Episode 11: Conversation with Dan Putnam

Dan Putnam is a true industry leader that has seen a variety of the different sides of the mortgage business.  Dan has D-Putnam-1382advanced through a number of different leadership roles and has experience ranging from brokering, to running a small independent brokerage, to heading up one of the largest national broker franchises, to senior executive positions on the lender side of the equation.

Dan shares insights on sales and leadership lessons learned from his experiences.  Let me know what you find for take-aways.

Episode 5: The power of the podcast

As I continue to share my podcast with the world I am realizing that I am in fact not the last person on the planet to discover them.  I thought I would take the time to talk a little about the value that I see in podcasts in general, talk a little about the technical side of getting started listening to podcasts and then talk about some of my current favourite podcasts so that you have a place to start.

Why Podcasts?

If you are anything like me and love to continually learn then I think you will find podcasts as a great way to do exactly that.  I think of the podcasts I choose to listen to as the audio vegetables for my brain.  Yes, I love music and listen to a variety of playlists and radio stations but I tend to think of most of the music I listen to as the junk food in my audio diet.  While they taste great and are extremely enjoyable they really do not do much for my personal development.  Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you should cut music out of your diet but for me adding some brain food to my diet was important.

While I have been enjoying Ted Talk and other educational/motivational videos for a number of years I have just recently discovered podcasts.  The thing I love about audio podcasts over video Ted Talks or youtube channels is that you can ingest them just about anywhere.  It is certainly not appropriate to watch a video while driving but listening to a podcast is certainly a great use of your in car time.  I listen to podcasts during my work day to both challenge my mind as well as keep my motivation up.  I listen while doing chores around the house or while I am working out.  All of this gives me ample time to ingest thought provoking content from a variety of different perspectives.

The other thing I love about podcasts is the sheer amount and free access to high quality content out there.  You can find podcasts on just about any subject you could imagine.  You can find content from some of the most notable individuals in any field.  For me, sales, leadership, entrepreneurship and personal development are the subjects that I find most interesting.  Podcasts give me direct access to the thoughts and inspiration of some of the best in their field.  Just last week alone I had the opportunity to listen to the likes of billionaire Peter Thiel, the first outside investor in Facebook and the founder of PayPal.  I listened to Ed Catmull president of Pixar animations.  I have heard discussions on business concepts from some of the brightest minds at Harvard as well as hearing best practices from some of the best and brightest from our industry.  The access to information is staggering.  Not to mention free!!  The ability to access insights from the worlds best and brightest is really not something we should take lightly.  It is a great privilege and one that I plan to continue to utilize and my hope is you will as well.

How do I listen to a podcast?

Let’s talk a little bit of the technical side of this.  OK Mike, you’ve got me excited about the potential of these things but how do I actually listen to them?  I won’t rewrite a full tutorial as there are many good ones already in existence.  You can listen to podcasts easily on your mobile device by simply downloading a Podcast app and subscribing to your favourite ones either by way of a search or by adding the URL directly.  Here are some links to some good tutorials I found for a variety of different platforms:

Here is a tutorial directly from Apple.  There are other apps that you can use to listen to podcasts but this will get you started.




What should I listen to?

So now you have the why and the how.  Let me give you a start to the “What” by sharing with you some of the podcasts that I am currently subscribed to:

1) Connecting the Dots with Mike Cameron
Come on, you didn’t really think I would start with anything other than my own did you?

2) Harvard Business Review IdeaCast
The HBR IdeaCast is our weekly audio podcast, bringing you the analysis and advice of the leading minds in management. Subscribe on iTunes.

3) The Tim Ferriss Show
Tim Ferriss is a self-experimenter and bestselling author, best known for The 4-Hour Workweek, which has been translated into 40+ languages. Newsweek calls him “the world’s best human guinea pig,” and The New York Times calls him “a cross between Jack Welch and a Buddhist monk.” In this show, he deconstructs world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, chess, pro sports, etc.), digging deep to find the tools, tactics, and tricks that listeners can use.

4) I Love Mortgage Brokering
For all you Canadian Mortgage Brokers this is a must.  Scott Peckford, a broker out of Kelowna interviews brokers from across the country to get insights into their best practices.  There is always something you can take away from an episode.

5) Ted Talks
TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. On this feed, you’ll find TEDTalks video to inspire, intrigue and stir the imagination from some of the world’s leading thinkers and doers, speaking from the stage at TED conferences, TEDx events and partner events around the world. This podcast is also available in high-def video and audio-only formats.

6) Six Pixels of Separation – Mitch Joel


So there you have it.  My top six podcasts picks for this week.  I certainly have others on my rotation but this will get you started or search the itunes store and let me know what you find.  Please leave your favourite podcasts in the comments section so others can explore and enjoy.

Episode 4: Two words to avoid in your professional life at all costs

It happened. I caught myself doing it today, September 2, 2014 . I swore I would never do it and there I was doing exactly that. As I started hanging up the phone I knew exactly what I had done. And it pissed me off.  But let’s back up.

It’s 2006 and I’m travelling back from a conference in Montreal. I’m booked on a reasonable flight that will get me home at a reasonable hour and man was I looking forward to getting home.  It had been a “long” conference.  I had no corporate responsibilities that weekend and the last I recall was a smoked meat sandwich from Dunn’s at 4am followed by a power nap leading into a 9am power session with Tony Robbins.  Did I mention that I was fairly eager to get home? I’m at the airport and feeling relieved that this trip is over.  I am heading home.  Unless…. you guessed it.  I’m booked on Canada’s favourite airline and they have oversold the flight!  As you can well imagine I am not impressed.  I make my way to the counter to “discuss” this with the “lovely” young lady behind the desk.  She does not have her game face on and makes it very clear that this is my issue not hers.  I started by challenging the reality that something like this could ever happen.  I mean let’s face it, there are a finite number of seats on the plane it really shouldn’t be that hard to match the number of tickets sold to the number of seats on the plane.  I begged with her to check again.  After all we have computers now.  This couldn’t possibly be happening.  I have to get HOME!  Yes, I was in denial.  It was then that she hit me with it.  She used the dreaded word.  As she shuffled me off to help the person in line behind me she said “Someone will call you soon with alternate flight arrangements”.

And there it was.  The most ambiguous word on the planet.  “Soon”  Clearly her and I had a very different meaning of the word.  In my lackluster, exhausted and utterly defeated state “Soon” could not come soon enough.  To be honest I cannot recall exactly how long I had to wait to get on another flight home.  What I can tell you is that I can certainly vividly recall the feeling of sheer exhaustion and disappointment that those two terms gave me.  I mean who exactly is someone and when exactly is soon.  If there was ever a time that you might have seen a grown man cry in an airport that was it.  I was destroyed. Devastated.

Which brings me back to my conversation today.  We have just brought on a new mortgage agent.  They have been working on getting all their paperwork in line to make the move from their old employer to us.  Our mortgage associates are independent, self employed, commission based contractors.  Any downtime costs them money so we work very hard to make the transition as smooth as possible.  There are a couple of pieces that are dependent on our suppliers and can take up to 48 hours.  Our admin team had done everything properly and we were just waiting on one last piece.  I made the call to formally welcome them to the team and review the process that would follow.  I explained that the last piece was out of our hands and we were simply waiting.  We discussed a few other formalities and finished off the conversation.  As I said goodbye with one of our transition team sitting in front of me at my desk it happened.  I said “Thanks for the conversation.  Someone will get back to you soon to wrap up the rest of the loose ends”.  As I hung up I immediately looked across the desk at our admin with a sly smile and said “What did I do wrong there?”  She smiled back with a grin that told me she knew what I was talking about and replied “You said ‘Someone’ and you said ‘Soon'”.  Bingo!  What I should have said was “Shawna will call you before 4 o’clock today to give you an update”.  I had Shawna call her back immediately and clarify “who” someone was and “when” soon would be.

You see whether we are talking to peers, customers or subordinates ambiguity only leads to confusion, frustration and uncertainty.  When it comes to our mortgage consumers this is especially true.  We all know that purchasing or refinancing a home can be an extremely stressful process.  Often times not only are clients waiting on deadlines for financing approval but they are also emotionally vulnerable as well.  I mean lets face it.  Who likes to be “declined”, “denied”, or “refused” anything.  Making application for financing puts our clients in a position where they are susceptible to rejection.  It is not a fun place to be.  And while we, as mortgage brokers, don’t always know exactly what approval timelines are going to look like we can certainly make sure our clients know exactly when we will get back to them with an update.  Certainly the phrase “Someone will call you soon” does not leave anyone with a very comfortable feeling.

Be specific about your touch points, how you will make contact and who will be making the contact.  If it is to be an assistant make sure they know that up front so they do not feel slighted.  If it is to be an email over a call, set the expectation.  Be very clear on your next steps and even if there is trouble down the road you will have earned the trust of your client by doing exactly what you say you will do.

Beware of the language you use with your staff, co-workers and clients.  “Someone” and “Soon” are two words that you should avoid using in your professional life at all costs.

Episode 3: Take my money please!

One of the things that I look for on a daily basis when I interact with other businesses is how they run their sales process and how it makes me feel as a customer .  I had an interesting experience this summer that really highlights the need for a “Connecting the Dots” approach to your sales process.

I really enjoy networking on Twitter and often times when I am away on vacation, in my down time, I will strike up a conversation with someone on Twitter.  This summer I had listened to an interview with a Facebook advertising guru and I thought they had done a bang up job with the interview.  They had gone out of their way to give real, practical, and useful advice that one could actually implement immediately without the need to purchase their services.  I always respect that in a professional so I reached out to them on Twitter and ended up having a fabulous Twitter conversation.  We talked about the interview and I indicated that I could see a need for their services down the road.  They commented that based on our conversation they could tell that I would be a great client one day.

As we got further into the conversation I started thinking about some immediate application for their services and tweeted to them “Actually I can see an immediate need for your service.  Can you tweet me on Aug. 27 when I am back from vacation”.  The response I receive floored me.  They directed me to their online lead capture page and asked me to input my email address on the form there.  Again, I was a little taken aback.  When someone says to me “Call me on such and such a day because I want to buy what you have to sell” I am certainly not going to make them enter my drip campaign so I can ‘set it and forget it’.  I thought I would give them the benefit of the doubt and went and filled out the online form.  I even included my Twitter handle in my name so they could identify me.  I had hoped that they would cross reference this with the request for follow up on August 27.  Well it is well into September now and while I am receiving some ‘valuable’ free information via their newsletter, I most certainly did not receive a follow up anything.

I find it fascinating that these lead generation gurus seem so intent on ‘building their lists’ that they appear to forget how to serve the customer once they actually want to buy.  While I am a huge believer in process and having a clearly defined sales process, you cannot expect your customer to bend to your way of doing things.  It seems to me that we all want to think ourselves so valuable that our clients will beat down our doors to work with us.  I worry that this has become an ego thing and that perhaps we have lost sight of what truly matters here.  The customer.  While I understand there is some merit to building scarcity around what you sell, at the same token you need to deliver when you have a serious buyer.  There is no point in spending money building a list and capturing leads if you refuse to convert them when they put up their hand and say “I want to buy from you”.  Qualifying your prospect is important so that you do not waste time, however it is equally important to meet that qualified prospect where they are in the buying cycle.  If I have done my research and decided you are a strong candidate to complete the work I need I don’t want to read your latest white paper.  Please don`t make me join your list.

I see it time and time again.  Experts who make me resubscribe to their list to view their latest `Free content”.  If you are emailing me then you already have my contact info.  Why make me go to your lead form and fill it in all over again?  I seriously do not get it.

As mortgage brokers it is important to make sure that we work with our clients to ensure that we do our best to meet them where they are at in their purchase decision.  Ask questions to find out where they are in the process.  If they have already researched and decided that a mortgage broker is the best option don’t spend hours trying to “sell” them on the merits of a broker.  Instead point out why you are the best broker for them to choose.  Conversely, if they are new to the concept of a mortgage broker you may want to spend some time bringing them up to speed on the value of working with a broker vs. their regular bank.

Am I the only one who sees the folly in this?  Surely there must be an “Expert” out there that will concur with me.  I can assure you that if you contact me and want to hire me as a speaker, trainer or private coach I will respond directly and not make you go to my website to fill in my lead capture form.  I think there is a real opportunity for us “Experts” to step up and stop talking about “value” while forcing our audience into our “funnel”.  Let’s try simply providing the value and being ready when our customers need us.

In any event start paying attention to how your suppliers treat you and how it makes you feel.  Are there lessons that can be learned that you can implement in your own business?  Share with me your experiences in the comments section below.

Episode 2: The Challenge/Support Balance

I believe that the path to growth is paved with the right balance of challenge and support.  Whether we are talking about an organization or an individual this holds true.  Challenge is the catalyst for change.  Finding the right balance between challenge and support is critical.  If there is too much challenge without enough support this can lead to discouragement.  If there is too much support with not enough challenge this can lead to a lack of growth.

I wanted to share a story about our CAAMP board meeting last week.  If you know me you know that I am very passionate about what we do as an industry.  We have one of the best jobs on the planet.  We get to make a good living and at the same time we truly make a difference in the lives of others.  We matter.  So when it comes to looking out for the best interest of our channel you know I am pretty vocal and I challenge a lot because I want our channel to continue to grow, thrive and prosper.

Last week when we get behind the closed doors in our association meetings I tend to challenge a lot. I push very hard to make sure that we are moving forward and growing.  Our 14 person board is comprised of volunteers.  Some of the best and the brightest in our industry that give up their time for the greater good of the industry.  I think it is important for us to keep that in mind.  The good news is that we are most definitely headed in the right direction.  While we all agree on the overall vision we don’t always agree on how we get there.  As a result there is a lot of challenge being thrown around and some really great heated discussion.  We discussed a number of topics from the AMP to membership.  It was interesting to see that there is so much passion and energy in that room that there were a couple of times where individuals stopped to apologize for their passion.  I think that this is a fantastic thing.  A diversity of opinions and respectful healthy debate will ensure that we stay on track.

