What is your painful problem to solve?

Sales is not about describing your product, your process or your friends. It is about explaining to the buyer a problem that they have, and giving them a glimpse of a world where that problem has gone away.

What would it feel like to live in a world where that problem has gone away? What would it feel like to have your boss think you are a top performer? What would it feel like to have your kids proud of you? What would it feel like to see your body looking fit? What would it feel like to take your t-shirt off at the beach with pride?

What is your painful problem to solve?

By the way, you don’t get to talk to someone about their problem until you have a relationship of trust with that person. You can’t just dive in and say “we’ll make your pain go away!”. You have to begin a relationship of trust.

The best first step? Generosity. What can you give this person that they need? Often, it is your undivided, non-judgemental listening to what they have to say. Make them feel like they truly exist for you.

I came across this paragraph in a blog post by sales professional Grant Cardone.

“No one buys a $57,000 watch to tell time. People buy things to solve problems. The cost of the item isn’t what matters. Once the buyer is able to see the problem the product solves, their decision becomes much easier to resolve. Get to the “why” and the sale will follow.” Grant Cardone (original article at Entrepreneur magazine)

How do you get someone to buy something that they do not need?

Cheap Casio Watch, Photo Credit: yeniceri via Compfight cc
Cheap Casio Watch, Photo Credit: yeniceri

Just as nobody really buys a $57,000 watch to solve the problem of “what time is it”, nobody does an expensive MBA just because they want to know more about business.  Nobody hires an expensive consultant just because they need to finish a simple project.  Nobody hires an expensive coach just because they need help with discipline.

Cheap watches tell the time.  Cheap MBAs teach you about business.  Cheap consultants can get projects finished.  Cheap coaches can help you with discipline.

A casio watch can be bought for €2.99.  It tells the time as well as the $57,000 watch.  Why are they different?  The casio watch has 8 functions.  The $57,000 watch tells the time, and the date.  The casio watch allows me to change the time.  The $57,000 watch requires a trained technician to move the clock forward an hour.

Why does someone pay the $56,997.01 difference (and get less functionality)?

There is something else we are buying when we buy.

“Bread and Water. Everything else is marketing.” Tony Anagor

I did an interview with Tony Anagor, one of the coaches who works with my Leadership Communications courses at IESE Business School.  Tony said “Bread and water.  Everything else is marketing.”

What did he mean?

Once I have food and shelter, I can survive.  I don’t need anything else to survive.  I want other things, but I don’t need them.

If I say “I need friends, I would die without my friends”: it is not literally true.  I want friends.  They make my life worth living.  They add to my life.  They are not needs in the way of food and shelter.  I wouldn’t value highly a lonely life, without friends.

If I say “I need an iPad.  All of my friends have an iPad.”: not true.  I really, really want an iPad.  However, the reason that I want it is the important thing for a salesman to find.  Why do I so need an iPad?

I want it because it might remove the anguish of feeling left out.  I want it because it might give me a sense of importance in having an “in-demand” item.  I want it because I like playing with new technology.  I want it because my friends are playing some online game and I am less connected because I am not involved.

This week I was teaching a 2 day course on Personal and Organisational Leadership. Stefan flew in on Monday to organise the logistics for the course. I met him at the Hilton Diagonal Mar hotel to take him for dinner at my favourite tapas restaurant in Barcelona: Cerveceria Catalana.

We jumped in my car and headed into town. As we sat in the traffic, I asked Stefan about his plan for the week. He told me that he was staying until Friday as he had another course to look after on Thursday.

He then said that he was thinking about trying to get tickets to the Champions League football game on Wednesday night. He said that he had never had the chance to go to a Champions League game and hoped it might be possible to get in.

I looked at him and said: “Great, you are coming with me”

He said “What?”

I said “I have 2 tickets – you are going with me.”

Wednesday night we watched FC Barcelona win 3-1 over AC Milan. It was an exciting game and a wonderful atmosphere. Stefan took lots of pictures.

If Stefan had not asked, it would not have happened.

As I sat next to Stefan at the game on Wednesday night, I thought about the simple statement that he had made to me about his dream – and how you have to ask.

You have to ask

If I want something, I have to let the world know that I want it.

If I do, the world can find ways of helping.

If I don’t the world gets on with sorting out other people’s dreams.

How do I let the world know what I want?

What are some of my dreams?

  • I want to finish and publish a book
  • I want to meet the worlds top experts in story telling
  • I want to give a speech to an audience of 5,000 people
  • I want to travel the world teaching leadership, persuasion and communication
  • I want to run the New York marathon in under 3:30
  • I want to spend a week teaching in India
  • I want to spend a week teaching in China
  • I want to teach a method of interpersonal communication that allows people to get their resentment, anger, frustration out in the form of words and not to build up into violence
  • I want to publish an article in the Intelligent Life and New Yorker and Atlantic magazines

I just watched Thomas Hyunh speak about his lifetime obsession with Sun-Tzu, the 2,500 year old Chinese General, at Authors@Google (video at the bottom of this post).   Sun-Tzu was only 30 years old when he led the smallest region of China to victory over the largest region.  This victory made him famous, and made his book “The Art of War” into the widely read book that it has become.

What makes Sun-Tzu’s Art of War relevant to us today?  Conflict is part of our lives.  Personal relations, company market share battles, political struggle – how can we approach these challenges in an effective manner?

Whether it is military conflict or politics within an organisation, Sun-Tzu’s guidelines are relevant.

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Photo from Wikimedia

Sun-Tzu In a Nutshell

  1. Control yourself.  Thus you can influence others.
  2. Adapt to your environment.  It accentuates your strengths and ameliorates your weakness.
  3. Never sell out your principles. “The general who does not advance to seek glory or does not withdraw to avoid punishment, but cares for only the people’s security and promotes the people’s interest is the nation’s treasure”

“Before doing battle, in the temple one calculates and will win” Sun-Tzu

#1 Principle: Control Yourself

Number 1 is Control Yourself.  Sun-Tzu is very deliberate about his guidelines of separating out Ego and Emotion from decision making.   Thomas quotes him in his talk “Before doing battle, in the temple one calculates and will win” – take decisions away from field of combat.  As in combat, so in life.  Life decisions taken under high emotion or driven by ego desire are dangerous.  They need reflection in the light of a meditative peaceful pose.

“Those angry will be happy again, and those wrathful will be cheerful again, but a destroyed nation cannot be brought back to life” Sun-Tzu.   Strong emotions will go away, but actions can never be undone.   Battle that is driven by revenge, by anger, by frustration is not good battle.  Personal conflict that is driven by anger, revenge is not good for either party.

The 5 attributes of a Great General (Leader)

Sun-Tzu
Sun-Tzu
  • Wisdom
  • Credibility
  • Benevolence
  • Courage
  • Discipline

The 5 Factors for Victory

  • Way – Your personal connection to other people
  • Heaven – Environment outside your control
  • Ground – Environment under your control
  • General – Ability and Attitude
  • Law – Discipline and Commitment

Video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osQ2bLUd0UA&list=TLp3MFP1RQA6E

I was watching the UK version of the TV show “The Apprentice” a few months ago.  This particular week’s challenge was to sell caravan and camping equipment at a trade show.

Early on, there was a key decision to make: Which model of caravan would the team try to sell?

Now, this was a trade show where the typical attendee was 60 years old and the teams had this information.  This was not a show directed to young people, nor was it an audience that would be represented by the word “innovative”.  This was people looking for solid, reliable caravans.

The contestants on BBC's The Apprentice show
The contestants on BBC’s The Apprentice show

The team lead, lets call him Joe, asked for advice from one of his team members, who I will call Tom.  Now, Joe has already agreed with the rest of the team that they should choose a proven, well-priced model…

Joe: “So, Tom, what do you think? Should we go for the hip, modern campervan or the older, proven model?”

Tom: “I think we should go for the modern one.”  (I am surprised at this advice)

Joe: “Really?  I like it a lot more…  but… are you sure it is right for this market?”

Tom: “I think we can manage it.”

Joe: “Right, ok…  I’ll go with your advice.”

Skip forward to the end of the week…  Joe is in the boardroom defending why his team did so incredibly poorly.  It was clearly because he chose a caravan that would be impossible to sell to the actual audience of the trade show.

Tom was playing the game supremely.  He was being friendly to Joe and acting the part of a loyal team member, whilst really setting Joe up for a fall.

We see the Manipulators for what they are

In real life this happens all the time, but it is very hard to see – because the manipulators like Tom are very good at the act, and we only see how they deal with us.  We don’t see or hear what they are saying to others behind our backs.

Modern western society forces a dilemma onto its citizens: How do I maintain a good balance between good, long-term, trusting relationships and individual achievement.  The achievement often has to come by me winning and another person losing.

Machiavelli first put down the principles of individual achievement over trusted relationships back in 1500s in his book The Prince.

