Category Archives: Larry Jacobson

Why Incentive Travel Should Make a Comeback

By Larry JacobsonLarry Jacobson

Incentive travel programs have a long history of helping companies grow their business through increased sales, build loyalty with customers, and earn incremental profits for the hosting company.

Incentive trips to exotic destinations around the world were the norm during the 1980s and 1990s. Companies in nearly every industry took part: automobiles, auto parts, computers, garage door openers, spa builders, pool companies, tractors, sprinklers, lawn mowers, and just about every other business you can think of sent their salespeople, distributors, and dealers on trips that were earned and paid for out of increased business to the host company.

These trips were not boondoggles, but rather sales tools, and very effective ones at that. Customers clamored to be part of the group that would charter The Orient Express, hold a cocktail party on top of a glacier only accessible by helicopter, dance with the Kirov ballet in St. Petersburg, have their awards banquet in the same place the Nobel Prizes are awarded, take a private tour of the Vatican, perform their own concert in the Sydney Opera House, and the list of incredible events goes on and on.

Why did these incentive travel programs work so well? The answer lies in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. For those who took Psychology 101 in college, you already understand this concept. Here’s a quick review for you and an introduction for those who haven’t yet heard of this. As humans, we have basic physiological needs such as food and water. Once these needs are satisfied, we move up to safety needs such as security, employment and health. Next is our need for love and belonging, which include friendship and family. Once all of these basic needs are taken care of, we strive for esteem which includes achievement, respect from others, confidence, and self-esteem. And lastly, humans need self-actualization like achieving our potential as individuals.

It is esteem and self-actualization that drive us to achieve recognition of ourselves and from others. This makes salespeople and customers want, need, and strive to be on the trips. Spouse and partner recognition are also very important and falls under this category. Self-actualization, or in other words, “Why am I working so hard every day?” also drives people to want to be part of the winning group that is rewarded in such a big manner. This recognition does not come from awarding cash or merchandise. It is only being with one’s peers that provides the self-esteem and self-actualization.

What are the primary goals that can be achieved by an incentive travel program? We already know a program can drive sales. Additionally, many companies run incentive trips just to build relationships with their sales force and customers. Think of it as the ultimate way of taking a client out to dinner. By building a special relationship, you as the sponsoring company earn the right to ask your customer or sales force to work harder for you when times are lean.

If increased sales and better relationships aren’t enough motivation to run an incentive program, then calculate the profit % you make on incremental sales. Each dollar of profit made above and beyond your forecast has a higher % of profit built in because your overhead hasn’t changed.

You set the goals and by doing so, you ensure enough profit is coming in to pay for the trip and will leave you with incremental profits. The bigger and more exotic the trip, the more you can ask from your participants. Will a dealer sell 15% more of your product for a trip to Orlando? Not likely. But announce a winter ski fest to Switzerland, charter private yachts in the Caribbean, or take over castles in Ireland and watch your sales climb.

There are those that say in today’s economy, incentive travel needs more return on investment (ROI) than ever before. Therefore any incentive travel program needs more business content, more meetings, and more education.

Wrong! These are merely sound bites to try to convince today’s new management that trips are justifiable and are not boondoggles. Those managers are new to incentives and haven’t seen how they have performed in the past. I have. I have seen customers buy more products, salespeople working on weekends, and distributors pushing a client’s products like the client had never seen before—all just to be part of an amazing journey to an exotic destination. After hundreds and hundreds of programs in just about every industry, I have never once experienced a failed program or one that didn’t lead to increased sales and profits for the client and better relationships with their customers.

Incentive travel worked before for all of these excellent reasons and those reasons haven’t changed. It’s not necessary to fill your trip with education about your industry, your products, sales training, and other false pretenses for holding your event. Use incentive travel for the tool that is and let it work for you.

Larry Jacobson is a speaker, executive coach and author of the award-winning best seller, “The Boy Behind the Gate,” based on his experiences while achieving his lifelong goal of circumnavigating the globe by sailboat. As a speaker on sales skills and leadership development, Larry uses the six years of lessons learned at sea to speak with unique authority about conquering fear and staying the course whatever it takes. For more information please visit, email Larry at or call 510-500-4566.

Using Fear to Your Advantage in Leadership

By Larry JacobsonLarry Jacobson

There you are, standing at the helm of your sailboat in the midst of the worst storm of your life. You hold tight to the wheel as the boat flies off the top of a 30-foot wave. The noise sounds like a wounded animal as it howls through the rigging. All you really want to do is go down below, crawl into a bunk, pull the covers up over your eyes and wish it all away.

But then you look at your crew and see them looking at you with eyes as wide as saucers with fear, and you’re jolted back to reality: you’re the captain, the leader. Fear is contagious, and the last thing you need is a team frozen with fear. You need people who are inspired and motivated.

Does this sound like the last time you gave a presentation to your sales force? What are you afraid of in your daily business life? Making a sales call to a particularly tough prospect? Having an all-important conversation with someone you work with? Starting your own company?

What if you could do these things with new heightened senses? Imagine how those looking to you for leadership will see your prowess.

When you’re afraid, whether at sea or standing in front of your co-workers leading them to the next corporate challenge, you have three choices:

  • Ignore your fears and hope they go away. In fact they don’t go away, but often come back stronger than before because you haven’t dealt with them. You must address your fears in your personal or business life or they will gnaw away at you until you do something about them. 

  • Face your fears and stand up to them—stare them down and struggle as to who will win. You can try that in 30-foot seas in the middle of a storm, but fear will quite possibly win. How many times have you sat in the lobby of a prospect waiting for your chance to give your presentation? Did your fears go away just because you wanted them to? No, because you have to do more than face your fears. 

  • Use fear to your advantage. Embrace your fears. First you must recognize the fear. Don’t deny it. Know you’re afraid. You know what it feels like—that “on your toes” feeling, adrenalin pumping, palms sweating, heartbeat increasing… It’s at this point you must stop and have a little chat with yourself. You have to decide who is going to win here: Fear or you. Then comes the hard part: accepting the fear, letting it in and embracing it.

Why should you embrace fear? Fear is nature’s way of making you focus on the task at hand. It sharpens your senses and makes you more alert. And it makes you aware of what could happen next. In the case of this storm at sea, you are indeed focused on how you’re going to get out of this safely. The heightened senses you experience from fear is what many adventurers have learned the hard way. Imagine if you could go through a storm, a sales presentation or a speech to your company with:

  • More focus

  • Sharpened senses

  • More Alertness

  • More Awareness

By embracing your fears, you are given these heightened skills and senses as a gift. Who wouldn’t want their mind more focused when giving a sales presentation? When you recognize and accept the fear, rather than try to overcome it, consciously remind yourself of your newly elevated senses. Tell yourself, “Yes, I’m afraid, but I know it’s making me sharper so I’m going to do a better job at leading this meeting.” Once you’ve done this consciously a few times, the process will happen by itself. Your brain will become accustomed to channeling the fear into success.

Leaders don’t let fear guide their decisions but rather, they guide the fear. To use fear to your advantage, you must embrace it and know it’s there with you. It’s like that little red devil sitting on your shoulder He’s along for the ride but you no longer give him any say or any control. You have transferred its power to you. You are more focused, your senses are sharpened, and you are more alert and aware. You no longer have to pay fear the time of day.

There has never been a more fearless man in modern history than General George S. Patton who said, “There is a time to take counsel of your fears, and there is a time to never listen to any fear.”

We are all afraid of something. The question is what we do about it. Don’t be afraid to embrace your fears. Don’t listen to the wind as it howls through the rigging. Grab hold of the skills fear can provide to you; get behind the wheel and start steering.

Larry Jacobson is a speaker, executive coach and author of the award-winning best seller, “The Boy Behind the Gate,” based on his experiences while achieving his lifelong goal of circumnavigating the globe by sailboat. As a speaker on sales skills and leadership development, Larry uses the six years of lessons learned at sea to speak with unique authority about conquering fear and staying the course whatever it takes. For more information please visit, email Larry at or call 510-500-4566.

Sales Lessons Learned at Sea: Plot Your Course for Success

By Larry JacobsonLarry Jacobson

Imagine that you’re standing at the wheel of your beautiful sailboat you’ve always dreamed of owning. You untie the lines, back out of the slip, motor up the channel, and head out to sea. What direction do you head? The compass offers you 360 choices and if you don’t choose, the wind and current will take you at their will.

Plotting a course for your boat requires having a destination in mind, and then you have to steer for that heading. Planning to sell to a prospect requires the same pre-planning. Without plotting your course, the forces of sales will carry you where they will and chances are that won’t be where you want to go.

When planning a voyage, preparation is key. Ask yourself these questions before leaving the dock or before any important sales call or presentation:

  • Do I have the skills necessary, do I know who is going to do what tasks and do I have the right equipment?

  • What obstacles am I likely to encounter along the way and am I prepared to deal with them?

  • Do I have an alternate plan in case of hazards along the way?

  • Am I equipped with the time, manpower and materials to persevere for longer than expected?

  • And lastly, am I focused on the destination so that no matter what happens, I will achieve the goal?

When crossing a 3,000-mile ocean, just one degree off course can make you miss your landfall by hundreds of miles. Before you set on your sales journey, follow these guidelines to ensure success.

Practice: Before venturing out on a presentation to that big prospect you’ve always wanted to land as a client, practice until you’re blue in the face. Run through your presentation over and over again until you know it cold. If you’re presenting as a team, don’t plan on winging it as to who will handle what portions of the presentation. Assign roles and plan the timing. Be sure your equipment including projector and presentation copies are in good order and are not in checked luggage. Just ask Suzanne who had to use a photocopy of her own outline as the handouts—all because her materials went to Dallas while she was presenting in Los Angeles.

Prepare: Are you ready for questions and objections from the prospect? Sure, you may have reviewed what you think are appropriate questions and objections, but have you looked at it from their point of view? They will ask questions you haven’t thought of because they’re looking at things from a different point of view than you are.

For example, when presenting an incentive travel program to a prospect, John thought he had everything in order for his presentation of Hawaii as the destination. Because he thought of options for the prospect, he also had a London trip and a Caribbean trip in his hip pocket and knew them both well. However, when he stood up to present the first of the three programs, the president of the company threw him to the wolves by asking, “Why are we doing this? Who says we want to take a trip anywhere?” John had been brought in by the marketing manager who was also surprised when the president vetoed the incentive plan altogether. Had John done his research, he would have been able to answer why an incentive travel program would work well for that particular company. He might have been able to save the day.

Persevere: Crossing an ocean in a small boat requires research, painstaking planning, and enormous tenacity. One must study the winds, currents, tides, and try to predict through this research what will affect the voyage. There’s equipment to install, learn about, and repair and these studies never end. The setbacks that come from weather, equipment failures, and the emotional highs and lows of spending day after day at sea are enough to take the wind out of most people’s sails—and keeps most sailors close to their home port.

Similarly, unless you’re in a retail environment where sales are made on the spot, the longer-term sale is made with inquiry, patience, and perseverance. Insurance sales can take months to close the deal, incentive travel has an average of nine months closing time, and your industry might not be far behind. You are responsible for studying and knowing your prospect and calculating how your product can help them toward their goals and objectives.

Patience is a virtue, especially in selling. It might take hundreds of contacts before finding even one prospect that needs your services, and then it could be months before you even get an appointment. Consider it a passage across an ocean and persevere.

It is the tenacious salesperson that usually wins out in the end.

When selling, keep your final goal in mind and know the processes you are using to achieve it. If a change throws you off of your plans, if a competitor undercuts you in price, or the prospect postpones the purchase, stick with it. Come back to the course that you plotted in the first place and persevere. Try again. In the words of Winston Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue on that counts.”

Larry Jacobson is a speaker, executive coach and author of the award-winning best seller, “The Boy Behind the Gate,” based on his experiences while achieving his lifelong goal of circumnavigating the globe by sailboat. As a speaker on sales skills and leadership development, Larry uses the six years of lessons learned at sea to speak with unique authority about conquering fear and staying the course whatever it takes. For more information please visit, email Larry at or call 510-500-4566.