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Attention Sales Leaders: When Do You De-Recruit Your Star Players?

By Jeff Beals

If you’re a sales leader, you surely know how difficult it can be to recruit top-performing sales reps to your company.  It’s a supply-and-demand scenario: exceptional sales talent is rare, therefore everyone covets it.  The high value and chronic scarcity of great sales talent leads to constant recruiting, the wining-and-dining of sales stars in hopes they will bring their talents (and their books of business) over to your company.

While sales leaders have many responsibilities, one of the least discussed but most important is the management of egos. Professional salespersons tend to be a self-confident and highly independent lot. What’s more, they tend to be highly competitive. In managing egos, the sales leader needs to be clear about his or her expectations and exactly what the selling expectations are for sales rep and sales manager.

In many shops, there is great pride (and respect) that comes from being the number-one salesperson for the month, quarter or year. That competition is generally a good thing, but you do have to manage egos. Not everyone can be the number-one salesperson, which is tough when you have several outstanding ones.

As far as who is the best sales rep on the staff, competitive people ultimately realize that competition itself answers the question. When you accept a big-time sales position, you know the standards are going to be high. You know your colleagues on the staff are going to be ultra-talented and highly motivated. Unless you’re naïve or unless the leadership has set up an unfair system, you know why you’re the number two person and not the best.

The sales leader’s job is to recruit talented reps and then keep motivating them to become better and better salespersons.

So, how does a sales leader manage a team of big egos and teach them to be disciplined members of a team especially after wining and dining them during the courtship process?

“De-recruit” them.

From the minute they sign an agreement with you, it is time to start de-recruiting them.  But you do it in a way that keeps them confident and motivated.  Help your sales reps to “keep it real” and not get too high on their own supply.  Give them all the resources they need (and all the resources you promised while recruiting them) but make sure they know they are expected to produce and earn their own business.

De-recruit them but do it carefully.  It’s a fine line.  Your sales reps must produce and they must be accountable.  Top producers don’t mind high expectations, but if you de-recruit your new people too harshly, they’ll leave for one of the many other companies that would love to have them.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps companies increase their profits and associations achieve their missions through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques.  He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. 

To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

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How to Harness the Power of a Little Gift

By Jeff Beals

A revolutionary retail concept came to life northeast of downtown Dallas in 1985.  That’s when the first Blockbuster Video store opened.  The business boomed and quickly soared to great heights.  At one point, Blockbuster boasted more than 9,000 stores worldwide.

Nothing lasts forever, and some things only last a short while.  As fast as Blockbuster rose, it came crashing down.  The company was unable to keep up with Netflix, Redbox and other competitors with fresher business models.  Blockbuster went kaput in 2013, and today only a handful of franchised stores still carry the Blockbuster name.

While its glory days are long faded, Blockbuster did one thing in particular back in 1994 that made a long-lasting impact on the retail industry:  Blockbuster invented the gift card.

Before Blockbuster’s creative breakthrough, retailers issued “gift certificates,” pieces of paper, instead of those slick, colorful cards with magnetic strips on the back.

It was a stroke of genius.  Gift cards were like a box-office smash hit.  People loved them, and other retail businesses copied the idea.  In 2001, Starbuck’s created the first gift card that could be used over and over again.  Nowadays, gift cards are ubiquitous in the retail industry.  According to Smithsonian magazine, Starbuck’s now sells more than 1,500 gift cards per minute!

Why are gift cards so popular among customers?

They are convenient.  They are easily portable. They allow a shopper to use their gifted dollar amount over the course of multiple purchases or trips.  They are refillable. Choosing gift cards does not require the purchaser to invest the time and energy that are required when purchasing a traditional gift.  People love receiving gift cards, because they can purchase whatever they want on someone else’s dime.

There is yet another reason people enjoy receiving gift cards - They are more valuable than cash. 

That’s right; when it comes to perceived value, gift cards are more desirable than plain old cash.  I know that statement sounds crazy.  If I receive cash, I can use it in any way and in any place I desire whereas a gift card limits you to the business that issues it.

Nevertheless, gift cards are more valuable.  Why?  It’s partly because the giver still went to at least a little trouble and customized the gift at least a little bit.  That makes gift cards a smidge more thoughtful than a check written out to you or a fifty-dollar bill stuffed in an envelope.  Another reason might be the card itself – they are designed with colorful, glossy images that appeal to the eye.

Gift cards work so well because they are desirable gifts.  Now I’m not saying it’s a smart move to buy one for your special someone – that might land you in the doghouse!  But for business gifting, the gift card is hard to beat.

Since gift cards are so effective in the professional world, it’s time to use them to your benefit.  Gifting is a very powerful way to make you, your career and your business more successful.  People remember and appreciate the gifts they receive.

If you are trying to motivate your employees, gift them once in a while with a free-lunch gift card to the restaurant near your office.  You want to thank a current client?  Gift them.  Are you trying to smooth over a relationship after you had a conflict with a colleague?  Gift them and send a contrite note as well.  You want to get into a prospective client’s office?  Gift them.  Send a gift card and a personal note customized to that prospective client and then follow up with the phone call a few days later.  Mention that you hope the person received the gift card and ask to talk briefly.  If you took the time to send a gift, most prospects will feel at least somewhat “obligated” to talk for a few minutes.

You want some really good news?

Gift cards don’t have to be high-dollar-value in order to make an impression.  For a routine or small “thank you,” a $10 gift card to a nearby coffee shop should do the trick.  Even client-thank-you and prospective-client-door-opening gift cards don’t have to be terribly expensive.  Depending on the situation and person, something between $25 and $100 should suffice.

Thanks to a now-defunct movie rental business, your work is easier.  Gift cards are a powerful tool for entrepreneurs, sales professionals, managers, and anyone who depends on volunteers.  Employ the power of gifting and reap the rewards.  Carve out a line in your company’s or department’s budget for gift card purchases.  A relatively small investment can bring a mighty return in the form of new clients and retained business.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

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How to Win the “Contested Close”

By Jeff Beals

I’m a big believer in doing everything right before closing in order make the close anti-climactic.  If you have established a relationship and figured out what the prospective client truly values, then the close is generally a formality, a foregone conclusion.  All you have to do is ask, call the question, seal the deal.

Closes are easy when the prospect has a trusting relationship with you and you truly understand who they are and what they’re all about.  But what happens when the prospect has established a trusting relationship with you and your competitor at the same time?  What if the prospective client falls in love with two competing vendors?

This is a contested close. It is not terribly common but it does pop up from time to time.

When you find yourself in a contested close, be prepared to go into battle and fight until the very end.  Never give up.

I like to think of contested closings as being analogous to the fourth quarter of a tight football game or the bottom of the ninth inning of tied baseball game.  Keep battling so you are properly positioned in case the chance to win presents itself.  You never know what could happen at the very end of the game or the end of the sales process.  Like athletes competing to the final whistle, salespeople who keep fighting put themselves in position to snatch victory at just the opportune time.

If you are mired in a contested close, it might mean you tried to close too soon.  In other words, the prospect is not ready.  Take a few steps back in the process and go return to the fundamentals: ask more questions, build trust and search for ways that your product or service provides what they value.  Focus on your value differentiating factors.

You might also do some competitor research if you know which company or individual is competing with you.  Find their weaknesses as a provider and think about how your solution might be better.  Generally, it’s not a good idea to point out the competitor’s weaknesses directly.  Instead, accentuate your positives in the areas where you know the competition is week.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

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The Power of Your Personal Target Audience

By Jeff Beals

Whether you’re in Atlanta or Austin, San Diego or San Antonio, Kansas City or Salt Lake City, shopping malls and retail centers generally look alike.  The products, displays, signage and building architecture are so uniform that it’s hard to tell whether you’re in New Orleans or New York.

There’s a reason for that.  Malls are carefully designed for a specific reason and for carefully targeted retail consumers.

Studies have shown that women make the vast majority of purchases, so women make up a huge part of a retailer’s “target market” or “target audience,” a group of people with shared characteristics that make a person more likely to buy a certain product or service.  Women with higher household incomes usually make more and larger purchases, so income would be another critical characteristic for a retail target audience.  Education, age and cultural aspects are also considered when a company determines its target audience.

