Today’s newsletter, Everyone Can Sell, focuses on a truth about success in business: Career success is less about technical skills, and more about the ability to sell and persuade. The good news: You don’t have to be a salesperson to sell. You need to be really good at creating We relationships. More good news: No matter how good you are now, you can become better at creating We relationships. Make it a habit.
Archive for June, 2009
Here’s a short video I recorded this morning at London’s Heathrow Airport, after reading an article on new marketing technologies in the July UK edition of Wired Magazine.
What I’m talking about: The article describes many new marketing technologies that can manipulate customers and invade their privacy. My bottom line (as I write in the first chapter of We): There are two types of technology – those that bring you closer to your customer and those that put a barrier (or create distance) between you and your customer. If a technology builds your relationship with a customer, great. If it hurts your relationship, then there are reasons beyond privacy and manipulation that should keep you from using that technology.
Here’s the video. Please excuse the rough video quality … that’s what happens when a Flip Video (which is normally adequate) gets combined with bright lighting behind me, and my complexion after 12 hours on an airplane.
Here’s the blog post on We Relationships I reference in the video. (Postscript: The video describes how United Airlines used their baggage tracking technology to help me today, and this blog post describes how they didn’t use the same technology to help me 10 days ago. The result: Today I got my bags on time, 10 days ago I was severely inconvenienced. It’s not about the technology, it’s about how you use it.)
What do you think? Any of you using these technologies in your marketing? Any of you notice digial signs looking back at you in retail stores? Anybody paranoid that their cellphone usage is helping Big Brother track your every move?
Many hours in airplanes, the beautiful Indian Ocean, and a chance to practice “now.” One of the things I really like about traveling to far-away time zones is the chance to practice some life and business fundamentals that contribute directly to business success.
Here’s a short video I shot yesterday:
I’m carrying on with my theme of the last week, focusing on really specific things we can all do to improve our business relationships and relationship-building encounters, moment by moment. Some of the biggest obstacles to being effective with business relationships are the zillions of distractions that keep up from being present as we engage with others. Practice “now.”
Today’s newsletter is called “The Encounter Habit.” Here’s the rub: Relationship-building encounters are the most important products you produce, every day. At any moment during a customer interaction, monitor how well things are going, and be alert and ready to improve the encounter. It can be done!
Pay attention! Be alert! At any point in time, you can turn a customer interaction into a relationship-building encounter, and avoid having it devolve into a relationship-eroding transaction.
I’ve just landed at Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris, from where I will fly to Mauritius later today, landing early tomorrow morning. Continuing my theme from my “Pain is Inevitable, Suffering is Optional” post at the beginning of this 17-day odyssey, I successfully managed not to let United Airlines’ silliness upset my travel peace of mind, even during the O’Hare check-in process that required two lines, one for checking in and one for checking passports. (Could have been the “Not” example in an Industrial Engineering 101 class. )
I know it’s strange, but I really like these transition days in Europe … somewhat serene from too little sleep, ready for a new adventure. Check out my “Warsaw Walking Yoga with Joni Mitchell” video blog from last summer. Regrettably, I don’t have enough time before my next flight to go into Paris for a few hours, so I’ll have to find something interesting in the airport. Hey, I might even have a chance to practice the Encounter Habit.
(Post update 8:30AM Mauritius Time, Wednesday, 11:30PM Chicago time, Tuesday: Just arrived in Mauritius. Beautiful suite at Le Meridien’s resort, overlooking the Indian Ocean on the north shore of the island. After a zillion hours on airplanes I should sleep, but I need to go outside. Finally got to meet my friend, client and host, Kiran Dinaran of Multievents, in person, after months of Skype and email. Looking forward to a great couple of days here.)
Every day we’re on the phone with people, and we notice they are going through emails, or surfing the web, while talking with us. Everyone I speak with has this experience, regularly.
How do we notice this? Because we notice that the person we are speaking with is not engaged with us. We notice that the flow of conversation is broken. We notice that the other person has no idea what we just said. We hear the clicks of their keyboard.
I wrote a post back in December called, Are you here? in which I encouraged readers to call people out if they are not paying attention during a conversation, particularly a phone conversation.
My brother Phil and I were talking tonight, and we were trying to decide on a clever way to do this. We were looking for a short, powerful phrase to say to people that would have the meaning of, “Hey, are you with me? I’d love it if you would stop looking at your computer screen and focus on our conversation!”
We first thought about yelling out, “Slimy!” because for years we’ve pronounced the word “emails” backwards as “slimy,” as in, “I’m going to go fire up my laptop and check my slimy.” But, I know, that’s way to obscure. (Oh, did I forget to mention, Phil and I have a very strange habit of speaking backwards with each other? We’ve been doing it since we were little kids. Can you see how “emails” would be “slimy?”)
