Updated: Mar 29
“I…ummm…I…don’t really know how to answer that. If I would have known that I was going to be asked that question, I would have prepared more…done some homework.”
This was what a flustered attendee at a major conference said onstage when put on the spot about what she would say to a prospective client about the value they bring. (The speaker was drawing a distinction between sales and marketing.) My heart literally hurt watching the exchange from the back of the room.
I wanted to shout from the top of my lungs, “IT’S BECAUSE YOU AREN’T CRYSTALLIZED!!!” I was visibly squirming from the painful awkwardness that ensued. There should be no reason whatsoever that someone who makes a living based on their expertise should stutter and stammer over a simple sales discussion, even if they are put on the spot.
In my experience in the thought leadership industry over the last dozen or so years, the main reason why people struggle with building their businesses is not that they don’t know what they are doing; it’s that they don’t know how to articulate it. Quickly. Clearly. Persuasively. In fact, according to the 2022 State of the Speaking Industry report from SpeakerFlow, 28% of speakers DON’T HAVE SALES CONVERSATIONS AT ALL. What???!! Over a quarter of the industry don’t have sales calls?? Are they really just hoping the phone will ring? No thank you. I’d rather pick up the phone and be in control of my business.
Conducting successful sales conversations is an essential element to building a thriving practice based on one’s personal intellectual property. This should NOT require a ton of homework to research the prospective organization (although it’s always a great idea to know at least something about their business before you get on the phone.) Nor should it require creating a script or complicated talking points you have to deliver perfectly in order to earn the right to submit a proposal.
Instead, successful sales conversations stem from a deep knowing of who we are at our ESSENCE and how we add value, no matter the circumstance. When we can draw our Brilliance on a cocktail napkin (without acronyms, because those have no context for the recipient, just the speaker) we can be plopped into any situation at any time, with anyone, anywhere… including standing onstage in front of hundreds of our peers.
Why is this so important? Because sales conversations don’t always unfold based on our preferences. Sometimes they happen in hotel bars, in the back of Ubers, and in backyards at social events. Competition is fierce in the thought leadership industry, and we can’t afford to have to do extensive homework in order to capture the interest of our prospective buyers. We want to convey our Brilliance in 10 seconds in order to get them interested enough to hear more.
If you are in a role that requires you to articulate your Brilliance to close the deal, I encourage you to consider what your compelling 10-second introduction is (e.g. “I help people draw their Brilliance on a cocktail napkin”). When you can CLARIFY what makes you Brilliant, you can strategically — and quickly — AMPLIFY it across all the channels people connect with you so you can MONETIZE it as optimally as possible.