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The Rule of Thirds: How to Truly Listen

By Jeff Beals

“Let a fool hold his tongue and he will pass for a sage,” wrote Publilius Syrus more than 2,000 years ago in ancient Rome. 

Such wise advice from ages ago has never been more relevant. In the modern professional world, we are suffering from a listening crisis.

Actually, it’s a “lack-of-listening” crisis.

Whether your role is executive, managerial, sales, customer service or anything else, it is critically important to your success that you listen.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” wrote Stephen R. Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Too often we get that order mixed up. We focus on being understood as opposed to understanding those with whom we live and work.

Ask any of the greatest salespersons or sales trainers what it takes to succeed. Chances are that “ability to listen” will be at or near the top of the list. Success in sales requires you to understand your prospective client before you can do any sort of pitching, convincing or persuading. The smart salesperson asks carefully crafted questions designed to drill as deep as necessary to find out what makes the prospect tick. Truly listening to those answers allows a salesperson to customize, or at least portray, the product or service in such a way that creates maximum appeal.

 By the way, “truly listening” doesn’t mean you act like you’re in one of those cheesy “active-listening” workshops. Many people who have completed such workshops look like they are listening actively – they have an intense look on their faces, nod their heads and occasionally paraphrase what the person is saying – but they still don’t retain any of it. Active listening is much more about understanding than it is about facial expressions and head-nodding.

Super executive Lee Iacocca, former CEO of Chrysler, once said, “I only wish I could find an institute that teaches people how to listen. Business people need to listen at least as much as they need to talk. Too many people fail to realize that real communication goes in both directions.”

Iacocca’s statement reminds me of the old saying, “God gave you one mouth and two ears; use them proportionately.”

In other words, we should listen twice as much as we talk. I call it the “Rule of Thirds.”

Two-thirds of the time you spend talking with a colleague, client or a prospect should be focused on the other person. One-third of the time is focused on yourself.

“No man ever listened himself out of a job,” said former U.S. president Calvin Coolidge. Simply put, listening is one of the top skills required for professional success.

But be careful you don’t over-do it. Some people become so committed to good listening, that they become 100 percent “interpersonal givers.” In other words, they spend three-thirds of their time listening to other people. If you do this, people will tend to like you, because you allowed them to talk about themselves. However, if you fail to reserve your third, they won’t know anything about you or how your business can help them. Listen twice as much as you talk but don’t forget to pitch something about yourself.  

Why is focusing on the other person so important? The answer is simple: most people are rather self-absorbed. Want proof? Here it is: I am my most favorite subject. My friend is his most favorite subject. You are probably your most favorite subject.

Saying “I am my favorite subject” sounds awful, but it is not necessarily a selfish or narcissistic thing to say. After all, I spend a lot of time working on my favorite subject. I have invested much in my favorite subject. The success or failure of my favorite subject determines the direction of my life and has a big impact on the people I care about. I sometimes lay awake at night worrying about the things my favorite subject has screwed up.

Most people are the same way.

If you show earnest, sincere interest in my favorite subject, I can’t help but like you. I can’t help but feel some sort of connection with you. Showing sincere interest by truly listening disarms colleagues and clients and paves the way for your success.   

You might be wondering to whom you should listen. Who is worthy of your attention? Who deserves your best listening skills? That’s easy: everyone. You never know who has the right information for you or knows just the right person you need to meet.

Sam Walton, the late founder of Wal-Mart, once said, “The key to success is to get out into the store and listen to what the associates have to say. It’s terribly important for everyone to get involved. Our best ideas come from clerks and stock boys.”

When it comes to listening, remember to do it sincerely and remember that everyone counts. 

Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

You are welcome to forward this article with author citation to anyone who might enjoy it.

Merriment & Festivity Need Not Derail Your Progress This Holiday Season

By Jeff Beals

The holiday season is in full throttle, so let’s keep this week’s advice on the light side.

Whether you’re enjoying eight nights of Hanakkuh, celebrating the joy of Christmas or simply hoping for a raucous good time on New Year’s Eve, the holidays are a demanding time of the year.

Very demanding.

It takes a lot of time to shop, eat, drink, celebrate, worship and spend time with loved ones. All that time devoted to merriment is also time spent away from your routine – your business and your career.

At this time of year, how can you enjoy a cup of good cheer without sacrificing your professional progress? It’s not easy, but you can do both – celebrate AND make progress this season.

My gift to you this year is a handy little list:

1. Don’t fret. Accept the fact that less traditional business takes place between December 20th and January 2nd. A little rest and time away from the grind will hopefully recharge you and sharpen your focus.

2. Improve. Since most of us will be spending less time in the office, the holiday season is a great chance to catch up on books, magazines and trade journals. If you find yourself getting a little too much quality time with in-laws, uncles and second cousins, open your laptop and go through that webinar you’ve been thinking about completing.

3. Catch up. If the phone is not ringing as much, and many of your colleagues are on vacation during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, it’s the perfect chance to dig into a new project, finish busy work that has been sitting in piles or go through your files and throw out unneeded papers. Delete ancient documents from your database.

4. Get philosophical. During a quiet moment this holiday season, think about your work and your professional purpose in life. What do you want to change? How does your approach need to change?

5. Get creative. Do something artistic or imaginative that you do not normally do. Perhaps you have a neglected hobby. Picking it back up could open your mind and position you for greater accomplishments in 2012.

6. Write. Have you been thinking about starting a blog? How about submitting an op-ed piece to your local newspaper or contributing an article to a professional publication? Getting published can do wonders for your business. The big challenge for most people is not the writing and research; it’s finding the time.

7. Put people before profit. Remember that time spent on personal relationships this season is time well spent. I envision a future in which healthy relationships will be a form of currency. As the economy gets more and more complicated and fast-moving, access to a large group of loyal friends, family and professional acquaintances will be the key to business and career success.

I hope this holiday season is enjoyable and meaningful for you and that 2012 brings you many blessings both personally and professionally.

Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

You are welcome to forward this article with author citation to anyone who might enjoy it.

10 Ways to Realize Hidden Opportunities

By Jeff Beals

“Great moments are born from great opportunities,” said the late Herb Brooks, one of the world’s most famous hockey coaches. 

Brooks certainly seized opportunity during his career.  He agreed to coach the 1980 U.S. Olympic team that beat the “unbeatable” Soviet Union in Lake Placid, New York during the famous “Miracle on Ice” game on the way to winning the gold medal.  It was a modern-day “David vs. Goliath” matchup. Many coaches would refuse such an overwhelmingly difficult job.  In fact, several did. 

But Brooks saw opportunity in the monumental challenge of leading a bunch of young, amateur, college all-stars against the essentially professional players of the Soviet Union and other European hockey powers. 

That opportunity paid off, to say the least.

Whether you’re talking about sports, business or any other subject matter, seeking, finding and capitalizing on opportunity are among the most important things a professional must do.     

There’s one big problem with opportunity, however.  It is often hard to find and even harder to harness.

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations,” said Charles Swindoll, an American religious author.

I agree wholeheartedly with Swindoll’s characterization.  The best opportunities are often hidden.  They are often located in places we least expect to find them and are presented by people we least expect to provide them. 

That reminds me of the old story that sales managers like to share with their young trainees: “On his way back from a three-day fishing trip, a multi-millionaire visits the showroom of an upscale, luxury car dealer.  The salespersons, seeing an unshaven, disheveled, poorly dressed man, essentially ignore him.  Offended, the multi-millionaire buys a top-of-the-line model the next day from a direct competitor.”  There are a lot of ways to tell that classic missed-sales-opportunity story, but they all sound something like that.   

