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Facts Tell; Stories Connect … and Other Insights into Public Speaking with Bob Burg

Bob Burg joins me for the first episode of The Speaker Station Podcast. Bob is a sought-after speaker at company leadership and sales conferences sharing the platform with everyone from today’s business leaders and broadcast personalities to even a former U.S. President.

 

He is the author of a number of books on sales, marketing, and influence, with total book sales of well over a million copies. His book, The Go-Giver, coauthored with John David Mann, itself has sold over 850,000 copies and it has been translated into 28 languages. His and John’s newest parable in the Go-Giver Series is The Go-Giver Influencer.

 

Whether you’re new to the craft of public speaking or an experienced veteran, you face a multitude of opportunities and challenges. In this episode, highly sought-after speaker and best-selling author Bob shares how he got started in the speaking business, the biggest challenge he faced on his way to becoming a captivating and purposeful speaker, and his most significant piece of advice he can offer to up and coming speakers. You definitely want to hear Bob’s advice.

 

Takeaways

  • It’s all about the audience.
  • Focus on engagement, not perfection.
  • Ideas for prospecting

 

Resources

 

Podcast transcript

 

Peter
I’m thrilled to have Bob Burg is my very first guest. You’ll hear one of the reasons during my interview with him. Let me tell you a little bit about Bob. He’s a sought-after speaker at company leadership and sales conferences, sharing the platform with everyone from today’s business leaders and broadcast personalities to even a former US president. Bob’s the author of a number of books on sales, marketing, and influence with total book sales of well over a million copies. His book “The Go-Giver,” which he co-authored with John David Mann has sold More than 850,000 copies and it’s been translated into 28 languages. His and John’s newest parable in the go giver series is the go giver influencer. Bob is an advocate, supporter, and defender of the free enterprise system, believing that the amount of money one makes is directly proportional to how many people they serve. He’s also an unapologetic animal fanatic and is a past member of the board of directors of furry friends adoption clinic and ranch in his town of Jupiter, Florida. Hey, Bob, it’s great to have you on with us. I really appreciate you being here.

 

Bob
My pleasure, Peter, always great to speak with you. It’s been too long.

 

Peter
Yeah, you know, the last time we spoke was actually 10 years ago this summer you were on my radio show and I want to let people know that that’s the exact reason I asked you to be my first guest on this show, because of an incident when we were recording on the talk radio show here in Providence I don’t know if you remember or not, but you were talking. And all of a sudden, my headphones just went blank. I couldn’t hear anything. And of course, in radio, it’s never have dead air, never have dead air, if anything else goes wrong, never have dead air. And not being able to hear anything. I started talking. And that’s when I realized I couldn’t hear myself in my headphones, and it must be a problem with the headphones. And what actually happened was, the court on my headphones got caught up in my chair, and when I turned my chair and unplug the headphones, but the great part and what meant so much to me was after the show was over you and I spoke and you said, “Hey, Peter, don’t worry, that stuff happens. I realized something had to have gone wrong. I just stopped talking and let you proceed.” And Bob, that’s when I realized you practice what you preach. Everything that you speak about and write about was summed up in that little moment there meant a lot to me that You just went with the flow. And you were very respectful and more than that gracious. And to tell you the truth. I don’t know if they use this term anymore. But you are certainly a gentleman’s gentleman.

 

Bob
Wow. Thank you. You just made my day. Thank you

 

Peter
It’s just been too long since we’ve spoken. But that is I wanted you to be my first guest.

 

Bob
Well, thank you. I’m honored and privileged.

 

Peter
So with all that said, Before we get into your speaking career and how you might be able to help our listeners, I want to take a couple of minutes to discuss The Go-Giver series of best-selling books that you co-authored with John David Mann. Why do you think this series has resonated with so many people over the years?

 

Bob
You know, I think there are probably two main reasons one is that it’s in a story form. And stories tend to connect even more effectively than how-to information connects you know, there’s an old saying, and it’s one of those sayings that it’s true but it’s not complete and that is that facts tell stories sell. But you know, as my great co-author John David Mann says that’s, that’s not totally true facts tell stories connect. And once you’re able to connect with someone on a heart-to-heart level, that’s when you can sell or educate or what have you on your idea that you’re trying to get across.

 

So I think one major reason for the success was that it was in story form. And speaking of John David Mann, my co-author, he’s just such a great writer and storyteller. I am a how to die. I mean, all my books before and after that series have been how-to book step one, step two, step three, John is an absolutely brilliant storyteller. The other reason why I think the book hit was because it gave people People permission to conduct business as they truly wanted to conduct business not as they have been told or seen on TV or in the movies, that business was conducted in only a certain way. And if you wanted to be successful, you had to be ruthless and horrible and this and that. And here certainly are people out there who have attained financial success and done so in ways that we, you know, wouldn’t appreciate.

 

But for the majority of us know, when we do things the right way with a coming from a value base, looking to bring value to others, looking to serve others, that’s when we’re going to be successful, both short term and in a very sustainable way. And so I think that hit with people and what’s interesting is our first adopters were not the people who needed to hear this. Our first adopters were the ones who were already very successful. And we’re already doing it this way long before they heard about the go giver, which, you know, would do it reminds me to say there’s nothing in the book that John and I wrote, that’s new sneaker success principles that have been around forever and successful people have always applied them, either intuitively or they learned them. But so we would be getting emails from, you know, top leaders, huge producers who would say, you know, this is exactly what I’ve been telling people that I’ve done, the people don’t believe me.

 

Peter
Which is sad. Which is sad.

 

Bob
It is a very, very sad and so you know, sometimes it’s that person, what do they say from out of town with a briefcase, right, in this case, the person who wrote the book, but this leader can now say those people Oh, well, okay. Don’t believe me. believe them. They wrote a book as well that you know, Isn’t more credible. But so what happened is the second wave of adopters, were those people who basically heard about the book from having it recommended to them by people who are already successful people. And we get these great stories of people who said, Oh, I’m just so relieved to know that I can this or that, or we’d hear stories of people whose business just really picked up once they began applying these principles. And so you know, that was there. So I think that’s really it. People discovered they, it’s almost like they had permission to be a good person and still succeed wildly. Who woulda thunk it?

 

Not a new concept, like you said. But the more you hear it, the more sense it obviously makes. And I agree with you the way that John David Mann put this together and wrote it in the parable form. it’s enjoyable as well as instructional. And I know I’ve gotten a tremendous amount out of the series. wasn’t just enjoying them. But what I’ve taken from each book, and I’ve applied that to my speaking career as well, because a lot of it, building relationships in the light has to do with engaging people from the stage or from the charity or conference room, whatever it might be. I know I have, and I think others can use it in so many different aspects of their lives, not just sales, or other parts of business. And I highly recommend it to the listeners, that they not only buy the hard copy of the book but do like I do get the hard copy, download it on Audible as well. And just use it and learn from it and they’ll see a difference.

That’s a great compliment. Thank you.

 

Peter
Alright, so let’s get into your speaking career. As someone who speaks in front of people quite often, what do you see as the benefit for both the author, the speaker, whoever it might be the business person, what benefits them of speaking to others, and how do they benefit the audience?

 

Bob
Well, I think like anyone else, you have a business model and you decide why you’re doing what you’re doing. For example, there are people who speak because the engagements themselves lead to their core business, okay? So they speak as a means of promoting what they actually want to promote their consult many consultants I know who speak there, they’re really not concerned with a speaking fee. Because what they’re there they are looking to get in front of audiences who they’re going to consult for their companies. And that’s where they’re, that’s where their real income comes. There are others who are speakers, that’s the main way they make their living for many years. That was me. And it’s a matter of, you know, successfully marketing yourself and positioning yourself as a speaker, whether it’s a keynote speaker or whatever it happens to be, though, you know, I want to make the point in Jane Atkinson talks about this and I think this is so important that that as a speaker, you understand that your clients are not buying a speaker. They’re buying an expert speaker, or an authority who speaks or an entertainer who speaks or whatever it is that happens to speak either nobody wants to speak or they want the person who just delivers their methods through speaking and does it effectively. So it … so I think it really depends on what your business model is.

