No one buys a $57,000 watch to tell time

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

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.

6 Keys to Get Your Email Read [Video]

6 Keys to Get Email Read

Here are 6 keys to engage the reader when you ask for some help via email:

  1. Indicate the social connection between sender and reader – where did you meet?  who put you in contact?  “We met at the Foundum Unplugged conference 2 weeks ago”
  2. Understand the readers perspective – what context (background information) does the reader need to take a decision/act upon the email?  This is often best provided as a url link to supporting information so as to keep the email body short.
  3. Explain why the reader was specifically selected as a source of potential help.  “I am contacting you because you have over 8 years of experience in the industry”
  4. Show that you have already made some effort to understand the domain before asking for help.  “I have spoken to X and to Y, I have read Z book.”
  5. Keep it short.  Many emails are much too long – the sender has no edit process before sending the “draft” email.   (Here’s a nice email policy called three.sentenc.es)
  6. Clarify exactly what is wanted: No effort to clarify what you are asking for.  ”Help” is too vague. What do you want the reader to do when they finish reading?  “Meet next Monday”; “Call me to set up a site visit”; “Forward the email to John”.

What gets email read in your inbox?

What tips do you have?

The Real Reason Why Audiences Love Reality TV

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 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.

Accepting Feedback

At the end of every course I teach at IESE Business School, all participants give extensive feedback on their experience of the course, the facilities… and on my role as a teacher.

When the summarized feedback reaches me a couple of weeks later, I open the pdf in a state of nervous tension.  I am preparing myself emotionally for the news contained in the report.  If the report is positive, I start to relax and enjoy the feeling of professional competence.

Photo Credit: Ben Heine

However, the last few quotes on the report are always the “areas for improvement”.  I get tense again, and start already to justify myself before I even start reading.

I love positive feedback.  I hate “developmental” feedback.  I pretend sometimes to appreciate it, but I resist it fiercely inside my mind.

I am pretty sure that I am not alone.

I rationally know that it is the developmental feedback that can most help me improve, but I find it very hard in the moment to accept it and work with it.  I feel it as a personal attack, not as an objective opinion of a friendly student who wholeheartedly wishes to see the institution of IESE Business School improve with their advice.

What do you do to “accept” developmental feedback?  Are there any things that have changed your willingness to be open to and even seek out developmental feedback?

 

10 Things we Hate about Bosses

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

TED Education: What could Joshua Bell do?

This post is a follow up to the TED-Education post yesterday: What Aristotle and Joshua Bell teach us about Persuasion.  If you haven’t already watched the lesson, you’ll need to as background to the material in this post.  You can watch it here on TED Education.

TED Education: What Aristotle and Joshua Bell teach us about Persuasion

What could Joshua Bell do to get his music heard in the subway?

What could you do to improve the chance that someone listens to your ideas? How do you work on the Logos, Ethos and Pathos of your ideas that you will to share?

My answer is available in the 1:20 audio clip here on the blog:

What do you think?

How do you work on the Logos, Ethos and Pathos of your ideas?  Comments welcome here.

The original lesson is available at TED Education.

TED Education: What Aristotle and Joshua Bell can teach us about persuasion

I wrote “Give a TED talk” on my bucket list 4 years ago, today I feel happy to see the idea come to fruition. It is not a TED Talk per-se, i.e. it is not up there on a stage, but in my mind almost better – a lesson from my class, and a concept that is very important today. We are increasingly overloaded with information, but need to be more and more careful how we trust this information. We want to connect to the meaning behind the information. As the lesson says “Ethos and Pathos are missing”…

What Aristotle and Joshua Bell can teach us about Persuasion

Imagine you are one of the world’s greatest violin players, and you decide to conduct an experiment: play inside a subway station and see if anyone stops to appreciate when you are stripped of a concert hall and name recognition. Joshua Bell did this, and Conor Neill channels Aristotle to understand why the context mattered.

Lesson by Conor Neill, animation by Animationhaus.

View the full lesson, additional resources and the quick quiz on the TED Education website: here

Joshua Bell, “Poet of the Violin”

Often referred to as the “poet of the violin,” Joshua Bell is one of the world’s most celebrated violinists. He continues to enchant audiences with his breathtaking virtuosity, tone of sheer beauty, and charismatic stage presence.

Aristotle

Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher ofAlexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics,government, ethics, biology, and zoology. Together with Plato and Socrates (Plato’s teacher), Aristotle is one of the most important founding figures in Western philosophy. Aristotle’s writings were the first to create a comprehensive system of Western philosophy, encompassing morality, aesthetics,logic, science, politics, and metaphysics.

Aristotle’s Rhetoric is an ancient Greek treatise on the art of persuasion, dating from the 4th century BC. The English title varies: typically it is titled Rhetoric, the Art of Rhetoric, or a Treatise on Rhetoric.

Video: Dealing with Objections

You finish your pitch and the customer says: “Your product is too expensive!”.  You arrive home, you’re a few minutes late: your partner says “You are always late!”.  At a dirty plate left on the table: “you never wash the dishes!”

What do you say in this moment?

How do you handle objections?  It is possible to take proactive control of your emotional state.  You can practice a habit of not reacting like a viper snake or a cornered bear.  It will improve how you sell, it will improve how you manage… and it will improve the quality of your relationships.

Aikido Conversation

Aikido

I posted a short video yesterday to my YouTube Channel explaining a concept that I teach in my class on persuasion: “Aikido Conversation”.

From: “What I want to say”

The most important step in persuasion is being able to leave behind “what I want to say” and move to what “they need to hear”.  It requires emotional control that we don’t have as standard.

To: “They need to hear”

When someone gives you an objection, or accuses you of something – the real issue is underneath, not at the surface.  If you react with what “I want to say” you will have a fight, you will lose the opportunity to understand what is really at issue.

How to deal with Objections

Transcript of the Video:

You finish your pitch and the customer says: “It’s quite expensive”… “Your product is too expensive!”

You arrive home, you’re a few minutes late: your partner says “You are always late”

At a dirty plate left on the table: “you never wash the dishes”

What do you say in this moment?

Most of you, and myself included, went through 14 years of school where we were taught one way to respond to questions:

Teacher asks questions “how do you spell cat?”
Student: “C A T”

Teacher: “what is the biological process called osmosis?”
Student puts hand up explains in detail the process through which cell membranes allow water to go from one side to the other.

So for 14 years you’ve been taught that you provided an answer to a question. If you went to university you probably had another 3,4 years where you gave answers to questions…  but in real life, in persuasion in getting to what the other person is really about, what their needs really are the worst thing you can do is give an answer to question. If someone says “your product is too expensive” and you said “no it’s not! it’s only €1000” you’ve lost every chance to understand what else is behind their reasoning.

If you get home and your partner says “you’re always late!”

“No no no! Tuesday I definitely was here on time”… you’re gonna have a crap weekend

You’ve had 14, if not 18 years of training that you answer questions and it’s going to cause fights in your home life, it’s going to cause problems at work, it means you’re not selling anything.

Because when someone says your product is too expensive, that’s not what their real issue is.  When someone says “I will have to speak to my boss” that’s not what their real issue is.

If we had lots of time here I would create a little role-play thing because what happens here in our model of the human brain: the stem, emotion

When your partner says “you’re always late” emotion goes up and what happens is this part disconnects. The way to make someone stupider is insult them, object to them tell them they are wrong. When asked a question there’s an emotional reaction.

Emotion up, Intelligence down

and the higher emotion goes
the lower thinking goes

so if you don’t practice this response you’re not going be able to do it in the moment.  if you don’t practice repeatedly how you’ll respond to

  • “you’re always late!”,
  • “you never wash the dishes!”,
  • “you never do your part of the share!”
  • “your product is too expensive!”,
  • “your competitor is better!”,
  • “you failed us 3 years ago!”
  • “I don’t trust your company!”

if you don’t practice this habit of not giving an answer. You’re not going to be able to do it in the heat of the moment.

So i would say this: when you are asked a question or given an objection what I want you to do is say “I understand”, and repeat in your words what they’re saying:

Them: “your product is too expensive!”

You: “I understand that money is an important factor for you, What other criteria will be used in taking this decision?”

You understand… and you give an open question back. I call this “Conversation Aikido”

Martial Arts

Martial Arts are about using the energy, the force of the opponent against them. In Judo, if someone punches you pull their arm and you allow the energy to keep flowing.  In Karate… don’t be where the energy is arriving.  In Aikido the concept is you go towards the punch, go towards the energy

If someone punches you, if someone asks you a question, if someone objects or says you’re wrong: The Aikido method is go towards and see the world from their view.

In Aikido you learn to go towards the punch, dodge it, and look and you are seeing the world in the same direction as the person who’s attacking you.

“I understand”

It takes some habit to start to be able to give “I understand” and fill in good words so practicing

  • “you’re always late!”…
  • “I understand you feel frustrated”
  • “I understand you feel let down”
  • “I understand…”

You will have to work on this quite a few times over the next 10 years to find the set of words that captures what the other person feels, what’s behind it

  • “What can we do now?”
  • “What happened during the day?”,
  • “What would you like to talk about?”,
  • “What can we do this weekend?”

so that is the way that instead of when you get punched, walking straight into the punch, having a very bad weekend;  when a client says “you’re too expensive!” and you say “No we are not!”: You learn nothing:

  • about who else they are considering
  • what other criteria are important
  • what process they have gone through
  • who else is involved in the decision

I hope that, and this takes 14 years of it being drummed into you… 4 more, 18 if you went to university.  It’s gonna take you at least 18 years to get out of the habit of responding to questions with answers

We live in an uncertain world and we don’t have the answers but by giving the answer we shut down the possibility of hearing what’s really going on in the other person’s mind, in the other person’s business, what other things are going on; so if someone says:

“your product is too expensive” -> “I understand that money is an important criteria for you what other things are important in this decision?”

“I’ll have to talk to my boss in this” -> “Hey, this is an important decision I understand you want to get everyone involved”  “When can I come and meet with you and your boss together?”

…that’s a bit of a closed question…

but the habit here is being good at “I understand” and accepting the energy that is coming from the other person and then giving back an open question

and I guarantee that if you do it 4 times: the answer to your 4th open question begins to be what’s the real underlying need issue, interest of the person that you’re listening to.

Photo Credit: Aikido Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

The Speech Act Theory of JL Austin

The Words, the Meaning, the Effect

JL Austin’s short book

As we communicate, there are 3 separate processes at play:

  1. what we say,
  2. what we mean when we say it, and
  3. what we accomplish by saying it

A rhetorician would call these 3 separate processes: 1) locution, 2) illocution, and 3) perlocution.  In my courses we use the shorthand “Point X” to refer to the perlocutionary effect.  This is where effective persuasive communication must begin.


Speech Act theory was laid out by the philosopher J. L. Austin in his small book “How to do things with Words”.

Words that Change the World

One difference between gods and men is that a god’s words directly change the world, whereas the words of men depend on action of others to cause the change.  A god might say “let there be light”, and the sun appears.  A man might say “can you turn on the light?” and another person hears, understands and reaches his hand out to the switch.

However, we do have occasions and rituals in which a man’s words do cause a change in the world.  These occasions the speech is called “performative”.  Consider the following statements:

1a) Conor says, “James and Sarah are married.”
1b) A judge says, “James and Sarah, I now pronounce you man and wife.”

2a) Conor says, “That ball was on the line!”
2b) The umpire says, “Point to Rafa Nadal.  Game.”

The a) statements communicate information.  These are non-performative utterances.  The b) statements directly change the state of the world.  The statements of the judge or the umpire are performative utterances.

Performative utterances are not limited to judges, umpires and gods.  Consider:

3a) Conor says, “I would bet on New Zealand to beat England”
3b) Conor says, “I bet you €10 that New Zealand beat England today”

This third examples show the establishment of an verbal contract.  Legal codes in many nations hold these verbal contracts as valid on a par with written contracts.  Performative Speech acts include promising, ordering, greeting, warning, inviting and congratulating.

Types of Meaning

John Searle gives the following classification of illocutionary speech acts:

  • assertives = speech acts that commit a speaker to the truth of the expressed proposition, e.g. reciting a creed
  • directives = speech acts that are to cause the hearer to take a particular action, e.g. requests, commands and advice
  • commissives = speech acts that commit a speaker to some future action, e.g. promises and oaths
  • expressives = speech acts that express the speaker’s attitudes and emotions towards the proposition, e.g. congratulations, excuses and thanks
  • declarations = speech acts that change the reality in accord with the proposition of the declaration, e.g. baptisms, pronouncing someone guilty or pronouncing someone husband and wife

Political Speaking

Politicians often speak in a manner that treads a fine line between performative and non-performative speech.  They make statements that sound like assertive promises, but if you listen exactly to the words, they avoid the full commitment.  We hear the promise, but if later their statement is fact-checked, it can slide by as a non-performative.

This has led to a great distrust in any sort of vague speaking.  If you mean to make a promise, it is important in today’s environment to state it in clear and non-ambiguous terms.

Remove “maybe”, “try” and “might” from your vocabulary.  They turn a performative utterance into a vague, grey mush.

For your words to change the world, be concise and direct with your performative statements.

SoundCloud

Dealing with Conflict: the Problem is the Problem

Tobias Rodrigues

This is a guest post by Tobias Rodriguez. Tobias runs seminars on Conflict Management and is a leading member of Toastmasters in Barcelona. Follow him on twitter [twitter-follow screen_name=’conflictmentor’] or check out his blog.

An ancient Greek storyteller, called Aesop, said: An Eagle was soaring through the air when suddenly it heard the whizz of an Arrow, and felt itself wounded to death. Slowly it fluttered down to the earth, with its life-blood pouring out of it. Looking down upon the Arrow with which it had been pierced, it found that the shaft of the Arrow had been feathered with one of its own plumes. “Alas!” it cried, as it died.

Moral of Aesop’s Fable: We often give our enemies the means for our own destruction

The stories we tell ourselves shape our conflicts

The moral of Aesop’s fable is equally true when it comes to conflicts: We often give conflicts the means for our own frustration and breakdown. How? With the stories we tell ourselves about the situation, the other person and especially ourselves. For instance, we often surrender to the impulse of telling ourselves that certain situations will never change, that certain people are hopeless and that we ourselves don’t have what it takes to make it work. This means that, like in Aesop’s fable, we are giving the conflict the power to control us, and thus setting ourselves up for a breakdown. It means, we are preparing ourselves to interact with someone who is hopeless (whether he or she is or not). It means, we are determining that whatever efforts we make, we are intrinsically bond to be a slave to our own inability. With this mindset, the kind of results we can expect is rather obvious!

Voltaire said that common sense is not so common. This is a great example. We know that if we don’t believe in ourselves, there is no chance of achieving our goals. And yet, when we’re dealing with conflicts, the stories we tell ourselves often carry the moral “whatever you do, this is going nowhere.”

Let’s change that! The following are the three stories you can choose to tell yourself when you’re in a conflict. Using these stories, you’ll become empowered to see the conflict in a new light, stop perceiving the other person as fierce enemy, and recognize within yourself the skills and tools to manage the situation.

A conflict is an encounter of apparently incompatible forces

This is my definition of a conflict and I highly recommend it. A definition establishes the meaning of a specified thing. And positive definitions mean positive meanings. Thus, a positive definition of conflict is crucial for effective management. Among other things, this definition does two positive things for you:

  • it frames the conflict in terms of “compatibility / incompatibly,” instead of the more common “right or wrong” and “good or bad.” These latter terms are much more rigid to work with, because they are profoundly imbedded in us, while differing to some extent from person to person.
  • it places the focus on what appears to be (“apparently”), thus making the conflict a joint challenge instead of a rival fight: “Let’s see if these forces are in fact compatible or not.”

“The person is not the problem. The problem is the problem” — Michael White

This is also a fantastic story! Imagining that a person is the problem that needs fixing is a risky business, because to fix the problem you’ll need to change the person, and… good luck with that! (I find that people don’t tend to change that easily.) On the other hand, if we look at the conflict as a third party, as an independent object, as a “thing” with a life of its own, we can focus on understanding what effects the conflict has caused on our lives, and how we feel about that. The end result is that the recurring language of blaming and guilt, accusing and shame, criticizing and defensiveness will disappear! New air will invade our minds and enable new understandings.

Conflicts mean we care

This is perhaps the best story of the three, and the most enigmatic. It’s true that some people sometimes do wrong things for the wrong reasons on purpose. That is sometimes. If you take a good look at a good part of the conflicts you experience, you’ll discover otherwise. We’ll see that for some reason or another, we get into conflicts because we care and because the other party also cares. At some fundamental level, there is interest and concern, which means that we are not insignificant to the other person. On the contrary, conflicts mean you are that important to other person that he or she is willing to struggle with you for some good (think about: you would struggle with someone if they were insignificant to you?). And this is a whole new story, because it lets you acknowledge what you have in common and how much you both value it. A whole new frame for a conversation, I would say…

Just like Aesop’s story has come a long way to positively shape our lives, the positive stories we tell ourselves are the glue that keep our dream of happiness together.

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