As I was sitting in the airport getting ready to head home I reflected on our meetings in relation to that challenge/support balance.  I reflected on how much I challenge the association and therefore our president and CEO Jim Murphy and it got me wondering if I was also giving enough support with my challenge.  In that moment I felt compelled to send an email to the board re-iterating my support for the organization.  I talked about the fact that it seems that the amount I challenge has a direct correlation to how much I care.  I pointed out that the board could therefore rest assured about how much I care about our association.

One of the topics that we debate is membership and the fact that our current bylaw states that if one member of a franchise is a member than all individuals in that franchise have to be members.  This is something that I have struggled with and wasn’t certain I agreed with.  I have always felt that the association has the obligation to demonstrate their value to each individual mortgage associate.  I am happy to say that I am not always right.  I have changed my mind on this one after our debate.  While I still wholeheartedly agree that we, as an association, have an obligation to demonstrate our value, it is equally incumbent upon all players in our channel to get informed on what it is we do.

A few weeks ago a delegation from our association had a meeting with Joe Oliver, our Finance Minister.  These are the big boys.  The ones making policy decisions that affect our livelihood.  The fact that we have their ear is worth the price of membership alone.  There are so many other things that your association does that you may not even be aware of that make membership worth the paltry fee they charge.

My challenge to you reading this is to get involved.  Find out what the association is doing for you.  The next time you find yourself complaining ask yourself “What have I done to inform myself on what I am complaining about?”.  There is a lot of rhetoric out there and much of it is inaccurate.  Go to the source.  Pick up the phone.  Send an email.  There are regional broker councils and a number of committees you can get involved in.

My support for you is to be here as a resource to connect you with the right people at the organization if you have questions I can’t answer.  We have directors in every province.  Pick up the phone and talk to one of yours.  Find out why they are part of the association.  Why they are giving up their time to shape this organization.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

Episode 1: Connecting the Dots

If you have followed me on social media at all you know that I love to share.  I love to share my experiences and more importantly I love to share my learning moments.  I find that sharing really helps me solidify the lesson in my own life and hopefully I can help make an impact in the lives of others.  This podcast was the logical progression of my social media sharing and as you may know I love to speak and present.  Not to mention that I may have also been told that I have a face for radio ;0)  The format for now will be to keep these to 10 minute or so stories of things that I experience and the lessons I learn from them.  I will publish weekly or as frequently as I am inspired.  The more you let me know you enjoy it the more I will publish.

Why “Connecting the Dots”?

Over the years as I have worked to develop my presentation skills I have continued to seek out and develop my best presentation.  One of the things I love to do is to speak to large audiences.  The more solid my content the more opportunity I have to present to larger and more diverse audiences.  If you listen to most of the presentation gurus and content marketing strategists they will tell you that you need to specialize.  That you need to find a specific niche that you can fill.  Well for me this became a little disheartening as I searched for that one thing that I was not only expert at but also passionate about.  As I continued to be cognizant of what it is I specialize in it started to dawn on me that there may not be any one thing and that perhaps what I was actually expert at was bringing together a number of different things.  I have been a closet technology geek since grade 7.  I had written many software programs and really understood technology well.  I also was an adept mortgage broker and soon realized that when I first started brokering there was not a whole lot of individuals who had as much of a grasp of both technology and our industry as I did.  I started looking for ways to use that to my advantage.  This passion for both technology and our industry culminated into Axiom Mortgage.

As I looked around I started to realize that perhaps my specialty was in being a bit of a generalist and being able to bring things together.  To see the vision of how to interconnect different pieces for a greater outcome.  “The whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts”.  As I started looking broader, to the market in general I realized that this concept had vast application and really spoke to a lot of different industries and a lot of different aspects of our life.

As a mortgage brokerage leader I have seen many individuals in our industry come and go and I am always fascinated by what makes some successful and others not.  I have seen many individuals who, if you had asked me for a checklist of all the things that you need to be a successful mortgage broker, would have checked off every single one on the list.  For some reason though they were not able to bring it all together and there are a few I can think of at the moment that have actually left the channel.  That to me is a real shame and really spoke to the need for some specialization in this area.  In this concept of connecting the dots.  Connecting all the pieces and making sure that all the ingredients do in fact lead to success.

I see examples of where this falls apart all over the place and feel that there is a real need to put some focus on a holistic approach to life, leadership and sales.


In an entrepreneurial setting we see it all the time.  I will save the full story for another time but my most recent experience buying a vehicle is a perfect demonstration of what happens when a business has not connected the dots.  In this case the dealership spent a ton of money on radio advertising to get me in the door to the dealership.  This worked fine until I actually got in there.  It doesn’t matter how good your marketing or lead generation is.  If you can’t deliver on the sales experience it all falls apart there and all that time, money and energy you have spent on driving that customer to you is wasted.


We often hear about the concept of work/life balance and I am not so sure I believe there is such a thing.  We do not live in silos.  The days for most of working and shutting off the brain when we get home are long gone.  I don’t care how much you try you can’t expect to have a crappy experience in your work life and be able to simply shut it off and not expect it to affect your family life.  The counter to that is that you cannot expect to have a stressful family life and not have that affect your work.  It is less about balance and more about finding a way to successfully interconnect the two realms.


This is a piece that many of us neglect because of time constraints.  This is a mistake.  Your overall health and fitness is vital to creating a successful life.  No matter how you define success.  For me, my fitness endeavors center around triathlon at the moment.  Triathlon is a perfect analogy for the connecting the dots concept.  Not only do you need to focus on the individual components of the swim, bike and run but you need to deal with transition, with nutrition, pacing and a number of other facets.  It is one of the things that I love about triathlon.  There is so much strategy involved in “Connecting the Dots”.

The bottom line is that we really need to connect all the pieces together to really achieve success.  One of my favourite sayings is this: “Success comes when you stop trying to prove to the world how good you are and start trying to prove to yourself how much better you can be”.

My final thought before I sign off is this.  I wanted to give a shout out to Mitch Joel and his podcast “Six Pixels of Separation”.  I have been enjoying Mitch’s podcasts of late and was impressed to see he is on episode number 427 as of the writing of this article.  I thought it would be interesting to jump in the way back machine and go listen to his first episodes.  I did that.  Mitch works for a marketing company so obviously “brand” is important to him.  He talked a little about how he was concerned that the quality of the first podcasts may not be up to their usual high standard but decided to start anyhow.  You can rest assured his 427th podcast is substantially better than his first.  The lesson I took from that is the fact that he would have never gotten to the 427th if he hadn’t done the first.

If you have the opportunity find someone who you want to emulate, someone who has accomplished what you want to accomplish, go back and find how they did that “thing” when they first started.  I think you will be inspired and you may even find that you are not that far behind where they were when they started.  They just started first.

