NEVER THANK YOUR AUDIENCE: Competitive Sales Presentation Skills

Thanking your audience in any presentation is a bad idea, and a hard one to resist because it’s counter-intuitive.

I just coached a winning sales pitch in the multiple hundred million dollar category. It was a team of professionals in the boardroom of decision-makers. There were oodles of dollars on the table and our client was feeling really fortunate just to be one of the three or so firms competing for this job. They wanted to say, “Thanks for the opportunity to present ourselves for this project.”

And we said, “No.” It was a hard sales presentation skills concept to sell, but it played a role in winning.

They thought our perspective was disrespectful to the client, and a one-eighty from their instincts. So I’m going to distill the forty-minute heated conversation to a few hundred words so you can grasp it now, when you’re not in the hot-seat like they were.

We spent some time talking about who this day was about – the day of the pitch. “It’s about them,” they said, wisely… well, almost wisely.

The wise part was the statement, “It’s about them.” That was spot on. The “almost” part was that they didn’t really mean it. They were there for themselves.

When your entire year of sales goals can be achieved in March, you’re sitting pretty – if you land such a big fish.

If you do, you’re set in the first quarter, and the entire rest of the year is gravy. This is a sweet project and you’re going to look great for reeling it in. It probably means a promotion. It certainly means a bonus. And everyone on the team wants to do this work… badly.

So how can this not be about you? It’s psychologically very difficult not to walk in wanting the job. Just like it’d be hard to go to a job interview not wanting the offer. But this is exactly what I’m saying, hard as it may be to grasp.

Don’t go to a sales pitch to get a job!
Go to a sales pitch to help the client make an important decision.

We asked our client a few questions to get them to understand this:

  • “Who has the problem that led to this sales opportunity?” (The prospect does.)
  • “Would this problem have existed for your client regardless of whether or not your company ever existed to serve such needs? (Yes, their problem would exist regardless.)
  • “Does the client have any stakes in the game regarding getting this need met?” (Yes, they do.)
  • “Are the stakes bigger for you, or for them?” (It’s bigger for them. We’re only a portion of the budget, and they face politics, and business issues that hinge on this being successful.)
  • “Would you go out of business without this opportunity?” (No. We have other possibilities.)
  • “Who has invested more at this point in the project? Your prospect, or you?” (The prospect. This affects their whole business. We have 3 weeks in preparing to win the contract.)

If you can get behind the very idea of being there for them instead of yourselves, you can be in an entirely different state of mind. They have the problem, and you are there to help them solve it. That is a better mindset for selling. That’s more like consulting, instead of begging. “Please-please-please-please-please pick me! I’m the best. I’m the BEST!”

The classic sales scenario has the prospect in an “up” position, relative to the suitor for the job, who’s in the “down” position. Consulting puts you at a more equal position with the prospect. “We’re here to help you by sharing our expertise so that your project can succeed.” That’s better for your mindset, and it’s hard to resist if you’re the one choosing.

As far as I know, I’ve never hired a house-painter because I thought he really needed the money. I’ve never hired a lawyer because I thought my case would help his year-end bonus. I never hired a financial adviser because it was a tough economy and my dollars would help him put his daughters through college. I hire people because they can help me and because they seem passionate about overcoming my obstacles with me, and for me, and helping me get to the place I want to go.

Which brings us back to “Thank you.” What does that mean?

Thank you for the opportunity to be one of the firms chosen to interview for this project…

– means –

This is about me possibly getting your money, and I’m grateful because I need it.

I don’t want you to think that I’m only here because I want your money. And I myself don’t want to feel desperate. I want to be here for you, to help you with your challenge, by sharing my expertise.

I go to presentations honored to be a part of this important decision. I go to the presentation excited about how unique, or critical, this project is. I show up passionate about sharing my insights and recommendations so that they can make the best decision for their project, and so they succeed.

At the close, I may “admit” that I really hope to be selected – because I want them to know that I do want the job – however I will definitely stress that this is not what is most important today.

Today is about them getting all the information they need to make a good decision. And I might pledge to continue being available to them to share insight and expertise regardless of how they decide to go on this project.

These things altogether say that I am here for them and want what’s best for them. I may benefit, but I’m here today for them.

How could you not want that if you were the decision-maker?

Don’t thank your audience of decision-makers. Be excited about helping them. Express your honor to be part of their important day, and pledge that you’re there for them regardless. Don’t allow “thank you” to place yourself in the down-state below them, needing them. Instead, your excitement, you’re honor, and you’re desire to help them will level the playing field, and increase your odds of being favored over your competition.

Please share this post with others, and give SagePresence your opinions and experiences in the high-pressures of sales presentations.


  1. Bill on March 20, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Another great article making us think differently. In reading through this Dean, it seems one could use this in a job interview situation as well. Afterall, an interview is an opportunity to sell myself. One of the first things we do in an interview is thank the interviewer for the opportunity. Taking a consultant role may be a better approach. I may try this in the near future. I would be interested in your thoughts on this.

    • Dean Hyers on March 20, 2012 at 9:44 am

      Bill! You are my new hero. We have in fact used this very approach in job interviews successfully. We had an executive (expensive) person out of work for 4 years, who took this very approach and made themselves irresistible in a job interview. At the end of the process, he said:

      “Of course I want this position, but what you’re doing is so exciting to me, that if I’m not your choice, let me know and I’ll help you find more great candidates. I know a lot of C-level people who are fantastic, and whom I trust. If I’m not it, let me send you some other options. I just want to see this need fulfilled correctly.”

      He became irresistible to them and that got him the job (along with good presence and qualifications, of course). He was consulting with the business about their need to fill a missing position. You’re spot on, my friend!

  2. Stephanie Fox on March 20, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Wow…this is awesome advice!! When I first read the title of the article, I was a bit taken aback…as I’m sure your coaching clients were. After thinking about it and reading the rationale, it makes absolute sense. Can’t wait to share this tip with others!!

    • Dean Hyers on March 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm

      Stephanie, I am not surprised about the “taken aback” part. It is very counter-intuitive. I’m not even sure how we came to realize this. I think it happened when we were trying to help a client differentiate themselves, or perhaps we were so bored by the old, “We are so great, we were founded in 1949, let us show you 97 powerpoint slides about how great we are,” presentation approach that we tried it as an alternative to keep ourselves awake! However it happened, it worked for a multi-million dollar sales pitch and grew for us part of our approach.

      Keep us up on your progress!

  3. Regina Barr on March 20, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Great article! I’m very client focused already but this gave me a different way of looking at my sales presentation. Thanks for sharing!

    • Dean Hyers on March 20, 2012 at 3:36 pm

      Glad to be a fresh perspective, Regina. On our own, we don’t know if we’re fresh or not. We just do what proves to work reliably, and we’re really happy when that turns out to be fresh as well! Let us know if the new spin on your selling shows fruits!

  4. Sandeep Saxena on March 20, 2012 at 10:32 am

    This is a great piece of advice. Challenge is convincing your management to accept this approach. Sales is all about solving customers challenges/problems. I would suggest changing Sales title to Consultant title. It has helped me tremendously.

    • Dean Hyers on March 20, 2012 at 3:59 pm

      SANDEEP! Great to hear from you. I appreciate the comments. And yes, convincing management has sometimes been a problem. We have a sales track record that gives us a little clout, but sometime they say, “I’ve been selling this company for thirty years by asking for the business, and you’re not going to tell me that I can’t.” (I often still manage to convince them, and we usually do win, but you have to be a “challenger” and fight for what you think they need.)

      This is a differentiated approach that we think suits this era of sales, where people want to see value first. We give them an experience of making a difference (value) during the selling process, and we find it works. So we fight the good fight in our client’s best interest, and often they let us guide them.

  5. Michael Eisenbeisz on March 20, 2012 at 11:17 am

    Very interesting article. This makes a lot of sense.

    • Dean Hyers on March 20, 2012 at 4:07 pm

      Cool, Michael. I think in one way it’s not so different. Most companies we work with are very much about the needs of their clients. What’s probably different is that most people love serving their client, but hate selling. We’re combining the two (or at least aligning the two) so that selling IS serving the client, and serving the client is selling.

      It’s almost funny that we get pushback for disassociating sales from what they hate and making it more like what they love. They push back because they’ve spent so much energy trying to accept what they hate doing, that it doesn’t feel like selling anymore if it aligns with what they love. (The people who latch onto this idea tell us that it “set them free.”)

      Michael, be free!

  6. Patrick on March 20, 2012 at 11:17 am

    Nice post. I have shared with some others in my firm and received mixed reviews. I find it interesting that this recommendation seems very contrasting with the those you posted on the subject of vulnerability. Weak vs. strong message is a very fine line to walk.

