Hopefully by now you’re getting used to saying “No” and have discovered that the world doesn’t stop turning! There’s more to learn though.
We’ve saved some of our best assertive communication tips until last, so let’s get straight into it.
This article has tips and ideas mainly from PR and communications professionals.
James Altucher JamesAltucher.com
~ James is a Top 10 Linkedin Influencer, prolific writer, successful entrepreneur, chess master, and venture capitalist. He has started and sold several companies and is actively invested in, or advises, over 30 different companies in areas ranging from tech to energy to health care to biotech.
The best way to take control of a conversation (not in a manipulative way but in a way that productively moves the conversation forward) is to offer constructive criticism:
– summarize the points of the others
– enumerate the positives of each point.
– come up with a top-down vision for where the conversation is going (e.g. “sounds like what we are really talking about is the brand of the entire company rather than the design of this logo, which is a good way to think about this”)
– offer comparable examples to support your opinion (“social proof”)
– come up with actionable steps to move forward. Try to make them mesh as closely as possible with the opinions of others so nobody feels like you are stepping on their toes.
– it’s ok to start off with, “This is really great. Let’s take a step back to see what we have,” This creates a cognitive bias where everyone else is “the other” and you are the one people remember.
Constructive criticism means listing the values and positives of everyone else’s opinion before assimilating them into your own. Now you control the conversation and are the leader.
Sarah Tippett HomeschoolBase.com
~ Sarah is currently the editor (and an author) of the largest volunteer-driven homeschooling resource, teaching/education, and news website, Homeschool Base. She also teaches parents how to communicate with their children based on their learning styles and teach parents how to make their day even more productive.
Fundamentally, most people do not understand what assertiveness means. Assertiveness means standing for and expressing your own needs and position while being aware and respectful of the other person’s needs, position, and authority.
You may know that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference. In a very similar way, the opposite of being passive is not being aggressive. No, the opposite of both passive and aggressive is assertive.
When an individual addresses his/her subordinates with assertiveness instead of aggression, it can actually increase their respect and loyalty over purely authoritarian methods. Both parties can use assertiveness while maintaining a hierarchy of roles.
This is because assertiveness seeks win-win outcomes by expressing one’s own needs while understanding and respecting the position of the other party.
By its very nature, it takes away the root cause of most conflicts, clashes, and power struggles because it leads to interpersonal transactions with outcomes that both parties desire and work toward.
When you are being assertive, you have the right to offer no reasons or excuses for justifying your behavior. Once you start explaining, then it becomes a debate with them where you are trying to convince an ‘opponent’ why their reasons are wrong.
You don’t owe anyone an explanation for saying no. The world is not going to fall apart because you do not say “yes” to agreeing to do something. If so, then so be it.
This is often the hardest aspect of assertive communication to master. We almost always want to offer some excuse, especially when opting out of something. I struggled with this and I would often apologize and explain my reasoning.
Just say “No thank you” or “I’ve made my decision” or “I won’t be available.”
It could very well take 3 or 4 before the person gets the hint, so be confident and repeat yourself! I had to learn to tolerate the uncomfortable feeling, the silence, and disappointing others.
But once you do, it will save you from so much stress. No need to apologize. No need to explain.
Wyatt Fisher MarriageCounselingBoulder.com
~ Dr. Wyatt Fisher has a doctorate in clinical psychology. He is a licensed psychologist in private practice.
Reflect first, then discuss. Being assertive or confronting is often necessary but should be used as a last resort because it often damages rapport. Usually, the more rapport a relationship has the more it can withstand confrontation.
Therefore, my top tip for assertive communication is to reflect before moving forward. Reflect on these five things.
First, how much has the person’s upbringing influenced their hurtful behavior towards you?
Second, what was happening in their life that may have influenced their hurtful behavior towards you?
Third, what were you doing if anything that may have encouraged their hurtful behavior towards you?
Fourth, what wounds in your upbringing may be getting triggered and are influencing your reaction to their hurtful behavior?
Fifth, where have you been hurtful before even if in a different way? Usually, asking these questions can help soften our anger by helping us see all the complexities to their behavior and the role we may have played in it.
Once our anger softens and our compassion grows, we will be able to bring it up in a much more loving way, which will help them respond much better in return.
Kerri Garbis Ovation Communication
~ Kerri is the president and co-founder of Ovation Communication. Her company has trained hundreds of executives internationally on presentation skills, storytelling for business, etiquette, and emotional intelligence.
Assertive communication has both positive and negative connotations. We all want to feel assertive; however, how many times have you heard, right or wrong, the word “assertive” used pejoratively?
I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with being assertive. However, it helps to remember this equation: Assertiveness = clarity, not cruelty. I’ve often watched people stumble when they think they’re being assertive. They might clip their phrases, raise their voice. They might avoid or ignore eye contact with others because they think it projects a higher status. Sometimes they cut people off, or dismiss them entirely.
This isn’t being assertive. It’s being cruel.
Certain factions of management and business theory might herald this kind of “no holds barred” approach. But what they forget is that when assertiveness arrives cloaked as disrespect, they run the risk of turning off their listeners entirely. They might achieve their desired ends, but they’ll have a hard time getting anyone to go above and beyond what they’ve been bullied into doing.
This doesn’t mean you should be falsely nice, or attempt to sugar coat every message. That type of communication comes with a plethora of its own problems. Instead, aim for clarity – say what you need, or what you mean, simply, clearly, and with respect for the person you’re addressing. Make eye contact, and mind rising volume.
You can be firm, direct, and strong in your convictions without confusing assertiveness for dismissal, disrespect, or cruelty.
Brandon Slater LifesSecretSauce.com
~ Brandon is the co-founder of Life’s Secret Sauce. He teaches young motivated professionals how to engage in effective communication and teach the necessary social skills that have gone by the wayside in this digital era.
Being assertive does not mean being aggressive. There is a fine line that exists between assertive and aggressive but you shouldn’t refrain from your opinion in fear of being aggressive. Assertiveness is being confident in your statement while not causing argument.
An assertive statement should be directed at an action, not a person’s character. An often forgotten factor that can help you to see more assertive and less argumentative or aggressive is your body language during the discussion.
First, always make sure the person you are speaking with has a clear path to the door. This will keep them from feeling trapped.
If the conversation needs to take place with other powerful people in the room (meaning other managers, supervisors, etc.) be sure that one person speaks and you do not stand or sit all together. Spreading out will make it less intimidating.
Remain at the same height level as the person or people you need to speak with. If they are sitting, sit. You can be firm from the same level without being aggressive. Use power stances as opposed to closed stances. Hands in a peak signals you are sure about what you are saying.
Flip your hands, palms up when you are done speaking if you are looking for feedback or input. Palms down shows a finality to the discussion. By putting your hands by your side show that you are confident.
Crossed arms display that you are not open to ideas and you are feeling defensive. Consider the message you would like to send before the conversation takes place.
Understand that depending on the circumstances you may need to display more power than other situations. Use your body language in conjunction with the words you say to be sure you do not cross the line from assertive to aggressive.
Deirdre Breakenridge DeirdreBreakenridge.com
~ Deirdre is a CEO of Pure Performance Communications, speaker, author of Social Media and Public Relations & PR 2.0, adjunct professor & co-founder of #PRStudChat.
For communicators, communication confidence goes beyond the spoken and written words you share. Your body language also tells a very important story and a great deal about how you feel.
Your body language conveys your level of confidence when you present information to any audience. You can command a presence with your physical stance, excellent eye contact and the welcoming and open gestures you use when you speak to groups.
Be sure to always evaluate your communication in three parts; how you speak and the confident tone of your voice, your ability to communicate messages effectively through written words, and the signals you give off through your own body language.
Michelle Hutchison Finder.com
~ Michelle is Money Expert and Head of Public Relations at one of Australia’s biggest comparison websites finder.com.au. She has a background in journalism and is a regulator contributor to many publications and websites.
When you need to be assertive and talk to someone about an issue or idea, it almost always means there will be emotion involved. That’s because we’re usually very passionate or feel strongly about our views.
When emotion creeps into the conversation, it can take over and become a tornado of personal attacks, so it’s important to stop and think about how you will approach a conversation before charging.
The best way to remove emotion or finger-pointing from an issue is to treat it like it is somewhere else in the room, like a chair or lamp. When talking about the issue, point to the object and look at it, which physically helps to disassociate the problem from the person you’re speaking to. It makes them feel like you’re not attacking them.
Take a step back and think about the issue from a high level. Review what happened, why it happened and how. Think about what you could have done differently and acknowledge any mistakes or learnings you made.
And most importantly, think about the process and how it can be improved, rather than focusing for too long on what should have happened if something went wrong, or why it didn’t go to plan.
Too often I see conversations turn sour because someone refuses to move on from the problem or won’t stop to reflect on the whole situation. But it is often a smoother and easier conversation when emotion is left aside to focus on the bigger picture.
It’s also important to not push on the accelerator too hard and turn your assertiveness into aggression. The best way to do this is to keep calm, allow the other person to speak, listen to their views, and empower them to come up with solutions with you.
Instead of making statements, such as “This is how it needs to be done”, ask questions like, “How do you think it should be done?” Or, “What do you think about trying this way to do it?”
I also like to avoid using the words “you” and “I” where possible, and instead use “we”. For example, “Can we try using this strategy?”
Being assertive is the mid-point between aggressive on one end of the scale and too shy and quiet on the other end.
Stefanie Carmichael Unicef.ca/Stefanie-Carmichael
~ Stefanie is a Communications Officer at UNICEF Canada. Previously with the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response and the UN Peacekeeping Missions in Liberia and DR Congo, with stints in Rwanda, Libya, and Thailand in between.
My top tip is to anticipate, which means visualizing beforehand how you would act – and react – in a wide range of situations.
How would you want to speak when making a case? What kinds of phrases would you use? How would you breathe? Anticipate the different scenarios and practice staying focused and being true to the person you want to be.
Once you’re comfortable presenting yourself in a clear, calm and rational manner, anticipate the different kinds of feedback you might receive.
How would you handle someone who disagrees with you? What would you do if someone dismissed your argument?
Practice staying calm and keeping your thinking clear. I’m Italian, so it’s not always easy! But the more you anticipate these scenarios, the more you’ll be able to control your behaviour – and in a world full of unknowns, that’s just about all you can control.
Lexi Mills ManyMinds.digital
~ Lexi is a multi-award winning digital marketing expert, with a focus on integrating PR and SEO at both a strategic and tactical level. She writes for several media publications such as PR Week, eConsultancy and is a prominent keynotes speaker at conferences around the world.
Try to use humor over anger: The tone and the language we use to create influence is critical. Our brains do not function well when we are in heightened states of emotion specifically that which is negative. Getting angry or expressing frustration is simply less likely to bring about reasonable and honest discussions with others.
Humour is far more productive; it allows for you to lay an issue on the table in a way that others feel open to discussing. Now, of course, there are some circumstances where you need to address an issue with seriousness. But l only do that if I have to. Let me explain.
I often used to be mistaken for the assistant when clients met me for the first time. They would often ask me to get the tea, for example. Now I could have reacted with anger and frustration, but I didn’t, much to the amusement of my team.
I would smile, get the tea and say, “I hope you like it. My specialty is integrated comms, but I did my best.” We would all laugh, and it set a far more pleasant tone for the meeting than if I had reacted with ego or an adverse tone.
I looked at it this way: most SEO specialists at the time were male and older than me. Their expectation for me to be male was statistically correct, not bias. I enjoyed this game for many years, largely because these are not people operating a conscious gender bias. Making them feel terrible was not the objective; working with them was. By deciding to use humor and playfulness in this situation, all parties were happier.
Mary Poppins has given me some great life philosophies, and in this instance, I saw making the tea as the spoonful of sugar that helped the medicine go down.
David Leonhardt SEO-Writer.com
~ David is an SEO consultant and a marketing strategist that runs a ghost-writing agency.
This is easy. Stay focused on solutions.
You will have clients and colleagues who are scatterbrained. I don’t mean this in a mean way. They simply don’t have focus. There are several possible reasons:
· They might simply enjoy chatting. It’s just what they do.
· They might feel the need to talk in order to hear their own voice.
· In some cases, they might actually think better while speaking.
But your valuable time need not fuel their thinking. It need not feed their ego. And it need not keep them entertained. Bring the conversation immediately back to the problem and moving toward a solution.
There will be other clients and colleagues who give you vague instructions, answers or advice. Some people have commitment problems. It’s not just with finding a life partner; some people have problems to commit to any opinion or option, even such benign positions as:
· whether to order donuts or muffins for that early meeting
· whether to meet at the coffee shop across the street or the coffee shop three blocks over
· Whether to go with the red design or the blue
But you need clarity in order to do a good job. They might like to hedge their bets so that if they’re not feeling perfect one day, they can say that you didn’t do the job right. But that’s not what you want.
And when things go wrong, as sometimes they do, there is always somebody who throws the blame around:
· There oughta be a law.
· You’re such a nincompoop.
· Somebody’s gonna pay for this.
Nobody ever solved anything by ranting. But sometimes people need to rant, so don’t deny people their God-given right to be upset. However, it serves you no purpose to have an upset bull in your china shop, so as soon as possible, pivot the conversation back to the problem to be solved and possible solutions.
Eugene Gamble EugeneGamble.co.uk
~ Eugene is a business coach and networking specialist. He has met and interviewed many ‘A’ listers such as 50 Cent, Calvin Klein and John Travolta, Billionaires and Multi-Millionaires.
A lot of people will advise you to listen to the person you are communicating with and this requires you to stay silent (an anagram of listen as it happens!). Certainly excellent advice.
However, it is important to listen actively as this will assist in making the other person feel validated in their viewpoint (not that this will invalidate your own position).
Attempt to truly appreciate the other person’s perspective and viewpoint by asking appropriate questions. Most importantly, when they are finished, try to summarize your understanding of what they have said.
Start off by saying “If I’ve understood you correctly…”. Once you have delivered what you believe to be their current perspective ask them “Have I understood you correctly?”.
Even if you have misunderstood them in areas they will become less confrontational in correcting you as they feel they are being understood. People won’t remember what you have said but they will always remember how you made them feel.
Ursula Pala Linkedin.com/UrsulaPala
~ Ursula is the Head of Corporate Communication Rome Chamber of Commerce and Head of Communications Maker Fiare Rome – The European Edition. She is an expert at leveraging owned and earned media to drive branding and awareness, creating domino effects to maximize communication strategies
Being assertive is not a natural response in human beings
Tip 1: Breathe! By being calmer what you say next will then sound more assertive
Tip no. 2: Think before you react. Your caveman reaction is urging you to take urgent action When you need to be assertive, pause for thought before you say or do anything.
Tip 3 Talk to yourself. Tell yourself you are capable and strong. Tell yourself the other person needs your support and understanding. Be careful how you communicate these messages: don’t say “I’m not angry”, the brain will hear ‘angry’ and react accordingly
Practice this regularly and when you really need to be assertive, you will be in a good position to use these techniques to your benefit.
Tip 4: Mind your Language. “I appreciate how you feel. And, this is how I feel.” is an assertive communication. Using the word “I” is honest as it shows that you are own your thoughts and feelings rather than putting them on the other person. While “And” builds co-operation and under standing
Tip 5: Stay aware of your whole body. Your body is communicating 55% of your message, and it is the part of the message the caveman brain reads and reacts to most strongly.
When you know you need to look assertive, consciously limit your hand movements to soft, flowing gestures that support your words.
Look people in the eye, especially when they are talking to you. When you break eye contact, do it to look at something the other person can look at too
Sarah Lisovich CIAMedical.com
~ Sarah is the senior editor and content strategist at CIA Medical.
When communicating or discussing an issue, using reflective language as opposed to accusatory language is a productive way to approach a friend, peer, or co-worker with a problem.
Telling someone that they always do something wrong can lead to a defensive attitude, and further accusations in response, which can generate more problems instead of solving the ones you were hoping to resolve.
In contrast, beginning an assertive communication with the statement “I feel…” followed by “when you…” allows the communicator to explain the effects of the other person’s actions on them.
This simple change in phrasing can make a big difference when broaching conflicts. This is one of the foundations of strong communication, but when stress, ego, and apathy get in the way, most people forget how to proactively communicate their feelings in a non-threatening way.
Eliza Cioacă IronSheep.Tech
~ Eliza is a PR Consultant. She specializes in brand development and strategic consulting, including business plan & marketing strategy development.
Having an assertive attitude towards people can be challenging, especially for those with more fluid personalities. Thus, it might be a better idea to start slowly and built on the progress achieved.
I would recommend to people to try and listen actively to what others are trying to communicate. Because communication is not a simple one-way process, it is important for all the participants involved in that communication to receive and decipher the information properly.
Unfortunately, there are numerous times when this doesn’t happen, due to various reasons, both internal and external.
Making an active effort in listening and understanding what the other person is trying to tell us, can be a simple yet efficient method to use in order to become more assertive.
Mark Verkhovski American Webmasters Association
~ Mark is the president of The American Webmasters Association, a professional association founded in 2003 to connect and support the individuals and organizations responsible for creating, managing and marketing websites.
My best assertive communication tip is to always keep your calm and focus on the end goal. When someone’s behavior goes against your plans, don’t get angry or get into a fight. Listen and understand the other’s person perspective and then present a solution that will be beneficial for both of you.
Don’t keep saying ” I need”, “I want” or saying more “I” statements. The truth is that people rarely care about you. They care about themselves. Make the other part realize that your plan has advantages for them too. Also, use words like “us” and “our” and “we” so they feel as a part of a team that has the same goals.
For example, if you are trying to convince your boss or manager that you need a bigger budget for a project, all he will see is that you want him to spend more money and he will reject your proposal. Your job is to make him see how the company will benefit. Focus on results, not on tasks.
So, don’t say “the site will have a nicer design if I rebrand it.” Say “our site will convert more leads into clients thanks to a premium design”
Kerri Gois BroadbandSearch.Net
~ Kerri is the Marketing Manager at BroadbandSearch.Net.
First and foremost, it is important to recognize that there is a difference between being assertive and being pushy. Pushy communication is when you become aggressive toward others and use forceful tactics to get what you want.
Assertiveness, on the other hand, shows confidence in what you are saying by utilizing impactful words. The number one tip I would give when trying to communicate assertively would be to listen and be empathetic.
If you are not listening to other person’s concerns or opinion, you have broken down the ability to gain their trust. The number one goal of communication is to find a “win-win” resolution.
When coming to that resolution, it is also important to listen to your own needs and communicate those out loud. Open communication is more likely to occur when all parties feel heard and respected.
Marisa South VetPetJobs.com.au
~ Marisa is the General Manager of Vet & Pet Jobs, a career website dedicated to helping employers and job seekers in the pet industry in Australia.
One of the most important things to understand about being assertive is that you need to become a great listener first. Make sure you completely understand the other person’s point of view and don’t interrupt.
Creating a dialogue with open and honest communication creates transparency and trust. This dialogue should be an opportunity for everyone involved to openly and freely express thoughts and feelings.
By listening to others and communicating with appropriate responses, you’re actively listening in a productive way. Being assertive also means being able to admit mistakes and apologize while maintaining self-control.
An assertive person should be able to accept responsibilities while also delegating tasks to others. If you’re not acting assertively, you’re typically acting passively or aggressively, which should be avoided.
Keri Vandongen EarnLoyalCustomers.com
~ Keri guides online entrepreneurs with earning loyal customers. They enhance communication, empathy, and collaboration. She shares insights from her communication profession, private practice, and previous online business.
Before communication training with my clients, I listen to them. I find out how they describe their communication strengths, goals, and needs.
By mirroring language they use –they feel heard and understood. We communicate about why they aren’t using assertive communication to reveal their beliefs.
As we discuss various communication purposes within their job and social settings, I focus on understanding from their point of view.
My clients learn a 7-Step communication training technique to speak with greater assertion… “The serve and return roleplay.”
Roleplaying facilitates balancing communication turns. Listening and communicating are equally practiced. Self-awareness is enhanced. Dyad communication has an ongoing impact on a partner(s).
Advice isn’t sufficient to enhance communication. People benefit from actively practicing dyad turns and mindfully listening. Listen for spoken language, then emotions and next point of view.
It’s exhausting and mind-opening. By focusing on a partner(s) perspective while mindfully listening and balancing communication –you’ll become more assertive.
Scott Lorenz WestWindcos.com
~ Scott runs a public relations and marketing firm that helps clients and their lawyers to develop communications strategies that support and enhance their legal strategies. He has worked with numerous entrepreneurs since 1980 and is an integral part of the marketing strategy for many firms.
Communicate like you mean it. Be assertive! Commit to the plan.
How? I once was director of media relations for the flight team on the First Solo Around The World Hot Air Balloon Flight for Kevin Uliassi.
There was no doubt this was a total gamble on weather, technology and the limits of man. Richard Branson reviewed the press release and removed all the qualifying language.
Words like ‘could’ ‘maybe’ ‘perhaps’ ‘weather permitting’ ‘barring unforeseen’ and any other words that ‘qualified’ the attempt and changed them to assertive positive words ‘will break the world record’ and ‘will become the first fly solo around the world’ etc.
That lesson in using assertive language has stayed with me to this day. Considering it came from one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world, Richard Branson, you see that’s exactly how he’s run his life as well.
Anita Kirkbride Twirp.ca
~ Anita is a social media consultant that lives and breathes social media for her clients so they don’t have to.
Tell people what you think about what’s going on in your industry. It’s not enough to simply share other people’s opinions and agree by virtue of liking or retweeting.
To stand out in social media, to become a thought leader, you have to have your own opinion and you need to be able to communicate that.
So tell people what you think and stand by it. Respectfully, of course.
Dan Janal PrLeads.com
~ Dan is an inspiring business keynote speaker who helps entrepreneurs realize their dreams of creating a successful business, leading a balanced life and achieving financial freedom. He is also a frequent speaker on webinars, podcasts, and radio shows.
Bridging is an effective technique to state your point of view. Many times reporters will try to get your opinion on something that doesn’t help you.
Your goal is to get your point across. You could say, “That reminds me of …” and then state your point or tell your story.
If you watch media interviews, you’ll see this is done all the time! Now you know the trick.
Andrea Carter ThePRMaverick.com
~ Andrea is a public relations pro by day and a freelance writer/PR consultant by night. She works as a PR for 10 years.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable! Assertive communication doesn’t have to be something to fear.
Become comfortable with owning how you feel–even in tough situations–then proceed with purposeful dialogue from there.
Purposeful dialogue means offering solutions and genuinely seeking to understand the point of view of others.
Lilach Bullock LilachBullock.com
~ Lilach is a social media expert, consultant, trainer and professional speaker.
Over the years of being in business for myself, I’ve had to deal with a lot of people. Some who have helped me a lot, and some who have really affected me in a negative way.
It’s always difficult dealing with that – but what I’ve learned over time, is that you need to be open-minded and be able to evaluate the situation from the other person’s perspective as well.
Then, when it’s time to talk about it, you can more easily assert yourself without hurting the other person’s feelings.
Maxime Rieman CoverWallet.com
~ Maxime is the Director of Product Marketing for CoverWallet, a company focused on simplifying risk and insurance for small businesses.
Assertive communication is in conveying information but is equally necessary for gaining information.
In a business environment, particularly a group presentation, it can be difficult to stand up and ask a question of an executive or push for a “real” answer, but this is critical for being sure the appropriate parties are actually on the same page and details aren’t overlooked.
A simple way to get started is pulling individuals aside to ask followups, and oftentimes you’ll hear the feedback that questions can and should be brought up to the entire group.
Now, you need to judge for yourself whether a question is applicable for the larger group or is too in-the-weeds, but it’s usually quite clear.
Kash Lalka Trail Camera Reviews
~ Kash is a female entrepreneur and the co-founder of Best Expert Reviews. She in charge with the PR and marketing strategy for her site.
Assertiveness is very important in your professional and personal life. Many times people confuse assertiveness with aggressiveness. This makes them hold themselves back from being assertive.
Also many people feel that an assertive person is disliked so they prefer not to be assertive. However, as the saying goes, “Only when a baby cries, the mother gives milk”. In the same way, only when you are assertive and ASK what you want, you will get it.
The best tip I can give for assertiveness is to Change your Mindset. As long as you look at assertiveness as a bad thing which will make you unpopular, you will always be at a disadvantage. You need to look at assertiveness as something that is your strength.
Susan Bratton SusanBratton.com
~ Susan is the CEO of Personal Life Media, Inc. a publisher of online sexuality programs that teach people how to have more passion and intimacy in their lives.
Back in the early 80’s I landed my first sales job. My territory was called, “The R.O.W.” That stood for, “the rest of the world,” as in… There are the good accounts, and then there are “the rest of the world” accounts. Those were the companies that were small, or had potential but weren’t currently spending any money with the electronics distributor for whom I worked.
Where a top sales rep might have 8-10 key accounts, I had at least 150 accounts in my list. Luckily, I had youth, fortitude and a will to succeed on my side. I got to work making sales calls.
My goal was to quickly call on as many of them as possible so I could qualify the ones with potential. Pareto’s principle — the 80/20 rule was applicable to this process. So I began to phone them up and try to book a meeting with their purchasing agent or engineering team.
There were times when I would leave a message every single week for months before a purchasing agent would call me back. I had a little stack of index cards and each week I’d flip through them, make the call, leave the message and note my call on the card. Some of my cards had twenty notations on them that simply had the date and “left vm” which meant I left a voice mail.
What I discovered was that they were busy and inundated with calls from hundreds of sales reps. Their lack of response had nothing to do with me. And my strategy of never giving up paid off.
Eventually, they would return my call. I would get a meeting. And a relationship would develop. Then one day I would get my first “RFP.” The request for proposal was my goal, my chance to bid on items they were purchasing.
I turned that ROW territory into the second largest account base on our sales team. Over time I got the choicest accounts and had to work less hard to make more money.
Have you’ve ever heard of Byron Katie’s, “The Work?” Basically what this personal growth guru explains is, “it’s not about you.” As in, most of what is going on is about the other person’s reality. You’re not even figuring into their consideration. Bottom line? Don’t take it personally.
Just this week I had a breakfast meeting with the CEO of YourTango in Manhattan. I’m a YourTango expert and write a column there. Since I was headed to New York I wanted to meet the founder of the organization to make myself known to her. I wanted to hear about the strategy of the company and how I might more fully leverage my expert status there.
Three weeks before my trip I reached out to my contacts at YourTango for an introduction to the CEO. Two weeks before my trip I followed up on my request for a meeting. The week before I sent another email and then I texted my main contact. She had sent a request but hadn’t heard back. She followed up again.
Here it was the Friday before my flight and still no response. At this point, most people would give up. They’d take it personally. They’d figure the CEO didn’t want to see them. But not me. Because I know it’s not about me.
And I got that meeting set after I landed in New York. It just took persistence.
The meeting was excellent. I learned a lot and made a great connection. I also found out that the CEO has two young sons and is as busy a woman as you’d find. So the lag in setting up the meeting was nothing about me. She was just busy and juggling many responsibilities.
You might think what I did was assertive with the constant follow up. But I think it’s simple persistence based on my desire to find ways to increase our business potential together.
Since I’m the kind of person that won’t do business unless it’s a win for all, I feel perfectly confident in following up right up to the very end.
Remember assertiveness isn’t aggression. Being assertive is helpful for the other person as well. Help them to understand what’s driving you and it will make their life easier as well.
Get out there and start standing up for yourself!
Finally, in case you’re interested, here are a few of our otherarticles on assertiveness: