How to Use Silence to Strengthen Your Leadership Presence

23 Apr

Jack Reacher is a fictional character in a series of crime thriller novels by British author Lee Child.

In the 1997 novel Killing Floor, Reacher randomly exits a Greyhound bus in Georgia and is later arrested in a local diner for a murder he did not commit. While questioned in custody, Reacher wields the power of silence to maintain his personal advantage:

“Long experience had taught me that absolute silence is the best way. Say something, and it can be misheard. Misunderstood. Misinterpreted. It can get you convicted. It can get you killed. Silence upsets the arresting officer. He has to tell you silence is your right but he hates it if you exercise that right. I was being arrested for murder. But I said nothing.”

Communicate Authority with Silence

Silence holds immense power, especially in situations that involve negotiation.

As inventor and artist Leonardo da Vinci said, “Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.” Dynamic leaders often use silence to their benefit. When handled with intention and purpose, silence is what some leaders call “a communication superpower.”

Do you tend to interrupt, dominate conversations, or explain your perspective from multiple angles in order to sway opinion? If silence is an overlooked resource in your communication toolkit, you might need to change strategies.

Silence can increase your authority and grow your influence in at least four powerful ways.

Silence Builds Trust

According to best-selling author Bryant H. McGill, “one of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”

If you want to develop effective relationships, you must build trust. And trust begins with listening. Unfortunately, most people don’t listen with the intent to hear, they listen with the intent to reply. When people realize you are truly listening to them, they are much more likely to buy into your ideas.

Silence Can Emphasize Your Point

When you have something important to say, state it briefly and allow a long pause for your words to sink in.

Communication is more than the words we speak, it involves the energy we transmit. When you give room for a lengthy pause, you show people you aren’t scrambling to convince them. And as your words fully land with others, you don’t need to talk as much because silence creates room for people to understand and connect to what you are saying.

Silence Communicates Credibility

Have you ever sat through a meeting where several people squabbled while one person stayed silent?

Eventually, everyone felt tension and curiosity about what the quiet party was thinking. When a silent observer finally interjects an opinion, it speaks louder than the clamor and carries a more memorable quality. “She is so wise,” people think, because sometimes there is a credibility that can only be communicated through silence.

Also, it never hurts to take a lengthy period of time to think before commenting. Abraham Lincoln has been credited with this quote: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”

Silence Increases Negotiating Power

A primary negotiation tactic involves asking a question and letting the other person answer first.

Silence when negotiating can give you the advantage because its “deafening” weight can prompt others to speak first. For example, when the other party offers a salary figure or point of compromise, don’t answer immediately. Instead, pause and let the discomfort of silence flush out a bit more detail. Maybe they will offer more or show their own hand.

Leaders know how to use silence as a tactic to communicate authority and influence. Experiment with silence during your conversations and observe the impact it can make.

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7 Banner Options to Raise Your Bottom Line

19 Apr

As a small business owner, you need ways to grab attention and look your best, and business signage is your foremost advertising tool.

For high-traffic areas custom printed vinyl banners are an excellent investment. In terms of cost, a vinyl banner is one of the most inexpensive, most high-impact marketing tools.

Vinyl banners are also versatile, great for large exteriors, point-of-sale kiosks, welcome centers, or interior displays.

Studies show that good signage directly boosts a business’ profits. Pole banners can add up to 15.6% to your bottom line and larger storefront signage may boost sales by up to 7.7%.

Banner Inspiration

Need some inspiration to get your creative juices flowing? Here are several types of banners that can give you a killer first impression.

Ceiling Banners

Get your customers looking up by taking advantage of your unused ceiling space!

Use ceiling banners for event signage, special events, product features, or welcome messages. Suspended banners or circular hanging signs are eye-catching, easy to install, and extremely impressive.

Personalized Retractable Banners

Great for special events or pop-up displays, roll-up retractable banners include accompanying stand and carrying case for mobility.

Economical retractable banners are sleek, lightweight, and easy to transport.

Seasonal Business Banners

A fresh look conveys momentum and energy.

Print seasonal business banners to spice up any seasonal promotion, window display, or an exterior signpost.

Feather Flags

Want to get the job done with a contemporary edge?

Feather or teardrop flags are especially effective when you have limited space or want to enhance your exterior advertising.

The average storefront sign is seen 50-60 times per month by anyone living within five miles of your location. This could be responsible for as much as 85% of your monthly walk-in sales!

For street and sidewalk advertising, festivals, trade shows, and more, feather flags or waving swooper flags will catch attention and make your message shine.

Text or Graphic Only Banners

Sometimes, the simplest designs are the most effective, especially when you want to send a straightforward message that can be understood at a glance.

Try monochromatic backgrounds, all caps letters, or sharp contrasts between the images and elements in your banner.

Welcome Banners

Whether it’s a grand opening, a sidewalk greeting, or a hallway banner, welcome banners are an appealing option to add a professional, hospitable touch.

Bright colors and branded designs are ideal for putting your best foot forward.

Sale Banners

When surveyed, 50% of in-store shoppers named "on-premise signage" as the reason for their visit or purchase.

People are always hunting for a deal, so shout it loud with banners that can’t be overlooked.

Want to stretch your budget? Print generic banners (think "20% Off," "Free Shipping," "Featured Item," or "New Collection Clearance") so you can use them repeatedly.

Banners can attract attention, create brand association, and set the tone for your business. Capitalize on this simple marketing tool and accelerate your sales today!

Increase Conversions with Great Closing Techniques

16 Apr

The most expensive deal in baseball history was finalized this February in a casino.

The Phillies pursued outfielder Bryce Harper for months, introducing him to some of Philadelphia’s finest, sweet talking him in the high-backed gold leather booths of the ARIA resort in Las Vegas, and ultimately offering him the most expensive deal in baseball history ($330 million over 13 years).

At age 26, Harper signed the longest contract in baseball history. In a casino that radiates the fragrance of mid-century Hollywood, the showmanship of the atmosphere embodied the glamour of the agreement. It was an epic conversion.

Just Sign on the Dotted Line

Sale-closing conversations can be nerve-wracking and nuanced.

No matter how impressed people seem during your presentation, there’s no telling whether they will postpone or look elsewhere. After wooing your customer, it’s time to take the plunge and ask for a commitment.

Here are a few keys to make this step easier.

Identify the Decision Maker

To close a deal, be sure you’re actually talking to the person in the driver’s seat.

In some cases, supervisors send scouts in to assess the options, but they do not have decision-making authority. In this case, be sure to customize your pitch to the decision maker or do whatever you can to arrange a meeting or phone call with this individual.

Offer a Solution

Sales can seem pushy if they center around your product or package.

When working with a prospect, do your best to provide a holistic solution that meets their business needs. If a consulting relationship would be better than a particular product, consider how you can flex options or offer a better fit.

Solutions-focused conversations include re-stating customer concerns, asking clarifying questions, overcoming stated objections, or possibly returning later with more information.

Be genuine and assure clients that you care about their business (and not just the sale).

Attach a Deadline

No decision is, in itself, a decision.

It’s human nature to shy away from commitment, and your job is to help people overcome this inertia. Offer incentives to commit: a discount, a free add-on, or a trial subscription to start.

Incentives give your prospects a reason to make the decision NOW, giving them confidence that they have the upper hand in negotiation.

Ask for Next Steps

After any customer call or completed action item, ask your prospect how they would like to proceed.

If they are uncertain, make suggestions or ask pointed, closing questions.

Here are some options to get you started:

  • Why don’t you give us a try?
  • Ready to move forward?
  • Why don’t I send over the proposal now?
  • It seems like this is a good fit for your company. What do you think?
  • If we throw in ____, will you sign the contract today?
  • If we could find a way to deal with _____, would you sign the contract by ________?
  • You’re interested in X and Y options, right? If we get started today, you’ll be up and running by ___.
  • Unless you have any other questions, I think we’re ready to move forward!
  • When should we begin your _________?
  • What are your next steps?
  • Why don’t I leave you with ____ and follow up ______?

Being a courageous, tactful closer is one of the most important techniques you can master.

Use incentives, closing questions, and solutions-based options to move your prospects to action. Superior networking tools will only strengthen your ask, so visit with us today about printed pieces that can help you seal the deal!

Four Ways to Disagree with Tact

12 Apr

Life is compromise.

If you want to work successfully in teams, at some point you will face conflict. In one instance, you may be the manager correcting a team member. In other cases, you may need to “lead up” by disagreeing with a superior.

Either way, successful communication includes the ability to navigate conflict while putting people before the problem.

Here are four ways to prioritize relationship while politely disagreeing.

1. Don’t Blurt

When you hear an incorrect statement, do you immediately or forcefully disagree?

How’s that working for you?

Before you speak, consider how important it is to voice your opinion. Weigh the risks of speaking out versus the risks of staying silent. If you feel compelled to share, consider when and where is best. What context would be most appropriate or what channel would provide the least threatening avenue for your listener? Discussing issues privately (face-to-face) is ideal for minimizing tension or preserving dignity.

2. Prepare Your Listener

Sometimes the best way to dissent is by prefacing your idea.

Ask permission to comment by saying something like this: “I’m not sure I share your opinion, may I make a comment?” Or, “I know the deadline is pressing, but I’m concerned about this approach. Can I run some thoughts by you?”

Giving people a chance to “opt-in” will increase their willingness to listen.

3. Keep Language Neutral

As you unwrap your idea, alleviate tension by keeping your tone steady and your language neutral.

Start by identifying a common goal and frame your opinion as one way the team can work together for a higher purpose.

Holly Weeks, author of Failure to Communicate, says contextualizing your statements will allow the discussion to become “more like a chess game than a boxing match.”

If you need to critique another idea, re-articulate that concept first and build comments from there. This will eliminate confusion and show a good faith effort to understand others.

When you disagree directly, make your focus the problem or flaw at hand, not the people or personalities behind them.

4. Be Humble

No one appreciates prideful people.

When you speak, do your best to be relatable and kind. Emphasize that you are sharing an opinion and leave room for dialogue. This may include phrases like, “I’m just thinking out loud here,” or “this is just my opinion, but . . .”

Polite, clarifying questions may also help. Say, “can you tell me more about ____,” or “can you define what you mean by ____, because maybe I’m defining that differently?”

Speak humbly by inviting the critique of others and by publicly respecting their opinions.

Still struggling for words? Business Management Daily offers several prompts to open the door:

  • “I see what you’re saying but…”
  • “May I make a comment?”
  • “I’m sorry but I disagree with you about this.”
  • “Tell me if I’m off-base here, but…”
  • “I understand where you’re coming from, but…”
  • “That’s a valid point, but…”
  • “I don’t think I share your opinion.”
  • “If I’m not mistaken…”

Agree to Disagree

Finally, there may be times it’s best to agree to disagree.

It’s ok to break a stalemate by acknowledging that you will never agree about an idea. By doing this you can affirm the person (or their authority) without selling out to their idea or opinion.

Everyone gets things wrong sometimes, and if you’re committed a relationship, you’ll give people more grace to experiment or to grow.

Use Short Deadlines to Get Lasting Results

9 Apr

In a recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, scholars found that longer deadlines can be a detriment to workers.

The study asked volunteers at a local community center to answer a short survey about retirement planning. One group was given seven days to access the online survey, while another group had 14 days to respond. Results showed that, though the 14-day group gave more thoughtful responses, they were more likely to procrastinate or skip the assignment.

A second study revealed longer deadlines affected outcomes on tax filings. In this research, a short deadline group received their “lost” W-2 tax form later (closer to the filing deadline) and had less time to complete their taxes. Despite the setback, the short-deadline group spent less money than their peers to get the same job done via tax professionals or self-help software.

Beat Those “Last Mile” Blues

Do you struggle to take projects across the finish line in an efficient manner?

There’s a reason! Parkinson’s law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

Longer deadlines lead people to set easier goals and decrease effort, costing more time and stress overall. Researchers also found that longer deadlines sometimes make workers think an assignment is harder than it is. When people commit more resources to a difficult task, they procrastinate and are more prone to quit.

For managers and workers alike, it is important to set achievable goals and appropriate time limits using four simple strategies.

Think Small

Procrastinators who avoid finishing struggle to break projects into manageable tasks.

To overcome this barrier, psychology professor Joseph Ferrari (author of Still Procrastinating: The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done) recommends a narrow focus. “People who have trouble finishing a project don’t have problems seeing the big picture,” Ferrari said. “It’s how to break it into manageable tasks that can be paralyzing. Just do something now. Start something and get going.”

Starting small breaks your fear of failure and shortcuts perfectionistic hang-ups.

Stay Disciplined

Sometimes when the finish line is in sight people accelerate the pace but lose focus.

Discipline slips, which can lead to delays. Overriding budgetary constraints, ignoring quality control checks, or fast-tracking publications can bring painful consequences. Instead, stay on track with small deadlines to ensure work on larger projects is done in a timely, precise manner.

Call in the Closers

Burnout and fatigue are genuine risks near the end of a project, and high-value contributors are often needed to airlift the next big project.

Consider deliberately structuring your team so starters take a project to 90 percent, while fresh eyes step in for the final spit-and-polish.

Use Incentives

When deadlines are distant, shift attention to everyday outcomes.

“Can you get that to me by the end of the day?” isn’t a request many people like to hear. But quick turnarounds can actually boost morale because lethargy breeds inertia but accomplishment spurs accomplishment.

From cash incentives to extra work-day coffee breaks, consider attaching small perks to fast-action deadlines. Self-starter rewards can work for yourself too. When writing her thesis, one grad student filled a glass jar with tantalizing chocolates. Throughout a year of writing, she rewarded herself with one truffle per week as she stayed on schedule. Progress was visible, and the rewards were sweet. When the jar was empty, the project was done!

Short turnarounds on urgent tasks elicit attention and improve outcomes. Whether you’re managing yourself or others, consider adding incentives, bringing in closers, or breaking large projects into daily deadlines to achieve better results.

5 Elements of Stunning Letterhead Design

5 Apr

Personalized mail is a special commodity these days, especially something that looks smart or sophisticated.

And everyone agrees that there’s a huge difference between a typed letter on a bland white page and one aligned smartly on a beautifully designed letterhead.

While many view letterhead as an afterthought, it’s time to raise the standard!

A sharp letterhead can communicate proficiency, increase response rates, and make your communication more memorable. As you craft a unique, professional look, here are some elements to help you cement your image without overplaying your hand:

1. Embrace Simplicity

One of the guiding principles of letterhead design is to make it flow simply.

While it’s important that your letterhead looks and feels great in the hand, it should still play second fiddle to the communication itself. If designs are too bold, you run the risk of competing with the page content to demand reader attention. When in doubt, simple is best.

2. Represent Your Brand

Letterheads present companies with a great opportunity to represent a brand with sharp fonts, crisp logos, and subtle borders or shading.

Look for ways to draw the designs of your website, envelopes, and letterhead into a more cohesive unit and add some extra depth to your marketing mix. When trying out size contrasts, try to balance the shape of your images with the offset to create a connected design.

3. Don’t Be Afraid of White Space

Like silence between musical notes, a break between elements communicates elegance and ensures a quality user experience.

White space is not “wasted” space, instead, it balances elements, organizes content, and creates spatial proximity so your readers can digest information quickly and simply. Use generous amounts of white space between a large heading and a block of subtext. Or experiment all text flush left or flush right to create more white space between margins.

4. Use Colors Wisely

On printed letterhead, nothing communicates like color.

Use color strategically to draw attention to specific areas of your letterhead, or to add subtle shading to a more grayscale design. If your brand features bright and bold colors, it may be best to use color sparingly in the letterhead but more prominently in your envelope design or packaging. Color can make or break the success of your design, so tread lightly.

5. Don’t Overlook Details

The most critical information to communicate in letterhead is your contact info.

Who is writing the letter, a company or an individual? Decide which pieces of information are critical and build your design around this hierarchy. Keep key information obvious and reduce print size for lower priority info. If you are updating designs or re-ordering, take a fresh look at your materials. If the company you are sending to no longer utilizes a fax machine, perhaps it is best to omit this number. If your organization is larger, consider tailoring several letterhead designs to specific departments.

Letterheads remain an integral part of a brand’s marketing mix. Inject new energy into your designs with thoughtful layouts, creative contrasts, or complementary envelopes that keep your messages stand out in a crowd!

3 Simple Resets to Squash Stress at Work

2 Apr

32-year-old Amy Alabaster had recently been named VP in her company as a successful New York sales executive.

She had friends, a wonderful marriage, and many professional accomplishments. But one day, the weight of her responsibilities came roaring in as she awoke on a bench outside a West Village restaurant.

Alabaster later learned that she had fainted on a flight of stairs and her blood pressure was so low EMTs could hardly move her. Though she considered herself happy and healthy, doctors uncovered her problem with one simple question: “Would you say that you deal with a lot of stress?” Amy said this unraveled the real issue:

“I had never been asked this question before. Like so many other companies, mine had downsized after the economic pitfalls of 2008 and I had absorbed many responsibilities after the layoffs. I thought incessantly about work. I talked about it all the time. I couldn’t turn off, ever. I checked emails and my blackberry constantly. I even dreamed about work, sometimes confusing what was real and what had manifested in my slumber. The last vacation I had taken was stressful because I was so uncomfortable with what could be happening without my oversight and control . . . My doctor said that almost every health-related issue could inevitably be drawn back to stress.”

How to Self-Regulate When Your Tank is Low

What about you?

Does your job cause low-grade stress that never quits? While many people enjoy their jobs, all of us can benefit from a daily internal inventory. When you are running on empty, medical experts offer several tips to self-regulate.

Reset Yourself Internally

Intermittently, close your eyes, lean back, and take three full, deep breaths.

When you feel stressed, force yourself to speak more slowly. This will clear your thoughts and allow you to act more reasonably in challenging situations. When you find something upsetting you, make a tangible choice to let it go. Refuse to show emotion and quickly unclench your teeth (or fists!) and move on. Effective anger management is a tried and true stress reducer!

Reset Yourself Physically

When we get busy, we forget ourselves.

Make it a priority to drink plenty of water, to move around, or to eat small snacks during the day. Take short walks outside or do a few jumping jacks or stairs. Continually adjust your posture to avoid muscle tension or a slumped emotional state. Try these exercises:

  • Shoulder Rolls. With arms hanging freely, breathe deeply and exaggerate rolling both shoulders forward then backward 10 times.
  • Chin Tucks: Place one hand on your chin and the other behind your head, gently pushing your chin toward your Adam’s apple for 10 seconds to relieve tension at the base of your skull.
  • Pectoralis Stretches: Clasp hands behind your back and lift up as you squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold ten seconds and repeat three times. This is especially effective for those hunched over a keyboard.

Reward Yourself Regularly

Plan something enjoyable for the end of the day and build key relationships or hobbies into your routine.

Leave a few chores undone and care for yourself! This will refresh your body and sharpen your mind for creative solutions tomorrow. Alabaster says she now prioritizes eight hours of sleep each night, locks her phone in the safe during vacation, and she finds small ways to increase joy each week:

“Professional achievements still mean a lot to me. Success, however, is in the process of being re-defined. Prioritizing my well-being is the lesson I’ll be learning for the rest of my life. After all, what is success worth if we’re not fully present to enjoy it?”