Brian Lord: I'm Brian Lord, your host of The Beyond Speaking Podcast and today we have with us Phil M. Jones, who's the author of Exactly What to Say. And we- and for those listening along, we actually have this on video as well today, so you can check it out.
Phil M. Jones: Very nice!
Brian Lord: And so, Phil, thank you so much for coming on. We appreciate it.
Phil M. Jones: Pleasure to be on the show. Thank you for inviting me!
Brian Lord: Now, you are the king of Audible, which we've found out. You're one of the most listened to people ever. Was it in 2018? Was the most listened to-
Phil M. Jones: Most listened to non-fiction of 2018.
Brian Lord: Nice. And do you think that's because of the content or you just had the cool accent?
Phil M. Jones: Well, there are other people with a similar accent, perhaps many that have better diction than me. So I'm I'm going to hope that it was more than the accent.
Brian Lord: So-
Phil M. Jones: I think one of the big reasons that the book did so well on that platform is it's a book about spoken word on a platform that produces content in spoken word. And if you write a book that helps people have more effective conversations, you can't read that content and actually find it to work with the right cadence or the right punctuality. And it's a book that people listen to on multiple times because it doesn't stick first time around. They want it on repeat.
Brian Lord: What was that process like recording it?
Phil M. Jones: Honestly, I arrived at a studio in New York City to be able to record it because I felt like I should probably get the audiobook out there in the world. And I recorded it in one hour and 45 minutes in one take. And we then had an hour and 50 minutes’ worth of content. And I left and I had a sore throat on the day and had 15 throat-coat teas ahead of it. And I was gargling, I think, saltwater to be able to get through that ahead of time. And I didn't ever expect it to be a big thing is the truth. It was like, "Ah, I've got to get that done." So the recording was pretty straightforward, in fairness.
Brian Lord: Now, what's the... what's sort of this partnership going forward with Audible? I know, you've got some amazing things coming up.
Phil M. Jones: I'm a big believer in spoken-word is the biggest growth platform for the way that people want to be able to receive, their information and it can accompany another activity. Right? People listening to this right now are probably doing something else whilst listening. And video can be harder to be able to do that. It needs to bring more of your attention. So we're seeing it through podcasts, we're seeing it through audible that the market is screaming and saying we want to listen to great content more so than we want to watch great content. And knowing that was true following the success of the first book on Audible. We had a partnership to better produce an original piece of content. I am a big believer that everybody is selling something. And I produced a program as an Audible original, lived out a lifelong goal of performing off-Broadway as a one-man show, teaching sales skills to a room full of a completely mixed audience that became a workshop experience for a listener. So it puts the listener at the center of the workshop as the finished product as opposed to being a recording of a live event. We released that back end of last year and then this year I have a secret project that launches out in January and I'm not allowed to tell anybody publicly what it is.
Brian Lord: Oh, wow.
Phil M. Jones: Audible will have some big announcements coming Q1 of next year, of which I play a fairly major part of something that's going to impact the business community with access to audio content.
Brian Lord: Now, one of the things that people come into this- so it seems like the group that maybe focuses the most maybe on what to say would be sales groups, but maybe the groups that need it the most are those that are outside of that, whether it's leaders or people in the health care, professional, independent business owners. What- Why is this so important to them?
Phil M. Jones: Well, you know as well as I do, the worst time to think about the thing you're going to say is in the moment when you're saying it, right? That is the worst time to think about the thing you're gonna say. And what we bump into in almost every industry is that there are crucial and critical conversations that are happening within organizations where people find themselves lost for words. I mean, if you're listening to this right now, I bet you can think about a scenario in your own life where you can look back on it, crystallize a key moment that if you had the right words at that time, your life would look very different today. So actually, it's the non-sales audiences that find themselves having a lack of confidence in conversation, is that they're not achieving the outcomes that they're looking for. And I've learned that the biggest difference between people who do good and people who do great are those that know exactly what to say, when to say and how to make it count. They know that the right words at the right time can make all the difference.
Brian Lord: What are some of those examples of things where- of a time that you know, maybe a leader's talking to an employee, or a parent is talking to their child, whatever it might be, where it's a difficult conversation. How can they approach that?
Phil M. Jones: Well, why don't we just have some fun for a second with like an ask, right. The biggest reason that we wouldn't ask for the things that they want in their life is because of what? Why don't people ask for things?
Brian Lord: They're afraid they might get rejected.
Phil M. Jones: Yeah. So I hear that answer every single time. It doesn't matter who I ask. I get that same response. Some form of fear of rejection. Yeah. Ironically, we face rejection in every area of our life on an almost daily basis and in most circumstances we're fine with it. Yet it's the biggest reason that people do not move forward and get the success that they would want in life because they are fearful of asking for things because they might get rejected. So why don't I give you a couple of sequences of words that could you could use to get maybe. Well, I'll give you the ability to ask just about anybody, just about anything completely rejection-free.
Brian Lord: All right.
Phil M. Jones: So the first example might be that if I wanted somebody to be able to consider my idea, instead of asking them directly, what I might do is preface the idea with the words "I'm not sure if it's for you." Now, if I preface an idea with the words, "I'm not sure if it's for you." Your little voice does two things. Thing number one is it says, "Well, I'll be the judge of that." Right?
Brian Lord: Right. Laughing]
Phil M. Jones: It takes full responsibility for any action that's going to follow. And the second thing is curiosity is then piqued. It says like, "What is it?" You lean in and you find yourself wanting to be able to understand it more. I might put a three-letter word on the end of that sequence of words with purpose to be out a create a almost a swipe out of that to get them to listen to what comes next. And that three-letter word would be the word "but." See, when you hear the word "but" in a typical conversation, it negates what was said prior. But in this set of circumstances, it gives you permission to better talk about what's next. So I could say to my wife, "Hey, I'm not sure if it's for you, but I'm thinking of going to the X, Y, Z restaurant on Friday night. Do you think that would be a good idea?" See, there is no option to be able to say no to that question. If you are looking for maybe an employee in your organization to maybe step up. "Hey, I'm not sure if it's for you, but there might be a promotion opportunity that is coming up. And would that be something that you'd be interested in?" And it gives us permission to be able to plant, this idea into somebody's head without it feeling like it's heavy ask and we remove "no" being an option. The same psychology can be utilized in an even more simple way. So if I asked a room full of a thousand people who in the room would see themselves as open-minded. How many hands do you think I'm going to get go up?
Brian Lord: Well, most people I think would say that? Yeah.
Phil M. Jones: Most people would like to admit to being open-minded. And the alternative of which is is like closed-minded, which is kind of admitting you're an idiot. So nobody wants to be able to do that. Knowing the fact that the whole world likes to see themselves as open-minded, we can use that to be able to have more influence in our ask by inserting the words open-minded into the form of a question because it's the person who's asking the questions that's in control of the conversation. So I take that open-minded knowledge, I insert into the form of a question and the question I might use is "How open-minded would you be?" So how open-minded would you be that we choose to go somewhere different on Friday rather than where we got booked? How open-minded would you be to put in some extra hours in so that what we can do is deliver this project on time? How open-minded would you be to maybe considering how our product can perform versus your incumbent? How open-minded would you be to me showing you some ways I could save you some money? How open-minded would you be to trying the words "How open-minded are you" more often, right? And you see how much easier it softens and ask? And it stops it feeling like the pressure is in the ask, and it stops it being pushy. And it means actually the other person is pulled towards wanting to do the thing as opposed to feeling like they are being pushed down to be out of achieve the same result.
Brian Lord: Now, we work with a lot of international audiences. So even if an event might take place in Dallas or L.A. or New York or wherever it might be, does this translate well? Obviously, we come from both English speaking countries, but how does that translate when you're talking to an international audience?
