A couple of years ago, working with a number of artist clients, I was shocked to see a greedy trend in the gallery world: where artists used to be represented by a gallery, now increasingly galleries ask rent fees in order for an artist to hang their work.
Now, it appears that the same trick has appeared on the public speaking field.
Last week I had a meeting, to discuss my giving a talk at an upcoming local conference. Seemed like a nice organiser, the theme and other speakers fit my area of interest&operation, and hey: public speaking. Good for making connections&getting the word out.
And then she drew up a price list and started talking about the different price levels.
“Just a sec”, I said. “We’re talking about giving a talk – a speaking engagement, right? Not renting a stand?”
“Yes, a talk”.
“Ok, I’m just checking, because normally people pay me for giving public talks”.
She was quiet a bit, and then: “Erm… we sell talks”.
What she sells isn’t a talk, it’s floorspace and an audience. The speaker sells the talk.
“Ok, well why don’t you send in a proposal and a quote, and we’ll see if we can fit it in”.
In the end, I didn’t. It would probably be fun and useful, and paid, but:
Aside from the fact that I consider it wrong to charge an artist for wallspace or a speaker at a normal conference for floorspace, it’s a sign of bad business thinking.
The argument is ‘we need to cover our costs’ – but that cost should be covered from other things, such as ticket sales, revenue share on sales the speakers make, book sales, workshops… there’s a hundred ways to create revenue around a conference.
But if the organiser does it by charging the very people who bring life and value and content to the affair, there’s something wrong.
A gallery should be so confident in their ability to attract the right audience, that they’ll take their commission, but charge nothing.
And likewise, a conference organiser should have a marketing plan so well thought-out that they know they’ll cover their costs from ticket sales.
If they don’t have that in place, how do I have the confidence that there will be people in the room?
A paid speaking gig sounds like a nice opportunity, and it is – but only if I can develop it with people a) who share my values and b) with whom there’s alignment in the way we both see how things should be done.
Opportunities abound. Pick only the ones with the ‘right’ people, and you’ll save yourself a lot of time and a lot of disappointment.
Hi, we’re from the electricity company – we’d like to ask a few questions to see if you could maybe save on your monthly bill”.
Two kids – boy and girl, about 22 years old. And I knew they weren’t from ‘the electricity company’ (Endesa, in Spain), but from one of the many competing ‘open market’ providers.
“Endesa”, I asked?
“Um… yes”, stay stuttered.
I tried to smile, but probably failed. Trying to be nice though:
“Guys, I know you’re not from Endesa. You’re with the competition, and you want people to switch providers”.
Gobsmacked, they stared at me.
“I know what your job is – in fact I teach people how to sell, but real selling is about ethics, you know?
“Knocking on people’s door is one thing, but telling lies? C’mon, is that the job you want?”
I know, I was being pedantic – high moral ground and so on. But I don’t like being lied to, and if a couple of kids knock on my door and try to BS me? Then I guess they’ve just sold me the
privilege of throwing a little lecture at them.
Now, if you read my articles, I doubt you’re the kind of person who would tell a blatant lie to a buyer.
It’s not the kind of thing people like us do.
But what about fibs and little white lies?
It’s easy to say something like “I was just in the neighbourhood so I thought I’d drop in”, but people know that it’s not true, and that means you instantly reduce the amount of trust they have in you. Even if it’s a seemingly innocent fib.
And the fact of the matter is: people need to trust you in order to buy from. Especially these days, with all the hucksters and liars out there.
It might be scary to be completely honest in all cases, but it increases trust – fast! – and makes selling a lot easier.
Fib, and you’ll be seen as ‘one of them’.
Be truthful, and you’ll be seen as respectable and reliable, and guess which kind of people most like to buy from?
Most people I come across in my work (clients, fellow coaches, podcasters, authors, students etc) are terrific people, with values such as integrity and truthfulness high up in their list of priorities.
Which is awesome, because it’s great to deal with people who share the same values as we do.
But the more people I meet, the more it seems that the higher on the scale of integrity someone is, the more conflicted their relationship with selling – and as a consequence, the lower their success rate in terms of signing on clients.
Do integrous people sabotage their own results?
I don’t have enough data to say yes or no, but it sure does look like it.
I call it the ‘good egg-problem’, where high integrity is (seems to be) correlated to low sales results.
But listen: if you live by values, then logically the work that you do is good, worth the money, and something that people ought to buy, right?
They buy, you serve, and that’s how you make your money. Right?
Then why not take the sting out of ‘selling’, and let your values guide you?
As in: if integrity matters to you, and you want to do right by people, then helping someone make a decision *is* doing right by people.
I mean, you’re not going to force anyone into buying anyway, because integrity says we don’t do things like that.
So you’re there to have a conversation about a choice the other person is considering.
You help them get clarity, identify desire, discuss doubts and objections, and figure out if your thing is right for them, at this moment.
And, since integrity is central to your life, you happily accept yes or no, depending on what’s right for that other person. The only outcome that you’re attached to, is the right decision for that individual.
This way, you turn ‘selling’ into an act of service… something that’s actually quite aligned to your values.
Of course the other person has intelligence. And ears, and intuition.
They know how to compute and make sense of what you’re saying.
But, when you want to get results with people in any sort of way, you shouldn’t give people the job of trying to figure out what you mean.
It’s your job to make sure your meaning gets across, and gets registered on the other side just the way you meant it.
But very often, we don’t do that job.
We say vague things, or give ambiguous messages, or we use catch-all words, like ‘you know’ and ‘kinda’ and ‘wow’.
