>How to Negotiate The Best Speaking Fee Every Time

 5th November 2008 by gihan

>On a forum for speakers, one of the participants raised the question about whether to stand firm on fees or whether to reduce them under certain conditions:

“Over the past 5-6 years that I have been speaking, I have read articles, heard tele-seminars and listened to speakers talk about standing firm on fees. I’ve heard things like, “Quote your fee and then keep your mouth shut.” “You’re worth every penny.” “Don’t negotiate.”
I do agree that we will get our full fee more often if we do a better job standing firm. But in the real world, when you’re trying to get established, and at the same time working as a professional speaker, it’s not as easy as it sounds.”

(That’s not the entire question, but it’s enough to make the point)

This is my response …

I’ll quote my response in full here, because I think it has some value for any information expert – whether or not you’re a “speaker”.

“One of the biggest mistakes speakers make is to position themselves as speakers.

I know that seems like an odd statement, particularly in “a community for speakers”! So let me explain …

Position yourself as an expert, not a speaker. This is not just playing with words. It’s a significant difference in your mind and your clients’ minds.

When you’re a speaker, you have a speaking fee, and you get stuck in this sort of discussion about whether to stand firm on fees or not. When you’re an expert, you don’t.

Instead, you focus on finding clients who want and need your expertise, and then offer it in different ways, depending on their needs, budget, outcomes, etc.

For example, in my business, if a client wants to know how to tap into the whole Web 2.0 phenomenon (this is one of my areas of expertise), she has many choices:

  • Subscribe to my e-zine, blog or podcast (free)
  • Watch my presentations on YouTube or SlideShare (free)
  • Buy an audio CD/e-book program ($60)
  • Attend a half-day public seminar ($350)
  • Join my membership site ($70 per month)
  • Buy the “Web 2.0 bundle” of CDs/e-books/books ($500)
  • Get a one-hour phone coaching session ($1,200)
  • Subscribe to a six-month public seminar series ($2,000)
  • Get a two-hour face-to-face consulting session ($2,500)
  • Sign up for a three-month mentoring program ($5,000)
  • Book me for a 45-minute keynote ($6,000)
  • Get me in to develop a customized in-house training/facilitation program (negotiable)

The point is, I’m not selling myself as a speaker; I’m selling myself as an expert. And this makes a HUGE difference when talking fees.

You only want to pay $3,000 for a keynote? No, thanks, but for $3,000 I’ll run my public seminar in-house for, say, 10 of your staff.
You don’t want the $1,200/hour phone coaching? Fine, buy the product bundle at $500.
Can’t afford the $5,000 mentoring program? OK, get a one-hour phone session for $1,200 and then join the membership site at $70/month.

My job is to (a) clarify their desires/goals/objectives/outcomes, (b) discover their budget and other logistical requirements, and (c) propose a solution that meets (a) and (b). In other words, if they have a round hole, my job is to find a round peg to fill it.

I know this all sounds like Sales 101, but don’t under-estimate it! It’s very different from the “Should I negotiate my fees?” question, which is about their round hole, your square peg, and the struggle to make them fit.

How does this apply to YOU?

Can you use this idea in your business to help you set your fees and stick to them? Remember, they’re buying value, so it’s your job to create that value in their minds.

>Don’t Assume They Will Buy on Their First Visit

 3rd November 2008 by gihan


Many Web site owners put all their eggs in one basket. They assume that somebody will visit their Web site, read all about the products and services on offer, and immediately make a decision to buy.

That’s almost always a mistake. Not every site visitor is ready to buy. Sometimes it takes more than one contact (some research indicates that it takes up to 6 or 7 contacts) until they are ready to move from being an interested prospect to a paying customer.

This means that even if you’ve successfully got them to your site and engaged them in your offer, if you’re relying on them to buy from you on the first visit, you’ll probably fail most of the time.

The key factor here is trust. How much does the site visitor trust you? If you’re a well-known name with a well-established brand, then the trust level is probably high. Similarly, if you’re dealing with existing customers rather than strangers (as I discussed in Mistake #1), then again you’ve probably established a high level of trust.