    • Dean Hyers on March 20, 2012 at 4:27 pm

      I appreciate your honest challenge, Patrick. I do recognize the contrast between this post and others, which is because I’m talking about a different aspect of the job, and I have more than one dimension (even though the Yin side of business is my stronger interest). In one sense, I think it’s consistent, however, which is that asking for the job (the classic approach) is very Yang, and self-focused, whereas being there to help is other-centered, and that is very Yin. So that would be consistent – not in contrast – with the vulnerability posts.

      On the other hand, my truest perspective on strength versus vulnerability is a goal of being COMPLETE – which is BOTH strong and weak – not favoring one over the other, but gaining the benefits of both. In light of the goal of completeness, I emphasize VULNERABILITY most commonly because it’s the “lesser understood strength.” When you win with vulnerability, your win is under the radar, which can be very advantageous. So sometimes talking “strength” and other times talking “vulnerability” doesn’t mean that I am opposed to strength. I work with vulnerability to achieve more reliable strength (where my staying power and survivability is). I work with strength is so that I can protect my vulnerability (where my depth and empathy is). If you look at the Yin/Yang symbol, there’s a dot of Yang inside the Yin, and vise-versa. That makes sense to me because it’s complete and “opposite-honoring.”

      But there is plenty of room for alternative views. I am excited that people don’t see it the way I do, because that ensures that my approach will continue to win by virtue of differentiation. When everyone sees it the way I do, it will no longer be a point of differentiation.

      Last thought, in support of your peers perspective: You have to believe your perspective to win with it. If it doesn’t work for you, don’t try it. You’ll lose. I lose when I try to sell the classic way, because it doesn’t ring true or sincere for me.

      So you should listen to your heart, and do what works for you. I’ve seen people try things that don’t work in their minds… and they fail. So if my perspective speaks to you, it probably will work for you. Either way, I respect your thoughts!

  7. Chuck Kitchen on March 20, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    While I agree with most of this, I do believe you can say “thank you”. “Thank you (or, We appreciate this opportunity) for this opportunity to help you. We believe we have a solid solution to your issue. Is there anything we have not covered, questions or concerns? Pause/Answers. We would be honored to serve you”.

    To me, the most important thing is….are you listening to the voice of the customer and addressing their need(s)?

    Great insight as always by Pete and Dean.

    • Dean Hyers on March 20, 2012 at 4:47 pm

      You have a GREAT tweak here, and YES I say this. What you said was, “Thank you for the opportunity TO HELP YOU!” That works for me completely. What makes your perspective work so well is WHAT you’re thanking them for. Not for the opportunity to gain, but the opportunity to help. That’s a match in my mind.

      The reason that I make it all “cut and dry” is that I’m trying to steer people away from selling for their own gain, and instead sell for their client’s gain. I can tell that you agree with this idea.

      Pete Machalek helped me see that if I want to help people, I have to sell them on our services, so selling is HELPING them. So I say, don’t taint it with the idea that they’re helping YOU by giving you a chance to win the fee for doing the service. Stick to helping them and be honored and excited to do it.

      I’d like to echo one additional smart thing you said, and pull it farther. “… listening to the voice of the customer and addressing their need(s)” is spot on. We want to keep the focus on our being here for that reason, and not on the fact that we benefit financially. Most professionals love their work and the difference they make for someone else. So I’m trying to keep my emphasis there.

      So view this post as being much more about REPOSITIONING your thinking at the time of selling – away from being there for yourself, and onto being there for them. It’s the tie between “thank you for this opportunity” and “being there for my own gain” that is the source of this perspective. Watch for it, the tie is real. Thanking you for my opportunity shifts the main character from the prospect to the seller. And it shifts the PRESENCE of the person doing the talking.

      I hope this helps align the two of us, Chuck, and in my view we are on the same page or close (despite the disservice that “words” do to meanings well-meant.

  8. Carolyn on March 20, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    You make a terrific point .

    And what I love most are the questions you asked your client to get them to understand that the sale isn’t about YOU… it’s all about THEM. Staying detached from what you have to gain is one of the most difficult things that business owners and salespeople must do.

    Keep doing your great work, fellas!

    • Dean Hyers on March 21, 2012 at 7:24 am

      Woo-hoo, Carolyn! You’ve turned my post into a LIFE LESSON! I guess this is true for any relationship, isn’t it?