So get off your ass and go do “it” ;0)

You can find Six Pixels of Separation here:

I’m still finalizing my podcast feed but if you want a sneak peek you can do so here:
http://connectingthedots.libsyn.com/rss You can simply enter that URL in your podcast player.  On iPhone I think it will automatically add to your podcast feed.

If you have read this far THANK YOU! I would love your feedback on the concept.  Leave me a note in the comments.

Four questions you should ask about your prospect

As sales professionals most of us are, or should be familiar with the term “qualify your prospect”.  The question though is what does that really mean in today’s environment?  There are a lot more things going on today then in the past when it comes to this concept and I thought we should talk about them.  The following four questions will potentially save you hours of aggravation if you ask them out of the gate.

1. Does the person you are talking to have any interest in buying?

This one may seem obvious but far too often I have seen sales people focus their energy and attention trying to ‘convince’ people that they should buy their product or service.  Since your product or service exists it is safe to assume that there is a market for it.  Why would you spend time, effort and energy trying to artificially create a demand or market that doesn’t exist?  Do you think it is a more valuable use of your time and energy convincing people they need your service or would it be more efficient to find customers that DO need your service.

2. At what level is the interest at the point you and your prospect meet?

It is easy for us to assume that we are starting at the beginning with our potential clients and start the sales process from stage 1.  The problem with this is that our buyers today have typically made their buying decision by the time they get to us.  For us as mortgage brokers this usually means that our customer has likely already researched a lot of the mortgage options and at the very minimum have formed a strong opinion on what they are looking for.

This doesn’t meant that they have necessarily accurately selected a product that is right for them but it does mean that they might THINK they have.  In this case we need to present a little differently to them and help them either confirm their opinion or show them there may be other considerations.  Let’s face it, not all of the information people gather is accurate and they do not always put the pieces together properly.  That is where you, as a professional mortgage broker come in.  We just need to be cautious about how we present that information so that your client does not feel like we are either a) talking down to them or b) talking them into something they think they don’t want.

3. Does the person you are talking to have the ability to buy?

This one is extremely important and I have seen too many times where a broker forgets this.  There are some nuances to this that you may not have considered.  First off, look at who you are interacting and determine if they are the sole decision maker or if there will be others involved in the decision process.  If you are presenting to one spouse it is likely that the other will be a part of the decision process and if you are not presenting to both parties it is easy for something to get lost in translation or for your value proposition to be undermined because the other party does not fully understand it.  Ideally you want the opportunity to talk to both parties at the same time.  If this is not possible, as is often the case, make sure you discuss this with the one you are talking to.  You can frame it by talking about the fact that there is a lot of information out there but that most external influences will not know the details of their specific circumstance.  This way if something comes up down the road you can remind them of this conversation.

One of the things that you need to keep in mind is that their may be other parties that will influence the clients ability to buy.  This most often surfaces as a well meaning, trusted family member.  A father, mother, sister, brother that has ideas on how the mortgage process should work.  Make sure you ask this question at the outset so that you can prepare for this eventuality.  Something as simple as “Is there anyone else you will need to consult before finalizing which direction you go with your mortgage?”.  If they tell you their father will be guiding them then it may make sense for you to have Dad join you in your consultation.

4. Do they fit your client profile?

Not everyone that can be your client should be your client.  We have all had those clients that somewhere along the line we wish we had not started the process with.  It is important to trust your gut.  If you feel from the outset that this particular prospect is not going to work well with you it is OK to just say No.  You do not have to work with everyone that comes your way.  Chances are you will save yourself and your client a whole bunch of time and aggravation if you have the courage to say no when it just doesn’t feel right. Reviewing these questions at the beginning of your interaction with your client will help ensure a smooth process for both of you.

Once you have the answers to these questions you can tailor your sales presentation and approach to best fit the needs of your client.  This will increase the likelihood of maximizing client satisfaction and making the most efficient use of your time and energy leading to more referrals.  The bottom line is knowing what your best customer looks like and being able to easily identify them.

Sell it with a story

Since most of us were small children we have been fascinated with stories.  From Dr. Suess to the brothers Grimm, we have all been captivated at one point or another by a great story.  We use stories on a daily basis.  Whether we are telling tall tales about our weekend to co-workers on Monday or embellishing on that last great fishing trip, we have all tell stories on a regular basis.  Think about the last great story you heard or told.  How did it make you feel?  Did you feel a connection with the story teller?  Did you get engaged and activate your imagination becoming part of the story?

Storytelling is a real art form and as it turns out it is one that we, as sales professionals, should work hard to master.  You see, researchers at Princeton University have found that stories can create a coupling of brain activity between the speaker and the listener.  They coined the term neuro-coupling to describe this.  They found that brain activity was mirrored between the speaker and the listener.

Uri Hasson, an assistant professor in Princeton’s Department of Psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, says “The stronger the coupling between the speaker and the listener’s brain responses, the better the understanding,” he said. “Sometimes when you speak with someone, you get the feeling that you cannot get through to them, and other times you know that you click. When you really understand each other, your brains become more similar in responses over time.”

This is important when trying to build a bond with our customers and gives us another mechanism to strengthen that bond using stories about our past customer experiences with our product or service.  As a sales professional it is important to have a repertoire of stories related to your product or service to draw from depending on what your customer interaction is at any given time.  For us as a mortgage broker this can mean finding stories to illustrate some of the product options available or finding stories to allay your prospects concerns over rate or lender selection.  Let me give you an example of a story that I have used for years to convey the options available with respect to the length of the mortgage term and fixed vs. variable rate.

Many years ago I sat with a couple at their kitchen table and talked mortgages.  We talked about options such as fixed rate , variable rate, open, closed, long-term or short term.  The couple was in their early fifties and buying their dream home that they fully expected to retire in.  After minimal explanation of the different options available the wife looks at me and says “What is your 25 year rate?”.  I responded with “Let me explain the difference between term and amortization…”.  She stopped me and said “No, I understand that.  What is your 25 year, fixed rate mortgage at?”.  Well, at that time we did have a lender that offered such a product.  I replied and told her that the current rate would was 6.75%.  She said “Perfect, what would our payment be at that rate?”.  I responded and told her what her payment would be and then went on to explain that a shorter term or even variable rate might be worth looking at as it could significantly reduce the interest rate.  She listened and politely replied “Mike, I understand all that.  No offense but, I never want to have to see you again.”  Well, I wasn’t quite sure how to take that but I understood what she was getting at.  For them it was a comfort level thing.  She went on to say that they knew they could afford that payment now and they could afford that payment when they retired.  “Make it happen” she says. So I did.  That was the only 25 year product I ever sold in my 20 years as a mortgage broker.  Now is that a strategy I would recommend for anyone?  Not likely, but the story illustrates the decision making process when looking at fixed vs. variable and longer term vs. shorter term.

Find stories from your personal experiences that relate to your sales process.  Keep them authentic but practice and refine them and build an inventory for all occasions.  We all know intuitively that stories make things more interesting but it is nice to know that there is science to back up the power of story in your client interactions.

You have to suck before you succeed

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/162010475″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”100″ iframe=”true” /]Many of the business lessons I’ve learned of late have come from my experience as an amateur triathlete.  It is interesting having conversations with individuals who have watched my journey from the beginning up to my Ironman experience to date.  For many who have an interest in fitness I listen as they talk about the potential of them looking at triathlon as a sport and listening to what holds them back.  For most that I talk to the answer is the same.  The dreaded swim.  Most talk about how they have done some running in the past so that doesn’t intimidate them and cycling, well, cycling is easy.  But that swim? Man, I don’t know if I can do that.

If you have heard me talk about my decision to do my first triathlon at the behest of my 12 year old son, you will know that I had the same trepidation.  I couldn’t swim.  Well, like most, I had splashed around in pools and lakes for years and had done some kind of swimming lessons over the years as a child.  I justified my decision to do my first tri in that it was only a 300 m swim, and really,  how hard could that be?  Well, I realized after I committed to the race and set myself off to the first visit to the pool where I would actually do some lap swimming just how difficult it was!!  I quickly discovered that while I theoretically knew how to do the front crawl, it was an entirely different thing actually doing it.  I could barely swim 25 meters!  I was scared.  300 meters was starting to look like 100 miles!  Imagine my deflation when I first got in and realized that even a measly 25 meters was a substantial effort.  I was horrified.

So like any good tech savvy individual, I knew the answer lay somewhere within Google.  So I started doing some research and finally found, with the aid of a friend, a program that I thought might work.  You see the premise was to stretch your breathing just a little bit each time and not worry about form or technique but to get your lungs conditioned to consume the oxygen you needed.  Basically, just get the distance in any way you can and keep the rests short enough that you were not quite entirely recovered before starting the next lap.  If you are interested you can see the program I followed here.

Eventually I became comfortable with the breathing aspect and could then focus on technique.  In the short amount of time I had to prepare for the race I could comfortably (not quickly) swim the 300 meters required to complete the race.  From there I went on to get proper coaching on form and technique and am now a fairly strong swimmer.  The point of the story is this:

No one is born good at something.  You have to suck at it first and practice to become proficient.

So how does this relate to sales and business?  Well it is often fear of failure, or fear of not being able to do something well that holds us back from trying.  If you accept the statement above as true, and granted we are all born with differing natural abilities, and you accept that as a mindset, you will not be afraid to do the things you know are necessary for you to become a success.  You know that sucking at it is just part of the process.  Just a milestone along the path that you need to pass before you get to your destination.

I want you to think about something that you know you should be doing in your business that you are not currently doing.  Take a minute right now and think of it.  Better yet write it down.  For me it was cold calling.  You know, just picking up the phone and talking to people who I knew I needed to talk to to reach my objectives.  I’ll tell you it certainly made things easier for me when I embraced this mindset.  When I accepted the fact that I was going to suck at the first few calls and that this was simply part of the road I was going to have to travel on to get to my destination.  It made it so much easier to make those calls.  The way I look at it now is that the only thing between me and accomplishing my goals are making those calls.  The sooner I suck at the task the sooner I get good at it.  The sooner I get good at it, the sooner I can achieve my goals.  When I change my perspective and look at it that way it makes those first times when I am terrible that much easier to bear.

Visualize with me your goals or objectives.  Think of the end result.  Paint a vivid picture in your mind of what your current destination looks like.  Paint a mental picture of the path that leads you there.  Imagine the things that are currently standing in your way.  The things you know you should be doing to get you there that you are currently not doing.  Picture them as a flaming wall of fire between you and your destination.  Now picture yourself as Evel Knievel boldly riding your motorcycle through to reach your destination.  How does it feel when you reach the other side?  How does it feel knowing that you’ve passed that brief moment of fear and reached your goal by doing what you need to do to get there?

Embrace the idea that you will likely have to do the things you know you need to do poorly before you can do them well.  When you start with this mindset, that it is OK to suck at something, it makes it so much easier to step off the edge and make that leap.  What is holding you back from doing those things that you know you need to do?

Imagination: How it helped me persuade

Many of us are familiar with visualization techniques in achieving goals.  Many of these techniques were popularized by the book “The Secret” published in 2006.  Dr. Maxwell Maltz wrote about the power of imagination in his book PsychoCybernetics first published in 1960.  Dr. Maltz explores the science of self image and has set many of the widely accepted self-help techniques in use to this day.  One of the quotes from his book is this:

Human beings always act and feel and perform in accordance with what they imagine to be true about themselves and their environment.

If we accept this fact to be true then let’s explore how we can use this to improve how we communicate with others and more importantly how we can use this principal to sell more effectively.  Let me start by sharing a story with you about an experience I recently had that outlined the power of this to me.

I was speaking at one of our industry conferences on the power of having a sales process.  During my presentation I went through the advantages of having a well defined sales process.  One of the advantages I highlighted was the ease of adding and testing new things within your sales cycle.  I went on to highlight something that my team had been doing for years, sending a box of cookies to the clients workplace at the time of approval, as a thank you.  Now this is something I have talked about with my team for many years and there were a few of them in the audience as I spoke.  I went on to explain why sending something edible to a workplace was far more effective than a simple thank you gift at closing.  I carefully took them through the scene using many descriptive terms.  “Imagine your client sitting at their desk receiving a gift wrapped box of cookies.  Picture the scene… What happens when someone gets a delivery at work?  That’s right, everyone gathers around to see what it is and who it came from.  Now imagine them opening the box of edibles.  What do you think they likely do with a dozen cookies?  That’s right.  They share! “Who are those cookies from?” “My mortgage broker” “Your mortgage broker?  Hmmmm… my mortgage is coming up for renewal soon…” ”  I painted a very vivid picture of the scene and walked them through a couple of potential scenarios to demonstrate the power of adding this one step to their sales process.

It was the week after that the power of this technique hit me.  I was out for a beer with one of our team recapping the conference experience and discussing what we had learned and the quality of the content from all the speakers.  She went on to comment that she thought the gift to the workplace was a brilliant idea and had never fully understood the power of that.  Now keep in mind that this is someone who has worked with me for several years and has heard me talk of this idea many times and has seen it implemented.  I was surprised that they had just opened up to the strength of this idea so I asked what it was that had made the difference.  What was it that I had said differently that caused that “light bulb” moment.  They went on to tell me that it was really when I had described the scene at the workplace and had them imagine what that would look like that really made the difference.  It was really interesting for me to watch a concept that I believe in, the power of imagination, shed light on a tool that I always took for granted and thought everyone saw the same way I did.  Again, this is someone who has been involved in my sales process for years that was just seeing things in a new light.  Very impactful.

So let’s talk about how we can use the power of imagination in our sales process with our clients.  Ultimately we want our prospective clients to imagine either how much better things might be if they take our product or service or we want them to imagine how much worse they will be if they don’t.  One of the most effective ways of doing this is to use questions during the sales process.  “What would things look like for you in 6 months if you did not use my services”.  “What would things look like for you if you DID use my services.”  Now, as mortgage brokers we may want to paint a little bit of a picture for them before we ask those questions.  If we are talking to a client we may want to have them imagine six months down the road when they have some questions about their mortgage and can’t get a hold of anyone at the branch.  We may want to describe the scene as they go to the lawyers office and we have already contacted to ensure instructions are there and accurate.

For our REALTOR referral sources we may want to have them picture driving a client around, showing them houses for 2 months, writing an offer then having the bank turn their client down because the pre-approval wasn’t done right.  There are dozens of scenarios that could both highlight why life would be better working with you and why it could be worse if they choose not to work with you.  Use descriptive words to paint the picture and ask questions to force them to mentally visualize the scenario in their head.  The more effective you can be in provoking them to use their imagination the more powerfully you can make your point.

Want better results? Ask better questions

In a world where we are constantly searching for answers, I was reminded last week at a conference I attended that often times the answer is to question.  Huh?!?  OK, I know It may sound like some goofy new age thought but often times you can get what you want by simply asking better questions.  Whether you want more out of yourself or more from others the key lies in the questions you ask.

Getting more out of your self

This one is important and something that fascinates me.  How do we continue to stay focused and on track toward achieving our goals?  In a perfect world we stay focused and motivated automatically.  Unfortunately the cold, hard reality is that this does not usually happen.  One of the things that I have found helps me is if I ask myself the following questions on a daily basis.  Now of course for this to be effective we need to have our objectives or goals very clearly outlined.  That is another topic of discussion but for now let’s assume that your vision of what you want and who you want to be is very clear.  Once you have clearly identified what you want to accomplish you need to measure and test your actions against that.  I do that with four daily questions.  One in the morning, and one at the end of my day and the other two are ongoing and usually help generate the answers to the first one.

Morning Question:  What will I do today to get me closer to my goal?

Daily Questions (I keep a watchful eye on this one):
What is in my way of accomplishing what I want?
How can I remove what is in my way?

Evening Question:  What have I done today to get me closer to my goal?

A very simple concept yet very powerful.  This helps me stay accountable to myself.  During the day I know what I have answered in the morning and I know I will have to answer my end of day question before I pack it in for the night.  For me this simple process helps me stay focused and on track.

You can extend this concept to just about anything.  The keynote speaker at our conference last week was a fellow by the name of Drew Dudley who I have had the privilege to get to know over the last few years after he spoke at the Axiom National conference in New Orleans.  Drew’s message is fairly simple.  He talks about creating a culture of leadership.  Showing leadership in everything you do.  You need to “Plan to matter”.

If you’ve heard Drew speak, you’ve probably heard him share the following six questions as a way to plan to matter each day:

  1. What have I done today to recognize someone else’s leadership?
  2. What have I done today to make it more likely I will learn something?
  3. What have I done today to make it more likely someone else will learn something?
  4. What positive thing have I said about someone to their face today?
  5. What positive thing have I said about someone who wasn’t in the room today?
  6. What have I done today to be good to myself?

Drew planned a workshop for us in New Orleans where we were lead to identify and define the values that we want to embody and designed questions similar to the above that will help us measure whether we are representing those values on a daily basis.

It was a fascinating excercise and one I suggest you try for yourself.  We often throw around terms like Integrity, Character, Hard working, Honest, Successful but how do we quantify that?  How do we define these terms?  Then most importantly what questions can we ask ourselves daily to ensure we are embodying the qualities that are important to us.

So my challenge to you is to take the following three steps:

  1. Write down the top 3 words you want people to use to describe you
  2. Define those words in plain language (not a dictionary definition, but what they mean to you)
  3. Come up with a question or series of questions that you can ask yourself daily to ensure you are living these values.

Once you have done that I would encourage you to share at least one of your values, definitions and questions below.

Everybody do the hustle: new business today is easier than ever

If you want to be successful in any sales career there is simply no replacement for good old fashioned hard work.  The bottom line is you will need to get up off your comfy chair and hit the streets making connections.  It really isn’t rocket science but for some reason we tend to either forget that, or find excuses to not actually get out and hustle.  How many times have we heard the term “getting back to basics”.  It is something that we talk about often but don’t always do.

You can make sales or you can make excuses.  It’s hard to do both.

I had a meeting last week that reminded me of the importance of “doing the hustle”.  I get meeting requests all the time from a variety of suppliers, from private lenders looking to get in front of our team to marketing sales people with the next ‘big’ marketing thing they want to sell me.  I tend to guard my time closely so am cautious about who I schedule appointments with.  The request last week was from a private lender with commercial and investment connections.  My first reaction was to put them off until the next industry event and simply connect there.  I thought about the fact that he was obviously getting out and meeting brokers so decided if nothing else I could hear what his value proposition was and tell him a little of the Axiom story so if he ran across anyone in his travels that might be looking for a new home he would at least have some frame of reference to potentially refer individuals our way.

He went out of his way to accommodate my tight schedule and location.  The meeting was indeed much better than I had expected and it turns out there may be some substantial opportunity for both of us.  Time will tell.  One of the things that I asked during our meeting was about his background.  I also indicated that I was pleased that we had met and confessed to almost not taking the meeting.  He went on to tell me his background with one of the major FI’s and told a story of how when he first started he recognized immediately that a series of his predecessors who had failed had likely failed because they got comfortable behind the desk and did not actually get out in front of the customers.  He made a point to get out of the office and actually get face to face with his customers (as he had done with me).  The result was taking that branch from something like 163rd out of 168 nationally to being in the top 20 in the country.  Impressive results indeed!

It was a great reminder of the power of simply hustling and doing the extra little things right that not everyone is doing.  In this day and age of advanced technology it is so easy to take the easy way out and send a tweet or an email.  Why not pick up the phone?  Why not get face to face with your prospects?  It is usually “you” that they are buying and can you really convey who “you” are over an email?  In an overly high-tech world where most people will opt for the path of least resistance, it is even easier than ever for you to stand out.  Get in front of your prospects live and in real time.  Don’t take the comfort and simplicity of an email or an electronic message of some kind.  That is what your competition is doing.  By all means qualify your prospect first, but once you have get off your backside and go see them!  Assuming you are good at what you do you will leave an impression.

We have more methods than ever to make the initial connection or introduction.  What you do with that is up to you.  One of the things that I try and do with all of my relevant social media connections (FB, Twitter or LinkedIn) is to pick up the phone and extend that connection to a live, offline interaction.  What do you do to grow your base of connections?

A Tale of Two Tailors: A lesson in sales

OK, well they’re not really tailors.  More high end men’s clothing retailers but the alliteration in the title sounded better this way ;0).  I really enjoy wearing a nice suit.  As a businessman there is nothing more satisfying then getting all decked out in a new suit.  This is a story contrasting two different shopping experiences and the lessons that we can learn from others mistakes.

In early January this year I made a trip to Harry Rosen to purchase a few shirts and a new suit.  My regular sales person wasn’t in so I ended up with a young fellow who was eager to assist and for the most part did a great job in assisting me with some options of suit and shirt combinations.  One of the shirts that I absolutely loved was not available in stock in my size.  It was the exact same brand and cut as one of the other shirts I had chosen so he offered to order it for me knowing that the sizing and the fit would be perfect based on the other shirt I had tried on.  I have short arms so almost always need to have sleeves shortened.  My sales person measured me up and agreed to have the three shirts I purchased that were in stock and the one on order altered to fit my arm length.  Alterations are always a pain for me because the store is in West Edmonton Mall and I live in Sherwood Park, a good 30-35 minutes away depending on traffic.  I left the store pleased with my purchase, if not frustrated because after shelling out all that money the only thing I actually leave with is a pair of socks while the suit and shirts go to the tailors.  The sales person tells me he will call when the alterations are complete and ready for pick up.

Flash forward a week or ten days and I get the voicemail that tells me that the suit and shirts are ready for pickup.  Woohoo!  Have I mentioned that I love getting new suits?  Unfortunately it is probably another week or ten days before I can actually get out to the mall to pick up the items.  When I get there the sales fellow seems surprised to see me.  I reminded him that he left a message saying my items were ready for pickup.  He goes to the back and returns with my suit and shirts as well as the shirt he had ordered.  The one he ordered in is still in the original packaging UNALTERED!!  I am not happy as I now have to make a second trip out and am tempted to just take the shirt and have a local tailor fix it.  When I ask him why he would not have had the ordered shirt altered he stammered and attempted to defend himself saying some nonsense about wanting to wait to hear back from me before having it altered.  Now I am really annoyed.  Not only did he make a mistake not having the shirt altered but now he is going to defend his position rather than just own the mistake and find a solution.  I left the store without the shirt knowing I now had to return to pick it up.

Contrast that experience with an experience I had a few weeks ago at the same mall.  My kids decided they wanted to take some friends to the water park and Galaxyland for a Saturday afternoon.  Well they are old enough that they had no interest in having Dad hang around so I had a good 3 hours to wander the mall.  Let me make it clear… I had zero intention of shopping.  I enjoy wandering the mall, enjoying a coffee and people watching.  I wandered by Harry Rosen and thought about stepping in to window shop but decided against it.  I kept on wandering and passed by Hugo Boss.  At that point I realized I had a golf tournament to attend and currently had no golf shirts that actually fit me anymore.  I popped into Boss to have a look at their golf shirts.  I was not impressed with their selection of golf shirts but did end up wandering to the back of the store to the suit racks (have I mentioned that I love new suits?).

I started pawing at a suit that caught my eye and was immediately approached by a young woman who commented on how nice my choice was.  “Let me grab your size” she says.  “That’s OK, I’m just killing some time while the kids are at the waterpark” I reply.  “You’re a 38” she states as she holds up the jacket in a size 38 for me to try on.  “No I’m a 40 usually”.  “No, you’re a 38.  Try this.”.  I slip on the jacket and immediately feel that sense of power and success that a nice suit can provide.  She leads me to the mirror.  Damn, I look good!  Even in jeans that jacket would work well as a blazer.  “Let me grab you the pants she says”. Oh, alright I’m this far now and after all I do have 3 hours to kill.  She brings me the pants, I try them on and I am no longer in love with the suit.  A little too much pattern for my liking.  I tell her this and mentioned that I had liked the jacket as a potential blazer.  She also has another customer so leads me to the blazer rack and says I’ll be right back as she goes to assist the other customer.  I select a nice gray spring jacket with a hint of pink in it.  It fits well and looks great.  She returns and says “Nice choice.  That would look great with a nice crisp pink shirt.” I reply “Um, ya pink may be a little out of my comfort zone.”  She doesn’t contradict me but quickly brings me a couple of alternative colors, both of which look great.  She then brings me a pair of navy pants and says “Try these” which I do and while the color works the style and the fit doesn’t.  Angelena doesn’t miss a beat, she offers to bring me another pair in a dressier style.  These work!  “Um… about that pink shirt… Let’s give it a try” I say.  I love it!

Long story short (and there is more to the story. she was good!) I walked out of there after not planning on buying anything, with a sport coat, 3 shirts, a pair of pants and a pair of socks.  She measured me up and indicated that their tailor was a little backed up and that it would likely be at least 10 days.  Would that be OK?  Certainly that was fine, I was not in a rush for them.  I left the store after dropping a lot of money with my single little bag of socks.

A great sales experience so far.  But wait! There’s more! The following Friday, six days after my shopping trip, Brian from Boss calls and leaves me a message and asks me to call him.  I’m thinking “Oh great. Now what?”.  I call Brian back and he tells me that their tailor is a little backed up and asks if Tuesday pickup would be OK.  He quickly tells me that if it is not OK he can make alternate tailoring arrangements.  I told him I wasn’t expecting them to be ready until at least Wednesday anyhow so that was fine.  He seemed relieved and indicated that he had hoped to have them for Saturday or Sunday and asked if Wednesday would still be OK if I wasn’t in a rush.  I told him that would be fine and he thanked me for my patience.  The kicker?  It is now Thursday, 11 days after my shopping trip and I still have not picked up the clothes.  As I am writing this article my phone rings and guess who?  It is Angelena from Boss following up and letting me know that my clothes are ready.  She asks if I know when I will be in because she’d like to be there to make sure the alterations are correct!  Holy smokes! What a different sales experience this has been!!

So let’s do a little post game analysis on this one from a sales perspective.

This is more a story of what was done right but lets briefly talk about what the salesperson at Harry Rosen did wrong.

a) He made a mistake not ensuring that all my items were ready for pick up
b) When confronted with that mistake he defended it instead of owning it.

Had he simply apologized I likely would have been placated.  If he had in fact apologized, and promised to have it tailored ASAP and then have it couriered to me I probably would have been a customer for life.

People don’t often remember the mistakes you make but they do remember how you handle them.

What did Angelena at Hugo Boss do right?  There are so many things that she did that made this a fantastic experience for me.  Some of which I did not describe.  For example the way she handled having two clients at the same time was masterful.  I could likely write a whole article on that alone.

Some of the highlights from a sales perspective:

a) She engaged me immediately and made me feel welcome.
b) She paid me a sincere compliment by commending my choice of suit
c) She got me to “feel” the new suit experience by grabbing me my size, getting me in the jacket and then suggesting I try the pants once she saw that I liked the jacket.
d) Once I indicated I was not in love with the suit combo she did not push it on me but instead followed my cues and led me to the sport coats. (Are you really ‘listening’ to your clients?)
e) She added to her sales opportunity by assisting me with accessories for the jacket.  She didn’t “sell” me things I didn’t need.  She complimented what I was looking at and I was grateful for it. (Are there additional items you sell that might be of benefit to your clients?  Do you make sure they know that?)
f) Once the sales was complete she took the initiative to ask if I needed any other accessories.  I bought a pair of socks.
g) She set my expectations by giving me a worst case estimate on timing for alterations. (Setting expectations is an easy cure for potential future problems)
h) The store exceeded my expectations by calling to ensure the ten day alteration window was acceptable and offered a solution if it was not.
i) She took the initiative to call and confirm that the items were ready for pickup.
j) She showed she cared by asking if I could try and come at a time when she would be available so she could ensure a proper fit.

There were so many things about this transaction that we can learn from.  The reality is that if the first salesperson had owned his mistake and done what he could to right it, I probably never would have walked into Hugo Boss in the first place and likely would have made Harry Rosen my first stop.

Your most powerful sales tool

[display_podcast]It’s funny how we find that some of our most powerful learning moments don’t come from hearing something new, but usually from looking at something we already know from a new angle.  Last week we had Genworth come out and do a training session for our team on Effective Networking and Selling Skills.  The presentation was really well done and interactive.  One of the things that we talked about is the skill of effective listening.  Unfortunately, while this is a skill most of us are familiar with, very few of us practice it well.  Make no mistake, it does take practice.  It takes a conscious effort to apply it.  Think about the last time you were at a sales presentation (yes, taking a mortgage application is a sales presentation, but that is another topic).  Typically in our business we want to tell our prospective client all the virtues of using a mortgage broker, why we’re better than the banks, etc. Think about that last conversation you had with your potential client.  If you are anything like me you were probably just waiting for a break in their stream of words so you could interject all of your wisdom on the subject of mortgages.  You probably dropped some jargon to show them how smart you are and how much of an expert you are in the area of mortgages. I know I find myself doing it all the time when I have a “solution”.  I want to jump right in and tell the person all about the “solution” and convince them that my “solution” is the right one for them.  I actually caught myself doing it in a sales presentation we had immediately following the training session! Maja Angelou passed away last week at the age of 86.  One of my favourite quotes of hers is this:

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

So if you believe that concept to be true and you believe, as I do, that people buy based on emotion, then I want you to think about the potential impact of the scenario I outlined above.  In our eagerness to assist, we sometimes jump ahead and start talking before our prospect is finished or we simply endure their babble waiting for our turn to talk.  How does it make you feel when someone cuts you off in a conversation?  How does it make you feel when someone is clearly not actually listening and simply waiting for their turn to talk?  Yeah, it is not a great feeling at all. So how do we counter that?  Well, one of the things that I always talk about is the fact that learning is easy, doing is hard.  It is those that have the discipline to act that will get further ahead.  How does this statement relate to effective listening?  Simple.  Demonstrate that you have listened to your prospect.  Show them that you are engaged and that you actively care about what they have said.  You will be amazed at the impact this small act has on the sales process.  I will tell you a story about a client experience that I had that illustrates this. Client called because the RBC was “Screwing him on rate”, his words not mine.  Condition date was two days away.  We obtained a commitment within 24 hours, requested documentation from client who confirmed that he would send.  He advised that RBC had everything but that they were just “Screwing him over” and that he would send docs.  He was a little rough around the edges and he was “pissed”! I listened fully to his tale of woe and then used verbiage similar to “Joe I understand completely how your loyalty is being taken advantage of and it makes me sick that they are screwing you over.  You need to understand that they WILL match my rate if you give it to them.  I need you to give me a commitment that we will work together to prevent this from happening again. (emphatically)  If I lost every deal that the bank “matched” I would soon be out of business.  If I go out of business that means that the bank can continue on their merry way “screwing” you and the rest of the public because you will have no alternative.” So guess what happened with that transaction?  By the end of the conversation he was practically ‘high five’ing me through the phone with a “We’ll show them!” type attitude.  His bank matched.  We did the deal. So you can see that the most powerful sales tool you have in your arsenal may be your ears.

ISTAR: Changing lives through communication

Last Friday I had the privilege of being invited to a luncheon for one of the charities that our company supports through our affiliation with REALTORS® Community Foundation.  I have to admit I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but had been encouraged to attend.  I was honestly expecting a fancy luncheon where they sold donors on the merits of the organization and encouraged continued funding, highlighting some of the work they had done to date.  The organization was called ISTAR,  institute for stuttering treatment and research.  While perhaps a worthy cause not one that I really expected to be all that ‘touching’.  I was wrong.

The event was scheduled for a reception from 11:30 – noon with what I expected to be the luncheon at noon to 1pm.  The event was at the U of A and when we arrived at about 11:50 (felt I could miss the reception) we were already being ushered from the reception room (a small classroom type room) and up to another lecture room on another floor.  I quickly grabbed one of the cold sandwiches that were provided and we headed up to the lecture room.  It was explained to me as we made our way up to the room that what we were about to experience was actually the graduation of 5 individuals who had gone through ISTAR’s comprehensive stuttering treatment program.  The Executive Director, Deryk Beal welcomed us and talked a little about the emotional impact that stuttering had on those afflicted and how their program dealt with both the stuttering and the emotional issues that arose as a result.  My eyes were starting to open to the importance of exactly what they were doing here at ISTAR but I could not have believed what we saw next.  This three week program culminated with participants with varying degrees of stutters, giving a final speech.  That is what we were about to witness.

They began by playing video clips of the five individuals who would be presenting that day from there initial assessments.  The stuttering ranged in severity but was very evident in each of them.  One of the ISTAR ‘graduates to be’, was actually called upon to MC the presentations.  The first speaker was a young immigrant who had a very pronounced stutter in his video clip.  I was blown away by his intelligent, articulate and impactful speech about ‘Avoidance’.  He talked about how as a stutterer you often avoided putting yourself in situations where you had to speak.  He talked about the perils of avoidance and how by avoiding putting yourself in circumstances that challenged you you completely limit your growth potential.  He used the analogy of an Olympic gymnast who put themselves repeatedly in situations where they performed extremely difficult feats.  It is only by repeatedly putting themselves in these positions that they can become comfortable enough to perform their routines with precision and confidence on the big day.  He reminded us that it is only with repetition and practice that we become good at anything.  His message was one that I try to remember everyday.  Only by putting yourself in uncomfortable positions, only by stretching yourself will you grow.  He had to stop several times to wipe tears from his eyes as he told his tale.

The other four individuals demonstrated similarly remarkable transformations in their communication skills.  We learned about the emotional impact that stuttering had on each of their lives.  We learned about some of the tools they used to overcome their stutter and the negative emotions that accompanied it.  The final young lady I found particularly moving.  The depth of intellect and wisdom that went into the body of her speech astounded me.  I have asked her for permission to share some of the body of her speech and if I receive that I will post more.

The value of what ISTAR does resonated with me after watching these five individuals completely transform.  I was struck once again by the thought that truly anything is possible with the right amount of discipline and guidance.  I am thankful that ISTAR has been able to help these individuals become comfortable enough that they were able to share there thoughts, ideas and intellect with those of us in the room.  For what a shame it would be if the thoughts, ideas and inspiration we witnessed on Friday was forever locked behind a stutter.

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