But if you’re dealing with strangers – in other words, people who are visiting your Web site for the first time – and you don’t already have credibility in the customer’s eyes, chances are they don’t trust you – yet. And if that’s the case, it’s very difficult to make the sale. In fact, it’s virtually impossible.

How much is this hurting you?

Of course, trust is an abstract concept, so it’s difficult to put a figure on exactly what is meant by a “high trust level”. However, I can give you a method to determine this to some extent. It won’t give you an exact figure, but it will give you a rough guideline.

Take the product or service that you’re offering, and ask yourself “Who is the recognized leader in providing this product/service?”

For example, if you’re selling books in Australia, then the leaders are, Barnes & Noble, eBay and others on the Internet; and local book chains like Angus & Robertson, Dymocks and Collins.

If you’re selling accounting services, the leaders are Ernst & Young and other big firms.

If you’re selling pet food, the leaders are probably the large supermarkets.

If you’re selling sales training packages, the leaders are Zig Ziglar, Tom Hopkins, Brian Tracy and the like.

If you’re selling accommodation, the leaders are the big hotel chains.

Now ask yourself, “Why will a site visitor buy from me rather than from (insert the leader here)?

This is a crucial question, and I can’t emphasize it enough.

You’d better be asking it yourself, because you can bet your bottom dollar that your site visitor is asking it in their own mind.

If your Web site doesn’t answer this question, you won’t get the sale. It’s as simple as that.

And it’s obvious, too. The leader in your field has the trust of the customer. You don’t. Until you can establish that trust, forget about trying to sell them something.

Now look at the other side of the coin.

That’s the bad news. Of course, the flip side of this argument is the good news: When you do establish trust with a visitor to your Web site, there’s a good chance that you can keep marketing to them for a long, long time.

And if you believe the research that says that it takes up to 6 or 7 contacts until they are ready to buy, it means that you have to put some effort into establishing that trust.

Here’s the key: Trust is about building relationships, not conducting transactions.

If all you do is attempt to sell, sell, sell, your customer will see you as just a salesperson, and eventually you will be an unwelcome pest.

On the other hand, if you build a trusted relationship with that person, they will see you as an advisor, an expert and a welcome guest. And so of course they will be more willing to buy from you.

There’s nothing unethical about this approach. You’re not establishing a relationship just to keep selling them stuff; you’re establishing a relationship so that you can help them, and you’re helping them by selling them your stuff.

There’s a subtle difference, but it’s important. In fact, it’s less ethical to sell them stuff without first ensuring that it serves their needs.

Start this relationship on your Web site

Here’s what this means for your Web site: You must, must, must capture their e-mail address before they leave your site.

This is crucial. Without it, you’ve got no way of keeping in touch with them in the future. Even if your Web site offers great value, you can’t just assume that people will keep coming back to it regularly.

Here’s an example that proves my point: Many major newspapers, which have high-value, ever-changing content, also have a free e-mail mailing list, so that they can e-mail the headlines to their subscribers every day, instead of relying on those subscribers to come back to the Web site.

It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: You must have somebody’s permission to send them e-mail. Otherwise you will be an unwelcome pest. At best you’ll be ignored, and at worst you might even be breaking the law.

Because of the ever-growing problem with spam (unsolicited e-mail), Internet users are very wary of giving out their e-mail address to strangers. So you have to offer them strong incentives, such as:

  • A clear privacy policy that assures them that you will keep their e-mail address confidential;
  • An assurance that they can unsubscribe from the mailing list at any time;
  • A special offer – such as a free e-book or special report – if they join your mailing list;
  • An indication of how often you will be e-mailing them, what you will be providing, and what benefits you are offering.

Despite the spam problem, e-mail is still the most powerful way of reaching your customers and potential customers.

Marketers are looking at newer technologies, such as RSS, but these haven’t yet caught on with the general Internet community. So e-mail is still your best Internet marketing tool.

Keep separate mailing lists

E-mail is such an important tool that I recommend you manage separate mailing lists for different groups of people.

For example, people who visit your Web site would join a general mailing list. People who download a free report could also be on another mailing list, for specific follow-up. Your customer mailing list (for people who have bought from you in the past) could have special offers that are not available to non-customers. Customers who bought a particular product could have their own mailing list, so that you could send them updates about that product.

So ensure that your mailing list software allows you to create multiple mailing lists.