Phil M. Jones: Yeah. Great question. And I've now spoken on 57 different countries, five different continents. And every time I go somewhere new, I ask myself the same question, like, is this going to resonate? Is this going to hear, you know, is this an English only thing? And what's interesting is that I've never had an issue of it translating. And I think I know why. Because, yes, I wrote a book called Exactly What to Say. But really what exactly what to say is sequences of was reliant upon human principles. And providing that what we're dealing with is humans who have things like empathy and humans who have things like care and consideration, towards change and humans who are undeniably selfish, then these word choices will move across. And I think that's been amplified further by we're now in 29 different languages or something with the book. And I get responses from people even in Farsi and in traditional or simplified Chinese, where people have reached out to me and are like, "This book is amazing!" And I got asked to do the proof was like... like, you know, "You happy with the translation?" and I'm like, "I don't know? That's your job, right?" I can't proof this because I don't read that language. But, you know, I was in Peru just two weeks ago doing an event in Lima, and it was being translated in real-time. And what was interesting is that the entire audience came to me afterward and even the interpreter came to me afterward like, "This stuff's really good."
Brian Lord: Where did you come up with this idea? Because it seems like it's simple, but it's very impactful. So where did that originate with you?
Phil M. Jones: So my background is in building businesses, running retail stores and helping sales professionals to be able to improve their results. And I come at the world of sales from a very different angle to almost everybody. And what selling is in my world is earning the right to make a recommendation. It's not embellishing a product or service with features and benefits, hoping something might stick. It is earning the right to make a recommendation. In my time, I've trained over 2 million sales professionals. And what I've learned is that often the biggest thing that stands in somebody's way is there ability to control a conversation so the other person can see what you're saying as opposed to hearing what you're saying. And through my coaching and analytics of helping sales professionals get better, I've learned that there are often recurring sequences of words that people who are crushing it would be reaching for. I have learned that there are common objections and common situations, regardless of industry, that people find there're points of friction in conversation. And instead of trying to win the battle, I learned that avoiding the battle ahead of time was actually a better approach. So I started to write questions for a living, not write scripts. I would write questions that control conversations, and I would be consulted by some of the world's biggest brands to say, "Hey, can you look at our existing conversational frameworks and see what you can do to be able to improve conversion rates?" This fascinated me and what I found is I was going industry to industry to industry and all of the words I was reaching for were the same. All of the tools that I was creating, regardless of industry, were the same. And regardless of what I would speak on, the biggest takeaway from my audience was like, "Hey, that word stuff you do is really good." So I figured if I could just package this down into a format, that would be easy, it would be in great shape. And I'm going to tell you exactly where the book, Exactly What to Say came from. I did a training back in 2009 for a group of telesales, telecommunications companies, admin and customer service staff. They wanted their admin and customer service staff to be more confident on the phones, have more control over the situations to be able to get people to be able to see the outcome more clearly, more easily. So they wanted a sales training for people who weren't salespeople and they wanted a takeaway for it. What I did is I wrote a takeaway that was called 17 Magic Words That You Can Use to Have more Influence and Impact in your Conversations. It was a two-page pdf. The next day, I found myself in a mastermind group with some of my other speakers--trainer-author friends. And they were complaining about how difficult it was to be able to get a book to the position of published. I said "It's not hard to get published with all the tools that we have available. You could self-publish a book, you could get it done in as little as seven to 10 days." They went, "That can't be done." So me and my big mouth got me into trouble. I said, here's what I could do is I could take a book and I could turn it around in the next seven to 10 days just to prove you wrong. I took that two-page pdf and I turned it into a book called Magic Words and rolled it out within 10 days. Now, it wasn't my finest piece of literary work, but back in 2010, 2011 that blew up. We did like 120,000 copies in my small industry was great. It was a fun little giveaway. It became a pdf download on websites, etc. But it became like almost my signature work back then. When I moved geographically from the UK to the United States is I wanted to do some things that would help relaunch my career within a North American marketplace as opposed to a global marketplace. And I thought I want to do that right. So what I did is I took the book Magic Words and I wrote it in the way that it should have been written first time round. I took 12 months taking all of my biggest of ideas when it comes to conversational success. And I said, how do I distill this down into the smallest big book that was possible? What were the best book designers that I could possibly find? What the best marketing team that I could possibly find? And what was the best editing team that I could possibly find? I wrote the book in half a day. I spent 12 months editing it to better make sure it was a tool that was useful in the marketplace. And that's where the book Exactly What to Say comes from. I think that one of the biggest reasons that its success has being what it was is because the marketers told me that this is what it wanted. Not my idea. It was the market that said this is what we need help with.
Brian Lord: What's the most rewarding part about having written that book?
Phil M. Jones: Are the most rewarding part is daily. I get strangers reaching out, whether it's LinkedIn, Instagram, whether it's Twitter, whether it's via email, whether it's through my assistant that comes back to me with a forwarded message that was like, "I've struggled with this stuff for years. And in an hour I read through your book and I found clarity and confidence in conversation that I haven't had for decades." And I get responses like that regularly and then I get experience sales professionals. That's like, "Why didn't I read this book 20 years ago? Think of a situation I'd be in." Or I get entrepreneurs saying the same thing. And then I get like kids saying "This has helped me to better get my first job" or "This has helped me to have some conversation about to ask the girl that I wanted to go to the dance with" or I get wives saying- I've had this like four times: "I always used to be at a struggled to ask my husband to take out the trash. And now I've got the words." Right? So it doesn't matter. It's like all over the page with where people are coming at me from a saying this has made a difference in my life and that that's why I do this work. Right? I do this work about to be able to make a difference to be able to have an impact and seeing that go full circle. And now that the book's been in the world for like two and a half and into its third year, is I'm having some people reach out that are telling me how it's impacted over a sustained period of time, too. And you're like that was somebody who is here in a company that is now gone on to better start their own company that is now over here in terms of the success that they're having in their life through their own design. And they're like, "You know, your book wasn't all of it, but it was a catalyst to change.".
Brian Lord: How have you changed in this process?
Phil M. Jones: The biggest change that's come to me through this process is, you know, I grew up teaching people to have more effective conversations, always for commercial gain. That's where my work was deep-rooted. The applications for this work are way broader than I could ever imagine. So I've been teaching. H.R. manages to get a seat at the table within their corporations. I've been teaching nurses to be how to give better news to people who have bad news. I've been teaching kids how to be more confident in their conversations as to how they might get into colleges. I've been looking at the impact that word choices could have in written copy through marketers. And this whole area of conversational languages is taking me into dozens of different areas and even to politics and things that I'd never considered as being my area of expertise. But because my expertise is something that is so narrow that is also so broad, other industries and other sectors have come to me and I've got to play.
Brian Lord: And I guess the final question here. You know, you're a parent and, you know, with six-month-old twins, are you worried that there's going to backfire on you someday, that they're going to be able to get a much better allowance or something?
Phil M. Jones: I hope so! I really hope so. [Laughing] You know, I think the- one of the biggest things that stand in the way for young people in our world is they don't have the confidence to ask for the things they want in their life. And, you know, I hope that my kids go on to be able to have effective, persuasive, influential conversations in the world and have a strong opinion and have a strong worldview and feel that they're prepared to better speak up on that, whatever that means to them. So, yeah. I hope that they do. Counter of which is just because I know how to do this stuff doesn't mean I always do it. So I'm always very happy sometimes to let something go and let it go by. I was at an event yesterday and a number of the people there were saying things like, you know, your wife must hate you. She can never win an argument. I'm like, my wife wins every argument. I'm okay with that. But my work is my work and my personal life is my personal life. They don't have to be intertwined in the same way.
Beyond Speaking is hosted by Brian Lord and produced by Eric Woodie