May 26, 2010

A Proven Technique To Expand Your LinkedIn Network

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LinkedIn gives you an easy way to build your network once you've built your profile.

LinkedIn shows you people you may know or want to know. I check their profiles and send an invitation to connect if they have
  • a photo (to help identify them)
  • a reasonable profile (a decent summary and details of what they've accomplished)
  • recommendations (proof they're generous)
  • testimonials (proof they're good)
My business focus is on nearby accountants, lawyers and philanthropic fundraisers. My broader personal focus is on good people anywhere in the world, regardless of what they do. You'll see this if we're connected.

Reaching out proactively works well. If you're in a business ranked low in trust, honesty or ethics, results will suffer --- unless you set yourself apart.

My Invitation

Here's an actual invitation I sent with the name changed.
Hi Elmo. LinkedIn says we may know each other, which I doubt. Maybe it's because we share contacts?

Rather than question LinkedIn's algorithm, I thought I'd send you an invite :)

If you're open to it, we can connect here.

Before deciding to accept, your potential connection probably investigates you. So you need a proper LinkedIn profile first. Developing one takes time but is good free marketing.

Elmo's Reply

Elmo refused to connect but took the time to explain why.
It looks like we're 3rd-level connections only (people I know, know people you know --- i.e. our contacts share contacts!), so probably not worth setting up a link.  I don't really use LinkedIn much anyway.

All the best,

The idea behind six degrees of separation is that you want to connect to people outside your normal circle.

My Reply

Here's my unusually long reply.
Hi Elmo. Thanks for your reply. I hadn't thought about the level of connection before. That's a good point. That might matter unless you see networking as a form of philanthropy.

We're judged by the company we keep. I'm simply looking for people I would not be embarrassed to have as a contact. That may not seem like a demanding criterion but I do review the profiles carefully. Your profile is better than average. It's well-written but lacks testimonials and a professional photo. Besides sharing contacts, we have [other stuff in common]. Even so, days elapsed before I sent you an invitation.

If you were able to see my contacts, you'd see wide diversity. We can all market better and LinkedIn is essential (helps us make better first impressions without being there). I help my network improve as a free gift. What's in it for me? Helping others without expectation of a return builds my skills (problem-solving, communication, empathy). This generosity even leads to more revenue (though rarely from the people I help).

Although we're strangers, your email helped me understand objections that others may have to networking. You also helped me understand myself better. That's valuable and has given me ideas that may warrant a blog post.

Thanks again for taking the time to explain your thoughts. All the best with your marketing.


The value in a network comes from who knows you (and who wants to know you). Sometimes you'll find a closed door. How open is yours?


PS Yesterday a stranger in a distant city asked to connect on LinkedIn. We'll probably never meet or do any business together. After reviewing their profile, I said yes.

May 18, 2010

Three Tips To Add Impact To Your Content

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Three simple changes would improve the typical presentation
  1. simpler case studies
  2. more editing
  3. time for questions
The same applies for written presentations but our focus is on live delivery with PowerPoint.

Simpler Case Studies

You know your case study because you developed it over days, weeks or months. Your audience is getting the details in a few minutes. Overload. Maybe some elements are for storytelling or to make the case feel more real. Try leaving them out.

Your audience now has a better chance of remembering the important points. If you think more detail is important, prepare handouts but only present the highlights live.

Here’s a radical idea. Maybe you can skip the case studies. Your audience knows the outcome: using your assumptions, your idea beats the status quo. No surprise there. Some technical wizards may complain but you’ll have satisfied --- and delighted --- the majority.

More Editing

I have only made this [letter] longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter. --- Blaise Pascal (1657)

I’m sorry I wrote such a long letter. I did not have time to write a short one. --- Abraham Lincoln

Brevity takes time. An editor can help you simplify your content and eliminate fluff. Your message becomes clearer when you say less because each word matters more. Sometimes a visual, sound bite or video clip communicates better and faster than you can.

Where do you find an editor? A colleague is too close to the content and a communications expert is too far removed. You want someone in your target audience. That’s not easy to find. If you’re attentive to your audiences, you can do your own editing as you repeat your presentation.

The Widescreen Shortcut

These days, notebook computers have widescreen displays. If you have PowerPoint 2007 or 2010, you can set select a widescreen layout. I use 16:10 since my computer has a 1280x800 display. You might prefer 16:9, depending on your equipment.

If you watch a widescreen movie on an old TV, you see bands of black at the top and bottom. The same happens with a widescreen PowerPoint: you lose space. That means you need to prune and reformat content. You can show more columns of numbers but fewer rows. You will be forced to add more slides or simplify your content.

You can generally use a widescreen presentation on an older projector designed for 1024x768 (4:3). You’ll have black bands at the top and bottom.

Time For Questions

An “unconference” has an interesting dynamic. You talk for 15 minutes and then have a group discussion for 40 minutes. This format was used at BookCampTO 2010. The moderator prepares questions to keep discussions moving.

Leaving time for questions has two advantages. You immediately find out whether your attendees were engaged. Isn’t that worthwhile? If you only want them to sit and clap, record a video they can watch at home.

If the questions run out, let the attendees leave. They’ll thank you for this unexpected gift.


May 11, 2010

Let's Get Real: Mahan Khalsa Brings ORDER To Sales Chaos

Okay, I admit it. I don’t know much about sales.

I’ve listened to many audiobooks over the years but find the process manipulative. Learn the 10,001 ways to overcome objections. Artificially eliminate options  (e.g., do you want to meet Tuesday at 2 PM or Thursday at 10 AM?). Here’s how to get testimonials. Here’s when you SHUT UP to put pressure on your prospect. Here’s how to make your canned sales presentation sound fresh. If they’re undecided, ask what colour of fridge looks better in their kitchen because they then visualize that they’ve already bought.

Maybe those techniques work(ed) for products. What happens when you’re selling the invisible, a service?


Let’s Get Real Or Let’s Not Play: The Demise Of 20th Century Selling And The Advent Of Helping Clients Succeed

Does that title grab you? With low expectations, I got this audiobook from Mahan Khalsa. The beginning was dull. Since I had nothing else to listen to, I persevered. Within minutes, the book drew me in. I’m listening a second time.

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Let’s Get Real uses a consulting model, which is well-suited to complex selling situations. Perfect.

I deal primarily with complex problems and operate as a consultant using the simple three step Process System. Even if you’re a salesperson, you might like the ideas.


The model uses an acronym: ORDER. Let’s break it down
Opportunity if your client has no need, you can’t help them
Resources if your client doesn’t have enough money and time, you can’t help them
Decision process if your client can’t make decide, you can’t help them; you need to know how decisions get made and who makes them
Exact solution In ORD, you seek to understand; now you seek to have your answer understood (while there is no exact solution, an E-word was needed to make the acronym)
Relationship maintain the human connection regardless of the outcome; maybe you’ll get a referral or tips for improving

This brief summary can’t show you the power of the book. Mahan anticipates the real life issues you face when trying to help a client and he provides excellent solutions.

Suppose you’re asked to reduce your price. Do not --- without an offsetting concession. Otherwise, you prove to the client that you would have overcharged them if they hadn’t asked for a discount. Instead, get something in return (reciprocity). Perhaps a different due date (sooner or later) or a reduction in scope (e.g., skip the cost of writing the proposal). Maybe you already know this?

Slow Down For Yellow Lights

When the light turns yellow, you might drive faster to beat the red light. That doesn’t work in consulting. When you sense a concern, you want to slow down to clarify the issue. Maybe you’ll get a red light. Wouldn’t you rather know that now than after investing more resources?

No Prospects

Until recently, I used the word “client” to mean anyone you were serving (the party who pays you with money or attention). For some reason, I introduced “prospect”. Mahan defines a “client” as someone you’re serving for the first or subsequent time, which I like. So “prospect” will be banished again.

How about replacing “sales” with “helping clients succeed”. That’s nicer and removes the negative connotations associated with selling.


Why get a book you think will be lousy? We learn more by taking the road we didn’t want to travel. Let’s Get Real is worth the trek.

Sometimes we can’t judge a book by the title or cover.


PS There’s a newer revised/expanded version co-written with Randy Illig. This may be better, though the original seems timeless.

May 4, 2010

How Would You Market A Family Office?

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How do you launch something the world didn’t know it was missing?

Consider the “family office” concept, which is new to Canada. This sounds like a home office for the whole gang but it’s not.

You get an integrated service to meet your life goals. Think of financial services combined with concierge services and mentoring. You get advice from people you trust in the areas of risk, accounting, investments and law (the Financial TRAIL). You also get help tailored to your specific concerns. Maybe you need help running your household or resolving family conflicts.

Aren’t services like this already available?

Besides, we don’t shop at department stores much anymore. So how could one-stop shopping beat boutiques? Accountant and Globe & Mail writer Tim Cestnick explained the family office concept in a compelling way at CALU 2010 yesterday.

Past Explanations

Most promoters of one-stop holistic services have two self-serving underlying goals
  1. cattle: imprisoning clients with additional products and services to make escape difficult
  2. lemons: squeezing more revenue out of each client (and discarding the ones that aren’t juicy enough)
Why would clients allow this? Convenience. A smartphone isn’t as powerful as a separate phone plus a camera plus an organizer. Yet we accept this compromise and even get new functionality. For instance, you can click on a phone number in an email to dial. We also save time shopping.

Want Fries With That?

When bundling, there’s often a bias towards our core business.
  • buy Internet access from your phone company and they’ll nudge you to get their phone service
  • buy Internet from your cable company and they'll nudge you to get cable TV
  • get a mortgage from the bank and they'll nudge you to add day-to-day banking
In the financial world, the core is usually investments and sometimes insurance. That might create a real or perceived bias in the recommendations. Why not sell your wisdom directly, as Dan Sullivan suggests?

Family Office

Tim presented three case studies which were simple, yet well thought-out. There was a bonus anti-case study which showed the drawbacks of using “silos”. We tend to focus our prospects on benefits but loss language convinces better (the #2 universal principle of persuasion). Using both is ideal. Carrot + stick.


While Warren Buffet can easily afford a private jet, he traded in The Indefensible for fractional ownership in NetJets (now a Berkshire Hathaway company).

Similarly, a family office solely for you gets pricey and may not even be desirable. You might be better off with a time-sharing model, the multi-family office. Think of Warren again. He donates to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation rather than duplicating efforts.

Why Not Prevalent?

In real life, assembling a team with both chemistry and credentials gets very challenging. How do you resolve disputes? If consensus id the norm, are the team members just rubberstampers?

Still, there’s a great marketing story. Can you think of one to set your business apart?