If opportunity is so important to our success, and so difficult to find and recognize, we need to focus more of our energy on it.  Unless you’re naturally good at it, finding and capitalizing on opportunity needs to be a deliberate focus:

Open your eyes and ears – we can no longer afford to be indifferent, or even worse, oblivious to the world around us.  Be on the lookout for ideas that could lead to new opportunities.  Even more important than eyes and ears, keep your mind open too.  Many of us miss opportunities, because they don’t fit into our pre-existing paradigms.

Remember that all people count – sometimes we get so obsessed with the “right” people, we miss out on valuable opportunities from people, who on the surface, can do seemingly nothing for us.

Fight through the fear – one of the biggest reasons we miss out on extraordinary opportunities is because we are too afraid to leap.  Herb Brooks wasn’t too afraid to leap; we shouldn’t be either.

Let your creative juices flow – the Nobel Prize-winning scientist Albert Szent-Gyorgi once said, “Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.”  The more creative you are, the more opportunity you will discover.  See the world in a different way, and doing things like nobody else, and just watch the opportunities that manifest.

Take risks – As the old saying goes, “nothing risked, nothing gained.”  Unless you take a chance and do something new, you’ll keep running into the same old opportunities.

Work really hard – “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work,” said the great inventor Thomas Edison. 

Set meaningful goals – make those goals specific too.  The more you clarify what you really want, the quicker you will recognize it when it shows up.

Find quiet time – many people have found great opportunities, because they prayed for them or spent time meditating about them.  Such activity creates focus in your mind, and a focused mind is a powerful mind.

Believe – visualize success and tell yourself that good things will come.  A positive mind is more receptive to hidden opportunity.

Prepare – as the old Boy Scout motto says, “be prepared.”  You never know when the perfect opportunity will open up.  If you’re not prepared, you might not act on it quickly enough.  In his autobiography, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said he believes in “relentless preparation.”  He constantly prepares for crisis, so he will perform properly.  Same thing applies to opportunity. 

Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

You are welcome to forward this article with author citation to anyone who might enjoy it.

          

Turning Employees into Portals of Profit

By Jeff Beals

“As Walgreen Co. pushes its army of pharmacists into the role of medical care providers, it is bringing them out from their decades-old post behind the pharmacy counter and onto the sales floor.”

That was the lead sentence of a recent New York Times article that caught my attention. 

What is so remarkable about this lead, you may ask?  On the face of things, not too much, but to me, this is a perfect example of how a major corporation can take advantage of personal branding.

When most people think about personal branding, they automatically assume you’re talking about career advancement or something a salesperson, insurance agent or real estate broker would do in hopes of closing more deals.  Certainly, such images fall under the personal branding umbrella.  But organizations benefit from personal branding too.  Personal branding by employees helps companies make more money and non-profit organizations more successfully meet their missions.  

The Illinois-based Walgreens has renovated several stores in order “to get the pharmacist closer to patients,” the article continued.

“It’s not about the product but the care we give.”

Some might say Walgreens’ move is a form of customer service.  That’s true, but it is also a form of personal branding. 

Businesses large and small must realize that people – their employees – are the portals of profit.  In other words, customers like to come into a company through a human being.  Personal relationships are the most effective way to land big clients. Personal relationships are even effective in the highly commoditized world in which Walgreens competes.  The more a company’s employees are out and about among the public, becoming well known and building relationships with prospective and current customers, the better a company will do. 

Too many organizations fear personal branding efforts by their employees.  In fact, conventional wisdom says that well-branded employees might be snatched up by competitors.  While there is a greater risk of losing well-known employees, savvy companies realize the benefits outweigh the threat of greater turnover.  What’s more, my gut tells me that employees who are encouraged to build their personal brands will be happier at work and therefore less likely to leave (even though they would theoretically have more opportunities to leave). 

The New York Times article indicates Walgreens is under pressure, because external circumstances threaten future business.  The company’s effort to strengthen relationships between pharmacists and customers is an attempt to mitigate that threat. 

