Your Big But… and other words holding you back

10 06 2013

Elephant sit

The sales pitch starts like this: “Hello sir, my name is Such N. So, and I want to…”  It is over before it started.  Unfortunately, Mr. So doesn’t realize how “I want” sounds coming from a sales person.  Why should anyone care what he wants?  Customers only care about what they want.

Recently I was on the receiving-end of multiple “I want” sales pitches.  Knowing I am not the only one with verbal pet peeves, I reached out to my peers on the “Sales Playbook” LinkedIn group to learn if there is anything that they intentionally avoid saying.  From that discussion I created this collection of words and phrases that can have an adverse effect on your sales efforts:

    • Honestly – Am I to assume you’ve been dishonest with all of your other statements?
    • Guarantee – Unless you are willing to give someone your house if whatever you are claiming fails, then don’t make any guarantees.
    • Just between us – So you’re a person that tells secrets when other people aren’t around?  Great.  Are you telling my secrets when I’m not around?
    • Contracts vs. Agreements – Contracts can seem scary and one-sided.  Agreements imply a mutually beneficial collaboration.
    • Signature vs. Approval – I need your “signature” because I need someone to be at fault if things go wrong.  OR, I need your “approval” because you are someone with the authority to make decisions.
    • Buy vs. Own – When you “buy” a car, the focus is on the act of purchasing.  When you “own” a car, the focus is on driving and enjoying it.
    • You know what I mean? – If you have to ask, then you should know that I don’t.
    • Again If you say “Again, our policy is…” you might as well say, “I’ve told you this before, what’s wrong with you?!?!”
    • You said – As in, “You said something that enables me to trap you with your own words.”
    • I want – To me, this is the worst.  “I want to tell you about” or “I want to show you our product” or “I want a few minutes of your time.”  This is such a bad sales mistake that just typing it makes me a little nauseous.
    • You’ve got to – We often hear “You’ve got to see our latest product” or “You’ve got to try our service.”  No we don’t.
    • I, me, my – Assume your client doesn’t care about you and you’ll be off to a great start.
    • But – This word essentially implies one of two things, and both have negative connotations.  “But” either means “If you liked what I just said, then you’re not gonna like this next part,” OR it means “Here is the good news to counteract the bad news from my first statement.”  Often, you can replace a “but” with an “and” or just reword your sentence altogether.

There are many other words and phrases that could be included in this list.   As someone who talks a lot, I know how easy it is to say the wrong thing.  Be mindful of the perception of your words, and make statements in terms that are important to your audience.

Thanks to the Sales Playbook members for sharing their contributions.





Public Speaking: Nervous? Or Nailin’ It!

21 09 2012

“I think I might barf on my Jimmy Choo’s,” she said in despair.  “This sucks!”

That’s what I heard when I picked up the phone a few weeks ago while a friend of mine was suffering from a good old fashioned case of Glossophobia – the fear of public speaking.   She talked nervously into the phone from outside her event, just about to go on stage, and I was glad she called me.  I certainly did not want her to vomit on her expensive designer shoes!

Due to my extroverted or loud-mouthed nature, it is possible that people assume I am naturally able to talk to crowds of people without nervousness or fear – that is certainly not true.  I do get nervous, sometimes even feel a little sick to my stomach, and my forehead sweats like crazy.  So how do I overcome that fear?  And what advice did I give to my troubled, borderline-nauseated friend as she prepared to deliver her big presentation?

It was crunch time and I wasn’t able to give her complete advice, so I told her these three main points that can help anyone overcome their nervousness and fear before delivering a public speech:

  1. Remember you are there for a reason.  The fear of speaking to an audience comes from the feeling that you are going to embarrass yourself or disappoint that audience.  Always, always remember that they specifically asked you to speak for a direct purpose.  If you were not capable of providing value then you never would have been requested as a speaker – so have confidence in yourself.
  2. Engage the audience.  Just as the audience is the reason you may feel nervous, they are also your best friend in helping you overcome your fear.  All you need is one person to start nodding their head to make you feel strong in your presentation.  The best way to get that response is with direct eye contact.  Look at members of the audience straight in the eye when you talk.  If they don’t start showing some body language, then look at someone else until you feel a connection.  And don’t be afraid to involve the audience by asking questions, or let them ask you questions if it’s appropriate in the presentation.
  3. Slow down.  If you ever watch a really good speaker you will notice they are taking their sweet time, soaking it all in, relaxed, poised, confident.  If someone is rushing through a presentation then they sound like a nervous person, they feel like a nervous person, and might end up looking bad.  This is my personal affliction when I am speaking to a crowd.  I combat this by writing “Slow Down!” on my hand or on a piece of paper in front of me.

If you have more time to prepare for your speech, consider these tips:

  • Use images to build a connection.  I’m a PowerPoint fan, and often open with a picture that is engaging, whether it reminds the audience of themselves, or is something they can emotionally relate to – like kittens, grandparents, children, or bacon.  Images are powerful connectors for your audience and they add color and life to your message.
  • Keep it simple.  People will not retain everything you say, so don’t try to cover a wide range of topics.  You will be more valuable to your audience if you go deeper to fully examine two or three main points – and it will be easier for you to present.
  • Don’t worry about mistakes.  The audience doesn’t know what you intended to say, and therefore, will not notice if you forget a word or mess up a line – so don’t panic, just keep going.  Also consider speaking from bullet points instead of completely memorizing a string of words, so you have the freedom to roam around your subject.
  • You don’t need to be brilliant, just helpful for the audience.  I’ve seen it a thousand times, the “Let-me-show-you-how-smart-I-am” speech.  Guess what, we don’t care!  The audience is not there for you, they are there for themselves.  So consider the types of people listening, and make sure you provide content that is valuable to them specifically.
  • Say something different.  For the first few minutes of your speech, your audience is wondering if you will be any good – and they will lose interest if you are reporting old news.  If you want to win an audience quickly, say something they don’t expect.

Those are the basics.  I would also recommend watching speeches online to get a sense for how other people approach the craft.  Here is a wonderful example of someone doing it right.  This is my friend John Halcyon Styn, and he displays a perfect example of how to deliver a passionate, engaging speech.  He may have been nervous on the inside, but he planned, prepared, and definitely nailed it!

**SERIOUSLY – watch this video.  17 minutes of your life very well spent.

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Business Lessons from the Cub Scouts

28 10 2011

When we decided to sign up for Cub Scouts, I thought it would be a great way for my son to make some friends, learn cool things, go camping, and maybe even get a pocket knife – sweet!  What I didn’t expect was a business lesson.

The Cub Scouts raise money for activities and uniforms by selling popcorn and coffee.  Their sales team of little tykes does the heavy lifting.  As my son and I prepared for popcorn duty, I noticed his reluctance.  Sell popcorn?  On a Saturday morning???  “Dad, can’t we go fishing?” he asked, hoping to convince me to change my mind.  I laughed as he tried to make his first sale of the day.  0 for 1.

We picked up our supplies from the Pack leader’s house – a table, a money box, a sign, and of course, a ton of popcorn.  We set up as instructed in front of the Cups & Cones ice cream shop on a hot summer day.  Not liking our odds, I gave him some instructions and we got started.  I watched his little mind slowly understand the process, and I could not help but notice the simple business lessons he was learning – lessons that could be applied to any business.

  • Be nice.  He didn’t open with a sales pitch – he opened the door for people and said “Good morning.”  Only after they exited did he approach them – already having started the relationship by contributing something positive.
  • Ask the right questions.  He asked “Would you like to support the Cub Scouts?” not “Would you like to buy some popcorn?”  A sale is made when an emotional connection is created.  Don’t sell features – ask questions that mean something.
  • Play the percentages.  No matter how cute you look in your little uniform, people are still going to say no.  He didn’t just approach the people that appeared interested, he talked to everyone.  If you want to be successful, multiply your efforts and broaden your audience.
  • Be transparent.  When he opened the door for people they recognized that he was warming them up – afterall, he was standing in front of a table full of popcorn and a sign with prices.  One lady asked if that’s why he opened the door for her.  He said yes.  On her way out, she bought a $16 bag, the biggest we had.  You can’t gain trust if you try to hide your intentions.
  • Motivate.  He sold $100 worth of popcorn that day.  I told him how proud I was, and the Pack mother said he did a great job.  He was excited to do it again.  If people are working hard to help you achieve your goals, then show your appreciation, offer incentives, and give praise for a job well done.
  • People, Products & Process.  He had success by being personable, selling a quality product, and following a simple, effective process.  You might have good people and good products but no process that drives results.  Or you might have good products and a good process but the wrong people.  You must have all three to be successful.

Thank you Cub Scouts for showing us such valuable lessons.

Now, when do we get that pocketknife?





The Worst Advice Ever

26 09 2011

I recently received an email from a good friend who wanted to discuss a sales concept that he read about.  The concept is that in order to generate client interest, you should call a prospect 10 times.  Before I give my opinion, I am going to pause for a deep breath so I don’t get heart palpitations from such a ridiculous and misguided approach to sales.

Okay.  Now, why do I hate this concept?  It is a band-aid on perpetually bleeding wound.  A proper approach to sales takes time and effort – and that effort should be spent on creating a system that gives you the best chance for success, not in pounding your head against a wall 10 times.  I am not saying that people should not be persistent – I am saying that the concept of calling a potential client 10 times is not realistic and not scalable.  Instead of making those 10 calls, consider these reasons your current approach is not successful:

  1. You have not defined your target audience.  I do enjoy the phrase “She could sell ice to an Eskimo,” as an explanation of sales prowess, but it is actually pretty stupid.  Do some research and find people that need ice.
  2. You don’t have a relationship.  We like to do business with people we trust, and it is hard to gain that trust when your approach is obviously some concocted sales pitch you learned at a seminar.  Building relationships takes time and it requires a genuine understanding of the people involved in the business.
  3. You have no clout.  If you are someone the client knows or respects, they will take your call.  If Mark Zuckerberg, Jay Z, or Tom Brady called you just one time you would take the call.  You don’t have to be world-famous to have clout – find a way to gain prominence in your industry.
  4. Your products and services don’t have real value.  Maybe you feel like you have to make 10 calls because the company you work for is not offering anything worth paying attention to.  Maybe you should contribute your knowledge to help improve the offering.
  5. You have not properly defined your value.  If your products or services do have real value, then it should not require 10 calls to demonstrate that value to a potential client.  Create a clear, concise way to describe the benefits of doing business with your company.
  6. You don’t ask good questions.  How can you claim to know what my business needs when you haven’t asked me any questions?  You’re too busy telling me about your company, products, and services.  Find out about your client’s specific need and then relate your services to that.
  7. You are not creating demand.  Any sales person will tell you that it’s much easier to answer the phone than it is to dial it.  Stop using social media as a way to keep tabs on your old boyfriend and start branding yourself.
  8. You are not focused on improving your approach.  Anyone that tells you “cold-calling is dead” is going to try to sell you their book – run away!  Cold-calling is fine IF you pay attention to what you’re doing, track your efforts, and make necessary adjustments to improve.
  9. You are calling the wrong person.  Find out who makes the decisions and stop bothering the receptionist.
  10. You are annoying.  Dude, if I told you “no” once, I am going to tell you “no” 9 more times, and I’m going to be more angry about it each time.  You would be better off calling 10 people once rather than calling one person 10 times.

Success in sales takes strategy, effort, and business acumen – not salesmanship.  If you don’t have the skill or patience, or if you work for a company that provides no real value, then by all means, call someone 10 times – just don’t call me!





Sales and The Olde Sea Dog

27 01 2011

Before he had kids, my Dad was a pirate.  Not a bad pirate, no plundering or pillaging, but a pirate nonetheless.  He would sail the high seas for months at a time, he would battle gangs of evil seafaring scoundrels.  He boarded wooden ships under the cover of darkness.  He struck swords with treacherous criminals and angry villains.

My Dad fought tirelessly against the scallywags of the sea, but he never, ever won.  No, he was always captured, beaten, and forced to walk the plank!  Somehow he managed to escape and return home to my Mom.  Then every few months he had to go back to the ocean and continue the fight, for he never quite conquered his foes, he never completely bested his enemies – those scurvy dogs!

And so went the narratives every night after dinner.  My brothers and I finished our meals quickly so we could hear my Dad tell his tall tales.  We hung on his every word.  We listened intently as the old man would weave a web of fiction so thick you could touch it.  I don’t think I even realized the pirate chronicles weren’t true until I was about 10 years old.  And then it dawned on me – if the stories were made up, why not be the hero?  Why did he always lose in the end?  I mean really, it’s a fictional story you are telling to your kids – why not set yourself up as the swashbuckling version of Rambo and win night after night?

My Dad is a true Sales Professional, and not in the caricatured opinion of the buying public.  Dale White is not pushy and he is not slick.  He is a man that understands the value of hard work, honesty, integrity, and relationships.  He wakes up at the crack of dawn, straps on his tie, hits the pavement, and does it with consistency.  With that approach he has already differentiated himself from most of the so-called sales professionals.  Aside from all that, my Dad does the one thing that even the best sales people are often unable or unwilling to do – he leaves his ego at the door.

I know thousands of sales people, and I have heard all the excuses:

“Cold-calling is dead” they say,

“I need to do extensive research before I can act,” they procrastinate,

“My network will support me,” they fool themselves.

I have been guilty of it myself.  Not Dale White.  He is not too good to knock on strange doors.  He is not above calling someone he’s never spoken to.  When his father was in poor health, my Dad took a sales job that was far beneath his talent and experience level just so he could relocate to the small town where my Grandpa lived.  Did his ego prevent him from strapping it on every morning in that situation?  Absolutely not!

It is the same reason he never needed to proclaim victory in the pirate stories.  The goal was to entertain his sons, not to make himself out to be the hero – and we were certainly entertained.  The result is the only thing that matters.  Sales is not glamorous, it is not easy, and it is not about the sales person.  If you are not willing to storm the ship and get battered about by the power of the waves, then Sales is probably not for you.  But if this is the profession you choose, then follow the example of my humble father – don’t let your ego get in the way of your success.





Your Inner Rockstar

13 08 2010

Who is your favorite one-name celebrity?  Madonna, Prince, Bono, Sade?  My favorite is Slash.  It’s not even a name, it’s an action, a motion, or a punctuation mark / .  Slash doesn’t need authentication, he doesn’t need a last name – that man can play the damn guitar.

I recently produced a t-shirt project for Slash’s new album.  No surprise that he went with a skull and crossbones for the design – that’s always in style for Pirates and Rockers.  A few years ago, skulls came back as a fashion trend, even for the non-hardcore and non-swashbuckler.  As a guy that makes t-shirts for a living, I saw skulls everywhere, and I’ll admit it got a little tired.  Why didn’t I feel that way about these shirts for Slash?  What’s the difference between him and everyone else?  Well, Slash would have shirts with skulls on them in 1987, 1999, 2010, or 2056.  That’s not being trendy, that’s being authentic.

Authentic Slash

Guns N Roses is one of the most iconic bands of my generation, and Slash’s guitar became the backbone of their signature sound.  You might not be a fan of hard rock, but you gotta admire the ability to cement your place in pop culture, brand yourself as a virtuoso, and become known as one of the best ever in your profession.

Okay, so you don’t shred the guitar on stage in front of packed stadiums.  How can you brand yourself or your business as authentic and timeless?  What can you learn from the man with one name?

  • Be YOU regardless of the situation. Regardless of who you’re hanging out with, where you are, where you work or go to school.  You might not fit in with the trendy crowd but you will always be cool.  Slash wears a top hat, has hair covering his face at all times, and usually has a smoke hanging from his lip.  Sure it’s cool now because he’s “Slash” but there were times in his life when that look was not fitting-in.  Better to be an outcast as yourself than a cool pretender.
  • Stop paying attention to rivals. Yep, I said it.  If you want to read a business blog about how studying your competition is good, there are plenty.  Everyone is so concerned with what the competition is doing.  “Will meet or beat,” or “bring in a competitor’s coupon,” you’ve heard it all.  Your competitors might be doing something right but you can never truly match it – even if you come close you will be perceived as a copycat.  Do your best to be your best.  To be authentic you have to be an innovator – you can’t focus on innovation with one eye on someone else.
  • Stop using the word “Supposed.” Doing what you’re “supposed” to do is overrated.  It only means you are living up to someone else’s expectations.  What if you’re better than that?  When you worry about what you’re “supposed” to do, what you’re “supposed” to say, you will never sink into the confident feeling of owning your actions, owning your success.
  • Form your own band. So you don’t fit the trend?  There are others – find them, appreciate your differences.  Provide each other a safe haven for creativity and individuality.  Slash has collaborated with an wide array of artists from all musical styles – including Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, Insane Clown Posse, Fergie, Ozzy Osbourne, and the guy from Maroon 5.
  • Broadcast. People can’t get to know what is special about you if you don’t put it out there.  Don’t hide the weird things – expose them, let people get to know the real you.  Don’t worry about showing your best side, your most presentable traits.  You are only delaying the inevitable – at some point people will figure out who you truly are.  They might like you for your flaws or your inner weirdo, but not if you try to hide it.

Be yourself, be authentic, be the rockstar in your life.








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