Author Archives: Jack Malcolm

Book reviews - Presentations

Book Recommendation: Confessions of A Public Speaker by Scott Berkun

I resisted buying Confessions of A Public Speaker because I know how unglamorous the life of a speaker can be, and I didn’t think I could learn much from it.

I was wrong. Berkun grabbed my interest right away with Chapter 1: “I can’t see you naked” in which he demolishes that old bit of speaking advice and reassures the reader that you don’t need to be perfect to be successful.

In Chapters 5 and 6 he grabbed my respect when he stressed what I consider to be the two most important principles of successful speaking: clear thinking and practice. While these may be obvious, and as Berkun says: “…old ideas said well have surprising power in a world where everyone obsesses about what’s new.” Here are some of the old ideas said well:

“All good public speaking is based on good private thinking.” (p. 57)

“The more effort you put into the clarity of your points, pharmacy the easier everything else about public speaking becomes.” (p. 68)

“If you’re too lazy to practice, expect your audience to be too lazy to follow.” (p. 86)

“No matter how much you hate or love this book, you’re unlikely to be a good public speaker.” (He wisely saved this one for p. 140—his point is that it takes a ton of practice.)

As you can see from that last point, this book pulls no punches, and that’s what makes it a good read. In addition to these big ideas, there are also many useful tips for speaking in tough rooms, what to do when things go wrong, dealing with nerves, etc.

One caveat: keep in mind that CAPS focuses on public speaking, as opposed to internal presentations. There is a lot of good sense that will help you in any speaking situation, but you won’t find much about organizing your points for persuasive intent or about preparing for Q&A. What you will find is an entertaining and useful book.

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There Is No Such Thing As a Commodity

There is no such thing as a commodity. Whenever I make this statement in a classroom, it’s usually good for an argument, and I expect to start one with this article.

First, a couple of definitions: A commodity is an offering that is only differentiated by its price, so that customers would be silly to pay a penny more for one offering over another. The word offering is also important, because no product exists by itself—it’s always part of an offering. Offering comprises every possible aspect of the buying and ownership experience that will affect your customer.

We’ll begin with your offering. For the price your customer pays, they get much more than the physical product itself. That’s why even products that are physically indistinguishable can command price premiums. When is the last time you bought bottled water? You can get it as much as you want from a tap for about three-tenths of a cent per gallon, or you can drive to a store and pay up to $4-5 per gallon. Is it worth it? Apparently people are willing to pay for the “difference”: global bottled water sales are expected to top $86 billion in 2011, about equal to the GDP of Bulgaria.

People are willing to pay the difference because sellers tout differences in purity, taste, packaging, and image—even when those differences are undetectable in blind taste tests. If they can do it with water, you should have no problem.

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Persuasive communication

Political “Persuasion”

Election season is upon us, so our mailboxes are filled with persuasion attempts. While it’s tempting to just throw them away, it can be instructive to examine them carefully to see what works and what does not work. Yesterday, I received a copy of this appeal that one of my readers had received, and she asked for my opinion. Her subject line read: “Example of a persuasive political message I actually find persuasive”, so you know what she thought of it.

For decades, Jerry Brown has been a champion for the people of California. He has served as governor, as mayor of Oakland, and is currently the attorney general.

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Price Objections: What to Do Before You Sharpen Your Pencil

One of the most vexing issues facing salespeople is how to win a sale when their solution is not the lowest-priced alternative available to the prospect. Some of them positively dread the moment in the sales cycle when the buyer says: “We like your product, but we can get the same thing cheaper somewhere else, so you’re going to have to sharpen your pencil if you want the deal.”
Often when that happens, the salesperson goes into high-gear selling mode—but this time they target their manager, trying to get a pricing exception to win the business.
Although there are no foolproof ways to defeat the price objection, there are so many avenues available to you that discounts, if any, should be a last resort. It’s such a big topic that I’m going to break it up into a series of articles, but let me start the discussion by addressing the psychology of pricing, as it affects the mind of both the buyer and the seller.

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