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Dynamic Communication – Strategies to Standout in the Noise with Jill Schiefelbein
Our guest is Jill Schiefelbein who is a business communication expert, author and keynote speaker. I’ve seen her work. I have had her coached me on my business. She identified six figures’ worth of leakage in my customer funnel that’s why I invited her to be on the show. She is the author of Dynamic Communication: 27 Strategies to Grow, Lead, and Manage Your Business. Welcome, Jill.
Thank you so much for having me, Mark.
You’ve blown my mind a number of times and the times that I have interacted with you, that doesn’t happen very frequently. The reason why I invited you on the show is to share with our audience the dynamic communication strategies you’d use to disrupt the industry.
I’m honored to be here to share and from a guy like you, I’ll take that compliment to the bank.
Let’s go make some money for our audience. How did you get into this business of helping people break through and start becoming more dynamic with communication?
My background is in the academic space. I taught for eleven years at Arizona State University. I did a lot of stuff in online education development and education is a huge passion of mine. What I found in the university is students were learning all of this great information but they weren’t turning it into transformations or to knowledge. That was problematic to me. One of the big reasons I left is the role of learning at an institution is often to get you the baseline, the platform, the base information you need to then go on and make decisions, but it’s the application of the information that actually results in knowledge.
That application is where I decided to focus my business and Dynamic Communication is just an extension of that. To me dynamic, it’s ever-changing, it’s applicable, it’s problem-solving, it’s moving, it’s dynamic. It’s not just some static textbook definition or some basic training where you learn some models or some theories or this cheesy acronym for something and then they are expected to go use it. This is actually practical, you’re going to use it and build a strategy around it to help.
The reality is that we have to communicate to get things done. The step one, in any kind of sales marketing leadership situation, is you have to get people’s attention.
Doing it in a way that is authentic to who you are and what you will bring to the client is huge. In so many people, let’s say you’re at a networking meeting and we hear in your introduction, “My name is Jill Schiefelbein and I’m the owner of The Dynamic Communicator. My company offers communication strategies for the internal and external audience.” This is a standard BNI type of networking, a 30-second introduction that everyone gives time after time again.
I don’t hear any value in any of this.
The reality is it’s boring. It tells you absolutely nothing about the human that you would be doing business with. It’s getting attention in a way that is authentic to who you are and what you bring. For example, my strategy when people ask, “What do you do?” I typically give a very sarcastic answer. If they don’t like it, we would never be a good fit anyway for a friend, for a referral, for a business or otherwise. I come off with some smart-ass remark, which if they like it, great. It ends up generating a magnificent conversation. If they can’t roll with that punch, it’s not someone I need in my network anyway.
Let’s differentiate those people who we can work with and who we can’t. You can start that with a communication strategy that you kick off with. Let’s talk about authenticity. Why is that so important?
Who you are is why people will do business with you and keep doing business with you assuming you get the results. I’m going to assume that if you’re listening, you have an expertise, you have a way to move people from point A to point B. That is the assumption I am making. Let’s lay the groundwork. That’s the lens that we’re going for here. Assuming that that is there, people will pick you to work with as an expert because of who you are and that is where the authenticity comes in. I know sometimes that’s a buzzword. I say it and I vomit in my mouth a little bit when I say it if I’m honest, “Authenticity, genuine,” but it’s true. You have to be that person because if you’re not, you’re going to end up getting a lot of clients who you are not looking forward to working with because you sold them a false bill of goods. By false bill of goods, it’s not the results that you can give them, it’s just you didn’t sell them the real you. That’s important.
All of my crash and burns are because I chose to work with people that I didn’t like.
This is for entrepreneurs or people in corporate life. It doesn’t matter. You’re a manager and you have that one person on your team that you hired. When you chose to hire him or her, you’re like, “I don’t know about this.” Then it eats your freaking gut for the rest of the time you work together. People are so important and our connections are what make us work. It’s what makes the business grow. If you’re starting those off on the falsehood, then you’re setting yourself up for failure from the beginning.
To summarize up our first key point here, communicate with authenticity. That way you only do business with people who you want to do business with. You create value for people who want your value.
People who they would vibe better with. You can be the great connector, but most of us in our life, we have our networks. We’re looking to grow our businesses. We’re looking to align ourselves and be friends with people who will simultaneously lift us up. That doesn’t mean we all have to be the same, but it does mean someone has to at least get you in order to help you.
