Harley-Davidson Culture

Do You Speak Your Industry’s Language?

In the Harley-Davidson world, we talk a lot about the Harley-Davidson culture. Whenever I’m working with dealers or anyone involved in the H-D business, I mention the importance of perpetuating that culture, and I always receive prideful acknowledgement and agreement.

Then I ask, “What is that culture?”

Blank stares.

Eventually people start shouting out, “Freedom!” “Adventure!” “Being bold!”

Then, silence.

“Yeah, I don’t know what it is either,” I always say. “But we better figure it out.”

Of course, Harley-Davidson has figured out what the culture is and does a great job of perpetuating it. A “culture” can be considered the expression of a particular community. What people do, the way they dress and the way they speak all play a role. When I use the patois (definitely not a motorcyclist’s term) of the biker culture and teach it to others not yet engaged in that culture, it enables them to instantly feel a part of it.

Subversive Prestige

Some linguists refer to this approach as “subversive prestige,” the notion typically used to describe the fairly common phenomenon of middle-class suburban kids who adopt the language of urban street gangs. It makes them feel “cool” or “tough” or “hip” — as if it elevates them somehow.

How can you incorporate this idea of subversive prestige into your persuasion process?

Well, every industry I’ve encountered has its own jargon. And when you use that vocabulary, correctly, you communicate that you are in the know, and that you have knowledge of how that company or how that industry works.

Insurance people speak of captives, floaters, and churn. Computer professionals talk of authentication, solutions, route directories. You get the idea.

Insider’s Prestige

Rather than call this subversive prestige, I refer to it as insider’s prestige — a demonstration that you know a bit of how things work on the inside. This is one way that you can use language to accelerate your persuasion success, and hear “yes” more often.

Logic makes you think. Emotions make you act. This type of insider’s prestige language is emotional.


funny persuasion

Six Types of Humor to Enhance Persuasion

Humor takes many forms. In fact, most people never stop to analyze the type of humor they are using; they just try to be funny. For the purposes of persuasion, it is imperative to break down the six key types of humor that will make being funny worth your while: anecdotal, self-deprecating, epigrammatic, irony, satire and deadpan.

1. Anecdotal

These are strictly personal stories and incidents that don’t require validation, empirical study or statistics. People love stories, and anecdotes are timely, relevant and compelling stories. Here’s a quick example:

A Harley-Davidson salesperson was using his personal iPhone to show a prospective customer the new motorcycle’s communication system. While demonstrating the various features, which included a text-to-speech component, the salesperson received a text message from his wife, which the sophisticated new system immediately started to translate — complete with intimate details of her plans for their upcoming date night!

After scrambling to mute his phone, the salesperson sheepishly apologized to the customer, who enthusiastically inquired if this was standard on all models.

Lesson: You never know who is listening.

Tips for use:

  • Make anecdotes short.
  • Make them real.
  • Make a point.

2. Self-deprecating

This type of humor usually involves an anecdote in which you make fun of yourself. It proves you don’t take yourself too seriously and are no more superior simply because you are in the persuasive power position. Alan Weiss often says, “I’m always surprised by how stupid I was two weeks ago.” Oscar Wilde liked to say, “I’m so clever sometimes I don’t understand a word I’ve written.” (Compare those comments to sarcasm, such as author James Thurber’s line, “If you ever got good, you’d be mediocre.”)

Tips for use:

  • If you’re known as the hard-charging guy in the office, self-deprecation would generate some laughs; it would stand in stark contrast to the traditional impression people have of you.
  • A distinguishing physical feature, such as being tall or bald, can be used to humorous effect and make you instantly more approachable and agreeable (especially when you make a mistake): “My head gets cold a lot during the winter, and that sometimes leads to brain freezes.”
  • Use a known personality trait. If, for example, you’re considered an aggressive salesperson in your organization, take advantage of that: “I’m not one to go after new business, but I think this guy is a piping-hot prospect.”

As with all humor, the more spontaneous your self-deprecation, the better. And when in doubt, it’s always more appropriate to poke fun at yourself than it is to use humor at someone else’s expense.

3. Epigrammatic

An epigram is a brief, memorable, insightful statement.

“I’m not young enough to know everything.”

— Oscar Wilde

“Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT’S relativity!”

— Albert Einstein

“Make crime pay. Become a lawyer.”

— Will Rogers

Tips for use:

  • Keep a few epigrammatic statements in your persuasive pocket and pull one of them out when the situation calls for an icebreaker, relief from an awkward moment or simply a lightening of the mood.
  • Use existing epigrammatic statements as a model to develop some of your own: “Some companies run out of ideas before they run out of your money.”

4. Irony

Irony represents an incongruity between what is expected and what occurs — such as an escalator leading to a fitness center, a typo on a billboard promoting literacy or an ad railing against teenage drinking alongside a beer ad.

Tips for use:

  • Draw parallels: “That kind of awkward situation would be like the local firehouse burning down.
  • In presentations, use photographs to show the oxymoronic humor of your statement through juxtaposition: A photo of healthcare professionals congregating outside for a cigarette smoking break.

5. Satire

This is humor that spotlights the shortcomings of a society, a company, government or people. Satire is a rough form of humor (so use it sparingly), and it can take multiple forms:

  • Sarcasm: “You mean to tell me that the web consultants haven’t finished the wireframes yet? I’m shocked.”
  • Parody: When giving a presentation, include a PowerPoint slide detailing the evils of PowerPoint presentations.
  • Hyperbole, an exaggeration that can be used to make a boring story more exciting: “This graph illustrates that sometimes our users flock to our content marketing like we’re Starbucks giving out free lattes.”

Tip for use:

  • As when using other types of humor, make sure you know your audience well. If even one person misinterprets your wisecracks for poor attitude or insubordination, you might need to engage in damage control. Don’t use satire to swat flies.

6. Deadpan

Also known as dry humor, deadpan humor consists of a funny statement subtly delivered in a casual or insincere tone. Steven Wright was the master of this, and some of his lines are applicable in persuasion situations: “When everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane” and “Change is inevitable … except from vending machines.”

Tips for use:

  • When in a meeting discussing how to woo a new international client, borrow a line from early 19th-century writer Dorothy Parker and say: “I’ve heard he can speak five different languages and knows how to say ‘yes’ in all of them.”
  • When Leonard from The Big Bang Theory said “Guess what?” to Sheldon, the brainiac replied thusly: “You went out into the hallway, stumbled into an inter-dimensional portal, which brought you 5,000 years into the future, where you took advantage of the advanced technology to build a time machine, and now you’re back to bring us all with you to the year 7010, where we will be transported to work at the thinkatorium by telepathically controlled dolphins.” Saying something like that should liven up the office environment for a minute or two. Just make sure that your deadpan humor won’t go over the heads of your targets. Otherwise you’ll risk losing credibility. Not everyone watches The Big Bang Theory.

This Is Why You’re Exhausted

From my “Stranger Than Fiction” file:

“Get out!”

“What are you saying?” the salesperson retorted, not moving a muscle.

“I don’t know how I can say this any more clearly,” growled the small business owner. “Get. Out. Of. My. Office. Now!

This sales call was not going well.

Standing now, the emergency medical supplies salesperson reached into his coat. “Let me give you my card.”

The business owner stared in disbelief.

Pulling a piece of tape from a nearby tabletop dispenser, the salesman slapped the card on the underside of the owner’s desk and affixed it, credentials side out. “When you’re lying on the floor, your chest in crushing pain from a massive coronary, and you don’t have one of my company’s defibrillators hanging on the wall to save your life, the last thing I want you to see is … my name.”

With that, the salesman turned and walked out of the office amidst a flurry of profanity that would make a Hell’s Angel blush.

True story.

Was this an awful salesperson? No. He actually was the top seller at his firm. He was, however, awful at that moment.

Everybody has a capacity at which performance falters. Oh, you can find other ways to sell more, but that’s not what I mean. I mean that humans, just like high-performing engines, have limits. Call it physical or mental “redlining.”

Hopefully, neither you nor a member of your sales team has been involved in a contentious experience like the one with the medical supply salesperson above. But things like that do happen.

How Do You Know You’ve Hit Redline?

Everyone has different methods of tolerating stress related to the endeavor of selling. But when that stress keeps you from productivity, it can be catastrophic to your career, and perhaps even your life.

Having the ability and maturity to know when you’re at capacity contributes significantly to your personal and professional success.

The following are warning signs that stress is taking over – and probably winning:

  1. You act with increased aggression or hostility, especially to those closest to you.
  2. You find it increasingly difficult to make business and personal decisions.
  3. You find it challenging to concentrate on what you are doing at any given moment.
  4. You find yourself spending, or wanting to spend, more time alone than usual.
  5. You become more forgetful about everything from household tasks to work responsibilities.
  6. You are anxious about the state of your commission check or your career.
  7. You lie awake at night fearing what might happen, not what actually did happen.
  8. Your mood pendulum swings back and forth between optimism and doom-and-gloom.
  9. Others describe you as difficult to work with.
  10. You use substances (alcohol, drugs, or food) to deal with stress.

If you recognize any of these signs in yourself (or a colleague), relax the throttle, make a pit stop and refuel.

conversation starter

How to Start a Worthwhile Conversation

Let’s keep this one short and sweet: You’re at a networking event and don’t know anybody. What should you do? Take a page from best-selling author Jim Collins, and pick someone. Then start with the question: “May I ask, where are you from?” You’ll receive a host of varying responses, upon which you can build the rest of the conversation.

Individuals may respond by mentioning a locale (“I’m from Pennsylvania.”), a company (“I work at Microsoft.”), an industry (“I work in the tech sector.”) or even a discipline (“I’m in finance”).

Next, ask an intriguing follow-up question: “How did someone from Pennsylvania end up all the way out here in California?” “What’s the best aspect of life at Microsoft?” “What’s the most common misconception about working in the finance world?”

You’ll more than likely receive an engaged response, which is fantastic. Because although you’re asking someone to talk about himself, your line of questioning will make you seem more interesting, too.

Try this approach, and you’ll soon find out engaging with (and persuading) strangers is easier than you think.

important mentoring

Why Do You Need a Mentor?

A mentor is a wise and trusted counselor or teacher. He or she can either be a formal, paid relationship or an informal, unpaid one. The critical component is finding someone who already has accomplished whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish.

This was made crystal-clear to me when participating in renowned consultant Alan Weiss’s mentor program. I asked him for guidance on a particular business matter and shared with him the guidance I received from someone else. He simply responded, “There are three of us having this conversation, and only one of us has done it.” Point made. I took his advice and never looked back.

Keep in mind that mentorship is not about having a coffee buddy or someone to commiserate with you. There may be some of that, of course, but coffee time should really constitute a fraction of one percent of the relationship. As Weiss often says: “If you want a friend, get a dog.” When I interact with Alan these days, I make sure it’s regarding a significant issue — one I’ve tried to work through on my own first. I go to him because I can’t get his kind of insight or perspective anywhere else.

Unfortunately, a regrettable lack of informal or formal mentoring happens in many organizations these days. But when you seek out and develop mentor relationships with the right people, you’ll rectify your skill discrepancies and shift to a higher gear almost immediately.

Group Consensus

Influencing Groups: Why You Don’t Need 100% Agreement

When persuading groups, you don’t need unanimity or an overwhelming mandate to generate agreement; you need critical mass.

Consensus is something everyone can live with, not something everyone would die for. With that in mind, focus on the pragmatism of the numbers. That means that “being right” in your own mind isn’t sufficient. You may have all the facts and all the right conclusions, but that still doesn’t mean your idea will become reality in a group setting.

You must be cajoling and politically savvy. “Work” the system, just as you would “work” a room when you’re networking. You don’t want to meet everyone, just the people who can help you the most. (A politician wants to convince every voter to vote for him or her but is most interested in those voters who can deliver — through their own influence — thousands of additional votes. Hence, a union officer is more attractive to a politician than a union member.)

Groups are not sentient creatures as an entity, but they contain sentient creatures. The legal and marketing departments will have different views on your pitch than, say, the R&D and finance departments.

In other words, where others stand on an issue depends on the professional background they bring to the discussion and the impact a “yes” will have on their job, rank or career.

One of the weaknesses of group influence is that the task takes much longer because of such dynamics. You have to stay the course and, in some cases, outlast opponents who will eventually be transferred, promoted, retired, terminated, or otherwise obscured or overruled. Sometimes, no other way exists, so be prepared for a long-term persuasion arrangement in which you might need to create allies who recognize how they can prosper from your ideas.


15 Ways to Punch Out Stress

Psychologists report that stress, anxiety and tension reduce many people to operating at only half of their capabilities. Here are 15 tips to help ensure that you run at full capacity, all the time.

1. Be realistic about your own goals.

Don’t try to conquer the world in one day. A career is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t double your prospect list within 24 hours or convince everyone in the room that your way is best after a five-minute presentation. As the saying goes, the rewards don’t always go to the fastest runners, but to those who stay in the race.

2. Confront the fear of failure.

Everyone experiences fear of failure. But instead of expending valuable energy worrying about what will go wrong, put that extra energy into planning and preparing for what can go right. The best sales professionals experience failure regularly, but that means they are trying new things and constantly expanding their skill sets. So go ahead and try that new prospect or persuasion approach. If it works, great! If not, no big deal. Move on.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

If there is a misunderstanding between you and someone at work, talk it out. Don’t let something simple overwhelm your thoughts or activities. As soon as possible, pick up the phone, or go see that person, and explain your position. Somebody once told me, “If you have to go ugly, go ugly early.” In other words, communicate your position as soon as possible. This allows you time to solve the problem, and then concentrate on the business of getting more people to say, “Yes.”

4. Don’t become a victim of unrealistic demands.

People sometimes make requests that are impossible to fulfill: “We have no money, but we’d like to take you up on your offer.” You’re a sales professional, not a professional magician. If you think someone is making an unrealistic demand, take a few minutes to examine the request more closely. Sometimes the “impossible” really is possible, so do not use “unrealistic demands” as an easy way out. If, however, the demands truly are unrealistic, explain your position to the prospect. If he bolts, that’s OK. You weren’t going to be able to help him, anyway.

5. Get more rest.

Adults average 6.9 hours of sleep a night, even though many experts contend they need between seven and nine hours. The resulting sleep deprivation results in reduced productivity at work, irritability, diminished driving capacity and a variety of health problems.

6. Get to work early.

Employees who arrive early have a few spare minutes to better prepare for the day. Be one of them, and take that time to organize a daily “to-do” list or wrap up any loose ends from the previous day; you’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel when you can get a jump on the day.

7. Get in shape.

Being in good physical condition leads to more energy – thanks to improved blood flow to muscles and the brain, faster muscle recovery and better use of oxygen. How do you determine if you are in good condition? Many experts consider the best indicator of health to be your resting heart rate. Physicians rank heart rate as the most important vital sign when evaluating patients. Most people have a resting heart rate between 70 and 90 beats per minute. A physically fit person will have a resting heart rate around 50 beats per minute. Scientific studies show a direct correlation between physical exercise and mental well-being, proving that aerobic exercise such as walking, running and bicycling for 30 minutes three times a week actually works.

8. Eat right.

Nutrition plays a major role in a person’s ability to handle stress. Eating the right foods at the right time gives you more energy and the ability to accomplish more. So, forget about that greasy fast-food burger; pack your lunch. It’ll save you calories and dollars. Or better yet, take a qualified buyer out to lunch, and enjoy salmon and a salad. Get healthy while building relationships.

9. Cut back on the caffeine.

Caffeine does not give you energy; it stimulates your nervous system and adrenals. That’s not energy; that’s stress. It’s been reported that a single 250-milligram dose of caffeine (about 2.5 six-ounce cups of coffee) can increase levels of the stress hormone epinephrine (adrenaline) by more than 200 percent. Be reasonable with your caffeine consumption, and understand that it isn’t a source of “real” energy.

10. Lose the smokes.

If reviewing the results of a Google image search of “smokers’ lungs” won’t make you stop smoking, perhaps the fact that cigarettes contain an estimated 4,000 known toxins with several known carcinogens will. Cigarette smoking also contributes to severe vitamin deficiencies and reduces your body’s ability to oxygenate. How do you quit? Try interval sprinting every other day, which should at least make you think twice before lighting up.

11. Spend time on yourself.

Go for a brisk walk early in the morning, or take the long way home in the evening. Everybody needs quiet time to recharge their mental batteries.

12. Get input from others.

Talking to friends, family members and coworkers about situations that cause stress can provide a different perspective. (Be sure to avoid whining to these people.) Constructive conversation can be a great tool for relieving stress. Often, it’s that sense of community and companionship that can see you through tough situations.

13. Use positive mental affirmations.

Much research has been conducted on the rejuvenating powers of the mind. Psychologists claim that most of our “self talk” is negative, which creates a defeatist attitude and low energy. When you feel your energy starting to ebb, and you’re focusing on how tired you are, try passing a powerful, energizing thought through your head. For the spiritually inclined, I like Isaiah 40:31KJV (go ahead, look it up). For something more secular, try the affirmation made famous by late-19th century French psychotherapist Émile Coué: “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.” I use both. A lot.

14. Understand control and influence.

I was taught long ago that successful people spend the majority of their time on what they can control, some time on what they can influence and precious little time on what they can’t control or influence. Instead of agonizing over the possibility of failure, use your resources to think of ways to get more projects in the pipeline or generate ideas to intensify the desire of your hot prospects. One huge contributor to being overwhelmed is feeling like you have no control. So work on what you can control, and don’t worry about the rest. Not always easy to do, but well worth it.

15. Have high-quality options.

That’s great advice. For whatever reason, the times in my life when I’ve succumbed to stress and behaved in ways I wish I hadn’t typically occurred because I felt I didn’t have options. So, build your skills, have financial reserves, establish scores of terrific professional partnerships, and you will always find that you have options.

under pressure stress

Do You Recognize These Three Types of Stress?

Feeling stressed out right about now? To deal with stress, you first must understand where it comes from. The American Management Association identifies three basic types of stress:

1.) Individually oriented stress

2.) Interpersonally oriented stress

3.) Organizationally oriented stress

Let’s break down each of these stress types and explore where and how they originate.

1. Individually Oriented Stress

Face it, most of us create our own stress. It is internal, and very often one of the most challenging types of stress to overcome. Some symptoms of individually oriented stress include:

  • Fear of failure
  • Self-set deadlines
  • Long hours
  • Unrealistic expectations of self, career or goals
  • An overwhelming sense of personal responsibility
  • A self-perceived lack of self-control, personal support or feedback

You are your own toughest critic. As with most things, balance is a significant consideration. You want to take initiative and push yourself, but not to the detriment of your health or well being. (Go ahead: Ask me how I know.)

2. Interpersonally Oriented Stress

When people feel unappreciated or misunderstood by superiors, peers or subordinates, hard feelings take root. Stress also can occur when people believe their colleagues aren’t performing up to par. Open communication works best when battling this type of stress.

I believe no one intentionally shows up at work and says, “Man, I’m going to mess up today!” Most people really want to do a good job. If, in fact, you have an employee who is constantly forgetting to provide the follow-up support necessary to close deals, take the time to show that individual what needs to be done and why. Just don’t berate him.

3. Organizationally Oriented Stress

Employers can create stress in the following ways:

  • Providing unrealistic demands
  • Placing too much emphasis on competition
  • Setting unclear job requirements
  • Not giving enough credit for accomplishments
  • Failing to follow through on expected promotions
  • Providing little information about career paths
  • Allowing workplace politics to fester
  • Avoiding participation in decision making
  • Creating poor work conditions

Managers can easily fall into what I call the “insatiable more” complex, meaning they always demand more and more in terms of business performance. This often can be an exercise in futility, because of all the variables impacting your business.

Coworker Stress

Don’t Let Your Co-Workers and Clients Stress You Out

Stress can hugely impact how well you interact with — and thus persuade — others. In any job, you need the cooperation of your colleagues and clients, and you’re less likely to get that if you are abrupt, terse and snap at those you rely on.

Additionally, mistakes resulting from stress can affect the workplace environment. A deadline not met on time could delay a sale and upset a big-spending buyer. Or a pricey sale might be stalled because the paperwork wasn’t ready on time, creating tension between you and the finance team. Or a presentation might go downhill because of an unexpected question or prolonged disagreement.

These situations quickly escalate into conflicts, which can lead to even more mistakes. Your business suffers when stress takes its toll, which is why you need to treat your co-workers and clients with the same respect and gentility you would a customer.

Maybe even more.


Four More Ways to Bounce Back After Hearing ‘No’

In a previous post, I wrote about four ideas to help you recover from hearing “no.”  I will now present four more ways to bounce back from rejection.

Here we go:

1. Perform a self-assessment.

Heed your own counsel. Is this the first rejection you’ve received regarding your pitch? Or have you been turned down several times making the same pitch? Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence and three times is a pattern. Is a pattern emerging?

2. Immediately do something you’re skilled at doing.

Whether it’s writing a memo, coaching a coworker or giving a talk, go do something in which you know you’ll be successful. This success-immediately-after-defeat strategy is a great way to reinstate positive feelings and get them working again in your brain. Even if it’s a small victory, it’s still a victory.

3. Forget about perfection.

Rather, focus on success direction. Set parameters of success, not “either/or” outcomes. Think about your results as the volume nob on an amplifier instead of the “on/off” switch. You turned in a great project and your boss called it “solid” but not “stupendous”? Don’t worry about it. Who uses the word “stupendous,” anyway?

4. Evaluate your entire body of work.

Hank Aaron had a lifetime batting average of .305; Joe DiMaggio, .325; Ty Cobb, .366; Lou Gehrig, .340; Babe Ruth, .342. Those guys failed approximately seven times out of every ten trips to the plate. Not only are they in the Baseball Hall of Fame today, their names are woven into the fabric of our language. If, when is all said and done, people refer to you as the Joe DiMaggio of new products, or the Hank Aaron of project management, or the Babe Ruth of marketing — well, you’d be in some pretty sweet company. Focus on your whole career, not one or two errors in the field.

The next time you hear “no,” don’t be so hard on yourself and make the necessary strides toward getting to “yes” next time.