Give Me the Reason, Or Gimme 5

FiveQ: What’s your valid business reason for seeking my time and attention?

A: You’d better be able to answer this clearly and concisely before you ask.

The valid business reason will only sound as good as you believe it to be. For a time, I worked as a commission only appointment setter.  I became skilled at establishing a valid business reason to take a meeting and being able to communicate that very quickly, over the phone, to the C suite. Those skills have served me well since then, now that I’m selling long term, high ticket solutions to upper management types.

The art of converting ambiguity to substance is worth a lot. You only get a maximum of 1 chance to make a bad first impression by delivering a wasteful meeting experience.

But what happens in order to secure that meeting is critical first. Of the many ways that come to mind, here are FIVE:

Know your prospect. Do the research. Prepare a written brief if you have to. Take the time. Search them online in general and in social media specifically.

Don’t small talk. Last night I got a call from an unknown number to my cell. It was the blood care folks asking me to donate. After getting me to pick up an unknown caller, then asking me how I am, the caller then asked me about the weather. I wanted to hang up, except that I actually was interested in donating blood. Please know when to stop.

Reference a success with another customer. Recently, a project of mine got some media coverage.  Boy was it easy to get meetings after that happened. All I had to do was reference the story verbally or forward the article via email. Instant meeting closed.

Use a trigger. Is there a deadline approaching for them or for you? A new product release? A change in personnel that might invite a training opportunity or simply a cause for change? Where are we in the budget year – does it need to be spent before lost? Have they had a competitive change or a change of market position?

Always know your value. If you truly have the BEST, or the ONLY, or the MOST efficient solution, make it known upfront concisely enough to hook a distracted mind. Is this the only chance for the customer to get an audience with your upper management, in turn, a direct line of communication to a higher level decision maker at your organization?

These suggestions tend to work for me.



Selling is a 7 Layer Dip

7-layer-dip-recipe-combo-69-pI’ve heard it said that it takes an average of 7 interactions, or contact attempts might be a better description, to make a sale.  Obviously, this varies widely depending on many variables – length of sales cycle, transactional vs. solution oriented, ticket size, etc.

But in the context of this estimate of the 7 touch points rule, I’ve also heard it said that most sellers give up after only 2 unsuccessful attempts. Those that hang in for longer are separated from the masses. They are above the norm in persistence, thus, one significant reason for their success.

I’ve learned this to be true first hand. It takes a layering approach to break through someone’s habits and attention span.  It takes more layering to isolate the need and yet more layering to establish the value to respond to that need.

The universe has become far more fragmented, along with the channels of communication. I try to employ several of them – land line, cell, email, text, social media, blogging – to increase my likelihood of adding another touch point, possibly even while I’m sleeping.  Hey, I don’t decide when you get online.

With the 7 point rule in mind, here’s a list I came across years ago that I keep taped to my monitor where I see it every day. Not sure where I got it, nor who wrote it, but you can adjust to your own situation as needed.  It helps me having a methodical approach.  I like roadmaps.

  • Day 1 – Start by sending an email and attach a testimonial or case study. Mention that you will call at a specific date and time.
  • Day 3 – Call at the time you said you would call and be prepared to leave a voicemail. Follow up by sending your personal marketing resume.
  • Day 6 – Make another call and this time have some research ready to share.
  • Day 7 – Send a letter and restate your valid business reason to meet.
  • Day 11 – Send another email and this time speak to the process you follow to help people to get results.
  • Day 12 – Call again and let the prospect know that if you don’t hear from them soon, you will need to bring your ideas to others.
  • Day 16 – Send one last email.  Give them a few times they can reach out to you.

What is described above in roughly 2 weeks would play out over possibly 2 years in my world, but you get the gist. Personally, I wouldn’t do the Day 12 suggestion, but here’s something that did work for me recently…

A prospect that had ignored my attempts over a 2 year period finally responded to me.  The only thing I did differently was to tell her that it would be my final attempt to seek a meeting with her.  It worked.

How to Present Your Message – 7 Tips

Preso XBA month ago, I had the opportunity to speak before a large group at an internal sales conference.  I was nervous, as I knew less than half of those in the room and there was quite a bit riding on my ability to make a good impression before my boss, his boss, that guy’s boss and scores of other executives across business units. Last week, I finally received the video of the presentation and I’m pleased with how it actually transpired.

Here’s what I learned.

Take care of yourself first. I had about a month to prepare for my talk, but about a week prior, I was sent specific corporate guidelines detailing what the visual presentation needed to look like with sample templates in a 16 page document.  There were specifically suggested graphics to choose from, company sanctioned icons, none of which appeared to match my message nor my vision of how I intended to present. Since I missed the whole “tech” thing in college because it hadn’t been discovered yet, this pretty much threw me into a tailspin at a time that I should have been feeling great about the honor of being chosen to represent.

I was prepared. I had notes online and on notecards. I rehearsed plenty. But, by the time the presentation was approaching, I was exhausted and functioning on little sleep.  I checked out of conference programming for the afternoon and took a nap.  That was the timeout my mind and body both needed to come out on stage, before a ballroom full of colleagues, and appear fresh, rested and on point.

If you think you fit in, you fit in. I was chosen to sit on a panel with 4 other colleagues. The day before the talk, I discovered I was the only panelist over the age of 25.   I’m significantly over the age of 25. My daughter will see 25 before too long. At first, I was slightly mortified.  But, that quickly turned to pride, as I knew I was there because I belonged there. I had something of great value to share and that’s why I was chosen to present.

One of my fellow panelists said that her greatest takeaway from her success story is that you don’t need to have a big title to have a big win. The context was that, about a year ago, she was a college student, and now she’s presenting a case study of her successful sale before a large group of colleagues at all levels. When I heard her remarks, it occurred to me, in the context of my relative age on the panel, you don’t have to be considered young in order to do fresh things in fresh ways.

Smile and breathe. Always helps to build credibility. Nothing sells like confidence. Nothing comes close.

Control your body language. If you are sitting on a panel, sit up straight and don’t swivel if you’re in a swivel chair. Your message to the audience will be lost in that motion.  You also won’t like how it looks if you have the chance to view it again on video.

Water and lozenges within reach are useful. Plan ahead. Have them on hand.

Have a conversation. Don’t talk at the audience. Have a conversation with them. It’s a practiced thing, but no one likes being talked at, while most everyone enjoys a good conversation. Statements like, “I’m going to tell you guys something and it is SO simple” or “You know, we really saw dollar signs when we got to this part of the project” or “Just start somewhere and here’s what you are looking for” are some conversational ways to share your ideas.

Isolate only 1-2 points. There’s something magical about narrowing the focus to only 1 or 2 key takeaways. It helps the speaker focus; it helps the audience absorb and retain. Use this as a guide, when you can, for your prepared remarks.  And for Q&A afterward, minimize your response to an open ended question by choosing the 1-2 key things that come to mind as soon as you hear that question. A laundry list would send both speaker and audience into the black hole.


Deadheading Is Not Just For Plants

I recently learned that deadheading, the process of removing spent flowers, serves more than just an aesthetic purpose.   It actually promotes reblooming as it diverts the plant’s energy away from seed production on the spent flower.  Failure to deadhead encourages good energy to be wasted.

It’s easy to see how this process can apply to lots more than plants.

Clean your tech shop – I’ve been spending too much time lately downloading software updates on apps I never use on my phone.  Like a monkey, I download the update just cause of that stinking little alert.  Lightbulb moment – I just deleted a bunch of unused apps.

Clean your Inbox – Every morning I start my day deleting a bunch of emails that clog my Inbox.  It’s part of my routine, deleting the same updates every day from the same LI groups that I no longer have an interest to follow.  Today I removed myself from those groups.

Clean your Rolodex – This one is a little trickier and requires a bit more finesse.  But toxic relationships are simply toxic; an energy suck.  Some can be fixed with a reset.  Some cannot and it’s simply time to nip and tuck.

Clean your Other Black Book – This will likely sound wildy unpopular, but sometimes  you need to fire a customer.  Sometimes, I said.  There’s a cost of doing business, whether it is time, energy or hard cost.  Some business relationships are best left to others.  You know which ones those might be for you.

You can easily add to this list.  These were a few ideas that came to me.  The sooner you deadhead the time drainers on your agenda, the more energy you will have to channel in more positive ways – like to get out and do some networking.

Business Travel and Other Hazards – 10 Survival Tips + 1

ImageIf you’ve been travelling for work for a while, skip this, you already know it.

Layer clothing for air travel – in flight layovers are hot; in flight travel can be freezing.  Bring socks for the plane; flip flops for getting through security with ease.

Noise cancelling headphones – Not new, but, being a minimalist for travel, I never got the appeal.  But, even a mid-priced option makes a huge difference, whether you wish to silence the proselytizing neighbor or prefer to transcend to your happy place with your personal music library.

Pack snacks – For plane and hotel.  Too many unanticipated things can happen when you travel.  Don’t let hunger be one.  An extra granola bar offered to your in-flight neighbor might produce a new business lead at best, or help pass the time on a boring long haul.

Keep perspective – It’s your job, not your life.  I’m fortunate to have a boss that gets this.  He wouldn’t let me travel on Valentine’s Day.   And, though I HATE talking on the phone, taking a shortcut here can backfire fast at home.  Remember, your family makes it possible for you to succeed at your job.  So don’t sabotage them at home while you are away.

Sync all devices to local time – Hone your tech skills so that time zone change doesn’t zap you.  Today I mis-scheduled a Webex training and then mis-scheduled it again, because I never adjusted my laptop to the local time zone.  It made me late for my flight and also made me look like an idiot to a colleague.  AND, I’m lucky to even be on this flight, because I shorted myself a full hour at the airport.  The prior reminder I set in my iPhone was auto-adjusted to local time and I relied on that, rather than my boarding pass, for alerting me for airport departure.

Aisle or not – I love an aisle seat.  However, when I purchased my first rolling briefcase, I didn’t know it wouldn’t fit under the sit in front of an aisle seat.  UGH.  And if I have a carry-on also, it’s the briefcase that must go under seat.

Carry on or not – This is a tip for millennials.  I am just as impatient as you to avoid waiting in baggage claim.  However, believe me when I say your body will break down sooner if you’re lifting a heavy bag into an overhead bin on a regular basis.  Just like you think you can have another milkshake and it won’t go straight to your ass like it would on mine, this too will change.  And it will be gradual.  But you will bless your doc for diagnosing arthritis in your shoulder, because now at least you have an excuse to take pain meds.  And you might even score a script for physical therapy, which sounds geriatric, but actually feels as good as a massage.  Because, actually, it is a massage…that might be covered by your insurance.

Enjoy the ride – Partake of the local food and scenery.  If your travel allows you to practice foreign language skills you learned 30+ years ago in grade school, go for it.  I just learned how to tell someone to Go To H*ll in Spanish by a colleague.  When I demonstrated my new found colloquial skills, I got a laugh from a very important client.  Nothing sells like laughter.

Work/play balance – The hotel I just left was also a casino.  I was given a few bucks at check-in in casino vouchers.  Somehow I managed to crank out brilliant work at 430am, but I never used those casino vouchers.  I regret that.  However, my taxi driver said his mom will enjoy them for Mother’s Day.

Love your body – I have arthritis and can no longer carry a handbag.  Small, cross body bags are mandatory now.  I no longer carry a wallet nor anything that can be replaced electronically.  I only have room for bare minimum – reading glasses (TUVM), cell phone, mini Altoids. When will the reward programs stop sending me more cards that I refuse to carry?

Networking Tip

When someone tells you they’re going someplace for business that you’d enjoy for vacation, don’t say, “Oh, how lucky for you!”  I’m lucky to have a good job, but travel is a sacrifice it carries.  This response is equivalent to asking a bloated postpartum mommy when her baby is due.  You simply don’t chance it.

My Top 10 Biz Travel Packing List


  1. Gummy bears – for toddler airplane neighbors
  2. Noise canceling headphones – See #1
  3. Layers – temperature swings in flight
  4. Nutritionally dense snack – compact but satisfying
  5. Mobile charger – never off the grid
  6. Body powder – because
  7. Band aids – paper cuts are the pandemic of business travel. Who knew?
  8. Ambien – just like chocolate, so long as in reach, not needed.
  9. Walking shoes – duh
  10. Altoids – See #9.

Please share your list with me.

The Lowest Scorer Is The Winner – Not A Golf Story

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of spending time with a long lost colleague whom I have Facebook to thank for helping me to re-connect. She & I only worked together for a couple of years about 20 years ago, but some people leave a permanent mark and for a reason.

She is, first and foremost, a ball of fun, and who doesn’t need to be reminded of the need for fun? But she is also very wise and I love to learn.  Yesterday, she reminded me of the need to prioritize, which sometimes includes eliminating volume. 

She told me that her Facebook friend rule is that she has only 111 FB friends.  In order to get onto her list, she has to remove someone to create real estate.  Now, this is someone who really enjoys life; the kind of person you would expect to possibly have 1111 friends, but no, she has only 111, by design.  That is a strategy I identify with. 

Some areas where I’ve learned a similar strategy:

Friendships – You can have too many.  The real kind require care and attention and are worth it.  Keep relationships that are mutually beneficial.  Evaluate those that aren’t.

Goals – Very important to have, but only if you are working them.  Having goals that you don’t make a priority can actually make you feel worse.  Some people avoid making New Year’s resolutions for this reason.

Boundaries – Establish them in your personal and your professional life.  Only commit to what you can complete.  Always better to under promise and over deliver.

Limitations – Know yours and honor yourself by heeding them. Before I took this job, I sought the advice of a colleague who’d had it previously.  She warned me that some nights she’d be up until 2am on the road working on a presentation to deliver 6 hours later.  It scared me at first, but then I realized I would never do that to myself.  After 10pm, the only thing I can do productively is sleep.

Physical capacity – Another limitation, but so important, it deserves elaboration.  In middle age, your body will not perform the same way it once did.  Honor that.  If you can no longer run, find something lower impact.  If you can no longer drink, order 1 and make it last the night.  Rebounding takes too long and you have better ways to spend your time.