Last week no one cared what my Twitter name was – and I was thrilled about that. At dozens of social media centric events, the Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn or Pinterest question has become the de facto proof of purchase. People write their Twitter names on their nametags. They try desperately to distill their own social credibility into a virtual chest tattoo. Like many others, I’ve lost my patience for that.
Being social media famous just doesn’t mean that much anymore.
On April 3rd in San Diego, I joined a room full of speakers, coaches and self help gurus for the first meeting of the The Coaching Speaker Association. Dreamed up by Ted McGrath, the creator of the popular “Never Be Closing” series – it was a moment where dozens of competitors gathered in a room to share insights about their businesses, making outsized profits, and the sometimes embattled self help industry as a whole.
Through a day filled with conversations – I took pages of notes listening to people who have become legends in their own categories, by helping others achieve their potential. Yet if you are tempted to dismiss the event as a vegan campfire for feel good emotional hippies, you’d miss one of the most important lessons I took from the entire event.
Coaches and speakers are among the most gifted sales people you will ever meet.
They are often masters of emotional selling and increasingly are applying this expertise to online marketing to sell information training products, live workshops and seminars. Here are just a few of the things anyone can learn from what they do and how they do it:
1. Never take questions at the end of a pitch.
This was the most counter intuitive piece of advice I wrote down from the event, but it makes sense if you think about your pitch as an opportunity to sell something from stage. The last thing you want after making a great offer is to have some people ready to buy, but needing to wait while you take that time to answer questions. Instead, if you can proactively answer questions earlier in your pitch, and even take them throughout (as long as it is not too disruptive), that may be a better strategy.
2. Be your own biggest expense.
One staggering fact I encountered over and over was just how much real money all the people in the room spent in the room every year on their own learning and personal development. From attending thousand dollar getaway-style conferences to buying learning materials from one another – it was fascinating to see just how much time, effort and budget was dedicated to personal improvement. It was the ultimate proof of the old cliche of spending money to make money.
3. Competition is irrelevant.
Putting 100 people in a room with similar business models and target audiences might seem like a recipe for disaster – but instead the event worked for one simple reason: everyone looked at competitors as potential partners. In the online learning space, commission based sales are a fact of life. That means that being an “affiliate” that drives traffic to a competitor, could actually net both you AND your competitor serious revenue thanks to generous revenue sharing. As a result, everyone at the event was seeking “JVs” (Joint Ventures) far more than sales.
4. Hire adults and make them run.
During the day, one of the speakers on stage shared her surprising biggest mistake as an entrepreneur: firing people too slowly. Zappos is famous for creating a cash incentive to inspire people to quit, for just this reason. For entrepreneurs, getting stuck with the wrong hire can be a toxic influence. Instead, hiring smart people and then giving them the incentive to start running the company without a micromanagement oversight is the key.
5. Don’t hide behind email.
We are all tempted to shoot off an email and then sit back in our own indignity when someone doesn’t reply in the timeframe we want. Instead, multiple people at the event all shared the same understandable bottom line: there is no substitute to picking up the phone and calling. In order to even pull off the event with such a high caliber of attendees, Ted McGrath had to personally call and convince more than half the people in the room. Without the call, they probably would not have shown up.
6. There is no budget.
At a number of Internet marketing events lately, I have heard this mantra repeated a few times. It seems like an impossible point. Of course we need budgets, right? But imagine that you are doing promotions for direct sales. You know that the cost to sell a single product is $3 consistently, and every product sold nets you $4. That means you make $1 on EVERY promotion you run. As long as the rate remains consistent, there is no budget for this kind of promotion, because you always make more money than you spend.
7. Sell just one thing.
This was probably the most “obvious” piece of advice I took away from the event, but still worth sharing because of how often and consistently it seems to get forgotten. When buyers are confused, they don’t buy. The ideal solution is to give people simpler options. Make it easy for them to choose by giving them a single desirable call to action.
Those were just a few of the sales lessons I took away from an amazing gathering of smart folks. It actually also reminded me of a presentation I put together several years ago on why infomercials work so well (embedded below). The lesson from the presentation is the same as the one I took away from the event last week. Ultimately, great sales is about understanding human motivation and making an emotional appeal to inspire action. The better you understand people, the more money you will make.