23 Business Lessons from an Undercover Billionaire

November 26th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Secret to Being a Better Leader or Salesperson

November 19th, 2019

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

You can!

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

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

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


Here it is:

Shut up!!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

When Is Your Training Complete?

October 1st, 2019

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

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

The answer is…


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

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

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

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

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

18 Buyer Emotions You Need to Overcome

September 24th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 11th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is Your Product, Really?

September 4th, 2019

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

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

Think about that for a moment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Not Too Late

August 27th, 2019

It’s Not Too Late

It’s not too late:

To thank someone.

To apologize.

To start over.

To change direction.

To follow up with your buyer.

To learn something new.

To go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go.

To ask for help.

To get certified

To find your passion.

To give a compliment.

To face your fears.

To be happy.

To ask for the sale.

To start exercising.

To get a mentor or a coach.

To be kind.

To try again.

To admit you were wrong.

To reach out.

To change your mind.

To try something new.

To free yourself from what’s holding you back.

To attend a seminar.

To launch a new product or service.

To forgive someone.

To forgive yourself.

To have an adventure.

To train your sales and customer service teams.

To read a book.

To write a book.

To chase your dream.

To make amends.

To help someone.

To leave a bad company.

To leave a bad relationship.

To make someone feel important.

To return a favor.

To tell someone you love them.

To succeed.

Direct Mail Done Right

August 20th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Magic Customer Service Question

August 14th, 2019

The Magic Customer Service Question

I was hungry.

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

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

“Fine,” I replied.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

19 Sales Tips from Influence ‘19

August 7th, 2019

19 Sales Tips from Influence ‘19After twenty years of going to “Influence”—the National Speakers Association’s annual conference—“Influence” finally came to me! That’s right, Influence 2019 was held in the city I happily call home: Denver, Colorado.

More than 1200 of the world’s top professional speakers and trainers came to Denver to admire the spectacular scenery and enjoy the beautiful weather. Oh yeah, and to meet people and learn some stuff.

Over the course of four days, seven general sessions, and dozens of breakouts, an incredible number of insights and ideas for business and personal success were shared. Here, in no particular order, are nineteen of the best:

1. “If you don’t value people, you can’t add value to people.”—John C. Maxwell @JohnCMaxwell
Delivering value is the core of business. Yet, to do that, you must value the people around you. That includes not only your customers, but your sales team, other employees, vendors, and others. How much do you value the people in your organization? How well do you express to them how much you value them?

2. “Listen to your clients and they will tell you what they will buy.”—Patricia Fripp @PFripp
Most salespeople talk way too much and listen way too little. Instead, ask good questions—lots of them—and listen carefully to the answers. If you ask enough of the right questions, your prospect will give you all the information you need to make the sale.

3. “Customer service is about kindness.”—Jia Jiang @JiaJiang
Kindness should be a core value for every organization. It’s something that literally everyone wants. And it’s not hard to be kind. But too many companies put policies in place that make it difficult or impossible for their people to be kind to customers. How kind are your customer service policies?

4. “What do you need to shed in order to transform?”—Kathy Dempsey @KeepShedding
Far too many of us—myself included—are carrying around beliefs, habits, fears, patterns, addictions, biases, and relationships that don’t serve us. All of these burdens slow us down, hinder us, and prevent us from achieving the success we want and deserve. What do you need to let go of?

5. “If your hand shakes, embrace the shake.”
Phil Hansen @Philinthecircle

Phil is an artist who suffered nerve damage to his hand and forearm, which prohibited him from working in his preferred style of pointillism. Instead of accepting defeat, he completely changed his approach to art and developed a version of pointillism uniquely his. Every weakness hides a strength. What do you perceive to be a weakness of your company or product? How could you turn that around into a strength?

6. “There are enough forces against you. Don’t be one of them.”—David Newman @dnewman
Most of us are our own worst enemies. How are you sabotaging your own success? How are you standing in your own way? And what are you willing to do about it? How can you instead become your own greatest ally, resource, and cheerleader?

