Whether you are in a media interview, investor pitch, sales meeting or speaking in front of a crowd, you need to know how to handle questions and get your point across calmly and effectively.
But how do you get back on topic when a question leads you down a different path? Or when an interviewer has different intentions to you? One way is by using a bridging phrase – but beware not all bridging phrases promise an easy way to cross back over to your key messages.
So what is a bridging phrase?
A bridging phrase helps you transition from one topic to another seamlessly (if done correctly), making them valuable for any business owner, spokesperson, salesperson or professional to have up their sleeve to use when the moment requires.
The first part of the sentence needs to acknowledge what has been said or asked while still allowing the opportunity to change the subject or add information. The second part of the bridging phrase provides the chance to change the message while sounding as though you are about to deliver valuable information. In other words, you want a sentence that will help you bring the conversation back to what matters to your target audience. Here are some examples:
While it has been that way…
People have said that but…
Yes, I agree though would add…
I’m not sure that is the case, let me tell you why…
We/I take a different approach…
While that has been public opinion…
That reminds me of…
While we are on the subject…
I wouldn’t say that, but what I would say is…
Let me put that in context…
To put this in perspective…
That is a common misconception…
What is more concerning is…
What I believe is…
It has been my experience that…
I have found that…
What many people don’t know is…
What you may not be aware of is…
What people need to know is…
What our customers have found…
What this new research suggests…
The heart of the matter is…
While it sounds simple, mastering the art of bridging can take a lot of practice. As you converse today, look at how you naturally change the subject. Chances are you may say one of the following:
“Keep in mind that…”
Granted not all will be appropriate in a professional setting but it is essential to be in touch with your authentic voice. When you are, you can start experimenting with bridging phrases that sound like your natural voice or at least feel more natural to you.
Beware of bridging to avoid questions
If you want an example of someone using bridging phrases to avoid a line of questioning, listen to a journalist interviewing a politician. You will no doubt hear a few of their favourite bridging phrases like:
“What the most important point/issue here is…”
“What we need to remember is…”
“What we need to consider is…”
“Before I answer that I need to explain…”
When someone uses a bridging phrase to avoid a topic, it usually comes with no (or minimal) acknowledgement of the question asked. It is also undeniable that they are trying to spin things in a different direction – and generally for self-serving purposes not for the value of the target audience. While this approach can help to get some points across there is a high chance the journalist or interviewer will hit the issue harder in the next question they ask.
While your customers may not press you like a journalist if you bridge to avoid their questions you can lose trust and credibility in their eyes.
Try reframing the question
If you come across loaded questions or more confronting objections try reframing the question in your mind to still acknowledge and answer it, but give an answer that is more aligned with your messaging and interests.
For example, if a customer was to question “How can you justify the price of your product when [your competitor] only charges $X?” You could reframe the question to “What value can you provide that is over and above what [your competitor] offers?” You will still answer their question but from a more powerful and positive position.
The bottom line is you need to be prepared
To be able to bridge topics effectively you need to be prepared. Know what you want to get across, plan for questions and objections, have some bridging phrases ready and practice reframing questions and answering them from a more positive perspective.
Whether you are considering making a small logo tweak or a complete personality change, here are four questions you should ask before you go down the road of rebranding.
What does rebranding mean to you?
A rebrand can mean many things to many people, so it is important you are clear on what you want and what it means to you. For some, it is a simple update to their logo and messaging, but for others, it is a complete brand change, that may include a new logo, brand personality and even business name.
As you can imagine there are significant differences in cost – and not all are financial. If you want to make a big brand change, and you have been operating for a while, there are a few more things you need to consider like:
- What is the goodwill associated with your brand (your reputation and implied credibility)?
- How recognisable is your brand to your customers and potential customers?
- Have you done a lot of work on SEO that you could lose should you change name and domain name?
Why do you want to rebrand?
This is the most important question to answer when thinking about rebranding, and you need to answer it honestly. Is the rebrand because you want or need a change or is it because the customer you want to target is disconnected from your brand?
Doing a complete rebrand can be a big marketing task, and in many ways, you will be starting again so make sure it is for the right reasons. If the reason behind your rebrand is that you want or need a change to feel more energised in your business again, then look at a slight logo update or a change of messaging as opposed to a full rebrand.
