Your Best Business Partner - Silence

People should never underestimate the power of silence.  Ask any teacher in front of a room of children and they will agree that one of the best ways to get a room full of children to settle down is to simply stand still and be silent.  Silence signals expectation.  It provides space for thought, creativity and listening.  The proverb is true, silence IS golden.  In business, silence can often be your best partner on the road to success.

When we are silent we are leaving space for active listening to others.  Now I’m not saying that you should say nothing and just stare at the person across the table.  That might be a little creepy.  But, what is effective is asking an open-ended question and then giving the person time and space in which to answer.  By quieting ourselves we make room for other thoughts and opinions.  We are able to be open because we aren’t worried about what we are going to say next.  We are simply intaking, receiving information.  If you are interviewing a new employee, you will get better answers to your questions if you give them that space.  If you are talking to your team, you will get better feedback if you don’t jump in and give them the answers.  If you are meeting with a client, you will get better insight into their wants and needs if you let them take their time and think it through before you fire away with another question.

Good sales professionals also understand the value of silence.  In general, they operate under the 80/20 rule.  You should listen 80% of the time and talk only 20% of the time.  By doing this you can uncover needs, understand possible objects and connect with their/your customers in a meaningful way.  Sales professionals also know that silence can prevent the classic blunder of “talking themselves out of the sale”.

Silence is difficult for us to master.  It makes us uncomfortable and often we rush to fill that space with words.  Let’s say you are at a business presentation.  You have just presented a deal to your customer.  It’s a fair deal and you are anxious to close it.  Your customer looks at the presented document and doesn’t say a word.

...10 seconds go by...

...20 seconds go by...

You start to worry.  Sure, they could just be thinking it through, they could also be thinking about what they want for lunch... but maybe, just maybe, they are thinking this deal doesn’t cut it.  So, you start filling the silence with concessions, apologies and even objections they hadn’t even thought of.  Before you know it the deal is either much less profitable or, even worse, nonexistent.  All of this could have been avoided by simply staying quiet and giving the customer the chance to process the information they have been given.

Silence is a powerful business tool.  By learning how to strategically harness the power of silence business leaders can become more effective at communication, connection, and even sales.  Are you looking to be a better business leader?  Take the first step with our free leadership assessment tool and personal assessment.

Have They Told You Lately That They Love You?

About a decade ago a client of mine used the phrase “professional love” to describe how they felt about the work we did together, the results and our working relationship. As a result, I’ve spent the last 10 years always holding that as the bar for my client interactions. After working with many dozen sales professionals, mid-level manager, Directors, VP’s and CEO’s there are so many reasons why professional love exists in some relationships and is lacking in many others.

For some leaders, they couldn’t care less how their staff feels about them. These are of course not leaders but simply people in authority, often by default. These folks typically don’t understand the need to be emotionally intelligent in order to maximize the potential of their people and therefore their business. I’ll give you an example: I worked with the CEO of a 12-year-old $500,000.00 business. It became abundantly clear in only a few weeks that the reason why this business could not get past a moderate dollar amount in a high ticket service industry was that the leader was only concerned with one thing, his ego. Despite suggestion and the specific direction he simply did not value his people or the internal relationships. Had he recognized their talents as equal to his and shown them some love, they would have helped him double or triple sales in no time.  Who wants to go to work and KNOW that you’re not appreciated nor respected? This so called "leader" was not in professional love with anyone but himself and his staff could feel it.

One of my daily mantras is simple, you must love them first.

And, as in any relationship, we show love in a variety of ways.

  1. Be the best you can be for each other.

    In business, this means to focus on strengths and bolster weaknesses. If you’re a leader, study how to be better. If you’re a janitor, equip yourself with the tools needed to be most efficient. Talk to any Doctor and they will tell you that they are taxed with being their best or people may suffer or even die. Why should we take our profession as any less impactful? Be sure to put one another first and to serve one another. Keep in mind that this also means that we should expect the best from our teams and our clients. Don’t settle for second best, don’t settle for weak attempts, if you’re giving it your all, it’s a lot easier to demand your team’s all.

  2. Love only works with trust.

    As in the example above, without trust, there is an imminent failure in any relationship and business. How we translate trust to our teams and clients is critical. What I find best is to identify the strengths I talked about in #1 and create the environment for each to maximizes their strengths. Don’t give up on an amazing sales person just because they are weak at doing CRM entries (which is every superstar sales person). FIND SUPPORT STAFF THAT CAN HELP THEM. Your profits will be higher if that superstar stays out on the streets closing deals. Then, TRUST THEM. Don’t micromanage, don’t monitor their e-mails, don’t stop giving them projects…” trust, but verify”-Ronald Reagan.  Verification comes through accountability. I wrote an article, conducting an effective 1:1 meeting which outlines how to hold your team and clients accountable to their commitments. However, if we start with management and not trust, we set our people up for mediocrity.

  3.  Love cares.

    It’s okay to like and care about one another's personal lives and to take part in important causes of your staff. I was out to dinner with a friend the other day and she mentioned that their staff was all taking work-time to donate to an animal shelter. Why? Because each employee (about 10) have important causes and each month an employee arranges to do something for their cause and then the ENTIRE team buys into that cause and works together. I’m sure you can imagine the camaraderie, respect and “love” that comes with this. Of course, the leader has to be bought in and understand that work time does not translate to clock punching. The time invested in these activities pays off in spades when your team is united, caring, committed, involved and loyal to each other and their united success. The lives of your people and the revenue of your business will prosper. The ENTIRE team buys into that cause and works together. I’m sure you can imagine the camaraderie, respect and “love” that comes with this. Of course, the leader has to be bought in and understand that work time does not translate to clock punching. The time invested in these activities pays off in spades when your team is united, caring, committed, involved and loyal to each other and their united success. The lives of your people and the revenue of your business will prosper.

  4. Love is recognized and rewarded.

    Think about your spouse, children or any loved one, we show love with hugs, kisses, gifts, servitude, etc. In the work environment, these manifest themselves in ‘at-a-boy’s’, bonuses, smiles, rewards, dinners, happy work environments, etc. In his book Drive, Daniel Pink teaches at great length that the days of the stick and carrot are no longer. He also talks about if-then rewards vs now-that rewards. Love is not conditional so work reward shouldn’t be conditional. Almost every sales manager tries to get results with if-then rewards. You know, “If you hit the goal then you get more money”. This is far less effective than when you show your love/reward with no expectation. This can be tricky and is a real mental shift for many.  If you have any questions or would like to connect about this, let me know. I show my love by working with SMB leaders to drive great success. I do this in a variety of ways and not always for money, sometimes just for love. 




Choose Your Attitude

Have you ever read Attitude is Everything?

It serves as a constant reminder to me that I get to choose who I am and how I feel. Too often society tells us to blame someone or something for our lot in life. “It’s the economy”, “my mom was mean”, “cold calling doesn’t work”, “if only my employee’s worked harder and longer”, “”If only my prospects and clients would ___________”(I could fill in that black with a few dozen excuses) “If traffic wasn’t so bad I could see more prospects”, Positive or best of all “Everyone around me is negative, it’s hard not to be”. All of these excuses play on our attitude. So, what to do?

  1. Choose to be optimistic. Jack Canfield, in his book The Success Principles, calls it “inverse paranoia”.  Simply put, believe that the world is out to do good for you and you for it. The sky is not falling, your boss doesn’t hate you, customers WANT to buy, etc. This comes with creating the habit of starting every day with a decision to have a positive mental attitude or a foundation. A positive attitude should drive your beliefs, behaviors and ultimately dictate your outcomes.

  2. Believe that people are your strongest resource and source of accomplishment. Technology puts us into our cubes, walking with our head down, our nose in phone, picking up our devices instead of engaging with the world around us. We were created to be a community and to interact. Most people inherently want to do good and help one another. Find your allies, invest in them and shed the negative people.

  3. Know that your past does not dictate your future. Whether you’re overcoming a bad childhood or overcoming a streak of ineffective cold calling, you get to decide where to go next. Get the help you need to get better. But you need to chose to do it!  Help comes in many forms and from many sources. Especially if you BELIEVE that the world is out to do you inverse paranoid!

  4. Fear nothing! Do you remember when you were little and afraid of the dark or what was under your bed? Silly when you look back on it, right? Well it’s mostly the same with today’s fears; there’s usually not much to be afraid of. It’s the games we play in our head, it’s the irrationality of our imagination. Folks, I’ve made hundreds of cold calls and door knocks and I still have all my teeth. If I had a nickle for every “No” I’ve heard, I’d be retired. Shed the fear and replace it with persistence.

  5. Act as if! What does that mean? A great mentor of mine, Joe Murzanski used to tell me; “Jim, act as if you have a million dollars in your pocket, that you haven’t a care in the world and that you have the solution to your customer’s problems” (at the time I sold advertising for the Tribune Company’s spanish language papers). That bit of advice allowed me to not worry about closing out of desperation because I told myself I wasn’t desperate, and it also gave me great confidence in what I sold. As my customers businesses were positively impacted and their sales rose, I only became more emboldened to sell more. The result was, 4 consecutive years of award winning highest production in both revenue and column inches sold.

The bottom line is, as Dr. Charles Stanley said, I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me, and 90 percent how I react to it.

And so it is with you... We are in charge of our attitudes.

Leadership 4 Musts For An Effective One-On-One Meeting

Leadership 4 Musts For An Effective One-On-One Meeting

I’m often asked to coach leaders on the art of conducting a powerful one-on-one meeting.

One-on-one's are extremely important. They offer the leader/coach an opportunity to very specifically address the needs of each person on their team.  It also gives permission to the employee/coachee to be open and honest both in a safe environment that avoids putting him/her in a vulnerable position with other teammates. Look at it this way, we all have strengths and weaknesses, but do we all want them addressed in public? Of course not. So one-on-one meetings are important in today’s work world.

  1. A disciplined schedule for one-on-one's is critical. A recurring event should exist in both parties calendars and it should be held as sacred as any other appointment. DON'T CANCEL! If you, a leader, cancels, misses or minimizes the importance of the one-on-one, the employee will feel it. It's like being stood up on date night when you're 18. When the recurring time is not honored, there are hurt feelings coupled with short and long-term negative impact. However, When done properly, one-on-one's give confidence, build deep relationships and positively impact culture and revenue.
  2. A productive one-on-one meeting looks almost the same every time. There should be high accountability to expectations that are scored on a consistent scale (1-5 for example) with clearly documented next steps that both parties agree to do before the next one-on-one. And then on the next one-on-one, review documented changes and repeat! A very clear picture is painted of an employee and managers committed to getting better and contributing more if the benchmark is clearly communicated and accountability is in place.
  3. Leave time for digging into each person. We’re all wired differently and what is important to them and you vary from month to month. For instance, If your employee just had a baby you want time to see how that’s impacting your employee. Both personally and professionally. Their productivity, attendance (if needed in the office), attitude, etc. may be impacted and therefore impacting the business. This may affect expectations, requirements, etc.  Another necessary component is to dig into a person's head-trash (which is what I call the garbage we all carry around that often times impacts our willingness or ability to do our work effectively).
  4. Whether your role is a leader or a brand new hire in the mailroom, at the conclusion of every one-on-one the following question should be humbly asked by both parties and the answer humbly received. "Is there anything you would like to see me start doing, stop doing, do more of or less of?” This question will almost always expose a nugget or two that will help your organization strive. Listen to the answer, take action and get to your revenue.

Quotes from this article are featured in this ebook and this great article on O'Reilly'