Do you have any great suggestions for this call out?
It might be as simple as, “Are you with me?”
Or, “Is now a good time to talk?”
Or, “Would you like me to wait?”
Or, “If you’re transcribing this conversation, be sure to spell my name correctly. It’s S-T-E ..”
Or, “Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,” just to test if they are listening.
I’d love your suggestions. (And, of course, if you ever notice me doing “slimy” while we’re on the phone, you have my permission to call me out, with whatever phrase you want.)
Don’t just be your job. Be you. Be irreplaceable.
This is a post I published on tompeters.com today. When creating relationship-building encounters with a customer, it’s critical that you interact in a way that is unique to you, and clearly you. After all, there is no one else like you.
It’s Day 2 of my 17-day odyssey, sharing ideas with people from Seattle to Mauritius.
I’m writing while on a flight from Seattle to Newark, 25 rows behind Rudy Giuliani, who is sitting in the aisle seat in the first row of first class. Rudy got on the plane early, and did a great job of keeping his eyes glued to his BlackBerry as people stared when they crowded past him. (Update for those of you who read yesterday’s post: After much hassle, I got my suitcase back from United Airlines. And, I stayed calm throughout it all.)
One irony of my travels is that, although I’m traveling alone, I’m constantly engaged in conversations. Conducting interactive workshops, side conversations with people during these events, engaging in a stream of phone calls as I move from place to place, chatting with people in lines at the airport; I’m always talking with people.One thing I always try to be aware of is the quality of the conversation I’m in.
How fluid is the dialogue? Is there too much monologue? Are we connecting and sharing? Are we both present? I grade myself pretty hard. If you’re speaking with me, and I drift into monologue, you can bet that I know it and I’ll chastise myself later. If you catch me spacing out, not paying attention to what you’re saying, you should be confident that I caught myself also. (Even though I’m spacing out.)
In fact, if you’re ever speaking with me, in person or by phone, and you think my quality of conversation is lacking, I invite you to call me out on it.I think of this self-monitoring as “The Conversationometer”, and I think it is a really healthy tool to use, all the time. In every conversation, especially those with customers, continuously monitor the quality of your dialogue. Is the dialogue fluid?
Am I listening, and responding based on what I’m hearing? Are we locked in together in true dialogue, or are we committing “monologue disguised as dialogue?”In an interview on page 83 of my book We, Karyn Kedar uses the metaphor of a sailboat tacking with the wind to explain how to keep a conversation on track. You’re paying attention, constantly feeling the wind, and making adjustments as needed to move swiftly through the water.Why is it so important to self-monitor your contribution to a conversation? Because your customer is also monitoring the quality of the conversation.
Don’t believe that you can get away with monologue, or weak dialogue, without being found out. Use The Conversationometer to ensure that you are totally engaged in genuine dialogue with your customer.When I witness someone entrenched in monologue, it often seems like they aren’t even aware of what they’re doing. They get on a roll, blabbing away, without even noticing that they’re not really in a conversation. I want to hold an aural mirror up to their ears (that’s a bizarre image) and say, “Listen to yourself!” Which is ironic, because most of the time no one else is listening to the monologuer.The most important asset your business has is its relationships, and true conversation is the blood flow of relationship-building encounters.
Think of The Conversationometer as being like one of those heart monitoring machines in the hospital. Don’t flatline.
Last night began a 17-day odyssey, with travels taking me to speaking events in Seattle, New Jersey, Mauritius (look on your globe a few inches to the right of Madagascar), San Francisco (two events), and then up to Wisconsin with my band to play three times over a weekend. I’m expecting 64 hours in the air over the next two and half weeks, in addition to about 16 hours in airports and 12 hours getting to and from airports. I’ll make it home for a few odd nights along the way, staying just long enough for my geriatric dog, Puck, to get confused.
I’m excited about the work on these trips, but a bit concerned about dealing with all of the travel. While on the flight this last evening, I was thinking that the best way to deal with mega-travel like this is to treat it like yoga. Relax, be present, don’t be anxious about things happening in other places. Focus on the moment I’m in right now. Avoid thinking, “When are we gonna get there?” and don’t let any travel hassles shake my peace of mind. The four-hour flight from Chicago to Seattle was enjoyable; I settled into my seat, got some work done, read a bit, chilled out.
Well, this peaceful mentality was tested 10 minutes after arriving in baggage claim in Seattle, when it became clear that my suitcase (full of today’s presentation materials) didn’t make it on the flight. But just as my blood started to boil, I caught myself. Yes, I think United Airlines is inept for making me wait in baggage claim, and then in a baggage service line, when they’ve known that my bag was lost for the last three hours. Why not send a message to me while I’m on the flight? Why not give me $100 to buy some stuff instead of saying “Government regulations give the airlines 24 hours to find a bag before requiring remuneration?” Why not apologize?
