Guest Post: Are You More Comfortable Being “Salesy” Or “Subtle”

friendlyprofessor1 300x201 Guest Post: Are You More Comfortable Being “Salesy” Or “Subtle”A few months ago, Joseph Riggio (pictured here) sent me an article he’d written about marketing and sales. I finally sat down to review it and wanted to share it with you (with my comments woven in) because I think it lifts up a very important conversation in marketing and sales. My comments will be indented.

  

Are You More Comfortable Being “Salesy” Or “Subtle”

by Joseph Riggio

I want to expose and clarify a great lie in the world of marketing, that might make a critical difference in your business.

Here’s the lie: No one likes being sold anything … sometimes followed up with, … they would rather be allowed to buy what they want.”

Sorry, but to put it bluntly … that simply not true of everyone.

In fact there are many people I’ve worked with who love being sold, and tons of clients I’ve trained, coached and mentored who love selling, even hard ball selling after I taught them the ins and outs of how to do it with true empathy and compassion.

To some folks that just sounds crazy … “Hard ball selling with empathy and compassion.” It sounds like an oxymoron, like they can’t possibly go together. But, please believe me it can really work when it’s done properly!

This is an important distinction and one I’ve found to be true in my life too. How could it be that someone is being salesy and I’m loving it? I’ve met a number of people who were shameless sales people which, you’d think, be against everything I teach and yet I find myself charmed and engaged. There’s no guile to them. There’s nothing hidden. And I have no doubt that they have my best interests in mind. This speaks to what Lynn Serafinn speaks about of in her work on the Seven Graces of Marketing – the importance of being direct. And, regardless of the style, people love people who are straight with them. Some people are direct in a charming and sweet way (e.g. Carrie Klassen of PinkElephantCommunications.com who is the Audrey Hepburn of the marketing world) and others, like Joseph are direct in a more New Jersey kind of way. My pal Joey Hundert of Sustainival.com used to work the Edmonton farmer’s market selling hemp oil and he would have crowds surrounding him as he threw down his engaging. loud, Coney Island style spiel for the benefits of hemp. He would educate, harass and love people up in a very big energy way. people loved it. I loved it. I could never do what he does. So, finding your style and trusting that voice is critical.

The caveat I’d add is that no one wants to be pressured. Sales pressure is a universal bad. There’s a fine line between challenging someone and them feeling as though their feelings and needs are fundamentally not being respected.

Now it’s not my intention here to sell you on hard ball selling, even with empathy and compassion. What I want to do instead is share that it’s vital to you to figure out your selling style and go with it, whatever it is that fits for you.

There’s an old saying that goes like this: “Nothing happens until someone sells something.” and that old saw is just as true for online businesses as for brick and mortar ones.

The great management guru from the Harvard School of Business, Peter Drucker, said that … the purpose of business is not creating profits, it’s creating customers.”.

This is a hard truth of business even if I might take exception with the wording a bit. I see many people who have great products and services but no one is buying them. And it’s a bit tragic. Your business should be there to support you. It should be a sustainable venture not one that’s constantly draining you. Many of the people I work with need a real reality check around what people want and what it takes to get enough people to say yes that they can breathe easy again.

I’ve trained, coached and mentored thousands of folks on how to sell professionally … not market, sell. To me this distinction is critical, if a bit subtle at times.

Marketing is getting someone to raise their hand and say, Hey, I’m interested.” and in business, that means “Tell me more about how we make this happen.”

In some schools of marketing “How we make this happen” is called the offer … but in my book, that’s where selling begins, i.e.: right after they raise their hand and say, “Okay, I’m interested.”

Just to make things really clear before I base jump off the marketing cliff and into the ravine of selling, the distinction I’m making is that selling begins when you’re talking to someone who’s crossed the line over from interested in learning more, to interested in making something happen.

Mark Silver speaks about this at length in my Heart of Selling interview with him. He makes the distinction between the first journey (marketing) and the second journey (selling). At some point, there may need to be a real, honest to goodness, face to face human conversation with someone. And there’s absolutely an art to that. It’s not something I do very much as my business is increasingly online. Though I’m a fan of another Peter Drucker quote too which is that, “The purpose of marketing is to make selling redundant.” The idea that, if your marketing is good enough, you really don’t need to sell anyone because people just buy. Because I’m lazy, this is the approach I’m drawn to and why I’m a fan of the Three Roles of Marketing

This is also a critical distinction in writing copy for the Internet and online business marketing and selling.

Okay … Time To Pick A Horse To Ride

I’m no cowboy, just a kid from New Jersey, so I claim no great riding skills, but I’ve been around horses since I was a kid. One thing I do know is how different horses’ temperaments can be, and how important it is to pick one that suits your personality if you’re going to attempt to ride it.

In marketing and selling it’s often the same thing, i.e.: you must pick a style that suits you … and ideally one that suits your customers and clients too, or at least pick customers and clients that are suited to your style.

Some folks just naturally like selling and they do it with gusto!

Other folks are really reticent about it and shy away from anything that sounds or feels like direct selling.

Either way works just fine, as long as it’s a match for you.

This is a very important distinction. Central is marketing is the business of filtering for who is a fit for you (and, ipso facto, the people for whom you would be a fit). Like puzzle pieces, you both need to fit together. And some people won’t want to work with you just because of who you are and your style. And most people are scared to really be themselves because it might scare some people away. They are scared because they believe it is possible and desirable to attract everyone when it is neither. The truth is that by being fully yourself, unapologetically, you will get a more polarized response. And that’s okay.

I’m more of the first kind of guy, I like a spirited horse with lots of fire and challenge in him or her. I want to go toe to toe, find out where we stand early on and then once we’ve agreed to some basic rules of relationship get on with it. Cantering is my trot, and it’s only to get to somewhere we can gallop together. Once we’ve come to trust one another I give my horse the reins. When we’re there I let my horse run with it.

My wife and daughter though preferred more contained horses when they rode, sure and stable was their pick of preference. My daughter especially liked a horse that was gentle and accepting, and she can actually ride well … English or Western, doesn’t matter. She’s happy in the saddle and the horses she’s ridden seem happy to have her there – but, she wants to know she can stop the ride anytime and get off when she’s ready, or on those days when the sun and wind are just right ride for hours.

