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How well do you Emotionally Connect?

I enjoyed Seth Godin’s blog a week ago on “too much data leads to not enough belief.” His bottom line is, “relying too much on proof distracts you from the real mission – which is emotional connection.”

I have noticed in my fields of research and competitive intelligence that we have this tendency to drown our customers with data, and while they might be impressed that we dug up all this information, they usually don’t want the details. We also talk the language of competitive analysis, which most people don’t resonate with, and there is no emotional connection—since competitive intelligence is not the issue. Solving a business problem or uncovering and entering new markets or product development are the issues.

Companies pay competitive intelligence professionals to provide them with what’s relevant and to weed out all the excess, which is most of the information that’s out there. Most of the time your customers will connect if you put together a crisp set of information and persuasively articulate your findings, and include some analysis, if it adds clarity and persuasiveness to your recommendations.

But whoa, remember everyone that you’re addressing has a different communication style, and it’s really all about them and not about you. This is a guiding principal of cooperative communication a key element of cooperative intelligence. Some people do want the details, and not just access to them “later”. You better present them and be ready to be grilled since they will have questions! Companies need these type of people to bring balance to decision-making and to avoid being blindsided. Not everyone can or should be a visionary!

Cooperative communicators know that they’re talking for their audience not TO their audience. Their attitude and practice is to listen to their audience, and to query ahead of time about how to connect with the key issues and concerns of their audience (or clients), and in a way that will stick with them.

There is another problem with all that data: it’s historic. The reams of research are helpful however, if you’re trying to put together some scenarios, since you need to be pretty thorough in developing scenarios to include all the factors that might change the scenario, to observe the patterns in the marketplace, including the competition and to conclude with a scenario that you believe is the most likely.

You ultimately want to get out your crystal ball and forecast where the market is heading, right? And better yet, be visionary and LEAD the market!

Back to Mr. Godin: emotional connection is what happens when you engage people. That doesn’t happen with some myriad of facts and figures. It happens because they believe. How do you communicate to make them believe?


Integrate Emotional Intelligence & Selling into Competitive Intelligence

Colleen Stanley

Last week I attended a webinar to improve my selling skills led by Colleen Stanley, Founder and Chief Sales Officer of SalesLeadership, Inc. Effective selling will help competitive intelligence professionals, product management and researchers gain respect, cooperation and appreciation from internal peers. Since many of us have no reporting employees, selling yourself is even more important in this “new economy”.

People obtain more knowledge than ever through the Internet, so they may feel like they don’t need you to provide them competitive intelligence. Due to the recession more people want to see a visible ROI for your solution. This isn’t always possible in competitive intelligence, but be creative and you can develop an ROI solution often enough. People are more skeptical due to the scandals which triggered this recession so really don’t like to be pushed into decision-making–not that they ever did.

Find the pain points and match your communication style to the decision-makers and key influencers in the buying process. This works for every business function I can think of!

People who are optimistic outsell those who aren’t by 33%. When bad things happen they realize that this is just temporary and their self-talk reflects this as they expect positive outcomes since they’re happy. They often find humor when others would be dragged down by unfortunate circumstances or stress. They live with an attitude of gratitude. Optimism must be real: people will see right through you if it’s feigned.

To really be successful in selling, your prospect needs to admit that they have a problem, and identify what it is costing them. This outlook works very well in competitive intelligence. I often ask what it will cost if we do nothing. Sometimes there is a very low cost to do nothing, so it’s not important enough to fix compared to bigger problems where we can more readily measure the impact of success or failure.

I loved Colleen’s Principles of Expectation:
1. Can the Sales person pass the pop quiz test? Make sure all parties in the meeting clearly understand the objective of the meeting.
2. Is there a Mutual Fit? Is the solution we’re discussing mutually good for all parties?
3. Examine your Intention. Are you there to Impress or to Influence? Influencers are intent on understanding customer’s issues; impressing is just selling.

Sales people with high emotional intelligence outsell those with low EI. I think high EI benefits anyone.

Here are some tippers to improve your EI:
Improve your Self-Awareness. Most people don’t take enough downtime to be reflective and introspective to learn why they react a certain way to situations. Solitude triggers the right brain where creativity often kicks in.
Be Assertive: Express your feelings and ask questions without being aggressive or abusive. You have the right to ask for what you need to know to do your job whether sales, marketing, research or competitive intelligence.
Delayed Gratification is usually worth it: Look beyond the immediate. Adopt a long term outlook when selling as relationships are always in development. Be a planner and work on time management towards connection and building these relationships.

Combine these emotional intelligence practices and selling with the collection skill of elicitation and cooperative intelligence, and watch your effectiveness as a competitive intelligence professional soar!

Purposeful Cooperative Leadership in Competitive Intelligence

I was led to the Purposeful Leaderships’ blog, “Leading from the Heart” by Janna Rust earlier this week. Leading from the heart is a trait of cooperative intelligence, namely cooperative leadership as it rings of caring and authenticity.  Janna also discusses taking care of your reporting people by being there for them and listening. Another great point is to “be protective” of your reporting people and let them know you’re all on the same team.

So many things I read about leadership focus on “managing up”, that is impress your bosses. This often comes at the expense of managing your subordinates, who are doing the work! Yet it’s a delicate balance since your boss decides on your pay raise, can open a lot of doors, and often controls or influences budget moneys allocated to your projects. Whether with bosses, peers or subordinates, cooperative leadership is more about “them” and less about me.

In competitive intelligence and research, many of us don’t have any reporting people and report into another functional area of the company such as Sales, Marketing, Strategic Planning, Product Development or Research & Development. Often enough, they aren’t quite sure what to do with us.

Cooperative and purposeful leadership skills are all the more essential when you rely on other people to give you great information or intelligence who don’t report to you, and your boss perhaps views you as an outlier since competitive intelligence doesn’t quite fit into anyone’s area.

I spent a lot of time meeting with people and listening to their business problems as a competitive intelligence manager. I was really attuned to emotional intelligence as I dealt with my network of contacts and internal company customers and was sensitive to how they were motivated. I would attempt to match my communication style with theirs, including my body language. This was how I behaved whether dealing with peers, subordinates, my internal clients, my sources or my superiors.

I was protective of my sources, especially Sales. Everyone in marketing wanted Sales’ input into their projects. Over time I became the “unofficial” marketing liaison person to Sales. This almost eliminated the number of requests that went to Sales for quick turnaround corporate projects. I made it my business to have more interaction with Sales, and to let them know I reduced their work load, and appreciated that their time should be spent selling. This was the most purposeful leadership I had while at Verizon. I knew I needed to be cooperative in order to gain sales intelligence and customer’s input to be successful in competitive intelligence.

In what ways are you purposeful and cooperative in your leadership and management?

Cooperative Listening

Happy New Year! My intention during 2010 is to get better at listening generously to the people who cross my path whether friend or stranger. I hope this poem engages you to be all you can be in the New Year!

The Art of Life
The most precious Art I know of
Is the art of life.
It can be expressed without
Hammer, brush, banjo, pen or clay.
Yet whoever shares this art of life,
Brings a sparkle to other’s lives.
He sees and doesn’t draw;
She listens and hears, yet doesn’t sing or strum.
Theirs is the art of listening and caring,
Choosing to be present for friends and strangers alike.

This is the message behind cooperative intelligence, particularly cooperative connection and cooperative communication. Cooperative connectors value every connection they make with people, and the other person knows that they have the cooperative connector’s undivided attention. There is no multi-tasking or day dreaming while listening to another person’s woes or stories.

A cooperative communicator is a generous listener, not too caught up in his own life that he is waiting for the earliest opportunity to get in the next word without really listening to what the other person is saying. While a lack of good listening is a strong tendency in the American culture, I find it’s more relaxing and engaging to let the other person share what’s on her mind without interruption, while fully listening to what she’s saying: his words, her tone of voice, body language, and what she’s not saying that you might have expected.

Interestingly enough I have found that this ability to communicate cooperatively is invaluable in research, competitive intelligence and sales. In this hurried world we live in, if you just allow the other person to share what they know, they really appreciate this opportunity, whether it’s a scheduled interview, a sales call, a cold call or someone you meet at a trade show.  This dedicated listening engages me to think of creative questions and comments to keep the conversation flowing, which often uncovers valuable information I would never expected to learn. It’s also a lot of fun to listen and learn from others.

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