The Career Meter

By Christopher Zoukis

MSN’s homepage recently ran an article about America’s Most Successful Business Women.  On the list were such luminaries as Oprah, Meg Whitman, the novelist Stephenie Meyer (all those Vampire movies).  Even Tom Brady’s supermodel wife made the list.  It seems she’s hecka-good at investing money, which, when you stop and think about it, doesn’t really seem fair.  Not only did she get all the looks, but she got all the brains too.  Image courtesy funadvice.com

I was jealous as jelly, almost had a hissy fit.  It took two pints of Ben & Jerry’s to calm me down.

Prior to the article about Successful Business Women, MSN ran a big feature story on the World’s Richest and Most Successful Men.  The list included business men, sports stars, music recording artists, and Hollywood Moguls.  The thrust of the article was that all these guys had Great Careers.

My name was not on the list.

After sulking for a while, I got to thinking.  How come all these people had Great Careers and I didn’t?  For that matter, how come most people don’t have Great Careers?  In the course of trying to find the answer to my question, I pursued a number of different avenues.  First, I prayed about it, asking for divine enlightenment.  What is commonly referred to as Wisdom.  Nothing happened, no revelation from on high occurred.  Then, since Heaven seemed reluctant to give it up, I had a friend consult the next closest thing:  YouTube.  If you’re looking for the meaning to life, YouTube has a video about it.

Eureka!  Based on

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Application Boo-Boos

By Christopher Zoukis

More than likely you’ve read about the obvious boo-boos you want to steer clear of in your business school application.  Since you’re already aware of those, let’s talk about the dangerous but not very obvious missteps that lurk like quicksand in the application process.  This article is for applicants who already know the rudiments of the process and want to move on to the more cryptic elements.  They’re cryptic because they’re hard to see and hard to explain.  Admissions committees don’t want to admit they exist, but they do.  So if you’re gunning for one of the top three schools, learning how to dodge around these veiled pitfalls can be the difference between acceptance and rejection.  Image courtesy schools.penncrest.org

Mistake 1:  Don’t Get Grandiose

In a perfect world, everyone wants to be Mother Theresa and save the world.  A lot of applicants, just like Miss America contestants, believe that’s what will get their foot in the door at the school of their choice.  If you demonstrate how unselfish and compassionate and caring you are, everyone will melt and think this is the kind of person we want at our school, right?  You can peddle the saccharine all day long, but if your philanthropic pitch doesn’t align with your personal history, it won’t sell.  For example, you tell the committee that your heart’s desire is to work on developing microfinance programs in West Africa, yet nothing in your background indicates any such prior interest.  The only way such an assertion would be true would be if you actually came from Ghana and have already worked with Kiva.org, a microfinance non-profit organization, for the last few years.  Your skill set matches your aspirations.

Many applicants believe expressing an attraction to the non-profit field is the key to winning the hearts and minds of admissions officers.  That approach did not work well in the Viet Nam War and will fail just as miserably with admissions officers, who, through experience, know when someone is blowing smoke in their face.

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Listening For Emotional Clues

By Christopher Zoukis

Just Say No

To accelerate the sales professional’s ability to close the sale, Seidman developed the “Ultimate Objection-Handling Tool,” which provides a three-sided shield against buyer resistance.  First, the seller identifies the top six objections.  Next, the seller develops potent responses to the six objections.  And third, the seller customizes the presentation by selecting responses that best fit their ability and personality.  The author dissects each part thoroughly, giving lucid examples. 

Seven basic rules are offered to deflect the objections of buyers, along with a short discussion of each rule.  Briefly, the seven rules are: do not get defensive, do not brag about the product, do agree with the buyer’s thinking, do not become overly enthusiastic, do exhibit genuine interest, be prepared for objections, and be prepared to take a risk.

Can You Hear Me Talking? 

The Secret Language of Influence maintains that “strategic listening” is vital to successful selling.  Not only does listening well make others feel valued, it generates intimacy and makes others appreciate the listener.  A three-step program to improved listening skills is delineated.  The initial step involves understanding why people listen poorly.  Keys to good listening are second.  And responding after listening is the final step.  Image courtesy writebydesign.net

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A Feel for the Deal

By Christopher Zoukis

From effective language, the book segues logically to evoking emotions.  Sellers are advised to “create not simply a logical but a gut response” from buyers.  Research proves that most people make decisions to buy based on emotion first, followed by logical reasoning.  The illustration provided is BMW’s automobile commercial that declares:  “We don’t just make cars, we make joy!”  The seller’s job is to develop and ask questions that generate emotions appropriate to the buyer’s decision-making process.  Doing so, allows the seller to bond with the buyer during the sales process.   Image courtesy www.cartoonstock.com

Seidman supplies a number of sample questions designed to evoke emotions in each stage of the selling process.  The author advises sellers to remember that gestures, tone of voice, and facial expressions “must support the emotion you are emphasizing.”  In addition, two primary points about evoking emotions are related and re-emphasized:  first, since buying decisions are based on emotions, word choices are important; second, sellers need to “find their voice” by making certain to use their own vocabulary and personality. 

Another powerful selling tool is the power of storytelling.  A specific methodology for using and applying the persuasive power of storytelling is explained in detail.  Seidman’s model is called PET:  P is for personal.  E is for emotional.  And T is for teachable or trainable. 

