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Buzzwords lack clarity

They come in the form of KPIs, ROIs, or CTAs. They are the low-hanging fruit, the synergy, and the ballpark figures. They want to help you drill down, push the envelope, create a survival strategy, and do some heavy lifting.

This is the corporate speak that tends to spin its way into our conversations. It’s fine to use it every once in a while—especially if your audience is familiar and comfortable with the language—but it’s usually best to keep jargon to a minimum. It ends up clogging up conversations, confusing potential customers, and muddying the meaning of a sentence.

Simply put: If too much jargon is used, clarity is lost.

Instead of using a euphemism for a term, express what you actually mean. Instead of asking someone if they have “the bandwidth” to perform a project, ask them if they have the time, resources, and appropriate support. You’ll end up getting a more specific, straight-forward answer rather than a simple “yes” or “no” reply.

Be especially careful with corporate speak when you’re meeting with prospects, new clients, or potential new employees. Businesses tend to use industry-specific terminology which may be difficult for others to interpret. For instance, a company with a global presence might use the term “business process outsourcing” (or BPO), while a company specializing in education might use the term “digital literacy.” In both cases, the terminology may feel natural to those within the industry, but could confuse those outside the industry.

Language matters. The terms you use can contribute to an open, inclusive environment, or they can obfuscate meaning or leave certain people feeling confused or irritated. Do your best to use clear terms and don’t forget to ask for clarification when you need it. Chances are, if you’re confused by an acronym or unusual turn-of-phrase, others will be too.

Let’s aim for simplicity and precision in our workplaces! If you’d like some additional guidance, be sure to check out my short video on clarity.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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gain control of conversation

Have you ever been in a situation where the conversation went off the rails? Maybe you were trying to talk to a client about a new product and they insisted on talking about politics or their latest family vacation. Or maybe you were leading a meeting and your team began to stray from the topic at hand. Or maybe every time you talk with a particularly chatty co-worker, it’s difficult to get a word in edgewise.

What do you do?

Start with these 5 steps:

1. Believe that your voice counts

Enter every conversation with the confidence that your voice (your thoughts, ideas, and opinions) matters. Believe in what you have to say and you will find a way to bring it up in the conversation. Keep in mind: there’s a difference between confidence and arrogance. What you have to say is important, but it’s not the only opinion that counts. Your listening ear is just as important as your voice.

2. Acknowledge what the other person is saying

It’s important to let the other party know that, yes, you hear what they have to say. You can also use this tact as a way to step in and take control of the conversation. For example:

“What I hear you saying, Bill, is that you’d like to implement more customer service surveys. I think that’s a great idea that warrants more discussion. I’d like to focus on that more during our next meeting so that we give the topic the time it deserves. In the meantime, let’s finish going over our quarterly reports and see what other ideas crop up…”

3. Keep your audience engaged

What you have to say is important; make sure your audience hears it! Instead of lecturing at others, make an effort to engage them. Ask questions, request feedback, and ask your audience if any clarification is needed. Make others a part of what you’re doing, not just passive observers.

4. Be direct

Oftentimes, the best way to refocus a conversation is to be direct. Acknowledge what the other party is saying (see tip #2) and then transition into what you’d like to say. Your interaction may go something like this:

“Your family vacation sounds great, Susan, and I’d love to discuss it more tomorrow, but I’m afraid I have to shift the conversation back to business…”

 

Remember: What you have to say is important! Don’t sell yourself short. Have the confidence to interject when necessary (in a tactful way!) and let your voice be heard.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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If you’re in sales, you know that it’s difficult to pull in a new client or buyer. Whether you’re in retail or insurance, it isn’t always easy to convince a potential customer to pull the trigger and make the purchase. This fear of rejection is probably the thing that’s holding you back from ONE easy thing that will increase your sales exponentially: upselling.

Upselling might sound like an ugly word (you might think of a car salesperson saying “But for only $40 more each month, we’ll throw in a…”), but there is a way to do it tactfully and honestly. Upselling involves introducing an improvement or an upgrade. You might upgrade to a faster laptop, a more powerful fishing boat motor, or a more durable set of kitchen knives.

I certainly don’t advocate selling a customer something that they genuinely don’t need. When you upsell (or cross-sell, which involves introducing a relevant but different product), do it with the customer’s needs at the center of your mind.

Why upsell? For one, upselling works 20 times better than cross-selling. Once potential buyers are fixated on a product, they don’t really want to be distracted by something else.

Secondly, your customer might not be aware of the benefits of upgrading to a different model. They might not realize, for instance, that a kitchen pan that’s $10 more than the one they are currently considering is known to last three times as long and tends to cook food more evenly.

Third, if your customer is already interested in a product, it doesn’t hurt to introduce them to a better model (again, if you genuinely think they would benefit from it). You’re already making the sale, why not make a better sale?

So, how can you tactfully and honestly incorporate upselling in your sales game? Try these five tips:

1. Arm yourself with knowledge.

If a customer is interested in a certain type of camera, for instance, be prepared to tell them about their full range of options and why the next model up is better. Anticipate questions and be prepared with candid answers.

2. Listen.

Be sure to listen carefully to your customer’s needs before trying to upsell. It could be that a bigger, better product is not necessary for this particular person.

3. Make it easy.

If you’re in a retail setting, make sure the best products are prominently visible on the sales floor and easy to access for a demonstration. Customers should be able to easily tell the difference between a base model and the souped-up version.

4. Honesty is key.

Don’t fudge the facts. Don’t push a sale that won’t benefit the customer. Your potential buyers are usually savvy enough to see through an act and, if they’re not, they will wise up quickly once they realize that the product you sold them doesn’t fit their needs at all. Do you think they’ll send any friends or family members to you after that?

5. Be confident.

Upsell with confidence. You should be proud of the products you sell and stand by their worth. Let that confidence shine! (And if you’re not confident about the products you’re selling, it may be time to start hunting for another sales position!)

 

Try incorporating upselling into your sales strategy and see where it will take you. It’s the easiest way to increase your sales and demonstrate the full range of product opportunities to your customers. What’s holding you back?

For more in-depth sales advice and career counseling, please get in touch with Margaret today.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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success and grit

I recently watched a TED Talk by psychologist Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth on the subject of grit. She first noticed a correlation between success and grit when she was working as a school teacher in a difficult neighborhood. A child’s scholarly success was not necessarily related to their IQ; more often than not, it was related to their dogged perseverance, or grit.

Duckworth left teaching to pursue a career in psychology and made grit the subject of most of her research. She studied diverse groups of people—from military cadets to students to sales people—and, time and again, observed that grit was a key attribute to success.

The people who kept going despite failures or setbacks, the people who were committed to a job or task for the long-term, were the ones who usually succeeded.

How do you foster grit in your own life and your children’s? Duckworth admits that the research is lacking, but a few interesting ideas have cropped to the surface. One study shows that developing a “growth mentality” helps create a gritty personality. A growth mentality has to do with the belief that failure is NOT a permanent state. It is something that creates growth and helps us succeed next time. This kind of attitude puts people in a positive mindset, a “I can do it next time!” frame of mind.

What do you think? Has grit been a part of YOUR success? Is it something you need to work at?

For the full TED Talk, please click the link below:

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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As I wrote about in a couple past blog posts (about volunteerism and simplifying your life), I recently spent 15 days in Poland, volunteering for World Youth Day. The experience was powerful, to say the least. Every day, I witnessed thousands upon thousands of young people from all across the world united in a common purpose. But one of the things that struck me most was the warm welcome we received, both from the people of Poland and from the other pilgrims.

As an American, I don’t necessarily expect other countries to welcome me with open arms. There are many ugly preconceived notions about Americans (that we’re spoiled, loud, bullies, etc.), some of which can be true, depending on the American! Many countries also disagree with our foreign policy decisions. With that in mind, I was absolutely shocked when the group of Americans with whom I was traveling experienced nothing but friendly greetings and amicable interactions.

As we traveled through the beautiful Polish countryside and visited quiet, quaint villages that brimmed with amazing history, we were graciously welcomed by the Polish people. They were proud to be hosting World Youth Day and happy that we had traveled to their country to experience the event. Each person in my group did a home stay with a Polish family and, despite language barriers, we were treated respectfully, fed well, and received incredible hospitality.

At the event itself, my group of American youths met and mingled with other youths from 167 countries around the globe. Instead of focusing on their differences and the gaps between them, they focused on their similarities and the things that bound them together. It melted my heart to see so many diverse people hanging out together, eating together, playing Frisbee together (I even saw some nuns and priests tossing a disc around!), getting to know each other…all in a peaceful, harmonious setting.

I think a lot of folks, including our world leaders, could learn from the example of these young people. They focused on building bridges, rather than putting up walls between one another.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Ask for and get a raise

You don’t get what you don’t ask for. Photo Credit: BlueWolf.com

Do you feel like you’re worth more than you’re being paid? Are fellow employees getting paid more than you? Are other people in your field getting better pay at different companies?

These are all reasons to ask for a raise.

If you feel like you’ve earned it, you probably have. So, why not ask for it? According to Ramit Sethi, author and founder of I Will Teach You To Be Rich.com, “Just one $5,000 raise, properly invested, can be worth $1 million over your career.”

Sounds great, right? But you can’t just waltz into your boss’ office and demand an extra $5K a year. You have to develop a thoughtful, thorough plan. Here’s how:

  1. Ask when the time is right. Ideally, you’ll want to ask for a raise after you’ve done something outstanding (like earning a top sales spot, finding a new client, or successfully leading a team project). Don’t expect to get a raise for just showing up and doing the minimum-required work. Additionally, when you’re considering timing, don’t ask for a raise around the holidays, when bonuses are being doled out. And don’t ask for a raise in the middle of budget or staff cuts. Know the rhythm of your company and ask for a raise when things seem stable or exceptionally good. It’s helpful to make a specific plan such as: “Within the next three months, I will ask for a raise.” Or, “After I complete XYZ Project, I will ask for a raise.” That way, you’ll have a general time frame mapped out.
  2. Put together a compelling list of reasons why you deserve a raise. Take the time to evaluate the work you’ve done over the last year or two. What projects stand out? What are some specific instances where you’ve truly shined? When have you added to the profitability of your organization? Collect as many specific facts as you can (Of course, it helps if your boss already knows about your accomplishments, but that’s a subject for a different blog post). Practice talking about your accomplishments in the mirror or with a close friend or spouse. Why? You want to sound as natural as possible when you have this conversation and not like you’re rattling off a list.
  3. Arm Yourself with Confidence. Don’t be shy about asking for a raise. Believe that you’ve earned it and demonstrate, with confidence, the reasons why you should get it. On the flip side, don’t act cocky and expect everything to go your way. Just be authentic, sincere, and assertive in your request.
  4. Have a specific dollar amount in mind. Do your research. Know what other people in the company are making and know what other people in your industry are making. Don’t be outlandish in your request, but don’t sell yourself short either.
  5. Talk about the future. It’s a good idea to demonstrate that you are ready to continue to do great work for the company. As Carolyn O’Hara writes in an article for the Harvard Business Review, “Lay out your contributions, then quickly pivot to what you hope to tackle next. Assure your boss that you understand his or her pressures and goals, and pitch your raise as a way to help achieve those goals.”

And if your boss turns you down? That’s a possible outcome and you have to be prepared to accept it. But don’t get discouraged. The fact that you asked for a raise shows initiative, career-mindedness, and tenacity. It also demonstrates to your boss that you know what you’re worth and he or she will have to give you a raise at some point down the road or risk losing you. So, be fearless! You don’t get what you don’t ask for.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, LICENSED INSIGHTS DISCOVERY PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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having clarity

In my mind, having clarity comes in two parts. You have to give clarity and ask for clarity. If you are in charge of a project or leading a team, don’t assume that everyone already knows your expectations. Make those expectations clear and leave room for others to ask questions. Put yourself in others’ shoes and anticipate questions that might come your way.

On the flip side, if you’re on the receiving end of a project or initiative, don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions. It is much better to make sure your idea of the project’s end state aligns with the actual anticipated end state then to muddle your way through it and hope you’re doing what’s expected of you. One good way to make sure you completely understand your assignment is to repeat back what you think you heard. Something like: “Okay, Bill. It sounds like you’re saying we need to come up with a better social media marketing strategy for product X, and we have two weeks to get you a proposal. Is that correct?”

Having Clarity is one of the chapters in my book, The Ten Minute Leadership Challenge, and I go into much more detail in those pages about how to give and ask for clarity.

I’ve also made a short video about Having Clarity based off the principles outlined in my book. Enjoy!

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