How to separate yourself from the school of fish without being eaten alive.

The secret: Choose to be the fisherman instead of another fish.


What is the hardest thing you’ve ever had to sell?

Asking this question is always interesting because first thoughts and reactions typically go to a litany of products or services that probably should never have been for sale in the first place. Once people get that air out of their windbag, the next layer becomes more and more truthful, especially for marketers. The answer usually is… themselves.

Investing the 4 minutes it takes you to finish this article, you will have a technique in your pocket, a tool, to reach for…every single time. Maybe I should of called this technique, “the pocket fisherman”?

If your immediate reaction is, “Oh no, I’m great at selling myself ”, you may want to check that. Talking about yourself is not selling you. In fact, it’s a great signal to people that you are still trying to convince yourself of your own competency. The sound of  “you-to-you” with them just listening in usually leads to… “Waiter Check please!!”. If they check their phone or their watch, you’ll know for sure. If they text someone and their phone suddenly rings, you are an undeniable predator. Stop.

Most of the great marketers I know tell me they are horrible at marketing themselves. They do a crap job at it. I was like that for a long time, It sucked. I sucked. I empathize from a place of deep humility. No one teaches you how to do it. I’d like to share what has helped me change it all and get results in a step by step way.

In last week’s article, “If you think you can market to your audience… you’re doomed”, I told you I’d send you a tool and a tactic to help you grow your sales almost effortlessly. It’s right here.

The key is you are probably already in the right place, just doing the wrong thing.


Here’s the premise first. People buy themselves, people sell themselves, people convince themselves based on their self perception and identified needs, especially your clientele. They are never signing up for you. They are signing up for what you can do for them. So you need to quit talking about you and get them to talk more about them.

 So let’s assume you are at a business event, a tradeshow, a seminar, or the all-now famous “mastermind”. They feel kind of like the sea, or a really big fishbowl, right? Top feeders, bottom feeders….easy to identify.

It’s easy to grow your business here but most of us have no idea how to do it. Most people want to talk about themselves. Do the smart thing. Talk with people one on one if at all possible. Start asking questions about the details of their business differently than you usually do… without an expectation of outcome. What they like about it? What they hate? What they sell? How it works. Get the business model in your head. Ask until you have that. It will take a few minutes for sure. Steer away from the answers that zone in on people they dislike. That is useless gossip. Focus on the organizations business model and discover if the organizations they work with as sub-vendors are functional fits for them. Make sure you ask enough questions to make the conversation have value to them. You are the therapist at this moment. Listening is actually the position of power.

If they are happy with things as they are, roll with it. If they are not and you truly know of a third party, (NOT YOU) that could help them, offer to make that contact FREE. You have just moved to caring advisor. Remember 10 minutes ago you were…total stranger, so far, so good.

free-samplesYes, that’s the free sample that shows you have integrity. Follow up on the spot with a note to self or a quick ping. Yes, rudely right there in front of them. Ok so ask permission first, but then at least make the note. It is the FREE SAMPLE of your integrity. You clearly do what you say you are going to do and you take action.

Please notice I didn’t suggest you preview their business to see if you are a fit for them. Why? They are a human being. They are a fit for you, I guarantee it. Trust me.

If you follow this path they will at some point remember the value you presented. Lead generation is a numbers game for sure but from other’s perception it is a quality game. Be a person that is kind and helpful for no reason. It is the right way to be and the reputation you want to have. The numbers will come if you represent quality help….value add.

I have worked with and for people who have not followed this principle. In fact, I have seen people coldly and rudely cut conversations short because there is “no ‘there’ there”. Mistake. You never know who you are talking to or who they may know. By definition networking has to do with a “net” working. The people you meet are the net, the fish you end up catching with the “net” are the “work”. First make a net. You can’t buy them. You can’t sew into someone else’s. Make one yourself.

You are a fisher, one who fishes, right? That is the sexually neutral term? I think so. I know that most who will read this are women because most men think they know it all, already. That’s why women are better networkers naturally. They connect, collect and conquer. Smart.

There are only a handful of things in the blue ocean that should matter to you. Some are environmental like the rocks, the waves and the storms of business. They are the grander situational things that cause navigational issues in your strategic business plan. Then there are the three we’re focused on here, people… Sharks, Nets and Fish. Stay away from sharks. They are sure fun to watch but they will destroy you. Stay away from sharks. Outside your net they will eat through it, inside your net they will destroy it. Get it? Get it. Stay away from sharks. Told you three times…you’re on your own. You’re gonna need a bigger boat.

Now, have you ever had a friend or acquaintance for years and found out some new fascinating fact about them or a contact that they’ve had for years that was suddenly mentioned in passing that took you by surprise? They never gave it to  you, why? We all have had that experience. Even with close friends. You may not know exactly everybody they know. Never being introduced to a key player in your business life would be a tragedy. Make sure that your personal relationships are in a place that could add value to your net as you sew it together. Be nice without being a know-it-all, to the friends around you. Pick up a check instead of splitting it with a friend. See you usually split it with friends don’t you. Sign of friendship? Nope, sign of lack of value that you have for them and complacency. Be a better friend.

Okay back to our conversation with the new contact at the event, cocktail one is just about running out. The appropriate social turn at some point will be for them to ask about your business. The moment you’ve waited for, right? NO! Do not take the bait. They are being really nice and appropriate but they just met you and are actually beginning to end the conversation. That’s what they are doing. Either they don’t trust you to tell more or you have been passively listening waiting for your turn to talk. They are reading you. How could they want to wrap it up? How could that be when you are about to be so fascinating? Face it. You are not fascinating… yet.

