Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Assumptions can lead to miscommunication─even conflict


Have you noticed? We human beings often jump to conclusions─or make assumptions. These lead to miscommunication and even conflict. In workshops, I demonstrate this by standing much like the woman in the picture and ask the participants to describe how I'm standing. They answer impatient, irritated, upset─all assumptions about how I feel. Then I ask them to describe what they see by starting with, "I notice your..." Then they get it and say, "I notice your arms are crossed, you're tapping your foot and you have a serious expression on your face." Now they're getting closer to using Perception Checking.

Here are the three steps involved:
1. State your observation
2. State your assumption
3. Ask for verification or clarification

Let's continue with the example I started above:

1. I notice your arms are crossed, you're tapping your foot and you have a serious expression on your face.

2. I assume you're irritated.

3. Am I reading you accurately?

This gives me a chance to clarify, "Oh no, I'm just cold and I need to go to the bathroom!" Incorrect assumption─and serious miscommunication─averted!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Would you like fries with that?

No matter what you're selling, upselling adds dramatically to the bottom line. Trouble is, some employees feel uncomfortable─translate that to pushy─encouraging a customer to buy more. We need to share with them the rationale and make it easier for them by practicing scripts that they can modify.

A great place to start is to get them brainstorming the goals of upselling. They might come up with a list like this:
• Provide customers with what they need to make their project/purchase/experience/contract more successful
• Share new products and ideas with customers
• Educate customers about our product line─they may not be aware of all we offer
• Increase sales

Then, help them figure out specific recommendations they can make to the customer. Let them know it will depend on what the customer just ordered─or ordered in the past.

From there, it's as easy as 1... 2... 3...
1. Think of some typical items a customer would purchase
2. Come up with what you can recommend as an add-on sale based on what they ordered or purchased
3. Write down the phrasing you would use to recommend those additional items to the customer

Have employees create a number of their own scripts─with help from manager and coworkers─using this formula:
1. Customer orders...
2. You can recommend...
3. You would say...

Then, practice, practice, practice. Once employees have said their own scripts enough times, they can do it comfortably─when it counts!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

May you break a leg at your next presentation!

No matter the size of the audience, many of us are very nervous when we speak. Here are some pointers that will help:

Get grounded before you start

When I lead presentation skills workshops and attendees are about to give mini-presentations, many will start talking─often apologizing─as they head for the front of the room. Instead, walk silently to the front, place your feet hip width apart with your weight evenly distributed, look at someone in the audience and then start your talk. Oh, and make sure you're not starting with "Um" or "So!"

Talk to one person at a time

Literally. Look at one person for three to four seconds, then move on to the next person. Really make eye contact. Then you're not speaking to a big audience, you're talking to one person. And even better, they will respond─many will nod or smile─and you'll get feedback that you're on target.

And remember to breathe!

When we're nervous, most of us hold our breath. Pretty hard to speak when this is happening. I remember years ago when I was demonstrating on a model. She fainted into my arms! Turns out she was holding her breath and had locked her knees. Recipe for disaster. Check out a previous blog post where I talk about diaphragm breathing. Not only does it help calm you; it gives you a stronger voice.

Now, break a leg!

(BTW, Wikipedia lists many theories behind the etymology of that phrase.)