7. “Don’t fake it till you make it, hone it until you own it!”—Robyn Hatcher @SpeakETC
I love it when someone smashes a cliché. Faking doesn’t work, either in the short-term or the long-term. It’s okay to acknowledge what you can’t do. In fact, it gives you credibility. Meanwhile, work on improving what you can do until you’re awesome at it. And then get better still!

8. “People want more of what they can have less of.”—Robert Cialdini @RobertCialdini
Scarcity is a powerful influence factor. People want what they can’t have. How can you employ scarcity in your business? How can you create a sense of exclusivity or exploit the fear of missing out? Limiting availability and opportunity can make a product or service much more desirable.

9. “While you’re waiting for permission, someone else is doing it.”—Carey Lohrenz @CareyLohrenz
We’re taught as children to always ask permission before acting, but in business, that can be a handicap. Often the difference between success and failure is simply taking action. Whether it’s dealing with a customer problem or launching a new product, waiting can be disastrous. Act now.

10. “Focus on your brand’s superfans.”—Shelita Burke @ShelitaBurke
Most of your customers like you. Some of them love you. And a few are absolutely crazy about you. They’re your superfans—your advocates, your cheerleaders, your evangelists. And they’re a tremendous marketing asset. Notice them, acknowledge them, and reward them.

11. “Play offense, not defense. In other words, focus on innovating and playing the game your way, not trying to mimic what your competition is doing.”—Scott McKain @scottmckain
If you try to do what everyone else is doing, you’ll always be a copy. And there will never be a compelling reason for a buyer to choose you. Instead, do something different. Anything. Be creative. Be bold. Be daring. That’s what sales leaders do.

12. “I teamed up with my biggest competitor and we offer a product together.”—Sylvie di Giusto @SylviediGiusto
Your competitors are not necessarily your enemies. They can be resources, allies, and even partners. You have different strengths and weaknesses. And it’s a big market. Who could you team up with to provide a product or service neither of you could offer on your own?

13. “How can I help? How can I serve? What can I do?”—Orlando Bowen @orlandobowen
As I wrote in a recent post, sales is service and service is sales. They’re two sides of the same coin. So if you want to boost your sales—whether you’re a salesperson, sales manager, or business owner—don’t ask “How can I sell more?” Ask these three questions instead.

14. “It’s not what you know, it’s how well you execute.”—Ford Saeks @fordsaeks
It’s often said that knowledge is power. But knowledge doesn’t mean much if it’s not put into action. You may know more than your competitor does, but what are you doing with that knowledge? It’s better to implement one idea well than to implement five ideas poorly. Or to have ten ideas but implement none.

15. “The tribes we choose matter.”—Anna Liotta @AnnaLiotta
Who you associate with influences who you are. Do the people you surround yourself with support, encourage, and challenge you? Or do they drag you down with their narrow-mindedness, jealousy, discouragement, and negativity? Toxic people will do everything in their power to prevent your success, while nurturing people will do everything in their power to help you attain it. Choose wisely.

16. “Discounting is the tax you pay for being average.”—John DiJulius @JohnDiJulius
If you aren’t amazing, spectacular, or somehow unique, then you’re a commodity. And when people buy commodities, they buy on price. Which means unless you’re better or different, you will always face pressure to discount. Because price is your only competitive advantage. So how could you be better or different?

17. “You risk a ‘yes’ every time you ask for something.”—Lois Creamer @loiscreamer
Children understand this concept inherently, but somehow when we become adults we forget it. Ask for things large and small because you just might get them. Ask for a meeting. Ask for the sale. Ask about add-on products and services. Ask for a raise. Ask for help. Ask for anything and everything you want.

18. “Growth is not for the fainthearted.”—Erik Weihenmayer @ErikWeihenmayer
Growth is a pain in the ass. It’s scary. It’s frustrating. It’s humbling. And yet, growth is absolutely essential for success in anything. Which means if you want to achieve your goals and dreams, you need to steel yourself for the difficult, traumatic journey that growth requires.

19. “Let me tell you something about Imposter Syndrome: Imposters don’t feel it.”—Dr. Bertice Berry @DrBerticeBerry
The most profound, insightful, brilliant statement I heard during the entire convention. (And in the closing keynote, no less.) Most of the professionals I know (including yours truly) have struggled with Imposter Syndrome—the feeling that you’re not good enough and it’s only a matter of time before people figure that out—at some point in their careers. But actual imposters know they’re faking it—and have no fear or guilt about it. Which means if you fear you’re not good enough, that’s proof that you really are.