Many of our clients publish excellent e-mail newsletters, and I strongly recommend that you sign up to them, just to see examples of effective e-mail marketing campaigns. Here are some that are publicly available:

Many of our clients use our custom-designed software “CourseBot”, which manages multiple mailing lists for you. Find out more about it here.

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>Engage Your Visitors Immediately

 28th October 2008 by gihan


Let’s face it. Most Web sites are boring.

Research about Internet users shows that if you don’t capture your site visitor’s attention within 8 seconds, they will leave – probably never to return.

Yep, eight seconds is all you’ve got. That’s the average time that an Internet user takes to make a decision about whether to continue looking at your site or – with one click of their mouse – go somewhere else.

So take a long, hard look at your Web site, and ask yourself whether it gives them something in the first eight seconds to stay there. If not, you’re probably wasting almost all the time and effort you put into getting the person there in the first place (Heck, most Web sites don’t even load in the first eight seconds)!

Be honest with yourself. Is your Web site really compelling enough to grab the site visitor’s attention and keep them interested? If not, you’d better fix it – because Internet users are notoriously impatient.

How much money are you throwing away?

If you’re still not convinced, look at how much money this is costing you:

  • How much did your Web site cost you?
  • How much are you spending on hosting fees and other regular maintenance?
  • How much money are you spending on bringing traffic (i.e. visitors) to your site?
  • Most importantly, how much money are you not making because you’re losing your site visitors before they’ve had a chance to check out what you’ve got to offer?

Remember that it doesn’t really matter how many people visit your Web site. Heck, you could probably figure out for yourself how to get lots of visitors (for example: spending a lot on advertising, or “tricking” people by promising something you can’t deliver). But if most of those visitors just leave after seeing the first page, it won’t make a difference – or at least, not a positive difference – to your bank account.

Of course, perhaps your Web site isn’t only about getting new site visitors, so not all of this money is being wasted. But for most business owners, getting new customers from your Web site is important to you, so I bet that a large proportion of your marketing dollar is being wasted – simply because you’re not engaging your site visitors as soon as they come to your Web site.

This is not an academic exercise. I sincerely encourage you to add up all the costs of running your Web site, because when you know how much it’s costing you, it will give you a great incentive to make it better!

The magic of improving your conversion rate

If you discovered that you’re currently wasting a lot of your marketing money, take heart – because the solution is close at hand.

As I’ve said already, the key figure is not the number of visitors to your Web site, but the number who become customers. This is known as the conversion rate, which is simply the percentage of site visitors who become customers. If 1 in 10 site visitors buys from you (a very high conversion rate, by the way!), that’s a 10% conversion rate. If it’s only 1 in 50, that’s 2%.
Even a small conversion rate like 2% is considered pretty good, but I bet that – if you’re like most Web site owners – your conversion rate is even worse than 2%.

The good news is that if your conversion rate is low, it’s relatively easy to improve it. As you can imagine, it’s much easier to double a 2% conversion rate to 4% than, say, a 40% conversion rate to 80%!

And remember that – all other things being equal – doubling your conversion rate has the same effect as, and is far easier than, doubling the number of visitors to your site.

Look at the conversion rate you’re currently getting. If it’s less than 2%, just think about what difference it would make in your business if you could increase it to just 2%. Go ahead – do the calculation. For example, if you’re currently getting a 0.5% conversion rate, then increasing it to 2% means a four-fold increase in your profits!

What does that mean to you in actual dollar figures?
The little-known secret to getting new customers to buy

There are many, many techniques for improving your conversion rate, and you’ll find many of them in Make More Sales, our CD product for helping to improve your conversion rate.

There’s one strategy I’d like to talk about here, and it relates specifically to the topic of this area – in other words, your Web site being boring.

In a nutshell, the strategy can be summarized as: Get them engaged right away.
Research shows that people who get involved in doing something are more likely to continue doing it. Conversely, if there’s no initial involvement, it’s much harder to convince them to take action later.

In his book Influence, Robert Cialdini describes this as the “commitment and consistency” principle. The hardest part of getting people to take action is getting them started, because there’s a natural inertia that makes most people resistant to change.

