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.

Bounce back

How to Bounce Back from Hearing ‘No’

You’ve worked hard to hone your pitch, state your case and present your ask. And then someone says “no.”

What now?

Here are four ideas to help you bounce back:

1. Move on to what’s next.

My favorite TV series was the seemingly timeless political epic The West Wing. In it, Martin Sheen played the role of President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet. It  captured a fairly accurate portrayal of life in The White House. President Bartlet — whether triumphant in victory or suffering a crushing setback — always responded in the same manner: “What’s next?” That’s a brilliant example of how to handle any situation. Activate the next issue on your own agenda, and don’t deliberate over defeat. Autopsies are for medical examiners, not managers.

2. Realize that you’re not the problem.

In his groundbreaking work, Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, Ph.D. Martin Seligman wrote what should be required reading for every persuasion professional. He initially concentrated on the habits of explanation, or how people explain what most frequently happens to them. Those who were pessimistic (and less resilient) when facing setbacks would blame themselves: “I’m the reason this sale failed.” Optimists, on the other hand, (predisposed to being resilient) would blame the circumstances and then move on to the next challenge: “The buyer was in a bad mood, and there’s nothing I can do about that.”

Seligman notes that optimism won’t change what a salesperson says to the prospective buyer; rather, it will change what the salesperson says to himself after a negative exchange. Instead of telling himself, “I’m no good,” he might rationalize that “the client was too busy to fully consider my offer.” That particular target chose not to agree to your course of action at that particular time. That’s it. There is no connection to your worth as a person or the validity of your viewpoint.

3. Understand the external locus of learning.

For people who claim they already know what they need to know, a setback can be devastating. If, on the other hand, people believe their locus of learning is internal, they can shrug off the setback and tell themselves, I’ll have to get some coaching or read up on how to improve my presentation skills, so next time I’ll experience a better result. The world always seems a little brighter for these people, because they have more arrows in their quiver. You can always learn more about the subject, the target and/or the process of persuasion.

4. Ignore unsolicited feedback.

Alan Weiss, author of Million Dollar Consulting: The Professional’s Guide to Growing a Practice, tells the memorable story of how — following a rousing talk to a capacity crowd that gave him a standing ovation — a speech coach approached him and asked if she could provide some feedback. “Is there anything on the planet that might stop you?” Weiss wisecracked in his own inimitable way. She proceeded to tell him that she couldn’t concentrate on his message, because he always moved around on stage, and that he should stand still to make a point. My point: Pay no attention to suggestions of your so-called “supporters” — especially if they tell you that you should have tried harder or danced on the ceiling. Instead, seek out constructive feedback from credible individuals you trust.

Next time, I’ll explore four more ways to bounce back after hearing “no.”

grace in the face of rejection

How to Show Grace in the Face of Rejection

What do you do when you’ve run out of persuasion options? Welcome to the NFL.

Let’s face it: Over the course of your career, you’re going to get rejected more than once. If you’re not hearing “no” at least some of the time, you’re probably not stretching yourself enough. That said, how should you respond in that moment of rejection?

  • Don’t get angry. That will just further push away your target.
  • Do show disappointment. No need to wear a tough poker face after the proposal you spent so much time and energy on gets turned down. As a matter of fact, if you don’t appear a little disappointed, your target could think your pitch wasn’t all that important to you.
  • Do remain respectful. How? By using power language: “Well, of course I’m disappointed. But I’d like to thank you for giving the idea such careful consideration.”

In the 1968 movie The Lion in Winter — set in in England in 1183 — King Henry II has imprisoned his conniving sons, Princes Geoffrey and Richard, in the wine cellar. When they think they hear their father coming down the stairs to kill them, this exchange occurs:

Prince Richard: He’ll get no satisfaction out of me. He isn’t going to see me beg.

Prince Geoffrey: My, you chivalric fool — as if the way one fell down mattered.

Prince Richard: When the fall is all that is, it matters.

Show grace in the face of rejection.

measure folding ruler

A Two-Step Process to Measure the Unmeasurable

“You can’t measure morale!” somebody once tried arguing with me. “You can’t measure enthusiasm!”