For more insights and ideas from these amazing speakers, click on their names to visit their web sites or click on their handles to follow them on Twitter.

Need a great speaker for your next event? Check out the NSA website or your favorite speakers bureau. (Or just click here.)

28 Ways to Cripple Your Sales Team

June 26th, 2019

28 Ways to Cripple Your Sales TeamAre your salespeople too efficient? Is their closing rate too high? Are they bringing in more business than you can handle?

It’s a common problem. I see it all the time in my work as a speaker and trainer. I feel your pain.

Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to handicap even the best salespeople:

1. Don’t provide them ongoing training
2. Don’t coach them
3. Don’t connect them with mentors
4. Set unrealistic quotas
5. Take away part of their territory
6. Give them too large a territory
7. Change their compensation structure so they earn less
8. Withhold positive feedback
9. Withhold constructive feedback
10. Don’t offer any incentives
11. Refuse them time off to attend seminars
12. Use the cheapest CRM
13. Keep them in the dark about competitors
14. Create contests that pit them against each other
15. Make them fill out as much paperwork as possible
16. Don’t give them support staff
17. Require them to work nights and weekends
18. Criticize them in public
19. Transfer the customers who know them best to someone else
20. Force them to sit through endless meetings
21. Frequently berate and belittle them
22. Sexually harass them
23. Spread rumors about them throughout the organization
24. Ignore their requests, ideas, and suggestions
25. Make them pay for as many of their expenses as possible
26. Don’t give them any public praise or recognition
27. Refuse to take them with you to conferences
28. Go behind their backs and talk with their clients directly (bonus points for offering them a better deal than they got from your salesperson)

Think of all the benefits of an unskilled, under-equipped, demotivated sales team: You won’t have to open new plants or locations, you won’t have to struggle to keep up with increasing customer demand, and you won’t have to hire more people. (Heck, you can even lay off some of your customer service staff and save money!)

So if you’re burdened by too much new—and repeat—business, implement these tactics and you’ll slow that torrent of sales down to a trickle. You can thank me later.

Marketing Is Not What You Think It Is

June 20th, 2019

Marketing Is Not What You Think It IsMany people believe that marketing and advertising are the same thing. Or if not, that marketing consists of the promotion you do to drive sales.

But the reality is very different. Marketing is everything you and your business do that can potentially impact sales. And that’s an awful lot. Using this definition, marketing includes:

• Hours of operation
• Number of locations
• Where locations are situated
• Your niche
• Product quality
• Product design
• Packaging
• Services offered
• Delivery policies
• Return policies
• Selection
• Staffing
• Ease of parking
• Parking lot lighting
• Interior lighting
• Market research
• Hold time
• Uniforms or attire
• Vehicles
• Certifications and degrees
• Exterior and interior cleanliness
• Customer service
• Pricing
• Merchandising
• Staff friendliness
• Case studies
• Testimonials
• Bathrooms
• Ease of checkout
• Social media
• Sampling
• Customer surveys
• Split testing
• Responsiveness
• Product names
• Giveaways
• Sales training
• Customer service training
• PR
• Networking
• Charitable and community efforts
• Signage
• Web site
• Blogging
• Contests and sweepstakes
• Strategic partnerships
• R&D
• Association memberships
• Customer reviews

All of these things influence whether or not a person does business with you. Which raises three questions:

1. How many of these strategies and tactics are you currently using?

2. How many are you using well?

3. Which ones could you add or improve?

Almost everyone and everything in your organization plays a role in marketing. Take this to heart and make sure everyone else understands this as well. And be sure to incentivize and appreciate everyone appropriately. Because you can spend a fortune on advertising, but if the other items on this list aren’t good enough, it won’t matter much. Devote more time, money, and efforts to the above factors instead, and it will dramatically improve your long-term sales growth.

Are You Serving or Selling?

June 12th, 2019

Are You Serving or Selling?It has been said by many leadership experts that a great leader is a servant. A true leader isn’t ruled by their greed or their ego, but by their desire to help others.

I would argue that not only is this true, but that it also describes great salespeople, professionals, and business owners.

Contrary to what too many people believe, selling isn’t about manipulating people into giving up their money. (Although there are some people and companies that unfortunately operate that way. Those are con artists, not decent human beings.)

In truth, selling is helping people acquire the things they want and need for a better life or business. A great salesperson helps people solve their problems or achieve their goals. They are advisers, consultants, assistants, counselors, coaches, advocates. They serve their buyers in myriad ways.

So the question isn’t “How can I make the sale?” It’s “How can I be of service?” Because the latter is the answer to the former.

How NOT to Write a Prospecting Email

June 4th, 2019

How NOT to Write a Prospecting EmailEmail can be a great way to reach your prospects. But there are good emails and not-so-good emails. And then there are emails like this one.

I recently received this email from a local hotel. (As a speaker—and someone who produces some of my own seminars—I attend a lot of meetings-industry events, so I probably met somebody from the property at one of them.) The message is clearly an effort to begin a business relationship, but it…..um…..falls short. (All names have been changed to protect the guilty.)

Please see below message, sent on behalf of Elizabeth Parker:

Greetings from The Ritz-Hilton Regency, Bedford Falls!

I would like to take a moment to introduce myself and my colleague. Myself, Elizabeth Parker and my colleague, Alan Madsen, will be your sales contacts for The Ritz-Hilton Regency, Bedford Falls. I am responsible for any groups located south of i-70 as well as the Western United States and Alan is responsible for anything north of i-70 or based in downtown Denver.

We would be honored and delighted to have the opportunity to earn your business. Please find attached a list of concessions that we are able to offer for any program of 15 or more rooms on peak, taking place between April and December during 2019 and 2020. Also attached is a fact sheet about our gorgeous resort and our meeting space.

We look forward to working with you in the near future!

Warm regards,

Elizabeth Parker
Director of National Accounts
The Ritz-Hilton Regency, Bedford Falls
8675 Heartbreak Ridge
South Park, CO 80001
(303) XXX-XXXX


Kim Eubanks
Group Sales Coordinator
The Ritz-Hilton Regency, Bedford Falls
8675 Heartbreak Ridge
South Park, CO 80001
(303) XXX-XXXY

What’s wrong with this email? Hmmm…..let’s see…..

1. Sent on behalf of?
Elizabeth couldn’t be bothered to send her own message? Or at least make it look like she did?

2. Not personalized
There’s no “Hi Don,” or “Dear Don,” or even “Yo, Big D!” Yes, of course it’s a form letter (I know that), but no one even made an effort to personalize it, which smacks of laziness. And no personalization equals no connection.

3. Not conversational
“Myself, Elizabeth Parker and my colleague, Alan Madsen, will be your sales contacts…” Who talks like this? An effective email is conversational in tone for easy reading and comprehension.

4. Grammar and punctuation errors
There are only a couple of mistakes, but even one can undermine the credibility of the writer. Have all sales and marketing pieces proofread before sending out.

5. “i-70” vs. “I-70”
Again, a minor error, but one that further tarnishes the professionalism of the sender. If you can’t be trusted to get simple details like this right, how can I trust you with my business?

6. Too many first-person references
Not counting the signature lines, there are 17 first-person references, including the name of the hotel, the names of the salespeople, and personal pronouns. Meanwhile, there are only three second-person references, for a nearly 6 to 1 ratio. In the wrong direction. Since “you” and “your” are the most powerful words in sales and marketing, you want to aim for a ratio of two or three second-person references for every first-person reference you use.

7. Speaking of the names of the salespeople…
The message introduces “Alan Madsen,” but the second signature features “Kim Eubanks.” What happened to Alan? Who is Kim? What’s going on here???

8. Nothing about my wants or needs
The message is all about the sender, as evidenced by the 17 first-person references. Well, I’ve got news for you: I don’t care what you would like, what you’re responsible for, or what would honor and delight you. I care about me, my business, and my people. Yet there’s not a word in here about any of those things.

