13 Ways to Sharpen Your Sales Skills

May 26th, 2020

13 Ways to Sharpen Your Sales SkillsWith COVID-related shutdowns, record unemployment numbers, and corporate bankruptcies on the increase, this may be the toughest sales environment any of us have ever experienced. Which means now, more than ever, you need your sales skills to be as robust as possible.

If you’re fortunate enough to work for a company with its own training department, now is the time to double down on the resources it has to offer.

But what if—like most of us—you don’t work for such a company? Or what if your company’s training department gets cut due to cost-saving measures? How can you improve your sales skills? Here are thirteen ways:

1. Read sales blogs

2. Read books on sales and related subjects

3. Read your industry’s magazine or newsletter

4. Watch training videos online

5. Listen to sales-related podcasts

6. Ask your sales manager to critique and coach you

7. Role-play with colleagues or your manager

8. Find a mentor

9. Attend seminars (this one might have to be on hold for a while)

10. Attend webinars

11. Join a coaching program

12. Join a sales mastermind group

13. Hire a coach

You don’t have to utilize all these strategies, of course. But the more you do, the better off you’ll be. Over the course of my professional career, I’ve employed nearly all these approaches. And to this day I still use more than half of them regularly.

Because as I frequently say in my keynote speeches and workshops: “The sale doesn’t typically go to the best product. The sale doesn’t typically go to the cheapest product. The sale typically goes to the best salesperson.”

And that salesperson can be you.

Curious about how a sales mastermind group works and how it can help you dramatically boost your sales? Click here to learn more!

 

32 Benefits of Joining a Mastermind Group

May 19th, 2020

32 Benefits of Joining a Mastermind GroupWhether you’re a business owner, CEO, salesperson, or executive, if you want to accelerate your success, one of the best actions you can take is to join a mastermind group.

What exactly is a mastermind group? It’s a group of people—typically between four and twelve—who meet regularly to help each other achieve their goals. They act as sort of an informal board of directors for each other, generating ideas, sharing knowledge, and providing feedback.

The concept of the mastermind group was popularized by Napoleon Hill in his book Think and Grow Rich. Hill noticed that many successful business people had such groups and recognized that the groups were a significant factor in their success. Mastermind groups have grown in popularity and diversity ever since.

Which is no surprise when you consider that a mastermind group can provide you with:

1. Accountability
2. Momentum
3. New perspectives
4. People who understand the challenges you experience
5. More and better ideas
6. Potential collaboration partners
7. Better and faster decision making
8. A more positive outlook
9. Lessons and ideas from other industries
10. The stimulus to think bigger
11. A safe space to discuss challenges and problems
12. New insights
13. Other people’s expertise
14. Access to networks beyond your own
15. Encouragement and support
16. Faster sales growth
17. A kick in the pants when you need one
18. Opportunities for cross promotion
19. More confidence
20. Greater energy
21. Deep, meaningful connections with amazing people
22. The chance to learn from other’s experiences
23. A place to vent when you need to
24. Better follow-through
25. Multiple opinions
26. Powerful insights into yourself
27. Access to additional resources
28. Honest feedback
29. Inspiration
30. More creativity
31. A sense of belonging and acceptance
32. The opportunity to feel good about helping others

Today there are more types of mastermind groups than ever before: some large, some small. Meeting anywhere from weekly to annually, both physically and virtually. Groups that cross state lines and even international borders.

And no longer are groups exclusively for business owners. Nowadays you can join a leadership mastermind group, a marketing mastermind group, or a sales mastermind group to develop your skills and get help with your specific challenges.

So how can you find a mastermind group to join?

Ask around
Ask the most successful people in your network if they belong to a mastermind group. When you find people who do, ask if their group is open to new members. (Be aware that groups often have the same members for years, and as a result, don’t accept new people.)

Check with the organizations you belong to
Many business organizations such as Chambers of Commerce and trade associations have formal or informal mastermind programs for their members. They may entail an additional investment, or they may be included with your membership.

Check out your favorite business experts
Many business speakers and coaches have their own mastermind programs that are open to the public. Often these programs integrate training and/or coaching with the traditional benefits of a mastermind group.

Create your own
Invite four or five or eight or nine of the brightest, most diverse minds you know to start a mastermind group with you. As a bonus, you get to decide the details of how the group will operate.

I have been in several mastermind groups throughout my career as a keynote speaker and trainer, and each one has been valuable to my professional growth and success. It’s a powerful concept that literally anyone can take advantage of. It requires an investment of time and energy (and sometimes money), but it’s absolutely worth it.

Tell Your Prospect How You Failed

May 12th, 2020

Tell Your Prospect How You FailedStories and case studies are powerful sales tools. They give us opportunities to showcase how wonderful our product or service is. They provide proof of our abilities and enable our prospects to see themselves benefitting just as our previous customers have.

There’s just one problem with them.

Everyone’s stories are the same.

Here’s what I mean by that. Whenever a salesperson tells a story, it’s inevitably a success story. Which makes sense—we want to brag about how awesome we are. But when everyone does it, the tactic loses some of its value.

How about a different approach? How about telling your prospect about a time you failed?

I often tell my prospects this story: Early in my career as a speaker, I booked a keynote speech for a manufacturing company for their annual distributor meeting. It was a last-minute booking (less than three weeks before their event) and I was happy to get it.

When I arrived at the event, however, I noticed that things were amiss—nobody from the company that hired me seemed to care that I was there, and the morale of the attendees seemed awfully low. As the day went on, I learned that there was a lot of animosity between this manufacturer and their distributors.

After a long day of dry executive presentations, I was scheduled to speak following dinner. By that time, the audience was tired, bored, and unhappy. They were not in the mood for a high-content sales program. Understandably, my presentation fell flat. I wouldn’t call it a disaster, but it definitely wasn’t a home run. I was the wrong speaker in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And it was my fault.

I didn’t do a good enough job in my needs analysis when talking with the buyer in the first place. If I had, I would have discovered that they didn’t necessarily want me—they just needed someone to fill a slot and I happened to be the first speaker to pick up the phone when they called. I would have learned more about their situation and their particular needs for the event. And I could have told them that I wasn’t the right fit.

After I tell this story to prospects, I tell them what I learned and how it has made me a better speaker and a better event partner. Specifically, that I:

• learned to ask more and better questions.
• learned I only want to work with organizations who actually want me and my message.
• turn down speaking opportunities I’m not right for (and recommend others instead).
• do more research on both the client and the audience so I can create more impact.
• provide free consulting to meeting planners to help them make their event successful.

I’m a better speaker because I failed. And I want my prospects to know that. And your prospects should know how failure made you a better salesperson. Or how it made your business a better company.

So tell a story about how you failed. Then tell your prospect:

• How you reacted
• What you did
• How you made it right
• What you learned
• How it made you better

By all means, keep on telling your success stories. They’re still powerful. Mixing in a failure story as well, though, will earn you massive credibility and dramatically enhance your prospect’s trust in you. It will also set you apart from your competitors. Which should lead to another success story.

Change These Statements to Questions to Boost Your Sales

May 5th, 2020

Change These Statements to Questions to Boost Your SalesFor the most part, we humans suck at change. We like our routines—they make our lives easier and give us comfort and security.

By contrast, change is scary—we have to venture into the unknown. There are no guarantees, which means we might waste our time, money, and effort. Plus, we open ourselves to frustration, regret, criticism, and even ridicule.

And yet, times like these demand we investigate new approaches, new messages, new markets, new products and services, and new strategies and tactics.