The stronger and smarter position is to deflect politely and find a way to say. “I am totally happy to answer any question about me and show you my business whenever you like but it’s generally boring, maybe because I do it everyday. Before we do that can I ask you about something you just said that interests me?” Order the second cocktail and then then truthfully go to the question that leads to something else problematic in their business. Get them to reengage and demonstrate that you are listening, care and have something to offer them…about them.

After this you may know enough to offer them some more help. Here’s the underlying secret.

Give a sh*t about them. Yup. That’s it. Care. Be empathetic. More than act like it, BE IT. Genuinely meet people with the spirit of service and growing them.

The fact is nobody really cares about your business or wants to help you. They care about theirs. Just like you. The people that stand out in the world are the sharers, care-ers and doers. Did that look like a typo to you? Care-ers? Ok. Let’s remove the hyphen. Careers. Amazing huh? In the middle of all this, true careers are built by those who care. People who get talked about and recommended are effective at helping others, period.

When someone recommends a business book they inevitably say, “Read this, it helped me.” They never say read this “the guy talks so much about himself you will be dazzled by his history.” Snore. Rhymes with bore, lore and who___. Don’t be a who__.

cocktailNow, back to our cocktail talk.

By now, the conversation is hopefully deeper about them and it’s finally your turn to talk about your favorite topic. You. Don’t give into the temptation. Ever. Talk about your clients and case studies. Don’t even talk about third party information you read on the Internet that you think makes you look and sound knowledgable. That actually does the opposite. It tells them that you understand how Google works. Don’t tell them what Tim Ferris just said or compare your thinking and visionary ability to Steve Jobs. Talk about them and their specific needs what you have experienced first hand that relates to them that could help.

Which means…You gotta “know your stuff” to be good… So know your stuff.

The best advice you can ever give, needs to be heartfelt and real, from your own case studies. This is the only way you should ever talk about yourself, through actual case study experience where you or your organization tangibly helped someone to reach the goal. That is the part of you they are dying to hear about. If you don’t have any case studies, you probably should be looking for a job instead.

You can’t sell wisdom you don’t have.

Be sincere. Tell the Truth.

If you don’t know what to say because there’s no way in hell you can help them, be aware of it. Repeat their business model and speed bumps back to them so they know you heard them and simply say “Your work is way out of my league, ( Over my head….outta my field) but I might have a friend that could help. Could I introduce you to a nice person I trust?” Of course that better be true. Assuming it is, hook them up with your friend. The law of social reciprocation will indenture your friend to return the favor. Hopefully, you are good at picking friends.

That is networking.

Sidenote: If you brought up your money, personal travel, possessions or degraded your spouse at any time. You flunked. You don’t have a hole in your net. You have a hole in your boat. I will not do business with you. You are immature. You cannot be trusted. Does that piss you off? I don’t care. You are not a shark yet. Quit trying to look like one. People that aren’t sharks, simply look like silly blowfish to the rest of the world. If you are a blowfish, you’re out. Blowfish are poisonous.

puffer-fishLet that sink in deep. If that hurt a little bit, own it. Change. Remember the only thing you can change in this world that will have any real effect is looking you in the mirror every morning.

Now you’ve exchanged business cards or texts, right. You’re done. That’s it for now. Seriously. Move on. If you gave them appropriate case studies they know it. If they liked what they heard and you were really impressive they may hand walk another lead to you. They will throw a fish in your boat. Happens all the time.

They don’t need or want to know anything more than you are a resource for them. You didn’t go through their data file, compare needs, none of that. You don’t know who they know that can help you. Good. You simply became a servant to their success and they don’t know that much about your needs. You have also appropriately set up the instinctive need for a second date. You have forcibly and subtly broken the law of social reciprocation. You have given, but you have not taken your fair share.

Why is this smart? It is psychologically, incomplete. You have kindly and sincerely built a scenario where you have given a lot and they have not fully reciprocated. If they are a creep this will not bother them. I don’t work with creeps. Neither should you. If they have integrity and a conscious this exchange will sit in their subconscious as an open and incomplete loop and bug them.

The mind hates open loops.

After a few days follow up, if you committed to do so with helpful information for them. Go from sample to sample platter if your instincts lead you to. Make the connections for them you promised regardless. Build their net.

This behavior is more than a sales technique. It is a growth technique based on being a conscientious good person. Imbedding the expectation of empathy and thoughtfulness in your business will build you all the reputation you need. This will start to eliminate your need for increasing sales staff and build your need for a customer service staff- actual production people. If you are truly committed to your business this will be your long term effortless growth strategy. If you are not committed to your business, then you are not committed to yourself. We can’t help you with that, but we have a friend that can and would be happy to offer the referral for free.

If you are disproportionally increasing sales staff and decreasing production staff you are in serious trouble. You should look to make a change, possibly starting with you.

Don’t be surprised when you see this technique work, not just in the short term but in the long term. People remember someone who was actually insightful, unselfish and willing to help without reciprocity. In fact people love to help their business grow….gratis. Many of these people will come out of the woodwork in the days months or even years after such a conversation.

This technique is free, it requires no investment. It requires you changing the way you see other human beings. Making them valuable to you instead of you being parasitic. You’ve seen the parasites, you don’t want to be that. Be the wise fisher tending the net, eye on the horizon, working the sea, catching the fish as they naturally come in waves. Have character.


That is at the heart of being a great fisherman. Doing it when you want is the entrepreneur. Knowing where the great fishing spots are is certainly expert. Being masterful, empathetic and respecting the nature of the system is rare. Be rare, people will notice.

Over the years, I have seen this “higher form” technique build great relationships and eventually build a “boat” that the fish swim right up to. We spend lots of time feeding fish and we also sail.

I like sailing. Maybe we should talk about that too sometime… Enjoy the journey.

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