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