Communication 101

There’s a popular book by John C Maxwell named Everyone Communicates, Few Connect. After reading it, and from my experience in the marketplace, nearly 15 years, I’m convinced that most people are not communicating well, although they think they are. In fact, I would break down all communication into three categories, which I will explain below. I believe that most people never truly make it beyond the first category. My belief is easily supported by the lack of harmony in the workplace, governments, and even in partnerships and marriages. Perhaps the hardest thing in life is to effectively communicate so that others not only understand what you are saying, but can logically and maybe even emotionally connect with what is said and take action. Let’s explore what I believe are the three levels of communication:

SAYING SOMETHING. This is the most basic level of communication. We all say things through speaking, writing, signing or some other form of communication. Unfortunately, much of what we say is not necessarily heard, read, or seen, and much less is fully understood by our intended recipients. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve asked a manager about some unfinished task or some other issue and was met with the reply, “I told him or her to do it…”. Therein lies the problem—just because something was said, does not mean that the message was understood well and acted upon. I believe most communication falls within this first category—things are said, memos are written, laws are signed, but they are not effectively communicated so that the recipient truly understands the message.

EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION. This level of communication occurs when a message is properly understood by the intended recipients and can be repeated back essentially verbatim to the person who originated the message. I rarely see this in relationships or companies anymore. We are so distracted by smart devices and screens in our cars, kitchens and even bathrooms that it is difficult to understand what is being communicated to us and even more difficult to understand the messages being conveyed. Moreover, often the message being communicated doesn’t effectively state why the intended recipient should pay attention to the message. Too often we ask people to do things without explaining exactly why it is important that they do it. Without a sense of importance, no message will be effectively communicated.

CONNECTION. This is the ideal in regards to communication. Connection goes beyond just speaking and effectively communicating, it creates an emotional response in the recipient that causes him or her to reflect on what is being said and possibly take action. Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Socrates, Winston Churchill, Ayn Rand, Ralph W. Emerson and even Karl Marx and Hitler went beyond speaking to and communicating with people, they all connected with and influenced people on a high level. The ultimate goal of any leader is to connect with people. I believe this is the reason leadership is so difficult. It’s very difficult to actually connect with people on a high level. It’s easy to “say something” or even have your message understood. Connection is hard.

When you are speaking, writing or engaging in any form of communication, it may be useful to ask yourself, “What level of communication am I engaging in?” It could very well be that you think you are connecting with an audience, when in reality you are merely speaking, and what is being said is just as easily being ignored. It’s difficult to connect, especially in our very distracted world but connection is the key to building real relationships and creating massive action. Connection is the ideal when communicating, although it is rarely achieved. My suggestion would be to work on effectively communicating so that your recipients actually understand what you are saying and why you are saying it. Too many words are wasted nowadays. Don’t let your words be wasted as well!

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Winning Friends, Influencing People

I am often asked what books or people influenced the most in my life. There are so many books, quotes, poems and stories that have changed my thinking and helped form me to become the person I am now. There are however only a few books that I return to almost every year when I feel that I need to review the lessons written on those pages. I just finished re-reading a classic by Dale Carnegie, a book that has been read by countless leaders and influencers over the past eight decades since it’s original publication. If you are looking for one of the most powerful and useful books ever written, read How to Win Friends and Influence People. The lessons are timeless and applicable no matter who you are. It is a textbook on how to communicate with others and influence others to your ways of thinking. At the end of each chapter is a recap about the lesson of that chapter. I have listed those principles below because I believe they may help others. For more in depth stories about how these principles have been used throughout history, you will have to read the book in its entirety. Enjoy… and take notes.

How to Influence Others
1. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Making People Like You
1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
2. Smile.
3. Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound.
4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interest.
6. Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.

Win Others to Your Way of Thinking
1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
2. Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.”
3. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
4. Begin in a friendly way.
5. Get the other person saying, “Yes, yes” immediately.
6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
7. Let the other person feel the idea is his or hers.
8. Try to honestly see things from the other person’s perspective.
9. By sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
10. Appeal to nobler motives.
11. Dramatize your ideas.
12. Throw down a challenge.

Be a Leader:
1. Change people without resentment
2. Begin with honest praise and appreciation.
3. Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.
4. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
5. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
6. Let the other person save face.
7. Praise the slightest improvement and every improvement.
8. Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
9. Use encouragement. Make the faults seem easy to correct.
10. Make the other person happy about doing what you suggest.

Why Sales Should Matter to You

Sales 101

Too many people have a negative connotation about the term sales. Some think that engaging in sales in unimportant or even dishonest. I would like to clear the air about what sales really is and why it matters to you. This may blow your mind, but every single person is engaged in selling. Everyone. Sales or selling is simply the ability to communicate the value of whatever you are doing. When you were interviewed for a job, you were selling your abilities. If you started a company, you had to sell prospects on the value of your ideas or products. If you are a parent, you must persuade or sell your children on the importance of doing things a certain way. Even if your job is cleaning, or something not directly associated with sales, you must still sell the idea that what you are doing is useful to your bosses and keep your performance of a high caliber if you want to retain your position. We are all salespeople.

Most of us think that only those involved in direct sales, like selling a product or service and overseeing the transaction of money, is sales. But the truth is that in the marketplace, we are all salespeople. Christopher Columbus was a great salesman because he persuaded the Queen of Spain to give him three ships so that he may find a faster route to the East by sailing West. He didn’t offer any guarantees, but his expedition turned out to be more profitable for the Spain than he or the Queen ever imagined. It’s very important to remember that persuasion is sales. Nothing sells itself. One must be persuaded to buy something, or join something, or hire someone. That is why I believe sales is the most underestimated skill that one can have.

Of course, there are good and bad salespeople. If you’re not where you want to be, it’s because you haven’t sold enough people, or the right people, on the value of what you bring to the marketplace. You can be bad at sales through lack of communication, lack of confidence and lack of empathy for the other party. You can also be a bad salesperson by being an outright liar, but that relates back partially to not having empathy. Take note: the three keys to being a successful salesperson are 1. Having incredible confidence in yourself and your product. 2. The ability to communicate value so that others are persuaded into agreeing with you. 3. Having empathy for the other party so that you can properly meet their needs. The last key is the most important because it ensures that you are meeting the customers needs in a way that benefits both parties. This will lead to many more sales and clients coming your way. Having all three is what leads to becoming a great salesperson. The best part is that all of these skills can be learned. No one is born a salesperson. They must develop the skills to persuade.

As the marketplace changes and more jobs and workplaces are becoming automated, sales will be the one skill set that will continue to be needed by all companies. As I mentioned earlier, nothing sells itself. So the people that are able to meet client needs by communicating the value of a product or service will always be in demand. I’m always looking for incredible sales people. I love people who have so much confidence in themselves and the product that they believe not selling someone on the product is actually a disservice to that person because nothing else will meet their needs as well! I hope that this cleared up the air on sales. You are in sales. I am in sales. The kid who convinces his parents to let him eat candy is in sales. Everyone is in sales! Now go out and show others how you can meet their needs the best.

In health,

Sean