Category Archives: Jeff Beals

The Rule of Thirds: How to Truly Listen

By Jeff BealsJeff Beals

“Let a fool hold his tongue and he will pass for a sage,” wrote Publilius Syrus more than 2,000 years ago in ancient Rome. Such wise advice from ages ago has never been more relevant. In the modern professional world, we are suffering from a listening crisis. Actually, it’s a “lack-of-listening” crisis.

Whether your role is executive, managerial, sales, customer service or anything else, it is critically important to your success that you listen.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” wrote Stephen R. Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Too often we get that order mixed up. We focus on being understood as opposed to understanding those with whom we live and work.

Ask any of the greatest salespersons or sales trainers what it takes to succeed. Chances are that “ability to listen” will be at or near the top of the list. Success in sales requires you to understand your prospective client before you can do any sort of pitching, convincing or persuading. The smart salesperson asks carefully crafted questions designed to drill as deep as necessary to find out what makes the prospect tick. Truly listening to those answers allows a salesperson to customize, or at least portray, the product or service in such a way that creates maximum appeal.

By the way, “truly listening” doesn’t mean you act like you’re in one of those cheesy “active-listening” workshops. Many people who have completed such workshops look like they are listening actively – they have an intense look on their faces, nod their heads and occasionally paraphrase what the person is saying – but they still don’t retain any of it. Active listening is much more about understanding than it is about facial expressions and head-nodding.

Super executive Lee Iacocca, former CEO of Chrysler, once said, “I only wish I could find an institute that teaches people how to listen. Business people need to listen at least as much as they need to talk. Too many people fail to realize that real communication goes in both directions.”

Iacocca’s statement reminds me of the old saying, “God gave you one mouth and two ears; use them proportionately.” In other words, we should listen twice as much as we talk. I call it the “Rule of Thirds.” Two-thirds of the time you spend talking with a colleague, client or a prospect should be focused on the other person. One-third of the time is focused on yourself.

“No man ever listened himself out of a job,” said former U.S. president Calvin Coolidge. Simply put, listening is one of the top skills required for professional success. But be careful you don’t over-do it. Some people become so committed to good listening, that they become 100 percent “interpersonal givers.” In other words, they spend three-thirds of their time listening to other people. If you do this, people will tend to like you, because you allowed them to talk about themselves. However, if you fail to reserve your third, they won’t know anything about you or how your business can help them. Listen twice as much as you talk but don’t forget to pitch something about yourself.

Why is focusing on the other person so important? The answer is simple: most people are rather self-absorbed. Want proof? Here it is: I am my most favorite subject. My friend is his most favorite subject. You are probably your most favorite subject.

Saying “I am my favorite subject” sounds awful, but it is not necessarily a selfish or narcissistic thing to say. After all, I spend a lot of time working on my favorite subject. I have invested much in my favorite subject. The success or failure of my favorite subject determines the direction of my life and has a big impact on the people I care about. I sometimes lay awake at night worrying about the things my favorite subject has screwed up. Most people are the same way.

If you show earnest, sincere interest in my favorite subject, I can’t help but like you. I can’t help but feel some sort of connection with you. Showing sincere interest by truly listening disarms colleagues and clients and paves the way for your success.

You might be wondering to whom you should listen. Who is worthy of your attention? Who deserves your best listening skills? That’s easy: everyone. You never know who has the right information for you or knows just the right person you need to meet.

Sam Walton, the late founder of Wal-Mart, once said, “The key to success is to get out into the store and listen to what the associates have to say. It’s terribly important for everyone to get involved. Our best ideas come from clerks and stock boys.”

When it comes to listening, remember to do it sincerely and remember that everyone counts.

Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques.  As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide.

Sales Secrets from Baja, California

By Jeff BealsJeff Beals

To unearth the age-old secrets of sales and marketing, I journeyed 2,600 miles to Cabo San Lucas on the extreme southern tip of Baja California Sur. Actually, it was just a vacation. But during what was a carefree trip spent mostly on the beach and in margarita bars, I inadvertently received a Mexican marketing lesson and crystal-clear insight into what it really takes to be successful in selling services and promoting products.

The unexpected lesson came at me from two different angles – from above and below. One angle was luxurious, affluent and exclusive; the other was “street selling,” marketing in a very traditional and primitive form.

Let’s start with the luxurious angle. We had the good fortune of staying in our friends’ opulent condo, a lavishly appointed place with an interior design worthy of an architectural magazine. As the guest of a resident, I was offered the “opportunity” to sit in an information session organized by the management company. Of course, the session was actually intended to sell me my own piece of real estate paradise (or at least a one-week share of it).

Normal vacationers run like hell when offered such an “opportunity.” Not me. I love real estate and am fascinated with marketing, so I couldn’t pass up the chance to learn. The free breakfast buffet and piña coladas were just icing on the cake.

Wow, the real estate agent was so effective – she was charismatic, well informed, a great conversationalist with such strong interpersonal skills. The meeting was private, not some presentation in an auditorium. The pitch was soft-sell, much more focused on relationship-building than high-pressure closings. We talked for two hours. Most of the time was spent discussing the local area. We talked about politics, culture and a great deal of Mexican history. She asked questions – lots of them. A good salesperson gets to know her prospects inside and out. She knew what information she wanted from me, and she got it.

In a clear attempt to play to my ego, she said, “The advantage of a time share is that you pre-pay your vacation. That means a man of your stature is essentially forced to set aside time in your busy schedule to relax and be with your family. That will make your wife happy and give your kids memories for a lifetime.”

Now, she obviously acted as if I was a much bigger deal than I really am, but what a great angle! She found what I valued and focused on how her product could satisfy that value.

Then there’s the other side of sales and marketing in Cabo. As is common in Mexican tourist towns, street hawkers are omnipresent. They sell everything from traditional souvenir items to whale-watching excursions to staged photos of you downing a shot of tequila on the beach while sporting an oversized sombrero.

There’s so much selling, you get kind of sick of it, which can lead to flippant brush-offs and irritated responses of “No gracias!” While walking to lunch one day with my wife and our friend, a street vendor approached me and displayed a handful of silver bracelets.

“Hey man, you need one of these for your pretty lady,” he said.

“Her? She doesn’t even like me anymore,” I responded playfully.

“Maybe this bracelet would help,” he said.

“It’s hopeless; nothing will help. She doesn’t want anything to do with me,” I insisted.

A pause and a smile… “Get one for your next wife!”

His humor and creativity stood out among the sea of street vendors all saying the same thing. What’s more impressive, however, is that he was trying to find something I valued. Had I been telling the truth, it may have been a successful pitch!

How interesting – the methods of selling I experienced on my Mexican vacation were very different, yet the lessons were the same: it all comes down to value! Whether you are selling exclusive real estate or future garage-sale items from a pushcart, you are successful when you find the buyer’s value points.

The successful marketer and the savvy salesperson know that people buy what they value and only what they value. It is the salesperson’s job to find out just what that value is. Value is determined by the prospective client, never by the seller or marketer.

How do you find what your prospective clients value? It’s simple. Start by building rapport and then ask the right questions.

The street hawker with the bracelets built rapport through humor and creativity. Because it was such a brief encounter, he didn’t have the luxury of asking me a lot of questions, but give him credit for trying to find my value point as quickly as possible.

The condo salesperson gave a textbook performance. She built rapport with me and asked the right questions. She now knows what I value. She didn’t make the sale, but I suspect I will hear from her periodically. When the day comes that I can justify such a frivolous expense, I do have her contact information.

You never know…. I just might call her someday.

Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques.  As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide.