Advanced Communication Skills: Bring People to the Table and Keep Them There

The person who can bring people to the table and facilitate a consensus has influence and power because the pool of people who already agree with and want what you have to offer is relatively shallow. But, if you’re skilled at persuading those who are undecided or even hostile to your point of view, the pool of people you can work with is deep and wide.

If you’re in business – no matter the business – you’re in the business of communication.

In this context, all communication is about persuasion.

Persuasion vs. Manipulation

Everything you say, write, and do should persuade the other party to engage with and eventually work with you in some way, but it’s critical to understand that persuasion is a process that results in them changing their mind from one way of thinking to your way of thinking and that action must be taken in line with that shift.

You can get people to act the way you want without persuading them. People will act against their goals and values when forced or manipulated to do so. We’ve all seen how people who yell, threaten, and subvert can get their way. Force and manipulation are ways to get results and gain power quickly, but that way is never acceptable or a good long-term strategy because as soon as the victim can get away, they’ll revert to their former way of thinking and doing. We all know that once the pressure is off or more information comes to light, the victim of that behavior goes right back to the way they thought about and did things before.

I define persuasion as respectful communication based on pure motives the result of which is an action that benefits all parties.

What’s your move?

Why Persuasion Matters

If you’re self-employed or a salesperson, you must be able to articulate the value of your product or service and make sales.

If you’re a leader in a company or the chair of a committee, you must inspire confidence in those who follow you and empower them to act quickly and enthusiastically to get things done.

Unless you’re selling on price alone, this is not a one-time thing. You must continually be engaged in conversations that demonstrate the value of your proposition and partnership to everyone around you.

Persuasion requires mindful interaction.

People, not Facts, Persuade

Persuasive people understand that facts alone do not persuade. It is how the facts are presented and how well they fit with the other person’s perspective that matters because if the other party views the facts as irrelevant to their situation or the solution presented as too onerous, they’ll look elsewhere for a better solution to their problem.

Worse, if they agree on the facts and solution proposed and are willing to take the action required to solve their problem but do not like the presenter or the idea of entering a strategic partnership with that person, they will go elsewhere. The result of that is frustration and lack of results and possibly income for the presenter/would-be persuader.

Therefore, your communication must be strategic, based on shared values, and solution-oriented. It cannot be those things if you don’t identify the most pressing problem the person you want to work with is facing, what motivates them (personally and morally), and exactly where and how you who you are and what you do overlaps those things.

To identify the needs and wants of the other party, you must gather around the table.

Bring People to the Table

The table can be conversations on social media, email exchanges, phone calls, or in-person meetings. The platform doesn’t matter as much as the interaction that happens when you meet there. To attract people to and keep them at your table, you must demonstrate your professionalism and that you have the social skills to be good to work with.

Here are some tips:

• Find common ground.
• Use language that appeals to the person you’re trying to persuade. For example, when I talk to athletes, I use sports metaphors and language that includes “finish line,” “competition,” “win,” etc. When I talk to a new father or mother, I use words and phrases that connect to their concerns and our shared experience as parents.
• View yourself and your offering from the perspective of the person you’re talking to.
• Anticipate challenges and offer options that address the real obstacles the other party may have implementing your solution.

It is during these conversations that you will come to understand the needs and wants of the other party and how what you have to offer can satisfy both. You will also be building a connection and trust with the other party and offering a solution to their problems. The goal of this stage is agreement. However, verbal agreement alone doesn’t get the job done, nor does it mean you’ve persuaded.

The True Test of Your Powers

A call to action is the true test of your persuasive powers because many humans are agreeable by nature, finding it difficult to challenge others in conversation. However, when it comes to a buying or buy-in decision, something that requires them to act in a way that costs them something, people are more likely to say “no” or put the decision off. This may seem like a failure, but it’s not the end of the discussion. This is an opportunity to ask more questions and to verify that you’ve understood the problem as the other party sees it. It’s an opportunity to creatively solve a problem together using the skills and resources at your mutual disposal.

