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Tuesday, 21 April 2015

3 Simple steps to holding effective meetings

Why have meetings?

To discuss stuff, yes?


Instead, it’s to cause stuff.

In other words, you want your meetings to cause actions to happen as a result.

Given this, your most important agenda item is the final one...

‘Confirmation of actions’

Obvious, I know.

But many meetings don’t finish like this. Instead, they end with:

  • ‘Any Other Business’, which gives certain people licence to talk about whatever's on their mind; or
  • ‘Summary’, which repeats what everyone has just said; or
  • ‘Takeaways’, where people share what they’ve learned during the meeting, rather than what they’re going to do after it
But none of these focus on what happens after the meeting.

So nothing does.

When you think about it, meetings should be like pit-stops in Formula One - everyone working together, contributing fully using their different skills and approaches, to achieve a common goal.

Instead, most meetings are like huge sandwiches - bloating, stodgy things that slow you down. And, when you have them back-to-back, they make creative thought virtually impossible.

The simplest way to change your meetings?
  1. At the start, agree the desired outcomes - the actions you want to take as a result of meeting
  2. And at the end: confirm these actions
  3. Follow it up with a quick email, documenting these agreed actions

Do this, and it’s obvious your meetings will cause stuff, not just discuss it.

And there’s an important ‘bonus benefit’: once you know what you’re looking to achieve after meetings, you find you don’t need to cover as many topics during them.

Which means you reduce your time spent in them. In fact, my customers tell me they’ve reduced meeting duration by 50%-70%.

Imagine what you could do with all that extra time…

Action point

You know the first meeting you’ve got coming up tomorrow?
Make sure you’re clear on the desired actions. Or there won’t be any.

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Wednesday, 15 April 2015

3 Powerful words

Today, you’ll have to sell something.

An idea, a product, a service, a proposition; why someone should choose you, recruit you, hire you…

… Or it could just be to get your children to tidy their rooms right now.

Here are two simple steps, to boost your chances of making that sale:

  • Step 1: Focus on the right thing
  • Step 2: Say the right thing

Taking each in turn…

Step 1: Focus on the right thing

Remember, people don’t want what you’re selling. They’re interested in why they’re better-off after saying “yes” (their AFTERs).

You’re the same. When you buy a website, you don’t want a website. You want more sales.

You don’t want a tax accountant; you want to pay less tax.

You don’t want a cleaning company; you want to impress your colleagues and customers by how beautiful your office is.

So, to sell more, focus on the AFTERs they’ll get (their agenda), not the thing you’re selling (yours).

Step 2: Say the right thing

To sell based on AFTERs, ask the other person what, why and when:
  • What AFTERs do you want? (This ensures you’re both talking about their agenda, not yours)
  • Why do you want it? (This builds their excitement)
  • When do you want it? (This builds urgency)

For example, if you’re a hotel receptionist
  • What type of room are you looking for? (“something special – one of your best rooms please”)
  • Why do you want it? (“Because I’m proposing to my girlfriend. I want to give her a night to remember”)
  • Congratulations. And how soon would you like this (“As soon as possible – Friday?”)

The conversation has quickly moved from booking a room to his imminent proposal to his girlfriend. He’s much more likely to book the room (and probably be grateful to hear 1-2 extra things you can offer, to make their night a resounding success)

Or, if you’re a business coach:
  • What do you want to achieve this year? (“To be as successful as now, but to do so in less time”)
  • Why’s that so important to you? (“I feel I’m not seeing my children as much as I’d like”)
  • How soon would you like to make this change (“As soon as possible”)

Again, the ‘customer’ has more excitement and urgency than she did two minutes ago – good for both of you.

So let me finish by asking you…

Action point

  • What conversation today will you apply this process to?
  • Why’ve you chosen that one? Why’s it so important to you that it goes right?
  • How soon can you prepare and practise, so your conversation goes exactly the way you want it to?

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Wednesday, 8 April 2015

World's greatest sales pitch

A good friend of mine (Harry) was recently on the receiving end of the most compelling sales pitch he'd ever seen. He just couldn’t work out how to say “no”.

Here’s what happened - and what we can all learn from it…

Harry was in the kitchen with his two-year-old Tom. Their conversation went like this:

Tom: Daddy, can we play football outside?

Harry: We can later, Tom. It’s raining now. Shall I read you a book instead?

Tom: No Daddy. Let’s play football outside.

Harry: We can’t Tom. I’d like to. But it’s raining. What else would you like to do? A story? Play with your trains? Something else?

Tom: Shall I get my shoes Daddy?

Harry: Why?

Tom: So we can play football outside.

Harry: I’ve already told you, Tom – it’s raining. Come on, let’s find something else to do

Tom: (Leaving room). See you later Daddy.

Harry: OK. Where are you going?

Tom: To get my shoes.

Harry: Tom, come back in here…TOM!

Tom: (returning) I’ve brought my shoes Daddy. Can you put them on please?

Harry: (if I’m being honest, now becoming a touch frustrated) No Tom. It’s raining. Look, here’s your favourite book…

Tom: I’m just putting my shoes on.

Harry: (thinking he's ‘won’, because his son doesn’t know how to put his shoes on) Ok then, Tom. You put your shoes on

Tom: (Two minutes later) I’ve put them on Daddy. Let’s go outside.

