Tag Archives | branding

Power Talking: Get Those “Buts” Out Of Your Mouth

I’m always looking for new customer service training ideas. Whenever I’m out in the marketplace–in restaurants, retail stores, community events, etc.–I’ve got my radar on for real life examples (both good and bad) that I can use for future sessions. And one of the simple behavior patterns I’ve noticed that separates exceptional customer service practitioners from their mediocre counterparts is vocabulary.

True customer service pros are what I call “power talkers.” They deliberately refrain from using weak, indecisive words and phrases and instead respond to customers with language that injects clarity, focus, and positive expectations into their conversations.

Words have power | Power talking

For example, consider how one simple, everyday word can weaken communication:

“We can schedule your car for service this afternoon, BUT we won’t have it done until tomorrow.”

“We received your request BUT the person who handles your account isn’t here today.”

“Robert is an excellent communicator, BUT his computer skills are weak.”

Notice how the word “but” negates everything that was said before it. This weak word saps all the energy from the conversation. How many times have you heard, “Yes, but…” and felt deflated knowing that your idea or comment is about to get a rebuttal?

Words have power | Power talking

A more powerful and energetic alternative is to replace the word “but” with “and.” Notice how it changes things:

“We can schedule your car for service this afternoon AND we will have that for you by noon tomorrow.”

“We received your request AND I will have the person who handles your account call you when she returns tomorrow.”

“Robert is an excellent communicator, AND he is developing his computer skills.”

If you’re seriously committed to building a strong personal brand, delivering exceptional customer service, and continually sharpening your leadership skills, the words you use matter. “Power Talking” is based on this simple but powerful truth: The words we use shape the outcomes we create in serving customers–and in everyday life.

Try it: I guarantee these simple changes in language will add substance and impact to the perceptions you create.

“Power Talking” is based on three principles of human communication:

1. People judge you–and you judge them–based on the words and phrases you use in your everyday communication. Consciously eliminating negative, powerless expressions and projecting a more positive, resourceful image will cause people to respond more positively to you.

2. The people you want to influence–your customers, co-workers, children, etc.–take cues from your language when deciding whether or not they will cooperate with you. While some words or phrases unconsciously sabotage our efforts to work with other people, others are extremely effective.

3. The words you use when talking to and about yourself help to shape your own self-image and they translate to your actions and behaviors.

Here are some examples of each of these principles from my own experiences:

At a recent auto retailing conference, one of the presenters–a successful car dealer–opened by saying, “You’ll have to excuse me, I’m not much of a public speaker.” Can you guess how his presentation went? It was awful.

Overhearing a phone call from an employee to a late-paying customer, she said, “I was wondering if you could send in your payment sometime soon.” A better way to get cooperation would be to simply ask, “When may I expect your payment?”

Responding to a “When will my car be done?” inquiry from an anxious customer, a service advisor said, “It should be done sometime tomorrow afternoon.” Instead of projecting such an unclear expectation, a better response would have been: “It will be done by 3pm tomorrow.” (Then have it done by noon and exceed the customer’s expectations.)

Although each of these examples seem simple, becoming a “power talker” is not easy. Years of cultural conditioning can weaken our diction, corrupt our clarity, and suck the life blood out of our communication.

Words have power | Power talking

Finally, together with “But,” here are five more popular powerless words and phrases to eliminate from your vocabulary:

1. Try. Known as “the king of wimpy,” try carries with it no commitment at all. As Yoda said in Star Wars, “Try, no. Do, or do not. There is no try.” Instead, be clear…and be firm. Candor and honesty will go much farther to build trust with your customer than “trying” ever will.

2. Have to. In customer service, saying “I’ll have to…” implies that serving your customer is going to be a burden, as in “I’ll have to check the availability and call you back.” Replace this negative line with the hospitable phrase, “I’ll be glad to…”

3. Basically. Together with “like,” “you know,” “well,” and a host of others, “basically” is what I call a “filler word” that serves no purpose; eliminate it–just say what you plan to say.

4. To be honest with you. When you hear this from someone, doesn’t it make you wonder, “Does this mean he is usually not honest?” Remove it–and simply say what you’re planning to say.

5. Should. When someone in customer service tells you, “I should have it done by…” how confident are you in such a weak commitment? Be decisive–say, “I will have it done by…” then over-deliver on your promise.

Remember, people judge you–and you judge them–based on the words and phrases used in your everyday communication. Regardless of your line of work, consciously eliminating negative, powerless expressions and projecting a more positive, resourceful image will welcome people to respond more positively to you.

Which powerless words and phrases do you encounter most often?

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How to Live to 100: Nine Healthy Blue Zone Habits

They’re known as the Blue Zones: Areas around the world with the highest concentrations of centenarians (people who live to be 100+ years old). These Blue Zone areas include parts of Japan, Mexico, Greece, Italy, Costa Rica, and even Southern California.

In 2005, author Dan Buettner launched a research project seeking to learn the longevity secrets of these vibrant cultures which culminated in the 2008 publication of The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. Although I haven’t read the book, Buettner’s research has been well documented. His work is a fascinating summary of what makes the world’s healthiest people so healthy.

Despite the fact that people live longer today than ever before, let’s face it: Most of us know very few people who make it even close to 100 years old, much less any full-fledged centenarians. Yet Buettner’s work features people like Francesca Castillo of Costa Rica, who, at 100 years old, still cut her own wood and cleared brush from her yard with a machete.

What sets centenarians apart? Is it purely genetics, or are there specific practices we can identify and adopt to help us increase our own life spans? Here are nine habits which, according to Buettner, centenarians throughout the world’s Blue Zones all share:

People who live in Blue Zones walk... a lot.

1. Walk…a lot. This reminds me of the best selling book, Eat, Move, Sleep by Tom Rath, who points out that sitting more than six hours a day is the most underrated public health problem in America. According to Buettner, Blue Zoners walk practically all day, not because they necessarily want to, but because most of them don’t own a car. While that’s not an option for most people, (something that, in my line of work, I’m grateful for!) Buettner recommends finding a place to live that favors activity and connectivity.

2. Don’t retire. Refocus. Blue Zoners all share a deep sense of purpose for their lives. They greet each day with a compelling reason to live. The traditional definition of “retirement” simply doesn’t exist in their vocabulary.

3. Find a de-stressing ritual. Although faced with the same worries we all have, centenarians manage stress through a variety of daily rituals, such as spending time with friends.

4. Follow the 80% Rule. In the age of super-sized portions, centenarians only eat and drink until they feel 80% full.

5. Eat lots of vegetables. In the Blue Zones, the least expensive and most popular dishes are plant-based. Most eat limited amounts of meat and very little refined sugar and carbohydrates.

6. Drink a little wine. Contrary to popular belief, centenarians, by and large, are not teetotalers, although most drink limited amounts and wine is the drink of choice.

7. Cultivate strong friendships. Blue Zoners are consistently found to have a core group of life long friends who provide stability, intimacy, and support.

8. Be part of a community. There is a strong sense of belonging in Blue Zones; a deep-seated cultural expectation of people caring for one another, often centered around religious faith.

9. Stay married. According to Buettner, a positive, committed relationship adds at least six years to life expectancy.

Here’s a question: What would it mean to the quality of your life–and the strength of your personal brand–if you had the physical, mental, and spiritual capacity to live 100+ years? Which of these nine habits resonate the most with you? Which ones challenge you? I’d love to hear your feedback!

This post was adapted from my 2013 blog post.

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Building a Strong Personal Brand

Do you recall this 2008 TV ad campaign for Holiday Inn Express?

I love this ad because the message is so simple and appealing: Stay at a Holiday Inn Express, and the next day you will be the best version of yourself.

Simple enough. But simple does not always mean easy. When I speak on the topic of personal branding, I usually open by asking the audience…

“Can you think of a day in your recent past–one day–when you were at your absolute best? You jumped out of bed in the morning full of energy and confidence. You were clear-headed, persuasive, and resourceful; you made a great impression on everyone you met. And as the day wore on, instead of gradually losing energy, you gained it. You were at the top of your game. And you went to bed that night with a deep sense of satisfaction because you knew you made a difference that day.”

My question usually draws a chuckle or polite smile from my audience, as if they’re thinking, “Yeah right–most days I’m grateful just to get through the day.”

But what if you really could live every day with this kind of passion, energy, and impact? What would it mean to you and to the quality of your life to present the best possible version of yourself each day to your world? Furthermore, how can you position yourself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to consistently live at the very top of your game?

In my experience covering the topic of personal branding, “presenting the best possible version of yourself” is the best description of what a strong personal brand looks like. Over the next several posts, I’ll share some insights and tools you can use to develop this capacity in the coming year.

I recall a popular breakfast cereal ad in the 1970’s that said, “Today is the first day… of the rest of your life, so start it right!” Although I’m not sure that eating sugary cereal is the best way to accomplish that, the message is right on target. Every day we have the choice to either step up to, or step away from our potential. A few key insights and practical strategies can make all the difference in living your best life… so stay tuned!

by Ashim D'Silva | unsplash.com

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How Strong is Your Personal Brand? Start With These Four Crucial Questions.

At last Saturday’s Enough Already Conference, I presented four keys to building your personal brand at work. To illustrate, I shared the story of my friend, Mark, who, after graduating from college a few years ago, began a career in Information Technology with a medium-sized West Michigan company.

What would focusing on delivering superior value instead of merely fulfilling a job description mean to your personal brand, your career and the quality of your life?Aware of the image most people have of I.T.  (cerebral, technical introverts who focus strictly on fixing technology problems) from his first day on the job, Mark took a different approach. Instead of merely responding to the problems brought to him by other departments, he decided to pro-actively engage them. He met with the leaders, for example, and asked them to describe their biggest goals, challenges, and productivity issues, getting to know them and learning to speak their language. Mark’s collaborative approach focused on one objective: How can we utilize technology not to merely fix things, but to leverage performance, meet objectives, reduce cost, and make people’s jobs easier?

“Do you think this approach had an impact on Mark’s reputation in the company?” I asked the group. You bet it did! In fact, in a very short time, Mark moved up the ranks, promoted ahead of other colleagues with significantly greater education and experience.

Mark’s story is a perfect example of the power of personal branding. By creating superior value for the departments he served verses merely following the dictates of his job description, Mark carved his own identity that earned him more income, greater flexibility, and promotion opportunities.

How can you learn from Mark’s example to create your personal brand? According to author and personal branding expert Glenn Llopis, addressing these four questions will help you clarify your unique value proposition.

1) What is your enduring idea? In other words, if you had to create a slogan, movie title, or theme song to describe your work, what would it be? For example, Mark’s enduring idea could be described as: “Reaching Out”
2) What is your primary differentiator? What sets you apart? Try to be concise. In Mark’s case, he chose to be pro-active verses reactive in serving his clients.
3) What is the primary experience that you deliver to others? How do you specifically add value to the people you serve? Mark, for example, really sought to understand the challenges and core issues affecting the departments he served. Then, he responded with solutions that went well beyond the normal expectations of his job description.
4) Who is your audience? Who does your brand serve? This can be tricky because it is generally more broad than you may have thought. In Mark’s case, his service extended to nearly every person in the department verses the person who deals with the I.T. people.

Question: How can you adopt Mark’s initiative to create your own personal brand in your field — one that focuses on delivering superior value verses fulfilling a job description? What would an approach like this mean to your career and the quality of your life?

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