The Art of Persuasion

Book Cover, The Art Of PersuasionNo one had to persuade me to read this book. I’ve been a fan of Bob Burg’s since I met him at the West Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce about 14 years ago. I’d just moved there and he was one of the first contacts I made. Good fortune, I know!

Bob is the consummate storyteller and he makes good use of that ability in sharing anecdotes to illustrate his points. You want to know how to deal with difficult people? Early in the book, he gives one of my favorite techniques for winning over someone who you may initially feel is an adversary. He calls it “Handing Over Power,” in which you disarm someone by agreeing with his point, and then asking him to help you. Then you employ the key words, “if you can’t do it, I’ll definitely understand.” I have remembered Bob’s advice and used that phrase to great benefit on numerous occasions.

You want to know how to best phrase questions to get solutions that work for you? Chapter 4 is titled “The Art of Making People Feel Important,” something we talk about at Zen Rabbit all the time. Bob includes several examples here of how to negotiate, decline a ridiculous offer, ask for help and respectfully disagree. His recommendations allow everyone involved to retain dignity and find a workable solution.

Long-Term Persuasion Through Personalized, Handwritten Thank You Notes is one of the subtitles of this chapter. He applauds this tactic as a simple, powerful secret to long-term success and makes it clear he’s talking actual written on paper, sent through the mail notes, not emails. Hmmm, I may have heard this advice somewhere before. Sounds like all the successful kids are in agreement on this idea!

You want to know how to set yourself apart from all your rude fellow citizens? This book is chock full of ideas and examples, including letters and conversational responses you could swipe and deploy. Study what Bob teaches and you’ll be well-positioned in business as well as other areas of your life.

More Gratitude Please (apparently this is the month for it)

With Thanksgiving in the U.S. coming up in a few weeks, everyone’s talking about gratitude this month. Welcome to the conversation Zen Rabbit’s been having all year. Ha Ha! I am reminded of a discussion I had with mentor Paul Martinelli several years ago. I was starting Zen Rabbit and while my business was all about saying thank you to customers, Paul didn’t think I was feeling enough gratitude myself. Kind of ironic, right? He suggested I read Chapter VII on Gratitude in Wallace D. Wattle’s classic 1910 book “The Science of Getting Rich” every day, morning and evening, for 30 days.

It’s not a long chapter, three pages in the printed version of the book I have. Here are a few choice lines:

“Many people who order their lives rightly in all other ways are kept in poverty by their lack of gratitude.”

“You cannot exercise much power without gratitude; for it is gratitude that keeps you connected to Power.”

“But the value of gratitude does not consist solely in getting you more blessings in the future. Without gratitude you cannot long keep from dissatisfied thought regarding things as they are.”

“Faith is born of gratitude. The grateful mind continually expects good things, and expectation becomes faith.”

In reading over it again now to write this article, I’m wondering if it wouldn’t be beneficial to repeat that twice a day exercise again this month. Hmmm. Who wants to join me in this endeavor?

I also saw a link on Facebook today, via my friends Sherri Sokolowski and Debbie Phillips, to Carrie Saba’s blog post where she also proposes a gratitude challenge. I don’t know Carrie however I’m now grateful for finding her article. She’s sharing several fantastic ideas for focusing on gratitude, one of which is finding a gratitude buddy and emailing each other what you’re grateful for every day. Having trouble coming up with anything? She’s got some gratitude themes you can use as kindling.

Her post also brings to mind the project I mentioned back in 2010  after reading John Kralik’s book “365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life,” whereby I wrote one thank you note a day to someone who has impacted my life and done something for which I am thankful.

So here’s to improved efforts on recognizing all that you have to be grateful for. It starts with acknowledging privately to yourself and moves to outward expressions through thank you notes and gifts shared with those for whom you are thankful.

PS: If you’ve not read “The Science of Getting Rich,” I highly recommend you do. It’s in the public domain now, which means you can find it for free. An ebook version is available here . The Kindle version is only $.99 or you can find an inexpensive printed copy.

Thank You Chet Holmes

One of my marketing world colleagues posted the news this morning on Facebook that marketing, sales and business teacher Chet Holmes had passed away from leukemia. Although he was still relatively young, Chet accomplished and shared so much in his years. Even if you never met him but heard him speak or read his book “The Ultimate Sales Machine,” you benefited.

My first thought upon hearing of his death was of the great story he told about his desire and drive to partner with Jay Abraham. Using what he referred to as “pigheaded determination,” Chet called or sent Jay a letter every other week for two years! Jay would continually turn him down and turn him down and turn him down. Chet was not deterred. After two years, Jay finally agreed to have lunch with Chet and that meeting eventually turned into more than $15 million. Talk about persistence. THAT is what builds a successful business.

The Ultimate Sales MachineIf you’ve not yet read “The Ultimate Sales Machine,” I highly recommend it. In fact, I am going to pick up my copy once again and see what new ideas I can pull and implement. As I write this post, I am inspired to create a revised Dream 100 effort (or maybe start with a Dream 25) and actually implement it this time. What is a Dream 100 effort you ask? It is “a program for targeting your 100 dream clients constantly and relentlessly until they buy… The goal is to take your ideal buyers from “I’ve never heard of this company” all the way through to “yes I do business with that company.”

Seems so easy and brilliant, yet I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who has and follows such a plan. It’s all about persistence and that pigheaded discipline. Add in some creative outreach – the part I really love – and you can be golden. (Let me know if you need help with the creativity, I’d love to strategize with you.)

The book if chock full of valuable and potentially profitable information, presented in an easily digestible format. If you don’t have a copy, seriously, go get one today and read it (with highlighter in hand) before the end of summer. If you implement one strategy in the next 30 days, I guarantee your business will be in a far different place by the holidays.

Speaking of digestible, now I’m also remembering an interview Bill Glazer did with Chet in which Chet analyzed the customer service experience in a restaurant he frequented near his home. He had a gift for breaking down all kinds of situations into opportunities to learn.

Chet closes the acknowledgments section of “The Ultimate Sales Machine” with a quote from Stephen M. Ryder, which seems most appropriate here. “Wherever you are, if you think of me and smile – at that very moment – wherever I am, I’ll be smiling too.”

Good Grammar vs. Personality in Your Writing

I read an article last week on titled “I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why.” While many of my clients, colleagues and friends took offense and justified their feelings by saying grammar isn’t that important anymore, I applaud the author. Grammar mistakes do make you look stupid.
Yes, writing and speech has become more casual and that’s not a bad thing. But poor speech is.

Here’s why it’s important. When you want to improve client retention or say thank you to your loyal customers, you need to use tools that build strong relationships with them. Some of those tools may be newsletters, blogs and thank you notes. It’s important to use good grammar in your writing so that your audience takes you seriously and sees you as a credible source. My financial adviser, real estate agent or attorney doesn’t need to be a legendary novelist, but I do want to work with someone who knows how to properly use language. I’m not so trusting of the one who ain’t got no need to be real good at words ‘n sh*t.

That said, I also believe there’s room for incorporating your personality. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive. Writing how you speak, infusing your personal style into your communications, is one fantastic means of differentiating yourself from others in your field. Writing with personality makes you more interesting and helps build stronger relationships with your audiences.

There is a difference between using regional colloquialisms that are ingrained and define who you are vs. flat out poor grammar such as “I got some ice cream for her and I.”

Maybe you weren’t as “lucky” as I was to have parents and grandparents who consistently corrected your speech from the time you started talking. Perhaps Ms. Huertas didn’t teach English at your high school and you weren’t forced to learn “The 10 Offenders.” (#1-Do not end your sentences with a preposition.)

If that was the case, there are great resources you can use to educate yourself. Lynne Truss’s book “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” is a good start, as is Strunk & White’s classic “The Elements of Style.” Definitely do not turn to today’s radio and television broadcasters, save for anomaly Brian Williams.

For those of you reading this post and making note that I’ve started a sentence with the word and or but, let me say this, “you have to know the rules to break the rules.”

A Year of Thank Yous

I recently saw a review of the book “365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life.” Author John Kralik was just about at rock bottom in his life – his law firm was failing, he was in the midst of a divorce, was overweight, lived in a crappy apartment, was out of contact with his kids, and so on. And during a New Year’s Day walk, he decided that maybe he could find a way to be grateful for what he had.

Sure, we’ve all heard about keeping a Gratitude Journal, and that’s all fine and good. But John took it a step further and, inspired by a thank you note he had received, determined to hand write 365 thank-you notes in the coming year. He shared his gratitude for kindness shown by family, friends, colleagues, store clerks, neighbors, etc. Miraculously, he became the beneficiary of all kinds of fortune, which is really not all that surprising if you understand karma.

SO even though I haven’t yet read the book, I decided to take up the challenge of doing the same thing. The timing is of course perfect because we’re just at the start of a new year. I actually think I’m going to have MORE than 365 people to write to, although at the moment the list is only running in my head and I haven’t any idea how many are on it. I’m wondering how I might reach people I’d like to thank but for whom I have no address. Guess I’ll figure that out somehow.

I posted this goal on Facebook and got some logistics questions. Making up my own rules here, these thank yous will be handwritten and mailed or hand delivered, as appropriate. They will not be posted on any social media site, as I don’t intend for them to be public declarations. The thank you notes I write to first time Zen Rabbit clients don’t count as part of the 365.

I’m excited to get started. I’ve been thinking about who I will choose to kick it all off and I think I know, but I’ve got another day of contemplation before I have to actually write. So many possibilities! Which only serves to emphasize how blessed I am to have such a pool of people from which to pick.

A few friends indicated that they too are up for the task. How about you? Get your fine stationery, the writing implement of your favor and start thanking!

Good Idea to Pay for a Good Deed?

The concept first showed up to me in Dan Ariely’s book “Predictably Irrational.” I just finished “Drive” by Dan Pink and he talks about it too. So it’s high time I mention it here.

Paying people for doing nice things for you is not only ineffective, it’s insulting. Think about how you might feel if you did a favor for someone and he turned around and said, “hey buddy, thanks a lot. Here’s 25 bucks.” Or a friend shows up to your dinner party and instead of presenting you with a nice bottle of wine or a yummy dessert, she hands you some cash. You’d think, wow, that’s kind of weird.

There are two sets of norms in our society – social norms and market norms. Social norms are the domain of friendly requests, good deeds and warm and fuzzy. Market norms are about monetary exchanges in transactions such as wages, prices, rents, etc. Life is good when you understand the difference and keep them separate.

Things get a little hairy though when you start mixing the two. And that’s what happens in business when you pay people for giving you referrals. Essentially, when you pay a commission to someone who is not an employee for giving you a referral, you’re making a financial transaction.

Many times people make referrals because they want to be helpful. They’re not necessarily looking for anything in return. It’s a social exchange. And in social exchanges, gifts are the most acceptable type of “reward.”

Not only are small gifts more the accepted norm, giving them instead of money actually increases the likelihood that they will continue to share information with you. Studies have shown people will work more for a cause (or something they believe is worthy) than for cash. Both Ariely’s and Pink’s books address the reasoning behind this in more depth and I recommend reading them. But suffice it to know that if you want more referral business, saying thank you with a small gift or gesture is more effective than offering legal tender. Yes, even in “this economy.”

Can Anything Make You Happy?

Ever since reading “Delivering Happiness” a few weeks ago, I’ve been pondering the whole concept of happiness. With all due respect to Sheryl Crow, many people will say something or someone “makes” them happy. But if you believe your thoughts create your reality and you are responsible for your own life creations, then nothing can “make” you happy or unhappy. It’s all in your perception.

I was in the Washington, DC area last week, where I was incredibly happy. In the past, I might have thought or said that being there makes me happy. However, the change in perspective now leads me to say being there CONTRIBUTES to my happiness. Sure, it’s semantics, but choosing the right phrasing is important in conveying what you mean. As Mark Twain said, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter – it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

Changing this phrasing can change the whole way you see people, places and events in your life. It’s like a new benchmark of evaluation. Try it out. Think of a person and say to yourself, he or she contributes to my happiness. Does it ring true or not? If not, you may want to see how you can reduce time spent with or around that person. Do it with the place you live, the people you work with, the activities you participate in every week. Finding anything interesting? For me, it’s about to change everything.

See my review of the book “Delivering Happiness” by clicking HERE.

Giving Back Through Literacy & Reading to Kids

Where The Wild Things Are

As entrepreneurs and business people – or really, as humans – it’s important to give back to our communities. Some people choose to donate money to good causes, which is greatly needed. Others may decide to give in a more hands on way. When I started Zen Rabbit, I dropped the volunteer activities I had been involved in to devote all my time and energy to the business. The plan was to donate a portion of profits to a few causes, so I would still be giving back. Now six years later, I decided to go back to some actual hands-on service.

I’ve always loved reading and have long been involved with literacy organizations. Can you IMAGINE not being able to read? How does one even function in our society without this crucial skill? If you’ve always associated with people who are readers, you may find it hard to believe…

  • One child in four grows up not knowing how to read (National Assessment of Adult Literacy)
  • More than 20 percent of adults read at or below a fifth-grade level – far below the level needed to earn a living wage. (National Institute for Literacy)
  • 44 million adults in the U.S. can’t read well enough to read a simple story to a child. (National Adult Literacy Survey (1992) NCED, U.S. Department of Education)
  • 21 million Americans can’t read at all, 45 million are marginally illiterate and one-fifth of high school graduates can’t read their diplomas. (Department of Justice)
  • Nearly half of America’s adults are poor readers, or “functionally illiterate.” They can’t carry out simply tasks like balancing a checkbook, reading drug labels or writing essays for a job. (National Adult Literacy Survey)

So when I decided to get involved again, it was just a matter of finding an organization that was a good fit with my time and energy. Earlier in the year, I had started conversation on Twitter with Rich Greif, Executive Director of Everybody Wins! – a national organization that provides reading enrichment programs for young children through schools. But Everybody Wins! doesn’t have a program in my area yet.

Then I went to a tweet-up (where people on Twitter meet and network in person) and met children’s librarian Jeanne Taylor. She told me about the Let’s Read program run by the West Palm Beach Public Library. Volunteers go into classrooms around the downtown area and read to the kindergarten, first and second grade kids for 30 minutes once a week.

The new semester was starting right away and I got one of the last classrooms still available. I absolutely LOVE the first graders I share stories with every week. They are extremely appreciative of story time, as is their teacher. Can I tell you how touched I was to get a round of applause after reading “Where the Wild Things Are” last week?

A typical middle class child enters first grade with approximately 1,000 hours of being read to, while the corresponding child from a low-income family averages just 25 of those hours, such differences in the availability of book resources may have unintended and pernicious consequences for low-income children’ long term success in schooling. M. Adams, Beginning to read. (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1990).

The thing is, when you’re completely involved in the joy of doing for someone else’s benefit, you’re not thinking about where the money is coming from to pay your credit card this month. You’re immersed in the moment, living in the now, right where all the experts tell us our power is.

So during this month of gratitude, think about taking the focus off yourself and your business and putting attention to someone who needs your support.

Leading a Tribe

Seth Godin's book TribesSeth Godin is looking for leaders. In his latest book, “Tribes,” Seth claims there’s a “vast shortage of leaders” at a time when it’s never been easier for people who want to make a difference to do so. To become a tribe leader, “all you need to do is motivate people who choose to follow you.”

Cool. So I’m seeing massive opportunity in front of me and for you too. What are you passionate about? Find others who are passionate about the same thing and lead them in creating change, in making a difference in the world. It’s human nature to want to belong, to fit in. And right now, with the Internet and social media, it’s easier than ever to find others who will join you in whatever quest you’re on.

Personally, I’m building a tribe to change how people relate to each other in business and personal life. I’m building a tribe that understands the importance of sharing gratitude, of appreciation marketing, of recognizing the contributions of others to their success. Not everyone will want to be in my tribe, nor is everyone is even qualified to join. But for those who do and who are, we will impact the lives of millions by creating stronger relationships and helping others feel valued.

What tribe are you leading?

Who’s Got Your Back

Just spent 3 days in a cave. Okay, not really a cave, but in my Sacred Circle Mastermind. Fourteen business owners meet with our coach and mentor Fabienne Fredrickson three times a year. When we’re all together, there’s not a lot of contact with the outside world. The easy explanation for what we do there is that it’s three days working on strategic aspects of our businesses. It’s actually much more. We are a group of entrepreneurs that is playing really big, taking action and stepping up our game.

It’s called the Sacred Circle because what happens in this space, among these people is magical. We’ve created deep and trusting relationships with each other in a way that isn’t at all that common in the “real world.” Inside our circle, we can be vulnerable and open. We talk about where we’re stuck, or what’s scaring the crap out of us. We see in each other the huge potential that we don’t see in ourselves. We call each other out on the stuff that’s holding us back and getting in the way of our success. What’s shared in these meetings stays within the Circle.

One thing I can share with you from this meeting is that Keith Ferrazzi’s new book, “Who’s Got Your Back” came up in discussion because it’s about relationships just like what we’ve created in our Sacred Circle. Keith says “the real path to success in your career and in your personal life is through creating an inner circle of “lifeline relationships” – deep, close relationships with a few key trusted individuals who will offer the encouragement, feedback, and generous mutual support that every one of us needs to reach our full potential.”

So I leave Stamford, Connecticut this weekend tired and energized at the same time; grateful that I have this trusted family; knowing that just like anyone else who’s ever achieved greatness, I’ve got an amazing team on this journey with me.