How To Ensure Your Very Best Meeting Experience

Conference call group:

“Can you repeat that again, Rick? I couldn’t quite hear that last part.”

Rick: “Oh, sorry. I was going through a tunnel. What I was saying was as;dlkfjad;flkjasd;gajk;dklafj;daslfjkdsz;laskjf;.”

Conference call group:
Ummm…yeah. That’s still not quite coming through.”

You know and I know it’s happening all the time. It’s happening on conference calls. It’s happening on Skype. It’s happening on Google Plus. It’s happening on Webinars. And I know it’s not just happening to me. So let’s not pretend for all of our innovation that we’ve got perfection at work because we don’t. We can see and hear each other. Congratulations. We can do things we couldn’t do in 1984. But we’re not there yet.

That’s why I’m proud to announce the greatest, clearest, most satisfying experience in meetings ever. It’s dependable. The communication is clearer. It’s like I can see the person right in front of me. Wait. I literally can see the person in front of me and it’s not a hologram:

It’s called Face-To-Face Meetings. 

I know it’s pretty wild stuff. See, in a Face-to-Face meeting, you’re actually there. Not kind of there. Not on a screen or listened to over crappy audio where I have to lean in to hear you like I’m a 99-year-old.

“Oh, but that’s not practical.”

Driving isn’t practical? Getting on a plane isn’t practical? That’s hilarious.

You paid for a tricked-out conference room. You can pay for a plane ticket or gas money. Maybe it’s time you asked yourself a hard question about what kind of company you want to be: The kind where people are literally seen or the kind that lives in Virtualville.

I love this ad from United so many years ago that still rings as true today as it did then:

Yes. This is harder and more expensive. But guess what? The one thing you never have to worry about in going belly-to-belly with someone is the quality of the audio or the picture. Ever. Trying to present your work is hard enough. You don’t need the extra hurdle of lousy technology to get in your way for a second.

The irony here is I love the heck out of new gadgetry and technological tools. But in this department, technology hasn’t caught up. And it needs to nail it for us 10 out of 10 times. But no, you’re on a PC and I’m on a Mac so our stuff can’t talk to each other. Did you bring the right cord for this projector or did you leave it back at the office? The browser is too slow. The PowerPoint isn’t showing the slides the right way.

Hell, I was recently at an otherwise enjoyable conference and a presenter cued up a video that DIDN’T FIT THE SCREEN.

I mean…come on now. This is the best we can do in today’s day and age? REALLY?

Here’s the thing that happens in a Face-to-Face that doesn’t happen too often in the other applications: Follow-up questions by other people in the room who feel just a tad more comfortable raising those questions because they don’t have to scream into a speakerphone or try to be seen on-screen. And those little follow-up inquiries are big. Because they actually make that person feel that much more involved in the conversation.

In the agency business, we romanticize the idea of the Golden Age of our business characterized by “Mad Men.” Whether you’re talking about David Ogilvy or Don Draper, you’re talking about personal selling at its finest. Good ol’ handshakes, meet and greets and hopefully knocking their socks off in person.

But reserving that personal touch for the pitch alone may be why some clients feel as though a bait-and-switch occurs once the business is awarded.

Hey, what happened to that Creative Director and the Agency President? That was just for show, huh? Oh well. I guess we’ll see them again when it’s time for the account to go into review.

Relax. I’m not suggesting you toss out your iPhone, iPad or anything else that starts with an “i” like an Amish person.

What I am suggesting is that we tend to use these as a default method of communication rather than remember that our very best relationships are still built on human interaction every chance we get. It’s not always convenient, that I grant you. It can be a downright pain in the butt to get from here to there. But once we do get from here to there, that journey can be the foundation of a longer lasting client relationship.

What are we really talking about here that’s so much harder? Another hour of travel by car? Another four hours in the air somewhere in the country for a meeting today or tomorrow?

What’s it worth to your business to literally go the extra mile?

Wouldn’t you like to find out?

I’m in Chicago but can meet anywhere for a qualified prospect. If you’d like more information on what that kind of person looks like for me and vice versa, what you’re looking for in a brand and content strategist so we’re making the most of each other’s time, connect with me at and I’d love to chat with you about the possibilities for getting together.

Finding Your Negotiating Point Of No Return – And Your Soul.

Sometimes in one of the networking groups I help lead, we have 15-20 minutes for an engaging topic of discussion relevant to entrepreneurs. This week, one raised an important question:

“Is anybody else tired of haggling to death over pricing? If we’re small businesses and the lifeblood of our economy, why are we beating ourselves up?”

It’s a very fair question. Rather than bemoan the problems and challenges that come with haggling over price, let’s do something about it. See, if you know who you want to deal with and who you don’t as well as if you know what your value is, then negotiating doesn’t have to be the experience you might regularly dread.

It’s your choice whether or not to play. And for how long.

Get a pad of paper out. List the 10 best clients you ever had. What do they have in common?

Then do the same for the 10 worst clients you ever had. What united them? What did they say? How did they act during the time you were putting a deal together?

Knowing that you’d obviously prefer to deal with the qualities conveyed in the 10 best, what does that say about somebody who displays little to none of those qualities?

These are decisions you are allowed to make and should make in advance of negotiation. Unfortunately, it’s always assumed in this “tell me what you’re going to do for me” world that you want to work with a total stranger you meet at a networking event. No, Chief. Why don’t you tell me a little more about you so we can learn if we’re even possibly a fit first. I have a stable of clients that have to meet a certain criteria and I want to know how much of that criteria you match. Pompous? No. It’s called valuing my own brand and my own time – and believe it or not, it’s about valuing yours too.

So ask yourself some very important strategic questions:

Are they really the kind of client you WANT?
Seriously. Do you know who you do not want as a client? Sometimes when people talk about the criteria of a good client, they chuckle and say, “Anybody with money.” Ha. Stop. No, seriously. STOP. You don’t take anybody with money. You take people with money who help get you where you want to go as a firm. As an agency, do you think they will add to the creativity of your portfolio? Will they refer business to you? Do you think they will enjoyable to work with and not condescending jerks? If you’re working primarily with large industrial clients, why are you taking on the florist down the street that doesn’t have two nickels to rub together?

How many clients do you actually NEED?
If you don’t know, that’s a problem. You haven’t defined what type of client you need to be happy and how many of them if they’re paying your true worth. If you say “I can never have enough,” that’s a way of saying, in other words, that you have no idea. And more importantly, you’re positioning yourself to sound like you’ll take anything that breathes. That’s where big issues and ulcers occur.

What’s your walk away point?
It’s not just about a particular price point but how the prospect is making you feel. If you feel like you are sacrificing part of what makes you great and what people value about you just to make a deal work for the other person, you know it. There’s a tingling sensation in your mind or your gut or your heart or some other region. You just…know it. And yet, you are making deals with yourself internally to make the logic work.

And that’s your walk away point.

Get up from the table, extend your hand and thank them for their time.

Those people won’t be helping because they’ll have line after line to push you over the edge and “sweeten” the deal. Beware.

For example, if I hear “I know a lot of people I can introduce you to if you can cut me a break,” I know I’m likely dealing with a pretender or cheapskate.

In my youth, I was wooed by this kind of talk. Ooh. Aah. You know people. Whatever.

They can pay at least a deposit up front, right now or they can’t. Plain and simple. Put up or shut up.

Create your parameters and standards for the kind of deal you just won’t do.
Everybody’s different on these specifically, but I like to think everybody also has a soul. The deals of “what could be” can’t outweigh what’s in front of you right now in terms of attractiveness. Rather, you should feel like, “Wow, this is a very rewarding mutually beneficial relationship as is. And hey, on top of it, we might even receive (bonus here).” You should NOT feel like, “Wow, this deal really sucks for us right now as we have to take a lot less than we typically do. But oh, if it works out, we’ll be neighbors to Richard Branson on his island with all the money we’ll make.”

Yeah…good luck with that latter scenario. Really. I hope it works out. I just wouldn’t expect it to at all.

This is why I don’t make “scratch-my-back-first” deals that involve me working for pennies for people who use the phrase “skin in the game” or “sweat equity.”
I don’t deal with people who try and barter rather than use dollars – the math doesn’t work cleanly.
I don’t deal with people who try to make back-end-percentages sound alluring when they mean zero dollars now. That’s playing in Fantasyland.

These are all nice ways of saying they have no money or not nearly enough.

It’s not just a financial standpoint. It’s a moral and ethical one for me. It’s who I am and what I believe in. It reflects the people I’ve had good experiences with and the not-so-good experiences.

Similarly, what have your experiences taught you about the situations you’ll never, ever re-enter?

You have to use your own BS Detector for these red flags to have some respect for yourself. The more you choose to engage round after round, the more you choose to be beaten up beyond what you deserve. REMEMBER: It’s your choice to negotiate and haggle. There are two parties that are necessary for that to occur in the first place.

When you decide the point of where enough is enough, you are taking back control of the process.

This is a part of what your brand stands for vs. those who will take anyone that moves and subsequently charge less than you to make that happen. They have no brand. They are just faceless, ordinary vendors providing a service like anyone else at that point, merely blending in with the rest. They will argue that they’ll get the business, but when it’s that ridiculous of a discount, they’ll have to work that much harder for that much less profit, over and over again until it’s a debilitating cycle. Does that sound like winning to you?

If that’s not what you want to be, it’s time to know when you talk the talk and when you have to walk the walk. For your brand. For your financial success. For your balance.

Keep this in mind and live by it with confidence. I’ll consider you a winner before negotiation even starts.

You May Be Your Best New Business Salesperson.

So let’s say you have a relatively new business that’s no more than 1-2 years old. Things are progressing nicely and you’re making a decent amount of money. Maybe you aren’t quite yet jumping into a pool of it like Scrooge McDuck, but you’re doing OK for yourself.

Still, the challenge of filling the pipeline becomes a regular thing in your mind. The conversation with your team becomes, “Maybe we should hire a New Business Salesperson.”

Hey, that sounds intriguing. Someone who can get out there and sell for you, huh? You can focus on the work you’re doing and another person can head out there to make it rain.

It’s a great idea in theory. And it’s not to say it’s impossible. But here’s the two choices you’re most often faced with:

Ronnie Rainmaker 
What’s that? Yeah sure, you bet I can bring in the big bucks. I worked in tons of industries and had a lot of success. Maybe not this one exactly, but I know what I’m doing. I don’t think I have to know a ton about your business. I get it. You’re what, an ad guy, a social media guy who does a lot of this, uh, Facebook updating for people, right? Sure, fine, whatever. You just do your thing and I’ll do mine. Since I’m so awesome, you need to pony up the big bucks for me but you’ll be glad you did.

Two problems with Ronnie:

1) The extraordinary amount of money he costs until he proves he can deliver the goods

2) He could find you a bunch of clients and think he’s doing incredible when in reality, the ones he’s finding are not the greatest fits for who you want to reach.

In his defense on the second point, that’s your fault, not his. You have to define precisely who you want to attract, who you don’t and how you’re going to reward him for more of the cream of the crop. This is as much a branding exercise as it is a sales issue. If you don’t know how to position yourself in terms of who you definitively want to work with – and it’s not that “everybody who needs my services” bullcrap –  you will be leading Ronnie on a wild goose chase and financing every mile for him.

Commission Carl
You don’t have to pay me much of a draw or even any draw. All you have to do is pay me a handsome commission for what I bring in. Isn’t that a great deal? Nothing out of pocket for you other than what I bring in! What’s that you say? Experience? Well, I sold flat screen TV’s at Best Buy so I’m really good at moving product and connecting with people. That’s what it’s all about and I’ve been doing it for decades. So what do you say?

At first glance, it sounds attractive for an entrepreneur. Not much risk there, right? Nothing lost, nothing gained. Except for one thing – again, if you want to improve Carl’s chances of success, you have to guide him on what your brand is all about. He has to understand the brand forwards and backwards for every prospect challenge. He has to understand your audience and what methods play well with them. If you’re in the business of Internet marketing, you probably don’t need him to knock on doors at his country club. This is so much easier said than done, it’s not even funny.

There’s just got to be someone who really gets you, gets your brand, gets who you want to speak with more often and knows precisely where you want to go.

I’ve got just the person. Grab a mirror and look at it.

What we often don’t realize about New Business is that we don’t give ourselves enough credit or see the potential we already have within ourselves. You see, there’s nothing more authentic or rewarding than knowing that you are delivering your message in a way that feels right and to the right person. This isn’t egotistical to say. If you truly have a command of your own message, who could be more powerful of an advocate than you are?

“But I don’t have enough time to do New Business. I’ve got other things that need to get done.”

Sure, I understand that. But do you think you can just give most salespeople a little instruction in a “set it and forget it” kind of way? I don’t buy that. They require guidance, collaborative planning and accountability measurement from you on a regular basis so that as a team, everyone can be on the same page consistently. That takes an investment of time too.

The middle ground can often come from better coaching and training.

This is where the rubber often meets the road. I’m certainly not immune to this challenge, which is why working with a sales coach like Steve Fretzin of Sales Results, Inc. can help ensure you’re disciplined in your activities and meeting with the right people rather than just tire kickers.

Are you with me so far? Think you have it in you to change at least a habit or two? What about as many as seven bad habits?

I think you can be committed enough to spend just two hours and a hair over $20 to find out.

If you’re in that camp, read on and join us on Wednesday, June 12th from 8am – 10am at 180 N. LaSalle as Steve and I present:

Seven Reasons to Change Bad Habits

Forget all the outdated “sales-ish” methodologies. Forget sounding like a used car huckster. Selling can be easier and even, yes, fun. Here are a few of the negative questions, assumptions and frustrations we will be solving in our interactive workshop:

· Why the traditional model of sales has failed
· Why social media “doesn’t work fast enough”
· Why you may be measuring social media success improperly
· Why your prospects are only buying on price
· Why you’re perceived the same as everyone else in your field

It’s a limited seating event, so if you’re committed to finding out just what kind of sales you can obtain on your own before blowing a large amount on Ronnie Rainmaker or hoping for the best with Commission Carl, this is the event you don’t want to miss. Mark your calendar for the morning of Wednesday, June 12th from 8am-10am at 180 N. LaSalle, Suite 3700.

Follow this link to register:

Prospecting: Separating The Believers From The Non-Believers

This scene from Mad Men sums up an important point for me about prospect relationship building.

There are Believers and there are Non-Believers. The difference is easier to spot than we make it.

As Don Draper says when explaining an ad campaign, “You either have it in your heart or you don’t.”

Let’s apply this to new business relationships. As we know, prospecting for the complex sale can be sophisticated, time-consuming and take many “touches” before an actual invitation occurs to be face-to-face with someone. Getting through that door isn’t often a one-time effort unless you’re in the right place at the right time.

But now you finally get that first meeting – it may come from your initiative or them finding you. They invite you in to learn more.

Here’s where you separate The Believers from the Non-Believers.

By the end of your first meeting, after you’ve discovered enough about the challenge before you do an even deeper dive and they’ve learned a solid amount about you, you should have a good sense of whether the person wants to have a relationship with you. They believe in you or they don’t. If they don’t want to move forward, so be it, but at least you know. If they do want to move forward, are we talking the details of a relationship in our second meeting or are we shooting the breeze?

This isn’t decided by logical factors. This isn’t a tally sheet of points on an RFP (Oh really? You’re going to tell me I just missed out because I scored a 94 and my competitor scored a 97? Riiiiight.).

For all the laundry lists of virtue that agencies throw out there (experience, creativity, number of employees/locations, awards), these have value – but none of them are exclusively own-able.

Relationships are emotional decisions. They go with you because they like you. And if they like you, they believe in you. And if they believe in you long enough, they refer you.

That last one is important. If they’re not referring, they like you but don’t like you enough.

Let’s take a look at the typical pattern: You meet. You greet. Both parties get to know each other. If it makes sense to do so, you present / quote.

Then what happens?

Sometimes it’s a “We’ll get back to you.” “We’re still thinking about it.” “So and so is on vacation.” “We’ve got a fire to put out in the next few weeks but we’ll get to this.”

We’ve all encountered a response like this in some fashion or another. It’s not that we’re necessarily bad presenters or that it’s all on us. It just might be that they’re not equipped to make change. The key word is “make.” Some companies don’t want to make change. They just love the IDEA of change. Because that’s safe and even romantic to think about. There’s no risk with an idea or merely talking about what could be. So they talk and talk and talk and want to meet with you over and over and over again. You keep getting lured in (“Oh wow! They’re bringing us back in for the fifth time! They must be really close to making a decision!”).

And that can’t happen. Because you go from being potentially paid consultant/agency to free therapist.

People who want therapy are not serious prospects. They are Non-Believers. If they are stuck and you have presented what could be a smart, strategic way out of being stuck, they should not be comfortable with where they presently are. You are taking them to a place outside of that Comfort Zone, yes. But even in their slight discomfort, The Believer knows that this is a vital and important thing for the company, not something to be feared.

It should take no more than one meeting for a person to not only believe change is necessary but that it has to happen now. It should take no more than two meetings for that person to believe that you are the right person to enact that change.

Beyond this, you need to ask yourself if you’re dealing with a serious prospect or a tire kicker.

I’m not proud to admit it, but on more than one occasion, I’ve had a prospect I’d met and spoken with several times before keep me on the phone for an hour talking about their problems. That was stupid. There comes a point where you must say, “You know, I’d love to continue this chat but I typically bill people beyond the ___ minute. Is that something you’re comfortable with?”

You have it in your heart or you don’t.

Think about your favorite brands – what do they have in common about their customers? They’re more than customers. They’re giant fans. They’ll defend that brand to no end. They’ll come back again and again. They’ll tell others how wonderful that brand is.

They Believe in that brand. There is no middle ground. No Semi-Believers.

This doesn’t stop when they become clients.
Are we wrong to want to strive for Believers in our agency in a collection of clientele? I don’t think so. Imagine your agency with 100% Believers. Every one of them loves you. Trusts you. Refers you business and/or might very well be open to doing more business in the right circumstance. Can’t say enough good things.

What’s that? Some clients don’t do that? Which ones? Why? How can that be improved upon from here?

Of course this doesn’t mean they’re going to blindly agree to everything you say and do. Of course they’ll question or suggest changes. That’s normal. There’s a difference between sharing opinion and dictating, “This is what I want the ad to specifically say.” The former is still belief. The latter is not.

Believers want to be led, guided and educated. They are inspired to act now. They don’t want to just talk about it over and over and over. They don’t pretend to know everything or better than their own customer. And they see you as the expert that you are rather than being dragged kicking and screaming into new ideas or new technologies.

Look, some people just aren’t ready to go forward when the time comes. I can respect that, but you also have to have respect for yourself. The first and incredibly important step of liking someone isn’t something you have to think about over a period of several meetings and months. You just know it the first time. And you know what the concrete next steps are as a result.

You either have it in your heart or you don’t.

The Day Of Sales-Free Selling Has Arrived.

If you want to look old as a marketer, use tired old marketing tactics that, technically, might “work” but fail over 90% of the time.

Traditional direct mail, for example, offers a typical 2% response rate. So going in, you know that there’s an excellent chance that almost every little postcard you send out in carpet-bombing, non-personalized fashion is going to be filed in a cylinder under a desk or be used as birdcage lining. This is not the same as direct mail that utilizes Personalized URLs (PURLs) – those can be great – but instead a piece of paper that provides no further attempt to get to know the prospect or ever takes the prospect down a more personalized funnel.

Cold calling is another example. Traditional salespeople say it works, but they can’t deny that the percentages are not in their favor here either. You dial 10 people who are only marginally qualified at best and you’re going to have 9 out of 10 of those people say, “Not interested,” if not be outright pissed that you’re interrupting their day (and the one who actually talks to you may be a lead but not ultimately a sale). Especially when you launch into your script about how your life-changing services are just what they’ve been waiting for when you’ve made no attempt to truly understand their needs. Oh wait. That would take more intensive research on that prospect and who has time for that. My bad.

2% effectiveness.

Come on.

Can we get real about what “works” when we’re talking sales and marketing?

Maybe we can agree on this much, regardless of this or that tactic – sending out a blanket message to thousands of people you have never interacted with before may not be as good for conversion as you getting to know them, understanding their challenges and providing a path that helps them through a decision.

No, this isn’t a launch into how inbound marketing is King and everything else is dead (although inbound is extremely vital). There’s still a place in this world for “Push” strategies and advertising and selling. But the way we push can, is and will be more 1-to-1 than ever. More customized. More selective, pre-qualified and integrated with digital to improve our close ratios. More scalable so that more people can receive a personalized approach. What is continually evolving in our world is the need for greater business intelligence faster as we prospect. And as better technological tools catch up with that ambition to help identify our targets more specifically in advance, we may not have as much of a need to dial for dollars by the thousands of people.

But beyond the technology, how do you change that mindset so that you actually slow down sales and clarify yourself as a viable option in the prospect’s mind?

I do have a suggestion on that, which hopefully is as helpful to you as it has been to me.

One company that has had a profound impact in the way I’ve thought about selling myself and my services is Sales Results, Inc. To be honest, when I approached this company years ago, I was great at helping my clients build their brand but I had trouble with how I developed my own approach. I didn’t have a good “elevator speech.” I didn’t know how to set an agenda for my meetings – most were just throwaway “I’ll keep an eye out for you” coffees and lunches. And I didn’t hold myself accountable for my activities or should I say, lack of them.

Jim Sheehan and Steve Fretzin changed all that for me. I find myself continually learning that there are smarter ways to, in fairly efficient order, discover if there’s a natural fit between two parties as either a sale or a strategic partnership. And how liberating it can be to help someone clarify a decision – even if that decision doesn’t arrive at your business’ doorstep.

There are no shortcuts in sales (none I’ve found yet anyway). You still have to network. You still have to do one-on-ones and events. You still have to follow up after appointments. You still have to make referrals, not just take them.

But for some odd reason, when I employ the Sales Results methodology, it just doesn’t feel like hardcore, off-putting sales to me. And I consider that a very good thing. It’s more natural, comfortable and in my view, more effective.


There are two ways to get a sense of what I mean. One is to actually go through the Sales Results program. The other is to pick up Steve’s new book just released today called “Sales-Free Selling: The Death of Sales and the Rise of a New Methodology.”

To be on the safe side, I’d do both.