I may not be the easiest horse to ride when it comes to selling or working with after the fact. I like challenging my customers and clients, telling them right up front … Hey I want to sell you something that I think has great value! But, I add the “if” to my sales process at the same time.

Like this, Hey I want to sell you something that I think has great value … if you are struggling converting prospects into customers and clients.”

I usually add something like, And, if your doing just fine already, or you are not ready to take a leap to next to the next level in your business, what I have probably isn’t going to be for you.”

I do this process at the start of things, and qualify prospects in three ways, a) we’re both clear about what I’m doing and why, b) they are a fit for me and what I do, and c) they are interested in making something happen together if my offer is a fit for them.

It’s amazing what a refreshing difference directness can make. It’s one of the reasons I’ve long been a fan of Jay Abrahams approach to marketing. His sales letters are unerringly direct. He tells you his selfish motives upfront and that he wants to convince you of something. And this puts people at ease because they no longer need to look out for any sneaky tactics. And we need to remember that people want solutions to their problems and want to be able to trust your approach and perspective in the way you would go about helping them to solve those problems. So, if you say, “Okay. Check it out. Let me make my pitch.” people will often sit back, relax and take it in as if to say, “Okay. Go ahead. Gimme whatchu got.” The key here is whether or not you’re willing to let go if you realize it’s not a fit. 

But there’s also something else too. The upfront, brash and in your face approach can actually feel good. The sensitive approach can feel good. That’s clear. Here’s where it gets gross – when someone is pretending to be one when they’re the other. When someone is pretending that they’re not attached to you buying and that they’re coming from a heart centered place but, really, they’re secretly trying to sell you. When someone claims to be doing conscious marketing but their marketing feels more hyped up than regular marketing. The gap between how they’re posturing to be and how they are will feel even worse than regular gross selling approaches. 

Again, it’s okay to directly make your case. It’s okay to just come out with it… as long as they know you’re primary commitment is really to the truth of if it’s a fit and that you are sharing your pitch so that they can make a more informed, educated and considered choice themselves. 

My style is to build the outcome early on and I make my business relationships about delivering on those outcomes. If we don’t have an outcome we agree on wanting to create together we aren’t going to have a relationship. So the first thing I do with prospective customers and clients is state my intentions right up front, and make sure I get theirs out in the open as soon as possible.

If I’m writing copy I’ll usually step back a bit after I’ve announced my intentions and spend some time with them to make sure we’d be good together.

Here’s a typical process I’ll follow:

Give them some reasons to remain really interested …

  • Explain to them why my offer might make good sense for them
  • Take the time to tell them who it’s not for and why not
  • If it’s useful and appropriate let them know why I think I’m the right person to be making the offer

Then I make sure they know:

  • What the surface level benefits are, i.e.: the obvious ones that most people will see quickly, and
  • The deep level benefits are too, i.e.: the ones that are usually impossible to see from the outside looking in, but are unavoidably obvious and desirable to anyone on the inside.

I would add to this list the importance of also letting people know your selfish motive for making any special deals (e.g. “My hope is that you’ll like my free stuff so much, you’ll come back and buy more and be a lifetime customer.”) Imagine being able to be that honest in your marketing. 

Only after I do all that do I present the offer to actually sell them what I have for them, and I tell them how to get it for themselves – what it will take, how it will happen and what to do to make it happen.

But the critical distinction is that I let them know right up front that I’m selling them something, I tend to come on strong and ask them to join me for the ride. For some people this works great and they really like the experience of someone out in front taking control.

This makes great sense for me right from the beginning, because these kinds of clients fit for me all the way through our relationship.

This is huge. Joseph is comfortable in his own skin. He knows that the way he is in selling is the way he is in everything. So, if they don’t like his approach to selling, they’re not going to like his approach to anything else. Him being himself helps to polarize the response and act as a filter. 

They want someone to challenge and provoke them, someone who will push them a bit even when it may feel uncomfortable to do so. The caveat is they want to know that person has their best interests in mind all the time, even when it gets a bit edgy – and I do, or we wouldn’t be working together in the first place.

Customers and clients who need and want hand holding, to be coddled and cuddled aren’t a great match for me. My kind of customer or client wants to run fast, will implement what we discuss as we’re discussing it, and like Dickens’ Oliver they’ll come back and ask for more.

Another important distinction here: Joseph has just named a key criteria of his ideal client! They want to be challenged. Some people are there to comfort the afflicted and others are there to afflict the comfortable. I’m more in the comforting arena. It’s good to know which you are at different times for your clients.

My customers and clients most often point out that they love my integrity, my authenticity and genuineness … and how I am constantly provoking them, pushing them to step up, and demanding more from them then they would ask of themselves in the same situation.

What I hear most often from my clients is, With Joseph what you see is what you get, whether that’s in the office, out for a bite to eat or at his home with his family, he’s the same guy everywhere with everyone.” That’s about the greatest compliment someone can give me by the way.

However, that doesn’t make what I do the right thing to do, or the right way to do it. What it does mean is that while I may be perfect for some customers and clients, I’m not right for every customer or client out there, and they aren’t necessarily right for me either.

Getting Settled In The Saddle

I have close friends in business who are almost the exact opposite of me. They make relationship precede outcome and then, because of the relationship they’ve built, they deliver on the outcomes they promise. They are incredibly gentle and laid back with their customers and clients. They take as much time as their customers and clients need to feel comfortable before they even begin to talk about selling or what they have to sell.

These friends of mine know they prefer to go more slowly up front, to take the time to connect before they jump too far ahead into the heavy stuff. The key to their success is that they know themselves. Instead of putting their attention on outcomes up front, they put their attention on relationships. They allow their customers and clients to lead and then when the timing is right they ask for permission to do their thing and help their customers and clients get what they want and need.

I have seen the marketing and sales processes of these friends of mine up close, sometimes I’ve helped them build or refine their processes and often I’ve asked them to help me build and refine mine. The key isn’t that we try to replicate what one another do in style, but the basic premises of great marketing and selling are consistent inside of any style you choose to use … as long as you make sure you do it in a way that suits you!

