My System For Managing Conversations Productively

For all the productivity tools that we have available to us online to help us out, it’s often our offline behaviors that get us in trouble.  One such is offline activity that gets us into trouble?  Our mouths.  Here’s my system for managing your conversations productively.

Let me first take you through a brief scenario.  You are meeting with a client when all of the sudden an unexpected request comes your way from that client.  What do you do?

Do you:

  1. Match his request and then raise the client by saying you will get the request done even sooner than they asked for.
  2. Feel pressured to make the client happy and agree on the spot to do it.
  3. Agree to the request but renegotiate the terms for when they need to be done.
  4. None of the above.

So what was your answer?  In life we have unexpected requests made of us on a daily basis.  Unexpected requests can be your spouse asking you if you can go to the store or pick up dry cleaning on your way home from work or it can be a client who calls out of the blue and has an immediate need that they would like you to address.

Unexpected requests aren’t bad but how we handle these requests can hurt our ability to be productive.  Here’s how I handle these requests:

Step 1-  Ask Questions.  If some has an on-the-spot request, I want to make sure that I understand everything that I am agreeing to.  (This is obviously helpful with any type of request.)  I want to ascertain if the request really is immediate or can it wait.  I also want to ensure that I know the entire scope of the request.  In some cases this is easy.  In other cases it is difficult.

A specific example of asking questions happened to me about a month ago when a client told me they needed a landing page immediately and that it would be very simple.  My immediate impulse is to agree first and ask questions later.  In this case, I decided to ask some questions.  Upon asking these questions, the client realized that there was some back end functionality needed and that it would be more like a full scale website not a landing page.

Step 2- Sleep On It. Most entrepreneurs want to make people happy, especially their clients.  This is a good thing.  What’s not so good is committing to helping your client and then realizing there is no way you can do it.  This turns a happy client into a pissed off client.  I have made this mistake and I know several people who have made this mistake.

To avoid this, I recommend sleeping on a request when at all possible.  It’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of “yes”.  In fact I think it was the movie Tommy Boy that had the famous sales line, “Why say “no” when it feels so good to say “yes”.”  By the way this line does not work at the club, at least it didn’t for me.  Sleeping on it and giving our rational mind a chance to process the request lets us make decisions that are best for us and the person making the request.

Step 3- Don’t be afraid to say no. We all want to say yes to clients and the people that we love.  Yes isn’t always the best answer.  In these cases don’t be afraid to simply say no.  Your reputation and respect is too valuable for you to try and do something when you know you are setting yourself up to fail.  People don’t respect “tryers” they respect “doers”.  Say no when you need to and be professional about it.  Don’t wait 2 weeks to deliver the bad news, deliver it immediately.

You may be worried about what people will think about you when you say no.  Initially, if you are someone who always says “yes”, you may take some people by surprise.  In the end, people will start to understand your approach and if you are someone who is committed to delivering results, people will respect you for saying no.  Saying no also helps you stay in alignment with your personal and business values. The end result in all of this is a more productive business owner.

How has saying yes gotten you into a hot spot?  How have you been able to be effective at saying no?

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2 Responses to “My System For Managing Conversations Productively”

  1. Andrea Reindl June 11, 2011 at 10:16 pm #

    Ah Brandon….thanks for the good share here…I’m a total recovering people pleaser and have been caught doing a less than excellent job more than once. What I have done when I realize I’m going to drop the ball is quickly go and warn the client that I’ve over committed and likely need to renegotiate what I said yes to. I always own my ‘stuff’ and then ask what we CAN do to make it work. I have really found that most of the time I earn respect because I’m open and honest, and then with the client’s help I’m able to figure out a way to make it happen. As you said people respect ‘doers’. I am happy to say now usually  my default answer is NO and then I think about it and say YES when I really want to and know that I can provide value for someone.

    • Brandon R Allen June 13, 2011 at 8:50 pm #

      That’s  a great reaction to a situation where you are going to fall short of a commitment.   One area where people pleasers have problems is going back to someone who they made a lofty commitment to and then make another lofty commitment that they can’t keep.  

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