Who are your customers and what do they want from your brand?
Your customers should always be at the forefront of any brand decision you make. After all, if they don’t feel connected with your brand they won’t buy from you, and that is a BIG problem!
Look at who your customers are and what they are likely to respond to. Say for instance you want your favourite colour pink reflected in your logo, but your clients are mostly male, it may not be the wisest choice. While this is a basic example, the same applies to the rest of your brand.
Don’t make the mistake of making your brand entirely about you. While you do need to have a connection to it for authenticity, and you may have even founded your company out of a personal need or frustration you are not your customer.
Where are you going?
Peek into the future, what do you want to achieve with your brand? What are the values, vision and mission of your business? What difference do you want to make in the lives of others? What do you want to be known for? What growth and innovation plans do you have? What goals do you want to achieve? Where do you want to be in three, five and ten years?
Now ask yourself, what kind of brand will get you there? What story do you need to tell and sell to capture the minds and hearts of customers and potential customers?
That is the brand you need to create or keep.
We live in a world that is becoming increasingly connected; yet disconnected at the same time. While it has never been easier to communicate with anyone, anywhere in the world, we lose something when we stay behind the veil of technology – deeper relationships.
We forget that relationships underpin every business transaction. The deeper the relationship, the more profound and profitable it becomes.
Your customers crave connection – real connection – from the businesses they buy from. They don’t want to interact with a faceless business, hear from general autoresponders or enquire only through a web form. They want a real relationship, a real person – they want you.
Whether you are B2B or B2C, online or offline, product or service based, personal branding has never been more important. But where do you start, particularly if you’ve been hiding behind your brand for some time?
Start by being authentic
So often in business, we play a role. While this can help us to keep boundaries between our personal and professional lives, these same boundaries can also stop us from being who we are and building deeper relationships with our clients and contacts.
While you should keep a level of mystery about you, make sure you aren’t hiding the real you. It is alright to show vulnerability and humanity at times; it will often make you more relatable and accessible to your customers and followers.
Day in and day out we market our products and services but what about ourselves? You are unique. No one else has the same knowledge, opinions and experience as you do. No one will see the world through your same perspective.
Own it and use it to your advantage. Talk about what makes you different and what value you personally bring to the table. Share your opinion and experience. Answer media callouts where you (not just your brand) could give input.
If you struggle to talk about yourself, or you are humble to a fault, have an opinion-based blog or a tip segment in your newsletter that is credited to you, not just your brand. Also, use your biography, LinkedIn profile and testimonials to do the selling for you.
Give yourself a voice inside and outside your brand to showcase your personal experience and expertise.
Be seen and heard
To build your personal brand, you need to be seen and heard (sorry introverts there is no way around this one!).
While this does involve building your online presence and demonstrating thought leadership through blogs, articles, media interviews and social media, all of which you can do from your office, you also need to get out into the world. Spread your message through networking, speaking and building relationships with others.
Start seeing yourself as a product you need to market. Pinpoint your unique selling points and the problems you solve and launch yourself out into the marketplace. You’ll find it helps your business marketing too.
With business becoming more global and much of our networking and marketing done online, it can be hard to build a personal relationship with our customers – particularly when we will never meet many of them. But one way to get around this is through an up to date headshot.
As simple as it sounds having a photo on your social media profiles, or even on your email and business card, allows your customer to see and connect with you even though you aren’t in front of them.
With personal branding on my mind lately, I knew it was time to (finally) update my headshot – it was just one of those tasks that kept creeping down my to-do list – perhaps you can relate?
Well in case you too have been putting it off, I thought I would share my experience with you to show it isn’t too scary or time-consuming (like some of you think it is); in fact, it can be pretty fun! So here goes…
After deciding it was time to get a new headshot for my LinkedIn profile I had a chance meeting with Elysia from Brisbane Headshots. She was funny, friendly and disarming (everything an introvert like me wants in a photographer), so I booked in to get my headshots done.
Elysia took me in via the Powder Room a gorgeous hair and makeup salon right next door who specialise in professional hair and makeup for headshots and weddings. My stylist Barbara was warm and friendly and took the time to chat about the look she would create to make sure I was comfortable. While she worked her magic, I sat back and sipped tea.
Then it came time to meet Paul, the lead photographer. We had a quick chat about outfit choices and the type of photos I was after (a natural headshot). He was softly spoken, but a true professional, and he quickly put me at ease. He even took the time to show me the photos to make sure I was happy and had the whole shoot wrapped up in less than half an hour. Later that afternoon I received my proofs and in less than a week I had my final photos!
So if you are putting off your headshots, I highly recommend getting them done. Your customers want a greater connection with the people behind the brands they do business with…but more on that in the next blog!
As research and experience are showing us, customers want more than products and services from brands they buy from; they want a story to tell and be part of.
While we can often fall into the trap of trying to be the loudest in the marketplace to get attention and stand out from our competitors, the truth is you don’t win the heart of your customer by them following your voice; you win it by finding theirs.
To help you break through the noise of a competitive marketplace and win the heart of your customers, here are three ways to build a customer-centric business.
Don’t fill a gap, fill a void
As entrepreneurs, we are often told to “look for a gap in the market” to find our next big idea. But to be truly significant in the lives of your customers you need to fill more than a gap, you need to fill a void.
While a finding a gap in the market can signify an opportunity, you will often get greater traction from finding and filling a void in your customers’ lives. When you fill a void, you are already creating something your customer wants and it is more a case of awakening the desire and motivation to buy, instead of the hard job of creating it.
Don’t speak before you listen
In business we can often be in a rush to create products and services based on the problem we see, not realising our customers might have a different perspective.
When you are creating new products and services, take the time to ask your customers for feedback and listen. It may turn out that you are solving the wrong problem, that there’s a bigger problem you are missing, or that your new product or service will have more uses than you realised. Your customers are and always will be your greatest source of learning.
Don’t sell a product, champion a cause
The moment you start selling a product or service by its features and benefits you start competing with everyone else in your industry. But when you sell the experience, tell the story, share the vision or champion a cause your customers start buying something else entirely.
Give your customers something to believe in, hope for, aspire to and be part of. While a customer may come to you because they want to buy your products, services or expertise, your role in their lives doesn’t need to stop there.
There are other fundamental human needs like safety, security, love, a sense of belonging, recognition and living up to one’s potential, that you can meet in the way you position your business. When you look at the bigger picture like this, you win the love and respect of your customers and put yourself in a completely different league to your competitors.
How can you build a more customer-centric business?
There comes a point in business when relationships end. It could be due to wrongdoing or simply outgrowing. Sometimes it’s because you end it and sometimes it’s because someone else does. How it ends though, can make all of the difference, not only to your reputation, but your bottom line, future connections, and business opportunities.
While it can be tempting (and let’s face it in some cases completely justified) to say exactly what you feel and burn bridges behind you, if you are wise, you will try to end every relationship as amicably as possible. By leaving the bridge intact, even if a little rocky, you at least still have the option to pass by again in the future if you ever need to.
In case you’re not convinced, here are some of the dangers you can face when burning bridges – regardless of whether you are in the right or the wrong.
1. The business world is small
While it can often seem as though you are dealing with a person or business in isolation, it is rarely true. The business world is small, and it’s made even smaller with online communities.
People are well connected and often with people you least expect. You never know who knows who and what influence the person you are dealing with may have over their connections now or further down the track. You also never know what future opportunities could be missed or tainted because of a strained relationship or conflict.
2. Everyone talks to someone
Everyone has at least one confidant, a sounding board who helps them work through their challenges. If you are lucky, then it is only one person, but if the situation is heated or interesting enough, it can spread like wildfire. Suddenly a lot of people know – or think they know – what has happened before you’ve even had a chance to share your side.
The trouble with conflict, bad news and scandals is that it’s juicy, it spreads wide and fast, and can take longer to die down than good news. When you decide to burn bridges and react instead of respond, you never know who is behind the person you are having challenges with. Whose ear they are whispering in, what they are saying or increasingly, what they will write on social media.
3. What you do and say can be held against you
When you are angry or upset, it can be easy to say things you either don’t mean or would normally leave unsaid. But a moment really can change everything. You never know who may be watching, listening or reading and what opinion they can form of you based on that one experience with you or impression of you.
While it is important to keep things in writing, be mindful that your tone, emphasis, and intent can and will often be misconstrued. Before you send anything ask yourself, is this a good representation of my character and what I stand for? Could this have legal ramifications? Would I be happy for this to be made public?
4. Who you burn on the way up, can burn you on the way down
In business, there are never any guarantees. You can have a booming business one day and the next, due to circumstances that may or may not be in your control, end up right back where you started.
You never know when you will need a relationship or connection again, this is why it is so important to maintain relationships at all levels of your business journey.
Yes, relationships will end, and you will outgrow suppliers, associates, and even customers. Just make sure it is done without ego or high emotion, because if you do fall, you normally see or need to lean on the same people as you climb back up.
There is no question that in business, there will be times where you will have to stand up to injustice, defend your position and point or view, and even burn a bridge or two. When you do though, do it with the full knowledge of how it will affect you and your business now, and how it could affect you in the future.
When you are an entrepreneur, it’s not unusual to be flooded with ideas. From your midday brainstorms to your midnight inspiration, when you are always asking questions or looking for answers the ideas come.
But with so many ideas coming through and only so many hours in the day, how do you know which ones to follow and which ones to keep locked away for later?
While there is never a black and white answer to that question, there are some ways you can help qualify your idea to know if it will be the next big thing or the next big flop.
1. Uncover the problem
When the idea is forming, look at the problem/s it solves. Is it a prominent problem that a lot of people have? Is it a problem they are aware of or do they need to be educated about it? How much education will need to be given?
This will start to help you uncover your target market and how big this market will be.
2. Determine if it’s a need or want
Once you have the problem, determine if it is a need or want. While your market might need the idea you are developing, if they don’t want it, your market will be limited. You know you are on to a good idea when your target market both needs and wants your product or service.
As your idea is developing, look at what else is out in the marketplace to compete with it. Do you have many competitors or just a few? Is there a market for what you are doing? If you have no competitors is it because it’s an uncharted territory or because others have failed before you? If people have failed, why did they fail? How is your idea different to what is already out there?
4. Delve into the senses
Imagine your idea in use. How will it look, taste, touch, smell or feel? How will people interact with it or use it? What limitations or objections do you imagine people will have? What barriers might you encounter?
5. Seek opinion
Once you have formulated your idea, it’s time to seek feedback. While you need to be protective over your idea (and use appropriate confidentiality agreements) you also need to test your idea before you start investing significant time and money into it.
To do this effectively approach people that will give you different perspectives, from trusted advisors like your accountant, business coach, solicitor or marketing consultant, to trusted friends and most importantly potential customers.
Keep in mind that you want more feedback than “that’s a great idea!” you want specific details on whether they would buy it? How much would they pay for it? What would they want from it or be able to do with it? How would they want it to look or be packaged?
The more research you can do in the idea stage, the more time, money and potential heartache you will save yourself in the development stage.
Over to you, do you have any tips or tricks for qualifying ideas?
In business, trust and profit are intertwined. In order to make more sales or convert new leads, it starts by building trust. The more trust a potential customer has the more likely they are to purchase with you and the more a customer trusts you, the higher their spend will be.
But how do you start to build trust with a contact you don’t know and perhaps have never met?
Be friendly and relatable
When it comes to building trust, nothing can surpass being friendly and genuine. While people want to work with experts, they also want to work with people they feel they can relate to and who don’t appear to be too far above them.
Whether you are in front of a potential customer or they are simply a name on your database, always be friendly, pleasant and upbeat in your communication.
Engage and validate
Take an interest in your potential customers and what is important to them. It can be as simple as seeing how they are doing, asking for their input or feedback or seeking their opinion on an issue.
Encourage conversation and listen to what they are saying. Where possible, try to implement or reiterate what you have heard so your customers can feel important and validated.
Make and deliver on a promise
When you have not formed trust with a potential customer, it is important to create an opportunity for you to make a promise and deliver to start building their trust in you.
Can you introduce them to a key contact? Can you provide answers to pressing questions, or insights, guidance or tips on a key issue or topic you know they will be interested in?
The promise could be one-on-one to them personally or to a larger audience through a free webinar, event, e-book or cheat sheet for example.
The first promise or claim you make should have no risk to them. So it is not a purchase you are seeking; it is a freebie or favour that will help you build their trust initially. Once you have gained their trust on something small, it is easier to ask for their trust on something bigger like making a purchase with you. In fact, if you play your cards right and give them something the value or need, the sale will often happen naturally.