9. No value
A great sales or marketing piece delivers value in some way. It might be news, tips, a checklist, a white paper, an interview, a webinar, a template, an invitation to an event, a free consultation, a buyer’s guide, or anything else that could benefit me or my company. But this email is devoid of anything like that. It just takes up my time and offers me nothing in return. Which is not a promising start to a potential business relationship.

How do your emails compare with this one? If you’re cringing a bit, the solution is to get some training for you and your team ASAP. It’s a valuable investment in your future sales. Because while email can be a powerful sales and marketing tool, it requires skill to use it effectively.

A great email causes your prospects to reply, call, or click. A bad one damages your image and hurts your chances of making a sale. Which are you sending out?

Why Your Business Needs to Be More Fun

May 21st, 2019

Why Your Business Needs to Be More FunOne of my favorite pieces of research in the field of sales and marketing is a survey of B2B buyers conducted by Britt Beemer for American Demographics Magazine. In it, Beemer found that 70.1% of respondents would switch to a different vendor if the company was more fun to do business with.

When I first read it, I was surprised. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Buyers—even business buyers—are human beings. And human beings like to have fun! (I know—SHOCKING, right?)

The implications of this one, simple statistic are profound. It means that the features and benefits of your product or service are not all-important. It means that quality, selection, and price are not as important to your market as you think they are. It means that customer experience has the potential to trump everything else.

It means that fun is a competitive advantage.

Which brings up a few questions:

• How can you have more fun with prospects before they even begin their buying cycle?

• How can you make the buying process more fun for them?

• How can you help your customers have more fun after they’ve bought from you?

The answers to these questions can have a huge impact on your sales. Because fun is serious business.

33 Things You Should Be Proud Of

May 15th, 2019

33 Things You Should Be Proud Of


Pride is a tricky thing.

Many religious texts—and religious leaders—decry it. In fact, it’s one of the “Seven Deadly Sins,” along with greed, lust, envy, sloth, reality TV, and ordering red wine with fish.

It goes before a fall and it pairs well with Prejudice.

Sometimes we have to swallow it. (I find the best thing to wash it down is a chocolate milkshake.)

As kids, we’re often taught that we should be humble, and yet our parents take enormous pride in our accomplishments, even to the point of plastering them on their cars.

Adding to the confusion, we celebrate Italian Pride (Columbus Day), Mexican Pride (Cinco de Mayo), Black Pride, and Gay Pride.

These mixed messages can leave us feeling uncertain about whether or not pride is a good thing. And it causes too many people to downplay their talents, efforts, and accomplishments.

Which is a shame.

Because pride is about valuing yourself, as well as the people and things around you.

Researchers argue that pride is a universal emotion that serves multiple purposes in a society. It encourages us to value the future, to take risks, to persevere, and to help others. In short, pride helps us—as individuals and as a society—succeed.

It’s also a useful guide. If you feel pride about something you’ve done, that’s probably because it was a good thing to do. By contrast, if you feel embarrassed or ashamed about something in your behavior or your organization, that’s probably a bad sign.

So you should be proud! And here are 33 things you can—and damn well should—be proud of:

1. Yourself
2. Your company
3. Your people
4. Your product or service
5. How happy your customers are with you
6. Your suppliers and vendors
7. Your partners
8. What you do for a living
9. How far you’ve come
10. Your ethics
11. Your values
12. Your attitude
13. Your talents
14. Your skills
15. The quality of your work
16. Your price
17. The value you deliver to customers
18. The jobs you’ve created
19. Your charitable efforts
20. Your customer service
21. How well you take care of your employees
22. The time you devote to family and loved ones
23. The people you’ve nurtured, mentored, and supported
24. Your commitment
25. Your compassion
26. Your appearance
27. The obstacles you’ve overcome
28. How you react to failure
29. The lessons you’ve learned
30. Your personal, professional, and/or organizational growth
31. The awards you’ve won
32. The accomplishments of your friends and loved ones
33. The changes you’ve helped create

If you’re not proud of the company you work for, or the products you sell, quit and go somewhere else. If you’re not proud of the way you look, hit the gym or hire an image consultant. If you have a hard time taking pride in your talents or accomplishments, consider seeing a therapist, to unburden yourself of the negative belief that pride is sinful.

Note that there’s a huge difference between pride and things like arrogance, hubris, conceitedness, cockiness, and narcissism. Taking pride in your appearance is not the same as being vain. Sharing your most recent success is a long way from bragging.

And I’m not saying humility isn’t valuable. In fact, quite the opposite—humility reminds us that there’s always room for improvement and helps us appreciate the value of other people. A little humility also keeps us from venturing into the arrogance zone.

But it’s absolutely okay to feel pride. In fact, it’s essential to your sales, business, and personal success. Being proud of your skills, appearance, commitment, and accomplishments boosts your confidence. And being proud of your company, product, service, and people boosts your enthusiasm. Those two factors are tremendously important for increasing your sales.

So stop downplaying your awesomeness. Embrace it! Let that pride surge through you and propel you to even greater things. Hey, if it worked for U2, it’ll work for you too.

What Are You Tolerating?

May 1st, 2019

What Are You Tolerating?As a professional speaker and trainer, I spend a lot of time in airports. And I see an awful lot of bad behavior there.

Recently as I was waiting to board a flight, I witnessed some incredibly poor behavior by a boy I would estimate to be between ten and twelve years old. He had a phone in one hand and a tablet in the other. He was making rude noises at a high volume, cursing like crazy, and literally spitting at his mother. The woman periodically told him to stop, but made no real effort to curb the boy’s actions.

Which saddened me, because not only will that boy’s behavior not get any better over time, it will assuredly get worse.

Because whatever you tolerate, you encourage.

Too often we fail to call out and address bad behavior because we’re afraid of conflict, or we’re afraid of the consequences of taking action. But the reality is, if we don’t actively discourage bad behavior, then we’re actively encouraging it. There is no middle ground.

That goes for your leadership, employees, colleagues, prospects, customers, vendors, and everybody else related to your business. When you don’t put a forcible stop to intolerable behavior in your organization, you’re communicating to everyone that said behavior is acceptable. Which means If you tolerate sexual harassment, you’ll get more of it. If you tolerate late payments, you’ll get more of them. If you tolerate lying, tardiness, back-stabbing, and rumor-mongering, you’ll get more of those.

And it’s not just in sales and business—the same principle holds for the people in your personal life as well: neighbors, acquaintances, friends, and family. When you allow people to treat you badly, call you names, or take advantage of you, it won’t just continue—it will get worse.

Fortunately, you can put a stop to bad behavior. Or you can cut the offending people out of your life or company. It takes courage—and there may be costs—but it’s absolutely worth it.

You can’t control people. But you can influence them. And you have more power to influence than you realize. And if you want your sales, your business, and your personal life to flourish, you owe it to yourself to exert that power.

So what are you tolerating that you really shouldn’t be? And what are you going to do about it?

Don’t Be So Quick to Answer!

April 23rd, 2019

Don’t Be So Quick to Answer!We tend to think of conversations as: one person speaks, then the other responds, back and forth, back and forth. For that reason, in sales conversations, we typically feel the need to address an issue as soon as it is raised, whether it’s via a question or a statement.

But that can frequently be the wrong thing to do. Because if we reply to a prospect too soon, we can miss valuable information lurking just below the surface of their statement or question. And if we reply to incomplete information, we can easily say the wrong thing.

So instead of replying to your prospect and moving on to the next issue, exercise some restraint. Dig deeper to uncover more details. Try one of these tactics to encourage them to talk further:

• When you say “_________,” what exactly do you mean?

• What does “__________” look like to you?

• Can you elaborate on that?

• Tell me more.

• Has that been an issue for you in the past?

• I want to be sure I understand—can you clarify that for me?

• What makes you ask that?

• Can you walk me step-by-step through that?

• What’s the reason that’s important to you?

• Can you give me some more detail about that?

The more information you can get from a prospect, the better. So the next time a buyer states a requirement, raises an objection, or asks a question, don’t rush to provide an answer. Ask them to elaborate instead. You’ll get details your competitors won’t get, which means you’ll be able to provide better answers than they can. Because the best answers aren’t the fastest ones, they’re the most complete, most accurate ones.

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.


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.

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.