      How does one be there to help their loved one… for their benefit… while at the same time being the one to gain. As I think about it, having been married AND still being in love 23 years into it, I think my own GAIN in supporting my wife has been far TOO MUCH on my mind for much of the marriage, but recently that reversed. It’s like I had a faux other-centeredness, especially at the time I PROPOSED (the sale). I said, “I’ll be there for you,” while I was totally engrossed by “winning my prize.” Obviously the two were both true, but much harder to separate at that time. During well over a decade, helping her was still more for MY gain than it was for hers, even though I genuinely wanted to help her. But her gain was the ALSO and my gain was front-and-center.

      But over the last five years, I’ve really gotten to a place where I just want her to be happy. And ALSO I know I will gain by that. Now I AM THE ALSO instead of her, and I MEAN IT! It took years and years and years to be able to truthfully say that my want for her happiness is detached from my gain. But I can definitely say that now.

      Take that one farther, I can’t help but notice that my own happiness in the marriage seems to correlate exactly with that detachment. I know I’ll always benefit from her happiness, but when my own gain was ahead as a driving force I was less happy, and as her happiness is a goal detached from my gain I’ve been more and more and more happy!

      The ultimate place (or as ultimate as I have gotten so far) with BOTH personal relationships and client relationships is when I am consciously focused on THEM getting what they want and need, and in the back of my mind, KNOWING that I will be rewarded for this.

      Carolyn, you just unlocked the secret to a happy life! Be proud of that, and thanks for commenting!

  9. Mark Moroney on March 20, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    You make an excellent point when you point out who has the most to lose here…
    It really is 180 thinking but put the salesperson in the drivers seat.
    This strategy really validates your product or service and psychologically wins the sale much better than “begging” for the sale.
    I’m going to adopt this immediately.

    • Dean Hyers on March 21, 2012 at 7:29 am

      Mark! I love it: “180º thinking puts the salesperson in the driver’s seat.”

      Let me know how it goes as you drive your sales. BELIEVE in it as you do it. I think (as I commented to someone else) that there are a lot of schools of thought, and part of the “personality of selling” for you is different than someone else’s, so when something clicks for you, that means that “it is compatible with your own internal wiring,” and the synch between your wiring and an idea makes you believe it. And that means the idea was already in you before. You were wired for it. Other ideas require RE-WIRING to work.

      So for me, it sounds like this will fit what you already believe, so it should work. Let me know. I truly wish you great success!

  10. Fowzia Shaikh on March 21, 2012 at 3:44 am

    Nice one Dean and very thought-provoking indeed. We are Management Consultants and are always in search of better ways to sell. This is an amazing perspective and I’m going to recommend this to my co-directot Hardik to try out in his sales presentations! 🙂

    • Dean Hyers on March 21, 2012 at 7:39 am

      Great, Fowzia! This should be ideal for consultants. The actual WORK-PRODUCT of a consultant is [making recommendations to help them make better choices and take better actions so they benefit], so if your sales presentation is also “recommendations to help,” then you’ve just made a paradigm shift:

      AWAY FROM: “I just want to get passed this sales process (which is not really who I am) so I can get to the part where we help them as a client (which is truer to who I really am and what I love).

      TOWARD: “Selling is the EXACT SAME JOB as the WORK I LOVE! Selling is [making recommendations to help them make better choices and take better actions for their benefit]! OMG! It’s the same thing!

      That means that you can bring your AUTHENTIC SELF in your FAVORITE MODE to the interview, AND the prospect will get a taste of working with you, which is what they really want more than a bunch of ppt slides about how great your company is.

      You’ve just made the mental leap that normally takes us hours of persuading when we coach teams facing a sales pitch. Way to go. Let us know how it goes with your team!

  11. Van Brown on March 21, 2012 at 6:15 am

    Dean, besides this being a good post, there have been several insightful comments. Going back to what Bill said earlier about interviews, we all need to realize that is what we spend a good bit of our time trying to set up. I’ve been calling sales presentations “interviews” for years. And you are right, we are in those interviews to facilitate changes that benefit all concerned. Looking back, I’ve never closed a sale when I felt like I was begging for a job.

