How to Filter Feedback

Most people simply don’t receive feedback well, especially if it’s negative. We get defensive or don’t take any action at all. The key to receiving feedback is to filter feedback by determining and understanding what is meaningful and what isn’t. I make no claims at being an expert on this, but I can confidently state that I’ve gotten better at it over the years.

Consider creating the following feedback filters; the lower the number, the less credence you should give that feedback.

Feedback Filter 1: People you don’t know

I give feedback from this group little credence; many psychologists say the feedback people in this group provide really is meant for their benefit, not yours.

Feedback Filter 2: Coworkers

You work with them, and they may seem like friends. But, again, I rarely give much weight to feedback from co-workers. There are too many competitive pressures and workplace dynamics to create much value.

Feedback Filter 3: Family and friends

This is an important group. Although they don’t always see things through the same lens as you do, these people presumably (barring dysfunction) are the most important people in the world to you and have your best interests at heart.

Feedback Filter 4: Trusted advisors

Individuals you respect for their accomplishments, and who you truly believe have no agenda, are the ones who have your best interests at heart. This will be your most valuable group to cultivate and from which to seek feedback.

Regard feedback according to this scale, and you’ll have a better of idea what matters and what doesn’t.

How to Respond When You Hear ‘Yes’

Just as there are clearly missteps you can make when you hear “yes,” there also are actions you can take that will help remove any trace of doubt that may linger with your target.

Five Moment-of-Yes Do’s

1. Immediately shake hands.

I know, it seems obvious. But you’d be shocked by how many people miss this important moment. For many cultures, dating back to ancient Greece, shaking hands has remained customary for everything from meeting and greeting to saying thank-you and offering congratulations. A handshake also signals the completion of an agreement. Even if I’ve worked with a person for years on a big agreement, I always shake hands to affirm the commitment. Although it may be executed differently in different countries, shaking hands is almost always the socially acceptable thing to do (though, in certain cultures, it’s a good idea to check ­— especially in male-to-female agreements).

2. Offer a reinforcing comment.

While shaking hands, it’s critical to also offer some sort of agreement-reinforcing comment: “This is going to be an exciting project.” “We will do great work together.” “Here’s to accomplishing important work.” Avoid statements such as “Well, here’s hoping it works!” or “Thank you for the opportunity; I hope I make you proud.” The objective here is to fill your target with confidence, not initiate buyer’s remorse or demonstrate that your pitching skills are stronger than your confidence.

3. Give a “next steps” overview.

Be absolutely clear on what will happen next: “Okay, so I’ll work with the legal department this afternoon to put the final details into an agreement. You’ll be deciding which budgets to use. And we’ll collaborate on the project’s announcement this afternoon. By this time tomorrow, we’ll be up and running.” In other words, determine who will handle the purchase order, who will draft the agreement and who is communicating what to others.

4. Make sure your target takes action.

In the example above, the target is given next-step responsibilities. That is intentional. Sometimes in the moment of “yes,” persuaders are so relieved to receive agreement that they take the focus on accountability off the target. Don’t create a “sit back and relax” experience for the target. You want him or her to take action: Make a phone call, provide a signature, send an email, review a document. Set something you and your target can agree on immediately, then schedule a follow-up session.

5. Go public.

Nobody wants to be considered a hypocrite. The majority of people want to perform consistently with their publicly stated ideas and positions. This can take many forms: letting just a few people around the lunch table know about the new agreement, a massive companywide memo or alerting the local and national media. Going public makes that “yes” official by naming those accountable and broadcasting the commitment.

Next time, we’ll cover how to create what I call “perpetual yes.”

Five No-Nos After You Hear ‘Yes’

We plan for objections and we plan for resistance, but we often don’t plan for success. This is a big mistake.

Why? Because it is in the moment of “yes” that you can reassure your target he or she has made a wise decision. And from there, you can begin to position yourself for even higher levels of persuasion success.

Five Moment-of-Yes Don’ts

When you hear “yes,” you’ve accomplished your objective. So don’t blow it by falling into one of the following five traps:

1. Don’t immediately reply with an incredulous “Really?!”

A response like that can erode any confidence you’ve already built in your target and make the person second-guess his decision. You don’t want to appear gob-smacked that someone actually believes in your pitch. What should you say? “Excellent.” “Fantastic.” “Smart move.”

2. Don’t keep trying to make your case.

Just stop.

3. Don’t review your target’s concerns.

In other words, don’t say something like this: “Okay, so as you know, with the new project timeline, we should be able to complete the market analysis before we get the new additions to the field team in place and before the new finance programs are approved. All of this is dependent on EPA approval of the new system.” Yikes! Now, all of a sudden, your point-by-point review has made your target nervous, which might make him renege on his commitment. Don’t feel obligated to act as if your target’s concerns are top of mind at this point. You’ve heard those concerns, the target still said “yes” and now both of you can move forward.

4. Don’t be unprepared.

You can’t anticipate every eventuality, but you can plan for some. If, for example, a purchase order needs to be signed, have it with you and ready to go. If you need to call someone to issue a verbal authorization, have the contact’s name and number programed into your phone. And always have a decent pen with you — just in case you need to write something down. Lack of preparation in the moment of “yes” could lead your target to second-guess the decision he’s just made while also questioning your credibility.

5. Don’t bask in the glow of your success.

When I played baseball as a kid, I was pretty good with the bat. I still vividly remember hitting the ball solidly with my bat’s sweet spot and then standing with pride as that ball sailed into the outfield and over the fence. I did this frequently enough that my coach would announce, “It doesn’t mean anything if you don’t run.” After your target says “yes,” hit the bases. Simply say, “Excellent. We better get to it.” And then start running!

Next time: More ways to respond when you hear “yes.”

How to Get Other People to Sing Your Praises

After receiving a referral, don’t overlook the importance of following up with the referring party. Always keep that person in the loop. That way, he or she can help if the third party isn’t immediately responsive. The referrer also will be motivated to provide you with more contacts and support. After all, the referring party will score some points with their sources, too.

Who knows? The person who gave you one referral could wind up giving you countless referrals — turning into what I like to call a “personal evangelist.” An evangelist, of course, is someone who promotes something enthusiastically. There already exist religious evangelists, technology evangelists and brand evangelists. Now I’m suggesting you create your own personal evangelists: people who sing your praises and attempt to convert others to, well, you.

How do you create personal evangelists? Here are five suggestions:

1. Be a rebel with a cause.

In a research paper published in the Journal of Consumer Research, Caleb Warren and Margaret C. Campbell define cool as: “… a subjective, positive trait perceived in people, brands, products and trends that are autonomous in an appropriate way.” The researchers cited a 1984 Apple advertisement as a prime  example. In essence it communicated the fact that “You have a choice” and then implored “Don’t buy IBM.” The ad didn’t’ say, “Burn IBM’s headquarters to the ground.” So be “out there,” but with boundaries.

2. Don’t try to appeal to everyone.

If you want true staying power, you can’t appeal to everyone. Yep — you read that right. The rock band KISS, an ongoing entity for almost 45 years, with some 80 million albums sold, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. One of the main reasons the band made it this far is because it created a rabid group of evangelists known as the KISS Army, which packs tremendous staying power. These people are devoted fans. Lead vocalist Paul Stanley said it best: “Either love us or hate us. If you’re in the middle, get out.”

3. Take care of those who support you.

Lessons also can be learned from another rock band, albeit one with a much different musical style than KISS. The Grateful Dead’s evangelists, known collectively as “Deadheads,” demonstrated the power of the people in almost everything they did. For example, while The Grateful Dead bucked convention in many ways, it’s still shocking to think that the band allowed Deadheads to record their shows for free and actively encouraged bootlegging of their music for decades. Why? Because it endeared the band to the fans. Reciprocity, anyone?

4. Be elegant.

Steve Jobs was so fanatical about design that he added costs and increased development time by railing about the importance of the aesthetic design of the circuitry found inside Apple products. Harley-Davidson motorcycles are often referred to as rolling sculptures, with each component shining like a perfectly cut jewel. Have everything you do be just as elegant. Dress sharp and keep a clean office or desk — both of which can do big things for your persuasion powers. Now apply that approach to emails you send, documents you create and PowerPoint presentations you deliver. Make sure your stuff not only is good, but that it looks good, too.

5. Be like Billy

Speaking of evangelization, why not be like an actual evangelist? I asked one person whose opinion I respect who he thought was the greatest speaker he’d ever heard? His reply: “Billy Graham — and I’m agnostic!” Speaking is one of the most effective ways to create personal evangelists. Know your topic, engage your crowd and deliver your message with enthusiasm. Whether you should mimic Billy Graham’s style or content is up for debate, but exceptional speaking skills can create a tent-revival atmosphere around you and your persuasion priorities.

Now get out there and begin gathering your own personal evangelists!

How to Ask for a Referral

While testimonials are static statements for a job well done, a referral is an introduction to another potential client or customer. One person says to another, “You should really talk to Tom. He did terrific work on our project, and he might be able to help you.”

The next best thing to someone witnessing your outstanding performance is a trusted colleague telling someone else about that outstanding performance. Call them referrals, call them introductions, call them networking opportunities. Whatever. Just take advantage of them.

Referrals will help your persuasion efforts because they provide a “warm” contact in your target. You’re a friend-of-a-friend, a welcome visitor, a known entity. This offers instant credibility and removes the time and effort required to “prove” yourself and your credentials or ideas. Your target is immediately and seamlessly involved.

Referral Reluctance

Yet, like testimonials, many people don’t leverage referrals. I call it “referral reluctance.”

They don’t want to imperil a new relationship and are more concerned with being liked than being respected, with gaining affiliation instead of gaining an objective.

They also don’t want to sound like a sales-person. They feel, inexplicably, that they are asking for something instead of contributing something, trying to take instead of give. Sometimes, people feel as though they will put the other person in an awkward position. In those cases, their sympathy outweighs their empathy.

Referral Deferral

On the other hand, there also exists a phenomenon called “referral deferral,” whereby your persuaded target doesn’t want to sound as though he is pushing your business toward others. In some cases, that target might have been “burned” before when making what turned out to be a bad referral to a friend. Or perhaps, people don’t like when they are put in a similar position.

Other possible reasons for referral deferral include not wanting others to think they are part of a manipulative action, don’t know what to say, have a lack of trust or simply possess an innate cynicism that precludes them from reaching out to colleagues and peers.

Ask for the Referral

You can help overcome referral reluctance and referral deferral by establishing a good rapport early on. Securing referrals and introductions shouldn’t be an ambush. If you’re working with someone on a project and think you’d like to leverage that person for future referrals and introductions, simply say something like, “My objective is to make you so deliriously happy that you’ll want to tell others about our great work.”

This will make you memorable, because a lot of people don’t make such bold statements too often. “Deliriously happy” is compelling language, like Babe Ruth calling his shot.

I like to end these kind of conversations with a quick confirming question: “Fair enough?” “Sound good?” Now, your target has gone on record and will be more inclined to follow through on that referral, because he promised he would.

Timing, in business and just about anything else, is everything. Some moments are better than others when asking for a referral. You don’t want to ask too early in the project, because you may not have delivered or begun to show results yet. That would be like proposing marriage on a blind date. You also don’t want to wait too long, because, no matter how well you’ve performed on an assignment, enthusiasm cools and memory fades.

The two best times?

  1. During your project when your target has made a significant positive comment, such as “Working with you is so easy!” Now, that is an opportune time, because I have never seen a project go completely smoothly all the time. There always seems to be a midcourse correction required or a misunderstanding or argument at some point during the process. So take advantage of propitious moments when you can.
  2. When your target has indicated excitement and you sense you can capitalize on it. This might be during your project wrap-up, while reviewing positive results or when you hear such trigger terms as “excellent,” “pleased” “satisfied” “terrific” and the ever-popular “awesome” and “amazing.”

Again, as with testimonials, asking for referrals requires charm and savvy: “We’re thrilled you’re so pleased with the way things went. Remember, our goal was to make you deliriously happy. Who else in the organization could you recommend who might benefit from working with us?”

Here is where terms like “recommend,” “suggest” and “advise” really pay off.

Maintain the Referral Relationship

After receiving a referral, don’t overlook the importance of following up with the referring party. Always keep that person in the loop. That way, he or she can help if the third party isn’t immediately responsive. The referrer also will be motivated to provide you with more contacts and support. After all, the referring party will score some points with their sources, too.

