Speaking of Prospecting . . .

March 12th, 2019

Speaking of Prospecting How would you like a prospecting opportunity that’s not only free, but includes a meal in the bargain? They’re occurring all around you, five days a week. Local service clubs (Lions, Rotary, Moose, Optimist, Kiwanis, Knights of Columbus, etc.) are constantly in need of speakers for their regular breakfast and lunch meetings. As a professional speaker and trainer myself, with more than two decades of speaking experience, I can tell you that speaking at these events can be a prospecting gold mine, giving you valuable exposure at absolutely no cost.

What’s that? You’re not a professional speaker? Don’t worry. You don’t need to be. But you do need to know what you’re doing. Here are some tips for making an effective presentation to a local group.

Start with the End
What do you want your audience to think once you are finished speaking? How do you want them to feel? What do you want them to do? (Besides give you a standing ovation of course.) To create your message, start with the end result you want and work backward from there.

Don’t Sell
Your topic should not be your product or service, no matter how awesome you think it is. Yes, this is a sales opportunity, but you are being invited to share information, ideas, and insights, not to sell to the audience. Nobody wants to listen to a twenty minute commercial. Instead, make your presentation practical for their lives or businesses. Give them the benefit of your professional experience and expertise.

Get Some ELP
An effective presentation combines three elements: ethos, logos, and pathos. Ethos refers to the credibility and believability of the speaker. This can be established by giving the person who introduces you a written introduction that highlights your experience and credentials. Logos means logical argument and progression. Use facts, figures, and reason. Pathos refers to emotional impact. Tell stories to create an emotional connection.

Keep it Simple
Leave your PowerPoint slides at the office. When I’m conducting a sales training seminar or delivering a keynote speech at a conference, I typically use slides; but for a small event like a service club meeting, I prefer to keep it simple. You don’t want to deal with the hassle of a projector, computer, screen, etc., unless it’s absolutely necessary. Besides, most amateur speakers just use slides as a crutch, which you don’t want to do. Right?

Be a Clock Watcher
The time allotted for guest speakers is typically ten to thirty minutes, although it can occasionally be more. Find out in advance how much time you are being given and tailor your presentation to fit. Going too long indicates to your audience a disrespect for their time and will turn them against you. Also, be prepared to cut down your presentation if the meeting goes long. Your audience, and especially your host, will greatly appreciate it.

Let Them Take You Home
No matter how good a speaker you are, people will forget you soon after you leave. A handout helps them remember you and doubles as a prospecting tool. It can be something they take notes on, an information sheet, or both. Alternatively, it can be a laminated wallet card, a bookmark, or some other small, handy item. In any case, it should be something of lasting value to give them reason to look at it repeatedly. And, of course, it should include your complete contact information.

Give Something to Get Something
Bring a prize to give away. (Ideally, your product or service.) It can be big or small. And the more, the merrier. To enter the drawing, audience members put their business cards into a container. That way, you get everybody’s contact information and you can follow up with them afterward. (Remember, the whole point of this is prospecting!)

Hone Your Skills
As I mentioned, you don’t have to be a professional speaker, but you do need to be decent in front of an audience. If your speaking skills are not as good as you would like them to be, do one of three things: Take a public speaking class through an adult education program in your area, join a Toastmasters International club, or work with a professional speech coach. Above all, PRACTICE.

Once you’ve figured out what you’re going to say (and practiced a lot), start asking people in your network what groups they’re involved with and who is responsible for finding speakers. Depending on their schedules, groups may book speakers several days or several months in advance.

On the day of the meeting, arrive early and plan to stay late. Be sure to bring plenty of business cards because you’ll have a great opportunity to network both before and after the event.

Being a guest speaker at service club meetings provides you with both visibility and credibility.
This unique combination, coupled with the fact that it’s FREE, makes it a potent sales tactic. So figure out what you’ve got to say, practice saying it, and go find an audience that needs to hear it!

 

19 Ways to Guarantee You’ll Fail

March 5th, 2019

19-ways-to-guarantee-youll-failSuccess is such a burden. It takes a ton of time and effort, and it frequently requires sacrifice. And for what? Everybody knows it’s lonely at the top. And then you have to do it all again, because you don’t want to be labeled a “one-hit wonder.” Then you have to deal with higher expectations, jealously from friends and co-workers, and being constantly pestered by people asking you for advice and tips.

Nope. You’re better off never achieving anything. Keep a low profile. Just get by.

Unfortunately, opportunities for success lurk around every corner, just waiting to ensnare you. They can be hard to avoid. And you can’t afford to risk even an accidental success.

So here are 19 ways you can ensure failure:

1. Don’t try
2. Avoid doing any research or preparation
3. Don’t set any goals
4. Don’t make a plan
5. Give less than your complete effort
6. Feel and act entitled
7. Make assumptions
8. Refuse to ask for help
9. Don’t focus
10. Procrastinate
11. Doubt yourself
12. Be disorganized
13. Ignore other people’s ideas, feedback, and advice
14. Don’t follow through or follow up
15. Stay in your comfort zone
16. Make excuses
17. Take people for granted (or better yet, abuse them)
18. Ignore the lessons of previous failures
19. Give up when you have a setback

Failing is so much easier than succeeding. And with these tips, you’ll be able to fail at anything, whether it be sales, business, or your personal life. Sure you’ll make fewer sales and less money, but you’ll have way more time to lounge on your sofa. (Hey, those TV shows aren’t going to watch themselves.)

Don’t listen to all those “experts” and “gurus” who preach the virtues of    success—what do they know? Incorporate these 19 items into your daily life and you need never risk success again.

Product Knowledge is Overrated

February 26th, 2019

Product Knowledge is OverratedCompanies spend thousands—even millions—of dollars every year training their salespeople and sales channels on the minutia of their products and services. In fact, many companies use the term “sales training” when what they really mean is “product training.”

And that’s a mistake.

Because product knowledge is not enough. If product knowledge was all that mattered, there would be no need for salespeople. All any company would need is a brochure or website.

In my capacity as a sales speaker and trainer, I’ve seen salespeople who struggled to sell despite their tremendous product knowledge. And I’ve watched salespeople who had barely any knowledge of their product sell the hell out of it. I’ve heard countless stories of people who closed the deal despite hardly talking about the product with their buyer at all.