 

What’s nice about it, if you really enjoy getting in front of an audience and sharing information that you believe benefits your audience, well, you know, is there any greater feeling than doing something that you love that you believe, you know, brings meaning and purpose with it, and being able to make a great living from it? So I think it from the speaker’s viewpoint. Those are some of the benefits. Really what it has to do with though is focusing on the audience because we are there when we speak in front of an audience. It is not about the speaker, it’s not about us. It’s not even about our topic as important as that may be. It’s about the value that the individuals sitting in that audience are going to derive from it and how they’re going to use that information in their life. It’s about the client who has paid lots of money and has chosen you, as opposed to choosing someone else and dependent on you to bring a message that may that makes them look good for having chosen you and brought you in. So you know, there’s a lot riding on it. And I think as a speaker, as an author, as anyone in business, because the speaking businesses really in that way, like any other business, right? It’s always a matter of moving from an “I” focus or “me” focus to what we call “another focus.” The goal is, as Sam one of the mentors told you, the story is making your win all about the other person’s win.

 

Peter
What is has to be is the old marketing adage that no one ever bought a drill. They bought a hole in a wall.

 

Bob
Exactly. And you know, it’s funny, I can’t tell you how often a client after I get off stage a client, later on, will suddenly so we’ll say so what did you think? I was like, What did you think?

 

Peter
I think I was awesome, but it doesn’t matter.

 

Bob
But that’s not important. Right?

 

Peter
How did you get involved in speaking, you’ve spoken on large stages, small stages everywhere in between, was it something you plan to do? Was it something that evolved as time went on? or something else entirely?

 

Bob
Yeah, you know, I don’t think I planned on it from an early age because when I was growing up, that wasn’t something even really knew existed. So I was in broadcast and I started in radio and then television. I was a late-night news guy for Very, very small ABC affiliate in the Midwestern United States was not particularly good at it. And it wasn’t long before I what I like to say graduated into sales challenge was that I knew nothing about sales and the company where I was working, we’ll just say their sales training was negligible. And so I floundered for the first few months. And then one day I was in a bookstore. This is almost 40 years ago now. And I came across a couple of books. Tom Hopkins, Zig Ziglar, I picked up those books and I just devoured them great books pick up. Yeah, yeah. And, you know, I followed them, I just studied them and I highlighted and learned and practice them there, you know, and within really a few weeks, my sales were totally different. And you know, because now I have a system a methodology to this day, Peter, I define a system as simply the process of creation. addictively achieving a goal based on a logical and specific set of how-to principles, in other words, the key is predictability.

 

If it’s been proven that by doing a, you’ll get the desired result of the then you know that all you need to do is a and continue to do and eventually you’ll get the desired result of bait. So I learned a system for selling it was very helpful and then I started to kind of realize that a big part of selling was building yourself from the inside and I started getting all the great books that we’ve all read, right, the “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and “Think and Grow Rich,” the magic of thinking big, Psycho-Cybernetics and all the books that were the standard personal development books and they made such a huge difference in my my life. And, you know, eventually, I was sales manager of a company and I was Went to a seminar and I was always going to seminars, whatever I could. And I bought the one with one of the speakers I bought their tape set. That’s how long ago this was right? cassette tape cassette tapes, right? Yeah. And one step above an eight-track tape. I guess that was the next one the progression. So we hadn’t gotten to CDs or you know, anything, anything like that. So I bought it and you know, went through it, it was really good. And at the end of his program, he said, If you want to learn how to speak in front of audiences and make some extra money selling these tapes, let us know and so I get that and I went down to their office and I learn from them how to do you know, 20 – 25 minutes speeches for free in front of any group that would have me in front of them and then sell the tapes at the end and did well I from what they told me I was their leading salesperson in the country for you know, that’s, I might have been, you know, the also. I was I really don’t know, but I learned a lot, and eventually, I wanted to, to kind of start doing my own thing. And, and, and I did.

 

And the big thing for me was learning that because I had no system for building the speaking business. But you know, just speaking for free and selling tapes wasn’t isn’t what I wanted to do. And I learned about the National Speakers Association, which is an association of professional speakers. And so I began attending their conferences and, and again, there were people there who had built a very successful, you know, people who built very successful speaking practices, and I would learn from them and many of them were just wonderful in terms of letting me ask them questions and mentoring me and so forth. And it was a great experience and, you know, I, I learned the system for building a speaking business and I did it, I applied it and, and, you know, within a few years, I was doing pretty well lots of ups and downs like anything you know, like any business you go through the difficult times. And there are some great times and some more lousy times and just hope that in the end, it’s, you know, it’s a good successful business that brings you a lot of joy and brings value to others.

 

Peter
Do you think some people get into speaking not realizing that it is indeed a business and you have to run it like a business?

 

Bob
Absolutely. Absolutely. No question about it. And so that’s the, you know, the biggest piece of advice I can give them is understand you’re getting into a speaking business and just like a, a lawyer, who doesn’t want to believe they’re actually into sales is actually selling legal services, right? You’ve got to sell the services before you can apply them and help your client. An accountant is selling accounting services, a speaker is selling their speaking services.

 

Peter
Yeah, I’ve spoken to people that they don’t realize that when they want to become a speaker, what they’re saying is I want to become self-employed, and I have to treat it like a business and I have to learn to run a business. By the way, the product I’m selling is my speaking. Exactly. What would your biggest obstacle Do you think as far as speaking goes when you first started?

 

Bob
Yeah, I was gonna say my obstacle opposite but my biggest obstacle is myself. Like it usually is, I think that is for most of us. My biggest obstacle I’d say, was not having a track record in terms of speaking, you know, I could go in and position myself as a successful salesperson, that doesn’t necessarily mean that somebody is going to want to have me speak at their convention. So that was the biggest thing starting from scratch. So what I did and at the time, this is what you did was I got the national trade and professional association directory, the ncpa directory is as I recall, it was a very, very big red book, red and white, I think and then the state and regional association directory, the csra directory, and They weren’t online at that time because nothing was really online at that time other than the few people who, you know, understood this thing called the internet which had not become mainstream certainly back in that at that time, and I got on the bike dial for dollars, basically, I decided a term in the niche that I wanted to work, because, you know, that’s definitely the best way to do it.

 

Position yourself as an authority in a small, very specific niche, it’s a lot more fruitful that way. You can always generally, you know, go a bit more general later on, but you start with a very small, targeted niche. And I would find ways to position my sub, by the way when I, you know, what I did was, I asked myself three questions about the marketplace that I wanted to pursue and that and I call this the marketing bridge, and that is, do they need it? Do they want it and can they afford it? Now the key there though is is typically do they want it because they can need it. But if they don’t want it, you know, it’s not going to happen. Right? And they can’t afford it because who can afford anything they don’t want. Right? So, so needs important but aside from me, do they want it now if they need it and they want it now can they afford it? Do they have the budget for speakers and what is their budget and who and so forth? So it’s so you know, that’s kind of how I started making a couple of mistakes in terms of markets I thought would be open that they weren’t at the time. And I made a good decision, I think to not try to tilt at windmills, and in persuade markets to be interested when they weren’t, I went after the ones who already were, there’s always time later to you know, to go at to open new markets that are not interested against always kill us depending upon what people want to do, but in doing like cost-benefit analysis, and everything’s a cost-benefit analysis. Costs not necessarily meeting money. Financial cost is just one type of cost. There’s time. There’s lots of effort. There’s time cost, lost opportunity, cost, aggravation costs, financial costs, and all sorts of costs. So, you know, I ended up going after a couple of niche markets that worked out well for me, I would call and call and call and find out who the decision-maker is, and, you know, then qualify that they have speakers. I would find out if what I offered is something that, you know, they were interested in. I would send information once I qualify them. I also at the time, what I did is I would always find out the magazine, the trade magazine for that industry. And I’d write articles for it, because again, you could position yourself that way, then I could call back and I could, I could say who I was, and Oh, do you read independent insurance agents today? Oh, sure. I do. I’m wondering if you saw the article on how to You will never again run out of qualified prospects in the June edition, what have you. And if they did great if they didn’t, I sent it to them and you know, with a follow-up note and so forth, so I’d use that. And whenever I did speak, I would always use that to help position myself as an already established speaker.

