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Your Personal Target Audience

by Jeff Beals

Seven billion is an overwhelmingly large number.

That’s the approximate number of people now living on planet Earth. The thought of marketing a product or service to all seven billion is a staggering thought, 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.

In order to promote yourself effectively, you need to 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. You could also call it a “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 liberating 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. 

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You are welcome to forward this article (with author citation) to friends, colleagues, clients or anyone else who might benefit from it.

Jeff Beals delivers presentations to a wide variety of audiences nationwide. Presentations are adapted to fit your organization’s goals and can be keynote speeches (30 to 90 minutes) or workshops (two to four hours) covering the following topics: 
  1. “Self Marketing Power: Branding Yourself as a Business of One”
  2. “Tons of Room at the Top: the Attitude of Success”
  3. “National Signing Day: What All Professionals Can Learn from College Football”
These presentations are energetic, humorous and packed full of valuable information. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

Focus on the Most Fascinating Thing

By Jeff Beals

What’s your area of self marketing expertise?

Not sure what that means? Well, you have one, but it’s possible you haven’t isolated and cultivated it yet.

Before defining “area of self marketing expertise,” allow me share how I unwittingly stumbled into one years ago at a cocktail party.

“You’re in real estate; you’ll know,” my friend said with an inquisitive look on his face. “What company is moving into that big office building under construction along the freeway?”

This was a problematic question for me, because I hadn’t even noticed the office building under construction along the freeway.

It was 2001, and I had just left a position in college administration for a brand-new career in commercial real estate. After two weeks on the job, I went to a party where three separate people asked me questions about office buildings, retailers and condominium construction. I must have sounded pretty stupid, because I had trouble answering all of them.

I had spent my first two weeks on the job diligently learning about the legal, technical and even mathematical aspects of real estate. But at the party, nobody wanted to know the boring stuff. They wanted to talk about the sexy, glamorous side of the industry.

Something suddenly became quite clear: It wasn’t enough to become technically proficient in my new trade. I had to become an expert on those things related to commercial real estate that were most fascinating to people outside the profession.

I made a commitment to become an expert on the most interesting aspects. I studied the local marketplace. I read every magazine, newspaper and website I could find that related to construction, real estate, business expansion and economic development. I became the “Cliff Clavin” of growth and development in my town.

Armed with a collection of eyebrow-raising stats and trivia, I had something to talk about at social gatherings. Better yet, I had material to pitch to the local media, allowing me to become a go-to source. Community groups booked me as a luncheon speaker, and I even started an economic development radio talk show. All of this public exposure was good for business.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I accidentally discovered an “area of self marketing expertise.” Everyone is hopefully an expert in his or her profession, but an area of self marketing expertise is quite different. It consists of the most fascinating aspects of your job, company or industry.

So, what’s your area of self marketing expertise?

If you’re not sure, sit down with a few friends and explain what you do. Ask them what they find most interesting. Take notes.

Once you have decided on your area of self marketing expertise, think about how you will communicate it in an intriguing way. When that’s mastered, it’s time to put your area of self marketing expertise to work for you. Use it at networking events, in newsletter articles, in public speaking, when dealing with the press and in your social media postings.

Professionals who have well defined and carefully crafted areas of self marketing expertise will ultimately be more successful, because they never run out of interesting things to talk about. An area of self marketing expertise becomes a magnet, attracting people to you.

When people are dazzled by what you have to say, they’ll be more than happy to hire you when they need help with the more technical and “boring” aspects of your profession.

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You are welcome to forward this article (with author citation) to friends, colleagues, clients or anyone else who might benefit from it.

Jeff Beals delivers presentations to a wide variety of audiences nationwide. Presentations are adapted to fit your organization’s goals and can be keynote speeches (30 to 90 minutes) or workshops (two to four hours) covering the following topics: 
  1. “Self Marketing Power: Branding Yourself as a Business of One”
  2. “Tons of Room at the Top: the Attitude of Success”
  3. “National Signing Day: What All Professionals Can Learn from College Football”
These presentations are energetic, humorous and packed full of valuable information. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

Relationships Keep You Going at the Speed of Business

By Jeff Beals
 
A construction executive was talking to me recently about how the job-bidding process has changed in his industry. It used to be that a company would announce plans to build a building before hiring a general contractor. The construction company would then make contact with the owner and try to win the business. That is no longer the case.
 
Nowadays, as soon we hear the first wisp of a rumor about a new building project, chances are the entire construction team is already in place. The successful construction company is the one that builds relationships and discusses ideas with real estate developers long before anyone puts pencil to paper. To win contracts, construction companies need to be marketing themselves and aggressively going after business before developers are even imagining their projects.
 
In business, relationships are more important today than ever. Successful professionals build relationships constantly, but you must be patient, because sometimes it takes a long time before a given relationship puts dollars in your pocket.
 
Long-standing relationships are particularly hard to break, which is why they are so valuable.
 
For seven years, I taught a real estate sales-and-leasing course at my local university.  I would tell the students to build new relationships deliberately and actively, but that they can’t expect every relationship to bear fruit immediately.
 
One of my former students, a very talented one, earned her real estate license and affiliated with a local brokerage company. She was from a prominent family, was active in the community and had a large network of friends. She was dismayed on two separate occasions when a relative and a friend chose NOT to use her as their real estate agent.
 
You see, these people had bought and sold houses before and chose to keep their former real estate agents. Why? Those agents had performed well and had built business relationships that were too strong for the unproven newbie to break.  My former student was persistent. She marketed herself to everyone she knew and to thousands of people she had never met. A year later, she had built plenty of relationships and was closing deals.
 
Sometimes you can become so busy working, pleasing the boss, satisfying your investors and taking care of existing clients, that you forget to build new relationships and foster underdeveloped relationships that could blossom with a little tender loving care. 
 
We are operating in a highly competitive, fast-paced, global economy that doesn’t take time to stop and smell the roses. In such an environment, we must foster relationships constantly in order to avoid being trampled underfoot.
 
You are welcome to forward this article (with author citation) to friends, colleagues, clients or anyone else who might benefit from it.
 
Jeff Beals delivers presentations to a wide variety of audiences nationwide. Presentations are adapted to fit your organization’s goals and can be keynote speeches (30 to 90 minutes) or workshops (two to four hours) covering the following topics: 
  1. “Self Marketing Power: Branding Yourself as a Business of One”
  2. “Tons of Room at the Top: the Attitude of Success”
  3. “National Signing Day: What All Professionals Can Learn from College Football”
These presentations are energetic, humorous and packed full of valuable information. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

Think What Nobody Has Thought: 10 Ways You Can Be More Creative

By Jeff Beals

Back in 1866, a 19-year-old man in Louisville, Kentucky purposely requested the overnight shift when he accepted a new job working on the Associated Press news wire. The typically quiet wee hours of the morning allowed him plenty of time to do what he truly enjoyed: reading, imagining and testing his new ideas.

One evening he got a little carried away. The curious young man was working with a lead-acid battery when he spilled sulfuric acid onto the floor. It ran between the floorboards and onto the boss’s desk downstairs. The next morning he was promptly terminated.[1]

In retrospect, the whole world should be thankful he was fired, for that young man was Thomas Edison, who would go on to become one of the world’s most prolific inventors. Few people in history have done more to improve the human condition.

Edison’s creativity earned him a personal fortune and helped turn America into a world power. While creativity was important in the 19th Century, it’s immeasurably more important in today’s complex, global economy. Have you ever thought about how you could achieve more success by leveraging your creative abilities?

To help you get your creative juices flowing, here are my “Top 10 Ways to Be More Creative”:

1. Curiously explore your world – creative people never stop asking questions.
2. Be a well-rounded generalist – even if you have a specialized job, learn about other professions and avocations. Keep up-to-date with the world around you.
3. Spend time with someone from outside your industry – imagine how that industry’s practices can be transferred to yours.
4. Exercise & eat a healthy diet – releasing those endorphins helps you conjure up new ideas while good nutrition keeps your brain healthy.
5. Mentally exercise – puzzles, quizzes, games and mind-mapping help you condition your brain for idea formulation.
6. Do something artistic – this is especially important if you work in a technical, analytical or highly quantitative field.
7. Fear only fear itself – consider your risks to be opportunities. Many of the world’s most successful people have failed before getting it right.
8. Tolerate ambiguity – if your life is too administered and oppressively structured, you are less likely to encounter an “aha” moment.
9. Avoid anti-creativity traps – group-think and excessive rationalization kill creativity.
10. Use props – when trying to come up with new ideas, randomly gather a handful of physical objects and imagine how they could relate to your problem or question. Write down your ideas – even the silly ones. After a while, you just might come up with the perfect solution.

The Hungarian-born, Nobel Prize-winning scientist Albert Szent-Gyorgyi once said, “Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.” Now is the time to look at YOUR business/job/life and start thinking what nobody else has thought.

[1] Baldwin, Neal (1995). Edison: Inventing the Century. Hyperion.

You are welcome to forward this article (with author citation) to friends, colleagues, clients or anyone else who might benefit from it.

Jeff Beals delivers presentations to a wide variety of audiences nationwide. Presentations are adapted to fit your organization’s goals and can be keynote speeches (30 to 90 minutes) or workshops (two to four hours) covering the following topics: 
  1. “Self Marketing Power: Branding Yourself as a Business of One”
  2. “Tons of Room at the Top: the Attitude of Success”
  3. “National Signing Day: What All Professionals Can Learn from College Football”
These presentations are energetic, humorous and packed full of valuable information. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

Holster that Cell Phone!

Today’s professionals can stand out among their peers by simply developing appropriate communication habits. Of course, good communication requires proper grammar, spelling and punctuation, but other considerations are just as important.

Email and text messaging are among the greatest business tools ever invented. They have increased productivity and lowered communication costs exponentially. Unfortunately, these technologies sometimes tempt us to be lazy, careless communicators.

Too many professionals write business emails the way they text their closest friends: “How R U? Cool seeing U – i up 2 L8 last nite! – LMAO.” While this may make complete sense to you, it’s a foreign language to many. Even if a colleague understands “emailese,” business writing should be professional.

Similarly, be careful in your choice of email addresses. I’m amazed at the juvenile-sounding email addresses I have seen printed on business cards. If you have a silly or suggestive email address, ditch it. Nobody wants to conduct serious business with “rugbydude@hotmail.com.” Nobody is going to hire “sexykitten@gmail.com.”

Cell phones have revolutionized productivity, but with that revolution has come one of the biggest mistakes a business person can make – rudely interrupting a face-to-face business meeting to take another call.

You may think that taking calls at any time makes you more efficient. This is a fallacy. Every time you take a call during a meeting, you have to pause, offering an insincere apology for your intention to take a call. Then you speak on the phone. Because there is someone sitting across the table staring at you, you will probably not be at total liberty to say all that you would if the conversation was more private, which means you’ll be calling the person a second time after the meeting.

When you finally hang up, you then take time to apologize for the interruption. Then it takes time to catch back up to where you were in your first conversation. Meanwhile, the momentum and flow of your meeting has been compromised. This is inefficient and ends up costing you more time in the long run.

Even worse, answering a cell phone is incredibly inconsiderate of the other person. Everyone is busy – not just you. For every minute that your meeting counterpart has to sit staring at you conversing with someone you perceive to be more important, he or she becomes restless, irritated and resentful of you.

If you truly want to make an impression with colleagues and clients, make a commitment to communicating properly and politely. Your reputation depends on it.

You are welcome to forward this article (with author citation) to friends, colleagues, clients or anyone else who might benefit from it.

Jeff Beals delivers presentations to a wide variety of audiences nationwide. Presentations are adapted to fit your organization’s goals and can be keynote speeches (30 to 90 minutes) or workshops (two to four hours) covering the following topics: 
  1. “Self Marketing Power: Branding Yourself as a Business of One”
  2. “Tons of Room at the Top: the Attitude of Success”
  3. “National Signing Day: What All Professionals Can Learn from College Football”
These presentations are energetic, humorous and packed full of valuable information. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

“What side of the ball do you want to play on?”

By Jeff Beals
 
At the beginning of 1991, Marshall Faulk was a wanted man – wanted by many of the nation’s most prestigious football schools.  He had just finished a stellar senior season as a star high school player in New Orleans, and college coaches were camped outside his front door 24/7. 
 
Faulk had a rough childhood, growing up in one America’s most notorious housing projects.  As a youngster, football was his passion.  From an early age, he was good at the game and caught the eyes of several college scouts.  Recruiters courted him as a junior, and by the time he was tearing up the fields as a senior, scholarship offers were pouring in.  
 
As 1991’s National Signing Day drew nearer, Coach Tom Osborne and his staff at the University of Nebraska were high on Faulk and confident he soon would be wearing the Huskers’ scarlet and cream.  After all, Faulk liked Nebraska.  So did his mother, his guidance counselor, and even his English teacher, who had a great deal of influence on him.
 
During an in-home visit, Osborne sensed he made a connection with Faulk and his family. As an experienced recruiter, Osborne knew when personalities “clicked” in a player’s living room. There was no doubt in the coach’s mind that Faulk felt good about Nebraska. In fact, Osborne admits that he thought it was almost a done deal – Faulk was practically on his way to Lincoln, Neb.
 
On National Signing Day, Marshall Faulk signed with San Diego State University, far away from and far less prestigious than the many football powerhouses that were courting him. Osborne was surprised.
 
“It turned out we had been recruiting him as a defensive back, which most people had,” Osborne said. ‘But Marshall deep down always wanted to be a running back.” 
 
Of course, SDSU told Marshall they would be delighted to have him play running back, but with his blazing speed, Nebraska would have loved to have him in its backfield too. Faulk had the talent to excel on either side of the ball.
 
“Although we had been thorough, and we had done our home work,” Osborne said, “we hadn’t asked him a key question: ‘Marshall, which side of the ball do you want to play on?’  That’s why it’s really important to do a lot of listening.  I think we could have had Marshall Faulk if we had just recruited him as a running back.”
 
The rest, as they say, is history. Faulk flourished at SDSU, running for 1,400 yards and scoring 23 touchdowns in just his freshman year. During a 13-year professional career, Faulk amassed 12,279 rushing yards and scored 136 touchdowns, some of the most impressive statistics in NFL history.
 
Surely, it must have been frustrating for Husker coaches watching Faulk’s career from afar, knowing they came so close to signing him. It’s a feeling that haunts many coaches.
 
It’s a feeling that business people deal with too. Like football coaches, professionals must listen carefully to their “recruits” – their clients. How many deals does a salesperson lose, because he or she talks too much and doesn’t respond to what the client really wants? How many star employees does a hiring manager miss out on, because he or she doesn’t truly listen?
 
So remember, always ask your clients, “What side of the ball do you want to play on?”  Then listen carefully to the answers.
Jeff Beals delivers presentations to a wide variety of audiences nationwide. Presentations are adapted to fit your organization’s goals and can be keynote speeches (30 to 90 minutes) or workshops (two to four hours) covering the following topics: 
  1. “Self Marketing Power: Branding Yourself as a Business of One”
  2. “Tons of Room at the Top: the Attitude of Success”
  3. “National Signing Day: What All Professionals Can Learn from College Football”
These presentations are energetic, humorous and packed full of valuable information. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

Turn “Socializing” into “Networking”

By Jeff Beals
 
Most professionals know they must network in order to achieve long-term business success.  I remember as far back as high school being told by my guidance counselor that I needed to “meet a lot of people and build a network.”  That was great advice back then and even better advice today.
 
It’s critically important to participate in the public arena and interact with the people who could become your clients, provide you with valuable information or help you further your causes and beliefs.
 
While they understand the importance of networking, many professionals do a lousy job of it.  It’s easy to show up at an event, grab a drink, eat some free hors d’oeuvres, say “hi” to a couple people, then go home and pat yourself on the back for being involved in the community. 
 
Unfortunately, that’s not networking.  It’s merely socializing. 
 
There’s nothing wrong with socializing.  In fact, it’s generally a good thing, but it’s not efficient. In order to convert socializing into networking, you need to have a three-tiered goal planted in your mind before you even enter the venue where networking will take place.
 
I call it “goal-based networking,” and here’s how it works:
 
Goal #1
“I will get a direct opportunity”
This could be a new client, an invitation to join a prestigious organization, a job offer, a promise to donate money to your pet cause.  While Goal #1 is ideal, it unfortunately doesn’t happen at most networking events. 
 
Goal #2
“I will get a solid lead on a direct opportunity”
This is almost as good as the first goal, because it moves you closer to what you really want.  Goal #2 should happen at the vast majority of networking events you attend.  If it doesn’t, you’re not meeting enough people or not asking the right questions.
 
Goal #3
“I will meet new people and learn valuable information”
This is the bare-bones minimum goal that you should achieve at every single networking event you attend.
 
Make a commitment to network more and remember to think about these three goals before walking into your next networking event.  Setting these goals consistently over a long period of time will maximize the return from your investments in networking.  That means you increase your public profile, connect with the right people and become that person who always seems to know about business happenings long before your colleagues do.
Jeff Beals delivers presentations to a wide variety of audiences nationwide. Presentations are adapted to fit your organization’s goals and can be keynote speeches (30 to 90 minutes) or workshops (two to four hours) covering the following topics: 
  1. “Self Marketing Power: Branding Yourself as a Business of One”
  2. “Tons of Room at the Top: the Attitude of Success”
  3. “National Signing Day: What All Professionals Can Learn from College Football”
These presentations are energetic, humorous and packed full of valuable information.To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

Top 10 Ways to Get Involved

By Jeff Beals

Three quarters of the biggest clients are acquired only through relationship building.

The vast majority of job openings are never advertised.

These two statements prove one thing: in order to be successful, you must be involved. As professionals, we have to be active, energetic and engaged in our communities. We have to get out of the cubicle, jump off the couch and embrace the world around us.

Involvement helps you find new clients. It taps you into the job-market grapevine. It allows you to be “top-of-mind” in your profession.

Simply put, involvement helps you reach your goals. As long as you don’t burn the candle and both ends, being involved can actually make you more effective in your work.

But what’s the best way to get involved? There are many options, and what you choose to do is entirely up to you. To make your choice a little easier, here is my list of the Top 10 Ways to Get Involved:

  1. Chambers of Commerce – offer an array of programs designed for professionals. Chambers provide an opportunity to learn from and network with professionals from a wide variety of businesses from all parts of your city. They are great for client acquisition, B2B sales and for bolstering your career opportunities.
  2. Professional & Trade Associations – bring people of one profession together for educational and networking purposes. These groups are particularly useful for career advancement assuming you want to stay in your current field.
  3. Philanthropy & Non-Profit Boards – allow you to make the world a better place while fostering friendships with fellow board members and philanthropists who can help you reach your business and career goals.
  4. Politics – include interest groups, political parties and election campaigns. Political involvement is “hands-on” and allows you to grow close with fellow members as you work toward a common cause.
  5. Service Clubs & Fraternal Organizations – are groups such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Freemasons, Knights of Columbus, etc. These organizations can be demanding of your time but allow you to build meaningful relationships with fellow members. People who join these groups tend to be social, caring “go-getters” who have done well in their careers.
  6. Religion – provides spiritual and emotional benefits while exposing you to people who hold similar beliefs. What’s more, places of worship tend to be among the most active, lively organizations you can find and are especially good at connecting people.
  7. Tips & Networking Clubs – are carefully chosen groups of professionals who get together on a regular basis to share ideas, give each other referrals and talk about rumors in the marketplace. In order to receive value from these organizations, you must first be willing to give value.
  8. Youth Organizations – Kid’s activities need parents and grandparents to provide leadership. In so doing, you are connected with other adults. The downtime provides great networking and relationship-building opportunities.
  9. The Arts – allow you pursue an enjoyable passion while making contacts and establishing name recognition. Most arts organizations are in need of many volunteers and will welcome you with open arms.
  10. Sports & Recreation – keep you healthy and fit while building friendships. There’s just something about physical activity and team competition that naturally fosters healthy relationships.
Jeff Beals delivers presentations to a wide variety of audiences nationwide. Presentations are adapted to fit your organization’s goals and can be keynote speeches (30 to 90 minutes) or workshops (two to four hours) covering the following topics: 
  1. “Self Marketing Power: Branding Yourself as a Business of One”
  2. “Tons of Room at the Top: the Attitude of Success”
  3. “National Signing Day: What All Professionals Can Learn from College Football”
These presentations are energetic, humorous and packed full of valuable information. To discuss booking a presentation, contact Jennifer Goaley at (402) 637-9300 or jgoaley@worldgroupllc.com!

Stand Out in the Era of Commoditization

By Jeff Beals

You are a brand. You are a business of one.

As a hard-working professional, you have a personal brand, a reputation that must be carefully maintained and zealously promoted. In today’s economy, effective personal branding has never been more important.

Regardless of your occupation, you are probably fighting two major challenges: the economy and “commoditization.” You may be the best at what you do, but there are still so many competitors in your marketplace. In an era of commoditization, consumers have more choices than they know what to do with. Clients often assume all providers are competent, so they end up making their choices based on a professional’s personal brand.

So, when someone is ready for the services you provide, how can your personal brand stand out in a crowd? If you’re a good self marketer, you have little to fear. You need to be the professional whose name pops into the client’s head when it’s time to buy.

Building a bigger image takes work, but anyone with at least moderate talent can do it. The key is to follow certain steps:

1. See yourself as a business entity, not just a person
2. Think like a marketer – apply classic marketing principles to yourself
3. Determine who is in your personal target audience
4. Exploit the part of your expertise that is most interesting to outsiders
5. Live actively and network everyday
6. Foster relationships with local media
7. Become a writer and speaker within your area of expertise
8. Promote yourself 24-hours-a-day on the Internet
9. Use social media

You have sole ownership of your personal brand, but it comes with a burden. You bear the responsibility for building that brand, shaping it and promoting it to the general public. As a self marketer, you can recruit the services of others, but the responsibility to carry out a marketing strategy is ultimately yours.

Don’t let other people or any haunting feelings of self doubt stand in your way. Self marketers have to stick their necks out and take risks. Not only is it worth the risk, but establishing a well-known personal brand is essential in today’s ultra competitive marketplace.

Ask Probing Questions to “See the World through Johnny’s Eyes”

No matter what you do for a living, “knowing where you stand” is critical to your success.

Former Texas A&M University football coach R.C. Slocum says that the ability to listen is the number-one skill set a football coach must possess. Why? Because college football coaches are locked in a brutally competitive, never-ending, cut-throat battle to recruit the best athletes for their teams. As the winningest coach in A&M football history, Slocum would know. He was a prolific recruiter, who put together several solid teams. His Aggies lost only four home games during the 1990’s.

Slocum had a saying he often used to remind his assistant coaches to listen and empathize: “If you want to sell what Johnny buys, you need to see the world through Johnny’s eyes.”

Too many football recruiters miss the boat, Slocum believes. Such coaches will meet with a high school player and his family and spend all their time talking about what the coaches think is best for the young man instead of going slowly at first, asking probing questions and getting the young man to open up. This gives the coach a better understanding of what the player is all about and what he really wants from a college.

In order for listening to be effective, one needs to ask the right questions, the kinds of questions that yield useful answers. When Coach Slocum prepared for phone conversations and personal visits, he would first formulate a plan. He identified certain questions or discussion areas that he wanted to explore.

Before each meeting, Slocum knew what information he wanted and was prepared to get it. “Don’t just get on the phone and say, ‘how you doing? How was practice today?'” Slocum said. “You’re not finding out anything. That’s just chit chattin’. You should always have probing questions. It’s okay to have some chit-chat, but while you’re doing that, ask questions to find out what he’s all about.”

In addition to providing selling cues to the coach, probing questions help him determine whether the player is truly a fit for the team. “If you ask a lot of questions, you might find out that football is not all that important to him,” Slocum explained. “Maybe he just played ’cause his dad wanted him to do it. You might think this guy down deep isn’t burning with the desire and willing to make the sacrifices you have to make to be a big time football player.”

Probing questions are important in any business, not just football recruiting. Too many salespersons, executives and entrepreneurs go to networking events just for the sake of networking. They grab a cocktail, enjoy the free appetizers, say “hi” to a few people and then go back to the office. Many of us simply “chit-chat” instead of deliberately seeking valuable information from our conversations. If you sell copiers, you need to move beyond small talk and ask questions that lead you to businesses that must replace their aging machines. Insurance brokers need to probe to find out who is experiencing a life-changing event. Real estate agents need to ask, “Who do you know who’s thinking about moving in the next year?”

Having a plan before we start conversations, makes our interactions with other professionals more fruitful. But regardless of what information we seek, and regardless of how much we learn from a given person, it is paramount that we focus and truly listen to each person. Showing deep and earnest interest in a person is a critical part of listening.

When a savvy professional spends time with a prospect, client or colleague, he or she listens actively and makes that person feel like nobody else matters, that for at least that moment, nobody else exists in the whole world. If you can do this, the results are powerful.

Jeff Beals delivers presentations to a wide variety of audiences nationwide. Presentations are adapted to fit your organization’s goals and can be keynote speeches (30 to 90 minutes) or workshops (two to four hours) covering the following topics: 
  1. “Self Marketing Power: Branding Yourself as a Business of One”
  2. “Tons of Room at the Top: the Attitude of Success”
  3. “National Signing Day: What All Professionals Can Learn from College Football”
These presentations are energetic, humorous and packed full of valuable information. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.