Thursday, December 18, 2014

Healthy Competition ... Friend or Foe of Business Success?

In my many years of doing business, I have competed for clients and specific pieces of business. Little competition challenged me in the early years. As a result, I knew who I was competing against. Today within our industry of special events and meetings (as well as many other industries), more competition is the norm. As companies downsize, and those who are now "available" start their own businesses, more folks are out there trying to find a client and make money.

So what's "healthy" and what's not?

I would imagine that you, like me, can identify both. And let's start with the "nots."

It is not healthy to:

1. undermine your competitors and point out their faults or diminish their reputation in order to make yourself look better.

2. deliberately undercut a competitor's pricing when you know it is fair.

3. ask to see a competitor's proposal (under any circumstances).

4. go into competition for a client who you've been paid to work for when working with another company (the "I can do what they do" syndrome).

5. take the rolodex of a company you've left and use it for your own gain.

I can already hear that question arising out of 4 & 5. It'll probably go something like this: "But it was ME who developed the relationship, so what can I do if they want to work with ME?" Or, "I met that vendor at an industry event."

Here's my response. "Were you paid (either salary or commission or both) to solicit this client, develop the client and produce the business? If so, it is not YOUR client. It is the company's client. It was your job to do exactly what you did. On the other hand, if you brought the piece of business to the company from a prior relationship, then you do own that client. Next scenario: "Who paid for you to go to the industry event?" Point made.

It IS healthy (and I will give you some examples):

1. to price yourself fairly no matter with whom you are competing. I have had clients tell me the price a competitor is offering and ask if I would be willing to do the job for the same price. I will decline and stand firm that I have costed OUR product fairly. The decision should be made on the value of the product offered and not only who is cheaper.

2. to collaborate with a competitor and join forces if you feel this will benefit the client. A long time ago a fierce competitor (and by the way, great friend), Janet Elkins of EventWorks, and I were bidding on a job for a local community. Rather than compete we decided to collaborate and work together for the benefit of the community. To this day, Janet can call me for a resource, or I can call her, and we are open with each other. Do we talk about clients we are both bidding on? No, we just each do our job. But to this day, we would join forces if we felt that it benefitted the project.

3. to pass on a job you're not suited for and recommend one of your competitors, who is a better fit. (This will come back to benefit you many times over.) You have heard (or read) the "me first" story from long ago when a speaker shared the following: when he felt that someone he knew would be far better suited to produce a job (it was not an event), he referred his prospect to that company. The owner called him, thanked him, and said, "Why did you do that?" Our speaker said, "Because I knew you would do that for me." And that set the stage for future referrals which he did get.

 4. when in a bid situation to praise your competition if you know who they are. It means you are acknowledging that your client is putting you in good company. Any client will have far more respect for you if you do this. If I was asked what our differentiator was, I would never say, "We're better" or "They are too expensive" or "We have more experience." What I would say is "They are a great company, and you could not go wrong no matter who you choose. What we bring to the table is (and then point out anything that I can offer that is unique to my company.)" Maybe you have employees who speak multiple languages, or have traveled to the client's home country.

We all compete. So do your clients. That's the world of today. Every brand has a competitor. So, don't come to a screeching halt when faced with that fact as you do business. Remember your value. Remember your strengths. Play to them; that is healthy. And in the end, it will bring success.

Extraordinary Events will be back online with a new blog after the New Year. It is our wish that this holiday season brings you health, joy and prosperity as you celebrate with friends, family and loved ones. Happy Holidays!

Andrea Michaels is the founder and president of Extraordinary Events, an international meeting and event planning and production firm based in Los Angeles. To learn more about EE, visit Contact Andrea via

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Make Your Sales Pitch "Pitch Perfect"

Susan Allan, founder of The Sales Forum, has been a valuable coach to Extraordinary Events and our entire team to counsel and teach us better communication skills. All her savvy input reaches to far more than our own event industry. It even applies to a car salesman. If you see an 80-year old walk in, you probably don't try to sell him the Corvette or even a hybrid. On the other hand, for a young family you will focus on the SUV or something similar. In other words, no matter what the discipline, it's know your audience. Who YOU are never really matters if you cannot find a way to connect ... we all have much to learn from Susan, and I am happy that this blog can reach out to benefit so many. -Andrea Michaels

Make Your Sales Pitch "Pitch Perfect"
-By Susan Allan

As a sales and business coach within many industries, I have found that there is a "sweet spot" that account execs and business owners can reach so that their sales pitch becomes pitch perfect. While you alter each pitch for your specific audience, there are a few simple steps that allow you to create "winning conversations" every time. I have experimented with these for decades, and countless clients have proven the results that are generated with The 6 Part Conversation for Sales© below. The unique quality about this system is that it puts 95% of your focus on "them" so that you truly understand who you are meeting. When you put time into prep work, every meeting is a smooth and successful one because you are fully prepared. When you demonstrate your awareness of someone's company and industry based on research before each meeting, you shift rapport from a wish to a reality. You may be experienced in "Qualifying the Client;" here is your chance to qualify and quantify yourself so that you are fully ready to pick up the phone and make each call.

Look at the Top 10 on your Wish List, those companies that you really want as clients. With Vertical Marketing you're able to save time by focusing on a few industries, do your reading, and prepare. What do the clients need? How are you going to meet these needs? What is your unique solution for this? Why are you most qualified to sell to them? What terminology is appropriate? What part of your PowerPoint presentation do you enhance and what part do you ignore? What research can you do before meeting the "players" at the firm? Once you've checked;;; and, you're ready to create unique verbiage to motivate them to your Close. Thus your process may be:

1. Target a company or industry.
2. Decide which company to approach first based on research.
3. Research the CEO, key employees and any press releases.
4. Do all the above in less than 30 minutes.
5. Begin to craft your pitch and work with your team to generate a few "big picture" creative ideas.
6. Craft the actual verbiage you need for your meeting specific to the audience.

At the meeting, once you have spent the first few minutes socializing, you will want to gently move to business, right? Here are some of the key phrases that you may find helpful in most preliminary meetings before you begin your actual pitch and during the pitch to ensure  that your audience is attentive:

1. I noticed on your Web site that _________________________.
2. When I read the ______________article about your firm, I guessed that you might be interested in ____________________________.
3. Since you just won the ________________award last month, I know how important ____________ is to you; may I describe the quality consciousness for which we are famous?

Yes, it is all about them in the beginning of a Presentation if you want to demonstrate that you are truly interested in their needs. Proving that you are committed to their success can be your biggest goal. Arriving with a working knowledge of their industry, their company and the person you're seeing is required, not optional, and proves your competence. Arriving with a few reasons why they need your product is another essential. Once you have enough information from them, you will return with your full Presentation, incorporating all the information you have gathered and using your full creativity and memory. If you're a seasoned professional, be great on your feet, pulling exciting ideas out of nowhere. If you're new to the industry, ask for the days you need, and that's what a full-court press is for. Since you can't demonstrate dependability before they're your client, speak about your firm's reputation. Then, it's time for your second meeting, and you may find some of these phrases helpful:

1. I remember that at our last meeting you said___________________________.
2. When I heard you say_________________, it made me think of________________________.
3. I'm guessing that since you (did or said)________________________that you might like us to ________________________________for you; does that sound good?

Each improvement that you make on your sales pitch can be multiplied and multiplied in each successful meeting so that in a short time your results can be exactly what you have dreamed of achieving and your sales results bigger than ever before!

 Susan Allan is the Founder of The Sales Forum and a specialist in creating successful career and business strategies for corporations and entrepreneurs. Susan is an author and certified mediator and has created The 6 Part Conversation for Sales and numerous unique skills that allow us to create peaceful and cooperative negotiations, and motivate and inspire anyone to a Close! As the on-air host and executive producer of Evolution Revolution TV, Susan explores the newest breakthroughs in thinking and communication. During Susan’s 20-year career in fashion, she and her teams designed and sold over a half billion dollars of her products. She has been seen on Fox News and on hundreds of television and radio shows demonstrating the results we can create when we transform the way we think, listen, speak, and act and focus on solutions instead of on problems!  Due to the non-profit status of the parent company, Susan offers a complimentary 1-hour private telephone session so that everyone can transform their lives, their finances and their future! Susan may be reached at

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Keeping Your Customers for a Lifetime and the Effects on Your Bottom Line

I recently read an article by Shep Hyken entitled, "The Lifetime Value of Your Customers." Shep shared that four out of ten senior executives in larger companies don't know the lifetime value of their customers. What does this mean? If leadership doesn't know, Shep explains, then employees won't know either. Yet when employees know and have clarity about the lifetime value of a customer, he continues to write, they can make better customer-focused decisions.

I have had some clients for over 25 years. Is that worth far more than a one off? Certainly! I started thinking of how the true value could be explained and why it mattered so much. Let's say that I go to a great restaurant and I spend $50 for a dinner. And, I like it so much that I go there once a month. That's worth $200. Over a year that's $2,400. And (presuming it doesn't go out of business) in 10 years it is $24,000.

Taking this into account for our industry, we do a great job for a client for ...oh, let's say $50,000 ... and it's an annual. Over 10 years if you retain that client, and assuming there will be some inflation, it could be worth $750,000.

Well worth taking the time to  make that one client very, very happy and earn their loyalty. And worth passing onto your employees the merit of going over and above at all times. It's job security, isn't it?

Many years ago I was contacted by a hotel that had a client who needed a guitarist. (Stop reading if you've heard this story.) And the hotel needed me to drive from the high desert (where I lived) to Laguna Beach to play the client tapes of guitarists. Yes, you guessed it ... before emailing or YouTube. The trip one way was about two hours with no traffic. I did that. They hired me, and on the day of the job I drove back down to Laguna again to make sure they were happy with the guitarist. They were.

Fast forward three months. The client returned and needed a dance band. More "tapes" (remember those?) and ultimately a job which I again drove down for. By the way, they didn't like the band as it was very "California" and they were New Yorkers. But that didn't matter. They liked the service and personal attention they got.

Fast forward again, and they were returning and wanted a major headliner. I once again drove to meet them. The program grew too big for the hotel, so we needed a venue which turned out to be a tent which needed catering, decor, rentals, permitting, staging, audio-visual AND the headliner. For two weeks of programs featuring a major headliner.

I retained the business for years, traveling with this client and doing events, meetings, headliners, etc. All from not being daunted by going out of my way to book a guitarist.  

To add another story (I can keep 'em coming, folks!) let's go back almost 26 years to my first meeting with Bob Abbott of Mueller Company. I'll start at the end. I am doing their annual incentive program, not just parties, but travel, hotel, registration, tours, gifts ... I am their full-service incentive company. And have been for the past 10 years. Anyway, let's go back 16 years when Bob Called me based upon a referral and asked if I could show  him venues around Los Angeles for a small event for his company's best customers. We drove around for two days because Bob likes to see everything, and I mean everything. After Day One I realized that we had really hit it off so I took him to Tony & Tina's Wedding (gee Bob, one of my staff is getting married, and I have to make an appearance); we went shopping for a wedding gift, etc. Obviously part way into the evening, he figured out this was a fully-staged show, and we had a great time. EE did his event that year, and every year thereafter as part of AWWA. And each year was a party, always more and more challenging to me to be inventive and out of the box. Fortunately, with Bob, there is no box. We grew from these more intimate events to eventually larger hospitality events and then finally to the full-scale deluxe incentive. All from "Can you show me a few places in Los Angeles?" Now we travel the world with Mueller. At the very onset, it was a huge investment of time. Was it worth it? Judge for yourself.

What's the lifetime value of a customer? What is good service worth? Is any job really too small if it has potential? I don't think so, do you?