    • Dean Hyers on March 21, 2012 at 8:01 am

      Yeah, Van. That was my sad story of 1988 – 2007. I had a wired-in “scared beggar” inside me… who was a bit of a drifter, so he’d drift in and out of my personality. When he wandered into my psyche, I sucked at selling, or selling myself, or even pitching an idea to my teams. That plagued me in the movie biz because I felt that what I wanted in being a filmmaker was “not important for them” so what I wanted (self expression as an artist) was selfish. So I had lots of trouble being their for others’ benefit.

      Compounding that was the idea that “I was TAKING from others” when I took money for work I loved. That was the double-wammy: WAM1 = begging, and WAM2 = I’m taking from them. So I felt guilty selling.

      Now I have replaced all that with HELPING THEM. As a film artist, the projects I’m working on now align with my REASON to be on this earth, so I view my films as existing to help others. In my business pursuits I only work to help others to deal with their high stakes communication, and lo and behold… I get paid quite well to coach important people and do exciting, challenging projects. I ONLY do what I love, and I ALWAYS get rewarded for it.

      I even get rewarded financially when I VOLUNTEER. Pete and I donate time to all sorts of causes, and somehow, whenever we GIVE, somehow that leads to a big job… somehow. I don’t even bother tracking it anymore. If I can help, I help, and it comes back to me without me having to worry about it.

      In the same way, I used to feel “trapped geographically” too, but these days I’ve had clients fly me to Australia and to Europe, and most of the 50 states, to speak or coach. It all seems to be tied to this detachment from my own gain and a focus on “who I can be a hero for.” Life got much easier, even though it’s still no cakewalk (I work for a living). But the benefits just come and I don’t worry like I used to. I trust! And helping others IS my confidence. Cool!

  12. Karen Dietz on March 21, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Great article! I think the questions you pose are spot on and I’m going to be using them a lot. And I love reading all the comments. I like the article + responses so much I’ve added it to my curated content on business storytelling and then broadcasted it out to my social media accounts. You can see it here at I hope it brings you more traffic. Keep writing such great stuff!

    • Dean Hyers on March 21, 2012 at 12:08 pm

      Karen, you’re the best. I truly appreciate your broadcasting this exchange. I’ll go study that and drop you a line about it. Very curious about what you have collected in your exploration of business storytelling. I’m honored!

  13. Qin Tang on March 21, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    Catchy title and cool content! You brought the point home very nicely. It’s about them, helping them succeed, and not about you, what you gain. When you are other-minded, you have charisma and the ability to draw people to you.
    “When it comes to charisma, the bottom line is other-mindedness. Leaders who think about others and their concerns before thinking of themselves exhibit charisma.” ~John C. Maxwell

    • Dean Hyers on March 21, 2012 at 1:37 pm

      Qin! Great that you’re staying with us and commenting. Always appreciate your input. I love your connection of this to leadership. In particular, I like your term, “other-mindedness,” over the term I’ve been using, which is “other-centric”. I’m going to use yours now.

  14. Mark Goldman on March 21, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Dan, Karen Dietz posted this article and I was intrigued and read it. First, the article is great! Hard to accept for those of use who equate “thank you” with politeness, and even humility. The more I read, the more I agreed. Now comes the hard part…conditioning myself to follow the design, and execute it in the interview or pitch.

    Second: I am so impressed with the fact that you have personally read and responded to each person’s comments. This says so many positive things about you! And…it’s another great lesson for us (me). You have made me a subscriber!

    • Mark Goldman on March 21, 2012 at 2:00 pm

      Oops…meant Dean (typo)

    • Dean Hyers on March 21, 2012 at 3:21 pm

      Mark, you can call me Dean, Dan, Deanne, Darnit, or Sam, if you want. Just so you call me!

      As per the hard part (conditioning yourself), I have a suggestion.

      1) Don’t try to STOP anything. Try to START something. And that something is to start voicing your passion, you’re excitement, and your being honored. Let it be an additive process instead of a subtractive one. Gradually, you’ll crowd out “Thank you for having me,” with “I’m so excited to be here!” It will work itself out over time.

      2) When you notice that you said, “Thanks for having me,” be okay with that because everyone says that. Like you pointed out, it’s polite! And it’s NICE! So let it be okay, and also hear in your mind’s ear: “When I say, ‘Thanks for having me,’ I’m going to follow that up with, ‘And I’m really excited to be here,’ and as the two get co-associated, you will more easily switch over to the alternate.

      3) remember the variants: It’s an honor to… I’m pumped about… It means a lot to me that…. It means so much to me when… etc. The more you form a routine of CHANGE, the more you have not formed a routine of repetition.

