Frameworks, Systems, Adjustments

It’s tempting to look for a system, something that can be run, tested, and optimised.

Social media strategies, sales conversations, lead generation, standard operating procedures for creating and publishing content…

Most anything can be turned into a system.

And the promise that ‘system’ holds is very alluring, which is why there are so many gurus out there hawking plug-and-play systems for business. From doing keyword research to updating websites to setting appointments with potential clients, someone, somewhere out there, has a box for sale that is supposed to do it for you.

And some of those systems are really good – I studied many systems and approaches, and I learn a lot.

But if you buy a system without understanding the underlying framework, you are extremely likely to end up in the category of buyers who say ‘it’s good but it didn’t work for me’.

See, no system is applicable as-is, in all possible contexts and situations.

In the majority of cases, you’ll want to make small, strategic adjustments.

Modify wording, or frequency… do your hashtag research differently or use a slightly different layout for your ebook…

There’s many different decisions to make when implementing a system, and it’s important to get them right.

That’s why, when I created the LEAP framework for ethical selling, I deliberately called it a framework, and not a system. I’ll write systematic approaches for different parts of the sales process in the future, but the most important thing is that you get your head around ethical selling, the right way.

In other words, learn the framework – which, conveniently and for free, you can do here…



Asset Leverage: What You Could Build With What You Have

“Excuse me, are you a writer?”

A gent who has breakfast with his wife daily, at the same terrace where I sit to drink coffee and journal my head to clarity each morning.

I tell him that yes – except I don’t write novels, but ebooks and articles and so on. Functional, business-related writing.

We chat for a bit, and he tells me about his son, who spends hours each week, writing articles for his stormchaser website. “Have a look, it’s very popular”.

I click around a bit, and check his Twitter feed: 49.000 followers. Facebook: 25K followers. Nothing to sneeze at – popular indeed!

But when I ask if the son does this for a living or a hobby, he tells me that no, it’s just a hobby. “There’s no money in that”.

Wait, what? 75.000 social media followers means traffic to the website. It means popularity, engagement, platform, and it means there will be a small, but very engaged nucleus of followers, some of whom would be willing to pay money, if the offer is right.

For example: the site comes with a forum. What could be simpler than inviting followers and readers to subscribe to a private, paid-members-only section, with exclusive content and perks?

If the son puts it at $20 a month, it’s low enough for people to afford it, and he only needs 50 members to make $1000 a month – which isn’t a money-flood, but it’s a nice start and not that hard to attain.

Followers, or platform, are an asset – and any asset can be leveraged for impact, growth, and yes: revenue.

Question is: are you aware of the potential your assets hold?

And: If you were to pick one underused asset and you’d light a fire under that, put a turbo on it: which one would it be?

What would you do to leverage it?



IF Drift, THEN Draw (Productivity Hack)

I can’t be sure if this will work for you, but in my day it’s proving a great way to get past procrastination. (Note that I said ‘get past’, instead of ‘beat’ or ‘combat’ procrastination – the less energy you feed the thing, the better. That’s why using this ‘hack’ means you’ll be bypassing procrastination, instead of making it into an issue).

The story so far: recently I noticed that I had started procrastinating more than usual.

Normally, that would cause me to review and adjust my systems and processes, apply a little grit, go for a walk, come home and apply more grit, and that typically gets me into gear again.

Not this time though: more and more often, I started to notice a tendency to procrastinate.

So I flipped things around. If opening Twitter or a news site used to be a signal that I’m ‘doing it again’ and using it as a trigger to grit up and apply some discipline, I started using it as a trigger to do the opposite: step back from work.

Been experimenting with it for a week, and what really works for me, is to go draw a bit. Not art, but more mind-mapping combined with visual thinking.

In other words: when I notice I’m ‘drifting’ away, the solution is to draw. Like a micro computer programme: IF drift, THEN draw.

Wonderful. So effective. So refreshing.

Ten minutes doodling stick figures, boxes and arrows, and I have a clear head, a nicely fired-up creative engine, and a friendly, non-disciplinary zest for getting some work done.

While I can recommend doodling and visual thinking, it might not be your thing – maybe you prefer reading, or calling a friend, or writing some fiction or gardening or looking up a nice recipe for dinner tonight.

Whatever your thing is, maybe a short playful session of calm and/or creativity is the thing that gets you to procrastinate less. Sure works for me.



If they say no to your offer, they didn’t reject you – they just didn’t want what you have.

If someone opposes your plans or views, they think they’re right, and that doesn’t automatically mean they think you’re wrong – but if you make the assumption that they do think you’re wrong, and you respond defensively or you argue, things won’t improve.

When someone you trust tries to convince you of something you need to do or change and you resist or protest, you’re making your own views dominant to the less biased, outside-the-fishbowl view they have of your situation. That’s your prerogative, but they just might be able to see things that you can’t.

Three examples where you could be forgiven for being human – but also, three examples where you’d be making it about you – and that never helps. It just doesn’t.

What could you change in your offer or messaging, that would make the buyer want your thing?

What would happen if instead of arguing your point, you ask yourself what in your plans or views could be perceived as a threat to well-being, for that other person’s subconscious?

What if, instead of rejecting the advice, you ask ‘Tell me more?’

What would happen if you’d make it a rule to always switch from ‘about me’ to ‘about them’?



Trust, Trust, Fibs and Sales

Hi, we’re from the electricity company – we’d like to ask a few questions to see if you could maybe save on your monthly bill”.

Two kids – boy and girl, about 22 years old. And I knew they weren’t from ‘the electricity company’ (Endesa, in Spain), but from one of the many competing ‘open market’ providers.

“Endesa”, I asked?

“Um… yes”, stay stuttered.

I tried to smile, but probably failed. Trying to be nice though:

“Guys, I know you’re not from Endesa. You’re with the competition, and you want people to switch providers”.

Gobsmacked, they stared at me.

“I know what your job is – in fact I teach people how to sell, but real selling is about ethics, you know?

“Knocking on people’s door is one thing, but telling lies? C’mon, is that the job you want?”

I know, I was being pedantic – high moral ground and so on. But I don’t like being lied to, and if a couple of kids knock on my door and try to BS me? Then I guess they’ve just sold me the
privilege of throwing a little lecture at them.

Now, if you read my articles, I doubt you’re the kind of person who would tell a blatant lie to a buyer.

It’s not the kind of thing people like us do.

But what about fibs and little white lies?

It’s easy to say something like “I was just in the neighbourhood so I thought I’d drop in”, but people know that it’s not true, and that means you instantly reduce the amount of trust they have in you. Even if it’s a seemingly innocent fib.

And the fact of the matter is: people need to trust you in order to buy from. Especially these days, with all the hucksters and liars out there.

It might be scary to be completely honest in all cases, but it increases trust – fast! – and makes selling a lot easier.

Fib, and you’ll be seen as ‘one of them’.

Be truthful, and you’ll be seen as respectable and reliable, and guess which kind of people most like to buy from?



Confidence vs Neediness

It makes no difference if I ask for sandpaper, or a screwdriver or a tube of instant glue: she never gets it ‘right’.

A hardware store down the street from me, and the lady who works there always comes back out of the storage area with something different than what I asked for.

Like that scene in the Muppet Show, where Simon Soundman asks for a trumpet by making the sound of a trumpet – and the shopkeeper comes out the back room with a violin? That’s pretty much it.

The first few times I didn’t mind, and explained what I actually needed.

Then I started getting a little annoyed, and over time, kinda cross: “Why doesn’t she just listen? I barely get to finish my sentence, and she’s already off inbetween the racks, looking for something different than what I’m trying to ask for. How annoying!”

But the other day – when I asked for snap-off blades, and she pointed me at a range of kitchen knives ,I realised something: it’s not that she doesn’t listen…

What happens is that she’s simply very keen to be helpful, and probably wants to be perceived as smart as well (a pretty common combo of attitudes).

Put differently (and harshly, I admit): people-pleasing + approval-seeking.

Lesson #1 is that knowing this, there’s no point in being annoyed. That feeling just came from my own judgment and opinion, and I can change that.

The second lesson is more useful to you, and it’s about sales:

Being helpful is good, but if you get too close to people-pleasing, you’ll be perceived as desperate and that breaks trust.

Combine that with an attempt to be liked and approved of, and you have the perfect reason for a new client to back out, right at the moment that they’re getting on board with buying from you.

Help if they ask for your help, and before that: give them space to tell you what they need and want. Don’t be overly eager to offer your help, it sends the wrong message.

As for the approval part of it: who cares about approval?

You’ll get far more mileage from respect – for you, your status, expertise, authority in your field and so on.

And how do you get respect?

Show the confidence to not act needy, and you’ll be well on your way.



When Grit Becomes a Problem (Also: Regular service resumes today)

Long-time readers know that it’s uncommon for me to not send my daily emails. I’ve been writing these daily articles for some 5 years now, and I’ve only skipped a few handfuls of times.

And yet, for over a week I published nothing. (Sorry about that: regular service resumes today).

And it’s not so much that I needed a break, but rather: I needed a review and redesign.

As a creative, and ex-monk, and a business owner, I love systems. Habits, routines… any chance I see to create a ritual or system, I jump at it.

That way, I reduce the amount of energy I need to spend thinking and deciding, and I get to spend my mental energy on doing things that make a difference – either in my business or in that of my clients.

So far so good. Long-time readers also know that one of my favourite axioms is ‘Every skill or talent can be an Achilles’ heel’.

And that’s why I took a break from writing.

Because one of my skills is being gritty: I know how to push on, persist, give it another go. I’m good at that.

Obviously a great ability to have… except, until you end up applying grit to something that’s suffered too much entropy – which is what had happened to my habits and systems, routines and rituals.

See, everything degrades, everything is subject to entropy, and habits and routines are no exception.

And when you find yourself trying to work harder and harder, but you’re not seeing improvement, maybe the solution isn’t in ‘more grit’ but in ‘Stop everything. Take stock. Redesign’.

And that’s what I did over the last week (yep, been super-useful! :)

I’ve decided on different habits, a new outline for my days, a different system for managing my client relationships… and it feels awesome. I’m back.

Some things need to be done more, harder, for longer hours.

Other things need to be done differently, because doing the ‘wrong’ thing won’t ever get you the right outcome, no matter how hard you try or how gritty you are.

Knowing when to push on or when to take your foot off the throttle is a valuable skill.

And any time you’ve been cracking away at something and you end up wondering ‘why isn’t it working?’, maybe it’s time to stop a while, take stock, and ask yourself if doing things differently might be a good idea.

Working hard is good, but don’t let it become a way to avoid looking at what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.



Freedom (And Perceived Threats)

One moment you’re talking to a potential client who seems really on board, ready to work with you…

And the next, they seem to have disconnected, tuned out, run into a problem.

Gone is the ‘same page’ feeling, evaporated is the harmony and resonance, and you wonder what went wrong. Weren’t they getting ready to buy? What happened!?

In many cases, it’s because you’ve triggered what psychologists call reactance: a natural reaction to the feeling that our freedom is being limited or threatened.

But why? How? Surely you want what’s best for them, and you’re definitely not being pushy, so what are they reacting to… something you said?

Maybe yes, maybe no.

Point is, what you did or said isn’t nearly as important as what is going on in their world.

And what’s going on is that somewhere on the evolutionary level of their psyche, a warning sign lit up.

Somehow, for some reason, their lizard brain senses a threat: “I’m being pushed” and while that might be entirely not what you’re trying to do, their subconscious thinks differently.

When that happens, step back.

Ask questions.

And, very importantly: be quiet. Give people space to think.

Lots of sales conversations break down simply because the seller talks too much, preventing the buyer from sorting through their thoughts (which, in itself, is a way of limiting freedom).

And ask yourself: in what way could they have perceived me or my words in a way that threatens their freedom to choose, their agency and autonomy?



Empathy and Epiphany: “That’s Right!”

When selling something, there’s three kinds of people:

Those who fear hearing ‘no’, and get upset or frustrated.

Then there’s those who know that hearing ‘yes’ follows hearing ‘no’ a whole bunch of times.

And then there’s those who actively seek out a no, because – as the late Jim Camp taught – ‘no’ is when the negotiation starts.

But when you hear a no… what’s next?

What’s the best reply when a prospect tells you no?

According to Chris Voss, your best move is to say something that gets a ‘that’s right!’ out of your buyer.

Not ‘you’re right’, because that message basically says ‘whatever, stop talking’, but ‘that’s right!’

What happens when someone reacts that way, is that their brain registers your empathy, which instead of breaking down the negotiation, strengthens rapport and connection, enabling you to continue the conversation in a way that’s non-threatening for them.

At the same time, there’s a kind of epiphany happening: they realise that you get them, see them, hear them.

As opposed to the (stupid, arrogant and old-fashioned) tactics of trying to persuade the other person.

So what do you say exactly, how do you get a ‘that’s right!’ out of a buyer?

It’s so simple:

“Ok, so what you’re saying is that this isn’t right for you, because [insert the reason they just gave you]”.

And that’s it, that’s all there is to it.

A simple statement, and bam: you’re on the same page, ready to keep talking.

For a deeper look into ethical selling and the importance of no, have a look at the training webinar I recorded last month:

And if you want my personal help in upping your sales game, just let me know…



Did You Design It?

I’m a complete sucker for good design.

Whether it’s a car, coat, pen, keyboard or the kerning (letter-spacing) in a book: when something’s been designed well, it’s a joy to see or use.

The flipside of loving design, is that it’s almost painful when something’s designed badly.

That kitchen gadget that slips out of your hands when they’re wet, a black website with white text, or the way Mailchimp has designed its user interface:

Bad design is unpleasant and frustrating, and can easily lead to lost time.

So then why do we so often omit to design our work?

Procedures, routines, or even simply the way we plan our day: don’t things get better when they’re designed well, with intention, and with usability in mind?

Of course they do.

So if you ever find that your days are too short, or your work doesn’t progress the way you want it to, or you have trouble staying on task, maybe ask yourself:

Are you spending enough time each day, to organise, plan, and *design* your day?

If you’re not satisfied with the results of any given day… did you design the day beforehand?



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