Heads up: This isn’t a benefit auction post. You can jump to another section of the blog for that.
I was just so disappointed in a presentation I attended today that I typed up this post to clear my head and to remind myself of what not to do when I’m next giving a speak-to-sell presentation.
A couple of months ago, I had lunch with my friend Suzanne. She had recently launched her own business and was commenting that she’d invested in a program from Daymond John Academy. She thought I’d get something out of it. “And it was only ~$1000,” she said.
“Who is Daymond John?” was my response.
I’m likely one of the last people who hasn’t yet watched Shark Tank. Certainly I’m the last business owner to tune in. My other friend Sue — also an entrepreneur — swears by the show. But as I really don’t enjoy watching TV, it’s hard to make it a priority.
Yet Suzanne was so excited about it! She commented that many elements of my business seemed to follow the plan he advocated. She encouraged me to check him out. So when I heard a radio spot advertising that the Daymond John seminar was back in DC, I registered. I drove over to buy his program.
I wasn’t really interested in hearing the 2-hour presentation because I was already sold. Suzanne sensed I’d like it and $800 isn’t much for a business training program. I was a “HELL YES” and prepared to pay! In fact, I sat in the rear corner of the 150-chair room (before organizers asked me to move closer to the front) so I could be first to the sales table, located in the back.
But first, I had to sit through a 2-hour presentation. That’s when I got UNsold.
I do a lot of marketing online, but there is always more to learn. And there is no doubt that Daymond John, a fashion mogul, has a lot more money than I. But on this day — when I was PREPARED to buy and was UNSOLD because of the process — I felt like I’d turned a corner. I was able to appreciate some of my own business mentors who have educated on “old school” speak-to-sell styles versus contemporary approaches. This was old school, male-centric selling.
For the most part, I don’t blame the presenter. He’s likely given a script to memorize. Who knows … perhaps he closed much of the room. I’ve no doubt they will have a lot of people attend the Daymond John Academy; they had a lot of people attend these free sessions. I think the closing ratio would be interesting, especially the rate among more established business owners.
But as his style didn’t speak to me, I began to question the approach of the entire program.
If I was revamping the pitch to get someone like me to buy, here are three changes I’d make.
Open with authenticity
Get us on your side upfront, by pulling back the curtain and revealing some vulnerability that resonates with us entrepreneurs. Recall that even though you’re representing Daymond John, it’s YOU we’re buying into that day. Mack was the face of the company and a taste of what was to come — good or bad.
Instead of launching the presentation by chiding / berating us for being quiet as we evaluate you, draw us in with a story.
For instance, about an hour into his pitch when he received a text, Mack commented that it was his son’s birthday. “I texted him just before I came onstage,” he said, “That’s one text I gotta take!”
In my opinion, that’s what should have been the lead-in. I imagine a 10-minute opening drawing us entrepreneurs down an emotional path, such as …
“I have something personal to share with you,” Mack’s opening words could have been, “I’m waiting on a really important text today. It’s the kind of text that — whatever I’m doing, and wherever I am — I’m going to stop and read it. I want to warn you of this so you don’t think I am being rude. I promise you, you’ll get some great information today on building your business. And I promise you, I’ll cover everything I’m supposed to cover. But when this text comes, my presentation will momentarily go on hold so I can respond.
The reason being is that today is my son’s birthday. His name is Joey and he means the world to me. In fact, since I knew I was going to be with you today and couldn’t be with him, I made a point of spending all weekend with him. That’s no small feat because he’s an energetic 8-year-old and I’m nearly 45! So when he texts me, I want to read it.”
And then Mack could transition …
“I’m sure everyone here today has a person or two or three that they care deeply about like I do with Joey. You may have a family that depends on you. It’s tough leaving a paycheck to do your own thing. It’s tough making financial commitments in yourself when your child wants to go to summer camp. And it’s not uncommon to feel uneasy AND excited about your new venture.
“You want to feel financially capable for you AND those you love. In fact, it was my family that made me want to break out of my poverty cycle about 15 years ago. I just felt like I could do more. I WANTED to do more for my wife and I. Sadly, it didn’t go well for us in those early years and dissolved in a painful divorce. I took a long road to becoming a millionaire because I made a big mistake early on in that I didn’t get the help I needed upfront. I was stubborn.
But as I came around … as I started to learn about growing a business … it propelled my life and business forward. You’ll learn some of those strategies today, and some of you will learn even more strategies in the Daymond John Academy. My life changed when I started investing in myself. Today, I’m remarried. I’ve got a great kid and wife and life. And you could have a life that you’re happier with, too.
“So let’s get started. But don’t forget … when Joey sends me a text, I’m stopping to respond.”
That would be personal and authentic. Honest. And a big boon to the know, like, and trust factor.
Drop the “WHATs”
“You want to make a million dollars?” the speaker will say in hyper-style, “Lemme hear you shout, YES!”
“YES!” the audience is supposed to yell … and then obediently run to the back of the room and buy the program being offered. It’s a bit like a church tent revival.
- “… and you’re going to WHAT? go to work and hate it…”
- “… created a global WHAT? brand through his WHAT? fashion line…”
- “…we will help you WHAT? save time because time is WHAT? money”
I doubt he realizes just how repetitive he was. But if he listens to a 2 minute recording of himself, he’ll get it.
It’s either an attempt at engagement … or he’s nervous. In any case, it was distracting. I thought about Macklemore’s Thrift Shop rap whereby he begins with 32 repetitive WHATs (technically, “WHAs”)
Then I began to imagine that old drinking game, whereby friends drink a shot each time – for example – the President says the word “hope” in a State of the Union address. Every WHAT?, drink. We couldn’t have kept up…
I’m not joking about the overuse of the technique. The photo of my notes (see above) represents ~30 minutes of WHATs in the 2 hour talk. He was a fast talker, too, so I only caught a fraction of the total.
Don’t bury the offer
The tail end of the presentation is when we heard about the program. I was hungry for more details about this. The offer – the most important part – seemed hurriedly rushed through at the end, almost glossed over.
We were told the Academy is three full days filled with knowledgeable presenters. OK. Who are they? Can you feature one or two?
Can we hear a couple of success stories?
And what exactly am I doing in those three days? What’s the format? We all know that business models vary among industries, so is there a “track” I can join, to better model my industry and/or interests? For instance, if I’m not interested in learning about patents, are there other concurrent sessions for me?
Are there small group discussions? Or pitching rooms where students can practice pitches to other students as instructors observe?
Are there alternate dates? If I can’t attend the dates you gave (and I couldn’t), can I pay now and attend in another city, or attend in 6 months when you’re back in DC? (These are the kinds of points that make it easy for me to buy it now, even if I can’t use the program right away.)
Or is the Academy presenter after presenter talking?
(By the way, the cost was ~$1300, which I find still reasonable.)
In closing …
At the end of the two hours, some people (~6) rushed to the back of the room to sign up, ready to pay. I’m sure others eventually signed up too. But I left.
(Incidentally, at some sales programs like this, the room is “seeded” with one or two people whose job is to rush to the back, in order to make the offer look desirable to unknowing participants. I’ve no idea if they seed the room for this talk. It *is* an old-school technique, though.)
Two hours not wasted, but not necessarily well-spent, either.