Connect to the Dream: Theirs, Not Yours (at Least at First)

Magic words. Every salesperson knows an ‘open sesame’ or some equivalent won’t close a deal. But that doesn’t mean we stop wishing it would. How much easier would our lives be if we could rely on a few powerful phrases to at least get people’s attention, if not their commitment?

‘Magic words’ also happens to be the name of a recent ‘This American Life’ podcast. Ira Glass didn’t talk about sales. But while listening to his reporting on caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients, people who struggle daily to communicate with someone who has passed into another place, I made a connection.

For years, the MO for these caregivers was ‘keep them with you’. Remind them what day it is, where they’re living, who will come to visit, and which granddaughter just had a baby. Doesn’t work, though. Alzheimer patients seem to be living vivid lives in other times and places. One interviewee, with a background in comedy improv, made a valid parallel. In comedy or care, she said, the other person is never wrong. You need to follow them, and keep close to their feelings, thoughts, and mental pictures. The patients utter the ‘magic words’, not the caregivers.

Salespeople: please note a parallel!

Read more

True Grit: How to Keep Pushing For Professional Gains, Even When You Think You Can’t

There are cold streaks in sales. Every so often, there’s an ice age.

The pivotal prospect bails without warning. A steady client dumps you. A spouse or child gets sick — very sick — and the impulse to care for them frays your concentration. Important contacts or allies quit, or double-cross, or just stop calling. Sometimes it all happens at once.

How do you persevere through frigid and long days of professional life?

Times like these might come when you’re unknown and trying to break in. Or after massive layoffs leave you without a job. I’ve experienced hardship after each of the three times I transitioned from the security of a stifling yet steady gig to explore my next professional challenge – and the word challenge somehow doesn’t begin to capture how it felt.

Surviving painful circumstances requires grit, sweat, even behavior you probably wouldn’t confess to in mixed company. A colleague from the start of my career used to air-bench press while driving to cold calls. To my astonishment, I mimicked him during a recent bad stretch. It seemed appropriate, so I did it. I felt ridiculous. Afterwards, though, I rode the adrenaline and yet again contacted a prospect I’ve been chasing for three (painful) years.

Read more

When There’s No ‘No’: How to Avoid the Passive Blow-Off

So much of our work in sales consists of separating the good: the good-good from the not-so and not-at-all.

Sometimes we know great clients from the outset. They’re motivated, easy to work with and know the value of our expertise. They say so via respect and prompt payments.

If we always spotted the keepers so easily, there would be a lot more success stories in sales. But we’ve all had clients who needed to be sold — over weeks, months, years! But once sold, the bond held fast.

Sometimes we must train the client in the ways of quid pro quo. By setting a great standard for engagement, you can coax some people to follow your example.

That leaves the rest. Some prospects won’t ever pan out. It would be nice if they formally announced that, but it’s not their job. We in sales must close the circle, whether it turns into a ‘O’ for opportunity or just a big ‘0’, as in zero.

At a recent workshop, a woman stood up to complain generally about long sales cycles and people who ‘put her off’. I boiled it down: ‘You mean, how do you know when enough is enough?’

If you aren’t proactive, you end up reading tea leaves, wasting time and being frustrated, as this woman clearly (and understandably) was.

But you can set some terms at the outset that can help you determine when it’s time to cross a name off your list.

Make them tell you when to follow up. And don’t let them forget it. This means asking those rote questions we often try to avoid. Don’t. Here’s the sequence:

  • When you meet, ask when a good time to follow up is. And get a straight answer. Write the answer down in your planner.
  • Remember the date.
  • Make the call, and preface your discussion by reminding them that the timing was their idea.

Finesse counts, of course. But if you are clear and firm about the commitment, and professional, you make it easier for them to give you straight answers. Done right, you can help a lot of wishy-washy prospects make a commitment, one way or another.

Trust your rejection instincts. Even when you provide clarity, some prospects still struggle with the rejection thing. They’re too nice, or divorced from their true feelings to say no. If you aren’t feeling any heat, probably you’re picking up what they feel but can’t say.

Instincts are honed by experience and confidence. You might not be ready to go with your gut. In which case:

Ask the hard question. If you don’t like this option, remember that you’re doing it for the prospect as well. Who needs this sort of uncertainty?

Go for tact: ‘Do you want to continue this discussion?’ ‘Do you want to move forward?’

Don’t think aggressively. The subtext is, ‘Look, indecision is lousy for everyone. Let’s do each other a favor and say yes or no. No one’s feelings will be hurt, and we may actually respect each other for being honest!’

If they say ‘no’, believe them. No one much enjoys saying it. A non-committed prospect may fear commitment, but far more often, they just dislike saying a word they perceive as mean-spirited.

So when you hear ‘no’ in this situation, let it go. And always remember there are many others out there ready to say yes. Save your energy for finding them.

Live at the Apollo: Networking Wins Can Be Glamorous

IMG_3793Linda Descano, who works for Citi as ‘part marketer, part publisher and part journalist’, is a social media and outreach juggernaut. Early this year, when I was entering a new phase of my career, I asked her to breakfast. We knew each other from our involvement with Step Up, a mentoring organization for teen girls. This time, it was me who needed some mentoring, as I was crafting new goals and strategy for my business.

She said yes! It was a power hour, for sure, filled with great advice and insights. Since then, Linda also has provided several valuable referrals, asked me for a blog post, and last weekend, invited me to speak on a panel at Women of the World Festival at the Apollo Theater.

Read more

How Far Have Families Come? As a Breadwinner, I’m Still Selling Myself

I claim the title ‘breadwinner’ with trepidation. Funny, but I don’t know a single man who uses it. That’s because the word teases political sensibilities, and who wants to do that unnecessarily? Not me. But as a woman, I don’t have a choice.

You see, we female breadwinners still have to sell ourselves to the world. Even if you disagree with me there, we certainly have to sell ourselves to ourselves.

Sometimes the choice just seems wrong. When I’ve had a long week, and my husband, the at-home parent, has been home with our kids, I feel envy. And worry. Maybe even some resentment. By rights, a little voice tells me, that role should be mine. Why do I have to be content with 10 hours of face time during the working week? These are my babies!
Read more

Interview: Always Have an Ask

TerriT-InterviewTerri Trespicio is a long-time friend and one of my first bloomCast guests, so when she asked me for an interview for her show— Solopreneur—I was more than happy to oblige. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we were able to kick it casual-style right in the coffee shop and then share it with the world. Click through to the video and learn why you should always have an ask—no matter who you are talking to, and why saying you’re bad at something is a habit you should lose.

$1 For Your Thoughts: How Direct Is Your Ask?

One of the best of many benefits that come with living in New York City is that you can get an education at any time, anywhere and from anyone.

Case in point: Last week I was walking near Grand Central Station and passed two people on the sidewalk, both asking for money. Each let a sign do the talking and kept silent. Both managed to write something I’d never seen, which says a lot for their creativity. Every New Yorker is sure they’ve seen and heard every possible variant on the classic ask: ‘spare some change?’

(And let’s face it, how many others are there, really?)

The first fellow had written: ‘This sign says whatever you need it to say so you will help me.
Read more

Interview: Investing in Women

I was the Featured Profile in the PAXWorld March 2015 Women and Wealth newsletter. We spoke in-depth about women investors, gender intelligence and how all advisors can become more effective in sales communications. The full interview is below, and you can subscribe to the Investing in Women newsletter here.

Judi, can you talk about how you help groups elevate their gender intelligence?

I begin with a basic idea with a lot of evidence backing it up: gender differences are real. Gender affects the way people tell stories, the questions people ask and even the number of words they use. We have to consciously abandon the ‘one size fits both’ sales approach. It doesn’t work. Men and women hear and say things in different ways.

But let me be clear: Different is not less than! Sales people who are alert to the contrasts in verbal communication have the advantage. And they can build strong relationships with both male and female clients.

I work with groups to identify and root out the unconscious biases that obstruct empathic, effective communication. The benefits of being attuned to verbal, non­-verbal and even environmental cues are many: better judgment, more compassion and yes, better business results.

Read more

When are you best prepared for prospecting? Ask a reluctant runner

I rang in 2015 by joining a running club. OK, so this is not the first time I have ever “resolved” to be healthier at the turn of the New Year, but it is the most serious I have ever been about it. Really. I’m still in it to win it, and since I started literally at zero, my three-mile mark at mid-February is hugely encouraging. But that’s not the story here.

The accomplishment (so far) is even more meaningful to me because I’m not a likely candidate for running six steps, much less a mile. I’ve endured big orthopedic issues in recent years and entire months where just walking required teeth-clenching determination. Proud as I am of my perseverance and willingness to up the game, that’s not the story here either.

The story comes thanks to my running coach, who understands that overcoming resistance usually requires we roll a big stone out of our chosen path. As a runner, my key phrase is, “If you wait for perfect conditions, you’ll never get anything done.”

Read more

Is Time Money? Ask Your Local Candidate

My work has brought me into contact with many politicians over the last few years. We always have a great deal to talk about, since marketing really is so much a part of what vote-getters must master. I haven’t given much thought to the debate over whether business leaders make good politicians, but I’m convinced politicians have a lesson for the business world. These people know how to run a meeting.

Take a woman who has conducted a high-profile career in New York State. Recently we had a one-hour meeting, at which we both had favors to ask. The time frame, date and discussion topics were all vetted in advance. Should I have forgotten, her handler was right there, waiting at the end of the hour, to usher her out of the cafe.

No, it’s not so simple as having a staff. The meeting was one-on-one, and I could only marvel at her efficiency. She was warm: we talked families, pregnancies, babies, everything I’d expect to enjoy during a lunch with a work colleague.

Read more