      As you become used to varying yourself at those moments of being polite, you’ll a) have proven to yourself that people get the same perk from “excited” that they did from “thank you,” and b) gradually replace one with the “mix.”

      Make sense?

      As you your second comment, it means a lot to me that you notice I respond to every reply, and that it counts to me. I can’t take credit for it though. I learned this from two great people. One was the late Blake Snyder, who’s a screenwriting guru who wrote the book SAVE THE CAT (if you’re not a filmmaker, that may mean nothing, but it does to us in the film world). I have his books and software, and met him at a conference, and was impressed the same way. At the time, I blogged and nobody responded and I was jealous that he had people actually reading his blog. So I decided that if I ever get anyone listening, I’d better respond like he did.

      Secondly, my web and SEO guru, Robert Dempsey ( who told me that if I didn’t respond to each and every blog comment, he’d personally fly over to the US from Singapore and kick my butt, and then charge me for the time. So I am honored that you notice and care.

      Please stay in touch with us as we post twice-ish a week, and do care to form relationships with the folks who care about what we somehow seem to know something about.

      BY THE WAY, ALL, I’m on Mark’s website now ( and Mark is a veteran storyteller who shares his imagination in a clearly intimate experience with his audiences. GET THIS QUOTE: “… my stories unfold with each breath that I and my audience take together.” Love that!

      Thanks, Mark!

  15. Tom on March 21, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    Saying Thank You, yes or no? As a long time Toastmaster, where we are drilled not to say thank you at the end of our presentations, and as a business Executive and manager at several levels, I have very mixed feelings on this. Personally, my feeling is when some hotshot comes in and does not say thank you, my gut feeling is that he is rude, and lacks basic manners. I was raised OLD SCHOOL, where you always said THANK YOU! If your presentation will be won or lost on if you say thank you or not, I would question the quality of your stand. Manners by their very nature shows a concern and respect for the other person, so would it not follow that lack of common manners shows disrespect and unconcern? To me you have a better chance of my business, saying thank you, than not saying it.

    • Dean Hyers on March 21, 2012 at 9:03 pm

      Great points. And I wasn’t aware that Toastmasters says “no” to thank you. I thought we were alone in that. Interesting. I wonder what their reasons are. I bet they’re similar – I bet it’s that if a speaker thanks the audience, the message is “I need you to like me,” and instead of “I’m here bringing value to you.” When I speak, I voice excitement that the audience is here, and interested in the topic. (That’s what I tell speakers.)

      As for the “risk of being rude,” I’m with you a good part of the way – I HATE egos, and I hate rudeness. I’m ALL about respect and honor… I just want to keep the “main character” the client’s needs, and not slip myself in the leading role or make the experience about me getting the job and the money. And to be painfully clear, I’m not saying “never say thank you.” I thank people all the time. I thank people in a business setting.

      But in SALES, thanking you communicates “I’m here for my gain,” when there are LOTS OF OTHER WAYS to be gracious and thankful. I always try to be gracious, and selling is a time to deploy one of the variant wordings of it. “It’s such a thrill to be here, and to be part of your important decision today.” That doesn’t sound rude does it?

      (BTW: I just got a call while writing this to you that a team we coached just won a sales presentation worth many millions. They did not say thank you, but they showed GREAT respect and had the vibe of appreciation.)

      Perhaps the difference could be captured for you in this comparison. I could say, “I’m happy.” or I could smile. The smile will do more than the words. And the words will only work if I’m smiling… AND the smile will only work if I am FEELING HAPPY. The feeling is the most valuable part. The words are an intellectualization of that feeling.

      With our clients we focus on the FEELING of APPRECIATION and that communicates the respect, the other-mindedness, and the care… constantly, and with no words at all. We coach people until they can do that under pressure (see, we’re film directors and that’s how we think). What I do is create the business equivalent to a lover saying “I love you” with just their eyes.

      Here’s where you and I can ALIGN: We BOTH value graciousness and gratitude, which needs to be COMMUNICATED. If you can also accept that human beings communicate in more than one way (verbal, gestural, emotional, intellectual, written, with our slides, etc.) We’re simply saying this:

      eh-hem: Use genuine appreciation – the feeling – so your body language says, “We care deeply about you.” And instead of saying thank you (which makes you the main character, thankful for his/her own gain), say instead, “I am deeply honored to be a part of this process to decide who ____ (Client) will partner with for this important project.”

      Now, about manners: I AM A BIG FAN OF BEING POLITE! I don’t think that’s old school. I think manners are FOREVER SCHOOL! So maybe here’s how we align on this one in two concepts:

      1) As I see it, manners are “gestures” or “symbols” of respect. It’s the ACTUAL respect that’s important, and hopefully the symbol helps us communicate our genuine respect (but having it’s more important). Surely you’d agree with that. I have a teenage son who says, “I’m Sorry,” in words, but he can communicate “I HATE YOU” when he says them. So if I ever advocate something like “don’t say thank you,” I’m only talking about those specific words. I’m going to spend the time necessary to coach my team to beam appreciation and respect, and speak an other-minded message. They’ll say something polite, like, “It’s such an honor… ” and such.

      2) If you absolutely have to say Thank You (say if for you it’s the communication equivalent to wearing a suit and tie), then you say, “Thank you for the honor of being part of this important decision you’re making today.” Or, “Thank you for including us in the process of sharing insight and recommendations so you get to your goals.” As long as you specifically assign your thanks to HELPING THEM, and decidedly NOT to the opportunity for you to get more business, then you can simultaneously check the “yes box” for manners and etiquette and avoid switching the focus of the day to you scoring a bunch of cash!

      I’m betting that will work for you. Let me know if it still rattles. Remember that manners are supposed to be the symbol of respect. What I’m advocating is paying the prospect the total respect of putting your gain off the discussion table so you can focus on what they need.

      • Tom Deyo on March 22, 2012 at 12:34 am

        Wow much more of a reply than I expected. I agree on your points 100 percent except maybe on NEVER. I understand and agree INTENT is 99.9999% of any message, whether it is Thank You or even I hate, I have heard both when my kids were teenagers. and I knew the intent was not what was said.

        Our Toastmasters Group is over 70 years old, and this is not a new topic by any means. I am writing the King Boreas Toastmasters History, and it appears in various forms from the beginning of Toastmasters International.

        I would love to invite you to come and see how Toastmasters functions by inviting you to our meeting.
        (We hold the worlds record on “Weekly Consecutive Weekly Meetings by a Civic Organization)

        We Meet at 7:30AM every Saturday at:

        Conference Room
        Associated Bank Building
        Snelling and Selby
        St Paul, MN

        PS> I can get you a 5-7 minute Speaking spot if you would like to speak on this subject or maybe some other topic, you feel would be appropriate.

        Tom Deyo
        King Boreas Toastmasters
        Educational Vice President

        • Dean Hyers on March 22, 2012 at 2:31 am

          Tom! You’re up late too then, huh? I’m going back to read what I said NEVER to. Oh I see it… THE TITLE!

          Well the “rule” can’t be wishy-washy, but yeah, all rules are can be broken in certain times. I try to make them rules first, so they become “general practices” and that way you have to decide whether to break them or not. Without the rule, nobody even notices when they choose one way or another.

          So I support the comment, “I agree… except maybe on NEVER.” And here’s a great example:

          I was presenting to a conference for professional women. As a man, that’s a special honor… to keynote a woman’s conference. Although this thank you angle is not a common subject for me to cover, it just so happened that it was the focus of my speech, tied to assuming a stronger leadership role than these women were taking in their male-dominated market segment. And my close was, “I want to leave you with two important notes. FIrst, never thank your audience for having you, and secondly, I want to take a moment and thank you for having me.”

          I brought down the house with that one, and I really did want to thank them for allowing me, as a man, to be the speaker at this event when most women’s groups want to hear it from another woman.

          So in the spirit of this exchange, let me just say, Tom, THANK YOU for the opportunity to speak to your Toastmasters group! I would greatly appreciate the chance to share value and make a difference your audience will benefit from.

  16. Deb Callahan on March 22, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    Your article was so thought-provoking (as against everything I believe in) that it moved me to take action – a long-postponed, first-time-ever blog entry in support of your writings! Thanks so much!!

    • Dean Hyers on March 27, 2012 at 12:10 pm

      Outstanding, Deb! You know that I am completely aligned with you on living in perpetual gratitude, despite this advise about the word “thank you” when selling. I do completely feel thankful when I present and sell, and simply place the critical significance on “being thankful” whereas I place far less significance to words (which are mere symbols). I guess you could say I believe more in the water, and less in the vase.

  17. Caroline Jones on March 22, 2012 at 5:34 pm


    Great advice. I love the way you think. Our belief systems are set at an incredibly young age and are built upon as we grow through school and through our early years in the workforce. Generally they aren’t ours, they’re our parent’s views on life and then our teachers and our colleagues and bosses’. If we don’t take the time to review our beliefs and throw some of them out the window (and rarely does this happen), then we move along in life in a little bubble, doing what we’ve always known. Your article is really about changing your mindset and structure and your sentiments are truly powerful.

    If you believe you’re an equal and can show your value to a potential client, really it’s common sense, but it’s not how we’ve been programmed to think or act. So, another reminder to me to make the mindset change and what a difference it will make. I’ll certainly be using your suggestions in my next presentation. Thank you for reminding me to get out of my bubble once again!

    • Dean Hyers on March 27, 2012 at 12:18 pm

      Ooooh. I love this notion that our belief systems are set when we’re young. I’d never thought about it that way. But I’ve felt it. I’ve spent years and years (career-wise) responding to a belief I remember creating at around 11, when I said, “someday I want to sit in a movie theater and see a movie I made.” I know it’s not the kind of belief you were talking about, but it’s a tangible example of being in late 40s, still bound to a belief/conviction I’d set up as a child. This is a “connecting of the dots” that a lot of people could stand to make!

      I think I don’t go through life in a bubble. I go through it in a hamster maze, or one of those gerbil exercise wheels. But I like your bubble analogy, and do wish to change mindsets, perhaps above all. Pete picked away at some of my previously wired beliefs (like selling is “getting” instead of selling is “giving”) until I came around on some of them, so I know it can be done.

  18. Ryan O'Donovan on March 27, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Dean – I met you and Pete at a recent event at the Cambridge Campus of Anoka-Ramsey Community College. I have enjoyed reading your blog posts. I am finding that much of what you’re saying is resonating with me in my role as an instructor and supervisor.
    One related strategy I use with my Career Development students is creating a list of “Reasons to Trust Yourself.” The list seems to build confidence. It also challenges students to actually have content to add to such a list (i.e. preparation, skills). Those with more reasons to trust themselves often are more apt to be in the present and to project themselves as genuine and confident.
    Thanks for your conversation and particpation at our event…I look forward to learning more from your posts. Nice work, Dean!

    • Dean Hyers on March 27, 2012 at 12:22 pm

      I remember you, Ryan! Thanks a ton, and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing you share your insights and inspiration with students as they approached the booth we shared. Thanks, and definitely stay in touch.

      (… and I remember the name of that town with the hotsprings and mudbaths as part of wine-touring getaway! It’s Calestoga!)

  19. […] last post (Never Thank Your Audience) really generated some controversy and questions when I set out to demonstrate why thanking your […]

  20. Craig Hadden (@RemotePoss) on October 9, 2017 at 12:30 am

    Thought-provoking post, for sure. I agree with some of the points you make and disagree with others.

    For instance, there’s a big risk in saying you’re honoured or excited to be involved, because those statements are about how YOU feel, which the audience cares very little about. In contrast, saying “thank you” is explicitly about the audience (“thank YOU”), and naturally they care very much about themselves!

    Also, saying you’ll be there for them regardless of their decision could easily sound desperate, and is rather like saying their decision doesn’t matter so you’ll ignore it!

    All the same, I really liked the list of questions to get presenters to realise that it’s all about the audience. And I agree with what you said about being more like a consultant, on an equal footing with the client.

    On the issue of Toastmasters, I believe they say not to thank the audience because that weakens your closing line. However, sometimes they go even further, suggesting the audience should be thanking the speaker for sharing their content! I wrote more about their perspective here:

    • Dean Hyers on October 9, 2017 at 9:56 am

      Glad you’re thinking it through to such an extend. I value your criticism and liked your post on it. Thank you for sharing!

      I agree very much with your comment about not wanting to come across desperate. I’ve heard people say it totally “zen,” as in separate from outcome, and it’s been strong. But the point is to make it about their success and not your winning. And selection committees have told us they need you to be excited, and occasionally say, “You didn’t get the project because you didn’t want it badly enough,” so being excited is normally pretty positive.

      I liked your blog, and it reminded me certainly don’t thank them first or last, and I like ending on something profound that ties to the call to action for them, like in your post, “Remember, the power is in the palm of your hands!”

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