Because sales isn’t about your product. Sales is about your prospect. It’s about their wants, needs, fears, values, priorities, opportunities, and dangers. It’s about their emotions and feelings.

Which means if all you—or your salespeople—are doing is talking about your product, you’re missing the boat. (Not to mention sales.)

I’m not saying product knowledge is irrelevant. In fact, it’s terrific! But it’s less important than virtually every other sales skill you can develop.

Because reciting an endless list of features and benefits is boring. Asking questions is engaging.

When you learn about a prospect’s goals, concerns, hopes, experiences, and pressures, you build rapport, respect, and trust. The same is true when you make them laugh or allow yourself to be vulnerable in front of them. Ditto for when you call them to see how their kid’s soccer tournament went.

Also, possessing incredible product knowledge doesn’t mean anything if you can’t present that information in a way that’s interesting, understandable, and exciting. Overcoming objections is less about the product and more about the buyer’s fears. And all the product knowledge in the world won’t help you if you don’t know how to ask for the sale.

So if you’re a salesperson, keep improving your knowledge of your products and services. But devote just as much—if not more—time to sharpening your other sales skills.

And if you’re a Sales Manager, VP, or CEO, be sure to provide your salespeople and channel partners with plenty of skills training to complement and enhance your product training.

Because knowing a product backwards and forwards is pointless if you don’t know how to leverage that knowledge. But when you combine expert product knowledge with honed sales skills, you’ll have a powerful one-two punch that will dramatically boost your sales.

87 Things You Can Control

February 19th, 2019

83 Things You Can ControlWe all crave control. Not just in sales or business, but in every aspect of our lives. And yet life is frustrating and scary because so many things are beyond our control. Things like:

• The economy
• What your competition does
• Your prospect’s budget
• The weather
• Traffic
• The stock market
• Interest rates
• Other people’s values, beliefs, and priorities
• The past
• The pace and scope of change
• Whether or not your team wins the championship
• Tax policy
• Government regulations
• The next generation
• Crime
• Natural disasters
• Wars and other international conflicts

It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of so many important things we have no control over. And that sense of powerlessness can lead us to not try as hard as we should, avoid taking risks and making changes, and even completely give up.

The good news, however, is that there are far more things you have complete and total control over. Such as:

1. Your attitude
2. Your beliefs
3. Your thoughts
4. Your mood
5. Your enthusiasm
6. Your self-talk
7. How you spend your time
8. How organized you are
9. How you prospect
10. How much research you conduct on your prospects
11. The words you use
12. The questions you ask
13. How much TV you watch
14. The number of books you read
15. What you read
16. Your product knowledge
17. Your presentation skills
18. Your follow-up
19. How respectful you are
20. How courteous you are
21. How kind you are
22. How generous you are
23. What you eat and drink
24. How much you drink
25. Your exercise regimen
26. How much sleep you get
27. How much time you take off
28. Your social media activity
29. How honest you are with others
30. How honest you are with yourself
31. The number of sales training seminars you attend
32. What you listen to in the car
33. How often you ask for help
34. How often you solicit feedback
35. Your priorities
36. How often you step outside your comfort zone
37. Whether or not you take responsibility
38. How hard you work
39. The people you choose to associate with
40. The company you work for
41. What you wear
42. Your hygiene
43. Your grooming
44. How patient you are
45. How much negativity you expose yourself to
46. Your resilience
47. Your boundaries
48. Your gratitude
49. Your goals
50. Your planning
51. Your focus
52. How unquestioningly you believe what you read, see, and hear
53. Whether or not you learn from your mistakes
54. Whether or not you forgive yourself for your mistakes
55. How much you delegate
56. How much you trust people
57. Your response time
58. How you manage your finances
59. How much you network
60. How well you develop and nurture your network
61. Whether or not you ask for the sale
62. How well you deal with objections
63. Whether or not you discount
64. How you deal with stress
65. How open you are to learning new things
66. How judgmental you are
67. Which commitments you keep
68. How many risks you take
69. The kinds of risks you take
70. How quickly you adapt and change
71. Your perseverance
72. How much you listen
73. How well you listen
74. Your creativity
75. The amount you praise and compliment others
76. How much research you do before making a decision
77. How open you are to other people’s ideas
78. How much information you share with other people
79. Whether or not you smoke, vape, or chew
80. What drugs you take
81. How much you gamble
82. How often you dwell on your past
83. Your negotiation skills
84. Whether or not you get a mentor
85. Whether or not you work with a coach
86. How well you take care of the needs of those around you
87. Your mastery of technology

Whew!

So take heart—while it’s true that there are a lot of things you can’t control, there are many more that you can. Ultimately, the person who has the most control over your life is you.

Don’t let the things beyond your control get you down. Focus instead on the items you do have power over and use that power. You have more control than you realize, and when you exert it, you will dramatically improve your results, your sales, your relationships, and your life.

Stop Trying to Be Normal

February 12th, 2019

Stop Trying to Be NormalAs kids, nearly all of us want to be “normal.” We want to fit in and be accepted. And that’s understandable when we’re six or seven (or even fifteen), and “different” is perceived as bad or weird or wrong.

Unfortunately, too many people never outgrow that need. As adults, so many of us still cling to the desire to be “normal.” But what does that really mean? What exactly is normal?

Normal is:

• Average
• Ordinary
• Everyday
• Mundane
• Typical
• Mediocre
• Decent
• Acceptable
• Routine
• Sufficient
• Marginal
• Common
• Unremarkable
• Humdrum
• Standard
• Run-of-the-mill
• Inconsequential
• Forgettable

Is that how you want to be perceived? Is that how you want your company, product, or service to be described?

Or would you rather be:

• Exceptional
• Extraordinary
• Amazing
• Incredible
• Breathtaking
• Mind-boggling
• Awesome
• Stunning
• Innovative
• Outrageous
• Fascinating
• Unprecedented
• Pioneering
• Remarkable
• Surprising
• Distinctive
• Unique
• Outstanding
• Singular
• Astonishing
• Memorable

Normal is overrated. Different is underused.

Is there a risk in being different? Of course. Some people won’t like it. But if it turns off some people, so what? Neither you, your company, your product, or your service needs to be palatable to everyone. In fact, nothing can be palatable to everyone. So don’t try to be.

