Keeping your ego in check is easier said than done. For a great example of what I mean, consider Jimmy Kimmel’s actions last week, after he delivered an emotional 10-minute-long plea to strengthen gun control laws. “No American citizen needs an M-16, or ten of them,” Kimmel said of the horrific shootings in Las Vegas by a gunman whose weapons purchases broke no laws.
“It’s a public safety issue,” he said of gun control, likening it to the way high-rise fires have recently been addressed.
Kimmel’s message was certainly heard: After all, he has a popular TV slot format as well as social media at his disposal.
And, certainly, having a social media presence — whether you’re a late-night comedian or entrepreneur — can be a huge advantage. If you’re trying to make a positive impact, your message can help people. Moreover, you can hear back from them, address their specific concerns and refine your message, in response.
But social media has its drawbacks, as well. If you’re expressing your opinions online, not a day goes by without someone challenging you, making fun of you or rudely calling you an idiot (check out celebrities reading “Mean Tweets,” also from Jimmy Kimmel).
It doesn’t matter which platform you use: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, even Amazon. There’s always going to be someone who disagrees with some of what you say, and someone who takes things to the next level by adding expletives or attempting to invalidate your core mission — even your very personhood.
Of course, we’re all human: The first thing we want is to do attack back and explain our position! Or . . . flip the other person off, as Jimmy Kimmel did.
Kimmel’s emotional pleas
Kimmel has a large platform, due to his successful late-night show, his massive online following and the goodwill he’s earned in Hollywood and with the public at large. The guy can attract A-list celebrities to participate in his comedic sketches, often making light of their real-life selves. But the comedy was put on pause recently when Kimmel’s own life and political philosophy became the topic of his opening monologue — twice.
In fact it was unexpected to see him choke up during those monologues twice within the span of a month while he tackled sensitive issues (the first revolving around universal health care, after his infant son was born with a heart defect — the second being the Las Vegas tragedy).
Don’t get me wrong: I think it’s perfectly okay to be candid. If anything, being transparent is a welcome sight in our culture, where people are often discouraged from revealing what they’re truly thinking or feeling.
Moreover, with gun control, Kimmel addressed an issue that definitely needs addressing. The event in Las Vegas — Kimmel’s hometown — was horrendous, and we’re all feeling the same pain, regardless of what side of the gun debate we’re on. But sadly, it was only a matter of time before someone with a point of view different from Kimmel’s came along to take advantage of his crying on national television.
What happened next was a poster campaign in which a street artist calling himself Sabo depicted “Cry Baby Kimmel” with rather biting images he scattered around West Hollywood. Biting images are something that Kimmel, as a public figure, is no stranger to, since he does the same thing to other people night after night. Comedians often take jabs at politicians and entertainers, so one would expect a thick skin.
But what happened next was that Kimmel responded — big-time. He had himself photographed sitting in front of one of the posters giving “the finger.” He then gave the photo to the Hollywood Reporter.
And here’s where a lesson for entrepreneurs angry at their own detractors lies.
In short, striking back at negative comments and posts can be a dangerous game. In Kimmel’s case, he was able to take this renegade artist’s work and use it to further promote his political position, in this case the gun-control website Every Town for Gun Safety.
He also did it in a way that was provocative and authentic to his voice and brand.
But, if you’re not Jimmy Kimmel with the resources he has at his command, such a response can backfire if you don’t do it thoughtfully and purposely. It can make you look overly defensive and unprofessional.
Let’s face it, you’re running businesses, not a late night talk show.
So, as an entrepreneur, how do you respond to detractors?
Whenever you address your own audience, remember that for the most part, you’re preaching to the choir. Your fans are a self-selecting group, so it’s probable that most of them share your political views. On the other hand, you cannot change the minds of your detractors as much as you think. If anything, you are likely to cause them to defend their position more fervently. This is especially true if you belittle an argument or misrepresent it to make your own point.
For entrepreneurs, I don’t see a huge benefit in making an official response the way Kimmel did, where the possibility exists for a huge downside. When you lead with emotion, you open yourself up to an unavoidable flurry of attacks. And, that’s not the end of the world. But when you respond in the same manner, you give credibility to your opponents, and in the process, the focus on your issue — in this case, gun control — may be lost.
So, how do you fight back against an uncouth attack on your person and your core values? Here are some thoughts.
My advice is to do what you have to do to make yourself walk away from those potentially damaging digital devices. Decide that you are going to “sleep on it,” or write a letter to yourself and then throw it away. Find a way to avoid being dragged into an unproductive squabble that is only going to generate more resentment.
This is incredibly hard to do. Nobody said it was easy. But if you manage it, you will soon find that the attacks have no power over you. You’ve already stated your point of view and your message is out there, so there is no need to sacrifice your credibility to the other side of the argument by engaging.
We all are sensitive to our feelings and we don’t like it when someone attacks us. No matter how popular or successful we are, it’s always going to hurt! But if we truly want to lend credence to our views, we have to learn to take the high road. I still remember the Amazon reviewer who said a cheeseburger was more filling than the first edition of my book One Simple Idea. At the time I was annoyed. Looking back, I now find the comments funny as hell.
Fighting back with silence is a much bigger statement, because it shows you are confident in your position. It also makes it clear that you care about the issue, but you are above the bickering. Your statement can stand on its own two feet, without your having to resort to insult in order to defend it. You will not change anyone’s position by arguing.
Besides, in most situations, your followers will come to your defense, so you don’t have to say a word, and you’ll look like the bigger man.
Thank you, Jimmy Kimmel, for this very important lesson! With any luck, President Trump is reading this article, as well.
One Visualization Trick You Can Use to Stay Confident Even When You're Broke
In this video, Entrepreneur Network partner Ben Angel explains a common phenomenon with entrepreneurs and all working people: how our confidence levels tend to rise when we have more money in our bank accounts. Angel breaks down how our money situation isn’t just connected to the way we see ourselves — it’s an essential part of our self-image. When we have more money, we tend to be more confident, and when we have less, our confidence drops.
However, through visualization and practice, you can lessen the gap between those two identities so that you remain confident even when you have a little less, thus giving you a better chance to bounce back.
Click play to learn more.
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3 Relationships That Will Build the Tribe Every Entrepreneur Deserves
Entrepreneurial success isn’t easy to achieve, and it’s even harder when you’re going it alone. Every entrepreneur needs to build a network of sustaining individuals who fill key relationship roles — — and LinkedIn is stepping in to help.
The business-centric social network is preparing to roll out Career Advice, a new service to connect its members with potential mentors. Users set preferences about the advice they’d like to give or receive, and LinkedIn suggests possible partnerships within their networks, schools or regions. Once connected, mentor and mentee can talk using LinkedIn’s messaging service.
How valuable are these connections? In a MicroMentor survey of more than 700 participants, entrepreneurs with mentors increased their business revenue by 83 percent; mentorless small businesses gained only 16 percent in the same period.
Life is a team sport, and we cannot succeed alone. Building healthy, supportive relationships is more than a cornerstone of life and dream fulfillment; nourishing ourselves with the words, advice, and caring of others is embedded in humanity’s very fabric.
A biological drive to connect
If I asked you to list humanity’s basic needs, you likely would include food, water and shelter. But that list would be incomplete without mention of social connections.
Matthew Lieberman, author of Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, has explored the psychological association between trusting social relationships and personal and professional success. Fewer than 5 percent of the 60,000 leaders he examined for his book described themselves as adept at both forming strong relationships and turning in important business results. The takeaway? Many individuals cannot easily bring ideas to market, and so leave innovations to “wither.”
I echo Lieberman’s sentiments: Building networks and leveraging the talent of a team of gifted persons results in major benefits. When you recognize and celebrate the strengths of others, you uplift people and reduce stress-producing interactions. Instead of seeds of doubt, you plant seeds of energy — and watch your true potential and greatness evolve.
Who do you need to be in your corner?
Although you might be great at connecting with your team at work, you need to branch out beyond your company or field to find new friends. Think about everyone in your life who plays a pivotal part in helping you get from today to tomorrow. Ideally, you should have each of the following personalities in your corner:
1. The cheerleader. Doesn’t everyone deserve to look to the sidelines and see someone rooting just for them? When the chips are down, this person says “Everything’s going to be OK” and makes the tough stuff easier. He or she is excited for your achievements and urges you to work hard — and this verbal encouragement will help you achieve your goals, just as it can help athletes perform better. No better tireless advocate exists than the cheerleader.
One way to attract cheerleader types into your sphere is to show appreciation for others. Comment on your colleagues’ positive behaviors and contributions, especially if you’ve neglected to say anything thus far. Send a handwritten note to a colleague or friend to thank him or her. The more you emit cheerleader vibes, the more likely you’ll magnetize these much-needed friends to your own corner.
2. The mentor. When you’re dealing with a startup’s ups and downs, you need someone you can call who has navigated similar hurdles. Find a person who exhibits the traits you covet, and ask him or her to be your mentor. If you can engage at least once a month to share ideas and get advice, you’ll start to see your confidence and business acumen soar. Just ask Bill Gates: He credits his mentor, Warren Buffett, with teaching him to change the way he thinks and with igniting his interest in philanthropy.
Finding and securing a mentor takes both audacity and patience. First, write down the specific expectations you have for a mentoring relationship. Then, seek out mentors from all your in-person and online business and social networks. Ask for an exploratory meeting to discuss forming a formal mentorship relationship. If you can get a commitment, make sure each meeting covers what you both need.
3. The foxhole buddy. The foxhole buddy is someone you can count on to be with you day in and day out. You need a partner who will have your back every day and whose skills complement your own. Consider the partnership between Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, co-founders of Apple: Wozniak was the mastermind behind the tech giant’s first offerings, while Jobs focused on building the future of the company. Wozniak has said that a combination of technological expertise and business acumen like theirs is key to overall success.
You and your foxhole buddy should be the “yin” to each other’s “yang,” able to combine forces and make an unstoppable team. Make sure you’re both headed toward the same goal and focused on the same future so you can get there together.
Bring the smartest, most optimistic people with real-world experience into your inner circle. The more intentional you are in your relationships, the more your investment in social connections will pay business and spiritual dividends.
3 Tips for Turning Your Buyer's Journey Into a Reliable Conversion
The 2017 B2B Buyers Survey Report from Demand Gen combines the insights of 283 executives and directors to show how the buyer’s journey has changed over recent years. One big finding? Buyers, from both the B2B and B2C categories, no longer wait for companies to introduce themselves: 75 percent of respondents said that they now use more sources to research and evaluate their purchases — themselves.
With so many research avenues at their disposal, in fact, customers are free to form opinions about a brand before their first engagement with the company. Brands therefore have less control over the message customers receive, which more and more is determined by market feedback, word of mouth and social media.
The message, then, is that to engage customers in this evolving market, companies must go to them — but, fewer than you’d expect actually do that. According to research from Corporate Visions, only 58 percent of companies surveyed said they have strategies in place to match engagement techniques to different parts of the purchase journey.
Without a tailored approach that accounts for buyers in all stages of the purchase — from content consumption to sales interactions — brands cannot reliably engage their prospects.
Content’s value in the modern sales funnel
Modern buyers no longer want salespeople to do their thinking for them and instead prefer a cache of relevant content, with a salesperson operating more as an optional guide.
In fact, customers, who typically seem wary of brand content on principle, value educational content over sales-oriented content because they often assume that sellers will put their own interests ahead of objective information. Thus, those brands that provide customers with high-quality research materials before a purchase are those that earn buyers’ trust, so long as those materials don’t attempt to hide the company’s desire to make a sale.
In terms of the content’s substance, customers ultimately have two fundamental questions when approaching buying: How did the product solve other clients’ problems and help them run more efficient, profitable operations, and what does this mean for me? Companies that provide content replete with data points and case studies that answer these questions maximize their content’s value.
Still, content doesn’t replace salespeople, because salespeople often produce some of the most valuable content: sales presentations. Buyers prefer sales presentations over blog posts, ebooks and case studies. While those other types of content are important, sales presentations provide direct, no-frills summaries of how the product will add value to customers’ lives, helping them more clearly understand what a specific solution can do for them.
How to blend content with human conversations
Given what content provides customers in today’s marketplace, when prospects finally turn away from content and turn to live salespeople, they expect more than regurgitated statistics and information. Forcing salespeople to offer a specific product in customer interactions actually lowers sales for that product and decreases post-sale customer satisfaction, primarily because customers find this approach both redundant and unhelpful.
Instead, the best salesepeople are not number pushers, but solution providers who listen to and use a customer’s own research to provide recommendations that directly address problems that that customer might not recognize on his or her own. Despite the tons of data and market intelligence available, sellers are still in the problem-solving, people business. And when customers have access to both great content and salespeople who can guide them — not carry them — companies can turn drawn-out buyer journeys into reliable conversions.
Ultimately, customers respect companies that share information. So it’s smart to empower them with knowledge via strong content, and then offer advice as the seller positions a company as an authority and directs customers where to turn at each point on the buying journey.
Companies that want to follow this process and provide the content and sales experience modern customers want should follow these three steps:
1. Give up on message control. Thanks to viral content and social media, companies no longer have tight control over their own images and messages. Don’t resent this fact, though. Embrace it by sharing more information about your company’s strengths, flaws and products. The more transparent your company and the more you utilize the insights that your salespeople provide — both in terms of what they bring to your content and the value they offer your customers — the more customers will believe your message.
In fact, a survey by Cohn & Wolfe revealed that 91 percent of global respondents polled said they believed that honest communication about products and services is an important quality for companies to display — in person and in messaging. Companies that break down barriers and encourage internal departments to share information freely, then, will find that they can more easily distribute a consistent and authentic image that engenders customer trust.
2. Select brand attributes to champion. Tell customers what your company stands for, and ensure those qualities shine through every transaction, exchange and customer service interaction. If customers don’t see the company as unique or personable, they’ll turn to a competitor with more clearly defined values. For example, the ecommerce clothing company Stitch Fix leans heavily on the intimacy and personalization it provides for its customers through its very visible founder and CEO, Katrina Lake, and understands that such custom attention is what differentiates it in the marketplace.
Even less “cool” companies, like B2B businesses and banks, can still appeal to customers’ human sides without straying off-brand, by letting charismatic people within the organization speak through blogs, video presentations and other content, in order to provide a voice and face customers can trust.
3. Put solutions above sales. In this age of transparency, companies with authentic missions to help customers enjoy more loyalty and financial success than competitors that put sales above solutions. Salespeople in particular who understand customer needs and recommend only content and products that directly address those concerns are essential. Not only will this increase the likelihood of a sale, but also create a believable brand story that fits with your disseminated content — one that customers will also share with others.
Patagonia, famous for its on-point branding, regularly seeks to identify potential issues with suppliers and distributors to ensure that it doesn’t work with anyone who fails to uphold its high standards for environmental friendliness. This proactive approach resonates with customers, showing Patagonia lovers that the company believes in its mission and puts its message above profits.
Don’t let online noise tell your company story and leave customers wondering, while your salespeople linger in the shadows. By controlling your message, advocating your company’s particulars and value solutions above sales through a blend of content and salespeople, you can curate a brand image, marketing strategy and sales philosophy that builds customer trust and leads to long-term financial success.
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