30 Oct 2016

corporate trainers shanghai

As many sales people will agree, one of the most common objections that customers raise is with price.
This is a hurdle that has to be overcome for a business transaction and co-operation to take place. It can be a time consuming and stressful negotiation if it carried out incorrectly.

corporate trainers shanghai

 

 

 

 

 

A price negotiation is actually a very great thing, as it shows progress in the potential business cooperation and is a perfect time to build rapport with your customer.

At the time of reaching the price negotiation stage the seller has clearly found the required solution for the customer and the customer is also in agreement that they are in need of that given solution.
(I am making assumptions here that by this stage all offerings made by the salesperson are targeted and in accordance with the buyers complete requirements. If not then the salesperson needs to revisit the customers requirements to ensure that they are before entering into any price negotiation. The offering must be perfect and the vendor must always be able to deliver to the customers complete expectations.)

It is normal and expected for customers to shop around to find the best deal. However finding that best deal is not bound to price.
We have all bought things in the past, we all know that to obtain the best products and services costs money. Most essential is that vendors are certain that their customers are confident in the money being well spent and offering the best return for them both during the sale and more importantly after the sale. The offering must be fair, clear and never misleading.

You get what you pay for:
Much in the same way as to live in a desirable area, or to wear brand design clothes there is always an accepted and understood premium cost to doing so. The same applies to all provided products and services.
A customers goal may be to pull the price down as much as possible to test the limits of price flexibility. Customers want the best deal, we all do. The vendor though has to be careful not to sell themselves short leaving them unable to provide the efficient service that they plan to. Anything other might achieve the sale initially, however will undoubtedly end in stress for both the buyer and the seller. Be fair and clear and concise when it comes to costing. Often companies have this rigidly set which is by far the best way.

At the negotiation stage the salespersons aim should be to display from all angles that the quotation that they are offering is justifiable, worthwhile, fair and will offer maximum benefit to the customer.

Barriers:
Everyone has been sold to in the past. Even the best, most reliable and trustworthy salespeople are often initially tied to the same “salesperson” brush and barrier.

Every industry employs salespeople and some approach the sale in an incorrect manner using shoddy and occasionally forceful sales techniques which are in no way beneficial to the customer. The best sales people know how to and are often easily able to rise above this.

A “bad” sale generally occurs when inexperienced sales people jump into the sale and attempt to sell customers products and services that are of no use to them, ones that are then then later refuted. The sales process itself may have even been carried out in a forceful manner, using persuasive techniques, which some customers accept at the time of sale but then ultimately regret.

This is not what sales is about. Sales people should never pressure buyers and buyers should never feel under pressure to buy.

Consulting Not Selling:
An effective sale is only complete when a customers complete requirements are met with the ideal solution. The most important job of a sales person is to be as transparent, realistic, knowledgeable and honest at all times to ensure ongoing customer satisfaction and growth for their company in promoting their products and services.

We live in a climate of global competition and indeed the internet, whereby we are able to search for any information we are uncertain of. However having ability to discover information is not the same as having real knowledge and understanding, therefore many customers may not necessarily be well versed when it comes to understanding the up to date value and benefits of offered products and services.

Before talking about price, withing the sales cycle, it is essential for sales people to become trusted advisers and go beyond just attempting to sell, working toward guiding customers to a deeper understanding of the optimum solution for their needs.

Pricing Negotiation:

If a customer is not happy with the price it is usually for a few simple reasons:

  • the price is wrong or genuinely overpriced
  • a competitor company has given a cheaper quotation
  • a friend of theirs told them it should be cheaper
  • there is a limiting budget
  • the customer puts up a barrier to being sold to

If any of these situations occur then the customer is not completely confident with the offering that the salesperson is portraying to them.

The first is self explanatory. This is a company and procedural issue.

If the second and third instances, then the details of the offering need to be made clearer and compared. Of course, never belittle the competition or dispute what their friends may have received. Questioning is required here, you may even learn from the experience. Service offering comparison is fair also. Especially if other vendors are directly mentioned by the customer. Ask more requirement revealing questions.

If the issue is regarding budget, then this should have already have been addressed by the salesperson at the early instances of the process. If it hasn’t been already addressed by this time, then this is the time to do so, negotiate and agree on the most important elements to begin working together. Definitely also work to establish a timeline to increase the offering in the future when all goes well.

If it a barrier to the customer being sold to in general, then this needs to be realised. Many people including sales people themselves do not wish to be sold to. They want to be consulted to reach a desired goal. In this situation the customer is looking to become more confident in the sales person themselves as a consultant and not just as a salesperson on commission.

Example:

You have determined aim to purchase an item of clothing, perhaps not today, although today is not out of the questions. You are in a relaxed happy browsing mood, perhaps even ready to buy when you find what you are looking for. The need for the buy is already realised and imminent. You know what you need and want.

Then you walk into an interesting shop which has some interesting things similar to what you are looking for.

Then as soon as you step in, the sales person comes running over to you. Desperately try to force upon you anything and everything you glance at whilst also invading personal space.

This sales person then continues to stand awkwardly by you thrusting items of no interest by which point you have lost all interest in both the browse, the shop and the “sales consultant”. At this stage, you may choose to leave the shop completely, the rapport with the sales person has been damaged, you may even never return to that shop again.

Had the sales person approached the situation differently they may have actually been of beneficial aid to you and acted as more of a helpful guide in finding your required purchase. Now you have to go to find another vendor. A time wasting venture througout when that shop “may” have had what you were looking for. You will never know, the sales pusher ruined the experience.

If a customer displays a barrier to being sold to then this needs to be noticed immediately and the procedure needs to become one of consulting, not selling.

To attain great company sales, company bosses need to train their staff to quickly establish and understand the needs of their customers. This includes their buying traits and buying signals.

We cover this in our training modules.

Price Negotiation:
Often, especially in China many potential buyers will conclude and agree that the first figure quoted is often completely arbitrary, a useless figure, certainly not to be taken seriously and with scope for reduction. Strangely it seems that especially in China and with higher priced service offerings, no initial quotation given is ever final. Even comically unrealistic. There is always movement.

The belief here seems to be that the significant reduction in price will then lead to the contract being signed. This approach is confusing for sales people as well as customers. It is often used in China and is by all means and amateur close for a sale. It is also not good sales practice. A pricing structure should be set and adhered to.

Getting The Best Deal:

It is completely natural to always expect the best deal. Until we have used a service or product at least once, seen or been referred to it previously following it’s in action testing, we could never be truly sure about the value. We can only trust in the salesperson. Therefore, similarly when we are in the selling seat we need to provide that trust to our potential customers to make the whole experience far smoother and enjoyable for all concerned.

The best way forward is always to establish the pricing structure, establish the requirements. Once both are realised then provide the best price and offering, do not negotiate. Unless of course there are other influencing factors such as immediate multiple purchases. Even loyal and long standing valued customers will understand and not expect price reductions if they are certain to receive a continually great offering at their already agreed constant fair price.

Customer Satisfaction At Every Stage:
When we buy we want to have constant affirmation that the best purchase has been made. It has to add value to our lives in some shape or form. Therefore, as sales people it is paramount to ensures this experience happens for customers. The offering has to be what the customer expects at every stage, before, during and after the sale. No lies, no exaggeration, no misunderstanding. It is the sales persons job as well as the contract content to ensure that there is no misunderstanding at any stage.

To achieve complete customer satisfaction, customers must receive what they have paid for and if possible a little more also. This will then lead to gracious referrals.

Any failings on the salespersons part should result in sincere apologies and rectifying measures.

Objections:
I have put together a list of common price objections below as well as some suggested responses for each:

It’s Not in My Budget
Naturally, many customers are restricted by a budget, and if so they will usually inform of their price ranges when prompted or if a suggested scope of price range is dropped into the conversation.

(Usually a reaction as hypothetical pricing brackets are mentioned will enable gauging of limits and ideal package construction. Be careful though not to assume or misread, as this could lead in the conversation going off on a tangent wasting everyones time.)

Some customers may use the “budget excuse” to insist on receiving a lower price. We’ve all done it. Therefore my suggestion to sales personnel here is to consult rather than sell. With pricing structures in place guide customers within those options and limits. If too high then work backwards, establishing full and most essential detailed needs. With a concrete idea of budget approximation you can then better establish a contract.

Throughout the sales process it is best for all concerned to work towards a viable close.

Question for customer: “So if the price falls within your budget range and covers your complete requirements, will you be comfortable moving forward?”

There are many varying scenarios for this stage which we cover in detail in our training.

Just another quick one though for sales staff specifically…

If the customer does suggest a number before you have had opportunity to suggest your pricing brackets and options, you can ask how they arrived at that figure. Many sales people don’t do this, some sales actually become defensive at this point and lose the sale. This is actually where sales staff should be asking a lot of questions. Thereby placing themselves in a position to explain the true value of their proposed solution and offering in all it’s glory and why it is so much superior to the alternatives. This way it opens doors to opportunities, instead of as many see it, becoming a price negotiation slide. If the proposed ideal solution is presented well and displays maximum benefit to the customer at this stage there should be no more negotiation required. Always ensure that quotations are exact and fair to ensure success.

Shock and Awe
This is a brilliant customer buying tactic. A sure way to price negotiate played by many customers including myself on many occasion. The wide-eyed look of shock and amazement on the face of a potential buyer when the sales person presents the price, as if the price quoted has caused physical harm. It stops many including the best sales men and ladies well in their tracks. It is a lot of fun to use and very effective.

Sometimes the shock can be genuine, often though it’s a great bit of essential acting and a fun part of the process. A rapport builder.

Whichever it is, sales people, don’t cave in. It may be genuine or an academy award winning masterpiece, either way, just maintain the approach and if possible mirror and match the reaction equally surprised. It will work wonders and can even lead to friendships being built. It’s times like these that make it a joy to be in sales.

As a customer, if you are in awe, ask more.

As a salesperson, calmly and collectively ask why the customer feels so strongly that the price is too high. This is an ideal opportunity to connect benefits and features with needs that should have already been uncovered and now require clarification and confirmation.

Always Remember:

Price is only one of the factors that makes a sale. Sales people are not price quoting and reduction negotiators. They are consultants, solution finders and representatives for their company, continually looking to provide the best service at the best price for ongoing valued custom.

A sales persons primary and sole objective should be to offer solutions to aid their customers, thereby growing their personal and career growth.

A salespersons focus would always be on delivering quality to their customers. They are at the front of the front line. Successful sales people automatically become ongoing trusted advisers, always striving towards ensuring everyone walks away happy and then customers come back for more when they need more.

As a salesperson, when you do begin to see your returning customers, returning to you of their own free will and for your unrivaled expertise, empathy and consultation, you will find yourself becoming evermore successful and happy in your job as a salesperson.

Everything good only happens when it is prepared well. Preparation takes time and focus. So get preparing! Our training can help you with this too!

I hope this has helped. Please feel free to post any questions or comments.

All the best

Jason

08 Oct 2016

sales client referrals

Often when selling we avoid asking for referrals because it may feel awkward. Sometimes we just don’t know how to ask. It is widely known that referrals provide the greatest sales leads as they are usually invited by an already happy customer, therefore it is worth overcoming your your phobia of this to start encouraging satisfied customers for accelerated sales growth.

sales client referrals

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some tips to get you started:

When to Ask:
Obviously, you should never ask for a referral before you have completed your service well for your customer. Look for “ideal opportunities” when you can sense your customer is most pleased with the service they have received, for example immediately after a customer has thanked you for your work. At this moment, your enquiry about their satisfaction is both natural and appropriate. The other prime opportunity is anytime a customer pays you a compliment. When the referral wording has already been delivered, you just need to ask him or her to share that insight for the benefit of others who may also benefit from your services.

How to Ask:
All sales people will need to be doing this regularly with all their customers. To progress this further you could recruit leaders in your own team and company structure to reach out and to customers to ensure they are always happy and feel they are being dealt with appropriately. This professionalism can then lead on to you requesting that your customers provide recommendations on online platforms for instance LinkedIn. This should be made an integral part of your normal post-delivery sales cycle and integrate it into your overall sales strategy.

When you request the recommendation try your best to make it a “matter-of-fact” manner. There is no need to feel awkward or embarrassed. Most customers will understand that you want your business to grow and will often be happy to help. If you are asking at the ideal time it will make the request feel more like a natural consequence and part of the overall process.

Who to Ask:
Build a short list of your most satisfied and longest standing customers in your pipeline and start there. Launching your referral acquisition effort with customers who are loyal to you, your company and your product will make the effort much easier, and will build your confidence to move outward and request the same from other customers.

Within the customer organization, it is usually best practice and appropriate to ask directly the individual with whom you worked most closely throughout the implementation of your product or service. However, should there also be someone within the company who you also have good rapport with who is a higher level or even from another department you can also grasp the moment to ask him or her to share their opinion.

Remember that while outstanding products, services or customer service build strong ground for receiving referrals, they are by no means a guarantee you will receive them. The only certain way to get your customers to actively refer future business to you is to ask them to!

13 Apr 2016

sales training

Last night, whilst relaxing with the wife and dog, the movie “The Martian,” starring Matt Damon came on tv. Damon’s character “Watney” is an astronaut trained who is abandoned on Mars. Watney has to survive on Mars and obviously food is limited, therefore he must stretch his food rations as best he can until help arrives. All he has are his wits and a few resources including his mental toolbox. Unable to communicate with NASA, he manages to find ways to keep alive until the next manned Mars mission arrives. Now I know I will never be alone on Mars, I hope I’m never on Mars at all as they surely have no good coffee there. However the film did get me thinking and it reminded me of what a trainee once said. He was new to the role and also felt that he was on a strange planet. It’s called planet “Sales”. And if you’re going to survive in Sales, and subsequently thrive, you need to use all of your mental toolbox resources to move forward. Unlike Mark Watney though, you shouldn’t feel alone, especially as you are reading this post on our website. We can help.

sales training

Never Give Up!

Even when up against impossible odds, Damon’s character never crumbled, he always kept positive looking for solutions to every problem that arose. Similarly in sales, we frequently also must contend with challenges that could potentially demoralise us, objections and other obstacles that blast our deals into outer space thereby negatively impacting our emotional state and therefore our ability to push forward with new sales. I’m fairly certain that if Matt Damon’s character was in sales, he’d keep chin up and look for the root cause and resolve to issues as they arise. Thankfully, if you are in sales and sometimes finding it hard, what you’re facing is probably not an alien presence, but instead something that could be managed by changing your own behavior. Whatever the problem is, we can work with you to find the solution together.

Small Steps make the Process
In “The Martian,” the main character improves his destiny and stays alive by taking small steps to a better future. Process is fundamental in sales also. To be successful we must trust the process that works best. Never skip steps! If the process needs changing then change it however once it is again in place we should stick to it rigidly. Just like a spaceman wouldn’t forget to put on his space helmet before exiting the craft. Similarly, we need to ensure that we don’t miss essential process pivotal points. For example, if you try to rush the presentation phase and skip to the close because you believe that your customer is already semi ready to move forward. We must adhere to the working process without fail.

Tales of the Unexpected
Bad things happen sometimes. Usually when they do it’s not just one thing either. They usually come in waves to challenge us. The same happens in sales. The same also happened to Matt on Mars. It was an unfortunate series of events that marooned his character in space, despite his skills as an astronaut. It was out of his control. Sometimes there is nothing we can do apart from begin immediate troubleshooting. A good salesperson often finds themselves in uncontrollable circumstances. Budget shortfalls, economic downturns, maybe even lack of customers due to bad weather. Any number of factors can result in lost revenue and decreased sales. Suck it in, accept the losses and move on to grasses greener and bigger opportunities.

We Already have the Essential Tools
Whilst on Mars, Damon used his skills, knowledge and resourcefulness, single handed he A-Teamed together the NASA equipment and any other spare parts from previous space missions to build the shelter and food supply framework he needed. Even on earth, it’s easy for us to get caught up in the notion that we need the very latest cyberspace technology to get the job done well. Yes, technology does help us to connect with customers in ways that we would never have dreamed possible 10 years ago. However in the world of B2B and B2C sales, even the latest gadgets are no replacement for those crucial human contact moments. The best sales happen when both the buyer and seller connect with eachother. This is hard to achieve using an email, wechat or skype. Always remember that people buy from people and they always will. Keep it simple. Gadgets often over-complicate the sale. It is best to focus on the basic elements required first and look to the gadgets as nothing more than an aid.

Failure brings Success
Whether in space or on Mars, the best way to move forward is to learn from failures. There is no better lesson learned than one that has come from a past failure. Nobody is perfect. We all mess things up sometimes. It’s what we do following it that really makes the difference. Be like the Damon character in “Martian”. Accept that there is no perfect way to get ahead. Try try and try again. Learning and improving each time. Build those connections, plan for those great deals, nurture your long-term loyal clients. Once you have figured out the optimum steps and processes to suit your business you can replicate them when you make initial contact with new clients.

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, it’s definitely worth a look. Unlike Damon though, try and keep your feet on the ground. Good luck!

13 Apr 2016

sales calls training

Extensive research has shown that sales people never truly reach their ultimate performance potential without the use of a well defined sales call procedure. They need this in place to follow and build upon. Having the chat and “Winging it” works for some sales people some of the time. Often though it can have grim consequences, resulting in lost sales, extended sales cycles and profit margin erosion. If you continue to “wing it” then your whole sales career will be along the same lines, you will be holding onto your career by a thread.

sales training shanghai

Performance can be significantly improved by as much as 50% when salespeople follow a consistent pattern and plan for their sales.

Often salespeople repeatedly make the same mistakes over and over without realizing it. They make these mistakes as they believe that they are adaptable to the needs of the sale and change quickly. In actual fact though they are repeating the same bad processes along with some changes that they gradually realise. As they are changing so many factors they are then unsure which areas lost them the sale.
Without a logical plan to follow it is hard to recognise specific problems, let alone rectify them. The optimum sales process mirrors patterns that the customers follow when make buying decisions. Ultimahub have modeled this process into nine specific acts. The “9 Essential Sales Call Rules” which effectively splits up the sales call into its most important elements, we have placed them in order of importance following the sequence of the top five buying decisions that many customers commonly make. Once we analyze each segment of a call and compare it to the buyers buying decisions we gradually see a picture emerging whereby the salespeople can quickly establish the issues within their sales process and adjust their behavior accordingly.

Without a system like this in place, the only option salespeople have is to look at whether they achieved or lost the sale. Without being fully aware of where we go wrong in the sale we are unable to correct and improve our performance.

Out In The Field

We implemented our structure with a leading architectural services company who were facing a common issue. They were finding it difficult to sell one of their intangible services as it was seen less of a necessity and as more of a luxury. Due to this their company was losing growth along with incoming clients and new business.

The HR department of their company instructed Ultimahub to deliver a 2-day onsite sales training workshop for their staff members. They wanted us to teach them our process and integrate it into their current process. We carried out the training followed by a few weekly afternoons of workshops.

Three months later we requested feedback. We were delighted with the results. Within just three months the CEO and General managers reported to us that they had seen a 20% growth in business. The HR and sales managers also commented on the huge benefits of the training with regard to the professionalism and confidence within the sales teams. These were all as a direct result of our 9 Step Sales Action program. Due to our continual reporting on each individual team member also, the sales manager now has a clear picture and understanding of each of the members strengths and weaknesses. This too has increased their focused approach and effectiveness.

13 Apr 2016

corporate training china

At work, there’s an age old saying: To have and to hold, from this day forward. … Oh, hang on a sec, that’s what people say as they are getting married. It should be used by all recruiting managers though, it makes sense. New staff coming and going can really sting your profit margins, its a time waster also. It takes time and effort as well as costs money to research, interview and vet potential new company members. At best they need invest around six months and many other peoples manpower to recruit and jump start a newby, bringing them up to speed to become a fully contributing member of the team. This initial investment often includes their product/service training, eradicating past bad habits, and more steep learning curves of knowledge that they need to absorb. The last thing you want to happen after investing so much time in these individuals is for them to turn around and quit for another companies slightly higher salary package.

business training china

Ultimately, you expect all your new hires to be grateful of their new found position and come whistling into work each day. Thereby bringing in business and increasing your earnings. However if your business is suffering from RDS more commonly known as Revolving Door Syndrome, you will soon find yourself squandering company profits just to keep things ticking over. Put simply, until you get to the source of your staff retention problems and remedy them, you will just keep losing your profits to the recruitment websites.

Average figures suggest that it takes seven months and around RMB180,000 to find and place a new sales rep into his job role. These costs may be a flash in the pan if your organization is in upward motion. Growth is after all the best issue to be facing so long as you are prepared, however this growth can be crushed if turnover is excessive in your recruiting cost areas, here lies a systemic problem. When the leavers are your top performers moving on to better opportunities you know you really do have a problem. Suddenly as a boss you feel as if you are sinking slowly, frantically trying to plug leaks in your ship which the rest of the crew seem to be jumping out of.

From Outset: Be Honest About Expectations
Just as you want to be completely clear of the new sales rep that you are introducing to your company. So do they need to be sure also of work environment they will be entering. Generally managers are great at selling as they have built in communication abilities that have enabled them to get where they need to be. They can sell the role. However on the new starters first day if they gradually realise that the post that they have signed up to is not what they had bargained for they may grow ever more disgruntled day by day and become cynical, they may even quit within the first few months. This looks bad to your other staff and will also be demoralising and a let down for you. Therefore to avoid this fiasco occurring, it is best to set realistic expectations right from the outset. Ideally at the interview stage when you see qualities in the potential staff member you wish to employ. Don’t talk up the job role. Or the company. Say it how it is. Be aware that this staff member will be one of your team, you are placing them in a position of trust. Trust must be reciprocated. Therefore always be completely honest with prospective hires about the work they will be doing, the progression they can attain if they work hard and also their working environment. Ideally also show them around and introduce them to their team. They may decide it’s not for them at this stage, however that will be far more beneficial to you as you will save time. Also more importantly you will be able to rest assured that when you do place the ideal candidate into the role you will have a more dedicated employee. Be sure to be upfront about the challenging aspects that they may face, how you like it to be and also what to expect from their direct line manager. If they are going to be good they will already be forming their own ideas on how to progress. It is also essential to reaffirm by asking their views on what they have see throughout all the processes above before making a selection.

Setting Realistic Goals and Monitoring Progress
Because sales folks are a competitive bunch, they thrive when you set goals for them. They need to be challenged. The goals need to be attainable though, they should see the carrot and be able to grab it. It is essential also to provide guide them with the resources necessary to reach those goals. Give them what they need so that they can get the ball rolling straight away. Arrange follow up meetings to keep tabs on progress. The initial period is the time that requires the most focus. The more support provided at this stage will become fruitful for the individual members of your team as well as the complete team unit. Arrange one-to-ones thereby opening the lines of communication with your team. This will motivate them and also gently push them to becoming focused, they will see you are serious about this project succeeding and will get on board too if they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. With regular meetings also areas for further development may become apparent.

Establish Realistic Goals and Coaching
Moving on to the topic of coaching … one of the best investments you can make throughout is building your team’s coaching. Surveys and common sense shows that people take jobs for three main reasons, not necessarily in this order: what they will learn, how much they will get paid, opportunities for progression. By signaling to your workforce that they are worth the company money and time spent in investing in they will be far more reciprocating in their contribution to your company. Ongoing learning for all of your team members is essential to keep them happy, they will see it as a perk of their job and even boast about it to their peers. This will quite rightly make them feel good and keep them happy. A happy employee is a productive and healthy employee. They will want to be at work rather than feeling that they have to come in to pay the rent. We have seen it many times before, failing to nurture any employee often results in them looking to other companies who will offer them better opportunity to grow in skill.

Compensation Packages
Money is on the mind of all the best sales reps. Most work on commission. When recruiting sales reps if you ask the question “Are you motivated by money?” and they say NO. Alarm bells should ring. If they work on commission and money is not an incentive as a sales person they are clearly in the wrong place. The top performers are not looking for free office coffee or dress down Fridays. They want to earn and earn it quick. If you provide that for them they will stay otherwise they may move to pastures greener. The targets and packages need to be continually optimised to ensure their interest in achieving them. Continually reexamine your compensation packages, before doing this though ensure that their contract maintains this flexibility for you on an annual basis. As we all know in China there are set points in the calendar where staff tend to leave. Be sure not to fall victim to this. Stay one step ahead of the game. We can help you with this also in the training courses we offer. It requires being continually fully aware of what is being offered at competing organizations. Tiered plans work best especially with top performers, the dangling carrot scenario. Once they get that low hanging fruit they want the bigger one. Ensure it is there for them to grab. When making these decisions run this through the thought and costing process of thinking: How much is the company saving with slim streamlined compensation compared to how much better it could be by splashing out a bit more to keep those valued employees on your side.

Incentives
It’s not all about money. Finding and developing fun and creative ways to show your team you appreciate them has no boundaries. Focus on your most valuable staff and your company will run far smoother. Motivate them to stay with you and make it beneficial also for those valued staff to become even more valuable by giving them extended responsibility where possible. If and where possible also find the most cost effective and beneficial incentives for them also such as language learning, gym memberships, flex time, additional paid holidays and the like. Often even an in-house concierge works well to build loyalty. These in turn also promote a stress-free happy work environment. If in sales then periodically, weekly, monthly or even quarterly if your teams are far away, meetings should be held. Quarterly meetings should ideally include occasional sales contests where praise is delivered in all the right places, this will motivate your ever determined sales staff to always work to achieve their best.

Where Did It All Go Wrong?
Occasionally, despite a company’s best efforts to perfect the working environment they will lose top employees. In this case the question to be asked is “Why?”
By the time a member hands in their resignation they have usually found another job so convining them to stay might be hard, although not impossible. The priority here is to establish the reasoning behind it. Ask them why they are choosing to break the relationship. Get them relaxed, relate to their feelings and just find out why. Again this is something that our training covers. When you become aware that they are leaving speak to their supervisors also, many may become defensive at the loss of a member of their team therefore you need to put them at ease too ensuring that you do not demoralise them. Effective questioning and rapport is key at this stage. Softly softly. Find out the reasons why so that it does not happen again or lead to a mass exodus. Often if one influential member leaves others will follow. Be extremely careful. Ideally, the exit interview should be held by an experienced member of the HR team.

Always remember, when it comes to retaining the best employees, it’s one thing to get them to say “I do” however it’s another to hold and keep them.
Have a look though our courses. Everything discovered here is content that we cover and can help you with.

13 Apr 2016

Sales forecasting is commonplace among sales managers, despite the fact that it’s a ridiculously difficult undertaking and the further fact that forecasting accurately is nearly impossible.

It’s typical to end up with forecasted numbers that miss the mark by a sizable margin. Sales managers often find themselves in a familiar situation: running around in a postmortem panic over why their numbers are off. But neglecting to actually get to the bottom of the bad forecast is another classic misstep, the result of which is being in the same forecasting predicament quarter over quarter.

The act of forecasting is an exercise in futility if you fail to identify the culprits behind bad numbers. We’ve spent a lot of time researching and thinking about the topic, and we’re passing our learnings on to you. Read on to find out the root causes of faulty forecasting so you can stop predicting sunshine when there will in fact be rain.

You’re Relying on Bad and Incomplete Data
Your CRM is more riddled with holes than a wool sweater in a moth infestation. Some of your data is missing, or it’s outdated, or it’s simply inaccurate. Holes such as these can lead to skewed forecasts. Remember, what you get out of your CRM depends on what you put into it. The more data points your team inputs into your CRM, the more solid the data will be as far as forecasting. The more data you’ve amassed, the more accurately you’ll be able to forecast.

Direct your team to engage in data input as a best practice. Make sure everyone’s diligent about documenting communication points and populating fields at the account and opportunity stages. This collective effort will draw a data-driven picture of why some deals are successful and others cough their last breath and die. Adhere to this rule: “If it’s not in your CRM, it does not exist.”

You’re Being Blinded by Positivity Fairy Dust
The mantra of this industry could be, “Be optimistic or be obsolete.” Sales is chancy, yet despite what might be repeated setbacks, you must maintain a sunny disposition, staying positive when it comes to growth opportunities and deal closing. That said, you don’t want to go through your sales life being a happy idiot. Engage in that other “ism”—realism. Meaning, don’t clog your pipeline with too many potential deals that are built on wishes and dreams. That magical-thinking “user error” often results in an overinflated, unrealistic forecast. Making the effort to debug your pipeline is time well spent.

You’re Betting on the Wrong Horse
Be careful not to funnel your resources into unpromising deals. Emotion can be the driving force sometimes—“I like that company … I’d love to work with them … they seem cool!” Next thing you know, resources spent on your dream company have not resulted in a deal, and now you’re short on TME (time money energy) that was better spent pursuing more realistic leads. Again, this can be the result of too many deals in the pipeline, and/or the wrong ones getting special treatment while the right ones get ignored. Forget that glam deal you’d love to land. Focus on data management. Or, if you’ve mastered the art of data management already, use what you know about data science to rank and prioritize opportunities for reps, teams, region, or product lines, taking into account things like close probability, momentum, size, and market trends.

As people like to say, “No one has a crystal ball.” True enough, but forecasting can be thoughtful or it can be stab-in-the-dark reckless. When you make thoughtful, intelligent predictions, it’s more likely the clouds will part and you’ll have your day in the sun.

11 Apr 2016

corporate training china

Luckily here in Shanghai, we’re always in the midst of trade show season where companies from many different industries visit to promote their offerings and looking to drive future business.

Trade shows, even though expensive, are a great opportunity for showcasing yourself to a huge array of new potentials. Hotels are filled to the brim with after work social activities with many bonding over nibbles and free bar get togethers. It’s organized networking and also a lot of fun to be a part of. As well as the establishments that hold these events, you too can see a healthy return on investment.

Company brands know they need to play the the long game. Here are some tips for ensuring that your money is well spent. Also some practical ways that your company can lay the groundwork for a future return on your investment in your next trade show.

corporate training chinaDon’t Wing It
“Let’s just show up and work the floor” is the wrong attitude for trade shows. Your booth might be slick. The round neck shirts with your logo might look great on your reps too. But being the “fancy” stand isn’t enough. Plan and preparation for trade shows several months in advance, ensure your sales and marketing teams collaborating to connect in achieving specific goals, set realistic objectives within achievable timescales. Early on, any other plans should be discussed and implemented early in order to have a successful trade show season.

Map It Out
The event itself is important. So too though are the pre- and post-show prospecting plans. Using your marketing team’s expertise to create awareness of who you are among other things, this will help effectively people traffic to your booth. You don’t have to limit your outreach to an email campaign; work it via LinkedIn, Wexin, Weibo. If you have the luxury of an outbound team, a calling campaign also whould be extremely beneficial. Do your best to attain an attendee list before the show, there should be one from the previous year. There’s a good chance you will see many returning year on year to the best events.

Keep Things Simple
Attendees are undoubtedly overwhelmed when walking through the show, so many sights and sounds appealing to their senses. Your approach should be the compelling calm in the eye of the trade show storm.

Identify your target audience and develop a clear, straightforward yet engaging message for all to appreciate. Compare the short time in the booth to a cold call, during which you only have a few precious seconds to gain a new prospect’s trust and time. Booth jumping is what it’s all about at trade shows, time is limited and conversations have to be quick and precise. If you miss an opportunity with an unfocused message, attendees will come and go like the tide. Both your booth design and your script should tell your story in a concise, structured story like manner. Be careful with your time. It’s great to chat and build rapport, however ineffective and wasted time spent with someone you may enjoy chatting to may result in real potential customers coming and going as they are unable to wait for your conversation to finish. They may need your help more than the person you are currently talking to. Acknowledge them at least even if you are mid conversation and arrange a time for them to return if you have to. Keep all conversations short and precise.

Planning Your Booth
It pays to take time thoughtfully planning your booth design. There are many ways to achieve this with varying budgets. Booths range from lower-end pop-up fiberglass mounts to more complex aluminum frames that take longer to set up.

Calm Yourself
Don’t pounce on people and hover over them when they come. Expect a steady flow throughout the day, sometimes in waves. At times you may only get a handful of people at your booth. Just keep looking busy and remember, don’t pounce. Often people run away. Let them come in and wait for them to make eye contact before engaging them. Smile and let them browse your stand and offering, this will give them time to become more comfortable.

Make sure you have a follow up in place. A post show strategy. Attendees will have spoken to many people at various booths, and they will surely be reached out to by many of the companies afterwards. Including your own. If possible then try and stand out at the trade show with a useful inexpensive but practical giveaway which you can then give reference to when you contact them — “I hope you are enjoying your new coffee mug” etc.

It’s always good to keep a track also for your own records. Mark down the leads and essential potentials into your CRM. This way, you can relax and rest assured that your sales pipeline is growing and tidy.
Whilst at the show, be sure and enjoy meeting everyone at the other stalls also when you have time. Perhaps even share some cards. Good luck!

We at Ultimahub wish you a very happy, healthy trade show season!

30 Aug 2015

The Nightmare

The elevator doors are about to close, but you just manage to get a foot in, and barge your way into the already overcrowded metal box as you hear several not-so-subtle sighs coming from the people behind you. Panting and sweating, you look at your watch, it’s 8:55am. It’s OK, you’ve still got five minutes, the class can start on time, the client will be happy. Sure, you really need the toilet, but that’ll just have to wait. If only the traffic wasn’t so bad!

The elevator doors open, and like a sprinter to the sound of a gunshot, you rush out, taking a right turn as you leap towards the receptionist who then points you to the training room. You barge open the doors with your sweat stained shirt, fully prepared to apologise to the group of eager participants. But low and behold, there are only two people there typing away on their laptops and they barely notice you.

Over the next twenty minutes, trickles of trainees stream in in groups of three to five. You keep on starting and then restarting the icebreaker as yet more participants stream in. Finally you wait until most have arrived and start the icebreaker for one last time. But by this time, half of the room has done the icebreaker several times already and return to their seats out of boredom. The others give up too. Looking slightly embarrassed, you say “OK, good, lets stop there and I’ll introduce myself”.

As you start talking, laptops open, and phones magically appear in hands. You rush your introduction and get straight into the course. The trainees bide their time by playing with their phones and pretending to type emails on their laptops whilst actually browsing their favourite online stores. You finish your talking part and get straight into an activity. This should keep them busy for some time. Thank god, a chance for you to go to the toilet.

Ten minutes later, with your business all done, you return to the room only to find three quarters of the participants missing, and the rest sitting there on their computers again.

Suddenly your eyes open and you sit up taking a deep breath. You’re in your hotel bed, covered in a cold sweat. It’s OK, it was just a bad dream. It’s 6:30am, and you have two and a half hours to make sure none of that happens.

Create a Sense of Purpose

I’m not going to advise you to arrive early to the venue. In my experience of training in Beijing, it doesn’t matter how early you depart, there is still a high chance of being late. But what I will advise is that no matter what time you arrive, it’s important to create a sense of purpose from the very beginning.

In an ideal world, before the course has already begun, HR will have set certain expectations about the course, and you will have spoken to several of the trainees. The benefit of this is that it focuses their expectations in the right area, and gives them a chance drop out before the course has even begun if it appears it’s not relevant to them. Of course this doesn’t always happen so I’ll just move on.

Now that you’re in the training room, take some time to get set up. First get your equipment set up and make sure that whatever you need is there. Next, make sure the trainees are mostly there. There will be some late starters, so make sure at least 80% have arrived before starting anything. Chat with the trainees if that’s your style, get to know them, make friends with them. If that’s not your style, just let them know that you’ll be starting in roughly X minutes, giving them a chance to go out and take care of some other tasks in the meantime.

If necessary, set ground rules from the very beginning, and be strict with them. If trainees have laptops open as you start the class, that is a sign to clamp down. Distractions are like cancer, they spread, and if you don’t kill them early they gradually grow to an uncontrollable level. Tell them to close their laptops. If they need to work, they can do so during the breaks or outside of the class. Stand over each individual until they politely shut their laptops. You won’t need to do this all the time, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. You also don’t need to be an arse about it.

Now it’s time to create purpose. There are so many icebreakers that you can choose from, but the most effective for creating a sense of purpose is the type that extracts from the trainees their expectations. You can use questions such as the simple “What do you want to learn today?”, or more carefully crafted types of questions that subtly pull out trainees’ own case studies for you to refer back to throughout the day. This kind of information is gold for you as a trainer or facilitator, especially at the very beginning of the course. You know exactly what’s on their minds, and can start to identify the most and least relevant parts of your training, and begin the process of on-the-spot customisation.

A question that trainees may have is “Why am I here?”. The longer this questions stays in their mind, the less involved they will be, because they still have not realised the value for them. Exterminate this question at the earliest possible opportunity. This is why you should introduce the agenda at the very beginning of the day. Share the topics you will be covering, and for each topic refer to a relevant example that was drawn out in the icebreaker. This will show trainees the value, allowing their minds to transition from questions and concerns about the course to anticipation about the course.

Create a Safety Net

I once sat in on a facilitation session that started off great, but gradually turned into a shambles. The facilitator had prepared a series of questions to be used as the basis for discussion. After each set of questions, there would be a sharing, and then a further discussion based on the learning points shared from the previous discussions. And this would go on for about 3 hours. At least, that’s how he hoped it would have gone. What actually happened was they did not arrive at the learning points he was hoping they would, so when they moved on to the next set of discussion questions the participants had very little to work with. They started to make things up, and their discussions wandered off into the realms of casual chit-chat. Yet he still continued with his original plan. Eventually he got so far through the process without extracting what he was expecting, that the trainees could no longer even force learning points out. They started off by politely saying “sorry, we don’t understand what we’re supposed to do now”. Yet he still continued. Eventually, most participants walked out of the room, the session finished a lot earlier than expected, and the facilitator had an upset client and a damaged reputation.

Your activities will not always go to plan. And when you depend on one activity after another going exactly according to plan and building on top of each other, you increase the chances of failure. You need to step in at the earliest possible opportunity and change things around. Either retreat back to the first activity and see if you can get it working according to plan, or change the process altogether from there onwards.

Some trainers may argue the “be tough” approach, and say that it’s your job to force the process. My personal belief is that if they are distracted from the original plan, so long as their focus is still on points relevant to the learning objectives, then go with the flow. The more you align your activities with their focus area, the higher the levels of participation you will enjoy.

The more experienced you become as a trainer or facilitator, the easier you will find this. You will have a catalogue of activities and discussion points stored in your mind, ready to pull out and utilise whenever necessary. If you are less experienced though, you will need more of these activities. Take advantage of any experienced facilitators around you and ask their opinions of your process. Ask for their suggestions as to back-ups that you can do. Spend as much time as you possibly can preparing as many activities as you possibly can. This will improve your confidence, as well as helping you become more adaptable.

On a side note, this is also one of the main advantages of focussing on one specific area in your training career. Trainers who try to be a jack-of-all trades will not have as much subject-specific knowledge or as many relevant activities to apply to their workshops. If you are a real expert in your training subject, then you will have spent a significant amount of time learning lots about the subject, preparing multiple ways of explaining the various knowledge points, collecting an assortment of anecdotes and case studies, and designing a plentiful supply of relevant and engaging activities. Eventually, you will even get to the stage where you do not need a PPT or even a structure to your course. You will be able to completely wing it. But, you will still need to create a sense of purpose from the very beginning.

Open and Restrict the Process

For some trainees you will struggle to get them to speak up, whereas for others you will struggle to get them to shut up. Whatever type of trainee they are, you will be able to control them better if you modify the process to suit them.