Think of your favorite celebrity—are they normal? Think of your dream car—is it normal?

Was the Apple Macintosh normal? Was Nike’s first shoe normal? Is Dom Perignon normal? Was “Black Panther” normal? (Either the comic book or the movie?)

I could go on and on, citing example after example. Normal is safe, but carries little chance of major success. Different is risky, but that’s where the real potential for greatness is. Not just in sales or business, but life itself.

Let your freak flag fly. Revel in who you are, what you do, and how you do it. Create products and services that are so different that people have to have them.

Normal is boring. Different is exciting, liberating, and energizing. The choice is yours.

What You Like Doesn’t Matter

February 5th, 2019

What You Like Doesn’t MatterSo I’m sitting around with a bunch of friends, and we’re discussing really important stuff, when somehow the subject of potato chips comes up. (Possibly because we were eating them.)

Within a few seconds, our friendly discussion morphed into a heated debate on the merits of regular potato chips versus “Kettle-Cooked” potato chips. Both sides vehemently defended their position regarding taste, texture, and mouth-feel. And neither side could fathom how the other could possibly prefer the obviously inferior option.

I sat watching quietly because I didn’t have a dog in this fight. (I like both kinds. Preferably flavored.) And I marveled at how something so mundane could stir such passion in people.

Because we take our likes and dislikes for granted. If we like something, it must be good. And if we dislike something, it must be bad..

But our tastes are just that: ours. They’re personal. They’re not objective.

Your prospects may have very different tastes than you. Their tastes aren’t wrong—they’re just different. And your prospects probably feel as passionately about their tastes as you do about yours. Which means you need to respect their tastes, even if you don’t understand them. Because in sales, it’s your prospect’s tastes that matter, not yours.

And the same goes for many other things your potential buyer has that may be radically different than yours, including their:

• Values
• Priorities
• Budget
• Dreams
• Fears
• Buying approach
• Beliefs
• Past experiences
• Idiosyncrasies
• Skepticism
• Risk tolerance
• Parenting style
• Self-Confidence
• Biases

All of these items are subjective. There’s no right or wrong. So don’t judge or dismiss people who think and feel differently than you do.

Instead, make an effort to empathize and understand. And even if you can’t fully understand someone’s thoughts or feelings, you can still respect them. And you must, because their thoughts and feelings are what will determine whether or not they buy from you.

So if you want to boost your sales, recognize that your prospect’s likes and dislikes are just as valid as—and even more important than—yours, and treat them accordingly.

Damn. Now I really want potato chips.

Nine Attitudes for Sales Success

January 29th, 2019

Nine Attitudes for Sales SuccessAsk any sales expert, and they’ll tell you that the right attitude is essential for success. But it’s not just one attitude that’s necessary—there are several. I would suggest there are nine different—but related—attitudes you need to nurture in order to be successful in sales.

1. Optimism
I have never met a successful salesperson or business owner who was a pessimist. Successful people—in all fields, in fact—believe they are going to be successful. And that belief plays a huge role in their eventual success. Top salespeople believe they’re going to close the sale and they act accordingly

2. Confidence
In survey after survey, confidence is the #1 factor in people’s buying decisions. And because confidence is contagious, confident salespeople tend to instill confidence in their prospects. Which means you need to be confident in your company, your products and services, and above all, yourself.

3. Humility
Contrary to what some people believe, humility is not the opposite of confidence. It actually goes hand-in-hand with it. Because unchecked confidence leads to arrogance, which often leads to spectacular failure, because few people want to work with an arrogant jerk. Humility keeps the ego in check. A person who possesses humility recognizes that they aren’t the center of the universe. They are happy to share credit when things go right and take responsibility when things go wrong. They know that no matter how good they are, they can always get better; no matter how much they know, there is always more to learn.

4. Tenacity
Success is rarely quick or easy. It often takes years of struggle. In many industries, a single sale can take years. Which means you need to be determined. You need to be in it for the long haul. Repeated studies show that many salespeople give up after a single interaction or a single objection. The successful ones keep at it.

5. Resiliency
You can do everything right and still fail. There are so many factors beyond your control. And sometimes your product or service simply isn’t the best fit for your prospect. The question is how well do you bounce back from a lost sale? Or a big mistake? Or a bad quarter?

6. Service
Sales is service and service is sales. Successful salespeople understand that their job is to serve people: prospects, customers, company owners, and each other. The more they can be of service, the more valuable they are to their buyers and their company.

7. Respect
No one likes to feel disrespected. Top salespeople and business owners know this and are respectful to everyone, including:

• Prospects
• Customers
• People who didn’t buy from them
• Their staff
• Their bosses
• Gatekeepers
• Vendors
• Colleagues
• Competitors

8. Love
I don’t mean to get all mushy on you, but love is an underrated business attitude. You need to love what you do, who you do it with, and who you do it for. When you love where you work, your enthusiasm goes up and your stress level goes down. When your employees feel loved, they work harder and produce better results. When prospects feel loved and cared about, they not only buy, they buy more.

9. Gratitude
Sincere gratitude fuels the other attitudes on this list. Successful salespeople and business owners are continuously grateful for everything in their lives, including:

• Their successes
• The lessons learned from their failures
• Opportunities
• Mentors and coaches
• Family
• Friends
• Their health
• Customers
• Employees
• And much more

If you want to achieve greater success, ask yourself: “Which of these attitudes could I be better at? How could I develop and strengthen them?” Because the more you embrace and exhibit all nine of these attitudes, the more sales you’ll make, the more impact you’ll create, and the more success you’ll attain.

Seven Steps to Creating a Powerful Prospecting Plan

January 22nd, 2019

Seven Steps to Creating a Powerful Prospecting Plan Do you have a prospecting plan? If you want to boost your sales, it can be a huge help.

A prospecting plan is like a business plan for your sales efforts. It’s a planning tool that helps you sketch out your goals, your best prospects, how to reach them, and more.

Sound complicated? Don’t worry, it isn’t. All you have to do to is answer seven simple questions.

1. What are my sales goals?
Do you want more new customers or more repeat sales to existing customers? Are you trying to break into a new industry? Is it more important to push a new product or revive a sagging performer in your line? Do you want to move cheap stuff or big-ticket items? Do you want to increase your sales by a certain dollar amount or by a certain percentage?

You can have more than one goal. You may have two or three of the above goals and some additional ones as well.

Regardless of how many goals you have, be specific, with numbers and dates. When you know precisely what you want to accomplish—and by when—it’s easier to do it, because your goals will help define other aspects of your plan.

2. Who are my ideal prospects?
Here’s a hint: “everyone” is the wrong answer. Too many salespeople waste a lot of their time with prospects who will never do business with them. To maximize your prospecting time, you need to spend it with the people who are most likely to buy from you.

Start your profiling by examining your current customers: What do they have in common? Then decide who else you want to target and list their defining characteristics: size, income, age, industry, health status, gender, job title, etc. This doesn’t mean that you will ignore everyone else, because you’ll happily serve someone who doesn’t happen to fit your profile. But your ideal prospects are the people you want to devote most of your time and energy to.

3. Where are they?
Whoever your ideal prospects are, you’ll find some of them everywhere. But you want to focus your efforts where the greatest concentrations of them are.

For example, if your target market is the elderly, you know that there are large populations of retirees in warm climates like Florida and Arizona. In any given community, you’ll find concentrations living in retirement centers and assisted living facilities. By contrast, if you’re targeting Millennials, you’ll tend to find them in apartment buildings in urban areas and along the coasts.

And I’m not just talking about where people live. You might also want to know where they work, what business or industry events they go to, what social media platforms they spend their time on, where they go for fun, what they read, what they watch, and what they listen to. Because they more you know about where your ideal prospects are and what they do, the easier it is to figure out the answer to the next question.

4. How will I reach them?
You have dozens of prospecting tools at your disposal, including networking, direct mail, cold calls, Facebook ads, trade shows, special events, LinkedIn Groups, referrals, and more. Choose several and use them simultaneously.

Don’t despair if you don’t see results immediately. It takes an average of nine “impressions” (anytime a person is exposed to you, your name, your product, or your company) to move a prospect from apathy to action. So be persistent in your efforts. And be fanatical about following up with each prospect. The more tactics you employ, the better your results will be.

5. What is my hook?
Here’s a secret about sales in general and prospecting in particular: Nobody cares about you, your company, your product, or your service. Which means if you try to open with a sales pitch or by shoving a bunch of sales material into the hands of a prospect, you’re wasting your time.

What people really care about is themselves. So lead with a hook instead of a pitch. A hook is something that is of value to the prospect and requires no effort, obligation, expense, or risk on their part. Its purpose is to grab their attention and create a sense of perceived value and appreciation. Great hooks include:

• Free samples
• Gifts
• Invitations to an event or party
• Articles, reports, white papers, or eBooks
• Contests
• Webinars
• Free consultations, evaluations, or audits

Think about how you could use one of the above ideas (or one of your own) as a hook and how you could get it to your prospects. A hook will radically improve your chances of securing an opportunity to talk further with your prospect.

6. What steps am I going to take and in what time frame?
This is a critical part of your plan. Unless you commit to taking action, you won’t achieve the goals you’ve set. Schedule what you’re going to do and when, with as much detail as possible. Break each project into incremental steps, with a time line for each one. This will help ensure that those things get done.

7. How often will I review this plan?
After you’ve written your plan, review it periodically: weekly, monthly, or bi-monthly. You’ll probably want to review it more frequently at first, then you can reduce the frequency as you see results. But keep reviewing it! Are you on track? How is each prospecting tactic working? Have you forgotten some items? Does the plan need to be revised? Adjust your plan and your actions as needed.

A prospecting plan can be a powerful tool in your kit. It’s a road map to higher sales. And the more effort you put into it, the more sales you’ll make and the faster you’ll make them.

37 Ways to Inspire Confidence in Your Prospects

January 15th, 2019

37 Ways to Inspire Confidence in Your ProspectsIn my last post, I discussed the role risk plays in preventing people from making purchasing decisions. The greater the risk, the less likely a person is to buy. Which means, the more you can reduce the perception of risk in buyers’ minds, the more sales you’ll make.

So how can you increase your prospect’s confidence that buying from you is the safe choice? Here are 37 ways:

1. Testimonials
2. Case studies
3. Photos
4. Video
5. Free shipping
6. Generous return policy
7. 24/7 customer support
8. Guarantee
9. Warranty
10. Extended warranty
11. Demos
12. Free trial
13. Free samples
14. Degrees
15. Certifications
16. Awards
17. Rankings
18. Third-party reviews
19. Ratings from review sites
20. Articles you’ve written
21. Media stories about you
22. Length of time in business
23. Length, depth, or breadth of your expertise
24. Track record
25. Number of customers
26. Percentage of market share
27. Names of well-known customers
28. Celebrity endorsements
29. Give prospects a tour of your facility
30. Introduce them to other members of your team
31. Give them your cell phone number
32. Let them talk with existing clients
33. Cleanliness of facility
34. Grooming and attire
35. Production value of marketing materials
36. Be active on social media
37. Resolve complaints on social media quickly

The more of these strategies you can implement, the more confidence you can inspire and the less risk your prospect will perceive. So employ as many as possible.

Not only can reducing perceived risk boost your overall sales, it can also reduce objections, shorten your sales cycle (thus improving cash flow), and stimulate more referrals. It can even increase your profit margin, because people will happily pay more for the safety of not wasting their money.

People are most likely to buy when the risk is lowest. Which means they buy what and where the risk is lowest. And if your company, product, or service is the lowest-risk option, that’s the choice your prospect is most likely to make. Inspire more confidence in your buyers and you’ll induce more sales.

Is Buying From You Too Risky?

January 8th, 2019

Is Buying From You Too Risky?I have weird feet.

Seriously. My forefeet are wide, I have very long toes, and my right foot is nearly a half size larger than my left.

Which makes shoe shopping a challenge. Roughly 98% of the shoes I try on don’t fit comfortably.

So when I recently purchased several pairs of shoes online, I knew there was a decent chance I might have to send them back. But I didn’t worry about it because both sites I bought from promised free shipping and easy, hassle-free returns.

As I feared, none of the shoes fit quite right. With one retailer (Zappos), the return was as easy as promised. With the other, however (I won’t mention the name—suffice to say it’s a dot.com that sells shoes), I ran into a snag. Hidden in the fine print of their return policy was the fact that they charged a $6.95 restocking fee per item. Which meant I had to pay $14 for the privilege of trying on shoes I would never wear.

Guess who I’m never buying shoes from ever again? (And guess who I’m telling my friends to never buy from as well?)

Because it’s too risky. Shopping for shoes already costs me time and effort. If it’s also going to cost me money every time I try on a pair that doesn’t fit, that’s a gamble I’m not willing to take.

For buyers, purchasing anything is a risk in the first place. It might not work properly, it might turn out to be inferior to another option, it could create unforeseen problems, users (or the boss) may not like it, and more. And the greater the risk, the less likely prospects are to buy. That risk is what stands between you and closing more sales.

Which means you need to do everything possible to reduce the risk for buyers. How can you make the decision-making process easier and safer? What risks stand in the way of prospects buying from you?

Address those issues and you’ll boost your sales. If you don’t, you risk losing your customers forever.

My Most Memorable Gift

December 25th, 2018

My Most Memorable GiftI enjoy giving gifts. And I enjoy receiving gifts. It’s not my primary Love Language (that would be Physical Touch), but I definitely feel cared about when I receive a gift from someone.

Over the course of my life, I’ve been blessed to receive a lot of gifts from a lot of people. One present in particular, however, has long held a special place in my memory.

I was 13. My father had just gone through a nasty divorce. He had lost his business, his house, and his savings. But he had me, because I was old enough to choose who I wanted to live with, and choosing him was a no-brainer. (Which tells you something about my mother.)

Money was extremely tight, so it was The Year Without a Christmas. But my birthday was just two days afterward, and on the evening of the 27th, my dad drove me to a shopping mall. He instructed me to wait in the car while he ran in.

He came back a few minutes later and handed me my birthday present: a Rubik’s Cube. It wasn’t wrapped. It wasn’t accompanied by a cake and candles. And it didn’t need to be.

He knew I wanted a Rubik’s Cube. And he wanted me to have one. The smile on his face was half sheepish and half proud. He would have liked to have given me more, and at the same time he was happy he could give me something that would make my birthday special.

And he didn’t get me a knockoff that would have been half the price. (A budget-based concession I would have been fine with.) He got me a genuine Rubik’s Cube.

That present told me I was important to him. It said that he listened and payed attention to me. It stated that he believed I deserved the best possible version of something, even if it was small. That gift let me know in no uncertain terms that he loved me.

The real value of a gift lies not in its usefulness. Or price. Or attractiveness. It lies in the message it sends to the recipient.

When you give a gift to somebody—whether it be a loved one, an employee, a client, a vendor—what message does it communicate? Are you giving them a tchotchke, which says, “I felt obligated to get you something, so here’s something.” Are you giving them a discount coupon, which says, “The only thing we care about it your money. Buy something from us!” Or are you giving them something personal, something they’ll find valuable, something that touches them emotionally, which tells them how much you appreciate them?

The toy eventually got lost among the many moves over the following years. Or maybe I gave it away after my obsession with it faded. (Yes, I learned how to solve it, and got really good at it. I played with that thing for a loooooong time.) But the memory of receiving it that night has remained with me.

And that’s the true power of a gift: to stir emotions, forge connections, and create memories. So when you’re choosing gifts to give, keep that in mind. And whenever you receive a gift, look beyond the physical item and appreciate the intent, the thought, and the emotion behind it.

Wishing you many more wonderful memories of gifts given and gifts received.

Elf on the Shelf Alleged to Be Government Spying Program

December 18th, 2018

Elf on the Shelf Alleged to Be Government Spying ProgramThe Christmas toy, “Elf on the Shelf” has been accused of being part of a nefarious scheme to illegally gather intelligence on millions of unsuspecting families.

The controversy erupted when Santa Claus let slip recently that the popular elves don’t actually work for him. “I’ve been keeping an eye on kids for centuries, long before Alexa, Google Home, or Elf on the Shelf came on the scene,” Santa revealed in an interview with Harper’s Bizarre magazine when asked if he uses any modern technologies to monitor kids for naughtiness.

Privacy advocates around the world seized on the implications of this bombshell. “If Elves on Shelves aren’t spying for Santa, who are they spying for?” pondered Ty Neetots of the group, Privacy Rights Overseers Battling Encroachment (PROBE).

Intelligence agencies from the United States, Canada, Great Britain, the European Union, Russia, Iran, China, India, Brazil, and Israel all released statements denying any relationship to Elf on the Shelf. “We have never used elves to gather intelligence,” asserted Will D’Seeve of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. “Our charter specifically forbids the use of elves as assets.”

Elf on the Shelf—a self-proclaimed “Christmas tradition”— debuted in 2006 and was eagerly snapped up by parents looking to augment their pre-Christmas child disciplinary options. Indeed, The Beleaguered Parents of America cited a 12% decrease in naughty behavior over the first three years of Elf sales.

But rumors and conspiracy theories about the elves’ true employer started circulating almost immediately. “Placing elves in individual homes is a terribly inefficient use of elf resources, so it makes no sense for Santa to do that,” argues intelligence watchdog, Vera Vatchingyoo. “Everybody knows Santa has the best surveillance system in the world. He doesn’t need an elf in every house. So who is the evil mastermind behind this unsanctioned intrusion into our homes?”

Reached at his North Pole compound, Santa Claus declined to comment on the controversy, but did note, “Numerous agencies from a variety of countries have asked for access to my intelligence gathering system. I have consistently refused access to all of them. It strikes me as a very naughty thing to ask for.”

What Does Your Price Say About You?

December 4th, 2018

What Does Your Price Say About YouPayless—the discount shoe retailer—recently pulled off a brilliant stunt: they sold fake designer shoes at a fake designer store. And the ruse carries lessons for anyone in sales and marketing.

Payless took over a former Armani store in a mall in Santa Monica, California, and named it “Palessi.” (I love that.) Then they stocked the location with the same shoes they sell at all their other stores. But the merchandise had two modifications: their regular labels were replaced with a fake designer label (Bruno Palessi), and their price tags were bumped up from their usual $20 to $40 range to $200 to $600.

And people bought them.

Within hours, “Palessi” sold more than $3,000 worth of (normally) discount footwear. And in taped interviews, happy customers gushed about the style, quality, and craftsmanship of the shoes.

There are several reasons the hoax worked so well—an Italian-sounding designer name, the luxuriously-appointed store interior—but arguably the most important was this: price—in and of itself—communicates a lot about your brand.

Most consumers—myself included—typically avoid Payless because we believe that their value proposition—CHEAP SHOES!—means that their merchandise is constructed poorly, with low-quality materials, and is not particularly stylish.

In fact, this perception led to such poor sales that Payless had to close 673 stores and seek bankruptcy protection in 2017. Unless people are really squeezed financially, they prefer to spend more for better quality, service, and results.

And because we know from experience that better means more expensive, we also believe the reverse: that more expensive means better. “Palessi” shoppers made the (very common) leap that if these shoes are really expensive, they must be really good.

We all make this assumption every day. It’s why in experiments where the same wine is poured into two different bottles—one with a cheap label and one with an expensive label—tasters describe the samples completely differently, invariably preferring the wine with the pricier label.

Price communicates information about a product or service’s quality, scarcity, desirability, power, effectiveness, reliability, life-span, exclusiveness, safety, and more. That information might not be accurate—diamonds, while expensive, are actually pretty common—but we assume it is. It’s a mental shortcut we take, and once we’ve taken it, it’s hard to go back.

Payless—which refunded everyone’s money and turned the footage into YouTube videos and TV commercials—may or may not be able to leverage this stunt into a long-term change in consumer perceptions and a corresponding increase in sales, but it’s a great effort. And a needed one. Because in order for Payless to survive, they have to convince shoppers that low price can mean high quality and high style. That’s a tough sell though. It’s so much easier for us to believe the opposite.

So what assumptions are prospects making about your product, service, and company based on your pricing? What does your price say about you?

Eleven Things You Should Never Say In a Presentation

November 28th, 2018

Eleven Things You Should Never Say In a PresentationCrafting a great presentation is like navigating a minefield: In order to achieve your goal, you have to avoid all the potential missteps along the way. And like a minefield, we often don’t know where those missteps are, because typically we’ve never been taught how to create effective presentations. Which is one reason why so many presentations—sales and otherwise—are so terrible.

As a professional keynote speaker and seminar leader, presentations are my livelihood. And over the years I’ve done a lot of studying and received a lot of coaching to be able to craft them well. Which enables me to easily spot the mistakes others make in their presentations. So think of me as your personal mine sweeper, pointing out the dangers so you can safely get through your next presentation without anything blowing up in your face.

Here are eleven common yet dangerous things that you want to avoid in your presentations.

1. “How are you all doing?”
To some presenters, this is their idea of audience engagement. But it reeks of insincerity because if you really wanted to know how they were doing, you would have asked them individually. (And listened empathetically to their answers.) Further, unless the organization just laid off 10% of their workforce, or their stock price just tripled, the answer is irrelevant. (And if something that major has happened, you should already know about it.)

2. “Without further ado”
Saying the words “Without further ado” is actually further ado, because the words are meaningless and contribute nothing. (And what about those of us who like ado? And want more ado???)

3. “To make a long story short”
If you have to say this, the story’s too damn long already. Edit your stories before you tell them.

4. “To be honest” (or “honestly” or “frankly”)
So you haven’t been honest so far? And everything you say after this one item won’t be true either?

5. “It goes without saying”
Then don’t say it. If you had to say it, then obviously it doesn’t go without saying. Stop contradicting yourself.

6. “Literally”
Literally nobody ever uses this word correctly. (See what I did there?) When you use a word incorrectly, it literally makes you appear ignorant.

7. “Outside the box”
When you say “think outside the box” (or “outside the box thinking”), you demonstrate that you’re not capable of that. By using this cliché, you prove that you’re not original, clever, or innovative.

8. “110%”
It’s not physically possible to give more than 100% of your effort, focus, or commitment, so stop saying that you will. And anyway if you’re going to make up an imaginary amount, why limit yourself to 110%? Why not 120%? Or 200%? Or 673%?

9. “At the end of the day”
The most annoying business cliché, according to a recent British study. It means nothing, it says nothing, it’s worth nothing. And too many people use it repeatedly in their presentations, adding to its fingernails-on-chalkboard quality.

10. “No-brainer”
When you use this term, you’re saying to your audience that if they don’t immediately agree with you, they’re stupid. Which is a great way to instantly alienate them.

11. “I know you can’t read this”
There is absolutely no reason to ever use a slide that requires you to say this. It marks you as an amateur. Either simplify the slide or break it down into several slides that they can read.

All of these words and phrases devalue your message. Not just because they’re all clichés (which you should avoid as much as possible), but because they’re particularly incongruous, annoying, and offensive ones. All of them damage your credibility and cause your audience to like you less, trust you less, and tune you out. It doesn’t matter how good your message is if your audience doesn’t hear or believe it.

Crafting a powerful presentation is hard enough as it is. Don’t sabotage yourself by using words and phrases that jeopardize your ability to be effective. Avoid these figurative (not literal) land mines and your presentations—as well as your sales—will be the better for it.

 

Are You Being Too Accommodating to Your Customers?

November 20th, 2018

Are You Being Too Accommodating to Your Customers?You’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger advocate of good customer service than yours truly. I have long argued that sales is service and service is sales. As a keynote speaker and seminar leader, I have evangelized the importance of taking care of the customer in every step of the sales process from prospecting through ownership. And of course, I’ve written many, many articles on the subject, like this one, this one, and let’s not forget, this one.

And yet…

Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the United States—a day of feasting, friends, and family. It’s followed by a national day of bargain shopping known as Black Friday. (My friend, the brilliantly funny speaker, Dale Irvin, suggests Saturday’s color should be burnt sienna.) Black Friday kicks off the holiday shopping season and features heavy discounts on popular gift items.

The problem is that as stores have tried to get the jump on each other over the years, the start time of Black Friday has gotten earlier and earlier: from 6 am to 4 am to 2 am to midnight. To the point where now Black Friday actually starts at 5 pm Thursday evening!

Black Friday on Thursday combines two things I caution my audiences against: 1) massive discounting, and 2) aggravating your employees. One or the other is bad enough, but both??

To wrench your employees—whom you claim to value—away from their loved ones on a national day of gratitude to make a few additional sales at little to no margin, is insensitive, short-sighted, and self-destructive. In short, it’s bad business.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking: “But Don, people clearly want to shop on Thanksgiving! We’re just catering to their needs!”

First of all, nobody needs to buy TVs, clothing, and jewelry on Thanksgiving (a day we’re supposed to be grateful for what we already have). Are you really afraid that if you wait another twelve hours, nobody will show up?

Second, just because your prospects and customers want something, doesn’t mean you have to cater to that desire. Buyers make all kinds of outrageous, ridiculous demands, and trying to accommodate them all would drive you out of business. People would love for you to give everything away for free. Are you going to do that?

And third, if your only enticement to get people to buy from you is insanely low prices, then your brand sucks.

Instead of abusing your employees by forcing them to work on Thanksgiving, create a corporate culture that employees are grateful to be a part of. And create a brand promise that makes people want to buy from you. Note that Costco closes on all major holidays and their sales, profitability, and employee loyalty are all excellent. Chick-fil-A is closed every Sunday and they’re one of the most successful fast-food chains, with rabidly loyal customers.

Should you do your best to accommodate your customers’ needs and desires, even going out of your way at times? Absolutely. But should you do so at the expense of your employees and your company values? Absolutely not. Because once you start sacrificing those two things, your business is in trouble. You need customers for your business to succeed, but you need clear values to attract them, and good employees to serve them. Better to sacrifice a few low-profit sales than the two elements you need for long-term success.

May you, your employees, your vendors, and your customers all have much to be thankful for.

Nine Holiday Networking Strategies

November 13th, 2018

Nine Holiday Networking StrategiesThe holidays are officially upon us. (Judging by the ads, store displays, and TV listings, Christmas now apparently starts on November 1.) Which means that your calendar will soon be filling up with holiday events organized by friends, relatives, charities, clients, vendors, and possibly even your own company.

The annual abundance of holiday parties presents both opportunities—sales, career, romantic, and otherwise—and risks. How can you maximize the former while minimizing the latter? Here are nine strategies for effectively navigating the season’s social obligations.

1. Don’t feel obligated to attend everything
The holidays are a great excuse to throw a party. And every year, lots of people and organizations take advantage of that excuse. Which can result in your calendar being awfully full. Even too full. And that can add to the stress you’re already feeling due to all the other responsibilities and obligations in your job and personal life. So understand that it’s okay to say no to some invitations. Prioritize the events on your calendar and attend the ones that are most important to you. Let the rest slide with your apologies. The great thing is that everyone is so busy during the holidays, the hosts you decline will absolutely understand.

2. Split up
When attending a function with colleagues or a significant partner, a good strategy is to split up shortly upon arrival. That way you get to meet more people. If you meet someone you think your boss, colleague, or spouse should meet, you can introduce them. And they can do the same for you. As a bonus, it gives you a polite way to extricate yourself from bad conversations: just say you need to check on your partner/colleague, and you can easily make your escape.

3. Stick together
If you’re uncomfortable in social situations—whether you’re a serious introvert, you have a social anxiety disorder, you’re battling depression, or you simply lack social skills (as was the case for me for years)—the prospect of attending holiday events can fill you with dread. Yet avoiding them can hurt your career and cause you to miss out on potential sales opportunities. To help you survive—and reap the benefits of attending—bring a trusted friend or your partner with you and stick with them. And feel free to take breaks to be alone as often as you need during the event.

4. Don’t be too business-y
Social holiday functions are about being social. And even business events are only nominally about business. So while you may encounter business, sales, or career opportunities, don’t focus on those. Be social. Be fun. Be a good listener. Keep in mind that people are more likely to hire you or buy from you if they like you.

5. Get to know people
How can you avoid talking about your business too much? Simple. Ask questions. But while at a trade show or business networking event you’d ask questions about their business, at a holiday function you have the opportunity to ask questions that are more personal. And for your acquaintance, questions that are a lot more fun and interesting for them to talk about. Ask about their spouse, their kids, their pets, their sports teams (college and pro), their favorite holiday traditions, their vacations, their accomplishments, their plans. Get to know them as people, not as prospects.

6. Don’t talk religion
I don’t care what God you pray to. I don’t care whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, or none of the above. I don’t care if you think the holidays have become too secular and we need to remember “the reason for the season.” And nobody else does either. Nothing will turn a new acquaintance off faster than proselytizing. So unless you’re attending an overtly religious function, keep your beliefs to yourself.

7. Be positive
You may have had an off year. You may have had a terrible year. You may have had the worst year of your life. No one needs to know that. Complaining, lamenting, and whining will cause the people you meet to run in the opposite direction. And do their best to avoid talking with you in the future. Find the positives in your life or business. Highlight what you’re grateful for. Think about what you’re excited about or hopeful for in the coming year. And smile.

8. Don’t drink too much
Alcohol often flows freely at holiday parties. Which can be both tempting and dangerous. So err on the side of caution. Keep in mind that at business events, you need to always be “on” because you are always representing your company. And even at purely social functions, your reputation can be sullied in an instant. Remember too, that at either type of event, anything you do or say can end up on social media. And stay there.

9. Follow up
One of the most important elements of networking is the one that most of us—including me—struggle with: following up after the event. Schedule some time in your calendar to write thank-you notes, jot emails, and send LinkedIn invitations. Because the follow up is where the new relationship really starts.

The holidays can be a time of stress, angst, and frustration. But what it should be is a time of connection and reconnection—with friends, family, and community. Take advantage of the opportunities to create and strengthen relationships and other types of opportunities will follow.

How Badly Do You Want Others to Succeed?

November 6th, 2018

How Badly Do You Want Others to Succeed?I’m going to talk about basketball for a moment, so if you’re not a basketball fan—or a sports fan in general—just bear with me. The point I want to make is important, and it will help you boost your organization’s sales and performance.

Last week, history was made in the National Basketball Association. In a game against the Chicago Bulls, Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors made a record fourteen 3-point field goals, breaking the previous record of thirteen held by his teammate, Stephen Curry.

After a tremendous first half by Thompson, Curry reportedly encouraged him during halftime to go for the record. And throughout the second half, Curry—and the rest of the Warriors—worked furiously to get the ball to Thompson and set up blocks to give him open shots.

Let me emphasize this: Curry actively helped Thompson break his own record. It’s that kind of unselfishness that has enabled the Warriors to win three NBA Championships in the last four years.

Warriors players understand that when others on their team succeed, they succeed as well. And the same is true in your organization.

Everyone in your company either succeeds together or fails together. When people are primarily focused on themselves, the organization suffers.

So who needs to succeed in order for you to succeed? Your employees? Your sales team? Your customers? And how focused are you on helping them succeed?

Brainstorm ways you might help those you depend on. Ask people how you can support them. When you make decisions, consider their impact on those around you.

Whether you’re a salesperson, sales manager, or CEO, you only succeed when others do. So make the success of others a priority. You may just set your own records.

Five Words That Will Make You a Better Salesperson and Leader

October 30th, 2018

Five Words That Will Make You a Better Salesperson and LeaderWhatever your job is in your organization’s sales channel, you want to be better at it. Which means you’re always on the lookout for tips, tricks, and hacks to make you more effective and productive.

Well here’s a simple yet powerful one. It’s a five-word question that can significantly increase your influence and performance. It’s:

“How can I support you?”

Whether you’re a salesperson, sales manager, or CEO, your job is to support others: customers, salespeople, or your executive team. (And if you’re a CEO or owner, your job is really to support everyone in your organization.)

Asking how you can support the people you interact with can alert you to problems and opportunities. It enables you to uncover needs and challenges you never knew they had. And it causes people to feel heard, understood, and respected.

Plus, when you provide the support that your prospects, customers, or employees need, you improve your compliance, your results, and your loyalty.

This is not to say that you absolutely must do whatever the person suggests. People can ask for unreasonable, inappropriate, or impractical things from time to time. But even if you can’t deliver on what they would like, you may be able to come up with an alternative that would satisfy them. And merely asking the question will let them know that you value and care about them. That increases gratitude and trust.

So add this question to your repertoire. Make it a regular part of your communications with those you interact with. It’s only five words. But those words will lead to more solutions, more productivity, and more sales.

24 Ways to Keep Your Brain Sharp

October 23rd, 2018

24 Ways to Keep Your Brain SharpWhen it comes to your sales—and pretty much everything else in your life—your brain is your most valuable asset. So it makes sense to do as much as you can to protect it.

And it needs protection. The challenges of modern life mean our brains are under assault every day. The enemies of the brain include:

• Stress
• Poor nutrition
• Lack of sleep
• Smoking
• Routine

Many—if not most—of us in sales and business struggle with one or more of these challenges every day. And if unaddressed, they can lead to poor daily performance and long-term mental decline.

The good news is that researchers in the field of neuroscience have learned a lot about the brain in recent years. And their discoveries enable us to be proactive in safeguarding—and even strengthening—our brains. Beyond the physical basics—get more sleep, eat healthy, stop smoking, exercise—there are myriad ways to bolster your brain.

Scientists have found that engaging in new activities and novel experiences stimulates the creation of new neurons and new neural connections—known as “neuroplasticity.” So the more you can do to keep your brain on its toes—so to speak—the better for its health.

With that in mind, here are 24 ways you can stimulate your brain on a regular basis.

1. Read

2. Take a class

3. Learn a language

4. Play a musical instrument

5. Do puzzles
• Crossword
• Sudoku
• Cryptogram
• Rebus
• Brain teasers

6. Engage in some form of art
• Drawing
• Painting
• Sculpting
• Photography

7. Take up a craft
• Sewing
• Knitting
• Crocheting
• Needlepoint
• Quilting

8. Write
• Fiction
• Non-Fiction
• Poetry
• Journaling

9. Play strategy games
• Chess
• Checkers
• Backgammon
• Go
• Bridge
• Mancala
• Othello
• Risk
• Stratego
• Clue
• Jenga
• Qwirkle
• Catan

10. Play word games
• Scrabble
• UpWords
• Boggle
• Scattergories
• Bananagrams

11. Play trivia games

12. Take dance lessons

13. Train in a martial art

14. Try new foods and cuisines

15. Cook or bake

16. Use your non-dominant hand for ordinary tasks

17. Take new routes to familiar destinations

18. Rearrange, reorganize, or redecorate your home or office

19. Travel—preferably to places you’ve never been

20. Strengthen and expand your social networks

21. Try a new hobby

22. Attend conferences, sales training seminars, and workshops

23. Volunteer

24. Meditate

The proven benefits to these kinds of brain challenges are many and varied, including:

• better memory
• increased focus and concentration
• more positive mood
• reduced stress
• higher productivity
• enhanced creativity
• improved problem-solving
• stronger motivation
• faster reaction time
• greater self-confidence

And as an added bonus, many of these activities involve other people, giving you an opportunity to improve your relationships with friends and family.

You only have one brain. Take care of it. Employ as many of the above strategies as possible as frequently as possible. Your sales, your business, your friends, and your family will all thank you for it.

Do You Care About the Wrong Thing?

October 16th, 2018

Do You Care About the Wrong Thing?You have an amazing product or service. It’s awesome. It’s the best on the market. It’s unique. It has the most features and benefits. It has the longest and most comprehensive warranty. And it’s the best value.

Naturally, you love your product or service. You’re proud to sell it. And you’re excited to extol its virtues to anyone and everyone who could use it.

And none of that matters. Because while you care about your product or service, your prospect doesn’t.

At all.

Your prospect cares about themselves. They care about the goal they’re trying to achieve or the problem they’re trying to solve. They care about their possessions, their finances, their health, their security, their ego, their happiness. They care about their company and their family.

And if you want to boost your sales, that’s what you need to care about as well.

As a keynote speaker and seminar leader, I frequently say this to my audiences: “Selling more of what you sell has nothing to do with what you sell. It has everything to do with your prospect.” Your product or service—as fantastic as it may be—is only a means to an end. The end is what your prospect truly cares about.

So whether you’re marketing, prospecting, qualifying, presenting, or closing, focus on your prospect. Key in on their needs, desires, fears, hopes, problems, and opportunities. The more you care about what your prospect cares about, the more of your product or service you’ll sell.