But I didn’t get upset. I stayed calm. Actually, I wasn’t calm for the first 30 seconds after the United agent confirmed that my bag was still in Chicago, but I caught myself. I remembered that I have tons of travel in the next few weeks, and I don’t want to let these hassles interrupt my peace of mind. This is not my normal reaction; I’m embarrassed to think about how many times I’ve lost my cool in airports. But, hey, much of life is about practice and progress.
So why does this matter, beyond me keeping my personal stress levels down?
We Relationships are the great business differentiators in our new economy. It’s very difficult to create lasting product advantages, and even more difficult to create lasting service advantages these days, because, if you are successful, your competitors are constantly trying to copy what you do and steal your customers. But where your customers may see your products and services as replaceable with those from competitors, a personal We Relationship with you is unique, because it can’t be copied by the competition.
One of the biggest hurdles to creating relationship-building encounters is how the chaos in our lives makes it difficult to be fully present as we engage with our customers. Here’s a common scenario: In a workshop, I’ll ask attendees if they can tell when someone they’re speaking with on the phone is simultaneously checking email or surfing the web. Invariably, people say they can discern this behavior, because it is obvious the other person is distracted. Next, I ask them if they will commit that, for one week, they will not look at their computer screens during phone calls. Just as invariably, people laugh and say, “No way, I know I can’t do it. I’m so busy, I can’t resist looking at emails while I’m on the phone so I can get two things done at once.”
Now, take the same scenario, and add to it distractions from the BlackBerry, project deadlines, problems with other customers, personal issues, etc. If we let these distractions get to us, we will not be able to engage our customers fully, and we will end up creating relationship-eroding transactions instead of relationship-building encounters.
Think about that. As the distractions and stresses of modern business life increase, we are less able to have relationship-building encounters, at a time when relationships are the most valuable product we create.
As I wrote in this newsletter, We Are Not Multi-Taskers, “At any given moment, at places all over the planet, millions of interactions between buyers and sellers are devolving into mere transactions, missing the chance to be relationship-building encounters, because the people in the interaction are not fully present.” (For more on the idea of being present during customer interactions, see Chapter 2 in We or my free ebook, Encounters.)
So, if I let United Airlines’ ineptitude take over my brain, how will I be able to engage the audience to whom I will be speaking a few hours from now? How will I be able to be fully present on the important call I need to have with a client before my speech?
As the Buddhists say, “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” You will be distracted. People, and your BlackBerry, will interrupt you. Thoughts about one customer will enter your mind as you speak with another. People you work with will piss you off, and your blood will start to boil. United will lose your bag, too.
But remember, relationship-building encounters are the most important thing you produce every day. The more you can focus on the customer with whom you are speaking, right now, and ignore the distractions, the more successful you will be.
Entropy is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. It is the tendency for systems to move from states of order to states of disorder. Line up all of the toys on a child’s shelf, and soon they will end up scattered all over the floor. Clean up your to-do list, and by the end of the week you will need to re-organize yourself. It’s easy to see why entropy is so powerful when you consider that the ordered state is only one of millions of possibilities for the system; disorder is much more probable than order.
Entropy can dilute your customer experience, if you do not have a strong brand essence that acts as a glue to hold together all of the elements of the experience. The reason for this is simple – there are thousands of different ways a particular customer interaction can happen, but only a few of these possibilities will reinforce your brand story and add to the sense of Brand Harmony that your customers perceive.
Consider a very simple example. You own a athletic shoe store, and you believe that you can differentiate your store by asking a customer to describe his personal exercise habits, and the aches and pains he gets from exercise, in order to find the perfect pair of shoes to fit his needs. Your website and in-store signage describe this brand promise, and you, personally, deliver this promise when you wait on customers. Now, think about what happens when another employee serves a customer. The “right” ways to interact with a customer make up only an infinitesimal portion of the possible ways to interact with a customer. So, if this employee doesn’t have a strong sense of your brand promise, and doesn’t feel the essence of the brand in her bones, it is highly likely that she will not support the brand when she interacts with customer. The result: It is more likely that a customer interaction will dilute your brand promise than it is likely that it will support your brand promise. Brand entropy is more likely than brand reinforcement.
If you want a strong brand, you need to be one of the (few) companies who define their brand essence with great richness and detail, and ensure that everyone who works in the company understands the promise, with equal richness and detail. This takes a lot of effort, but, then again, entropy is one of the most powerful forces in the universe.