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This weekend I gave a talk at Bill Baren's Big Shift Experience. The topic was "26 Years of Big Shifts." Wish you could have been there to hear it as it got the best response of any talk I'd given in my life.

I'm sure you've been to lots of of talks at conferences that were full of valuable material, competently presented, with information packed Power-Points that bored you to death.

What was missing?

The entertainment factor. Some people call this "edutainment."

A great presentation will provide great high-impact material but it will also be fun, stimulating, surprising, totally natural, delivered spontaneously (but still rehearsed) and have your audience laughing throughout.

At the end I finally had the sense of what it might feel like to be a rockstar. That's because everyone came up to me after the talk and told me I was a rockstar! That was nice, but it wasn't about me, the talk was all about practical things they could do to improve their marketing. I just packaged this message in a fun and entertaining way.

There is no way I can really explain how I did what I did. It can't be encapsulated in a to-do list. But the talk was recorded and I'm going to get a copy and let you hear it for yourself. Stay posted.  

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How often do we have the opportunity to have substantive conversations with business associates outside of our normal day-to-day work? For me, it's not much. I meet with clients by phone and am glued to my computer the rest of the time. I'm like a hermit.

So my only outlet to make deeper connections is at workshops and other focused networking-type events.

Yesterday, the first day of this workshop, I had amazing conversations with colleagues during breaks, lunch and after the workshop - all the way to 11:00 p.m. These are past clients, potential clients, and various people I've partnered with and will partner with.

When we think of networking, it's often at a Chamber of Commerce "business after hours" event or the monthly meeting of our professional association. In those two hours we have short conversations but never have the real opportunity to go deep and develop long-term relationships.

In April I'm going to a three-day Internet seminar in New York. I'm going not so much for the presentations, but for the connections and in-depth networking. So, for me, conferences, workshops, and "summit meetings" are the deepest business connections I have with the outside world. It's my opportunity not to be a hermit a few times every year.

Where are you going to develop long-term business relationships?

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 This was the river in my backyard earlier this week:

This is the river in my backyard today:


Don't worry, I won't float a way! (I hope) The river reached the 10 foot mark about 2:00 pm today after very heavy rains but has gone down a couple of feet since. The wet winters in the Santa Cruz Redwoods are pretty exciting sometimes.

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Today I noticed that I was a little more stressed than usual about my business. I can point to the fact that I have a whole lot of stuff on my plate these days (including writing my blog which I'm now behind on)!

And when I get stressed business isn't fun anymore.

But I thought this morning, "What would I have to believe to feel so stressed?" And those old but familiar belief-twins raised their hands: "I have too much to do and I have to do it all myself."

What a great formula for stress!

"I have too much to do and I have to do it all myself." Is that true? Well, no, not really. I just have a few more things to do this week than usual. No big deal. And I have people helping me with lots of stuff. And things don't need to be done instantly and perfectly.

Whew! Funny how we create these little overwhelm dramas with very little material to work with. How creative of me.

Back to work. I'm having fun now.

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When you tell people your marketing message, they're not going to jump and down and throw money at you. Go for mild interest and you won't be disappointed.

I've seen people spend months trying to craft the perfect marketing message that would hit the "hot spot" of a prospective client. They would write it and fine tune it and get feedback on it - but rarely try it - afraid that it wasn't he perfect message yet.

This is pathological perfection and a complete waste of time.

Nobody ever created a marketing message that was so powerful that anyone who heard it jumped up and down and demanded that you work with them. Never happened. Never going to happen.

Create a simple marketing message that says, "I work with these kind of clients who have this kind of problem." That's it. And if you get mild interest, that's enough. If they say, "Oh, what do you do for them?" you are one first base. You have the foundation for a marketing conversation. And that's great.

Spend the rest of the conversation listening, not talking and trying to impress them. Ask smart questions, trying to determine if they are a prospect or not. If they are, then offer to send them more information and follow up with them.

If everyone followed this plan instead of trying to craft a perfect message, a lot more business would be generated. Over time, you'll hone your message and it will get better and better, but never expect too much from it. From mild interest you can go great places.

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The difference between working hard and working smart in marketing: Working hard means communicating a lot of things to a lot of people. Working smart means communicating just the right thing to a select group of people.

It starts with creating a personality profile of an ideal client. Just think, if you were working only with ideal clients, who would they be? Their age, gender, and profession. What kind of company do they work for or run? What are their biggest issues and aspirations? What motivates them? Why would they want to work with you?

Really zero in until you can see them, feel them, touch them.

Then all your marketing, from your Audio Logo to your website, articles, blog posts, and conversations with associates, clearly reflects your ideal clients. Your messages will speak to them, resonate with them, attract them.

When this happens, the right people will sign up for your eZine, and attend your teleclasses and talks. When you follow up with your ideal clients they'll want to speak with you, will be receptive to you and the sales process will be effortless.

So, who are your ideal clients?

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Scripting is the step-by-step outline of what to say in any marketing situation. But few people use scripting; most just improvise.

Improvising is great in jazz but can you imagine improvising Hamlet? Wouldn't come out too well, would it?

Since marketing is 100% communication, wouldn't it make sense to think through, plan, organize and script what you were going to say, especially if what you said made the difference between winning and losing a client?

You can script all of the following:

1. Your Audio Logo and in-person conversations.

2. A follow-up call and conversation.

3. A teleclass or a talk to a group.

4. An invitation to meet with you to discuss your services.

5. A meeting to ask for referrals from an existing client.

6. The selling conversation and close.

We often avoid these conversations because we aren't sure what to say or how to say it. But when you discover scripting, you just need to think through what to say in a very natural way.

The truth is, it's not essential that you are as true to your script as you are to Hamlet; you actually can do some improvising. But it's important to have a very clear purpose for your conversation, and an outline consisting of a beginning middle and an end.

To create a script, start with what you want to accomplish, write down a rough outline of what you need to say and then actually write a fairly complete script of the conversation. Then practice it out loud a few times until you're comfortable.

Once you become proficient at scripting a variety of marketing conversations, you'll notice that your hesitance to talk to prospects starts to dissolve while your confidence soars. 


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Selling is totally misunderstood. Selling is not about pushing, forcing or manipulating someone to do business with you. But neither is selling totally passive, just waiting for a client to tell you they want to start working with you.

Marketing prepares the ground for selling. Marketing motivates a qualified prospect to want to speak with you about how you can help them solve their problems and produce results.

Selling is a receptive process. It is about listening, diagnosing, and sincere inquiry. It doesn't impose your ideas or prescribe anything until you know the prospect's situation, goals and challenges in great depth.

When you are ready to prescribe, you offer your suggestions with confidence but without arrogance. You suggest a course of action that will be accepted readily by your prospect. And you work out the details of how your services will be delivered. Selling creates a partnership, so it needs to be respectful and collaborative.

Selling is a joyful process as it initiates exciting new beginnings.

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Marketing is not selling. You are not trying to convince someone to do business with you now. That's violent. That pushes people away. It alienates them.

When you try to sell when should be marketing you are asking people to make decisions and take steps they are not ready to take. Marketing should be gentler than that.

Marketing is more about education, developing familiarity and trust. Successful marketing activities make prospects feel good about you and stimulate their interest in how you can help them.

Marketing says, "I understand your situation. I feel your pain. And here are some ideas that will help you understand your situation and pain even better and some ideas how you can alleviate that pain and get the results you are looking for."

Selling doesn't happen until a prospect says: "I've heard about you, I have read your web site, and know something about your services. You really seem to understand my situation and problems. Now can you tell me how you can help me?"

Tomorrow: Joyful Selling

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In this past year's Marketing Mastery Program we've been refining the steps in the selling process. One of our "best practices" has been offering an "initial proposal" before a final proposal. This approach tends to help close more business.

The step before a proposal is a "Strategy Session" where you discuss the situation, goals, and challenges of the prospect and then outline the services or programs you offer. Sometimes it's possible to close after this session and get a commitment from the prospect to work with you.

But with bigger companies, the next step is usually a proposal. What most people do is put a lot of time into the proposal, make the best guess as to what price to attach to it, then send it off and see what happens. I've never found this to be very effective, and the acceptance rate of proposals is not as high as it could be.

Instead, after the Strategy Session, I recommend saying something like this: "Based on everything we've discussed, I am confident we can help you. The next step I usually take is to prepare an initial proposal based on your objectives and the services we can provide. But I want to build this together with you. I'll send you a first draft and then set up a time to go over it with you. You can then add your input and ideas. This will take one to three drafts, depending, and then we'll deliver a final draft with a final price. How does that sound to you?"

Most people love this. You are involving them in developing their program or service. Even if your program is 80% standard, this still involves them in the process. And when you send the initial proposal, because it doesn't have a price on it, they are more likely to look at it closely. With a standard proposal, most prospects look at the price first and only skim the content of the proposal. Then they "think about it" forever. 

Set a phone meeting for a week or so later to meet and go over the initial proposal. Develop this initial draft and send it the day before the meeting. In the meeting, literally go over it line-by-line and elicit suggestions and ideas as you go. Then let them know you'll have the next draft or a final draft in a few days. Set up another meeting to go over this.

Because they are building the proposal with you in partnership, they have more skin in the game and they will be more willing to meet. Don't send a proposal without a set meeting.

In the final meeting, answer any questions, discuss the price, if necessary, and close the deal. You'll find that although this process take a little more time, a higher percentage of closes will more than compensate you for your effort.

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Robert Middleton, the owner of Action Plan Marketing, has for 30 years, been helping Self-Employed Professionals attract more of their ideal clients.  He offers the online membership site, The More Clients Club, and individual coaching and consulting through his Marketing Action Coaching. If this is your first visit to the More Clients blog, make sure to get a copy of the Marketing Plan Workbook and join the Marketing Club Forum for free.