Which is easier said than done, because so many of us resist change with every fiber of our being. It’s what stymies and prevents change in so many organizations.

So if you’re a leader and you want to sell your people on a possible change, you need to help them change their thinking first and foremost. And that’s going to mean countering the common excuses people frequently throw up as roadblocks to trying something new or different.

These excuses are meant to shut down discussion—and they often do. But you can overcome them by challenging your people (or yourself) to consider a question in place of each of these statements. (And if you’re a salesperson or a professional, substitute “I” for “we” in each pair.)

Change
“We can’t do that.”
to
“How could we do that?”

Change
“We’ve never done that.”
to
“What if we did that?”

Change
“It’s what everybody else is doing.”
to
“What could we do differently?”

Change
“We don’t do that.”
to
“Why couldn’t we do that?”

Change
“That’s the way we’ve always done it.”
to
“What are we missing by not changing?”

Change
“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
to
“How could it be even better?”

Change
“We tried that before and it didn’t work.”
to
“What did we learn and how can we apply it to a fresh attempt?”

Change
“We don’t have the budget for that.”
to
“How could we fund that?”

If you want to boost your sales in this economy, you’re going to have to do some things differently. Success is going to require new marketing campaigns, new products, new training, and more.

Sure, it’s scary. Sure, there’s risk. Sure, some things may not work out. But in times of radical change, not trying anything different is the riskiest path of all.

Now is a Great Time To…

April 28th, 2020

Now is a Great Time To…Right now is a terrible time for most businesses. Sales have plummeted, doors are closed, and employees have been laid off by the tens of millions.

And yet…

There’s always a positive in every negative situation. I don’t want to sound like a Pollyanna (because I’m definitely not one), but it’s true. And if you’re a salesperson, marketing executive, small business owner, or CEO, you need to find the positive and act on it. Because if you can do that, not only will you make it through the current crisis, you’ll be positioned to succeed in the aftermath.

What kinds of positives? Well, right now is a great time to…

Define your ideal client
Clearly understanding who your ideal customer is enables you to maximize your sales and marketing efforts. What do your best clients have in common? Where can you find more of them? What’s the best message to communicate to them?

Check on your customers
How are your existing clients doing at the moment? How can you help them survive this turmoil? Now is the time to strengthen your customer relationships. Taking care of your clients today will ensure they stay with you for life.

Give something away
HBO is giving free access to 500 hours of its best programming. Taco Bell has been giving a free Doritos Locos taco every Tuesday. Wendy’s is giving customers a free Frosty with every order. Gold’s Gym and Planet Fitness are providing free workout videos. (To work off those tacos and Frostys.) Hotels are giving free rooms to medical personnel and first-responders. And they’re all getting free publicity for their efforts. What could your company give away?

Find ways to partner with other companies
Which of your competitors could you conceivably partner with to do something neither of you alone could pull off? And what companies who aren’t competitors, but serve the same market that you do, could you cooperate with for mutual benefit?

Identify a new market
Who else needs what you provide? How could you tweak your existing products or services for a different customer base?

Create a new product or service
What do Rice Krispies, Miracle Whip, chocolate chip cookies, Diet Coke, ketchup, Twinkies, and the aforementioned Doritos Locos taco have in common? (Besides the fact they’re all delicious?) They were all invented during economic downturns. Ditto for Scotch tape, the iPod, fluorescent light bulbs, nylon, car radios, tampons, and the electric razor. I’m currently creating two new keynote speeches and a new coaching program. How could you innovate your way out of this crisis?

Improve your social media efforts
Social media is an incredibly powerful sales and marketing tool, and yet most companies don’t use it effectively. Right now is an ideal time to explore the platforms you’re not currently using and get better with the platforms you are using.

Study and train
Among the most common excuses people give for not engaging in professional development or training their teams are that they’re too busy or they don’t want to take their people out of the field. WELL, YOU’RE NOT VERY BUSY NOW, ARE YOU? And your people sure as hell aren’t in the field! So use this downtime to arm yourself and your teams with new skills, insights, ideas, and tactics.

Hire people
If you’re in a position to hire people, there’s never been a better time. There are more than 26 million people looking for work, which means you have the pick of the litter.

There are always opportunities around. They may not be the opportunities you were expecting, they may not be as big or as plentiful as you’d like, they may not be easy to find, but they’re there. And how well you survive this crisis, and how well you do after it’s over, will largely depend on how well you identify and act on the opportunities that exist.

So seize them. Now.

26 Ways to Keep Your Stress Down and Your Energy Up

April 21st, 2020

26 Ways to Keep Your Stress Down and Your Energy UpIn my last post, I discussed the dangerous physical and mental effects of elevated cortisol levels and how laughter can lower them. As awesome as laughter is, though, it’s not the only way to reduce cortisol levels. There are a lot of things you can do to combat cortisol. Here are 26 proven ways:

1. Exercise
2. Meditate
3. Eat healthy
4. Get enough sleep
5. Drink plenty of water
6. Spend time on a hobby
7. Play games
8. Do puzzles
9. Work in your garden
10. Socialize (virtually, for the time being)
11. Read inspiring books and blogs
12. Watch inspiring videos, TV shows, and movies
13. Listen to music
14. Plan, strategize, create, and think
15. Indulge in dark chocolate
16. Chew gum
17. Consume probiotics and prebiotics
18. Drink black or green tea
19. Journal
20. Practice tai chi or another martial art
21. Touch—hugging, cuddling, sex, back rubs, holding hands, etc.
22. Adopt a pet
23. Forgive yourself and release guilt
24. Forgive others and release anger
25. Practice your spirituality
26. Engage in a creative activity—draw, paint, write, etc.

Now, more than ever, taking proactive care of your health is critical to your sales, business, and personal success. Include as many of these strategies into your daily routine as possible, not just now, but after the COVID-19 crisis passes. You’ll reduce your stress and anxiety, while boosting your energy and mental clarity. You’ll be more positive, creative, and productive. All of which will benefit your sales, your company, and your family.

Why You Need to Laugh in the Face of Death (And How to Do It)

April 14th, 2020

Why You Need to Laugh in the Face of DeathThese are difficult times. The death toll from COVID-19 keeps climbing. Unemployment is skyrocketing. Sports, proms, conferences, festivals, trade shows, concerts, seminars, and more have been cancelled. And uncertainty is everywhere.

What can you do at a time like this?

Laugh.

Let me explain.

We’re actually dealing with two pandemics at the moment. One, of course, is COVID-19. The other, is cortisol.

Cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenal glands in response to fear or stress. As Web MD puts it: “Think of cortisol as nature’s built-in alarm system. It’s your body’s main stress hormone. It’s best known for helping fuel your body’s ‘fight-or-flight’ instinct in a crisis.”

To enable you to deal with a threat, cortisol affects your heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, metabolism, and more. It’s a critical hormone for survival.

But cortisol works best as a temp: It comes in when it’s needed, then takes off when its job is done. It doesn’t make a good full-time employee.

Because elevated cortisol levels over a prolonged period of time can cause or exacerbate serious health problems, including:

• anxiety
• depression
• diabetes
• digestive issues
• fatigue
• headaches
• heart disease
• high blood pressure
• high cholesterol
• learning impairment
• mental cloudiness
• osteoporosis
• poor memory
• reduced immune function
• trouble sleeping
• weight gain

Which means, when you experience extended bouts of extreme stress—such as if you’re unemployed, in an abusive relationship, caring for a sick loved one, or (I can’t help but point out) living during a global pandemic—you’re at risk for all of the above. And all of those issues negatively impact your ability to think, create, work, and sell.