Andrea Michaels is the founder and president of Extraordinary Events, a multiple award-winning international meeting and event planning and production firm based in Los Angeles. To learn more about EE, visit Contact Andrea via

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Three Things I Know about Finding New Business

-By John Klymshyn

1) It's not easy.
2) It requires focus.
3) It is WILDLY satisfying ...

I have an affinity for things arriving and presenting themselves in groups of three.

Maybe it's driven by my history as a drummer, maybe it's because we live in a Trinitarian universe. (Ex: Earth, Air & water; Army, Navy & Marines; Chips, Salsa & Guacamole ... you get the idea), or maybe it's because I like the feeling of things listed in threes.

So, when I was asked to write about finding new business (which I think about A LOT), I thought I'd offer these threes. Beginning with the end in mind asks me to stop and consider:

  • What three vertical markets am I going to call on?
  • What three areas do the people in those verticals gather in?
  • What three questions might I ask that get people thinking in ways they have not thought previously?
Selling, in my world, is defined as "having people feel good about making a positive decision to move the conversation forward, with me, today."

Pretty specific definition, yes ... and sales is a precise and demanding profession! In the interest of specificity, let's consider the three ideas I began this piece with:

It's not easy.

Asking people to engage in a conversation with you - a stranger - is not easy. Saying ridiculous things at the outset (like: "I'm not trying to sell you anything") sets us up in a negative fashion, because, frankly - that statement is a lie. No good, lasting, satisfying relationship begins with a lie. We have to begin conversations on purpose, with strangers, and hope for the best!

It's scary, intimidating, and ... this is what makes it fun.

The language we craft (and deliver) makes the difference in how people perceive, react and respond to us.

Selling is not for the faint of heart.

The good news is that it can be done with integrity, imagination, and with a sense of humor. Such as "I'm calling today to introduce myself and to see if what we offer / do / provide might be of  use to you and your team / group / company some time down the road. What's the best way for us to figure this out?"

It requires focus.

In my book, How To Sell Without Being A JERK!, I share Painful Selling TruthsTM. One of them is: "If you want new business today ... today is FAR TOO LATE to start working on it!" We have to have a vision for the future, upon which we act today.

How many people - by the end of this selling day - will hear your name, and the name of your company?

NOT READ IT IN AN EMAIL ... HEAR it, because you picked up the phone and had the audacity to call?

Start a commitment of a number of cold calls to make every week.

Group them together, so that you are doing a group of them IN A ROW, without stopping, giving up, complaining, checking email, chatting with a co-worker, or watching videos of a cat dressed like a shark on a vacuum robot being chased by a baby duck. (Yes, there is a YouTube video with that exact insanity...)

It is WILDLY satisfying. 

Getting a prospect to agree to meet with you, hear you out, endure a demo, sit through a face-to-face meeting ... is an amazing accomplishment! Do not minimize the power of these minor miracles. The fact that something happens often does nothing to reduce the miraculousness of the event. (Is miraculousness a word? Well ... it is NOW!)

Case in point: you are probably breathing right now. That's miraculous. I rest my case.

Selling is fun, challenging, disappointing and thrilling. All of those emotions show up in a typical sales professional's heart within ninety seconds of each other.

Get out there, and Sell Without Being a Jerk!

The first three people to email me as a result of reading this post will be given a FREE DOWNLOAD of my audio book. 

How does that sound? :)


Three Things I Know About Finding New Business...
1. It's not easy.
2. It requires focus.
3. It is WILDLY satisfying...

Get to it! 

John Klymshyn is an Author, Speaker and Coach. He travels the world helping organizations build dominating sales forces.

His three books have been adopted as required reading by some of the fastest-growing and dominant companies in the world.

Klymshyn lives in relative seclusion in Santa Monica, California, where he thinks up stuff like his books, and this blog post. 

Learn more by contacting Klymshyn directly via email:

Audio Book Link:

To learn more about Extraordinary Events, visit