Harry: (Getting more flustered now). Wow. You’re a good boy for putting on your shoes. But it’s still raining.

Maia, Harry's six year old who’s been listening to their conversation: Actually Dad, it’s stopped raining.

[Stunned silence]

Harry: Er… OK then… Let’s go outside.

Tom: (very excited now) Yaay. And can we play football for lots and lots, Daddy?

Harry: Don’t push it son...

And, before you ask… yes – they did play for ‘lots and lots’.

Harry did his best to say “no”. But it wasn’t happening.

And there’s a lot we can learn from this:

  • If someone says “No” to you, it doesn’t mean “No forever. Go away”. So try a different tack
  • This different tack might involve you doing something you haven’t ever done before, like putting on your shoes for the first time
  • It always helps to have a good relationship with the other person. But a good relationship won’t always be enough on its own – you’ll have to be persuasive too. But if they don’t know/like you, it’s a lot harder
  • Circumstances change – like, it stopping raining – making the reason for the original “no” no longer valid. So, you can often revisit things which got a “no” last time
  • Sometimes you need a third party – in their case, Maia – to point out that things have changed. So ask someone else for their ideas
  • When you’re so focussed on the value of something – like Tom was – the objections/concerns become almost irrelevant. You/he sees them as minor inconveniences to overcome; not an Impenetrable Forcefield Of Doom that requires 100% of everyone’s focus

Action point

Today, somebody will say “no” to you. So, what are you going to do, to turn it into a “yes”?

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Wednesday, 1 April 2015

A children's story and it's hidden meaning!

I guess you know the story of the 
tortoise and the hare ….

The tortoise challenged the hare to a race. The hare, being quicker, was over-confident. So he stopped for a quick nap. Unfortunately for him, he overslept and the tortoise plodded along to victory.

The moral: slow and steady wins the day.

But, here’s the sequel…

The hare realised his error. So he challenged the tortoise to another race. This time he didn’t go to sleep, and sped along, winning easily.

The moral: fast and consistent is better than slow and steady.

And so the tortoise re-challenged the hare. But, this time, the tortoise chose another route to race along. One with a stream in the middle. The hare reached the stream first, but – unable to cross it – had to stop there. The tortoise plodded across, and won.

The moral: play to your own strengths/your competition’s weaknesses, and you’ll be successful.

But, by now, the hare and tortoise had become good friends. So, they decided to run the race together. This time, the tortoise rode on the hare’s back, who sprinted to the stream. They then swapped, and the tortoise carried the hare across the water. Once safely across, they swapped back, and they sped to the finish line, achieving a record time.

The moral: when working in a team, use each other’s strengths to win well, and win quickly. It’s often the only way to do so.

And the moral of todays post?
Well, it depends on your situation, and what you apply it to. But, in my experience, pretty much everybody can learn pretty much something from one of these stories:

  • Not left enough time to prepare a communication? Such that you have to wing it on the day? Slow and steady prep is better than none at all
  • Have some days when you sometimes communicate well, and others which aren’t so good? Be more consistent. Work out simple communication techniques you can embed, so you always do them – whatever the day, whatever your mood
  • Want to make the most of an opportunity, but have to beat the competition? Play to your strengths, not theirs. Smaller than them? Talk about how nimble you are. New to the industry? Talk about how you can bring best-practices from outside. When David fought Goliath, he didn’t go hand-to-hand. That would have been stupid. Instead, he stood a distance away – where Goliath couldn’t reach him – and hurled stones at him. That way, Goliath was bound to lose. He was a sitting duck
  • Working in a team? Find what everyone’s individual strengths are, and allocate jobs based on those. If there’s a ‘strength gap’, find someone new who has those strengths, rather than allocating the job to someone who isn’t good but happens to be available. Remember: availability is not a skill

Action point

Identify which of these lessons you can apply to your next communication. Then apply it.

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Tuesday, 24 March 2015

2 steps to overcoming any objection

Last week’s post explained how to get more 'yeses' by using your BO (Benefits/Options).

This week we go further, by explaining how to reduce the chance they’ll say 'no'. You achieve this by removing their objections.

These objections aren’t objectionable. They’re real to them. You must proactively address and resolve them, in ways that make you both feel comfortable.

The first step is to focus on the value your proposition will bring to them. The more they see the value to them, the more likely you’ll get that 'yes'.

The second step is to remove their objections:

  • Create a 2-column table. List all their likely objections on the left-hand side, and – on the right – your responses
  • From the table, choose their biggest 1-2 objections. Pre-empt and remove them by including them in your communication. So, you bring them up. Don’t wait for them to. “If I was you, I’d be concerned about the cost, given how tight budgets are. Well, let me outline why the return from this proposition outperforms our other options.”
  • For all the other objections, prepare and practise persuasive responses. This is better than the only alternative: making up your responses on the day, before their eyes. This just never goes well.

Action point

  • Identify your next key communication where it’s important you get a 'yes'
  • Structure your content, so it makes it clear how your proposition brings value to them. Ensure you finish with a persuasive BO
  • Tabulate their likely objections to your content, together with your responses. Incorporate the main 1-2 in your communication, using “if I was you…”
  • Practise your responses to the other objections, so you’re ready should they raise them.

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