My Most Memorable Gift

December 25th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elf on the Shelf Alleged to Be Government Spying Program

December 18th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Does Your Price Say About You?

December 4th, 2018

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

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

And people bought them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eleven Things You Should Never Say In a Presentation

November 28th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Are You Being Too Accommodating to Your Customers?

November 20th, 2018

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

And yet…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nine Holiday Networking Strategies

November 13th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Badly Do You Want Others to Succeed?

November 6th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Words That Will Make You a Better Salesperson and Leader

October 30th, 2018

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

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

“How can I support you?”

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

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

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

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

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

24 Ways to Keep Your Brain Sharp

October 23rd, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Read

2. Take a class

3. Learn a language

4. Play a musical instrument

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

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

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

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

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

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

11. Play trivia games

12. Take dance lessons

13. Train in a martial art

14. Try new foods and cuisines

15. Cook or bake

16. Use your non-dominant hand for ordinary tasks

17. Take new routes to familiar destinations

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

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

20. Strengthen and expand your social networks

21. Try a new hobby

22. Attend conferences, sales training seminars, and workshops

23. Volunteer

24. Meditate

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

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

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

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

Do You Care About the Wrong Thing?

October 16th, 2018

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

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

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

At all.

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

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

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

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

How to Boost Your Credibility at a Trade Show

October 9th, 2018

How to Boost Your Credibility at a TradeshowA trade show is a challenging sales environment. You don’t have the natural advantages you have when talking with a prospect on your own turf. Your competition is everywhere. And all the exhibits look so similar.

How do you stand out and effectively compete? Especially against larger competitors that may be able to buy a bigger booth space than you?

Here are 14 ways to enhance your credibility at the show so you can gain an edge.

1. Awards
You have the awards you’ve won hanging on the walls of your business, but that doesn’t help you at the show. So bring them with you and hang them in your exhibit.

2. Certifications
Do the same with all the certifications of your people. Every one increases your perceived credibility.

3. Photos and Video
Attendees can’t walk through your facility, but that doesn’t mean you can’t show it to them. Post pictures or video of it—perhaps even a virtual tour. You can also use photos and video to highlight products you couldn’t bring to the show or to provide “Before and After” examples.

4. Media Stories
Publicity equals credibility. So post any and all media coverage you’ve received, whether print or video.

5. Reviews and Rankings
Has some credible third party reviewed you or ranked you on a list? Enlarge that and show it off.

6. Testimonials
Customers’ words carry weight with prospects so look for ways to display them throughout your exhibit.

7. Customers
Invite some of your customers to join you at the show. (Pay all their expenses and treat them like royalty.) When attendees can talk directly with your customers at your exhibit, that’s the best sales and marketing there is.

8. White Papers
Create a white paper or special report to demonstrate your expertise and give it to all your visitors.

9. Demos
Showing your product in action can not only draw a crowd, but it can convert prospects into buyers on the spot.

10. Service Techs
Many attendees are hesitant to talk with salespeople, but they’ll happily talk with technicians. And because they typically have both extensive product knowledge and passion for the product, techs can make excellent salespeople.

11. Manufacturer Reps
If you’re a distributor or retailer, ask your manufacturers to send some of their reps to help you at your show. Every rep you have at your exhibit boosts your credibility.

12. Staff Adequately
One mistake that hurts your credibility is not having enough staff at your exhibit. Attendees don’t want to wait, and if there isn’t a person available to engage them immediately, they’re likely to walk.

13. Train Your People
A trade show is unlike any other sales situation, and to be effective, your team needs specific training. A modest investment in a pre-show seminar or workshop can pay huge dividends.

14. Sponsorships
Just because you can’t afford the title sponsorship doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from being a sponsor. Any sponsorship can aid your exposure and credibility if you leverage it well.

Trade shows are valuable marketing and sales opportunities. To maximize them, employ as many of these strategies as possible. The more credibility you generate, the more you’ll stand out, the more attendees will trust you, and the more sales you’ll close.

Five Types of Questions to Ask Prospects

October 2nd, 2018

Five Types of Questions to Ask ProspectsThe single best thing you can do with a prospect—at any point in the sales cycle—is to ask them questions. If you ask enough of the right questions, your prospect will tell you everything you need to know to make the sale.

