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Tuesday, 19 July 2016

New Name! New Mindset! Better Results!

Most words about communication focus on the:
  • Do-er, not the receiver - “sales” is from the salesperson’s view, not the purchaser’s; “presentations” refer to the presenter etc; or
  • The communication itself - with “meetings”, people meet together; with “conversations”, people converse etc.

These are the opposite of the two most important things about communication:

  • What the receiver (not the do-er)…
  • …does after it (and not during it)

Changing the name of a communication can often change people’s mindset. For example, some salespeople think “selling” is something they “do” to someone. It isn’t. It’s a joint thing. A better phrase might be that they’re making an “agreement to help”.

Similarly, if you’re presenting, don’t think of it as a presentation. Instead, think of it as a “discussion to trigger actions”.

Other examples:

  • Update meeting - ensuring next week’s better
  • FYI - this’ll help you do X
  • Meeting - a decision-making, action-triggering discussion
  • Feedback - how to do better next time
  • Conference - shifting everyone’s mindset and performance

You might not say these new phrases out loud (I don’t know many salespeople who’d say “so, Mrs Customer, let’s create an Agreement To Help”).

But thinking in this way helps you focus on the right things.

After all, if you don’t, you could end up thinking the communication is just about you or what happens during it. Neither is right.

Action point

Identify your main communications today. Ask yourself: ‘for every one of them, have I thought about the (1) audience (2) afterwards? If not, now’s the time…

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Tuesday, 12 July 2016

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail!

Getting communication right is hard enough, without leaving it until the last minute. All that needless stress, rushing about, frantic late-night working…

And this becomes even more annoying when someone else’s bad planning has forced this stress on you.

So what can you do? A few options are:-

  • Just accept it, and put the coffee on… it’ll be a long night
  • Be nice but firm: “I want to help, but there’s not enough time for me to do everything you’ve asked. What are the key priorities you’d like me to focus on?”
  • Be abrupt, knowing they’ll plan better next time: “I’m sorry but I can’t help this time. There’s too little time. Next time, give me at least a week’s notice”
  • Seek alternatives: “We’re too short of time to do everything you want. What could we do instead, to get the message across?”

Which of these four is best? Well, it depends on the situation and who’s asking for your help. As always, when choosing your response, remember “first, do no harm” - to you and to them.

But: with communication, what we hate, we often do (for example, when you’re in an audience, you might hate presenters using wordy slides. But when you’re the presenter, you might use wordy slides, to prompt you)

So, just as bad planning on someone else’s part doesn’t constitute an emergency for you, bad planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency for them.

To avoid imposing unnecessary stress on others, you could do some/all of:

  • Use three diary entries (for preparation, delivery and follow-up) not just one (delivery)
  • Forewarn others you’ll need their help in x days time, and schedule it in both your diaries
  • Identify when you planned things well in the past, and copy what you did
  • Identify when you didn’t plan well, and learn from that

Everyone can make a mistake with planning. But, if you only do so once, it’s not a mistake, it’s learning. It’s when people keep doing it that it becomes a mistake.

Action point

Preview your diary. What big communications are coming up? Have you told your relevant colleagues - and your diary (!) - about the preparation and follow up that’s needed?

Also, if someone frequently gives you too little time because of their bad planning, decide in advance how you’ll respond next time. If you don’t, you’ll almost definitely repeat what you do every other time.

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Tuesday, 5 July 2016

This is the easiest way to get people to do what you want them to do

“I persuaded my husband to do the ironing for the first time in 15 years”

“I used to feel awkward asking my boss to do what I wanted. I don’t now”

“The bottleneck in our sales process used to be getting signed paperwork back from customers. They now return it immediately – thank you”

These are excerpts from recent emails from three very happy customers.

They all used the same Influencing Technique I taught them. And, as you can see, it’s a good one! Here it is. But, first, here’s why it works…

As you know, people say “no” a lot – “no, I won’t do the ironing”; “no, I won’t do what you want”

And they say “no” for one of two reasons:

  • They mean it. It’s a strategic, well-thought-out, deeply considered opinion; or 
  • They’re too focused on other stuff to think about it. So just say “no” 

It’s often the second one. Like in the third email excerpt above: when the salespeople asked “have you time to sign the paperwork?”, customers replied “no, I’m too busy”.

Now, clearly this is wrong. After all, it only takes three seconds to sign a form. But their focus on other priorities meant they didn’t even let the question enter their heads.

So here’s the technique. Since “no” is the likely response, ask a question that includes a negative word. That way, when they reply “no” to your negative word, it becomes a positive. Examples…

You: I’m busy this week. Is there any reason why you can’t help with the ironing?
Husband: No
You: Great. When can you do it?


