Are You Taking Care of This Person Well Enough?

April 9th, 2019

Are You Taking Care of This Person Well Enough?Whether you’re a salesperson, leader, or business owner, you have a lot of people you need to take care of: customers, support staff, family, and more. But there’s one person who needs your time and attention more than any other.

YOU.

Because if you don’t take good enough care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else. And when you do take care of yourself, you enable yourself to be more creative, productive, and successful. Which benefits not just you, but everyone around you.

With that in mind, here are 18 ways you can engage in self-care:

• Eat right
• Exercise regularly
• Get enough sleep
• Reward yourself with occasional treats
• Relax with meditation, deep breathing, massage, aromatherapy, music
• Spend more time with family and friends
• Forgive yourself (and others)
• Seek out counseling or therapy when necessary
• Reconnect with your faith
• Take vacations
• Delegate as much as possible
• Quit smoking
• Reduce your alcohol consumption
• Say “no” more often
• Practice gratitude
• Do more of whatever you enjoy
• Get out in nature
• Try out—or go back to—a hobby

It can be difficult to fit time for yourself into your already-busy schedule. But it’s critical that you do. You don’t just owe it to yourself—you owe it to everyone who depends on you.

How to Make the Most of a Leads Group

April 3rd, 2019

How to Make the Most of a Leads GroupAre you using a leads group as one of your prospecting strategies? If not, perhaps you should be. After all, if you’re prospecting for new sales leads, referrals are the best kind. And a leads group can be a very powerful way of generating referrals.

Like any other prospecting tool, however, your results depend on how well you use it. Simply showing up every once in a while isn’t enough. The more effort you put into your leads group, the more leads (and more sales) you’ll get out of it. Here are some specific tactics for maximizing the return you get from belonging to a leads group.

Be on Time
Or better yet, be early. Always. Showing up late for meetings sends a signal to other members that you’re not very organized, reliable, or both. That kind of negative reputation can really put a damper on a member’s willingness to recommend you, since it’s also their reputation on the line.

Arriving early (and staying late, if you can) also gives you a chance to converse with other members, strengthening your relationships with them. And stronger relationships leads to more sales.

Get to Know People
The better you know your group colleagues, the easier it is for you to refer them. (Remember, you’re prospecting for them, just as they’re prospecting for you.) So learn as much as you can about the other members of your group. Take the time to fully understand what they do, how they do it, and what the results are. Discover the breadth of their product or service offerings, as well as their specialties and target markets.

Items you want to know include:

• What do they do differently than everyone else?
• What are the benefits of doing business with them?
• What makes them worth their price?
• Who are their best prospects?
• What do their customers say about them?
• How should you describe them to a potential prospect?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Other members will typically be flattered that you want to know more about their business so you can refer them more effectively.

Also, don’t be afraid to take notes so you can remember what you learn about your fellow group members. Everyone knows our memories are faulty, so no one will chastise you. On the contrary, people will typically be impressed by your professionalism.

Give Lots of Referrals
As a general rule, the more referrals you give, the more referrals you’ll get. So make it a point to constantly be on the lookout for referral opportunities. You should always be prospecting.

When you attend other networking events, ask people you meet what their biggest challenges are. Listen attentively during conversations to pick up on potential needs of the people you’re talking to. Keep extra business cards of your group colleagues with you to hand out on the spot. In fact, some leads groups give their members a special business card holder to carry extra cards in to facilitate referrals.

Give GOOD Referrals
Of course, in a leads group, it’s not just the quantity of leads you provide that matter—it’s also the quality of them. So the better the quality of your referrals, the better they’ll be received and the more you’ll be appreciated. There are three levels of sales leads: cold, warm, and hot.

Cold Lead—The lead you’re passing may or may not have a need. However, the person you’re passing the lead to can contact them using your name to get in the door and find out whether or not they have a need. This is the weakest type of lead, but it’s better than nothing. It’s certainly better than a pure cold call and it has some (albeit minimal) chance of turning into a sale.

Warm Lead—You think (or know) that the lead has a need, but you haven’t specifically discussed it with them. They’re not expecting a call from your leads group colleague, but they’re likely to be receptive to it, especially when the person mentions your name. This is a good lead, and in fact, the most common type of lead passed.

Hot Lead—The lead definitely has a need and you’ve already discussed the person you’re referring with them. As a result, the prospect is expecting a call from the person you’re referring. Obviously, this is the best possible type of lead. It takes more time and effort, but it makes your colleague’s job much easier and dramatically increases the chance of a sale.

To generate a hot lead (which you should, whenever possible), you need to set up the referral ahead of time. And the way you set it up makes a big difference to the person receiving it, as well as the person to whom you’re making it. A lackluster referral doesn’t do anybody much good.

When you are referring a group member to an acquaintance who has a need, be enthusiastic. (If you’re not excited about the person you’re referring, why should they be?) Describe the member in some detail to build confidence.

Then, when you are giving the lead to your group member, provide as much information about that prospect as you can. You might include their budget, their time frame, their current or previous vendor, and the best time to call. The more information your group member has, the easier it will be for them to make the initial contact as well as close the sale.

Be Clear
Make it easy for others in the group to refer you. Explain clearly what you do, what kinds of problems you solve, and what kinds of prospects are the best fit for you. The more specific you can be (both about your work and who you’re prospecting for), the better.

However, don’t bog down members with technical language or industry jargon. If they don’t understand what you’re saying, they can’t help you much. Instead, illustrate your work by relating stories of customers and how you’ve helped them.

Collateral material is also valuable. Obviously, you want to give everyone your card. But give out your brochures, catalogs, booklets, white papers, and any other marketing materials as well. Show your group colleagues photos or testimonial letters. If possible, provide free samples, trials, or consultations to the other group members.

The better other members understand what you do, the easier it is for them to explain it to others. And the better other members understand who your best prospects are, the easier it will be for them to find new ones for you.

Recruit Members
As a general rule, bigger groups are better. Which makes sense when you think about it. The larger your leads group, the more people there are actively prospecting for you. And, of course, the easier it is for you to find referrals for other people. (More sales for everybody!)

So do some prospecting for new members as well as new sales leads. Be an evangelist for your group. Mention it at networking mixers and other business events. Invite people you know and trust to visit your group. If they join, they win, you win, and the group wins.

Provide Value to Group Members
Instead of spending the entire 30 or 60 seconds allotted to you for your introduction talking about yourself and your business, try demonstrating your expertise by offering a tip that other members can use. People will sometimes zone out while a member is talking about themselves (everyone does it now and then, it’s human nature), but if you’re providing information they can actually use, you can bet you’ll have their complete attention.

For example:

• If you’re an insurance agent, you might give out a tip each week about how members can keep their homes, cars, or kids safe.
• A business coach could offer a different success strategy each week.
• A florist might provide tips on how to choose the right flowers for different occasions and how to keep them alive longer.
• A real estate agent could suggest different ways to increase or maintain a home’s value.
• A chiropractor could offer ways to keep a body healthy.
• A web designer might update members on the latest technology tools to increase a website’s effectiveness.
• A caterer could offer event planning tips.
• A landscaper might provide recommendations about lawn and garden care based on the current weather.
• An accountant could alert the rest of the group to proposed or recent tax code changes and their impact.

Find Speakers
If your group brings in guest speakers, assist in finding good ones. Look for experts in the fields of sales, marketing, networking, customer service, presentation skills, negotiating, productivity, and communication. (You should also consider people who are pure motivational speakers. After all, the right attitude is essential.) A twenty-to-thirty minute presentation every now and then can help keep the group invigorated and refresh everyone’s skills.

Volunteer
There are all kinds of jobs that need to be done in order for a leads group to function effectively. Volunteer to help out and you’ll raise your visibility and generate additional goodwill among the other members. When you give to the organization, others feel compelled to give to you in return.

Use Your Group
This should be obvious, yet it’s so easy to forget. When you need products and services, look to the members of your group first. When you buy from them, they’re encouraged to buy from you.

If nobody in your group provides the product or service you need, ask them to refer someone who does. Needless to say, that person then becomes a new prospect for group membership.

Visit Other Groups
Is your leads group as good as it can possibly be? Would you like it to be better? Pay a visit to other leads groups periodically (with permission of course) to see what they do differently than your group. You may discover ideas that can help your group, and you can share your ideas with other groups.

You may also find opportunities to collaborate with other leads groups for mutual benefit. Perhaps you can coordinate a joint membership event. Or pool your resources to exhibit at a trade show together. Or sponsor an event that none of you would be able to do individually.

Focus on One and Only One Group
I’ve heard people brag about belonging to three, four, even five leads groups. But that’s a recipe for disaster. If you belong to more than one group, you’ll be forced to split your leads among them, since there will undoubtedly be people with similar businesses in each group. It’s also hard to keep track of that many people and remember to refer them all. Not to mention all the time that kind of group-hopping requires.

Instead, focus your attention and efforts on just one group. A group that’s a good fit for you that you can be loyal to. A few strong referral relationships are infinitely more productive than a bunch of weak ones.

By all means, get involved with other types of business groups (Chambers of Commerce, community service organizations, professional associations, Toastmasters, etc.), because they can expand your networking contacts and help your business in a variety of ways beyond boosting your sales. But when it comes to leads groups, one is plenty.

Invite Group Members to Other Events
Don’t limit your interactions with your fellow group members to just once a week. Invite them to other networking and social events. Doing so will garner you several benefits.

First, you’ll have a chance to get to know each other better, both on a business and personal level. There’s only limited time at each leads group meeting for you all to talk with each other, and creating a deeper, stronger relationship makes it easier for you all to find referrals for each other.

Second, when you invite your group colleagues to other events, it positions you positively in their minds. Not only are you “in the know” and “well-connected,” but the fact that you thought to invite them creates a sense of appreciation. Being at the forefront of their minds (in a positive fashion) helps ensure that they’re working harder to find you more leads.

And third, when you give your fellow group members the opportunity to meet new people, it means they have more chances to meet someone they can refer to you!

Enjoy Yourself
Have fun! Nobody like doing business with someone whose attitude reminds them of a Department of Motor Vehicles bureaucrat. But people love doing business with a person who loves their work, their products, and their customers. Enthusiasm is a powerful asset. People will flock to you when your attitude is positive because you make them feel better.

Be Consistent
Consistency pays off, both for you and the group. Be diligent about attending meetings. Mention your leads group in conversations with other business acquaintances. Keep your radar tuned to possible opportunities for people in your group. Actively seek out referrals for other members. The harder you work to procure leads for others, the harder they’ll work to return the favor.

Be Patient
Like most other prospecting tools, leads groups take time to provide results. If you expect to get lots of leads (and lots of sales) right away, you’re in for a disappointment. It takes several weeks just for other members to get a good feel for you and your business. It can take several more for them to remember you effectively enough to notice prospective customers for you.

Once you do start receiving leads, remember that it won’t always be a steady stream. (As can be said about any prospecting strategy.) Every person in a leads group experiences ebbs and flows of referrals, especially if their business is seasonal. (Think accounting and landscaping.)

Don’t be concerned with your numbers from week to week. Instead, keep your focus on your long term sales results. And if you follow these guidelines for success, over the long term, your leads group should prove to be an extremely profitable investment in your prospecting portfolio.

24 Ways to Make Customers Feel Special

March 26th, 2019

24 Ways to Make Customers Feel SpecialEveryone wants to feel special. It’s a basic human emotional need. And as I—and many other sales experts—have noted repeatedly, buying decisions are emotional at their core.

Which means the more you can fulfill your prospect’s emotional needs, the more likely they are to buy from you, and the more frequently they’ll buy from you.

With that in mind, here are 24 ways you can make prospects and customers feel special:

1. Compliment them
2. Praise them
3. Listen intently and empathetically
4. Give them a free sample or trial
5. Give them a bonus
6. Upgrade them
7. Offer them special pricing
8. Offer them extended financing terms
9. Provide them with priority service
10. Give them your cell phone number
11. Offer sneak previews
12. Give them first crack at new products or services
13. Send a card (for any reason other than Christmas)
14. Send a handwritten note
15. Make a non-sales-related phone call
16. Interview them for an article or podcast
17. Send articles related to their business, industry, or interests
18. Give them a gift (at any time, for any reason)
19. Give them a gift certificate or gift card (NOT a coupon!)
20. Ask about their family, pets, or hobbies
21. Buy from them
22. Send them referrals
23. Publicize them
24. Support their favorite charity

Every person and situation is different, so pick and choose which ideas are the best fit for any particular prospect or client. Just be sure to use at least one tactic with each of them, because (as I said at the beginning of this post, weren’t you paying attention?) everyone wants to feel special.

Each of these tactics requires only a small amount of time and effort, and half of them are free. But the impact they create can be tremendous.

Make your buyer feel special and you’ll be special to them.

How a Screw-Up Can Boost Your Sales

March 20th, 2019

How a Screw-Up Can Boost Your SalesWhile hanging with a friend recently, the subject of what to eat for dinner came up. After discussing some possibilities, we agreed on pizza. The next decision—where to go—turned out to be an easy one, because in her mind, there was only one option: the local outlet of Garlic Jim’s.

Curious, I asked her why. She then told me this story:

Shortly after moving to the neighborhood, she had ordered a pizza from Garlic Jim’s. It was soon delivered by a young guy. When she opened the box, however, the pie was folded over and slightly burned. She suspected it might have been dropped. It certainly didn’t look appetizing.

She called the store to complain. The store’s owner got on the phone and immediately apologized. He promised to refund her credit card, and then offered her another pizza on the house.

Shortly afterward, a woman arrived with a replacement pie. It turned out to be the owner’s wife. She apologized as well and said she wanted to make sure this pizza was perfect. She then thanked my friend for calling to give them the feedback and the opportunity to correct the problem.

The pizza turned out to be delicious. But even more impressive to my friend was the attitude of the owners and their commitment to making things right. It’s the reason she has made that Garlic Jim’s her exclusive pizza choice and regularly takes her friends and family there.

It’s also the reason the owners have seen their sales increase every year, despite the previous owner struggling stay in business.

Because the reality is that people aren’t just buying a product or service from you—they’re buying an experience. And when that experience is bad, you and your people can either make it worse or turn it around. Guess which one results in greater customer loyalty and higher sales?

Another reality is that no matter how good your company is, occasionally there will be screw-ups. When they occur, what lengths are you willing to go to in order to turn an angry customer into a thrilled one? What lengths are your people empowered to go to? And do they understand why and how to do so?

A mistake doesn’t have to result in a lost customer. It can actually be an opportunity to secure a client for life. Turn the experience around for them. Impress them with your customer care. Make them feel valued, important, and appreciated. Give them a reason to keep buying from you and they will.

So to sum up, when you screw up, and your customer pipes up, don’t let them get fed up. (Especially if they throw up.) Instead, show up, step up, make up, and follow up. Your customer will light up and your sales will go up.

Speaking of Prospecting . . .

March 12th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

19 Ways to Guarantee You’ll Fail

March 5th, 2019

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

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

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

So here are 19 ways you can ensure failure:

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

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

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

Product Knowledge is Overrated

February 26th, 2019

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

And that’s a mistake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

87 Things You Can Control

February 19th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Whew!

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

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

Stop Trying to Be Normal

February 12th, 2019

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

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

Normal is:

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

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

Or would you rather be:

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

Normal is overrated. Different is underused.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What You Like Doesn’t Matter

February 5th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Damn. Now I really want potato chips.

Nine Attitudes for Sales Success

January 29th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seven Steps to Creating a Powerful Prospecting Plan

January 22nd, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

37 Ways to Inspire Confidence in Your Prospects

January 15th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Buying From You Too Risky?

January 8th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Most Memorable Gift

December 25th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elf on the Shelf Alleged to Be Government Spying Program

December 18th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Does Your Price Say About You?

December 4th, 2018

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

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

And people bought them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eleven Things You Should Never Say In a Presentation

November 28th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Are You Being Too Accommodating to Your Customers?

November 20th, 2018

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

And yet…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nine Holiday Networking Strategies

November 13th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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