In search of inspiration, I cracked open my copy of Re-imagine! I haven’t read it in some time, but I couldn’t help smiling as I turned the pages. Tom Peters is at his ranting best as he sounds the wake up alarm for businesses and individuals alike. Published in 2003, it is almost a little spooky to read Tom’s predictions about the future (many have come to pass already) about things like personal branding, HR, supply chain management, the web, talent attraction and development, or the value of running departments like accounting as internal professional service firms. In the wake of 9/11, Tom’s book challenges us to re-envision what is possible. The visual impact of the Re-Imagine! and Tom’s prophetic words make this book a must read for anyone looking to reinvent themselves or their businesses.
I’m just back from my first trip to Ireland and what a trip it was. It’s possible that my boyfriend still hasn’t recovered from the crazy person I became on a few of those Irish back country roads:) The Irish summer weather, which included rain every day, was surprisingly enjoyable. The castles, the pubs, incredibly charming towns, an art festival and seeing U2 in Dublin are just a few of the reasons that I know I’ll be heading back soon.
You Can Rent the Car without Actually Having the Car
Remember that Jerry Seinfeld episode when Jerry reserved a rental car only to discover when reaching his destination that they had no car to rent? That’s this story, but at least the rental car employees in Jerry’s story were honest about the problem…they ran out of cars.
When we first arrived in Dublin we were rested and excited to get going with our journey. Thrifty Car Rental changed all that. We had reserved our car and after grabbing luggage, we got in line to check in. Only a few people ahead of us, so we thought “how long could it be?” Believe me, way to long! It seems that some of Thrifty’s employees were more on a mission to sell their insurance policies than they were to get people the rental cars they reserved. We finally get through that part of the process and we are whisked offsite to where you actually pick up the car. We thought…cool, we’re on our way. Um…an hour later, we finally got our car. What should have taken minutes was 2 hours long in the making.
How Thrifty is Your Service?
There are several definitions of “thrifty” on the Webster’s website. I happen to like, “thriving, prosperous, or successful”. I just have to wonder, how thriving, prosperous or successful Thrifty Car Rental is going to be if they can’t manage their fleet and reservations systems any better than what I experienced. Even the return was a major hassle. And DO NOT get me started on the GPS that we paid for but couldn’t use because their equipment was faulty. Two hours of waiting for a rental car and when we finally get one, we get in the car and drive away only to discover that the GPS is dead. The thought of going back to Thrifty was so painful that we just went on.
Have You Defined the Experience?
We live in a world that is driven by the customer experience. If you haven’t noticed…buyers have choices. They rule. Frankly, they always did. The difference now is that they can access information, recommendations and referrals like never before. It doesn’t matter what product or service you sell, if you don’t create a strategy that defines what you want the experience to be, you may well end up fumbling the ball. Thrifty didn’t just fumble, they kept digging a deeper hole with every contact we had with them. They’ve defined the experience all right, but I’m betting it’s not actually what they had in mind.
Boy, do I ever love the internet! The wealth of truly interesting information is amazing. Just when I needed a little inspiration for a blog post, along comes Jennifer Leggio over at ZD Net who writes a great blog called Social Business. Over the last few months, I have learned quite a bit from Jennifer about social media and well…business.
Today, her post touched a nerve for me! Who isn’t sick of spam? Yes, that’s a trick question…all of us are I’m sure, and like Jennifer I admit that I peruse my spam folder and marvel at some of the crazy headlines that are used to draw people in. Crazier still are the people who actually believe in so many of the “get rich quick” schemes that are promised. Do you really think that if you spend $49 you will become a millionaire in 90 days? You might wish it to be so, but wishing gets you nowhere…that’s just not how it works.
When it comes to marketing ourselves in the online world, I admit that I can be quite a zealot about the approach I believe is required to be viewed as credible, authentic and ethical when building business online. The old adage that people buy from people that they know, like and trust is as true today as it ever was AND even more so online.
It is interesting to watch the lengths people will go to in defense of their position if you challenge them on their sales/marketing approach. Case in point – in my Business Coaching LinkedIn group a question was posed about whether or not when people hire a coach they realize they are at the heart of the problem. Sounded intriguing. I checked it out.The individual who kicked off the discussion had some good introductory comments and then included a link to a video that they had created about their beliefs. (Disclosure…I hate that…it’s a signal to me that a sell job is impending). Still, I clicked on the link and watched. Not bad stuff. What I thought was interesting is that the first 1.5 minutes was about the topic and the rest of the video promoted the guy and his services. When challenged (another guy in the group gave him grief) he accused the guy of judging and went on to justify his position. When I weighed in and said that while his message and intent were good, the fact that he promoted himself and his services for half the clip created a perception that he wasn’t being totally transparent. You can guess what happened next…he totally justified what he did. I wanted to SCREAM – dude, listen up. You pushed your agenda and you know it, but it wasn’t worth the time. People either get it or they don’t. Many don’t!
Back to Jennifer’s post…really good read and supports what I’m talking about here. Thanks, Jennifer – you rock!
Sales is a lot like acting and dancing. That’s been my experience anyway. Flexibility, an open mind, great listening skills and a willingness to totally let go of your agenda are key. It is so important to flex and adjust your behavior and communication style with each person you meet, as if you were moving about the ballroom dancing with one partner after another. It is all about appreciating diversity and being willing to flex to meet the needs of different styles.
So what does a dance clip have to do with all of this? Well, sales is darn tough sometimes and requires people who can totally self motivate themselves. And that is not always easy folks! Center Stage is a terrific story of a young lady who is told that she “wasn’t good enough” according to their traditional ballerina rules, but then she goes on to set the stage on fire in a non-traditional production.
Morale of the story? There is a rock star in all of us! Our heroine totally demonstrates that dance can take many forms…as does the sales process.
For me, I think that sales is all about creating a relationship with potential buyers. A relationship that is all about wanting to “give more than you receive”…help people solve their problems and they will want to work with you. Remember, your rewards will come later. You must spend the time to build a reputation that says you are about integrity – that you can be trusted to truly help people to solve their business problems.
I say release your inner rock star. Be inspired by the video and remind yourself that how you face each sales situation is really inspired from within. It doesn’t matter what the external world says…it’s about what you know INSIDE yourself to be true. So dance…and sing…and have fun…know that you deliver great value in your service, stick with it, and ignore the criticisms of others. When you do that – you will achieve more than anyone thought was possible, maybe even you more than you thought possible!
Discussion about how to “build relationships” in the online world and what’s acceptable in terms of “how to sell your stuff” seems to be on the rise lately. That’s to be expected I suppose, especially when you see some fairly obvious multi-level marketing tactics being displayed. It is a quandary I guess, isn’t it?
The whole idea of using social media/social networking from a sales point of view is to build relationships that lead to sales. Done right, I totally believe using social media helps you to better qualify leads and shrink the sales process. That’s all good and helps you to build your business. But notice that I said “done right”. What a conundrum. If you “sell from the podium” you risk trashing your brand. And if you don’t, what’s the point of being online if you can’t convert your activity into sales?
Good questions. I don’t know if I have the “right” answers…I just have my perspective.
In over 25 years of professional selling, I can honestly say that blatant self promotion has never been in vogue. Ever. Done in the online space, it’s worse.
What leads to people to…
- Ask questions that they then answer by talking about how great they are? We are not fooled!
- Answer questions and not actually contribute to the dialog, but just yak, yak, yak about themselves and their products?
- Provide answers to questions that are clearly a push to their affiliate site? At least be honest about what you are doing. Are you really that desperate?
- Pretend they are trying to provide value, but then they manage to “sneak in” their own stuff. Please – do you think we can’t tell?
- Not even answer the question at all, but instead sell their product instead. For example, in a recent LinkedIn group the question was “we are evaluating Achieve Global. Have you used their programs and what do you think?” This wasn’t a request for people to “pitch” their competitive product, but out of the first 5 responses – 4 did exactly that. Disgraceful!
I don’t know. Is it really that tough to just want to be in service to others knowing that you’ll get your just desserts at some other point? My belief is in the “do unto others” model…I don’t pollute the dialog with my sales pitch…maybe you could refrain from yours.
Over at Count5, CEO Eric Blumthal has quite a sense of humor, as well as a terrific product for reinforcing change in sales behavior. Their Q OnDemand software is a unique communications tool that makes more people remember more information more quickly. Q lets you convert relevant information into small, bite-sized chunks, push it to front line employees on a recurring schedule and track who consumed it and who understands it. This patent-pending process rapidly improves alignment with new initiatives, strategy and messaging.
Now for a little fun…although I’ve actually had one or two sales managers in my career who actually thought that this was coaching people:)
HALF of adults in America judge people’s intelligence based on email content and format, reports GMX, a free email service for more than 11 million active users in survey research just released today.
Of the 1,002 US Adults surveyed who use e-mail for both work and personal reasons, 58 percent of Americans admitted they judge intelligence based on the writing style, tone and language used in email. You can bet they make the same sorts of judgments when you (or your people) send “tweets“, email newsletters, respond on blogs, chat on Facebook or comment in group discussions.
Words – what we say and how we say them – have always been an important factor in our ability to connect with others…or not. And in this new conversation economy your sales people must be acutely aware of what impression they create when communicating online. When contributing to the dialog in social networking communities, careful thought must be given to the words that are penned to the virtual paper. If you aren’t paying attention to what your people are saying – you put your brand at risk!
Here are 5 tips to improve how your sales people communicate online:
* Tell don’t sell. Storytelling is a way to create a picture in the mind of your buyer that will lead them to want to know more. In conversations avoid using common catch phrases that everyone else uses too. Who doesn’t think that their product or service is amazing, revolutionary, transformative, results oriented or cutting edge? Be more creative. For example, if your buyer plays tennis, you might say something like “when you work with us, we help you hit ace serves every single time.”
* Speak your buyer’s language. Sales people are often caught up in using jargon that makes sense to them and to their co-workers, but can completely turn off a potential buyer. This is about connecting with your next client, so drop the industry buzz words and get to know and use “their business language” not yours.
* Add value to the conversation. Demonstrate expertise by “adding more” to the conversation. Perhaps add a unique twist to how you would approach the situation being discussed. Resist the temptation to “talk about yourself and what you sell”. For several weeks, I’ve observed a Sales VP in one of my LinkedIn groups who just doesn’t understand this at all. In every question he poses and every question he answers, he talks about how great his company and their products are. He’s says he’s passionate, I think he’s arrogant and crushing his brand.
* Be transparent. In the online world (I would suggest in business in general), transparency is key. Although a lot of people use the word, I’m not sure they actually know what it means. Be crystal clear about your intentions, your affiliations and disclose anything that might be perceived as a bias on your part – up front. Way up front! For example, if you push a particular service and you earn an affiliate commission – say so. If you are trying to broker a partner deal then be honest about pushing them as a speaker at that next event you happen to chair. We figure it out anyway and you look bad for not disclosing your intentions ahead of time!
* Establish writing guidelines. It is very important that your sales folks get engaged in online conversations, and it is a wise idea to put some communication guidelines in place. Make sure you set expectations about what is acceptable when they are representing your company! Good rules of thumb are: leave your agenda at the door, manage your tone, be respectful, add value and be transparent when answering questions.
By the way, putting this topic front and center is a bit of a risk for me given you are judging my IQ at this very moment. Let’s hope I make the cut:)
So much of sales is about how you present yourself. I suppose you could say that’s true of most anything we do in life. Having sold professionally my entire career and managed large sales teams to boot, I can tell you that nothing will blow the sale more quickly than the inability to present yourself well. A strong presentation presence counts whether the audience is a few people sitting around the meeting table or a room filled with 1000.
Today’s post is from guest blogger, Joan C. Curtis, EdD. A popular author, Joan’s recent book Managing Sticky Situations at Work was just released. And…I have the pleasure of co-authoring an upcoming book with Joan called The New Handshake: Sales 2.0. Working with such an experienced writer is great fun for this newbie. I know you will enjoy what she shares as much as I did!
Please…stop UMing me to death!
Want to know what ruins a presentation quicker than spilling wine on the host’s shirt? As soon as you say, um. . . or ah. . . or one too many basically’s, your credibility goes down the drain.
I recently noted an entire book on the misuse of fillers in public speaking. Can you imagine that? Someone actually filled up 320 pages talking about um’s and ah’s and other verbal stumbles. Check it out: Ums: Slips, Stumbles and Verbal Blunders and What They Mean by Michael Erard.
Yes, even the most famous among us have struggled at one time or another with those pesky filler words. At first we may not have noticed them. At first we thought we were as good a speaker as the next guy. Suddenly, however, someone pointed out our frequent, um or ah or basically. It doesn’t matter what the filler is, it’s still a word that fills up an empty space in our communication. For some reason our conscious minds do not hear those fillers. It takes someone pointing them out for the fillers to become loud, annoying interruptions.
Once a politician attended one of my public speaking classes. She was a city commissioner in a moderately-sized community. Her error was not just an um but a rather long sounding ummmmm. The um filled up the entire silent spot. Being completely unaware of this annoying habit, she spoke openly and frequently. Others cringed each time she approached the podium. During my class under the eye of a video camera, this woman finally heard herself. The expression of shock on her face told it all. Who is that speaking, she wondered? Clearly she’d never utter another um as long as she lived. The good news is she went on to a very successful political career as mayor of that city. I heard her deliver powerful presentations. Never again did she um us to death.
What are these fillers? The answer is simple. Fillers fill the silence between our thoughts. If you have to think a lot, the fillers increase. In other words, if you did not prepare for your presentation or if you are speaking extemporaneously, you will utter more than your usual quota of um’s. The more you prepare, the less your chances for um’s. Professional speakers and actors study their lines and practice them. That study and practice enable them to eliminate and eradicate the fillers. Have you ever heard an actor use a filler word, even in conversation, while acting? I bet you won’t hear a single one. The people writing the lines know that most of us prefer not to hear um’s and ah’s and like’s and you know’s. If, however, you listen to any actor interviewed by Letterman or Jay Leno or Oprah, you’ll hear plenty of um’s and ah’s. Without the writers and left to their own devices, even the most skillful actors falter and stumble. It’s amazing!
Here are some tips to rid yourself of the fillers once and for all.
• Hear them. This may sound simple. But, if you don’t believe you speak with um’s and ah’s and other such fillers, you will never correct yourself. Just like my mayor, she had to hear it first.
• Tape your end of telephone conversations or your end of teleclass presentations. Listen to yourself. Count the number of fillers you use. Next time concentrate on using fewer. Before long, they will disappear.
• Practice out loud your formal presentations. If you speak for a living or it’s part of your job (You are a CEO or a president or director of some organization), practice what you are going to say. If you can, audio tape your presentation and listen to it. Practice will make perfect.
• Plan and prepare. The better prepared you are, the less chance you have for filling in your thoughts with fillers. In fact, overuse of fillers tip off your listeners that you have not prepared.
• Relish and enjoy silence. If you use silence effectively, you will not fill up those golden silent moments with fillers. For some reason as speakers we hate those silent moments. Actors know the value of a strategic pause– That moment when everything seems to stand still. You can destroy that moment instantly with the simple utterance of, ah. Remember, as you speak, you make important points. People think about those points. While thinking, their minds are busy. You interrupt that precious thought when you toss in a filler. Relish and enjoy the silence.
Want to learn more???
To learn more about how to make powerful presentations, go to Joan’s website. She created a group of short MP3’s that you can download. Learn what it takes to become a powerful speaker! It may be the best $29 investment you’ll ever make in your career. Don’t let the um’s have it. Get rid of those pesky fillers!
Over on colleague, Joan Curtis’ – Say it Just Right blog, Joan posted information about an event hosted by Arbor Salon & Spa on July 12 from 1pm to 5pm. Salon doors will open up and the stylists will offer their services to those in need. They are calling it Job Fair for Hair. The whole idea is that people who are in job transition must continue to look their best. While it might easy to think that putting off that much needed haircut doesn’t matter. Appearance is important part of the interview/selection process.
Though you may not live in Athens, GA – this is still pretty cool, so I’d like to suggest that maybe you can get a salon or two in your own local community to consider doing something similar. Read Joan’s entire post here.