But you can make that work for you, because it also means that once people have started on a course of action, that same resistance to change makes it more comfortable for them to keep going than to stop.

If this is the first time you’ve heard this, it might seem strange to you. But you’ll find plenty of examples of this in real life.

A perfect example is the mail-order book club that offers you “4 books for $4” as a special starting offer. They lose money on that first sale, but they know that once you’ve subscribed to the service, you’re likely to continue using it and they will make money on future sales.
Mobile phone contracts are another example. Telephone companies know that the monthly subscriber is a much more valuable customer than the pre-paid user (So much so, in fact, that Optus – one of Australia’s big telecommunication companies – was accused of using sneaky wording to classify a large number of its pre-paid subscribers as monthly subscribers, in order to make the figures look better to the public).

So how do you engage your site visitors?

First, get rid of any “fluff” on the front page of your site. If your front page is just a big graphical animation, get rid of it. If it has any big pictures on it, get rid of them.

In fact, get rid of all pictures on your front page (There are exceptions, such as a well-designed animation to grab the site visitor’s attention, or a photograph of the Web site owner to increase credibility. But most pictures on Web sites are a waste of time and bandwidth).

Second, offer them something free. That will grab their attention, because “free” is one of the 16 most attractive words in marketing (The others are “you/your”, “love”, “fun”, “money”, “save”, “results”, “new”, “health”, “easy”, “proven”, “safe”, “guarantee”, “benefit”, “how to” and “now”).
Third, engage the visitor in some action.

Giving them a free article of information is useful, but is passive because it doesn’t engage them in taking much action. A better option is to give them a free download of a special report or e-book (like this one).
Even better, engage them in something interactive, like a survey or self-assessment questionnaire. This engages the site visitor’s mind, because now they have to reflect, think, consider and get involved in your Web site.


The Australian Thought Leaders Web site has a free “proficiencies audit” to help you determine your strengths and weaknesses in presenting to audiences.

Stef du Plessis offers a free “Thinking Preference Profile”, a sophisticated tool for checking your thinking style.

Filed Under

>Who the Heck Are YOU, Anyway?

 18th October 2008 by gihan


Clients often say to me:

“I sell a few products on my Web site, but nowhere near enough to pay the bills. How can I sell more?”

I’ve looked at hundreds of speaker Web sites, and I reckon I’ve found the single most important reason why. Actually, there are lots of reasons, but if you don’t sort out this one, then nothing else matters. Yep, it’s that important.

Here’s the most important question you have to ask yourself:

“Why will people buy from (insert your name) instead of (insert name of the world expert in your field)?

So if you’re in sales, you’re comparing yourself with Zig Ziglar; if you’re a motivational speaker, it’s Anthony Robbins; in business growth, it’s Tom Peters; in time management, it’s Steven Covey; in small business, it’s Michael Gerber; and so on.

Why should you ask this question? Because you can bet your bottom dollar that your site visitors are asking it! So if you don’t ask – and can’t answer – that question for them, you’ll never succeed.

Does that mean you’re doomed because you’re competing with Zig Ziglar, Tom Hopkins or Anthony Robbins? No, no! You just have to find reasons why somebody visiting your Web site would buy your product instead of theirs. Reasons like …

  • You know the Australian (or whatever) market
  • They’ve seen you speak and they like your stuff
  • You’ve worked in their industry
  • Your stuff is targeted at their niche market, whereas the big names create products for a mass market
  • Your stuff is cheaper
  • Your stuff is local, so postage costs less and takes less time
  • … and so on …

Whatever the reasons, make them clear to your customers, so that you answer that magic question for them.

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>Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, by Edwin A. Abbott

 14th October 2008 by gihan

> A charming, fascinating and thought-provoking book, well ahead of its time (it was written in the late 19th century).

Flatland is a gentle satire of life in the Victorian era. But it’s also a simple and beautiful metaphor for the possibility of a God in our universe. That said, this is not in any way a pro-religion book; so don’t ignore it just because you’re not religious. On the contrary, it’s an excellent read for atheists because it presents a fairly compelling argument that perhaps you should be agnostic instead.

Flatland is a two-dimensional universe, inhabited by Circles, Lines, Triangles and various other polygons, including our main character – the narrator – a Square. In the book, the Square experiences a mysterious and miraculous visit from a strange creature, who turns out to be a Sphere from “Spaceland”. The Sphere turns up as a circle in Flatland, but can seemingly perform miracles by changing size and disappearing at will. The Square is amazed at this God-like behaviour, until the Sphere gives him an experience of a universe outside his own. He then realises the truth, but of course is scorned and rejected by his fellow citizens when he tries to describe it to them.

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Give Value, Get Traffic

 13th October 2008 by gihan

There’s been a lot of buzz on the Internet recently about how it’s getting tougher and tougher to get a good position on Google. Many Internet marketers are complaining that Google keeps changing its rules, which damages their business.

The most recent big change is what’s been called the “Google Slap”, where thousands of Google advertisers woke one morning to find their advertising costs had increased 10 times or more! This caused a huge outcry in the Internet marketing community, and some marketers literally lost all their customers overnight.

But what does this mean for you?

Of course, I looked into this “Google Slap” thing in more detail, because it did affect a lot of people. But when I ignored the hysteria and looked at the facts, it seemed that Google was rewarding high-quality Web sites and penalising low-quality Web sites.

And isn’t that a good thing? After all, when you’re searching for something in Google, wouldn’t you be happy to find a high-quality Web site with lots of relevant content, rather than a sales letter, an advertisement, or just a survey page?

I asked my friend and Google expert, Ed Keay-Smith (from about this, and he confirmed my thoughts.

This is good news for us!

Google is favouring valuable content over clever marketing. And that’s good news if you’re an information expert – that is, a professional speaker, trainer, consultant, coach or author. Why? Because you’re in a strong position to deliver valuable content. For example, you can:

  • Write articles for your Web site.
  • Publish a regular newsletter.
  • Post entries to a blog.
  • Submit articles to other people’s newsletters.
  • Answer questions in Internet discussion groups.
  • Send a free e-book to your mailing list.

Now, this is exactly what other Web site owners are trying to do. But it’s not easy for them because they don’t make money from their expertise. Writing doesn’t come easily to them.

You, on the other hand, have a huge advantage – if you’re an information expert. You’re used to expressing your ideas clearly. And even if you’re not a good writer, you can use services like to transcribe your spoken words and convert them into articles.

You can then publish this material in various places – your Web site, your blog, a special report, and so on. Other people spread your message for you because it contains valuable information, and you benefit by getting the extra visitors to your Web site.

So start writing those articles …

Remember that Google is looking for high-content Web sites. So one very effective technique is to publish more articles on your Web site. In other words, don’t just make your Web site a sales brochure. Make it an information-rich resource centre instead.

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Triumph of the Airheads, by Shelley Gare

 11th October 2008 by gihan

This book is nonsense dressed up as a serious argument.

Gare claims to take aim at “airheads” in our society, and in some cases she does well. But at other times she just goes off on her own rants about things she doesn’t like, pretending it’s all part of the same argument.

Her first flaw is that she conveniently doesn’t define the term “airhead”. So we have to figure out what it means. Fortunately, most of us do have a pretty reasonable idea of what’s meant by somebody being called an airhead. For example, if we look at the back cover alone, Gare cites:

“an upside-down world where celebrity matters more than substance” – yes, most people would go along with that.

“small girls seriously regard a trashy hotel heiress as a role model” – again, yep.

“an American president who gets Sweden and Switzerland mixed up” – again, (sadly) we’d have to agree.

But then it gets trickier … What about …

“correct spelling is considered less important than knowing how to do PowerPoint” … Hmmm, I agree with her sentiments, but that hardly makes the person an airhead.

“bright maths and science students go into investment banking so they can make truckloads of money” … And who exactly are the airheads here?

“Australian politicians who spend millions on spin doctors while schools and hospitals go begging” … You could argue they are manipulative, unethical, even evil – but airheads? Hardly.

And that – even before opening the book – is where Gare’s entire argument breaks down. It turns out that her definition of airhead is pretty much “Anybody I disagree with”. If she’s had a bad experience with you, you’re tarred with the airhead brush; if she likes you, you’re not.

Take, for example, her vitriolic attack on management consultants “who can spout the latest management truisms to back up whatever nonsensical cost-cutting scheme they are trying to introduce”. Fair enough, but when it comes to public servants doing the same thing, they are portrayed sympathetically as “public servants, often now dependent on their contracts being renewed”. This is pure hypocrisy, especially in light of how difficult it is to get sacked from the public service.

There is no doubt that some of Gare’s criticism is well-founded. She correctly takes aim at Paris Hilton, celebrity worship, excessive consumerism and Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, who was fined for not thinking to declare $18,000 worth of goods at Helsinki airport. These are clearly the signs of “airheadism”, and all power to her for raising our awareness of them.

But sadly those are exceptions, not the rule, in her book.

At other times, she criticises:

  • A chief executive of David Jones department store for wanting more than an already high salary.
  • Her bank, which is “so stingy with its branded ATM machines that in my whole inner-city suburb, there is only one”; and she then goes on to complain that they charge her $2 for using another bank’s ATM. Fancy that! She follows that with the nonsensical statement, “You can’t get much more of a twenty-first century airhead paradox than being charged by your bank for not using a service that the bank tries not to provide”.
  • An insurance company who (quite reasonably) requires written proof that the property they are insuring no longer has a bank mortgage over it.
  • Her local council, who – again quite reasonably – requires proof of identity before giving her a residential parking permit.
  • Citibank, who released a credit card that appeared to be fee-free, but whose fine print sneakily slipped in a big annual fee.

You might agree with these complaints – in fact, I agree with some of them myself. But that’s not the point. She claims these are examples of “airheadism”, when of course it’s nothing of the sort. It might be greed, manipulation, excessive bureaucracy, or anything else. But it’s hard to argue that these are “airhead” policies.

I could go on, but I hope you get the picture.

The irony is, if you are an airhead yourself, you’ll probably believe her argument – hook, line and sinker. But if you take more than a nanosecond to think for yourself, you won’t fall for it.

>Ask and You Shall Perceive

 9th October 2008 by gihan


Here’s the single most important secret for successful marketing:

First find out what your customers want; and then create products or services that match their desires.

Too many businesses start by creating the product or service, and then spend most of their marketing dollars trying to persuade people to buy it.

Sorry, but that’s exactly the wrong way around!

It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling pet food, real estate, life insurance, bookkeeping services, Lear jets, airline tickets, adult education, or anything else under the sun.

Products don’t pay you; PEOPLE do. A can of dog food, a house, an insurance policy, a ledger, a Lear jet, an airline seat, or a textbook won’t ever stick its hand into its pocket and pull out a cheque, credit card or cold, hard cash. No, it’s PEOPLE who do that.

So doesn’t it make sense to look for your market first, and then create a product for that market?

I’m guilty of it myself

Hey, I’m just as guilty of this as anybody else. Some of the products I’ve created have worked really well; others have bombed. Now, when I was creating the “duds”, I certainly wasn’t saying to myself, “You know, Gihan, this product isn’t really that great. In fact, it’s probably not worth your while.” No! I thought it would be the best thing since sliced bread, and I had visions of thousands of customers buying it and making me an instant millionaire.

Just like we all tend to do when creating our own products and services.

Because, you see, I made the fundamental mistake of product creation: I didn’t research the market first.

Here’s how to avoid that mistake

Of course, that’s all in the past, and now I do careful market research before launching any new products and services. I suggest that you do the same.

How? The answer is simple. In fact, some people will say it’s TOO simple, so they won’t bother with it (But YOU won’t make that mistake, will you?)

All you have to do is to ask your potential customers what they are interested in.

There are many ways to do this on the Internet; here are just a few:

  • Research to find out what people are searching for.
  • Buy some cheap advertising in Google to conduct an informal survey of potential customers.
  • Send e-mail to your database, asking them about the biggest challenges they face in their business.
  • Survey every new subscriber who joins your mailing list, asking them that same question.
  • Ask your past clients what OTHER products and services they would like you to offer.

I’ve done all of these at different times, with varying degrees of sophistication. Almost every time I’ve done it, I’ve got some surprising and unexpected results, which have been immensely useful in steering my business in the right direction.

These are all very cost-effective methods of doing market research. But the most important thing is not the cost, but the willingness to do it. Please set aside some time as soon as possible to do this sort of market research. The sooner the better.