When you know you like starting out a bit more slowly, comfortably … walking before you trot, and trotting a while before you canter … heck, maybe you won’t even get up to a full gallop on this ride together, and that’s okay … then you know something critical about yourself, and the kind of clients you are likely to most want to work with and who would be happiest working with you.

Either way … whether you’re an all out thoroughbred racehorse leaving the gate at a gallop, or a beautiful dressage champion taking each step with the utmost care and precision, the choice is yours to make in how you present yourself. My only intention and advice here has been that the best choice is most likely the one that’s a match and fit for who you are at your core.

If you really do like being the salesy type then go for it, shout it from the roof tops early on and as loudly as you like, if however you prefer subtlety and are more comfortable engaging in a dialogue that builds up to something special, take your time and work wonders with it just the way you like.

If you go back take a look at the bullet points of my structure for writing copy for what I do and sell that I outlined above you’ll see they are generalized enough to fit anyone’s process or style. It’s the way you choose to implement that makes all the difference.

 

 

Top Twelve Blog Posts on Hub Marketing

Screen Shot 2014 08 24 at 5.20.35 PM Top Twelve Blog Posts on Hub MarketingA few weeks ago, I wrote you with a collection of over 77 pages of carefully curated blog posts around the topic of how to identify your platform (what you’re known for). If you missed that, you can read it here
 

I’m really excited to write today’s post because it’s about one of my favourite topics in marketing: hubs.
 
What are hubs?
 
A hub is a place you’d find your ideal clients. 
 
This image of the old wagon wheel has a lot to teach us about marketing because the ‘hub’ in the center of it is where all of the spokes connect. This is a good model for how we can set up our marketing. 
 
I’ve written a lot about this topic on my blog and plan on creating a product on just this topic later this winter. When I do, I’ll be taking down some of these posts but, for now, these Top Twelve Blog Posts on Hub Marketing are free and available for you to check out. 
 
Blog Post #1: The Most Important Shift in Marketing in the Last 100 Years: Over the past 15 years, marketing has gone through a huge change. Not in its essence but in the way it’s done and the tools that are used. Understanding this shift is vital to your success. You can read about that here.
 
Blog Post #2: The Three Levels of Your Marketing Strategy: The basic idea here is that most people work too hard in their marketing because everything they do ends up being ‘cold marketing’. They’re approaching every potential client as a stranger. That’s hard. However, there is also a warm (where you identify hubs who could help you grow your business) and a hot level of marketing (where you become a hub) which are much easier and more effective. You can read about that here
 
Blog Post #3: The Seven Kinds of Hubs: When people first hear the idea of hubs, they usually get very excited. Until they try to think about what those hubs would be for them. I’ve found it’s helpful to know what the seven main categories of hubs might be so that you can tackle them one at a time. You can read about that here.
 
 
Blog Post #5: Nine Qualities of a Good Hub: Once people get this idea that identifying hubs is important, they can quickly become overwhelmed when they realize how many hubs there are. Here are nine pieces of criteria I encourage you to have in the back of your mind as you go about connecting with them. You can read more about that here
 
Blog Post #6: Finding Hubs: So, you get that finding hubs is important. You get a sense of who they could be and how to sort the good fits from the bad. But where do you find them? This brilliant post from Callan Rush shares one of the simplest approaches to this of which I know. You can read that here
 
Blog Post #8: How to Approach Hubs: At this point you know who your hubs are. You’ve got a list. But how specifically do you approach them? This epic and sprawling blog post is packed with real life examples of how to approach a hub and how not to (in a way that feels totally organic, comfortable and natural). You can read more about that here
 
Blog Post #9: How to Get Hubs to Promote You: So, you have now approached them and started a conversation, but how can you make it most appealing to them to promote you? My colleagues Jesse and Sharla share three brilliant ideas. You can read more about that here
 
Blog Post #10: How to Not Engage Hubs: In this post, my colleague Jaime Almond spells out a common tactic that people use which completely turn off their potential hubs: hijacking. You can read more about that here
 
Blog Post #11: Eight Key Benefits of Becoming a Hub: The hot level of marketing is all about you becoming a hub. Most people hear this idea and it makes good sense to them but I don’t think they really get the full implications of what this could mean to their business. I lay out my logic in this post. You can read more about that here
 
Blog Post #12: The Five Biggest Mistakes That Will Stop You From Being Seen As a Hub: Once people get how important this orientation is, they want to act. But, before you do, I urge you to read this post about the common blunders to which too many entrepreneurs fall prey on their way to becoming a trusted advisor in their community. You can read more about that here
 
Still wanting more help? Well you can watch some free videos on my site about how to identify your hubs and one on how to use parties and events to become a hub
 

Robin Williams, Suicide and The Stone of Loss

robin williams 300x168 Robin Williams, Suicide and The Stone of LossThere is an audio-cassette I remember listening to over and over. 

By the time I’d outgrown it or lost it I knew much of it by heart. My brother as well.

It was Robin Williams Live at the Met. 

My brother and I must have watched every single episode of Live at the Improv (a stand up comedy showcase). In the end, I went into improv semi-professionally and my brother Toby went into stand-up comedy. 

Mork and Mindy was one of my favourite shows growing up. And Good Will Hunting, The Fisher King and Dead Poets are three of my favourite movies of all time. 

In short, I was a big fan of Robin Williams. And somehow, yesterday, it seems that after decades of struggling with depression and addiction, he took his life. 

It’s heartbreaking. 

And heartbreaking how common suicide is becoming. 

And of course, there are ways we could easily connect the increase of suicide very directly with marketing.

Much marketing is predicated on creating a feeling of inadequacy (often obliquely, elegantly and subtly) and then selling the thing that (they tell you) will fill that hole (which didn’t exist until they created it). We receive thousands of marketing messages every day. Many of them designed to create this feeling that we’re missing something. And so it is not surprising that many of us grow up feeling inadequate and unworthy. Much of marketing ties into the story of scarcity we tell ourselves while simultaneously crafting the story that we should have no limits at all and that limits are a bad thing. Marketing is all too often the charming ambassador of the worst aspects of capitalism and the modern world.

