‘Selling For Those Who Don’t Like To Sell’The Lost Art of OratoryCan we have some truth please?

‘Selling For Those Who Don’t Like To Sell’

All of us in business have to sell, in one form or another, our products, our services, and ourselves.

So often though, I hear again and again of people who are very accepting or happy with every aspect of their business experience, except the selling part, and I’ve come to the conclusion that most people don’t like selling.

Now, unless you totally change your lifestyle, this issue of selling is not going away. If you don’t like it, then you need to change your attitude.

First question to ask; Do you think you can make someone buy something they don’t want?

Second question; Do you think you can be sold something you don’t want?

Let us assume that in certain extreme circumstances this is possible, but I would suggest that in the majority of cases where it looks as though someone has bought something they didn’t want, they in fact, wanted to be persuaded. The fact that the salesman apparently talked them into it could even be used as an ‘excuse’ for them having bought it.

I have a friend who saw a rather delapidated house on stilts when she was on holiday in Canada. She decided to have a look around it, just out of interest, and you can guess the rest. Of course there are times when she considers the rashness, of course there are times when she struggles financially, but there are far more times when she can hardly contain her excitement. The point is, in that initial decision-making stage, she wanted to be persuaded.

This may seem a very simplistic example, but the principle remains the same however complex the negotiation, and I would suggest, in answer to the above 2 questions, the majority of people will not buy what they don’t want.

If that’s the case, then instead of trying to ‘sell’ we should maybe adopt a different process.

There are 3 elements to my proposed process.

Firstly we should determine the level of interest. Is the person interested because;
1) it’s something they didn’t know about?
2) it’s something they’ve thought about in the past?
3) they want to do something but are not sure what to do, where to go, or who to use?
4) they are currently looking to do something?

Once this level of interest is determined, you now know how to help, where to focus your attention, and what advice and guidance you can give.

Secondly, and most importantly, at this point in the process you should now remove the word ‘sell’ from your business vocabulary, and replace it with the word ‘explain’.

In response to each of the above 4 levels of interest you will now ‘explain’ to the person or persons concerned the qualities and benefits of your products or services, with the ‘explanation’ tailored to the specific requirements of the 4 different levels.

By using this process of ‘explanation’ instead of ‘selling’, you will immediately and completely remove a huge level of mental pressure.

There is no pressure if you are just explaining.

When you ‘explain’ something to someone you are not focused on yourself, (which of course will immediately remove levels of self-conscious behaviour), you are totally focused on the other person, because you want them to fully understand, and you want the details to be clear. If they fully understand, if it’s totally clear to them, they can then make an informed decision or judgement.

Try to regularly use the words, ‘let me explain’, ‘let me make it clear’, ‘I’d like you to understand’, for example. These are very powerful, open and non-threatening words and phrases.

Your responsibility and priority in these situations is to ensure that, before you make it clear to someone else, you must first make it clear to yourself. You need always to be able to explain your products and services at their best.

Your explanation should be honest, open, positive and clear.

Thirdly, be aware of the sequence;
What do I want them to understand? What do I want them to feel? What do I want them to do?
What you understand determines how you feel. How you feel determines what you do. When it comes to selling, you are not in control of what people do, but you can be in control of what they understand and what they feel.
And please note; people remember very little of what you say, but they will never forget the way you made them feel.

Working backwards you should ask yourself, ‘what do they need to feel for them to do what I’d like them to do?’
Once you determine what you’d like them to feel, that helps you decide what you’d like them to understand.

And so, in conclusion, from this day forth I want you to;
• Remove the word ‘sell’ from your working and business vocabulary and
replace it with word ‘explain’. From now on, you don’t sell.

• Choose to believe that people don’t buy what they don’t want, and
determine that you will not try to make or force people to buy from you.

• Accept that your personal responsibility is to be fully prepared and physically and mentally
ready to present your products and services in the best possible light by
‘explaining’ as efficiently and effectively as you can with positivity and clarity.

© Ron Aldridge 2010

The Lost Art of Oratory – Observations

I don’t know how many of you caught the recent fascinating BBC documentary called ‘Yes We Can - The Lost Art of Oratory’, but I thought I’d just pass on a few thoughts I had after watching it.

The programme focused around the inauguration ceremony of Barack Obama. Dianne Abbot, MP, recognised that with President Obama, ‘oratory had been re-introduced to politics.’

Here was a highly intelligent man who spoke with clarity, purpose and conviction. It may not be enough to save the world, we’ll have to wait and see, but this ability to speak so well and so convincingly has truly captured the world’s imagination.

I think this is because most of the political ‘speaking’ of the last few years has had a depressing preoccupation with ‘spin’, and as we know, ‘spin’, by it’s very nature, is not authentic. We associate oratory with authenticity. We need to believe in the speaker.

Gore Vidal likened the preparations of great orators to the preparations of great actors. Churchill’s commitment to his speech was like Olivier tackling Hamlet. Great orators, like great actors, are great ‘performers’

Like great actors, great leaders create and sell us on an alternative vision of the world – a better world of which we are an essential part.

Churchill idealised his countrymen with such intensity that in the end they approached his ideal. Ghandi, it has been said, made India proud of itself. Washington also had that great leader’s gift of making people believe they could be part – that they were part – of a great nation. Martin Luther King, a rhetorician of rare power, had that same genius.

When you consider such towering and theatrical leaders, you come to realise that leadership is not just a performing art, it may well be the greatest performing art of all – the only one that creates institutions of lasting value, institutions that can endure long after the stars who envisioned them have left the theatre. And oratory – great oratory – is the externalising and expressing of these leadership qualities – the presence of presence.

Presence comes from within. It begins with an inner state, which leads to a series of external behaviours. You can put on the behaviours, but by themselves they’ll lack something essential. They’ll be hollow noise and nothing else. We’ve all heard politicians say, “I feel your pain,” when we know they’re simply saying what they think we want to hear. Compare that to Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, which obviously sprang from his deeply held beliefs and motivated a generation to overturn four hundred years of assumptions and behaviours.

Think about the last time you were really moved by an actor in a live theatrical performance, or in a T.V. drama, or in a film. Really moved to feel something deeply, to understand something more completely, to think about something from a new perspective, or even, perhaps, to change your mind about something. Now think about the last time you were truly moved in the same way by a presentation made by a leader in your organisation. I’m not saying moved to tears, but moved to understand a different point of view, be excited about a new possibility, or to be motivated to adapt and grow with changing times. The goal of the actor or the leader in these instances is the same – to connect with the audience in some fundamental way. Unfortunately most people will say that this experience is much more rare in the office than it is at the cinema.

Which is exactly the point. The skills of oratory that actors use to move, convince, inspire or entertain have direct and powerful applications in the worlds of business, politics, education and organisations in general. They are not only useful for leadership, they are essential. Great leaders, like great actors, must be confident, energetic, empathetic, inspirational, credible and authentic.

That leaders and actors share some skills and characteristics should come as no surprise. Actors and leaders face a common challenge. They must form connections, communicate effectively, and work with others as a team. They must be prepared to play different roles, as the situation requires. They must be prepared to influence and move people every day. Just as actors play a variety of roles, we all play roles, as people and as leaders. How many roles do you play each day of your life? Manager, parent, spouse, whatever your profession is, scout leader, church-goer, citizen, nurse, counsellor. Do you behave differently in each role? And does that mean you are faking things? Beneath all these roles is the same person. And in all these roles there must be ‘truth’ – there must be ‘authenticity’.

It is a paradox in the theatre that, in order to pretend, the actor must be real. That need requires the actor to delve inside himself, because the only way an emotion can be authentic is if it comes from within the actor. Actors, consequently, are probably more aware of authenticity than anyone else, because they’ve studied it, and themselves, so carefully.

Again, great oratory is the externalising and expressing of this ‘truth’ - this ‘authenticity’. We believe great orators because they believe – we see that they ‘care’. Ex President Clinton confirmed what we in the theatre are fully aware of – people remember very little of what you say, they won’t remember your exact words, but what they will never, ever forget, is the way that you made them feel. And if you want your audience to feel something, then you must ‘feel’ it too.

Thoughts to take away:

Speak your truth: We are all expert at body-language and non-verbal communication. If you are not ‘authentic’, if you are not telling your ‘truth’, it will be detected by your audience - maybe not consciously, but certainly subconsciously. If lack of authenticity is detected, the response will not be totally positive.

Understand your passionate purpose: Why are you speaking? What are you hoping to achieve? Are you there to motivate, educate, inspire, entertain – maybe a bit of each? Knowing your passionate purpose will help to determine the content of your speech, and will also help to keep your intentions ‘focused’.

Externalise emotion: Now that you know your passionate purpose, it is vital you express this purpose with clarity, and let your audience know exactly how you feel. We will be left with a ‘feeling’ when you finish speaking, and what we feel will be determined by our experience of ‘your feelings.’ Even if we don’t agree with you, we know where you stand. This openness is an essential part of true communication, and is vital for great oratory.

Rehearse: Actors wouldn’t dream of going on stage without rehearsing – this is where all the work is done. You cannot be over-rehearsed, but you can very easily be under-rehearsed. And remember, people rehearse until they get it right - professionals rehearse until they can’t get it wrong. You need to be able to walk on stage knowing that you can’t get it wrong. Imagine what that does for your levels of ‘inner-confidence’.

© Ron Aldridge 2010

Can we have some truth please?

Always interesting times as we approach a general election, especially in this current climate, which could certainly be classified as ‘challenging’.

Having a live televised debate involving the leaders of the 3 main parties sounds like a great idea, and I would like to comment after the event on the different ‘communication’ styles on display.

But alas, I already feel the pall of disappointment. As with all so-called ‘reality’ television these days, I fear the event will be ‘controlled’, ‘contrived’, ‘stage-managed’ and ‘manipulated’, and that any chance of a healthy and truthful debate where we really get to see what each person is made of is probably too much to hope for. I’d love to be proved wrong. I’d love some personal ‘confrontations’ – and I’d love a few ‘home-truths’ to come out.

Because that’s what we’ve been lacking. Truth! And that is what we always seek. In any and every human inter-action, in any circumstance and transaction, all we want is the truth. “Can I trust him?” “Can I believe him?” “Is he telling me the truth?” “Will he do what he says?” These are the questions we always ask ourselves – if not consciously then most certainly subconsciously. This quest for truth is what drives us as human beings.

That’s why this present political climate is so confusing for so many people – we don’t know what’s true and what isn’t. Expenses, banking, and going to war – need I say more? “We’ve done nothing illegal” is the constant cry. Maybe, but the rules have been bent so much it certainly starts to appear like criminal behaviour. I personally think some of these people should be in the courts, and a few who should be on trial as war criminals. There has been a serious breach of trust, and this has left a great number of people feeling very disillusioned and betrayed.

The problem is that for the last 13 years there has been an unhealthy, and may I suggest dangerous, preoccupation with ‘spin’. It has now become an ‘acceptable’ form of political communication, to the point where for a great number of people the job of a ‘spin-doctor’ would be considered a legitimate and prestigious career choice! Spin by it’s very nature is not authentic, which is why I detest the concept so much, because in my world, the world of theatre, truth is everything.

We theatre folk are often challenged – “Don’t you people just lie very well for a living?” No, we don’t lie. Yes, we are pretending to be someone else, a different character, but that person, that character, is portrayed totally for real. It’s a paradox of the theatre, that in order to pretend, the actor must be real. That need requires the actor to delve inside himself, because the only way an emotion can be authentic is if it comes from within the actor. Actors, consequently, are probably more aware of authenticity than anyone else, because they’ve studied it, and themselves, so carefully. It is an essential and demanding part of the actor’s craft. It is also the only way to judge if an actor is good or not – do you believe him? Do you get ‘drawn-in? Do you get emotionally involved? If the actor doesn’t master this concept of ‘truth’, his performance will be diminished and his audience will be distanced.

Great actors are the ones who convince us of the authenticity of the characters they portray, and are committed to the truth of the role and the reality of the play. They bring their ‘life-experience’ to whatever role they are playing, and this is the parallel with ‘leaders’ in other fields. Leaders need to bring their ‘life-experience’ to their roles as leaders. Just as an actor needs to connect with the character he’s playing, a leader needs to connect his work with his own life in ways that reach beyond ‘sales and profits’.

Too many leaders try to behave in ways they think their role demands, rather than authentically being themselves based on their values. They try to tell us things they think we want to hear. This can make them come across as inauthentic and therefore not to be trusted.

So when we watch the live debate on television, we will need to use all our ‘instincts’ and our ‘feelings’ to enable us to reach our conclusions. Working on the premise that all human communication is roughly, 65% non-verbal communication, 20% how we say something, and 15% the words we use, we need to ensure we focus our attention appropriately.

Watch and ‘feel’ their body-language – does it feel natural? – is it appropriate? – is it contrived? Watch their facial expressions – are they forced or relaxed? – are they ‘listening’? Listen to the way they say something – is it believable, and again, is it natural? – is it forced? – are they trying too hard? This will account for 85% of all the ‘messages’ you receive. Trust your ‘instincts’, you are an expert at non-verbal communication – it’s your ‘first language’.

Try not to focus too much on the words they are saying – it could be that they didn’t even write the piece themselves anyway – just try and get a ‘feel’ and an ‘instinct’ of what is coming across. It’ll certainly make the programme far more interesting for you that’s for sure. You never know, you might even enjoy it!

I can’t imagine myself being able to believe a word anyone says, but let’s hope that I’m surprised, and let’s hope you’re not quite as cynical as me about politicians at the moment.

© Ron Aldridge 2010