What we can learn from street hawkers

I was in Shanghai China last week and had another experience with street vendors or ‘Hawkers’. The hot item that week seemed to be light flashing rolling heels for kids shoes. I lost count how many times I was approached to buy some. It got me thinking about what we can learn from their hustle.

Hawker China

Lessons for Startups from Street Hawkers:

It’s a numbers game. They approach every single tourist. (I stand out in China). Even though we may or may not want the toy they are selling, they don’t let their perception ruin the chance for a sale. They’d rather get a ‘No’, than miss a potential yes.

They take rejection with a smile. They don’t get upset when you say no thank you. Especially if you say it nicely. They understand that you are not rejecting them, but the offer. It’s not personal and they know it.

They go through the range. If one product isn’t right, they pivot and offer another from their range. They give every prospect a few options and work out what they might need. They try and solve your ‘gift or memento’ problem.

They are proactive in retail. If you’re looking, they ask questions and interact with you. They don’t wait at the counter for you to bring an item up to buy. They don’t sit and ignore you looking at their smart phone – like some retail workers do in western markets. They know how to sell in retail. And here’s why, they live on commission, not hourly rates – no sale, no money. What a difference that makes for sales people.

Make an offer: They often let you make an offer. Your price is probably higher than the minimum they’d accept. (Something we could do more often in B2B selling).

They Negotiate: They have flex in their pricing, let the customer have a perceived win through negotiating on price. A large part of what we buy is how we feel when we buy it. They know this and make it fun.

They know the rates: They’re great international marketers, they know the exchange rates of every country and give you the numbers immediately. They live in the customers world.

They are thankful: When you buy, they thank you for your custom. Appreciate your support and do business with a smile.

If we ever want to learn how to sell, then we should pay attention to people whose livelihood depends on it, not those who get a wage for doing it.

Follow me on SnapChat – search ‘Sammartron’ for more business insight.

How the music industry gamified social proof

If you grew up when MTV was still a music channel you’ll remember that many music videos were recorded at live concerts… except that they weren’t. Nine out of ten of them we’re in filmed studios in a way which made things look bigger than they were. Clever camera work that looked like the band was already a big thing, when many times, the band was a new thing. It was a brilliant method to gamify social proof that this band rocked! Just take a look at these famous music videos:

Walk this way

Living on a prayer

Wake me up before you Go Go

All of them filmed in studios for bands who weren’t big yet. It’s a very important part of selling anything new, especially a startup. We need to create the perception that others think this ‘thing’ is terrific. We are a social species, and we rely on our social nature as a survival mechanism, and so social proof is one of the most powerful tools we need to build into promoting anything. Blurbs, Stars, Reviews, Fans, Shares, Likes, Hearts, Testimonials.

And before you ask, gaming social proof like the music industry does, is not misleading, it’s necessary. Anything we’ve ever done as a species has at some point required someone to paint a picture of what could be, not what is. We are simply pre-empting the future reality. And unless what we are selling lives up the gamified social proof, it won’t last anyway.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

Why on line prices can mislead

Cars for sale

On line markets where people sell peer to peer – think eBay sellers, or used cars on line –  can trick our perception of the price of things. Here’s why:

This is the advertised price, not the price it sells for.

When we compare similar items on line, we are more likely to see the price of things that haven’t sold yet. The price people actually buy at, is often not advertised long enough for comparisons. This means the real value of something is often much less than we think. Especially when we are looking to sell something we own. We are weirdly programmed to think items we own are worth more than they are. 

You might notice a car like yours is advertised for $20,000. There may even be multiple advertised at this price.  Other sellers also see the most common price and follow the market. But we need to remember these are the cars which ‘haven’t sold’ – those that sold probably did so at $17,ooo and are no longer listed. It’s the overpriced stock that creates our price perception.

Why does this matter? Because it is counter intuitive, the opposite of what we’d expect. It’s the filter bubble in action. The more we see homogeneous products with price X on line, the more we should remember it’s the price people hope for.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

10 public speaking hacks to do before you hit the stage

In my line of work I do my fair share of keynote speeches. Now, I’ll preface this by saying I’ve never been formally trained, but I’m fortunate enough that I do get paid for it. So, I have a few ideas on how to do it well. I’ve practiced this craft for over 20 years and have developed my own set of things to do before the speech itself. This is not a how to ‘do the speech’, but what to do in the moments leading up as preparation. There’s some good hacks in this list that anyone can use immediately to make their stage time a bit more effective.

  1. Read through your notes the night before. It has to be the night before so your mind has time to digest while you sleep.
  2. Assess the room you’ll be presenting in while no one is there. Imagine yourself walking around and engaging the audience. Get the feel of the space.
  3. Ensure the tech is working. The best way to do this is not to have any tech. You are the technology they came to see – a human giving a human performance.
  4. Do some pushups or other powering posing 5 mins before you go on stage (even hide in a toilet to do it) to create a winning feeling in your mind.
  5. Talk to at least 3 people from the audience to go on stage. Be nice and intro yourself to them. Tell them one cool thing you’ll be mentioning and why it matters. Like you’re letting them in on a secret. These people are now ‘barracking’ for you like a football supporter. Others around them catch their positive vibe.
  6. Tell these 3 people you’ll look for them specifically during the talk – they’ll think you do even when you simply look in their general direction – this takes it to next level personal delivery.
  7. Go through your killer funny bits or poignant moments pausing after each one, imagining the audience reaction you desire. Believe it has already happened, and then it will.
  8. Drink some water immediately before you go on stage to ensure your throat doesn’t dry out, especially if you like coffee.
  9. Brush your teeth, rinse with mouthwash or have something fresh and minty in your mouth. A fresh mouth creates a confident mind.
  10. Finally, remember the audience wants you to do well. They have invested their most scarce asset, ‘their time’, and they’ll be looking for your signals to engage with you. Presenting is always a team effort with the audience.

Oh, how did I learn to do speeches? Simply by paying close attention to others I thought did it well. I take the best of what they do, and incorporate their pieces into my natural ‘Stevie’ style. And let’s be honest, the best way to do anything is to learn from ‘them’ so you can be the best ‘you’.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

The 1 question we must ask before we ever send a business proposal

Business Proposal

If you’re in the business of selling, and you’re in the business to business game there is no doubt you’ve had someone ask you this:

Can you send me a proposal?

Happy days, right? No. In fact, this is the time that we must ask the question before we send them anything. And in case you’re are wondering, this is the question:

Sure. What has to be in it for it to be a ‘Yes‘? 

The reason we have to ask this, is that the proposal question is very often a friendly way of saying, go away, not right now, or we don’t have the budget. It is a nice way to say ‘No’. But let’s be honest that it is just a waste of time and resources for both sides. But if we ask the question instead, we can circumvent a lot of pain for both parties. After the question is asked, one of two things generally happens:

Situation 1: ‘Well, we can’t promise anything…..’ or any other number of excuses arrive. This tells us if they are serious about doing business with us. It forces them to tell the truth now. This is a good thing, very quickly we know where we are at. It informs the work to be done, or it cuts down a dead lead. Any good sales dog or startup entrepreneur hates wasting time on a false positive.

Situation 2: They open up with their real needs, tells us about some internal constraints, disclose budget parameters, or that there is a lot of work to be done to get their boss to approve it. It creates forward momentum, and a collaborative approach. It builds truth and trust which leads to transactions.

Time is our most precious resource. It’s better to live in the real world and have the courage to uncover the truth early.

You were born to pitch

baby pitching

Pitching is one of those things that some of us love and and some of us hate. But, we all know it is a necessary part of startups and economic life in general. Here’s something many people don’t know – everyone is good at pitching, everyone is doing it everyday, and in fact, it was the very first thing we did the moment we were born. Yep, the first thing you did as a human being was pitch. Here’s how it went:

You were born into the world scared and alone as you exited the womb. You desperately wanted to stay alive, and immediately went into pitch mode. You cried for your mother to hold you, cuddle and warm you, to provide your first taste of breast milk. You put on your most adorable sad face, and used the only assets you had at your disposal – facial expressions and noise. You didn’t even have any words, but you made an immediate connection through passion and fear and hope – you connected. And it worked – you are here.

It goes further than that. You probably pitched a few times already today – proposing what to have for dinner, which movie to watch with your partner, or what to do on the weekend. You may have pitched to a work colleague on which place to get a coffee in the morning or what time to go and why. Proposing ideas, suggesting activities, it’s all a manner of pitching. And once we start to pay attention to the fact we are constantly pitching, then we can start to understand our own technique and bring it into the more formal circumstances. The best type of pitching we can do, is to bring our casual daily approach – the same approach that helped us survive in life up until now – into our business life. We need to take our natural style into those formal pitch moments. When we do this we become more endearing, believable and affable. The trick is that we need to be our natural selves. We need to embrace our natural style and personality – that same one that helped you make friends.

If you want to learn to pitch, then the best thing you can do is pay attention to the pitches you’re already doing. Take note of yourself and then take your existing informal method  to places where it matters formally. You’re already a gun pitcher, you just need bring your subconscious behaviour to a conscious level.

Counter intuition, deal cutting and commissions

I really like sharing my ideas with groups of people – so much so that I often get up on stage in front of large groups of people to to do this. After doing it for the best part of 10 years (usually in local startup events & for friend who work at large corporates) I started to get offered money to speak at events. Which is quite exciting. It’s a classic example of the wood chips generating a significant revenue stream on their own.  I’ve recently starting working with an agency to help me manage my speaking engagements. Again, these guys came to me through others who recommended me as a potential source of revenue to them – apparently I give good voice.

When we talked about how the agency thing works for their speakers the issue of commission came up. Surprisingly I was advised that I could pick my preferred commission to give to them. I could chose to give the agency a lower percentage commission if I wanted. I could give a commission of 10, 20 or 30 percent. I chose 30 percent. My dad once told me the easiest way to make money is to help other people do the same. To create a deal where there is enough in it for the other guy that they go to work for you. So I took his advice.

The principal of the agency then told me it was a good decision and that most people take more and but end up with less.