At a deeper level, it’s not just the ads and TV commercials. It’s the TV shows themselves that market a certain lifestyle. When television is introduced into traditional communities, they often quickly fall apart. Not usually because the ads make them want to buy but because the shows themselves often portray a lifestyle different than theirs and gives them the implied message that what they see on Friends is normal. They think to themselves, ‘my apartment doesn’t look that nice…’, ‘ my wife isn’t that attractive…’, ‘ my husband is so muscular and successful…’ 

I could further make the connection that marketing is connected to suicide in pointing out that if all of the 10,000 or so people on this email list (healers, life coaches and permaculture practitioners alike) were to have robust, sustainable businesses that there would be a more beautiful world and less suicide. And if we extended that to everyone in the world who is up to good things being successful (the missing component of which is often marketing) that we would see healthier and happier communities and less people choosing to take their own lives. 

But, of course, while there is truth in that, it’s a cheap and oversimplified approach that doesn’t honour the depth of what challenges lie before us.

So, this is not a post about marketing.

Marketing all too often is in collusion with all of the forces that can make us feel terrible about ourselves (often, tragically, by giving us the message that we shouldn’t ever feel terrible).

I was first touched by suicide with the loss of one of my dearest friends, Tooker Gomberg who took his life just over 10 years ago and whose birthday was yesterday. Like Robin Williams, he was one of the most powerful forces of creativity I’ve ever met. And in the past few years, so many dear ones have gone the same way – Kylen Groeneveld, Logan Symington, Alex Thomas Haug, Desiree, Louise. They all made this world so much brighter and they are all gone now. As Robin Williams put it, ‘You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” But so many do. And when they do, we all do. 

And then, on March 11th on this year, I was witness to a dear man, Mark Carlson, who, after four minutes of conversation on the High Level Bridge, let go and fell as I watched helplessly. Caitlin Klingbeil wrote a very thoughtful article about the experience and the epidemic of suicide here

Many of us have been touched by friends and family making attempts at their lives. 

And we are all left with a wondering of what we can do to make things different in the future. Certainly, there is much we can do to be more gracious and kind to each other. And there is much we need to do move beyond a focus of self care into community care. There are things we can learn about how to be with someone who has just attempted. And we can learn what the warning signs are and the basics of what to say and do if we suspect a friend might be considering taking their life or hurting themselves.

This past year has been the most intense and trying year or my life where much was almost lost as a result of decisions I made. It’s been a year of growing up for me that has left me deeply depleted, suffering occasional anxiety attacks and with a body more full of stress than I had thought. I feel, most often in the evenings when I am tired, the deep effects of the trauma of this past year sitting deep in my bones and feel daunted by the amount of work I know it will take to bring meaningful healing to it. I am exhausted. This year took me to a point where I felt I would truly break and where, for the first time, suicide or hurting myself became, briefly, a possibility. And going there terrified me but also filled me with a deep sense of, ‘I get it now.’ Sometimes the emotional or physical pain is just too much. 

So, of course, this is a much larger conversation that just ‘marketing’. There are so many larger things that need to be changed to make any meaningful difference in the rates of suicide. And I’m not just talking about suicide prevention programs, netting and barriers on bridges, addiction treatment programs or peer support programs in schools. Those are all vital but what is fundamentally needed, and is becoming increasingly clear to many, is the tearing down of a culture and economy that makes suicide the likely, if not inevitable, for so many and the rebuilding of a society that feeds the deepest recesses of the human soul and honours our need to die to our old, smaller selves and be born again as adults who can contribute meaningfully to the community. And we need guidance in understanding how our deepest wounds might actually be the most certain doorway into understanding our truest role in the community. 

We live in a culture where the soil of the Earth is depleted and so is the soil of our culture. The monoculture of our crops, languages and actual cultures is leaving us more poor. Instead of real sources of strength and nurturance, we are left with toxic mimics: refined sugar, refined salt and processed food instead of real food, pornography instead of a meaningful expression of the erotic impulse, working for the man instead of meaningful work and right livelihood, box stores instead of locally owned businesses. With only the most cursory of examinations, we discover that our lives are full of these toxic mimics. And we see that a culture devoid of myths and genuine heroes will, inevitably, create Hollywood and celebrities. 

It is easy to have compassion for the poor, but the rich are just as trapped as anyone by this. Any form of activism that doesn’t also work to redeem the oppressor is ultimately, in my mind, doomed to fail and simply replace them with a dictator of slightly different political stripes – less and opposite and more an opposame. Caroline Casey speaks of this more beautifully than anyone I know. 

Yes. we need to move towards a green economy where our marketing makes green things seem normal rather than making normal things ‘seem’ green… but then beyond it

We so desperately need to move away from empire and back towards the village. We need elders giving medicine, not olders on drugs. We need rituals and markers of initiation from childhood into adulthood. We need places that can hold and encourage the deep levels of grieving that are called for in these times. In short, we need a much different, deeper and more resilient cosmology than the one we currently have. One that tells more accurate and life affirming stories about society and life and one that encourages a deeper collaboration. What is clear is that the distractions and entertainments of our modern day media circus are not making us happy and that something deeper and more sacred would. 

 

“The truth is there are losses you never get over. They break you to pieces and you can never go back to the original shape you once were, and so you will grieve your own death with that of your beloved lost. Your grief is your love, turned inside-out. That is why it is so deep. That is why it is so consuming. When your sadness seems bottomless, it is because your love knows no bounds. Grief teaches us about who we are, and any attempt to crush it, to bury it with the body is an act of vengeance against your own nature. If everyone felt, honoured, respected and trusted their true feelings, this world would be a different place. Instead of reacting, we would respond. Instead of judging, we would see ourselves in everyone. Instead of consuming, we would notice that we cannot fill the gaping wounds inside of us with trinkets.” – Alison Nappi

 

We need to acknowledge the role that marketing often plays in the propping up of a dying culture and the crippling of our self esteem and yet also become the most eloquent, persuasive and effective storytellers of a different way of living. We need to become as inspiring as Mr. Keating was to his students to urge everyone to give their gifts now. Instead of a marketing based on creating shame, we need a marketing that feeds people the messages that let them know they aren’t alone. We need a marketing based on empathy not exploitation of people’s hot buttons and pain points. 

