A Powerful Sales Technique Courtesy of Honest Abe

If you ask any historian to name the greatest leaders in western civilization, there’s a good chance the 16th president of the United States will make the list. He willed his country to victory in the gut-wrenching Civil War, issued the Emancipation Proclamation and facilitated the eventual ratification of the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery.

A number of traits contributed to Abraham Lincoln’s greatness. He possessed a brilliant intellect. He had an uncommon amount of common sense. He was a thinker, someone who philosophically examined the world and crafted a rationalized set of personal beliefs by which he steadfastly lived.

While he was blessed with many talents, Lincoln’s greatest attribute may have been his ability to communicate. He was a skilled orator who eloquently wrote many of his own speeches. He listened sincerely when others spoke. He empathized. He mastered the art of interpersonal communications several decades before the term “interpersonal communications” was coined.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to credit Lincoln as one of history’s greatest communicators. But of all the communications techniques he so successfully employed, there was one where he especially shone.

Abraham Lincoln was a remarkable storyteller.

Lincoln succeeded under some of the most difficult leadership conditions any U.S. president has had to face. To communicate is such times, he often resorted to stories. Instead of berating the incompetent generals who blundered in the Civil War’s early battles, Lincoln educated and motivated them by using stories. To smooth over ruffled political feathers with members of Congress, Lincoln would pull out a story and use it to establish common ground.

Among history’s eminent leaders, however, Lincoln was not unique in his reliance upon stories. Political leaders throughout the ages have moved the masses by using stories to communicate their political platforms. In modern days, big-time CEOs use storytelling to mobilize international staffs in the quest for billions of dollars of profit. Jesus Christ himself used parables and story-based lessons to enlighten his disciples.

Indeed, stories pack a punch. They’re powerful. They paint pictures. They work, because our human brains are conditioned to listen to and be receptive to stories. Long before the written word, and long before Gutenberg invented the printing press, people used stories to communicate histories and traditions as well as norms and expectations. In other words, our ancestors sat around the fire every night and told stories. The propensity to tell and listen to stories is essentially a part of our DNA.

So, if people are so receptive to storytelling, you and I would be foolish not to use stories in our work. Good storytellers tend to be effective leaders and successful salespersons. If you manage people, teach them and motivate them by conveying important information through stories. If you sell products and services, use a story to paint a picture in your prospect’s mind. By making the product or service part of a story, prospective clients mentally project themselves into the story. Once someone makes that kind of psychological commitment, they’re much more likely to buy.

Let’s say we asked the same prospective client to sit through two sales presentations for competing products. Both salespersons touched on features and benefits. Salesperson One was very straightforward and focused on delivering factual content. Salesperson Two was accurate but explained the features and benefits using stories. A couple of the stories were about previous clients who enjoyed positive results from using the product. I guarantee the second salesperson has a higher likelihood of landing the client.

One of the most important skills in sales is the ability to overcome objections. Well, if you get an objection, tell a story to keep the deal alive. Are you ready to deliver your close? Make it more desirable by couching it inside a story. Has the process become mired? Advance it by telling a story.

Whether you are managing a staff, selling a service, delivering a speech, trying to persuade voters to elect you or attempting to resolve a conflict between two of your colleagues, make it easier by spinning a yarn. Stories reassure people and disarm them.

As you make a commitment to including more stories in your daily work, keep a couple things in mind:

1. Stories must be relative to the situation at hand.

2. Know when to shut up. If a story goes on too long, it loses its effectiveness

3. Think about the work you do and determine what kinds of stories could be effective in certain situations.

4. Catalog stories in your mind. Look back on your own experiences as well as the experiences of your colleagues. Make a list of stories to have at your disposal, so you can use them whenever it’s expedient.

Every product, service, business and person has a story, probably multiple stories. The trick is to pull out these stories and use them to your benefit at the appropriate times. After all, if President Lincoln used stories to save a country, we would be wise to use them to save our businesses and careers.

Protecting Your Business: Long-Term Success Begins With Defense

In today’s super-competitive business world it’s becoming emphatically dire for business owners to protect their business and secure their developed ideas, services and products. This is not only protection from a business to business perspective, but in the digital realm of today, safeguarding the business’s brand and voice from damaging consumers and reviews. It’s a constant worry and hassle that all businesses, regardless of the age or maturation, have to deal with and be confronted with at some point or time in their operations. Regardless of what it is that’s affecting your business, having the appropriate legal and business structures will ensure your business value isn’t damaged by an outside factor. Whether having the necessary protection from another competing business in your area (or online) to assuring that damage control is in place for any negative consumer reviews and comments; these are all mandatory cases where business owners have to constantly be ahead of the curve and protecting their businesses.

Here are a few pointers to consider whether you’re safeguarding your business operations, company’s liabilities or even assuring that bad reviews and comments don’t damage your brand beyond repair.

1. Protecting business processes and limiting excessive liabilities with the proper legal documents:

* Start with having the proper legal documents and contracts or agreements in place. This begins with the proper “Employee Contracts and Agreements” on file for every employee, intern, freelancer or aligned consultant of the business entity. This outlines the expectations between the two parties and addresses how the agreement will pan out over time. “Non-Competing Agreements” are another area of protection from workers or employees taking your ideas and incorporating them into their own areas of business. Of course, these Employee agreements can be directly specialized per employee or just a basic underlying agreement. Some additional areas may include: “Ownership of Inventions” (maintains company ownership for those employees who invent or create within their respective roles while employed via the company), “No Authority to Contract” (called an agency provision, defines the employee to employee relationship and not an agency relationship) and Termination, Arbitration and Compensation clauses.

* When or if your business deals with outside consultants and business partnerships (with other companies), having the best aligned partnership agreements and including “Non-disclosure Agreements” (NDA) can/will ensure that not only your business process is being covered, but ensures that no ideas or internal insights on your business seep out through outside hands, mouths, via conference call, memo’s or emails. Consider including “Gag Order” terms within your Non-Disclosure Agreements, if you’re seriously protecting the ‘next big idea’ or that hot “business” consumer good… or maybe it’s just a really powerful product idea. NDA’s can and should be a part of any or all business to business meetings where you’re disclosing any inside knowledge, processes or insights of your company. NDA’s ensure that business partner isn’t just ‘picking your brain’ for innovative ideas to incorporate.

2. Protecting business ideas, creations and inventions:

* Copyrights: are forms of protection for authors “of original work or ownership” within a tangible form of expression. Copyrights can cover the areas of literary, drama, art, music, intellectual property, photos, pictures, graphic designs, drawing and more. Copyright lends it way for licensing and royalty agreements and deals. Note, copyrights don’t cover names, short sayings/text, words or short phrases. This is when you register it as a trademark.

* Trademarks: protect words, names, symbols or other notable devices used in trade to distinguish or denote a specific brand or good from others. Trademarks only protect one from another using your “mark” not from another competing business creating a very similar or same good under a different mark. Trademarks, used in interstate and foreign commerce, are filed through the Patent & Trademark Office.

* Patents: are necessary for inventions, and grant property ownership to the inventor. Handled through the Patent & Trademark Office, patents terms are 20 years from the application date the patent was filed. Patents grants the “right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale or selling” the invention in the US or importing the invention into the US.

3. Protecting the business’ reputation & brand:

* Local Content Management Services/Strategy: Ensures that any information about or related to the business is accurately maintained and distributed across all local and national distribution points or outlets. This can be extended to protect and manage the business online content or verbiage, and may pertain to business listing & data, meta tags, page titles, images, and the actual content on your sites. A local content management system offers accuracy and a universal language to all your online consumers.

* Reputation Management: Consumers post millions of comments, reviews and feedbacks about brands constantly and via the internet, web, and mobile and social platforms daily. Some good and other just negative and bad or offensive to brands and company’s success. Having an online reputation management service allows a company or business to be alerted when comments, reviews, feedback and other posts or tweets pertain to your business. They alert the business about what’s being said and where, allowing the business to proactively deal or address the negative or bad (damaging) comments. Having this effective tracking device ensures that consumers are receiving the very best brand information that you want your business to be recognized for; without jeopardizing your brand’s online image.

* Social Media Management: A staggering 91% of Americans utilize social media network platforms at some point within the month; that’s a figure of approximately 92million American monthly. (Experian: http://www.experian.com/index-bu2.html ) From Facebook’s population totaling more than China & India alone to Twitter surpassing 500 million users within a 10 months time span ( http://www.agi.it/english-version/business/elenco-notizie/201202221155-eco-ren1025-twitter_to_surpass_half_billion_user_mark_this_evening ), it’s beyond apparent that social media is becoming a norm in everyday life. Considering that there are hundreds of social networks; ensuring you reach those users on those individual platforms whether communicating for sales & client leads, desiring extra visibility, and cross marketing or brand promotions requires constant engagement efforts and the applicable (tracking) tools to reach those individual users where they are socially. Also, having a social media management system in place allows your conversations to be personalized according to those individual platforms, as not all social platforms and their user’s returns are the same, therefore, your social strategies shouldn’t be either.

As a business owner in today’s challenging business world, having a tight control on protecting your business is a constant and daily grind. However, with the right tools and documents in place, you can guarantee that other competing businesses aren’t siphoning your business models or goods. It can be the deciding difference in outcomes of permitting your ‘next big idea’ from being broadcast across the national press release outlets under someone else’s brand name to losing tons of revenues from negative comments about your brand. Protecting you business for the long-terms starts with safeguarding your business from the start of the day to end… and that begins with your employees, business agreements & deals, and includes your consumers or customers. Remember defense wins in the long run.