Was Jimmy Styks a Pirate?

If you strive to be a successful entrepreneur it’s incumbent upon you to be able to persuade others to buy from you whether it’s a product, a service, and idea or whatever. The same goes for you even if you aren’t an entrepreneur. Somewhere along the line you must convince someone else to say “yes” to you. With that as the backdrop, consider the following pitches for the same product.

Scenario #1: The Jimmy Styks Apex Hybrid 114 Stand-Up Paddle Board is one of the best paddle boards on the market today. This paddle board is 11’4” in length, 32” in width and amazingly light at 33 pounds with a thickness of only 4.8”. The 5” nose rocker and the 3” tail rocker offer tremendous stability for this sleek wave runner. And its rugged design will accommodate an NFL-sized bruiser of up to 260-pounds. Real bamboo inlays provide superior strength, and utility tie-downs keep your gear in place while you paddle. The board is camera mount ready and a carry handle is included for easy transport to and from the water. This is a top-of-the-line model and will give you years of pleasure on the water.

Scenario #2: I went on a journey the other day. But it wasn’t the kind of journey with which you might be familiar. The ocean was like glass and I could see to the bottom 40 feet below. Fish were swimming everywhere and I saw a baby octopus poke out from between two rocks. My Jimmy Styks Stand-Up Paddle Board was my constant companion as I glided effortlessly across the surface. After about 20 minutes something glistening caught my eye. The sun was bright overhead and I stopped to look. There it was again! Something was definitely on the bottom and was shining in such a way as though it was beckoning to me. I dove to the bottom and gently brushed back the sand. Yes! It was a Spanish gold doubloon. I brought it to the surface for closer inspection and found it to be in perfect condition with a mint stamp of 1798. Wow! I dove back to the same spot and there, waiting for me, were five more doubloons – a truly amazing find. Thankfully my Jimmy Styks comes equipped with a carrying case into which I stashed my treasure and utilized the built-in gear tie-downs.

Since that first journey I’ve taken many others to the same spot. Fortunately my Jimmy Styks can hold a lot of weight, up to 260-pounds actually. I only weigh 180 so I was able to haul a lot more treasure from that spot with each visit. I mounted a GoPro camera on the board to record my recovery effort and was gratified that my bamboo-constructed Jimmy Styks was so stable, even with the weight of shifting gold, diamonds and emeralds. Yes – I also found exquisite baubles on the ocean floor as well; a real pirate’s treasure. In all, there was 100 pounds of the stuff. And I was able to quit my job and now live the life of leisure thanks to my Jimmy Styks Apex Hybrid 114 Stand-Up Paddle Board.

Far too often we try to persuade others with facts and figures. While important, facts and figures don’t tell the whole story. And that’s just the point. Storytelling is a much more powerful method to help someone buy something. I don’t know about you, but I would be much more inclined to have an interest in purchasing a Jimmy Styks Stand Up Paddle Board after listening to the story in Scenario #2. The recitation of facts in Scenario #1 was fine, but I wasn’t particularly inspired. Customers are more likely persuaded to buy from us when we inspire them in some fashion.

Storytelling is an effective way to help others buy from us. Painting a picture that someone can envision is more inspiring than simply pointing out facts and features.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 42 – On It or In It?

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

“No” Flippers

Here is a fascinating subject for all entrepreneurs (and everyone else for that matter). It’s the world of auto-antonyms with a focus on one particular word in the English language. What is an auto-antonym you ask? Don’t worry; you didn’t miss anything in school. Until I looked it up, I had no idea about auto-antonyms, sometimes called a contranym. Simple answer – it’s a word that can mean the opposite of what it appears to mean. Now that the picture is completely confused, let’s focus on the word . . . NO.

“No” seems like a pretty simple word to understand – right? Not so fast. In my world “No” can actually mean “Yes.” Let me explain. Remember when we were kids and we bugged our parents for something? Often times the default answer was “No.” But we became conditioned to realize that “No” could be changed to “Yes.” I remember a trip to Disneyland in Anaheim, California when I was five years old. There was one particular ride that I wanted to try as soon as I hit the park. My parents – in unison – said, “No” (emphasis not added). They reasoned that I was too young. But I continued to harangue them throughout the day and wore them down to the point that before we left the park that afternoon, they finally said, “Yes.” In fact I was too young for the ride and had no clue what to do – one of the attendants had to come and rescue me – but I was victorious in my quest to flip “No” to “Yes.” I guess that was the launch of my persuasive powers on the road to becoming an entrepreneur.

Too often, we hear “No” and accept it as gospel. We interpret the word as a form of rejection; feelings may be hurt, and we may become dejected and deflated. This next statement is very, very important. NO. DOES. NOT. ALWAYS. MEAN. NO. If we simply accept the word for what we think it means then it’s Strike Three and game over. But if we see “No” as the starting point for getting to “Yes,” there’s still a chance for extra innings. And who knows – we might win the game in the bottom of the 12th!

Entrepreneurs who hear “Yes” when they are told “No” are “No Flippers.” They understand that being told “No” just means that they need to become more persuasive and work harder to build their relationships. By doing so, they increase the odds of flipping the “No” answer to a “Yes” answer. When we are told “No,” we have a chance to zero-in and learn something. If we’re helping someone buy our product or service, it’s imperative that we find out why the other party has declined. By politely asking for feedback we might discover that a minor change in the product or service could result in a totally different outcome. Had we simply accepted the “No” answer, we might not have had the chance to make the tweak that led to a sale. Sometimes we are told “No” not because the other party doesn’t like us or what we are offering, but the timing isn’t right for them. This is where relationship-building is critical. We remain in touch and work to serve the relationship in whatever ways possible while staying in front of the customer in a positive manner. But remember – there’s a fine line between the obnoxious childish whining we did as kids to get our way, and doing what it takes to be in the right place at the right time to serve our customers.

I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve been told “No” whether it was in raising equity from investors to acquire properties; securing a loan for an acquisition; negotiating the purchase or sale of a property, or trying to hire a particular individual to join our team. Maybe I’m just thickheaded, but when I hear “No,” it’s just a signal to step-up my game.

As entrepreneurs we need to become accomplished “No Flippers.” It may take a while and we will need to be creative, but eventually we’ll get someone to say “Yes.” Maybe it’s the person we have been trying to convince all along, or perhaps it’s someone else. We use the knowledge we gain from hearing “No” to make the changes necessary to get to “Yes” and achieve success.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 3 – Visually Unimpaired.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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Lincoln vs. Douglas

We may often find ourselves in situations where we are on the opposite side of a particular position that is being advocated by someone else. At this point we have a choice to make. Do we speak up or keep quiet? Obviously it all depends upon the circumstances and whether or not a discussion is actually merited. I enjoy a good healthy debate but have learned that it’s not necessary to go to the mat every time someone is espousing a point of view that is different than my own. The bottom line – what is to be gained from engaging in such a discussion? Will I persuade the other person to change his or her mind? Are there others who might be listening that I want to influence? In many cases, I decide to forgo the debate when I’m reasonably certain that the other person is entrenched in his or her point of view and there is no one else around to influence.

Let’s assume that we do want to convince others to adopt our perspective on an issue. How we go about doing this will be a real test of our skill in communications and diplomacy. If you ever watch political debates pay close attention . . . and then do just the opposite of what the politicians do. Often they obfuscate, make ad hominem attacks, avoid the question and use emotional appeals. There is a much better way.

Stick to the facts. Utilizing a fact-based approach to construct our own arguments is both rational and appropriate. Of all the classes I took in college my hands-down favorite was Logic. Connecting the dots with logic supported by well-sourced data is powerful and persuasive. And my Logic professor always used to say that a clear indication that you are winning a logical argument was when the other party resorts to playing on emotions. In addition to supporting our own thesis with facts, we can also de-construct the opposing point of view in similar fashion.

Depersonalize. As we debate an issue it’s easy to become passionate about our position and allow things to get personal. Watching our words is critically important at this point. Consider the following statement. “I just don’t understand why you are being so hard-nosed with your position.” How do you suppose the other party is going to react? It would be easy to become defensive if you are on the receiving end of this barb. How does this sound? “Help me understand the ABC Company’s position.” The word “you” has been replaced with the ABC Company. And the statement avoids an inflammatory tone.

Be respectful. Above all, we should maintain a level of friendliness during our discussion. Being respectful of the other party is paramount. Belittling and mocking statements do us no favors. Others who may be listening will be turned off by this approach. We are better served by acknowledging that the opposing point of view has merit even if we disagree. For example, we might say, “John, I understand that you believe that we should invest more marketing dollars in print media and I’m sure that we would get results. On the other hand, four independent studies have shown that the ROI for an investment in social media is five times higher than with print media.” Here, we’ve been respectful of John and his position, and then de-constructed his argument with our own facts.

Debate is healthy and productive when engaged in a positive manner. Using facts, avoiding becoming personal and maintaining respect are the best ways to persuade others to accept and adopt the position that we advocate.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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Staying Away From the Cliff

What is your reaction when you hear the word “debate?” Is this code for conflict? Entrepreneurs and humankind in general are inclined to try and persuade others to see their point of view. Unfortunately the art of debate has been stigmatized by what happens in the political arena. Political debate has degenerated into something far removed from the honorable tradition of true debate. Sometimes in our business and daily lives what is being termed as “debate” is also something much less noble.

I remember taking debate classes in school. We were taught to construct factual arguments to support our position on an issue. In college my favorite class of all time was Logic. It was fascinating to listen to the professor walk us through various arguments that were commonplace in society and show us where the logic broke down. To effectively persuade and convince others to make decisions that we want them to make, it is helpful to frame our argument in solid facts and logic. To clarify, I’m not using the term “argument” in the “argumentative” sense but rather in the context of a thesis.

Every time I read an article that might contain an element of controversy, I always think of my old college professor as I read the comments. There is often a lot of emotion on a particular subject which may result in ad hominem attacks, name calling and a loss of decorum. Usually when this happens, the offending party has already lost the debate because he/she can’t offer a logical opposing position supported by facts.

In my opinion, the components of a healthy debate include a willingness to lay out one’s position in logical and factual manner; the ability to listen to and understand a contrary position without interruption; the ability to politely use facts and logic to counter the contrary position, and at the end of the day, the willingness to have respect for the person making the contrary argument. In other words, smile and shake hands when it’s all said and done. We may or may not persuade the other person to see our point of view and vice versa, but we avoided falling off the emotional cliff.

The emotional cliff is a dangerous place to be for entrepreneurs. I would much rather persuade someone to agree with my position on something using facts and logic, than appealing to their emotions. Using emotional appeal is another term for manipulation. Business does this every day through marketing a myriad of products and services. But often the person being persuaded is left dissatisfied with the overall experience when he/she realizes the product or service may not meet his/her needs. The feeling of manipulation has a long shelf-life, whether in a marketing or sales sense, or when making decisions based upon the arguments made in debate.

Debate and persuasion that are fact and logic-based can build positive and lasting relationships. When we aspire to stay above the emotional fray we win every time in so many ways.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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