Are you listening carefully?

IMG_1000It has been said that you should talk and listen in the ratio of one mouth to two ears!  On this basis, how you listen is twice as important as what you say and how you say it.  How do you listen?  Surely listening is listening you are either listening or you are not?  What do you think?

Imagine two situations.  In the first you are in a product briefing being given by a supplier whose products you don’t sell much.  It is Friday at 4:30PM, the sun is shining outside, the room is hot and the presenter is appalling!  He is talking in a monotone and has been taking about the same graphic for the past 30 minutes.  Half the people in the room are asleep!  How are you listening?

In the second situation you are with the senior buyer of your largest client.  He is describing his plans to take your complete product range.  You know that by the end of this meeting you will have done your annual target for sales twice over!  How are you listening?

Given these two situations, there are different levels of listening:

  1. Glazed Eyes.  You are not far away from dropping off to sleep.  You would be hard pressed to remember anything about what has been said at all.
  2. Automatic Response.  This is typical in meetings and conversations where your mind is somewhere else.  You are making the standard, automatic responses to the other person: “Sure”, “Yeah”, “oh that’s nice”, “no problem” and so on.  You wake up with a start when you realise that you have congratulated him on his son’s drug addiction problem!
  3. Last Few Words.  This goes all the way back to the schoolroom when you were listening with one ear whilst daydreaming.  The teacher asks you “What was I just saying, Smith?”.  You are able to dredge up the last few words that the teacher said and thus avoid their wrath.
  4. Answer Questions.  If you can answer questions about the discussion, you are paying attention and thinking about the subject in hand.  When you are in this mode of listening you stand a reasonable chance of remembering some of the discussion later.
  5. Tell Someone Else.  If you can tell someone else about the discussion, you are attentive and probably verifying the information as you go along with questions and confirmations of your own.
  6. Teach Someone Else.  If you are also able to teach someone else about the material, you are at the peak of attentiveness.  This is the optimal state of listening.  You are enjoying the subject matter, confirming points with questions of you own and you feel highly involved in the conversation.

Now, consider how the other person will feel about you if you are listening to them at level 1, or level 3, or level 6?  Do you think that they appreciate being listened to?  If so, do you think that she will be able to tell the difference between the different levels at which you may have been listening?  Of course she can! Rapport develops rapidly between two people where they are both actively listening to each other.  That is, they are both listening at level 4, 5 or 6.

Actively listening to someone is the fastest way to build rapport with that person.  And selling is all about influencing the buyer to your point of view.  By actively listening, you can persuade without saying anything!  When you do speak, isn’t it likely that the other person will now pay attention to you as well?  He or she is going to actively hear your sales message rather than listening with glazed eyes.

 

12 steps to persuasive conversations

IMG_1012If you consider the many hundreds of conversations you have each week, some long, some short, some business related, some not, then it will become clear to you that this is a vital part of our business and social lives.  We can do little without becoming involved in a conversation, whether collecting an order from a client, or ordering lunch in a restaurant. Therefore by turning our attention to these conversations and improving their content, you will be able to improve the standard of your conversations.

In a business context, this means improved relationships with your clients, prospects, peers, staff and management.  In your personal life you will also have the opportunity to improve your relationships and persuade others to your point of view without browbeating them. The basic rules that you should follow are as follows:

  1. Think of a chess clock.  This is two clocks in one.  Only one of which is running at any one time.  When one player has made his move, he presses the button on his side.  This stops his clock and starts his opponents.  When his opponent has finished his move, he presses the button on his side.  This stops his clock and re-starts the first player’s clock. If you view your conversations in this way, giving your “opponent” a chance to talk then when she has finished, she will give you the chance to talk.  Apply the “two ears to one mouth” rule so that if they “overrun”, you can gently interrupt with a closed question (one that required only a one word answer) and then start talking. Shining the light on the other person in this way will help her to open up and give far more information than you would have received otherwise.
  2. Maintain eye contact.  If you keep looking at the other person while he is talking, not only will you pick up all of the non-verbal signals he is giving off (unintentionally), but you will also reassure him that you are paying attention and listening.
  3. Make notes.  I am not blessed with a photographic memory and unless you are, you need to make notes.  This also re-assures the other person that what she is saying is so important to you that you want to write it down!
  4. Don’t finish other’s sentences.  This ranks as number one most annoying habit with many people.  Tempting as it may be, let him finish – you may be surprised!  This point is particularly important when listening to someone with a stutter.  Let him finish on his own.  He will be extremely grateful and you will build great rapport, as most people automatically finish his sentences for him.
  5. Don’t jump to conclusions.  This goes hand in hand with finishing others sentences.  Give them time to finish and elaborate.  They may well reveal more information than you were expecting.
  6. Do respond.  There is nothing worse than talking to a person who sits with a blank face not saying or doing anything.  We all need the verbal and non-verbal responses to reassure us that we are being listened to and appreciated!  Nodding, smiling, “hmm” and leaning forward in our seat are all reassuring gestures to keep the other person talking.
  7. Watch your speech habits.  The moment you meet someone, they are judging you.  By the time you have spoken a dozen words they will have decided in which “box” you belong.  People will judge you as much by how you say something as by what you say.  If you have a weak ineffectual style then no matter how positive and upbeat your words, you will be judged weak and ineffective.  Watch how you judge other people!
  8. Use Questions.  Questions are great!  You can use them for clarification, to show interest, to voice objection, to show support and many other uses.
  9. Watch body language. Be aware that your body language speaks far louder that your voice.  If there is a conflict between what you are saying and how you feel about it (maybe you are uncomfortable giving the information) an astute observer will spot the conflict and probably either ask highly penetrating questions or dismiss the information she is receiving.  Where there is a choice, people tend to accept the non-verbal communication (body language, posture, etc.) as accurate and the verbal as false.
  10. Ask “Why?”.  In many situations, this simple three letter word can extract more information than any other approach.  The simple act of asking “Why?” after someone has made a statement and then sitting quietly, leaning forward slightly in your seat, pen poised, will cause most people to gush forth with information.  When repeated (“Yes but why?”) it can be even more revealing.  It also demonstrates that you are interested in what the speaker is saying.
  11. Take a pause.  There are two good uses of a well-placed pause in conversation.  The first is when the speaker has finished.  If you pause and look as if you expect him to continue, he may well do so and give you more information.  A variation of this is to pause and if he does not continue say simply “…and?”.  This may prompt further where the pause on its own did not. The second use of a pause is when answering a question.  Just before you answer a question pause and take a small breath.  This does two things: first, it gives you a chance to think before replying; and second, it shows that you are considering the question carefully.  This will add weight to your answer in the other person’s eyes.
  12. Remember what she said.  If you are able to demonstrate your complete recall of previous conversations with a person, they will be impressed.  Active listening helps you to remember, making notes will also aid your memory.  A useful technique that you can use is to repeat back to yourself everything that the other person says.  As she is talking simply repeat the words to yourself (don’t move your lips!).  You will find that this helps your concentration as well as improving your memory as you are hearing everything twice.

During your conversation ask questions about topics that you have discussed previously.  She will be impressed that you remembered and you will be able to build rapport. I have found that jotting down keywords in meetings and then writing up the meeting notes afterwards is the best way of ensuring complete recall.  Review your notes before the next meeting and pick on a few points to raise at this meeting.

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How to use your credibility to be a great speaker

email selling is deadLove them or hate them, presentations are a large part of a salesperson’s life.  They can vary from a quick 5 minute impromptu talk for one person to a structured talk to many hundreds of delegates at a major exhibition.

All presentations hinge on the speaker’s ability to hold their audience’s attention.  There are many reasons why an audience may be listening to a speaker so the speaker needs to understand why the audience is listening to them.

For example, if people have paid to attend a motivational seminar, the speaker is likely to have a very receptive audience to start with.  How receptive the audience is after they started is down to the speaker!  If a manager has bullied a sales team into attending a product presentation, the speaker is less likely to start with a receptive audience.  Again it is down to the speaker whether the audience will stay dis-interested or will start to sit up and respond to the presentation.