 

 

In Edmonton, I have been working to foster as much conscious community as I can by hosting potlucks and with the creation of The Local Good, Indigo Drinks, The Good Hundred Experiment and, in January, The Social Yogi. There is a deep need for spaces where good people can come together. Bill McKibben, in his book Deep Community, points to the studies done that show that ten times more conversations happen at a Farmer’s Market than at a Safeway. Conversations, community and connections are not luxuries, they’re what keep us human. As Alistair MacLeod said, ‘We’re all better when we’re loved.’

I find myself diving deeper into understanding what it means to move back towards the village idea and diving into the work of Stephen Jenkinson and attending The Art of Mentoring in a few weeks in Ontario. I find myself drawn to reading mythology and old stories for food for my own soul and in hopes that I might find food and medicine worthy of sharing with others (and the ways to share it).

 

“When the end seems near, ancient and lasting things are also close and waiting to be discovered… What we find at the end are both last things and things that last.” – Michael Meade, Why The World Doesn’t End 

 

Robin Williams death, and every other death, reminds us that life is so incredibly short and yet so many of us die with regrets. Many of us live our lives vacilating between the collapsing of self pity or the over-confident posturing of self importance and so seldom find any real comfort in our own skin. And, for some, that discomfort of being alive becomes far too much and they feel a sort of pain that many of us will never know and the most we will be able to do is believe them when they say it hurts and respect it. Life will break all of us even if we choose not to take our lives. Not everything is going to be okay. But maybe being heartbroken is the only real way to live. Maybe being heartbroken is a blessing. Maybe the only mistake we make is to try to fill the crack in our hearts rather than letting medicine sorely needed for others to flow out of it. 

Maybe what is most needed is to come to trust ourselves again. I think this society fosters so much secret self loathing where we are ashamed of everything that is real about us – our bodies, our gender, our sexual orientation, our feelings, our needs and our desires. And I think there are other ways we can look at life that are more real and life affirming.

And perhaps, by speaking of our own struggles, we can make it more normal to do so and thus help people feel less alone. 

Perhaps what is most needed is some deep compassion for ourselves and how flawed even our best efforts inevitably are

Of all the things that feel true about the world today (and many of our personal lives) is that we, our communities and our planet are being pushed right to the edge and watching, helplessly, as so much comes apart and to an end. In his remarkable book Why the World Doesn’t End: Tales of Renewal for Times of Loss, Michael Meade speaks eloquently to the importance of the these intense times where it feels like everything is falling apart and ending in our lives, 

 

‘The meaning of the word “end” might seem obvious and conclusive; yet root meanings reveal “tailings” and “remnants” and “that which is left over”… [it] carries the sense that the current state cannot continue and that it is too late for things to simply be repaired. In order for things to change in a meaningful way, many things must come to and end. As archetype of radical change, [it] presents a pattern in which a shattering of forms occurs before the world as we know it can be reconstituted. In the cosmic turn around if enough endings can be found, things can begin again… When the end seems near, ancient and lasting things are also close and waiting to be discovered… What we find at the end are both last things and things that last… Chaos not only describes the way that things fall apart at the end, but also the original state from which all creation continually arises… In the end, all we can offer the world is the life we came here to live and the gifts our soul would have us give. When the end seems near, genuine security can only be found in taking the kind of risks that lead to a greater sense of life and a more encompassing way of being in the world… Great crises and impossible demands often provoke hidden resources and reveal hints of the hidden wholeness and unity of life. The threat of collapse and utter loss can provoke a deeper sense of wholeness where nothing but total involvement and whole-heartedness will work… this capacity for great vision and imagination tends to awaken only after other approaches have failed.”

  

 What follows is a piece I wrote on suicide a few months ago.

 

The Shattered Stone of Loss & The Terrible Gift of Suicide

 Our community has experienced so many suicides recently. 

And, like most people, I find myself at a complete loss of what to do about it but with a desire to talk about it. 
 
These are the thoughts that have come to me over the past week. I hope they are of use to you.
 
When people commit suicide it is, in an important way, a terrible gift to the community. 
 
The trouble is, I think, that we don’t know what to do with it. 
 
But, to understand suicide as a gift, I think we need to have a very different lens on not only suicide but struggle and illness of all kinds. 
 
In her book, Entering the Ghost River, Deena Metzer contrasts indigenous and western perspectives of healing. 
 
In a Western view, if someone gets cancer, it’s an isolated, biological event.
 
From a holistic point of view, if someone gets cancer, it’s an isolated mind, body and spirit event. 
 
From an Indigenous point of view, if someone gets cancer, it is more likely to be seen as a symptom not only of what’s going on in the mind, body and spirit of the one with the disease, but a deeper issue in the community.  
 
What if cancer wasn’t just seen as something going on for the person in the hospital but that the whole community had cancer? What if we considered the way that environmental toxins, a polluted food chain and the stresses of our modern lifestyle contributed to it? What if we looked, metaphorically, at cancer and considered how the way it operates in the body might be exactly how our society has become (e.g. over consumptive, greedy etc.) What if cancer was a sort of spirit that had entered the community and manifests itself through the most vulnerable link in community? That the cancer is everywhere but it just happens to be showing up through certain people?
 
And what if this was true about suicide too?
 
What if the trouble is not only that we are losing so many beautiful, bright and young ones to suicide but that our whole culture is infected with this spirit of suicide. What if our culture is a suicidal one? It doesn’t take much digging to see where this might be true. What does it say of a culture that it is actively destroying its landbase, the oceans and constantly increasing its speed? David Korten calls our current economy ‘the Suicide Economy’ for a reason. It’s not the quick suicide of an overdose or a jump from a bridge… but what if our culture was in the midst of a slow suicide – following some poorly understood pull towards death?
 
What if reckless behaviour was a sign that we were no longer valuing life? And this is, perhaps, a critical point. Not just that we don’t seem to value our own lives as deeply as we could but that we don’t value Life itself. And what if this lack of valuing life was at the heart of the suicidal pull?
 
How do we not value our lives?
 