However, this may also be an indication that you’ve given all you can and should, and now the other person needs time to digest and answer your call to action after they’ve tested your ideas and verified your credibility.

Give People Space to Digest and Reflect

Persuasive people understand that time can be their friend and that high-pressure tactics are the tools of forcers and manipulators. Few people have the stomach to stay at the table with manipulators. Keeping people at the table requires respect and patience.

Always leave a seat at and keep inviting people back to the table because those who return are often the ones who become the most loyal clients and vocal supporters.

Remember, negotiation is a process of communication. Persuasion is a series of small yeses, the result of which is action and long-term, meaningful change.

Whether you’re a board member, executive, committee chair, salesperson, or freelancer, the better communicator you are and the longer you can keep people at the table, the better your chance of creating long-term success for all parties and being recognized by others as a true leader and someone worth working with or buying from.

It’s OK to not be OK: How to work through tough times

tough times

I’ve never been a fan of the ‘How are you doing?’ conversation. Don’t get me wrong, I know that people mean well when they ask this question! But, it’s usually a pleasant way to start speaking to someone, when they are in a good place. This conversation doesn’t really set people up for dealing with ‘you know what… I’m not so great at the moment’. 

Most people have juggled the idea of saying ‘I’m fine’ to just get the conversation over and done with OR telling the truth and admitting that they aren’t in a great place. A lot of the time there’s an internal conflict because we struggle to ask for help, or want to keep up appearances. But ultimately, that’s not sustainable. We all need to rely on our friends and loved ones when things are tough, that’s what they’re there for after all. The one constant in life is that there will be highs and lows that we all have to go through. However, you do not have to do that alone.

So, if you’re fighting your own battles, here are some tips about dealing with tough times and, hopefully, they will help you to accept that it’s OK to not be OK. 

Don’t feel guilty about sharing

Guilt is a strong emotion and when you’re going through a tough time, you become more aware that others are also experiencing difficulties that you know nothing about. This can be one of many reasons that stops us from opening up and sharing with the people who truly care. You have no reason to feel guilty about sharing your thoughts and feelings. There are people in your life who care and want to know when you aren’t at your best so they can step in and be there for you. Remember, you deserve to be looked after too. 

Find someone you trust and start talking

When you’ve managed to get past the feeling of guilt, think about the people who you really trust and lighten the load by talking to them about what you’re going through. The closer you are to that person, and the more you feel you can trust them, the more comfortable you’re likely to feel. 

 Learn to say no

Having time to yourself is equally important as helping others. A bit of time out can do you a world of good, so again, don’t feel guilty about saying no. Taking time out to clear your mind and channel your energy into the things that you care about gives you the opportunity to focus on the things that make you happy. 

 Pay attention to your self talk

During periods of high stress, you need to be kind to yourself. That means positive self-talk and accepting that you need time to bounce back. Challenge any negative self-talk that you catch yourself saying and offer more supportive ones. 

There are many more things you can do to take care of yourself during tough times, but starting with these can put you in the right direction. Stay strong!

Celebrating Each Other’s Success

We have got to get out of the “win-lose” mindset and start celebrating each other’s success. Some of us are there, but I still see it as being so incredibly prevalent, particularly in the workplace. If someone you work with succeeds, that’s (not necessarily) a direct correlation to you losing (your job, a promotion, etc.). I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but I’m saying the chances of it happening must be smaller if we work together instead of competing against each other all the time.

I know, “collaboration” has become such a (barf!) buzzword. What I’m really talking about is about making space for others to come up around you. We have got to stop stepping on each other and being afraid of others’ success. Getting even more specific, I’m talking about white women not being afraid of the success of anyone who doesn’t look like them – and speaking of women of color and minority backgrounds, in particular. Seriously. If you’re guilty of this, it needs to stop. As a white woman, I am telling you – other white women – that you will be amazing if you allow women who are not like you and don’t look like you to enter your spaces, take your place on panels, speak at conferences, and be part of your mastermind groups.

Next time someone is looking for a speaker, recommend a woman of color (and not only to speak on diversity topics!). Are you not sure where to start?

I’ve got some suggestions for you.

(Click through to find each woman on Twitter!)

Amber Lee – Lifestyle, Blogging, Millennial women, Health & wellness, Entrepreneurship

Angela Hemans – Twitter marketing, Marketing, Building your brand online

Antoinette Minor – Podcasting, Entrepreneurship

Contrecia Tharpe – Branding, Communications, Marketing, PR

Eulanda Shead Osagiede – Travel, Entrepreneurship, Living your best life

Faiza Yousuf – Building communities for women, Technology, Coding

Gennette Cordova – Philanthropy, Activism, Nonprofits, Empowerment

Jade Phillips – Entrepreneurship, Branding

Jasmine Powers – Digital Strategy, Marketing

Joy Donnell – Writing, Branding, Public Speaking

Kali Wilder, Sirita Wright, and Safon Floyd of EstroHaze – The cannabis industry, Entrepreneurship

Kavita Chintapalli – Social media strategy, Ending violence against women

Lisa Fitzpatrick, MD – Healthcare, Public health, Health literacy, Health tech

Melissa Kimble – Relationship building, The creative movement, Branding, Writing

Nora Rahimian – The music biz (production, best practices, etc.), Women’s rights, Activism, Art as a vehicle for social change

Sabrina Medora – The culinary world, Entrepreneurship, Branding, Marketing

Sherese Maynard – Healthcare, Healthcare IT, #WomenInHIT

This list barely scratches the surface of the incredible, talented, powerful women of color doing amazing work in the world. Let’s keep it growing! Tweet me at @AnOrchidInBloom and let me know who you’d like to add.

Why I Split My Website in Order to Streamline My Business

A box of office supplies

When confronted…Well…confronted is too strong a term…Let me begin again….

When some boss friends confided that the religious undertones in my website were a turn-off, it became a concern for me. They admitted that if they didn’t know me already, they would worry about being judged, preached to, or that I would try to convert them into nuns standing on street corners, in a sandwich board, screaming lines from Exodus. (Can you picture it?)

I am a United Methodist through and through BUT I don’t preach and don’t judge when talking to my clients (although, I have cussed out my computer and bad drivers from time to time). A while after I met my boss friends, they learned that I have a strong faith and want to help churches and faith-based organizations spread their word, their work, and their good. I also want the local bread shop, barber, tattoo artist, or any other small business to succeed. I don’t believe that a church has to work strictly with a faith-focused business and also that a secular business can’t work with a Christian business owner. We should all be able to work together to make the client’s goal a success no matter if we are Bible thumpers or Marilyn Manson concert goers (great concert by the way.  A bit too long between costume changes, but great show!). We should be able to see the business’s or organization’s vision and help it come to virtual reality.

Everybody get together try to love one another right now.

As a digital marketing specialist, I thought it would be smart to create a second website called Covered-Dish.com. Covered-Dish.Com focuses on digital marketing and web design for faith-based organizations. On my original website, PetreyDish.com, I removed all mentions of faith. Well, almost all. I kept some details in my bio.

Here’s why I split my business (web-wise) in two

Major reasons:

• Clarify target market
• Remove possible confusion
•Remove religious undertones
• Strengthen religious tones

Minor reasons:

• Better SEO
• Better targeting for faith based groups
•Prevent secular businesses from being biased (no preaching or quoting
scripture here!)

Katey at work
(Photo credit: Sarah Kane Photography)

Does it take twice as much time to market?

Surprisingly… No! Yes, I did create a separate Facebook Page and Instagram account. I’m not really focused on those at this time, but they are there and I post sporadically. When I do spend time on social media marketing, it takes about ten extra minutes. Hootsuite has been a great help with that. Hootsuite allows me to schedule out posts in advance so when the ideas are flying and get knock them out and get them scheduled. I also make sure to spread them out so it’s not ten posts one week and then nothing for the next two weeks. Some consistency is important.

I am focusing more on the websites for now. Using the same article, I can change “business” to “church” or “faith based organization” and change “clients” to “community” to create two different pieces. One for each site. I also reword the content a little so it’s not exact because Google is a smart bot and doesn’t like it when posts are too similar.

No, I didn’t get a second business license. I did not set up a second billing system. I do not have a separate location or a different pet to have in the office for my Covered-Dish.Com clients. For clarity and to appease the Biblically sensitive, I made a simple change in marketing strategy and use the same email on both websites. Have my main site and marketing more secular and have a second site be more Peace, Love, and Joy. Now go and be blessed.

Can’t we all just get along?
For crying out loud!
Come on!

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

Social Media Marketing Basics (Not Just for Dummies)

Metrics Metrics Everywhere

Social media marketing doesn’t come easy for everyone.

It’s different than curating a personal account. There are times when it feels like it takes a doctorate to make social media work for business. Figuring out who your audience is and what your audience wants can be difficult. It takes work, consistency, energy, strategy, and time. And by time, I mean many months to a year or more to truly understand your audience and begin a flow of natural community engagement.

I’m not an early adopter. My motto is to learn one platform and get comfortable before moving on to the next one. Give the new platform time to grow and be consistent. Give it the attention it deserves for you to learn it well. And know that all platforms measure differently. I know not everyone works this way, but it works for me.

Social media is constantly updating and the algorithms change all the time, too, keeping you on your toes. Facebook will change its whole format (as it recently did!), leaving you lost and confused. Where did Page milestones go? How do I get to my Page’s wall again? Oh… so my Page’s wall is now called Feed? What’s up with the circles at the top of Instagram? Where did my favorite filter go?

It’s worse than going to the grocery that was “revamped”. The organic section is gone and they switched the aisles around. Some days the changes are fun like hide and seek. Other days? Not so much.

 

Facebook

Metrics: Paying attention to your metrics will help you determine when and what to post. The best days and hours are different for everyone, but understanding your target market and what excites your fans by reviewing your metrics helps to narrow that window down. Also keep in mind the type of content you post. Based on my own experience and several experts, typically, from worst to best, it’s text, link, photo, gallery, and killing it is video.

Things to look at when reviewing your posts:

• Why did one post do better than another?
• Was it timing? Topic? Clever wording?
Did you remember to tag people, locations, or businesses? (You have a better chance of your post being seen or shared if you do this.)
What type of post did you put out? (text, link, photo, gallery, video)
What’s in your post content? (educational, entertaining, celebration, random, etc)

Because Facebook wants your money these days, they continue to make it increasingly more challenge to reach your fans/supporters naturally. Sharing your Page’s content to your personal feed greatly increases your chance of getting seen and natural (unpaid) interactions taking place.

Sharing Posts: Remember to add a comment when you share to your personal page, too (whether it’s from your page or somewhere else on Facebook). A quick “This is awesome” or “What do you think about…?” will not only draw people into your posts and allow for conversation, Facebook likes it better when you do, too. Is the post also relevant to a group you’re a part of? Share it there too. Please remember to follow the rules of the group! Testing out these sharing methods before throwing money at your posts can positively impact your visibility and interactions without spending money. (That said, there are times when you will need/want to put fund behind a post. Remember to think about the purpose of what you’re promoting.)

A Note on Videos: Share videos directly to Facebook, not as a link. Sharing a link does not allow for autoplay. Autoplay is the secret to being eye-catching because it’s flashy on an otherwise static screen. You add a video to a Facebook post the same way you add a photo. Videos that work well with and without sound do better than videos that require sound. Facebook allows you add captioning and this is strongly recommended. Some people are unable to hear or never turn the sound on for their videos. (Warning: If you turn the volume on for a video and do not turn it off when you are done, videos can autoplay one after the next and the following video will start with the sound.)

Reposting: Don’t forget to wrap shares of your posts into your content calendar. When you create your page post, you can share it right then, but you can also share a little later, too, and you will reap the benefits of the repost. Doing this will keep interest in your post over the course of a few days or maybe even a few weeks, bringing it top of mind for people who already liked it and also getting into the feeds of others who may be interested but didn’t see it the first time around.

Use Your Events! You’d be amazed at how many companies create events on Facebook and then don’t continue to feed the excitement for the event. They make the event and then nothing. Be excited about what you’re hosting! Interaction is best.

 

Instagram

Your Metrics: Do you know how to find your analytics/metrics on Instagram? From your smartphone:

• Make sure your account is set up as a business account (in settings). Personal accounts do not have metrics.
• Go to your profile.
Click on the bar graph icon (top right for Android, bottom right for iPhone).
View your metrics for impressions, followers, posts, stories, and any promotions you may have.

Use the data gleaned here to help market to your demographic and post at your peak times and days. There is no point in posting on Sunday at 2 p.m. if your audience isn’t present. Also make sure your account is public! If your account is private, the only people who will see your posts (even when you use hashtags) is people who already follow you.

Analyze your data.

• Why did one post do better than another?
Was it timing? Topic? Quality?
A particular type of post (quote, photo, video, meme)?
Which hashtags were used?
• How was the commentary on the post?
Was is personal, very basic, informative, or funny?
Was is shared across other social media accounts?

Crossposting: If your Instagram post isn’t quite getting the results you wanted, try sharing the image with a different caption on Twitter or Facebook. Maybe your audience isn’t on Instagram, which is why your post didn’t perform well.

When crossposting from Instagram to Facebook Pages, make sure you have the correct Facebook account selected. Technology is (as we know) not infallible and Instagram can get confused and post on your personal Facebook profile from time to time. You will know if you are posting to your Facebook Page because your page’s name will be next to the Facebook Share button. If the Page name doesn’t appear, it will post to your personal account.

 

Twitter

Build Relationships: It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle on Twitter. I see Twitter as a great resource for learning and building relationships. Participating in chats allows me to learn from others and build relationships. When participating in a Twitter chat, your reach becomes so large it’s mind-blowing! I learned that by participating in two Twitter chats in the same week my impressions can go up to 140,000. As a solopreneur, that’s HUGE. The value of those conversations is worth so much more than many of the news or inspirational posts I see clogging my feed.

Remember:

• Don’t be a robot
• Add value
Participate in conversation
Interact with others (like, comment, retweet, follow)

Reposting: On that same note of how to not get lost in the shuffle, Twitter is a great place to share content multiple times. It is so full of chatter, that your previous post can easily get lost. Setting your site/blog up to post on Twitter is great. I get the most interaction after hours, not including chats. There are also some social media management tools like HootSuite, Buffer, and TweetDeck. Or, if you have a CMS, many use an addon or plugin that will post for you. Not only do you get interaction on Twitter, viewers click through and return to your site. YAY for viewer increase! The key here is to be engaging – with people liking/commenting/sharing your own posts and the same with your interactions for the posts of others.

 

Be Bold

Don’t worry about trolls or mean comments. (Unless you’re famous or create hateful posts, you probably don’t have much to worry about.) Most trolls are looking for a fight because they are unhappy in life. It’s not personal. Use judgment to determine the difference between a difference of opinion and trolls. If someone gets too rude, all of the social media platforms I use have a magic “block” button.

Be bold! Share! Post! Interact! Like! Don’t be a robot!

Don’t stand at the back of the line. Interact with others, build relationships, and get in front of future clients and friends. Social media will get you great exposure and is the best way to build connections. Social interactions across platforms strengthen relationships that you can later tap into as resources when the time is appropriate.

 

Is anyone else singing “A Whole New World” from Aladdin?

Entrepreneurship Rising: Embrace Your Corporate Job While You Wait

Business Woman

So many people are fed up with their corporate jobs and seek to start their own business. You want to get out on your own for your passion project or the thing you know will bring in more money than working in the corporate world. Entrepreneurship is calling. I get it! Been there and done that. What most people don’t realize is that you can learn a lot about starting a business from your corporate job. Embrace what you have while you wait because there are so many lessons to be learned and used from your current position on your entrepreneurial journey. 

When I started my own business I didn’t necessarily see myself leaving the corporate world. I always thought that I would be a professional and a professional side hustler at the same time. Well, the funny thing is that I’ve changed my mind. Throughout my corporate life, I have been receiving all of these opportunities to learn about business without always knowing they’re setting me up for my future goals.

Let me explain!

Many of the concepts I’ve learned in the corporate world are transferable to running my own business when it comes to the overall idea of entrepreneurship. For example, if you are in customer service, you should be soaking up all of the training you’re receiving from your current job in order to best serve your customers at your own company in the future. If you’re responsible for training at your corporate job, learn to be the best at it because you will eventually be training your own staff.

Here are some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in my corporate career that have played a hand in starting my own business.

 

Sales

During my time in business development, I was fortunate enough to take a Dale Carnegie sales class. If you know anything about Dale Carnegie, then you know the classes are informative, powerful and…expensive. This 8 week, $1,800 series was not something my little pockets could pay for at the time. Let’s be honest, I would struggle to pay that now!

The workshops in this series taught me public speaking skills, how to close a sale, how to network, and even the proper guidelines for following up with a lead. Of course, all these skills were necessary for the role I held with my previous employer. But it as paid off – A LOT. These skills translated very well into my current role. In my own business, I have the know-how and the confidence to pitch clients and land successful deals. Everything I learned was worth its weight in gold.

Even if it’s not a Dale Carnegie class, I encourage everyone to take a sales course in order to learn how to present yourself and close any deal!

 

Analyzing Data

What’s that Jay-Z lyric? Oh yeah. “Numbers don’t lie.” As a business owner, it is imperative to know how to analyze data. You have to know your past, current, and future standings. Whether you’re looking at your business revenue or the results of your services, you have to know!

The proof is in the pudding. When you can show the results in numbers, it helps close the pitch and also demonstrates the success of your efforts. For example, if I can show my clients that I’ve been able to successfully grow their social media accounts by a certain percentage within a specific time frame and that I’m meeting the goals we’ve set, that gives the client an idea of my importance and value to their business. This is why they NEED me and need to keep PAYING me. Understand what I’m saying?

 

Networking

Networking is like going to the gym. You hate it, you don’t want to do it, but you push through and make it there anyway. Go you! Sometimes you complain through the workout but, when you leave, there is a feeling of accomplishment. If you network and make a good connection – even just one – it feels even better.

I had the opportunity to go to as many networking events as I wanted in a previous position. This opportunity taught me the art of climbing social ladders and developing genuine business relationships.If you have the opportunity to network or even take meetings with those you typically wouldn’t have a chance to interact with at your company, do it! That person or group of people may be a huge benefit to the business you will run in the future.

Knowing how to network is also a great idea because it gives you a chance to expand your knowledge from those outside of your lane. As an entrepreneur, your favorite kind of person needs to people who help people. And you need to be one. What connections are you making? What opportunities are you taking? How are you constantly learning?

 

Now, put these things to task

These three areas of opportunity are just topics I stumbled upon. I wasn’t focused on entrepreneurship at the time. Now, I specifically ask to see what I need to know. For example, I now have a pretty good relationship with someone in the marketing department at work. I plan to ask this person to take the time to go over Facebook ads with me. I need to dive into this particular world and the information is sitting right there for FREE! You know I’m not going to pass up that opportunity.

Don’t be scared to ask. If something you want or are interested in is outside of your current role, volunteer and give a helping hand in the area you wish to discover. Everybody needs help and by helping you’ll learn more. In this case, you’d be doing someone a favor in rturn by helping with their workload (and doing yourself a favor in the learning department, too).

I say all this to say that the business or businesses you currently work for had to start somewhere, just like you. They are most likely using tried and true tactics when it comes to hitting business goals (and if they’re not, it may be time for you to seek a new opportunity!). Your journey is your journey for a reason. Don’t miss the gems in front of you by being an antsy pants and only negative about your corporate job. Think big picture and beyond the desk you’re sitting at. Take it all in and focus on learning the things that will ultimately make you the greatest success at your business.