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.

23 Business Lessons from an Undercover Billionaire

November 26th, 2019

23 Business Lessons from an Undercover BillionaireI don’t watch a lot of television, but I recently binge-watched the Discovery Channel program, Undercover Billionaire. The eight-episode reality show follows self-made billionaire, Glenn Stearns, as he attempts to build a million-dollar business in a mere 90 days.

While it may not sound like much of a challenge for a billionaire to start a successful business, Stearns has a few restrictions to deal with:

• He may not get help from any of his existing business or personal connections
• He has to do it in a city he has never been to and has no relationships in
• He must use a fake name so he can’t trade on his reputation or previous successes
• His only assets at the beginning are an old pickup truck and $100 cash

Stearns is an unlikely success story: the dyslexic child of alcoholic parents, who failed fourth grade and graduated in the bottom 10% of his high school class. Yet through determination and hard work, he started his first company at age 25 and built it into one of the largest mortgage lenders in the United States.

Wanting to prove the American dream is still alive and accessible, Stearns created a challenge for himself: that, starting with nothing, he could build a million-dollar business in 90 days. If he fails to achieve that goal, he will invest one million dollars of his own money in the business.

The result is a fascinating and inspiring journey. Over the course of the 90 days, Stearns has to come up with a million-dollar idea, raise working capital, assemble a team, and launch the company. (While also trying to find a place to live and figure out where his next meal is coming from.)

Along the way, he encounters multiple setbacks and frustrations, many of which will be familiar to anyone who has ever been a business owner or leader. And throughout the experience, Stearns relies on—and shares—many of the sales, marketing, and leadership lessons he has learned over his 30-year business career. Here are 23:

1. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses
2. Find your buyer first and work backwards
3. No job is beneath you
4. Diversify your efforts
5. Tap into the herd mentality
6. Instill confidence
7. Be ready to pivot
8. Do your due diligence
9. Know how to motivate
10. Set your own table—don’t wait for the perfect opportunity to fall into your lap
11. Be prepared for setbacks
12. Turn rivals into revenue
13. Find people smarter than you
14. “No” is just the start of the conversation
15. Create space for talent—if a spot doesn’t exist, create one
16. With every setback, you gotta move forward
17. Don’t pigeonhole your players
18. Lose the battle to win the war
19. If things go wrong, don’t go with them
20. Interviews don’t tell you everything
21. When conflicts arise, conflict is optional
22. Don’t confuse effort with results
23. Endure more pain than anyone else

I won’t spoil the ending by revealing whether or not Stearns achieves his audacious goal. Check it out yourself on the Discovery Channel or the Discovery GO app. If you’re a salesperson, CEO, or professional, you’ll find it entertaining, insightful, and inspiring. It may even help you toward your first billion.

One Secret to Being a Better Leader or Salesperson

November 19th, 2019

One Secret to Being a Better Leader or SalespersonWant to be a more successful salesperson? A more effective leader? Both?

You can!

And it doesn’t require an advanced degree, or years of study, or mastering some arcane, complex set of skills.

It’s actually very simple. It’s just one thing. Anyone can do it, regardless of age, education, background, or experience.

And you can start doing it immediately! Like, today! Right now!

Ready?

Here it is:

Shut up!!

That’s it. Just stop talking so damn much. Spend more time listening instead.

Most people talk way too much and don’t listen anywhere near enough. But for nearly every aspect of business, listening is far more important than talking.

Listening:

• Gets you data
• Enables you to discover ideas
• Provides you with insights
• Clues you in to people’s emotions
• Makes people feel understood
• Helps people feel valued, respected, and appreciated
• Builds rapport, likability, and trust
• Causes people to be more open to what you have to say

The challenge, of course, is that shutting the hell up is more easily said than done. We all love talking, so we do it as much as possible. We like to prove our knowledge and superiority, be the center of attention, and tell others what to do. And it comes so naturally to us that we don’t even think about it.

Listening, on the other hand, requires conscious effort. We have to fight our natural inclination to talk and let the other person have the spotlight instead. We need to resist the urge to rebut them, change the subject to what we want to discuss, or simply tune them out. That requires focus and an open mind.

But that effort is worth it. You’ll gain more information, make others feel better, and improve your relationships, leading to higher sales and better results.

By the way, talking less and listening more will also strengthen your personal relationships. Try it with your spouse, your kids, and your friends. You’ll be amazed by the effect it has.

Top salespeople and top leaders understand the power of listening and why it can be so much more valuable than talking. So the next time you’re tempted to say something, try saying nothing. Zip it. Button your lip. Hold your tongue. Keep your trap shut. It’s tough, but it’s incredibly rewarding.

When Is Your Training Complete?

October 1st, 2019

When Is Your Training Complete?It’s a common trope in science fiction and fantasy stories: a hero begins their training buts gets interrupted. The hero then must either return or find someone else to “complete” their training.

Which brings up an interesting question: When do you complete your training?

The answer is…

Never.

Training—in sales or anything else—is an ongoing process. It never ends. Because there is always more to learn. There are always more insights to attain. Your skills can always be further honed.

I’ve been training in aikido for more than a decade. And the more I train, the more I realize I have to learn. Not just new techniques, but different approaches to techniques I already know. Getting smoother with my movements. Becoming more adaptable. More consistent. More precise. Faster.

And that process will never cease. I know aikido instructors who have been training for more than fifty years who still read books, watch videos, and attend classes and seminars. Because no matter how good you are, you can always get better.

So if you’re in sales, what it your commitment to continuous training? And if you’re in leadership, how committed are you to providing ongoing training for your people? (And not just salespeople, but everyone in your organization?)

Don’t think of training as an expense, or an interruption, or an event. Think of it as an essential part of the hero’s journey. And just as the journey never ends, neither does the training.

18 Buyer Emotions You Need to Overcome

September 24th, 2019

18 Buyer Emotions You Need to OvercomeAll buying is emotional. Even if you’re selling microchips to engineers, there’s still an emotional component to the transaction. Because as human beings, we feel more often, more easily, more quickly, and more deeply than we think. And those emotions play a huge role in all our decision-making. Often unconsciously.

So whenever you encounter a prospect, it’s critical to remember that they’re bringing a complex assortment of emotions along with them. And many of those emotions can be an obstacle on the way to the sale.

When your potential buyer walks into your store, calls you on the phone, or meets with you in their office, they may be burdened by any—or any combination—of these negative emotions:

1. Fear
2. Anger
3. Guilt
4. Disgust
5. Embarrassment
6. Sadness
7. Anxiety
8. Frustration
9. Jealousy
10. Shock
11. Tension
12. Confusion
13. Resentment
14. Shame
15. Disappointment
16. Overwhelm
17. Dread
18. Remorse

And that can be a problem for you. Because being in a negative emotional state can prevent a person from hearing what you say, considering relevant facts, and making a buying decision.

Which means you need to address their feelings before you address your product.

Depending on the emotions they’re experiencing, you may need to:

• Let them vent
• Empathize with them
• Validate them
• Encourage them
• Apologize
• Make them laugh
• Ask them questions
• Reassure them
• Offer them something to eat or drink
• Give them ideas for dealing with their problem

You don’t need to be a therapist. And you don’t need to have the answers to all their problems. Often, just listening is the most powerful, most helpful thing you can do.

Once you’ve alleviated your prospect’s negative emotional state, then you can transition to discussing their wants and needs, and your products and services. Because now you’ll have their full attention and interest. And because you’ve helped them replace their negative emotions with positive ones—such as relief, hope, pride, confidence, anticipation, gratitude, and possibly even excitement—they’re now in a buying state of mind.

By the way, everything above also applies to every customer service situation you and your company will ever encounter. (Just sayin’.)

Managing your prospect’s emotions is a vital part of the sales process. If your buyer’s hands are full of emotional baggage, they can’t sign on the dotted line. Relieve them of their burden and they’ll be free to embrace your product.

Eight Things Your Customers, Employees, and Loved Ones Have in Common

September 11th, 2019

Eight Things Your Customers, Employees, and Loved Ones Have in CommonYour customers are exactly like your employees. And both of them are exactly like the people in your life you love most. In one critically important way: They have the exact same emotional needs.

They all want to feel valued and valuable. That means they want to feel:

1. Understood
2. Appreciated
3. Important
4. Respected
5. Cared about
6. Special
7. Safe
8. Smart

The more of the these emotions they feel—and the more strongly they feel them—the better their performance, productivity, attitude, communication, initiative, morale, health, enthusiasm, decision-making, creativity, loyalty, and sales.

When you actively make your clients feel these eight ways, they’ll rave about you to others and buy more frequently from you. When you stimulate these eight emotions in your employees, they’ll work harder, stay longer, innovate more, and take better care of your customers. And when you regularly trigger these eight emotional states with your loved ones, they’ll be happier, healthier, more secure, more successful, and more loving.

By the way, this also applies to your vendors, partners, franchisees, contractors, interns, volunteers, lenders, investors, colleagues, and friends. Pretty much everyone who interacts with you and your business.

So whether you’re a salesperson, manager, or CEO, do everything in your power to make everyone that you and your organization touch feel these eight ways. The more you do, the better your results, sales, and relationships will be.

What is Your Product, Really?

September 4th, 2019

What is Your Product, Really? Nearly all of us—whether we’re salespeople, business owners, or professionals—love the products and services we sell. We take pride in their quality, reliability, accuracy, versatility, speed, appearance, safety, and effectiveness. We can talk about the features and benefits of our products and services all day long. We believe they are among the best—if not the best—in the marketplace.

But our prospects think of our offerings in a very different way. To them, our products and services are a means to an end.

Think about that for a moment.

People don’t buy our products and services because they actually want them. People buy them because they want something else, and they hope our wares can help them get that.

I’m a keynote speaker and seminar leader. But nobody ever wakes up in the morning and says to themselves, “Gee, I wish I had a seminar to go to today!” No CEO in history has ever said to their team, “What we need around here is a good keynote speech!”

When people attend my seminars or hire me to speak, it’s because they want to boost their sales and profits. I’m just the means to that end.

So what are the ends your prospects want? What are their needs? What makes them happy? What are they worried about? What goals are they trying to achieve? What problems are they trying to solve? What do they want more of or less of?

The key to boosting your sales lies in the answers to these questions. Because that’s what your prospect really cares about. Focus on those answers in your marketing, prospecting, presentations, and closing.

Your product or service is only a means to an end. Spend more time talking about the end and less time talking about the means, and you’ll end up with more sales.

It’s Not Too Late

August 27th, 2019

It’s Not Too Late

It’s not too late:

To thank someone.

To apologize.

To start over.

To change direction.

To follow up with your buyer.

To learn something new.

To go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go.

To ask for help.

To get certified

To find your passion.

To give a compliment.

To face your fears.

To be happy.

To ask for the sale.

To start exercising.

To get a mentor or a coach.

To be kind.

To try again.

To admit you were wrong.

To reach out.

To change your mind.

To try something new.

To free yourself from what’s holding you back.

To attend a seminar.

To launch a new product or service.

To forgive someone.

To forgive yourself.

To have an adventure.

To train your sales and customer service teams.

To read a book.

To write a book.

To chase your dream.

To make amends.

To help someone.

To leave a bad company.

To leave a bad relationship.

To make someone feel important.

To return a favor.

To tell someone you love them.

To succeed.

Direct Mail Done Right

August 20th, 2019

Direct Mail Done RightRegular readers of this blog know that I like to point out egregious examples of bad sales and marketing efforts. Like this one. And this one. Oh, and let’s not forget this one.

But I like to highlight good examples as well. I recently received the above postcard in the mail from my realtor—and friend—Bob Gordon. It’s content marketing at its finest.

The postcard lists the top ten home remodeling projects based on the percentage of resale value to cost. It’s valuable information for any homeowner thinking about possible remodeling projects. And if you weren’t thinking about remodeling, this information could inspire you to. It’s a practical message delivered precisely to the target audience. And it positions Bob as a person who truly cares about his clients.

As a bonus, because it’s useful, this postcard is likely to be saved, probably in a prominent place where it will be seen frequently. And very possibly seen by people other than the recipients. That expands the reach and impact of the piece.

A lot of salespeople and marketers have given up on direct mail, because of its perceived cost and inefficiency. But direct mail is actually more effective now than it has been in years, because people get so much less of it than they used to. Postcards are particularly effective because—unlike envelopes and email—they don’t need to be opened to be read. And when you employ content marketing, you make your direct mail even more powerful.

So the question is, how could you combine content marketing and direct mail? What information do you have that your clients and prospects would find valuable? What content marketing have you used digitally—in emails, on your blog, on Facebook—that you could convert to physical form to reach entirely new audiences?

Perhaps now is the time for you to discover—or rediscover—direct mail marketing. When done right—that is, when combined with content—it can be a powerful tool for driving sales.

The Magic Customer Service Question

August 14th, 2019

The Magic Customer Service Question

I was hungry.

I had just checked in at the Sheraton hotel in Tampa, Florida, where I was conducting a sales training seminar the next day. Now, normally when I’m traveling, I like to get out of the hotel and find a good, local restaurant to eat at. But this evening, it was late and I was tired. So I simply ordered room service—a fish sandwich and fries. It was local fish and it was tasty.

When I called down later to have the tray picked up, the friendly woman on the other end of the phone asked the usual question: “How was everything?”

“Fine,” I replied.

That would normally be the end of the conversation. But then she asked me a question nobody had ever asked me before: “Is there anything we could have done better?”

That was a very different question. And it prompted me to give her more feedback.

“Well, since you asked….the fish was kind of small compared to the bun. There was a lot more bread than fish.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” she responded. “I’ll pass that on to the kitchen staff, because they’ll want to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Thank you for letting me know. And I’m going to comp your meal for you.”

Whoa.

I hadn’t expected that. That’s customer service. I was stunned. And delighted. Not because I saved $20 on a meal. But because somebody really cared about my experience. She made me feel valued and important.

I have recounted that story—and given Sheraton tons of free publicity—in countless keynote speeches and workshops. I have made it a point to return to that Sheraton for seminars, and once I went there just for dinner. (It was fantastic, by the way.)

All because of the great experience I had there. And it wouldn’t have happened if the woman hadn’t asked what I now call “The Magic Customer Service Question.” Because that question elicited the information she needed to turn an ordinary situation into an extraordinary one.

Sales is service and service is sales. So if you want to improve your sales, you need to improve your service. And to do that, you need as much feedback as possible from your customers. Don’t settle for the standard question and the standard answer. Ask, “Is there anything we could have done better?” and use the information you get to improve your products, services, and customer experiences. Do that and your sales will flourish. Like magic.