But what does ‘wow’ mean? It underlines an emotion – but which one? And because of which impression, experience, thought, or insight that you had did you get to feeling ‘wow’?
Pretty unfair to let someone else do the job of figuring that out, isn’t it?
Even worse, when you don’t speak clearly and unequivocally (meaning: there’s only one possible interpretation of your message) you give the other person a job to do, where they need to spend cognitive resources, and guess what:
The other person will be too lazy, disinterested, or occupied with their own thoughts, to do that job for you.
And there you go: misunderstanding, confusion, broken communication, and in the context of business: no sale.
Want to move your relationships, sales, and conversations forward?
Then let everything you say have only one possible interpretation. In other words: take on the job of communicating so well that you’re understood, instead of leaving the other person responsible for figuring out what you meant.
As a coach, I meet lots of people – and it’s amazing how many folks are hung up where it comes to selling their work.
Stressful, ‘no good at it’, awkward, ‘I just want to do my work without having to sell it’… these are some of the things people tell me.
It’s a sad state of affairs, especially since most people have a truly valuable offer, are good people, and genuinely want to serve their buyers.
But, until you land a client, you don’t get to serve that client, right?
If you really want to serve a buyer, then your serving them starts before they buy.
If you deliver a rocking product or service, then your first order of business is serving your buyer in the process of making a decision.
That decision being: whether or not to buy your thing.
It’s a bit like coaching, in that sense: you’re not there to convince or persuade, but to hold a space where someone reaches their own clarity, uncovers their own motives for making a decision to buy, and where they enroll themselves into saying yes and sending you money.
This shift in attitude – from ‘I got something and I need to figure out how to get people to pay me’ into ‘Let’s help this person figure out if they actually want my thing’ makes all the difference.
It changes the dynamics, creates conversations that are zero % pushy and 100% enjoyable, and lands you buyers that really want your work (i.e. you drastically reduce buyer’s remorse).
And, if a prospect doesn’t buy, they’ll remember you as someone with integrity, and they’ll very likely welcome it when you follow up again in the future.
It’s a significant shift, with big consequences, and all it takes is for you to reframe what a sales conversation is about.
From selling… to serving… so that you get to serve your buyer even more, once they buy.
So how does that sit with you… are you ready to shift your framework, and move from selling to serving?
A potential client will only make a decision to buy, when they’re ready – and that means, they need to *see* themselves enjoying the benefit of having bought your thing.
That’s the vision element of a sales process: getting to the point where they see the vision you have for them.
But before they’ll buy in to that vision, they need to trust you.
Unless there’s trust, they’re not going to have that vision.
And, in order to gain trust, you need to gain permission first.
Permission to explain, permission to ask questions, and, yes: Permission to ultimately ask for the sale.
And so selling in an ethical way, where you have sales conversations that people enjoy, works like this:
First, you gain permission – to explore their situation, to address objections, to discover what they need.
Do that right, and you’ll earn their trust. Trust that you’re looking out for them, that you’re not just in it for the money, and – very importantly – that your product or service is what they need, and that it’ll solve their problem.
That trust causes people to get curious, to ask you questions, and that builds a vision in their minds.
And once that vision is ready, and they’ve sold themselves on wanting your thing – that’s when you get to ask for the sale, and that’s when they make the decision to buy (or not).
And if they don’t, you graciously accept their no, and you continue the conversation (i.e. followup) until such time that they are ready.
There you go: ethical selling in a nutshell.
Ah, you want a deeper dive?
Got one right here for you: a webinar where I go into detail on how these four elements (permission-trust-vision-decision) are built and supported by the 9 pillars of my ethical selling framework.
“I do!” she replied. “But my parents won’t allow me, and in school I can’t because the teachers will tell on me. That’s why I always turn down birthday cakes and stuff”.
A school excursion, and we were about 8 years old. This girl’s parents were severely into holistic and healthy living, and apparently sugar was of the devil.
The moment we’d gotten off the bus, she’d spotted a little shop and bought a bag full of sweets which she was now moving into her mouth in an industrial manner.
“You won’t tell the teacher, will you?”
I told her no, and she offered me some of her stash.
The desire for something unattainable is baked into our psyche, and we can’t avoid judging something scarce as something valuable.
Goes back to our prehistoric times, when leaves and predators were abundant, but prey, berries and nuts were hard to get.
Scarce resource = high value… that’s how our subconscious works.
Marketers have figured this out, and created an artform out of manipulating us.
Sale ends, limited stock, offer expires, buy now, don’t miss out… we all know the drill, and most of the time the scarcity is artificial and fabricated. Marketing teachers even tell us to use these methods, in order to get more sales.
In itself, there’s nothing wrong with a limited-time offer: it can help people who are the right buyer, to get off the fence and make the decision to purchase.
But the way it’s usually done, scarcity is used to trigger super-primal survival instincts, making us feel on a subconscious level that unless we buy now, our safety, well-being and lineage is at risk. That might sound dramatic, and it is: rationally we know it ain’t all that bad, but our subconscious is highly irrational, and simply perceives: ‘Scarce! Grave risk, unless I get! Must! Get!’.
The first problem is that it ain’t right to treat people that way. It’s manipulative and very dodgy.
The second problem is that if you drive too hard a sale, you end up with the wrong buyers.
You’ll pull in people who buy not because they want or need your thing, but because their lizard brain drives them to do it.
And then you get refund requests, buyer’s remorse, info-products that never get used, bad reviews, complaints on forums… all the things that don’t help your business.
Selling something is fine – after all, we all like buying things and most people sell things that are worth buying.
But there’s a line between manipulating people based on fear, and helping people who want to buy make the decision to do so.