Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Not So Surprising Truth About Selling

When I first got into sales, non-sales types would tell me they didn't know how I could do that. Talk to strangers and get them to listen me. Earn their trust so they might buy commercials on the radio or television station I was offering at the moment.

Sales, I would tell them, is not for everyone. At the time I believed it.

But that's all changed. In today's digital world, everyone is selling. If not a product or an idea, they are selling themselves as a brand through something as simple as a LinkedIn Profile. Understanding that process and how to apply it is critical for anyone interested in earning a living. Sales has to be for everyone, at least those of us who want to succeed.

I've been telling clients that since I left the corporate world in 2008. Most don't want to hear it. They have trouble buying into the notion that they need to learn and understand the process of selling to further their careers. They hear sales and they think sleazy sales person a la Alec Baldwin in Glengary Glen Ross

Which is what intrigued me to read To Sell Is Human, The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, by Dan H. Pink, "a fresh look at the art and science of selling."

So what is this "fresh look"?  

Dan Pink takes a subject, unfriendly and scary to so many and makes it approachable and yes, human. He creates a new ABC of sales. Instead of Always Be Closing, he applies the new attributes of Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity. He offers some great exercises to practice these skills, several of which I have been using in the class in Digital Marketing I teach at NYU, for the explicit purpose of reinforcing how selling must be understood to be a better marketer. He makes a very good case for what is inherently human in the selling process and how all of us, every day are using these skills to some degree.

But is "the surprising truth" surprising? Not to me. 
As a seasoned sales professional, I could not help noticing that so much of what the author speaks to as new to the sales process in the 21st Century, was what I had learned  in my early days in Radio when we had something called the RAB Consultancy Sell. 

That approach to selling taught us to listen more than speak, to unearth the client's problems before offering solutions, to be an expert resource for their business and ours, to personalize our presentations and be real, to be agile and think on our feet, to earn their trust, and to build relationships with these people.

Of course over the years, the trend, certainly in media was not for management to reinforce that approach but to try and get it all on the same cookie cutter PowerPoint deck and to push the sales person to get the deal. At any cost. Something that ties back to big companies being pressured to foster policies driven by keeping the stock price up rather than what is best for the clients.

Nevertheless, this is a fresh look and a much needed one especially for those resistant to accepting that selling is a part of the human experience and an art and science worth honing your skills. It is also a worthwhile read for the sales professional and the heads of corporations who may have forgotten the very skills that got them success in the first place.

But surprising? Not so much.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

3 Key Questions To Ask If You Want To Make Things Happen

Making things happen, especially the big and important stuff, isn't easy. The first thing that stops most of us is we are convinced we don't really have the time, which was the seed that inspired me to write It Takes An Egg Timer, A Guide To Creating The Time For Your Life. I wanted to inspire and motivate by demonstrating that the time is really there if we want it to be. 

I try to walk the walk. I've made a lot of things happen in the last several years, serious changes in my life transitioning from corporate exec to writer and entrepreneur. I've created alot. This blog, The Secrets They Kept, It Takes An Egg Timer and a coaching practice that is about to evolve into a consulting practice. (More on that in another post.)

But let there be no mistake, there is a lot I have not made happen. Long lists of great ideas that float through my mind, some that even made it to paper but have since fallen away into the ether. 

Which leads me to this. Why is that? Why is it so easy to make some things happen and a seemingly monumental task for others? Is there some cutting edge new App I've missed that can help?

My experience is that it boils down to three key questions: 

  • What do you desire?
  • Do you think you are deserving of it?
  • Are you disciplined enough to take the necessary steps?


  • What do you really and truly desire to make happen? 
  • Do you want it because you want it or because someone else thinks you should?
  • Can you put that desire into words, draw a picture of it in your mind or on paper? 
  • Can you feel what life will be like when it's for real? 

If not, you've already embarked on an uphill battle instead of an adventurous journey.


  • Do you think you deserve the promotion, new job or to grow your entrepreneurial business? 
  • Do you believe you are good enough, smart enough, or have enough time to make it happen?

Whether you want to call it self-esteem, self-image or self-love, the level of worth you hold of yourself is as critical to making things happen as the picture of what that thing is. If you don't believe you deserve it, no one else will.

This is the hardest part for most of us. The discipline to commit to a promise to ourselves.

  • Being courageous enough to set that silly egg timer and hold ourselves accountable. 
  • Understanding that it is not enough to just hold that desire in our hands but to take the steps to move towards that thing we want to make happen.

I wanted to be a writer all my life. But until I got serious about sitting myself in a chair and writing pages every day, it wasn't going to happen.

Disclaimer: This is not a magical formula. 
When I think back to all I have created these last few years, all three of these keys was present, every time. And those ideas that slipped away into the ether.... in every case one of them was missing. No magic formula. No clever new App or beautifully designed digital download. Just what I have found to be a necessary foundation if you are really serious about making something happen.

Hugh MacLeod                               GapingVoid.com

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Real 5 Reasons No One Is Buying

No matter who I talk to about marketing in the digital age, the one question that inevitably is begging for an answer is how will all this "stuff" ultimately make me money. The "stuff" being the blogs, the content marketing, the YouTube Videos, the followers on FaceBook and Twitter and Pinterest or LinkedIn, the innovative Apps, all that SEO marketing. 

It doesn't surprise me. It's the same question I was asked when I was selling sixty-second radio commercials in the eighties. 

No one has ever been big about investing in marketing without an assurance that it will make them more money. Everyone wants to know what the ROI is. They want proof that all those Instagram followers will translate into cash in the same way they always wanted to know exactly how many customers one television spot in the early news would. 

The real truth is there is no one straight direct line. I'd argue there really never has been. But there will always be people trying to prove one by offering a multitude of data that often misses the real point.

Marketing today has changed in that it is about creating meaningful conversations with people who are interested in what you have to say and at some point willing to plunk down their credit card to buy your wares. Digital technology has provided an avalanche of tools through which you can do that.

But if the needle is not moving, and by that I mean revenue is not increasing, the real reasons remained unchanged. They are not quantifiable. They are one or more of the following:

1-Your story is fuzzy and not relatable. As Michael Margolis said so well,"Technology is just the means, not the ends in itself. The story is what's really at stake." If I can't figure out what your story is, I'll be going elsewhere. I don't have time to try and decipher it.

2-Your solution to my problem is unclear. It's wordy. It's not succinct. I can't figure out how you might help me.  In fact I'm not sure you even know what my real problems are. It's a noisy, busy world out there. If you're not making it easy for me to absorb, you've lost me before you had a chance to convert me.

3-There isn't a market for what you got. Maybe what you got ain't all that great. That's a tough one to own up to but one worth taking a look at. 

4-No one believes you. Whether you are a brand or an individual profile on LinkedIn looking for a new job, if you come across as untrustworthy or not authentic, no one will listen to your message no matter how many social networks you are engaging with. Consequently they won't buy, convert or call you in for an interview.

5-You forgot to ask for the order. Today, we like to refer to that as a Call to Action. Primarily because we like to not use the word "sell". We prefer conversion. It sounds less harsh. But the end result we are looking for is the same. Moving the needle.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Planning In An Agile World

I've always been a planner. At times to the point of obsession. But the older I get, the less crazy I make myself about it. I know that no matter how hard you try you cannot and will not control everything. Things will happen that no one expected.  And they often get in the way of the original blueprint. The key is to be flexible when it does and be open to the idea that the change might be even better than what you had planned for.

Don't get me wrong. If you want to create something you need to be clear on what it is and you need to figure out what it will take to manifest it. A plan must be in place whether we're talking life or business.

The really smart and the really successful know better than to hold on  too tightly to the plan as written. They reassess along the way and are flexible enough to improvise when needed, looking at the twists in the road as opportunity instead of disaster.

Take Sunday night during the Superbowl. No one planned a power outage in the Superdome that would delay play for thirty-four minutes. There was a championship to decide and commercials to air. Yes, those :30 and :60 spots reputed to be sold in the vicinity of $40 million. A huge money maker for CBS and a huge expenditure of an advertising budget for even the deepest of pockets.

Witness the smart thinking and agility of Oreo and 360i. Oreo had bought a commercial in the game that had already aired. According to Buzzfeed,  the agency and the brand had set up a "mission control" in advance,  basically meaning the agency and the decision makers for Oreo were in the same room when the lights went dim. Within minutes the team had turned around the situation, effectively "newsjacking" it. They created and tweeted this new ad, capitalizing on the moment. 

Not only did this generate an extraordinary amount of Tweets and Facebook likes, people like me are continuing to write about it, generating even more conversation about their brand than they could have planned for.

Newsjacking is a relatively new concept coined by  David Meerman Scott , what he calls "the process by which you inject your ideas or angles into breaking news, in real time, in order to generate media coverage for yourself or your business." 

There were other brands who were also acting with agility including Tide and Calvin Klein, more evidence that this is becoming the way of the world in which we live, whether we are speaking to advertising campaigns or our lives. 

Things are changing, faster than ever before. Five year plans can become five minute plans at the touch of a button. Which means we either need to respond more quickly and be more agile or we will be left in a cloud of dust...or in this case cookie crumbs.