Organizations need not wait for a threat to tap the latent personal branding power that sits unused on their organizational charts.  Now is the time to empower employees.  Help employees build their brands and turn them loose as deputized ambassadors.  Employees must become famous in their own spheres of interest, so they can become the portals of profit. 

Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

You are welcome to forward this article with author citation to anyone who might enjoy it.

Managing Your Online Brand in the World’s Best & Worst Marketplace

By Jeff Beals

“Had a very long day today. Got into an argument with my boss and a client. All I want to do is drink a glass of wine and take it easy, but I have to do laundry tonight. Arrrgh!”

This is the text of a post I once read on a friend’s Facebook page. She was clearly frustrated after a tough day at the office.

There’s nothing earth-shattering about this post and certainly nothing unusual. We all have periodic days we would rather forget. It’s common to come home from work tired out, feeling sick to your stomach, knowing you have important work to take care of at home.

That said, the Facebook post above does nothing to build my friend’s personal brand, and worse yet, it probably harms it. In the branding game, we need to paint a picture, cast a vision of ourselves as interesting, fascinating and anything but ordinary. We should never lie when we make a post on the social media, but don’t focus on the mundane. Focus on those things that will make people want to know more about you, wish they were like you and want to go out of their way to work with you. Be special. Be fascinating. Be intriguing.

The Internet is the greatest marketplace ever invented, because it is available worldwide 24-hours a day, is so vast that every imaginable product or service is available, has low barriers to entry and is comprised of billions of prospective customers.

The Internet is also the worst marketplace ever invented, because it is available worldwide 24-hours a day, is so vast that every imaginable product or service is available, has low barriers to entry and is comprised of billions of prospective customers. It’s too loud and crowded, making it hard to be noticed.

While the Internet (and the social media that are a part of it) provides us with historically unprecedented access, it also provides us with unprecedented clutter. It is easy and challenging at the same time. It has the potential of bringing riches but is filled with land mines. You can’t afford to take missteps.

That’s why savvy professionals carefully manage their online brands just as they manage how their personal brands appear everywhere else. Below are a few pieces of advice to keep in mind as you promote your personal brand online and take advantage of the countless benefits that come from the world’s greatest and worst marketplace.

It’s a Game of Fundamentals – Regardless of the medium used, your personal branding must be of value and stand on its own merit. In other words, nobody is impressed just because you have a presence online. People are impressed if your presence is interesting, fresh and provides value to them. When determining what you’ll write or say online, think back to your area of self marketing expertise, the part of your professional self that is most interesting to other people. That’s what you talk about when you make posts on the social media.

The Invisible Man or Woman – I will periodically receive a call from a stranger, who says, “Jeff, I’d like to meet with you, get to know you and pick your brain. Do you have time for lunch next week?” As soon as I hang up, the first thing I do is Google that person. I want to know who I’m dealing with and what he or she is all about. Now, this may not be fair, but if nothing or very little pops up after I Google someone, I’m unimpressed. My assumption is that they don’t have much going on; they’re not involved in their profession or community.

It’s safe to assume people are Googling you too. When that happens, you MUST have a presence. A number of positive things about you should show up in their search results. To be safe, I recommend you Google your own name at least once a month. Also check Bing, Yahoo and other search engines just to make sure you cover all the bases.

If you are not satisfied with your search results, start building a better online presence now. Deliberately build a “Google trail” that people can follow to get to you:

1. Maximize social media. Postings, links and photographs show up in many searches.

2. Become a blogger. Write interesting articles about your area of self marketing expertise. You can also comment on others’ blogs.

3. Once you have a blog, submit your articles to the countless websites that publish articles written by a wide variety of people. Just make sure your writing is of high quality.

4. Tell everyone about each of your new blog articles via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

5. Shoot short but interesting videos related to your area of self marketing expertise and make them available on YouTube.

6. Post messages using your real name on discussion forums that relate to your profession. Just make sure the forums are legitimate.

7. Write reviews of products and services on various websites using your real name.

8. Develop your own personal website, where you post articles, photos and information about yourself in a flattering way.

9. If you are an officer in an organization or if you sit on a board of directors, see if the organization will include your name, bio and photo on its website.

10. Start a regular podcast.

Live Socially- The social media are such an important part of online branding, they deserve their own section:

1. Develop a nice list of friends, connections and followers on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Don’t just invite people willy-nilly. Make sure you know them or have had a professional interaction with them.

2. Participate in LinkedIn discussion groups

3. Ask and answer questions on LinkedIn. This has generated powerful results for many professionals.

4. Keep your profile information up to date especially on LinkedIn and include all your accomplishments. In a lot of ways, a LinkedIn profile is akin to your resume or professional bio.

5. Don’t just tweet. Re-tweet the tweets of other Twitter tweeters. 

Avoid the Gotcha’s – A few words of caution are in order: 1. Don’t succumb to the temptation and do anything online that would undo the hard work you put into building your personal brand. 2. Never slander or libel someone else. 3. You may want to disconnect from or de-friend anyone whose online behavior is unbecoming or unprofessional. 4. Carefully manage how you are depicted in photographs. Keep in mind that undesired photos of you may appear in someone else’s social media. 5. If you want to participate in non-professional discussion forums, consider using an alias or a pseudonym.

In conclusion, remember that your Internet presence is to you what a big advertisement in the yellow pages was for large companies 20 years ago. If you’re not easy to find, you might as well not exist. But just don’t put yourself out there for the sake of “existing.” Manage your online brand and carefully control your online presence. Be interesting and relevant, while always remembering that the most effective messages you can deliver are the ones that bring value to your readers, listeners and viewers.

Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

You are welcome to forward this article with author citation to anyone who might enjoy it.

Fall Is the True Season of Renewal When It Comes to Freshening Your Brand

By Jeff Beals

The first day of fall technically doesn’t start until September 23rd, but unofficially, the season is underway. I hope you had a nice Labor Day weekend. Perhaps you took a mini vacation? A weekend at the beach or lake? Barbeque?

As for my family, we packed our kids into the minivan and drove north to a family reunion in Minnesota. It was an enjoyable weekend, and not just because of the quality time spent with family – Labor Day marks the beginning of my favorite time of the year.

 There are many reasons I love the fall. I’m a big football fan. I like the fall holidays and the whole idea of a “harvest celebration.” I like being outside now that summer’s oppressive heat is yielding to fall’s cool nights where I live in the Midwest.

There’s another reason to love fall. It’s a time of renewal. That may seem like an odd statement, because typically people think of “renewal” being associated with other times of the year such as January 1st when we make our New Year’s resolutions or spring when the flowers are in full bloom.

But fall is nonetheless an important renewal time especially professional renewal. Children go back to school literally and professionals go back to school figuratively. It’s weird; no matter how many years go by since I finished college, I still tend to see my life as taking place in “semesters.” Fall is first semester. Then there’s the holiday season followed by the arduous slog known as the second semester. Then there’s summer break. Most of us professionals can’t take the whole summer off, but admittedly work slows down a bit.

So, we’re now at the beginning of the “first semester” in our professional calendar. Not only do we want to work hard, we want to work smart. And one of the smartest things you can do this semester is to strengthen your personal brand. Without any further adieu, here are some critical personal branding to-do’s for this fall:

Network your tail off – During the summer, many organizations suspend their regular meetings, because so many people take vacations or are involved in family activities. Now that fall is here, great networking events are back on the docket. In many cities, major philanthropy events are held in the fall. Don’t miss the opportunity to see and be seen as often as possible. Remember that networking is just like any other type of marketing in that frequency and repetition matter. You need to talk to many people and you need to be in front of people over and over.

Focus on relationships – Your success, at least in part, depends on your relationships with other people, but in this perpetually stubborn economy, they are even more important. I believe people are inherently more interested in meeting new people and going deeper with existing acquaintances in the fall. Keep in mind the order of developing healthy business relationships: First you establish rapport, and then you foster a relationship. Eventually, you can develop trust. When that happens, all things in business are possible.

Find the Fascinating – Determine what is most interesting about your career and your line of work and then exploit it. I call it your “area of self marketing expertise.” That’s what you talk about when you meet new people, not the mundane, technical details that will cause a lay person’s eyes to glaze over in boredom.

Get serious about social media – There are still too many professionals who have grossly inadequate brands online. Social media to people are what the Yellow Pages were to businesses 20 years ago – THE place where prospective clients and prospective employers find out about you. Don’t just have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. Make sure you post material that is interesting and not just inane personal stuff. Use social media to strengthen your reputation by building on your area of self-marketing expertise.

Broaden Your Reach – Everyone should have a personal target audience, a group of people who must hear your personal brand message because those people happen to be critical to your success. This fall, assess what types of people are in your personal target audience and determine if you need to add additional categories to reach your ultimate goals.

Enjoy this fall, and remember that the work you do now should make life easier and richer next year.

Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

You are welcome to forward this article with author citation to anyone who might enjoy it.

Face-to-Face Communication Still Works

By Jeff Beals

National associations are famous for holding big conventions each year.  Some conventions are so big they attract tens of thousands of attendees. 

 As you might imagine, it takes a great deal of work to pull off one of these big events.  Programs need to be planned, speakers booked, volunteers recruited, attendees encouraged to attend, logistics squared away…

One of the biggest decisions is where to have the event, and that is sometimes determined years in advance. 

Cities love hosting conventions.  They bring in out-of-town guests, who tend to be traveling on expense accounts and are looking to have some fun in addition to working.  Localities want conventions so badly, they often throw financial incentives at the meeting planners in hopes of landing the business.  In other words, the person planning the convention has their pick of cities and convention facilities.

When a meeting planner or a site selection consultant is looking for a venue for a convention or a major industry meeting, they consider a number of factors:

–          Quality of the meeting facilities

–          Nearby attractions

–          Proximity of entertainment and restaurants

And then there’s the hotel.  Planners prefer a hotel that is either big enough to host the event within it or is right next door to a major convention center.  The hotel must be nice-looking, offer a range of amenities and have an adequate number of rooms.  But there is one thing that is an absolute MUST in order for a convention hotel to make the cut:  it has to have a very large, full-service bar. 

Yep, that’s right.  A great bar and lounge area in the convention hotel is generally considered a non-negotiable requirement.  Why you ask?  It’s not because convention attendees want to drink more on the road than they do at home (although they typically do).  It’s because of something much more important – an age-old, primitive business practice known as networking. 

Isn’t that interesting?  Organizations spend large amounts of time and money making everything just right for a convention, yet one of the most important parts of the experience comes when attendees retire to the bar after the last general session and simply network – build ties and bonds with their colleagues from other cities, states or countries.  They share ideas, refer business and counsel one another.  Despite the many sophisticated and highly valuable things modern business meetings offer, much of the value that comes from the event occurs late in the evening in the crowded hotel lobby bar.

We business folks have become so sophisticated, yet we’re still hopelessly tied to our ancient tribal instincts.  You know what?  That’s okay.  Actually, it’s more than okay; it’s great.  People make business what it is.  People make business interesting.  People make business meaningful.  People make business worthwhile.

No matter how sophisticated we become, nothing is as effective as in-person learning and one-on-one networking.  Those companies and professionals that remember this tend to do better and sell more products and services.

Think about it…we have access to live webinars, DVD recordings, interactive, computer-based learning programs.  Nevertheless, people still love to experience a great speaker in person.  They still benefit from taking continuing education courses in a room full of people from a qualified person standing there in the flesh.

Think about it…we so many ways to deliver our marketing messages to clients via mass media, social media and sophisticated email campaigns.  Nevertheless, salespersons still have to call prospects on the phone one at a time or show up at their offices to make a pitch. 

It’s easy to say “no” to an advertisement, a tweet or a DVD you receive in the mail.  It’s harder to say “no” when someone sits down with you, listens to your needs and wants and personally explains why their product or service will benefit you and your unique situation.

Enjoy the modern business world and all its technical conveniences.  After all, this is a cool time to be a professional.

But don’t be misled and lulled to sleep by all the wondrous tools at your disposal.  While those gizmos certainly help, you still have to reach out and shake hands if you want to make it big.

The next time you go to a convention, test this out.  Enjoy the speakers, take notes at the break-out sessions, attend the awards banquet, but at about 10 p.m., stroll through the hotel lobby bar.  Notice how many people from your convention are there.  Join the conversation and build long-term collegial relationships that can enhance your success for years and years to come.

Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

You are welcome to forward this article with author citation to anyone who might enjoy it.

Big Power in a Little Word

By Jeff Beals

Your English teacher isn’t going to like this.

Don’t get me wrong; the grammar and composition you learned in high school English class are critically important, but those rules don’t necessarily apply all the time.

Allow me to explain.

Your old English teacher would have preferred you write, “By carefully employing certain words, a professional gains a powerful advantage when selling his or her products or when trying to persuade others to accept his or her ideas.”

Here’s a slightly different version: “By carefully employing certain words, you gain a powerful advantage when selling your products or when trying to persuade others to accept your ideas.”

What’s the difference? 

These two statements essentially say the same thing, but the first one is written in “third person,” while the second one is written in “second person.”  English teachers would prefer the first statement.  In formal writing, it is generally frowned upon to use the words, “I” or “you.”  Scholarly journals, text books and respected periodicals are normally written in third person. 

Proper English is a beautiful thing, but when it comes to succeeding in today’s loud and crowded marketplace, you benefit by catching people’s attention.  You are more likely to accomplish your goals if you relate to people.  Using the word “you” (and “your”) helps you do that.

No matter what your profession, there are times when your success depends on your ability to sell, pitch, market, convince, persuade, trade, suggest, coach, counsel, explain, and/or motivate another person. That all becomes easier if you address your reader or listener directly in the second person.

So, if you’re explaining something in an email, try to use the word “you.”  If you’re giving a speech to prospective clients, paint a picture with “you.”  If you want to empower and motivate your colleagues, use “you” to make your message resonate with them.

The word, “you” personalizes a conversation.  It brings down barriers and erodes the formalities that may exist between you and the other person. 

“You” can help prospective clients picture themselves using your products and services. For instance, if you are selling a time-share condo overlooking the ocean, your would-be buyer might be receptive to this marketing message:

“Picture yourself spending two weeks here every year. You can sleep in each morning in this king-sized bed, windows open with the sea breeze gently waking you up before you head over to your ultra-modern kitchen for your morning coffee.  You step out onto your deck overlooking the massive resort pool. Your only problem here in paradise will be deciding what to do.  Will you relax by the pool or will you take one of the hundreds of day adventures waiting for you in the surrounding area?”

Where do I sign up? 

When I’m writing books or delivering speeches, I try to put “you” into the text even if the story I’m telling is about somebody else. When I use a highly successful person’s life or accomplishments to illustrate a point, I occasionally like to slip in “you” and “your” when I’m really talking about “him/his” or “her/hers.”  Audience members are more likely to remember the point, if they feel like they are part of the story.

YOU will be a much more effective seller, marketer and persuader if YOU simply remember to transpose YOUR audience into YOUR stories.

One last thing – I have one important disclaimer for you. 

There is a particular use of the word “you” that may backfire on you.  Careful communicators avoid saying, “you must,” “you should,” “you better” or “you have to.”  That’s bossy.  It turns people off.  Such language reminds you of when you were in trouble as a kid, like when your mother demanded:

“You have to clean your room!”

“You better finish your homework before you go outside!”

Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

You are welcome to forward this article with author citation to anyone who might enjoy it.

A Personal Target Audience Liberates You!

By Jeff Beals

Whether you’re in Atlanta or Austin, San Diego or San Antonio, 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 certain consumers.

An upper-middle-class, 35-year-old woman spends a couple hours in an upscale shopping mall.  She enjoys being there so much, that it seems as if the mall and all the things in it are specifically designed just for her.

That’s because they are.

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 and Borders are logically 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.  Professional wrestling and 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 an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

You are welcome to forward this article with author citation to anyone who might enjoy it.

 

What Separates the Good from the Great

By Jeff Beals

If you go to work every day, you might as well go all the way and shoot for the pinnacle of your profession. It’s a competitive world, so set your sights high. If you’re going to take the risk and invest the time, strive for greatness.

Ever since Jim Collins wrote his best-selling book, Good to Great, in 2001, business people worldwide have been fixated on greatness. Why do some companies do so well when a similar competitor languishes? Why do some companies transition from being merely successful to being truly great? What traits and behaviors separate the good from the great?

Of course, good-versus-great questions apply not only to companies; they can be asked of people who want to be great salespersons or marketers.

And remember, everyone is in sales and marketing regardless of their title.

Whether you’re selling medical equipment, working in business development or brokering international business transactions, it’s frankly easy to fail. Salespersons, marketers and dealmakers in every profession commonly fail. Some succeed, but only a tiny percentage achieves greatness.

The question then is what sales-and-marketing traits will lead you to the top of your profession?

Character – Great professionals are ethical and honest. They don’t tell a client or colleague what he or she wants to hear, it’s what they need to hear. Leaders with character tend to hire employees who are also upstanding citizens. Together, they attract clients of character. Everybody wins.

Be competitive – “Second don’t mean nothin’,” said Hall of Fame football coach Barry Switzer who led the Oklahoma Sooners to three national championships and the Dallas Cowboys to the Superbowl. Play to win. Be persistent. Don’t let anything fall through the cracks. Keep track of your competition and do what it takes to run at least a couple steps ahead of them. Be bold for the world has no room for shrinking violets.

Interpersonal skills – It sure helps if you possess some charisma, but rule number one is to listen. Great professionals listen and truly HEAR. When you are engaged in conversation, remember it’s not about you; it’s about your client.

Strategic Thinking – Have a plan that takes into account the big picture. What’s your philosophy? Strong organizations have developed mission and vision statements. Great individuals need them too.

Focus – Whether you are looking at this from an organizational perspective or a personal one, determine your competencies and spend the majority of your time, energy and resources working on those. If you feel like you’re spinning your wheels, ask yourself, “Am I doing what is truly important?”

Have a good product – Contrary to the popular saying, nobody can really sell ice to Eskimos. If your product or service doesn’t stand on its own merit, trying to sell it is no different than beating your head against the wall.

Others first – Real estate agents, accountants and trustees are said to have “fiduciary” responsibilities to their clients. In other words, they are legally required to put the client’s interest before their own. No matter what you do, pretend you have a fiduciary duty to the customers you serve. If you do this, you will build rapport, which leads to a relationship, which leads to the holy grail of sales and marketing: trust.

Ability to handle stress – “There are many guys who can paint an incredibly cogent picture of why a company should be investing in China or why a football team should run a certain offense,” says Joe Moglia, who serves as both chairman of TD Ameritrade and a head coach in the United Football League. “The reality is, when things are not going well, when you’re losing money in China, and your guys keep fumbling the ball, how do you handle yourself?”

Keep prospecting – No matter how busy you are as you put the finishing touches a big deal, remember to think about future deals. Always take time to fill your hopper, so you always have a steady supply of business. Don’t get emotionally attached to a certain piece of business, because you give up your power. Always go where the business is, where your best prospects live. It makes no sense to fish for business in a deserted lake.

Wrap it up – Ultimately, the purpose of marketing is to get somebody to say “yes.” Know what you hope to achieve from a prospect before you meet him or her and then keep steering the conversation toward closure.

Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.