The Three Month Vacation Podcast: Online Small Business|Marketing Strategy Plan| Sean D'Souza | Psychotactics

Does a big list guarantee success? You know the answer to that one, already, don't you? Your small business isn't going to grow exponentially because you suddenly have a big list. Yet, in many ways a smaller list has the potential to do better than a big list. Find out how to start ignoring the sound of "big lists" and work with a tiny list, instead.

Is there really a cure for perfectionism? How can you make your work far superior in a shorter amount of time, often moving ahead of your peers? The answer lies in nature. In this episode we look at two different kind of plants: the monkey puzzle tree and the campion flower. The monkey puzzle tree stands for perfection, but the campion flower is able to make 120 dramatic changes while the monkey puzzle struggles with perfection. Interesting? Find out more in this episode and get rid of your perfection sooner than you think.

Direct download: 188_-_How_to_Overcome_Perfectionism_with_Speedy_Revisions.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm +12

Are habits a matter of routine? You'd think so, wouldn't you? Yet, there's a bigger factor in play that goes beyond a cue and routine. It's called the Reward. There's just one problem: how do you put a reward? And how do you know it's the right reward? What should you do if you want to motivate a client, instead? All these answers wait for you in this episode, plus a hidden factor that goes beyond cue, routine and reward. Check it out.

How do you make your articles or sales letters more interesting? Analogies and stories always increase the drama and attention span. Yet, it's hard to find and craft interesting stories on a regular basis. Or is it? Find out how you can use three simple and effective ways to craft a ton of great stories and analogies.

Direct download: 186_-_How_To_Craft_Interesting_Stories_and_Analogies.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00pm +12

Why do clients leave? It seems odd, doesn't it? When you ask a client why they join, they seem to suggest it is all about information and content, but then they inexplicably leave. They seem to suggest they need either better content, or they need time to implement the content. But that's rarely the case, as we've found out. The need is far greater and we've all experienced it. Clients leave for a very obvious reason that you're never going to find in analytics software or surveys. Listen to find out more.

Direct download: 185-Why_Clients_Leave-Part_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:23am +12

The very moment you announce a waiting list, it seems like a nerve-wracking decision.

Is it going to drive clients away?
Or will it work?

The odds are it will fail if you don't consider “segregation” and “creating attraction”. This episode shows you exactly what those two terms mean when it comes to waiting lists. Let's roll on to the episode, shall we?

Click here to read online: Why Waiting Lists Fail



Would you wait 14 years to join a Disney Club?

Apparently so, because Club 33, in Disneyland has a 14-year waiting list. Originally intended as a place for Walt Disney to entertain investors, the club now has a nose-bleed $25,000 joining fee plus a recurring $10,000 a year membership fee. Oh, and you still have to pay your tab for the food and drink.

But surely all this waiting is excessively nutty behaviour, isn't it?

We wouldn't ever get obsessive about a waiting list, would we? And yet we do get on a waiting list all the time, though on a modest scale. You may not think of going to your hairdresser as being on a waiting list, but if you've made an appointment, that's just what it is.

The reservation you made at the restaurant next week, that's also a waiting list. That flight in October, the hotel bookings—they're all waiting lists. Waiting lists are everywhere, but we don't quite seem to notice because they're part of our everyday lives.

And when you book or put down your name, the commitment increases

Or does it? If we look at the hotel you booked, there's a reason for that specific choice. The flight, the tennis match, the restaurant booking—they're all a form of commitment. Some of them you might need to pay for, in advance.

Some of them, you pay for later, but the reason for being on that list is because you and I seek a level of satisfaction. However, we are more likely to show up, pay for, or join something if we're already on a list than if we're not on that list.

Nonetheless, a waiting list by itself doesn't work.

If all you do is slap on a form on your website, it's unlikely to get any attention. However, if you create the demand for it, the corresponding commitment goes up as well, because potential clients have both something to gain and to lose.

If they get into Club 33, for instance, they have additional status, plus other goodies such as immediate fast passes, upgrades on Disney cruises and behind-the-scenes tours of Disneyland attractions. If your eyes glazed over the attraction—and the loss factor, in the case of Club 33—then clearly you're not going to get on that list even if you owned half of L.A.

At this point we are probably clear, a factor of attraction is what we're going to need to get a commitment of any kind

In the case of a famed club, restaurant or event, the attraction can be a foregone conclusion. In the case of your course, workshop or book launch, you need to spell out the detail of why the client should even bother getting on that list. However, you don't have to list everything that the client is likely to get.

Clients are pretty smart and know a good deal when they see one, but can quickly get overwhelmed with dozens of reasons. Instead, picking one reason why someone should get on the list is extremely important. For instance, even with the home study versions, we expressly communicate that there are only 25 copies. When a to-be buyer realises the scarcity factor, they understand they can't get the product any other way and hence sign up.

But what if you're a complete newbie?

If you are, pay close attention to the previous paragraph. Even a completely unknown business can focus on one big idea that will convince a client to commit. Let's say you've just decided to sell a physical product like a water bottle. There's nothing fancy about water bottles, but let's say your bottle is designed to enable the person know for sure, how much water they've consumed in a day. That's a single point.

It solves a problem, and the potential client is likely to be more eager to want to know when the product is out so they can buy it. Or let's say you have a camera—a video camera—that is likely to help you edit video as if you were operating a two or three camera set up. That one point is likely to get most people who shoot video to pay very close attention to your list. As you'd expect, it works just as well for a training session or a digital product.

You'll need to pick ONE point from your product that's super-compelling. Let's say, for instance, I'm laughing a book on “talent” for example, or a book on how to “make nutritious Indian food, 10 minutes after you get home”, I'd be harping on a single point. And that point alone without a ton of details about the book is likely to be enough to get you on a list.

Once you're on a list, it doesn't mean you'll go through with the commitment

Many reservations get cancelled and changed along the way. However, the greater the loss factor, the more likely the client will go through the entire process. Therefore, even if you're only able to create attraction at this point, you'd want to think about the downside as well.

A person headed to a hard-to-reserve restaurant is more likely to clear all obstructions so that they can make it for dinner. A person that is keen to do a course will wake up at midnight just to make sure they sign up.

It might sound a bit like science fiction to you right now, but remember that all businesses that have that kind of demand today, were once struggling just like everyone else. They systematically put the attraction/loss factor, increased the scarcity and then commitment followed soon after.

In case you missed it: Listen to Part 1:

3 Elements That Create Waiting Lists that Work

Direct download: 184-Waiting_lists-part_2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm +12

A waiting list seems to be both a barrier and an enticement

The problem with waiting lists is that they fail, and fail miserably if you don't get the elements right. So what are the elements that contribute to a really smart waiting list? Let's find out in this episode, shall we?

Click to read online: 3 Elements That Create Waiting Lists that Work: Episode 183


Why do most of us prefer Friday to Sunday?

It's odd when you think about it, right? Friday is a working day (in most countries), and Sunday is a day of rest. Yet we wait with baited anticipation for Fridays. The reason is probably apparent to you by now. Friday clearly and consistently holds the promise of the weekend that is to follow. We all know what follows Sunday, don't we?

Anticipation—that's one of the big reasons that you need to have a waiting list

Anticipation creates an enormous amount of drama in our minds. If you have to wait for something, there's a pretty good chance you're going to value the product or service a lot more than if you hit some magic button and got an instant delivery.

We create waiting lists for three core reasons:

The first reason is the anticipation
The second is to create a barrier
And finally to get a commitment.

Let's take a deeper dive, shall we?

1: Anticipation

In 2010, some British ministers came up with an incredibly interesting, if slightly preposterous idea.

If you were going to apply for British citizenship, you had to learn to queue. Phil Woolas, the immigration minister at the time was dead serious when he suggested that to-be citizens would need to learn to queue. He said: “The simple act of taking one's turn is one of the things that holds our country together. It is very important that newcomers take their place in queues whether it is for a bus or a cup of tea. It is central to the British sense of fair play, and it is also better for everyone. Huge resentment is caused when people push in.”

There you go—anticipation in a nutshell

And you know something, the British are spot on when it comes to creating anticipation. We like stuff better when we have to wait. Tali Sharot, associate professor of cognitive neuroscience in the Department of Experimental Psychology at University College London gives a simple example of how anticipation works.

Regardless of the outcome, the pure act of anticipation makes us happy

The behavioural economist George Lowenstein asked students in his university to imagine getting a passionate kiss from a celebrity, any celebrity. Then he said, “How much are you willing to pay to get a kiss from a superstar if the kiss was delivered immediately, in three hours, in 24 hours, in three days, in one year, in 10 years?

He found that the students were willing to pay the most not to get a kiss immediately, but to get a kiss in three days. They were willing to pay extra to wait. Now they weren't willing to wait a year or 10 years; no one wants an ageing celebrity. But three days seemed to be the optimum amount.

So why is that?

Well if you get the kiss now, it's over and done with. But if you get the kiss in three days, well that's three days of jittery anticipation, the thrill of the wait. The students wanted that time to imagine where is it going to happen, how is it going to happen. Anticipation made them happy.

A waiting list is all about anticipation, isn't it?

No matter whether you're about to sell a product, service or training, it would do us all a bit of good to create a waiting list. And waiting lists work for a simple reason: it creates a feeling of scarcity—even if you're not exactly well known in your field. Take the example of Joseph Pilates, for example. When Pilates started out his studio, he wasn't just an unknown; he was also an immigrant to the US with a German accent.

That didn't exactly stop Pilates from creating a waiting list. He started his exercise regimen near a niche audience—dancers. Despite being brand new in the business, Pilates never agreed to see a client right away. The client was always put on a waiting list, a few days or a week or two after the initial contact. Waiting in that “queue” as it were, created anticipation for the client. When the day rolled along, they were eager to get started.

In the case of a kiss, that anticipation needed to be relatively quick

However, that's not always the case. A few years ago, I bought a cigar-shaped Nakaya pen from Japan. If you're into fountain pens, you can bow now, because the Nakaya is easily one of the most revered pens. Solar orange in colour, the nib is fashioned to your writing style, and yes, the nib is made from 22 karat gold. It comes with its own fancy box and a whole lot of razzmatazz justifying its price.

And as you'd expect, you can't just walk in and buy a Nakaya. That would ruin everything, wouldn't it? The joy of owning a Nakaya is in telling this story. The story of how I was told I'd have to wait for at least nine months. Nine months turned to a year, and if I'm not mistaken, it took yet another six months to get the pen. By the time it showed up, I had almost given up on ever owning it.

Which brings us to an important point of anticipation

Some anticipation can be relatively quick; some months long. The main factor is to keep the flame alive while the client is waiting. Waiting for the Nakaya was partly interesting, partly a pain. I didn't get any updates on what was happening, and as a client, I had to follow up. That's not good practice, especially since the delivery was an unspecified date. Even if the delivery time is well into the future, it's a good idea to keep the client in at least a mild state of anticipation, or the whole experience can quickly turn to irritation.

Pilates' system wasn't complex

He created a list. Anyone of us can do that. Whether you use a notebook, appointment software or some form online, the first task is to create a list. That list alone creates the first level of anticipation. And believe me, it makes a big difference to how clients perceive your offering.

Take for example the home study courses we have at Psychotactics

One of the downsides of creating content is that there's this eagerness, almost a lust for creating new products. It's so much fun to create yet another course, yet another product, yet another service. And it's inevitable that as you produce new products, the older products—powerful as they are— seem to become very Cinderella-like. They don't get much attention because all you're doing is promoting the new and fancy program or workshop or app.

Well, in 2016 I overdid things a bit. I rewrote the entire Article Writing Course so that it was now in Version 2.0. However, I like to do things “live”, which meant that I rewrote all the notes, re-recorded all the audio, and moved around whole sections of the course. Stuff that was in week 8 moved to week 2 and let's just say it was like trying to refuel a plane while flying it.

Anyway, that fried me a bit and I couldn't do any more courses that year

Which is when Renuka and I sat down and decided to bring out the stuff that we'd already done. The uniqueness course, the copywriting course, and yes, since I wasn't going to conduct the Article Writing Course in 2017, that too went on the list of courses to be sold. We then created waiting lists.

And just because we're weird, we kept the list down to a fixed number. Which meant we'd sell only 25 copies. As you can tell, the scarcity works quite well, and the sales of the product replaced me. Instead of me doing a course, just the combination of the waiting list, the anticipation and the scarcity created enough revenue so I could do something else instead of conducting a course.

If you're just starting out, Pilates is an excellent beacon in the dark

Yes, go and do some Pilates at a class, but also pay attention to how he created anticipation by making people queue in an imaginary line. And that's the first point to consider when designing a waiting list; the first element to put in place. Create the anticipation.

However, a waiting list is an instant barrier. Is that a problem? Or a blessing? And can it blow up in our faces? Let's find out.

2: Barrier

If you host a valuable seminar and charge a lot, will more people show up? Or is it better to have one free of cost?

Back in March 2007, we had the chance to test the free option. We'd decided we wanted to give back to New Zealand because we got so much from this strange and lovely country. We decided we'd have free marketing events under the brand name “The Learning Rock”. You could come to the event; there would be no up-sell; no charge and not even the Psychotactics logo anywhere in sight. In effect, we decided to spend over $1000 a year (and these were the costs of hiring the venue), without expecting anything in return.

We had a room capacity of 40 people. Would enough participants turn up or would the room be half empty?

The answer lay in the barrier that needed to be put in place. For one, the event was at 7:32 am. Not 7:33, not 7:34. The doors were fastened as though with superglue once we got to the start time. The attendees were put on a list, and if they showed up, they'd get a chance to be on the priority list. If on the other hand, they didn't show up they'd be taken off the priority list. All of these barriers should have put people from making the long drive into the city. Instead, the room was packed to the brim, every single time.

Barriers play a significant role in creating a filtered waiting list

It's not like there aren't waiting lists online, but having a barrier of sorts makes a big difference to the quality of the clients. It's easy to believe that a barrier isn't much use if you're selling something like products or digital products, but it matters. In our case, we don't sell products, but we do sell information products. When there's a barrier in place (and we insist on clients reading The Brain Audit), they tend to buy a home study product and finish it. This behaviour carries on to online courses like the Article Writing Course. The course is incredibly tough and should have a high dropout rate. Instead, the opposite scenario unfolds. Over 90% of the clients get right to the finish line and get the skill of writing.

Having a barrier in place is one of the first things to consider when starting up a waiting list

The size of the barrier doesn't matter. What matters is that there's some sort of barrier in place. You could get the client to read a few pages of a report. Or you could get them to fill in a detailed form. Or there could be a small fee—say $10—that creates a barrier. The waiting list itself is a barrier, but to make it, even more, wanted, add one more level, and you get a far better quality of clientele.

However, easily the coolest reason to have a waiting list is, so you don't have to bug clients who are not interested in your product or service. Having a waiting list creates a nice opt-in and commitment factor.



Listen to—Why Waiting Lists Fail.

Direct download: 183-Waiting_List_Elements-Part_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm +12

How do you instantly grow your small business?

How do you become “rich” overnight? These are the frustrations we have to deal with, almost every single day as we wade through the temptations of the internet.

It almost seems like a lottery, doesn't it? But people win the lottery, don't they? And so we fancy our odds too. Yet, there's a hare vs tortoise race in play here and usually, it's the hare that seems to burn out.

How can you enjoy the race and have a good life and yes, become an “overnight success?”. Find out in this episode.

Click here to read online here: How to Become An Overnight Success: Episode 182


Winning the lottery is like flushing money down the toilet, right?

Richard Lustig doesn't agree. Despite odds of 175 million to one, Lustig has won the lottery seven times, and claims he's won over a million dollars so far. When you hear the repeated success of Lustig, it's easy to miss the sub-text in his wins. The first point of the sub-text is that he's been playing the lottery since 1992—that's well over 25 years. Plus he has a strategy. He goes after the smaller prizes, like the $100,000 lotteries, completely avoiding the $40 million jackpots.

Are you going after the $40 million jackpots in your business?

You know what I mean, right? Let's say you've managed to make the break from a job to your own business. That move, wonderful as it is, hasn't brought a lot of relief because you still have to commute to and from meetings with clients. And now you're keen on hitting the jackpot. Well, what's the jackpot? You want to reduce or eliminate that commute completely, don't you? And while it would be ideal, that's not what a “gambling man” would do.

A “gambling man” would reduce their odds of losing. Instead of five days of commuting, maybe you can whittle it down to four. Four may not sound like much until you get into the percentages—yup a 20% increase in home-time, isn't it? In the months to follow, reduce that by yet another day, and you have a 40% improvement over the start of the year.

A similar sort of phenomenon plays out when it comes to earning revenue online

Let's say you're earning twenty three dollars online. What next? Oh, that's easy. Most people would like to go from twenty three to two hundred thousand and twenty three. It sounds bizarre right now, as you're reading it. No one in their right mind is likely to achieve so much of a monetary gain, so quickly. Even so, it's a lot like playing the lottery, isn't it? You see others playing, they seem to be winning; surely you have the same odds too.

Our world, your world is inundated with success stories

Everyone is making more money than you, everyone is spending more time on vacation (yes, I'm guilty) and everyone seems to be winning the lottery, except for you. It's not like there's any shortage of avenues, either.

Some make their fortune via podcasting; others on YouTube; the third through some SAAS (software as a solution) offering. We all have this multi-pronged attack of the different types of media that will make us our fame and fortune, and the fact that everyone else seems to be doing just fine.

But a gambling man like Lustig may tell you a different story

He's spent the past 25 years hacking away at the lottery. He's picked the smaller wins, because the odds are so much better. It's all about structural change, making sure that he gets ahead bit by bit. And to be fair, his gains are pretty average by a wage standard.

By his own admission, he's won a little over a million dollars over twenty five years. That's a pretty modest $40,000 per year. You can easily beat those odds in your own business, but your goal must always be structural.

I guess it's time for an example, right?

When we bought our first house in New Zealand, it was priced at $230,000. I'd read a book about how to whittle down that mortgage in a few years (In New Zealand it pays to wipe out the mortgage quickly). Our expenses, barring educational courses, was about $3000 per month (and that included the mortgage). We set about aiming to turn that mortgage into a big fat zero. In the first five years, we bought three houses in Auckland, totalling well over a million dollars.

In ten years, we paid off every last cent on those loans. Would anyone in their right sense try and pay those loans in three months? How about six months? Ten years seems pretty quick by any standards, but we learned what we had to do, and we went about it systematically.

We applied the same rigour to our business

In the year 2000, the business was just a website with a dozen articles. No one bought anything, hardly anyone read much of anything. We simply buckled down, went for dozens of meetings with clients. And out of those dozens, sometimes hundreds, we got ourselves our first client; a sofa store.

The second client was a law firm. The third was a division of Quickbooks. We paid the mortgage, we budgeted our expenses and the only big blow out was education. I bought a ton of stuff online and we both read through them. We listened endlessly to workshops and marketing material (even the stuff which was tedious).

It took a while for things to happen. The first international workshop was in 2004, but that was after we'd done a tonne of speaking sessions in little places all around New Zealand. By 2006, we had our first really big ticket item, the Protégé sessions where clients paid us a substantial sum. That's when we knew we were finally getting somewhere.

Jim Collins is the author of “Good To Great”, a book that has sold over 2 million copies

In the book, Collins talks about the “Egg and Chicken”. He says: If you look at an egg before it hatches, it looks like nothing’s happened. Then the chicken jumps out—now we’re the chickens—the chicken jumps out, and Fortune magazine comes running in or Fast Company comes running in and says, “Revolution at Egg! Transformation to chicken! Interview with CEO of Egg!”

But if you ask what it looks like from the chicken’s point of view—from the chicken’s point of view there was a lot going on inside the egg before this one step happened that you never know about that led up to that process.

We know what leads up to that chicken moment

It's structural change, bit by bit. Whether you're aiming to win the lottery, or start up a business, your job is to go about the steps systematically.

— Will you get twenty e-mails telling you that you could become a millionaire overnight? Sure you will.
—Will there be a pull to do this, that and the other all at once? Sure there will.

But eventually, it's the gentle progress that counts.

Progress like commuting just four days, instead of five; getting one strategic alliance per month; taking on one medium, e.g. podcasting, and working it day after day for the next few months, weeks, and yes, years.

All those stories about how you can double and treble your income, they're probably true. And they probably aren't at odds of 175 million to one. However, the structural way is better. With tiny changes, you can move ahead. You can slowly but surely get your commute down to zero; your bank balance to a healthy state and pay off the mortgages in style.

If you want to become an overnight success, you'll need to slow down a bit and work the structure.

The odds are a lot better, I can assure you.

Special Bonus: The Brain Alchemy Masterclass give you the structure that you need to build your business upon.

It gives you the tactics and strategy that will form the very core of your business, no matter whether you're just starting up, or have been in business ‘forever.' We've always recommended that clients start off with this workshop because it whizzes your strategy around.
Here is the link to get this $2500, product free: The Brain Alchemy MasterClass—How To Structure Your Business.

Direct download: 182-How_to_become_an_overnight_success.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm +12

Is negotiation a skill?

How do you win when your back is against the wall? When negotiating will aggression help or should you use something else, like questions? Questions play a role, but nothing does the job quite like calibrated questions. In this second part of negotiation strategy we find out exactly the questions you need to ask to get the information you need to get your negotiation to work out stunningly well.

You can read the article online here:


The three negotiation concepts we'll cover are

1) Going too fast—and why you need to slow down and listen.
2) The power of labelling—and why it validates emotions.
3) Calibrated questions—a way to completely remove the attack mode and get the opposition to give you vital information.

If you're a cartoonist and want a job as a copywriter, how do you get that job?

This was my dilemma around the age of 20. I'd finished university, and my dream was to become the top copywriter in the city I lived in—which was Mumbai, at the time. There was this peculiar problem, of course: I didn't know much about copywriting.

To smoothen my entry into the world of advertising, I did a class, which loosely promised a job in an ad agency, but it was just a hot-air promise. No one got a job, or not at least one with the big agencies. And I was impatient.

I can't remember the details, but there I was sitting in front of the creative director who was leafing through my cartoons. She looked up and said: “You know there's a difference between cartoons and copywriting, right? I agreed, but it wasn't a time to be coy.

As most negotiators will tell you, there's a way out of any negotiation, if you know what to ask. When FBI and other international negotiators get on a scene, the situation is already way out of control. Their job is to somehow, get a nutter to give up hostages; and to surrender. In short, their job is simply to win in a situation where winning seems implausible or even impossible.

Which is why Chris Voss talks about calibrated questions

Calibrated questions are easy to dismiss as everyday open-ended questions, but they're pretty precise in how they get the discussion moving forward. They're designed first to acknowledge the other side (that's always super-important).

Once that acknowledgement is achieved, calibrated questions get you to introduce ideas and requests that would generally seem pushy. It edges you forward. Instead of getting all riled up, a question that's calibrated swings the problem across to the other person.

In the book, “Never Split the Difference”, the author gives a range of questions you can choose from

However, most of the questions he recommends you work with, are simply “HOW” and “WHAT” questions. Quite by chance, this is approximately what I did back at that early meeting with the creative director. I asked her:

What can I do to be a part of this agency?

How about I work for free for a month and then you can decide if you want to pay me, or I can decide if this agency is a good fit?

The questions seem pretty mundane, and even silly when you think about them, but they get outstanding results.

Voss insists that calibrated questions have the power to educate your counterpart. It brings the problem to the fore and completely defused the conflict. Calibrated questions aren't random at all. Once you have a conversation going, or if you've decided how that conversation should move, you design what and how questions that make the other person think it's their idea.

Of course, when I was sitting in front of my potential boss, I had no idea I was asking intelligent, let alone calibrated questions, but they were “how” and “what” questions and I was hired. Without pay for a month, as you'd expect, but I had a job in Leo Burnett, one of the largest agencies in the world.

The same kind of questions apply to most negotiations because they get the other side to explain their situation

You start with “what” and “how” and completely avoid the “why”. Why is very confrontational so barring rare situations (which Voss describes in the book) you stick closely to “what” and “how” questions. Which is what I did when we were negotiating the fence issue earlier this week.

• What about this is important to you?
• How can I help to make this better for you?
• How would you like me to proceed?
• How can we solve this problem?
• What are we trying to achieve here?
• How can we look at this in a completely different light? What if we could put in a hedge instead of a fence?

Notice the tenor of those questions?

They're all about the other person and their agenda. And you almost appear subservient. You're not even asking “what can “WE” do to make this better. You're asking what can “I” do? And only once you've moved along do we get to “we” solving the problem. Or “we” trying to achieve a goal.

The scene outside my dining area was complicated. The builder didn't want to leave out the space that was owed to his client. The client didn't want the area to become a problem when she developed and sold the property. In short, there wasn't even one person to deal with, but a range of people, some of whom weren't even on the scene until they bought the property somewhere down the line.

Even so, being calm and working through the problem got the builder to progress from, “We are sorry, but there's no way out,” to pitching in with a whole bunch of very workable solutions.

The trees at the far end weren't going to be touched. The apple and the pear espaliers (which grow on the fence) will be removed in the dormant winter season in June. Even the big tree that's in the way will have a skirting around so that it doesn't have to be cut down.

In short, the builder got precisely what he wanted, including every inch that was on his client's property, and we got our trees, our fence and yes, there will be some minor inconvenience, but what a good solution, wouldn't you say?

The calibrated questions led the way at all times

As we went through the questions, he showed me his plans, explained his situation, worked with me. And though we went for the win, and not the win-win, both of us ended up getting whatever we wanted and without any fuss or aggression. The key to your success is to make sure you stay calm at all times and ask the questions. However, one question did make me a bit queasy. That question was “how am I supposed to do that?

“How am I supposed to do that?” seems anything but an open-ended question.

It seems like someone who has the upper hand would simply snap back and say: I don't know. You figure it out. However, that's not what happens. Once I went through the above questions, I blurted out the last question too. And I was amazed at the response. Instead of telling me to go take a hike, the entire set up of questions before this one caused the builder to be even more helpful than before.

In the end, we shook hands on a decision that we both loved and went our merry ways!

The next time you're in a negotiation, use just three of them and see them work like magic, though I'd add the fourth one about creativity too. It helps the other side come up with a slightly different point of view, especially if you give an example. However, here are the three questions and the fourth that I added to the mix.

• What about this is important to you?
• How can I help to make this better for you?
• How would you like me to proceed?
• How can we look at this in a completely different light? What if we could put in an “x” instead of “y”?

And no WHY.

And on that happy note, let's go to the summary.

But here's something even more interesting. “Never Split the Difference” is almost like a layer over The Brain Audit. It handles the conversion issue in almost an identical way. Let's find out how these two books almost match each other, shall we?

Negotiation Summary

1) Going too fast—and why you need to slow down and listen.
2) The power of labelling—and why it validates emotions.
3) Calibrated questions—a way to completely remove the attack mode and get the opposition to give you vital information.

With The Brain Audit, you're likely to be using it more in written material, whereas negotiations tend to swing to words and situations. I think that's the core difference between these books (from a bird's eye view). However, the book had more than I could chew off, at least after going through it twice.

So I worked out three core aspects:

1) Labelling. I moved very quickly to labelling the situation.
2) Calibrated questions: I used only three and a half: important, better, proceed (and the half was: how am I supposed to do that?).
3) Information gathering with two parties: I listened and made mental notes (and Renuka came along). The listening with two parties (and Renuka didn't say a word) meant she picked up stuff that I didn't hear at all. And she also was able to see things from her perspective, because I was too focused on working with the other person.

The match with The Brain Audit.

Often, when you read or listen to a book, the information either seems old or new.

Old, as in, “I already know this stuff, so it's slightly boring, or at least not very groundbreaking”. Or “new” in the sense that you're learning nuances, and you have to pay close attention to what's being said.

For instance, there's a tiny nuance in the calibrated questions: e.g. How can “I” make this better for you? which moves to “how can “we” solve the problem? The nuance is so tiny it's easy to miss unless you pay close attention, or someone points it out.

Either way, whether you consider the information to be old or new, you're always working out how to implement the information in your own life, your own chat with a client, or when you have to negotiate something like a lease or rent. Which is why, when I listened to this book for the first time, I missed a lot of the information.

Then, the whole fence-dispute started up and I was instantly focused on trying to speed up the learning and implementation. I downloaded the Kindle version of the book and marked it up (I have special software for the iPad, which I'll cover in a future series). Even though the negotiations are mostly over, I'm listening to it once more. Even so, I didn't realise how much this book fit with The Brain Audit, until I was being interviewed for a podcast.

During the podcast, me being me, I stopped talking about The Brain Audit and went on to talk about “Never Split the Difference”, instead. And I realised something pretty cool. The books are almost identical from a bird's point of view. Let's see what Chris Voss' book really says:

• Listen to the person
• Ask them calibrated questions
• Mirror what they are saying
• Slow down and listen
• Label their emotions

What do you find in The Brain Audit?

• Listen to the client (and fix an interview)
• Ask them calibrated questions (the questions in the target profile interview)
• Mirror what they’re saying by writing down their exact words on your sales page
• Slow down and listen (don’t talk, just ask questions in the interview)
• Label their emotions. How does it make them feel? Do they feel like hostages, in a way? Why?

The Brain Audit, has an almost identical layer as FBI procedure, it seems

You have the target profile; you ask them their problems, you listen carefully to their version of the solution. You write it down on your sales page. Mirroring, slowing down, listening all the time. You have now finished the first section of the book, which gets the attention of the client. Then you move to the second part of The Brain Audit, where you're reducing risk.

In “Never Split the Difference”, Voss talks about “the objections” and how you need to destroy those objections, thus building trust.

Objections equal risk and removing them becomes a crucial part of dealing with people who are not seeing things your way.

You may not see the similarity between a kidnapper and a client, but they're both in objection-land and their objections need to be reduced or completely defused if you are to reach a solution. I haven't figured out how testimonials or case studies figure when dealing with terrorists or bank robbers, but they do reduce risk for a client. As I listen to the book for the second time, I'll keep my ears peeled.

Finally, you have risk-reversal, which everyone wants. How are you reducing the client's risk?

What guarantee will the hostage takers have when they walk out that door? Will the building project go through on time, or will there be a stall because of the fence? The risk-reversal needs to be in place for progress to do its thing. And finally, uniqueness: why you? Why not the other negotiator? Why should the client buy from you, and not from your competition?

The similarities hit me like a thunderclap

I simply hadn't seen the two overlap in so many ways. I was excited to be on the call, and even more excited to get off the call and listen to the audio as I went for my walk every morning. And that's just what I'm going to do today and tomorrow and for the week to come. And it's what I'd suggest you do too. Listen and read both books. They're really cool, but more than anything they're result-oriented. They get you and your client to a common goal.

Negotiation is about information. So is writing sales pages. How cool is that?

Special Bonus: The Brain Audit: Why Clients Buy And Why They Don’t
Click here to get an excerpt of The Brain Audit.

Direct download: 181-_Why_Calibrated_Questions_Enable_You_To_Win_Your_Negotiation_Battle.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm +12

Imagine you're dealing with a terrorist or hijacker who has captives and threatens to blow up everything if you don't agree with his demands. How would that knowledge help when negotiating with a boss, a client or perhaps your own kids?

And how are you supposed to remember the negotiation steps? That's exactly what we'll cover in this episode—you'll get to hear how we applied the negotiation skills we learned (and got to a perfectly great settlement). Listen away!

Read the episode online:


“The auction's on,” said the auctioneer, “would you give $520,000”?

“I've got $520, now $525. The bid is at $530 would you give $550?”

The year was 2005. We had decided to buy a three-bedroom house in Auckland to separate our work from our home. It seemed like a good idea to have a separate residence and a dedicated workplace. We thought it might even be a good idea to hire staff. And that's how we were in the middle of this auction.

Except for one tiny fact

The auctioneer wasn't having a good time. It seemed like just one person was bidding. For about 5-7 minutes, there was a spurt of bidding—many voices—and then suddenly, the only voice you could hear repeatedly was my own. The situation might have seemed bizarre to anyone who was standing around because I was bidding against myself.

“$565”, said the auctioneer. I nodded and added “$567”.

Then before he could recover, I shouted out, “$567,500. No sooner had those words come out of my mouth than I was off, but this time not in multiples of thousands, but in $500. Potential buyers must have been in a tizzy. Only a fool would keep increasing his own price; they must have thought to themselves. But there I was, moving steadily ahead, bidding $500 at a time.

At one point, the auctioneer realised that the price was moving up in smaller multiples than he expected, but there was simply no opposition. As far as the assembled crowd was concerned, they were dealing with an escapee from the mental asylum. Pretty soon, the negotiation was over, and the house was ours (at a price very marginally over our initial budget).

The auctioneer had been out-negotiated.

Instead of the auction being a battle between two or more parties, it fizzled off at a much lower price than he might have normally received. But why did that occur? In every negotiation, both parties have information. The core of what makes one party gain the upper hand isn't logic. Instead, it's emotion.

Emotion and information

Two weeks ago, I started listening to a book that I'd bought way back in late November. We went on our vacation to Sri Lanka shortly after and I had a bit of catching up to do. However, I heard an interview with the author, Chris Voss, and I was taken with the concepts he brought up on the call. I was so excited that I started listening to the book shortly after.

And that's what this series is all about. It's a look into “Never split the difference: Negotiating as if your life depended on it”, by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz. It's important to mention both Voss and Raz because they're both outstanding. Voss has a wealth of experience, and this is real-life experience with murderers, bank robbers and terrorists. They're the kind of people who demand a ransom and casually murder people. Voss walks us right through this minefield of ego and terror.

However, Raz, Tahl Raz is the writer, and as a result, the book is spectacular. I rarely marvel at a book's structure, because by and large books tend to be more about information, which can get tedious. However, this book is masterful in the way it has been constructed. It brings up a concept, explains the concept, tells a story, gives examples and then goes on to succinctly summarise the contents of the chapter.

I love this book for two reasons

It's elegant in its construction and detail. But more importantly, negotiation is part of our lives. If you want to get a better price from clients, a higher salary, or even want your kid to go to bed, you've got to negotiate. But negotiating is one thing: winning is another.

In this book, you're going to find out how to win without the other person feeling bad. No, it's not win-win in any way. You go in wanting a specific solution to the problem, and you win. And the other party doesn't feel like it has lost. How's that possible? I know, you're itching to know what makes this book so cool. In fact, you're probably trying to ditch reading this and go and read the book yourself.

Well, hang in there

What you don't know yet, is that I've read this book once, listened to it twice and listened to a couple of interviews as well with Voss. This piece will distil the core stuff that makes the difference. Instead of leafing through the entire book, you'll get a few core concepts that you can use right away. And then you can go and read the book and the concepts will be more enduring. Sound good? Well, keep reading.

The three concepts we'll cover are:

1) Going too fast—and why you need to slow down and listen.
2) The power of labelling—and why it validates emotions.
3) Calibrated questions—a way to completely remove the attack mode and get the opposition to give you vital information.

1) Going too fast—and why you need to slow down and listen.

About a year ago, our hedge was the bone of contention with the neighbours.

Sure, we'd got the house for a very decent price at the auction, and with it came a hedge that four of five metres high. Every now and then, we'd get the hedge guys to trim the hedge, but it was always a respectable height. That gave us our privacy, but more importantly, we could look into a sea of green, instead of another house, with a grungy shed on the other side of the fence. And about a year ago, on two separate occasions, something happened that would permanently change our view.

At first, the neighbour cut down the trees near the far side of the fence

To come back and watch the trees hacked was an incredibly rough moment, but it chopped down while we were away on vacation and there was little benefit in getting into a war over trees that were gone forever. However, the next time we were away, the entire hedge was reduced to the legal height of just two metres, and that's the way it seems likely to stay.

What's interesting about this whole hedge and tree episode is that the neighbour wasn't aggressive, to begin with. If anything, she was overly helpful, calling us to let us know when our TV antenna had gotten ripped off in a storm. How did someone who was on our side, literally move to the other side of the fence and declare a “hedge-war” of sorts?

Author, Chris Voss would say: It's a listening problem.

Back in 1979, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Harvard Negotiation Project was formed. The goal was to improve negotiation results so that people could be in a better position to take on stuff like peace treaties, business mergers and I suppose, the occasional hedge. As a result of the discussions at Harvard, the co-founders of the project came out with a book—and idea—called “Getting to Yes”. They mostly seemed to discard the unreliable, primal animal instinct and espoused a more rational, “let's be friends and fix this together” type of approach.

And yet the FBI, who Chris Voss was a part of, wasn't getting consistent results in their negotiations.

Even if deals seemingly worked out in the boardroom, the idea of a rational approach was ending up in a bloody mess when it came to terrorists and hostage situations. Which is when two of the most decorated FBI negotiators, Fred Lanceley and Gary Noesner, started asking a simple question.

Their question was directed to 35 of the most experienced law enforcement officers, and the question went like this: How many had dealt with a classic bargaining situation where problem-solving (or logic) was the best technique?

Not a single hand went up.

Then came the follow up question…

How many had negotiated an incident in a dynamic, tense, uncertain environment where the hostage taker was in emotional crisis and had no apparent demands?

Every hand went up.

What this informed the FBI negotiators was pretty clear. Emotions are the key drivers of our behaviour, not logic. It's the frustration of some factor that caused the trees and the hedge to be hacked in the way it was. Instead of silly logic and defining our position, we have to step over and listen.

Listening, says Voss, is the cheapest, most effective concession we can make to get the other person on our side.

When people feel listened to, they listen to themselves more carefully. Notice that line again? They listen to “themselves” more carefully. They almost do a double take evaluating the strangeness of their demands. The jagged defensiveness goes down, and they're keen to help, instead of simply barging in with their demands.

The goal of negotiation is to stop acting like a goat

Instead, always move towards the other side. What does the other side need? What are their monetary, emotional or other needs? Who do they need to report to? What constraints are they working with? Being angry and emotional will merely get them to mirror your behaviour, and you get to a situation of mistrust, which often leads to a standoff.

The way to get control is to give the client the illusion of control. It isn't to suggest you're conning them in any way. However, when the chips are not in your favour, you want to even the odds and get the client to start thinking of you. And the only way to get that going is to start listening.

When both parties want to row the boat in opposite directions, it looks like there's absolutely no solution

However, experienced negotiators (like my 8-year old niece, Keira, for instance), knows that's not true. Her mother will be all upset, refuse to give her what she wants and threaten to ground her for a week. Keira switches from “whiny mode” to “listening”.

She says: If I do this, that and the other, can I get it? And almost instantly you are taken back to negotiations you've had with your nieces, nephews or children. They know their position is pretty hopeless, and they turn from tiny little devils to skilled negotiation experts. They listen and turn things around in their favour.

And that's what we need to do as well if we want to get anywhere, let alone get the negotiation in our favour.

We need to listen. Slow down and listen. However, that's just one piece of the negotiation puzzle. Listening alone will pay huge dividends, but we need to get the person to realise that we understand.

So we do the most obvious thing of all: we use labelling.
What is labelling and how can we quickly use it in our negotiations?

2) The power of labelling—and why it validates emotions.

Ever seen how some presenters start their speech when they get on stage.

They might say: “Good morning, everyone. It's good to be here. It's a wonderful morning, isn't it?” And while all of this sounds like adorable banter, it's missed out on a significant opportunity to get right into the audience's emotional state. Audience members aren't sitting around to discuss the weather. And neither is the person across the table from you. While you don't have to be all business-like, it's best to get the person across the table to know that you're on their side.

Most people always talk about themselves

And here's where you can run a little test. Tomorrow morning tell your partner how you didn't sleep too well. Almost immediately, he or she is likely to ask you a question or two, but the conversation will swing rapidly to their sleep patterns.

People are so obsessed with their issues that they fail to realise how quickly they take over the discussion. Now imagine you talk about their sleep patterns instead. See what I mean? Immediately two people are talking about precisely the same thing. Suddenly you're the best “conversationalist” ever.

Negotiation pushes that point a little further with “labelling.”

Labelling is a bit like putting a Post-It on a person's forehead. For instance, in early January we got a nasty surprise. There was some development work going on in the plot next door. Three houses were being built, and yes, there was the usual earth-shaking noise.

However, nothing prepared us for what came next. The surveyor's plan indicated that our fence—and the eleven trees on our property, was really within their boundary. As you'd expect, they wanted every inch of their land, and it really did come down to inches. In reality, it was about 12-13 inches at one end and a lot less at the other. Even so, because of the location of the trees, it was about to cause enormous disruption to the landscaping.

How do you get out of a mess like that?

For starters, you listen and keep your cool. Once you've moved into your meditative zone, you label the situation. It was clear from the very start that the builders were not happy with this sudden surprise. On the very day they discovered the boundary problem, they were all raising their hands as if to say, “don't hate us for this problem”. Which is exactly the label I gave the builders when I spoke to them. I called it “messy”. I said: This is a terribly messy situation for you, isn't it?

Think about that label for a minute

Normally we'd be likely to say something like: This is a big issue for us. The trees are getting cut down; the fence is going to be destroyed. We'd go on and on about our own problems, which have absolutely nothing to do with them. No, no, no, no, no—that kind of nonsense won't get you very far. Instead, use the label. What is the situation? Is it messy? Is it noise you're negotiating (and it's noisy?) Does it seem like it's overpriced? (and hence they are already edgy about the price?) Whatever the situation, you can use labels to identify how the other side is feeling.

And this is what author, Chris Voss, suggests

Spot the emotion. Then label it aloud by using either of the following terms:

• It seems like…
• It sounds like…
• It looks like…

The exact terms are important

You can't go around saying “I'm hearing that…”. The moment you put the “I” back in the discussion, you're talking about yourself. It also makes you take personal responsibility for the discussion that follows. And things may go horribly wrong.

However, “it seems like…” is a very neutral statement that feels almost like you're trying to get to grips on the situation. It also gives the other side a chance to speak. When I said, “It seems like a very messy situation that you want to avoid”, the builder immediately responded to my point explaining what was going on. He told me about their plans, where they were stuck, and what had been discussed with the architects. The information wasn't particularly important to this situation, but in many cases, the smallest bit of information is of extreme value.

But what if the other person disagrees?

What if you said:”It seems like you're uncomfortable with this high pricing”, and they disagree. You can always step back and say, “I didn't say it was that way. I just said it seems like that”. However, in many cases, if not most, the other person will not go on the attack. Instead, they will explain themselves in a fair amount of detail.

There's just one big caveat

Once you've put forward the label, be quiet.
Deathly quiet.
One second.
Two seconds.
Three seconds.
Four, tick, tick, tick.

Wait for them to speak, because you won't have to wait long

Once you add the label, you'll get the reaction you need. It's almost one of “thank goodness, you know how I'm feeling right now”. Now both parties are seemingly rowing in the same direction. You haven't lost any control. No one is going to eat you for lunch. However, a standoff has not only been averted, but you've got the other side to see you as a partner.

Which takes us to the third part—calibrated questions.

In the first part, we slowed down and listened. We moved from that stage to getting onto the other side's platform. However, there's a third part that gets most of the information you need. And that's really what negotiation is about. It's about information harvesting. The more you know, the more you can move in the direction you need. And what better way to get information than asking questions. Except there are some landmines in the question section. Ask the wrong question, and we're back to square one, or worse.

Let's sidestep that landmine and find out what questions to ask, instead.

Continue listening here: Why Calibrated Questions Enable You to Win Your Negotiation Battle

Direct download: 180-Negotiation_Part_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm +12