“A good salesperson knows how to talk; a great salesperson knows how to tell a story.” -Rivka Willick, story coach and writer
It is human nature to listen to and trust stories. Ever since we were children, we’ve been surrounded by narratives—on television, in movies, in books, from our grandparents. Sure, stories are fun, but they are also powerful and there are scientific reasons as to why people are attracted to stories. According to neuroeconomics pioneer Paul Zak, “Stories that are highly engaging and contain key elements — including a climax and denouement – can elicit powerful empathic responses by triggering the release Oxytocin. Often referred to as the ‘trust hormone,’ this neurochemical promotes connection and encourages people to feel empathy.”
So, how can you use this powerful technique to gain trust and win sales? Here are a few methods:
- Keep it relevant
It’s great if you have an amazing story about fly-fishing in Montana, but is that really what your prospective wants to hear? Instead, focus on the material you’re presenting. How can you bring it to life with a relevant story? Perhaps you have a tidbit about how your product positively affected someone? Or maybe you have an interesting story about the products’ development or value? Brainstorm and jot some ideas down on a notepad. Then, run them by your co-workers or friends to gain their input.
- Have a beginning, middle, and end
This point may seem obvious, but it is absolutely crucial. Storyteller Kambri Crews said in an interview with Entrepreneur.com that, “The beginning should hook your audience, while the end, the call to action, must be clear.” If your story is jumbled, your prospective client may have trouble deciphering the main message or become disengaged.
- Remember the “elements of a good story”
Sales Benchmark Index has some great advice on using basic storytelling elements to create a compelling tale. They break down a story into the Hero, Stimulus, Conflict, Crossroad, and Moral. Here is an explanation of the elements:
- Sympathetic main character, AKA the Hero. The audience should be able to see themselves in the hero and the situation.
- The Hero encounters a Stimulus, which leads them in the direction of resolution or transformation.
- Tension or a Conflict is exposed. Our Hero now must maneuver challenges and obstacles.
- A Crossroad where the final transformation takes place. In your Use Case this is where the customer purchased your solution.
- The final chapter in the story is referred to as the Moral of the Story. The Hero has navigated the Conflict and appears transformed in an ideal state.
- Practice, practice, practice
Like most things in life, you have to practice your pitch in order to perfect it. First develop it on your own and practice giving your pitch in front of a mirror. Then, practice with others, allowing them to interrupt or make comments (which is likely to happen in a real-life sales situation). Practice sounding natural and unrehearsed and don’t forget to let your body language be relaxed, open, and friendly.
Need help developing your story? Feel free to contact me for guidance.
When I give a presentation on Communication, I always devote a slice of time to the topic of stress as it relates to communication. If you take a moment to consider the situations that can cause stress in your life, you may realize that some of them involve your interactions with others. If you commit to developing a strategy or plan for overcoming the situations that cause stress, you can change your life for the better.
Now, this may not be what you want to hear, but managing stress doesn’t actually have anything to do with straightening out the behavior of others. Instead, it’s all about management of your own emotional state. We can base our stress-reduction action plan on two unwavering facts:
Fact #1: You only have control over yourself—your actions and your emotions.
Fact #2: People will continue to be, well, PEOPLE. Their actions are completely beyond your control, and often reflect a perspective, rationale, and behavioral preference different from your own.
With the reality that you can only control yourself in mind, consider the following pointers for improving your daily communication:
- Recognize the situations that stimulate your energy. When are you most comfortable? When do you perform at your best? Seek out these situations and find ways to alter or eliminate the situations that bring you down.
- Be consistent in what you do to control stress. Once you’ve identified a cause of stress and created an action plan, be persistent in your new habit. If you decided to reorient your role during the weekly meeting, build a short reminder of your new habit into that morning’s routine.
- Be authentic in your emotional expression. Nothing can wreak havoc on your emotional state worse than a misleading façade. Until you’re honest with yourself and others about what’s tough for you, you won’t escape the stress and dread of the situation.
- Combat the “If only she/he would…” reaction. Remember facts 1 and 2? Instead of blaming others for your stress or feelings of frustration, realize that the best way to avoid feeling this way in the future is to ask yourself, what can I do to avoid feeling this way in the future? Whether it’s altering your own expectations, resolving not to feel so deeply about an issue, or finding a way to circumvent the scenario that created the communication issue in the first place.
- Oftentimes stress in communications simply comes down to differing communication styles. Instead of jumping to conclusions of ill will or incompatibility, make the effort to observe how others listen and speak, and match your own style of communication with the person to keep them engaged, interested, and trusting.
Dedicate yourself to developing a plan. Learn from each new experience and looks for areas for improvement. If you’re interested in learning more tools for de-stressing your life and improving communication, feel free to send an email or phone call in my direction!
Are you stir crazy? Ready for spring? Ready to walk around in sandals and shorts again? You’re not alone! This time of year tends to make people antsy and irritable and that kind of attitude can cross over into the workplace. But how to fight the late-winter agitation? How can you possibly be productive when you’re feeling so tense?
One solution is to spend a few minutes each day in your “inner garden.”
By now, most people accept that meditation is a great way to calm the mind, release stress, and get us focused for the rest of the day, but many of us think we’re too busy for such “fluff” like meditation. We’re Americans! We’re trained to soldier through the workday without pausing to think about ourselves or our mental wellbeing.
I encourage you to pause.
When you’re feeling wound-up or things aren’t quite going your way, dedicate a few minutes to yourself. Find a quiet space in your workplace, close the door, and picture yourself sitting in a beautiful garden. A warm breeze is playing on your cheeks; you’re surrounded by fragrant blooms of red and purple and yellow. Just let yourself sit and be restful—do NOT allow your mind to drift to work or the troubles you’ve had that day, and if your mind does wander, gently bring it back to the garden.
If you’re having trouble picturing your “inner garden,” hop online for a few minutes and search for images of “beautiful gardens” or “peaceful gardens.” Then, use one of those images as your focal point as you allow your mind to drift into your garden.
Try building up to ten minutes of meditation time. If that seems like too much at first, start with five minutes. Even though this may not seem like a significant chunk of time, you’ll be amazed at how relaxed and refreshed you’ll feel at the end of it.
I challenge you to visit your inner garden every day this week and see how it helps your attitude and productivity. Until the flowers actually bloom again, I hope this technique will help you relax and rejuvenate so you can take on any challenge the day might offer.
Since we spent the last month talking about Millennials, I thought it was time to flip the coin and address a topic that exclusively effects those in the Baby Boomer generation. (I’m also gathering information about Boomers in the workplace, so if you’d like to participate in my survey, please do so!)
So, you’re 45, 55, or 65 years old and looking for work? Don’t let all the younger faces in the workforce intimidate you or make you feel unworthy of nailing your dream job (it’s never too late!). Instead, freshen up your strategy and approach the job hunt and interview process with optimism and vigor.
Below, I’ve compiled a list of some helpful reminders for the older worker’s job hunt that will help you keep your best foot forward at all times:
> Never forget what you’re worth: Older workers are dependable, have advanced problem-solving abilities, and are just as productive as younger workers
>Stay enthusiastic and excited: No matter what your age, if you come off as exhausted, bored, resentful, or frustrated, you’ll give interviewers a bad impression
> Keep your exchange respectful, no matter your age difference
> Offer examples of your work that demonstrate your creativity
> Emphasize your past loyalty to your company
> Edit your resume: Avoid the “too old” impression by limiting your relevant experience to the past 15 years, excluding graduation dates, and paring down your list of employment experience by saying “5+ years” instead of “30 years.\”
> Share examples of your ability to learn quickly
> Take advantage of your expansive network—it’s still the best way to find work
> Keep all mentioned accomplishments current
> Make sure your dress is up to date, instead of dating you
> Avoid feelings of defeat or apology for your age—this is not a topic that should be on the table during an interview, nor is it relevant to the conversation
> Don’t limit your job search to exactly what you were doing before—consider a career change, why not?
> Don’t mention upcoming retirement hopes
> Stay current with new technology
If you’d like help relaying your skills, interviewing, and branding yourself during the job process, contact me today to learn how I can help.
Let’s talk about a touchy subject: Millennials and loyalty. At first glance, the Millennial generation seems to be comprised of disloyal job-hoppers. Statistics show (according to “Multiple Generations @ Work”) that a staggering 91% of Millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years. Such high turnover can be tough for companies and cripplingly expensive. In fact, close to 90% of the firms surveyed (according to an article from MainStreet.com) reported that the cost of replacing a Millennial employee was anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000.
These numbers seem overwhelmingly negative, but let’s take a step back and look at Millennials and loyalty from a larger scope.
First of all, consider the context. Millennials have entered the workforce during one of the worst economic periods in history. Companies are downsizing, outsourcing, and slashing salaries in an attempt to stay afloat. And even though cost-of-living and college tuition are increasing dramatically, paychecks are not. Says Rich Milgram, Beyond.com‘s founder and chief executive, “Younger job seekers don’t have it easy in the current economy and they’ve been put in a hole by the generations that have gone before them.” Oftentimes, Millennials practice strategic job-hopping because they know they could be let go at any time. It’s a defensive move and gives them a sense of security if they feel their current position is in danger of being snipped.
Secondly, Millennials’ definition of loyalty is often different from other generations. Consider this statistic for a moment from Philly.com:
More than eight in ten young workers (Millennials, aged 19-26) say they are loyal to their employers. But only one in 100 human resource professionals believe that these young workers are loyal.
Why the huge difference in perspectives? Many believe it has to do with the way Millennials think about loyalty. Many members of this generation do not necessarily pledge themselves to a company, but to a boss or co-workers. Cam Marston, author of “Motivating the ‘What’s In It For Me’ Workforce” says, “Effective bosses are the number one reason why Millennials stay at a job…They have great respect for leaders and loyalty, but they don’t respect authority ‘just because.’ This is why it’s so important to have exceptional leaders at companies to retain these younger workers. They don’t want someone who micromanages and thinks of them as just another worker. They want someone who inspires them to stay at a company.”
Another attribute that keeps Millennials loyal? Workplace atmosphere. A 2012 survey by Net Impact found that 88% of workers considered “positive culture” important or essential to their dream job, and 86% said the same for work they found “interesting.” Additionally, the same Net Impact survey found that 58% of respondents said they would take a 15% pay cut in order to work for an organization “with values like my own,” demonstrating that Millennials are not just content with “any old job,” but seek meaning in the work that they do.
The issue of Millennials and loyalty is a tricky one, but one thing is certain: We cannot just write-off this generation as disloyal and wishy-washy. With the right workplace atmosphere, excellent leadership, and by providing the right set of motivation tools (as mentioned in last week’s post), Millennials will stick around and perform the kind of innovative, creative work that they’re known for.
If you (or your company) needs help creating the right conditions for your Millennial workforce, contact me to discuss potential strategies.
Today’s new batch of workers are not necessarily motivated by old incentives: a decent salary, a benefits package, a few vacation days. In fact, 92% believe that business success should be measured by more than profit. Instead of luring your new hires in and trying to keep them with traditional methods, take the time to understand how Millennials think.
To be brief, Millennials are generally altruistic, enjoy flexibility, crave diverse and challenging tasks, appreciate a healthy work-life balance, and seek fun and camaraderie in the workplace. They also carry quite a bit of college debt and are generally well-educated.
So, how do all those features translate into keeping Millennials motivated and retaining them? What can your workplace do to be better compatible with the way Millennials think and behave? Here are five suggestions:
- Consider flexible work hours
According to Cisco Systems, Inc., a whopping 69% of Millennials believe office attendance is unnecessary on a regular basis. Many Millennials are task or goal-oriented and are perplexed by mandatory 9 to 5 office hours. By allowing Millennial workers to have flexible office hours or a couple work-from-home days each week, your company is more likely to mesh with their work styles. Frankly, some Millennials work better at nine o’clock in the evening and, with a flexible work schedule, that’s okay. Just make sure they have clear goals and are accomplishing everything they need to accomplish (which brings us to suggestion #2…).
- Give regular feedback
Millennials like specific goals and tasks and they also like to know how they are performing. Keep in mind, Millennials grew up with lots of measuring sticks—video game scores, report cards, standardized tests, social media performance data such as Facebook “Likes” and “retweets.” They need to know if they’re on the right track or performing to standards. On the same token, Millennials like incentives. Consider running inter-office competitions or giving out bonuses (or something as simple as a gift card to Starbucks) so that your Millennial workers have something fun to work toward.
- Have a heart
The Millennial generation is known for logging tons of volunteer hours and getting involved in both local and global causes. They care, and your company should too. For example, Dan Epstein, CEO of business consultancy ReSource Pro, allows his staff (which is comprised of 90% Millennials) to form committees and use company resources or time to organize their causes. “Whether it’s weekends with Habitat for Humanity,” Epstein says, “or time off to run in charity marathons, the company’s encouragement helps them feel good about the company.”
- Encourage creativity
Inc.com says, “Millennials are the poster children of innovation, and encouraging employees to find and utilize new solutions and outside-the-box thinking can have huge benefits.” The employee gets to learn a new skill or think about a problem in a unique way and the company benefits by tapping into the creative thought that Millennials are known for. One way to keep Millennials interested and encourage innovative thinking is to allow them to present self-defined project ideas to your company’s management. Progressive companies like 3M and Google often give employees time to work on projects of their choosing, which helps the employees feel more independent, engaged, and part of the fabric of the organization.
- Offer alternative compensation
Millennials are interested in incentives beyond money. Offerings such as public transit passes (or bicycle commuting credits), shares in the company, or bonus vacation days are all enticing to Millennials (who generally support public transit, like being a part of the larger company picture, and tend to travel far more often than their older counterparts). Another great way to entice Millennials is to offer loan repayment plans (give them a monthly stipend designated toward paying off student debt), or offer them continuing education opportunities (such as encouraging them to pursue an advanced degree or offering office-wide training programs, such as Insights Discovery or DiSC workshops).
Have questions about motivating your new hires? Contact me today and we’ll discuss some personalized strategies that you can start implementing in YOUR company this year.