8 Ways to Overcome Social Discomfort at Networking Events

By Jeff Beals

While preparing to go to a networking event, have you ever worried, “What if I don’t know anyone?”

It’s a common concern, but knowing nobody at a networking event is actually a blessing if you have the right attitude.

Not knowing anyone forces you to use your networking skills. Too many people will go to a function and sit in the corner with their friends, co-workers, spouse, whoever. That’s a waste of time. If you’re going to do that, just go to a restaurant.

If you find networking intimidating, you’re not alone. Many professionals who are good at networking have had to work hard to make it look that way. Sure, some people are naturally gregarious, but they are the exception, not the norm.  It is natural to feel tinges of uneasiness when you attend a networking function by yourself where you know nobody.

Here are eight things you can do to make you feel more comfortable:

1. Practice

There is absolutely nothing wrong with rehearsing how you will act in a networking encounter in the quiet privacy of your home or office.  Some people even practice in front of a mirror.

2. Observe the Masters

Think of someone you know who is socially gifted, very at ease working a room. Watch that person. Study that person. Think how you can imitate him/her. Each time you go to a networking event, do something he/she does. Instead of reinventing the networking wheel, figure out how you can mimic someone who has already figured it out.

3. Hold a Drink

Holding a drink at a social function can help you be more comfortable.

If you’re a non-drinker, there is nothing wrong with holding a soda or virgin cocktail. The drink is useful, because it gives you something to do with your hands.

Just be careful not to become intoxicated. You don’t want to do anything that would embarrass your company or damage the reputation you are working so hard to build. Some networkers will order one drink and nurse it for a couple hours, just taking infrequent sips. I know of one person who orders a 7-Up with just a tiny amount of alcohol in it. That way, it smells like a drink, but there’s not enough live ammo in it to compromise his faculties.

4. Positive Vision

Another way of dealing with shyness is to envision success before going to an event. Like a coach mentally preparing athletes for a big game, you can increase your likelihood for success by imagining yourself doing well in a social situation. Sit down and envision yourself saying the right things, using good interpersonal skills and being professionally assertive. If you do this regularly, you will evolve into a graceful networker.

5. Brush It Off

Operating out of your comfort zone can increase introversion tendencies.  Some networkers worry they will say the wrong thing and sound stupid.  Others are afraid to “interrupt” someone at a party. Others fear they might be “rejected” when they reach out to another person. Even as an established professional, it is an unpleasant experience to introduce yourself and attempt to carry on a conversation with someone who is clearly uninterested in you. When it happens to you, just brush it off and go to the next person.

When someone gives you a cold shoulder, it likely means that person’s problems are greater than yours.

6. Pair Busting

Periodically, you will find yourself at a networking event, standing by yourself with nobody to talk to. You look around the room and everyone is already engaged in conversation with someone else.  There are no other “single” people. It can feel unnerving. When this happens, it’s time to be a pair buster.

Simply look around for a pair of people and walk toward them. Don’t worry if you feel like you’re interrupting. Just go up to the pair and introduce yourself.  Be assertive.  Sometimes it helps to say, “Mind if I join you?” in a joking sort of way. Ninety-five percent of the pairs you bust open, will welcome you.  The other five percent are not worthy of your attention.

7. Welcome Other Busters

When you are already talking to someone else and a third person tries to bust into your pair, be sure to make that person feel welcome. Treat the conversational newcomer the same way you would like to be treated. Don’t act as if you’re inconvenienced. Just introduce yourselves and allow the person to feel part of the group.

The tone of your voice and your body language will help make such a person feel more welcome. Slightly turn your body toward the new person. If the person comes in mid-conversation, explain what you have been talking about in an effort to bring the new person up to speed.

8. Connecting

Networking gives you the opportunity to be a “connecter,” a person who introduces two people to each other. Go out of your way to connect others to each other. If you connect two people who end up doing business together, you have earned social capital. The two people who profited from that relationship will always appreciate you and owe you a debt of gratitude.

Connecting also helps mitigate shyness. Instead of focusing on the stress of networking, make it your mission to find people you already know but who don’t know each other. You could make a game out of it.

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant. A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff is sure to deliver an engaging and motivating speech! He cleverly ties together his stories and makes the speech end with a punch. Being the closing speaker is tough, but he stepped-up to the challenge and hit a home-run. Due to the high ratings and overwhelming response to re-watch his speech, we are planning on using his video during our NextGen watch party.”  – Megan Dotson, Senior Client Success Consultant & Event Director, GovLoop.com, Washington, DC

“Your workshop was a huge experience for our attendees by giving them the opportunity to improve their work in the critical environment in which we are living today. Your talent as a speaker and your qualities as a person made the difference during your time with us. I would certainly recommend you to anyone who asks.” – Ana Paula Costa, Educational Planner, Febracorp, Sao Paulo, Brazil

“Our corporate partnership team had great takeaways regarding how to network smarter while also understanding the importance of our personal brand to current and prospective partners. Jeff does a great job weaving in real-world examples and how you can apply his teachings to growing your business and
building long-term partnerships.” – Jason Booker, Senior Director of Corporate Sponsorships, The Kansas City Royals Major League Baseball Team

“If you are considering hiring Jeff, I will only say this: do it now. His ability to connect with an audience and explain the importance of telling the story is nothing short of extraordinary. The true litmus of any great speaker is authenticity. And when authenticity is coupled with an incredibly high amount of energy, humor, and engagement – you get Jeff.  I would highly recommend him to anyone who needs a speaker attendees will talk about for a long time to come.” – Alison Cody, Executive Director, Manufacturers’ Agents Association for the Foodservice Industry, Atlanta, GA

“I’m in Phoenix and had breakfast earlier this morning with our semi-retired sales representative who is doing some continued work for us here.  He attended your sales meeting last week and told me that in 43 years of selling, you were the best he had ever heard.  Thanks for a great experience.” – Drew Vogel, President & CEO, Diamond Vogel Paints, Orange City, IA

+1-402-917-5730

info@jeffbeals.com

4 Ways to Figure Out Exactly What Your Prospective Clients Want

By Jeff Beals

I’m at the stage in life when I’m surrounded by kiddos – my siblings, my friends and I all have kids at home. To me, it seems like kids are omnipresent. My family is a rather close-knit group and we get together fairly often. As a dad and uncle, I enjoy watching all the kids interact and build bonds with each other as they grow up and develop into the adults they will someday become.

In any group of kids there are typically a small percentage of them who are particularly gregarious. These kids are blessed with charisma, personality and are more advanced in their communication skills. They stand out. People are drawn to them.

What do adults say about such kids?

  •  “I just know he’ll grow up to be a politician!”
  • “She’ll be running a company someday!!”
  • “You should go into sales when you grow up!!!”

I get why people say such things. I’ve uttered these statements myself. But would you like to hear something that may come as a surprise?

Gregarious, outgoing people don’t automatically make good salespeople.

Sure, they’re more apt to pick up the phone and call a stranger. They may be better suited to deliver sales presentations. They may be more aggressive pushing prospects to close at the end.

But the “talking” part of sales comprises only one-third of the sales process. The other two-thirds of the process are very quiet. The majority of the sales process is comprised of researching, listening and determining exactly what the prospect values without any assumption or ambiguity.

If you want to be successful in sales, there’s something far more important than an outgoing personality. It’s the ability to determine exactly what your prospect values. Here are four ways to do just that:

Listen & Truly Hear

Too often we pretend like we’re listening or even think we’re doing a good job of listening, but in reality, we don’t retain what the other person is telling us. If you sell things for a living, you need to listen with the same intensity and attention to detail that a detective uses when he or she is interviewing a suspected criminal. Tell yourself that the person in front of you will say something at some point in the conversation that can directly lead to a closed deal. You can’t afford to miss it simply because you’re having a second conversation with yourself inside your mind when you need to be focused on the other person.

Never Assume

Our own biases often get in the way of our efforts to figure out what our prospects truly value. Look, you know your products and services better than the prospects do especially if you’ve been in your current selling role for a long time. Talented, experienced and knowledgeable sales professionals can be vulnerable to assuming what clients value because they’ve seen so many other clients and know so much about the product. Don’t succumb to temptation and start assuming you know everything you need to know about your prospect. I call it the “sin of assumption,” and it just might be the deadliest sin in business.

Ask Probing Questions

When we first sit down with a prospect, we engage in small talk or idle chit-chat. That’s a great way to warm up the conversation and make everyone comfortable. But don’t spend too much time on chit-chat. Start asking questions that help you uncover value. The best questions are probing in nature. Start questions with “Why?” “How?” “What if…?” “What would happen if you…?”

Don’t Talk Too Soon

I don’t intend to sound rude, but be quiet! Don’t start talking until you are sure you know what your prospect values. If you’re not 100 percent convinced, keep asking probing questions and keep listening intently to the answers. When you do talk, your sales pitch should be customized based on what the prospective client told you during the value discovery process. Portray your products or services in such a way that they satisfy exactly what the prospect wants and needs.

As you consider the four ways to determine value mentioned above, it should become patently obvious that there is plenty of room for introverts in the sales business. As long as they can muster the gumption to approach prospects in the first place and turn on the charm when it’s time to present, introverts might actually be better at sales than extroverts. When it’s all said and done, the deal typically goes to the person who most closely provides what each unique client really wants.

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant. A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff is sure to deliver an engaging and motivating speech! He cleverly ties together his stories and makes the speech end with a punch. Being the closing speaker is tough, but he stepped-up to the challenge and hit a home-run. Due to the high ratings and overwhelming response to re-watch his speech, we are planning on using his video during our NextGen watch party.”  – Megan Dotson, Senior Client Success Consultant & Event Director, GovLoop.com, Washington, DC

“Your workshop was a huge experience for our attendees by giving them the opportunity to improve their work in the critical environment in which we are living today. Your talent as a speaker and your qualities as a person made the difference during your time with us. I would certainly recommend you to anyone who asks.” – Ana Paula Costa, Educational Planner, Febracorp, Sao Paulo, Brazil

“Our corporate partnership team had great takeaways regarding how to network smarter while also understanding the importance of our personal brand to current and prospective partners. Jeff does a great job weaving in real-world examples and how you can apply his teachings to growing your business and
building long-term partnerships.” – Jason Booker, Senior Director of Corporate Sponsorships, The Kansas City Royals Major League Baseball Team

“If you are considering hiring Jeff, I will only say this: do it now. His ability to connect with an audience and explain the importance of telling the story is nothing short of extraordinary. The true litmus of any great speaker is authenticity. And when authenticity is coupled with an incredibly high amount of energy, humor, and engagement – you get Jeff.  I would highly recommend him to anyone who needs a speaker attendees will talk about for a long time to come.” – Alison Cody, Executive Director, Manufacturers’ Agents Association for the Foodservice Industry, Atlanta, GA

“I’m in Phoenix and had breakfast earlier this morning with our semi-retired sales representative who is doing some continued work for us here.  He attended your sales meeting last week and told me that in 43 years of selling, you were the best he had ever heard.  Thanks for a great experience.” – Drew Vogel, President & CEO, Diamond Vogel Paints, Orange City, IA

+1-402-917-5730

info@jeffbeals.com

Why Do Some Sales Professionals Fear the Close?

By Jeff Beals

During a sales seminar last week, I asked the attendees a question: “What is your least favorite or most intimidating part of the sales process?”

It’s a question I commonly ask sales professionals toward the beginning of a presentation.

And regardless of industry or profession, the answers are always the same. Approximately 40 percent of the attendees are most intimidated by initial prospecting calls and another 40 percent say, “the close,” asking a prospective customer for their business. (The remaining 20 percent identify a variety of miscellaneous things).

Why do so many sales professionals dread these same two things?

There are a lot of reasons:

  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of failing
  • Not wanting to sound “pushy”
  • Fear of sounding stupid or ill prepared
  • Inferiority complex – about yourself, your company or your product
  • Unsure of the timing – fear of losing what appears to be a sure-fire sale if you ask for the business at the wrong time

What’s a Salesperson to Do?

Be Obsessed with Value

The most fundamental element in closing any sale is to determine what the prospective client truly values without ever assuming. The salesperson may have more product knowledge than the prospective customer but that doesn’t mean the salesperson has the ability to read clients’ minds. You need to ask probing questions and listen deeply to the answers. If you do this properly, and take the necessary amount of time, you will know just what your prospect wants. When you make your pitch, customize it to exactly what the prospect told you. Value selling does more to ensure a successful closing than anything else you can do.

Think Sequentially

Remember the old sales axiom, “ABC – Always Be Closing?” It means you’re always looking for an opportunity to jump to the end and sign up the prospect. Flush “ABC” from your mind! Sure, it’s a good idea to keep your eye on the prize, but instead of crouching ready to pounce on a close, focus on the next step in the process. Don’t rush things. In this day and age, buyers – especially sophisticated ones – don’t take kindly to being pressured.

Just keep working the prospect through all the steps in the selling process in the proper order with adequate time at each step and you will close more than your fair share of deals.

Collect Mini Closes

A sales close is basically getting the prospective client to make a commitment. The “big” close is the final commitment at the end, which is the commitment to buy. But closing also involves lots of little commitments leading up to the big commitment. These are commitments to spend time with you, to listen to you, to consider what you offer, to admit they need to make a change/purchase, etc.

Each time you convince your prospect to make a little commitment during the process, you are moving him or her a little closer to the final commitment and your goal of a signed deal.

Eventually You Have to Ask

After you do all the work leading up to the final close, it’s time to ask for the order. Unfortunately, this part can make salespeople feel nervous. After all, you have put so much effort into making the sale that you fear getting your feelings hurt and your confidence bruised. Plus, you may have already spent the commission!

Those are normal fears, but when the time is right, just ask the question! The good news is you don’t need a cheesy gimmick to seal the deal. You know what the client cares about and you know you have an ideal product solution, so all you have to say is, “Let’s get you started” or “Are you ready to do this?” Avoid clichés like the age-old one I like to make fun of: “What will it take to get you in this car today!”

In the end, the main requirement to being a good sales closer is to do the right things earlier in the process. In other words, if you do a good job of listening, building trust and doing your best to customize your products and services to the client’s needs and wants, the closing should actually be a mere formality.

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant. A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff is sure to deliver an engaging and motivating speech! He cleverly ties together his stories and makes the speech end with a punch. Being the closing speaker is tough, but he stepped-up to the challenge and hit a home-run. Due to the high ratings and overwhelming response to re-watch his speech, we are planning on using his video during our NextGen watch party.”  – Megan Dotson, Senior Client Success Consultant & Event Director, GovLoop.com, Washington, DC

“Your workshop was a huge experience for our attendees by giving them the opportunity to improve their work in the critical environment in which we are living today. Your talent as a speaker and your qualities as a person made the difference during your time with us. I would certainly recommend you to anyone who asks.” – Ana Paula Costa, Educational Planner, Febracorp, Sao Paulo, Brazil

“Our corporate partnership team had great takeaways regarding how to network smarter while also understanding the importance of our personal brand to current and prospective partners. Jeff does a great job weaving in real-world examples and how you can apply his teachings to growing your business and
building long-term partnerships.” – Jason Booker, Senior Director of Corporate Sponsorships, The Kansas City Royals Major League Baseball Team

“If you are considering hiring Jeff, I will only say this: do it now. His ability to connect with an audience and explain the importance of telling the story is nothing short of extraordinary. The true litmus of any great speaker is authenticity. And when authenticity is coupled with an incredibly high amount of energy, humor, and engagement – you get Jeff.  I would highly recommend him to anyone who needs a speaker attendees will talk about for a long time to come.” – Alison Cody, Executive Director, Manufacturers’ Agents Association for the Foodservice Industry, Atlanta, GA

“I’m in Phoenix and had breakfast earlier this morning with our semi-retired sales representative who is doing some continued work for us here.  He attended your sales meeting last week and told me that in 43 years of selling, you were the best he had ever heard.  Thanks for a great experience.” – Drew Vogel, President & CEO, Diamond Vogel Paints, Orange City, IA

+1-402-917-5730

info@jeffbeals.com

Is Cross-Selling Actually a Bad Thing???

By Jeff Beals

Thanks to widespread media coverage of the recent Wells Fargo fake-account scandal, the sales profession has a new villain.

It’s called, “cross-selling.”

And you might add another villain to the list:

“Sales culture.”

In Wells Fargo’s world, cross-selling is the practice of getting customers to open and use as many of the bank’s products and services as possible. Some critics have claimed the practice led to a sales culture that incentivized employees to open unauthorized accounts.

Wells Fargo was fined $190 million a few weeks ago for opening nearly 2 million accounts without obtaining permission from customers. Wells Fargo revealed it has fired 5,300 employees who were found to have defrauded customers.  Some employees have sued Wells, claiming they were pushed by management to engage in unsavory selling tactics.

The process has apparently been going on for quite some time as evidenced by this clip from a Fortune magazine article in 2009:

“Wells, more than any big bank, makes its money by lending. It focuses on consumers and midsize businesses, which tend to be more profitable customers than Fortune 1,000 corporations that can raise money from many sources. And Wells relentlessly cross-sells everything, including credit cards and mortgages (to consumers) and treasury-management services and insurance (to businesses). Wells persuades each retail customer to buy an average of almost six products, roughly twice the level of a decade ago. Business customers average almost eight products per customer.”

Wells Fargo has rightly been criticized for the practice, and its CEO has been dragged before a Congressional committee.  Customers, government regulators and members of the public have understandably been outraged.

But whenever a big corporate scandal hits the news, you guarantee there will be an abundance of knee-jerk, overreactions.

Media coverage has cast a negative light on cross-selling and the existence of sales-oriented corporate cultures. However, bad behavior in one company does not necessarily mean that cross-selling and “having a sales culture” are bad things.

I had lunch yesterday with the owner of a mid-sized manufacturing company.  We were talking about how he could increase his sales but then pointedly said, “I don’t want us to have a sales culture at our company where we end up cross-selling like Wells Fargo!”

Uh oh…I’m afraid cross-selling is getting an undeserved bad name. I respect the business owner’s strong desire to maintain an ethical company, but is he jumping too far too soon?

Is cross-selling really all that bad?

No.

Companies need sales cultures where employees are incentivized to sell more. Companies need to cross-sell in order to maximize revenue and deliver the best products/services to customers.

Companies are selling organizations, period. Your company may manufacture a certain product, may deliver a certain service or may develop new intellectual thinking, but none of that matters if you don’t sell it.  What’s more, if a given product at your company is perfect for a given client, there’s a good chance that one of your complementary products may also be of value.

A sales-oriented culture is necessary to stay in business.

How do you know if your sales culture is okay?

The best way to avoid a sales scandal and treat customers ethically is to focus on customer value. The key is to determine exactly what your customers truly care about and then do an outstanding job of delivering it.

Meanwhile, communicate accurately, honestly and promptly with your clients.  If you are only selling what customers value and making sure they are well informed and constantly kept in the loop, you can be proud of your sales culture.

As long as you are the trusted adviser, the person who puts clients’ needs before your own, there will be plenty of opportunities to cross-sell thus making both you and the client very happy.

There’s a big difference between opening fake accounts, the existence of which customers knew nothing, and having a company culture that simply maximizes the ways you can engage a customer.

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant. A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff is sure to deliver an engaging and motivating speech! He cleverly ties together his stories and makes the speech end with a punch. Being the closing speaker is tough, but he stepped-up to the challenge and hit a home-run. Due to the high ratings and overwhelming response to re-watch his speech, we are planning on using his video during our NextGen watch party.”  – Megan Dotson, Senior Client Success Consultant & Event Director, GovLoop.com, Washington, DC

“Your workshop was a huge experience for our attendees by giving them the opportunity to improve their work in the critical environment in which we are living today. Your talent as a speaker and your qualities as a person made the difference during your time with us. I would certainly recommend you to anyone who asks.” – Ana Paula Costa, Educational Planner, Febracorp, Sao Paulo, Brazil

“Our corporate partnership team had great takeaways regarding how to network smarter while also understanding the importance of our personal brand to current and prospective partners. Jeff does a great job weaving in real-world examples and how you can apply his teachings to growing your business and
building long-term partnerships.” – Jason Booker, Senior Director of Corporate Sponsorships, The Kansas City Royals Major League Baseball Team

“If you are considering hiring Jeff, I will only say this: do it now. His ability to connect with an audience and explain the importance of telling the story is nothing short of extraordinary. The true litmus of any great speaker is authenticity. And when authenticity is coupled with an incredibly high amount of energy, humor, and engagement – you get Jeff.  I would highly recommend him to anyone who needs a speaker attendees will talk about for a long time to come.” – Alison Cody, Executive Director, Manufacturers’ Agents Association for the Foodservice Industry, Atlanta, GA

“I’m in Phoenix and had breakfast earlier this morning with our semi-retired sales representative who is doing some continued work for us here.  He attended your sales meeting last week and told me that in 43 years of selling, you were the best he had ever heard.  Thanks for a great experience.” – Drew Vogel, President & CEO, Diamond Vogel Paints, Orange City, IA

+1-402-917-5730

info@jeffbeals.com