Step number one in preparing your presentation is to consider the audience. You must establish credibility in the eyes of your audience.  Remember: beauty is in the eye of the beholder!  For your presentation to succeed you need your audience to believe that you have the knowledge, authority and right to talk on the subject.  This task can vary depending upon the audience.  If you are talking to three people who know and respect you already, your credibility is beyond question.  If you are presenting to an audience that does not know you, you will need to build credibility.  Here are some of the factors you can use to build credibility with your audience:

Display your credentials

  1. 1.       Nothing establishes competence better than credentials.  You don’t have to be a Nobel Prize winner, but any Degrees, certificates and licences you hold that are relevant to your audience add weight to your character.
  2. 2.       If you have any honours or awards, even something ten years ago for being the best hamburger salesman can be relevant to a group of salespeople!  Has your community, or charity honoured you?  All of these seemingly small points help to build your credibility with your audience.
  3. 3.       Have you ever been published?  Even an article five years ago in a trade journal carries weight.  There is still something about the printed and published word that impresses people.
  4. 4.       What experience do you have?  Presumably you are working in the industry about which you are presenting.  Experience is important – it implies competence.

So how do you inform your audience about your impressive credentials?  It is a bit unseemly to stand up and launch into a ten minute commercial for yourself and how great you are!  The best way is to let the person introducing you handle the bulk of the chore.  Prepare a written briefing for them to read.  If this is not possible as you are not being introduced, you will need to introduce the relevant points into your presentation.  Don’t force them, use them as logical supports for your points.

Associate yourself with high-credibility organisations

Can you claim membership of a credible organisation or, failing that, link yourself to one?

Admit failings

You can build credibility by admitting past mistakes or shortcomings.  Doing so will help you be perceived as honest.

Display similar values

People have a natural tendency to believe those who hold similar values, beliefs and attitudes and to distrust those who don’t.  If you have similar values to your audience let them know early in your presentation.

Lead by example

Are you recommending a particular course of action?  If so, it will lend credibility to your presentation if you can show that you have already followed your own advice.  Any time you can reference an action that supports what you’ll be saying – do it.

Find testimonials

It is far more convincing for someone else to sing your praises.  Get quotes from satisfied customers and industry figures held in high regard.  Get the person introducing you to work some of these into their introduction and use some yourself in your presentation.

Now that you have prepared to build your credibility to an all-time high with your audience all you have to do is to deliver your presentation and sit down!

The best Time Management tip… ever!

IMG_3310_lgThere must have been more books written about time management than any other area of business.  I personally know of over 30 and they all miss the point!

Traditionally time management has helped you to manage your time to fit in the maximum activities with the minimum wasted space.  Unfortunately most systems do not distinguish between important, urgent, not important and not urgent so you end up doing more but not doing the things that need doing the most.

Steven Covey tells a story of how in one of his seminars he asks some delegates onto the stage and presents them with a large jar and some big stones.  He asks them to get the maximum they can into the jar.  Once they have put as many of the large stones into the jar as possible he asks them how to get more into the jar.  They say they can get no more in.  He then presents them with some smaller stones that they can fit in around the big ones.  After they have fitted as many of these in as possible he asks them the same question.  Someone suggests filling the cracks with sand so they do this.  The jar is now completely full and they are confident that they cannot fit in any more until he presents them with a jar of water!

The point of the story is that if they had started with the water, sand and small stones then they would not have accommodated the big stones in the jar.  The same is true when managing your time.  Identify the “big stones” and then fit in the other bits around them.  In order to identify your “big stones”, perform the following exercise:

Print this out and fill out on the six blank lines below your six most important things that you need to do today:

  1. ___________________________________________
  2. ___________________________________________
  3. ___________________________________________
  4. ___________________________________________
  5. ___________________________________________
  6. ___________________________________________

Start off doing number one until it is finished or you can do no more then move on to number two, then number three and so on.  The reasoning behind this is that these are the six most important things that you must do today.  If you do not do them this way, then you were not going to do them any other way and at the very least you have made a start on the most important things in your life.

This idea comes from a young business analyst who was asked by the boss of a large American steel company to help him improve his efficiency.  The young man asked the steel boss to perform exactly this exercise.  The steel boss was so impressed with the results that he told all of his managers and soon the whole company was using the technique with dramatic results!

The young man suggested that the steel boss simply send him a cheque in a few months for whatever he felt the idea was worth.  The young man received a cheque for $25,000!!

Review your six most important actions above and try this technique for a week – it really does work.

12 Steps to Outstanding Sales Conversations

IMG_1108You may have hundreds of conversations each week, some long, some short, some business related, some personal. But not all conversations are equal and your sales conversations are probably the most crucial to get right.