TV Series such as The Apprentice, Survivor and Big Brother are exquisitely designed and edited to open a clear window for the viewers into the scheming, manipulative words and actions of the competitors.  They can often go for weeks believing that Tom is a wonderful friend in the house, whilst the audience has known for weeks that Tom is playing the true friend to several others and manipulating the whole house.

It is addictive watching.

I think it is addictive, because deep down we all know the game.

I am sitting in the auditorium at IESE Business School listening to Margaret Heffernan speak about her book “Willful Blindness”.  She is a wonderful speaker, sharing both clear framework of ideas and specific personal experiences.

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Margaret Heffernan speaking at Growth Summit 2013

I have scribbled about 5 pages of notes on her material, but will limit this blog post to discuss two dangers of human beings when in hierarchical groups (ie companies, governments, bureaucracys, schools, etc!)

The human being is evolutionarily designed to follow orders, and to fit in.  He is more likely to give the leader the answer he guesses that the leader would like to hear, and that he believes the rest of the group would agree with.  It is something that operates at a deep, unconscious level in our brains – and good leaders must work hard to help break these habits – otherwise you will always be the last to hear what is really going on in the world.

Fitting In: Conformity

Example of the sheets used in the original Asch Conformity experiments
Example of the sheets used in the original Asch Conformity experiments

Solomon Asch showed a group of 8 people two sheets. One sheet showed 3 lines of differing lengths. The other sheet had one single line. The group were asked to identify which of the 3 lines was the same as the single line.

The trick was that 7 of the group were collaborators of the experimenter. They were to indicate a “wrong” line as the same length line.

The question: would the eighth person, the real person, choose the obvious correct answer… or would they conform to the “wrong” answer that all of the others had provided?

What do you think? What would you do? How would it feel after watching 7 others each indicate a “wrong” answer? Would you have the strength to stick to your convictions?

Over 75% of individuals gave a “wrong” response, conforming to the group.

“We do not like to be wrong, but we never want to be alone” Margaret Heffernan

The strength of the human desire to conform is very strong.

Submission to Authority

One of Solomon Asch’s students was Stanley Milgram.  He is famous for his experiment where he showed that 65% of people were willing to administer a fatal electric shock to another person when they were “asked” to do so by an experimenter in a white coat.  The full experiment is described here on wikipedia.

Stanley Miligram said that in situations with authority figures “we switch from wanting to be a good person, to wanting to do a good job”.  Our moral frameworks do not work when the “boss” is in the room.  We seek all possible signals of body language, coded words, question framing to seek to understand what answer the “boss” would like to hear.  If the boss gives any direction, sets the agenda – then the team will submit and conform to answering this way.

What can we do to reduce the Automatic Conformity and Submission?

As leaders of people, Margaret described 3 options to get innovation, the full creative brilliance out of people:

  1. Don’t show up to (some) meetings – let them run without you
  2. Set up parallel teams to investigate ideas – keep them separate, but not competitive
  3. Act as a tester of hypothesis: Ask “What would we expect to see if your hunch/intuition/idea was right?”

Further Resources

As I listen to the conversations around me, I hear many uses of metaphor:

  • “Dublin is a maze”,
  • “Anna has a flood of new ideas”,
  • “Business is war”,
  • “John is a waste of space”,
  • “An MBA is a passport to a new career”.

Metaphors are supremely powerful communication devices. They allow us to understand something new, framed as a version of something we already understand.

Metaphor allows us to understand something by framing it as something we already know.  They accelerate understanding.  They accelerate our ability to deal with a new situation.

Metaphor is a Two-Edged Sword

However, metaphor is a two-edged sword.

Once we have a metaphor, we will limit our understanding of the new domain to this initial framing.

My daughter just said “This is just like temple run” (I know… simile, not metaphor…  she is referring to a new iPad game a friend has just shown her).  The game is very much like “temple run”, but my daughter has just crashed 3 times because she is trying to directly use a technique from “temple run” in this new game.

If she had not had the “this is temple run” metaphor… she would have crashed once, and then changed her behaviour.  The blessing of metaphor is that she can adapt quickly, the curse is that un-learning takes longer than learning from zero.

Metaphor is everywhere

We use them with others.  We use them to explain.  “Scuba diving is flying underwater.”

We use them with ourselves.  “Life is a test.”  “Life is a box of chocolates.”  “Life is a gift.”

“Life is a rollercoaster.”

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Photo yaz36

In the same way that metaphor helps others quickly focus on important aspects of a new situation, our own metaphor focusses our attention on things relevant

Our emotive state is often strongly affected by our choice of metaphor to describe our situation. “I’m stuck” is a metaphor. It is a limiting metaphor. You are not really stuck, you feel like you are trapped in the mud halfway across a field and each step is tremendous effort.

Some metaphors for life, and how they shape or frame our attention

Metaphors: Life is a…

  • Battle, a Test or a Game – Everything is a competition or a struggle. We are always either winning or losing.
  • Mission – We believe that we have the truth and we need to convince others that our point-of-view is right.
  • Gift – Each day is a bonus, each challenge is an opportunity to learn, each reward is worth savouring.
  • Journey or an Adventure – We travel from place to place meeting new people and exploring.
  • Building – Starting with a solid foundation, then adding floors and rooms.
  • Roller Coaster – Life consists of ups and downs, and we are along for the ride.
  • Mountain Climb – Life consists of hierarchies. We are always climbing the corporate ladder.
  • Race – always finding the fastest route, “keeping up with the Jonses.”
  • Prison – Feeling like we don’t have choices, like others have all the power.
  • Classroom – There are always new lessons to learn.

What is your metaphor?  How does it shape what you are focussing on?  How does it make you feel about your life?  Is it enhancing your life or is it limiting some aspects of your life?

Personally, I find that my unconscious metaphor is that life is a struggle, a battle, a competition and a test…  and I limit myself into modes of comparing with others, finishing one task and jumping into the next without taking time to savour the moment.

What is yours?

Fascinating? Photo Credit: Angel~Lily

When I step on stage to speak, I get 8 seconds before the listener decides how to categorize me:

  1. worth attention, or
  2. time to check my mobile email

What are your first words?

When I meet someone at a conference, a party, an event…  again – we have 8 seconds.  Catch attention, or the other person is starting to scan the room for a more interesting conversation partner and beginning to plan her escape: “oh I must get a new drink”, “Is the toilet over there?”, “Oh I must say hello to Anna”…

In those 8 seconds, your whole life is judged on the power of your first words.  What are they?  There are 7 billion humans…  how do you stand out as different?  (you are different… but how to sum up a whole life in several words?)…

So often a speaker begins with:

  • “Hi”
  • “Good morning”
  • “What’s up?”

How does that help differentiate from 3 billion?

In-different = Boring

What does stop us for a moment?  What delays the escape routine of the listener?

There are 7 triggers of fascination.  Brands, people, even you use these triggers every day.  You have one that is your “primary” trigger.  What is your “primary” trigger?

  1. Power – Take command of the environment
  2. Pasion – Attract with emotion, irrational, irresistible charm
  3. Mystique – Arousing curiosity
  4. Prestige – Increase respect, aspiration
  5. Alarm – Driving urgency
  6. Vice – Creativity, Deviation from the norm, See things differently
  7. Trust – Connection through consistency and predictability

Sally Hogshead explains the 7 triggers in her TEDx talk:

What do you think?

7 Challenges of Weak Communciators

These are 7 challenges that can be overcome if you take the time to improve your communication skills.  Some have very quick fixes, others require considerable practice to turn into strengths.
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  1. I lose people’s attention easily
  2. People agree, but then do nothing
  3. People avoid my phone calls (… at least I think so!)
  4. People avoid giving me feedback (or only “sugarcoated”)
  5. I have difficulty listening to others
  6. People never agree with me
  7. People “hijack” my meetings, my presentations, my conversation

Resources

What are your Communications Challenges?

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Great Place to Work Organisation

10 things that employees surveyed last year by the Great Place to Work organisation said contributed to poor management:

  1. Lack of Recognition and Appreciation – employees who believe that managers do not really appreciate the work, energy and effort put in during their days and sometimes evenings
  2. Poor Communication – employees want to find out about their company performance and direction from their boss, not the rumour mill, nor the newspapers
  3. Thoughtless Interaction – passing by without a smile or any acknowledgement
  4. Inconsistent Behaviour – broken promises, it is often the smaller broken promises that really grate upon the employees; say one thing, act differently
  5. Favouritism – we all have favourites, good managers learn to appreciate diversity
  6. Exclusion from Decision Making – the less control employees feel, the greater they suffer from stress
  7. Lack of Clarity and Vision – unclear expectations, unclear connection between the work employees are doing and the overall mission of the company
  8. Egotistical Managers – taking credit and passing blame
  9. Treating Employees like Numbers – a transactional relationship, where emotion and fun has been lost in translation
  10. Ignoring Performance Issues – it frustrates good performers when poor performers are not being challenged

*Based on Great Place to Work employee surveys worldwide