Transcript: David Brower: Our special guest, from The Great Voice Company, is the great Susan Berkley. Susan and I’ve been friends and co-voiceover talent for many, many years, 10 years to be exact. Welcome Susan, glad to have you.
Susan Berkley: David, it’s great to hear your voice. I’ve just been hearing you and following you online. You are kicking butt and taking names as a voice talent. It really makes me feel great.
David Brower: I appreciate that. Susan was my very first coach, very first mentor, and so we go way back. It’s just a thrill to have you here. Susan is one of the most listened to voices in the country. You’ve certainly heard her voice, could it be on AT&T or Citibank and many others. She’s an author of the book Speak to Influence: How to Unlock the Hidden Power of Your Voice, which I have, which is a great book. Her latest book, The Persuasion Code, and we’ll talk about that in a little while. She’s president and founder of The Great Voice Company in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. She’s a worldwide trainer, speaker, you name it. She’s been featured on ABC, CNBC, Howard Stern. The 20 minutes is up. There you go.
What a wonderful career, and likewise, I’ve been following you forever. It’s a treat to not only see your success continue to grow and flourish, but how many voice talents you’ve touched over the years that have really helped people get into this business, like me. It’s really quite remarkable.
Susan Berkley: I’m honored.
David Brower: Give me one of your signature voices.
Susan Berkley: Welcome to Citi phone banking. Your account balance, David, is $3 million and 47 cents because you’re a friend of mine.
David Brower: We’re going to hang up now, and I’m going to go cash that account while we’re still here. That’s terrific. That’s terrific. Let’s talk briefly about voiceover because it really relates to a lot of things in life, from public speaking to sales to confidence. Just all kinds of areas of our life, right?
Susan Berkley: Yeah. That’s true. We are, I guess you’d say the masters of influence because you and I as voice talent have the ability to go into a recording studio, read somebody’s script for 60 seconds, and sell thousands, if not millions of dollars like I once did for a spot that I recorded for Topsy Tail, which is a little hair gizmo as seen on late night TV. You might’ve remembered the commercial. It sounded like this, “If you are getting bored with your hair, don’t despair. Now, there’s an exciting new look with Topsy Tail.” That commercial sold $50 million, David. It’s amazing. Of course, I didn’t see anything near that much because I didn’t get residuals, but the point is that we as voice talent, as broadcasters have certain, I guess, superpowers, persuasive superpowers that we probably take for granted.
What I did was I deconstructed what I, people like you and our colleagues do in the studio and on the air to be so persuasive, and that formed the basis of my first book Speak to Influence and now the new one, The Persuasion Code. I’m teaching those techniques to sales organizations, to customer service groups, to any business person that wants and needs to be effective, not just in selling, but also in gaining trust because at the end of the day, that’s what we do. If people don’t trust us, they’re not going to buy from us, don’t you agree?
David Brower: Absolutely right. It’s all about relationships at the end of the day and the way you foster those relationships is by communicating confidence, trust, integrity, all those buzzwords that are still very important to this day.
Susan Berkley: It’s true. It’s never changed, and it never will change. That’s the great thing about what we do. Trust never goes out of style. There might be times where it’s lessened, but it’s always been important, and it always will be.
David Brower: The other thing that’s fascinating to me over the years is social media become more and more prevalent, more and more in helping us to communicate to others around the world really because it’s like the new word of mouth. Word of mouth has always been the go-to thing, and now it’s like word of mouth on steroids.
Susan Berkley: It’s funny you mention social media because that’s why a lot of my corporate consulting client come to me because they’re finding that they’re getting low social media scores, like a one-star review or something because of something that someone on the frontline said to a customer. They picked up the phone, the customer didn’t like the tone of voice, or they didn’t get the feeling, the right feeling from that business because of the person on the frontline. Smart companies are realizing that every single point of customer contact has to be coherent, it has to be cohesive, and it has to give the same message of trustworthiness, which is very subtle. It’s not necessarily the words you use anymore, it’s the tone of voice, and you know that. You’re in marketing.
David Brower: Absolutely right. The other part of that I think is there’s a sense of fear along the way. The ability to be able to face our fears to cut through that to help grow those relationships and stuff is sometimes pretty difficult for folks.
Susan Berkley: You’re talking about fear of [cold call 00:05:15] and things like that for sales people, right?
David Brower: Yeah.
Susan Berkley: What that really is, David, it’s so interesting that I found that when we’re afraid of calling somebody, we don’t know that person, and they don’t know us, but yet, we imagine that they’re going to reject us. That’s a psychologic … That’s like psych 101. It’s called projection, but what’s really going on is that we’re rejecting them before they reject us, and then we’re projecting it onto them. Somebody we don’t even know yet, we’re imagining they’re going to reject us. They even haven’t heard our voice yet. We haven’t even made the call, yet in our mind, we are doing the rejecting first. When I work with my sales staff, that’s one of the first things that I train them on, so they really understand that the problem starts with me, not with the person on the other end.
David Brower: Absolutely. There used to be so much focus on you have to have this kind of voice, and it’s really not the case. It’s a matter of being able to communicate and relate.
Susan Berkley: I’m so glad you said that. I just read something about Clark Gable. We all know, of course who he was with Gone with the Wind and everything. He used to have a very high annoying voice. Through voice training, he was able to deepen his voice and do that famous, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” voice that was so famous in Gone with the Wind. Grace Kelly, as well, the great actress also did voice coaching to make her voice acceptable to Hollywood.
The problem is we don’t do that anymore. People in school do not, are not trained in elocution. You just don’t get voice coaching anymore, and it’s not even a value that I think that we have as a society. I’m not saying that we need to even return to those days because I think that cow has left the barn, as they say. It’d be an impossible thing, but what hasn’t gone out of style, what we must pay attention to in business and in our personal lives is trust because what people don’t realize is that one of the main ways you undermine trust is by the way you speak, and it’s unconscious. If a shift in tone, it could be an inflection, it can be mumbling, it can be an accent or a dialect that so many people have.
I mean, ours is a country, even though we’re trying … they’re trying to block immigrants, there are still a lot of people where English is not their native language anymore, and that’s fine. That is not a problem at all. It’s what that does to both the speaker and the listener. People unfortunately form, have preconceptions based on the sound of a voice, and a lot of that is unconscious. Can I share a real quick story with you?
David Brower: Please do. Please do.
Susan Berkley: I had a conversation with a friend of mine who produces infomercials. You know what an infomercial is, right?
David Brower: Yup.
Susan Berkley: For our listeners that might not know, it’s a very long commercial, sometimes they’re half an hour long or even an hour long, usually trying to sell us skin care or other product. This guy had an infomercial running. It was for a kitchen product. It was pulling in millions of dollars, David. This thing was making money hand over fist. One day, the narrator, the announcer that was recording that infomercial came to him and said, “You know, I’m really sorry. I can’t do it anymore because I have a conflict with one of my other customers, but I have a friend of mine, another voice talent that sounds exactly like me. Here’s his demo.” The producer listened, he said, “Well, I’ll be darned. They sound exactly alike.” Puts the friend on the air, and you know that overnight, sales plummeted, David. He was bleeding money. He lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. It was just the voice.
The next day, in a panic, he called the original talent back. He put him back on the air. Signed him into an exclusive contract, wrote him a very big check, and don’t you know that the sales went right up to where they were. There was something in that voice that he couldn’t hear, and he’s an expert, but somehow the audience, the buyers could perceive. Voice has that ability. It almost exerts a sort of a psychic influence on people. We don’t know that influence, but people feel it. They hear it. In the work that I do, I try to help people make that conscious, so that in every communication, they’re instilling trust. They’re not undermining their message every time they speak.
David Brower: Have you ever seen the new show, it’s called Ransom?
Susan Berkley: No. It’s something I should watch?
David Brower: Yeah, because one of the … Its people hold people for ransom. These aren’t cops. These are professional negotiators. Long story short, that’s kind of what they do, but with that said, one of their tech guys analyzes voices. It’s fascinating because they can, between the body language, but mostly the voice, they can tell whether they’re being honest, dishonest, whether they’re deflecting questions. It’s just fascinating. That’s probably the reason I watch it is because that technology is like, “Really?”
Susan Berkley: It’s so interesting you brought that up because one of the things I tell people, I say, “When you cradle …” You know how sometimes people pick up the telephone and instead of wearing a headset or sitting up straight, they cradle the phone, the receiver between their shoulder and their ear?
David Brower: Yeah.
Susan Berkley: You get the image, right?
David Brower: Yup.
Susan Berkley: I said, “That is the worst thing that anybody can do because it actually makes your voice sound muffled like you’re calling for ransom money.”
David Brower: Absolutely right. The other thing I’ve found, and I think I learned this from you years ago, that is I’m sitting here in my studio. I’m all by myself. I could be sitting here in my bathrobe, but the reality is if I don’t get up, get dressed, look professional, feel professional, all of that translates over the phone.
Susan Berkley: Yeah. What you’re perceiving, and what we know as voice talent, is that one of the key tools we use is our body language. It’s not just talking. There’s a whole mental transformation we go through as voice talent to get the job done. We’re visualizing. We’re putting ourselves in a place. We’re imagining the person we’re talking to, and we’re using certain body language that totally affects the sound of our voice. One kind of body language for a hard sell, another for a soft sell, et cetera, et cetera.
These are the cool things that business people, sales people, customer service people can learn. They’re like little tools to have in their toolkit to give better service and to help the company be perceived in a way that’s consistent all the way across the board. What I found, David, is that companies invest thousands, if not millions in their visual branding. You know this as a marketing expert. They put very little, if they even think of it at all into their voice branding because your company, just as it has a physical image, has a spoken image. It must be consistent across the board with every single point of customer contact. Can I give you an example of when it went wrong?
David Brower: Yeah. Please do.
Susan Berkley: I’m a luxury shopper. I’m a proud contributor to the US economy, consumer economy. My boyfriend says, “Yeah. You single-handedly brought us out of the great recession.” One day, I did some shopping at a very exclusive Fifth Avenue store, in fact Fifth Avenue is in their name, [inaudible 00:12:20], I mentioned. I bought a very nice piece of jewelry, which broke. I called their call center to have it replaced and fixed. The ladies in the call center, the call center was somewhere in the deep south.
They were the most … The image was just completely contradictory to the live shopping experience on Fifth Avenue. They sounded sloppy. They sounded unprepared. They just sounded like they didn’t care. They were sweet enough and nice enough, but it was such a mismatch that I got furious. I was like, “These people are never going to fix my necklace. I’ll never get it back. I will never shop at that store again.” It was such a flagrant mismatch of voice brand to store brand. I’m sure I wasn’t the only customer that noticed that.
David Brower: Let’s talk about your new book, The Persuasion Code: The Million Dollar Voice Mastery Secrets to Help You and Your Team Gain Trust, Build Confidence, and Close More Sales.
Susan Berkley: If you’re listening and you’d like a complimentary copy of the book, I’m happy to send it to you. I just want to give you … I’ll tell you about the book in a second, but I want to make sure we don’t get cut off. I want to give everybody my email. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org. Just tell me that you heard me on David’s podcast, and I’ll be happy to send you a digital copy of the book. I’ll even send you a hard copy if you request it. What that book is what I’ve discovered, David, is they’re really for people … They’re for really core voice types. There’s the enthusiasm type. There’s the authority type, and there is the charm type. There’s also what I call the trust type, which is that classic avuncular, kind of like, I’m really dating myself, but like Walter Cronkite used to be, the great newscaster. People kind of fall roughly into those categories, and then there are combination types.
What I do when I work with sales and customer service groups is I help people identify what their natural voice type is, so they can enhance it, and then they can identify the voice types of their sales prospects and their customers and adjust their voices accordingly [inaudible 00:14:24]. We also talk about the different factors that affect our trustworthiness when we speak, our credibility, our authenticity, our reliability, the sense of security we get. They really are some basic things, like our pitch, our inflection, our rate of speech, whether we mumble or not.
A whole host of things that affect what I call vocal transparency because you know this, David, as a voice talent. It is so not about our voice when you say … Our job is to lift the product and the customer off the page. In fact, if they’re paying too much attention to the way we sound, as the voice talent, we’re not doing our job. We have to be completely transparent. That means being aware of vocal sticking points. Am I speaking too quickly? Is my tone something annoying or off-putting about it. These are the kinds of things that I … On and on, I mean, I have a whole list of things.
Typically, what I do with a company is I’ll go in, I’ll give a workshop. Actually, the way the process works is I will start by doing what you said, like sort of secret shopping, or they’ll provide me with a phone line where I can listen to everybody that’s on the frontline. I’ll do a report I find things to the management, and then I go in and I give a workshop. I will typically follow up and see how people are doing post-workshop. What some of my customers do actually monthly listening sessions where I teach them how to analyze the voices. We sit in a conference room and we do it like the old radio days. I don’t know if you were in radio like I was too?
David Brower: Yup.
Susan Berkley: You sit with your program director and they air check you, which means they listen to you show. We do that in a group setting, but we do it in a way that, we can do it by video conference too if I’m not physically there, but we do it in a way that’s nonthreatening. It’s supportive, and they actually love it because they feel as if they are growing and developing as sales people and customer service people. They don’t get this training anywhere else, and yet, they recognize that how important it is to their work. You don’t get it in school, that’s for sure. It really is the difference between [ho ham 00:16:30] and world class.
one lost client, one lost claimant, one lost customer is worth thousands, if not tens of thousands to the firm, and even untold amount of money in the millions in bad reputation if that company is not given a five-star review. If somebody calls and feels like they were slighted, they weren’t talked to. Today’s customer won’t think twice if you look at them the wrong way about flaming you online. It’s really a new field that I’m really happy that companies are starting to pay more attention to, their spoken image because it just makes such a difference in their bottom line.
David Brower: Good for you. Businesses who are interested in reaching out to you for your workshop, for you to help them with their customer service frontline and their sales people, how do they get ahold of you?
Susan Berkley: Sure, well, I’ll give you two ways. One is to call me. I’m in New Jersey, in Englewood Cliffs on the Eastern Time zone. Our number here is (800) 333-8108, that’s (800) 333 … 333-8108. My mind just went blank for a second. They can also email me, David. My email address is email@example.com. That’s my private email. That’ll go right to me. It’s The Great Voice Company. They can also go online at GreatVoice.com.
We’re really a full-service production company as well, David, like you probably are as well. We will record anything that your company needs in any language, be it commercials, phone lines, web presentations. We translate them. We subtitle them. We’re really a full-service audio, image company with the training piece attached, which is sort of turn key, totally turn key to really enhance your spoken image.
David Brower: Absolutely right. Folks, don’t hesitate to reach out to Susan, and also, be sure to remember to request her new book, The Persuasion Code, when you email her at voicepro@greatvoice … Is it greatvoice … It’s greatvoice.com, right?
Susan Berkley: Yeah, greatvoice.com is the-
David Brower: I went blank myself there for a minute.
Susan Berkley: It’s fine. It happens.
David Brower: It’s been a treat my friend. Thank you, Susan. Continued success to you, and I’m glad we’re able to be in-touch over the years.
Susan Berkley: It’s my pleasure, David. I really enjoyed it. Thank you.