On this week’s episode of Conversational Selling, we speak with special guest Meridith Elliott Powell. Meridith is an award-winning author, keynote speaker, and business strategist with a background in corporate sales and leadership. She is also an avid podcaster who is passionate about selling. She’s currently busy writing her newest book and is obsessed with the word uncertainty.
“If uncertainty always has to be negative, it becomes this thing that we are all waiting for to drop out of the sky, to stop us dead in our tracks from ever succeeding, and it just kept me wondering, why does uncertainty have to be a bad thing? Why does it have to be negative, and what would happen if we flipped the script on that? What if uncertainty was actually the very thing that you needed to be the catalyst that would actually catapult your business to the next level?”, asks Meridith.
We chat more about uncertainty, as well as:
- The inspiration for her new book
- How her business has pivoted in response to COVID
- Her podcast, Sales Logic
- Why now is the absolute worst time to stand on the sidelines
- And more
Mentioned in this episode:
Nancy Calabrese; Hi, everybody. Welcome to Conversational Selling, the podcast for sales leaders and business experts will share what’s going on in the sales and marketing industry today. It all starts with the human conversation. I’m your host, Nancy Calabrese, and joining me today is Meridith Elliott Powell voted one of the top 15 business growth experts to watch by CurrencyFair. She’s an award-winning author, keynote speaker, business strategist.
She has a background in corporate sales and leadership and her career expands over several industries including banking, healthcare and finance. She’s an avid podcaster who is passionate about selling. She’s busy writing a new book and is absolutely obsessed with the word uncertainty. Well, I gotta say, that is definitely the hot word of the day for sure. Welcome to the show, Meridith. I am so excited to have you on.
Meridith Powell: Thank you. I’m excited to be here and excited to have this conversation.
Nancy: Yeah, I, you know, we opened up with uncertainty and obsessiveness. So talk to me about your obsession with the word.
Uncertainty: A Business’ Secret Weapon
Meridith: Yeah, you know, it’s interesting. I actually became obsessed with the word a couple of years ago. I would walk into businesses and organizations that I was working with, and my question was always how’s business? And the response was very much you know, you got to imagine 2018 2019, right? Boy, things couldn’t be better. Things are great. We’re probably going to have our best year on record. But oh, this uncertainty.
As if uncertainty always had to be a negative. It was this thing that we were all waiting for to drop out of the sky to stop us, you know, dead in our tracks from ever succeeding and it just kept me wondering, why did uncertainty have to be a bad thing? Why did it have to be a negative? And what would happen if we flipped the script on that? If uncertainty wasn’t only not a negative, but what if it was actually the very thing that you needed to be the catalyst that would actually catapult your business to the next level? That put me on a mission to research businesses and organizations that had done that.
And believe me, there aren’t many, but I found nine that I researched for the new book and that’s kind of where my obsession came from. I do have to tell you, I never saw a pandemic coming. I researched businesses that have been around since the late 1700s, early 1800s. And what that means is they’ve not only come through economic downturn, economic depression and world wars, but lo and behold, they’ve survived a pandemic.
Nancy: Yep. Wow. That’s pretty amazing. I’m just curious, what kind of industries were these nine companies in?
Meridith: All different types of industries. I mean, these are definitely names that you would know. King Arthur Flour, which has been some of the hardest flour to get in the age of COVID. They were started in the late 1700s. Brooks Brothers started in the early 1800s when a father brought in his four sons to take over his business. Procter and Gamble, P&G, started in the early 1800s. Bush Beans, still a family dynasty today, just for a few examples.
Nancy: Yeah. So, you know, in line with your new book, what was the inspiration for it and what’s the story behind it?
New Book Inspiration
Meridith: Yeah, so the story behind it is, you know, again, I was like, I’m just curious, are there businesses that look at uncertainty differently? That really, and why? Like why can a business start with two people in a room in the late 1700s and still be thriving in business today? Not just here, but like, really doing well. And I just really got intrigued by that.
And so kind of the inspiration became just the fact of, I don’t know, really since about 2008 when we went through that economic downturn I’ve just been listening to people talk about the fact that the world seems crazy right now and we were having such upheaval, and I just thought, you know, this isn’t abnormal. I bet we do this every hundred years. Every, you know, every 75 to 150 years we have upheaval, politically, religiously, economically. I just am a big believer that if you want to figure out how to be successful today, one of the smartest things you can do is look to history.
And I had no idea, but when I started to rip that band-aid back, it’s just fascinating. And so I wrote the book in three sections. The first section of the book is, take a breath. We’ve been here before. The second section of the book is literally the story of these nine businesses. And then the last section of the book is the methodology. These are exactly what you need to do exactly in the order you need to do them if you want to be successful in business today.
Nancy: Awesome. When is it going to be published?
Meridith: It will be out in September of this year.
Nancy: Okay, well, we’re going to keep our eyes open for that. You know, and in line with what we’re all going through right now in this pandemic, I think most of us in business have had to pivot, keep moving forward and stand out. What have you had to do and what are you doing now that is different and unique?
Meridith: Yeah, you know, boy, I feel like I’ve gotten a Ph.D. in business since March of 2020. I would say that the biggest thing if I had to really nail it down to one thing is that I had to get out in front of my clients and I had to solve the questions they had before they even realized they had that question so that I could position myself as the go-to resource, the person that they would turn to for ideas and information. I feel like pre-COVID, I was definitely an asset to my clients. When they had challenges or problems.
I solved them. But now I’m instead of coming behind them, now I need to be out in front of them. And so I took that information and really positioned myself, like if you follow me at all, and I hope that your listeners, I hope that we connect, but you’ll see like on my website, I’ve got a purple bar that says emerge successfully. You click on that and it’s chock full of tools and resources of how to really emerge successful from this crisis. So I let go of a lot of my content and I changed it to what were the bigger issues today.
Nancy: Yeah. Well, share with my audience, I mean, literally, when we spoke right before COVID, you had one business and now you have another business. I think it’s fascinating what you’ve accomplished.
Meridith: Yeah. It’s, you know, you and I spoke right before COVID. In fact, I remember it so well, Nancy. There I was sitting at our home and we’ve got a second place in Charleston, South Carolina, and I was down there because my last keynote had gotten canceled, has gone virtual. My husband and I said, Well, why don’t we go to the beach.
Now at this point, we sort of think this thing’s a bit of a joke, right? We haven’t really bought in. And I sat there after talking to you and within a matter of five days, all of my revenue, every speaking engagement, just so your audience knows, I make my living getting on stages, flying on planes, engaging with thousands of people.
So not only did my revenue disappear, but my business model became irrelevant. I mean, I couldn’t use it. I mean, it wasn’t doable. And I went through the same pity party everybody did. I freaked out. I was going to deliver pizzas. I was going to sell Mary Kay. Then I got angry and my, you know, my anger was, this isn’t right. Why is it, why are they doing this to me? And then luckily for me, I slid into the third phase of grief, which I guess is, you know, action. And I had been working on this book and I had nothing else to do.
So I thought, crud, I’ll drink my own Kool-Aid, right? And I started with a nine methodologies to work on my own business. And they work and they transform It very much into a virtual space. And as I shared with you, it’s basically been eight weeks, maybe 10 weeks and I may have a better 2020 than I had 2019. And I just share that to say, these are not my strategies. They’re strategies that I picked up from researching these other businesses.
Nancy: Wow. So you need to right now at this moment, stand up and take about because we’re all applauding you. This is awesome success turn around. And you made reference earlier to some of the tools you have on your website. And I know that you built a new platform around uncertainty and developed all these new tools. And the gist of what I got from it is to really focus on the ability to drive and emerge, to thrive and emerge successfully. Can you tell my listeners more about this?
Meridith: So, one of the strategies that I got from watching and researching these companies with that when they get into times of crisis, they don’t chase new business, they focus on their current customer base. I called it securing your base. And Procter and Gamble is one of the greatest examples of this, is that rather than going out and chasing new business, you really put your ear to the ground and you ask a lot of questions and you listen to your existing customers. Now, the reason you do that is because number one, they’re going to be most loyal to you. They want to help you, they want to support you.
So you’ve got to reach out to them. But the second piece is they’re about to give you a beautiful gift if you do that. And that’s what happened to me, is that I just started reaching out to customers, people that I’ve known for the last, you know, four or five years. I didn’t even have to be doing business with them currently. And I would say How are things going? Tell me, you know, how things are being impacted and I would just listen, I would just shut up and I would listen. And they would start to tell me all their challenges, all their opportunities, what their current fears were, what their long-term fears were.
And as I went through that, it gave me the language and the information I needed to understand how to be relevant today. And that works for anybody. I mean, our products and services can’t be the same as they were before COVID because our customers’ challenges are not the same, correct? So rather than sit in a room with my peers and decide what my customers needed, I just went out and asked them and from that, emerge successful was born. Those aren’t my words. Those are my clients telling me, we’ve got to figure out how to emerge successful from this crisis.
And I just took that, and then everything they asked me, How do we develop a remote workforce? How do I help my salespeople sell online? Do we, is this the right time to sell or not the right time to sell? You know, now we’re going to be in the face that we’ve got, you know, we’ve got to make some money. What do we do right now? And I just started developing products and services around every question that people asked me and it completely and rapidly rebuilt my business. And that’s basically how it was born.
Nancy: Great to hear, you know, in terms, So what I’m hearing in your voice is positivity. And you were very focused in this period of transition, and just wouldn’t give up.
Meridith: Nw. And I think I, you know, if I want your listeners to take anything from this interview, it’s the fact that there’s an unbelievable amount of opportunity in this marketplace. One of the biggest things that I got from the research is that organizations, leaders, sales professionals, there are a segment of people that do well through every crisis we face. But what they do is they understand the methodology to get through it. So please don’t lose hope. There’s nothing that I did that was rocket science. It was just, I was willing to do things a little bit differently and, you know, to let go of how I did them before COVID hit.
Nancy: Moving on, share with my listeners, your weekly podcast, Sales Logic and what kinds of content can they find on that?
Sales Logic Podcast
Meridith: Yeah, there’s, so I do that with a colleague of mine, Mark Hunter. And we called it Sales Logic because we’ve really wanted people to start to think of sales as a logical process, not something that’s overly complicated, that it’s really something that’s inherent in all of us. And Mark and I do it every Thursday at one o’clock eastern. We live stream that on Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.
You can also find it at saleslogicpodcast.com. But basically, we take a question from our listeners, anything live that you ever want to ask about how to sell today. We answer that we discuss the topic. And then we do a lightning round. And Mark and I were both very passionate about the lightning round because we wanted people, if they were going to give us something that is so precious, which is their time, and for the salespeople, time is truly precious. Yeah, we wanted them to get return on investment as fast as possible.
Nancy: By the way, I’ve listened to a couple of them. They’re wonderful. I know Mark’s work well. And Meridith is, you know, I got to meet you through the Vanilla Soft Podcasts. It was Mark and Darryl Praill. So I really encourage everyone to take a listen and follow them. You know, I love asking this question to all of my interviews. Tell me something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Meridith: Yeah, that’s easy. That’s easy for me right now. In that uncertainty is truly a strategic advantage. I don’t know, so pretty much that people really think, you know, would definitely maybe debate me over that. But hands down, we, as a business, sales professionals and society see uncertainty as a negative. And I am passionate that it has been the biggest opportunity that has ever dropped in your lap. And in fact, you should be grateful for it because there’s so much strategic opportunity in it.
Nancy: Yeah, you know, and when I think of uncertainty, what I think about is the opportunity to change and to really look inside our organizations and our techniques and recognize that if we don’t adapt, it all might go away. So maybe that’s where people find it fearful. And I love your thinking that uses it as a positive thing. It’s a time for growth within your company, within you personally. So final, well, two questions. What’s the one takeaway you’d like to leave the audience with?
Now is not the Time to Warm the Bench
Meridith: I think, you know, I really think the biggest thing is that one of the biggest mistakes that I’m seeing people make right now is they’re standing on the sidelines. And this is not the time to be on the sidelines for. I can fill an hour for why it’s not the time to be on the sidelines. But if you do nothing else, pick up the phone, start calling people that you’ve done business with in the past year, prospects you’ve lost and just check in with them because I promise some amazing things are gonna happen.
Number one is that they’re going to be more loyal to you. Number two is you’re really going to learn what your marketplace needs and how they need it. Then the third is you are going to find a piece of business.
Nancy: Yep, I completely agree with you. And it just takes the simple picking up your phone and dialing. And we’re finding people are connecting even more so now than pre-COVID. So final question. How can my audience find you?
Meridith: Oh easily. I am a passionate believer that if you build your network it will change your life. So if we are not connected, it would mean a lot to me if we could be connected. If you reach out to me, I’ll reach out to you. And you can reach me easily at my website, which is valuespeaker.com. Just the words value and speaker dot com. You’ll find that emerged successful banner there, as well as all my social networking sites. I tend to live on LinkedIn a little bit more than anyplace else. So that’s probably the best place to reach out to me.
Nancy: Awesome. I assure everyone listening to this, it would be to everyone’s advantage to connect with Meridith. Her messaging, her, I kind of think you’re one of the more positive motivational speakers that I’ve heard in a long time. I’m so excited that you joined us. And for all of us here, happy selling, stay focused.