What is the Look Out Syndrome?

Tamara is a 29-year-old freelance destination-wedding planner. She left her job as an administrative assistant at a large event planning company to start her own business. During her time at the company, she made valuable contacts in the hospitality industry with hotel managers, caterers, travel agents, airline personnel, photographers, videographers, florists, bridal consultants, disc jockeys, bands, etc. She felt confident she could make it on her own.

When she started her business, Tamara did not fully realize that she had to develop trusting business relationships with the bride and groom and their respective parents and all of the vendors who would be providing the services.

She did not feel confident at the thought of working with all these people. She also felt uneasy thinking about working in overseas venues.

Tamara was fortunate and got a referral from a former colleague. This would be Tamara’s first client. When Tamara’s friend told her about the referral, Tamara’s brain went into overdrive and she felt nervous, to say the least. She remained in this stirred up state right up until the time she met face-to-face with the prospective client.

Her anxiety led to what I call the Look Out Syndrome. The Look Out Syndrome occurs when you are in a situation with another person and you focus your attention on theother person’s body language, facial expressions, or general demeanor instead of listening to what is being said. Often, your evaluation of these non-verbal cues is incorrect and usually negative. Most importantly, you imagine the other person is thinking negative thoughts about you.




Tamara fear of rejection was overwhelming. Not only was Tamara scanning for danger by looking out, she also questioned herself, “Will I get the sale?” “Am I qualified?” “What do they think of me?” Now more doubts about her confidence started creeping into her head. Tamara said to herself, “Is the look on the other person’s face saying he doesn’t want to work with me?” This is called negative self-talk. As a result, she didn’t hear most of what the prospective client wanted. Not good.

Here’s another way to look at the Look Out Syndrome:

I’m looking at you looking at me
I’m wondering what you’re thinking about me.

What a mess. When you experience The Look Out Syndrome and you’re not listening, you don’t say what you want to because you’re too busy trying to figure out what the other person is thinking. Can we attribute Tamara’s case of Looking Out to inexperience? Immaturity? No self-control? Probably none of these.

Tamara was scanning the prospective client so intensely that she asked the same question three times. Clearly, Tamara’s thinking brain was offline. She was in a reactive mode and her emotions took over.

What happened? The prospective client did not hire Tamara.

Tips to prevent the Look Out Syndrome

  1. Look at the other person, not into them. Focus on the color of their eyes, the color of their hair, or any other feature. Focusing on physical features will calm your brain so your thoughts stay focused in the present. Then there is no room to think what they’re thinking about you.
  1. Listen. This is probably the easiest thing in the world to say and the most difficult thing in the world to do. What is listening? How do you listen? How do you know if you’re being listened to? Look online for tutorials that teach listening skills for business people.
  1. Turn that frown upside down. I’m a big fan of faking it – to a point. Pretend to be brave when you’re anxious. Try it and you might feel more self-assured. Fake being interested in other people when you’re feeling low. See what happens to you.
  1. Take a timeout to calm yourself. According to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Communication, “. . . people stressed from work did not feel any more relaxed after they played video games or watched television. They often felt even worse.” It has been observed by some teachers of psychology and neuroscience, that if you’re feeling stirred up or reactive, it takes approximately 20 minutes of positive self-talk and breathing to get back into your thinking brain. In business situations, I generally leave the situation for a few minutes and take a restroom or coffee break. The short time away is enough for me to take a few deep breaths, screw on a smile, and resume my discussion.
  1. Think business at all times. Your job is to build business relationships, not make friends. You want customers or clients. If you focus on understanding and satisfying the business needs of customers and clients, you’ll be able to keep personal interests out of the equation. I’m not saying that you should skip informal small talk and jump into business talk. You need a way to break the ice and small talk in a good way to do it.
  2. Use a Cheater. Write an outline of key talking points before your meeting. Take notes and keep to your script (as best as possible). Don’t forget to breathe.

For more ideas on how to build business relationships, go to criticalconnectionsbook.com.


Did You Ask a Good Question Today?

This is one of my favorite stories. Isidor Rabi (1898 – 1988) was a Polish-born American physicist and Nobel laureate. He was recognized in 1944 for his discovery of nuclear magnetic resonance, which is used in magnetic resonance imaging. When asked if there were any significant influences on his life, he said, “My mother made me a scientist without ever intending to. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child, “So? Did you learn anything in school today?” But, not my mother. “Izzy,” she would ask, “did you ask a good question today?” That difference – asking good questions – made me become a scientist.” (As quoted in “Great Minds Start with Questions” in Parents Magazine, September 1993).

Izzy’s mother got it. She understood that asking questions is about engaging in meaningful dialogue.

I wish I knew about Izzy and his mother when I started my first job after graduate school. One of the managers where I worked took me under his wing and gave me two pieces of advice I’ll never forget.

  1. During your first few months on the job, don’t impress the employees with how much you know. Don’t offer up solutions or suggestions. Just ask questions. Ask as many questions as you can to as many employees as you can.
  1. When you are walking around the office, always carry a yellow pad with you.

There are two reasons to do this. The first is that it would not look good to others to walk around the office empty-handed. After all, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” You need to appear as though you are doing something work-related. When you ask a question, surreptitiously write down what others said. Keep this list handy and use it as a reference when you would be in a position to answer questions.

From that point on, I never stopped asking questions.

Here’s a brief example of how to ask questions in a business situation. A customer asks you a question about your product or service or states a frustration. Instead of trying to answer the question or solve the problem, the very first thing you do is to take their question or their stated frustration, throw
it back to them, and ask for clarification. You might say, 
“What exactly do you mean?” “Tell me more about this.”
“Can you clarify your question?” Sometimes, people just want to be heard and are not looking for solutions. By asking questions, you’ll begin to engage in a dialogue.

Next time a customer asks a question or states a frustration, start asking questions.

There’s lots more tips and tactics to build your business in Critical Connections-The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing


Top Ten Words to Avoid

Here are my Top Ten Words and Phrases to Avoid when writing anything. In my opinion, these words and phrases hold little or no meaning to the reader. I notice when some people write (especially their resumes or bios), they tend to use these words. It seems like the writer can’t concretely articulate their message, so they use these words and phrases as a default.

I have to admit I use some of these words or phrases, some of the time. Nobody’s perfect.

The Top Ten Words and Phrases to Avoid are not jargon words. Jargon is defined as “special words or expressions used by a particular profession or group that are difficult for others to understand.” Jargon is “technical talk.”

Here they are in no particular order:

  1. Behavior
  2. Opportunity
  3. Concern
  4. Utilize
  5. In-depth knowledge
  6. Extensive experience
  7. Process
  8. Heavily involved
  9. Move forward
  10. Wide variety

 How are you going to eliminate using all or some of these words or phrases?

Now you’re aware of these words and phrases, take the opportunity, to use your extensive experience and in-depth knowledge to move forward while utilizing a wide variety of alternative words and phrases. Yikes!


There’s lots of tips and tactics to build your business in Critical Connections-The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing

Marketing – It’s Not What You Think

Ask ten people what their definition of marketing is and you’ll probably get eleven different answers. Ask your brother-in-law, the one with the MBA from Wharton, and you’ll most likely hear him define marketing using lots of professional jargon.

I found a website listing 72 different definitions of marketing. When I read some of these definitions, I thought about my clients trying to make sense of these definitions and struggling to create and implement a marketing campaign. If I’m dazed by these definitions, I could imagine what my clients might be feeling.

Before I present my definition of marketing (I hope mine can be added as #73 on the list), here’s what marketing isn’t:

  • Producing flyers, brochures, or any printed promotional material
  • Building a website
  • Tweeting, blogging, or posting on Facebook
  • Using public relations
  • Going to the grocery store

The promotional/communication tactics listed above are implemented after defining marketing goals, objectives, and strategies.

Most definitions of marketing focus on creating strategies and tactics to build a marketing plan to sell products. These marketing models are transactional.

To demonstrate key points of the transactional model, we’ll use selling a garden hose.

      • Customers have more than one purchasing option. They can buy a 6-foot hose or 10-foot hose.
      • It’s easy to sell value. The hose has a lifetime guaranty and comes with two types of nozzles, etc. What a deal
      • There’s little emotional involvement when considering buying a garden hose.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t get worked up or emotionally engaged when considering purchasing a garden hose.
      • Whether you’re online or visiting a retail store, traditional sales techniques are used to persuade you to purchase the hose. The salesperson and online product descriptions tout the features and benefits of the hose.

My marketing model is relational not transactional.  It focuses on building and maintaining vital business relationships before the sale.

Let’s use the example of a financial planner to demonstrate key points about the relational model.

The sale is consultative. Potential clients need to be educated on what a financial planner does and what benefit the client will receive from the planner’s services. Consequently, the consultative sales process takes time. Also, potential clients go online and do their homework prior to purchasing the services. They check out the financial planner’s credentials and any reviews. They also comparative shop, looking at other financial planners. Clearly, hiring a financial planner is not an impulse purchase.

  The financial planner provides one service. Of course, the delivery of the service is tailored to the unique needs of the client.

•  It’s a challenge to sell perceived value. Perceived value is the worth that a product or service has in the mind of the buyer of the financial planner’s service and ability to satisfy client needs. You pay for the financial planner’s knowledge, experience, insights, and skills, not just for the time spent working with you.

  • There is a high level of emotional involvement in a client’s decision to hire a financial planner. Potential clients might get ‘sticker shock’ when it comes time to discuss fees. Once again, the potential client needs time to make the decision to engage the services of the financial planner.
  • For the most part, financial planners depend on referral sources and word-of-mouth from current and former clients for business.

Let’s dive into my model of marketing. Plain and simple: marketing is about creating a care and feeding program to develop and sustain connections and relationships with those in a position to refer business to you and those who will directly purchase your services.

Strategic Relationships

There are two types of strategic relationships:

  1. Prospective and existing customers or clients
  2. Individuals who are in a position to refer customers or clients (referral sources) to you.

What do I mean by managing strategic relationships? First, let’s break down this definition.

Management. I use the term management to describe any activity you do to keep your marketing engine running. Whether you’re self-employed or own a small business, there are certain planning activities you have to do prior to initiating and maintaining relationships. This includes everything from compiling names for a newsletter to putting together timelines for the distribution of promotional information (online or in print).

Your job is to create, implement, and manage a plan that takes care of and feeds your strategic relationships.

Strategic. The word strategic describes something important and vital.  Certain relationships are vital and others are not. For example, you might have identified primary, secondary, and tertiary target groups or market segments. You might consider your primary target group as your vital group-the group who is most likely to refer customers or most likely to be your primary customer. This would be your primary strategic relationship.

Relationships. There are two goals involved in building and maintaining relationships. In my relational model, your first job is to build a relationship using methods such as sharing content via social media or your blog or attending events where you’re most likely to meet customer or referrers. Your second job is to delight customers or clients so much that they will return.

If you want to start a web-based business, don’t fool yourself into thinking that all you have to do is build a website, post content on Facebook (or other social media platforms), collect lots of followers on Twitter, blog your brains out, or send blast emails.  How can you develop meaningful strategic relationships this way?

Marketing is the management of strategic relationships. It’s a care and feeding program you create for those in a position to refer business to you and those customers who want to purchase your product or service.

In the next installment of Marketing – It’s Not What You Think, I’ll give you a real-life example of how I used marketing as the management of strategic relationships to sell a service.    

There’s lots more tips and tactics to build your business in Critical Connections-The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing