Managing Your Reputation Online

In a series of studies from the late 1970s through the late 1990s conducted by the research firm TARP, it was found that only 50% of consumers will complain about a problem to a company.  And on average, twice as many people are told about a bad experience than they are about a good experience. TARP’s last basic finding is that customers who complain and are satisfied are up to 8% more loyal than if they had no problem at all. 

These studies provide us some valuable lessons- unhappy customers are likely to never even let you know that they are unhappy, but they WILL tell their colleagues and friends.  Even if you have an excellent customer service department that resolves problems quickly, which actually helps your relationship with customers more than if they had never had a problem, you will often never have the chance to address these issues.

These problems are compounded by the fact that the prevalence of social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, MySpace, Blogs, etc.) make it very easy for someone to spread the word about your company.  Since they are twice as likely to do so when upset as they are when happy, it is simple for a customer to express their disdain for a company or product to dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of contacts.  If you never hear about a problem, how can you possibly hope to resolve it and get a chance to turn that unhappy customer into an evangelist that spreads the word about your great customer service? 

Luckily, there are ways to combat this problem.  Here are three essential tasks that are essential for managing your online reputation.  These will give your company the best chance possible to keep your customer base satisfied by helping you find customers that are expressing problems with your organization of which you are unaware.

1) Set a Google Alert for your company name- Go to: – complete the form, entering your company name or any product names you wish to monitor.  You can set up multiple alerts for different terms you wish to monitor.  When you have done this, once a day you will receive an e-mail letting you know about any new information about your company and products that have been added to their database.  This will allow you to quickly discover both negative and positive comments.

2) Search Twitter at least weekly for these same terms.  This can be done in an automated fashion with a Twitter client such as Tweetdeck, or manually through searches on the Twitter website.  Again, the purpose of this is to find both negative and positive feedback about your organization.

3) If you sell products, either through your own website or through online retailers and partner sites, search product and company reviews for new comments about your company and products.  Whether they are sold through,, or even on your own site, it is imperative that you read the latest reviews.

Now that you have seen the latest feedback your customer base has about your company, respond appropriately.  If persons are making positive comments, thank them publicly by posting replies to their tweets, blog posts, and reviews.  You may also wish to respond with coupons or other special offers as a way to solidify their positive feelings about your company.

If someone has left negative feedback, publicly make it known that you would like to discuss their issue with them, and provide a means for them to do so.  Then make sure that you treat their concerns with a high priority in your customer service department.  You likely only have one chance to get it right with an already upset customer.  Lastly, once you successfully resolve the issue with an upset customer, ask them to publish their satisfaction in the same manner as they did their complaint. 

Following these tips will help you find unresolved customer complaints and deal with them appropriately.

The Power of Combined Training and Coaching

Before I go on with our business update this week let me just take a moment to welcome a new member to out consulting staff. His name is Sean Griffith and he is a new Senior Business Consultant with the SBA Network. Sean is also an attorney and Financial Consultant. Don’t hold that against him. With over 10 years of experience he has been helping clients to achieve their goals. Send him an e-mail and introduce yourself.sean_griffith

Companies spend over $375 billion every year on training and even more on coaching. Yet according to the American Society for Training and Development about “42 percent of the knowledge that professionals use to get their jobs done actually comes from their co-workers. This is called prairie-dogging–workers pop out of their cubicles to solicit information from the local expert. When a worker is consulting another worker, both workers lose productivity.”

We won’t even address the fact that many of these “company experts” are actually spreading the incorrect methods or techniques and that just adds to the dysfunctions that permeate many organizations today.

What if you could provide the skills that workers need to increase their performance without adversely impacting productivity?

There is. It can be accomplished by combining training with coaching.

It is easy to confuse the purpose of training and coaching. I suppose misconceptions arise due to the need for change in performance and the fact that each of these disciplines can discretely increase performance. To demonstrate the difference in a more concrete way, let’s take a look at the intent of training vs. coaching in most applications:

  • Satisfies the knowledge gap

  • Typically performed in a group setting

  • Learning can occur from other participants

  • A forum for harnessing enthusiasm and team motivation

  • Content is based on a specified single topic

  • Delivers instruction of methods and techniques

  • Established period of time

  • Classroom-based

  • Pre-established pacing

  • Satisfies the skills gap

  • One-to-one interactivity

  • Typically Learning cannot occur from other participants

  • A forum for harnessing enthusiasm and team motivation

  • Content can be based on varying topics

  • Assists participant to put methods and techniques into action

  • Varying period of time

  • On-the-job

  • Flexible pacing

There are probably many other advantages of training or coaching when viewed as separate disciplines, yet consider the combination of providing training with coaching. When these forces are combined we are able to create an environment where habits can be changed much more rapidly.

We deliver the methods and techniques in a training environment and then ensure that they are put into practice with on-going coaching. The coaching allows team members to adapt their training experience to their specific challenges on the job. This supports effective skill-building, increases confidence and solidifies habitual change.

I am proud to say that our organization has been associated with Dale Carnegie Training for over 15 years and we have seen first-hand what combined training and coaching can do to increase the performance within an organization. You can find out more about our coaching programs at
Have a great week!
Mark Deo

Tips on How to Find a Mentor

Mentors can help you escalate your career, boost your self-development and improve your relationships. My whole life, from an early age, I sought out mentors in many different areas of life. You can find a great mentor and here are a few tips to help you do that.
Decide what area you want help with – examine your life and determine if you want help with your career or your health or your relationships. When you know the area you want to focus on you can then begin searching for a mentor.

Investigate top performers in your industry – if you want to find a career mentor, find out who are the experts in the field of expertise you want to develop.

Find out where your role models hang out – check out networks, industry events and conferences to watch out for potential mentors. Spend time watching the people in the room and make note of anyone who stands out and has the “presence” you are looking for.
Investigate official mentoring programs – many organizations now have internal mentoring programs you can become a part of. If you work for yourself you can also investigate Government areas that have established mentoring programs also.

Select the mentor – when you find the person you believe would be suitable, spend some time watching them in action. Ask to go along to a presentation with them or ask if you can spend a “day in the life of” them and watch what they do.

Ask others opinion of your selected mentor – when you have chosen someone, ask around to find out what you can about their achievements, beliefs, values and way of operating. This will give you insight into them before you approach them about mentoring you.

Approach the selected mentor – phone them or make an appointment to see them. Advise them why you want to meet and schedule time. This is an important step in the process so you can show them you respect their time and you are committed to dong the right thing.

Have an agenda – when you meet have an outline of what you would like to discuss. Your agenda should include why you want them to mentor you, how long it is for and what you hope to gain during that time. If they agree to mentor you, you can then work out how you can also support them.

Set up an agreement – if you both decide to proceed, set up an agreement with guidelines for timeframe, contact boundaries, full honesty etc. If you would like to know more about this check out “How to be a great Mentee“.

Fulfill your mentee commitments – always turn up to meetings prepared, always complete any assignments or tasks given to you from your mentor and always look for opportunities to support your mentor.

When you find a good mentor it can change your life.

This article was written by our friend and partner, Neen James, a leading productivity expert from Australia. She has worked with many organizations to boost their performance through communications and message management. She has numerous articles on productivity available on her website at

Have a great week!
I hope that this “Business Update” has been helpful in assisting you to improve the performance of your organization. For more information on how the Small Business Advisory Network assists companies in improving their performance, please feel free to contact us at 310-320-8190 or email

Mark Deo
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The Miscommunication Tool

I don’t know about you, but I’m spending more and more time with email every year. It used to be that email was used for sending quick messages. Now people are carrying on entire relationships (personal and business) using email. It’s not unusual for a client to request to be communicated with exclusively by email. When this happens, how do we truly understand their motives? How can we urge them to take action? What can we do to ensure we are being understood and how can we make sure we in fact do understand what the client is communicating? I would venture to say that email is as much a tool of Miscommunication as it is communication itself!

While some authors and trainers talk about email strategies and tactics, one of the best resources on using email more effectively is the book Email Power by Steven Griffith. I interviewed Steven on our show this week and you can listen to it by clicking below:Email Power Interview Segment 1Email Power Interview Segment 2Email Power Interview Segment 3

Email Power utilizes The Language Response System, a process for analyzing and determining the communication style of the individual you’re corresponding with-in less than 60 seconds! Griffiths talks about how we can identify and speak in any of the four styles of communication: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and digital. Human beings process and interpret information in different ways depending on which sense system is dominant in their brain. While most people “mix and match” one style usually dominates.

  • Visual communicators take their world in by what they see. They talk in terms of “view,” “vision,” “show,” and “appears.” A visual person is interested in how your solution, your proposal or your presentation “looks” to them.
  • Auditory communicators take their world in by how things sound. They talk in auditory terms such as “I hear you,” “Talk to me,” “Sounds good to me,” etc. An Auditory person is interested in how your solution, your proposal, your presentation “sounds” to them.
  • Kinesthetic communicators take their world in through their feelings. They transform images, words, and sounds into feelings terms such as “I have a gut feeling,” “Let’s get a handle on this,” “I have a sense this is the right decision.” A kinesthetic person is interested in how your solution, your proposal, your presentation feels to them.
  • Digital communicators process and organize their world by how it makes sense in their head. Digitals usually don’t have many “feeling” words in their communications. They’ll “think” about your offer, “consider” the alternatives, and “formulate a response.” A digital person is interested in how your solution, your proposal, your presentation if it is logical and makes sense to them.

His book contains numerous examples of how to structure emails that help us to match with the intended receiver and thereby build a better relationship.

Thanks for tuning into this weeks business update. Also, remember our upcoming Dale Carnegie Sales Advantage Course starting on July 31, 2006 where we talk about how to match with others using these styles. Additionally, our Attract More Business Program is available in a 6 CD and 186 page hardbound set now. Just go to

Relationship Marketing

I remember my first trip to England back in the eighties. We were kicking around London looking to pass the time and spotted a “tealeaf reader.” For fun we thought, “let’s go check it out.”

I had no idea what tealeaf reading was all about. I thought they would whip out a leave from a tree or something and start reading it like a book. What I discovered was even more incredulous.For the Highland Scots, twists of fate were prefigured in the patterns left at the bottom of one’s empty teacup. The general idea of “tealeaf reading” is to interpret the significance of an alphabetical list of the natural symbols commonly found at the bottom of a cup of tea. They would apparently predict fame, fortune and failure based on these soggy herbs.What does this have to do with business improvement, you ask?Let’s face it; running a business is a sober undertaking. There’s no place for the crystal ball, as it were. Successful business leaders must possess a set of pragmatic disciplines in order to make the necessary daily decisions in running their business. They must make very rational and logical connections based on their circumstances.For example, they may see competitors reducing their price and think, “I need to effectively compete by lowering my price or building value.” Or they look inside their company and see an unproductive sales group and think, “we need an incentive program to make people work harder and sell more.” Or they may look at their product mix and notice a product or service not performing as well as others and think, “let’s launch a creative promotion or advertising campaign.”These are very logical and rational responses but I don’t think they are enough. Not that these decisions are incorrect, but they are only part of the story. Not being one to believe in fortune telling, I do sometimes think that business leaders can learn a thing or two from these prognosticators.Everyone’s heard about the 5 P’s of Marketing: Product, Pricing, Promotion, Packaging and Positioning. Certainly all of these disciplines are important but I now realize that they are somewhat lacking in our new 21st Century.As I’ve said many times, today we live in an age NOT of information or technology but of relationships. Certainly consumers are still influenced by promotions, pricing and packaging but relationships have the greatest impact over brand choices and vendor selection.Relationships often take longer to form and carry even greater weight in the B2B world. If you think about it, the higher the cost of a product or service or the more complicated that product or service is, the more critical the relationship. This means developing a powerful relationship with a vendor or supplier who will do more than quote prices and take orders.Therefore it is not enough for suppliers and service providers to merely REACT to client needs. In fact they must learn to become PROACTIVE in predicting customer needs. In a sense good marketers need to learn to read their customer’s minds. They need to become good at “reading tea leaves.”Ultimately client’s need suppliers who will help them learn to evaluate and make the right purchase decisions. This is where CRM or Customer Relationship Management can become very useful in helping to predict buying trends. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a label that has been tacked onto practically everything having to do with marketing. Like the broad field of marketing, CRM touches all aspects of marketing analysis, marketing communications, sales, and customer service.CRM is a technique aimed at collecting information from prospects and customers about their needs, and providing information that helps them evaluate and purchase products that deliver the best possible value. Think of CRM as a process for managing the company’s resources to create the best possible experience and value for customers while generating the highest possible revenue and profit for the company.A typical CRM system uses a centralized database to store data about marketing, sales, and customer service. This gives employees a complete view of the company’s relationship with each customer. This improved communication technique results in creating a one-to-one relationship of understanding each prospect’s needs and showing that the company’s products or services meet those needs. This encourages the prospect to select that vendor. In other words, a CRM approach helps a company implement the learning and communications techniques that demonstrate the desire of the company — and the value to the customer — in forming a long-lasting relationship.For marketing to be effective, management must understand what the needs of the target audience are, which product attributes they value, and what motivations they respond to.
This requires more than creative advertising. It requires researching and understanding a target market, making products or services convenient to purchase, and giving each customer true value and satisfaction.You may not feel the need to go out and buy a bag of tea leaves and practice your fortune telling skills, but I encourage every business owner to think about ways that you may be able to put CRM in place within your organization. The information you will gain will help you to accurately predict buying patterns and maybe tell you more about your company today as well as your customer of the future.

Productive vs. Unproductive Conflict

From time to time we feature other experts in business improvement. I am thrilled to bring you this insightful article from Dr. Victoria Simon and Dr. Holly Pedersen of Talk Works, Inc. The ladies were recently guests on my Small Business Hour and we discussed how unproductive conflict can be turned into “productive” conflict. (Yes, there is a difference). They were even able to resolve some conflict between Matt Walker and I – a miracle in itself! Check them out at

-Mark Deo Introduction
A couple of months ago we received a call from a mid-sized Los Angeles based company that had recently expanded. One of the new division heads called to book a communication-training program for his team. He explained that he wanted us to come “immediately, if not sooner.” Due to his obvious concern for the success of his new division, we shuffled our schedules and arrived to begin our team building training the following week. Our first in-person meeting took place in his office, just prior to the start of the first session. He explained that his team had made virtually no progress with their initial goals “because there’s too much conflict!” My only thought was, “Oy! Wait till he hears our introduction to his group when we tell everyone that we’re here to teach them how to have conflict!”

What is productive conflict? (and do we really need it?)
Here is our definition of unproductive conflict: frequent, repetitive arguments that are not resolved and that leave both parties feeling more angry and frustrated. It is common for unproductive conflict to occur when the “real” issues are not being communicated, but instead trivial issues are being expressed through provocative communication styles such as jokes, sarcasm, denial, blame, etc. Productive conflict, however, is an open exchange of conflicting or differing ideas in which parties feel equally heard, respected, and unafraid to voice dissenting opinions for the purpose of reaching a mutually comfortable resolution. Because this type of conflict allows individuals to feel comfortable sharing conflicting opinions and ideas, it is a very creative and dynamic process that reveals new possibilities and insights. The stronger your ability to engage in productive conflict, the more profitable your business will be. Think about it: why do you hire different “experts” in your company? Because each one of them has different education, work and life experience, and problem solving skills. The ability for teams to come together and share their ideas, expertise and opinions is what inspires the most creative and forward thinking business decisions. But this will inevitably involve conflict as your teams share their different opinions on the “best” way to accomplish each goal. Even the sole proprietor profits from successful productive conflict skills since interactions with clients or customers can be handled in ways that ways that undermine trust, create negative feelings and ultimately turn customers away or that allow relationships to flourish (and generate excellent word of mouth and referrals).

5 simple steps to productive conflict
1. State position using “I” statements, OR speaking behind a glass wall. Imagine that you are standing behind a glass wall. You can see and hear the person you are talking to, but you are only allowed to discuss what is taking place on your side of the wall. You do this by talking ONLY about yourself. Be very careful not to assume that starting a sentence with “I” is enough to avoid pointing the finger (We hear this all the time from “I” communication beginners: “I think you’re wrong!” Clearly this will not avoid an argument.). The goal is to avoid creating defensiveness in the other party and to ensure that you are clearly voicing your ideas and thoughts rather than becoming distracted from the issue by pointing fingers at the other person. Just think about how it feels when the person with whom you are arguing says something like, “You just don’t get it! Your ideas are crazy!” That “you” immediately places us on guard, so we become unwilling to engage in the kind of healthy exchange necessary for productive conflict. Try “I” instead! 2. Identify common ground or a common goal. While productive conflict does by nature involve an exchange of differing ideas and opinions, it still requires that the involved parties share the common goal of developing a mutually agreed upon resolution, plan, or decision. Clearly stating what you and the other party have in common — to complete the project, resolve the conflict, decide on a plan of action – means that you begin the discussion as members of the same team, moving forward in the same ultimate direction, rather than as opposing forces. 3. Use reflective listening. In order for conflict to be productive, the thoughts and ideas of all involved parties must be truly listened to and understood. We are often so eager for someone to hear and agree with our point of view that we lose site of the fact that a solution that works for both parties can never be reached until all opinions, wants, needs, and desires have been shared and listened to. Reflective listening involves not responding immediately, but actually thinking about what the other person has said asking questions, if needed, to ensure that you understand and to reassure the other party that they are really being heard. For example, “It sounds like you’re suggesting that we restructure the management team, is that correct?” 4. Get curious About others’ ideas. Rather than immediately shooting down a co-worker’s ideas, or jumping to defend your own position or opinions, “get curious” about your co-workers’ ideas. Focus the discussion on finding out more information about your co-workers’ thoughts and experiences, and the reasons for their position. Uncover as much information as possible about why your co-workers think the way they do. This not only prevents the discussion from being an argument in which the involved parties staunchly defend their position, but it also may result in you learning something. 5. Gradients of agreement. Making conflict productive and creative also involves redefining what it means to “agree” with others. An agreement doesn’t have to mean a 100% consensus of involved parties. It could mean a partial agreement, or even an agreement to move forward with a decision without complete consensus from the group. Operating under the assumption that all parties must agree completely may keep you stuck in the process of resolving a conflict or making a decision. See if it is possible to achieve a gradient of agreement. ConclusionBusiness productivity depends on your willingness to engage in productive conflict. Hopefully your business creates a work environment where top, mid and lower level employees trust that openly sharing ideas and voicing opinions is not only acceptable, but encouraged. By applying these five simple steps you will be able to transform “conflict” into a powerful business tool. To learn more communication and collaborative team building skills, we encourage you to see our website at: or to contact Talk Works at 310.860.5191. Victoria Simon, Ph.D., CEO Talk Works, Inc.Holly Pedersen, Ph.D., President Talk Works, Inc.


“Everything is negotiable.” We’ve all heard that line.

Those who are most skillful at negotiating usually come out ahead. Negotiation is the key to resolving conflict. Let’s face it, few of us enjoy dealing with conflict – be it with customers, employees, co-workers or even family members. This is particularly true when the conflict becomes hostile and when strong feelings become involved. Resolving conflict can be mentally exhausting and emotionally draining. But conflict avoidance just makes problems worse.Part of the problem is that we are predisposed to think of conflict (or resolution of conflict) as an isolated incident or event. In reality resolving conflict is more of a process, or a series of events over time involving both external and internal variables. Conflict episodes typically represent the result of past behaviors of both parties. Therefore negotiation is not a static exercise. Effective negotiation must include the “background events” in the relationship. These cannot be separated from the resolution.Professor E. Wertheim of the College of Business Administration at Northeastern University says, “an effective negotiation usually involves a number of steps including the exchange of proposals and counter proposals.” In good-faith negotiation, both sides are expected to make offers and concessions. The objective is not only to try to solve the problem, but to gain information that will enable you to get a clearer notion of what the true issues might be and how your “opponent” sees reality. Through offers and counter offers there should be a goal of a lot of information exchange that might yield a common definition of the problem.Negotiation is not so much about winning or losing but rather about meeting your opponent half way and convincing your opponent to meet YOU half way. Here are some tips in how to effectively negotiate for the win – win:

  1. Conduct your negotiation tactics in order to obtain more information.
  2. Try to understand and identify with your opponent’s motive.
  3. Conflict should not be avoided; rather it should be faced head on.
  4. Confrontation is not bad, rather it is good and more often results in resolution.
  5. Resentment is often the result of conflict avoidance.
  6. Conflict involves the thoughts, perceptions, memories, and emotions of the people involved; these must be considered when negotiating.
  7. Negotiations are like a chess match. So make sure you enter into negotiation with a firm strategy.
  8. Anticipate how the other will respond and act accordingly.
  9. Be honest with yourself regarding the strengths of your position.
  10. Evaluate how important each issue is to your opponent and how important it will to yourself.
    · Begin with a positive approach and try to establish rapport and mutual trust before starting.
  11. Try for a small concession early in the negotiation.
  12. Pay little attention to initial offers. Often times these are points of departure; they tend to be extreme and idealistic.
  13. Find agreements and joint gains. Make these your primary focus.
  14. Focus on the other person’s interests and your own goals and principles, while you generate other possibilities.
  15. Be very clear on what Professor E. Wertheim calls your BATNA; “Your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. This is important because the negotiation needs to aim to match or do better than your BATNA. The BATNA establishes a threshold for the settlement. Determining your BATNA or walk away is not always easy. You have to establish a concrete value for various alternatives.”
  16. In the planning process it is also important to estimate your opponent’s BATNA.
    · Try to come as close to the other person’s BATNA as you can.
  17. Aim to influence your opponent that their alternatives may not be as good as they perceive them to be.

While we all engage in many negotiations during a week this doesn’t mean we will become more proficient negotiators. As they say PERFECT practice makes perfect. To become better we need to become aware of the structure and dynamics of negotiation and we need to think systematically, objectively, and critically about our own negotiations. After engaging in a negotiation, reflect on what happened and figure out what you did effectively and what you need to do better.Often times at the Small Business Advisory Network we are called upon by our client’s to both assist and coach them in negotiating business issues or relationships. If you are looking to learn more about how effective negotiation might improve your business performance, please let us know. Our mission is to influence decisions, improve performance and inspire change. That’s what our consulting, workshops; web site, weekly articles and The Small Business Hour Radio Show are all about.

Love In Business

The biggest disease this day and age is that of people feeling unloved.–Author Unknown

The software engineer put on Nirvana’s “In Utero” as he did every evening when he got home from work, took his gun out, loaded it, and tried to garner enough courage to put it in his mouth and squeeze the trigger. This was a ritual he had played out every night or the past year. While successful at work, he was miserable. He felt no one cared about him as a person- he was just another programmer, doing what programmers did, living a solitary life with no friends. Then one day, out of the blue, his boss sent him a personal e-mail- not related to code revisions, interface changes, or other work related items. But one that expressed his thanks and sincere appreciation for the work he had accomplished in the time he had worked there, and how he was valuable to the team not as just a programmer, but as a person. He told this employee that he was glad he knew him as a human being, not just as someone who typed away at his computer all day. That night the software engineer went through his daily ritual of putting on Nirvana, loading his gun, and for the first time- he was scared that he might actually go through with it. He sold the gun, and with the proceeds bought his boss a gift- and told him the story of how that simple gesture had saved his life. This story was related to Mark Deo and I on the small business hour this week by Tim Sanders, author of Love is the Killer App. He is at the forefront of a new wave of business thinking- not one focused on numbers, but one focused on people. His philosophy is that one must share three things in order to have a successful business relationship: knowledge, networks and compassion. By doing so you can not only help your business, but you can help others as human beings, much as in the story above. How does one share their knowledge? By staying informed reading about the latest trends in business reading about things that interest other people and then sharing that knowledge with people who are interested in it. How do you know what you should be reading? A great place to start is the list of books on our website Tim Sanders also maintains a reading list on his web site at Some publications that are excellent are business magazines such as Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Business Week, and Business 2.0. By reading these books and publications you’re making yourself valuable as a walking library to people that you speak with. This allows you to become a personal resource to others- someone who they can trust and count on for information. This in turn makes you as a person more valuable. What do we mean by sharing your networks? This is not some reference to computers and internet access- To share your networks you must take your personal contacts and instead of protecting them and hiding them in secrecy open them up to the world. Share your contacts with others who might find them to be of use. This can be a simple matter such as simply passing a phone number on to someone, or giving a referral. Better still is personally introducing two people who can both gain some value from establishing a new relationship. By doing so you become a business “matchmaker” of sorts- someone who helps others to achieve their goals through communication with people to which you introduce them. How does someone show compassion in business? It comes back to one of Dale Carnegie’s principles, “Become genuinely interested in other people.” Only by being interested in someone and showing that interest can you demonstrate that you care about them as people and not just as tangible resources. People respond to being cared for- you never know how making a small gesture can profoundly impact someone’s life. I encourage you to think of someone in your business life who you can show your love to this week. Become genuinely interested in them as a person- not to try and gain something from them, but to find common ground you share. Then discover what it is that interests them, and find some information about that topic that you can share with them. Find someone in your network of contacts who also has interest in the same topics, and introduce the two. You will be amazed at how that will endear you to both contacts, turning them from business relationships into personal friends. I’d love to hear your success stories at Have a great week! This Business Update was written by SBA Network Business Advisor Matthew Walker- for more information, please contact him at 310-320-8190 or

Listening Louder

Listening is one of the most deceiving skills in business, or in life for that matter. Ask anyone how effective they are at “listening” and most will say they are pretty good. Yet in reality many “miscommunications” and unneeded conflicts occur just because we fail to practice good listening skills. This is rather evident in sales and marketing interactions.

Salespeople are taught that the client should do most of the talking and they should “listen.” Yet if we were to observe salespeople in action with their clients, as I have, we would see that the very opposite is true. They carry-on about the benefits of their product, service or company and often burn themselves out on their own “pitch.”I am not without guilt. I have stopped myself too many times in the middle of a great rant. Being a radio show host for over a decade as well as an instructor and public speaker it’s no wonder that I could ever shut-up! Nevertheless I have found that the “info-download” method of selling and marketing is less effective than ever before.Neil Rackham of the Huthwaite Organization and author of Spin Selling, conducted extensive research on the selling behaviors of high performers in sales. What he found through his research was that high performing sales people did three things differently in their meetings from those people who were not effective.High performing sales people:
1. Asked a lot more questions
2. Allowed the client to do most of the talking
3. Waited much longer before jumping in with a solutionUse the one minute tool (inspired by Robin Ryan’s excellent book, 60 Seconds & You’re Hired): if you have more to say than you can say in a minute, limit yourself to one minute and use that time to give an overview of the most important points you would make if you talked longer. Then stop and ask your listener to help you decide what to prioritize and how much more detail to go into. For each point and sub-point you add, start by speaking for just one minute, asking for more feedback as you go on to clarify which issues you need to address, and taking a moment before speaking to focus what you will say.This is also true in marketing. Often times web sites, brochures, and even mailers and promotional material is focused on “selling.” Think of ways that you can “engage” the user. Make your marketing material interactive. While we can’t practice the same types of listening techniques in second party marketing material, we can “listen” by making our material highly interactive. Ask for their response, advice, suggestions. Often time these materials are more like info downloads rather than engaging conversations.Listening is a skill that impacts every area of our life. I urge you to think of ways that you can “listen louder” to your clients, prospects and those within your sphere of influence. There is no better way to practice attraction than to master the art of listening.Please call or e-mail me with any comments or questions.This article was written by Mark Deo. You can reach me at 310-320-8190.


