The #1 Skill of Entrepreneurs: Your Ability to Sell

On this episode, Vanessa talks with Mike Reddington, Certified Forensic Interviewer and president of InQuasive, about one of the most critical skills small business owners and entrepreneurs need to master: Selling. Learn how to connect with your audience and strengthen relationships to sell like a pro.

Vanessa: Happy Friday, listeners. I am your host, Vanessa Vaughn, the Founder and Chief Resilience Officer of Asfalis Advisors. Today’s show is brought to you by, a site connecting you with the resources you need to start and run a business in the Charlotte region. And this is the B2U podcast, a podcast bringing business resources directly to you. From starting and growing a business to navigating government contracts, we’re talking with small business experts to get exclusive advice on how to start and run a successful business.

Today, I am happy to introduce you to certified forensic interviewer, otherwise known as a CFI and president of InQuasive, Mike Reddington. Mike has a wealth of knowledge and is here to discuss how small business owners can become sales professionals through the discipline learning sales method, a program that can help you connect with your audience, strengthen relationships, and sell like a pro. So now, on B2U, here’s Mike Reddington. Mike, welcome to the podcast.

Mike: Good morning, Vanessa, thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Vanessa: All right, Mike, before we begin, why don’t you tell our listeners a little bit more about yourself? How did you get here today? Where are you from? And what led you into the sales training industry?

Mike: A whole series of happy accidents and unplanned events. So I originally grew up in the New England area and ended up in the New York City area, and then the Chicago area before my wife and I moved down here to Charlotte five years ago, almost to the day. And my background, I started out as a school teacher working with special needs students and was peer pressured into trying all kinds of different jobs until I ended up in an investigative role. And as my career progressed there, I became responsible for having conversations with company employees who made regrettable decisions and needed an opportunity to come clean, and I provided them with that opportunity.

So as I took training to learn how to have these non-confrontational conversations and help people feel comfortable sharing sensitive information that they most likely have previously lied about, I was able to eventually work for an organization that is the number one interview and interrogation resource on the planet. I mean, they have a worldwide reach and everything they do is focused on non-confrontational report-based interview and interrogation techniques. So while I was traveling and leading seminars for them, I happened to teach a program that had several CEOs in it.

And after the program in a social atmosphere, if you will, one of the guys was asking me questions about how to relate what I was teaching from the interrogation room to what his sales team did. I was just enjoying the conversation and answering questions, and didn’t realize that it was a test. So at the end of the conversation, he asked me if I could train a sales team. And of course, I said yes. After that, I went back and really started doing the research, and I’m sure we’ll talk about it later. But the more I dove into the research, the leading approaches to get customers in order to commit to staying, “I’ll buy it,” and interrogation suspects to commit to saying, “I do,” or they are so similar, that that was really the dawn of what became the discipline listening method.

Vanessa: Awesome. So I saw in your background that you have worked in loss prevention before?

Mike: Yes, ma’am.

Vanessa: I come from the risk and safety, and security world, so I think there’s some synergies there.

Mike: Certainly sounds that way, yeah.

Vanessa: Now, the only other question I have for you is, are you a New England Patriots fan?

Mike: Born and raised. That’s all right. I really like it when people ask me that up front, so people tune me out for the rest of the episode. Well, you couldn’t have held that to the end. Now, people are like, “I’m done with them,” you know?

Vanessa: Okay, listeners.

Mike: If they can’t hear me over the sound of my championship parades, then I get it.

Vanessa: Awesome. So I definitely wanna hear more about how you’ve linked the world of essentially interrogations, you know, from a loss prevention, safety security perspective, and sales, because that sounds really cool. So my next question for you is, tell us about the discipline listening method. And really, how did you develop that program?

Mike: So when I sat down to develop it, it was really kind of an avalanche that the one conversation I told you about and I said, “Okay. Well, I agree to do this program,” I can’t just show up and say, “Well, here’s some interrogation things we do that I think will help you,” like, there has to be credible tie-ins to standards and best practices that are already in place in the business development world. So I went out to look for those. And while I was doing that research, the first thing that dawned on me, at least with the resources that I was looking at is I found a couple independent resources that really were putting the brakes on a lot of the traditional sales pitch mentality, and had the significant research to back up their claim that teaching is the most important part of selling. And they took it from a couple of different angles and explained it with their research.

And as I was reading that what leveled me in my chair was of all the interrogation techniques I’ve been trained on as a certified forensic interviewer, which is around a dozen at this point by far, the most successful technique repeatedly, consistently successful technique across the widest variety of cases is the WZ method. And that method is a teaching method. For the first 5 to 10 minutes of that conversation, we’re not accusing anybody of anything, we’re teaching them new perspectives so they have a different frame of mind before we ever get to a point we’re gonna accuse them of anything. And so I was reading that. What struck me was the fact that the cognitive process that will drive an interrogation suspect to commit to saying, “I did it,” is essentially identical to the cognitive process that will drive a customer to commit to saying, “I’ll buy it,” and a reluctant employee to commit to saying, “I’ll do it.” All we’re doing is moving people from resistance to commitment. Call it what you want, that is what we’re doing.

So once I had that realization, I dove into locking down the specific interview and interrogation techniques that I wanted to draw from, locking down the business development research, the negotiation research, the persuasion research, the conflict resolution research, to bring all of these disciplines that many times are looked as so separate, to try to find the best of both worlds, bring them together and create a series of programs that are teaching people to approach any of their critical communications in a way where they are giving themselves the best opportunity to identify strategic value and really build relationships based off of what is possible, not based off of what they assume going in.

Vanessa: Okay, couple questions for you. So the WZ method?

Mike: Correct.

Vanessa: What’s that?

Mike: Wicklander-Zulawski. So that’s admittedly…

Vanessa: Okay, because I was gonna guess that for sure.

Mike: Yeah, yeah. Okay, cool. Awesome. So I see you’re fluent in Polish. Now, that is the organization that I work for prior to starting InQuasive. So, you know, Bias Alert, yes, I spent a decade with them. But when you look at the research that backs the success of confrontational versus non-confrontational interrogation techniques, and the global applicability of many of these techniques, the global reach in the cultural flexibility that the WZ method provides in the way that it is so easily adaptable to various, not only criminal interrogations but even witness conversations and victim conversations, really gives it significant advantages when you compare it to other leading techniques.

Vanessa: And so the discipline listening method, is that a series of videos and programs? Do you teach that? How do your customers receive this method or this program?

Mike: The majority of what I do is contract work for organizations. So I will come in and I will either teach workshops, or do small group, or one on one advisory sessions for executive teams, business development teams, management teams, HR teams down the line. So it’s the majority of what I do is either the workshop seminar environment or the one-on-one advisory services.

Vanessa: So when you were giving the explanation about what the disciplined listening method is, you talked about one of the most valuable components in sales is to teach. And it’s interesting because I’ve read, and seen in other methods where they discourage you from educating the customer. So can you tell me a little bit more about that?

Mike: Certainly. And this ties in recency bias alert to a conversation I had with one of my mentors two days ago, when I called him to update him on where I was at and what I was doing. He has a tremendous way of distilling what he hears into these short, poignant sentences that have instant effect. And he distilled the whole conversation we had into saying, “Okay, Mike. So what we have to do is be careful of falling into the trap of essentially telling people, yes, I do what other people do, but I do it better, so you should choose me.” And a lot of times, that’s what the pitch approach comes down to. Sure, we can say we have testimonials, or we have research, or we have facts, or we have these features or benefits about what we do. It’s bragging. And when we think about how people listen, the majority of times people react the strongest to what they hear first.

And what they hear first has to come through their filters, their biases, their preconceived notions. And as small business owners and sales professionals, we bear the burden of every sales interaction the people we interact with have ever had. Based on that, they have mental models of how they expect to be treated. So if we fall into that same routine, we become Charlie Brown’s teacher, we’re white noise. So where we talk about teaching as the most important part of selling. Well, certainly I don’t wanna take credit for that idea. That’s an idea that has been established through other organization’s research. What we’re talking about really is how do we create value. There was a research study done, I believe, by CEB where essentially they looked at why do customers choose to stay loyal.

Fifty-three percent of the reason why they chose to stay loyal was the relationship they had or the sales experience they had with their salesperson. So if you look at that and we just take it for what it is at the moment, we could have the greatest product ever. But based on that research study, I’m not great at math, what is that 47% of the reason tops that they’re going to stay loyal is actually the quality of the product? Do they wanna deal with an insufferable salesperson to get high-quality… I mean, we can all think of people that offered things to us that we could have benefited from, but we’re like, “Yeah, I don’t like that person.” And so we didn’t do it, personal or professional.

So teaching comes down to two things. First, is not just trying to create value in what we sell, but valuing ourselves as people. And the best way that people can see value in us is if they learn from us. Two, it’s about connecting with people in the order of topics in which they care about, which for the record, starts with them not us. And then after we’ve gone through that process, now, we can take advantage of the fact that we provide unexpected and unsolicited value to really take advantage of the situation.

Vanessa: Awesome. So absolutely love that. And I’ll circle this back to something that I’ve recently been reading and start with why? And they talked about, you know, there’s a difference between people who lead and people who follow you, and really understanding your why. And that’s really the reason why people follow you, right? So you’re giving me all types of vibes here. So I’m so excited about this. So you’ve touched on this earlier, but I wanna go back to this. What similarities do you see between interrogation and sales?

Mike: I may even broaden that out for a moment. The similarities are really between interrogation which if we had a whole another episode, we could probably dispel myths and help change people’s perspective on what they see on TV, and what works in real life.

Vanessa: And when you say interrogation, is that questions?

Mike: Sure. Yeah. Sitting down with somebody that either said or did something they probably weren’t supposed to and now, we need to find the truth about it to use a very broad, broad, broad label for that, we talk about sales and business development. We talk about business negotiations. We talk about conflict resolution. We talk about job candidate interviews, even customer service interactions. When we look at that pool of conversations, they all center around moving people from resistance to commitment. And when we talk about moving people from resistance to commitment, the very best interviewers and the very best leaders share the same two core skill sets, vision and influence. If we can’t see the whole field, understand the big picture, and understand how every action we take is going to impact our ability to achieve that big picture, we’re not gonna be successful.

And if we can’t influence the people around us, not just to say that sounds like fun in the beginning, but commit to the entire process throughout, then we’re not gonna be successful. So on one side of the coin is our perspective, vision, and influence. On the other side of the coin, we already talked about the similarities in that cognitive process. The other huge component that is common throughout, is anytime we want people to share information, we have to help them protect their self-image and save face. There are so many ways that if we’re not conscious of what we’re saying, how we’re saying it, there are so many ways that we have the ability to inadvertently come across in a way that makes somebody feel stupid, or make someone feel embarrassed, or make someone feel devalued, or makes them feel, like, our perception is that they don’t know, or they don’t understand, or they’re not good enough. And when that happens, they get defensive.

And as soon as they get defensive, now, this has become a competition. And that’s what we’re trying to avoid the whole time. So when we look at taking that teaching approach, helping people protect their self-image, and really understanding the strategic value that we have the opportunity to achieve in any conversation, if we were to make a Venn diagram with all of these conversations, the level of overlap would be pretty significant.

Vanessa: So one of the things that I was sitting here thinking about is an investigator sits across from a suspect, right, and then a small business owner sitting across from a customer. So from your perspective, how does the investigator mindset line up with the small business owner’s mindset?

Mike: Essentially identical. For many investigators and more certainly with the team that I come from, they don’t call us when it’s all, like, wrapped up in a bow and they just need someone to come in and say, “Hey, did you do it?” “Yeah.” “Can you write it down?” “Sure.” “Thanks. Have a great day.” For us to get called, we’ve got a situation where there’s most likely multiple suspects, no evidence, everybody has been interviewed at least once already, and proclaimed their innocence. The case is likely weeks or months old. And now, it’s gotten to the point where the fire in the dumpster is so out of control, they call in somebody else to try to bring this back together. That might not sound like an analogy to be being a small business owner. But for us, everything’s always on fire, right? Life is a series of solvable problems. We can choose to focus on the problem or choose to focus on the solution.

And in their own way, interviewers and interrogators are professional problem solvers. Small business owners are professional problem solvers. We use strategic communication to solve a lot of those problems. For you and I, if we don’t connect with the next customer, we might not pay our bills, like, that’s a really big problem. So it’s going into any communication, in any conversation, and understanding, this is the goal that I need to achieve, this is where I wanna be, these are the problems that lay in between where I am now, and how I can achieve that goal, and these are the people that I need to interact with in order to resolve these issues to reach that goal. So now how do I capitalize on these interactions? And from that standpoint, running a small business and being a professional interviewer is one and the same.

Vanessa: Gotcha. So what do you say to small business owners, one like myself, right? I started a business because of the passion and the enjoyment that I have in the world of risk and crisis. So I’m a subject matter expert, I’m not a sales professional. How do you work with small business owners that have that same challenge?

Mike: A couple of things to think about. First of all, I love that. Second of all, when we work with sales teams, whether it is a group of small business owners, or whether it is a large sales team from an enterprise organization, one of the problems that, I shouldn’t say that, one of the opportunities that we typically have to work through is when people rely on their passion and technical expertise. When we’re under stress, we go to what we know. Our brain starts to shut down, we go on autopilot, and we fall back to whatever we’re most comfortable with. So for somebody who has real technical expertise, when they get under stress in front of a customer, they’re most likely not gonna focus on the customer’s world, they’re gonna focus on their technical expertise.

What’s funny is a lot of them will look at and say, “No, I was talking about how it applies to their world.” You were talking about your technology the whole time and made one comment about how you think it would apply to their world. From the passion standpoint as well, I think we share that commonality being passionate about what we do drove us to where we are. Passion is great because when people can sense that, it’s easier for them to connect with us, it’s easier for them to trust us because they see how much we care about what we do and how much it applies to them. However, if we fall under stress, and we just revert back to how passionate we are, now we’re focused on us, not focused on them.

So what we really try to work with people on is lead to what you’re most comfortable with, lead to what you think is most important, lead to your best statement, your best question, whatever it is. Don’t lead with it. Keep it in your back pocket as long as possible and work to bring the conversation to you as opposed to chasing it. When we talk about the concept of controlling conversations, people will ask, “What if they say this? What if I say that? How do I stay in control? How do I keep control of a conversation?” The easiest way to keep control of any conversation is not cause the other person to feel like you’re trying to take it from them.

Metaphorically, when someone pushes us, our first response is to push back. So if we don’t push people, they don’t need to push us. And if they don’t need to push us, we’re now in control because we can nudge where this conversation is going, which takes us back to the longer conversation of what are the strategic goals? And how do we help people? How do we educate people to lead themselves there, as opposed to us trying to shove them there during the conversation?

Vanessa: So two questions that I have that came up as you said that, and I just wanna get your thoughts. The first one is, he who asked the questions controls the conversation. So I wanna get your thoughts on that. And then the second one is, lawyers never ask questions that they don’t know the answers to. Thoughts?

Mike: Okay, let’s separate those. He who asks or she who asks the questions is in control of the situation or conversation. I think there’s a large degree of truth to that. It’s all gonna come down to the quality of the questions. One of the things that we work with people all the time on is what is your goal and how does this help? If we’re gonna start firing questions at people, those questions can be perceived as invitations or attacks. So the order that we structure those questions, how we ask them, how we set those questions up, all become very important because that control that we have over the conversation by asking questions, to speak in very broad terms, can have two potential results. We pull people towards us, or we push people away. So yes, he or she who asked the questions is in control, but if they’re not executing a strategic approach for inquiry, they could be doing more damage with that control than creating positive impact.

The second thought was lawyers never ask questions they don’t know the answers to. Lawyers never asked questions they don’t act like they have answers to. I’m sure, the majority of questions they’d like to make sure they have the answers to. But again, from experience in working with attorneys, we have to compartmentalize that. A lot of times when we think about the types of questions attorneys asked, we correlate that to trial because that’s what we see on TV, that’s what we see on the movies. No movie has ever been made about a client intake interview or witness interviews. And Law and Order is based on what happens in the courtroom. “12 Angry Men,” one of the best movies ever, largely based on what happened in the jury room, also predicated on what was happening in the courtroom.

So when attorneys ask questions at trial, there are very strict rules that they have to operate within. So because of how they operate within those rules, many times, they have to look at what they know, what they want to prove, and how they can ask a series largely of yes, or no, or otherwise direct questions in order to either trap somebody into a point they think they can disprove with what they know, or get somebody to support a point that they want to build their case upon, which is a bit of a generalization. And I’m not an attorney, so I can’t wait till we start getting tweets and quotes from attorneys who wanna clarify that. So context is king. And anytime we’re thinking about applying techniques or applying approaches, it’s the right tool for the right job, what is going to work in this context. So that legal approach is going to work very well within those parameters. Outside of those parameters, there could likely be other tools for us.

Vanessa: Awesome. So I read on your website that you think customers and suspects have a lot in common.

Mike: They do.

Vanessa: And it’s an interesting comparison because it’s funny. I was talking to another friend of mine and I said, “Everyone is a suspect until they’re not.” And they’re like, “Really?”

Mike: “Hi, my name is Vanessa, and you are guilty until proven innocent.”

Vanessa: So can you elaborate on that concept that customers and suspects have a lot in common?

Mike: Yeah. First of all, for a customer and a suspect, their number one goal in life is and should be to protect themselves. That is to protect themselves from their psychologically, their self-image, and also to protect themselves from consequences that they don’t want to experience. Innocent and/or guilty, and/or anything in the middle, a suspect in an interrogation has any number of consequences, real or perceived, that they don’t wanna have to accept. A customer, I mean think about it. When we go in to sell to large businesses, how often do we really get to the CEO? Not as often as we’d like.

So we’re dealing with a vice president and a director, a team leader, or whatever. About the worst possible thing that can happen to them, is for them to go talk to CEO into hiring us, and then the CEO being unhappy with what we produce. Because, I mean, we’re gonna work hard to make sure that doesn’t happen, but we’re gonna go away. Like, sure, we’ll know that we have to take them out of our funnel, and we’re not getting referrals, and none of that feels good. But we never have to see that person again. The guy who vouched for us has to see him every day. And now, his reputation and image is impacted because he vouched for us. Let’s not use us. He vouched for somebody else. And that person didn’t deliver to expectations. So first and foremost, they are looking out for themselves. They have to protect their self-image psychologically, and they have to insulate themselves from potential consequences. And if we don’t approach them in a way that helps them accomplish those two things, then we’re not going to be successful.

Another, I guess, branch of that would be from the outset of the conversation, unless there has been a solid referral, unless they have some sort of experience, especially with small business owners, because we don’t have 4,782,000 followers on Twitter or whatever it is, we don’t have the budgets to afford those types of things. So because we come with more questions, we’re harder to trust. Customers don’t typically welcome in sales professionals with open arms and say, “Here is everything you would ever want to know about my business. Now, please use it against me.” They’re not going to do that.

And for many people who are interrogated, innocent or guilty, they’re not gonna sit down and open up and say, “Here’s everything you need to know about what I said, or what I did, or what I know, and how do you want to treat me after that.” They’re going to have to build some rapport, and earn some trust, and see some value in us before they decide to share any information at all. I know we have limited time, so I’ll try not to ramble. But those are likely the two biggest similarities that suspects and customers have in common.

Vanessa: Okay. And so going back to the discipline listening method, and you may have already answered this, but what’s the top two or three things that we need to be listening for?

Mike: That is a great question. I’m going through about five hours’ worth of an answer right now and trying to distill it down to just a couple of things. I’m gonna keep the geek as contained as I possibly can. First and foremost, when it comes to listening for things or observing for things in conversations, first it’s critical that we have a reasonable idea what somebody looks like when they’re comfortable. If you have done any reading or research on what it looks like when people lie, you can pretty much forget whatever it is that you read. We don’t have time to get into the details, but largely, the majority of research that has been peer-review scientific research has been completed, says that we’ve got give or take a 50% chance of knowing whether someone is lying or not.

I would add on top of that, who cares? Because when we catch somebody lying, all it’s probably gonna do is make us mad. And now that we’re mad, how’s that gonna help anything? Oh, by the way, if I want to believe you’re lying to me bad enough, as soon as you look down and adjust your watch, I’m gonna think, “Oh, look, she’s lying.” No, she’s just kind of curious what time it is because I’m rambling with my answers again. So the first thing that we really need to do is at the outset of any interaction, really try to create a mental picture of what somebody looks like when they’re comfortable. After that, there’s an additional several steps that we really should follow. Generally speaking, we can start looking not for signs of truth or deception, but signs of comfort and discomfort that change from the norm we established at the beginning of the conversation, just to offer a couple of things to look and listen for.

If you’re having a conversation with somebody and they pause before answering, ask yourself, does the pause fit the question? Too many times, we think that a long pause is a cause for concern, not if we ask somebody a difficult question that they have to stop and think about. A lot of times, we don’t realize that a very fast pause or no pause at all should be a cause of concern because that tells us that they likely didn’t put any thought into the answer at all. So did they really just know it that fast, or are they blowing us off, not paying attention, don’t care, whatever? Certainly, listen for noncommitting language.

I think a lot of times, especially in the small business world, we love to convince ourselves that we’re doing great and they like us. So we’ll hear vague and noncommitting language from people. And we’ll run that through our filters, “We’re doing great,” but, “We might not be doing bad,” but we’re probably not doing as great as we think we are because they’re leaving themselves away out by giving us that vague language. The other thing that I would say from a nonverbal standpoint is I’m certainly not gonna, you know, pinpoint any one area of the body for the time that we have today. But look for changes in behavior that happen on time to potentially stressful parts of the conversation. So I’m not entirely familiar with your model and your services that you sell.

The easiest one to talk about is price. Another one to think about would be length of the engagement. Another one to think about would be specific topics in the engagement. For people that sell products, cost, installation time, what the product will or won’t do, you know, all of these types of things, as we go through those parts of the conversation, now, we want to be aware of, does your behavior change? When the behavior changes is more important than what the behavior change is. So instead of sitting here thinking, well, if they do this, or do that, or whatever, it’s when does it change? And if they appear to look uncomfortable right at a time that we’re talking about any specific topic, then we need to start thinking within the context and ask ourselves, “Okay. How can I address that in a way to increase their comfort level?”

Vanessa: Love it. So you’ve made a point earlier, pull people from resistance to…

Mike: Commitment.

Vanessa: …commitment. I’m keeping notes listeners because he’s dropped a lot of nuggets here today. So I’ve been in conversations with some other folks that have been pretty successful from a business development and sales perspective, and so the two things that they brought to my attention is, when you see, you know, back to your point about people changing their behaviors, or they may ask a question that’s seen as an objection, their feedback was, we’ll address it, and just ask him, you know, “Hey, you know, where’s that question, you know, coming from,” or, you know, “Hey, you look a bit uncomfortable. Do you mind if you kinda tell me more about what you’re thinking about?” So that’s one point I’d like for you to kind of think about and help our listeners to think through as we see that. But then the second one that you mentioned was about being concerned about noncommitting languages. And I know, you know, we live in a global environment, people come from different environments, but how do we know what a noncommitting language is?

Mike: So try to answer those in order. And because you’re sitting here with me, I’ll use you as an example. And for the record, because nobody can see us right now, you’ve been extremely comfortable throughout this entire conversation. And if you and I were talking, and I looked at you, and I said, “You know, Vanessa, I feel like you look uncomfortable all of a sudden. Can you help me understand why? How would that make you feel?”

Vanessa: You’re watching me.

Mike: Yeah. Now all of a sudden I’m the biggest creep in here, right? Well, I guess, there’s only two of us, it’s a pretty short list, but I’m still a creep. So when we’re in that business development world, if we tell somebody that their behavior changed, that they look uncomfortable, that they seem unhappy, that, you know, whatever it is, that’s certainly an option. And if we have any type of real rapport with them, there’s a reasonable likelihood that might not backfire. If we have no rapport with them at all, the likelihood of it backfiring is higher. It’s also a risk-reward scenario. If people are in a more volume sales environment, and the quicker they can get to the yes or no, the better because they can just move on to the next, then that might be fine too. Because if we get a snap, “Yeah, I’m not interested,” then okay, you know, we just move on to the next because it’s about the number of calls we make, or about the number of meetings we have in that environment.

Questions create problems. Professional interviewers are professional problem solvers. If we are going to ask people questions, it is our job to solve the problem the question creates for them before we ask the question. So if I want to ask you, why do you look uncomfortable? And that’s what I wanna know. I wanna know, why do you look uncomfortable? Now, I’m basing my question off of what I want to know, not what you need to hear. And those are two entirely different things the vast majority of the time. So in that situation, I’ve gotta quickly think to myself, “Okay. Why would she not want to tell me what about this is making her uncomfortable?”

But there’s any number of reasons. You wanna keep your cards close to your vest, and maybe you’re not interested, you’re a nice person, and you’re just trying to be nice to me so you don’t hurt my feelings before you walk away and do business with somebody else. I mean, there’s all kinds of reasons. So prior to asking the question, I may say, “Vanessa, thank you for all your time today. I really appreciate it. I know we’re busy.” And when people get to a point in the conversation where they begin to potentially think there’s something about this that might not be great for me, they might be thinking that because they have questions that have gone unanswered, they might be thinking that because of the approach that my team used, they might be thinking that because they’re comparing it to something that they’re already doing, or they know a question that somebody in their company is gonna ask them as soon as this conversation is over. If you don’t mind me asking, where are we at?

Now, because I gave them those excuses to answer, they can pick one. And between you and I, I really don’t care if it’s the real one or not. Because what I need them to tell me is they’re not happy with where we are right now. And whatever reason they want to tell me doesn’t make a difference because the mantra of discipline listening is focused on the issue, not the person, focused on the resolution, not the consequences. So as soon as they give me the excuse, now, I can use the excuse to work back to where I need to be without forcing them to protect their self-image along the way.

To get back to the vague language. This one is a little bit more difficult to talk about in a concise manner, as you mentioned, thank you, because we work in a very culturally diverse world. So how people speak and how people behave with the excuse of geeking out too much, if we’re having a conversation with somebody and one of our behavior starts to change in that conversation, there are six different factors that can impact why that behavior is changing. So multiply those six factors by any number of situations by however many billions of people there are in the world, like, we’re not gonna be able to solve for all of those things.

Vanessa: We’ll have to have a whole movie.

Mike: Yes. So I hear George Clooney has been dying to play me for years.

Vanessa: Of course you.

Mike: Yeah, yeah. He specifically asked for. I think I read on the internet somewhere. It’s gotta be true. But what we want to listen for, the risk that we run is especially when people are passionate about what they do. We believe in ourselves. We believe in what we do. We’re proud of ourselves in what we do. So when people give us any type of feedback that feels positive, it’s common that by the time that gets through our filter, we hear it as more positive than it actually was. So when people say things, like, for me, if English is somebody’s first language and they equivocate, they use a word that ends with the letters LY, and has the question mark tone to it, I’m probably not getting the whole story.

If I hear words, like, maybe about, you know, those types of words, okay, you know, that tells me there’s more to the story. So for me, anytime I’m in that type of conversation, I’m listening for people to speak with confidence and I’m listening for people who are going to speak in concrete terms. This is what we’re looking for. This is when we’re gonna start. This is when we need it by. I’m looking for that concrete terminology. If I hear anything that sounds like it’s not concrete terminology, now, I’ve gotta choose my own adventure based on where I am and where I wanna be.

So again, if it’s one of these high turnover-type environments where the volume is important, maybe I’ll just call them on it. Because if I get a quick no, who cares? I’m on to the next, that checks a box. If I’m at a point in the process where I really need to know, maybe I’ll ask directly. If I’m not, there’s a reasonable likelihood I’ll let it slide at least for now, so that way people don’t feel confronted, and I know that I need to find a way to circle back and hit them with some more potential value. So that way, they feel like they have a reason to continue to connect.

Vanessa: Awesome. This has been extremely informational, Mike. Thank you so much for your time here today. Is there anything else you’d like to add before we wrap up, as well as where our listeners can find you?

Mike: Yes. First, I just wanna say thank you very much. I know you had a lot of potential guests to choose from. And I appreciate you inviting me to be a part of this with you today. Thank you very much. I’ve certainly enjoyed it. Anytime people are looking for me, the best place to look is likely a championship parade in downtown Boston. I would say that’s the most consistent place that you can find me. Outside of that,, or I’m also on LinkedIn at Michael Reddington, CFI. I’ve got a lot of really smart people telling me that I need to do more on social media, but I’m a caveman and I’ve resisted. I pretty much feel that resistance waning. So hopefully, pretty soon, they’ll be able to find me more on social media.

Vanessa: Awesome.

Vanessa: Well, listeners there you have it. For exclusive interviews with small business professionals like Mike, make sure to subscribe on Apple podcast, iTunes, or find them at And if you liked today’s show, please rate and review us. If you have any questions or topic suggestions, send in your requests at CBRBiz on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I am your host Vanessa Vaughn. And thank you for listening to the CBR B2U podcast. Until next time, we mean business.

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