 

So I just, you know, kind of did it often did it consistently and eventually began to build a business and then once I would, I would, for example, work horizontal market and again, let’s just take, for example, the independent insurance agents and I start with you know, the A’s and move on Alaska, Arkansas, I love that, you know, that’s not the exact order but as once I got one, and they if they really liked the, you know, the program I did, I get a great letter from them and I would then utilize that to leverage my credibility and Mark Get to the other one. So I worked very much a horizontal market until I got a good break and got some of the national ones and you know, go from there.

 

Peter
I gotta believe along the way you got a few noes.

 

Bob
I got a ton of noes! I got mostly noes, and that I think is something that we’ve all got to come to understand and you know we all hear it and we all you know we all on a surface level we accept it. But on the gut level, we sometimes don’t. And I think what drives people out of practically any business and also the speaking business is not the fact that you get a lot of noes. It’s the fact that you think you are the only one who’s having to go through all these noes. You see people who are doing great in terms of speaking and they’re on the stages of the world and they’re this and they’re that you know, you think oh, they just you know are and now if they were a celebrity that’s a different thing. I’m talking about the rest of us who are not Celebrity speakers so we had to sell our services. And we think oh, they just know they didn’t just they got a lot of noes. Along the way, one of my favorite books is a parable by my friends Andrea waltz and her husband, Richard Fenton. It’s called go for no. And they’ve reframed. No, that makes it so much more acceptable. I wish they had had that book written when I first started, but basically, the premise is, yes, is the destination no is how you get there. And you know, it’s so brilliant. Now that said, Peter, you know, I always also like to make it clear to people that doesn’t mean you have to like the noes, you know, sometimes on the speaking does, you know, there’s that kind of positivity that that is almost politically correct. You know, Oh, I love the noes. Oh, noes are great at me. No, no steak. not great at all. No, but you know, they are what they are, they’re a part of the process. And so as long as you understand that, now you can make these calls, and you can get these nose and again, it doesn’t mean it has to feel good. It’s probably not gonna, but you know, that’s just part of it.

 

Gail Carson, Dr. Gail Carson, one of the most successful speakers I ever met, she’s now I think she’s retired or at least semi-retired or what a wonderful, wonderful person. And I remember watching her at a Florida Speakers Association event, and she talked about when she first started, and again, she got those same two directories. I talked about that we used back in the day. And she said, I just got on the phone. She said, I really didn’t care who wasn’t interested, I guess, as kept calling till I found someone who was interested. That’s the way to get to yes, yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly.

 

Peter
I think so many of us, even before we hear no, we suspect we’re going to get a no, so we don’t even ask. Right, and you get nowhere without asking. Yes, exactly. What’s that old saying about salespeople? Number one reason you don’t make a sale? You don’t ask. And I think sometimes we talk ourselves out of it. All right, what part of this came easy for you, anything?

 

Bob
What part came easy? I think that although I do always have and still do get very, very nervous and anxiety-ridden before I walk on stage, I think the speaking part itself is something that probably came more naturally to me than then maybe too many people. So So that part I’m very fortunate. Again, that doesn’t mean the nervousness isn’t there. It certainly is. But that just doesn’t always was, you know, before an athletic event or anything else. But yeah, I’ve always felt fairly comfortable on stage. The interesting thing though, is that when I first started speaking for the first time for a couple of years. And let me say this, but I but I’ll ask people to withhold their judgment for a second. So I explained further, the first couple of years or few years I was a speaker, I was perfect. Now, here’s what I need. What I mean was, I didn’t make mistakes and allowed myself to be human. But because of that, while I was okay, as a communicator, I really wasn’t anywhere near as effective as I could be. Once I began to let my hair down, figuratively again, and be okay with making mistakes with not being flawless with sharing the defeats, and, you know, messing up from time to time, I became a much better speaker, much better communicator.

