European Morals: Too Noble To Sell?

10. November 2020

Suddenly, products and services were no longer available. (Not only) Food was hoarded and businesses went bankrupt overnight. Crises like Covid-19 show the importance of a functioning market economy for all market participants, but also for the state community as such and can give previously unknown clarity.

In addition to the loss of tax revenue and the range of products and services, small local companies (SMEs) in particular felt the “loss of the marketplace” very directly. These “small” companies are usually not in the limelight, but provide a large part of the domestic economic output: tax advisors, consultants, coaches, lawyers, IT consultants, stage technicians or even writers “from next door”.

A Free Society Builds On The Understanding of Free Markets

The public marketplace with all its facets, and the potential contact with customers that it provides, is a prerequisite for entrepreneurship and independence.

In crisis the risks of self-employment show themselves in all their existence-threatening ugliness:

  1. the often underestimated corporate risk (without customers, no sales, means no income, despite ongoing expenses)
  2. the draining, constant performance requirement, despite illness, family demands, school dropouts, etc. and
  3. the 24/7 accompanying existential fear, also for family, employees, suppliers etc.

But independence means more than just increased risk.

There is an even more fundamental difference: In order to survive, the self-employed need a very specific, regulatory, practical and also mentally supportive environment. For the self-employed person to be successful, it is not enough to work off his tasks well every day and wait for the end of the month.

The development of the last few decades has brought many new services to a market that already was highly competitive. Mailboxes, email inboxes and apps are under constant fire from companies that are desperately trying to attract attention.

However, even with advertising, customers and sales don’t just come in automatically. While large network providers, electricity suppliers, supermarkets or fashion chains can still advertise their product, small lawyers, tax advisors, carpenters, masseurs or energy specialists can hardly do so. SME need more than just marketing, they need “human curiosity & openness to ” environment.

This environment, this “market place” first of all requires the actual encounter, that is, a physical meeting, albeit with a safe distance. But it also requires a mental encounter: This means intellectual openness and the social understanding that a marketplace is necessary, helpful, colorful and advantageous for all.

It is precisely this openness that is lacking in Europe. Whether for environmental, social, or political reasons: business and market criticism are becoming increasingly popular.

Constant Selling is the lifeblood of a successful (business) venture

A particular challenge for many small companies is the need to constantly present their own services and entrice new customers.

That is a rather tightrope walk for SMEs because nobody wants to be ingratiating or selling. Small or sole proprietorships have no budget to advertise on a large scale and wide range. In practice, what counts primarily is the personal appearance and the business card or website with which the entrepreneur can draw attention to himself and his services.

Europe Has An Ideological Problem With Free Markets

There is space and interest for this personal appearance in the Anglo-American, but also in Asian culture. The search for new business partners and customers is understood as a professional, meaningful and social social activity. Hence, achievement and success is encouraged, if not admired. People agree that conversations and business negotiations mostly lead to mutually beneficial agreements, “deals” are actively sought.

In Europe and especially in the Roman Catholic societies, even the word “market” is already suspect. People are supposed to meet (only) for cultural events or social or at least humanitarian reasons. The basic tenor is often rather cynical: Let´s have the convenience of technological progress, but without capitalism or time-consuming advertising and sales.

You might easily hear people argue: “I don’t need 20 types of yoghurt in the supermarket.” You can hardly explain the background of our economic system but respond shortly: “No, you might not, but we also don’t just want to have to eat your favorite variety.” European can be completely oblivious to the connection between market mechanisms and the variety of services and products. However, for a functioning market and thus for companies, having informed, interested, open and self-determined market participants can go a long way.

As an example of many:
The misconception of the GDPR

The implementation of the GDPR is an example of this misconception about market mechanisms: a potential (private or commercial) customer may not be written to or otherwise contacted by entrepreneurs before the latter explicitly and actively gives his consent.

However, this consent must also not be requested directly, unless the customer approaches the provider of his own volition. This may be justified and work where huge companies can generate desire, brand affinity and demand with appropriate advertising budgets and measures.

With the self-employed IT specialist or consultant, writer, coach or trainer, however, it can be safely assumed that practically nobody will ask for advertising brochures on their own. With the GDPR in place, entire industries can be found without any basis for legally addressing new customers with economically justifiable means. At the same time, one can observe that spam mails from dishonest companies have by no means decreased, and mail advertising from large companies also seems to have hardly decreased.

Do entrepreneurs need personal contact to survive? You bet!

Now, as the economic fallout from the shutdown is making itself felt, something is being written about local marketplaces and the importance of buying at home. People are becoming aware that their neighborhood, their city, their region can only survive economically if the cycle stays in motion.

What does my Freelance Neighbor actually offer?

How often have I seen neighbors and even family members surprised to find out after a purchase that they could have bought the same products or services directly from their cousins, classmates ​​or friends (and on the same or better terms)!

Because selling in person is by and large taboo in Europe, the fitness trainer bites her tongue at parties rather than selling her achievements and courses. There is always the danger that she could appear intrusive or even a salesy. At the next meeting, however, it turns out that the woman you got along so well with at the party has booked another sports coach directly in the fitness center.

Is Online Marketing the Answer?

The only channel left for small businesses is almost unaffordable online advertising. But here a recent experience in Vienna/Austria shows the widespread hostility towards advertising and entrepreneurship, despite all lip service. If you really wanted companies, you also have to allow them to actively offer themselves and their products.

If a small company like mine is willing and financially able to place a paid ad, it should not have to think twice about its offer for fear of being accused of advertising too aggressively!

Even Online Marketers are worrying about being too salelsy!

This, however, is exactly what happened when we tried to market one of our books (this is the page we wanted to link to, judge for yourself) via an online advertiser dedicated to EPUs and boroughs in Vienna. The answer from the online marketplace we received?

“The presentation [of this CD box, note A] was a rather misleading sales page for me.”

Viennese Online Marketing Agency, (co)financed with public funds

Our paid ad was declined for reason of being too aggressive!

It sounds like a mockery that the same “highly moral” agency is still tapping public funds from the Vienna Business Agency in order to support SMEs in the Grätzl. With this moral arrogance and fear of selling, we in Europe don’t need to worry about competition from Asia or the U.S.A. We are already finishing our companies ourselves.

Mit dieser moralischen Überheblichkeit und Verkaufsangst brauchen wir in Europa keine Sorge vor der Konkurrenz aus Asien oder den U.S.A. haben. Wir machen unsere Unternehmen so schon selbst fertig.

We need a European way forward

If, as a society, we seriously value freedom to shape one’s profession and life, we need a society that values ​​its elements such as the market, advertising and the culture of supply.

This is by no means difficult to attain, but the change must take place in the mind!

  1. To do this, school teachers need to be required to know and understand market mechanisms personally.

    Internships in small companies with corresponding customer frequency should become a compulsory part of the pedagogical curriculum in teacher training.
  2. Schools should incorporate projects that foster marketing and selling products or services.

    Our children are sent out onto the streets to beg for Churches and Caritas without hesitation, but buying fruit themselves and selling fruit juice for pocket money at the school festival is rejected as being too profit-oriented. Instead of focusing on the acquisition of grants and donations, the mechanism of supply and demand should be experienced and learned.

  3. Decision-makers, especially in politics, should have felt the rough wind, especially in the sale of a local SME, for at least a certain time before their parliamentary representation.

Last but not least, it´s time in Europe to seriously and honestly grapple with the question of how much freedom we really want for ourselves and our children. It has become all too easy and socially acceptable to denounce the mistakes of capitalism.

It should be at least equally appropriate and socially acceptable to name the advantages and freedoms of capitalism. If we want a creative, sustainable, free and entrepreneurial Europe in the 21st millennium, we need to rethink and strengthen a society that values ​​entrepreneurship with all its facets. Better to tackle the above steps today than tomorrow.

Invitation to Mediation Lounge

15. October 2020


MEDIATION LOUNGE

As the name implies, our informal getting together intends to bring all sorts of people together to exchange ideas & share news and approaches to conflict resolution. There is no better informal opportunity out there to meet people interested in conflict solving and negotiation in a casual and very personal way! You will also be able to get to know some of the authors of our Masterbooks series personally and are free to ask questions or discuss interesting items of their writings.

This event is being organized in conjunction with the Association for integrated Mediation Austria. It is recognized as advanced training according to § 20 ZivMediatG. Confirmations will be handed out on request for members of the Association of Integrated Mediation only.

Join any Topic Tables (TT)

Naturally, conflict resolution is the big headline for our lounge. Whereas mediation and arbitration are in the limelight, we encourage any relevant topic to be opened, presented and discussed. You can join and also leave any TT any time you please. Go to where the most interesting discussion takes place and find answers or interesting questions to talk about.

Become a Topic Moderator

Topic Moderators can bring their Topic suggestions to the table, and will moderate the discussions at the tables. In the Welcome Session they are shortly coming to the stage to present their main question, study, book, or other input for their table. Participants are free to join and leave any topic, as long as they adhere to our discussion rules. Members of the Association of Integrated Mediation will be key players in moderating the lounge topic tables (TT). However, we are open to proposals from fellow mediators, professionals, authors, Coaches etc. to open a dedicated TT for their topic. TT presenters can participate free of charge and may bring up to 5 of their own participants for free.

Want to contribute as Topic Moderator? Write to us with your topic proposal and let´s join forces to enable independent, interesting discussions on solving human conflicts better and easier!

Dr. Amin Talab (Host Mediation Lounge)

Sex, Money, Power: Why people negotiate all the time, even when they don´t

7. September 2020
Man and woman negotiating

Responsible Managers Are Rightly Complaining about Lacking Negotiation Skills

Managers with outcome responsibility often tell me how frustrating it is asking their colleagues to prepare better for negotiations. They complain about lacking awareness for negotiation skills, or even outright misunderstanding of the very term “negotiations”. 

More often than not, it is not a lack of will that stops professionals focusing on their negotiating strategies and thus arriving at better results, but a costly lack of awareness:

People want to believe they are just talking, meeting, discussing. “Negotiating” sounds too harsh and tactical, or even too one-sided to what they think they are doing, when what they really are doing is clearly negotiating.

In relationships, ignorance about how to smoothly get what you need can be a costly mistake: Not knowing why and how you can influence others (without bossing them around) will cost you money, time and good-will.

Most surprisingly, it is often the people who would need most to be working on their negotiation skills who least acknowledging that their relationships are not working as well as they think they are.

If your colleague is seeking to keep or improve relationships, they must not ignore negotiation skills.

Here is why:

  1. People, in general, are not isolated island dwellers. They need others to meet their targets
  2. Hardly anybody is in the position to order others around. If you need to persuade others to support you, you need to negotiate.
  3. While it does cost time, effort and money to work on your skills, the long term effects outweigh these costs by far.
  4. There is no need to go the egoistic route, fight and struggle, when you could find options that satisfy your needs while leaving everyone else better off?

How to persuade colleagues to start negotiating better instead of just repeating their points over?

Here is a short Argumentation guide for people “never negotiating”

Yes, I know, some people just believe they are never negotiating.

Here a little argumentation guide to guide you through the “conversation” with them. You can use it to practice your own argumentation (yes, argumentation skills can be a big part of negotiations)

Colleague says: “Why should I look into negotiation skills? I never negotiate anyways.”

Step 1: Start with asking a question to establish ground:

I know you are not living on a far-away island, so you are probably entertaining relationships with work colleagues, neighbors, family and friends, right?

If they are not completely asocial nerds, they would have to answer “Yes“.

Step 2 Go on:

Are they all following your orders, I mean do they see you as their commander?

Now some smart pencils will probably point out that their subordinates are following their orders, and maybe their kids, or even their husbands (or wives). But by and large most people can not simply boss other people around to do what they please. Since in free societies people come and interact at their own will, the answer is bound to be “No, they don´t follow my orders”.

Step 3 Continue:

So if you don´t command them, do people always give you what you want, when you simply ask them for it?

We all know the answer to this question is “No”. If not, please tell me where to move!

Step 4 Now comes a decisive question:

How then do you make people do what you need them to?

They might return your question and ask you: “Like what?

Negotiating Like what? Human encounters are basically negotiations!

Step 5 It´s your turn to explain yourself now. There are hundreds of examples you can give, like:

  • “Do you loath the thought of asking your colleague yet another time to fill you in on what´s happening? You are getting promises, but never quite the most important part?”
  • “Do you ever wish you could choose the movie being watched on Netflix?”
  • “Would you like your client to give you notice just a little bit earlier next time so you can better plan?”
  • “Are you wondering why your group of friends always ends up at the Chinese place, while you prefer Burgers?”
  • “Do you try to convince your team to go ahead with certain steps yet they sometimes don´t “get it”?
  • “Would you like to buy something, however the price is just not in your budget rage?”
  • “Do you wish Mr.X (fill in as needed) would be talking to you in a different, more respectable way?”
  • “Do you feel that in your relationship the responsibilities are not quite shared equally and should be?”
  • “Would you sometimes like to explain why you are having certain (political) opinions, but you seem to run into a wall with your counterpart?”

Essentially you could choose any example where at least two people are communicating with each other, if one would like the other to do, omit or understand something the way he wants.

Now, what is a negotiation?

The actual definition of negotiation reads: “A negotiation is an interaction in order to influence the behavior of at least on other person, whereby different interests are reconciled and brought about in a developing process” (find more on p20 of my Bestseller The Master Negotiator).

If your counterpart looks at it that way, they will find that the question is not “where do I negotiate?”, but much more “where do I not negotiate?”.

What if the negotiation is called “meeting”, “presentation”, or “discussion”?

Don´t get confused by nomenclature, like masking negotiations under terms like “conversation”, “meeting”, “discussion”, “performance talk” etc. These often obfuscate the picture of what you can contribute and change if you set your mind to it.

All relationships are products of negotiations, and thus negotiable, not only regarding contents, but also in the way the are being conducted:

If your colleagues need to convince people and develop their relationships, there is no way around working on negotiation skills.

5 strategies for Your Online Meetings & Negotiations

5. May 2020

1. Assign responsibility for Your meeting process = appoint a moderator

As explained in my previous post, not all meetings are meant for “equality” for a variety of reasons.

A moderator helps participants focus, and guarantees security about the process and rules. Depending on the rules of the meeting, no one can speak without the moderator’s consent, and shy contributors are being nudged to share with his active invitation. This is even more important for online meetings, given the lack of body cues and failing audio or video quality issues.

Tip: Make sure you write down the expected outcome together with the expected time for the meeting. Don´t hesitate to reiterate or even ask somebody what you´re all here for if people get lost.

2. Set a meeting objective & make sure, people know it

Call it whatever you like: “Agenda”, “Reason to meet” or “Outcome expected”, but make sure there is a clear goal to your meeting, and people know about it. If you want to socialize that´s fine, just make sure everyone is on board, lest you lose your credibility once you want to achieve any substantial discussion.

Tip: Make sure you write down the expected outcome together with the expected time for the meeting. Don´t hesitate to reiterate or even ask somebody what you´re all here for if people get lost.

3. Distinguish between “required”, “helpful”, and “tolerated” participants

Inviting everybody remotely interested feels tempting. People perceive you as being active on the one hand, and making sure nobody feels left out on the other. Especially when working remotely for an extended time, as we do have to do now during the Covid-19 lock down, it might also feel nice to getting face time with people that you are used to having around.

However, there is one big problem: Meetings don´t accomplish much when many people are taking part who don´t actively contribute towards the meeting objective. If there are many people in the online meeting, many feel obliged to contribute anything in order to justify their presence.

Tip: To solve that quagmire, introduce roles, like “required”, “helpful” or even “tolerated” with definite expectations linked to them. People can “come by” without feeling an urge to disturb.

Tip: Introduce roles, like “required”, “helpful” or even “tolerated” with definite expectations linked to them. People can “come by” without feeling an urge to disturb.
Don´t hesitate to play with the roles and actively call out the change of a role, e.g. from “required” to “tolerated”, e.g. when participants played their part and can´t contribute any longer. This might also help them leave and go to something more productive than losing the urge to linger.

4. Conclude with meeting notes & simple/clear follow-up terms

Many meetings end with vague smiles from all participants, happy to go back to their To-Do lists.

It is the your responsibility as moderator to summarize and point out meaning and action for each point tackled of the agenda. Like a good journalist, the key task is to spell out headlines and identify action items.

Tip: Summarizing the results in the end either in writing, or by recording the final oral summary of the moderator can help making sure decisions are being followed up and remembering which person is responsible for its delivery.

5. Agree on basic regulatory framework. Start with mute/unmute and video/no video protocol

It’s important for you to show early that rules are set and enforced for everybody, if you don´t want people to settle for the easiest, but mostly worst, option. Start with technical issues, and follow up with whatever is needed for the group to be efficient.

  • Default to video: It’s easier to pick up facial clues and avoid interruptions when you can see your counterpart
  • Mute your audio when there are more than four people: it is nearly impossible to avoid background noise which wears everybody down. If there is no lively discussion between just a few people, mute your mic and spare everybody the noise
  • Clarify: as soon as possibly that contributions are only welcome if they are advancing the discussion towards the stated aim. Online meetings require very clear communication to keep everyone on task.

Of course, one of the biggest pitfalls is to have somebody of the team being responsible for “rule enforcement”. It is hard to stop colleagues from repeating themselves the third time when you might need their support at a parallel project.

Tip: Have people moderate meetings who don´t have to worry about their appearances and can stay neutral. Sometimes HR will be able to help. Best results (and shortest meeting times) will be achieved when getting support by outside professional (online) moderators.

Group Coaching Negotiation: Ask Amin Anything

24. April 2020

Ask Any Negotiation Question in
“Ask Amin Anything”

The Online format of group Coaching helps you find the ideal approach to your next negotiation and get inspired by the input of other negotiators, whether in sales, meetings, presentations or within organizational politics

Are you interested in situations and roadblocks people face, and want to learn more about how these difficulties can be overcome? Do you want to profit from the motivation and inspiration inherent in a group exchange under professional supervision?

Do you appreciate the opportunity to stay updated on negotiation matters once a month?

For all these situations you´ll find a good opportunity in “Ask Amin Anything”. In this monthly group Coaching all possible (and sometime impossible) cases are being looked at, and questions asked like e.g.:

  • How do I deal with the shark negotiator in my team?
  • What can I answer my client on “You are too expensive”?
  • How do I influence people if I don´t want to become a manipulator?

Dealing with people is very multifaceted: Argumentation, feelings, communication, goal setting and tracking… it makes sense to answer one or two questions. Or better: ask them and have me answer them. Let´s strategize, prepare, and improve together.

Agenda (every 1st of month)

09:50 Please come in and check your technical requirements

10:00 Start:
10:05 Review:
How did my negotiations go last month? Do I get closer to my objectives this year? What are my thoughts and feelings on that ( 2-3 Min/participant)

10:25 Cases:
Are there open questions I´d like to raise? What kind of questions would I like to pose and discuss in the Group setting.

10:50 Outlook:
Which goals am I setting for myself? What are my take-aways out of this setting?

11:00 Finish

Setting up (online) meetings right

16. April 2020
Meetingsmoderation

The biggest pitfalls in (online) meetings

YOUR FIRST STEP: Choose the basic Setup for your meeting

When you are setting up a meeting, you do have to take a basic, but very important choice right in the beginning: Will the meeting be

1) “all equals“, meaning that all participants are on the same level and can contribute to process & content, or will the meeting be

2) moderated, i.e. will you or somebody else be the Meeting Master conducting it and be responsible for the process.

This setup has a huge influence on the entire meeting, its pitfalls and its outcome.

All Participants have the same status - A good meeting choice?

Unmoderated Meeting

There are enticing advantages of setting up a meeting of equals

  1. Equality feels right.
  2. Any member can change the path any time. If participants are knowledgeable and experienced in using moderation tools, they can suggest appropriate tools, like One-Point-System, query by acclamation, mind mapping or topic memory.
  3. It is easy – no need to prepare the process and can be set up in no time.

There are also several pitfalls of setting up a meeting of equals

  1. Participants tend to talk over each other so ideas get lost
  2. People are interrupting each other
  3. Speaking times might differ widely because “John” really likes himself talking which leads to just a few using up all the speaking time
  4. “Sally” abstains from sharing her good ideas
  5. Ideas are repeated several times 
  6. Meeting Rules are continuously broken
  7. Nobody bothers summarizing interim or final results, so that plenty of meetings end with no clear outcome

Moderated Meeting

Your team enjoys quite a few advantages by having your meeting actively moderated

  1. Have one person (the “moderator”) responsible for bringing the process forward, not only his own arguments
  2. Improve the group dynamics by having a dedicated “rule enforcer”
  3. Have the moderator structure the talking session with clear instructions given
  4. Have somebody actively inviting “feeble” or “disinterested” participants and their ideas out
  5.  Have a dedicated person to summarize, structure, break and bring the process forward
Presseartikel
Presseartikel "Der schnellste Weg zum Meistermoderator"

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