The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.

-Ralph Nichols

Listening is far too often overlooked as a skill that is important to businesspeople. Like all skills, it can be learned and improved on with practice. There are many elements that go into being a good listener- read below for some tips.
3 steps of active listening
Hearing- Hearing just means listening enough to catch what the speaker is saying. For example, say you were listening to a report on zebras, and the speaker mentioned that no two are alike. If you can repeat the fact, then you have heard what has been said.
Understanding- The next part of listening happens when you take what you have heard and understand it in your own way. Let’s go back to that report on zebras. When you hear that no two are alike, think about what that might mean. You might think, “Maybe this means that the pattern of stripes is different for each zebra.”
Judging- After you are sure you understand what the speaker has said, think about whether it makes sense. Do you believe what you have heard? You might think, “How could the stripes to be different for every zebra? But then again, the fingerprints are different for every person. I think this seems believable.” Reflective Listening
A good listener tries to understand how the other is experiencing the interaction and to shape their responses so that other person understands from where they are coming. There are four key elements to reflective listening.

  • Empathy
  • Acceptance
  • Congruence
  • Concreteness

We all have a strong tendency to advise, tell, agree, or disagree from our own point of view. Empathy is the listener’s effort to understand the speakers internal frame of reference rather than an external point of view, such as a theory; a set of standards, or the listener’s preferences. Expressed verbally: “I follow you,” “I’m with you” or “I understand”. You should be as non-judgmental as possible while listening. A person who sees that a listener is really trying to understand his or her meanings will be willing to explore his or her problems and self more deeply.

You should having respect for a person for simply being a person- this acceptance should be as unconditional as possible to best encourage a free flow of information. Avoid expressing agreement or disagreement with what the other person says. This encourages the other person to be less defensive and to explore aspects that they might otherwise keep hidden

Congruence refers to openness, frankness, and genuineness on the part of the listener. Candor on the part of the listener tends to evoke candor in the speaker. This can, however, be at odds with the principles of empathy and acceptance.

Focusing on specifics rather than vague generalities is the principle of concreteness. Often a person who is has a problem will avoid painful feelings by being abstract or impersonal, using expressions like “sometimes there are situations that are difficult” (which is vague and abstract). The listener can encourage concreteness by asking the speaker to be more specific. For example, instead of a agreeing with a statement like, “You just can’t trust a teacher. They care about themselves first and you second”, you can ask to what specific incident the speaker is referring.

Non-verbal Feedback
We listen and give feedback with our faces as well as our ears and the words we speak. Professor Alfred Mehrabian of Stanford, studied congruence and incongruent communication. He found that when ‘mixed messages’ were deliberately sent, 7% of people believed the words, 38% believed the message expressed in the tonality, and 55% believed the message expressed in the physiology, or body language.

Tips for being a good listener

  1. Give your full attention to the person speaking
  2. Make sure your mind is focused, too. It can be easy to let your mind wander if you think you know what the person is going to say next, but you might be wrong! If you feel your mind wandering, change the position of your body and try to concentrate on the speaker’s words.
  3. Let the speaker finish before you begin to talk. Speakers appreciate having the chance to say everything they would like to say without being interrupted. When you interrupt, it looks like you aren’t listening, even if you really are.
  4. Let yourself finish listening before you begin to speak! You can’t really listen if you are busy thinking about what you want say next.
  5. Listen for main ideas. The main ideas are the most important points the speaker wants to get across. They may be mentioned at the start or end of a talk, and repeated a number of times. Pay special attention to statements that begin with phrases such as “My point is…” or “The thing to remember is…”
  6. Ask questions. If you are not sure you understand what the speaker has said, just ask. It is a good idea to repeat in your own words what the speaker said so that you can be sure your understanding is correct. For example, you might say, “When you said that no two zebras are alike, did you mean that the stripes are different on each one?”

Time is on your side! Thoughts move about four times as fast as speech.

I hope this helps you to improve your listening skills.
Have a great week!!!