Nov. 9, 2021

376: Trigger Event Selling (with Craig Elias)

376: Trigger Event Selling (with Craig Elias)

Harnessing the trigger events that turn prospects into customers.

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Craig Elias: "There's push, and there's pull. And if there is no push, it's really hard to pull someone enough to have them leave something they're already generally happy with. And have them know or get to know the devil they didn't originally know because the argument is; Better the devil I know, than the devil I don't. And that's why it's so hard to move people from one place to another.


Craig Elias is the creator of Trigger Event Selling , and the Chief Catalyst of SHiFT Selling, Inc.

For almost 20 years, Craig used Trigger Event strategies to become a top sales performer at EVERY company that has hired him – including WorldCom where he was named the #1 salesperson within six months of joining the company.

Craig’s Trigger Event strategies have:

  • Won him a $1,000,000 prize in a global “Billion-Dollar Idea” pitch competition
  • Earned him coverage on NBC news, in The New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalNikkei Marketing Journal, Business 2.0, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Sales and Marketing magazine, Venture Magazine, Calgary Inc.
  • Earned his last company, the distinction as one of “Silicon Valley’s 40 hottest” and one of Dow Jones 50 most promising companies in North America



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Brian Nichols  
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Unknown Speaker  
selling is all about really it's we're not selling a product you're not selling a service you're not selling. You're not selling whatever you think you're selling a solution you are selling change Welcome

Craig Elias  
to The Brian Nichols Show your source for common sense politics on the we are libertarians network as a sales and marketing executive in the greater telecommunications cybersecurity industry. Brian works with C level executives to help them future proof their company's infrastructure for an uncertain future. And in each episode, Brian takes that experience and applies it to the liberty movement. And this is why we talked about being the trusted advisor you should be able to help us that expert guidance and all the opinions that I'm sure that you have, and help lead them towards not just a decision but the right decision. Instead of focusing on simply winning arguments or being right. We're teaching the basic fundamentals of sales and their application in the world of politics, showing you how to ask better questions, tell better stories and ultimately change people's minds. And now your host, Brian Nichols. Well, happy Tuesday there, folks, Brian Nichols here on The Brian Nichols Show. Thank you for joining us on of course another fun filled episode I am as always your humble host. And for today's episode, I am so excited to bring you just an absolute sales icon. He is literally the number one ranked sales professional in Canada. Yes, the entire country. And he is the author of a classic book shift harness the trigger events that turn your prospects into customers, one Craig Elias and today we focus not only on the ideas of trigger events, but specifically into the three parts number one, wanting to change to more time and being able to afford the change. And number three, being able to justify a change and then down the road. What are some tips that you can take if you are a not so good, maybe average just run of the mill sales pro to take that extra step and become one of the A players Craig has some solid words of advice as we wrap up the episode. So with that being said, I'm gonna show Craig Elias here on The Brian Nichols Show.

Brian, thank you very much for having me.

Brian Nichols  
Absolutely. Craig, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today. And I'm excited to have this conversation. It's a reoccurring theme I'm finding having these conversations with some sales legends had Victor Antonio, Tim Walker. And now Craig, we're gonna have a nice conversation with you. And I most notably got to know more of your work on reading through shift, which was harnessing the trigger events that turn prospects into customers from 2010. And fast forward to today, we want to talk about the main focus of that of that book, which is trigger event selling. But before we get there, Craig, let's introduce yourself to The Brian Nichols Show audience who are you and what got you into this world of sales?

Craig Elias  
Wow. So I've been I was in sales 20 years before I became an entrepreneur. But what got me into the world of sales was actually being a bartender at a restaurant. And a guy worked with became a recruiter. And I got a job as an inside salesperson, and was told that never make it outside sales in that company because they only take engineers after two years of product training, and put them in sales. I lasted 60 days in that job and the guy who ran the outside sales team came to me and said, got a spot in Edmonton. Because the guy who was in sales has sold the script to Hollywood and there's no way I'm going to take any of these engineers and put them on the road. And you seem to know what you're doing. Would you like to move to Edmonton and from that point on, I was pretty much this golden child who just ended up close to number one or number one everywhere, right up until the day before 911 And I joined a brand new tech firm the day before 911 But just like always happened. I became the number one sales guy in less than six months. But unfortunately they admitted to conducting

$11 billion and accounting fraud. That's when I kind of left the world of sales specifically and bumped into entrepreneurship being an author and what I've been doing pretty much ever since. Wow. And you know, I don't know about you, but I hear the story quite often the accent, accidental, there we go salesman. And it happens more often than not, I know, I never thought I'm going to be finding myself in the world of sales leading a sales team. But alas, here we are. And it's exciting because you get to see not only the opportunity that you get for yourself financially, because there is that you know, what's in it for me. And at the end of the day, it's the Commission's right, not only do you have the quota, but this reason that quota exists, it's so you have that financial incentive, but also, when you get to see your product actually making a difference. And that's something that I've really been able to take, especially over the past two years here in this era of COVID. My world is in the greater telecom cybersecurity world. And guess what all sudden became really, really important. When March 2020 Hit hmm, being able to communicate without being face to face, and then all of a sudden, everybody being from home and everybody being online, guess what increased cyber attacks. So all of a sudden, I really, it kind of hit me like, not only are you selling a solution, but you're selling something that's helping people. And that's helped make, I would say, not only in my world, but you know, helping my sales team as we're going through, and understanding what we're doing as we're going through and in our world having conversations with CIOs and directors of it. But also figuring out what specific problems can we go ahead and try to solve for them, but getting those conversations to start? Sometimes that's the hardest part. And this is where what you've been doing in trigger event selling has been so helpful. Can you dig into that? Correct? Yeah. So when I left being a salesperson and wanted to become an entrepreneur, I reflected on my 20 years of luck as a salesperson, when was a good one was a great moment, I just unstoppable. And I figured out a sequence that it seems like my customers are always part of one day, they're in the buying mode of status quo. And other day, they're in this window of dissatisfaction, thinking of changing, but too busy solving other problems to do anything about it. And the last one was where all of a sudden they were start searching for alternatives. And it took me about a week of my reflection to figure out but then what I couldn't figure out is what would take someone who was in the buying mode or status quo, and put them into the window of dissatisfaction. And that's when I realized, it was these events that made people become unhappy with the status quo, either something that raises their expectations, or lowers their perception of the performance of what they have today. And that was my first big epiphany. And that's what the book was all about. But what's happened since then is, I've begun to realize it's not just one event, it's actually three, the first event, somebody wants to change a second event, somebody has more time or money, now they can afford to change. Now they're actually looking for a solution. And sometimes, that's when they're an inbound lead. And then the third event is where people need to have a third event where they can justify the purchase to somebody else. And it's only those people that have all three events, that will actually become customers. And that's why for a lot of salespeople, there's lots of deals that don't close, because that person can't find a way to justify the decision to themselves or maybe somebody else. Let's start with number one, I was taking notes here, as you're going through number one, they have to want to change as a salesperson, our job, Craig is to get people to go ahead and actually take the steps to enact change. And sometimes getting people to see that they need to take that step is the hardest part, which is why I always teach my sales team to enter into the conversations that people are already having. So how can we figure out number one, those conversations that people are already having? But number two, how can we isolate the people who we know are actually those who want to change in that specific vertical? Not vertical, but that specific buyer persona? Good question. And I think about what is called an ICP. So some people have an ideal company profile, or an ideal client profile, I think of as an ideal customer, or an ideal contact profile, in particular. And that contact needs to be someone who's generally a VP or higher, because they have money, authority, and influence and more times than not, they only accept to have one event, and they'll go through the entire cycle. So for me, it's making sure we start far enough up the organization and to find a way to help them understand what is your value proposition. So what do you find a way to take away what's the problem you solve? What do you reduce, minimize, eliminate, help them avoid or prevent, because if they're not being pushed away from their current solution by a problem

It's hard to pull them towards your solution by that problem. guy named Bob and Wesson does a really good job of that in his book called demand side sales. He talks a little bit about, there's push, and there's pull. And if there is no push, you it's really hard to pull someone enough to have them leave something they're already generally happy with, and have them know or get to know the devil. They didn't originally know because the argument is Better the devil I know, than the devil I don't. And that's why it's so hard to move people from one place to another,

Brian Nichols  
that fear of making change, right? Not just like the idea of having to take that next step. But then what if it goes wrong? Then it's on me. I'm the person who signed off on this new solution, and it didn't work. That's a that's a big red flag for a lot of people. And it gives them that paralysis, they decide instead of making a decision, they make no decision. But then that goes to the second part where we have to see well, how if they are frozen, and they are afraid of making that decision? Well, how can we make sure that we change that tune? And you mentioned, well, maybe they have more time? Maybe they have more money? Can that be something that we can also line up with finding that wants to have a noun actually having the time or money to afford it?

Craig Elias  
Good question. So my argument is that almost everybody in sales, and more than one occasion has someone who said to them and thinking of changing, why don't you call me back later, like call me back in six months? Six months? Sure. But see, and I bet half the listeners on this Sorb think they're smart, because they're like, oh, awful back, and five. But if they phone back in five months, it's still too late. So one of the things that I have figured out is I have what's called a 21 day plan. My plan is to make sure I find a way to have a meeting in at least the next 21 days, other ways, otherwise, it's too late. So let's say I phoned you up, you're like, I'm too busy. Can you come back in six months? Sure. I would love to have you back in six months. But is there any way for me to get 30 minutes of your time this week? So when I phone back in six months, I'm better prepared. You're busy? What are you going to say? No. Undeterred, one things I learned from my dad is, if at first you don't succeed, try again. So then you say, Well, what if I made it 30 minutes, and it's two weeks from now? Can we get started? So at least I'm better prepared. When I call you back in six months? The answer is very often No. And the hard part is most sales people stop there. But my argument is they should ask three times, which is, well, what if I made it three weeks from now. And it was only 20 minutes, and most people won't say no, for three times, or three times in a row. Now of a sudden you get your 20 minutes, the job in that 20 minutes, is to understand what does the customer think the problem is, because if they define the problem, they're going to decide what the solution is. And your goal is to help them redefine the problem. So you can then start finding a way to design the solution around what it is that you sell. And that's the way you add value early in the process. And it's that value creation process that allows you to build a better relationship, and as someone decide to buy from you later. So my argument is, if you wait too later, it can be too late. At the end, if someone's already started that process, the best thing you can do is be the least risky alternative and wait for the person, they've already picked us Column A to somehow screw up and you become the person they call next. Because now they're even more risk averse than they were before.

Brian Nichols  
And then the final part will not really final part, it's the the ultimate last ingredient to make this delicious cake that is the actual moving forward of the sale. That is they have to deal with justify it. So I see this two ways. And I want to hear if I'm on the right path. They had to justify it not only to somebody else, but they also had to justify it to themselves. Is that fair?

Craig Elias  
That's fair. And usually they can justify to themselves easier, they can justify it to somebody else. I'll give everybody here is an example. Some of you might be able to recognize what this is. And I'll get out of the way just for a second. This hold on is one of the first iPhones that ever came out. And when it first came out, I showed it to my wife. I found it on eBay. I'll ship it to Canada. I can hack into it to make it work on a GSM network. And they'll ship it and I've got the money not a problem. But when it first came out I couldn't buy the phone. Do you want to guess why?

Huh? You couldn't buy the phone? Not available?

couldn't justify it? Hmm. Because my wife is Scottish and we don't throw anything away. So what had to happen? And it happened but two and a half months later, my son found my wife's really nice Motorola flip phone without any guidance from his dad, he broke it in half. And I went to my wife and said, Here there, you can have my really nice Sony Ericsson phone, I'm going to go get the iPhone. So this justifying falls in five flavors. It's called ripes. Rip. And so this is the way that people generally justify their decision to other people. The R stands for risk avoidance, the AI stands for image, the P stands for productivity or expenses. So increasing productivity lowering expenses. The E stands for environmentally friendliness, and the S stands for simplicity, or speed. And those agenda the five ways that people justify their decision to somebody else.

Brian Nichols  
simplicity and speed I'm seeing that come up more and more in conversation too, especially in an era where things are so fast paced. I see this a lot with especially cybersecurity solutions. People say, Can you help me? Yes, how fast? How soon say, oh, okay, well, that makes my job a lot easier. But that simplicity of helping them go from where they identify the problem, see the solution, and then can actually implement that solution and making it so it's as few steps as possible, I found that that has been one of the not only the easiest means to help get the conversation started moving forward from point A to point B, but also, it gives them more of like a timeliness that they can justify to somebody else saying, look how responsive this person is no, and this is why we're gonna go with this is company cuz we feel confident that we can go ahead and have these conversations with with people, like you know, what Brian's doing over his company. Because when we, when push comes to shove, that we need to have somebody on the phone, being able to help, I mean, there's a great story by CEO on the phone with one of our customers. And when he's on the phone, he's like, you know, it's middle of the night, he's his back a couple years ago. So he's in his closet in his bedroom, trying to walk a customer through how to set up a location out, you know, in the middle of nowhere, you know, three, four hours away, just so they were able to have their services met. And that right there speaks more to, you know, the the justification versus just me telling somebody how great something is all the text and specs, the features and benefits that gets old after a while I think people can shut off to that.

Craig Elias  
Well, I'm it's funny, because a couple years after my book, Andy Paul wrote a great book on exactly this. And it really is, for the most part, part of what I talk about is something called first call effectiveness, which means how did you get as much done on the first call? I don't say as humanly possible. But as much as possible, really cool guy named BJ Fogg talks about these things called Motivation waves. And when people are motivated, that's when you need to give them the hardest thing to do. The challenge is for way too many salespeople is that when someone's really motivated, that just give them something small to do. And then later on, it becomes more and more effort. But the hard part is later on, they're less than less motivated. And that's another reason why a lot of deals get stalled.

Take a 180 here. I'm curious because I lead the sales team. And I like to ask my sales team, this question What makes a good salesperson but also, what do they think a bad person or a bad person a bad salesperson, rather looks like So Craig, if if you had to kind of paint the picture, in your own words, what would you define as a good salesperson versus a bad salesperson? And what are those traits look like? So we can help people avoid those in the future?

Good question. So I'm gonna lean a little bit on a guy named Michael Bosworth, who for I don't know, 25 years show process down everybody's throat. His theory was the addition of a player and a B player was just processed it don't get me wrong. process is important. But then what he realized his epiphany after like 25 years is it wasn't the process. He was actually somebody's ability to actually build the kind of relationship that they were told information that other people did not have access to. Now, in my world, the word I would use is called propinquity. And I'll spell that PR o p i n to you, i, t y propinquity. propinquity is the impact of nearness, sometimes geographical, but very often chronological and or psychological nil nearness, aspirations, values and interest. What do you have in common with the other person? Do you want to try and find a way to leave the world a better planet? Are you trying to find a way out? Help dogs deers, whatever that might be. That's the aspirations, values and the things you're not willing to give up in order to be successful and interests are the things you do in order to pass the time and the best salespeople will call a prospect or even someone they know already on a Monday morning. And the reason they phoned on Monday morning is something's either on their list to get done that week, or it's not. But when they phone on Monday morning, the first question isn't, do you have this problem? Or would you like this value? The first question is, what did you do this weekend? And what you're listening for, is perhaps an opportunity to have something in common with somebody else. Oh, I drove to separate for the weekend. Oh, Sudbury, I have a niece in Sudbury. And all of a sudden you start talking about Sudbury. So you try to find a way to figure out what can you have in common? And by calling on Monday mornings, you learn what people do you find the things you have in common. The second best time to phone is Friday, right after lunch, because guess what? You can ask them Friday after lunch. Hey, Craig,

Brian Nichols  
what are you gonna do this weekend? What

Craig Elias  
are your plans for the weekend? And like, Oh, my, you're going skiing? Wow. Where are you going? All that is my second favorite place on the planet. My favorite place is. In the world of academia, that's called a Johari Window created by two guys named John Harry J. O H. A Ri. Charlie Greene's work on trusted advisor talks about these people. He calls them the doers. There's six types. And this specific group have two characteristics. What he calls are an AI R is reliability. When I say I'm going to do something, it's getting done. The AI stands for intimacy, and that customers tell them things that they don't tell other people. That's one of my things about really good salespeople. The other good thing that really good salespeople do is they read. So this is about half of my library, the other half has been lent out more often, then it's been returned. So good salespeople are eager to always learn. They're always picking up new books, reading, not listening, reading new books, and they're always asking for feedback. So when they win a deal, part of the process is, how can we make it easier to become a customer asking that question, What could I have done better. And those are the people that I think are the best salespeople, they might not be the best when they start, but they sure as hell are when they finish.

Brian Nichols  
And I love the idea and the focus on being eternally curious, always wanting to learn more. And never to say I've hit the peak, I know everything. Because as soon as you are in that mindset, you're losing, because there are other people out there who are trying to think of new ways, more creative ways to make the sale happen. And I mean, the library, half the library, behind you is a testament to how many great people are out there that we can look to and and I think part of sales to Craig is is just not reinventing the wheel, which it's so exhausting sometimes, because you see too often, especially as we look, you know, in the world of politics, and that's why we do the show is to try and bring what we know that works in the world of sales from not only the art and science, but I would dare say the performance aspect as well. And bring that into a political world where we can meet people on the issues they care about. But specifically knowing that you're having, you're having their genuine good interests in mind, and trying to help make that process in their world as easy as possible to make the choice as well. And we see that parallel between a voter and a consumer is they want to be able to know not only that their choice matters in terms of making the right decision or in the right in this case, the right vote, but also that they're going to get a good solution, a good product a good service, in return. And that's where a lot of salespeople drop the ball. And it goes back to the fact that they're not trying to do something extra. They're not trying to go above and beyond because they've gotten comfortable, they've gotten complacent. And that's why I always encourage people you know, I try to read, you know, at least you know, a book a week if I can, because reading is is just the best way to constantly learn more and to see other points of view. I mean, heck, I was going through and reading a brand and finance and sales secrets book and your amazing chapter. You bet on your money. mobilizers that was something that inspired me to reach out to you originally. There you go. The Challenger sale. Yeah, exactly.

Craig Elias  
So sometimes it's a popular book and there's one word in the entire book that you want. Sometimes it's a book you've never heard of. And it becomes the most dog eared highlighted underlined book you will ever lol This is the only sales book I've ever read cover to cover twice. Wow. So yeah, it's picking up these gems and, and every time you pick out just even just one little thing from every book, and sales is not one big thing. Sure, timing works in your favor. If you talk to the right people at the right time and say the right things But that only gets the conversation started. There's lots of stuff on the backend, you can still do to screw it up, right?

Brian Nichols  
Ain't that the truth? Well here as we wrap up, because we are getting pressed for time here, one of the recurring themes we've seen, and I mentioned this with Tim Wakil, we talked about this with Victor Antonio. Timing is easily one of the most important aspects in any sale, but often one of the least focused on aspects of sales by your average sales pro. So with that in mind, if you could give a word of advice to your average salesperson in regards to the the approach to understanding and appreciating the aspect of timing, and necessarily not being the right time, but helping it from the buyers perspective to be the right time. For them, Craig floors yours.

Craig Elias  
Really good question, I think. So the hard part is there's lots people to try to find a way to create timing effect. My second book was all gonna be about cold shove, how do you create the events to push aside your competition? It turns out, in the last 11 years, I've looked at a lot of stuff, and not a whole lot of stuff actually works, what works really well, is job changes. Soon as a new decision maker in a job, the data says that something like 32% of new decision makers will make a million dollars worth of decisions in their first 90 days in the job. But the big thing is not just on that one guy or gal that change jobs, but you need to figure out that one guy or gal who's placed that they take because that person's moved on to a new place with more money, more authority, more influence than before, when they the person you know moves on, you gotta follow up with them, you then want to go talk to the person who replaces the person who you originally were talking to. And when you go talk to that person, the very first question you should ask is, where did you come from? Because that, too, is an opportunity, where someone's new in their job and highly likely to change. Wow,

Brian Nichols  
how about that for some nuggets of knowledge, as we wrap up today's episode, Craig Elias, thank you for bringing your insights. And with that being said, we want to make it as easy as possible, as simple as possible for folks to go ahead and be able to go ahead and learn more about not only the work you're doing in terms of trigger events selling, but also if they want to keep the conversation going forward, we'll of course, will include the links to your social media, as well as your website in the show notes. But for the audio listener, Craig, where can they go ahead and find you and support the work you're doing?

Craig Elias  
So if you go to Craig, it'll take you straight to my LinkedIn profile. And that's the place where I do most of my connecting. There's 750 million people on LinkedIn. I got on day eight. It's like my 19 year anniversary almost. I mean for 3956. So LinkedIn is the first place to go if you want to find a way to connect.

Brian Nichols  
Fantastic, Craig, Elias, thank you so much for bringing all of your insights The Brian Nichols Show audience and folks of course, we will include today's show notes in if you go ahead to your podcast catcher click the artwork, it will bring you to The Brian Nichols Show where you can find not only the transcript for today's episode, but also all 400 Plus episodes of The Brian Nichols Show. But with that being said, Craig Elias thanks for joining the program

Craig Elias  
today. Brian A pleasure.

Brian Nichols  
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Transcribed by

Craig EliasProfile Photo

Craig Elias

Craig Elias is the creator of Trigger Event Selling , and the Chief Catalyst of SHiFT Selling, Inc.

For almost 20 years, Craig used Trigger Event strategies to become a top sales performer at EVERY company that has hired him – including WorldCom where he was named the #1 salesperson within six months of joining the company.

Craig’s Trigger Event strategies have:

Won him a $1,000,000 prize in a global “Billion-Dollar Idea” pitch competition
Earned him coverage on NBC news, in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Nikkei Marketing Journal, Business 2.0, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Sales and Marketing magazine, Venture Magazine, Calgary Inc.
Earned his last company, the distinction as one of “Silicon Valley’s 40 hottest” and one of Dow Jones 50 most promising companies in North America