Share with me a couple of the other insights from Dynamic Communication, specifically for executives.
One of the things that I try to do, along with the idea of the authenticity, is ridiculous honesty. If I can’t help you accomplish something, I will be the first person to tell you. If you say, “Jill, I would like training on customer service.” I’ll say, “That’s fantastic. I am not a customer service trainer. However, customer service is comprised of a lot of different aspects of communication and this is how I would frame it to serve you. If that fits, fantastic. If not, let me refer you to someone else who does specifically customer service.” In the same vein, telling people what won’t work and about your own approach won’t even work. It’s the last chapter in my book that ties it all together. I call it the bandage syndrome. What I mean by that is if you have a wound and you put a Band-Aid on it, as soon as that thing gets wet, it is going to fall off.
Similarly, the space in terms of keynote speaking, training, consulting, anyone who says that they can come in and in a single day of training, much less a single hour of training can transform your team and deliver crazy amazing results that are going to stand the test of time is full of it. As soon as people walk out of that room and you know what hits the fan, they’re going to forget the vast majority of what they just learned in that room with you unless you have a sustained plan to roll it out over time. One of the biggest shifts in terms of disruption too for my business was being honest that you want to hire a trainer that’s great. You want to smack a bandage on something and bring him in for a day, that’s great, but that’s not a company I want to work with.
I want to work with a company who’s going to bring me to do that. Then I will invest in three to six months more of follow-up training from a video standpoint that guarantees that these ideas, these concepts are going to be put into practice and use and at least discuss front of mind for a time to come so you can create sustained change. Finding whatever that equivalent is for you in your business, that differentiator, something that is common practice that you disagree with, highlight that and bring it to the surface so people see you in a different way from the concept.
Transformation only happens through repetitive relevance. It’s got to be repetition.
There’s no magic wand. Are you telling me I can’t do the Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo transformation on your head?
It’s just a movie, not real life.
That’s why in the training space, that’s what I call out at the very beginning. Someone who subscribes to that same belief is going to want to work with me more than others, even though my proposal may look different or cost a bit more. There’s a rationale behind it. Finding out that differentiator or that common practice that you don’t want to be part of and calling it out is a great way to disrupt your space.
Ridiculous honesty is the next key point that plugs right into our original point of authenticity.
It’s flowing together.
What’s next on your list? We’re not going to get through all 27, but we’re going to get a few in here for you.
What I think is unique about this book is my own like, “I did this and I’m proud.” You can pick up the book and whatever problem you’re facing in business, you can open up to that chapter, read for five minutes and have a strategy that you can enact. You don’t have to read the entire book to do something with it and I don’t care if you just read one chapter and then throw it away. It doesn’t matter to me if you use that chapter. I see next to nothing, my publisher sees that money, not me. When you think of different concepts or things you may not have heard before, one of the things that I do at the onset especially around selling, is I lay out what I call the listening matrix. It’s important for sales in particular because when people are listening for information, they will never make a decision.
People have to be listening for knowledge before they ever make a decision to buy or to not buy. When you’re just listening for information, you are in a gathering mode. You’re not going to be doing anything with it. You’re just collecting. The role of a good salesperson is to fill that gap between information and knowledge and help transfer people from one edge to the other. What’s important is a lot of communication books, leadership books, management books, they talk about listening as a skill and it is. If you’re in sales and you want to shift things, you need to understand how people are listening to you. I’m going to assume that you know how to listen. How are people listening to you? It’s a very different shift in the thinking. If you can start to ascertain how people are listening to you to see what side of the matrix they’re on, you’re able to ask some questions that facilitate better discussions that get them thinking in terms of knowledge which lead them further along the decision-making path.
We’re going to recap this because you need to get it. When people are listening for information, they’re not ready to make a decision. What that means is when you hand them your brochures, when you make them go to your website, you’ve got nothing going on there. When people are listening for knowledge, it means they’re ready for transformation. That’s what we sell people. We sell them the transformation from one state to another. Everybody’s in the business of selling transformation. Hungry to fed or whether it’s from frustrated to happy, whether it’s from bored to entertained or whether it’s from don’t know what to do next to clarity, that’s all transformation. Let’s dig a little deeper in this. This is a critical concept, especially in the world of complex decisions. How can we identify when somebody is listening for information versus if they’re listening for knowledge?
They will be asking basic questions about features of a product, about pricing of a product, about the subscription model, about the timeline, about the logistical type of things, things that could and probably should quite frankly be answered on a website or a brochure somewhere already. Most likely they have already done their research on that when they’re coming to you, yet sales teams are stuck in that mode of, “Look at these great, sexy features we have. You can get this and that in two months free.” I don’t really care. I could have read that on my own on your website. I am coming to you because you are supposedly an expert in this and you know how to apply this in my situation.
In the book, it outlines a number of different questions that you can use to what I call filling the gap. The most successful persuaders in the world, the most successful salespeople in the world are those who are able to fill that gap for people. When you’re doing it, even as a marketing strategy, let’s say when you’re filling that gap in the minds of your potential consumer, they feel indebted to you for that transformation and that clarity that you’ve helped them achieve. It’s also a marketing strategy as well. As it pertains to sales, one of the things that’s important is, “Are they asking questions about how your product or service would apply in their context?” That’s huge.
The moment it shifts to context, walk me through how this would look in my environment. That is the trigger for buying.
How would it look at my environment? How would it look in my home? How would it look on my body if it’s clothing? It’s not always about a free trial. I’m a not so undercover geek and I love software, coding, and all that stuff. I’m not super great at coding, but I can at least play in that space. I love the whole software service companies and cloud-based solutions. All of that is so great and it’s not new anymore, to some people it still is. It’s the norm. What happens is you have all these companies throwing these free trials at people, but in the free trial they’re not even giving them enough of that gap filler to move them from, “Look at these features, menu buttons and items,” to transforming them into, “Look at how this product actually manifest change in your organization.”
The customers who are getting it naturally, you weren’t going to worry about them in the first place. It’s the vast majority that isn’t your pipeline. When you’re looking at it, I advocate for companies to look at consumer education models. I call it consumer efficacy. How are you communicating in a way that educates your customer whether or not they use your product? How are you educating them about the space that your product serves? How are you educating them about trends in specific industries especially theirs?
How are you educating them in ways that they cannot get just by going and looking at information somewhere? When you give that gift of transformation, that gift of education, learning, people feel a natural indebtedness to you. It’s the Principle of Reciprocity outlined by Robert Cialdini and studied by scientists all over the world. This happens. Provide that education, focus on that instead of focusing on listing all these benefits and tossing out free trials like candy.
Transformation is what people crave. It’s what they get hooked on. It’s what causes customers to come back. When they don’t know where else to get that transformation, they’re going to choose you every time. That’s such a critical aspect of understanding what it is that we sell. In the conversations we’ve had with Tony Bodoh, we always talk about the transformation economy. We’re no longer in the experience economy, we’re in the transformation economy. Experience is the price of admission to the marketplace. Transformation is now what people purchase.
Looking at pricing, people don’t quite talk about pricing enough and this isn’t necessarily a chapter in the book. What’s valuable, especially when you’re in sales, is pricing. Especially when you are able to set your own pricing or you have agency or leniency within a company to package things in different ways. I had a great mentor, Alan Weiss, who basically his philosophy on any proposal that you put out says, “The proposal is just a summary of a conversation you’ve already had it. If there are still questions unanswered at that point, you have not done your job well enough.” If you think about it, how many of us put up proposals and we’re like, “I hope they pick this one, but maybe they need more information.” Then you spend time spelling out every single detail and you’re just verbally vomiting information on a page.
If you’re getting to that point where there’s a proposal and you have to do that, you are not at that point yet. Rewind, go back, have other conversations to figure it out. When you think about pricing, it’s also about not necessarily hourly. This is another thing Alan and I worked on when we work together for my business was hourly pricing is out the window. You need to price based on your value. If you can solve a problem that’s going to save a company $100,000, it doesn’t matter if it takes you two months or two minutes. The end value is the same to them. That transformational value that you’re bringing, “What is that worth? What is that monetized as?”
Alan Weiss wrote the book Million Dollar Consulting, which must be on your shelf, no matter the size of your organization. What Alan did was to figure out how to take a solo entrepreneur and turn them into a million-dollar producer. Most people will never make a million dollars in their life, but he showed people how to do that. He has written an entire book series on a wide variety of things Jill talked about, one item which is value-based selling, value-based pricing. I have probably a foot and a half of Alan Weiss’ book. I’ve hung out with him. I’ve spent lots of money with Alan for a lot of interesting insights. This is an important conversation around the concept of communicating a proposal. Is the proposal a guess at what you think or is the proposal a summary of what you know they’re looking for in the world of transformation? Jill, this is good to bring this up.
It’s absolutely a summary. He also has Million Dollar Proposals, which helped me reframe every proposal that I’ve ever written since then. It’s definitely a good resource. When you’re looking through the things that you’ve done, the people in sales and business in any capacity can only cite their own stuff because they think it’s going to make them look weak if they bring others into the equation. It’s not. This is a communication strategy in all types of businesses as well. When you highlight others, when you cite others, it makes people trust you more because, “I’m giving credit to someone else. They are going to be less afraid to do business with me and to give me information because they know I’m going to now cite them or report their findings to other people.”
The same thing goes within organizations from a communicative standpoint. If you’re a manager, if you’re a leader and your employees are doing something, highlight them. Give credit where due because the benefits of that are going to be shown in so many different ways throughout your organization and especially when it comes to sales. A lot of times in associations, in organizations and in units, we award salespeople based on numbers and I understand that. We all have fiscal responsibility in some way, shape or form. When you instead start to highlight not only on that but also on unique ways that have helped transform customers, unique ways that they have positioned a sale, unique ways that they have educated a customer, bringing those things into your sales meetings where you can cite them and then other salespeople can build off of that is going to be more cooperative. It’s going to have a lot of employee engagement in ways you didn’t expect.
If you’re going to be a thought leader, you have to share thought leadership no matter the source. What people look for when it comes to creating value is, who curates the wisdom? Not who’s the font of the wisdom, but who curates it. Along the way, you’re going to generate a lot of thought leadership, but oftentimes it’s a matter of repackaging and remixing other thought leadership into the context of where we are.
There are no new ideas out there, there is the new positioning of existing ideas. Own who had the original idea and expand on it or change it a little bit or manifest in a different way to work in your organization whatever it may be, but realize that there’s a lot of great stuff out there. Find a way to reposition it that works best for you while giving the honest credit where it’s due.
The reality is those who know, they know when you’re stealing from other people and your trust and credibility goes through the floor.
From a sales perspective, I know a lot of people on here are interested in that, it’s how you are bringing the best-case studies and the best use examples for it. Are you using customers as ambassadors to help share those and highlight their experiences? There are so many different ways that we can look at not just what we’re doing internal in our organizations, but people who are using our products or services. How can we also be highlighting them to bring their expertise to a wider marketplace?
Your customer success stories are the most powerful marketing you have. One of the things that make success stories worth is the concept of proof to reduce the perceived risk of the sales process. All sales are nothing but reducing perceived risk and using other people’s success is an important component of that. Yet there’s a couple of elements that we need to talk about. Number one is it has to be within context. You can’t use a transportation example in the world of banking. They just don’t see the crossover.
Unless you let them see the crossover or you’re good at drawing those comparisons.
You have to spell it out for them. The second thing is that it has to be relevant up to the decision food chain. Everybody involved in a complex decision has a different value of what a yes is. We have to include the information that gets to that particular yes set. That’s what we talked about, are they listening for information or they listening for knowledge? Those oftentimes are different levels within a corporate organization.
Look at the needs of different people. One of the things that I don’t think sales teams do often enough, the best salespeople absolutely do, they know their decision maker. Most people know the decision maker, they identify the decision maker, but who else are the stakeholders in that? Who does the decision maker consult with? It’s taking it one step out. Going back to my academic roots is, “You have this definition and here’s this theory.” “That’s great. Let’s take this but let’s step back and trace to the root of any given thing.” You’re going to find that, “Yes, somebody has decision-making authority, but there are a lot of people who are stakeholders according to that person’s mind.” Finding out those and what their needs are is also a way to get in.
These days, what I’m finding is that above a certain dollar of threshold, we have multiple people that must say yes before it goes forward and there usually is not one decision maker. There is a committee of decision-makers, there’s one person that makes the commitment, everybody else makes the decision. The commitment maker rounds up all the decisions before pulling the trigger and placing the order with a check. It’s a different dynamic than it’s been in the past. It’s actually very different than most sales training is offered these days. You have to figure out all those people who must say yes before the deal proceeds and you have to give them exactly what they need to say yes to. They have to take them to the state of what they have to feel before they can say yes.
Everyone knows the best communication and decisions are made after a combination of emotion and logic. We go way back to the conceptual proof, ethos, pathos and logos. It’s understanding how are you meeting all of those needs in all of the parties that are there and dots on a brochure and simple pricing is not going to do it for the long-term. You might be able to get someone on pricing once, but if you want long-term business, that’s not what’s going to keep them there.
Competing on prices is an unsustainable business model. We’ve got time for one more idea what you got for us.
Stop comparing yourself. I’m talking to myself as much as I am else here. No matter what your role is, no matter what your business is, whether you’re in an organization or you’re an entrepreneur, stop comparing yourself to what others are doing or how others are doing it, which will tie nicely full circle back into the whole authenticity thing.
There are so many different pathways to success. I’m a systems theory, like Bertalanffy’s theories. He basically talks about all these different principles that systems have. Equifinality, that there are many pathways to the same end, is one of my favorites. I remember learning about that and questioning a lot of things that I had been told even growing up that, “If you want to go to college, you have to do this. “If you want to go out of state, you have to get a Fulbright Scholarship.” All of these different things we were told from when we were children impact how we’re viewing our things now even as grown adults.
When you’re looking at all of these things, look at your processes. Look at your communication patterns. Genuinely ask yourself how many of these things are you’re doing because a peer is doing them, because another organization is doing, because an association is doing and because another business person is doing it? Make every single part of your communication process as it pertains to sales, as it pertains to leading a team, every part of that communication process needs to audition to get back in. None of them should be there just because that’s the way things are done.
The most dynamic effective communicators have a very clear reason for every aspect of their communication being included and they know without any uncertainty that less is more. The fewer words you can use to get the same message across is going to be beneficial, but that takes time and dedication to do it. When you start analyzing your processes and seeing why each piece is there, you’ll have a lot of clarity about yourself. Hopefully, you can exit the comparison game and start only using the processes and messaging that works for you.
Let’s unpack that massive truth bomb you dropped on our readers here. The idea here is that systems always beat goals. It’s very hard for a lot of people to differentiate the difference between a goal and the system. If we see somebody achieving a goal and we say, “I want that too,” versus realizing the system they put together to get to the goal. What you pointed out is that we have to stop and analyze our process that composes that system. I liked this idea of saying, “Stop taking it apart and have every piece of that audition to stay in the show.” That’s how we reinvent ourselves and how we stay ahead of the game.
It’s also how we figure out what is working for us because of specific things that we have done to make that happen. A prime example for me is this year for the first time I analyzed, to the finite route, where every single piece of business I had has come from. If I have a client right now who I was referred to by another client, that’s great. Most people stop there. It was a referral, but where was that client referred to me to or how did they find me? They are referred to me by a vendor. How did I meet them? I met this person at an association event. The route there is involvement in a specific association. With your communication, your messaging, your collaboration, connections, that’s how you build on those things. If it weren’t for that initial meeting, you can see the snowball effect that these things have. By doing that, getting down to the finite root of your own process, you can see where you need to reinvest more of your time. For me, it’s not going to networking meetings and giving 30-second pitches.
It’s instead of hanging out with people at the right level who can introduce you to the right level of people.
Even knowing which people those are and where you need to invest more of your time is where a detailed process analysis can come in.
There are so many great ideas from our conversation. Thank you for sharing your insights. Where does our reader get a hold of you? What do you want them to do next?
If you learned anything today, please reach out and share that on social media, @DynamicJill is the easiest way to find me because my last name is a pain in the rear end. If that book interests you, my publisher and I would both be thrilled if you get yourself a copy.
Dynamic Communication, Jill Schiefelbein and you can find that on Amazon. @DynamicJill is how you find her on social media. Thanks for sharing your insights. Friends, remember authenticity matters and when you do that, you will be a dynamic communicator.
- Dynamic Communication: 27 Strategies to Grow, Lead and Manage Your Business
- Tony Bodoh – previous episode
- Million Dollar Consulting
- Million Dollar Proposals
- @DynamicJill on Twitter
- @DynamicJill on Instagram
- Dynamic Communication on Amazon
About Jill Schiefelbein
Jill Schiefelbein is an award-winning entrepreneur, author, and recovering academic. She taught business communication at Arizona State University for 11 years before venturing into entrepreneurship. Jill’s business, The Dynamic Communicator®, helps organizations navigate the digital communication space to attract customers, increase sales, and retain clients. Her latest book, Dynamic Communication: 27 Strategies to Grow, Lead, and Manage Your Business hit stores March 2017.
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