Women purchase 70 percent of all books sold.  Given that, Barnes & Noble is probably more concerned about women than men.  It only makes sense to focus your marketing resources on the segment of the population that’s most inclined to buy what you purvey.  People buy more during certain periods of their lives; that’s why advertisers are obsessed with 25-to-54-year-olds.

Of course, not all marketing is geared toward women.  News-talk radio stations target men.  Video games target teenage boys.  You don’t see many beer commercials going after female drinkers.

Whatever business you’re in, you figure out what segment of the world is most important and you zero in on that group.

While it takes work to identify all the specific characteristics a company considers in the makeup of its target audience, it’s an essential endeavor. Having a target audience not only makes money, it’s liberating.

Think about it – the world is a big place. Billions of people are alive today.  The thought of marketing to all of them is staggering, but fortunately, marketers focus on niches, narrow slices of the population. The trick is to identify the appropriate slice.

The same thing applies when marketing yourself, for you are a product. You are a brand.  You need a “personal” target audience. 

In order to promote yourself effectively, you must become a celebrity in your own “sphere of interest.” Every professional has a sphere of interest. It’s your own narrow slice of the population. It’s your very own personal target audience. It’s comprised of those people, who in any way, can help you reach your goals – clients, prospective clients, those who refer clients, someone who could hire you, someone who could get you on a coveted committee or board.

Among these people, you need to be famous. When someone in your personal target audience needs the services or products you provide, your name and face should pop into their minds. When someone is looking for people to invite to a special occasion, your name needs to be at the top of the list. You are a highly desired person in your community or industry when a large number of people in your personal target audience have heard of you.

But before you can become a celebrity, you need to determine who is in your personal target audience. This is determined by your career, life mission, goals and personality.

Once you know who is in your personal target audience, manage it carefully. Just like a company managing its prospective clients, you as an individual must diligently manage your personal target audience and lavish attention upon it. The people in your personal target audience are precious, critical to your success.

If you tend to your personal target audience, it will yield positive results and help you achieve greater personal and professional success.

Now that we have established this, it’s time to think about your personal target audience. What types of people need to know about you? Where are they? How do you reach them?

There may be billions of people in today’s loud and crowded marketplace, but it’s comforting to know that you can become famous enough by chasing only a minuscule percentage of them. In order to get your message to connect with the right niche, think about what you do and who is in your personal target audience.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

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We Want Vince! How to Enlist the Help of Others in Your Sales Efforts

By Jeff Beals

[Note: This week's "Sales Shape-Up" is an excerpt from the author's book, Selling Saturdays: Blue Chip Sales Tips from College Football, which uses the recruitment of star athletes as a metaphor for selling products and services in any industry.]

As you search for innovative ways to make an impression and let your prospects know they are special, you might want to employ the efforts of others. Your clients, fans and champions out in the business community can play a huge role as you market to new prospects.

Because of strict National College Athletic Association recruiting rules, college football teams have to be careful about orchestrating recruiting efforts by fans and boosters, but it is perfectly fine if those efforts happen without the direct involvement of the school.

Because fans follow football recruiting so closely on the Internet, they tend to know a great deal about the youngsters their favorite football teams are recruiting. That means they usually know when prospective players are visiting campus especially if it’s game day. It is fairly common at big-time football schools for fans to introduce themselves to the prospects, welcome them to campus and hold up signs imploring them to say “yes.”

Spontaneous adoration from 15,000 fans helped Tim Brewster land one of the nation’s biggest football recruits when he was an assistant coach at the University of Texas in late 2001. That’s when he was engaged in a tremendous battle to recruit an all-everything blue-chip high school player from inner-city Houston by the name of Vince Young.

Brewster starting tracking Young when he was a high school sophomore and worked hard to build a strong relationship with him.

During an on-campus visit in Austin, Brewster and Young were about to take in a Longhorn basketball game. Before the game, coach and prospect talked one-on-one downstairs in the bowels of the Frank Erwin Center, the University of Texas sports arena. To give Young a taste of the campus buzz, Brewster took his prized recruit upstairs so he could walk on the court and take in the pre-game atmosphere.

Immediately, upon stepping on the basketball floor, rabid UT fans recognized Young. The news whipped through the arena quickly. The crowd started chanting, “We want Vince! We want Vince!”

Brewster was blown away by the sudden public adoration.  He walked Young back downstairs where the recruit turned to Brewster, tears streaming down his face, and said, “This is where I need to be. I’m a Longhorn.”

Young starred at Texas, achieving All-American honors and leading the team to its only Associated Press national championship in a 45-year span.

While you might not be able to convince 15,000 people to chant your prospect’s name, and in most selling situations that would be rather weird, remember you are not necessarily alone.  Incorporate others in your selling efforts as appropriate in order to make a more powerful impression on your future clients.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

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Unambiguous Communication Earns You the Most Respect

By Jeff Beals

I was reading a newspaper article about urban planning a couple days ago and came across this term: “continuous low-density polycentric urban formations.”

Sounds impressive but what does it mean?  The answer is actually simple: “urban sprawl.”

Anyone who lives in a major U.S. metro area knows what urban sprawl is.  You hear the word and immediately conjure up images of traffic jams and endless suburban development.  The term was coined back in the 1950s.  Most people experience urban sprawl every time they drive to work!  Isn’t it much easier to say “urban sprawl” than “continuous low-density polycentric urban formations?”

Of course it is, but it’s not as impressive sounding.

In fairness, this academically imposing term was used in an exhibit at the Yale University architecture school, meaning it was intended for people who actually know what “continuous low-density polycentric urban formations” means.  Nevertheless, we often and quite unnecessarily use complex phrases to describe that which can be expressed in simpler terms.

Regardless of your profession, communication is probably the most essential thing you do on any given day.  It’s easy to fall into the corporate jargon or academic gibberish trap in order to sound intelligent around other accomplished people.  Try to resist that temptation.  Over the course of time, those people who communicate using the clearest, most unambiguous terms are the ones who are ultimately most respected.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

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A Violation of Trade Show Etiquette

By Jeff Beals

Our company hosted a booth at a large business-to-business trade show today. Thousands of people passed through the aisles and many of them stopped by our booth.  Several of our employees took turns staffing the booth, giving them the chance to meet new people and reconnect with familiar faces.

B2B trade shows are a good chance to network and prospect but not necessarily the place where you’re going to do a lot of hard-core deal-making.

Unfortunately, some people don’t quite understand that.

I personally staffed the booth from 8:30 to 10:00 this morning.  At one point, a very nice (but clueless) woman approached me and introduced herself.  She was professionally dressed and had a pleasant demeanor.

But then things quickly went downhill.

Immediately upon introducing herself, she launched into a breathless litany of her product’s features and benefits.  She went on and on.  I probably only heard every third for fourth word, because I was so utterly uninterested.

It was diarrhea of the mouth, a vocal assault of meaningless features and benefits.

I listened for a while waiting for her to break her verbal cadence, giving me the narrow window I needed to end the conversation.  Finally, she took a breath. I immediately tried the “give-me-your-card-and-I’ll-keep-in-you mind” trick, but to no avail.  On and on she went, regurgitating features and alleged benefits.

I felt trapped.  The booth was my cage and she was the captor. I was cornered with nowhere to go and no option but to stand there and take it.  For a fleeting moment I looked around the booth in vain for a can of gasoline and a match – surely she would stop if I lit myself on fire.

Eventually, someone else walked up to the booth.  I excused myself and said I had to talk to the new person.

Freedom!

Our company exhibits at that trade show every year, and every year the above scenario happens. Several times!  I’m amazed that sales people still behave this way despite all the energy we sales consultants expend helping professionals sell more effectively.

Exhibitors pay a lot of money to rent a booth and display their goods and services at trade shows.  It has always rubbed me the wrong way when people who don’t have a booth go up to everyone else and use in-your-face selling tactics on the exhibitors who are there to meet their own prospective clients.

More importantly, no selling of any kind works when you have not taken the time to figure out what the prospect values.

The hapless saleswoman did not appear to care what I valued.  She asked me not a single question.  She just talked at Gatling-gun pace.

As has often been said, people love to buy but they hate to be sold to.  This advice certainly applies to trade shows and other networking events.  Successful sales people consider the audience and the environment before deciding how to approach new people.  At first, the goal is to build rapport and start to learn what a prospect values.

Be patient.

Letting the process play out the way it is supposed to gives you the time you need to work your magic.  When you jump in too soon, you alienate prospects and you become the person that people avoid when they see you walking down the trade-show aisle.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

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You Can Find Opportunity in This Era of Cluttered Communication

By Jeff Beals

“The Times They Are a-Changin’” wrote singer-songwriter Bob Dylan in 1964.

If Dylan and his listeners were impressed with the pace of change 50 years ago, they surely would not believe how fast things are changing now.  Rapidly evolving communication technology and rapidly expanding marketing channels are changing the way businesses and individual professionals communicate.

According to global media services agency ZenithOptimedia, 2014 is expected to be the year in which money spent on internet advertising will exceed the combined amount spent on printed newspapers and magazines.

The rise of internet-based commerce has been meteoric. After all, it really wasn’t all that long ago when we didn’t even have the internet let alone the powerhouse marketing platform that the internet is today.

The increasing power and influence of internet-based marketing does not necessary mean that print media have done a bad job or are about to go extinct.  On the contrary, print media are still very important and relevant.

Rather than a damning referendum on old media, the rise of internet marketing shows just how fragmented media today have become.  We now live in the loudest and most cluttered marketplace in human history.  So many messages compete for your attention.  We have unprecedented access to information, both journalistic and commercial.

These changes can be both good and bad depending on your point of view.  If you make your living selling advertising for traditional media it can be quite concerning.  That said, many established media companies have adapted quite well by adding high-quality digital platforms to complement their traditional ones.

If you are a company or person looking to get your message across, you now have a lot of choices.  On the other hand, all the clutter in the communication environment means it is harder now for your message to be noticed than it was in the past.

What are the secrets to success in a more fragmented, cluttered and loud marketplace?

1.   Be disciplined and assertive in your communication efforts

2.   Go back to the fundamentals of good communication

In today’s marketplace, you must constantly put forth messages in a variety of media – a mix of social media, internet news media and traditional media. Furthermore, the effort must be constantly sustained.  You can’t take a day off.  Worthwhile and attention-getting messages must spring forth constantly.

More importantly, the quality of the message matters more than how you release that message.  In other words, the medium used to communicate with your target audience is just that – a medium.  Whether you are using the phone, direct mail, newspapers, television, radio, email-based marketing, blogs, podcasts, social media engagement, door-to-door salesmen or carrier pigeons, the product or service must stand on its own merit.  The message must be compelling on its own merit. Fundamentals matter.  If your product has a viable market, it will sell.

I don’t fear changes in communication technology; I embrace them.  As a person who has messages to convey and services to sell, the more communication channels I have, the better.

I derive great value out of social media and other internet-based forms of communication, but I love traditional media too.  After all, many of my articles are published in paper-based periodicals, and I have been hosting a terrestrial radio show for 10 years.

Regardless of the medium and where we might be at any given point in technological history, human beings are essentially the same.  They make decisions based on what they value and do business with individuals and organizations they trust.

Sure it takes more work, and in many cases more staffing hours, to prepare messages for new media that pop up.  But new communications vehicles open the possibility of reaching new people.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

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Selling Against Your Friends

By Jeff Beals

Relationships with sales professionals from competing companies can be touchy.

It is in your best interest to have positive relationships with your competitors, but you have to be careful.  On one hand, such relationships keep job possibilities open for you, and if you’re a sales leader, these relationships form a candidate pool from which you can hire.

On the other hand, it’s easy to let your guard down when you befriend competitors thus compromising your company’s position.

Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind when it comes to befriending people who want to beat you in the sales arena:

  • Even if you have the heart of a cut-throat competitor, be cordial when you run into the competition. You never know when you actually might need them.
  • A wily competitor might be gathering intel during casual conversations, so stick to pleasantries and superficial talk.  Don’t divulge your secrets.
  •  If you sell for a small organization, you may be able to grow quite wealthy living off the big guy’s table scraps.  Befriend sales pros from much larger companies.  They just might refer business to you that is not big enough for them.
  • If you engage in one-upmanship and gamesmanship with competitors, make sure you do it for valuable reasons and not simply to boost your ego or satisfy a constant craving for competition.  If you engage in one-upmanship just for the fun of it, be careful – make sure the other person has a thick skin and/or good sense of humor.  Friendships among competitors can be fragile.
  • Sometimes you must get between your client and your competitor.  That’s not just figuratively “in between” them; it might be a good idea to show up if you know your client is going to encounter a competitor.  In highly competitive sales efforts, your personal, physical presence may be necessary to ward off competitors looking to steal your client at the last minute
  • As appropriate, find ways to “hide” your prospects from your competitors.  If you find a “diamond-in-the-rough” client, don’t let the world know about him or her.  Do what you can to keep them under the radar.
  • All is fair in love, war and sales. Because business can be so brutally competitive, some sales leaders look for ways not only to beat the competition but to weaken it preemptively.  Many of Sun Tzu’s ancient Chinese theories on military strategy apply to the game of sales. In sales, you sometimes need to outflank the competition, employ the element of surprise and weaken your competitors before you even begin the battle.  A dramatic way to strike a blow to a competitor is to hire away one of their sales reps.  If you can’t beat ‘em, steal their best salesperson.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

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If Emotion Can Nearly Bring Down a 300-Year Union, Think What It Can Do for You!

By Jeff Beals

Tensions flared and emotions ran high as the calendar neared Election Day. For weeks, television reports showed footage of passionate citizens campaigning – feverishly trying to convince their fellow countrymen and countrywomen to vote one way or another. Images of large crowds holding little blue signs saying “YES” and “NO THANKS” will be remembered for generations.

It was an historic vote that took place recently in Scotland. The ballot language was simple: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

Such a simple question. Such raw emotion.

A group of Scottish nationalists had been urging the Scots to vote for independence and thus end the country’s 307-year union with the United Kingdom. Geographically, Scotland is small and its population is little more than 5 million. But it’s an important part of the U.K. for both cultural and economic reasons.

For a while, the pro-independence nationalists, known as the “YES” campaign, looked like they might pull it off. They stirred passions, inflamed feelings of Scottish pride and painted a rosy picture of what life might be like in an independent Scotland.

A pro-British-union group, known as the “NO” campaign, sprung up to protect the status quo. Politicians in London, desperate to keep the union intact, promised concessions and incentives if the Scots voted to stay.

In the end, the “NO” campaign won as the Scots voted 55-to-45-percent to remain part of the U.K. While the final margin was 10 percent, the polls showed a much closer race just a couple weeks prior. At times during the campaign, it appeared to be a toss-up.

I’m not Scottish. I’ve never been to Scotland. And other than a European history class in college and watching Braveheart on cable 20 years ago, I’m not schooled in Scottish history.

But I was fascinated with this election and the campaign preceding it.

Like many political campaigns, emotion played a key role.

A quote in the Wall Street Journal illustrates that emotion: “My heart says ‘yes’ but my head says ‘no,’” said Kyle McBride a 21-year-old resident of Glasgow who supported independence.

If you look at the campaign from a purely logical perspective, most Scots are probably better off keeping the status quo. Had the country chosen independence, the economic ramifications, at least in the first few years, could have been onerous.

Choosing independence generally would have been a “heart” decision over a “head” decision. I’m not saying “head” decisions are always best and that “heart” decisions are bad. I usually think with my head, but sometimes it does make sense to go with your heart. As a non-Scottish and non-British person, I didn’t really care which side won.

The point here is that the use of emotion, playing to the Scottish people’s hearts, was effective. Until the “NO” campaign pulled out all the stops near the end, there was a decent chance the “YES” campaign would have won. Scotland would have shocked the world.

I have often said that a person’s life is like an ongoing political campaign. We are all “running” for something. We’re all trying to “get elected” to whatever is important to us.

Political campaigns have a long history of using emotion. Businesses have also played on emotion to sell products. Individuals often rely on emotion to convince others to do something or to change their way of thinking. Emotion is powerful. It’s motivational. Emotion is flat-out useful.

Savvy professionals search for and identify the emotion in any situation. They figure out what’s causing the emotion and take it into consideration before making a decision.

Whenever human beings are involved, emotion is present.

While it is possible to overplay the emotion card, you would be wise to harness its power. Whether you are trying to close a deal, win an argument or convince your colleagues to adopt your idea, you stand a much better chance if you understand others’ emotions, control your own emotion and manipulate emotion to support your desired outcome.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

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