Book Summary of ‘Building A Story Brand’ by Donald Miller

Donald Miller has a simple and powerful message for us in Building A StoryBrand – that your customer should be the hero of the story, not your brand.

It’s a secret that the world’s most successful companies understand and Miller has boiled it down into an easy-to-follow, 7-step system you can use to grow your business.

Before we get into that system, let’s talk about why it’s so important to have exquisite clarity around your message.

The Importance of Message Clarity

Simply put, the more simple and clear a message is, the easier it is for the brain to digest.

Most people understand this intuitively, but seem to forget it when crafting their brand messaging. They don’t focus on the aspects of their offers that help people survive and thrive and they make their customers use too much energy figuring out what the offering is.

When a prospect comes to your website or looks at any of your marketing material, they should be able to figure out three things within the first 5 seconds: what you offer, how it will make their lives better and what they need to do in order to buy it.

The StoryBrand method solves this problem by focusing on telling a story, with your customer as the hero. As Miller points out, every great story follows a similar formula:

A CHARACTER who wants something encounters a PROBLEM before they can get it. At the peak of their despair, a GUIDE steps into their lives, gives them a PLAN and CALLS THEM TO ACTION. That action helps them avoid FAILURE and ends in a SUCCESS.

Let’s look at each of those things in turn.

Principle 1: The Customer is the Hero, Not Your Brand

The most important business challenge for you as a business leader is to define something simple and relevant to your customers and become known for delivering on that.

There are a few things you need to get right at this stage.

Open Up a Story Gap

The first thing that all great stories do is open up a gap between where the hero is right now and where they want to go. Once that happens, the brain starts working on filling in that gap. For instance, Jason Bourne wakes up with amnesia and we wonder whether or not he’ll figure out what happened to him.

When we define something that our prospects and customers want, you create a story gap in their mind with them wondering if you can fill the gap for them.

Choose a Single Focus

You’ve heard this before, but you can’t focus on multiple things. Your brand needs to be known for one story, and one story only.

Choose a Desire Relevant to Their Survival

It’s not enough to create any old desire, it needs to be something that is relevant to their survival, which these days means things like:

  • conserving financial resources;
  • considering time;
  • building social networks;
  • gaining status;
  • accumulating resources;
  • the innate desire to be generous; or
  • the desire for meaning.

Principle 2: Customers Buy Solutions To Internal Problems

All great stories include problems that the hero must overcome. When we clearly identify these problems we increase the customer’s interest in the story we are telling.

Every Story Needs a Villain

Every great story includes a villain that needs to be defeated. There are four characteristics of a great one:

  1. The villain should be a root problem. For instance, frustration isn’t a villain – the high taxes that make us frustrated, are.
  2. The villain should be relatable – your customers should immediately recognise it as something they hate.
  3. The villain should be singular – too many villains and a story falls apart.
  4. The villain should be real – don’t invent a villain that doesn’t exist.

The Three Levels of Conflict

In a story, a villain creates an external problem that causes the hero to experience an internal frustration, that is philosophically wrong.

The external problem is a physical and tangible problem the hero must overcome. The ticking time bomb planted by the villain in an action movie is a classic example.

The internal problem is where the magic happens. In most stories, the hero struggles with the question of whether or not they have what it takes to solve the external problem. This inner frustration is what people are truly motivated to solve. For instance, Miller tells us that Apple solves the inner frustration of being intimidated by computers.

The philosophical problem is all about the question why. Why does this story matter in the grand scheme of things? People want to be involved in a story that’s larger than themselves.

To sum up this step, you need to have figured out the following:

  • Is there a single villain you can stand against?
  • What problem is that villain causing?
  • How does that external problem make your customers feel?
  • Why is it unjust for people to have to suffer at the hands of this villain?

Principle 3: Customers Are Looking For A Guide

If the heroes in the story could solve their own problems, they wouldn’t ever get in trouble in the first place. That’s why they need a guide and how your brand can become the Yoda to your customer’s Luke SkyWalker.

Miller gives us a dire warning at this point – we either position the customer as the hero and the brand as the guide, or we die.

There are two things that you must do to position your brand as a guide.

Express Empathy

When we empathise with our customer’s dilemma, they feel like we understand them. Customers want to do business with brands that they feel they have something in common with.

Using phrases like “We understand how it feels to…” or “Nobody should have to experience…” or “Like you, we are frustrated by…” often gets to the root of this idea.

Demonstrate Authority

We want our guides to be likeable and to be like us, but we also want them to have experience helping other heroes conquer their challenges.

There are four easy ways to add authority to your marketing: testimonials (other people describing their success with your brand), statistics (how many people have you helped), awards (which work even if customers haven’t heard of the award), and logos (if you are in a B2B environment).

Principle 4: Customers Trust a Guide Who Has a Plan

Imagine your customers standing at the side of a rushing creek they want to cross. They hear a waterfall downstream and start to wonder what might happen if they fell in and went over the falls.

In order to help your customers feel confident in buying your solution, you need to place large stones in the creek that they can use to get across safely.

Basically, they need a step-by-step plan on how to use your product or service to solve their problem. There are two plans that you should consider creating.

The Process Plan

This is the plan that tells your customer how to buy your product, how to use your product, or both. These plans are about eliminating confusion.

How many steps should the process have? It varies, but Miller suggests that there is at least three, but no more than six.

The Agreement Plan

This is a list of agreements you make with your customers to help them overcome the fear of doing business with you.

The best way to do this is to list all the things that your customer might be concerned about around your product or service and then address each of those with an agreement that eliminates the fear.

Consider giving this plan a name so that it increases the perceived value of everything your brand offers.

Principle 5: Customers Do Not Take Action Unless The Are Challenged To Take Action

Quite simply, you need to ask your customer to take whatever action you need in order to advance the sale.

There are two different kinds of calls to action.

Direct Calls To Action

Direct calls to action include things like “buy now” or “schedule an appointment” – it’s the ultimate step you want them to take while they are on your website.

Miller suggests that you place a “Buy Now” button in the top right corner of your website and that you should repeat that above the fold and then again as people scroll down your website.

Transitional Calls To Action

These are the intermediary steps you can ask your customer to take before they purchase. They contain less risk for the customer and are usually free. Some examples include asking people to watch a webinar, download a pdf, or take a free trial.

They do three powerful things for your brand:

  • They stake a claim to your territory. If you want to be a leader in a certain territory, stake a claim before your competition beats you to it.
  • They create reciprocity. The more generous you are in giving away free information, the more likely your customers will be to purchase from you in the future.
  • They position your brand as the guide.

Principle 6: Every Human Being Is Trying To Avoid A Tragic Ending

Every great story includes what’s at stake. They always tell you the terrible things that will happen to the hero if they don’t succeed.

In your case, the question you need to answer is what the customer will lose if they don’t use your product or service. Most people struggle with this because they don’t want to be perceived as a fear monger, but the reality is that 99.9 percent of brands don’t focus on the negative stakes enough.

As Miller points out, it’s a delicate balance. Ratchet up the fear factor too high and people start to block out the fear. Too little and there’s no motivation to solve the problem.

This part of the process asks you to identify the top few things that your customers should be trying to avoid.

For instance, if you were a used car business you might consider using the fears of (a) getting ripped off by a used car salesman, (b) being stuck with a lemon and (c) feeling taken advantage of.

Principle 7: Never Assume People Understand How Your Brand Can Change Their Lives. Tell Them

The ending to the story should be specific and clear. You need to make it crystal clear what your customers lives will be like if they use your product or service.

There are three main ways that storytellers end a story.

Winning Power and Position (The Need for Status)

If your brand can help your customer more esteemed and respected and appealing in a social context, you are offering something they want. Brands like Mercedes and Rolex sell status as much as they do luxury.

Union That Makes The Hero Whole (The Need for Something External to Create Completeness)

The idea here is that the hero is rescued by somebody or something else that they needed in order to be made complete. Things that fall into this category include a reduced workload (your tool helps them do more with less) and more time (your tool helps them “fit it all in”).

Ultimate Self-Realisation or Acceptance (The Need to Reach Our Potential)

We all feel the need to reach our potential. At the core of this need is the desire for self-acceptance. Some of the ways you can do this include inspiration (connecting your brand to inspirational feats), acceptance (helping people accept themselves as they are) and transcendence (inviting customers to participate in a movement).


The process of creating a StoryBrand is simple, but it’s not easy. However, in the end, it’s worth its weight in gold.

Clearly communicating how your company can participate in the transformation of your customer not only helps you sell more to everybody who hears about you, it also helps you create brand evangelists.

And that is the most powerful marketing tool of all. Until next time…

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing/ business prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. I will cover all start up costs for the right person. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

Book Summary of ‘The Cilantro Diaries’ by Lorenzo Gomez

Lorenzo Gomez started off his career stocking vegetables in a grocery chain in south Texas. The path between where he started and where he is today – the Chairman of both the largest co-working space in Texas and the 80/20 Foundation – is littered with golden nuggets that any new graduate would be smart to pick up and use.

Join me as I explore the 12 main principles Gomez learned along the way.

Section 1: Creating Your Personal Board of Directors

The first three principles are about assembling what Gomez calls your own Personal Board of Directors.

Gomez learned the concept of a board of directors while he was at the company Rackspace – a multi-billion dollar web hosting company.

He was working for incredibly smart and accomplished people, including the chairman of Rackspace Graham Weston. When Gomez – only a few years removed from stacking groceries – learned that even Weston reported to a board of directors, he says it was like unlocking a bonus level of a video game.

In the same way a successful company has a board of directors looking out for its best interests, you can have a personal board of directors looking out for you.

Principle I: Your Deputies Love You

There are many reasons that a personal board of directors is important to your success.

First and foremost, you want multiple people on your board because no one person can fill all the roles you need in your life – not even your wife or favourite parent.

Second, we crave community and closeness as human beings. Having people you can open up to creates a structure in your life that otherwise you’d be unable to tap. People often say to leaders that it’s lonely at the top. When you start your career, you are going to learn that it’s lonely everywhere.

Third, your board of directors will be there to help you make better decisions, and see the things that you would otherwise miss.

What Kind of People Make the Best Board Members?

There are three things that you’ll want to consider when choosing your board members.

First, you want to surround yourself with people who have your best interests at heart. This goes double for your board members.

Second, you’ll want to choose people who have expertise in the areas you lack. You want people who can give you different perspectives than you’d otherwise have on your own.

Third, you also want to choose people who accept who you are as a person. Remember, you need the social-emotional support of your board members as much as you need their expertise.

Principle II: Who You Hang Out with Matters

You’ve probably heard the Jim Rohn saying that “we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.”

So, just as you need to choose your personal board of directors carefully, you also have to choose your friends and mentors carefully.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to break up with friends who are no longer good influences on your life and career.

Principle III: Crushes Are Not Mentors

Another important type of person you’ll want in your life is a mentor. A mentor is somebody who (a) has domain expertise that you want to develop, (b) is willing to share that expertise with you, and (c) believes in your potential.

As you start your career, you’ll need to avoid the trap of thinking of “crushes” as mentors. Being cool, popular, or any other quality that isn’t related to expertise in a field that will help you in your career, does’t count.

Most importantly, mentors are people who have considerable experience in their fields and can teach you things that you wouldn’t be able to learn in a textbook.

Section 2: Understanding How Business Works

Now that we’ve covered how important it is to surround yourself with good people, let’s move on to some truths about the business world that they won’t teach you in school.

Principle IV: It’s Not What You Know, but Who

Gomez recounts the time when he got one of his first jobs strictly by trading on the social currency his brother had built up as a hard worker.

Many times in life you will be afforded opportunities strictly because of the people you know and who will vouch for you.

It’s not what you know, but who you know that matters. This is even more true these days because companies are putting even more emphasis on hiring people with high emotional intelligence and work ethic, knowing that anybody can be taught the technical skills required to be successful.

This has a few implications, but none are more important than understanding that you need to build a good reputation.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to associate yourself with A-players. When you are in a new job or role, find out who the A-players are, and then learn their tricks and associate with them.

Principle V: Stand Out from the Competition

If you are just starting out in your career, and you don’t have a reputation yet, all is not lost.

As Steve Martin once implored us, you need to “be so good they can’t ignore you.”

There are a few things you can start working on today to stand out from the competition.

First, you can specialise in a few skills. If you can become the go-to person in your office or professional network for an in-demand skill, you’ll start to earn a reputation.

Second, you can do things that differentiate you from the other people around you. Gomez tells the story of how he started to stack the lettuce as a pyramid while working at the grocery store. People started to notice the little things he did that went above and beyond and sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference.

Third, always look for a job that is close to the customer. That’s because the further away you are from the customer, the more expendable your job will be – especially in hard times. If you ever get offered a job that seems too fun or too good to be true, find a way to turn it down.

Principle VI: Dance with the One Who Brought You

When you join a business, you’ll learn that in many ways it’s a lot like high school. Choosing which clique you are going to join will be in your career network forever.

As Gomez points out, loyalty is the glue that holds networks together and can often be the catalyst to open new doors in your career. In short, loyalty is a word you need to get comfortable with if you want a long and successful career.

Carefully consider the cost of your loyalty. What does somebody need to do in order to earn it? Once you’ve determined the answer, don’t compromise.

At some point in your career, your loyalty is likely to be tested in the form of a job offer to leave your current role for more money. Unless you need the extra income because of extraordinary circumstances in your life, job hopping for more money isn’t a good career move. Especially if your current boss spent some of their reputation currency to bring you aboard.

The right time to leave is when you find an opportunity that will teach you new skills that you can’t acquire at your current place of employment.

Principle VII: No Man Is an Island

As Gomez explains, there’s a lie that we see in all business success stories – that behind every epically successful business, one person did it all.

That’s just not true. Not for Apple or Facebook, and certainly not for you. In order to succeed in your career, you need to learn how to work on a team.

The first job you have when joining a new team is figuring out what you bring to the table beyond what’s on your job description. Find as many ways as possible to make yourself useful to your team and you’ll eventually be accepted.

The next thing you need to do when you join a team is to figure out its social contract. These are the unspoken rules that govern the conduct of the team. For instance, at Rackspace Gomez quickly learned that if you wanted help from the engineering team, you needed to ask nicely.

Violating these unspoken agreements will cause you to be rejected like the human body rejects an organ transplant.

Section 3 – Living In The Real World

The real world doesn’t operate like the school world, and there are some things that your teachers won’t teach you.

What follows are some of the things that you’ll be wise to learn before you learn them the hard way.

Principle VIII: Have a Servant’s Heart

Having a servant’s heart means wanting to help people. In the context of your career, this means helping your customers. There are a couple baselines for having a servant’s heart.

First, always give the customer what they pay for.

Second, remember that it doesn’t cost anything to smile. Serving your customers with a smile on your face goes a long way.

Third, move with a sense of urgency. Moving swiftly with a sense of purpose is the fastest way to show a customer you have a servant’s heart.

Principle IX: Everyone’s in Sales

Gomez tells the story of listening to Graham Weston deliver a speech to the graduating class at Texas A&M where he said:

“Everybody’s in sales. Whether you know it or not, even if you aren’t selling a product, you have to sell yourself and your ideas.”

It’s a great principle that holds true in business and life. There are a few keys to making this work for you in your career.

First, think service first, and sales second. You’ll always be better at selling your products, ideas and yourself by doing it this way.

Second, never sell an idea with “I think.” The surest way to kill all of your persuasive powers is to convey any doubt in your pitch.

Third, understand the power of story. As human beings, we are wired to listen and respond to stories. Always use a story to set up your pitch.

Principle X: Don’t Spend What You Earn

The last thing you want to worry about as you are building your career or business is your personal finances.

There are a couple of surefire ways to create this unneeded stress in your life.

The first is to spend all of what you earn. When you start making your first real paycheck, you’ll be tempted to start spending lavishly. Gomez recounts the story of him going out and buying a sports car after his first big raise at Rackspace. Don’t do that.

The second is to lend money to the people you are closest to. If you are going to give money to friends and family, always do it with no strings attached. You will almost never get paid back and the stress it will cause in your relationships isn’t worth the hassle.

Avoid those two things like the plague and you’ll be off to a good start.

Principle XI: You Can Only Control Your Attitude

Things will go wrong in your business and your life. There’s no way to avoid it, but what you can do is control your attitude when it happens.

Gomez makes that point that he’s failed at this principle more than he’s succeeded, but the times he’s succeeded have been some of the best times in his work life. When he’s failed, they have been some of his worst.

A specific way to control your attitude is through the practice of humility. The essence of humility, Gomez says, is genuine interest in others. Taking a genuine interest in other people is a choice that you get to make on a daily basis.

Principle XII: When to Be the Boss

There will come a point in your career where you’ve developed enough skills and experience that you will start to think about starting your own company. The fact that there are significant ups and downs in every career will only amplify these thoughts.

This is an incredibly difficult choice.

Sometimes the right choice is to suck it up and stick with your job. The odds are stacked against your new business succeeding and even the ones that do succeed struggle far more than you’ll ever know from the outside.

However, if you know that deep down that you won’t be able to look yourself in the mirror if you don’t give it a shot, that’s the time to quit your job and become your own boss.

I remember when I reached that point. Interested to hear from others who also took the decision to start their own business and how it’s gone.

P.S I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing/ business prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. I will cover all start up costs for the right person. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

Book Summary of ‘Confessions of The Pricing Man’​ by Hermann Simon

Peter Drucker once said the following:

“Profit is a condition of survival. It is the cost of the future, the cost of staying in business.”

As you’ll learn in the following 12 minutes, pricing is one of, if not the most, important driver of profits. Yet it receives very little attention.

Hermann Simon, one of the world’s most foremost experts on pricing, wants you to change that. He makes a very compelling case.

As he points out early in the book, excellent pricing drives profits and profits are what your business needs to survive.

What Price Actually Means

Simon has been asked thousands of times over the years what the most important aspect of pricing actually is.

If he needs to give a one word answer, he says that pricing is “value.” If he needs to elaborate, he says that pricing is “value to the customer.”

In essence, he is saying that the price a customer is willing to pay and thus the price a company can and should charge, is always a reflection of the perceived value of the product or service in the customer’s eyes.

This means that managers and business leaders essentially have 3 main tasks as it relates to price:

  1. Create value. This is where product creation and innovation come in.
  2. Communicate value. This is how you influence your customer’s perception of the value you create. It includes your unique selling proposition and your brand.
  3. Retain value. This is about what happens after the customer buys your product or service. Expectations about how long value will last (and your ability to deliver on that expectation) has an outsized influence on your customer’s willingness to pay the price you’ve set.

The Relationship Between Price And Profits

Most people know that if you increased your price and volume stayed the same, your profits would go up, but most people (including some really smart business people) don’t know just how much it could impact their bottom line.

Most companies in the world operate at margins that are between 1% and 3%. An industrial company with margins above 10% would be far above average. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule like Apple, but even their net margin stood at 21.6%. To drive the point home that most businesses are not like Apple, Simon points out that if the average company were as profitable as Apple, we’d live in a utopia beyond our ability to imagine.

To give you a concrete example, if Sony raised their prices across the board by 2% without seeing any drops in volume, it’s profits would increase by 236%. Walmart’s profits would increase by 41.4% with the same 2% increase in price.

While you’ll have to run the numbers for your own business to see what the impact might be, it’s clear that price is one of the most powerful tools you have at your disposal to make more money.

Most people look to improve their marketing and sales efforts when they want to increase their bottom line. Pricing has two advantages over sales and marketing:

  • Price changes usually can be implemented very quickly. Developing a new advertising campaign and waiting for it to have the effect you are looking for could take months or even years.
  • Price is the only revenue driver that you can employ with no upfront investment.

Different Ways To Set Prices

There are 3 different approaches you can use to set prices. One of them is the right way.

Using Costs to Set Prices

Many people use a “cost-plus” approach to setting their prices. There are a number of problems with this approach, even though it sounds like a reasonable thing to do. Here are two of them.

First, it has nothing to do with your customer’s willingness to pay. Second, even if it did, your customers don’t know what your costs are, so they couldn’t make their decision that way even if they wanted to.

Following The Competition

This means that you set your prices based on what your competitors do. This also sounds like a reasonable approach and is probably the easiest path to take, but it also has a number of problems associated with it. The most important being that it’s almost never the best way to set prices to optimise profits.

Market-Based Price Setting

The third and best approach to setting your prices is to take the market-based approach. This means understanding what your demand curve looks like, which is like a graph that shows the number of sales you would make at various prices, with volume on the Y axis and the price on the X axis.

In general, when the price goes up the volume goes down and vice versa. The goal with the demand curve is to find the price where you maximise revenue and profit.

There are four ways you can go out doing this:

  • Use your expert judgement. You can start to get a handle on your demand curve by asking yourself and your team how much volume you would lose if you increased your prices by 10%. Keep asking for different increases or decreases and you’ll end up with an approximation of your demand curve which will help you make pricing decisions.
  • Ask your customers directly. This would be a more accurate way to do it and you could use your email newsletter and a simple survey to accumulate large numbers of answers. However, be careful with this approach because just asking the question usually makes customers more sensitive to price.
  • Ask your customers indirectly. In the pricing field, an approach called conjoint measurement was created to get customers to make tradeoffs between price and value. They are shown many variations of products and price and are asked to rank order their preferences. You’ll probably want to hire an expert like Simon if you dig into this level of detail.
  • Use price tests. This is the most accurate way to get your answers because all of the other approaches are thought experiments. As behavioural science tells us, there is a large gap between what people say they will do and what they will actually do. Luckily, digital technology makes it fairly easy to run A/B tests and find out the actual answer to “how much does demand rise/fall based on different price points?”

Should You Price High or Low

Once you’ve determined your demand curve and how much people are willing to pay for your products/services today, it’s time to make a decision: which pricing approach is the best for you to take moving forward.

There are 3 main categories to choose from.

Low Price Strategy

This is where you price your product as low as possible to capture as much volume as you can. Thus, the focus of your business is around driving down the cost to produce your products and creating efficiencies.

You probably already know this, but there is only room for a couple of low-priced players in any market. If you are going to choose this approach and be successful with it, here are the factors that will help you do so:

  1. Begin with a low-price strategy from day one. Many times it requires a new and innovative business model.
  2. Be extremely efficient in managing both costs and processes.
  3. Guarantee adequate and consistent quality.
  4. Focus on your core product and don’t do anything that isn’t absolutely required by the customer.
  5. Have a high-growth and high-revenue focus. You’ll need to make up your lack of margin with volume. Economies of scale are your friend.
  6. Be tough and forceful in your purchasing.
  7. Have little debt. Instead, rely on self-financing or supplier credit.
  8. Exercise strong control over the entire value chain.
  9. Focus your ads on price.
  10. Don’t mix your messages: Almost all of the successful “low price–high profit” companies stick to an “everyday low price” strategy.
  11. Understand your role. Most markets have room for only a small number of “low price–high profit” competitors, often just one or two.

Luxury Goods Pricing

On the other end of the spectrum are luxury goods pricing companies. This is where there is little connection between the cost of production and the prices you set.

If you are going to choose this approach and be successful with it, here are the factors that will help you do so:

  1. Ensure your product delivers the highest level of performance. This goes for every dimension of your business, including the materials you use to the way you distribute your product.
  2. Ensure your product can deliver the prestige effect.
  3. Set your prices high because price is a quality indicator for luxury goods – the more it costs the more it must be worth.
  4. Keep your volume and market share within strict limits. If “everybody” has your product, you’ve lost the luxury game.
  5. Avoid discounts and special offers like the plague.
  6. Hire top talent in every part of your business. Every employee is an extension of your brand.
  7. Keep control of the value chain. There’s no room for B players.
  8. Understand that the primary factor in price setting is the customers’ willingness to pay. There is little or no connection to the “value for money” equation.

Premium Price Strategy

Finally we have the premium pricing strategy. This is where there is a direct connection between the value you deliver and the prices you set. This is where you try and create the optimal value in your market place and share some of that value with the customer.

In other words, you create a product that generates more value for your customers than the competition’s product and thus also charge a higher price.

While it’s almost impossible to give a general answer to the question of how much more a premium price is to a “normal” price, there are a number of considerations to keep in mind as you pursue a premium price strategy:

  1. You must provide superior value.
  2. The price to value relationship is your competitive advantage, unlike low-cost or luxury where the price is the deciding factor.
  3. Innovation is the foundation of your growth – you must continuously be searching out new value.
  4. Creating a consistently high level of product and service quality is a must.
  5. A strong brand is a must. Your customers need to understand what you stand for.
  6. A strong communication program is a must. Your consumers need to hear your story if they are going to understand your differentiated value.
  7. Shy away from special offers. Premium pricers offer discounts very infrequently.

Which price strategy is best for you?

For most companies the best strategy for creating strong profits is to use a premium pricing strategy. There’s certainly room for a couple of low-price and luxury producers in every market, but the high percentage play is to choose the premium route.

Specific Pricing Situations Explained

Now that we’ve covered pricing in general, let’s move on to some of the more specific applications and how to drive the profit needle even further.

Price Differentiation

Sometimes it makes sense to create different prices for different people, or for different situations. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Price bundling: you can often maximise profit by packaging together several products and charging a total price less than the sum of the individual products. If you’ve bought a car recently, you’ve seen this in action.
  • Price unbundling: in some situations it might make sense to do the reverse – unbundle what used to be packages into separate product lines.
  • Volume discounts: there are two ways to give volume discounts – one where the discount applies to the entire volume purchased and another where the discount applies to the incremental volume. The incremental approach almost always leads to higher volume.
  • Skimming: this is where you decrease the price of a previous version of your product when you release a newer version. Apple has used this approach with great success.

Pricing In Crises

Often times you’ll find yourself in a crisis where you need to make price cuts in order to survive. If you do, make sure you do it intelligently by keeping the following in mind:

  • make sure you use price-oriented advertising and additional communication to drive the desired increase in volume;
  • consider offering additional goods or services instead of lowering prices;
  • consider that maybe an increase in price is the right approach, like Panera successfully did in the 2008 financial crisis.

I hope you found this useful and please write me a review if you have any specific topics you would like me to write about.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing/ business prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. I will cover all start up costs for the right person. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

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Book Summary of ‘The Art of Possibility’​ by Benjamin Zander

Benjamin Zander is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic and is one of the most passionate communicators you’ll ever meet. Watch his TED talk on the power of classical music if you haven’t already.

His wife, Rosamund Zander, is a psychotherapist who is a genius in creating distinctions that create change in people’s personal and professional lives.

Together, they’ve written a book that will show you the power of possibility to create changes in yourself and others that you previously thought impossible.

Let’s explore the 12 practices for creating possibility.

Practice 1: It’s All Invented

You’ve likely heard the parable before, but it bears repeating:

A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to a region of Africa to study the prospects for expanding business. One sends back a telegram saying,


The other writes back triumphantly,


Basically, there are the facts and then there is the story we make up about the facts. We do this without noticing and our minds have a very hard time figuring out the difference between the two.

If the stories we make up about the facts are invented anyways, Zander suggests, shouldn’t we invent a story or frame of mind that enhances our lives and the lives of people around us?

When you come to this realisation, things start to change. You can become more creative. Solutions to problems that previous seemed unsolvable suddenly appear.

Ask yourself the following question:

What assumption am I making, that I’m not aware I’m making, that gives me what I see?

And when you’ve answered that one, ask yourself the following:

What might I now invent, that I haven’t yet invented, that would give me other choices?

Practice 2: Stepping into a Universe of Possibility

Most people – almost everybody – wakes up in the morning with the unnoticed assumption that life is about the struggle to survive and that we need to get ahead in a world of limited resources. A world where success is measured in dollars and cents and other people’s definitions of success.

The alternative is to approach your business and life with the spirit of abundance. Where your approach to life is generous, inclusive and you engage the people surrounding you with your passion for life.

Here’s the major difference between the two world views. In the measurement world, you set goals and set out to achieve them. In the universe of possibility, you set the context and let life unfold.

Careful not to jump to the conclusion that this is a recipe for failure. As Zander points out, you are much more likely to achieve the traditional measures of success in the world of possibility than you are in the world of measurement, because you are focussed more on what “could be” rather than focussing on what you “don’t have.”

Ask yourself the following question:

How are my thoughts and actions, in this moment, reflections of the measurement world?

Practice 3: Giving An A

This practice is best explained by example.

When Ben Zander is teaching a class at the New England Conservatory of Music, he finds that his students carry a lot of stress and anxiety about their performances. Most of it due to their worry about their grades.

When you are teaching a class where creativity and being in the moment are key, that stress gets in the way. Big time.

So, to remove the stress, Zander gives everybody in the class an A before the semester even begins. In order to keep the A grade, the simply have to write a letter to him by the end of the semester detailing what they had done to earn the A, how they had grown throughout the year and what kind of person they had become.

For the students, this was transformative. They now had a bright future to live into, causing them to grow and develop in ways that they never thought possible.

This is kind of like the principle from How To Win Friends and Influence People – give people a fine reputation to live up to, but with a twist. As Zander says, this is not an expectation to live up to, it’s a possibility to live into.

Here’s the best part – you can do this with anybody in your life – including yourself. So give yourself an A. Give that coffee barista an A. Give your boss an A. And see them suddenly start acting like it.

Practice 4: Being a Contribution

Zander starts off this practice by describing the story of a young girl throwing previously stranded starfish back into the sea. A man walking down the beach stops to mock her by pointing out that the beach is littered with them and asks her what difference her efforts could possibly make.

Smiling, she says that “it certainly makes a difference to this one.”

Just as this girl invented a story where she was a contribution to the world, so too must we if we want to live in the world of possibility.

This practice, Zander says, involves inventing oneself as a contribution and others as well.

There are two steps:

  1. Declare yourself to be a contribution.
  2. Dive into life as somebody who makes a difference, with the realisation that you may not understand how or why right at this moment.

What this does is create a shift in our thinking – away from self-concern and towards a relationship with others. That’s where you are called to make a difference.

Practice 5: Leading from Any Chair

The conductor is not the only leader of an orchestra. No matter which chair you are in, in an orchestra or in a company, you can make a difference as a leader.

How do you do this?

As Zander points out, there are many ways to lead. You can energise the rest of the orchestra by showing your newfound appreciation for the tasks of the conductor. Or you can, almost immediately, change your mind about somebody and view them as somebody who desires to be a contribution.

There’s a quote from a student at the Walnut Hill School in the book that I think summarises this practice best:

“Today was exceptional in that I learned leadership is not a responsibility – nobody has to lead. It’s a gift, shining silver, that reminds people huddled nearby why each shimmering moment matters. It’s in the eyes, the voice, this swelling song that warms up from the toes and tingles with endless possibilities. Things change when you care enough to grab whatever you love, and give it everything.” Amanda Burr

Practice 6: Rule Number 6

This practice is very straightforward: Don’t take yourself so g–damn seriously.

Or, in other words, lighten up a bit. When you do, it releases yourself from your ego and all of your self-limiting beliefs.

Even better, you’ll find that if you put this practice into play, many of the other people in your life will start to do the same.

In the process, your true self (what the Zanders call the ‘central self’) comes out, and the world seems to be a lot more cooperative with your demands.

Principle 7: The Way Things Are

This practice is all about being present to your reality.

Most people approach their reality in one of two ways.

Some people practice accepting things they way they are. This is a resigned state that leaves you powerless to take action and change your circumstances.

Some other people try and achieve some higher plane of existence so that they can transcend negativity. This is simply ignoring the way things are, which also leaves you powerless to take action and change your circumstances.

There is a third way, and that is being present to the way things are, including your feelings about the way things are.

This practice is a search for reality, and it requires us to distinguish between our assumptions, our feelings and the facts.

There are three questions to ask yourself in this practice:

  1. What is here now?
  2. What else is here now?
  3. What do I want to do from here?

What this does is create the conditions for possibility. You can imagine multiple solutions to your problem, which is ultimately the only way you are going to change your circumstances.

Practice 8: Giving Way To Passion

In his wonderful TED talk, Ben Zander tells the story of the “two buttock” player. He noticed that one of his students sat straight as a rod on his piano stool, seemingly more concerned with his posture than the music he was playing.

Zander encouraged him to become a “one buttock” player, where the wave of music would flow through him, causing him to sway and eventually lift one buttock off of the piano stool.

This is a perfect metaphor for our lives. Most of us (including me) are far too concerned with how we look than letting ourselves go in the moment.

Here’s the key – most people are attracted to people with a zeal for life. This type of passion is contagious. There’s a voice in your head telling you that other people will think you are crazy for being a “one buttock person,” when in reality you’ll find that people will want to follow you wherever you go.

There are two steps to this practice.

  1. Notice where you are holding back, and let go of the barriers that keep you separate and in control. Let the passion surge through you.
  2. Participate wholly.

You’ll be amazed at the possibilities that show up in your life when you do.

Practice 9: Lighting a Spark

This practice is all about helping others find their passion and creating possibilities in their lives.

Sometimes, people will say no to your crazy ideas, no matter how much passion you put into your communication.

This practice has four steps:

  1. Imagine that people are an invitation for enrollment. People want to believe in possibilities – imagine that they are inviting you to enrol them.
  2. Be ready to participate – willing to be moved and inspired.
  3. Offer what lights you up.
  4. Believe that others are eager to catch the spark.

Practice 10: Being the Board

This practice involves taking 100% responsibility for everything that happens in your life.

The Zanders suggest that we declare “I am the framework for everything that happens in my life.”

This approach is much different than the one that most of us take most of the time – to decide who is to blame for our bad circumstances.

Instead, the question we want to ask ourselves is “how is it that I have become a context for that to occur?”

Ignoring the awkward language, the idea here is simple – the only thing you can control in any situation is yourself. By eliminating the automatic reaction of focussing on things and people outside your control – which offer no hope of possibility – you focus on yourself which immediately opens up new possibilities to change your circumstances.

The metaphor here is that rather than viewing yourself as a piece on a chess board, you view yourself as the board itself.

It’s a powerful approach to life.

Principle 11: Creating Frameworks For Possibility.

This practice is about setting frameworks that create environments that create possibility.

The Zanders quote Martin Luther’s “I have a dream” speech to set the tone.

Dr. King was creating a world of possibility for the millions of people who would hear his message.

Your role as a leader is to do the same – to create a framework of possibility that those around you want to help create.

There are three steps to this practice:

  1. Make a new distinction in the realm of possibility. For Dr. King it was “equality of opportunity… of a land where men no longer argue that the color of a man’s skin determines the content of his character,” among other things. What world of possibility are you opening for people around you?
  2. Enter the territory. Embody the person you would need to be if that possibility were true, today.
  3. Keep the possibility alive by continually distinguishing what is on and off track.

Principle 12: Telling the “We” Story

This principle is all about moving from “us and them” to “we.”

As the Zanders point out, history is basically one long record of conflict between an Us and a Them. Nation against nation, one political party against another, labour against management and so on.

However, in almost any situation, we have more in common than we do differences and when you focus on the WE, things immediately change and new possibilities emerge.

So ask yourself questions like:

  • What do WE want to have happen here?
  • What is best for US?
  • What is OUR next step?

Make that your default stance and you will be living in a world of abundance and possibility.

Hope you enjoyed this week’s book summary. As always leave me a comment if you did.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing/ business prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. I will cover all start up costs for the right person. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

Book Summary of ‘PsychoCybernetics’​ by Maxwell Maltz

Maxwell Maltz was a plastic surgeon. As he was treating his patients, he noticed something very interesting.

Many of his patients left his care not only with a new face, but a new life. Suddenly, with a scar removed or a facial feature changed, their entire personality changed. Immediately.

Other patients he treated showed no change in personality at all. They continued to feel inadequate, and continued to act and behave as though they still had an “ugly” face.

It was if, Maltz recounts, as if personality itself had a “face.” As he began to research this, he uncovered what would later form the outline of this book.

Join me for the next 10 minutes as I take a look at how self-image is the key to your potential in your business and in your life.


Maltz tells us that one of the most important discoveries of this century is the discovery of the “self-image.” It’s the mental blueprint we carry around of ourselves – your belief of “the kind of person” you are.

It’s something you might not even be consciously aware of, but it directs your every waking thought and action.

Most of these beliefs come from our past experiences. Our successes and failures over time build up a detailed picture of who we think we are, and then, on day, we treat it as fact.

There are two things about your self-image that are important to understand.

First, all of your actions, feelings, and behaviour are consistent with your self-image. You will always act like the person you believe yourself to be.

Second, your self-image can be changed. And as soon as you change it, you can have a new life.

Your Creative Mechanism

Maltz suggests that we each have something inside us he calls a Creative Mechanism. It’s a goal-striving machine that works automatically and impersonally to achieve whatever goals you put in front of it.

The most powerful thing it works on, without you even knowing it, are the mental pictures you present it. Which means that the key goal of this mechanism is to fulfill whatever self-image you have of yourself.

Tell yourself you are a failure and this mechanism will get to work to make sure you are a failure. Tell yourself you are a success and it will get to work to make sure you are a success.

Here is the key idea from the entire book: your self-image prescribes “the area of the possible.” You can only achieve in your life what you believe you can achieve.

This is one of those blatantly obvious statements that also has the ability to completely change your mindset about something.

The rest of the book is about how to change your self image, so you can enlarge your area of possibility and thus change your life.

The Success Mechanism

The first insight into the “success mechanism” is that it is something that you use, not something that happens to you. You have control over what you direct it to do.

There are 5 basic principles you need to understand about it how it works.

  1. It must have a goal or a target. It operates by steering you toward a goal that is already in existence.
  2. It operates on end goals, regardless of whether or not you have the means already figured out.
  3. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Much like a torpedo finds its target by making hundreds of small adjustments along the way, so will you in the pursuit of your goals.
  4. Success is achieved by keeping what works and getting rid of what doesn’t. Remembering your past successes and forgetting your past errors keeps you pointed in the right direction.
  5. You need to figure out how to let your mechanism do its work and not force it by too much conscious effort.

Imagination and Success

If you are in control of the thoughts you bring to mind, the thoughts you bring to mind determine your self image and your self image determines what is possible for you to do, it follows that you are in completely control over your destiny. Or at least in what is possible for you to accomplish.

That’s because you will always act and fee in accordance to what you believe to be true about yourself and your environment.

Science now knows that there is very little difference between an imagined experience and a real experience. To your mind, they are one and the same.

So, Maltz challenges us, if what we imagine to be true can ultimately drive what believe to be true, why not just imagine yourself being successful?

Multiple studies have shown that people who mentally rehearse themselves successfully completing an action (like free throws in basketball) ultimately end up performing at the same level as people who have actually practiced.

Here’s the point – until you can literally see yourself achieving your goal in your mind, you won’t allow yourself to do what is necessary in order to achieve it. You need to see it to believe it.

This is why visualising success is so important. You are literally changing your self image in the process, which changes your behaviours and actions, which ultimately is the only thing that’s going to get you from where you are today to where you want to go.

Dehypnotise Yourself from False Beliefs

Whether you like it or not, life is full of failures. How you deal with them makes all the difference.

You can either learn from your failures or you can let them define you. Along the way, it’s likely that you’ve picked up some negative beliefs about yourself because of your past failures.

That generates, in one way or another, a feeling of inferiority in those areas of your life. It’s important to note that there’s a distinction between inferiority (which implies a truth about you) and the feeling of inferiority (which does not).

The problem, Maltz suggests, is that we constantly compare ourselves to somebody else’s “norm” and when we do that, we always come out second best.

Here’s the insight – you are not inferior, any more than you are superior. You are simply you. There is nobody else on this planet that is in your exact circumstances, in the same stage of life, with the same surroundings, as you and as Jordan Peterson suggests in 12 Rules for Living (see one of my earlier book summaries), the only reasonable bar to hold yourself to account to is the one you set yesterday.

The key to letting go of your negative beliefs about yourself is that you do it without effort. Any effort you make resisting a negative belief only serves to reinforce it. You simply need to “let it go” and replace the old belief with a new one.

The Power of Rational Thinking

There’s a belief, Maltz says, that rational and conscious thinking has no power over unconscious processes or mechanism and that in order to change negative beliefs you need to spend a lifetime in a couch uncovering nasty secrets from your childhood.

However, this simply isn’t true. Your success mechanism is completely impersonal and has no will of its own. It’s only task is to work on the things that you put in front of it and you can do this with rational thinking.

In fact, you can think of your conscious thought as the “control knob” of your unconscious mind. Your unconscious mind only works on the data you feed it – the ideas, beliefs, interpretations and beliefs you consciously give it.

You’ve likely heard the saying “act as if.” Unfortunately it usually comes in the form of somebody telling you that you can become a millionaire if you “act as if” you are a millionaire.

Regardless of whether or not that saying was co-opted by marketers preying on fragile egos is beside the point.

Here’s an example to prove the point. Let’s say you are nervous about public speaking and you are dreading an upcoming presentation you need to make. It’s within your control to say to yourself, “I’m the kind of person who enjoys public speaking and those butterflies in my stomach are a sign that I’m excited. Not only that, but I perform at my best when those butterflies are there.”

Ideas are changed, Maltz says, not by will, but by other ideas.

If the only mental picture you have to operate on is “I’m a bad public speaker and I’m nervous and afraid I’m going to lose my ability to speak,” your unconscious mind gets to work making it a reality.

Instead, you can replace that image with a different, better, one.

Sometimes it’s hard to break old habits and because you are so used to the old mental picture, it will still rear its ugly head from time to time. You can use rational thought to battle these thoughts too.

For instance, let’s say that you still have the belief that you are a bad public speaker. Consider asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Is there any rational reason for such a belief?
  2. Could it be that I’m mistaken in this belief?
  3. Would I come to the same conclusion about some other person in a similar situation?
  4. Why should I continue to act and feel as if this were true if there is no good reason to believe it?

Truly wrestle with these questions and you’ll almost always find that you are not dealing with facts, but with some irrational belief you have about yourself.

Freeing Your Creative Machinery

One of the things that your mind is great at is generating ideas. It does it by forming connections between previously disconnected ideas in your mind and putting them together in creative ways.

In order to be creative, though, you need to ensure that you produce the right environment. It’s no different than how a poet or a musician needs the right environment if they are going to create their best art.

Maltz tells us that there are five rules to ensure that you free up your creative machinery in order to do it’s work.

  1. Do the worrying before you place your bet, not after the wheel starts turning. That’s a roulette metaphor for those of you keeping score at home. Once an event is out of your control, worrying about the outcome is a waste of time. Do your worrying up front instead.
  2. Form the habit of consciously responding to the present moment. Your creative mechanism can only work right now – it doesn’t work in the past or the future. Focus your attention on the information that is in front of you, right now.
  3. Try and do only one thing at a time.
  4. Sleep on it. If you’ve ever woken up with a solution to a problem that seemed impossible the night before, you know why this is important.
  5. Relax while you work.

You’ll notice that all of these rules add up to creating a relaxed and distraction free environment for your mind (both your conscious and unconscious) to work creatively on whatever it is you want to work on.

Ingredients of the Success Type Personality

Finally, as we wrap up this summary, let’s cover what Maltz calls the ingredients of the “Success-Type,” which, not surprisingly, uses an acronym that spells SUCCESS.

These are the things you should consciously try and create in your day to day life to keep your success mechanism working towards your biggest goals.

S: Sense of direction. Your success mechanism needs to be pointed in a direction. Pick one.

U: Understanding. To deal effectively with a problem, you must have an understanding of its true nature. Be willing to see the truth, no matter how good or bad it might be. You can consciously eliminate bad beliefs, but you can’t eliminate bad facts, no matter how much mental power you think you have.

C: Courage. You need to have the courage to act out on your new beliefs.

C: Charity. Successful people have some regard for other people’s needs and interests.

E: Esteem. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and get to work building up an adequate self-image.

S: Self-Confidence. Confidence is built on an experience of success. Remember your past successes so that you can create more of them in the future.

S: Self-Acceptance. You are human and will make mistakes. Accept that. You are not your mistakes. You must correct them and learn from them, but you are not them.

Hope you enjoyed this summary. As always leave me a comment if you did.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing/ business prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. I will cover all start up costs for the right person. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

Book Summary of ‘Daring Greatly’​ by Brene Brown

Brene Brown starts off her book Daring Greatly with the following quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

The rest of the book deals with what it means to be in the ring and dare greatly.

Join me for the next 10 minutes as we explore why daring greatly is such short supply these days, and what we can do to create more of it in ourselves and the people we lead.

**The Problem: A Culture of Scarcity**

Why don’t we have more “people in the ring?”

Brown suggests it’s because we live in a culture of scarcity, which has three distinct components. Here are some questions to consider to determine whether or not you are working in an organisation where there is a culture of scarcity.

1. Shame

Is fear of being made fun of used to manage people and keep them in line? Is the self-worth of the people who work with you connected to achievement, productivity, or compliance? Do you often find people blaming each other for problems? Is name calling an acceptable norm?

2. Comparison

As Brown points out, there’s a difference between health comparison and unhealthy comparison. Is there constant comparing and ranking of people at your company? Are people judged only by narrow standards and not recognised for their unique contributions to the team?

3. Disengagement

Are people afraid to try new things and take risks? In meetings, is it easier for you and others to stay quiet in meetings rather than share stories, experiences or ideas? When you do share, does it feel like nobody is paying attention or listening carefully?

If you answered yes to some or all of those questions, it’s likely that you are participating in a culture of scarcity.

Why are so many organisations like that? It has a lot to do with how we perceive and view vulnerability in our culture.

**Myths of Vulnerability**

Daring Greatly requires us to be vulnerable, which means that we leave ourselves open to uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.

There are 4 myths of vulnerability that have led us to, as a culture, view it as something to be avoided at all costs.

*Myth 1: Vulnerability is Weakness*

To speak up when we don’t understand. To do push to the edges of our ability to see what we are truly made of, even though we will most likely fail. To share when we are struggling with something so that we can get help.

Unfortunately, in our culture, those things are considered weaknesses. You are supposed to hit your goals, know the answers, and keep a positive attitude at all times.

However, only the strong can admit when they are struggling and push themselves to the limits of their abilities, exposing themselves to certain and constant failure.

Brown knows this from her research, because when people describe what vulnerability feels like, they describe things that look an awful lot like strength instead of weakness:

– Asking for help

– Saying no

– Starting my own business

– Helping my wife with cancer prepare her will

– Saying “I love you” first

– Trying something new

– Getting pregnant after three miscarriages

– Waiting for the biopsy to come back

– Exercising in public when I’m out of shape

*Myth #2: I don’t do vulnerability*

Brown starts off this section with a great quote from Madeleine L’Engle:

“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.”

It’s easy to tell yourself that you “don’t do” vulnerability – that’s for other people. That’s for children.

But, of course, there’s no way to avoid it in life. As Brown says, we don’t do vulnerability, vulnerability does us.

*Myth #3: Vulnerability is Putting it All Out*

Vulnerability is not oversharing, talking to everybody you meet about your feelings and posting emotional messages on Facebook.

Rather, it’s sharing your feelings and experiences with the people who have earned the right to be in your inner circle. Vulnerability is something to be shared with people you can trust.

As Brown points out, trust is something that is built “one marble at a time,” which is a reference to a concept she calls “The Marble Jar.” Basically, trust is not a single grand gesture, but something that gets built by small and consistent deposits over time – like remembering somebody’s birthday, keeping secrets when you are asked to, and sensing when somebody is sad and asking them why.

*Myth #4: We Go at it Alone*

We live in a culture that celebrates individual achievement. However, vulnerability isn’t one of those things you want to do by yourself.

You’ll need somebody by your side to help pick you up and dust yourself off. You’ll need people that will let you try on different ways of being as you get used to expressing yourself in new ways.

Vulnerability is a team sport.

**Understanding and Combatting Shame**

What’s standing in our way from becoming more vulnerable?

Shame. It’s the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.

It’s the silent killer of hopes and dreams, because it’s the biggest killer of creativity and innovation.

Let’s say that you’ve written an article, designed a product or created a piece of music and you want to share it with your friends or colleagues.

When your sense of self-worth is tied up in how your project is received, one of two things happen:

1. Once you realise (consciously or subconsciously) that your self-worth is tied to how they respond, you are unlikely to share it. Or sand off all of the rough edges of the idea to make it more likely not to be rejected.

2. You do share it fully, and when the reception isn’t what you had hoped, you are crushed. Your shame tells you that it was a bad idea to share your ideas and that “next time we’ll know better than to share our ideas.”

Brown tells us that there are three things that we need to know about shame.

1. We all have it. It’s one of the most primitive human emotions that we experience and the only people who don’t experience it have no capacity for human connection.

2. We are all afraid to talk about shame.

3. The less we talk about it, the more control it has over our lives.

What do we do to combat shame as it shows up in our day to day lives?

1. Recognise shame and understand what triggers it in you. Shame comes along with some physical signs, which only you’ll be able to spot. When it happens, examine what happened immediately before the feeling. What events or messages triggered the shame?

2. Practicing critical awareness. Do a reality check about the events or messages that triggered it. Are the expectations you placed on yourself reasonable and attainable?

3. Reaching out. Share your story with the people in your circle of trust.

4. Speaking shame. When you are connecting with that person, talk not just about the event but also how it makes you feel. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need in that moment.

**The Vulnerability Armory**

When we were children, we found a lot of different ways to protect ourselves from being vulnerable. From being hurt and disappointed.

We used our thoughts, emotions and behaviour as weapons and how to make ourselves blend in or disappear.

As adults, we have to let go of that baggage so we can be ourselves again. It’s the only way to “be in the arena.”

Here are some of the vulnerability shields we might have used in the past and how we can replace it with Daring Greatly to finally let them go.

*Foreboding Joy:*

It feels safer to feel nothing or wallow in our negative thoughts than it does to be happy and risk being seen. Too much joy equals pain.

The antidote for foreboding joy is gratitude for the happy moments and joyful events in our lives.


We use perfectionism as a shield by telling ourselves we’ll avoid shame once we get it perfect. Which, of course, we never do.

The antidote is to have compassion for yourself and a sense of worthiness, no matter what circumstance you find yourself in.


A glass of wine before going to sleep, occupying all your free time with Netflix and anything else you use to escape from reality on a regular basis.

The antidote is to get in touch with your feelings and to learn how to deal with difficult emotions. It’s the only way to reliably deal with stress.

**Daring Greatly for Leaders**

So, what does all of that have to do with you being a better leader?


Through her research, Brown has spoken to thousands of people from all walks of life. As she was asking herself (and the people she was interviewing) what they would want to say to their leaders about the topic of vulnerability, they had this to say, which Brown calls the Daring Greatly Manifesto:

To the CEOs and teachers. To the principals and the managers. To the politicians, community leaders, and decision-makers:

– We want to show up, we want to learn and we want to inspire.

– We are hardwired for connection, curiosity and engagement.

– We crave purpose and we have a deep desire to create and contribute.

– We want to take risks, embrace our vulnerabilities and be courageous.

– When learning and working are dehumanised – when you no longer see us and no longer encourage our daring, or when you only see what we produce or how we perform, we disengage and turn away from the very things that the world needs from us: our talent, our ideas and our passion.

What we ask is that you engage with us, show up beside us and learn from us.

Feedback is a function of respect; when you don’t have honest conversations with us about our strengths and our opportunities for growth, we question our contributions and your commitment.

Above all else, we ask that you show up, let yourself be seen and be courageous. Dare Greatly with us.

So, if that’s what your people want to see from you, what’s the solution?

Brown calls it “sitting on the same side of the table.” Basically, it’s a set of rules to tell you how to be present when you need to give feedback to one of the people under your charge.

Here’s how you know that you are ready to give feedback that creates the environment for Daring Greatly:

– You are ready to sit beside them, rather than across from them;

– You are willing to put the problem in front of both of you, rather than between you.

– You are ready to listen, ask questions and admit that you might not fully understand the issue;

– You what to acknowledge what they do well instead of focussing on their mistakes;

– You want to recognise their strengths and figure out how to use them to find and implement the right solution;

– You can hold them accountable with blaming or shaming them;

– You are willing to own your part of the problem;

– You can genuinely thank them for their efforts;

– You can talk about how resolving the challenges will lead to their growth and opportunity;

– You can model the vulnerability that you want to see in them.

If you are ready to do all that as a leader, you are ready to Dare Greatly.

Hope you enjoyed this summary. As always leave me a comment if you did.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing/ business prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. I will cover all start up costs for the right person. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

Book Summary of ‘Authentic Happiness’ by Martin Seligman

What is happiness?

It’s a word that has been at the heart of endless debates over the years.

Martin Seligman, the grandfather of the positive psychology movement tells us that happiness comes from many routes.

As a quick side note – positive psychology is a stream of psychology that looks at what it means to live a happy and fulfilled life. Until recently, almost all of psychology was focussed on how to help people with mental illnesses like depression overcome them.

In this summary of his book Authentic Happiness, we’ll cover those different routes, discuss why they matter and give you concrete suggestions on how you can incorporate more of them into your life.

Join me for the next 12 minutes as we explore what it means to life a happy, meaningful life.

Why Be Happy?

We’ll start this summary at the beginning, discussing why we should even want to be happy in the first place.

Barbara Fredrickson was the original winner of the Templeton Positive Psychology Prize in 2000. Her theory suggests that positive emotions have a purpose in evolution. In particular, they broaden our intellectual, physical and social resources, building up reserves we can draw on when a threat or opportunity appears.

Why does this happen?

When we are in a good mood, people like us better and we are much more likely to create friends, find love and make coalitions with other people or groups. We are also much more open to new ideas and new experiences, which is at the core of evolutionary behaviour.

Why does this matter?

Happiness is directly and positively correlated to job satisfaction, productivity and income.

Being happy has its advantages.

The Happiness Equation

At the core of Seligman’s theory is an easy to remember formula.

H = S+C+V

Let’s briefly look at each of these elements separately.

H = enduring level of happiness

This is what we are looking to increase – our levels of happiness over time.

S = set range

You are born with a range of happiness that you can thank your parents for. About 50% of your level of happiness is predicted by this set range that you almost always return to after a positive or negative event. For instance, lottery winners are no more or less happy than they were before they won. The inverse is also true – after a negative event you’ll eventually revert back to your set range.

C = circumstances of your life

Many of the circumstances of your life are out of your control – like whether or not you were born in a prosperous or poverty stricken nation.

Some circumstances are in your control and their effect on your happiness might surprise you.

For instance, studies have shown that your level of income and education, your general health, your age, the climate where you live, your race and your gender have very little correlation to your levels of happiness.

On the flip side, being married, having a robust social life, and having religion are positively correlated to your level of happiness.

Remember, these are not moral teachings with judgements attached to them – these are things that science has proven to have an impact on your level of happiness.

V = factors under your voluntary control

Finally, there are factors that are under your immediate voluntary control – which are your emotions about has happened in the past, what is happening in the present and what you expect to happen in the future.

We’ll spend the rest of the summary exploring these factors and how you can create a lasting increase in your levels of happiness as a result.

Positive Emotions About The Past

How you think and feel about what happened to you in the past is completely under your control.

There are two things that get in your way from being happy when it comes to thinking about the past. Insufficient appreciation of the good events and an overemphasis on the bad events.

The solution is to practice gratitude and forgiveness.


Gratitude amplifies the savouring and appreciation of the good events that have happened in your life.

Here’s a practical exercise you can use to create more of it in your life.

Each night for the next two weeks, set aside five minutes right before bed. Do it right before you brush your teeth so you don’t forget. Then, list up to five things in your life that you are grateful for.

If that goes well and you find yourself going to bed a little less stressed out at night, keep doing it.


As Seligman points out, how we feel about our past depends entirely on our memories – there simply isn’t any other source.

Utilising forgiveness gives us the power to rewrite our own histories which loosens the grip of negative events over our lives.

As Everett Worthington, a noted forgiveness researcher, tells us “you can’t hurt the perpetrator by not forgiving, but you can set yourself free by forgiving.”

Here is a strategy for doing just that:


R = Recall the hurt in as objective a way as you can. Don’t think of the other person as evil and don’t wallow in self pity.

E = Empathise. Try to understand from the other person’s point of view why they hurt you. This isn’t an easy step, but make up a story you can see them saying if you asked them to explain why they did it.

A = Give the gift of altruistic forgiveness. This is difficult, but giving the gift of forgiveness will make you feel much better.

C = Commit yourself to forgive publicly. Write a letter of forgiveness to the offender, write it in a diary, or tell a trusted friend.

H = Hold onto forgiveness. Memories of the event will surely recur. Although forgiveness is not forgetting, it is a change in the feelings the memory creates.

Positive Emotion About The Future

Positive emotion about the future can be increased by learning to identify and dispute automatic pessimistic thoughts.

There are two crucial elements to doing this well.

Explaining bad events as temporary rather than permanent

People who give up easily believe that the causes of bad events that happen to them are permanent. People who resist helplessness believe that the causes of bad events are temporary.

For instance, somebody who fails in their diet after eating out might say “diets never work.” A better way to frame the event would be “diets don’t work as well when eating out.”

Explaining bad events as specific rather than universal

People who make universal explanations for their failures give up on everything when failure hits on one area. People who make specific explanations are much more likely to march forward towards their goals.

For instance, somebody who gets an unfairly bad grade might say “all teachers are unfair.” A better way to frame the event would be “Professor Seligman is unfair.”

Hope vs. Despair

If you want to have hope – and thus positive emotions about the future – find permanent and universal causes of good events along with temporary and specific causes for bad events.

If you want to have despair – and thus negative emotions about the future – do the reverse.

But one thing is clear – this is a choice that you and you alone get to make.

Positive Emotions About The Present (Pleasures)

There are two different elements of positive emotions about the present – pleasures and gratifications. We’ll deal with them separately and focus on pleasures first.

Bodily pleasures are momentary positive emotions that come through the senses. They include things like delicious tastes and smells, moving your body well, delightful sights and sounds, etc.

Higher pleasures are also momentary, but are more complicated and created by feelings like thrill, bliss, comfort, amusement, etc.

There are two things you need to keep in mind to get the most pleasure out of your life – habituation and savouring.


Basically, rapidly repeated indulgence of the same pleasure doesn’t work. The pleasure in the second taste of ice cream is less than half of that of the first. Neurons are wired to respond to novel events and not to fire if the events do not provide new information.

The solution – space out your pleasures and you’ll be much happier with the result.


Savouring is the awareness of pleasure and of the deliberate conscious attention to the experience of pleasure.

To go back to the ice cream example, don’t mindlessly eat it while you are watching TV or browsing the internet. Instead, give your full attention to the experience – don’t think, just sense.

Positive Emotion About The Present (Gratifications)

Finally, we move on to the other side of positive emotion in the present – gratifications. Instead of the presence of feelings like we have with pleasures, gratifications are defined by the absence of them. Instead, they are characterised by absorption, engagement and flow, which come about by exercising your signature strengths and virtues.

The telltale signs of a gratifying experience include concentration on a challenging task, a deep sense of effortless involvement and a feeling that time stops and our “self” vanishes.

Seligman suggests that there are 24 strengths. I am going to list them here and as we are going through them make a mental note of which ones best describe you – these are your signature strengths.

The 24 Strengths

The strengths are broken down into six categories, which represent what Seligman calls the 6 virtues. Interestingly, if you look at all of the famous philosophical and religious traditions, all of them value those virtues.

Wisdom and knowledge

  1. Curiosity/interest in the world. You are open to new experiences and flexible when presented with ideas that don’t fit your preconceptions.
  2. Love of learning. You love learning new things, both on your own and in formal settings.
  3. Judgement/critical thinking/open-mindedness. You tend to think things through and examine them from all sides.
  4. Ingenuity/originality/practical intelligence/street smarts. You are outstanding at finding novel yet appropriate behaviours to get what you want.
  5. Social intelligence/personal intelligence/emotional intelligence. You are aware of the motives and feelings of others and you can respond to them well.
  6. Perspective. You have a way of looking at the world that makes sense to others and yourself.


  1. Valour and bravery. You do not shrink from threat, challenge, pain or difficulty.
  2. Perseverance/industry/diligence. You finish what you start.
  3. Integrity/genuineness/honesty. You are an honest person, not only by speaking the truth, but by living your life in a genuine and authentic way.

Humanity and Love

  1. Kindness and generosity. You are kind and generous to others and you are never too busy to do a favour.
  2. Loving and allowing oneself to be loved. You value close and intimate relationships with others.


  1. Citizenship/duty/teamwork/loyalty. You excel as a member of a group. You are a loyal and dedicated team-mate and always work hard for the success of the group.
  2. Fairness and equity. You do not let your personal feelings bias your decisions about other people. You give everyone a chance.
  3. Leadership. You do a good job organising activities and seeing to it that they happen.


  1. Self-control. You can easily hold your desires, needs and impulses in check when it is appropriate.
  2. Prudence/discretion/caution. You are a careful person. You do not say or do things you might later regret.
  3. Humility and modesty. You do not seek the spotlight, preferring to let your accomplishments speak for themselves.


  1. Appreciation of beauty and excellence. You stop and smell the roses. You appreciate beauty, excellence, and skill in all domains.
  2. Gratitude. You are aware of the good things that happen to you and you never take them for granted.
  3. Hope/optimism/future-mindedness. You expect the best in the future and you plan and work in order to achieve it.
  4. Spirituality/sense of purpose/faith/religiousness. You have strong and coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe. You know where you fit in the larger scheme.
  5. Forgiveness and mercy. You forgive those who have done you wrong.
  6. Playfulness and humour. You like to laugh and bring smiles to other people.
  7. Zest/passion/enthusiasm. You are a spirited person. You throw yourself, body and soul, into the activities you undertake.

Once you’ve identified your signature strengths, the best thing you can do to increase the level of gratifying experiences you have is to choose work and hobbies that allow you to use them on a regular basis.

The Pleasant, Good, Meaningful and Full Lives

Now that we are armed with the tools we need to increase the level of happiness in our lives, how can we combine them to be fulfilled as well?

A pleasurable life is where we pursue positive emotions about the present, past and future.

The good life is where we use our signature strengths to find gratification in the most important areas of our lives.

The meaningful life means that we attach the use of our signature strengths to something larger than ourselves.

Finally, a full life means living a well-integrated pleasant, good and meaningful life.

Hope you enjoyed this summary. As always leave me a comment if you did.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing/ business prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. I will cover all start up costs for the right person. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

Book Summary of ‘Grouped’ by Paul Adams

Everything you’ve been taught about social media is wrong… When you are sitting down to plan out your next social media campaign, or are trying to make your product “go viral”, is part of your plan to target people with thousands of Twitter followers? As it turns out, we’ve all had a lot of misconceptions about how people share online, and what makes ideas spread.

Luckily for us, Paul Adams has started to set the record straight through his book “Grouped”, where he outlines exactly how people share online, and what you as a business leader can do about it. Adams, by the way, led the social efforts at Facebook and Google, so he has unprecedented access to the data on this topic, which means that he can back up his claims with reality.

His biggest insight is that there is a huge difference in what he calls strong ties and weak ties. At the end of this summary you’ll understand the difference between the two and how to centre your campaigns around strong ties so that your social efforts will succeed.


When we look at a Facebook profile with somebody who has hundreds of friends, it’s easy to conclude that this person must be somebody who wields a lot of influence online, but even the best social media tools that let us know who is “influential” online doesn’t really tell us much about who influences other people to buy products or services – which is what we are really interested in as business owners.

As Adams points out, there is an enormous difference between strong ties and loose ties. Let’s look at how our relationships are structured, and then look at the difference between strong ties and loose ties.

At the core of our relationship structure are 5 people who we would consider to be in our “inner circle”. These are your very strong ties and are the people you communicate with on a very regular basis.

The next ring out would contain the people you are very close to and typically contains about 15 people.

The next ring out contains the 50 people you communicate with semi-regularly so that you generally know what is going on in their lives.

Casual friends and acquaintances would fit the bill here. The next ring out contains the 150 people you can maintain a stable social relationship with. Stanley Milgram is famous for his research around the fact that this is the largest number of people we can maintain a relationship with before things start breaking down. Social media was supposed to change that, but hasn’t.

Lastly, we have 500 weak ties, who are people you loosely know and can recognise.

Strong Ties, Weak Ties

Within those circles are your strong ties and loose ties. Let’s look at the difference between them, and what it means for your business.

Strong Ties

Before the social media revolution, most of our strong ties were with our family members, friends, coworkers and neighbours. That makes sense, because those are the people we see and interact with every day.

We trust the people we know best, so those are the people we’d typically turn to for recommendations. That was supposed to change with the advent of social media. We could now connect with anybody, anywhere, and we would surely start creating more connections with people who we shared common interests with.

But consider this – the average person on Facebook (at the time of Adams’ book) has 160 friends, but they communicate directly with only 4-6 of those people every month. The stunning finding here is that we are not using social media to find new strong ties, but are using it mostly to enhance our relationships with the people we are already have strong ties with.

Weak Ties

Although we communicate most often with our strong ties, we also communicate with our weak ties from time to time. When we do, it’s usually because of a common interest. There are some things that weak ties are useful for. For instance, weak ties are often a better source of information than strong ties, and can lead us to insights or discoveries that we might not have otherwise made.

The downside to using weak ties as a source of information is that we don’t know if we can trust them or their information. We simply don’t know them well enough to implicitly trust them and so in order to act on their information we need to know that they are qualified to talk about specific topics and that they are trustworthy.

Conclusion – Market To Strong Ties

All of the research on decision making points to the fact that we are disproportionately influenced by the people we are closest to emotionally. In independent studies, research firms found that people are three to four times as likely to trust a friend or acquaintance than a blogger or expert for product purchase advice.

What it boils down to is this – when people are looking for information and opinions from others, they’ll look to their strong ties first. Even though there are weak ties that have a higher knowledge on the topic, they go with the advice of their strong ties because they trust them.

So, as a business, you should be building your campaigns around strong ties rather than weak ties. This means you can’t rely on a few handpicked social media power users to power your campaign. You need your message to be spread from one strong tie to another – and typically this means looking at your message and product and figuring out how to get it to spread between friends and family members.

If you get this right, they will automatically spread the word using their social media accounts anyway. Hope you enjoyed this summary.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing prowess) to facilitate global demand for my coaching business. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more informationScreen Shot 2018-02-01 at 07.18.40

Book Summary of ‘Questions That Sell’ by Paul Cherry

If you want to succeed in sales, you need to get very good at developing true business relationships.

You do that buy understanding their vision for their business, their fears and motivations.

The path to get there is through great sales questions. In one of the greatest metaphors ever employed in a sales book, Paul Cherry calls great sales questions “truth-seeking missiles.”

When you point those missiles in the right direction, you will:

  1. Motivate your prospect to do the talking. Great questions help you get to the insight you need to close deals.
  2. Differentiate yourself from your competitors, who don’t know how to ask great questions.
  3. Demonstrate empathy for your prospects. By establishing yourself as somebody who will listen to problems and frustrations, you’ll create an environment where your prospect will share information they wouldn’t otherwise share.
  4. Facilitate a prospect’s awareness of their needs and help them come to their own conclusions. Your prospect must come to see their problems on their own.
  5. Prompt a prospect to recognise the importance of taking action.
  6. Discover how a particular company makes a purchasing decision, as well as whom the decision makers are within the company.

In this summary we’ll review the 6 types of questions you need to use in order to achieve your biggest sales goals.

Let’s get started.

  1. Educational Questions

Educational questions are designed to enlarge a customer’s knowledge.

Your prospects are cynical – and rightly so. They’ve spent far too many hours of their lives listening to sales reps show up and give dog and pony shows.

One of the best ways you can set yourself apart from your competition is to ask educational questions – by engaging your prospect in sharing information that’s relevant to their problems.

Here’s a template for asking an educational question:

“I read recently in an article from ___________ that ___________ . Tell me, how does that compare with what you are seeing?”

For example: “A recent article in the Wall Street Journal suggests that 75 percent of technology companies use foreign developers to build out their platforms. One of the challenges seem to be the language barriers and laws governing foreign workers. How do you manage those issues with your IT staff?”

When to Use an Educational Question

There are 4 situations where an educational question will be very helpful:

  1. As a teaser on a voice mail to get prospects to return your call;
  2. At the beginning of a meeting to use as an icebreaker;
  3. When a sales conversation is stalled;
  4. When you want to breathe new life into an existing customer relationship.

Just make sure not to overuse this strategy. Cherry suggests that one educational question per meeting is enough to be viewed as a consultative seller.

  1. Lock-On Questions

Lock-on questions build on what buyers have told you, which allows you to extend the conversation and dig deeper into the issues they face.

The trick is to lock on to something that you believe will give you – as well as your prospect – greater insights into their real needs.

Here are a few examples:

If your prospect says “We have been trying to get this project launched for months now”, you might follow up with “I noticed you used the word trying. What has worked so far and what’s standing in your way?

If your prospect says “I’m looking for a partnership rather than a vendor who is just looking to peddle a product”, you might follow up with “Can you give me a little more insight into what you mean by partnership?”

If your prospect says “We’ve had a bunch of problems with our current vendor and we are looking for a new supplier”, you might follow up with “Can you share some of the specific problems you’ve been having?”

When to Use Lock-On Questions

One of the things to be aware of when you start using lock-on questions is that you run the risk of the prospect feeling like they are being cross-examined if you get too aggressive with them.

So, make sure that you use lock-on questions when the following conditions are true:

– You have good rapport with the prospect and you have demonstrated empathy toward them.

– You have a sincere desire to connect with the prospect.

  1. Impact questions

Impact questions are designed to explore the impact of the challenges the prospect is facing.

Once the prospect has articulated a problem that needs solving and gives you an example, it’s time to use that information to get the prospect to focus on the impact of the problem.

This is not an easy process, but the results are worth their weight in gold.

You are giving the prospect an opportunity to vent their frustrations (which everybody loves to do), and they’ve also relived their problem again and are now in a state to want to solve it.

There are a number of ways the problem they are facing could impact them. Here are just a few things it could impact:

– the company

– the prospect’s position in the company

– the prospect’s well-being

In most cases, customers have never taken the time to deeply analyse their problems, or calculate just how much it might be costing them.

With that in mind, here are some of the ways you might phrase the impact questions to get the wheels turning:

“What do you think the impact on your company will be if you decide to do nothing?”

“What impact do you think this problem could have on you within the company?”

“When you have this problem, how much do you think it will cost you to fix it?”

“How much time do you spend dealing with this problem on a daily basis? What else do you think you could accomplish if you got that time back?”

Once they start articulating the problem, they’ll probably start mentioning how it affects them personally. A common frustration is a problem at work taking them away from their family on nights and weekends. If that comes up, you might say something like:

“You mentioned losing time with your spouse and kids. Do you think that will change if the problem continues?”

If you can get your prospects to do a deep dive on how much their issues are costing them, they’ll come to the conclusion on their own that they need to fix it.

  1. Expansion questions

Expansion questions are designed to get buyers to enlarge on what they’ve already told you, giving you greater insight into their needs.

The idea here is that the more you get prospects to reveal, the more likely they are to buy from you.

For instance, if your customer gives you a story, or reveals their thought process, or gives you a peek into how their company makes decisions, the more likely you are to gain insight into how you can help them.

These types of questions begin with phrases like:

“Describe for me . . .”

“Share with me . . .”

“Explain . . .”

“Walk me through . . .”

“Tell me . . .”

“Could you clarify something . . .”

“Can you expand upon what you just said?”

“Help me understand . . .”

Here are some sample questions transformed from ordinary questions into expansion questions.

Ordinary questions like: “Who is the decision maker?” “When will you make a decision?” “What is your time frame?”

Turn into expansion questions like: “Walk me through your company’s decision making process.”

Ordinary questions like: “Are you satisfied with your current system?”

Turn into expansion questions like: “Share with me your level of satisfaction with your current system.”

Ordinary questions like: “Is price important to you?” “Is quality important to you?” “Is service important to you?”

Turn into expansion questions like: “Explain to me the criteria you use to ensure you’re getting the best value.”

  1. Comparison questions

Comparison questions get buyers to compare one thing to another. This is a very useful tool for getting more clarity on your prospect’s priorities.

These questions open up many avenues for discussion, including:

– Time: what has happened in the past, what is likely to happen in the future and how priorities might change over time.

– Decision makers: these questions let you figure out who makes the big decisions in the organisation.

– The prospect’s competitors: these questions can stimulate a dialogue about your prospect’s industry and how they differentiate themselves from their competition.

– Alternative choices: you can open the door to new solutions your prospects might not have considered before.

Here are some examples:


Ordinary questions like: “What are your goals?”

Turn into comparison questions like: “Share with me what you hope to accomplish in the next twelve months compared with where you were one year ago.”

Decision makers

Ordinary questions like: “Who will make the final decision on this?”

Turn into comparison questions like: “Please explain to me how the decision making process for this project differs from past projects you’ve worked on.”


Ordinary questions like: “Who are your competitors?”

Turn into comparison questions like: “Your customers have a lot of choices today. Tell me what you believe are the unique attributes that set you apart from others in your market.

Pains and gains

Ordinary questions like: “Tell me about what’s not working.”

Turn into comparison questions like: “Compared with what you’ve seen in other organisations where you’ve worked, explain to me the gaps you see in your current organisation.”

Market trends

Ordinary questions like: “How’s business?”

Turn into comparison questions like: “How’s business this year compared with last year?” Or, “How is your business compared with others in your industry?”


Ordinary questions like: “What do you like about your current vendor?”

Turn into comparison questions like: “Describe for me the ideal qualities you look for in a vendor relationship and how that compares with your current situation.”

The point of asking these questions is that the answers come with information you can use as you determine exactly how you can help the prospect.

  1. Vision questions

Vision questions invite your prospect to see what they stand to gain through doing business with you. Ultimately, you want your prospect to come to the conclusion that you can help them achieve their goals, hopes and dreams.

Most vision questions have the word “if” in them. For example:

If we could eliminate that problem you have – the one that is costing you $2 million per year, what would it mean to you and your organisation? What would it mean for you personally?

Your prospects will usually freely share their explicit needs – things like cost savings, creating market share, and profitability.

But in order to truly get your prospect to open up about what they really want – their hopes and dreams – you need to understand their implicit needs.

They can be broken down into 7 categories:

  1. Success. This is the need to feel a sense of accomplishment when they come home from work. Prospects who often talk about wanting to “get the job done” or “earn more money” usually want to feel successful.
  2. Independence. This is the need to feel in control at work. Prospects who talk about wanting their bosses to trust their decisions are usually looking for the feeling of independence.
  3. Recognition. This is the need to feel valued as a team member. Prospects who talk about all the hard work they do, or about wanting people to listen to their ideas, are usually looking for recognition.
  4. Security. This is the need to feel like your job won’t be taken away from you, and the need to not look stupid in front of their team. Prospects who use words like concerned, worried, unsure and doubtful are often looking for a feeling of security.
  5. Stimulation. This is the need to feel challenged by your job. Prospects who talk about tasks they dislike doing or that all they do is “put out fires” are typically looking for a feeling of stimulation.
  6. Peace of mind. This is the need to feel like your areas of responsibility are taken care of. Prospects who ask you very tactical questions and seem concerned with deadlines are usually looking for peace of mind.
  7. Simplicity. This is the need to feel like life is easier. The more you can make your prospect feel like you will take care of their problems, the more they will have the sense of simplicity in their lives.

Asking questions that will allow your prospect to realise that their implicit needs will be met by doing business with you is the ultimate victory.


When you are able to ask the 6 types of questions you need to ask in order to get the prospect to envision a brighter future by working with you, there will be no limit to what you can do!

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more informationScreen Shot 2018-03-27 at 10.51.23

Vanguard Business Coaching
28 The Priory, Donabate, Co Dublin, Ireland
Vanguard Business Coaching Limited
Registered in the Republic of Ireland
Co Registration No: 557809/ VAT Registration No: IE 3330099SH