In the current climate, the professional world is like a battlefield. You always have to be on the ball to achieve the personal and professional objectives you have set. How should we approach a business meeting? Do we really know how to sell an idea? What does our non-verbal communication say about us? Do we manage stress properly? When is a good time to ask for a pay rise? You are sure to have wondered about these issues at one time or another.
To answer each of these questions, we have the help of Verónica Platas and Immaculada Tena, lecturers on the Master in Human Resources Management at EAE Business School, an the Director of the program, Javier L. Crespo, Juan Morillo, a lecturer on the Master in Marketing & Sales at EAE Business School, Marc Bara, the Director of the Master in Project Management at EAE Business School and Mercè Mach, a lecturer on the Master in Corporate Communication Management at EAE Business School.
The content of this article comes from the EAE Business School’s Talent Alumni Journal, which you can download free of charge.
eTip 1. Five mistakes to avoid in a work meeting
Making incorrect use of the tools available to us for improving communication in a meeting can have the opposite result to what we are trying to achieve. These are a set of guidelines that we should follow to ensure the success of a meeting, whether we are the organizer or just a participant.
One of the activities that certain professional profiles spend most time on in organizations and companies are meetings. These are generally overloaded with a set of conditioning factors that often make them unproductive endeavours that stray far from their initial objective. The following list highlights some of the mistakes that we have to avoid to get the most of meetings, as suggested by Verónica Platas, a lecturer on the Master in Human Resources at EAE Business School.
1. A meeting that could have been an email
Is it really necessary to have a meeting? This is perhaps the first aspect to consider. Is the goal to convey some information? Could it be replaced with an email. If the answer is yes, we don’t need to move on to the following points.
2. Time is precious
We often schedule a meeting with a start time without specifying a time for it to end. It is important to establish the scale of the points to be covered and assign a realistic amount of time to deal with them swiftly and efficiently. Many organizations appoint “room keepers” to ensure that meetings are held within the set timeframe.
3. Focus on the here and now
We are bombarded by constant stimuli that reach us through different channels and, in meetings, mobile phones are a great ally for the generation of constant input. It is crucial to concentrate, pay attention and show respect to the other participants. This has led to many organizations regularly asking participants to put their phones in a basket while the meeting is going on.
4. Clear rules of the game
Establishing a system for recording agreements and follow-up steps, assigning a person responsible and deadline for completion, as well as appointing somebody to monitor the progress of these actions, will be a key factor in avoid the feeling of wasting time and taking up unproductive hours.
5. Do your homework
With the previous principles in place, it is important that the meetings held are platforms for collective contribution and construction. Avoiding purely informative meetings will ensure that meetings are perceived as a useful and necessary tool.
eTip 2. How to sell an idea
Positioning your project with the best candidate and managing to move it forward requires various factors: solid arguments, original proposals and an innovative marketing strategy. If you want your ideas to succeed, bear the following points in mind to drive forward whatever proposals you set yourself and everything you present to your colleagues and bosses.
Juan Morillo, a lecturer on the Master in Marketing & Sales at EAE Business School, explains that charisma, momentum, the message, the form and the product are some of the key aspects that you must take into account to get what you want and push your idea forward and make it a reality. The combination of the following aptitudes and other considerations can help you achieve success in your field of specialization.
1. Who are you aiming at?
You do not work for your own benefit. You work for your target audience objective. Therefore, you have to find out who they are, what they need and which is the best way to satisfy them. If they don’t have a need, we can’t sell. The customer is king and you are their servant. Adapt to their demands.
2. Just what we needed: competitors
Not only is a case of not being able to sell whatever you want to your customer, but there are also other players who also want to steal them away from you. You have to get to know them in order to identify their strengths and weaknesses. That is the only way you will get your opportunity. How can you win the war if you don’t know who your enemy is?
3. Differentiate... or die!
Jack Welch (former CEO of GE): “if you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete”. Selling consists of offering more value to customers. We need USPs (unique selling points) or differential features, something that clearly sets us apart from our competitors and makes the customer choose us.
4. First they buy you...
... and then what you are selling. Products and ideas do not sell themselves. It is human nature to distrust a stranger at first, and even more so if they are trying to get you to give them money! Therefore, you need the customer to trust you or you won’t sell. Be honest.
5. You are selling value, not products!
Value is the sum total of the benefits and solutions that they will receive from what we are offering, which has to include: accessories, services, experiences, people and values. These factors will give us competitive advantages.
6. If you want peace, get ready for war
Anyone who tells you that you have to improvise to sell is lying! 90% of success comes from the preparation. You have to go to the sales meeting or presentation knowing exactly what your customer and what differential value you can offer them. You should prepare brochures, graphics, presentations, articles, etc.
7. Don’t lie!
The only thing you can’t do when we are selling is lie. Customers will forgive you for making a mistake (although they may shout and make you fear for your life), but not for lying. If they catch you out on a lie, you have lost that customer for life! Why do some salespeople lie? Because what they are offering in a commodity that has no USP or differential features.
8. Close the deal
You have to ask for the sale. The customer will not normally take the last step because they already have a supplier and are scared of making a mistake. Emphasise the value you offer with your passion for closing the deal.
eTip 3. How to improve your productivity
In the modern professional world, the amount of information and the multiple sources it comes from, as well as the number and diversity of tasks we have to deal with, have become a huge problem for all professionals, regardless of their area of specialization. What measures can we take? We need them urgently! Here we list some of the most accessible options that you can put in place.
Nowadays, we are faced with a saturation of e-mails, dozens of channels of information to deal with and an overload of notification systems, which increasingly lead to problems of low productivity, stress, bad information management and low concentration that eventually end up endangering our performance as professionals. Marc Bara, the Director of the Master in Project Management at EAE Business School, gives us some tips of improving productivity.
1. Set priorities
This is essential. If we don’t have clear, well-defined priorities, there can be no productivity, organization, efficiency or performance. The problem is that we tend to focus too much on things that are important and urgent, rather things that are important, but not very urgent. Focusing on what is important, regardless of its urgency, will be the foundation for a more strategic approach aimed at long-term objectives.
Examples of these long-term objectives that we often sacrifice to deal with everyday emergencies include taking a course or Master that we never find time for, training, building alliances with other professionals, etc. Setting priorities doesn’t involve doing anything extraordinary. It ‘only’ requires you to ask questions and answer them. These questions are simple but very direct: What do I want? What matters to me?
2. Attack tasks
This is crucial for avoiding setbacks. We often fall into the trap of procrastination: putting off a task (often repeatedly) that we inevitably have to do. One of the keys to productivity is getting on with the tasks. The most common causes of procrastination are laziness, disinterest, lack of motivation or not knowing where to start. The last of these causes is the most common: we are faced with a large, complex or burdensome task and we don’t know how to ‘attack’ it. If you have to deal with an overwhelming task, divide it into smaller parts. To overcome the initial difficulty in gaining momentum, just focus on the first thing that you have to do. Concentrating on this step, once you get started, you are highly unlikely to give up.
3. Get rid of distractions
Strive to ensure concentration. The constant bombardment of notifications, messages and temptations, to check your social media “just for a second”, is a great distraction to us. To combat this, it is essential that we focus solely on the task. Eliminating distractions, reducing interruptions, escaping background noise and slowing down on multitasking are very simple measures for concentrating. To start, put your mobile on silent, close down the email application and put the handset face down if necessary, so that you can’t even see the screen.
4. Manage your email
The fact of the matter is simple. We have to reduce the number of times we check our email throughout the day. It is a distraction that, through its constant bombardment, forces you to stop what you are doing and change activity. This slows down your pace of work, weakens your intensity and interrupts the flow of ideas required for your tasks. Don’t fall into the trap of responding immediately. Answering messages quickly as they arrive only serves as a constant interruption to the tasks you are doing.
eTip 4. Take care of your non-verbal communication in presentations
Non-verbal communication requires special attention in communicative contexts, of which it is an inseparable factor. The speaker’s attitude, their discourse and their gestures convey their intentions. As such, the visible part of a message is as important as the verbal part. Keep an eye on your discourse and gestures during your presentation in order to convey the idea you want without any misunderstandings.
Non-verbal communication (NVC) consists of all of the messages conveyed other that the words used in the communication and which may reinforce or contradict the message, complement and expand it, back it up and illustrate it, accentuate and nuance it, or even replace it completely. It is very important to take care of this kind of communication, as well as the discourse itself. Mercè Mach, a lecturer on the Master in Corporate Communication Management at EAE Business School, discusses the topic.
1. Pay attention to your voice and paralanguage
With our voice, we capture people’s attention. To give your ideas impact, speak dynamically and clearly. Vocalize and don’t speak too fast. We should also avoid monotony by modifying our rhythm, volume and modulation.
2. Establish visual contact
Use eye contact to connect with your audience. Whatever you are looking at is the object of your attention. Visual contact gives you immediate feedback on your audience’s level of interest. To achieve this, avoid looking at your notes all the time and pay attention to different areas of the room in a uniform and calm way.
3. Control your facial expression
Your face is the richest and most expressive source of communication. Avoid being too expressive or not expressive enough. Try to keep a facial expression that is consistent with the message that you are conveying and eliminate any gestures that are a sign of nerves, such as forced smiles.
4. Watch your body language
Our kinetic communication is the set of gestures that illustrate the message. To display confidence, avoid superfluous or repetitive movements and defensive postures, such as crossing your arms. If you are sitting down, don’t hide your hands.
5. Pick a comfortable posture
Your posture indicates your attitude as a presenter. Stand up straight in a firm, open and calm position that conveys your willingness to enter into dialogue with the audience in the room.
6. Adapt to the space available
The public distance that we place between ourselves and the audience also communicates the type of relationship we want to establish. If you want to move around, do so with purpose and not at random, otherwise you will be distracting. In addition, stand still in the same spot for at least 30 seconds to capture your audience’s attention.
7. Other tips
Non-verbal communication conveys our message visually. Make sure that it is consistent in terms of content and form. To achieve this, practise your presentation beforehand and record yourself in order to improve your verbal expression. If you are aware of your skills, you can improve them.
eTip 5. Tips to avoid stress at work
You are probable a professional who suffers from work stress. According to the statistics, 60% of us are subject to stress at work on a regular basis. It is the second most common health complaint in the European Union and the costs generated by its effects (absenteeism, illness, etc.) are one of the main factors that threatens our welfare state. But how can we tackle the problem?
Work overload, tight timeframes, looming deadlines and an endless succession of setbacks at the company can generate situations in which we feel overwhelmed and stressed, which, in the long run, can affect our health and productivity. Avoiding stress is up to you and it all depends on how you manage your time, but also on the attitude with which you embrace the circumstances that you are dealt in your day-to-day work. To help improve things in this respect, Javier L. Crespo, the Director of the Master in Human Resources at EAE Business School, gives us the following tips.
The best way to deal with stress is to eliminate, eradicate or reduce stress factors, such as an overload of tasks, time pressure, bad working atmospheres or a lack of resources to respond to the demands of the job. This is extremely challenging. Intensified workloads in this post-recession age has led to a situation in which organizations prioritize results no matter who falls by the wayside in achieving them. They will soon realize that stress is a production cost and the short-term gains turn into medium- and long-term costs.
So, is there anything we can do to help ourselves? Yes, there is. We know that the way we interpret a stressful situation is a personal thing. We normally interpret reality in an aversive way. “I won’t have time. I won’t be able to finish the project as and when it is needed. It’s impossible for sure. Me boss will get angry, etc.”. Do these types of thoughts sound familiar? First of all, stop worrying and start taking control of managing your time well. Make a checklist of tasks and follow it to the letter. Deal with one task at a time rather than three or four at once. Doing several things at once makes us manage our time less effectively and wears us out mentally, leading our mind to wander. Focus.
I recommend learning to meditate. Practising meditation and mindfulness techniques will help you to focus on the tasks at hand with all your strength and without stress. Try it and you will see how your stress levels are reduced, even though the stress factors are still there. Moreover, you have to take care of the other facets of your life. Sleeping well and long enough, eating healthily, getting exercise and spending time with your loved ones and on hobbies and leisure. It is not all about work. Disconnecting from the job will give you more energy to deal with your work situation and all the factors that overwhelm you in a healthier and more effective way.
eTip 6. Tips on how and when to ask for a pay rise
You work on commission and have been at the company for some time, However, lately, you feel unmotivated and undervalued. An increase in your salary would be a good incentive and a way for the company to show you that you are appreciated. These tips will help you ask for a pay rise.
It is never an easy decision to talk to your boss or HR Manager to ask for a pay rise. We normally have to ask ourselves how and when is best to ask. We may even worry about possible ‘reprisals’ for our ‘audacity’, but there is not usually any foundation to such concerns if our performance has been up to scratch. Here are some of the key factors in ensuring that our request is successful, suggested by Immaculada Tena, a lecturer on the Master in Human Resources at EAE Business School.
1. Based on your knowledge
Think about our your personal and professional skills, what you are good at and enjoy. Think about what you can bring to the position, your competence and abilities, your motivation to perform. Growing importance is placed on enthusiasm and entrepreneurial capacity.
2. Based on your presence
Your discourse and mindset. How you organize and simplify it and what qualities you highlight, consistent with convincing presence and communication, calm and sure. This is what will give confidence and credibility to your level of competence. In short, believe in yourself and others will too.
3. Based on action
Aristotle said that “Motion is the transition from the potential to the actual”. Show your qualities and the results. Once you have done so, it is time to ask your boss for a meeting to discuss new horizons, including your potential pay rise.
4. Common sense
When to ask? Your head may say: at the end of the year, when the company is growing, after the recession, when the boss is in a good mood. These arguments may seem sensible enough, but you have to challenge these assumptions.
5. Clarity and precision
When you have a clear idea of what you bring to the team, business and/or position you are in and the results you generate, you can set yourself the challenge of improving in this respect with the added financial incentive.
6. When you know the impact it will have on you
You can ask for the increase in your salary clearly and with justification. This increase can be financial but also emotional, as it gives you the possibility to take on new challenges, lead teams, add flexibility to your working days, invest in your training and career, etc.
You always have to be willing and ready to negotiate. In a negotiation, your goal is to identify and convey the contribution that you make and what they offer you as remuneration, satisfying your needs. As such, any time is the right time if the outcome is good and we are ready.
8. What if...
What happens if you ask for a pay rise and they don’t give it to you? Well, it’s time to turn the page. Look for a new scenario where you can develop professionally in conditions that are more suited to your level, situation and demands.