Picture the scene; you reveal a discussion question on the PPT and ask the trainees to discuss in groups. One group goes completely quiet as several trainees stare down at the table looking like they’ve just been given the death sentence. A few others pick up their phones again and pretend they’re looking at their emails. One even shamelessly starts taking a selfie. In another group, two of the participants are talking amongst themselves, whilst the others observe silently not daring to speak. As for another group, they’ve completely finished their discussion, in ten seconds flat, “Yes” is their answer.

The above example is the outcome of a process thats too open, combined with a difficult group of trainees. If you have a great group of trainees, sometimes you don’t even need to give them a discussion question, they’ll happily discuss something of relevance amongst themselves, and allow everyone to participate equally. Alas, unfortunately we do not always live in a dream world. And when you are faced with the above scenario, you need to restrict your process.

A restricted process will break down the activity into relevant steps. These are great for discussions with difficult groups. Here is an example:

  1. Write down answers individually
  2. Share answers with the person next to you
  3. Share answers with the rest of the group
  4. Appoint a scribe to write down the key points from your discussion
  5. Appoint a spokesperson to share the main points of discussion with the rest of the class
  6. Allow each group to share their key points one by one

Of course, you could restrict that process even more if you wanted. You could go through the whole process for one question, then repeat the process again for the next question. Or you could get one pair to focus on another question, and another pair to focus on another question. The more you restrict it, the less room for error and chaos there is. And this is a fantastic option for groups that are not participating as much as you would like them to. But if they are already a highly participative group, then open it up as much as is necessary to release
relevant learning points in an engaging way.

Another way of restricting the process is to use props. Throw a ball at relevant trainees to indicate it’s their time to talk. Give a box of matchsticks to each group and distribute an even number of matchsticks to each participant in the group. Every time they want to talk they have to take one of their matchsticks from the ‘not-yet-spoken’ pile and then move it to the ‘already-spoken’ pile. When they’re out of matchsticks, they shut up.

Use More Limbs

I once ran a brief experience sharing session with over 90 hotel managers to help me collect case studies for a course that I was designing for them. I had prepared a series of discussions that would draw out the case studies I needed, but by the time the third discussion came around, it was obvious that they’d had enough of discussing. So I applied a simple yet highly effective principle; use more limbs.

This particular discussion was to see if they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements. So instead of getting them to stay in their seats, on their round tables with ten to a group, I got them all to stand up and revealed the statements one by one. If they agreed, they were to move to the left side of the room, and the right side of the room if they disagreed. Suddenly they became much more involved, and shared some fascinating insights. They even started to interrupt each other and talk for much longer than I was hoping they would do. And everything they discussed was relevant to the learning objective.

It is such a simple principle to apply, yet it has a huge impact on levels of engagement. Instead of writing their answers in their books, get them to stand up and write their answers on flip-charts. Instead of getting them to answer all questions on that one flip chart, write down different questions on different flip charts located in various parts of the room. Instead of getting them to share examples of the challenges they have whilst sitting down in their chairs, get them to write the challenges on post-it notes and then match them to different categories of challenges again located in different parts of the room.

Summary

Learning only happens when we do. The more participatory your workshops are, the more participants will learn. So always make sure you get off to a good start, have plenty of backup options, and know exactly how to adapt to match the circumstances.

04 Aug 2015

You’ve just sat down to watch your finance manager Carol deliver her annual report. She cracks a joke about how there are some worried faces in the audience. You laugh and think that was funny. She shows a slide with her agenda for the day. Your mind takes in the slide whilst you can just about make out sounds coming from her mouth. She moves to the next slide and it’s a table with lots of numbers. You start to think about what you’re going to have for lunch. Just as you are picturing the shopping mall beneath your office and the restaurants you haven’t tried yet, your colleague nudges you to get your attention. You refocus on Carol and she’s now talking about…You’re not quite sure what she’s talking about. You go back to thinking about lunch. Suddenly your attention is caught by Carol as she says the words “Actually, I’ll tell you a funny story about why these numbers are so high…”. You listen to that story with interest. Then she goes back to the numbers and you start looking at your watch.

In fact, that person in the audience may not have been you, but it was definitely me. Some people are quite good at listening, but I am not. I am atrocious. I cannot force myself to listen to something boring. At University that was a big weakness of mine, but as a trainer it’s actually a strength. When I train, I always imagine everyone in the audience is just like me. They can’t force themselves to pay attention to something boring. This has forced me to fine tune everything I say to make sure it’s interesting. And over time I have developed a strong sense of what I call The Brain Filter.

It’s actually very simple. There are many different types of information and presentation methods. Some things go directly into our heads. Whereas other things go directly over our heads, or smack us in the face and then bounce back. Let me give you an example…

Did you know the iPhone 6 has an improved polariser? No, I bet you didn’t. In fact, I bet you don’t have a clue what a polariser is or what it’s used for. No, neither did I. However, if you look at the iPhone 6 page on Apple’s website, you’ll learn very quickly what it is.

It’s obviously something that has something to do with the sun and helps give you a clearer view when wearing your sunglasses. OK, maybe that doesn’t seem very clear, but it’s enough. As an average user you don’t need to know anymore than this. And as an average user, this gives you a clear picture of what it’s for. And this is exactly my first point. Let me explain this a bit.

Think about where you are right now. How do you know what’s around you? Right now, I know I’m sitting on a leather seat because it feels…Well…It feels like a leather seat. I know I’m drinking a Frappuccino because I can taste it. I know I’m in a cafe because I can see people around me, sitting down drinking coffee. I can hear music and people chatting, and I can smell the coffee. Thanks to my 5 senses I know exactly where I am. My 5 senses have processed all of this information to give me a clear understanding of my environment. And this is pretty much how we take in most of the information we’ll ever encounter, through our 5 senses.

So what Apple has done in that polariser example is translate it into sensory language. Apple has described things using the 5 senses so that we can easily picture it. And when we can picture something, we can understand it.

Let’s imagine you are trying to rent out your spare room. It’s 25 square meters. Great…Well, no, not great. What does 25 square meters mean? Try translating it into sensory language. It’s got a double bed, a desk, a wardrobe and enough floor space to do yoga! Perfect.

Sensory language will almost always be granted entry into the mind. Although it very much depends on that person’s understanding of the language you use. At the beginning of some of my communication skills trainings, I like to ask this question: What picture comes to your mind when I say “Red Flag?”. Some people think of the red flag on a beach at high tide. Others think of the red flag in their email inbox. Some people think of the Vietnamese flag. Some people think of danger. And I think of the Chinese flag.

Everyone understands words differently. For example, think of what comes to mind when I say the word “Dog”. When I think of “Dog”, I think of the Alsatian that lived up the top of my lane when I was a young child. I remember learning this word when I walked past it with my mother. She would point at it and say “Look at the dog!”. Over time I came to associate that animal and the sounds it made with the word “Dog”. Later on, I came to associate other animals with the word “Dog”, but that Alsatian always had the strongest association. Probably because it was through that Alsatian that I learnt the meaning of this word. When you think of “Dog” you might think of a labrador, or a poodle, or maybe even a wolf. It all depends on your experiences.

If your audience share a similar background or experience, then they are likely to interpret words similarly. If I say “Red Flag” to a Chinese audience, most of them will think of the Chinese Flag. If I say “Difficult Customer” to people who work in the same company, most of them will probably have the same customer in mind. If I say “Sport” to British people, most of them will think of football. And if I say “Football” to Americans, most of them will think of a sport that ironically does not involve the use of a foot!

Which brings me to my next point. Use analogies. Analogies are powerful learning tools. They use things the trainee knows very well, to describe something they don’t know at all. Imagine you are sitting on the sofa and your foot goes numb. You shuffle around, and your 3 year old daughter looks at you funny. You say to her “My foot’s gone numb!”. She says “What does numb mean?”. You use an analogy to explain it to her. “It’s when your foot goes to sleep and feels like there are lots of stars shooting at it”.

Analogies are things the audience can relate to. They already have the neural pathways formed to comprehend the analogy. The more of those existing neural pathways your message can connect to, the more you will be relating to the audience.

On the subject of relating to your audience, you also need to think about how you use your language. I deal with a lot mixed audiences, with varying levels of English. Obviously I am not going to talk to them like I do with my old friends from England. I need to downgrade my language a lot. The first thing I do is use short sentences. In fact, whilst I write this I am trying to keep each sentence to a word limit of around 20 words. When I exceed 20 words, there is a greater chance of including too much information for you to process. And so in training and presentations I keep my sentences short. I speak slow (but not so slow that they get annoyed). And I pause. I manage the amount of information I feed them so that they can easily digest it.

The second thing I do is tailor down the level of vocabulary I use. I could use lots of big adult words like Russell Brand does. But that would also confuse the audience. Why use words they are not likely to understand? Instead of “Major catastrophe” it may be more effective to say “Very big problem”. To be honest, this is not a problem I have as my English level has progressively declined. I blame living abroad for too long…

Anyway. I was talking about analogies. Analogies, combined with sensory information will guarantee your message makes an impact. But there are a few more things we can use as well. For example.

Last night, I let my pet parrot drink a sip of Red Bull…

Oh boy, I left you on a cliff hanger there! I bet you are dying to know what happened next? Did the parrot go crazy? Did it fly around the room in circles for 4 hours straight? Did it start repeating every single sound it heard? Did it suddenly become fully conversational in Swahili? Actually, I would never do that to my beloved Snuggles. But come to think of it, I wonder what would happen if I did do that?

I’m pretty sure you are thinking exactly the same thing as well. What would happen if you fed a parrot Red Bull? Now there are several reasons you are likely to think that. Firstly, that’s a lot of sensory data there. Pictures of Red Bull and parrots. You’ve also got vivid memories of parrots talking, flying, singing and doing crazy stuff, as well as your experience of drinking Red Bull. So it’s very easy for you to relate to. But you are also feeling very curious. What on Earth does happen when a parrot drinks Red Bull?

I’ve given you half of a picture, and the other half is a mystery. This mystery gives you a sense of curiosity. For some of you, the curiosity of wanting to know what happens when a parrot drinks red bull will drive you crazy. For most of you it will give you just a little itch that’s a bit hard to ignore. But this itch is enough to grab your attention and keep it. And it was this itch that drove the cavemen a bit crazy all those years ago…

What is that strange looking mushroom? I wonder if I can eat it? Hmm…

From the beginning of time humans have learnt to do experiments to satisfy curiosity. For some humans eating that mushroom caused an upset stomach. But for other humans, it raised their awareness of an alternative food source when the numbers of wooly mammoths were in decline. Christopher Columbus was driven by curiosity when he crossed the Atlantic Ocean. And Neil Armstrong was driven by curiosity when he travelled to the moon. To be fair I was also driven by curiosity when I was 4 years old and stapled my thumb. So curiosity is not always a good thing. But it is a trait that helps us discover and expand our potential as a species. Hence why we have it.

There are many ways of creating curiosity in our audience. One of the best is to tell them stories. There’s just something magical about stories. I notice that as soon as I say “So let me tell you a story”, heads shoot up. Stories generate a lot of curiosity. From start to end there is tension that gradually leads to resolution. Shelly sat down in her office. Suddenly the ground started shaking! She ran out of the office to find safety! Only to discover the shaking was from the construction work next door.

When combined with sensory data, a story upgrades your message from a simple sensory example, to a full out experience. Your audience are not just picturing your story, they are living it in their minds.?

There’s something else about stories as well. They tend to follow the same structure.?It generally goes around the theme of Problem > Solution > Outcome, although obviously there are countless variations. But because these structures are so familiar, stories are actually easy to remember. All you need to do is remember the context, then the existing structures in your mind will recall the rest.

Now going back to curiosity. What else do you think creates that itch?

Questions. Questions are extremely powerful. In fact, I would go so far as to call them mind control tools. Because that is what they do. When I asked you “What else do you think creates that itch?”, your mind probably started thinking about possible answers to that question. The simple use of a question sets your mind off on a journey of discovery. Sometimes it even does so without your permission!

Questions are especially powerful as learning tools, simply because they make your audience think. And the more your audience are thinking, the more likely they are to be learning. The best use of them is for creating new connections that didn’t exist before. Let me give you an example.

What must your audience do when you ask them questions? They must answer. To answer, what must they first do? They must think. How long does it take them to think? Anytime, probably up to 10 seconds. And during that time, what will you hear? Nothing, there will only be silence!

This is a string of questions I use in my training to help people deal with silence. Most inexperienced trainers and presenters’ natural reaction is to kill the silence by answering their question themselves, because they hate silence. But this string of questions helps them connect the fact that silence means the audience is thinking. Previously they hadn’t thought of silence as a good thing, only a bad thing. So this new connection helps them feel more comfortable with asking questions.

Another value of questions is that it puts the audience on the spot. They stop relaxing because they feel something is expected of them. That added pressure is enough for them to refocus their attention. Not only is it a form of information that goes straight into their minds, it’s also a tool for opening and activating their minds.

So to go back to the central idea of this post; our brain has a filter. Whenever you stand up and present, present only what will be granted entry into their minds. Completely remove anything that will not make its way in there. Only this way can you be delivering 100% value in everything you say. So let me just summarise with a list of the types of information I recommend you use:

  • Vivid (sensory) descriptions
  • Analogies
  • Simple language
  • Stories
  • Questions
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