Fortunately, in this situation, laughter is literally the best medicine.

Laughter has been proven to reduce cortisol levels, along with the levels of other stress hormones, such as epinephrine and dopamine. Laughter also increases the level of health-enhancing hormones, like endorphins. Studies conducted in 2006 and 2008 found that even just anticipating the opportunity to laugh can reduce stress hormones while boosting health-protecting ones.

Humor and Sales 1But wait, there’s more!

Laughing impacts almost every part of the body. Laughter can:

• increase oxygen intake
• stimulate circulation
• aid muscle relaxation
• ease pain
• lessen depression and anxiety
• reduce stress
• fight inflammation
• improve your mood, outlook, and confidence
• increase the number of antibody-producing cells
• enhance the effectiveness of T cells

Which means that laughing regularly can boost your immune system, your mental health, your cardiovascular system, and more. It’s one of the most effective tools for coping with stress, fear, frustration, and uncertainty.

Humor and Sales 2So as we are deluged by negativity in the news and in our personal lives, it’s critical to find the funny and create opportunities for laughter. Wondering how? Here are ten ways.

1. Watch comedies
If you’re going to sit on your couch and watch movies, they might as well be funny ones. Looking for recommendations? Check out:

The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films
BBC Culture’s 100 Greatest Comedies of All Time
150 Essential Comedy Movies to Watch Now

2. Binge on sitcoms, sketch shows, and cartoons
Whether via cable, satellite, or your favorite streaming service, there are tons of new and classic sitcoms—and other comedy shows—perfect for binging. (By the way, all four seasons of the groundbreaking British comedy series, Monty Python’s Flying Circus are now available on Netflix!)

3. Call your funny friends
Everybody has at least one friend who’s a laugh riot. Call them and tell them you need a laugh. They’ll be happy to help. (I love, love, love making people laugh.)

4. Listen to stand-up comics
Sometimes you have to call in the professionals. Look for your favorite stand-up comedians—or find new ones—on your cable or satellite On Demand service, your streaming services, or online.

Humor and Sales 35. Read funny books
I’m currently reading Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. Every chapter has me literally laughing until tears stream down my face. Also rereading Brain Droppings by George Carlin because he never stops being funny. Oh, and if you like your monster, demon, and vampire stories on the humorous side, check out the novels of Christopher Moore.

6. Follow funny blogs
There are a lot of funny people out there creating funny content every day. Check out:

The Funniest Single Topic Blogs
Top 50 Humor Blogs
Top 100 Humor Blogs and Websites to Follow

7. Play with your kids
Children are inherently funny. And they’ll laugh at almost anything. And laughter is contagious!

8. Read comic strips
Most modern comic strips are available online. And there’s no shortage of comic collections available at Amazon and other online bookstores. (Calvin & Hobbes still makes me laugh out loud.)

Humor and Sales 59. Join a humor group on Facebook
I belong to several Facebook groups in which members post videos, jokes, cartoons, and memes. There are groups for every type and sense of humor.

10. Watch funny videos on YouTube
Just type the word “funny” into YouTube’s search engine and you’ll be laughing for hours.

The goal is to laugh every day. Several times a day. Heartily. Unabashedly. It’s one of the most powerful success habits you can cultivate. It will make you a better salesperson, leader, parent, and friend. A good sense of humor will help you face up to challenges from minor annoyances to death itself.

I’m fortunate to come from a family of people who laugh in the face of death. Visiting my grandfather in hospice during the last weeks of his life, he made me laugh. While my father fought his losing battle with cancer, he and I laughed together. And on my aunt Janet’s final night on this earth, as she lay in bed, hooked to an oxygen tank, barely able to speak, her daughter (my cousin Laura) and I made her laugh, and she made us laugh. (And we all made the hospice nurse laugh.)

Humor and Sales 4In dark times, laughter is an act of defiance. It’s an act of solidarity and community. It is life-affirming in the extreme. Laughing enables us to take charge of our mood, attitude, and outlook when everything else seems out of our control. It’s empowering, both physically and mentally. And making others laugh improves their well-being.

So find the funny. Laugh at yourself. Laugh with others.

Laugh. And live.

29 Ways to Improve Your Virtual Presentations

April 7th, 2020

29 Ways to Improve Your Virtual PresentationsThe current “Social Distancing” and “Shelter at Home” requirements have resulted in millions of people conducting virtual presentations for the first time.

And it shows.

Which is understandable. Our first attempts at most things leave a lot to be desired. And virtual presentations have a lot more challenges and elements to be managed than typical presentations. I should know—I’ve been conducting webinars, eLearning courses, web conferences, and online sales presentations for more than twenty years. (Remember back when dial-up was still a thing?)

I’ve learned a lot over that time. (Much of it, the hard way.) So let me share with you a few strategies, tips, and tricks for knocking your next virtual presentations out of the virtual park.

1. Set and manage expectations
Is it a webinar or a meeting? How long will it last? What is the goal? Who will be allowed to talk and for long?

2. Start on time
Starting late punishes those who log on early and encourages everyone to be late in the future.

3. Engage participants before start time
To incentivize people to log in early, provide entertainment or information to early arrivals. Play a game or hold a contest with prizes.

4. End on time
The only thing attendees hate more than starting late is ending late. Plan on less time than you have to allow for questions, tangents, and technical glitches. And because your slides or presentation platform can cover up the clock on your screen, keep a separate clock in your line of sight.

5. Get the light right
Arguably nothing makes a bigger difference in how you’re perceived than how you’re lit. You want enough light on you to be seen clearly, but not so much that you’re washed out. I have a large window in front of my desk, and I have to close it for presentations because even the ambient light is too much. Go for artificial light—preferably a wide source of dim light. Avoid using one or two bright bulbs, because that will result in “hot spots”—bright areas on your cheeks, nose, and forehead.) Also, make sure you aren’t backlit—close the blinds or curtains on any windows in the room and turn off lights aimed in the direction of your camera.

6. Enable your video
The whole point of optimizing your lighting is so you can be seen, which is one of the most important elements of a video conference. Don’t just show people your PowerPoint slides, let them see you.

7. Check your sound level
Besides being seen, you also need to be heard. So check your sound levels in advance.

8. Upgrade your audio and video
While we’re on the subject of being seen and heard clearly, you may want to consider investing in an external camera and microphone. Both will significantly improve the technical quality of your presentations.

9. Mute mics when you don’t actively want conversation
Although you want to be heard, you don’t necessarily want everyone to be heard. So if you’re doing a webinar, or some other type of presentation to a large or medium-sized group, mute everyone’s microphone. Don’t depend on the attendees to do it, because invariably someone will forget. On the other hand, if you’re talking with only a few people and you want to encourage conversation, then leave everyone’s mic open. (But let them know their mics are live unless they mute them.)
 
Not muting your mic is the new "reply all"
 
10. Look at the camera
It’s natural to look at your slides, or the video feeds of your participants, or—especially—the video of yourself as you talk. But that means you’re not making eye contact with your virtual audience. Make an effort to look at the camera instead.

11. Raise your computer
Speaking of looking at the camera, are you looking down at it? Most people do, which shows off your nostrils and emphasizes your double chin. (Well, not your double chin. Other people’s.) Put your laptop on a stand, a raiseable desk, or a cardboard box (super high-tech) to elevate the camera to eye level.

12. Practice “Social Video Distancing”
If you’re too close to the camera, your audience sees only your eyes and nose. If you’re too far away, your audience can neither see nor hear you well. Shoot for roughly the top third of your body in frame, which is typically about an arm’s length from the camera.
 

 
13. Hardwire your computer to the internet
Wi-fi is great and all, but sometimes it can slow down or even go out entirely without warning. Using a hardwired connection guarantees you more reliability.

14. Learn your platform
Whether you use Zoom, GoTo Meeting, Microsoft Teams, or something else, learn the ins and outs of it. There are plenty of tutorials online.

15. Make it interactive
Every platform has options for encouraging interactivity. You can present polls, ask participants to raise their hands, or divide them into breakout groups. You can also ask questions and either have them type their answers in the chat or voice the answers while you record them on a digital whiteboard.

16. Understand your security settings
There have been reports of virtual meetings being hijacked and other dangers of online meetings. Learn your platform’s security settings and use them.

17. Use large type on your slides
You don’t know what kind of device your attendees are watching your presentation on. It could very well be a tablet or a phone. And even if they’re watching on a laptop or desktop, they may not be using their full screen to look at your slide deck. In both cases, if your text isn’t huge, they won’t be able to read it at all. (One more reason you don’t want to fill your slides with lots of text.)

18. Use minimal animation on your slides
Lag time means your animations won’t be fast or smooth. So keep them to a minimum. Or don’t even use them at all. Trust me, nobody will notice. (“Did you see those animations? Those were awesome!” said no one ever.)

19. Prep your computer
The less your computer is doing, the better. So close other programs, clear your cache, and reboot in advance of your presentation.

20. Eliminate noisemakers
Silence your cell and your landline. (Along with your fax and your pager, of course.) And mute or turn off anything else in the room that might conceivably make a noise.

21. Make sure everyone else knows you’re on a call
On the same subject, let your family—or your colleagues—know not to disturb you. Because if you don’t, there’s a 100% certainty that your kids will choose that exact moment to challenge the dog to a bark-off, bang pots and pans together, or practice their trombone for the first time in weeks.

22. Let attendees know if you’re recording
If you’re recording the presentation, warn your audience so they have the option of turning off their video in the event they don’t want to be preserved for posterity.

zoom meeting audio vs video-
 
23. Get to the point quickly
Don’t waste your audience’s time. Keep in mind that it’s easier for online attendees to tune you out and focus on other things. If you lose them in the first few minutes, you’re not getting them back.

24. Amp up your enthusiasm
As important as enthusiasm is in a live, in-person presentation, it’s even more important in a virtual one. Your participants can’t feel your energy, so they need to really see and hear it.

25. Remember—the rules of good live presentations still apply
What works in person still works online:

a. Open with something attention-grabbing
b. Your slides are not your presentation
c. Tell stories
d. Use appropriate humor
e. Appeal to both logic and emotion
f. Use visuals
g. Include a call to action
h. Close memorably

26. Have someone else monitor the chat
It’s nearly impossible to pay attention to the chat window while you’re presenting. But used effectively, the chat is a great forum for ideas, comments, and questions. So arrange for another person to monitor the chat and to alert you when something is worthy of attention.

27. Upload additional files
Most—if not all—platforms have the ability to upload files that participants can download during the presentation. Use this feature to easily distribute handouts, articles, proposals, contracts, photos, videos, or even your slide deck exclusively to attendees.

28. Rehearse and practice
Want to deliver a good virtual presentation? Rehearse. Want to deliver great virtual presentations consistently? Practice! (Bonus tip: Record your practice sessions and watch the videos.)

29. Take glitches in stride
As I mentioned, I’ve been doing virtual presentations for a couple decades, and I’ve rarely been on one—either as a presenter or an attendee—where something didn’t go wrong. It’s the nature of the beast. With so many things that can wrong, it’s almost assured that something will. Expect it and don’t let it throw you. Fortunately, most glitches are small and quickly forgotten. And even the bigger ones are only as significant as you make them. Deal with the issue, laugh it off, and get back to your message.

While I don’t believe that in-person presentations will ever be completely replaced, virtual presentations are definitely here to stay. So the time is right to get really good at delivering them. Learn them, love them, and leverage them. Your boss, your customers, and your sales will thank you.

23 Tips for Working from Home

March 31st, 2020

23 Tips for Working from HomeThe world has changed. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most states in the US—and many other parts of the world—are under “Shelter at Home” orders. Which means that millions of people who used to go to an office every day are now working at home. Most of them for the first time.

If you’re one of them, you may be struggling with this sudden—and massive—transition. As someone who has worked from home for more than two decades, I can attest that it’s not as easy as some people believe it is. But it’s not an insurmountable challenge either. Here are 23 tips, tricks, and strategies for staying productive while staying at home.

1. Work in one place if you can
Whether it’s a spare bedroom or your dining room table, try to keep your work area in place, rather than working all over the house. That will make it easier to find what you need and will help prevent your work life and home life from blurring together.

2. Maintain regular work hours
Similarly, try to work the same hours you do at the office. Don’t let your work time bleed into your family or personal time.

3. Set ground rules with family or roommates
To help achieve items 1 and 2, talk with the people you live with to set and manage expectations. When do you—and others—need quiet time? When can you be available during the day? Who will take care of the kids?

4. Create and stick with a morning routine
The transition between home and work is tougher when they’re the same physical location. So create a routine that gets you into work mode each morning.

5. Use the best chair you havearchaeologist working from home
A good chair makes all the difference.

6. Ask for what you need
What if you don’t have a good chair? Or a decent printer? Or a second monitor? Or something else you need to be effective? Ask your company. And if they can’t provide it, ask your friends and your network if you can rent, buy, or borrow it from them.

7. Overcommunicate
Since some of the usual communication channels have been interrupted, it’s important to ensure good communication continues. In this situation, more is better. And to make communication easier and more effective, let people know your preferred communication tools and find out theirs as well. Also, be sure to share documents frequently via your sharing services.

8. It’s okay to work in your PJs
A lot of people recommend dressing professionally every day, but I say to hell with that. Wear whatever you want. Be comfortable. If you’re not going to be on a video call, who cares if you’re wearing a suit? Or dress shoes? Or pantyhose? (I haven’t worn pantyhose in YEARS.)

9. Exercise regularly
With gyms, yoga studios, and martial arts dojos closed indefinitely, this is harder than before. But you still can—and should—get some kind of exercise in on a daily basis. Even if it’s just going for a walk.

10. Eat healthy snacks
As best you can, resist the siren call of donuts, chips, and cookies. To help, keep plenty of healthy snacks on hand—fruit, vegetables, whole wheat crackers, hummus, protein bars, beef jerky, nuts, cheese, and yogurt. (Oh, and by the way, I consider dark chocolate to be healthy!)

marine biologist working from home11. Take plenty of breaks
You’re dealing with more challenges and higher stress levels than normal. Take frequent breaks.

12. Get outside
Fresh air and sunshine are crucial for your physical and mental well-being.

13. Listen to music
Music can be relaxing or energizing. It can elevate your mood and enhance your creativity. Also, it can block out background noises from elsewhere in your home.

14. Socialize virtually
Let’s be honest—It sucks not being able to meet people for lunch or coffee. Or happy hour. Or ice cream. Especially if—like me—you live alone. Human beings are social animals (even us introverts) and we crave connection. Fortunately, many people are creating virtual gatherings and events, which give you a chance to meet and talk with people online. I’ve been doing this a lot and trust me, it helps.

15. Use social media wisely
Social media can also help with the isolation, but it can be a rabbit hole that’s easy to fall into. And before you know it, hours have passed. Regulate how much time you spend on social media each day and be strategic about it.

16. Make the most of online meetings
Workers who have never been part of an online meeting are now attending them on a regular basis. A few tips:

a. Learn your platform. Whether it’s Zoom, GoTo Meeting, Microsoft Teams, or something else, learn the ins and outs of it. There are plenty of tutorials online.

b. Get on group calls early. Punctuality is just as important as with a physical meeting.

c. Use video. If people can’t see you, they assume you aren’t actually there. (And by the way, it’s typically okay for your kids or pets to be on video with you.)

d. Get a decent microphone and headset if necessary.

e. Mute your mic when you’re not talking.

f. Dress and groom as best you can. But don’t stress about it. With all the salons closed, everyone’s hair is getting crazier by the day. And on video calls, no one can tell if you’re wearing sweatpants.

17. Check in on people’s mental health
Whether it’s your clients, your colleagues, your employees, or your friends and family, check on them regularly. Just hearing from you and knowing you care can be a huge boost for them.

18. Take advantage of online training
I’ve been conducting and participating in online training since 2000. I can tell you it’s come a long way since the time of dial-up connections. And there’s more of it than ever before, much of it free! To get you started, here’s a great online resource with both live and recorded sales training programs, all free of charge: The Sales Experts Channel.

19. Enjoy your former commute timelifeguard working from home
That time in the morning and evening you used to spend in the car or on the train? Use it! Spend it with your spouse, kids, or pets. Utilize it for that hobby you haven’t done it years. Or start work a little early and use that time for additional—or longer—breaks during the day.

20. Take sick days and personal days
If you actually get sick—whether with coronavirus, the flu, a cold, or anything else—by all means use your sick days! And even if you’re not sick, this may be an ideal time to take some personal days or some of those unused vacation days that have been sitting there. (One recent study found that 75% of Americans don’t take all of their paid vacation days.)

21. Stay positive
With all the negative news out there—not to mention all the disruption in our lives—our psyches are under assault. Fear, anxiety, grief, frustration, and uncertainty threaten to shut down our ability to function effectively. Counter it by finding the good, both out in the world and within your own life. Appreciate everything and everyone. And if you’re really feeling down, reach out to someone.

22. Take advantage of your new perks
One of the positives to focus on is the perks of working from home. What can you do now that you couldn’t do when you were stuck in an office? Perhaps cook or bake? (I have a friend who has been baking bread almost every day, something she loves.) Have lunch with the family? Spend more time with your dogs or cats?

23. Cut yourself some slack
We have all been thrust into this new reality and we’re all struggling with it. Nobody expects you to be perfect. So don’t expect it from yourself. At various times you may feel lonely, scared, unmotivated, angry, frustrated, anxious, or stressed. That’s okay. It’s perfectly normal. (I’ve felt all those things in the course of an hour.) If you’re a salesperson, you’re probably not selling a whole lot right now. That’s understandable. Don’t beat yourself up. Instead, practice self-care. Do what you need to in order to feel better. Watch a movie. Eat a donut. Take a nap. Hug your spouse or your kids. We’ve never experienced anything like this before. It’s all right to not be at your best. Just do what you can with what you have.

By the way, if you’re a manager or other leader, cut your team some slack. And let them know. Your people need your support now more than ever. Do everything you can for them. Take care of them and they’ll take care of your customers. The only way we’re all getting though this is together.

The Most Important Question You Can Ask Right Now

March 24th, 2020

The Most Important Question You Can Ask Right NowThe COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc around the world. The disease—and the government responses to it—have affected every industry, with impacts ranging from mild to devastating.

One of the best things you can do in this unprecedented environment is to ask questions:

• “What can we do to keep our employees and customers safe?”
• “How can we convert physical meetings to virtual ones?”
• “What impacts will this have on our business, short-term and long-term?”
• “How can we replace lost revenue?”
• “What expenses can we cut or postpone?”
• “How should we change our marketing messaging?”

I submit, though, that the single best question you can ask right now—and for the immediate future—is:

“How can I help?”

In my keynote speeches and seminars, I define sales as “Helping people acquire the things they want and need for a better life.”

That’s a pretty broad definition. And deliberately so. Because selling involves a lot more than persuading a person to part with their money. Selling includes:

• Educating people
• Making them feel comfortable and confident
• Solving their problems
• Assisting them in making good decisions
• Making them look good to others
• Finding ways to enable them to afford what they need
• Delivering value

At this very moment, you can do a lot of those things. And the key to figuring out which of the above you can accomplish is to ask the question, “How can I help?” (And alternatively, “How can we help?”)

Right now, everybody—your clients, your vendors, your employees, your partners, your community—is struggling with more challenges than ever before. So ask everybody how you can help them.

And make it clear that you’re not just looking for ways to sell something to them, but rather, ways to serve them. Because as I say again and again, sales is service and service is sales. And now—more than ever—the world needs our service.

Let me close this post by asking you—How can I help?

Why People Buy Taffy (And what it means for YOUR sales)

March 3rd, 2020

Why People Buy TaffyIn 1885, Joseph Fralinger—a former glassblower and fish merchant—took over a taffy stand in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He bought some books on candy-making and set about learning the business. Before long, he was offering 25 different flavors of saltwater taffy and was one of the most successful candy shops on the Boardwalk.

But this story isn’t about the taffy. It’s about the way Fralinger sold it.

Looking for ways to boost his candy sales, Fralinger came up with the idea for a “souvenir box.” At the time, taffy was sold by the piece or the bag, and Fralinger reasoned that if he offered taffy in a prepackaged one-pound box, people might be inclined to purchase the larger amount.

Fralinger ordered 200 boxes printed with pictures of the Atlantic City skyline, the beach, the boardwalk, and sunbathers. He then filled the boxes with a pound of assorted taffy.

They sold out in less than a day.

Fralinger had stumbled onto an important concept: People weren’t just buying taffy—they were buying memories.

And that concept is part of a larger principle: When people buy a product or service, it’s often for a reason that has nothing to do with that product or service.

How can you profit from this principle? Think of the reasons people buy your product or service. Then go beyond those obvious reasons. Dig deeper. Get into your customers’ psyches. What emotional needs are they trying to fill?

Once you’ve figured that out, brainstorm ways you can help them fill those emotional needs. What tweaks can you make to your products, your packaging, your services, your sales process, your customer care, etc.?

Undertaking this exercise can boost both your sales and your profits, because people will happily pay more when you meet their deepest, most compelling needs. (Note that a one-pound “souvenir box” costs more than a pound of taffy in a plastic bag.)

The “souvenir box” quickly spread to other candy shops in Atlantic City and eventually, to candy stores—as well as theme parks, resorts, museums, and airports—around the world because it taps into a powerful buying motivator. And it’s a motivator that you can tap into as well.

Chew on that for a while.

How NOT to Market on Facebook

February 25th, 2020

How NOT to Market on FacebookI regularly receive friend requests on Facebook. Most of them I ignore. (And many I report for being spam.)

But if the person sending the request has a lot of friends in common with me—say a hundred or so—I’ll usually accept the request, because that person is typically also a professional speaker or trainer. (Many times I have met and formed a friendship with another speaker online and later met them in real life.)

So when I accepted a friend request from such a person a couple days after my birthday, I didn’t give it much thought. Until I received a Facebook message from her shortly thereafter:

Happy birthday Don.

How are you?

Trust that you had a great Christmas?

Because it was your special day I would like to send you a free sample of our Anti aging Age I Q night cream or our Prolistic lotion and Probiotic powder plus Vitamins for the winter.

Please let me know what’s your preference, also please send me your email and home address.

Have a fantastic day

This was immediately followed by a second message:

You are welcome. Please watch this video before you start using the products. I will check back with you on Sunday to see whst (sic) you like best.

Both messages were accompanied by links to product videos by the multi-level marketing company she represents.

Now, I’m not opposed to direct marketing companies. (In fact, I’ve done sales training for several.) And I’m not opposed to marketing on Facebook. (It’s a proven marketing strategy.) However, this is not the correct way to do either.

When your first communication to a new connection on Facebook—or LinkedIn or Instagram or any other platform—is a marketing missive, it sends the message that you don’t care about them as a person at all. You just wanted another prospect in your pipeline. That sours the relationship before it even has a chance to begin. For all intents and purposes, it’s spam.

Efforts like this not only won’t increase your sales, they can result in your account being blocked, reported, and even suspended or banned.

If you’re going to market on Facebook—or any other social media platform—learn to do it the right way. Read a book, take an online course, attend a seminar, hire a consultant. (A great place to start is with my friend, Andrea Vahl—one of the world’s leading Facebook marketing experts.)

And always hold yourself—as well as your employees, partners, and yes, independent representatives—to the highest ethical standards. Failure to do so will hurt your company’s reputation and sales.

Facebook is one of the most powerful marketing tools ever created. Just remember that like any other tool, it can be used correctly and incorrectly. And using any tool incorrectly can be dangerous. Don’t risk damaging your brand—learn the proper way to handle your tools before using them.

Eight Ways to Boost Your Confidence

February 18th, 2020

Eight Ways to Boost Your ConfidenceStudy after study has found that the #1 buying factor is confidence. More than anything else, people choose the brand, the product, and the salesperson they have the most confidence in.

Which is why it’s so critical for you to be confident when interacting with prospects: Because confidence is contagious. The more confident you are, the more confident they will be.

Want to boost your confidence? Here are eight ways.

1. Study your products
Know them inside and out. How they’re made, where they’re made, what they’re made from. Every feature, every benefit, every color, every option. Every size, shape, and quantity. Both they’re strengths and their weaknesses.

2. Study your company
Get familiar with every part of the operation. Know the history, the mission, the values. What’s your brand promise? What’s your USP (Unique Selling Proposition)?

3. Study your competitors
Know their products, services, differentiators, strengths, and weaknesses as well as they do.

4. Review testimonials
Not just the testimonials you have received personally, but all the testimonials your company, products, and services have received. Scope out Yelp, Google, TripAdvisor, Amazon, and other review sites. Read, collect, and re-read all those positive reviews.

5. Review past successes
All too often we forget our own track record. So remind yourself how awesome you are. How have you helped other people in the past? What problems have you solved? What challenges have you overcome? What competitions have you won?

6. Make a list
Grab a sheet of paper or open a document on your computer, tablet, or phone. Then write down all the reason you have to be confident. Your list might include your education, your attitude, your skills, your company, your aforementioned track record, your team, your personality, and/or your length, breadth, or depth of experience.

7. Ask for feedback from your boss
Whether your boss is a sales manager, a general manager, or an owner, ask them for feedback periodically. Specifically, you want to ask them for two kinds of feedback: positive and constructive. The positive feedback will help fuel your confidence. The constructive feedback with enable you to get even better.

8. Constantly hone your sales skills
Every time you learn or improve a sales-related skill, your confidence increases. So always be reading blog posts and books, listening to podcasts and audio programs, watching videos and webinars, and attending conferences and workshops. A major reason the best salespeople are so good at what they do, is that they know how good they are at what they do.

Whether it’s your first day in sales or you’ve got thirty years under your belt, everyone can use a confidence boost. Print out this list and use it to pump up your confidence on a regular basis. It will show in your face, your voice, your posture, and your sales.

19 Benefits of Asking Questions

January 28th, 2020

19 Benefits of Asking QuestionsIf you’re a regular reader of this blog (and if you’re not, you can be—just click one of the “Subscribe” links to the right, wink, wink, nudge, nudge), you know that I’m a big fan of asking questions. When I conduct sales training seminars, I typically give audiences 20 to 40 questions to ask their prospects. Because questions are extraordinarily powerful.

Asking questions can:

1. Help you understand wants and needs
2. Reveal hidden criteria
3. Uncover opportunities
4. Enable you to shorten your presentation
5. Demonstrate interest
6. Make you look smart
7. Make the prospect feel smart
8. Provide clarity
9. Eliminate uncertainty and doubt
10. Cause the prospect to consider other possibilities
11. Create opportunities for empathy and rapport
12. Build trust
13. Keep the prospect engaged
14. Spur them to think
15. Uncover fears and concerns
16. Confirm suspicions
17. Challenge assumptions
18. Help prioritize
19. Ensure the right purchase

And yet, too many salespeople, business owners, and professionals miss all these benefits because they don’t ask anywhere near enough questions. They’re in too much of a hurry to get to their presentation so they can awe their prospect by reciting all the incredible features and benefits of their stupendous product or service. Which the prospect typically doesn’t care about.

What does the prospect truly care about? Themselves.

Which is precisely why questions are so powerful.

So when you’re at a networking event, ask more questions. When you’re meeting with a new prospect, ask more questions. When you encounter an objection or an impasse, ask more questions. The more time you invest asking questions, the less time you will need to spend on every other step of the sales process.

By the way, the benefits of asking questions aren’t limited to salespeople working with prospects. They also apply to leaders interacting with people in their organizations, and to anyone else dealing with co-workers, friends, and family. (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.)

Become a big fan of questions yourself and reap the myriad benefits. The more questions you ask, the more success you’ll achieve.

Don’t Tell Your Customers to Have a Great Night

January 21st, 2020

Don’t Tell Your Customers to Have a Great NightIt had been a rough night.

It was supposed to have been a great night. It was the first class of a three-day aikido seminar featuring one of my favorite instructors. Unfortunately, his flight was severely delayed, which resulted in that evening’s class starting and finishing late. Which meant that we went to dinner late, and by the time I dropped one of my classmates off at his house, it was pushing midnight.

That’s when things got really bad.

Driving home, I hit a nasty pothole that blew out one of my tires. I pulled over to change it—in sub-freezing temperatures—and encountered a problem. I called my insurance company’s roadside assistance for help. The person who arrived did his best, but was unable to resolve the issue. So I needed a tow. I called roadside assistance again to make the arrangements. Due to the lateness of the hour, it took several calls back and forth to take care of everything.

Now the people I spoke with at roadside assistance were wonderful, and I’m grateful to them for their help, their professionalism, and their courtesy. There was just one tiny, little detail that could have used improvement.

At the end of every call, the person said to me, “Have a great night.”

It was after 2 o’clock in the morning. I was dirty. I was freezing. I was exhausted. I was facing a 45-minute wait for a tow truck, followed by an Uber ride home, and only a few hours’ sleep before class early that morning. There was precisely zero chance I was going to have a great night. And being told to have one felt like salt being poured in an open wound.

I understand why they said it. They had been trained to. But that’s bad training. Because it replaces empathy with insincerity. In the company’s efforts to ensure every call ends on a positive note, they actually ensured many—if not most—end on a sour one.

What would have been a better way to end each call? Almost anything! At least, anything that acknowledged my situation and emotional state:

• “Hang in there.”
• “We’re here if you need anything else.”
• “Hope everything goes smoothly from here on out.”
• “It’s gonna be okay.”
• “Praying for you.”
• “Call me back if you want to talk.”
• “Hope tomorrow is better.”

All of those statement convey empathy. And that’s what connects you—and your people—to your customers.

Should your salespeople, customer service reps, and technicians be positive when interacting with clients? Absolutely! At the same time, however, they need to exhibit empathy with them, especially when things are going wrong. Otherwise, their positivity comes across as tone-deafness and insensitivity.

So when you train your people—and you should train your people—don’t have them memorize banalities and regurgitate them mindlessly. Teach them how to be empathetic and emotionally intelligent. It takes more time and effort, but it will create better customer engagement, improving the customer experience.

And prevent them from making a customer’s bad night ever-so-slightly-worse.

21 Things Successful People Say Regularly

January 14th, 2020

21 Things Successful People Say RegularlyAs a professional keynote speaker and trainer, I have a tremendous appreciation and respect for the power of words. The right words at the right time can solve problems, heal wounds, create connection, or move people to action. They are essential to your sales, business, and personal success.

Whether you’re a salesperson, manager, or business owner, here are 21 of the best things you can say on a regular basis.

1. “You’re right.”
2. “I agree.”
3. “I see.”
4. “I understand.”
5. “What do you think?”
6. “You can do it.”
7. “That’s a good idea.”
8. “Can you help me?”
9. “Great job!”
10. “I trust you.”
11. “Go for it.”
12. “I’d love to get your input.”
13. “How can I help?”
14. “Tell me more.”
15. “I’m sorry.”
16. “I was wrong.”
17. “What can I do to support you?”
18. “Please.”
19. “Thank you.”
20. “I appreciate you.”
21. “What if…?”

Every one of these phrases has immense power to affect others positively. Which enables them to be more confident, effective, enthusiastic, forgiving, creative, and action-oriented.

Use these phrases frequently with customers, employees, vendors, friends, and family. They will strengthen your business and personal relationships as well as boost your sales, productivity, and happiness.

This success strategy requires no money, no physical labor, no massive time investment. Just a few words. Powerful words.

Who is Your Ideal Client?

January 7th, 2020

Who is Your Ideal Client?Everyone in business wants more customers. But not all customers are created equal. Some are better for you than others. And if you’re going after more clients, it behooves you to focus your time, money, and energy on those clients who will provide you with the biggest return on your efforts.

Which means in your marketing and prospecting efforts, you want to target not just any potential buyers, but your ideal buyers. Who are those exactly? Well, it depends.

“Ideal” is a subjective word. It can mean different things to different people. It could refer to those clients who:

• Buy the greatest volume
• Are the most profitable
• Buy most frequently
• Are the easiest to close
• Have been with you the longest
• Give you the most referrals
• Are the easiest to deal with
• Provide you with the most interesting and challenging work, or
• Are the most fun to work with

Which of those do you most want more of? Those are the prospects you want to pursue. (And yes, you can pick two or even three of these of these categories to go after.)

How do you find them? Start by examining your client list and identify the customers who fit the description you’ve chosen. Then, determine what they have in common, being as thorough and as detailed as possible. That will give you an Ideal Client Profile.

Use this profile whenever you create marketing pieces, develop prospecting plans, or decide what events to attend. Your Ideal Client Profile is also helpful when coming up with new products or services to offer.

This is not to say that these will be the only customers you serve. Heck, if somebody who doesn’t fit one of these categories calls you up and asks to buy something, you’re not gonna say no. But in your prospecting and marketing, these are the clients you’re going to target. Since you have a limited supply of time, money and energy, spending them going after your ideal customers will result in more sales, profits, cash flow, and satisfaction.

“I can’t stand Christmas music”—My Interview with Santa Claus

December 18th, 2019

My Interview with Santa ClausI recently had the chance to sit down with the CEO of one of the most successful organizations in the world—the big man himself, Santa Claus. It was a cool, fall day—before the craziness of fourth quarter set in, when St. Nick had a little time to spare. His legendary jolliness was on full display, and over a cup of hot cocoa, we had a great chat.

DC: You have so many names: Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, Kris Kringle, Pere Noël, Pelznickel, Ded Moroz—how did you come by them?
SC: The names come from the different languages of various countries and the early stories they told about me. For most of my career, I’ve worked on the down low, and when people don’t understand something, they make up stories. And I wasn’t exactly leaving my business card at every stop, so they made up names for me as well.

DC: Which name do you prefer?
SC: I like them all! Really, I’m pretty easy going, so feel free to call me whatever you like.

DC: What’s your favorite thing about Christmas?
SC: The sheer joy on children’s faces when they unwrap their presents and when they play with their toys on Christmas morning. We record all those moments so we can watch them when I return from my deliveries. It’s just the best.

DC: What’s your favorite Christmas movie?
SC: Miracle on 34th Street. Followed closely by Die Hard.

DC: What’s your favorite Christmas song?
SC: I can’t stand Christmas music! It’s the same twelve songs over and over again. We actually don’t play it at the North Pole—not in the house, not in the workshop, not even in the reindeer stables.

DC: What kinds of music DO you like?
SC: I’m a big hip-hop fan. And acid jazz. I crank that up to 11. Mrs. Claus loves classic rock and Irish drinking songs. And the elves are all over the board.

DC: How has technology impacted your work?
SC: Not that much, really. We have a small tech department that handles e-mail and monitors social media, but that’s about it. Our behavior-monitoring and data-analysis efforts aren’t technology-based. The systems we set up in the beginning still work perfectly and are superior to anything employed by the world’s most advanced intelligence agencies. And they’re more reliable and secure as well. Let’s face it, I can’t afford to have a bunch of servers crash or have my data hacked.

DC: Are kids getting naughtier? Or nicer?
SC: Surprisingly, neither. I’ve been tracking global naughtiness for hundreds of years. And over that time, the JNI (Juvenile Naughtiness Index) has been nearly a constant. Sure, it may tic up or down a bit occasionally, but it invariably regresses to the mean.

DC: What have been the biggest changes you’ve seen over the years?
SC: Children’s requests have gotten completely out of hand. Back in the day, kids would only ask for one present. And it was usually something simple: a baseball bat, a doll, a wagon. Now, kids have lists longer than real estate contracts! And of course they want the latest electronics and video games.

DC: Is there anything that annoys or frustrates you about Christmas?
SC: Yes, now that you mention it. A lot of times, parents will give their kids things like underwear, or electric toothbrushes, or educational materials, and write on the gift tag that it’s from me. And then the kids blame me for it. So parents, cut that out! In fact, if your kid’s been good, don’t give them things that are no fun. Those aren’t presents. And the only time you should give somebody underwear is when you’re buying lingerie for your significant other.

DC: Speaking of significant others, you and Mrs. Claus have been married for an incredibly long time. What’s your secret for a successful relationship?
SC: There are several. The first is to have mutual goals, values, and priorities. Mrs. Claus shares my passion for children and has always been a huge supporter of my mission. Another is communication. We talk about everything—there are no secrets between us, and we make it a point to always ask the other for what we need and want. And a third is keeping the spark alive. I still think she’s a hottie and I let her know that every chance I get!

DC: So you and Mrs. Claus….um….how do I put this……
SC: Hey, it’s cold at the North Pole! We gotta keep warm! Ho, ho, ho!

DC: What do you do right after Christmas?
SC: Everybody gets a two-week vacation. The Mrs. and I usually go someplace tropical: the Caribbean, Hawaii, Bora Bora…

DC: Do you know the Easter Bunny?
SC: The Easter Bunny and I are tight. We have dinner with the Bunnies several times a year. And we share intel, resources, and best practices.

DC: How do you get food at the North Pole? It’s not like GrubHub delivers there.
SC: We grow most of our own food. We have a huge greenhouse where we grow fruits and vegetables, and we raise chickens and livestock. So we have eggs, beef, lamb….

DC: Reindeer meat?
SC: Next question.

DC: I understand that a few years ago, you filed lawsuits against a number of companies for unauthorized use of your image. What happened with those?
SC: That litigation is still in process, so I can’t comment on it at this time.

DC: Okay, on a lighter note, what’s your favorite kind of cookie?
SC: Chocolate chip. But I love all cookies! And brownies too. Except for the gluten-free ones. I give those to the reindeer. And other kinds of treats are nice too. Some French families leave out these little eclairs. Those are so good!

DC: Does it bother you that many people don’t believe in you?
SC: Over the centuries, I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter if people believe in you as long as you believe in yourself.

DC: One final question: Am I on the naughty or the nice list?
SC: I think we both know the answer to that one.

14 Tips for Delivering Better Presentations

December 10th, 2019

14 Tips for Delivering Better PresentationsIf you’re in sales—and that’s nearly everyone in the company—you need to make presentations. Whether it’s a one-on-one to a prospective client, or a keynote speech at a conference, delivering a great presentation is vital to your success.

Here are 14 tips for presenting more effectively.

1. Open strong
Your opening is your opportunity to grab your audience’s attention. Don’t waste it by telling a stale joke or talking about the history of your company. Instead, cite a startling statistic, make a bold statement, or ask a provocative question. Or consider one of these other powerful options.

2. Close stronger
Whatever you say last is what your audience will remember best. So finish with something worth remembering. Like what? Check out eleven ideas here.

3. Know your opening and closing cold
You don’t need to memorize your entire presentation. Very few people—even professional speakers—do this. (For a variety of reasons.) You do need to memorize your opening and closing though. In order to deliver these two crucial pieces of your presentation with maximum impact, you need to have them down cold.

4. Vary your rate, tone, and volume
Speaking in a monotone will put your audience to sleep. And while shouting can be extremely effective when used judiciously, if you do it for the entire presentation—which I have experienced far too often—it not only loses its impact, it seriously turns off your listeners. Think of your presentation like a TV show or movie: the pacing, intensity, emotional feel, and volume all need to change frequently to keep the audience’s attention.

5. Look at your audience, not your slides
Whether you’re presenting to one person or a thousand, eye contact is critical. So don’t turn your back to them. Whenever possible, place a laptop, tablet, or confidence monitor in front of you so you can see what slide you’re on, while still looking at your audience.

6. Slides—fewer words, more visuals
The days of slides packed with paragraphs of text are—or should be—long gone. PowerPoint is best for visuals—charts, graphs, drawings, photos, video—not long blocks of hard-to-read text. Speak the words, show the visuals.

7. Don’t stand or sit behind anything
Part of your success as a presenter stems from your ability to connect with your audience. And an important element for creating connection is how well they can see you. So don’t allow obstacles to come between you and your audience. If you’re in your office with a prospect, come out from behind your desk. If you’re on a stage, get out from behind the lectern. (A podium is what people stand on. A lectern is what people stand behind. Although they shouldn’t.)

8. Use a remote
You don’t want to be tethered to your computer. A remote enables you to roam around the room, which enhances your ability to connect with audience members. (Oh, and always pack extra batteries.)

9. Tell stories
Stories provide context for data so we can make sense of it. Stories communicate emotion as well as facts. Stories hold our attention. Stories can inspire people to act. Tell more of them.

10. Get your audience involved
People today don’t want to just sit and listen to a presentation. They want to be active participants in a conversation. So ask them questions. Have them share thoughts, experiences, and ideas. Incorporate relevant exercises and games. The more interactive you can make your presentation, the more powerful it will be.

11. Be enthusiastic
If you’re not excited about what you’re saying, why the hell should anyone else be?

12. Have a call to action at or near the end
What’s the point of your presentation? What do you want your listeners to do once you’ve finished? If you don’t include a call to action, you’ve wasted your time.

13. Practice
Okay, practice doesn’t make perfect, but it definitely makes better.

14. Get coaching
If you really want to up your presentation game, work with a presentation coach. A good coach can help you overcome your weaknesses and hone your strengths. Just a few hours with a coach can make a huge difference in your presentations.

The better your presentations, the better your sales. And the better for your career. Use these 14 tips to make every presentation more engaging, more professional, and more impactful.

When NOT to Negotiate

December 3rd, 2019

When NOT to NegotiateNegotiation is an essential element of sales, not to mention other aspects of business. It’s vital for reaching mutually beneficial outcomes, closing more deals, and growing your business.

And yet, there are times when it’s in your best interest NOT to negotiate. Here are eight of them.

1. When you don’t have to
If you have a product or service that’s in high demand—or if you have a scarce supply of it—you don’t need to negotiate. If one particular prospect doesn’t buy because you’re not willing to give them a deal, there are plenty more who will. There’s a reason Rolexes and Ferraris don’t go on sale.

2. When you can’t trust the other side
If you don’t believe the people you’re dealing with can be trusted—for any reason—there’s no point in negotiating. Just walk away.

3. When it’s not worth the time
Negotiating takes time, and time is money. Time spent negotiating is time spent not doing other things that are important for your sales or your business. If the time it would take to negotiate exceeds the value you would stand to gain, don’t bother. Just say yes or no and move one.

4. When the deal is bad for you
A good deal serves both parties’ interests. But some people will make you an offer that serves their interests without truly serving yours. As a professional speaker, I often receive requests to speak for free, with the promise of “great exposure.” I have learned, however—as many other speakers also have—that free speeches typically lead to requests for more free speeches. And that principle applies to your business as well: bad deals typically lead to more bad deals.

5. When your counterpart isn’t the final decision-maker
If the person you’re negotiating with can’t say yes to the deal you hammer out, you’re wasting your time. Because just when you think you’ve reached a conclusion, you’re going to have to start the process all over again with the person they have to report to. And this time, you’ll be starting from a position that’s weaker than your original opening position. Negotiate with the decision-makers or not at all.

6. When the other side isn’t that interested
If a prospect—or a job applicant, or a potential business partner—doesn’t really want what you have to offer, sweetening the pot isn’t going to help much. So don’t bother. Instead, invest your time and energy seeking out those who would be a better fit. Your results will be far superior.

7. When it’s unseemly
Occasionally, someone will come to you with a very weak negotiating position. And they aren’t asking for very much. Maybe an employee with a sick relative is requesting some additional time off. Or a charity is asking for a small donation. Or a friend has tickets to a concert or ball game they’re offering you cheap because they can’t go. Sure, you could squeeze them. But do you want to be the kind of person who does that?

8. When you’ve established enough trust that it isn’t necessary
It isn’t easy to create this kind of relationship, but when you do, it’s a thing of beauty. I worked with a client for several years. In the beginning, we negotiated every detail of every project. Over time, though, we built up enough mutual respect, appreciation, and trust that we didn’t need to negotiate any more. They would make me offers they knew I would say yes to and I did the same thing in return. It saved everyone time and hassle. It’s a great goal to strive for—with every client, employee, vendor, and partner you have.

Negotiating is one of the most important skills you can master. It’s incredibly valuable, both in business and your personal life. But knowing when not to negotiate can be every bit as valuable.