listening allows you to relax, compose your thoughts, and gather valuable information. And effective listening relaxes the other person, builds rapport, and makes it easier to persuade. Whether you are networking, selling, negotiating, or simply having a casual conversation, listening effectively will help you have a more pleasant and more productive experience.

Keep these principles in mind when listening to others:

See Eye to Eye
When someone is speaking to you it is imperative that you maintain good eye contact with them. Looking at something else sends the non-verbal message that whatever you are looking at is more important than the speaker is. So for Pete’s sake, don’t look at your cell phone every three minutes. An additional benefit for you is that by looking at the speaker, you can pick up on their non-verbal signals, which will help you better understand what they really are (and are not) saying.

Use Your Body
The way your body is positioned can make a big difference in your conversation. Slumping or leaning back in your chair implies boredom or indifference. Instead, lean toward the other person to indicate interest. If you are standing, especially at a networking event, stand at an angle to the other person rather than face to face. This position will allow you to easily hear each other in a crowded room while still giving both of you plenty of personal space in front of you. This “open” body posture also makes it easier and more inviting for additional people to join your networking conversation.

Make Faces
Facial expressions give people a visual cue that you are listening to them. Smiling, frowning, raising your eyebrows, and other facial reactions send a strong signal that you are following what is being said.

Add Sound Effects
Verbal reactions are the auditory equivalent of facial expressions. Words and phrases such as really, oh no, you’re kidding, fantastic, right, uh-huh, and yeah provide a different type of sensory feedback to reinforce the message that you are listening. (Want to expand your verbal repertoire? Check out 59 Ways to Agree with Your Customer.)

Restrain Yourself
The temptation to interrupt people can be overwhelming at times. Let’s face it—we all love to talk. But giving someone our undivided attention and allowing them to speak without fear of interruption is so powerful in building rapport, that it behooves us to exercise restraint. You can, however, use the next three strategies to get a word in edgewise while keeping the conversational focused on the other person.

Question Authority
Asking questions is a sure-fire way to demonstrate interest in the person you are talking with. Asking for clarification, for more details, or even advice (if appropriate; avoid the “Hey Doc, I’ve got this pain…” syndrome), encourages the speaker to continue and communicates that they have an appreciative audience.

Put It Another Way
Repeating the speaker’s ideas in your own words will help ensure that you heard what was actually meant. Paraphrasing also signals the speaker that you want to be sure you understand what they are saying.

Emphasize Empathy
Mentioning that you have had an experience similar to what the speaker has described can help to create rapport, because you have something in common. But claiming that your experience was better, worse, faster, slower, cheaper, or more expensive can be counter-productive, because it can make the speaker feel less significant. Focus on the similarities of your stories, not the differences. Remember, you are engaging in a conversation, not a competition.

If you are sincere in your desire to hear what others have to say, it will have a dramatic impact on your sales, as well as all your other business and personal interactions. As Mark Twain once noted, “We despise no source that can pay us a pleasing attention.”

Is a Leads Group Right for You?

May 2nd, 2018

Is a Leads Group Right for You?If you’re looking for new prospects, referrals are your best source. A person who is referred to you is five times as likely to buy from you as any other type of prospect because they already have some trust in you based on their friend who referred them. So how can you get more referrals? A leads group is one powerful way, although it’s not appropriate for everyone.

First, a quick explanation. Leads groups, which go by various names (referral groups, tip clubs, resource groups), exist for the sole purpose of providing referrals to members of the group. Some have a fee while others don’t. They may be non-profit or for-profit. Members are expected to generate leads for other members on a regular basis. Meetings are typically weekly or bi-weekly over breakfast or lunch. Members have the opportunity to share with other members details about their business and sometimes there may be guest speakers.

So is a leads group right for you? Maybe. Consider the following before saying yes or no:

Your Business
What kind of business are you in? Is it one that has a large potential market or are you highly specialized? The more widely needed your product or service is, the better you will fare in a leads group. People who do particularly well include real estate agents, attorneys, chiropractors, printers, florists, caterers, automobile salespeople, dentists, hair stylists, couriers, computer consultants, accountants, insurance agents, advertising specialties dealers, collection agents, bankers, financial consultants, gift basket makers, graphic designers, web developers, movers, photographers, travel agents, and veterinarians.

Is the group’s meeting time and meeting date (not to mention meeting location) convenient for you? Can you be on time for meetings or will it be just one more hassle in your schedule? Will you be able to fit the time for the meetings into your weekly calendar without making too big of a sacrifice elsewhere?

Can you make the group’s meetings consistently? Most groups are serious and require a real commitment on your part. Members can be expelled for missing too many meetings or not providing enough referrals. As someone who constantly travels around the country delivering seminars and keynote speeches, I can’t belong to a leads group because there is no way I can attend regularly. Will your schedule allow you to make meetings on a regular basis or will it set you up for frustration?

Current Members
Who’s already in the group? If there is someone there who does what you do, you typically will not be allowed to join, since most groups limit membership to one company per industry, e.g. one lawyer, one printer, one florist, one insurance agent, etc. This way, members aren’t forced to choose who to give their leads to. Even if there isn’t someone who does exactly what you do, there may be one or more people who have some crossover. Your ideal group will contain members whose businesses complement yours. For example, if you’re a wedding planner, a group that has a florist and a caterer is a perfect fit for you.

How big is the group? If it’s too small, not enough leads will get passed. If it’s too large, you may feel that you can’t know everyone and they can’t know you very well. Somewhere between 15 and 35 members is where most groups tend to find the most success. Keep in mind that a small group can grow and a large group can experience falloff. Also, with a small group, you can recruit as members people you already know, trust and want to refer.

Every group has its own “house rules” that govern fees, meeting attendance, number of leads that must be contributed, who gets in the spotlight, and many other issues. There’s no right or wrong, and what works for one group may not work for another. The important question is, do you agree with the group’s policies? Since you’ll have to abide by them, it’s important to find a group whose rules you fully support.

As in, do you have any? Like most other sales and marketing tools, leads groups take time to provide results. If you expect to get lots of leads right away, you’re in for a disappointment. It takes several weeks for other members to get a good feel for you and to remember you effectively enough to notice prospective customers for you.

Existing Referral Sources
Do you already get a lot of referrals from friends and clients? If so, then the additional time required for a leads group may not be worth it for you. And if you already have a network of friends that you refer business to, you may not want to join a group because you’ll have to start sending those leads somewhere else. But if the above two items are not the case for you, then a leads group may well be an excellent investment of your time and energy. An investment that can return a steady stream of high-quality prospects for you.