"It’s a fine art to
be able to go out
there and give
a speech and
then be able to
sell—and do it
in a way that the
audience is going
to feel good
about it. They get
content, and they
He closes, usually, standing in the back of
the room near his table: “OK, my talk is all about
people who take action. Now’s the time to prove
it,” he challenges.
He stands behind his table but doesn’t turn off
his mic. No one else can speak, he explains.
“If there’s a lunch break, I make the
announcements. If people ask me questions,
I repeat it and answer it on the microphone. I
know my mic is on. People are asking me ques-
tions that I know others have, too.”
The next five to 15 minutes are crucial. “It’s all
about momentum,” he says.
Customers fill out enrollment forms, and then
they’re given a packet with information and a
password to access the materials.
To keep it simple in the chaos, he only sells one
product at one price. If three products are offered
on a sales form, he says he makes sure “there’s
really only one smart choice.”
In NSA circles, the ultra, hard sell is controversial.
It’s the elephant in the room.
Cavett Award winner Gary Rifkin, CSP, takes
an extreme view.
“For me, the issue is the audience,” he says. “If
you are paid to deliver value to an audience, you
shouldn’t turn your speech into an infomercial.
Unless the audience understands that there will be
some kind of offer, it’s really disrespectful to sell.
“Now, that doesn’t mean that a speaker shouldn’t
have back-of-the-room (BOR) products. But when
they are really on stage to get people to purchase,
they are no longer speakers. They are barkers.”
Speaker Steve Gamlin doesn’t take such a hard
line. He says that for some speakers BOR sales may
be their only compensation for an appearance.
“I feel we need to deliver great value before we
even broach the subject of sales,” Gamlin says.
“There are many speakers out there who open
with flash and fire, engage the audience briefly,
and the pitch begins.
“There is a time and place to sell,” Gamlin
acknowledges. “It is a necessary part of our indus-
try, and it is how we extend our relationships with
our audience and pay our bills. Please act with
integrity and provide value first.”
Sean says he understands these views and
tries to accommodate them by behaving in an eth-
ical way that doesn’t undermine the profession.
He says, “A lot of people believe that when you do
sales, you’ve got to make the audience feel bad. They
have massive problems, and you have the only solu-
tion. I never believed in that. I want people laughing
and having fun.”
Forget manipulation, which audiences can see
through. “You gotta be engaging,” he says. “You gotta
know your stuff. And you have to be willing to say you
don’t know all the answers.”
Isn’t manipulation part of this process?
“This is something I’ve struggled with,” Sean
answers. And, it’s the reason he went all-digital with
He knows customers may sometimes pay top
price for a product because they got swept up in the
moment. But they might never use it.
In 2005, he tested this by printing a six-CD set.
The second half of the set was purposely left blank.
He sold 10,000 sets in one month. Only two people
made it to the second half, noticed the blanks and
called to complain. That hurt.
After converting to all-digital products, he can now
monitor how deep a customer dives into his products.
The struggle for him is this: “I know when people
use our product and services they work, but there’s
really not much more I can do. I’m amazed by it.
I equate it to someone buying a new car and then
putting it in the garage and not driving it.