OK, fair enough. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. That’s why I have a two-step method to help prove the unprovable:

1. Describe an observable behavior that you believe is an indicator of the desired result.

2. Count the occurrences.

It’s that easy.

If you’re seeking sustained high morale, perhaps you’ll choose to measure whether people are on time for staff meetings, or you might calculate what percentage of the staff is displaying positive emotions during a meeting. If you’re seeking efficient and effective teamwork, count the number of times people come into your office asking for you to settle disputes. If you’re trying to build positive repute, keep track of positive media mentions.

Is this a perfect method? Of course not. But it certainly is better and more accurate than using intuition alone. And the results might be compelling enough to help you prove your point.

Persuading People

How to Respond to All Those ‘Can We’ Questions

Often buyers (and other persuasion targets) will ask if they can do something out of the ordinary, some sort of customization to the sale. In the motorcycle business, one common question customers ask is, “Can we …”

Can we make it louder?
Can we make it faster?
Can we make it lower?
Can we make it shinier?
Can we make it …

Sometimes a buyers even asks all of those questions.

In other jobs, you might hear things like this:

Can we create our own color schemes?
Can we set our own fee thresholds?
Can we accelerate the timeline?
Can we not and say we did?
(I’m kidding.)

Far too often in the act of persuasion, people get side-tracked on some customizing-research adventure before they’ve even closed in on the primary decision: Are we going to work together? Do we have a project? Do we have a deal?

If you allow your target to derail that primary decision, you will end up increasing the amount of effort expended and in all likelihood reduce the possibility of actually reaching a worthwhile decision.

When your target asks one of those “can we” questions, be ready with an effective and compelling response. As long as you believe the request is within the scope of possibility, one of my favorites responses goes like this:

If you can devise it, we can do it. We believe we have the best talent and most capable resources in the businessWe can make just about anything a reality. Here’s what I suggest we do.

First, let’s pick the approach that’s right for you. Then once we get the basic agreement worked out, I’ll introduce you to our people and we’ll get busy.

Now, tell me more about …

Note that this reply assures the buyer you will be able to help, and that you’ve got the staff and resources to do so. Then, a transition statement takes you back to the primary decision that needs to be made.

This response helps you stay in control and not get sidetracked by all sorts of questions about customization.

basketball and businessman

What Do Playing Basketball and Persuading Others Have in Common?

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament begins this week. Teams play all season for the opportunity to compete in what is arguably sport’s most exciting event, and the ones that are “hot,” or “in the zone,” or “firing on all cylinders” usually perform the best.

Claremont Graduate University’s Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Management Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced MEE-hye CHEEK-sent- -HYE-ee) calls this progression the “state of flow.”

In his groundbreaking 1990 book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Csikszentmihalyi described “flow” as “the process of total involvement with life.” Later, in a 1996 interview with Wired magazine, he defined “flow” as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

Unwittingly, Csikszentmihalyi also was describing peak performance, which occurs when you perform almost effortlessly at an incredibly high ability in challenging situations. Like the athlete who makes the winning free throw with 1.2 seconds remaining, the salesperson who performs gracefully and comfortably in challenging and complex selling situations, or the marketing manager who convinces a roomful of opinionated people that his way is best.

Think about it.


Six Ways to Strengthen Your Pitch

Not every persuasion attempt you make will be successful. But here are six ways to strengthen your chances by adding muscle to your pitch:

1. Drop your “er.”

Watch out for the language tic that uses the comparative “er” when referring to new products, services or ideas – as in “better,” “nicer” or “sleeker” than another product or service you sell, or an “easier,” “stronger” or “sexier” idea than someone else’s.

2. Work your way though unreasonable demands.

Sometimes (although, thankfully, not as often as most salespeople fear), buyers’ positions will become intractable: “If you don’t give me a 50 percent price reduction, I’m going to your competitor!” One of my favorite phrases to use in these situations is “unreasonable demands” – as in, “I’m sorry, but you are really making unreasonable demands.” Most people don’t want to have their motives or actions characterized in that manner, so when you have to, do so.

3. Ask for help.

When you’re looking for clarification, don’t be afraid to ask. For example, when you’re trying to isolate an objection, say something like, “Help me understand why you feel that way.” It’s a great step toward easily transitioning to the next part of the persuasion process.

4. Be careful about how you acknowledge the point.

I chuckle when a salesperson responds to an objection with an honest “Actually, you make a good point” – as if the customer was able to somehow come up with something smart and relevant to say. Avoid it, and acknowledge the point without faux flattery.

5. Don’t settle for little solutions.

No one wants a “little” solution. They want a powerful solution, a unique solution, a significant solution. Don’t belittle your own contribution.

6. Don’t accept “no” for an answer.

When someone delivers a flat-out “no,” ask very politely if, were you to tell him something he has yet to consider, he would be willing to change his mind. If the answer is “yes,” that “no” just got upgraded to a “maybe.” And then …

microphone grab

Talk More, Persuade More

In a previous post, I wrote about ways you can use the written word to persuade others. 

Another method of sharing your ideas, boosting your credibility and helping others see that your way is best is to get up and talk to groups of people. This follows the same approach as writing, just using different communication skills.

Who should you talk to?

  • Local business clubs and associations
  • Better Business Bureaus
  • Area trade associations
  • Internal groups within your company
  • Audiences at specific industry events
  • Attendees of off-site business functions
  • Listeners to call-in radio talk shows

Anyplace you can position yourself as an expert will work. Remember, the message needs to be as non-promotional as possible. If you sell computer consulting services, provide advance information on computing solutions that will be available in the coming year, or ways to protect against identity theft. If you sell cars, explain the lasting impact of hybrid vehicles. If you sell real estate, expound on the “new normal” and how it relates to property values. Do this enough, and you’re talking real sales torque.

Most people aren’t professional public speakers, so it’s wise to learn how to create an engaging “open” – an interesting way to start your talk. My favorite involves asking a rhetorical question. For example, “Have you ever wanted an automated solution that could make your job easier and your commissions higher?”

Then make three to five brief points about your topic – each supported by a fact, statistic, or anecdote.

Finally, summarize what you talked about, and what you’d like your audience to do or feel as a result of spending time with you.

Whether you’re leading a talk at a local business association, writing op-ed pieces for newspapers on relevant topics, or starting meaningful discussions among your colleagues on LinkedIn, you mustn’t be afraid to put yourself out there by engaging in activities that will attract more people willing to sing your praises — I like to call them “personal evangelists.”

guy writing

Write Stuff, Persuade More

Thanks to technology, there are numerous ways for you to use the written word to persuade people and build credibility – from posting on your LinkedIn page to writing a commercially published book.

I know one motorcycle dealer who, on his own initiative, keeps a running list of all his customers and prospects, and regularly sends them a meaningful “how-to” paragraph every month. Another client is a local small-business owner who publishes books on home repair maintenance to feed his primary business, which is home inspection. Talk about credibility boosts!

Why should you engage in these activities, too? First, when people see your name in print, it positions you as an authority on the subject. People often defer to the advice and guidance of experts. Second, you can reach many people with a meaningful yet non-promotional message, enabling your readers to become more familiar with you to the point they feel they know you.

You can take a variety of approaches with your writing strategies:

  • An article for an industry trade publication
  • A piece for your local newspaper’s op-ed section
  • A guest blog post on a relevant website
  • Social-media networks, via your own pages and those of your business

Keep in mind — and this is crucial — that you’re not writing promotional copy. If you sell tires, you don’t want to proclaim, “You won’t believe the price we can get you on new tires!” Rather, these should be informative pieces that help readers do, think or feel differently about something: “Three reasons why spring is the best time of year to inspect your tires.” That way, you’re persuading readers to check their tires; if they need new ones, who do you think they’re going to call?

Include your name, with a current photo and contact information, and watch people seek you out for more information. Do this with some regularity, and you’ll become a known entity.

Additionally, use social media platforms to burnish your image and reputation by posting a comment about something you heard in a keynote presentation at a cool seminar. This will start a conversation. Or simply post a question in one of the forums you frequent, such as, “What was the best marketing idea you saw this year?”

On the other hand, photographs of you passed out after Friday night’s revelry might not be the best thing to post on your Facebook page if you’re actually trying to boost your credibility. And that profane rant about Donald Trump? Stop.