Book Summary of To Sell Is Human by Daniel H. Pink

Discover the intrinsic human skill of selling and learn how to utilize it for achieving sales results and success in other areas of life through “To Sell Is Human”. Our guide simplifies and supports the ideas of renowned author Daniel Pink, making them easily applicable to your own life.

Everyone’s a Salesperson

Pink argues that the modern workplace has made sales skills essential for all workers, introducing the concept of non-sales selling or contemporary selling. This involves persuading others to exchange resources, not just money, and includes activities such as negotiating prices, job interviews, and even asking someone on a date.

The Traditional ABCs of Sales

Pink believes that sales was previously seen as deceptive and manipulative, but now there are two sales philosophies: the traditional “buyer beware” and the new “seller beware.” The former prioritizes the seller’s benefit and lacks integrity, while the latter emphasizes serving the buyer and requires integrity. Successful salespeople now operate from a place of integrity, rather than using it as a last resort.

Traditional Sales Philosophy

During the 1900s, when traditional sales dominated the stable and consumer-driven economy, the primary objective was profit, as exemplified by the “ABC” acronym (Always Be Closing). This profit-focused approach led salespeople to disregard the buyers’ needs, creating a negative perception of salespeople. For instance, a traditional car salesperson would misrepresent their vehicle’s quality and overcharge buyers to maximize profits, regardless of the buyers’ interests.

What Changed?

The decline of traditional sales was initiated by two factors. Firstly, economic disruption caused by the Great Recession forced workers to expand their skill sets, making sales a necessary skill for everyone.

Additionally, the rise of entrepreneurs also contributed to the need for flexible skill sets, including sales. Secondly, the technology boom disrupted the power imbalance between buyers and sellers, as the internet provided access to information previously monopolized by sellers. This shift forced sellers to prioritize the needs of buyers over their own profits.

The Modern ABCs of Sales

Pink argues that the economic and technological changes have led to the emergence of a new selling philosophy that replaces the old profit-oriented “ABC” approach. This new approach prioritizes meeting the buyer’s needs and is characterized by three strategies: connection, optimism, and focus.

Contemporary Selling Step 1: Connection

Pink views connection as the ability to synchronize and adjust to individuals, communities, and situations to meet their needs.

Pink proposes three methods for practicing connection.

  1. First, mimicking the buyer’s mannerisms to build trust and camaraderie.
  2. Second, adopting the buyer’s perspective to better understand their needs and offer personalized solutions.
  3. And third, power-shifting by treating the buyer as if they hold the power, creating a service-oriented dynamic.

For example, sitting at an equal level and asking, “What are you looking for, and how can I help?” demonstrates a willingness to serve the buyer’s needs.

Contemporary Selling Step 2: Optimism

Optimism is a key aspect of Pink’s modern sales method as it fosters resilience in the face of rejection. In sales, hearing “no” is more common than “yes,” and an optimistic outlook enables the seller to persist in their efforts or move on to the next customer. For instance, if a door-to-door salesman encounters a prospect who seems uninterested, they can remain positive and demonstrate their belief in their product/service. This mindset allows the seller to bounce back from potential setbacks and approach the next customer.

Prepare: Question Yourself

Pink recommends asking targeted, positive questions to prepare for a sales interaction. This helps focus on sales goals and boosts confidence and motivation, leading to better results over time. Examples of such questions include “How can I be of service to this buyer?” or “How can I demonstrate the value of this purchase?”

Maintain: Communicate Positivity

Pink emphasizes the importance of maintaining a positive environment during a sales interaction for both the buyer and seller. Studies show that a healthy ratio of positive to negative sensations increases receptiveness and likelihood of a positive outcome. Therefore, communicate positive information with a minimum 3 to 1 ratio, while still acknowledging a few negatives. Additionally, speak with conviction about your product and create a friendly atmosphere by smiling often and highlighting its positive aspects.

Evaluate: Reflect With Optimism

Pink suggests reflecting on a sales interaction by assuming that negative experiences are temporary, circumstantial, and not personal. This helps to frame the experience positively and influence how you feel about it.

Contemporary Selling Step 3: Focus

Pink’s modern sales model’s third component is creating focus, which involves identifying problems, bringing them to the customer’s attention, and providing solutions. As an example, imagine you’re a tutor and a life coach working with a 12-year-old boy who’s struggling academically due to a lack of self-discipline. By recognizing the issue and offering life coaching instead of tutoring, you provide an effective solution, resulting in significant academic improvements.

Pink offers four ways to create focus for customers:

  1. Problem Finding: Pink’s method is about helping buyers clarify their needs. By being thorough and asking good questions, you can use the information you discover to help your buyer focus on their needs and decide on a solution.
  2. Creating Contrast: Show buyers multiple potential paths they can compare, or use an unfavorable option to highlight the benefits of a more favorable one.If you’re trying to sell a vehicle, for instance, have several vehicles prepared to display to the customer, including one of inferior quality than the others that you may use to emphasize the advantages of the other vehicles.
  3. Selling Experience: Sell experiences rather than products. Framing a sale through the lens of experience focuses a buyer on how they will benefit and is more likely to get them emotionally invested in making a purchase.
  4. Providing a Path: Provide buyers with a clear path to solving their problem. Giving them clear steps and a clear time frame makes them more likely to commit to working with you.

The New Paradigm: Say Goodbye to Sales and Hello to Service

Pink believes that sales should ultimately be about providing a service to others and improving their lives. He suggests two steps for service-oriented sales.

  • Step #1 is to make it personal by showing your passion for the product and focusing on service rather than profit. This creates a connection with the customer and makes your pitch more credible.
  • Step #2 is to make it purposeful by connecting what you’re selling to a broader purpose and framing it that way to potential buyers. This taps into the innate desire to serve and can improve society as a whole.

For example, a teacher can remind themselves that they are not only improving the lives of their students, but also preparing them to improve the world.

Bonus Step: Enlarge Your Service Mindset

Pink distinguishes between upselling, which benefits the seller, and “up-serving,” which benefits the buyer. Upselling involves convincing customers to buy more expensive products or add-ons to benefit the seller. In contrast, up-serving means helping customers identify their unmet needs and finding the best solution for them. For instance, if you’re selling a phone to an elderly customer, up-serving means recommending a simple and reliable phone instead of a high-tech and expensive one to maximize profit.

Book Summary of Ogilvy On Advertising by David Ogilvy

David Ogilvy founded his own advertising agency in 1949 after working as a salesman, copywriter, and adman for years. His agency became one of the world’s most successful, and in 1985, he wrote Ogilvy on Advertising, a comprehensive guide to marketing, creating effective ads, and the industry as a whole.

Marketing and Product Development

To increase sales, good products are crucial. Research is important to determine preferences for smells, colors, flavors, features, and packaging. Quality improvement, balancing convention and novelty, and an appropriate price with promotions can also help. A memorable name and successful launch are key. Focus on successes and convince consumers to try the product.

The Craft of Advertising

Advertising aims to increase profit by attracting new customers or encouraging existing customers to buy more. Effective advertising can significantly boost sales, even for products that already sell well. To create good ads, follow these steps:

  1. Learn about the product to generate associations and potential benefits.
  2. Study competitor’s ads, particularly direct-response ads.
  3. Use research to understand your target audience, product promise, promotions, and media.
  4. Choose a brand image.
  5. By researching and allowing your mind to naturally make connections, you may come up with grand, timeless concepts.
  6. Spotlight the product and make it the star, even if it’s not unique.
  7. Stay away from committee work. The final advertisement frequently says nothing significant since committees frequently confuse issues and demand compromise.

Print Advertising

Print ads are ads in magazines, newspapers or on posters. There are five key elements to consider when creating a print ad: headline, imagery, copy, coupon, and layout.

  1. A great headline is essential as most people read only the headline.
  2. Effective imagery makes the reader curious or tells a story.
  3. Good copy should use the second person, be simple, interesting and specific, and include a story or consumer testimonials.
  4. Coupons should contain a small image, the promise, and the brand name.
  5. The layout should be easy to read and resemble an editorial page to increase readership.

TV Advertising

TV advertising is about commercials and there are six key elements to consider when creating them. These include the structure, the brand and product name, visuals, sound, supers (text overlaid on the video), and costs.

Effective commercials have a “slice of life” structure, feature unusual characters, and are funny, sentimental, fact-based, or newsworthy. It’s important to mention the brand name early and often, show someone using the product, and show the product and packaging at the end.

Use sound effects and avoid voiceovers, and add supers to reiterate your message. Finally, reduce costs by cutting unnecessary complications.

Radio Advertising

When the book was published, radio advertising only accounted for 6% of U.S. advertising and its effectiveness was difficult to measure. Based on a pilot study and his own observations, Ogilvy offers five tips for creating effective radio ads:

  1. Capture people’s attention with surprises, humor, or charm.
  2. Speak to the audience in a conversational manner.
  3. Mention the brand name and promise early in the commercial.
  4. Repeat the brand name and promise throughout the commercial.
  5. Create multiple commercials to avoid listener annoyance and maximize exposure.

Specific Types of Advertising

There are challenges specific to certain types of products, services, and companies, including:

  1. Corporate advertising can improve a company’s reputation, recruitment efforts, and more, but requires a longer-term commitment and legislative advertising may not be considered a business expense.
  2. Tourism advertising involves navigating politics and stereotypes about the country being advertised.
  3. Cause advertising may not bring in much money, but can raise awareness and lead to successful personal solicitation.
  4. Commodity products lack uniqueness, so it’s best to differentiate your company rather than the product by offering lower cost, better quality, or service.

Industry Overview

Working in Advertising

To succeed in the competitive advertising industry, one must have passion. Agency work involves various roles such as copywriters, art directors, account executives, researchers, media buyers, creative directors, and CEOs. Copywriters create written content, art directors handle visuals, account executives act as intermediaries, researchers analyze effectiveness, media departments buy ad space, creative directors oversee production, and CEOs manage and attract clients.

Running an Advertising Agency

To run a successful agency, you need: talented and skilled staff, a solid understanding of office politics, high standards of conduct, a payment system, good investments, and clients.

  • To ensure a talented staff, recruit people smarter than you and with different talents.
  • To avoid politics, fire the worst offenders and organize team-building activities. Set high standards of conduct, including client confidentiality and only using clients’ products.
  • Choose a payment system that suits your agency. Good investments include opening new offices or purchasing your office building.
  • Attract new clients by producing good advertising for existing clients, and use successful work to show potential clients.

To attract new clients, Ogilvy recommends the following:

  1. Give presentations to convince clients to hire your agency, and send a follow-up letter summarizing why they should choose you.
  2. Advertise your agency through direct mail or consistent space advertising.
  3. Sign up multinational accounts to potentially gain worldwide opportunities.

However, Ogilvy also advises caution when taking on new clients. Avoid or drop clients who can’t pay, have a different company culture, are failing, or are bullies.

Finding an Agency

To find the right advertising agency, start by reviewing ads in magazines and on TV that you admire. Create a list of agencies responsible for those ads and eliminate those working with your competitors. Meet with the heads and creative directors of the remaining agencies and ask to see their top six print and TV ads. Choose the agency with the most compelling campaigns and offer to pay 1% more than their usual fee and sign a five-year contract to secure their services.

Public Opinion on Advertising

Critics rank adpeople as low as car salespeople in honesty, but Ogilvy argues that advertising is not inherently immoral and can have positive effects.

Ads go through many levels of approval before running, except for political advertising, which can be dishonest. Advertising may only convince someone to buy an inferior product once. Agencies were creating less informative ads and billboards were considered dangerous and ugly at the time of writing.

Book Summary of The Ultimate Sales Letter by Dan Kennedy

Dan Kennedy’s The Ultimate Sales Letter teaches effective strategies for crafting compelling sales letters that drive sales. The book provides timeless foundational strategies in persuasive writing that remain relevant in today’s ever-changing sales and marketing landscape. Kennedy is a self-made millionaire and successful copywriter who believes anyone can learn to write persuasive copy and turn it into profit with self-belief, intuition, and product knowledge.

Our guide simplifies and categorizes Dan Kennedy’s tips and strategies into two main parts:

1) Collecting necessary information to create a potent sales letter and

2) Creating an enticing sales letter.

Furthermore, we compare and contrast Kennedy’s ideas with current suggestions from other experts in the sales and marketing field.

Part 1: Gather Your Sales Letter Intel

In this segment, we’ll cover the groundwork that Kennedy recommends for crafting a persuasive sales letter. We’ll begin with identifying and comprehending your intended audience, followed by gaining extensive knowledge of your product.

Step 1: Identify and Understand Your Target Customer

To write an effective sales letter, Kennedy stresses the importance of understanding your target customer’s interests, concerns, and communication style. He advises researching their demographics, trends, and past experiences with similar products. Gathering information can be done through industry immersion, attending trade shows, and speaking with those who have insights into your customer base.

Step 2: Know Your Product

Kennedy emphasizes the importance of becoming thoroughly familiar with your product to showcase its benefits and address any drawbacks in your sales letter. He recommends using your product extensively, testing it, taking it apart, talking to people who use it, and examining competitive products. This process helps you identify its best features and benefits, which you can prioritize and highlight in your sales letter based on the unique needs and interests of your target customers.

Kennedy insists that addressing your product’s limitations in your sales letter is crucial to alleviate any customer concerns and maintain their interest in purchasing.

He recommends two tactics for handling potential buyer questions:

1) Share results from research conducted on consumers who didn’t buy your product, list every reason given for not purchasing, and provide solutions for each issue.

2) Offer a list of frequently asked questions and their corresponding answers. Kennedy suggests reinforcing these tactics with testimonials and stories highlighting your product’s strengths, or offering guarantees and free trial offers to encourage customers to try your product.

Part 2: Craft Your Sales Letter

After discussing the necessary background information in the previous section, we will now delve into five key steps to create a compelling sales letter that captures customers’ attention and motivates them to buy your product. Finally, we’ll discuss strategies for effectively distributing your well-crafted letter to your target audience.

Step 1: Compose your first article

After gathering all the necessary information about your customer and product, Kennedy advises that the first step in creating your sales letter is to start writing, without worrying about perfection or editing.

Step 2: Capture, Interact, Persuade, and Compel

To shape your sales letter effectively, Kennedy recommends four key goals: capture, interact, persuade, and compel your customer. Here are his recommendations for achieving each:

  • To Capture: Start your letter by addressing a problem your product solves, using attention-grabbing headlines and teasers.
  • To Interact: Use short sentences and paragraphs, and break language conventions by utilizing exclamation points, trendy terms, and unusual punctuation.
  • To Persuade: Highlight the benefits and features of your product, using customer testimonials, stories, and data to back up your claims.
  • To Compel: Provide a clear call-to-action, such as a limited-time offer, guarantee, or free trial, to motivate customers to respond immediately.

Kennedy offers two strategies to de-emphasize price in your sales letter and shift the focus to reasons why customers should buy your product. The first strategy is to pitch the value or savings customers will experience and emphasize long-term benefits. The second strategy is to use persuasion techniques such as implying that smart people buy your product or offering product guarantees.

Step 3: Refine, Finalize, and Send Your Letter

To finalize your letter and ensure it reaches your target customer, follow these tips from Kennedy:

  • Add a persuasive PS at the end of your letter.
  • Edit your letter for clarity and remove irrelevant phrases.
  • Make your letter visually appealing by emphasizing key points with bold, highlighting or capital letters.
  • Test your letter by reading it out loud, getting feedback from others, and comparing it to similar letters.
  • Personalize your packaging for executives with high-quality paper and exclusive language, or use colorful, interactive materials for mass mailings.
  • Hand-address the envelope, omit the name of the return address, and utilize postage instead of metered mail to prevent it from seeming like junk mail.
  • For delivery assurance, select Federal express or first-class mail.
  • Once you’ve made the final edits, send out your letter and wait for the response.

Kennedy suggests strategic ways to use your sales letter, such as sending follow-up letters to improve response rates and using the letter for lead identification, telemarketing, and event announcements. Despite changes in communication channels, Kennedy argues that written sales letters remain effective, and a combination of online and offline sales letters is best. Additionally, a combination of video sales strategies, including commercials and sales letters, can further enhance effectiveness.

Book Summary of Positioning by Al Ries

Al Ries and Jack Trout’s book, ‘Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind,’ offers marketing tips based on their over 20 years of experience. The book, published in 1981, is the first of many collaborations between the authors, who are experts on marketing strategy. We’ll explore their definition of positioning and techniques, and discuss how it can be applied to career development.

What Is Positioning?

Ries and Trout define “positioning” as shaping customer perceptions of your product in comparison to competitors. A product’s “position” is its unique identity in consumers’ minds. For example, a Ferrari is a luxury sports car, while a Corvette is an iconic sports car that’s more affordable than a Ferrari. These mental associations represent each product’s “position.”

What Does Positioning Look Like?

Positioning is primarily achieved through advertising, which serves as a means of communication according to Ries and Trout. To shape perceptions of your product, you must convey a message that affects how people view it relative to other products.

However, the authors acknowledge that advertising can be intrusive since we are inundated with countless ads from various sources, leading us to tune most of them out.

Guidelines for Positioning-Based Advertising

Ries and Trout offer three recommendations for crafting effective ads that can break through the mental filter and shape customer perception.

  1. Firstly, simplify the message, as our brains can only store and process a limited amount of information.
  2. Secondly, align your message with your customer’s existing understanding of reality, as people are more likely to accept messages that confirm their beliefs.
  3. Lastly, maintain a consistent message over time, as people are resistant to changing their minds, while updating your ads to keep them current.

Preliminary Positioning Strategy

Ries and Trout emphasize the importance of three factors to successfully position your product:

  1. Firstly, comprehending your present position.
  2. Secondly, identifying a feasible and desired position.
  3. Lastly, selecting a name that aligns with the desired position.
  4. Comprehending Your Present Position

Ries and Trout caution that it is crucial to understand how your potential customers perceive your business and how your competitors compare. They also advise investing in research, such as surveys, to gain clarity and make informed decisions.

2- Identifying A Feasible and Desired Position

Ries and Trout advise having a realistic and clear vision of the position you desire for your product. Ideally, positioning as a market leader is recommended as it offers various benefits like brand loyalty, ease of attracting good employees, and higher stock prices. Being a leading product/company helps in creating self-perpetuating success.

Ries and Trout suggest that market leaders have significant advantages and become entrenched, making it difficult for competitors to supplant them with a better product. Instead, they recommend becoming the first to occupy the leading position by finding or creating a niche where you can make a credible claim of market leadership. This often involves sacrificing your product’s general appeal to target a niche where you can be the first to claim leadership.

Find Your Niche

By changing various facets of your product or advertising to stand out, Ries and Trout offer the following strategies for finding an open niche:

  • Product Size: Offer a miniature version if the industry trend is towards large products, or vice versa.
  • Price: Create premium or economy versions of a product to offer profitable niche opportunities.
  • Demographics: Tailor your product and advertising to appeal to an untapped gender or age group.
  • Setting: Target your product for use in a particular place, climate, season, or time of day.
  • Distribution: Consider novel approaches to enhance your customers’ shopping experiences, such creative packaging.
  1. Selecting A Name That Aligns with The Desired Position

Ries and Trout stress the significance of a product’s name for positioning, as it’s what consumers use to mentally position it in the market. The name should be unique, memorable, and representative of the positioning strategy.

Additionally, they advise that a company name should accurately reflect the company’s role and that an outdated or non-representative name can hinder growth.

Consider Your Abbreviations

Ries and Trout caution against using awkward acronyms and recommend creating phonetic ones, such as NASA, for better memorability. However, acronyms should align with your positioning strategy and avoid sounding contradictory to your message, as in the case of using “FAT” for a fitness program.

Additional Naming Pitfalls

Ries and Trout warn that unclear names hinder product positioning. Customers struggle to mentally place them in the market landscape, making it vital to choose a name that reflects the product’s market position. For example, “W Magazine” can be misleading as it covers art and fashion, not finances or women’s issues.

  • Ries and Trout warn that names can become outdated as cultures and businesses evolve. Even if a product or company remains the same, changes in language or culture can make a name obsolete and less effective in resonating with prospective customers.
  • Ries and Trout suggest changing technical product names developed by engineers before bringing them to the market, as such names are often meaningless to outsiders.
  • Ries and Trout suggest that having a name too similar to a competitor’s name can make it challenging to establish your own distinct position in the market.

Positioning Strategy

Once you’ve assessed your current position, envisioned a realistic goal, and confirmed your name aligns with it, how can you solidify your position as the market leader? Ries and Trout offer various strategies depending on whether you’re already the leader or striving to become one.

Strategy for an Established Market Leader

To maintain market leadership, reinforcing your position may suffice. But, Ries and Trout suggest that advertising your product as the best won’t persuade customers. They recommend promoting yourself as the original and genuine article. As leaders usually occupy their positions first, this claim is credible and suggests competing products are imitations, giving people a reason to buy from you.

Strategy for an Aspiring Market Leader

If you’ve found a valuable, unexplored niche, you can become a market leader by creating a product that meets demand, choosing a fitting name, and launching a successful ad campaign, according to Ries and Trout. However, they emphasize the importance of meeting customer expectations and repositioning the competition in this scenario.

Appeal to Expectations

To effectively communicate a message, it’s best to align with people’s expectations. Ries and Trout suggest that if you introduce a new product, it’s essential to compare it to something familiar to consumers. They use the example of marketing early cars as “horseless carriages.”

Reposition the Competition

To gain a market advantage, Ries and Trout advise discrediting competitors by repositioning their product. Merely claiming superiority is ineffective. Instead, expose a deficiency in the current leading product to create an opening for a new niche leader. Ries and Trout note that bad news about a competitor is more effective than good news about your product. For example, a pharmaceutical company can highlight side effects of gender-neutral vaccines on women’s health to promote a new flu vaccine.

Strategy for an Established Leader Entering a New Market

If you’re a market leader with one product and want to launch a new one in a different sector, Ries and Trout advise creating a new brand for the new product. This avoids the pitfalls of line extensions, which we’ll discuss next.

The Pitfalls of Line Extensions

“Line extension” is a term used by Ries and Trout to describe adding new products to an existing line under the same name. Products are distinguished with descriptions or other qualifiers. While line extensions provide instant brand recognition and save on marketing costs, Ries and Trout advise against them due to brand dilution and internal competition.

Brand Dilution

Ries and Trout argue that line extensions weaken a brand’s position by diluting its collective essence. A brand associated with diverse products and market positions becomes harder for customers to identify, and thus weaker. For example, if Ferrari started selling economical cars, it would dilute its high-end sports car brand and lose its meaning.

Professional Positioning for Career Success

Ries and Trout believe that the principles of positioning can be applied to advance one’s career. The strategy they recommend includes understanding your current position, identifying your desired position, selecting a suitable name, and charting a course to your desired position.

Understanding your current position involves being aware of how others perceive your strengths and weaknesses. To identify your desired position, you need to realistically determine what professional positioning you want, and this might involve finding an open niche.

Your name is also an important element of how people perceive you, and Ries and Trout recommend avoiding initials and using a name that supports your desired positioning.

Charting a course involves finding a good fit between your values and goals and your company’s vision and goals. In applying for new positions, you should emphasize how your strengths match the company’s strengths.

Ries and Trout stress the need for persistence in positioning as it is a long-term endeavor.

Book Summary of Purple Cow by Seth Godin

Seth Godin and his family were thrilled to see many cows during their vacation in France. But soon, the excitement faded away as all the cows looked the same. They realized that only a purple cow would be remarkable and exciting.

This principle applies to product development and marketing. Creating an ordinary product like all the others won’t grab attention. You need a remarkable and exciting product, a Purple Cow, to stand out.

Mass Marketing Doesn’t Work Anymore

Traditional mass marketing techniques like TV commercials and newspaper ads are no longer as effective as they used to be because people today have less money, time, and attention to spare. Trying to target as many people as possible is not the way to go, as most of them won’t even listen to you.

To get attention for your product, you need to target the right people who fall into a bell curve: the innovators and early adopters, who will then market your product to the majority. Your Purple Cow must be remarkable enough to attract the innovators and flexible enough to appeal to the majority, once they hear about it from a source they trust.

Find Your Cow by Taking Risks

To find your Purple Cow, you need to look for extremes in your products, advertisements, image, and pricing. Identify the absolute limits of possibility, even if you don’t plan to go that far. Playing it safe is risky in today’s world of brown cows, and copying someone else’s success won’t make your product remarkable.

You need to stand out and catch the attention of innovators and early adopters who will spread the word. The Four Seasons and Motel 6 are examples of exceptional brands that succeeded by being opposite extremes in the hotel industry.

What Remarkable Doesn’t Mean

Common misconceptions about remarkability include mistaking “good” for remarkable, thinking that being ridiculous is the same as being remarkable, and relying on cheap pricing to make a product remarkable.

Good products with broad appeal are often boring and more likely to fail. Being ridiculous may attract attention, but not the right kind. Similarly, cheap pricing is not enough to make a product remarkable and can lead to a price war with competitors.

What’s Next?

Creating a single remarkable product isn’t enough to sustain a business forever. Milk it for all it’s worth by passing it on to another team and extracting maximum profits.

Then, invest the profits into developing your next big thing. Keep the Purple Cow cycle going to stay at the forefront of your industry.

But don’t churn out mediocre products just for the sake of it. Wait until you have your next remarkable idea. Remember, playing it safe is the riskiest move in today’s age of the Purple Cow.

Book Summary of Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller

Donald Miller’s Building a StoryBrand teaches how to create effective marketing by using a story structure that portrays the customer as the hero and demonstrates how your brand can help them achieve their goals.

Miller’s formula helps create a clear and consistent marketing story that shows how your brand can help customers achieve their desired outcomes. This guide highlights common marketing mistakes and how storytelling can fix them, while also covering the seven-part story structure and implementing it in different marketing channels.

The Two Errors That Cause Marketing Material to Fail

Miller identifies two common errors that marketers tend to make while creating marketing material, primarily because they overlook how the human brain processes information.

Error #1: Brands Don’t Articulate How They Help People Stay Alive or Prosper

Miller asserts that a brand’s marketing must show how it supports human survival or prosperity, or it risks failure. The human brain prioritizes basic needs like food and shelter, and then focuses on self-esteem, purpose, and self-actualization. Therefore, customers engage only with marketing that demonstrates a brand’s ability to help them survive or prosper.

Error #2: Brands Force Customers to Waste Calories Parsing

Miller notes that a common mistake brand make is overwhelming customers with irrelevant information, leading to disengagement. This information lacks relevance to the customer’s basic needs of survival or prosperity, causing them to disregard it and focus on more critical activities.

How to Correct the Errors: Create a Story

To address the common errors brands make, Miller suggests using a story format to communicate brand information. This approach focuses on demonstrating the brand’s contribution to customers’ survival and prosperity while eliminating irrelevant information.

Create a Story Using a Marketing Outline

Miller suggests using his StoryBrand 7-Part Framework, also known as the marketing outline, to craft a compelling story. This outline is based on the traditional storytelling structure used in commercial films. By using this approach, you can develop a “BrandScript” or storyline that narrates the customer’s journey. Once you have a storyline, you can use it to create marketing content.

Three Benefits of Using the Marketing Outline

Miller argues that the marketing outline provides three key advantages: ease of use, cohesiveness, and repeatability.

  • Firstly, you can effortlessly plug your company’s details into the outline to create a storyline.
  • Secondly, the outline ensures a unified message that can be adjusted for various products, services, or departments, minimizing customer confusion and contradictions in marketing.
  • Thirdly, having a consistent message allows for easy communication across marketing platforms and to employees.

The Seven Parts of the Marketing Outline

To better understand the marketing outline, let’s examine each of its parts.

Part 1: The Customer-Protagonist Wants Something

Miller suggests starting the story by highlighting what the customer wants and the gap between their current state and fulfilling that desire. This creates a sense of urgency in the customer to fill that gap, for example, by using your design services to transform their barren backyard into a lush landscape.

The Want Must Be Related to Staying Alive or Prospering

Miller emphasizes the importance of connecting your customer’s want to staying alive or prospering. Here are six wants that achieve this goal, according to Miller: saving or acquiring money, saving time, building community, acquiring status, creating opportunities to be generous, and finding meaning.

Customers require money, time, community, status, generosity, and meaning for survival and success.

Part 2: The Customer-Protagonist Encounters a Problem

Miller advises identifying a specific problem that your product or service solves and presenting it as a villain in the story to make it relatable to customers. For example, your online grocery delivery tool can defeat the villain of waiting in line at the grocery store.

Three Levels of Problems

Miller claims there are three levels of problems to include in your storyline:

  1. External problems, such as long grocery store lines, are tangible and straightforward for brands to solve.
  2. Internal problems, such as a lack of time, are unpleasant internal states that motivate customers to take action but are harder for brands to identify.
  3. Philosophical problems are universal questions of meaning and justice, often expressed using “should” statements.

The Best Stories Address All Three Levels of Problems

To craft a compelling story, Miller suggests showcasing how your brand solves the customer’s problem on all three levels: external, internal, and philosophical. For example, a grocery delivery service resolves the problem of wasting time waiting in line (external), relieves the frustration of not having enough time (internal), and restores balance to the customer’s life (philosophical).

Part 3: The Brand-Mentor Steps In to Help

Miller suggests that a brand needs to display competence and empathy to build trust with the customer-protagonist. Competence is demonstrated by providing solutions and showcasing expertise, while empathy is shown by understanding emotions and offering support. These qualities help the brand become a trusted mentor and guide for the customer’s journey towards their goals.

Miller advises that brands should demonstrate two key qualities to earn their customers’ trust as a mentor: compassion and competence.

Compassion means understanding and acknowledging the customer’s problem and showing a willingness to help.

Competence, on the other hand, involves demonstrating that the brand has successfully mentored others before. One way to establish competence is by showcasing customer testimonials in marketing materials.

Part #4: The Brand-Mentor Offers a Plan to The Customer-Protagonist

After establishing yourself as the customer’s mentor, provide a clear and concise plan to help them overcome their problem through the use of your product or service, advises Miller. Customers may hesitate to make a purchase due to confusion and fear, but a well-presented plan can eliminate these obstacles and encourage them to take the risk.

Miller suggests two plan types to alleviate customer confusion and fear: Instructional Plans and Promise Plans.

Instructional Plans provide clear, step-by-step instructions for purchasing and using your product, while Promise Plans list the promises you make to your customers about your business practices.

Part 5: The Brand-Mentor Urges the Customer-Protagonist to Take Action

To encourage customers to make a purchase, Miller advises explicitly and repeatedly calling them to action. Boldness and repetition show confidence in your product and help customers understand what you want them to do. Don’t be afraid to appear insistent in your marketing materials, as customers tend to choose the brand that is clear about its intentions.

For a successful call to action, be clear and direct with your customer about what you want them to do, whether it’s buying or engaging with your brand, advises Miller.

Call to Action #1: A Call to Buy

Employ calls that are clear and straightforward, such as “Purchase Now!” or “Apply Now!” to encourage customers to make a purchase. Place the call to buy button prominently on your website and marketing materials and use different colors, fonts, or sizes to draw attention to it.

Call to Action #2: A Call to Engage

Offer helpful information that positions you as a competent mentor to your customers, without necessarily funneling them towards a sale. Examples of calls to engage include educational PDFs or video series, samples of your product, or test runs. This will help customers think of you when they do need your product in the future.

Part 6: The Negative Stakes of Not Taking Action

After calling your customer to action, Miller suggests highlighting the negative consequences of not acting to create a sense of urgency.

For example, explaining how bad posture can lead to back problems and how chiropractic services can help prevent this. However, it’s important to strike a balance and avoid creating too much anxiety, as it can repulse customers, or too little, as it won’t create enough of an urge to buy.

Part 7: The Happy Ending of Following the Plan

Miller stresses the need to show customers a clear and positive outcome of purchasing your product, emphasizing simplicity and specificity. Customers want to know how your product will improve their lives, so avoid vague or complex statements. For example, use a specific tagline and show people enjoying life to advertise a bone-strengthening supplement.

The Transformation: How Do You Help Your Customer Change for the Better?

Miller emphasizes the importance of a customer’s transformation in marketing. By positioning your brand as an enabler of transformation, you become more than just a brand. Consider your customer’s aspirational identity and reward their progress once they achieve it.

Implement Your Storyline

Miller suggests transferring the storyline you created to your marketing materials. By implementing the storyline in your marketing, you can attract more customers to your brand.

Miller suggests implementing the storyline in six ways:

  1. Overhaul your website: Your website should have only essential information and everything should be inspired by your storyline.
  2. Write a brand logline: Create a short and memorable phrase that answers the question: “What does your company do?” Use elements from your storyline such as the customer-protagonist, the problem, the plan, and the happy ending.
  3. Start an automated email campaign: Create an automated campaign consisting of four pre-written emails to ensure your brand remains top of mind for customers. The goal is to make customers think of you first when they need a product or service.
  4. Showcase testimonials of transformation: Share customer testimonials that describe how your product transformed their life for the better. Ask questions that prompt the reader to describe a transformation.
  5. Create a referral program: Offer rewards to customers who refer new business to you.
  6. Advertise on social media: Use social media platforms to reach your target audience and share your storyline with them.

Book Summary of The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman

The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman provides a detailed guide on business operations, identifying five critical processes that support any business: creating value, marketing, sales, delivering value, and managing finances. Kaufman also recommends strategies to optimize these processes for achieving success.

This guide covers Kaufman’s recommendations for managing the five business processes in four parts, with a focus on finance throughout:

  • Part 1: Create valuable solutions
  • Part 2: Attract attention
  • Part 3: Drive sales
  • Part 4: Deliver satisfaction

Part #1: Create Value That Satisfies Needs

Kaufman emphasizes that successful businesses must prioritize providing value in exchange for something.

In Part 1 of the guide, we’ll cover the five fundamental needs driving people’s desires, how they assess the value of products/services, and ways businesses can provide valuable solutions. Additionally, we’ll highlight the importance of researching the profitability of potential products/services before developing them.

People Want to Fulfill Their Basic Needs

Kaufman asserts that despite appearing to have diverse preferences, people buy products/services to fulfill five basic needs:

  1. To feel good about themselves by improving their well-being, appearance, status, and satisfying their sensory desires.
  2. To connect with others, romantically, platonically, and professionally, both online and offline.
  3. To learn and grow, academically/professionally, and pursue hobbies/interests.
  4. To feel safe by protecting themselves, loved ones, and possessions from potential threats.
  5. To avoid effort by eliminating tasks that consume too much time, energy, or require specialized knowledge/resources.

Schools of Thought on What Motivates Us to Want Things

Understanding the motivations and timing of consumer decisions is essential for psychologists and marketing specialists, although Kaufman’s needs discussion doesn’t cover how we prioritize them.

By combining Kaufman’s list with four theories, we can explain why we desire certain things and how we prioritize them. Alderfer’s ERG theory groups our basic needs into three categories: Existence, Relatedness, and Growth. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs categorizes our needs into five levels: Physiological, Safety, Love and Belonging, Esteem, and Self-Actualization.

Murray’s Psychogenic Needs

According to this theory, basic needs are divided into two categories: Primary needs, such as the need for food and water, are essential for our survival and biological demands. Secondary needs, which fall into five categories – ambition, materialism, power, affection, and information – are crucial for our psychological well-being.

Self-Determination Theory

According to this theory, there are three core needs that drive our desires: autonomy (the need for control), competence (the need for achievement), and relatedness (the need for meaningful relationships).

How People Judge the Value of Products and Services

Kaufman states that people’s needs vary based on their circumstances, and they only show interest in offers that address their discomfort. For instance, a recently divorced person may be more receptive to romantic connection services than a happily married person.

When assessing the value of an offer, people consider both objective factors like reliability and cost-effectiveness and subjective factors like how it makes them feel and how it affects their image.

Businesses Align Offers With What People Want

Kaufman suggests eight ways for businesses to meet the five basic needs that drive purchasing decisions: create or buy products, offer services for a fee, create an asset and charge for access, supply products and services through subscriptions, rent out physical property, provide brokerage services for a commission, create and monetize attention, and lend money or offer insurance.

How You Sell Depends on What You’re Selling and Who You’re Selling To

Osterwalder and Pigneur’s (Business Model Generation) provide five different markets that business ideas fit into, each requiring a specific marketing and sales approach. These markets are not fixed, and it depends on the nature of the product or service and the target audience. Once you have determined the best approach for your business, consider which market suits your offer the best. The five markets are as follows:

  1. Mass Market: Selling to a large customer base with similar needs.
  2. Niche Market: Selling to a small customer base with unique requirements.
  3. Subdivided Market: Offering slightly different products and services to meet different customer needs.
  4. Diversified Market: Offering distinctly different products and services to unrelated customer groups.
  5. Multi-Sided Market: Serving interdependent customer groups, with an approach that appeals equally to both parties.

Evaluate Potential Products and Services Before Investing in Them

Kaufman advises businesses to test the viability of products and services before investing in them. To do this, ask yourself five questions:

Question #1: How Much Will It Take to Get It Out There?

Assess the time and financial commitment needed for developing, marketing, and distributing your product or service. Determine required resources and anticipate fixed and variable costs, including research and development, rent, salaries, supplies, and utilities.

Question #2: How Will You Finance It?

Consider the need for funding and the associated risks. If you plan to borrow money or seek investors, weigh the advantages and disadvantages carefully.

Loans are easy to apply for, have tax-deductible interest payments, and improve your credit score with repayments. However, they require personal assets as collateral, have to be repaid with interest even if your business fails, and can result in higher interest rates with multiple loans.

Question #3: How Much Demand Is There?

To determine market demand for your product or service, try these strategies:

  1. Analyze how many people are searching for similar products using SEO tools.
  2. Refer to public reviews and social listening tools to understand how people value existing products.
  3. Research competitors’ pricing for similar offers.
  4. Also, keep in mind that demand can fluctuate based on availability, seasonal trends, and economic/natural events.

Question #4: How Much Competition Is There?

Assess your product’s competition and strive to differentiate your offer to stand out from others and win customer loyalty in a crowded market.

How to Analyze the Competition

Experts advise entrepreneurs to identify their competitors’ strengths and weaknesses in four ways:

  1. Attend professional conferences and trade shows to observe competitors’ offerings and customer interactions.
  2. Analyze competitors’ website and SEO strategies using online tools to examine keywords, site traffic, and ranking.
  3. Examine competitors’ social media presence to learn about their platforms, content, followers, and customer responsiveness.
  4. Sign up for competitors’ newsletters to gain insights into their email marketing strategies.

Use this information to improve your product or service until it matches or exceeds what’s currently available. For instance, if you discover that your competitors are slow to respond to customer concerns on social media, develop a plan to enhance your social media strategy and provide better customer service.

Question #5: How Much Potential Is There to Expand Your Offer?

Think about how you can expand your offer to increase future sales and profits. Can you modify your offer or offer complementary products to meet additional needs?

Overestimate the Risks of Proceeding With Your Idea

Kaufman advises that when you’re passionate about your product or service, it’s easy to overlook potential obstacles and underestimate risks. To avoid this, intentionally seek out reasons why your idea may not work to make more accurate plans and increase your chances of success.

Part #2: Entice Attention

The second step in a business’s journey is to attract potential customers by tailoring its marketing approach. It’s crucial to appeal to people who’ve already shown interest in the offer. This section of the guide will cover how to make your offer more appealing.

Identify People Who Might Be Interested in Your Offer

Kaufman suggests that people are busy and make quick decisions about what’s worth their time. To get noticed, successful businesses target those who’ve expressed an interest in similar offers and focus on converting them into paying customers. It’s a waste of resources to advertise to those who have no interest in what they offer. For instance, promoting a vegan recipe book to someone who bought a book on offal won’t work, but promoting it to someone who bought a raw food recipe book would.

Persuade Them to Want What You’re Offering

To make your offer attractive to potential customers, Kaufman suggests four tips.

  1. Keep your message concise and to the point.
  2. Identify when your target audience is most receptive to your content.
  3. Demonstrate the benefits of your offer to evoke positive emotions and a fear of missing out.
  4. Use endorsements from respected individuals to establish trust.

Part #3: Encourage Transactions

The third important process for businesses is to secure sales and make a profit. In this section, we’ll cover tactics used to encourage sales and strategies for determining prices.

Customers Feel No Sense of Urgency to Hand Over Their Money

To ensure successful transactions, businesses need to act fast once they have potential customers’ attention.

However, customers tend to take their time in making a purchase decision, which is why businesses should use limitations and money-back guarantees to encourage them. Limitations, such as limited availability or an expiration date for discounts, create a sense of urgency, while money-back guarantees build trust and alleviate doubts.

How to Price Your Offer

To balance fair pricing with profit, Kaufman recommends four strategies:

  1. Manufacturing cost + profit: Calculate the cost of production and add desired profit per sale.
  2. Comparative pricing: Set prices based on the average of similar offers. Lower prices attract more customers, but higher prices signal superiority.
  3. Long-term value: If selling an asset that generates ongoing income, set the price based on its projected earnings over time.
  4. Subjective value: Determine how much your offer is worth to specific customers based on their needs and set prices accordingly.

How to Increase Profits Without Raising Your Prices

To boost sales revenue, businesses often resort to raising prices. However, there are three other ways to achieve this, as suggested by Kaufman:

  1. Increase the number of customers making a single purchase.
  2. Encourage customers to spend more by purchasing additional products or services.
  3. Encourage existing customers to make more frequent purchases.

Part #4: Fulfill Expectations

Businesses need to prioritize customer satisfaction to ensure success. This involves optimizing resources and procedures to meet customer needs.

Satisfied Customers Are the Key to Long-Term Success

Kaufman believes that satisfying customer expectations after a sale is as important as attracting new customers for business success. Satisfied customers provide long-term revenue and positive reviews, while disappointed customers lead to lost revenue, negative reviews, and damage to reputation. This repels potential customers and requires additional expenses to repair the damage, hindering business success.

Optimize Systems and Procedures to Ensure Satisfaction

Kaufman advises businesses to prioritize efficient and reliable operations for customer satisfaction and success. To achieve this, businesses must understand all tasks involved in their product or service and make incremental improvements through streamlining, cost-cutting, and resource improvement.

Prioritize Improvements That Will Make the Most Impact

Kaufman advises prioritizing impactful improvements for efficient and profitable business operations. Consider the impact and possible consequences of changes on your operations before proceeding. Separating your list of improvements into priority and non-priority items can help you allocate resources effectively.

Book Summary of Business Made Simple by Donald Miller

Donald Miller believes that the reason you may not be making enough progress in your business career is that you’re not adding enough value to your company. Miller suggests 11 methods to become a good investment for your company, from acquiring value-adding personal attributes to successfully carrying out a strategy.

By following his advice, you can learn how to add value to your company no matter what your role. Creating a StoryBrand is a book by Miller, the owner of StoryBrand, a firm that assists businesses with story-based marketing message.

In this manual, we’ll add psychological knowledge and advise from other business experts to Miller’s suggestions.

Your Goal in Business: To Be a Good Investment for Your Company

Adding value to a company by generating profits is key to succeeding in business, according to Miller. This ability can lead to career advancement or entrepreneurial success, as leaders and investors prioritize it. For example, creating a successful marketing campaign that brings in new prospects and revenue is more likely to get you noticed and promoted compared to simply fulfilling job requirements.

11 Ways to Investing Well for Your Business

Miller provides 11 sequential steps to become a valuable investment for your company.

Trait 1:

Successful professionals recognize themselves as valuable economic assets to their companies, quantifying and explaining their value in terms of revenue generated or sales made. They aim to earn back at least five times their salary, resulting in a modest profit for the company.

Trait 2:

To succeed and be a valuable asset to your company, you must see yourself as an active agent in your life. Making excuses and playing the victim will hinder your growth and success. By pursuing new goals actively, you can learn and develop.

Trait 3:

Reacting calmly to problems is a valuable trait that can earn you respect and help you accomplish more. By handling problems gracefully, you can conserve mental energy for yourself and others.

Trait 4:

Being open to feedback is a key trait for success. Seeking regular feedback from mentors and friends can help you improve and excel, even if it’s initially challenging to hear.

Trait 5:

Successfully managing conflict is crucial for progress. To navigate conflict productively, Miller recommends accepting it as a part of moving forward, avoiding intense negative emotions, showing respect for the person involved, and prioritizing resolution over being right.

Trait 6:

As a manager, prioritizing respect over being liked is crucial for the success of your team and company. You can earn trust by setting clear goals, clarifying individual responsibilities, and rewarding achievements.

Trait 7:

Being action-oriented is key to completing projects. Merely intending or planning to do something isn’t enough; you must follow through with action.

Trait 8:

Trusting in your knowledge and taking action leads to faster progress than procrastinating or avoiding difficult decisions.

Trait 9:

Maintaining a positive outlook on the outcome of your actions leads to taking more risks, resulting in greater long-term rewards.

Trait 10:

Believing in your ability to improve means failures are viewed as growth opportunities. You can take on greater challenges and rise to meet them, leading to growth, improved skills, more responsibility, and higher pay.

Step 2: Become an Effective Leader by Creating a Company Story

Miller’s second step for becoming a valuable asset involves creating a company story to become a successful leader. A company story explains the reason for the company’s existence and why people should engage with it.

Without a clear story or mission that includes every employee, the company will lack direction and fail. To create a company story, start by writing a mission statement that inspires action, using a template such as “We will accomplish [goal] by [date/year] because of [why achieving the goal is important].”

Then, define the traits employees must possess to fulfill the mission and determine three repeatable actions they should take daily to achieve it.

Step 3: Enhance Productivity by Focusing Only on Critical Tasks

Miller’s third step towards becoming a valuable company investment is to manage time effectively by prioritizing tasks that offer the highest return on energy investment. Miller recommends creating two task lists: one with three crucial tasks to complete each day and another with less important tasks to delegate or eliminate. It’s important to complete the top three tasks first, even if only partially done, to increase productivity.

Step 4: Visualize Your Business as an Aircraft to Become an Experienced Marketer

Step four in Miller’s guide to becoming a valuable employee involves learning to strategize effectively. He suggests visualizing the company as an airplane with five parts – body (overhead), wings (products/services), right engine (marketing), left engine (sales), and fuel (capital and cash flow). Balancing these divisions is essential for maximizing success.

For instance, if the body of the plane becomes heavier, the marketing and sales engines must be powerful enough to keep it aloft. Miller advises keeping overhead low, ensuring profitable and popular products, testing marketing with a website, building a sales funnel, and monitoring cash flow to stay airborne.

Step 5: Base Your Messaging on a Story the Customer Can Star In

Step 5 in adding value to your organization is crafting effective marketing messaging. Miller recommends creating a story where the customer is the hero with a goal that your product helps them achieve. The hero faces an obstacle, which is the problem your product solves. You position yourself as the guide who can help the hero overcome the obstacle with a plan and challenge the hero to take action. Lastly, you explain the benefits the hero gains by taking action and the consequences of not taking action.

Step 6: Create A Three-Step Sales Funnel That Fosters Customer Trust in The Sixth Step.

To become a valuable team member, it’s important to learn marketing mechanics. Miller emphasizes the significance of a robust sales funnel in marketing strategy.

A sales funnel helps to improve sales by leading buyers through the three stages of inquiry, comprehension, and purchase. To spark curiosity in potential customers, create a concise sentence that outlines a problem, your product as the solution, and the result of using your product to solve the problem.

Step 7: Communicate in a Story Format so Others Listen

To add value to your company, you must excel in basic communication, particularly presentations, according to Miller. In sales presentations, follow the story structure and focus on the problem you’ll solve, your solution, and how it will change the customer’s life.

Connect every subpoint to your main point, and limit the number of subpoints to three or four. For a unique and memorable presentation, consider weaving in other stories and keeping it short. Gallo suggests a maximum of 18 minutes, as anything longer will cause the audience to tune out, regardless of the presentation’s quality.

Step 8: Making the Sale Involving Qualifying Leads, Sharing A Narrative, And Sending Proposals

To add value through sales, Miller recommends qualifying leads to avoid wasting time and money. Ask if they have a problem your product solves, if it’s within their budget, and if they have the authority to buy.

Miller also suggests pitching in a story format, highlighting the customer’s problem and proposing a solution with references to past success. Lastly, provide a document or video summarizing your pitch for prospects to reference.

Step 9: Negotiate Effectively by Determining the Other Party’s Negotiating Style

Step 9 is about developing negotiation skills to add value to your company. According to Miller, there are two types of negotiation: cooperative and adversarial. In a cooperative negotiation, both parties aim for a win-win outcome, while in an adversarial negotiation, one or both parties want to win at the other’s expense.

To negotiate successfully, identify the type of negotiation and adjust your approach accordingly. Find out what factors influence the other party’s decision-making process and appeal to their emotional needs. For instance, when selling a used car, highlight its sleek leather interior to appeal to the buyer’s desire for a stylish ride. Finally, to end a negotiation, pretend to be dissatisfied with the outcome, which signals to the other party that they’ve won.

Step 10: Successfully Manage Groups With Metrics

To effectively manage people, Miller advises relying on input and output metrics. Input metrics measure the work put in to produce an output, while output metrics measure the actual output produced. For example, posting three times a week on social media (input) could lead to 300 new followers (output).

Step 11: Execute Well Using a Plan

To execute a project successfully, Miller recommends three steps: hold a launch meeting to determine the project’s success criteria, participants, resources, and timeline; check in with the team weekly to ensure everyone knows their next step; and publicly track input metrics to encourage the team’s progress.

In “A World Without Email,” Cal Newport suggests using task boards to manage communication and check-ins effectively. Task boards are physical or digital boards with columns representing project stages and cards representing tasks. Newport also advises delegating the scheduling of large meetings to an administrator or scheduling service.

Book Summary of How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes

Learn practical techniques to overcome social discomfort and make new connections with confidence! Discover the secret to getting people to want to talk to you, and explore three parts of Lowndes’s approach:

  1. Nonverbal cues to make a good first impression,
  2. Verbal cues to establish rapport right away, and
  3. Nonverbal cues to promote meaningful talks and establish trust.

Introduction: People Need to Know You Like Them

Lowndes suggests that the key to approaching and talking to anyone is making them feel liked. This is because everyone wants to feel appreciated and good about themselves. When people are unsure if you like them, they feel uncomfortable and struggle to engage with you.

Conversely, when they feel at ease around you, they enjoy your company and like you. However, many people struggle with this because of discomfort and a fear of rejection, which can lead to unconsciously emitting negative signals that push people away.

Lowndes proposes a straightforward way to combat discomfort and signal your openness to those you wish to converse with: shift your attention from your own feelings to theirs. This means being aware of the nonverbal and verbal cues you’re giving off, which we’ll cover in the rest of the guide.

Part 1: Nonverbal Signals-Make a Positive First Impression

To excel at conversing with anyone, paying attention to your body language and nonverbal signals is crucial. Lowndes emphasizes their importance because they form over 80% of people’s initial impressions of you and affect their reactions.

In this guide’s first part, we’ll explore how body language impacts people’s perceptions of you and provide nonverbal techniques to help you appear more approachable and appealing.

Your Body Language Communicates Everything About You

Lowndes asserts that people instinctively form opinions about others within the first few seconds of seeing them. Even before speaking, assumptions are made about their personality, emotions, confidence, and social/professional status, influencing the desire to spend time with them.

Similarly, people form opinions about you upon seeing you, with body language being the basis for these judgments. Your posture, comfort level, smile, and eye contact all emit signals about your emotions, whether consciously or unconsciously.

How to Appear Approachable and Likable

Lowndes contends that in Western society, people are adept at distinguishing between nonverbal signals of liking and rejection. Given that people are drawn to those who like them, being mindful of the signals you emit can increase approachability by conveying positive sentiments. Lowndes provides five techniques to decode this nonverbal language and create a favorable impression.

Technique #1: Stand Tall

Lowndes suggests that poor posture can be interpreted as unwelcoming, while good posture can be seen as a welcoming signal. Slumping may imply insecurity or shame, while standing tall and confident can make others see you as accomplished and worthy of their attention.

Technique #2: Relax and Remove Physical Barriers

Lowndes suggests that fidgeting and guarded movements can make you appear insincere and suspicious, while a relaxed and open stance signals honesty and approachability. Keeping your arms loosely by your sides with your palms facing upwards and turning your body towards people you want to talk to can show them that they have your full attention and make them feel at ease.

Technique #3: Delay Your Smiles and Maintain Eye Contact

Lowndes suggests that quick, instinctive smiles come off as impersonal, leading to a distant response. Additionally, lack of eye contact makes it difficult for people to connect with you emotionally. Instead, to create a warm response, pause briefly and make eye contact before flashing a big, warm smile. Maintaining comfortable eye contact during conversation will signal your interest in what they have to say.

Technique #4: Pretend You’re Already Close Friends

Lowndes suggests a technique to send positive signals through your body language: Pretend you are already friends with the person you want to talk to. By doing so, you can remove the uncertainty of how they will respond to you and automatically feel more relaxed and comfortable. According to Lowndes, this pretending eventually leads to genuine affection as you send signals that put the other person at ease, encouraging them to like you and respond warmly. This creates a comfortable and enjoyable interaction.

Technique #5: Hold Their Gaze to Encourage Attraction

Lowndes advises that holding someone’s gaze for an extended period can increase the chances of a positive response from them as it makes them feel captivated. This can trigger a biological response similar to falling in love, increasing their heartbeat and adrenaline.

However, it should be used with caution as it may come across as arrogance if the other person is not attracted to you. To maintain attraction, continue eye contact, and only look away slowly and reluctantly. But, it’s important to avoid too much intensity as it may give off a negative impression.

Tune Into Their Body Language

We’ve covered how to use your body language to signal positive and welcoming messages to those you want to engage with. However, it’s also important to take initiative and approach others. With knowledge of nonverbal cues, you have an advantage in social situations.

You can identify who is approachable by their relaxed and open stance, and who is not by their guarded and fidgety behavior. Additionally, you can interpret how people feel about you during interactions by their level of engagement or avoidance, such as turning towards or away from you, or maintaining or avoiding eye contact.

Lowndes offers three ways to influence unapproachable or inattentive people to respond positively to you:

  1. Approach them anyway using the techniques discussed above and maintain a little distance to keep them at ease.
  2. Mirror their movements while maintaining an open posture and eye contact to show similarity in nature and put them at ease.
  3. Experiment with changing your tone or topic of conversation to trigger their interest and put them at ease, which will be reflected in their body language.

Part 2: Verbal Signals-Create Instant Rapport

To make your conversations more enjoyable, it’s essential to use the right verbal signals. Lowndes recommends four techniques to put your conversation partners at ease and make them feel liked.

Technique #1: Use and Take Notice of Visual Gimmicks

Lowndes recommends using something unique or interesting, such as a piece of jewelry or a colorful shirt, as a conversation starter. This will give others an excuse to approach you and give you something to discuss. It’s also helpful to pay attention to what others are wearing or carrying, so you can start a conversation by complimenting them and showing your interest in them.

Technique #2: Ask for Introductions

Lowndes recommends using mutual acquaintances to make introductions as an effective way to approach new people. Before the introduction, ask for some details about the person’s hobbies or interests to show your interest and start a conversation.

Get information from your contacts to identify a mutual interest as an icebreaker if they are too busy to introduce you. Then you can easily approach someone new by saying something like, “Hey, I was just talking to … and she told me that you …”

Technique #3: Prepare Stimulating Responses to Common Questions

Lowndes advises against giving simple fact-based responses to common questions like “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?” as it may not lead to engaging conversations. Instead, she suggests adding interesting facts, jokes, or observations to your responses that will stimulate a response from your conversation partner.

The type of response you give should depend on the social context and the person you’re talking to. For example, for casual conversations, keep your responses fun and general, while for networking purposes, highlight your work and relevant interests.

Technique #4: Research Interesting Things to Say in Advance

Lowndes provides four ways to prepare for interesting conversations:

  1. Know who will be there before accepting an invitation, so you can anticipate the topics of conversation.
  2. Keep up with the news to have common topics to discuss.
  3. Try new activities to broaden your interests and ability to connect with people.
  4. Expand your vocabulary by finding words that reflect your personality and make you sound more interesting.

Part 3: Verbal Signals-Encourage Meaningful Conversations

Lowndes suggests that building an emotional connection is key to moving beyond superficial conversations. An emotional connection is when people trust each other enough to reveal more about themselves, which can lead to more meaningful conversations.

Lowndes proposes four techniques to develop trust and establish an emotional connection.

Technique #1: Make Your Interest in Them Clear

Lowndes recommends two techniques to build trust and develop an emotional connection with your conversation partner. First, ask them questions about their interests and give them space to talk about themselves. Then, relate your own interests to theirs to show your genuine interest. Second, remember details about the person for future conversations, as it demonstrates that you’ve been paying attention to them and care enough to remember little details.

Technique #2: Present a Positive Image of Yourself

Lowndes suggests being cautious about revealing your flaws because it can have different effects depending on your status.

Technique #3: Maintain a Positive Image of Them

To make others feel comfortable and accepted, focus only on their positive qualities and avoid making jokes at their expense or pointing out their faults. This approach, according to Lowndes, shows that you appreciate and value them for who they are.

To build a deeper connection, focus on their positive qualities and avoid criticizing or joking at their expense. Compliment them sincerely by acknowledging their interests and qualities, which will make them feel valued and encourage them to open up further. For instance, you can say, “Your children are lucky to have you” when discussing parenthood with someone.

Technique #4: Foster Empathy Through Mirroring Techniques

According to Lowndes, people are more likely to reveal the truth about themselves to those who share similar traits, interests, and values. To encourage people to see you as similar to them, Lowndes recommends four tactics.

  • First, match their mood and tone to show empathy.
  • Second, echo their specific words to show shared values.
  • Third, use short empathetic statements that match their senses to show understanding.
  • Finally, use “we,” “us,” and “our” to imply friendship and create a feeling of connection and intimacy.

Studies show that using “we” and “us” can make you feel happier and calmer and help you express positive emotions.

Book Summary of Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss is a guide to negotiation theory and strategy that focuses on the importance of emotional intelligence. Voss argues that successful negotiation requires understanding and empathizing with the emotions of the other party in order to build trust and get them to let their guard down.

The Emotional Basis of Negotiation

Voss claims that understanding and addressing the emotional needs of feeling secure and in control is key to successful negotiations. By navigating these emotional truths, negotiators can uncover their counterpart’s real desires and fears.

Calculated Empathy: Make Them Feel Safe

Voss recommends using calculated empathy to understand your counterpart’s feelings and gain insight into their behavior. By doing so, you can create a sense of emotional safety, which is crucial to establishing a partnership rather than an adversarial relationship.

Voss shares five calculated empathy techniques: active listening, using the right tone, reflecting back, labeling emotions, and accusation audits. 

These techniques aim to build rapport with the other person by showing concern for their feelings, reflecting their speech patterns, and identifying and vocalizing their emotions. The use of accusation audits can trigger empathy in the other person by listing negative things they may think about you, making them want to reassure you that you’re not as bad as you’ve portrayed yourself. 

However, it’s important not to misuse this technique by deliberately mislabeling someone else’s perceptions of you.

Put Them in the Driver’s Seat

Voss suggests that apart from using calculated empathy to make your counterpart feel heard and secure, you also need to empower them by giving them control and autonomy in the situation. Essentially, you need to let them take the lead.

Open-Ended Questions

Voss suggests using open-ended “how” or “what” questions to give your counterpart a sense of control and autonomy. For instance, when faced with an unfavorable offer, asking “How am I supposed to do that?” prompts the other person to provide solutions to the problem. This approach puts your counterpart to work and can lead to more favorable outcomes in negotiations.

Getting the Right Responses

Voss suggests that after showing calculated empathy and putting your counterpart at ease, it’s important to elicit the proper responses from them. “Yes” is often seen as the fool’s gold of negotiation as it can be a false agreement used to end a conversation with someone being too aggressive. This results from our natural tendency to desire others to reciprocate, which causes us to comply with their wishes. In contrast, “No” is a powerful response that can lead to more productive negotiations as it helps clarify issues and can provide an opportunity to explore alternative solutions.

According to Voss, to get a genuine commitment from your counterpart during negotiations, you need to get them to say “no” rather than a false “yes.” Saying “no” gives them a sense of control and independence. Voss suggests asking questions that prompt negative answers to get to “no.” One approach to accomplish this is to purposefully name their feelings or desires incorrectly, which will make them correct you. Another strategy is to probe into their dislikes and give them the flexibility to define their boundaries and comfort zones.

“That’s Right”: Getting Affirmation From Your Counterpart

To summarize, after establishing trust with your counterpart, Voss suggests getting them to say “no” in order to get a real commitment, as it makes them feel in control. Once you have achieved this, you can move on to bringing them around to your perspective. When your counterpart says “that’s right,” it means they have come to embrace your position, and you can now use it to persuade them to your preferred course of action. Voss recommends summarizing their story in your own words to demonstrate that you understand their perspective and earn their respect.

Change Their Perspective

Voss says successful negotiations require understanding that people’s emotions drive their behavior and thoughts. To gain an advantage, you need to appeal to their need for security and autonomy. To do this, you must show them how helping you can satisfy their own desires.

Making Deadlines Work

Voss cautions that counterparts may exploit anxiety by using deadlines to pressure you into making a deal, but he says deadlines are often flexible and don’t have the dire consequences we fear. By not negotiating against yourself, you can use the deadline to your advantage and force your counterpart to accommodate your timeline.

Understand Cognitive Biases

Voss advises utilizing cognitive biases that shape our decision-making process. He focuses on the framing effect, which highlights how people react differently to identical choices based on presentation. For instance, marketing milk as “99% fat-free” rather than “1% fat” would likely appeal more to health-conscious consumers.

Ensure Implementation

Getting your counterpart to agree to your terms is just the beginning. The challenge now is how to ensure they follow through. To do this, you must secure their commitment and ensure implementation.

Use Open-Ended Questions to Give Your Counterpart Skin in the Game

Voss suggests using open-ended questions to keep your counterpart engaged and off-balance while also making them consider your position. This is important for ensuring implementation. Questions like “How can we make sure we follow through on what we’ve agreed on?” turn your counterpart into a partner in solving the problem.

Watch the Pronouns

Voss advises paying attention to your counterpart’s language and speech patterns to determine if they are truly involved in the decision-making process. A key indicator is their use of pronouns. The person in charge will typically use third-party pronouns like “we” instead of “I” or “me,” such as saying “We need to review internally before committing” instead of “I need to review internally.”

Spotting a Liar

When dealing with a deceitful counterpart, Voss warns that they may use complex sentences to distract you from their dishonesty. They also tend to use third-person pronouns instead of “I” or “me” to distance themselves from the lie psychologically.

How to Bargain

Voss asserts that negotiation involves more than offers and counteroffers and is influenced by both parties’ underlying goals and concerns. A successful negotiator must create an accurate psychological profile of their counterpart to better understand what they truly want.

The Three Types of Negotiator

Voss categorizes negotiators into three types: 

Givers, who are people-pleasers and poor time managers; Calculators, who are methodical and diligent, and less likely to be pressured by time constraints; and Aggressives, who are highly achievement-oriented, hate wasted time, and care deeply about meeting or beating deadlines.

Know Your Moves (and Your Counterpart’s)

Voss advises being well-prepared before a negotiation, regardless of the type of negotiator you’re dealing with. This means having a plan for open-ended questions, reflection, and labeling. When dealing with an experienced negotiator, there are also precise dodge-and-counterpunch techniques you might employ. You can utilize avoidance strategies like asking non-financial queries or switching to non-price terminology to block your rival’s “punches”.

Unknown Unknowns

Voss emphasizes the importance of having information in negotiations. According to him, negotiations are fundamentally about gathering information. However, some information is harder to get than others. Voss refers to the hidden pieces of information that can significantly change the outcome of a negotiation as “Black Swans.”

Unknown Unknowns: Black Swans

Voss emphasizes the significance of unknown unknowns, or the Black Swans, in negotiations. These are the pieces of information that are unknown to us, but once discovered, can significantly impact the negotiation. For example, learning that the seller of a house is under financial pressure can give you leverage to negotiate a heavily discounted offer. To find your counterpart’s Black Swan, Voss recommends getting face-time to pick up verbal and body language cues, as too much is lost through impersonal media like email.

Speaking Your Counterpart’s Language

Voss believes that Black Swans not only reveal critical information but also help us understand our counterpart’s worldview. By comprehending their perspective, we can communicate more effectively and avoid misinterpreting their actions as irrational.