What Do Three Random Books Have in Common?

Last Friday, I undertook an experiment: I took three seemingly random books from my bookshelf, opened each one up to a random page, and read the entire chapter from each book from which the random page was chosen.  The three books I chose were:

To be fair, I say “seemingly random” because I did scan my bookshelf to find three different books to read that I haven’t completely read yet, as opposed to reaching for three books with my eyes closed.

Within the three books, the chapters I read were:

  • Predictable Revenue: Chapter 4 – Prospecting and Sales Best Practices
  • Resonate: Chapter 4 – Define the Journey
  • Gamestorming: Chapter 5 – Fishbowl (Note: I only read one of the games for Gamestorming as opposed to reading through all of the games in Chapter 5, which are “Opening Games”)

At first blush, my chapter selection seems to imply that even trying to be random doesn’t yield randomness.  (All the geeks in the house are shaking their heads saying “duh”.)  I guess when I flipped my left thumb through the pages of each book, I found myself somewhere near the middle each time.  Go figure.

Predictable Revenue

Chapter 4 from Predictable Revenue had some good tips, even for the non-salesperson.  One of the sections had some great insight into prospecting questions.  For the non-salesperson, translate this to: “asking questions of someone with which you’re not very familiar”.

Tip: Start out by asking “Did I catch you at a bad time?” or “Is this a good time to chat?”  By asking this at the start, you come off as courteous (because you are) and you’re sensitive to the time of others.  If the other person is busy, they may even say it’s not a good time to chat but still allow you to ask questions–they just feel better about having their time respected.

Another Tip: Start out by asking easy questions.  Don’t start out with “What are the biggest problems your organization faces?”  This is a very tough question to ask at the beginning of a conversation.  Also, you haven’t gained their trust yet.  Start out with questions like “What does your Marketing organization look like?”  You want to peel the onion, gain their trust, and then dig deeper.

Email Tip: Don’t write long emails.  Just don’t do it.  Assume they’re reading it on a mobile phone.  Be succinct and to the point.

Resonate

Chapter 4 from Resonate was epic.  The chapter revolves around how to transport your audience from their current state of mind to where you want them.  I’m really not doing the book any justice by taking it out of context because Nancy Duarte, in a very meta way, takes you on a journey via her book, convincing you why you want to deliver presentations in a way that resonates with your audience.  I am a big fan of her book, which revolves around using telling stories to giving effective presentations.

Her treatise in this chapter is: “Every audience will persist in a state of rest unless compelled to change.”  In order to compel your audience to change, you need to crystallize your message (The Big Idea), ensure you plan on how to move your audience from their current position to your intended position, and be ready for resistance.

Great Tip: When dealing with resistance, use “inoculants”.  In medicine, an inoculant is typically a weakened form of a virus that is injected into the body in order to build a tolerance.  In presentations, an inoculant is a point of resistance or objection which is volunteered by the presenter in order to soften the effect of the resistance or objection.  In other words, you should plan for what objections may come up (either internally or externally) and address them proactively.  This will allow you to gain trust from your audience as they will feel like you have thought through their issues or concerns (and you would have).

Gamestorming

The Fishbowl game is a pretty neat one, which is designed to kick off a brainstorming session for a collection of people that may come from different teams and may not be familiar with each other’s perspectives.  This game is also effective for people that need help with listening before forming an opinion.

The game is simple: The moderator prepares a number of topics to discuss.  The group then forms into two concentric circles:

The inner circle contains half of the participants that will discuss some the topics while the outer circle will contain the other half of the participants that will observe the people having the conversation.  The observers write down what they see, hear, or otherwise observe.  After 15 minutes of discussion, the group breaks to talk about the session from each perspective.  The groups then switch roles and continue discussing topics.

The goal of this exercise is to give the participants the opportunity to sharpen their listening and observation skills.

Summary

What may have been a seemingly random choice of passages to read, all three revolved around effective communication.  Granted, I may have introduced sample bias because I tend to read business books and effective communication is core to business success.  Random or not, we must all acknowledge that in order to be successful personally and professionally, we need to be able to listen and empathize in order to effectively communicate with our audience.

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