Want to Hear ‘Yes’ More Often? Ask for Testimonials

The key to long-term career success is not just obtaining agreement; it’s about obtaining agreement again and again and again: Creating perpetual yes.

Several ways exist to help you ensure this cycle of yes — beginning with the obvious: Perform outstanding work. Nothing gets to “yes” more frequently than past success. Now that you’ve succeed with one persuasion priority, get ready to create perpetual yes by understanding how to create, acquire and leverage testimonials, referrals and personal persuasion evangelists.

A testimonial is static evidence of success (a letter, email or recording), a referral is someone who specifically recommends you to another person for a specific intent, and a personal evangelist is someone who actively sings your praises. You’ll need all three if you want to create what I refer to as a career of perpetual yes.

If you have testimonials and evangelists without referrals, you’ll have no pipeline with cool projects and opportunities. If you have referrals and evangelists but no testimonials, there’s no evidence of your success. If you have testimonials and referrals without evangelists, you’ll lack momentum. Build your rock star career with all three.

Securing Testimonials

A testimonial is an endorsement of either you or your team. It can speak to character, skill, or result, and it can be in written form, a video or a voice recording. Even a personal reference counts as a testimonial.

I’ve never met anyone who said testimonials don’t matter.  Then why don’t more people go out and get them? The best persuaders are constantly accumulating testimonials (just like trophies) for projects well done.

The best way to capture testimonials is when that window of opportunity opens. In social exchanges, that might be when someone compliments you or thanks you. Shyness won’t help you here. Let’s say your happy target shakes your hand, smiles and says, “Thank you! You’ve done a great job on this project. You did everything we talked about and got great results we needed. Thank you!” If you respond with a “Happy to help” or a plain and boring “You’re welcome,” you’re missing a huge opportunity.

You’re target is pleased, so now is the time to ask him for a testimonial. He’s more than likely to say yes than at any other time in the future. But people don’t ask, because they don’t know how, they don’t know what to say, they consider doing so rude or they fear rejection.

When requesting a testimonial, I suggest something like this: “Happy to help. We’re glad the project turned out so well. We’re always trying to spread the good news of what we’re doing in the sales division. Would you take what you’ve just told me and put it in a quick email message so I can show others how pleased you are?”

Get testimonials any way you can. I’ll take a testimonial via text message, email, voicemail message or iPhone video. Sometimes, your happy target might even say, “Write something up, and I’ll give it a look.” Done! Video is most compelling, but I will do whatever the other person prefers in the moment. Don’t be bashful about pulling out your camera or phone right there and shooting 30 seconds of spontaneous support! Don’t fear rejection, either. You can’t walk away with less than you walked in with! You’re simply trying to create leverage to further your goals.

The greatest aspect of testimonials is that they can be used all the time, with both internal and external clients, buyers, and targets. Drop them into conversation with others: “This project is important, and we’re confident about our projections. I know you know Anne Emerich in product development. We worked with her on a big project last quarter. She used the word ‘astonished’ when she described how close her actual return matched our projection.”

Pull pithy quotes and add them to your email signature, too — “the best marketer in Dallas!” — and provide references to them in your proposal cover letters and other materials.

Next time, we’ll focus on referrals.

Use Fewer Words to Obtain More Results

During a recent visit to a Milwaukee-area post office, I couldn’t help but notice the abundance of service options and point-of-sale items available, all offered in an effort to stimulate postal sales and revenue.

But the attempts by behind-the-counter employees to persuade customers to purchase those services or items usually bordered on the feeble, if they’re talked about them at all. “Would you like your package to be sent overnight, Priority, First Class or regular mail?” they usually asked half-heartedly, sparking discussions about the differences in services and costs.

And so it went.

“Would you like delivery confirmation?”

“Do you need any stamps today?”

“Are you interested in renting a post office box?”

This all takes time, and most people want to get in and out of the post office as quickly as possible. Not to mention, when you are 15th in line, you’ve heard those phrases so many times that you stop caring.

If the U.S. Postal Service wants more business, its transactions should be more efficient! What’s my solution? Why, two-for questions, of course: “First Class?” “Delivery confirmation?” “Need stamps?”

Whether you are in a B2C or B2B selling environment, the sales-persuasion possibilities using the two-for method are almost limitless.

B2C face-to-face exchanges might include: “Day off?” “Come far?” “Nice outside?” “Half day?” “Lunch break?”

B2B exchanges could be one of these: “Big project?” “Good meeting?” “Tough sell?” “Long day?” “Good call?”

The only boundary is your creativity (and perhaps good taste).

Persuasion Success: Finish Strong

In previous posts, I revealed the formula for persuasion success, suggested ways in which to engage your persuasion target, offered ideas about how to explore the persuasion situation and then frame the options for best persuasion results.

As a reminder, here is the formula: Yes = E2F3.

1. Engage your target.
2. Explore the situation.
3. Frame the options.
4. Finesse the rough spots.
5. Finalize the decision.

Now, we’ll explore the last of the three “F” components, and the final step in the persuasion equation: Finalize the decision.

Ask For Your Target’s Opinion

Do not ask for a commitment. Opinions are nonthreatening: Everyone has them, and most people want to share them.

Simply say, “What do you think?

When You Hear Yes

If you receive a positive response (“I really like the ‘Best’ option you’ve created”), move boldly forward. Finalize and formalize the decision: “Perfect! I’ll have the purchase order on your desk by the end of the day.”

Then consider yours a persuasion success story.

If You Receive a Neutral Response

When your target says, “I’m still not sure,” don’t try right away to secure your “yes.” You have more work to do. Instead, say something along the lines of: “I understand completely. Here’s what I’m going to recommend. Don’t say yes. Don’t say no. Let’s just make sure we’re clear about what we’re talking about and willing to consider it further. Fair enough?”

What reasonable person wouldn’t say “yes” to that? Most will. And guess what? That’s called a nudge.

Ask your target why he or she isn’t sure and what would lead to greater confidence. Is information missing? Would your target like to see additional people backing your persuasion position? Does a formal plan need to be presented?

When You Hear a Flat-Out No

Employ your options: “Okay, if you don’t want to go with the training program for the entire North American distribution channel, perhaps we should just focus on retailers and the field sales force. Or, if you prefer, only the field sales force. Which of those options would you suggest?”

Employ the persuasion equation the next time you need buy-in on a major decision. When formed, framed and finessed, I like your chances of hearing “yes.”

How to Overcome Objections

In previous posts, I revealed the formula for persuasion success, suggested ways in which to engage your persuasion target, and offered ideas about how to explore the persuasion situation and then frame the options for best persuasion results.

As a reminder, here is the formula: Yes = E2F3.

1. Engage your target.
2. Explore the situation.
3. Frame the options.
4. Finesse the rough spots.
5. Finalize the decision.

In this post, I’ll discuss the second of the three “F” components: Finesse the rough spots and overcome objections. To do this, I’ll liken persuasion challenges to whitewater rafting.

Finesse Any Whitewater

Like rafting through grade five whitewater, the ways in which you navigate resistance to your persuasion attempts determine your success.

Not every target will agree with new ideas (or even old ones). But remember that an objection is a sign of interest; apathy is your real enemy. If people take the time to express counterarguments, skepticism or doubt, they’re engaged enough to invest their time.

Thus, objections are good signs. Here are the categories of typical objections and what you can do to rebut them. These are phrased in the classic “no” method — meaning your target says, “We have no need for such a plan.” And that’s where we’ll begin.

No Need: Just because you see a need, others may not. Needs are hardly universal, so you must create need in the eyes of your target. Highly persuasive people possess strong capabilities of creating need among others. Find and demonstrate alternate uses that your target hasn’t yet considered: “The training program won’t just develop people in our retail channel, but can be used to develop our internal sales force and customer service people, as well.”

No Money: This is probably the oldest and most common objection. “We just don’t have the money.” How many times have you heard that? Money, however, is not a resource; it’s a priority. That means there is always money. The real question is, to whom is it provided? After all, the lights are on, payroll is being met, the plants are being misted and the parking lot is clean. The point of persuasion is to ensure that existing money is provided for your persuasion priority, as opposed to something else. Consequently, it’s essential to make your position a high priority. Justify the investment, explain alternate forms of payment or break down the costs to make them more palatable. Few people buy a $50,000 vehicle; they buy a vehicle for $500 a month.

No Time: This argument — “We just don’t have the time” — is as specious as no money. There is always time. Every day contains 24 hours. The question is, to what priorities will that time be relegated? If someone says there is no time, they mean there is no urgency, which implies that other issues have higher priorities. Hence, it’s up to you to elevate the urgency. Prove to your target why saying “yes” now will benefit that person. Is there a window of opportunity in the marketplace? Is there a particular resource in the organization that is available now, but won’t be later? Is the mood of the organization ripe for this sort of initiative?

No Trust: This is the really big one. No matter how much money, time and need your target has, he or she is not going to support you or your position if that person doesn’t trust you. Trust is a function of your target believing that you understand that person’s position and will help him or her achieve self-interests — rather than manipulate them. Signs of trust include sharing humor, requesting opinions, revealing of details not asked for, accepting pushback and offering assistance. Trust can be gained in 20 minutes, after three meetings or, sometimes, never. Keep your promises, don’t rush and prove your capabilities.

Next up: The final step in the persuasion formula.

Frame the Options for Best Persuasion Results

In previous posts, I revealed the formula for persuasion success, suggested ways in which to engage your persuasion target and offered ideas about how to explore the persuasion situation.

As a reminder, here is the formula: Yes = E2F3.

1. Engage your target.
2. Explore the situation.
3. Frame the options.
4. Finesse the rough spots.
5. Finalize the decision.

In this post, I’ll discuss the first of the three “F” components: How to frame the options.

Instead of providing a binary choice for your target — a take-it-or-leave-it option, which is a 50/50 proposition at face value — offering three options raises your chances of acceptance to about 75 percent. In other words, you now have three shots at hearing “yes.”

The Power of Three 

Create varied options from your own exploration information, but also from the responses your target provides during that process. Including some of his comments and observations will substantially increase your odds of success. Try something like this:

“Not only should we look for an affiliation in Italy to launch this program, but your idea of sending our own managers over for six-month assignments is a perfect way to develop them and ensure a first-hand view by our own people.”

Additionally, most psychologists agree — and my own sales experience concurs — that “three” is the proper number of options. People tend to think in threes, or “triads,” because they are easier to process. (In scientific experiments, participants found positive impressions peaked at three, and skepticism increased when more points were suggested.)

There’s a reason retailers created the “good, better, best” concept decades ago. In fact, you can use that approach to help you form your options.

Frame the Options

When you present the options you’ve developed to your target, you are framing them. Much like certain frames enhance or detract from the attractiveness of a work of art, how you frame your options will impact the likelihood of hearing “yes” or “no.”

So prepare to be the Renoir of revenue, and the Picasso of profit!

Always begin with the most expensive option first. If you do, your target may just select your “best” option. And if he does? Well, that’s frost on the beer mug for you and your organization. But the real reason you frame your options in this manner is because your target might say “no.”

Nobody likes to be turned down, because it feels like failure. But if you know what to do in those seconds immediately after rejection, a “no” can be a lot less painful. This approach is often called “rejection-then-retreat,” or as psychology and marketing master Robert Cialdini sometimes refers to it, “concessional reciprocity.”

Walking in front of a university library one day, Cialdini was approached by a Boy Scout who asked him if he would like to purchase tickets to the Scouts’ circus for that Saturday at the local arena. The tickets were $5 each. Cialdini politely declined. Without losing an ounce of composure, the boy replied, “Oh, well, then would you like to buy a couple of our chocolate bars? They are only $1 each.” Cialdini bought two chocolate bars. Stunned, he knew something significant had just happened — because he doesn’t even like chocolate!

Analyzing this exchange, Cialdini discovered concessional reciprocity — the idea that when you decline someone’s offer and that person comes back with a smaller, less extreme offer, you want to say “yes” to reciprocate for the concession he made to you by accepting your original “no.”

That’s why it’s imperative to have options and frame them accordingly. If your target says “no” to one, you can retreat to your next offer.

Discuss the pros and cons of each option objectively, understanding that they all lead to your desired outcome. Allow the target to comment critically, perhaps eliminating one option altogether while seriously considering the other two. You might even want to combine aspects of the three options to create one acceptable hybrid.

Remember, all options are fine with you, because you created them around the goals you’re pursuing. Providing choices, any one of which creates the results you and your target both require, is at the heart of forming and framing options.

But this doesn’t ensure unmitigated success. I’ll cover that next time.