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“It’s very difficult to find what your voice is capable of until you push the emotional buttons.” – Matthew Kimberley

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Product, service, or anything in between, our lives run on the ability to create, market, and sell whatever it is that others deem as valuable.

… And that last step is crucial. If we aren’t able to sell, we get caught in a hamster wheel of effort with no return. Squeak squeak.

On today’s episode of Steal the Show, we are joined by Matthew Kimberley. Matthew is the former head of the Book Yourself Solid School of Coach Training, and is now the founder of The School for Selling. His first book How To Get A Grip sold over 50,000 copies—and every year, Matthew transforms sales teams, business owners, and independent service professionals to get more clients: more consistently and more elegantly.

Tune in to this conversation gather Matthew’s insights, as they relate to performing on stage, selling with transparency, and finding your path. You can learn more about Matthew Kimberley at his website here

“Sophistication doesn’t mean complexity.” – Matthew Kimberley

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Steal the Points

  • Inauthenticity comes from lack of knowledge in sales. Be as transparent as possible to prevent this.
  • Disarm honesty in sales conversations by saying objectives out loud.
  • Be aware that public speaking as a career requires lots of travel.
  • Add sophistication by paring something down, not making it more complex.
  • Most speakers haven’t learned how to earn the audience’s attention because they haven’t been forced to.
  • Oscillate between telling, teaching, and showing when performing on stage. 

And find out more about The League of Heroic Public Speakers here

Interview With Matthew Kimberley

STS – #108 – Steal The Show with Michael Port

00:00 Matthew Kimberley: You  have to give people enough pause to consider stopping. Then, once they stop you have to give them enough pause to consider staying, and once they stayed, hopefully, if you do your job well, and this is where the sales crosses over, you give them enough pause to consider putting their hand in your pocket and giving you some money.

00:21 Michael Port: Welcome to Steal The Show, with Michael Port. I’m your host, Michael.

We are in the middle of our  special series, where I’m introducing you to several members of the League of Heroic Public Speakers, over the next few weeks. I’ll put a link in the show notes so that you can find out more about the League if you’re interested. But, for now, I have to admit that I’m surprised that I haven’t interviewed this next League member before.

He’s been so influential, behind the scenes, and because of that I am particularly excited to introduce him to you today. Matthew Kimberley is a brilliant sales trainer, and phenomenal keynote speaker – that’s not in his bio, those added words, for emphasis are mine – but he is the former head of the Book Yourself Solid School of Coach Training.

And, as you may know, my first book was Book Yourself Solid. It came out in 2006, and he ran that company for years, and he ran it brilliantly. He is now the founder of the School for Selling and the Single Malt Mastermind. He’s also the creator of Principles of Professional Persuasion.

His first book, How To Get a Grip, sold over 50,000 copies, and every year Matthew transforms sales teams, business owners and independent service professionals, by showing them how to get more clients more consistently and more elegantly.

And he teaches even the most reticent influencer that they can become a true master of professional persuasion. He’s a popular keynote speaker and he’s spoken all over the US and the UK. He’s also spoken in Australia, the Philippines, Tanzania, Kenya, Japan, Belgium, Italy, Malta, and more.

Matthew Kimberley is definitely an international man of mystery, and you’ll see why, now!

Matthew, I have a bit of a quip. It’s about your accent.

02:28 Matthew Kimberley: Go ahead.

02:29 Michael Port: So, here’s the thing, you’ve got this fabulous British accent, and I think it might be just a little bit unfair. I’m wondering how much performance value does your accent give you, especially in the US. Does it help you?

02:48 Matthew Kimberley: Well, I’m actually from Alabama.

02:51 Michael Port: This is all an act? This British thing?

02:54 Matthew Kimberley: I’ve never told anybody this before. I’ve got a pretty neutral accent, in UK terms, some people would say I was at the upper end of the posh scale, with posh being top and not very posh at the bottom, and I’ve often seen that as a disadvantage. If you watch British stand up comedians, they’ve very, very often got regional accents. They might be Cockneys or they might be Northerners or they could be from Liverpool or they’ve got some…

03:27 Michael Port: Like a Ricky Gervais, where’s Rickey Gervais from?

03:30 Matthew Kimberley: He’s got an accent which is probably from somewhere around the outskirts of London, not too far North. Not a classic example, of the typical comedian I was thinking of, but he’s certainly got the expressiveness that I don’t think I have naturally.

And you may disagree with me, but certainly on the British scale of things, the further up the posh scale you go, the less expressive you are. That’s where the whole stiff upper lip comes from in the upper class.

They always hold their emotions very tightly to their chest and they never let anything go, and I always saw this as a disadvantage. I thought, if I ever wanted to be a stand-up comedian, I’d be at a disadvantage, I couldn’t be nearly as expressive in my emotion, because it wouldn’t come naturally.

And I’ve grown out of that a little, but to answer your question, yes, massive advantage when my performing state side. If I’m on the stage in America, the ladies come up to me afterwards – and the gents, but mainly the ladies – and say, “Oh, I could listen to you all day long.”

When I’m in the UK, I’m just another guy. I’ve found that when I’m in Australia, the opposite is true. They’re like, “Who’s this Pommy bastard?”

04:43 Michael Port: Yeah, so I see why you focus on the States, in fact. And also, you do have a very full, resonant, open voice. You’re very ‘on’ your voice, and it’s important to note that, because people respond very strongly to the way we sound, and each one of us has our own sound, and to try to sound like somebody else would be an exercise in futility.

You know, if I tried to sound like James Earl Jones, it would be a complete disaster. It would be an absolute impossibility. I don’t have the pipes for that, I just don’t have the genetics. And so, the way we sound is influenced by two things.

One: our genetics, just the way that our vocal cords are designed. Some of us have bigger ones, some of us have smaller ones, some are thinner, fatter, stronger, weaker, et cetera.But what we’re trying to do is free the natural voice, to find our own natural voice. And then the second thing that affects our voice is the way we breathe.

And I’m wondering if you’ve, before you started working with us as a member of the League, and of course we’ve been working together on and off for almost a decade now, in different capacities, did you do any voice work? Did you know about how to use the breath to produce a more powerful sound? Or, for you, is it just completely organic?

06:09 Matthew Kimberley: So, when I was a kid, I went to boarding school, and the last thing my dad said to me, aged eleven, was, “Whatever you do, Matthew, don’t join the choir. You can’t sing to save your life.”

And that was quite disappointing, because I love to sing, I just apparently was quite bad at it. And I waited another six years before I said, “Oh, well, sod it, I’m going to go do choir auditions,” and the choir master said, “Well, yeah, we can work with you.”

And so, I did quite a lot of singing for the last two years of my senior school, high school. But what I did up until then was theatre work. And I did a lot of that in high school. And it was a real geeky dream. You know, there were the jocks and there were the musicians and then there were the theatre crowd, and there weren’t very many of us, so I ended up spending an awful amount of time on the stage.

And one of the things I learned about the voice is that it’s very difficult to find out what your voice is capable of until you push the emotional buttons and make it work. So the reason that a lot of people don’t find their voice, or can’t get ‘on’ their voice, when they’re on stage is because they don’t have the experience of being comfortably on stage, expressing all range of emotions.

And I think theatre seriously helped me with that, because it’s very difficult to not find out what your voice is capable of if you’re screaming at the guy in front of you not to stab you in the chest, or if you’re sobbing because the guy in front of you has just stabbed you in the chest, right? So, you get to practice different elements.

And I’ve certainly never shied away from that when I’m on stage, is the fearlessness of not worrying about looking like an idiot, that allowed us to find your voice, physically, I think. If you hold anything back, and you’re reserved, then you maybe are not aware of what you can do, what you’re capable of vocally.

And most of us, the vast majority of us use our voice far more broadly in real life, unless we’re massively introverted or hate talking, or are cripplingly shy, we’re far more expressive with our families at the dinner table, than we are when we’re standing up and giving, what most of us would say is another stilted presentation to the executive board.

08:17 Michael Port: Isn’t that interesting, though, that even though the stage is a place for self expression, it is a platform for ideas and change, when we, as a sort of collective group of people, as a society, when we step on stage, we tend to constrain ourselves and become less illustrative, less emotionally rich, and we hide, we hold back. When, in fact, what the performer does is quite the opposite.

They expand their capacity for feeling, when they’re on the stage. So, that’s a really interesting way of articulating it, that a lot of times you get to do the voice work and get to learn what you’re capable of, vocally, when you’re doing that more intense, committed, very action oriented performance work.

Because you’re bringing authenticity to the work you’re doing on stage at a very heightened emotional level and if you don’t have that kind of heightened emotional level, with authenticity, you’re likely to be ‘off’ of your voice. You won’t have the breath that you need, tones that you’re capable of.

And I want to move this into sales, because you’re masterful at sales, among many other things, and the idea of authenticity in performance is essential to us, but, of course we know that most authenticity on the stage is manufactured authenticity, but that doesn’t make it any less authentic.

I know that sounds like a contradiction, and we can get into that a little bit more, later. But right now, what I want to focus on is how you bring authenticity into your sales performances. How do we keep that connectivity and authenticity in sales, when we’re also trying to persuade them to do something?

10:21 Matthew Kimberley: I think one of the reasons that sales has a reputation of being inauthentic, is because the script is often hidden from both parties.

So, one of the reasons that we don’t like meeting a sales person when we’re not expecting it, is because we’re not prepared, we haven’t had time to look at the plan for the way that this conversation is going to play out, and you’re afraid that if you say yes to the wrong thing, or no to the wrong thing, then you’ll be forced into a decision that brings to closer to having to spend money that perhaps you don’t want to spend.

So this idea of trickery, or illusion, or hypnosis, and I guess persuasion itself is a kind of dirty word, if both parties don’t have access to the game plan. And one of the fundamental tenets behind what I teach and what I preach, when it comes to selling, is that everybody has to be on the same page from the beginning.

So, one way that prospects feel, or one emotion or sentiment that prospects feel, is guardedness and a lack of comfort and confidence, much the same as if it’s your first day in, because they’re not familiar with the environment, much the same as if it’s your first job, or your first day in a new school. You’re not familiar with the new environment, so you’re not so comfortable.

You don’t know what time to take a lunch break, you don’t know where people go to the bathroom, you don’t know who you have to ask to go to the  bathroom. But after a few days, when you’re familiar with the routine, that discomfort disappears. So, I think our duty, in order to be authentic, is to make sure that everybody’s on the same page.

Make sure that you’re very clear about the path that lies ahead with your prospect, with your audience, and then stick to your word. So, the purpose of our conversation today, Michael, is to see whether or not you’re interested in spending some money with me, right?

12:16 Michael Port: Right!

12:17 Matthew Kimberley: Good! Fantastic, fantastic! So, here’s what I propose we do. I propose that I ask you a few questions, and then I’ll tell you a bit about what your options are, and then you can ask me some questions, and then, at the end of that, you can tell me, yes, this is something I’d like to do, and if it isn’t, it’s good for me, we’ll wrap it up and shake hands and work together. And if not, then we’ll examine what our options are. Does that sound good for you? Yes.

Too much of it, particularly the selling from the stage psychos, these people devoid of any kind of empathy, who stand up on stage and get you running to the back of the room in order to hand over your life’s savings, have based their entire premise on tricking you. I’m going to trick you into doing something you had no intention of doing.

And then they high-five each other backstage, because they just closed 25% of the deal. And as you know, Michael, because you have experienced it, and we’ve had this conversation, then half of those people come back with enormous buyer’s remorse and requesting refunds.

13:11 Michael Port: I knew a guy, about a decade ago, in this business, who was asked to speak at one of those events, one of those pitch fest events, and I guess he fell into that, say – if we’re going to categorise different types of business owners’ space – he fell into that space, so he was excited for it, he had just never done it before.

And he was a nice guy, sweet guy. And afterwards, he sent me a video of people diving over each other, landing on the tables, to get the products that were on the tables. Now, this is a decade ago, so this is when actual products were sold, you know, you’d buy a DVD set. And he was just amazed. He said he made more money in that 45 minute speech than he’d made in the last six months.

And I thought, “Holy cow!” So, it was very close to, I think, seven figures, just from that 45 minute speech. I said, “You know, that’s phenomenal! That’s really extraordinary!” And that was it, and then a couple of months later I bumped into him and I brought it up again, and I was like, “You know, that was a pretty amazing experience for you.”

I typically have not been somebody that resonates with that environment, but I don’t know, I mean, if you’re getting good product into the hands of good people, maybe there’s something to it.

And he said, “Well, you know, I got about… Well, I got a lot of returns.” I said, “Oh, well, how many? What percentage?” He said, “Well, maybe about 75% of the people who purchased returned the item.” Because they gave a money back guarantee, 30 days or something. And I said, “Oh, is the product not good?”

He said, “Oh, no, the product’s actually great,” and I believed him, I think he probably made a really good product, but people just very quickly had buyers remorse, and as soon as they got out of that environment, they realised, “Wait a minute, I didn’t really want this and so they returned it. And he said, “I’ll never do that again! I’ll definitely never do that again.”

And one of the things I’ve learned from you, over the years, is to be very, very transparent, very upfront about your intentions. And that’s one of the things that I appreciate about you. So I’d love to know a little bit more about how we can use transparency to help create more connection in sales conversations.

Like, you know, how direct should we be about what we think the other person should be doing, the person we’re talking to. They may not know that, their decision may be like, even if I wasn’t the one selling this, they’re making a really bad decision if they don’t do this, this is something they need. How direct, how transparent should you be during the sales process?

16:06 Matthew Kimberley: Well, I used to work in timeshare, which is the opposite of transparent sales, but it was the…

16:13 Michael Port: When you were a kid, right? Weren’t you in your twenties or something?

16:15 Matthew Kimberley: Yeah, it was my very, very first sales job after door-to-door window replacement appointment setting. It was an eye-opener, because I got into the psychological aspects of selling, which I never knew existed before. In fact, I didn’t know about selling before. I knew about reading scripts and fixing appointments. But it was a real eye opener.

And I ran, I ran screaming from the industry, after a relatively short period of time, but enough time to learn that these powers of persuasion could be used for the good, and that there are ways of using routines and scripts and tapping into the psyche of the person to give them what they want. Trouble is, we were tapping into their psyche to give them something that they didn’t want, which is one of the reasons why I left.

But, because those days we used to consider it to be a wrestling match between the prospect and the salesperson, it was hard work. It was rewarding, because it was a real battle, but if you won the battle, it was always kind of bitter sweet, because you probably wouldn’t sell the product to your family member, but you’d sell it to a complete stranger, and there were various ethical considerations.

So, as a result of that, I’ve looked for, instead of going into battle, I look at ways to get into bed with the prospect, right? Instead of it being a wrestling match, could it be a lovemaking session? And, in order for that to happen, there has to be consent on both sides, and it’s incredibly straightforward.

So, yeah, marketing has a role to play, the way that the sales conversation is set up has a role to play, and disarming honesty at the very, very beginning. If you’re prospecting for example, don’t say, “I’m phoning to do some research,” or, “We’re doing a survey and we’re wondering if we could speak to your chief marketing officer,” just to get in the door.

17:54 Michael Port: Yeah, right!

17:54 Matthew Kimberley: Because it’s dishonest and it lacks consent. That’s like giving somebody Rohypnol in their drink, right? So, instead, and I encourage all of my clients to use this very line, I like to open with something along the lines of, “Hey, we should totally work together! How can we make that happen?” You know? Or, “Hey! I think you’d be a great client of mine!”

One of the things you taught me, Michael, one of the first things I remember learning from you and there have been thousands and thousands of things over the years, was to be able to to look somebody straight in the eye and say, “The best thing for you is me.”

And if you are not at that stage yet, because you don’t know it’s true, you should open the opportunity to test whether that could be true, by saying, “Should we work together?” What’s the purpose of your call? “I’d love to work with you. How can we make that happen?”

I’ve used that in corporate, I’ve used that in B2B, I’ve used it in B2C, for exactly the reason we mentioned earlier: everybody’s immediately on the same page. The purpose of this meeting, therefore, is not to rub each other’s backs and to get to know each other and feel warm and fuzzy – it’s all of those things, and more – but what it’s really about is to see whether or not we should work together. Full stop.

19:02 Michael Port: Does that approach help you get right to the heart of the matter, rather than the first ten, fifteen, sometimes twenty minutes of idle chit-chat about your families and the weather and hobbies? I mean, how helpful is that kind of interaction in the initial part of a sales conversation, or should you really get right down to business or does it depend, and if so, how?

19:29 Matthew Kimberley: There are shades of grey with everything, context is everything, and if you walked up to a hundred complete strangers in the street and said, “Hey, we should work together,” well, you’d probably get some kind of closing rate off those.

Because not many people are prospecting at that rate, they’re not walking up to a hundred complete strangers saying, “Hey, I’m a fitness trainer, why don’t I come to your house and give you a personal training session?” They’d get, I know, I get clients that do that. “I haven’t signed a client in six weeks,” they tell me. I say, “Right, go into the local shopping mall, speak to a hundred strangers and see how many $100 training sessions…”

“You’ll never guess what!” I said, “I bet I will!”

“I sold one! I sold one!”

So, yeah, I mean, rapport is critical. I think credibility is more important than rapport. It depends what kind of service you’re providing. If you’re selling a widget, you don’t even have to like your client. If you’re selling, say, advisory service or therapeutic services or consulting services or coaching services, you want to qualify them pretty hard, and one of the ways of doing that is by qualifying not only for their situation, but also for financial situation, but also for the kind of person that they are.  What you would call the ‘red velvet rope policy’, like, “Do you fit in to my world?”

So, I think there is definitely a time and a place for it, and context is everything. Hopefully your marketing and pre-sales conversation systems and processes would have been enough to filter out the real weirdos.

20:56 Michael Port: Yeah, you know, it’s interesting, I’m making a note here, pre-sales conversation, because I want to get back to that. But I just want to mention one thing about the ‘red velvet rope policy’, because it’s obviously easier to say no to a new client or a new opportunity, when you have more clients than you can handle, and more opportunities than you can handle. So, I get that, that’s easy.

