Are You Trying to Push a Rope?

Further to yesterday’s article about prioritising growth-driving activities in your business…

What if you try with all your might, and results just won’t show up?

Instagram, Facebook, outreach, proposals, trade shows, networking… you know you’re doing the right things, and things should be working and improvements (or at least: promise of results) ought to manifest, and yet… it’s like you’re treading water?

As if you’re trying to push a rope… which everyone knows is pointless.

When things aren’t working, it’s easy to get disheartened and conclude that it just isn’t going to get better.

And when you reach that point, it’s easy to stop trying, give up on your efforts, and go back to the day-to-day activities that give a false sense of achievement. It’s happened to me, and you’ve probably had it happen as well.

But what if you step back for a moment, and look at your activities (the ones that aren’t getting you the results you want), and analyse the results that you do get?

There’s nothing you can do that does not have some sort of effect.

But because we expect Activity A to brings us Result B and that result isn’t showing up, we nearly always ignore the small results that are.

And yeah, those probably don’t bring clients through the door… yet.

But they are an indicator of what could happen if you intentionally try to amplify those small, easily overlooked, results.

That holds much more promise than pushing on, trying to push a rope – or, by contrast, cancelling your efforts, throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

There are times when you need to take stock, and radically reinvent and replace your strategy.

But those moments are rare, and in most cases, all you need is a clear hard look at how results measure up to effort, and make subtle, strategic adjustments to your strategy and/or approach.

There’s a difference between doing the right thing, and doing the right thing correctly.

Small changes and strategic shifts can have a big effect on your outcomes, but dropping your growth-driving activities will likely cancel all the positive outcomes you’re working towards.

When you’re trying to push a rope, you can either stop pushing, or you can replace the rope with something more rigid and movable. Or roll up the rope – you get the idea.

Look, analyse, modify: iterate and optimise.

You got this.

Cheers,

Martin

How to Reduce Overwhelm, Get More Done, and Move the Needle on Your Business

Being human tends to be a spectacularly inefficient affair.

The mind cranks away on thoughts that we’ve thought before, or on things that we fear but will never happen, or it’ll just happily churn away on things that are completely inconsequential for our well-being, relationships, growth, and indeed: sales.

Meanwhile, our activities consist of a wildly diverse set, most of which do absolutely zero to advance our personal evolution: from mindlessly scrolling through a Facebook feed, to talking with people who gain nothing from it and neither do you, to organising or cleaning stuff just because it gives a fake sense of achievement.

Or, like my manicure, who almost weekly tells me that she spent the weekend ironing. I guess… if it makes her happy…

Problem is, we think that as long as we’re doing something, stuff is happening. And if we’re ‘not working’, we’re resting.

But doing nothing in particular is not the same as resting – not to your subconscious, which is probably very eager for some actual recovery time.

And doing whatever keeps us busy is clearly not the same as getting stuff done.

It helps to have clear lines and hard boundaries.

Rest is rest, and work is work, which replenishes your energy much faster than the pseudo-rest of procrastination.

And as for work, it’s good to demarcate and prioritise there as well:

There’s busywork, the day-to-day activities, and then there’s the kind of work that moves the needle. These are the growth-driving activities that over time build up to results, sales, growth, and revenue.

What’s that you say? You’re always short of time, for doing those GDA’s?

Gotcha!

That’s because, very likely, you spend too much time doing things that you didn’t plan, and didn’t define as the important stuff that gets results.

And that is how you get to constantly feel busy, see little result for it, and feel overwhelmed, frustrated and inadequate.

The solution?

Say no. Decide against automatic, ho-hum activities, and prioritise prioritisation (Yes, I meant to write that).

Decide what’s most important, give it priority, go do it, and only then go back to taking care of routine chores.

If something important deserves to get done, it deserves to get priority, don’t you agree?

Cheers,

Martin

Evolution, Scarcity and Ethics

“Hey”, I said. “I thought you didn’t eat sugar?”

“I do!” she replied. “But my parents won’t allow me, and in school I can’t because the teachers will tell on me. That’s why I always turn down birthday cakes and stuff”.

A school excursion, and we were about 8 years old. This girl’s parents were severely into holistic and healthy living, and apparently sugar was of the devil.

The moment we’d gotten off the bus, she’d spotted a little shop and bought a bag full of sweets which she was now moving into her mouth in an industrial manner.

“You won’t tell the teacher, will you?”

I told her no, and she offered me some of her stash.

The desire for something unattainable is baked into our psyche, and we can’t avoid judging something scarce as something valuable.

Goes back to our prehistoric times, when leaves and predators were abundant, but prey, berries and nuts were hard to get.

Scarce resource = high value… that’s how our subconscious works.

Marketers have figured this out, and created an artform out of manipulating us.

Sale ends, limited stock, offer expires, buy now, don’t miss out… we all know the drill, and most of the time the scarcity is artificial and fabricated. Marketing teachers even tell us to use these methods, in order to get more sales.

In itself, there’s nothing wrong with a limited-time offer: it can help people who are the right buyer, to get off the fence and make the decision to purchase.

But the way it’s usually done, scarcity is used to trigger super-primal survival instincts, making us feel on a subconscious level that unless we buy now, our safety, well-being and lineage is at risk. That might sound dramatic, and it is: rationally we know it ain’t all that bad, but our subconscious is highly irrational, and simply perceives: ‘Scarce! Grave risk, unless I get! Must! Get!’.

The first problem is that it ain’t right to treat people that way. It’s manipulative and very dodgy.

The second problem is that if you drive too hard a sale, you end up with the wrong buyers.

You’ll pull in people who buy not because they want or need your thing, but because their lizard brain drives them to do it.

And then you get refund requests, buyer’s remorse, info-products that never get used, bad reviews, complaints on forums… all the things that don’t help your business.

Selling something is fine – after all, we all like buying things and most people sell things that are worth buying.

But there’s a line between manipulating people based on fear, and helping people who want to buy make the decision to do so.

What side of the line are you on?

Cheers,

Martin

Ethics vs Exploitation

“Excuse me, where can I find the bottled water?”

I’m shopping at my local supermarket, which has recently been completely redesigned, and as a consequence it’s practically impossible to find anything.

“Sure!”, he tells me. “It’s on the other side of the store, by the laundry detergent”.

I sigh and mutter that since the redesign, everything is a complete and confusing mess.

“Yep”, he says. “That way people end up buying more”.

Well, ten points for honesty, I’ll give him that.

But really, is this a way for a company to treat their customers?

Everything in the shop is now intentionally designed to confuse and distract: where products are placed, the way light enters the building, and even the mirrors that are now all around the cashiers, so that a shopper gets distracted right at the moment of checkout, in order to have them pay less attention to the amount they’re paying.

It’s despicable, disgusting, and unethical. They do anything they can, just to squeeze a bit more money out of people.

What’s even worse, is that this in a fairly impoverished part of Spain, in a small town where the majority of the population is not very well off. Tricking people here to spend more is a scoundrelous move. Pure exploitation.

But does the corporation care?

Of course not. Money money money. Grab grab grab.

Oh and then of course they’ll justify it: ‘People are independent agents, it’s up to them how much they buy’.

Yes it is BUT YOU’VE SCIENTIFICALLY ENGINEERED IMPULSE-BUYING INTO YOUR ENTIRE SUPERMARKET, YOU ^%&^$&%!

Or they’ll say: ‘This is just standard marketing practice. Everybody knows that we place premium items at eye-level, and lower-price products on the bottom shelves. What’s the difference?’

The difference is subtle, but important, and it’s something that a great many corporations (as well as entrepreneurs and solopreneurs) either don’t understand, or don’t care about:

Ethics and integrity.

It’s one thing to highlight a premium product, or to place a rack of crackers next to the cheese display.

But it’s a completely different level of douchebaggery to intentionally throw shoppers off balance, just so that they buy more things they don’t need, in order for profit margins to go up.

So why the rant today?

Because of trust.

When you take liberties with integrity, you might be able to sleep at night (though in my opinion, it means you don’t deserve a good night’s sleep), people notice.

Usually at subconscious levels, but the message gets through: “I’m being used, this isn’t about me, they’re not looking out for me. I’m being exploited for profit”.

And when that happens, trust breaks and you’ll find it very hard to run or grow your business.

So if you want to sleep at night (with my permission and blessing, heh) AND you want to have an easier time selling your work, the recommendation is simple: Do right by people. It always pays off.

Cheers,

Martin

Indispensable If You Want to Get Results With People

[Housekeeping note: I’m currently travelling, which has caused some disruption in my productivity – apologies for the intermittent service in sending these articles. Normal daily service should resume next week]

If you’ve ever driven on the Boulevard Périphérique (the ring road around Paris), you’ll know that the French have a… well, very special way of driving. It’s sketchy, sometimes aggressive, very unpredictable, and requires that you pay very close attention.

And when it comes to lane closures and merging traffic, you’ll know how hard that can be. No matter how long your signaling light is on, or how much you try to nudge your way into the other lane, it seems people just don’t give a damn.

But yesterday, in what some consider the worst possible city for driving, magic happened:

I had to merge to the right, many cars were passing by, and nobody let me in.

But then I leaned forward and to the right, and looked at the driver next to me – he saw me, nodded, and instantly slowed down to create space for me.

Pretty much unheard of in traffic, especially in Paris.

Why did he do that?

Eye contact.

Connection.

One human signaling to another, and the other picking up on it – because we’re hardwired to connect with those who petition a connection.

And that’s where we often fail to get results with people: we don’t signal a connection request. We don’t connect our humanity to the other person.

But once you do, and the other person reads ‘I see you’, everything changes.

So if ever you’re trying to get results with someone, be it selling or getting collaboration or having someone hear you out, and it’s not working, ask yourself:

Are you trying to push your own agenda, at the cost of trying to truly connect with the other person?

Cheers,

Martin

Units of You

Any given day, you have a finite amount of energy to spend, both mentally and physically.

Once used up, it’s time to rest and recover, and the next day you get another batch of energy. Kinda fun to be alive, isn’t it?

I call this energy ‘units of you’.

How much an actual unit is, isn’t relevant, and it varies day by day.

But, the number of ‘units of you’ that you can spend is finite. Even if you crank yourself out of a dip with copious amounts of coffee (or, god forbid, energy drinks), you’ll still run out.

The problem is that at the start of a day, with a whole new batch of ‘units of you’ at our disposal, we tend to vastly overestimate how many units we have, and how much we can accomplish whilst spending them.

And so we fill our tasklist with items, far more than we can possibly do in a day, and do well.

In other words: we task our future self with a level of commitment and performance that’s wholly unreasonable, and completely unattainable.

Put differently: we bankrupt our future self.

And by the time our future self runs out of ‘units of you’, it sees the remaining tasks, sees the deposit empty, and there you go: let’s procrastinate, let’s put it off until tomorrow.

Come tomorrow, you see how much you didn’t do, and you start out your day feeling bad about yesterday, and schedule even more unreasonable expectations, just to make up for yesterday.

And so begins (and continues) the downward spiral of procrastination.

And to make it even worse: a lot of the work we schedule is hardly relevant, in that it doesn’t actually do anything to drive results.

They might be useful things, but they’re busywork instead of growth-driving activities.

You’ll agree that this is no way to run a business, or indeed to live a happy life.

The solution?

Be stingy with your units of you.

When planning, know that your actual reserve won’t reach to complete everything you want to get done, and schedule only growth-driving activities, and:

Only schedule a few, or even just one. What you put on your tasklist for today should be 100% attainable, even if you run into complications or setbacks.

Ultra-attainable goals, is what I mean.

That way, you’re far more likely to reach them – and when you do, you get a powerful neurological feedback, because hey now! I did what I said I’d do!

And, bonus: you’ll have energy left to do another thing – look at me go!

This however does come with a caveat:

If you make your goals ultra-attainable, there’s a risk that the positive feedback you get, might cause you to rest on your laurels, and make you feel that you’re now free for the rest of the day.

So, make a resolution: when you complete your ultra-attainable goal, first reward yourself with a shortish break – but ONLY after you schedule your next (attainable) growth-driving activity.

After all: if you’re done with an important piece of work and you have units of you left in your reserves, it’d be a pity to let them go to waste, no?

Cheers,

Martin

Verbs VS Interrogatives: How to Ask Buyers the Right Kind of Questions

The more you ask, the more you’ll hear, and the more you’ll learn about why someone is looking to purchase your work.

Which, obviously, gives you the information you need to figure out if you can or can’t help them.

But the easiest kind of question to ask, is also the worst:

Binary questions, which usually start with a verb.

“Can you see this working for you?”

“Have you tried other solutions before?”

“Is the problem you describe something you want to solve at this point in time?”

You might get a yes, you might get a no… but even a yes isn’t the same thing as a purchase.

And, how do you proceed, after you get an answer to a binary question?

You opened a door, they threw an answer at you, and now you have to ask another question, from scratch.

This way, you don’t advance the sales process.

Instead, ask questions that start with an interrogative.

“What would make this work for you?”

“What other solutions have you tried before?”

“How urgent is it for you, to solve this problem?”

Questions like these are powerful, because they cause the other person to think, to see things from different angles, and to create their own vision – which is important because it’s their vision of either the pain of not solving the problem, or the joy of having solved it, that causes them to buy in to making a decision to do so.

Whereas binary questions suggest that your vision – not theirs – is relevant to them. Which it might be, but they don’t care unless they see it.

And the best way for you to get someone to *see* the usefulness and power of that vision, is to ask questions switch on their brain and inner cinema.

Binary questions, the verb-led ones can easily cause distrust, objections and resistance.

So, ask interrogative-questions instead, because those are the ones that move the sales process forward, while leaving autonomy with the buyer.

Here’s another example:

What would it do for your business, if you learned ethical selling?

Cheers,

Martin

It’s Only a Sale When the Money is There

“Yes. It’s a sale!” he tells me.

I smile, pause, and tell him: “It’s not a sale until the money is there” – and he replies: “True, of course – you’re right”.

He continues to tell me that he’s decided in favour of my proposal though, and he wants my help.

In the end, it didn’t happen – it wasn’t the right moment for his business… and obviously, that’s fine by me. I’d never want anyone’s business unless it’s 100% the perfect moment for them.

But that moment, when a potential client tells you yes: that’s where it can wrong SO easily.

When we hear a yes, we’re thrilled: a new client, new project, money coming your way… whoohoo!

Ah, yes. But there’s a difference between saying yes, and doing yes.

And if we as a provider confuse the two, we can easily screw up a sale.

If we get all excited and cheery, and ask for a credit card number right then and there, it’s very easy for a potential buyer to get the wrong impression – the easiest and most damaging one, that we would be needy.

Of course when a client sends you money, or signs an actual contract, then yes: of course you should cheer. You’ve just landed a client, and you’ve got the payment to show for it, so by all means: buy yourself shoes or champagne or whatever spells r.e.w.a.r.d. for you.

But very often, at the moment that someone says yes, your best reaction is to slow down, and actually question the yes.

“I’m happy to hear it, but before we move forward, let’s look at this again.

“Are you quite sure that this offer, in this configuration, at this time, is what you need?

“Is there anything that would make it a no? It’s important that you make this decision 100% convinced, so whatever issue or doubt you’d like to address, this is a good time to do it”.

When you question a yes, several things happen.

For one thing, a buyer will reconsider, and often reinforce their choice.

Also: they’ll often raise issues that haven’t been addressed properly yet, which also helps them reinforce their decision.

Or, it might cause them to change their mind – which might be disappointing for you, but ultimately it’s in your (not to mention their!) best interest.

Because when you demonstrate clearly that you’re ok with a no, especially after they’ve said yes, you show that you’re not in it for your own sake, but that the only goal you have is for them to make the right decision.

And that goes a long long way in building trust, which increases your chances of landing the client later on down the line.

Of course you can consider it odd, that I reacted that way. I admit it was ballsy, possibly even arrogant, and it’s not something I’d recommend you generally say.

Then again, this gentleman was a very seasoned business owner, a very skilled seller, and equipped with an excellent sense of humour – in other words, I knew who I was talking to.

Anyway, question the yes. Making a purchase is never a small thing, and you want people to be 100% ready and convinced they’re making the right choice.

It’s the right thing to do, and it’s good for your bottom line as well.

Cheers,

Martin

Push VS Pull, and the Worst Thing That Can Happen to a Person

There’s a reason why imprisonment is the punishment of choice across the world.

Not because it’s very effective, but because – bar solitary confinement and capital punishment – it’s pretty much the harshest punishment there is:

To remove a person’s autonomy.

For someone to no longer be a free agent, to not control their own decisions, is horrible.

This mechanism is also why the military is so good at creating good little soldiers.

It’s also why the industrial revolution so successfully turned society into a class of obedient, non-thinking worker drones.

To take someone’s autonomy is terrible, harsh, and depending on the purpose: effective.

In selling your work though, it’s pretty much the worst possible thing you could do.

Right? Who in their right minds would ever want to tell a buyer what they should do?

*Nodding heads*, I’m sure.

And yet…

It’s staggering to see how many people (unwittingly) try to remove a buyer’s autonomy.

Now you probably think “Yeah, but that’s not me”.

Are you sure though?

Because:

When you try to persuade someone…

When you try to convince someone by making a powerful argument…

When you skip over someone’s objections, fears, or doubts… and you continue to make your case…

That’s when you are in fact, in a subtle way or not, removing a buyer’s autonomy.

And because that’s the worst thing you can do to a human being, it’s not very likely to result in a sale – and if it does, chances are you’ll end up dealing with buyer’s remorse.

It’s never a good idea to push someone into a sale or a point of view.

What is a good idea though, is to invite someone in.

Invite them to consider a viewpoint.

Invite them to consider a purchase.

Invite them to ask you questions, or even better:

Invite them to tell you what concerns they have.

Doing that has the opposite effect of pushing people:

Instead of them putting up barriers, they’ll lower their guard and consider what you’re telling them.

And if at some point they accept the invitation to buy, they do so under full control and autonomy, and you bet that’s a way to buy that people love.

So today, I’m inviting you (see what I’m doing here?) to reflect on situations (with clients or with anyone else in your life) where you’re trying to push an agenda on others (hint: it’s those times when it seems like an uphill battle), and see if you can turn your agenda into an invitation.

Next step: put it into practice. Invite instead of push.

Let me know how it goes.

Cheers,

Martin

What Do You Not Sell?

“Guys, meet Martin. Martin, these two are lawyers. Be careful around them!”

Chuckles and smiles all around… never bad to poke a little fun of people, and the two lawyers clearly had a sense of humour. And obviously they’re not the wrong kind of lawyer, otherwise they wouldn’t be friends with my friend Antonio.

This was last night, at the inauguration party of Antonio’s co-working company in Malaga (which I helped him grow pretty big – I’ll share a case study of how we did it shortly).

The chat with the lawyers was fun and ranged from dating to whether capitalism and democracy should go together.

At some point, one of the guys asked me: “What do you *not* sell”.

What a brilliant question!

It took me a moment, and then I said: “Lies”.

And I realised how important it is to be ultra-clear on what you do not sell, offer, or promise.

See, a buyer has more than just one problem they need solving.

They might show up asking for a specific thing, but there’s always a bunch of related issues they also need resolved.

And naturally, there’s a (often subconscious) hope that buying from you will bring those solutions.

And that’s where the ‘no lies’ policy is a super powerful element of your sales process.

Of course I don’t think you would literally lie to buyers – you probably wouldn’t read me if you’re that kind of person.

But, the more clear you are about what your work does *not* do for a buyer, the easier it is for them to trust you.

Whereas if you leave it in the middle, or if you try to include a service, outcome, or benefit that isn’t in your core area of expertise, you’re actually harming your chances of closing the deal.

That’s why “Is not” is such an important element in the LEAP sales system I created.

The features and benefits of your offer consist of two parts: What it *is*, meaning what result or outcome you promise, and ‘what it is not’ – meaning, the outcomes or results that *might* show up, but that aren’t elements you promise.

And the more explicit and clear you are about ‘is not’, the higher the degree of trust a buyer will have in what your offer *does* do or solve.

Never be afraid to be clear and explicit about your ‘is not’.

Not only will you avoid signing on clients who expect things you can’t deliver, with all the complications that brings, it’ll make your selling easier and more fun as well.

There’s still some room in my calendar for a complementary coaching call, should you want one. Pick a time here.

Cheers,

Martin

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