In my training seminars and workshops, I typically give audiences 20 to 40 specific questions to ask prospects. The exact questions vary based on the industry and type of sale. But they can be broken down into five basic categories.

1. Introductory Questions
These questions build rapport with your prospect and set the tone for the rest of your interactions with them. They also provide you with valuable information. They include questions like:

• How much time do you have right now?
• What is your main goal at the moment?
• Who else needs to be involved in making the decision?

2. Experience Questions
A person’s past experience with the type of product or service you sell influences what they want and don’t want in a new version. So you want to learn as much as you can about their previous experiences. Ask questions such as:

• Do you currently own/use a (product/service)?
• What do you like most about it?
• What do you wish was different?

3. Use Questions
How your prospect intends to use what you sell makes a huge difference in what they should buy. Knowing how they need to use their new product or service will quickly steer you toward the option that’s best for them. Questions that uncover their intended usage include:

• Where do you plan to use it?
• How many people will be using it?
• How often will you be using it?

4. Criteria Questions
Your prospect is going to make their decision based on certain criteria. And those criteria are unique to them. Which means you need to find out those criteria are. Pose questions such as:

• How much maintenance do you want to do?
• Are you working within a budget?
• What are your favorite colors?

5. Finishing Questions
These are the questions that lead you into the presentation or into the close. They’re your last chance to elicit information before moving on to the next step. (Although you can and should ask more questions during the presentation and closing stages.) To make sure you get all the information you possibly can, ask questions like:

• How familiar are you with this (product/service)?
• Is there anything I’ve overlooked?
• What kinds of questions do you have?

So the question for you is, how can you incorporate all five types of questions into your discovery process? What specific questions will provide you with the information you need to close the deal? (Okay, that’s two questions.)

Create your own list of questions based on these five categories. And use them with every prospect. Because the right questions will lead you—and your prospect—right to the sale.

Want some help creating great questions for you and your sales team? Contact me today and we can start putting together a plan!

Sell More by Giving Things Away

September 25th, 2018

Sell More by Giving Things AwayThe most powerful four-letter word in sales and marketing is “free.” Everybody loves getting something for nothing. And giving things away can be an extremely powerful sales tactic. Two stories that were recently shared by participants at a couple of my training seminars illustrate how to capitalize on this principle.

The first example was related by an attendee who drove to the seminar with two of his colleagues. On their way to the seminar that morning, they found themselves, at one point, stuck in traffic next to a Snapple delivery truck. They jokingly called out to the driver, who was unloading the truck to make a delivery, “Hey, how about some free cases of Snapple?”

“Sorry,” the driver responded, “I can’t do that.” “But,” he continued, “I can give you three bottles.” He quickly handed three bottles of Snapple to the stunned occupants of the car, smiled, and walked inside the building to finish his delivery.

The result? As the attendee told the rest of the audience, “I’m going to buy a lot more Snapple from now on!” Three bottles of Snapple cost the distributor about a dollar. For a miniscule investment, that driver created three customers for life, not to mention the positive word-of-mouth they’ve been generating. That’s selling.

The second story was reported by the friend of a pet shop owner. She said that he put up a huge sign reading “Free Puppies.” Naturally, when people pick out their “free” puppy, they have to purchase puppy food, a puppy bed, food and water dishes, treats, toys, leashes, and more.

Customers typically spend more than a hundred dollars to outfit their new pet, not to mention how much they spend on return visits. He may be giving away puppies, but he’s selling the accessories like crazy. It’s akin to companies giving away razors and making their money selling the blades.

However, the story goes further: The pet store owner also has relationships with a veterinarian, a fencing contractor, an obedience school, and a cleaning service. In an example of symbiotic marketing, each refers the other and helps up-sell the customer: the vet recommends premium dog food, the obedience school recommends more frequent house cleanings during shedding season. And it all starts by giving away a puppy.

What can you give away to prospects and customers to stimulate your sales?

Eleven Ways to Boost Your Presentation Skills

September 18th, 2018

Eleven Ways to Boost Your Presentation SkillsWhether you’re a salesperson, executive, or business owner, presentation skills are vital to your success. But presentation skills are rarely taught in school, and too many companies don’t invest in such training for their people. Which means if you want to be a better presenter, you’re often on your own.

Fortunately, there are plenty of resources to help you hone your skills. Here are eleven options.

1. Read books
There are thousands of books on the subject of presentation skills, from beginner-level to advanced. Check out Amazon, your local book store, or your local library.

2. Check out articles, blog posts, and podcasts
As many books as there are, there are hundreds of times as many articles and podcasts—on every facet of speaking and presenting. Just search for the specific subtopic you’re most interested in. Oh, and hey, would you look at that? There are some posts right here on this site on the subject:

Six Ways NOT to Open a Presentation

Five Steps to Creating a Powerful Sales Presentation

Seven Sales Presentation Tips from Infomercials

Top Ten PowerPoint Mistakes Salespeople Make

Nine Tips for Crafting Better Sales Presentations

11 Ways to Close Your Next Presentation with Impact

3. Watch videos
There are also thousands of videos about presentation skills, with the bonus that many of them model the principle or tactic they discuss, so you can see it in action.

4. Audio record yourself
What we think we say is not necessarily what we actually say. And how we think we say it is not necessarily accurate either. Listening to a recording of yourself will enable you to hear how you really sound. And while it’s not fun, it will give you tremendous insights into your current strengths and weaknesses.

5. Video record yourself
Video recording will take your personal discomfort to the next level. Not only will you hear everything you’re doing wrong, you’ll see it too! (Don’t worry—even professional speakers have a tough time watching themselves on video. But we do it because it helps us get better.)

6. Practice in front of others
Ask your manager, colleagues, friends, or spouse to watch you and provide you with feedback, both positive and constructive. Ask them to be painfully honest.

7. Join Toastmasters
Toastmasters International is a worldwide non-profit organization that enables people from all walks of life to develop their presentation skills in a supportive environment at their own pace. With nearly 16,000 local clubs in 142 countries, there are almost certainly several clubs near you.

8. Take a public speaking class
Many community colleges and adult education programs offer classes in speaking and presenting. Whether it’s a single evening or several weeks, it’s a good—and cost-effective—use of your time.

9. Attend a presentation skills seminar
Seminars are typically more expensive than an adult ed course, but they usually offer more advanced insights and tactics.

10. Study other presenters
Thanks to this cool thing called “The Internet,” it’s possible to watch lots of other speakers, with a range of skill levels, delivering a wide variety of presentations. And you can learn something from each one of them.

11. Work with a speech coach
While it’s the most expensive option in the list, a speech coach can provide you with one-on-one attention and personally help you craft every element of a presentation. If the presentation is really important, a speech coach is a solid investment.

The power to be a better speaker is in your hands. Presentation skills are among the most valuable skills you can strengthen, and they will serve you in situations beyond sales calls. They will improve your commissions, your career, your image, and your impact.

By the way, if you’re a CEO or sales VP, consider bringing in an expert to train your sales team. The better their presentation skills, the more deals they’ll close for you.

How a Sandwich Can Transform Your Business

September 11th, 2018

How a Sandwich Can Transform Your BusinessLet’s say you own a restaurant. And let’s say on your menu you have a Reuben sandwich. The Reuben is a classic, which is why it’s on the menus of approximately 98.7% of all restaurants.

And therein lies the problem.

If I’m in the mood for a Reuben, I can go literally anywhere to get one. In any given city, I’m never more than twelve feet from a joint that serves a Reuben. So why should I choose your establishment?

Sure, you can claim you make the best Reuben in town. But nearly everyone makes the exact same claim.

You could go a step further and highlight that you make your own corned beef, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing in-house. But these days, lots of places do that as well. And a large percentage of the population either can’t tell the difference, or don’t care enough to go out of their way to seek out a restaurant that does that.

But what if you were to do something different?

What if you deviated from the standard corned beef, Swiss, kraut, and Russian (or Heaven-forbid, Thousand Island) dressing on rye?

What if you made a Reuben with three kinds of meat? Or three kinds of cheese? Or two meats and two cheeses? (Can you say “Bacon Double-Cheese Reuben?”) Or a spicy Reuben, with jalapenos and pepper jack cheese? Or an Italian Reuben with pesto and mozzarella?

That would be something I can’t get just anywhere. That would give me a reason to choose your restaurant over all my other options. That would be an incentive for me to seek you out and to take my friends there. (“You have got to try this sandwich!”)

It would even be something you could feature in your marketing and hang your hat on. (“Home of the “Ultra-Reuben”)

It would be different. It would be unique. It would make you stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Now you probably don’t own a restaurant. But this idea applies to every industry. What’s your Reuben sandwich? What do you do that everyone else in your industry also does? And how could you do it differently? The answer could transform your business and radically boost your sales.

Oh, and if you do own a restaurant, and you create a sandwich like this, let me know, will you? I’d love to try it!

Honesty Is The Best (Sales) Policy

September 4th, 2018

Honesty Is The Best (Sales) PolicyRecently, a woman called me, stated that she was taking a survey and started to ask me questions. (Without asking for my permission, by the way.) After the third question, it was obvious where this “survey” was going, so I cut to the chase.

“Is this a sales call?” I asked.

“No sir. I’m just taking a survey.”

“What’s the point of this survey?”

“Well, it’s to see if you’re eligible for a service we have that lets you…”

“So this is a sales call.

“Well, not exactly.”

I hung up on her. Which is what I always do to salespeople who call me and refuse to be honest about their motives.

Because if you’re not honest enough to admit you’re making a sales call, how can I trust you with my business??!!

Top sales professionals, by contrast, understand that honesty is a powerful sales tactic, because it disarms our prospects. Being honest with the prospect is the first step to building trust.

Try this script when you’re making sales calls by phone:

“Hello, Ms. Smith? This is Mike Jones of Rogers & Co. This is a sales call. I need 90 seconds. Is this a convenient time?”

This script showcases your honesty, tells the prospect what their time commitment will be and asks their permission. These three elements together will dramatically improve your compliance. And there are lots of variations on this approach. Just be sure to incorporate all three elements.

If the prospect says it’s not a convenient time, ask what would be a better time. Call back at their stated time and whether you reach the person or their voice-mail, say, “You asked me to call you back at this time and I promised you I would.”

Honesty. Integrity. Professionalism. The hallmarks of a great salesperson. You.

39 Ways to Make Your Business More Kid-Friendly

August 21st, 2018

39 Ways to Make Your Business More Kid-FriendlyHow kid-friendly are you? Whether you’re marketing to children or their parents, the more hospitable your business is to children, the more sales you’ll make.

For example, you might create a supervised play area where parents can leave their children while they shop. Consider putting small chairs in your waiting room so young kids don’t feel so uncomfortable. And be sure to place items you do want kids to see and touch down low to make it convenient for them.

Here are 36 other ideas for catering to kids and their parents:

1. Coloring books and crayons
2. A television with kid-appropriate programming
3. Blocks
4. Animals: fish, birds, hamsters, spiders, etc.
5. Children’s books
6. Magazines for a variety of ages
7. Candy or gumball machines
8. Model trains
9. Booster seats or high-chairs
10. Music
11. Puzzles
12. Games
13. Organized activities
14. Computers or tablets with kid-oriented software
15. Water, soda, or juice
16. Diaper changing tables in BOTH restrooms
17. Extra diapers and changing accessories
18. Puppets
19. Collector cards
20. Workshops exclusively for kids
21. Cartoons
22. A sandbox
23. Video games
24. Comic books
25. Popcorn
26. Child-sized or toy versions of your products or accessories
27. Temporary tattoos
28. Stuffed animals
29. Child-size food portions
30. Ice cream
31. Costumes and dress-up clothes
32. Balloons
33. A clown
34. Contests exclusively for kids
35. Face-painting
36. A treasure chest

Whichever ideas you choose to use, keep in mind that the most important factor when dealing with children is to have a kid-friendly attitude. Everyone in your organization should always treat them with kindness, courtesy, and respect.

After all, they’re your future customers.

What else have you done—or seen done—to make a business more friendly to kids? Share your experiences in the comments below!

Are You Treating Your Salespeople Too Well?

August 14th, 2018

Are You Treating Your Salespeople Too Well?If you saw that title and clicked over here to see if you might be treating your salespeople too well, I can guarantee you—you aren’t. In fact, you probably don’t treat your salespeople well enough.

Your salespeople are among the most important employees in your company. If money is the life blood of a business, salespeople are the heart that pumps it. Which means you need to take very good care of yours. (Both salespeople and heart.)

This is not to say that you need to give your sales team an unlimited budget and every conceivable perk. Nor does it mean that you shouldn’t hold your salespeople accountable. (You absolutely should.)

It means that whether you’re a sales manager, VP, or CEO, a big part of your job is to equip your sales team for success, eliminate as many hurdles for them as possible, create a positive atmosphere for them to work, provide them with plenty of feedback, coaching, and training, and shower them with appreciation.

Too many companies expect extraordinary results from their sales teams, but make it difficult for them to achieve such results. And then don’t reward their salespeople even when they do. This saps motivation, leading to poor performance, burnout, and lost sales.

The success of your business depends on your salespeople. The better you treat them, the better they’ll perform. Conversely, if you don’t treat your salespeople well enough, one of your competitors will.

Five Reasons Your Prospecting Sucks

August 7th, 2018

Five Reasons Your Prospecting SucksReaching your sales goals starts with great prospecting. But too many people don’t prospect effectively. If you don’t have a full pipeline of qualified buyers, odds are you’re making one or more of these fatal mistakes.

1. Not spending enough time on it
I know, I know—you’ve got 18,000 things to do every day. But really, how many of them are more important than prospecting? What can you delegate, outsource, or stop doing completely in order to free up more time for prospecting?

2. Going after the wrong prospects
Typically when I ask a salesperson, professional, or business owner who their market is, the response is “everyone.” That’s the wrong answer! Because you can’t possibly sell to everyone. If you want to make the most of your prospecting efforts, you need to focus on your ideal prospects—the ones who most need and appreciate your product or service. And not just have a need, but also have a budget to afford it, the authority to make a decision, and the motivation to act.

3. Using the wrong tools and approaches
If you’re targeting CEOs, Facebook and Twitter are the wrong places to find them. And conversely, if you’re going after consumers, LinkedIn is the wrong place to spend your time and energy. Where does your ideal prospect spend their time? Where do they go, what do they read, who do they talk with?

4. You don’t really believe in what you sell
For a brief (very brief) time in my youth, I was an appointment setter for a company that sold replacement windows. I hated that job. And the single biggest reason is that I didn’t care about—and thus didn’t truly believe in—the product. If you don’t fully, completely, totally believe in whatever it is you’re selling, do yourself—and everyone else—a favor and quit. And go sell something you can truly believe in. Because enthusiasm and passion matter—not just in prospecting, but in every element of the sales process.

5. Bothering people rather than delivering value
If your ideal prospects aren’t responding to your outreach efforts, there’s a good chance it’s because they perceive you as an annoyance. If all of your messages boil down to “Give me some of your money!” then there’s no reason for your prospects to engage with you. How can you be of value to your potential buyers? How can you serve them in a way that builds trust and appreciation, thus making them want to do business with you?

Before you can close more deals, you need more prospects. How many of these mistakes are you currently making? And what can you do about them? Correct these problems and you’ll not only meet your sales goals, you’ll exceed them.

Why You Don’t Want a Level Playing Field

July 31st, 2018

Why You Don’t Want a Level Playing FieldPeople in business often use the cliché, “a level playing field” to express their desire for a fair and equitable marketplace in which to compete. But who the hell really wants that?

If you’re competing with four other companies for a customer and you each have a “fair” and “equal” chance of succeeding, that means you only have a 20% chance of closing the deal! Why would you settle for that???

If you want to boost your sales, you want to play on a field that is tilted in your favor. Preferably so slanted that you almost can’t help but win the business.

And the good news is that the ability to tilt the playing field lies firmly in your control! There are numerous ways you can ethically create an advantage in the marketplace, including:

• Better product or service
• Unique product or service
• Better marketing
• More marketing
• Better publicity
• Longer warranties
• Stronger guarantees
• More locations
• More convenience
• Larger selection
• More salespeople
• More sales training
• Longer hours
• More customer service people
• Better customer service policies
• More customer service training
• Faster response times
• Better customer experience
• More customer appreciation
• Better employee pay
• Better employee working conditions
• More community outreach
• More charity support

You can begin to improve any of these areas immediately. And you can get plenty of help in these endeavors. Hire a consultant to help improve your innovation, quality, or marketing. Bring in a speaker or trainer to train your sales and service teams. Hire a coach to work with your leaders to enable them to create a more effective, more successful, more profitable company.

Please note that I am by no means suggesting that you should lie, cheat, or do anything illegal to give yourself an edge. Unethical behavior has no place in business.

What I am suggesting is that you look for ways to outperform your competitors. How can you make your company the clear choice, the easy choice, the obvious choice? How can you raise your organization so far above the competition that they wish they had a level playing field?