We eat food we know is terrible for us, drink too much, do too many drugs, work in jobs we hate, stay in relationships where we know we’re settling, we let others walk over us (or we walk all over others). We make pleasing our boss, family of friends more important than following our heart and being true to ourselves. Most of us, if we’re really honest, don’t value ourselves. We don’t make time to take care of ourselves or others in the ways we feel we should. 
 
How do we not value Life?
 
Look at our economy. As a culture, we clearly value economic growth over everything. Money matters so much more to us than Life. 
 
And this brings us to the terrible gift of suicide – it is the reminder of how little we, as a culture, value life. And it is expressing itself through these poor people – the canaries in the mineshaft of our culture – the first to be killed by the effluence of our toxic culture.
 
This is the gift – the wake up call meant not just for the family and closest friends – but for all of us.
 
When someone chooses to kill themselves, they give us this terrible gift.
 
But it’s not a very good gift. It is terrible in a few ways. The first way it’s terrible is the most obvious – we have lost someone we deeply care about and our hearts are broken wide open. The second way it’s terrible is not as obvious. 

When people suffer, it is like a stone in their heart. And, over time, this stone grows and grows. Every kind word, from themselves or others, washes some of it away. And every unkind word, from themselves or others, makes it grow. By the time people take their lives, the stone has become so impossibly heavy that they can’t carry it anymore. This is the stone of their unexpressed grief.

And this is  culture that has no real idea of how to deal with the inevitable, unstoppable and overwhelming force of grief.

 

“You will lose everything. Your money, your power, your fame, your success, perhaps even your memories. Your looks will go. Loved ones will die. Your body will fall apart. Everything that seems permanent is impermanent and will be smashed. Experience will gradually, or not so gradually, strip away everything that it can strip away. Waking up means facing this reality with open eyes and no longer turning away. But right now, we stand on sacred and holy ground, for that which will be lost has not yet been lost, and realizing this is the key to unspeakable joy. Whoever or whatever is in your life right now has not yet been taken away from you. This may sound trivial, obvious, like nothing, but really it is the key to everything, the why and how and wherefore of existence. Impermanence has already rendered everything and everyone around you so deeply holy and significant and worthy of your heartbreaking gratitude. Loss has already transfigured your life into an altar.” – Jeff Foster

 

The following video, the first part of an audio recording of Martin Prechtel’s speech on Grief & Praise can be watched below. You can also watch Part 2 and Part 3
 

 
When someone kills themselves, it is as if their spirit takes this stone of their unexpressed grief and breaks it into pieces. One piece for everyone it has known. The more love there was between them, the bigger the piece of that stone. And then, it carries all of those stones to those people. 
 
And these stones are heavy. Where there was the most love, there is the most weight. 
 
And this weight is what we are all left with. And, when you are given a big stone like this, you start to realize how many others are also carrying around these stones too. You learn empathy for people. And that’s part of the gift of any tragedy. 
 
But this weight can drag us down and exhaust us as we carry this stone throughout the rest of our life. And for some, if they are given too much weight, break. They simply can’t bear the weight of too many stones or even one stone that is too heavy. 
 
This is why it is such a terrible gift to leave behind to others. When someone chooses to kill themselves they aren’t, of course, thinking of this. They don’t know what their spirit is about to do to the ones they love most. They think, mistakenly, that they are the burden on their loved ones. But the real burden is the one their spirits are going to deposit in the hearts of their loved ones when they die. 
 
And there are two very important things here.
 
The first is to know that, if you are thinking of taking your life, there is another alternative. You think removing yourself from the world so you are no longer a burden to others (and, sometimes we are burdens to others, lets be real) is the best gift we can give. But there is a better gift. A much greater and more beautiful gift. And the gift is to collect all of those stones, the stones that represent our struggles and pain that are so heavy to carry, and to build something beautiful with them. Instead of jumping off of a bridge, you could use the stones of your own struggle to build a bridge with your life so that, when you die a good death later on, the bridge will be left behind and allow others to cross over some treacherous part of the river of life. That is a good gift. Instead of killing yourself with pills because life feels so pointless, you could build a beautiful temple to something you find beautiful that will be left behind for the community when you go.  That is a good gift. 
 
When you die, these stones will be what is left behind in your community. Your gift will either be a terrible or a wonderful one. 
 
But here is the second important thing.
 
That we are left to carry this heavy stone when someone kills themselves is obvious. 
 
What is not so obvious is that we have no idea what to do with them as a culture. And the lack of knowledge about how to deal with this is another expression of how far gone our culture has become. That we don’t know what to do with it is deeply connected to the high prevalence of it in the first place. If we were a culture who knew how to grieve well (and thus were full of the praise of Life), we would not see the rates of suicide we have today. 
 
The call of loss and grief is to become more eloquent, outspoken and passionate in our praise of life. To praise what we have not yet lost. To grieve well what we have lost. The soil of death giving birth to life. The grief of loss gives birth to a greater capacity to celebrate what’s alive. The cradle of our appreciation of our lives and they lives of others is the knowledge that they will end one day too. 
 
We don’t know what to do with these stones. 
 
Or rather, we think we do, but we are mistaken.
 
We think we are supposed to carry them alone for the rest of our lives. And this is a part of the sickness of our culture. The same individualism that has us think we need to carry them ourselves in some stoic, quiet, long suffering way is the very same individualism that has us see illness as an isolated event. 
 
What we’re meant to do is to come together again as a community to build something beautiful in the praise of life with these stones of our loss. The heaviest stones are the foundation. They are the corner stones and hold the place of most honour. We are supposed to come together to build something so beautiful that others see it and the love of life is sparked in them again. We are not supposed to carry them around by ourselves for the rest of our lives. No one is strong enough for that.

And what we so profoundly lack as a culture are rituals and understandings of how to do that. 

This is the healing. The tragedy borne of isolation and our silo’d off lives is the terrible gift we are given that is supposed to prompt us to reweave our community together and to weave it in more closely with the larger community of life. These stones are not there to drive us deeper into our caves but to bring us together to build something that not only honours who has been lost but Life itself. 
 
If you are able to build something beautiful with the stones of your suffering with your life, it is a gift to the community.
 
If we are able to build something beautiful with the stones of the loss of others, it is a gift to the community. And a gift to our Ancestors. I think that when we build something beautiful from the stones of the loss of them, we give them a home they can inhabit. I think they still need us very much for their own healing. Their ghosts don’t linger to haunt us, but to be healed by us. They don’t linger to pull us down but to urge us to come together to build something beautiful that can help heal the collective illness that afflicted them.
 
So many of us talk about the need to create a new culture. And what do we build it from? These stones of grief and loss. They are the same stones with which we can build good things full of the praise of life. Their spirit brings us these pieces to build something new out of them. 
 
Their inability to resolve their pain before death is not them turning on the future . . . but , rather, turning to the future in search of what they could not find on their own. They pass on their most burdensome scars of pain to the future not to cause harm, but to bring about the healing that they could not accomplish themselves. We heal it in our own hearts and by coming together as a community. 
 
Suicide is a terrible gift. But it is still a gift. My prayer is that, as a culture, we learn to understand the call of it. May all of our lives build something of lasting beauty, may all of our words be full of the praise of Life, may everything we do pour honey into the hearts of others.
 
“There will be much celebration, in the coming weeks and months, of Robin Williams’ life and career. But perhaps the best tribute to him would be if we all reached out to the troubled people in our lives and let them know that we are here for them. Because Robin Williams was there for us.” – Paul F. Tompkins

 

 
 

Top Ten Blog Posts on Figuring Our Your Platform (77 pages worth!)

TopTen Top Ten Blog Posts on Figuring Our Your Platform (77 pages worth!) Over the past decade, I’ve written a lot of blog posts. Over 500. 
 
But there are ten of them that most get to the heart of really figuring out what I would call your platform (what you want to be known for). My guess is that you’ve only seen one or two of them. 
 
Figuring out your platform is the most critical thing you can do in your marketing. Without a clear platform, your marketing will feel clunky and awkward. Without a clear platform (or you could say brand, identity or reputation) success in business becomes extremely difficult.
 
I introduced the idea of the platform in my blog post The Three Foundations of a Thriving Business. It spoke to what your platform is and where it fits in your overall marketing strategy. This is one of the core pieces of my marketing workshop. 
 
So, to help you figure out your platform, here are my Top Ten Blog Posts (which, if you printed them off in size 12, Goudy Old Style (the best font)) would total 77 pages. 
 
 
Blog Post #1: The Three Roles of Marketing: This blog post sets the stage for the importance of having a clear platform as it attacks, head on, the central assumption that ends up making marketing and sales feel bad for all involved. What is that central assumption? It’s the idea that marketing has only one role. What is that role? To get people to say ‘yes’ to buying your products and services. I think that is wrong. I think there are three roles in marketing. And none of them, provocatively, have anything to do with getting anyone to say ‘yes’. You can read that post here
 
Blog Post #2: We Might Be a Fit If: What if one of the three roles of marketing was all about establishing if you and the potential client were a fit for each other (rather than assuming that everyone needs what we have to offer)? I want to submit that your clarity around this issue of ‘who is a fit?’ is the most central question you can answer and that 90% of the marketing struggles I see come down to a lack of clarity around this issue. This post is chock full of specific questions you can ask yourself to get clear on who is and isn’t a fit for you. You can read that post here
Blog Post #3: Polarize: This blog post builds on this idea and takes it further by suggesting that the reason most people’s marketing doesn’t succeed is because it’s acting as a seduction rather than a filtering process. What if the role of our marketing wasn’t just to attract the people for him it was a fit but to actively turn off and repel the people for whom it wasn’t a fit? You can read the post here
 
Blog Post #4: Your Platform in a Page: This is likely the post I’ve sent out to the most clients I’ve worked with as a first step. When people want to work with me, this is the post I send to them as homework to get grounded and ready for our session. Their answers to this help me laser in on where they are clear and where they aren’t. It’s divided into six areas of your platform with the best three questions I could come up with for each. You can read that post here
 
Blog Post #5: Island A – The Painful Symptom: This is the most important thing you can figure out in your marketing platform. Island A represents that problem people are having to which your product or service would be a solution. 90% of clients I work with do not have this figured out. This is simultaneously the simplest and yet most difficult of issues to figure out. But, once you’ve got this nailed, your marketing becomes ten times easier (without exaggeration). This is one of the longest posts I’ve ever written. It’s crammed with examples, case studies, criteria and specific questions to guide you in figuring this out for your situation. It’s one of the most practical posts I’ve ever written. You can read that post here
 
Blog Post #6: Island B – The Results They Crave: This post is the other side of the Island A post. If Island A is about the problems with which they’re struggling, Island B represents that results they are craving the most. Again, this post is deep and extensive. You can read that post here
 
Blog Post #7: Island C – The Unimagined Possibility: Sometimes you’re offering something that’s so new that they didn’t even know it existed or was possible for their lives. If that’s the case then you need to market what you’re doing in a different way. If your work is cutting edge and is usually new to most people who hear it or if you’re offering a result that’s so much better than what most people assume is possible this post is a must read. You can read that post here
 
Blog Post #8: Island Z – The Unspoken Fears: This is a piece I almost never speak about at my workshops, but, if you want to have a clear platform and understand the people you’re trying to reach, it’s essential. Island Z represents the very real fears people have of what might happen if they don’t handle their problems now. These fears are often secret, unspoken but ever present in their lives. Your ability to really understand and empathize with these issues is huge in your ability to build trust. You can read that post here.
 
Blog Post #9: How to Identify Your Own Message: Years ago, I heard one of my colleagues say, ‘Don’t market yourself. Market your message.’ and I sat with that for a long time considering what it meant. Your message is a core part of your platform and it’s something that most businesses haven’t figured out. You can read that post here
 
Blog Post #10: How to Figure Out Your Why: Simon Sinek wrote the brilliant book called Start With Why which lifted up the message ‘people don’t just buy what you do, they buy why you do it’. I was powerfully struck with the truth of this message and, since then, helping people figure out the deeper purpose behind their business has been a core part of the platform work. You can read that post here
 
I hope you find these useful and I’d love to hear your comments in the comment section of the blogs themselves. 
 
 
 

The Meantime: Three Steps to Getting Out of Financial Crisis

Brick Wall1 The Meantime: Three Steps to Getting Out of Financial CrisisI’m in the midst of creating a new product and program that I’m really excited to share with you.

It could be for our if you find yourself in a very tight spot financially where you need money urgently and have no idea how to make that happen.

But let me back up.

There’s a certain time that all of us, at some point or another in our business lives, come to experience. I call it The Meantime.

It’s a moment where you feel like you’re headed directly for a brick wall.

And, as I heard Brian Tracey say once, ‘Life is full of problems. In life you’re either recovering from a problem, in the midst of one now, or one is coming. But, every once in a while, life gives you a reprieve from your problems. It’s called a crisis.’

And this is The Meantime. The time of crisis.

In business, I define The Meantime as that time when you are in a financial crisis where you need money urgently and, even though you have faith in things to work out in the long term, even though you believe in the strategies and business plan you’ve put together to be sustainable in the future, you aren’t there yet and you ask yourself, ‘What do I do in the meantime?’

But I call it The Meantime for another reason too.

It feels mean and vicious when you’re in the midst of it. It is an unforgiving time where you seem to have to hustle harder than you ever have before. There often seems to be no way to bring in the kind of money you need as quickly as you need it. It can be a time in incredible stress and anxiety. The Meantime is like finding yourself in the midst of a deep winter without enough supplies to make it through and a sense of dread creeps over you, ‘What am I going to do?’

And, from time to time over the years, people who have been deep in the midst of The Meantime have come to me desperate for help. They are desperate for some magic bullet that is going to make everything okay.

They have a workshop that only two people have signed up for and it’s happening in two weeks. ‘How do I fill it?’ they ask, insistent that there must be an answer.

They have quit their job to start the life coaching business of their dreams but now rent is due, they’re deep in debt and, if things don’t turn around quickly they’re going to have to go back to a job they hate. 

Or they come to me in a panic and ask me to help them figure out their niche right away. I used to dive in and try to help them out. But, niching requires space. There’s something about being trapped in the fear of not getting what we want or losing what we have that seems to shut down the process of niching.

What’s not helpful in The Meantime is theory. What is required is anything actionable that you can do right away.

So my response these days is that there are three steps to dealing with a cash crunch like this. And that they must be gone through in order if you are to survive.

Three Steps of Getting Out of The Meantime

Step One: Create Space

The absolutely most important thing you can do is to figure out how you can create more space in their life so that it’s not such an urgent issue. 

And that space does just happen.

That feeling of no extra money or space? This is The Meantime.

For years, I found myself unsure of what to say because, of course, there are no real magic bullets in The Meantime. Building a thriving and sustainable business takes a lot of thought and care and the one thing that we feel an absolute lack on in The Meantime which is… time. 

To make matters worse, one can get into a spiral of crisis if one handles The Meantime poorly. People start having sales, offering things for free, creating new products every month which eventually exhaust both their bank accounts and their energies.

The real solution to making it through The Meantime is to do whatever it takes to create more space in your life while building a more solid foundation in the future. As the old saying goes, ‘Dig your well before you’re thirsty.’ But, in The Meantime, it is too late for this. We are parched and the ground is unbroken.

This means: tidy your home, get organized, get out of every commitment you can possibly get out of. All those social engagements you’re not 100% jazzed about? Gone. Can you reduce your expenses? Do it. Go for a long walk with a friend to let yourself vent about how stressed you are so you can get it off your chest. 

This takes massive action to clear the decks. But, once you have, you may be amazed at the incredible wave of blessed relief you feel. 

The mistake is to, while feeling totally disorganized, cluttered, and overwhelmed, try to jump into money making tactics directly. This will only add to your overwhelm and usually ends badly.

Step Two: The Short Term Fix

When clients came to me in the midst of their crisis, what they didn’t want to hear were my inspiring thoughts on slow marketing and how ‘these things just take time’. Even if it’s true that strategy is more powerful than tactics, it doesn’t matter when you’re in the midst of needing to make a lot of money fast. Then you need the fast marketing approach.

Thankfully, while they aren’t long term magic bullets and they still require work, there are many fast marketing business tactics that are virtually guaranteed to bring in income and clients quickly. They aren’t the long term fix but in The Meantime, they are just what the doctor ordered. 

If you over rely on them and never really hone your platform, develop a strong sales funnel or marketing strategy you can end up in a perpetual state of crisis (which I’ve seen many times).

Again, do Step One before working on these.

What are these tactics? There are more than we can go into in this blog in depth, but they are things like: offering existing products to your list, doing talks and offering a free consultation to people who might be a fit (and offering those who take you up on the consultation a higher end coaching package), hosting what are known as VIP days for your clients, running a pay what you can workshop, offering people 30 minutes of massage for free (and then offering them an affordable upgrade to 60 or 90 minutes when they call to book). There’s identifying the core risks people perceive in doing business with you and working out ways to eliminate them (this can massively boost the response to your offers). There are many more. But they all work.

Step Three: The Long Term Fix

In step three, once things are in motion to bring in some income, you want to start thinking more strategically about your business and investing some time and money there. In Step Three we want to look at how we even got to be in The Meantime in the first place and make sure we never have to go back there (though, realistically, it won’t be the time you are visited by it). 

The secret here is to use the space and momentum afforded to you by steps one and two to investing more deeply here. Investing in the short term fix gets you maybe ten units of reward for every unit of effort. In the beginning, but then the returns rapidly begin to diminish. However, investing in the long term fix is the opposite. At first you put in ten units of effort and get only one unit of reward but, in time, it flips and your one unit of effort yields ten units of reward. This is the importance and beauty of a good strategy.

If you’re deep in the midst of The Meantime, there’s no shame. If anything, it’s a badge of honour and a moment of initiation into the exciting and, sometimes, terrifying life of being an entrepreneur. To paraphrase the old TV show Fame, ‘You want freedom? Well, freedom costs. And right here is where you start paying.’

I’ll be launching a new product called The Meantime and a 30 Day Challenge (four calls over a month) to help you work through these three steps. If you resonate with what you’ve read and you’d like to be amongst the first to know when it launches, just click on the button below and enter your email.