 

I’ll tell you something. Funny that happened. Just Gosh, just a few weeks ago, I was in Dallas. Speaking at a convention This is to a group of people none of them had read the Bible, maybe one or two and the entire audience that had read the book so this was a usually now when I speak the, you know, “The Go-Giver” book has kind of gone through the company or the organization. So, they’re already kind of rooting for me when I get on stage and you know, there’s already sort of a, we all know each other kind of feeling. Okay, but in this case, it was a different audience, a different market. The leader had read the book, but that’s it. And they really didn’t do a great job promoting it before. And so it was, you know, I was in front of a cold audience. So it’s about five minutes before I am going to take the stage. And I was told the producer, the MC needed to speak with me he had a question. So I start to walk up there. He’s a little bit to the left of the stage and in front of it, but half the people have already come in, people are still coming in. Five minutes left. And I walk up there and I’m looking at a couple of notes I made that I just wanted to remember a couple of specific things. I’m doing one last quick check before I put those away and, and I’m actually reading them as I’m walking toward him. And I missed the fact that between he and I, there is a huge monitor on the floor, you know, a one of those monitors that sir, showing on what’s on stage, the time the whole bit, and I absolutely tripped over it went head overhead and fell flat on the floor. Now, at first, there was a real hush. I’m 61 years old. So you know, there was concern from people I think that oh my gosh, did he really hurt himself? So I was flat on the floor. And there’s this. And so what I did was I I jumped up and I went live from New York. Saturday night. And you know enough people still remember I guess when Chevy Chase used to do that the openings of the Saturday Night Live, and everybody, you know, just laughed and it made everybody feel a lot more comfortable with me. And so now it’s, you know, a few minutes later I take the stage and, and you know it we know each other more, there’s a level of comfort, but there’s still you know, there were people who hadn’t seen that and, and I’m up there and about to talk and, and I could see some people kind of like still kind of looking in a little. And I said, and the first thing I said was, how many of you were in the room to witness my spectacular fall from grace. And everybody just started laughing and you could see them explaining the ones who had been there explaining the deep blue, we’re just walking in what had happened. And everybody laughed. And you know, from that point on the audience, and I was really one, you know, when I first started speaking had that happened. I’d have Been just humiliated.

 

I wouldn’t have known what to do with myself or I don’t know what I would have said when I got on stage would have you, you know, would have been a real kind of in the audience would have been up. But you know, I let go of having to be perfect. And when that’s the case and you realize it’s really not about you, it’s about them, you can take something like that and turn it into something that actually brings the audience closer to you as opposed to pushes them away.

 

Peter
That’s a great story, Bob. That could be the biggest takeaway from our time together today. That it always has been and always will be about the audience. Bob, this has been great, and I can’t thank you enough for being my very first guest on the show. Thank you. I appreciate your being here. And I know my listeners do as well. Before you leave, can you tell our listeners more about you, “The Go-Giver” series of books, and all that you do to help people be even more successful?

 

Bob
I’m going to give you two sites. One is the Speaking site that they can look to just in case they get some ideas for their own site to utilize my business partner Kathy tangental really designed this with the, with the person the web designer she uses and that is Burg be you are g.com. That’s basically the speaking site. The book site and other resources are the go giver, the title of the book only without the hyphen, thegogiver.com. And if they scroll down, you’ll see a bunch of the elements that we make available, to those, you know, who come to the site. So both of those sites, they cross-promote, of course, but we use each of them for you know, the two different types of markets. One’s the one that would be bringing me in to speak and the other that’s much more interested in the actual resources.

 

Peter
I encourage my listeners to go to those sites. I can learn a ton from you. I know I have over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to see you speak in person. I’ve read your books, listen to them over and over.

 

Bob
And that’s the best compliment you could give me really.

 

Peter
Most of all, Bob, I want to thank you for helping others achieve even greater level of success. Thanks again, and I wish you the best.

 

Bob
Thank you, Peter. You as well

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