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?

18 Sales Tips from Influence ‘18

July 24th, 2018

18-sales-tips-from-influence-182018 not only marks twenty years of me being a sales trainer and keynote speaker, it also marks twenty years of my membership in the National Speakers Association. So it was fitting that last week I attended my 20th NSA convention, known as Influence 2018.

More than 1200 of the world’s top professional speakers and trainers gathered for four days to connect with and learn from each other. The result—as always—was an amazing outpouring of business insights and ideas.

Here, in no particular order, are eighteen of the best:

1. “Free content lives forever.”—David Meerman Scott (@dmscott
Advertising disappears as soon as it is consumed. (And often skipped altogether.) But content—usable, valuable, insightful, practical information—sticks around, is shared, and gets recycled over and over again. Invest more in content creation.

2. “The narrower you focus your message, the broader your message will go.”—Tamsen Webster (@tamadear
Nobody can be all things to all people. And trying will only waste your time, energy, and budget. Instead, identify your ideal customers and craft messages aimed specifically at them. When your message resonates, it has impact.

3. “When you evoke emotion you evoke engagement.”—Scott Stratten (@unmarketing
Every aspect of the buying process is emotional, from our initial desires and fears, to our satisfaction after the purchase. People don’t react to numbers and logic, they react to appeals to their emotions. So how can you evoke emotion in your marketing and sales efforts?

4. “Ubuntu: I am because you are.”—Lenora Billings-Harris (@LBHdiversity
This African philosophy carries special importance for business owners and professionals: We only exist because our customers do. If they go away, so do we. Which means we need to truly appreciate our clients and do everything in our power to take care of them. (This also goes for employees and employers: each only exists because of the other. We all need each other.)

5. “There is no one way to create art.”—Michael Port (@michaelport
Many sales “experts” will argue that there is only one way to succeed. Don’t believe it. There are lots of ways to prospect, to build rapport, to deliver powerful presentations, and to close deals. Find the strategies and tactics that work for you.

6. “Spend the most time possible on the highest income-generating activities.”—Andy Masters (@andy_masters
Whether you’re a salesperson or a business owner, there is no end to the items on your To-Do list. But you only have a limited amount of time to work with. So to achieve maximum success, you need to devote as much time as possible on those activities that lead to revenue. Outsource, delegate, or ignore everything else.

7. “Different is better than better.”—Sally Hogshead (@SallyHogshead
Everyone strives to be better. But in a crowded marketplace, “better” is not only relative, it can easily get lost. And the reality is, everybody claims to be better! Put more emphasis on being different to stand out and gain more attention.

8. “Whatever makes you part from money…learn it.”—Geoff Ramm (@GeoffRamm
There are examples of fantastic sales and marketing strategies and tactics all around you. Notice the things that capture your attention and cause you to spend money. Why did they work? How can you use or adapt those approaches?

9. “Over-index on social proof, because it makes everything else easier.”—Dorie Clark (@dorieclark
Social proof is a powerful influencer and the more of it you have, the more sales you’ll make. Make use of testimonials, case studies, articles, awards, rankings, your blog, and videos to increase your social proof capital.

10. “Let’s not focus on doing more. Let’s focus on doing less, but better, and focus on what matters.”—Dan Thurmon (@DanThurmon
Often we think the answer to boosting our sales is to offer more products, more services, more options. But sometimes offering less is better, when it allows us to be exceptional at the things we do offer.

11. “Paint a tiny picture of the pain your audience is having.”—Kelly Swanson (@motivationspkr
People make buying decisions to solve problems. So describe the problem your prospect is dealing with in your marketing, your prospecting, and your sales presentations. Identify and empathize with their pain, and then paint a picture of how their new pain-free life will look after they’ve bought your solution.

12. “I can’t learn from my mistakes if I don’t admit them.”—Lance Miller (@LanceSpeaks
Too often we blame our failures on everything but ourselves. It’s easy to do, and it protects our egos. But it prevents growth. Because only by acknowledging our mistakes can we learn from them and actually get better.

13. “Don’t sell direct, sell ‘select.’ Look for select clients that have the WALLET, the WILL, and are looking for the WAY.”—Anna Liotta (@annaliotta
Not all prospects are created equal. A person who has a need may be tempting, but if they can’t afford you or lack the motivation to act, you’re just wasting your time. Your best prospects are those who have the budget to buy and the desire to make a change.

14. “If you’re getting the business you want, you’re obsolete.”—Mike Rayburn (@mikerayburn
It’s so easy to get complacent. Especially when you’re hitting your goals and everything is working just as you hoped it would. Yet the marketplace is constantly evolving, and if you aren’t constantly looking for ways to evolve as well, you’re going to get left behind.

15. “The way we celebrate our leaders is not by giving them a blank slate, it’s by holding them accountable.”—Dr. Omekongo Dibinga (@omekongo
In most organizations, leaders hold subordinates accountable. But for an organization to be successful, leaders also need to be held accountable. Does your organization encourage and empower employees to hold their superiors accountable?

16. “You sell an experience. You sell an outcome.”—Meredith Oliver (@MeredithCSP
When people buy a product or service, it’s not because they actually want that item. The product or service is a means to an end. What is the goal they’re trying to achieve or the problem they’re trying to solve? That’s what you’re really selling.

17. “You are competing with EVERYTHING for people’s attention.”—Jay Baer (@jaybaer
The media landscape is more crowded than ever before, which means people’s time and attention are at more of a premium than ever before. If you want to be heard, you need a truly compelling message. And that message needs to be both targeted and convenient.

18. “Stop substituting learning for action. Start doing.”—Lisa Braithwaite (@LisaBraithwaite
Learning is great. In fact, it’s necessary for growth and success. But it’s only the first step. Unless you implement what you’ve learned, you’re no better off than if you hadn’t learned it in the first place. Put your new knowledge to work!

For more ideas and insights from these great 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.)

16 Ways to Deal with Frustration

July 9th, 2018

14-Ways-to-Deal-with-FrustrationThe road to success isn’t straight, level, or smooth. There are bumps and potholes. Hills and curves. Dead-ends and detours.

And as a result, we all get frustrated from time to time. What separates top salespeople—and high achievers in general—from everyone else, is that they don’t let frustration derail them. They find ways to deal with the frustrations in their lives and their work.

And you can be one of them, by utilizing the same tactics to overcome frustrating situations. Here are sixteen of them.

1. Listen to Music
Your favorite music can quickly change your emotional state and re-energize you. Keep some good music (and if necessary, headphones) nearby at all times.

2. Revisit past successes
When you’re frustrated, it’s easy to doubt yourself. So remind yourself how good you are by going over past victories. The person who achieved those accomplishments can achieve more.

3. Talk with someone
Sometimes the simple act of verbalizing our frustrations can help us deal with them. And often when describing our challenges to others, we discover they have the exact same problems! That in and of itself can help us feel better, because at least we’re not alone.

4. Take a break
Getting away from the source of your frustration can help you cope with it. Depending on how big your frustration is—and your circumstances—your break might be a few minutes, a day, a week, or even a year.

5. Treat yourself
What makes you happy? What brings you instant joy? Whether it’s getting some ice cream, watching a movie, playing with your dog, reading a romance novel, grabbing a latte—anything that lights up the pleasure center of your brain will reduce the stress hormones you’re experiencing, enabling you to tackle your challenge with fresh energy and a better mindset.

6. Do something physical
Engaging in physical activity does two things for you. First, it gets you away from the problem, which can be a relief. And second, the exercise increases blood flow, oxygen delivery, and endorphins, alleviating some of the stress.

7. Read, watch, or listen to something inspirational
Some inspiring or encouraging words can break you out of a funk and give you fresh perspective. And there’s no shortage of inspirational blogs, podcasts, and videos online. (Most of which are free.)

8. Brainstorm
For some people, there’s no better way to cope than to deal directly with the problem that’s causing the frustration in the first place. Grab your computer, tablet, or phone—or if you’re old school, pen and paper—and start brainstorming possible solutions to the issue at hand.

9. Meditate
Meditation is a proven technique to relax the body and clear the mind. There are numerous resources and tutorials available at bookstores, local centers, and online.

10. Pray
If you’re the religious type, tap into to the power of prayer. You might pray for calm, strength, guidance, perseverance, or anything else you need to overcome the challenges you’re facing. And consider talking about your frustrations with your spiritual advisor.

11. Do a gratitude inventory
No matter how bad things get, there are always some things to be grateful for. “Count your blessings” may be a cliché, but it works. Make a list of things in your life you’re grateful for. It will change your perspective and improve your mental state.

12. Hone your skills
Perhaps you’re frustrated because you don’t have the knowledge or skills to effectively deal with the issue at hand. If that’s the case, learn more! Get a book on dealing with difficult people. Attend a sales training seminar. Take an online course. Then put that new knowledge to work!

13. Bring in an expert
Everyone sucks at something. And if that something is driving you crazy and negatively impacting your life or business, you need to offload it to someone who’s good at it. It could be an assistant, a professional organizer, an accountant, a COO, or any other person with a skill set you don’t possess.

14. Try something completely different
If something isn’t working, maybe it’s time for a radically different approach. That could mean trying a new sales tactic, going after a different market, or even changing companies.

15. Seek out a mentor or coach
Nobody succeeds alone. And if you’re struggling, maybe that’s a sign you need to get some help in the form of a coach or mentor. A different, more experienced perspective may be exactly what you need to conquer what’s frustrating you.

16. Get rid of the source
If what’s causing you frustration is a difficult client or a toxic person, your best bet is to get rid of them. You’re never going to change them and they will continue to drain your time and energy as long as you let them.

The next time frustration gets you down, don’t succumb to it. Use these sixteen ideas to get past it, so you can continue on your path to success.

Are You Scary Enough?

July 2nd, 2018

Are-You-Scary-EnoughMost of the time, we salespeople want to be warm, friendly, and caring. We want to be liked and well-received. But warm and fuzzy doesn’t always get the job done. Sometimes, we need to be scary.

Because sometimes prospects don’t appreciate the dangers of not acting. Other times, they’re afraid of the wrong thing.

In situations like that, it’s our job to scare them straight.

What should your prospect really be afraid of? What are the dangers of not acting? Or delaying action? Or buying too cheap? Or buying from the wrong company?

You can use fear to your advantage by educating your prospect about risks they may or may not be aware of, and how you can reduce or eliminate those risks. Much has been written about the fact that the human brain tends to underestimate genuine risks and overestimate unlikely risks. So odds are, your prospect needs you to help them gain the right perspective on the various risks they face in their lives and businesses.

Stoking fear about a legitimate risk is a valid—and often necessary—sales tactic. And there are a lot of fears you can stoke. Including:

• Missing out
• Their competitor gaining an advantage
• Downtime
• Losing sales
• Making a mistake
• Wasting money
• Being the victim of a crime
• Running out
• Image being tarnished
• Price going up
• Health problems
• Their current model breaking down
• Employee turnover
• Failure
• Being left behind
• Interest rates rising
• Clowns (just making sure you’re paying attention)
• Liability
• Tragedy befalling a loved one
• Death

This is not to say that fear should be the first sales tool you pull out of your toolbox. And to frighten someone needlessly is unethical of course. But used strategically, tapping into a buyer’s fears can motivate them to action when nothing else can.

All buying is emotional at its core. And fear is a powerful emotion. It can block the sale or it can trigger the sale. Which one is up to you.

19 Ways to Follow Up Without Being a Pest

June 19th, 2018

19 Ways to Follow Up Without Being a PestYou already know that effective follow up is crucial to closing sales. But how can you follow up with prospects without annoying them to the point where they scream, “Leave me alone!”

The key is to deliver value in your follow up efforts. Provide your prospects with information, entertainment, or other items of value to them. For example:

1. Send a thank you note

2. Inform them of upcoming sales or promotions

3. Send new product, service, or feature announcements

4. Invite them to enter contests

5. Send a funny postcard or video

6. Send a gift card

7. Invite them to your customer appreciation events

8. Send articles, special reports, white papers, or eBooks that you’ve written

9. Send links to articles or videos that would be of interest to them

10. Send your newsletter or e-zine (with their permission)

11. Invite them to a seminar you’re hosting

12. Invite them to an industry event you’re sponsoring

13. Invite them to a networking event you’re attending

14. Offer to introduce them to other people in your network

15. Send links to web sites and blogs they would find interesting

16. Inform them of industry news and updates

17. Send them free samples

18. Set up Google Alerts and congratulate them on accomplishments

19. Follow and interact with them on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter

All of these are items your prospects would welcome. Which means that each of these touchpoints not only puts your name in front of them, they each build credibility, likeability, and appreciation.

Pick a few of these tactics and incorporate them into your follow up routine. You’ll distinguish yourself from your competitors, strengthen the connection with your buyer, and boost your sales.

What Do They Need YOU For?

June 5th, 2018

What Do They Need YOU For? Sales has changed.

These days, buyers can get virtually anything they want online. And not just consumers, but business, government, and educational buyers as well. Which brings up an important question:

What do buyers need you for?

If you don’t have at least one good answer at the ready, you have a problem.

Because if you’re not enhancing the buying or ownership experience, your potential customers will simply cut you out. If you don’t add value for them, you’re just dead weight.

So what’s your value? What are your strengths, skills, and talents? How can you help your prospects and customers?

• Are you a facilitator, who can help multiple people in the buying process talk effectively with each other to determine their needs, issues, and options, and then reach a consensus?

• Are you a translator, who can communicate highly technical concepts in ways that laymen can clearly understand them?

• Are you an industry expert, who can alert your customers to new opportunities and threats in their industry?

• Are you a great listener, who can be a sounding board for prospects who need to process verbally?

• Are you a financial genius, who helps prospects figure out ways they can save money? Or make more?

• Are you an investigator, asking powerful questions that cause prospects to think of things they haven’t considered?

• Are you a business guru, with knowledge about sales, marketing, finance, HR, or leadership that your clients don’t have? (And love when you share it with them?)

• Are you a catalyst, who inspires, encourages, and enables others to get things done?

• Are you a connector, who can introduce prospects to others in your vast network who they would find valuable to know?

• Are you an analyst, who can help customers identify, understand, and solve problems?

• Are you a researcher, who regularly shares information on a wide variety of subjects with prospects and clients?

• Are you a trainer, who can educate your customers about your industry, their industry, or other subjects vital to them?

• Are you a math whiz, who can help those who struggle with the subject crunch numbers?

• Are you a consultant, who can help new customers get the most out of the products and services they buy?

If all you do as a salesperson is recite features and benefits, I don’t need you. I can get that from a brochure or web site. What can you do over and above that? That’s the value you bring to the table. And that’s a big reason why prospects should—and will—buy from you.

Twelve Ways to Screw Up a Handshake

May 30th, 2018

Twelve Ways to Screw Up a HandshakeShaking hands is such a sales basic that it’s amazing how often people get it wrong. And a bad handshake doesn’t just start a relationship off on the wrong foot (so to speak)—it can haunt you forever. Because people remember bad handshakes. A poor handshake can even cost you the sale.

What exactly constitutes a bad handshake? Here are twelve mistakes to avoid.

1. The Wet Noodle
A limp handshake conveys a lack of confidence and competence. And it just plain feels icky. Put some life in your wrist and fingers.

2. The Vise
This is the opposite approach—the death grip. It’s a blatant attempt to assert dominance. After being on the receiving end of one of these, most people will avoid you at all costs.

3. Hand over top
This is a more subtle way to assert dominance. By using an overhand grip, you force the other person to use an underhand one, which is ever-so-subtly submissive. Which can make them feel uncomfortable and trust you less Instead, offer your hand with your palm to the side. Or extend your hand in an underhand fashion, giving them the opportunity to be in the dominant position. It will make them feel more comfortable and confident.

4. Double hand
Using both your hands to completely enclose theirs is a classic politician’s move. Which is exactly why you should never do it. It reeks of fake sincerity.

5. Grabbing the arm or shoulder
Another common political tactic. Using the left hand to touch the forearm, upper arm, or shoulder is supposed to engender rapport, but unless you already know the person well, it typically feels like an invasion of their space. Keep your left hand out of the shaking process altogether. (Its feelings won’t be hurt.)

6. Pumping
Enthusiasm is great, but vigorously pumping your hand up and down is too much of a good thing. You’re saying hello, not trying to extract water from the ground.

7. Refusing to let go
This is yet another power play. Holding on to their hand well after you should have let go makes people feel trapped. And the message it sends is that you may trap them in other ways.

8. Finger grab
Grasping someone’s fingers instead of their palm signals that you weren’t’ paying attention when you reached for their hand. Which means you probably won’t pay attention in other parts of the sales process. You don’t need to stare at your hand as you extend it, but use your peripheral vision to guide your palm into theirs.

9. Probing
I’ve never personally experienced this, but I’ve heard a lot about it. The other person “probes” your wrist with their index finger. I have no idea why anyone would do this, but apparently some people do, and those who have been on the receiving end describe it as “weird,” “creepy,” and “revolting.”

10. Avoiding eye contact
Eye contact is critical to rapport. Neglecting to make eye contact when shaking hands is detrimental to it. Be sure to look the other person in the eye. Smiling is a good idea too, while you’re at it.

11. Wetness
This is a common problem at networking events. If you’re right-handed, you’ve been holding your drink in your dominant hand, so when you need to use it for a handshake, it’s cold, wet, and clammy. The solution? Hold your drink in your left hand instead. By the way, if you’re one of the 2.8% of the population who suffer from hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) keep a handkerchief handy at all times. (Get it? Handy?)

12. Being culturally insensitive
The above guidelines are for America and Canada. Handshake etiquette is different throughout the world. So if you’re traveling, don’t assume everyone shakes hands the same way. In some cultures, people use a very gentle grip as opposed to a firm one. In others, only people of the same sex shake hands. And still other cultures prefer not to shake hands at all. Do your research so you can be respectful. Respect is a tremendous rapport-builder.

Your handshake sets the tone, not just for the immediate encounter with someone, but for your entire relationship with them. Set the right tone with a confident—but not overbearing—handshake. You don’t need to dominate the other person, you need to connect with them. And a courteous, respectful handshake will do precisely that.


Physics and Your Closing Ratio

May 22nd, 2018

Physics and Your Closing RatioEvery sales manager I’ve ever talked with has agreed on one thing: The single biggest challenge salespeople have is closing the deal. There are two reasons closing is such a big problem. One is psychology. The other is physics.


That’s right, physics. Let me explain.

First, the psychology part.

When we’re selling (and especially when we’re closing), we have to deal with two big fears. Fear is a powerful motivator in ways both good and bad, so it’s critical for us to understand how these fears affect us and how to overcome them.

The first is the fear of rejection, a natural fear for most of us. Nobody enjoys being rejected—it bothers all but the thickest-skinned of us. So too often, we don’t make any attempt to close, because if we don’t ask for the sale, we can’t be rejected.

The key to subduing this fear is to remember three things:

1. The prospect wants and/or needs what we’re selling.

2. A sales rejection is not a personal rejection.

3. If the prospect says no, we’re no worse off than before.

The second fear is more pernicious because we’re typically not even aware of it. Most of us are afraid of being perceived as the stereotypical “salesperson” so commonly portrayed in popular culture: pushy, rude, slimy, underhanded, obnoxious.

Because we (subconsciously) fear being perceived as this stereotype, all too often we don’t really try to close the prospect. But closing is a critical part of the sales process, arguably the most critical part. You can do everything else right—prospecting, needs analysis, presentation, overcoming objections—but if you don’t close, there’s no sale.

Here’s the secret to overcoming this fear: understand that prospects need you to close them. Why? Physics!

The prospect is sitting there (or possibly standing there) in a state of inertia. Remember the Law of Inertia? “A body at rest tends to stay at rest.” Which means the prospect’s natural inclination is to do nothing, even though they need and/or want whatever it is you’re selling.

However, the Law of Inertia continues: “unless acted upon by an outside force.” That’s us! We need to be the outside force that acts upon our prospects to change their state. It doesn’t need to be a BIG force, however. It can be a gentle nudge.

So don’t think of closing as pushing the prospect into doing something they don’t want to do. Instead, think of it as nudging the prospect just enough to move them out of their inertia and into action.

When you think of it in these terms, closing is not at all pushy, rude, slimy or obnoxious. In fact, assuming this purchase really is in the best interest of the prospect, then not closing is a disservice to them, because it’s preventing them from enjoying the benefits of your product or service.

Remember, it’s not the prospect’s job to ask us to sell them our stuff. (Left to their own devices, they often won’t, due to that pesky inertia.) Instead, it’s our job to ask them to buy it. And they need us to do it. After all, we’re only battling fear. They’re battling physics.

Up Your Listening Game to Boost Your Sales

May 8th, 2018

Up Your Listening Game to Boost Your SalesWe tend to think of talking as the most important element of communicating, and thus, the most important element of sales, leadership, relationships, etc. But communication is a two-way street, and as Tony Alessandra points out in his book, Charisma, “When you want to win someone’s confidence, listening is just as important as speaking. Good listening draws people to you; poor listening causes them to drift away.”

Listening allows you to relax, compose your thoughts, and gather valuable information. And effective listening relaxes the other person, builds rapport, and makes it easier to persuade. Whether you are networking, selling, negotiating, or simply having a casual conversation, listening effectively will help you have a more pleasant and more productive experience.

Keep these principles in mind when listening to others:

See Eye to Eye
When someone is speaking to you it is imperative that you maintain good eye contact with them. Looking at something else sends the non-verbal message that whatever you are looking at is more important than the speaker is. So for Pete’s sake, don’t look at your cell phone every three minutes. An additional benefit for you is that by looking at the speaker, you can pick up on their non-verbal signals, which will help you better understand what they really are (and are not) saying.

Use Your Body
The way your body is positioned can make a big difference in your conversation. Slumping or leaning back in your chair implies boredom or indifference. Instead, lean toward the other person to indicate interest. If you are standing, especially at a networking event, stand at an angle to the other person rather than face to face. This position will allow you to easily hear each other in a crowded room while still giving both of you plenty of personal space in front of you. This “open” body posture also makes it easier and more inviting for additional people to join your networking conversation.

Make Faces
Facial expressions give people a visual cue that you are listening to them. Smiling, frowning, raising your eyebrows, and other facial reactions send a strong signal that you are following what is being said.

Add Sound Effects
Verbal reactions are the auditory equivalent of facial expressions. Words and phrases such as really, oh no, you’re kidding, fantastic, right, uh-huh, and yeah provide a different type of sensory feedback to reinforce the message that you are listening. (Want to expand your verbal repertoire? Check out 59 Ways to Agree with Your Customer.)

Restrain Yourself
The temptation to interrupt people can be overwhelming at times. Let’s face it—we all love to talk. But giving someone our undivided attention and allowing them to speak without fear of interruption is so powerful in building rapport, that it behooves us to exercise restraint. You can, however, use the next three strategies to get a word in edgewise while keeping the conversational focused on the other person.

Question Authority
Asking questions is a sure-fire way to demonstrate interest in the person you are talking with. Asking for clarification, for more details, or even advice (if appropriate; avoid the “Hey Doc, I’ve got this pain…” syndrome), encourages the speaker to continue and communicates that they have an appreciative audience.

Put It Another Way
Repeating the speaker’s ideas in your own words will help ensure that you heard what was actually meant. Paraphrasing also signals the speaker that you want to be sure you understand what they are saying.

Emphasize Empathy
Mentioning that you have had an experience similar to what the speaker has described can help to create rapport, because you have something in common. But claiming that your experience was better, worse, faster, slower, cheaper, or more expensive can be counter-productive, because it can make the speaker feel less significant. Focus on the similarities of your stories, not the differences. Remember, you are engaging in a conversation, not a competition.

If you are sincere in your desire to hear what others have to say, it will have a dramatic impact on your sales, as well as all your other business and personal interactions. As Mark Twain once noted, “We despise no source that can pay us a pleasing attention.”

Is a Leads Group Right for You?

May 2nd, 2018

Is a Leads Group Right for You?If you’re looking for new prospects, referrals are your best source. A person who is referred to you is five times as likely to buy from you as any other type of prospect because they already have some trust in you based on their friend who referred them. So how can you get more referrals? A leads group is one powerful way, although it’s not appropriate for everyone.

First, a quick explanation. Leads groups, which go by various names (referral groups, tip clubs, resource groups), exist for the sole purpose of providing referrals to members of the group. Some have a fee while others don’t. They may be non-profit or for-profit. Members are expected to generate leads for other members on a regular basis. Meetings are typically weekly or bi-weekly over breakfast or lunch. Members have the opportunity to share with other members details about their business and sometimes there may be guest speakers.

So is a leads group right for you? Maybe. Consider the following before saying yes or no:

Your Business
What kind of business are you in? Is it one that has a large potential market or are you highly specialized? The more widely needed your product or service is, the better you will fare in a leads group. People who do particularly well include real estate agents, attorneys, chiropractors, printers, florists, caterers, automobile salespeople, dentists, hair stylists, couriers, computer consultants, accountants, insurance agents, advertising specialties dealers, collection agents, bankers, financial consultants, gift basket makers, graphic designers, web developers, movers, photographers, travel agents, and veterinarians.

Is the group’s meeting time and meeting date (not to mention meeting location) convenient for you? Can you be on time for meetings or will it be just one more hassle in your schedule? Will you be able to fit the time for the meetings into your weekly calendar without making too big of a sacrifice elsewhere?

Can you make the group’s meetings consistently? Most groups are serious and require a real commitment on your part. Members can be expelled for missing too many meetings or not providing enough referrals. As someone who constantly travels around the country delivering seminars and keynote speeches, I can’t belong to a leads group because there is no way I can attend regularly. Will your schedule allow you to make meetings on a regular basis or will it set you up for frustration?

Current Members
Who’s already in the group? If there is someone there who does what you do, you typically will not be allowed to join, since most groups limit membership to one company per industry, e.g. one lawyer, one printer, one florist, one insurance agent, etc. This way, members aren’t forced to choose who to give their leads to. Even if there isn’t someone who does exactly what you do, there may be one or more people who have some crossover. Your ideal group will contain members whose businesses complement yours. For example, if you’re a wedding planner, a group that has a florist and a caterer is a perfect fit for you.

How big is the group? If it’s too small, not enough leads will get passed. If it’s too large, you may feel that you can’t know everyone and they can’t know you very well. Somewhere between 15 and 35 members is where most groups tend to find the most success. Keep in mind that a small group can grow and a large group can experience falloff. Also, with a small group, you can recruit as members people you already know, trust and want to refer.

Every group has its own “house rules” that govern fees, meeting attendance, number of leads that must be contributed, who gets in the spotlight, and many other issues. There’s no right or wrong, and what works for one group may not work for another. The important question is, do you agree with the group’s policies? Since you’ll have to abide by them, it’s important to find a group whose rules you fully support.

As in, do you have any? Like most other sales and marketing tools, leads groups take time to provide results. If you expect to get lots of leads right away, you’re in for a disappointment. It takes several weeks for other members to get a good feel for you and to remember you effectively enough to notice prospective customers for you.

Existing Referral Sources
Do you already get a lot of referrals from friends and clients? If so, then the additional time required for a leads group may not be worth it for you. And if you already have a network of friends that you refer business to, you may not want to join a group because you’ll have to start sending those leads somewhere else. But if the above two items are not the case for you, then a leads group may well be an excellent investment of your time and energy. An investment that can return a steady stream of high-quality prospects for you.

One Thing You Should NEVER Do with a Prospect

April 25th, 2018

One Thing You Should NEVER Do with a ProspectThe tall, gangly man wore an old t-shirt and cutoff jean shorts. His long black hair hung unkempt halfway down his back. And he arrived at the luxury car dealership on a bicycle. The veteran salespeople knew better than to waste their time with him. They sent the rookie out to deal with him.

The man was rock star, Alice Cooper.

And he bought not one, but two top-of-the-line vehicles from the fortunate sales rookie. Who received not only a nice commission, but also a valuable sales lesson: Never judge a prospect on their appearance.

I hear similar stories all the time from attendees in my seminars and workshops: experienced salespeople who mistakenly assume a particular person isn’t a buyer because of how they look, sound, or act.

It’s a habit most of us get into at some point in our sales careers. We only have so much time, and we want to spend it with people who are most likely to buy. So we ignore anyone who doesn’t seem to measure up at first glance.

But that’s a terrible habit. Because first impressions can be dangerously misleading. You may have a clear idea of who your ideal buyer is, based on years of experience, but that doesn’t mean that anyone who doesn’t fit that profile isn’t also a potential buyer. Prospects come in all ages, sizes, genders, colors, ethnicities, and abilities. And if you make a snap judgement that they aren’t a buyer because of circumstantial information, you’ve already lost the sale.

How do you avoid making this deadly mistake?

1. Assume all prospects are buyers.
Treat everyone with courtesy and respect. Make them feel important and appreciated.

2. Engage them.
Ask questions. Learn about their needs, wants, concerns, budget, and so on. If they aren’t a good prospect for you, a few questions will uncover that pretty quickly.

3. Help them.
If they’re a good fit for your product or service, proceed to the next step in your sales process. If they’re not right for you (and vice versa), help them anyway. They’re still people with needs. Provide them with information; suggest alternatives; recommend competitors. The goodwill you create may lead to referrals. Or this particular individual may become a customer of yours in the future.

Looks can be deceiving. But don’t let yourself be deceived. Because it will cost you sales. Just because a buyer doesn’t look like your ideal prospect doesn’t mean they can’t become a great customer. But if you treat them like they can’t, then they won’t.

Remember: Buyers don’t need to impress you. You need to impress them.