You: I’d like to move forward with this opportunity. Have you any concerns about me doing so?
Boss: No – crack on
You: Thanks - I will. My first step will be to do X. I’ll tell you how it goes.


You: We’re ready to start your project. Is there any reason you can’t return the signed paperwork today?
Customer: No
You: Thank you. What time will you be sending it?

See how it works? It simply needs two well-scripted sentences: the first one, with a negative in it; and a persuasive follow-up after their response.

Now, of course, when you ask the negative, they might reply with “Yes – there is a reason why I can’t”

In which case, you use a different response – like:

You: “I’m glad I checked. Why not?”
Them: (Their reason why not)
You: “So what should we do instead then?”
Both: (You work together to find a way round it)

It’s a great technique. After all, they’ll either do what you want; or tell you why they won’t do it. Either way, you’re better-off than you were.

Of course, as with any technique, it won’t always work. Nothing always works. But if you can get someone to do the ironing for the first time in 15 years, it must be pretty good.

So, is there any good reason why you wouldn’t give this a go today?

Action point

Identify the first person you have to influence today.

If appropriate, use this technique. Make sure you script both your first and your follow-up sentences (what if they say ‘no’? What if they say ‘yes’?)

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Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Tired of people not replying to your messages? Try these 5 tips...

Email Tennis. Telephone Tennis…

You know the sort of thing – you leave a message, they leave a message, you leave one back, they leave one back…

Or even worse – you leave a message. And they don’t reply. So, you’re faced with the joyous decision: chase and feel like you’re pestering; or wait and feel impotent?

I hate Email Tennis. So I don’t play it. Here are some things you can do instead:

  • If you work in the same office, walk to their desk 
  • Change something. If you’ve chased by email and not had a reply, don’t send another email. Instead, ring them. Or – often better – text/instant message (IM). People tend to reply to texts/IM's. Something like ‘Hi X, Let’s catch up today. I’ll call at 4pm. If this time doesn’t work, please text me a time you’d prefer’ 
  • During Conversation One, agree when you’ll have Conversation Two. And get it in both your diaries before you finish Conversation One – ‘Let’s avoid Telephone Tennis – that’s just a waste of our time. When would be good for you, for us to have our next chat? Let’s put it in our diaries now’ 
  • Confirm Conversation Two’s timing in any follow-up communications – ‘As agreed, I’ll call you at 10am on Thursday’ 
  • (Be careful with this one) If person X just won’t get back to you, ask one of their close contacts for advice - ‘I’m struggling to get through to X. How would you advise I contact them?’ 

Which of these is best? Well, it depends on the situation, the person you’re speaking with, etc.

But I find a text and IM's often work well. And it makes sense. People get hundreds of emails a day – most of them boring. It’s easy for yours to get lost in the noise…

But they get fewer texts and IM's. And people tend to reply more quickly to them. Worth a try?

Action point

Identify the people who aren’t getting back to you. Now identify a new way to chase them. Remember: if your last chasing technique didn’t work, it probably won’t work next time either. So try something new. It’s often as simple as that…

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Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Actions speak louder than words!

Have you ever been to a meeting, agreed lots of actions…

…and then found they didn’t happen?

Thought so.

There are lots of reasons why this happens. But one often is that the actions weren’t actions. They were ideas.

For example, last week, I saw a Sales Director end his meeting with the action ‘so, let’s raise our game and sell more this week’.

That’s a lovely idea. It isn’t an action.

Other ideas-not-actions are things like ‘let’s be more customer-focused, be more efficient, improve the way we do things, embrace our new strategy’, and so on.

Ideas are good things, of course. But, without actions… well, nothing happens.

It’s easy to turn ideas into actions. Simply identify the very first step.

For example, let’s say you want your team to make their presentations more interesting (clearly, a great idea), it might look like this…

‘So let’s agree how we’re each going to start making more interesting presentations. Our first steps are:

  • Look at your diary to identify the next presentation you’re making – that’s the one you’re going to make more interesting 
  • Put a diary entry in 2-3 days before it, called ‘prep time: making presentation X more interesting’ 
  • In that prep time, identify 2-3 new things to include, to ensure your audience enjoys it more than usual. For example, you could X, Y, Z 

See how the idea (make interesting presentations) has become an action (add a diary entry)?

And It’s impossible to fail at it! (Though it’d have been very easy to fail the vague idea of ‘be more interesting forevermore’).

So, I could end this post with the idea-not-action of ‘always make sure that you have actions at the end of your communications’. But, this’ll be much more helpful…

Action point

Preview today/tomorrow’s diary.

Identify the first communication where it’s important that people take action after it.

Spend time beforehand preparing how you’ll end your communication. Remember: it’s essential you help them understand what their first steps are.

After all, when people don’t know how to start, they don’t start.

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