Context Before Content (And Awesome Sales Conversations!)

When you show up to a potential buyer – whether it’s in person, by email, phone or on social media – you’re asking them for their most precious and scarce resources:

Their time and attention.

And, if you do it right, people will be happy to give you those. Get it right, and people will give you permission to talk, ask, inquire, and explain.

What often goes wrong though, is that we launch into the content – the meat and potatoes of our thing – before we set the context.

That’s pretty much what’s wrong with traditional selling:

We have a solution, and we go out looking for a problem that it can solve.

And so we show up, and the pitch is on.

Thus, the context becomes ‘I have a thing, I want to tell you about it, tell me if you want it’.

In that context, it’s no surprise that people have no time, or make excuses, or raise objections.

Instead, set a different context right at the start: one that causes your buyer to care about the conversation.

And you do that by being *interested in them*, instead of trying to be *interesting to them*.

Nobody cares how interesting we might be, or our offer or service or product, until they realise that we are interested in them.

That’s a context most everyone will like, agree with, and it’s how you start conversations that everybody enjoys.

And that’s the kind of conversation that causes people to listen, consider, and buy, all without you ever having to sell anything unto them.

Much nicer for people to buy, instead of us having to ‘sell’, don’t you agree?

Cheers,

Martin

Oh, and: if it so happens that you want to buy ethical sales training, just raise your hand. It’s super effective, will rock your business, and is MUCH more affordable than you would think. Let’s talk…

Why You Need Permission in Sales, and How to Get it

Selling without permission is coercion.

You can’t morally or ethically have a sales conversation with someone who hasn’t given you permission for that type of conversation.

And, selling without permission is ridiculously ineffective.

You’ll have heard people talking about ‘handling objections’ – but, isn’t it better to not have any buyer objections at all?

Then seek to gain permission first, before ever talking about your offer.

It’s the difference between talking to a person who says ‘yes but’, and someone who says ‘Tell me more’.

And that ‘tell me more’ is what you get when you gain deeper levels of permission, ongoingly.

Level 1: permission to ask questions. You get that level when someone agrees to meet with you. Not that difficult.

Level 2: permission to ask deeper questions, to find the problems behind the problems, and the causes behind the causes (google ‘the 5 whys’ for more on that kind of inquiry – it’s pretty useful).

Level 3: permission to discuss how you might be able to help. This isn’t where you’re selling, it’s where the two of you are exploring if you’re a good fit, mutually.

Level 4: permission to ask for the sale. Asking for the sale is often the most daunting of the entire sales process, but it won’t be if you first took care of gaining the first 3 levels.

When you do, asking for a sale will be as easy and natural as saying to a friend ‘So shall we catch that movie tonight?’.

It’s not for nothing that Seth Godin coined the term ‘permission marketing’.

Well, there’s permission selling, as well.

So how do you gain permission from your buyer?

Ask questions.

We say too much. Recommend too much. Expound and reason and explain and… well, we waffle a lot, don’t we?

Especially when we’re uncomfortable with the sales process, which is largely due to not having paid enough attention to what level of permission we have from a buyer at any given time.

Instead of talking, listen more.

Ask questions.

Questions are the currency that buys you permission.

Cheers,

Martin

P.s. I’m looking for a few people whose business exists to make a difference in the world, to work with me 1 on 1 this winter.
I’ll coach you on how to make a bigger impact (and a bigger splash, financially :) than you thought possible, by showing you how easy sales becomes when you let your values and integrity lead the process.
Let me know if you’re interested…

Niche <--> Alignment <--> You

You can get all marketing-technical when it comes to finding the right niche for your work – and it’s useful, if only for the ‘huh, they made that for me!’ reaction people have when you get your niche right – but it’s easy to forget that a niche consists of people.

So who are the best people to talk to? Who are your most likely buyers? What are they like? What do they care about? What do they need to hear, in order to care about my thing?

Questions like these are what an entrepreneur’s business – and nightmares – are filled with.

And nope, it’ll never get easier, you’ll always have to re-think and re-adjust, as your business and your person evolve.

Here’s three questions though, that may help you shift your thinking:

1: What values would I love to see in my buyers?

The trick here, is to look for shared values. When you have the same brand of ethics, integrity, morality and values as a potential buyer, you’re more likely to get along – to have rapport, even before the first meeting.

This bit is a must-have: shared values are what make selling SO much easier.

2: What would you take a stand for, and what would your ideal buyer take a stand for?

This contemplation isn’t about must-have, but rather: nice-to-have.

Perhaps you’d take a stand for equality, but John Prospect might be all over workplace health and fair treatment. John and you don’t need to take a stand on the same things – but they are similar enough for you two to have overlap in terms of purpose and mission.

That helps you align, helps you two move together forward – which hopefully will include moving forward in a professional (i.e. paid) relationship.

3: What drives you up the wall, and what about them?

In your ideal buyer… what are the kind of things that they loathe, resent, would never stoop to, condemn or remove from their life?

What about you… what kind of thing really gets your goat, makes you angry, is unjust, should stop or change – what would you stand up against?

The overlap of what you and the other consider as ‘this is wrong, it should change’ is where you have a shared drive, an energy, a motivation to make stuff happen.

Again, these are nice-to-haves in terms of matching – not specific hard items like the values in point 1.

How to make this work:

Do some journaling, make lists, map things out. Be exhaustive and brainstorm-y.

In the center of the Venn diagram, start jotting down aspect and qualities about your ideal person – the kind of *person* inside of your niche that might be in the market for your work – AND they’ll have so much in common with you, you could have been friends for years.

None of this guarantees a sale – but it’s a damn fine way to find people you can move forward with, in some way or other.

And because you’ll have so much common ground, the chances of them buying go up enormously.

Every day I help entrepreneurs – coaches, trainers, artists, designers, authors – land more clients, by getting real specific about identifying, and finding, the people they love working with and who are ready for it.

And yes, we have things in common: we agree that truthfulness, integrity and justness are inviolable values. We both take a stand for doing right by people, and using commerce as a way to improve things – and we don’t abide things like racism, bigotry or divisiveness.

So if you’re like that too and you’re ready to convert more opportunities into sales, and stop losing so many, I can help.

Ready?

Cheers,

Martin

How High-Integrity Entrepreneurs Make Followup Easy

What do you do when it looks like a sale is going to close… and then it doesn’t?

Everything looks good, the other person is on board… and then something goes wrong, and the buyer doesn’t buy.

In my work I see over and over again, how people rich in integrity and ethics stop there.

And I get it – it used to be the same for me.

When an opportunity broke down, I just moved on.

And if you do that too, you’re leaving money on the table. As they say: the fortune is in the followup.

And sure, then you get the gurus telling you that you must follow up because it’s your moral and ethical duty to make sure that the right buyer gets his stuff from you, and not someone else, and – well, fat lot of good that does.

Knowing that doesn’t make it any easier to do it – especially if you’re a person who sticks to their values, you treat people with respect, and you don’t want to be a nuisance.

So then, how do ethical people do sales and follow up? What made the difference for me, and could it work for you as well?

Maybe. Most probably: yes.

It’s really simple, too:

Make every interaction a moment of joy. Have fun talking to your customers, serve them, be yourself and be light.

You’re not there to be all dry and professional – or indeed, salesy – because who wants to talk to someone like that?

Instead, make the interaction about connecting, and learning that person, and figuring out what’s real and/or trying for them.

When you do that, you leave people feeling ‘Yeah, I feel respected by you. I’ll talk to you again’.

Do you see where I’m going?

When you have conversations people enjoy, they’ll be open to hear from you again.

Once I got this, following up with folk became as natural to me as writing these daily articles.

But it’s not just about how you follow up – it’s about how you do everything everything in your business.

Do those things – including having sales conversations – in a way that makes people love dealing with you.

You know, like friends do.

That way, you’ll never have to fret about following up again.

Bye friend. Talk again soon :)

Martin

Oh, and: if you haven’t yet, make sure you watch this training, where I show you how the above works… and after that, feel free to get in touch to talk about working together and implementing this type of selling in your business.

What Fronting a Band Taught Me About Selling

It had been years – decades, really – since I’d been in a situation like this:

On a ‘stage’, with a band, guitar around my neck, in front of an audience… and I was loving every second of it.

(‘Stage’ in quotes, because really it was ‘us against the back wall in a local restaurant last summer, but still)

The people were grooving and so was the band, but c’mon… the song proper had long ended, we’d been jamming and soloing for a good while now on the back of it, and it was time to call the tune to a close.

Except we hadn’t really rehearsed ending songs.

During rehearsals, songs mostly just fell apart at the end.

(No, we weren’t prepared to play live – it just… kinda happened. Long story)

A quick look around, to check in with the guys – I could tell they were all wondering ‘where next, Martin?’

I nodded, signalled, and… bam. A perfect, tight, together, way to end a song.

Now here’s the thing: I’m not a ‘band leader’. I’ve seen musicians do it, but it was all new to me.

I just did what felt natural, and everyone played along, and it all ended well (ba-dum-tshhh…).

And that’s a sale. Selling is nothing more or less than moving forward with people, in a way everyone is happy about.

At that moment, without even thinking, I ‘sold’ the guys the ending of the song, and they were happy to buy.

And leadership plays a big role in selling.

Not because you need to ‘control the conversation’ (or the band), but because unless there’s a plan and someone to keep track of its implementation, people don’t move forward.

Leadership means plans get implemented right, and good leadership means everyone is happy.

And you want folk to move forward, right? I mean, does your business exist because something good happens for your buyers…?

They move forward in their life, in their well-being, in their status or skills or wealth or career?

Right, then in order for them to move forward, you need to learn how to move forward *with* them – i.e.’selling’ or ‘enrollment’.

Because unless they buy, they don’t get your help moving forward.

And that means you don’t get to have the impact you want, or the revenue, or the lifestyle – or, indeed, the ability to invest in growing your business so that you get to have a bigger impact.

Not pretty.

But, everything gets different, and better – and sold – when you move forward with people.

Because really, that’s all that selling is.

Each day, I talk to people who are doing something good, and they want to reach more people.

And when they learn, and internalise, the framework I teach, they go from ‘selling sucks and it’s hard’ to ‘huh, this ain’t so bad, and I’m getting the hang of it’.

Want some of that for yourself as well?

Cheers,

Martin

What I Want for You, and What That Might Look Like

It’s a delicate thing, when you’re in business and values matter to you: yes you want to sign on a new client, but you don’t want to seem needy, or greedy, or pushy.

And yet: unless you sell, you don’t get to have an impact, so something’s got to give. But values of course won’t ‘give’ – those are immutable and non-violable.

And so one of the biggest dilemmas for ethical people, is that while we want to give, help, and serve, we’d never want to make the impression that we ‘want something’ from the other person.

So here’s how I would flip that around, because it’s never about what I want from you.

Instead, it’s about what I want FOR you:

I want for you to grow, achieve, succeed.

I want for your people to be touched by your work.

I want for you to have impact, and a thriving abundant life as a result.

Thing is, I don’t know what any of that looks like for you. Do you want to scale? Grow? Move fast? Work in sprints, or marathons?

Do you want high visibility and the rewards that come with it, or are you more the slow-burn type of entrepreneur?

And what about money? What kind of returns do you want, what sort of personal income, what type and levels of investments do you want to make?

And yes, I know: it’s not about the money – same here. Money is just a nice reward, and a way to measure impact.

It’s not the only measure, but it’s damn useful because it keeps a company going.

So one of the things I want for you, is to enroll more buyers.

And I’d love for you to have fun doing it, knowing that you’re strengthening your company without ever having to go against your values.

Instead, you’d be enrolling people with ease, and really enjoying it.

Yeah… that would be awesome… I can see it now! :)

Let’s schedule a short video call, and see how I could help you make the above real?

Cheers,

Martin

How to Improve Your Marketing and Sales: Apply Empathy and Generosity

If ever you wonder why your marketing isn’t working better, ask yourself:

“Have you built enough generosity into it?”

If the answer is ‘yes’, ask:

“Am I being generous to the ‘wrong’ kind of person?”

Because if you give to takers, your gift goes nowhere and your generosity is wasted.

Adam Grant writes about givers, takers, and matchers, in his book Give & Take.

Research shows that generous people tend to be the most successful.

But, generous people also tend to be the *least* successful.

The difference between successful givers and unsuccessful givers, is that the successful ones don’t give to takers.

That’s not selfishness or being uncaring: it’s efficiency. It’s putting your resources where they’ll have most impact. For you, the recipient, and those that they give to.

Takers are like a black hole: whatever goes in, never comes out again.

Matchers and givers however, give back or pay forward, or both.

Be generous to those two, and hope that takers will learn someday.

But don’t give to them.

No matter how big your heart is, you’ll never have enough energy to make it worthwhile to give to takers.

They’ll just want more and you’ll burn up whatever resource and goodness you have; it won’t benefit them, or you, nor anyone else

Point is, generosity – in marketing and sales – is an enormously powerful driver.

It’s leverage.

It rests on the principle of creating value, before asking or wanting anything.

Do things that are valuable.

Make things that are valuable.

BE valuable – and not just as a human, because you already are.

Be valuable as a professional. In your marketing and sales.

Tune in to the people you want to serve, create something they’ll love and that will help them, and give it to them.

The above was a tweetstorm I wrote, off the cuff.

And the last tweet was:

“Huh. Looks like I wrote a tweetstorm.

“Well, best turn it into an article, and send it to my subscribers.

“I hope they’ll get something valuable out of it.”

See how it works?

That’s how you create value, and I hope this one was valuable for you.

Want a little more generosity from me, and you’re a giver or matcher?

Book a 20-minute call. I won’t sell anything at you, though of course I’ll be open to the idea of you wanting to work with me, and I promise:

You’ll take something valuable from it, regardless of whether we end up working together.

Direct link to my calendar here.

Cheers,

Martin

Wanting Something From People VS Having Something for People

Had a chat last night with an old friend – one of the guys who used to visit the monastery. He’s in business too these days, so it was fun to chat and compare notes.

And once again, I had someone tell me “I don’t like selling”.

“I don’t like that the moment you have something for sale, it’s nasty because it means you want something from people”.

Is that true though?

Me I’ve got plenty for sale, but I don’t want anything from anyone.

I want things *for* other people – not *from* other people.

I want for readers to enjoy a daily dose of healthy business thinking.

I want for clients to get the very best of me, and for them to transform their life and their business.

And for potential clients, I want for them to make the best possible decision, whether that means working with me, or not. Both outcomes are fine, as long as the outcome is best for you.

So my friend suffers from two problems: first is the good-egg problem, where the better kind of person somene is, the more they prevent themselves from getting out there and helping people.
It’s a very common thing.

Th second problem is in his way of thinking, because:

It’s never about getting anything from people. Not for people like us.

And, when you sell from the heart, when you enroll because you’d truly love to work with that person and they themselves buy in voluntarily, you’re not taking anything: you’re giving.

And as long as the sales conversation goes on, you get to give them super powerful and enjoyable conversation, one that will help and be remembered.

And if the stars align, the other person will stop you and say ‘How do I get more of this?’ or ‘When do we start?’ or ‘Take my money!’ – all of which are things I’ve been told.

It isn’t ‘I want something from you’, it’s: ‘If you’re this kind of person, I have something for you’.

And when it’s ‘no sale’?

Then it wasn’t for them, at this point. But if you do it right, you’ll have had such a pleasant exchange, that the non-buyer remembers it positively, which means they’ll be happy to hear from you when you follow up. And you never know when someone will ready themselves to buy. (hint: it’s never when we’re trying to push. that isn’t ‘being ready’, that’s ‘being coerced’).

Now, the good news: if you’re like my friend and you don’t like selling, I’ve got something for you.

Right now, I’m running a pilot-programme for the ethical selling course that I wanted to launch a while ago, but didn’t.

Once I launch it properly, it’ll be $1500, for a 10-week video course with email support and a community membership.

But because this is a pilot programme, I’m giving the training live, 1on1, for a limited number of people, and while this offer lasts it’s $950 for the ten weeks.

Ten seats maximum.

Includes email access to me, and Q&A after each weekly training module.

So, are you a ‘good egg’ and you want to have more impact, and have more fun enrolling clients?

Then this programme was meant for you. More tomorrow… (or get in touch for details).

Cheers,

Martin

What Is It You Do For a Living?

Most people answer that question by not answering it:

“I’m an author” or “I’m a massage therapist” or “I’m owner of a design agency”.

Those are not answers, because they say what you *are*, not what you *do*.

And people are a lot more interested in the thing we *do* that makes us different, than in the label we put on ourselves. It’s why they asked the question, isn’t it?

Leave it up to Seth Godin to answer the question, and answer it right. In an interview he gave, he said:

“I notice things for a living, and then I try to point them out to people”.

Wonderful, isn’t it?

When people ask what you do, you need to know what message to convey, that has them see the change you make, in just a few words.

Elon Musk could say “I’m CEO of a couple of companies – Tesla, The Boring Company, SpaceX, amongst others”.

Or, he could say “I’m working on a multi-business plan to improve humanity’s conditions, and help ensure its survival”.

You’ll agree (whether or not you support his approach or not) that the latter sounds a lot sexier than the former.

My current best is “I learn people for a living, and then I try to come up with ideas that grow your business”.

Though admittedly, it’s wonky: It’s not learning people that earns me a living, but coming up with those business-growing ideas. In other words: my reply is still under construction.

But what about you?

What is it that you *do* for a living?

Not what you are, but what do you do, that someone else might value so much, they’d pay money for it?

What value do you create, what change do you make, what does your work for others?

Find the answer to that, and you’ll never have to lose another person’s interest again, when they ask what you do.

And the secret to finding the perfect reply?

Make sure that it answers the two most fundamental questions that literally everybody needs answered when dealing with a business:

‘So what?’ and:

‘What’s in it for me?’

Craft a reply that answers those two, and you’re set.

Oh and hey, let’s play a game!

Send me your best reply to the question “What do you *do* for a living?” and I’ll use my old copywriter-brain to help you turn it into a nice 1-sentence introduction for when people ask you.

Want to play?

Alright, here we go:

What is it that you *do* for a living?

Cheers,

Martin

Who Sells the Talk?

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”.

Seriously?

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.

Cheers,

Martin

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