And people say, “Well, in the beginning it’s hard, I really need to say yes to everything,” and I think there’s some value to that, certainly, as a speaker, speaking as much as you can, wherever you can, just to get more stage time that builds your chops, there’s certainly some value in that and I know that’s recommended by people.

And not every speech is meant for every audience. If you deliver a brilliant speech that is not relevant with people in the room, they might say, “Oh, well that person was pretty good at speaking on the stage, but it was a complete waste of my time, because it’s not relevant. So, when you give a speech, to a group of people, that’s not relevant, that’s not particularly meaningful for you either. It often feels like pulling teeth, and it’s just not as fun.

And so, my concern sometimes, when people do that, when they don’t have any ‘velvet rope policy’ with respect to where they’re going to speak, at the beginning of their career, then they might find it less fun and less enjoyable, than they would otherwise, if they were only going to places or mostly going to places that were filled with their ideal type of audience member.

Because then they will tend to take more risks in service of that audience, they’ll play more, their energy will be generally more positive, and then you can build your reputation off of that and I think it helps as you’re growing, to build more confidence. So, I think we hear in the speaking industry, this, “Go speak everywhere, anywhere!”

You know, I gave a speech on projects when I first started in the early 2000’s and only two people showed up, and they were both senior citizens who don’t work any more, and at the end they were like, “Oh, that was really lovely! I had no idea what you were talking about.” They don’t do projects any more, it’s just not relevant. But, you know, I got some stage time and I had to sort of work it out. But it was not exactly the most fun I have had.

So, let’s talk a little bit about pre-sales conversation, and one of our good friends, Marcus Sheridan, good friend to the business, he did a special event session her at Heroic Public Speaking HQ a few months ago, and we’re working on the edit, right now, of the video course based on that particular day. And it was all on video production and promotion and performance. And it was fascinating! It wasn’t about how to make the sexiest videos in the world.

What it was really focussed on, in large part, was that pre-sales conversation piece. How do you create media, or marketing materials, or sales materials, that allow your potential client to answer all the questions that they need to answer before they actually have a sales conversation with you?

Because, one of the things, when I see my biz def people having conversations with someone on the phone, and they answer questions like where Heroic Public Speaking HQ is, or how long it takes to get here from the airport, I know, “Oh, we’ve missed something,” because those are not things that the biz def people should be talking about, the potential client should know all of that. And then, when they are talking, they can really talk about what that client needs, and the return on investment that they’re going to get.

So, can you speak to that pre-sales conversation? How do you make sure that people you are speaking with have the information that they need, before they have the sales conversation? Especially if you just get a call, “Hey, we’re interested in having you speak,” and you’re like, “Okay,” and they’re like, “What do you speak on?”

You know, that’s a tough way to start the conversation, and I’m wondering what you have that you can share with us on that?

25:22 Matthew Kimberley: Sure. There’s two pieces, really. The first one is the marketing, which is absolutely, categorically part of the pre-sales conversation. Also, a telephone call saying, “Hey, I hear you’re a speaker, do you want to speak for us?” is also a pre-sales conversation, because if you jump straight into a sellers offer at that point, then you need your head examined, because you don’t know them and they don’t know you.

So the marketing part allows you to be relevant, and resonate with those people in your market, who are going to be likely prospects for your speaking gig, say. And far too many people spend far too much time marketing, and not nearly enough time understanding their market, or getting to know their market.

And what I mean by that, is, you and I both know people, we all know people, who put a new blog post every two days that’s read by the same 100 people. And has been read by the same 100 people for the last three years.

Or they populate their Instagram feed with photo’s of dogs, and they research hashtags, because that’s what’s going to get them engagement, or they ask patronising questions on Facebook that always begin, “I’m curious! Do any of you like Cheerios for breakfast?”

You know, just to try and gain some sort of algorithm, and they’re learning hacks and tricks and techniques. Whereas what I tell my clients today, which wasn’t always the case, is if you can have two key pieces of attention-grabbing material, whether that’s a single video, or a blog post, or an advert, that allows somebody to discover enough about you that they immediately see that you’re a person who can help them, or delight them, or solve their problem, that is enough to kickstart the sales process.

So, marketing is getting eyeballs; sales is converting the eyeballs into customers. Marketing serves a very important part. And I think, if we can get very deep under the skin of the issues of the people who we serve, then we don’t need to create a new piece of content every two days, and we certainly don’t need to be researching hashtags, unless we’re selling dog collars.

The second part is the pre-sales conversation, which really, in no uncertain terms, needs to be the qualification process, where you are auditioning your prospect. Whether that’s for a speaking gig, or whether that’s for a consulting gig, or whatever it is.

Too many people put their prospect on a pedestal. The minute the call comes through that says, “Hey, we’re looking for a speaker and we wonder if you’d be a fit, they launch into their five minute set piece on why they’d be perfect and why they would love to…

A mutual friend of ours would love to fly to Lake Como and do a gig in a five-star hotel for hundreds and thousands of highly qualified prospects, and, “Here’s why I’m good, and here’s why I’m good, and here’s why I’m good,” and then they say, “Great, well, we don’t have any money,” or, “We don’t want somebody to do that.”

So, instead of talking, you do a lot of asking. The qualification process really needs, you need to be the Simon Cowell of that relationship. Take the prospect off the pedestal, examine them with a microscope and say, “Is this someone to whom I am going to offer, my best audition?” But you have to audition them first.

28:47 Michael Port: It’s interesting, one of the things I find is that it’s quite common to make assumptions about potential clients. For example, let’s say you have, your example there, with Lake Como, or let’s say, with that kind of event, and you have a very high end audience with the highest end hotel, you might make this assumption that, “Oh, well, this is an event that spends money,” and it turns out they only spend money on those things, they don’t want to spend money on the actual speaker. Which is surprising, but that’s how it is.

Or, it’s a big, big company, one of the biggest companies in the world, you know, a Fortune 50 company calls you, and says they’re interested in doing some consulting or training, and you’re like, “Man, I’m set! This is fantastic!”

And then you find out that they won’t go above one fifth of what this other small company you just worked with, was willing to pay, because the bureaucratic system was so tight, that it’s actually very hard to appropriate funds for outside training. And, so, I think we make a lot of assumptions.

How do we avoid that and really actually find out if they are right for us? I mean, one of the things that I’ve been known to do, is just, at the very beginning of the conversation, say, “By the way, are you aware that we are a premium brand?”

Meaning, “You could go to a lot more places and spend a lot  less money for public speaking training, are you aware of that?” Before we even have a conversation. And if they say, “No, I didn’t know that, I say, “Okay, good, it is important that you know that and I want to make sure that that’s something that you’re comfortable with, and, in fact, you’re calling me, knowing that.”

And they go, “Oh, yeah, absolutely, I know. I’ve tried twelve other places that were super economical, and I realised you get what you pay for.” So then you know you’re in a good place. I find it tends to work. Do you do that? Do you recommend that kind of strategy?

30:51 Matthew Kimberley: Yeah, price before value is always dangerous. You know, “Would you like to come out for dinner with me? It’s going to be a thousand bucks a head.” Like, “No, forget about it,” and then you discover later that you missed out on the only available seat at ElBulli just outside of Barcelona, because the chef has come out of retirement for one day only and, “Oh, crap!” right?

So, price before value is always a mistake, which I think is where the pre-sales conversation, and marketing comes in. I wouldn’t use this as a general rule, but something which I’ve been testing lately, which I absolutely adore, because I got a 90%, and I know when people say, “I got a 90% close rate on sales conversations,” are often bulls**ng you, but I’m actually there at the moment, because I reveal everything before the sales conversation, including the price.

So, “If you want to work with me in my programs, here’s how much it costs, only let’s have that conversation on the understanding that price is not an issue.” But it’s dangerous to do it too early, so if someone were to call you up at HPS, and say, “Hey, we’d like you in for some corporate training,” and the first thing out of the biz def guy’s or girl’s, mouth is, “Great, they start at 100K. Do you still want to continue this conversation?” Then you’ll be missing a trick.

The danger with doing this, is that you may be leaving money on the table. But I only think that’s a short term danger, so what, you leave a little bit of money on the table up front. So, the client had a budget of 125K, they realised you’d do it for 15, well that’s what we call, in the industry, a lay down.

They come to you with money to spare, you build a relationship with them, you hope that the first gig you do for them, or the first consulting agreement that you have with them, is the first of many. I’ve never worried too much about that, but if they have a clear understanding of what the value is, they should be aware.

I’ve never understood why, no, they don’t need to, because the value is clear, you know, high end restaurants, although I know they’re doing it sometimes now, they won’t take a credit card at the time of booking, they won’t charge a deposit, they haven’t qualified you for eating there, and when you get the bill, you know, those restaurants where the prices aren’t even in the menu, because, as my dad used to say, “If you had to ask, you can’t afford it.”

33:00 Michael Port: Yes. Well, see, that’s part of my theory, is that, we had somebody who had, well, I don’t know exactly how much money he has, but he sold a few companies for significant amounts of money, and someone had referred him to us for this special friends and family thing that we were doing, and – it’s not actually our family, but it’s really friends and colleagues – so we had a friends and family type price on it.

It wasn’t something that was a regular type offering, but I think it was about maybe $7,000 for a day or two being part of a group of people. And the person that referred him got an e-mail from him that said, “I know you told me these guys are the best in the world, but the price is really low. I don’t really think they could be that good if that’s all the price is.”

And I thought, well, that’s very interesting, because if I think about, say, conferences, if somebody’s doing a conference and you hear, “Hey, wow, it’s $15,000 a ticket, or $20,000 a ticket for a day long conference,” my immediate assumption would be, “Hey, this must be a conference filled with some serious, serious professionals,” because, who else can pay that kind of money?

So, I might automatically go, “Hmm, I’m interested in checking that out. What’s that all about?” So, I think, sometimes, from an anchoring perspective it can be very helpful going into it. And I thought that was very interesting how he was a little nervous that the price was too low, and of course, I said I’m happy to charge more, I have no problem.

34:39 Matthew Kimberley: But the psychology of pricing is fascinating and certainly, this will always exist, I’m one of those that will always choose the premium brand cornflakes because they come with a certain cornflake level of prestige.

34:55 Michael Port: Well, I think most people who are in sales, are great potential buyers, even though they know more about sales than the average person, they still tend to be maximisers, they still tend to look for the best of everything, and even being on the buying side is often exciting to sales people, because there’s a sense of achievement to it when you make that purchase.

35:17 Matthew Kimberley: But here’s the deal with pricing, with pre-framing, with anchoring. If you charge 25K, let’s say, or instead of the price being 7K, it was 25K, or 50K, or something like that, you may have won that client, but you would have lost all of the other 7K clients, that you work with perhaps, potentially. So, any time you make a decision about a strategy, it’s a trade-off.

We can price it low, everything is a trade-off, if we try this, if we don’t use the prestige pricing model, we’re going to lose the top end of the market. Okay, but if you don’t go with something more affordable, more economical, more democratic, if you like, you’re going to lose the bottom end of the market.

So, you’ve just got to make a call, and you can second-guess yourself forever and ever and I know you didn’t, or you probably didn’t change your pricing model on the basis of one person’s feedback, but if everybody’s giving that feedback, then maybe you should listen.

36:08 Michael Port: That’s a good point. And, no, we did not change it. You know, there’s something that I’m really proud of and I just want to say it, one of the things that is so exciting about what we’re doing here at HPS is that we’re creating such a strong community, that the community supports each other, even in the investments that they make in their training.

So, we have had numerous occasions where people have said to us, “Listen, I want to give you X amount of dollars that you can use as a scholarship towards this particular person’s tuition.” Or towards anybody’s tuition, because they believe so strongly in it, they’ll often help supplement some folks, who might not be able to do it, but are really, really good candidates, who would be really well served by doing it, and it’s really, it just means a lot to me.

It’s not actually super relevant to what we’re talking about here, but it just came to mind, and I thought, “Well, that’s really cool that people are willing to do that for each other. That only happens when you create a community of people that are very, very well connected.

And, to that end, you live in the middle of nowhere, I mean, you live in Malta. Malta is what, four hundred thousand people on a tiny little rock, pretty much.

37:22 Matthew Kimberley: Yeah, and I know all of them.

37:23 Michael Port: Yeah, and you know all of them, yeah exactly! They certainly know you, and you’re, what, just south of Libya?

37:31 Matthew Kimberley: Just north of Libya, just south of Italy.

37:33 Michael Port: Just north of Libya? Yes! Right! So, you’re really far away, and many folks who are long time listeners of the podcast have heard me say something like, “Friends get work, in this business,” in most businesses, but especially in this business.

Because if I’m a speaker and I give a keynote, it’s unlikely they’re going to bring me back next year for the same spot, so I’m going to refer my colleagues, and if I did a great job, they’re going to assume other people I would refer would do a great job, because why would I refer somebody who’s not going to bring their A-game?

So, what do you do, given that you live in Malta, and we know the importance of our network, how do you continue to develop relationships with people professionally that produce referrals and business opportunities, et cetera, even though you’re not right in the middle of things?

38:26 Matthew Kimberley: Right, so I think there is a difference between, say, Malta and New York City, or Malta and L.A. I don’t think there’s an enormous difference between Malta and No Hope, Pennsylvania, for example, right?

38:40 Michael Port: I just, just for the record, he likes to call it ‘No Hope, Pennsylvania’, but it’s actually ‘New Hope, Pennsylvania’. But, yes, I do see your point, it is well made.

38:49 Matthew Kimberley: I think, from a professional point of view, I do think, “What would life look like if I was in Manhattan or New Jersey or an hour away from where it’s happening, or near Atlanta, a major hub, an airport?”

39:01 Michael Port: Yeah, I can jump in the car and in an hour and fifteen minutes I’m in Manhattan, or in an hour in Philly.

39:08 Matthew Kimberley: Absolutely, so it is trade-off. We come back to that word again. The concept of trade-off, so the trade-off is, I live in a relatively low tax jurisdiction with great weather, and it takes me a day to get anywhere, instead of an hour. That’s the trade-off.

In terms of networking, and relationships, 80% of that happens at my desk. It happens by e-mail, it happens through Facebook, I’m very grateful for Facebook for that. I do make a point of going to meet with my peers as often as possible, and by that I mean maybe not more than four, five, six times a year I’ll go to an event where I can kill, not kill, you know, meet, several birds with one round of drinks at the bar.

And I don’t think I’m any… But if you are in any work, even if you’re in Manhattan and you’re not getting out your phone and calling people and sending them text messages, or sending them an e-mail, you know, it makes it so easy, today.

40:11 Michael Port: Yeah, Mike McCollow, who is a good friend of mine, he lives 45 minutes from here, but I haven’t seen him in maybe a year, but I saw you a few months ago.

40:21 Matthew Kimberley: Yeah, that’s right, because I came to see you. My best friends live all over a world. I have good friends in Malta, but my best friends, who I speak to most frequently, are scattered all over the continents.

40:31 Michael Port: Yeah. But you see, you love travelling.

40:33 Matthew Kimberley: I do, yeah.

40:34 Michael Port: And I think that’s important. And I think for those folks who are considering a life that requires them to be on the road, it’s a really good idea to really love travelling, because I don’t, at all.

And it’s one of the reasons I initially didn’t build my business around professional speaking, because I wanted a business, rather than something that required that I travel, but you are a great traveller, I mean, you can change time zones really quickly, you make friends everywhere you go.

Why? Like, how could we find ways to enjoy that travel more if we’re not opposed to it, but we might not be quite as natural as you are with it?

41:17 Matthew Kimberley: I think there is a lot of natural tendencies in there. I wouldn’t suggest it to everybody. But, when I was a kid, I wanted to leave school at sixteen, which is the minimum age of mandatory education in the UK, so I finished what we call the GCSE, General Certificate of Secondary Education. When you’re sixteen, you do your exams and then, if you want to, you can continue to do your high school diploma, I guess.

And my parents encouraged me not to pursue what I wanted to do, which was to spend two years working in bars around Europe, because that’s what I thought, “I’ll get a far better education! I’ll learn languages, I’ll meet people, I’ll fall in love with a French girl!” And they discouraged me from doing that, and then the day after I left school I went to Malaysia, and I’ve never been back to the UK.

So, I guess it is a little bit innate, in me, a little bit, but, you know, there are ways of making it easy. One of the trade-offs, again, of living in Malta is that it’s tiny, it’s ten, fifteen miles North to South, the climate doesn’t change much. It’s getting more cosmopolitan, but it hasn’t always been the case. It keeps me sane, to some degree, jumping on a plane, talking to people with whom I have a cultural shared background.

Or, my kids are getting older now, they’re four and eight now, but when they were younger, I was grateful to get a good night’s sleep. I’m not joking.

42:44 Michael Port: So, when you travel across the world then you’d sleep?

42:46 Matthew Kimberley: I would fly to San Diego and not leave the hotel room for 24 hours. I’m joking, only kind of, but as I get older, maybe it was a different view, maybe I know lots of other guys like me, kids are more fun as they talk. There’s only so much… I adore my kids, of course, but the ‘gugu-gaga’ stage I didn’t enjoy so innately as the conversations I’m now having with them.

So, during that period of my time, it was fun to take a break. Now, I travel light, never put anything in the hold, always have your passport in your pocket, carry a credit card or, even better, somebody else’s credit card.

43:26 Michael Port: You still have some of my credit cards, don’t you?

43:29 Matthew Kimberley: That’s my emergency card, I keep your emergency credit card in my pocket.

43:35 Michael Port: I still remember the call from Sicily, for your friend’s wedding.

43:38 Matthew Kimberley: I was in Tuscany.

43:40 Michael Port: Oh, Tuscany.

43:40 Matthew Kimberley: We’ve got to tell the story now we’ve started. So, I’m in Tuscany, and they’ve rented out, my friend, I’m best man at his wedding, where they’ve rented out the entire castle there. Something like a hundred, two hundred friends have flown in from all around the world, Australia, Ireland, and they haven’t paid the bill.

Just one of the bills had been neglected and they owed, I can’t remember what it was, $30,000 or something like that?

43:59 Michael Port: Yeah, I think it was, I think it was Euros, actually, I think it was like, 40,000 Euros or something like that.

44:05 Matthew Kimberley: And so, I had a card in my pocket. I could save the day! So I called Michael up, six o’clock in the morning, for him, “Dude, a small thing,” and he said, “Yes, of course,” and then they said, “Well, I’m sorry we don’t take AMEx,” but I got all of the adulation for being the kind of guy who would step in to get you out of a tricky situation, without anybody having to take any risks.

44:26 Michael Port: That’s fantastic!

44:27 Matthew Kimberley: But that’s the point, you know, you don’t need to travel with anything on you, depending on where you’re travelling to. If it’s the middle of nowhere, or if it’s a potato conference in Idaho, you may not be able to get a pair of pants the night before the gig, but generally you can buy a pair of pants at the airport if you realise you’ve forgotten them, or you can buy a tie, or whatever it is that you need, a toothbrush, or indeed a new suitcase, or a laptop charger.

So, you don’t need to travel heavy, even if you’re going away for three weeks. If you’ve got a credit card and an adventurous spirit, you’ll be fine.

44:56 Michael Port: I want to hear one more topic before we wrap up today, and I want you to talk about the process of working on your latest keynote. You were here as a member of the League of Heroic Public Speakers about two months ago, I think.

And you came, obviously, with your material and the keynote that you’ve delivered many times, and we made some changes and I’d love you just to address that process and what it’s like for you to continue to work on and improve this particular material.

45:34 Matthew Kimberley: The funny thing is, about speaking, is that you’re always delivering a first draft. So, every time you jump up on stage, and you do a gig for an audience, it’s the first time they’re seeing it, hopefully. If you’ve got super fans, they’ll come back time and time again, but generally it’s the first time you’re delivering it.

So the temptation that I know some amateur speakers have, is that, because it’s the first time that somebody’s going to be seeing them, they can deliver first time material, which is a mistake. I’ve even known some speakers take pride in the fact that they’re going to wing it or that they’re going to try new material, or 100% of the performance is brand new and they’ve never practiced it before, or rehearsed it before, which is dangerous.

So, the process that I’m actively going through, with your help, with every time I sit down or I stand up, I look at my thing, is trying to add sophistication to what is already a pretty solid 300th draft, right? So I’ve written it, and I’ve rewritten it and I’ve edited it and I’ve tweaked it and I’ve done this and I’ve gone over it and I’ve proofread it and I’ve tested it and I’ve maybe changed some chapters around, but sophistication doesn’t mean complexity.

It can mean complexity, it can mean embellishment, it can mean decoration and flourishes, but it can also mean paring something down. You know, the beautiful sophistication of a piece of Scandanavian furniture, which is just utterly, utterly perfect in its form and function. It’s that process of paring down and sophistication, and often a little bit of embellishment that I’m permanently interested in, but because you get so many shots at it.

I did a gig a couple of years ago, probably, where I tried out a completely brand new second half. So a forty-five minute performance and the first half was tried and tested, so I knew it, and the second half was brand new.

And the audience were, no, they were thrilled, but I was desperately unhappy, I thought it was too, although it’s the performer’s role to take risks, we should take the risks in rehearsal. Because I felt, even though they were happy, I felt like I’d gotten away with it. You know what I mean?

Because I knew, watching the recording back, I’m cringing, the audience aren’t cringing, but I’m cringing. I thought I, I’m not going to say, ‘shortchanged”, because that suggests some kind of dishonesty, but I think I could have… Let’s just say, I never made the mistake again.

If I’m going to try a new bit in front of a live audience, it has to be a one minute bit, or a two minute bit, or a turn of phrase, or a piece of blocking. So, that’s the process I’m going through now, in rehearsal with you, we take this already pretty solid piece of work, and we move pieces around and we polish, and we smooth out the rough edges.

And sometimes it means we have to go back to the manufacturing plant altogether, and shred it and start again, but luckily, and I say luckily, because really it is a lot of work, to put together a really, really good 45 to 60minute keynote, almost a lifetime’s work, I would say, that I haven’t had to scrap it and start from scratch.

48:43 Michael Port: Yes. What we haven’t mentioned is that , as a kid, you were a street performer.

48:49 Matthew Kimberley: This is true.

48:51 Michael Port: And, I wonder – actually, I know this, but the guests don’t know this yet – how much your time as a street performer influenced the work you do as a keynoter. What are the things that you learned from street performing that were most applicable to you as a keynoter?

49:16 Matthew Kimberley: Great question! Yes, I’ve learnt a lot; yes, it was instructive;  yes, it was useful. I don’t know whether I became a street performer because I had this kind of spirit, or whether I developed the spirit after I went to street performance through necessity because I didn’t have any money.

I think one of the most important things is the importance of demanding and commanding the audience’s attention and not just taking it for granted. You’ve got to merit it. A couple of things have to happen in the street. The street is busy, there’s traffic, there’s people, there’s crowds, there’s distactions, there’s police sirens, there’s ATMs, there’s shops, there’s restaurants, all competing for your attention, there’s mobile phones.

You have to, standing there as a speck in the crowd, you have to give people enough pause to consider stopping. Then, once they stop, you have to give them enough pause to consider staying, and once they stayed, hopefully, if you do your job well, and this is where the sales crosses over, you give them enough pause to consider putting their hand in your pocket and giving you some money.

50:23 Michael Port: Isn’t that interesting though? So interesting, it seems like the major difference is that you have to earn the attention, whereas, as a speaker, often, someone gives you a spot on that stage, and an audience to speak to, but you haven’t actually earned anything from that audience, yet.

I mean, maybe all the work you’ve done for years, you’re famous, you’ve written books, yada-yada. But forget about all that for a second, just the actual second that you walk onto that stage, you haven’t earned anything yet, and I think a lot of speakers haven’t learned how to earn the audience’s attention because they’ve never been forced to.

So, if you’ve thought about your keynote, the way that you think about the street performing, and that first step is to earn their attention, to get them to stop and pay attention, imagine that the people in your theatre, or in your ballroom, when you’re presenting, or in your conference room, imagine that they’re actually not sitting in the chairs, waiting to talk to you. Imagine that they’re just walking around, throughout that space, and you’ve got to get them to talk to you.

Is what you’re doing and the way that you’re delivering, is it good enough that people will stop and say, “Who’s that? I want to stop and listen to that. Hey, sh-sh-sh-sh, somebody’s got something interesting to say up there and the way they’re saying it is really quite compelling.”

That’s the first step, I think, in the process, and I’m not sure speakers have ever really thought about that, because the audience is just there, and sometimes maybe we feel entitled to it.

52:03 Matthew Kimberley: And, you know, Michael, not every public speaking opportunity has to be a performance. Some people are presenting – we may disagree on this, but I think if you’ve been invited to present the results of your road safety survey and you job is to be a traffic surveyor, then you could argue pretty compellingly, as far as I’m concerned, that you’re not going to bother to learn the elements of performance.

But, if you’re going to get paid to speak, and if you want to be invited back a second time, you can’t afford to ignore the importance of being rewarded for your performance by the audience’s attention.

52:42 Michael Port: So, I want every single person listening, to see you sell an apple, for a $100, onstage to the audience. So, that’s going to be hard, unless they’re all going to your events, which they should be doing, but, can you tell them a little bit about what you do?

And the reason I bring it up is because it speaks to this topic of how to get people’s attention quite quickly by doing something pretty outrageous, but not silly.

53:14 Matthew Kimberley: The world is full of sales trainers, and the world is full of sales people, and me and most sales trainers, unless they’re selling their, “Brand new, novel system,” would agree that the fundamentals are pretty fundamental and pretty elemental and if you find a good teacher who can teach you how to do it, then that’s great.

But I thought, showing is much stronger than teaching; if I can show you how to do something and keep you entertained while I’m doing it, then perhaps you’ll reward me with, A, your attention, and B, a future opportunities to teach you how to sell better.

So, I thought the best way to illustrate this, was to prove that you – I don’t think it’s true that you can sell anything to anybody, the secret of selling anything to anybody doesn’t exist. The ‘ice to the Eskomo’s’ analogy is a bit hackneyed and old now, but it certainly is possible to sell everyday objects to very satisfied customers for well over the recommended retail price.

And we know this, because it happens in the world, right? You’re going to pay more for a gin and tonic in San Tropez, than you are in No Hope, Pennsylvania, for example. So, I thought if I could demonstrate this in real time, and then I sell an everyday object in a grocery store for a figure that people would more likely associate with a great dinner, for example, and do it without using any kind of hypnotism or tricks, then people would say, “Wow, this really is true! It really is possible, and I’m going to listen and learn more.”

So, in kind of breaking the fourth wall, I demonstrate that this apple can be sold for a price that is vastly over what I picked it up for that morning, in the local Seven11, and get a genuinely unsuspecting member of the audience to part with cold, hard cash for it there in front of everybody, while I explain to them and to everybody else what’s happening.

And people ask me, “Are you using a stooge? Are you using a patsy? Is this a plant? Is it somebody that is know to you? Did you have a conversation beforehand?” And I give an answer that I heard the great stage hypnotist, Derren Brown use, which is, “Absolutely not, not because it’s not possible to use a plant, but I can’t imagine the price of keeping them quiet after the act.”

55:36 Michael Port: That’s very, very funny!

55:37 Matthew Kimberley: Performed this wonderful piece of magic, there is no secret, in fact let me show you, and then, more importantly, let me show you what I’m doing so that you can do it yourself. You know, tell somebody, teach somebody, show somebody, and then get them to do it themselves. Superb.

55:51 Michael Port: It really is quite extraordinary, and if you have just such an uncanny gift for being able to move in and out of that character. And what Matthew does is, he has created this character who is selling the apple. It’s a version of Matthew, but it’s a little bit cheekier version than you might normally use if you were just speaking directly to the audience, and it’s very playful.

But you come in and out. It’s really a wonderful way to create lots and lots of contrast, because the audience is looking for delivery contrast, emotional contrast, content contrast, it keeps them interested and on their toes and makes them work while they’re there, which is important.

And it’s just so well done, Matthew, that I hope people have the opportunity to see it, who are listening to this podcast.

Matthew, I love you, you’re the best! Thank you so much for spending this time with us today, and you have Is that the best place for people to go?

56:50 Matthew Kimberley: The best place to go, and most of my best stuff goes out by e-mail, so if you are interested in either booking me, or reading my delightful e-mails, then share your e-mail address with me and I’ll…

57:01 Michael Port: Matthew is one of the best copy writers you will meet. When he writes his Single Malt newsletters, he is the great Single Malt Mastermind.

Matthew and I are incredibly close, which might surprise some if you just knew us separately, because you’d think, “Michael doesn’t even like going to bars, he doesn’t stay up late. Matthew wants to sit down, have a little scotch, whisky, stay up late, maybe a cigar once in a while – I’ve actually never seen you smoke a cigar – but, I can see you being in a cigar club.

57:35 Matthew Kimberley: Right.

57:36 Michael Port: But you have just such a huge heart, and even with your British stiff upper lip, where you don’t always show your emotions, you are one of the warmest and most delightful people that I have the pleasure of calling a friend, so thank you so much for taking the time to be here, Matthew.

57:53 Matthew Kimberley: Thank you, Michael. Thank you so much.

57:57 Michael Port: Thank you for listening to Steal The Show with Michael Port. I’m your host, Michael Port.

This podcast was produced, by Laura Bernstein, with sound production and marketing by Colin Thomson and his team over at Kast Media. The super fly beats are mixed by Shammy Dee, and we recorded today’s episode at Heroic Public Speaking HQ, the most impressive public speaking facility in Lambertville, New Jersey and, perhaps, the world.

Special thanks to today’s guest, the Woo Master, Matthew Kimberley, and to you, for listening and learning how to be a performer in your spotlight moments.

Make sure to reach out to us on Instagram and Facebook, @heroicpublicspeaking, and let us know what high stakes performances you are currently crushing, by sending us an e-mail at And, certainly, if you liked the show, please rate us and review us here on iTunes.

Oh, and make sure you get your ticket for Heroic Public Speaking Live, that’s this October 1, 2, and 3. Now, right now, you can get 10% off your admission, if you use the promo code, stealtheshow, one word, all lower case, stealtheshow, at

And, again, any questions, just shoot us an e-mail at

I love you, very much, not in a weird way, but I do love you for being the big thinker that you are, and being a performer. Bye for now.