Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Selling without Selling

Unless you are a salesperson, a spouse of one, or close friend or relative, you probably do not use the words prestige or respect when describing a sales professional.  Me, I find honor in all legal work.  However, according to a 2012 report in Scientific Marketing and Advertising, 17 of the 20 least respected occupations involve selling.  The authors of this report noted that “No occupation in the top 20 list involves selling.”  I would probably argue that even fireman, pharmacist, and Catholic Priest listed in the top 10 are selling safety, medicine, and religion, respectively.

However, the point is clear, most Americans do not respect salespeople; yet, most of us are selling something—product, services, or ideas.  I believe it is the term “selling” we find distasteful.  Our struggle with this internal conflict—I don’t respect salespeople, yet I am selling something—turns out to be a paradox that appears unsolvable.  So what do we do?

We can trick ourselves into using various euphemisms such as “providing a service people need,” or “helping people make good choices,” or “making life better for others,” etc.  However, this play with words and meanings isn’t needed and we don’t have to live this double life.

Sell without selling.  Simply, change your presentation into an informational talk and ask people to action with a clear cut benefit.  This is a soft sell approach I teach “reluctant” salespeople.  You need not master a polished sales pitch, or follow a step by step “sales process.”  All you have to do is educate, demonstrate, or inform your idea, book, art, service, etc. with clear concrete examples or stories.

Then (this is the important part), at the end of your presentation, simply ask for action with a clear benefit.  For example, “I suggest you pick up my book today (this is the action part), because if you do, you will improve your health because you will find exercising fun (this is the benefit part).”

In my experiences, many authors, artists, alternative health care providers, wedding service providers, and other “reluctant salespeople” have found outstanding successes beyond their wildest dreams by using this idea.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Lack of Fear does Not Equate to Effective Speaker

Earlier this week I was attending a civic meeting.  I recognized a woman who had brought us in to speak at her group’s meeting.  She asked how the public speaking consulting was going and without waiting for my answer volunteered, “Getting up in front of a group never bothered me.  I am not afraid of talking to groups like most people are.  I’ve always been good at presentations and speeches.”  She rambled on longer and I simply nodded and listened with interest.  What really interested me was the fact she is a terrible speaker.  I have seen her present a couple of times when she was president of her organization.  She rambles on with no apparent central idea or goal.  And worse, she takes a long time doing it.  I think we all could have walked out without her noticing it.  I am being extreme here; however, her story makes a good point: Just because you are not afraid to speak in front of groups doesn’t mean you are an effective speaker.

“You have to give a speech.”  Normally, people fill up with anxiety when they hear any form of these words.  Their knuckles tighten, their stomach becomes one big knot, and their knees begin to wobble.  But, what if you don't feel any of these things?  Does that mean you are a natural, and therefore above speech anxiety?  Base on the story above, clearly not.

I have found the opposite to be true.  It's that this false sense of security that can really knock you for a loop.  This is the kind of presentation that might turn out OK in spite of itself, but think of how fantastic it would be had the presenter paid attention to the details.

Mark Twain is noted for saying, "There are two types of speakers; 1) the nervous and 2) the liars."  That profound statement says quite a bit.  Twain was a respected orator and comedian;  however, he still placed value on preparation with a clear message and goal, practice, and performance.  He also knew that he was not above fear, because no one is.

The audience must be first and foremost in the speaker’s mind.  Make no mistake; they are not there to see you.  They are there to listen to their favorite radio station WII FM—what's in it for me?  Don't set yourself up for failure by believing your lack of fear means that you're a shoe-in.  My friend’s Dad used to say, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."  A similar road may also be paved with overconfidence.

Friday, August 2, 2013

A Good Introduction Reflects Your Attitude

Recently I gave a talk at an organizational function.  This workshop was in the works (preparation) for a couple of months and I was looking forward to it.

They chose the topic.  One of our “best practices” is to email both one week and one day in advance a prepared introduction of myself.  It’s structured, short and easy for even the most inexperienced introducer. It saves time for the person doing the introduction as s/he doesn’t have to write one or spend time practicing it; all one has to do is read it.

You might guess what happened.  First, she didn’t bring a copy of our introduction to the meeting and didn’t tell us as we had one (another “best practice” is to bring a hard copy of the introduction with us to cover for this exact scenario), second, she remained seated instead of standing in front of the group, and third, she introduced me as “Rob” mentioned that I graduated from a local high school, and said, “I guess he’s here to talk about something, public speaking, right?”

This was one of the worst introduction I have ever received (surprisingly, many are bad, that’s another reason I write them). 

Not only was the audience unprepared for me, in their eyes, I was unqualified and therefore, not especially a person of interest.  Since similar things happened in the past, I was prepared and delivered my own introduction so that they at least knew why I was there, my credentials, and the topic.
Not only is it absolutely critical to know the pronunciation of the speaker’s first and family name, it is best to get the name right!  People’s names are very important and if you can pronounce their names properly and accurately, you will gain the respect of the audience and the speaker.  How many times have you heard the person introducing a speaker by saying, “I am not sure of the pronunciation of his/her name, but here she/he is.”  How about seeing the one introducing the speaker look over to the speaker and asking how to pronounce his/her name?  It is an awkward scenario for the presenter when he/she is introduced incorrectly.

Does the importance of a good introduction make sense?  A proper introduction sets the tone for the whole presentation; the audience knows who you are, what your qualifications are, and why you are there.  It’s a perfect set up for both the audience and the presenter and helps the speaker with getting the attention of the audience. It also shows you and your organization’s commitment to professional excellence.

Remember, it’s a shared responsibility.  Introducers, please call the speaker as far in advance of the presentation as is possible so you can get all the information you need to give a nice respectful introduction.

Speakers, please do not make it difficult for the introducer. Give the person introducing you the information necessary to write an introduction, or provide one for them, so he/she can practice.
The main point is “practice” your introduction as much as you would for any speech. Practice on introductions, giving awards, or receiving awards is every bit as important as a keynote address.  It is not a hard task to master; but it does take know how, preparation, and above all, practice.

With just a few steps, you can avoid the awkward and uncomfortable “introduction” that I received.  Respect your speaker, make yourself look professional and prepared, and set the stage for an interesting and memorable presentation.

Don’t be that person. For a step by step guide on how to introduce a speaker, go to our website and order today, a speaker of any skill level will look like a professional.