Therefore by turning your attention to these conversations and improving their content, you will get more sales. Big claim, I know, but read on and humour me for a minute…

The basic rules are as follows:

  1. Think of a chess clock.  This is two clocks in one.  Only one of which is running at any one time.  When one player has made his move, he presses the button on his side.  This stops his clock and starts his opponents.  When his opponent has finished his move, he presses the button on his side.  This stops his clock and re-starts the first player’s clock.If you view your conversations in this way, giving your “opponent” a chance to talk then when she has finished, she will give you the chance to talk.  Apply the “two ears to one mouth” rule so that if they “overrun”, you can gently interrupt with a closed question (one that required only a one word answer) and then start talking.

    Shining the light on the other person in this way will help her to open up and give far more information than you would have received otherwise.

  2. Maintain eye contact.  If you keep looking at the other person while he is talking, not only will you pick up all of the non-verbal signals he is giving off (unintentionally), but you will also reassure him that you are paying attention and listening.
  3.  Make notes.  I am not blessed with a photographic memory and unless you are, you need to make notes.  This also re-assures the other person that what she is saying is so important to you that you want to write it down!
  4. Don’t finish others sentences.  This ranks as number one most annoying habit with many people.  Tempting as it may be, let him finish – you may be surprised!  This point is particularly important when listening to someone with a stutter.  Let him finish on his own.  He will be extremely grateful and you will build great rapport, as most people automatically finish his sentences for him!
  5. Don’t jump to conclusions.  This goes hand in hand with finishing others sentences.  Give them time to finish and elaborate.  They may well reveal more information than you were expecting.
  6. Do respond.  There is nothing worse than talking to a person who sits with a blank face not saying or doing anything.  We all need the verbal and non-verbal responses to reassure us that we are being listened to and appreciated!  Nodding, smiling, “hmm” and leaning forward in our seat are all reassuring gestures to keep the other person talking.
  7. Watch you speech habits.  The moment you meet someone, they are judging you.  By the time you have spoken a dozen words they will have decided in which “box” you belong.  People will judge you as much by how you say something as by what you say.  If you have a weak ineffectual style then no matter how positive and upbeat your words, you will be judged weak and ineffective.  Watch how you judge other people!
  8. Use Questions.  Questions are great!  You can use them for clarification, to show interest, to voice objection, to show support and many other uses.
  9. Watch body language.  Be aware that your body language speaks far louder that your voice.  If there is a conflict between what you are saying and how you feel about it (maybe you are uncomfortable giving the information) any astute observer will spot the conflict and probably either ask highly penetrating questions or dismiss the information she is receiving.  Where there is a choice, people tend to accept the non-verbal communication (body language, posture, etc.) as accurate and the verbal as false.
  10. Ask “Why?”.  In many situations, this simple three letter word can extract more information than any other approach.  The simple act of asking “Why?” after someone has made a statement and then sitting quietly, leaning forward slightly in your seat, pen poised, will cause most people to gush forth with information.  When repeated (“Yes buy why?”) it can be even more revealing.  It also demonstrates that you are interested in what the speaker is saying.
  11. Take a pause.  There are two good uses of a well-placed pause in conversation.  The first is when the speaker has finished.  If you pause and look as if you expect him to continue, he may well do so and give you more information.  A variation of this is to pause and if he does not continue say simply “..and?”.  This may prompt further where the pause on its own did not.The second use of a pause is when answering a question.  Just before you answer a question pause and take a small breath.  This does two things: first, it gives you a chance to think before replying; and second, it shows that you are considering the question carefully.  This will add weight to your answer in the other persons eyes.
  12. Remember what she said.  If you are able to demonstrate your complete recall of previous conversations with a person, they will be impressed.  Active listening helps you to remember, making notes will also aid your memory.  A useful technique that you can use is to repeat back to yourself everything that the other person says.  As she is talking simply repeat the words to yourself (don’t move your lips!).  You will find that this helps your concentration as well as improving your memory as you are hearing everything twice.During your conversation ask questions about topics that you discussed previously.  She will be impressed that you remembered and you will be able to build rapport.

I have found that jotting down keywords in meetings and then writing up the meeting notes afterwards is the best way of ensuring complete recall.  Review your notes before the next meeting and pick on a few points to raise at this meeting.