For some, the negative vibes might be due
to bad timing in their lives. Somebody may not
like Sean, 47, because “I remind them of an
“A lot of platform speakers who get paid to
give a speech are so used to getting applause or
an ovation. That’s important to them. They have
a hard time of letting go, worrying if they like you
or hate you,” he says. “But I’m here to do a job.
Once you’re willing to let go, you realize you’re
not going to win everyone over.”
Sean opens his talks with a video introduction.
“I was tired of emcees taking too much time to
introduce me. They want the stage time.”
When he comes out, his bio pic on the screen
isn’t of him. It shows George Clooney. That gets
the audience tittering.
He jumps in by talking about the benefits he
experienced from using the product he’s there to
sell. He doesn’t talk about the product’s specifics,
only the benefits. He shares a couple of success
stories, which he calls “case studies.”
Although many selling speakers usually only
ask audience members yes-or-no questions, Sean
says he plunges into the audience and heads
straight to the back of the room. There, he asks the
back-benchers, “What’s the biggest struggle that
you and your teams are dealing with right now?”
He already knows the answer from his
pre-meeting prep, but the audience doesn’t know
yet that he knows. So he asks. He keeps control
of the microphone and repeats their answers, so
he’s still the primary speaker. But he gains infor-
mation that he can use to circle back.
He’ll say, “From my research talking with your
CEO, that is the big issue. Would you agree this is
the big issue?” Heads are nodding, he says.
If someone is on their phone, he uses it as
an opportunity for self-deprecation: “You were
probably texting to your friend that I was boring.”
His plunge into the audience usually comes 20
minutes into a 90-minute talk.
His first hour is “all about engaging and bond-
ing with the audience.” Only then does he bring
up his specific product. He mentions the too-high
sticker price. He tells the audience if they want a
better price that “depends on how much fun we
have in the rest of the presentation.”
Next, he focuses on the solution. He likes
to show a video illustrating the struggle his
offering will fix. Then he shares a couple more
Near the end, he begins discounting. He
promotes more features and benefits. Then he
Not everyone has the same
selling style. If you aren’t super
comfortable with the sales part of
your job, but you know you need
to do it, how can you find a selling
style that feels natural?
I’ve sold more than a half
million dollars’ worth of books,
some of them from the back of
Yes, one time, it really was out
of the trunk of a car.
The women’s club I spoke at
had a no-sales rule, but I mistakenly didn’t learn that beforehand.
(I don’t go to anti-sales groups.
Sorry.) But after my talk, the
stampede to buy books was so
big (and wonderful) that several
dozen ladies followed me outside
to my car, parked on a city street.
For the next half hour, I felt like
those dudes who pull up beside
your car and ask, “Wanna buy a
home stereo system?”
I sell using what I call an
anti-sales method. We pay for the
mistakes of our too-strong-selling
predecessors. So, I use a method
that runs counter to that.
I make sure my introduction
does not mention I’m an author
with books to sell afterward.
My books are not on display
before a speech. They are hidden
under a table or covered with a
The audience learns about the
books without me telling them.
How? My covers are blown up
into oversized posters, and at the
appropriate time in my talk when
the cover relates to the story, I
bring it out (“Here, let me show
you”) and place the cover on a
collapsible tripod (office store,
under $30), where it remains for
the rest of the talk.
Only in the last moments do
I mention books, their benefits
(“Here’s how you’ll use it”), price,
autographing opportunities, and
then (celebrating this huckster
fact) “I even have a credit card
Some speakers who aren’t
allowed to sell from the stage
have work-arounds. Tim Durkin,
CSP, often teaches continuing-
education classes where sales
He asks for his own booth at
the conference, then invites the
audience to drop by later. His
products will be on display.
“If I am sponsored, I work
the sponsor booth and bring
some samples with me,” he says.
“Then I’ll mail the product later.
Sponsors love having speakers in
their booth.” —Dave Lieber, CSP
A SOFTER SELL
Sean jumps in
by talking about
the benefits he
from using the
there to sell. He
doesn’t talk about