The stories should be personal, linking experiences common to most people.  First experiences, such as school, kissing, jobs, paychecks, and bad blunders, such as foot-in-mouth comments and accidents or funny mistakes are good sources for story content.

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CHUNKING

By Christopher Zoukis

Chunking

At this point, the author introduces information about how people receive and transmit information, using it to demonstrate the difference between big-picture buyers and detail-buyers.  The difference resides in what is called chunking.  People who chunk up see the big picture.  People who chunk down perceive detail.  Big picture buyers want to know what impact the sales person’s product will have on the company.  Detail buyers want to see the separate steps to the solution. Image courtesy psychologytoday.com

Seidman does not provide a specific question to aid sellers in identifying between the two types.  Instead, he suggests sales people come right to the point:  “Would you prefer a big picture or do you want all the details?”  Big-picture buyers want to hear general descriptions of the product and its cost, along with an overview of how it will benefit the company.  Detail buyers want to hear the specifications of the product and how it will integrate into the company.  The seller then provides information pertinent to the buyer’s inclination, either a summary or a vast amount of detailed information.

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Proactive, Reactive, and Reason Filters

By Christopher Zoukis

Proactive vs. Reactive

Another way of categorizing buyers is as proactive or reactive.  Proactive people are self-starters eager to get going.  Reactive people or buyers like to sit back, take their time, and thoroughly analyze any situation before they do anything.  Identifying a buyer as either proactive or reactive is accomplished by listening for verbal cues and by watching body language. Image courtesy of barnesandnoble.com

Proactive buyers tend to focus on goals and their attainment.  Their body language reflects impatience, constant movement.  They speak in short sentences, using active verbs.  For example, “we’re going to take care of this quickly.”  Encouraging proactive buyers to take the next step is as simple as saying, “Let’s do this.  Then you can move on to the next project.” 

Reactive buyers, on the other hand, take their cues from those around them and their environment.  Their movements are deliberate, and they speak only after much thought.  A reactive buyer might say something such as:  “Once we have all the details, we can start to put together a chart to identify which vendors we should talk to.”  Sales people should assist reactive buyers to the next step by pointing out that the analysis is complete, and all that remains is implementation.

When making a presentation to a group of buyers, a combination of both motivational techniques usually works best.  The sales person can point out that they have gathered the pertinent data, allowing them to come to an informed decision before outside factors change.

Reason Filters

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PATTERN RECOGNITION: A Summary

By Christopher Zoukis

Salespeople want to make more money.  The trick to making more money is making more sales.  And the trick to making more sales is, according to Dan Seidman, learning to speak the buyer’s language.  Once salespeople learn to interpret buyers’ verbal cues, they can choose the appropriate words to influence the buyers’ decisions.   Seidman’s book, The Secret Language of Influence teaches salespeople how to listen, gain psychological insight, and then influence others.

Patterns of Interruption

Seidman states that all buyers maintain patterns.  They do the same thing in the same way over and over again.  They respond to sales pitches the same way time after time.  The example is a buyer to whom the author has left forty-six voice mails over a three year period.  The buyer has never returned one of the calls.  Frustrated, Seidman leaves another voice mail announcing that the buyer has won the “prestigious Most Elusive Prospect Award,” for never having returned a call. Author Dan Seidman / Photo courtesy seihonolulu.com

Unsurprisingly, the buyer, now angry, returns the call.  The buyer eventually becomes a client.  Seidman’s story illustrates what psychologists call “pattern interrupt,” which is a method of changing people’s usual manner of thinking.  The author demonstrates how to use pattern interrupt in situations where buyers use their regular or usual brush-off techniques. 

In the example, the prospective buyer attempts to brush-off the salesperson by citing that the business environment is tough at the present time, thus the buyer does not have the budget to make any purchases.  Seidman’s pattern interrupt is to respond by asking an apparently irrelevant question, a non-sequitur.  The implication is that the buyer, because things are so bad, will probably soon be jumping out of his office window.  The buyer admits that business is “not that bad.”  Now that the pattern is broken, the salesperson may make their presentation.

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Gloomy Pessimism

By Bruce Davidson

Reviewed by Christopher Zoukis

Quote:  “This is it.  Months ago.  These are the last few hours where I am still blissfully unaware of the fact that I’m already truly miserable.”

In transportation terminology, ‘deadhead’ is slang for a truck, train or bus traveling without a payload.   The term can also refer to a person who is nothing more than a parasite.

The protagonist of Image courtesy lulu.comnoir novel – Deadheaders – is named Myles.  Myles is scared, lonely, and inept at whatever he does.  But he does have a caustic sense of humor, which is based on his nihilistic perspective of life.

As the story opens, Myles is gainfully employed by Endeavor Rent-A-Car.  After being “let go” for failing to go “that extra mile,” Myles finds himself deadheading through life.  Not only is he unemployed, but his girlfriend dumped him.  Myles ends up sponging meals off his sister and her husband, Brody.  Brody is a bus driver for Metrocity Transit.  Through Brody’s intervention, Myles lands a job driving a bus.  Things don’t go well.

Myles accidentally runs over and kills a bicyclist.  Aghast and unsure of what to do, Myles accepts help from his fellow bus drivers, a group known as “the deadheaders.”  The deadheaders cover up the accidental murder by disposing of the body in a lake.  Myles comes to discover that this isn’t the first body the deadheaders have gotten rid of.  Yet because of his participation in “the crime,” Myles is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

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