Data is Nice but it Don’t Make Ya Cry


I recently read an article and buried within, was a short research snippet on the power of stories vs. data.  It was pretty cool.   Got me thinking about how to influence your clients.

The research was a social experiment where students were given $5 to use any way they wanted.  Half the group was then shown a straightforward commercial about a children’s charity devoted to removing hunger; you know – the typical fare about how many children are helped with just so much a day, how your money can sustain so many children or a family – good stuff.

The other half was shown different kind of commercial for the same charity.  It was a little story about a single child and his suffering journey through life.  He of course had a name and it was repeated often in the commercial.  He eventually found happiness and health through the charity.

The students in the first group gave an average of $1.43 of their $5 to the charity and the students in the second group some of which were teary eyed, gave an average of $2.38 (a 66% increase over the first group).

Both commercials were short presumably – maybe 30 seconds maybe a minute long- not sure.  But I do know you have to ask yourself when you are trying to help a client solve some of their business problems with your solution – are you going to rely on the facts and data to make it happen or are you going to tell a short conversational story that inspires?

Don’t give me all that drivel about how consumers are not businesses.  People are people and there’s enough research to prove that business people make decisions as much on emotion as anything else.  That means that stories that elicit joy, optimism, happiness, relief, fear and even tears can influence business people.  Data is nice but it don’t make ya cry.

Tell a short story if you want to influence and motivate.    Here are 3 tips you might not have thought of on making that happen.

Steal The Stories:  Nobody believes you when all of your stories are first-hand experience. You once had a customer find that….and you once had this other customer that did this….. and that years ago you also had this other customer…” Truth is most people that use that approach all the time are making some of it up and it feels disingenuous.    What is more believable and often more truthful is “I have a colleague James in the Dallas office who had a client  who….”  Steal the stories from your colleagues and your company. There are many if you look for them!   If you are a leader—go find the stories and share them so your people can tell them.

Make Them HumanSure in the B2B world your stories are probably about similar businesses who found your product awesome but steal from the charity experiment and make it human.  “So AMC company was freaking out about the competition and Gary over there was working weekends and nights trying to stave off and protect his client base….”   You get the idea—people feel more connected and motivated with emotion, not facts.  Also testimonials are not stories.  Stories are told – not read.

Use Stories All Over the Sales Process:  Mini-stories that support a prospect learning more, a prospect working through the RFP process, a prospect working through risk assessment, price negotiations and /or lack of budget etc. etc. are as important as any story shared to close the deal.  Find those stories through the whole selling process because done well, those stories can influence the client to keep moving to the next step.


Till next time,

Grow The Business.


Perfect Done Perfectly


In just 60 seconds, Teri G. taught me something new about giving great technical support to a small business owner by using just one simple word.   Days earlier and 600 miles from where Teri G works, Brent D. taught me something new and powerful by using the same word but in a different way.

I love to sit side by side with contact center agents any chance I get be it in sales or service.   I enjoy hearing customers live on the floor and seeing agents artfully assist them.   I enjoy the complex dance of the interests of client and agent.   There’s so much communication psychology and emotions in play often enlightening because they are compressed into interactions that last mere minutes.  Hence I enjoy most, stealing shamelessly from what works and what doesn’t.

The word Teri and Brent used is Perfect and let me tell you, Perfect works.

Teri’s Perfection; a harried small business owner calls Tech Support.  He has a product problem impacting internal communications.   This guy isn’t super comfortable with what he needs to do and has probably just a few minutes to try and fix this thing because all I can hear are door chimes and phones ringing like crazy in his shop.  Teri knows this and she knows what to do.

Teri starts with a simple instruction.  And then another.  And then another.  And then another. And then it occurs to me why the guy is so calm and almost chuckling along admitting his ignorance but hanging on her every word; She keeps saying “perfect” after each instruction is successfully done by the owner!    From the start he wasn’t sure if he was going to do this right – but he sure does now because Teri tells him he’s doing great every step of the way.  And in fact she used “You’re doing great!” and “Nice job” mixed in a bit with all those perfects.

Too often tech support agents articulate the steps to solve the problem in rote fashion because of course they do it all day.  Too often tech support agents forget a reassurance to that customer that they are doing well along the way will ease that customer tension perfectly when they need it most.

Brent’s Perfection; a harried small business owner calls.  He just needs to place a reorder for a product he’s been using for years.   But Brent needs to do verify and validate information to ensure high quality as well as do some short discovery as any helpful sales agent would.   But sometimes busy owners have little patience for all that.   Brent knows this and says, “I want to make this order is perfect for you today so I’m going to ask a couple of questions and verify a few things.”

Who doesn’t want what they are calling for to not be perfect? Who wouldn’t answer a couple of questions and verify a few things to make sure what they get is perfect?  Too often agents don’t justify their questions to customers.  Too often agent questions aren’t positioned in such a way that they have the client’s interests in mind.   Brent’s use of “to make sure this order is perfect” was simple and cleared the way for mutually beneficial discovery to happen.  It was perfect.


Till next time,

Grow The Business.


Change (the word) Opens The Door To Sales


Dear Reader, put on your existing customer hat (either as consumer or business owner) and pretend you are calling a customer service or sales rep at a current vendor/partner for a reorder or a question and then say out loud the first word that comes to mind after reading each bullet below.

  • “We have an exciting new product…”
  • “I want to make you aware about something new”
  • “Now you can upgrade to….”
  • “There are some additional choices now….”
  • “This is actually part of a bundle now….”
  • “There is a new a new feature to think about…”

OK I can hear you!

NO!   NO!   NO!   That is the word you are saying.    And if you’re not, you’re probably lying.

Worse than you saying “No” is the fact that you the existing customer,  are shutting down your ears and your brain to hearing anything more from the cross-selling or upselling rep you are engaged with.   And dear reader since you likely working for a business in the business of profits – you need to know this happens.

Imagine if you heard this instead; And say the first word that comes to mind out loud here as well.

  • “There have been a few changes since you last called.”
  • “There is a change to the ordering platform/process.”
  • “There are some changes to the product(s)..”
  • “We’ve made a few changes to this….”

I can’t hear much!   That’s right – your reaction isn’t overt.   Mostly it’s silence or an “uh huh”.or a soft “OK” but most important, it’s a reaction that says…. tell me more…

And that is so much better than the immediate mental (or often verbal) shut down we get.    Change gets a bad rap.  It’s something people usually don’t like, but it’s different now in the world we live in with all the version 8, 9’s and 10’s we see.   Using the word change in the selling process can be to your advantage; especially when introducing new products or upsells to existing clients.  Massage your message to leverage the word as means to share the positive possibilities with the new product(s) or upgrade.  The word change makes people stop.  Change piques interest and/or curiosity.  The word change even if it raises a tiny bit of tension – creates attention.   The word Change makes people listen even if it’s only for a few seconds.

Those few seconds of attentiveness are the key.  It opens that door.  What you say after you get the attention I suspect you are already very, very good at – now it won’t be wasted!

When something changes we’re wired to find out what the change is. We have to know. That’s not always true for when there’s something new, something added, something bundled or something you can upgrade.

There’s been a change to your sales process.  The change is to start to use the darn word!


Till next time,

Grow The Business.



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Instructor-Led Training Won’t Die, Here’s Why


Instructor-Led Training is not exactly “in” these days.

  • One recent study states the top 6 things workers believe are essential for Learning have nothing to do with Instructor-led Training and range from “Sharing knowledge with my team”, to “Web research for resources” to “External news feeds and blogs”. Way down the list at # 7 was “Company Training / e-learning”.
  • The “70-20-10 Theory of Learning” is alive and well in the Training industry where the belief  (this too is based on surveys) is that real corporate learning comes from 70% on the job experience, 20% from social encounters ( learning from co-workers or boss) and 10% from formal corporate (mostly instructor led) training.

I think the workers in the first study believe what they say about essentials for learning.  I know there are legions of L&D professionals who believe in the 70-20-10 Theory.

All would be wrong however.

Here’s what we’re all forgetting:   Corporate Instructor – Led (live or virtual) Training is more often than not, at the beginning of an essential foundational learning period (like onboarding or new hire training) or when something completely new or transformational is occurring (new products, new systems) and as such, this type of training falls in the realm of Primacy Theory.

Captain Sully Sullenberger knows this.   When his plane went down in the Hudson 7 years ago he talked at a conference about Primacy and not just the retrieval and leveraging of his skills learned in his earliest training days while flying- but spoke of his veteran crew of flight attendants screaming “Brace, brace, heads down, stay down! Brace, brace, heads down, stay down.”   This was not, he explained, what they were recently and for the last 5 years been trained to say in an emergency like this.   Rather the crew shouted out what they learned 20 years ago when they first were trained in emergency procedures.  Primacy Learning sticks.

Primacy Learning is a learning period that both psychologically and neurologically creates almost life long, unshakable connections to content delivered in this period.   It does so because it is in this period where learners make their first mental maps around new transformative ideas and literally in parts of the brain, hard wires these.    Core concepts in this type of training stick hard thus giving Instructor-Led Training a big leg up on real value vs.  being reason number #7 in the worker survey and the “10%” in learning theory of 70-20-10.

It’s not there aren’t other effective and sometimes cooler ways to learn than instructor led training – there are.  It’s not that people don’t perceptually think they learn 90% more about the job from experience and talking with others- they may in fact believe that.   The reality however, is that the Instructor-Led Training, especially when delivered in the primacy stages of learning, is the stuff that lies below your iceberg; you may not think that’s how you learned what do to at work because you don’t see it or consciously remember the instructor led training every day, but it is foundation upon which much of the other things you learn sit upon.

Never underestimate the investment you should make in Instructor-Led Training.  It’s critical.   It needs to be glorious.  It needs to be inspirational and correct.   Instructor Led Corporate Training today shouldn’t look like it did 10 years ago (obviously brain science has taught us much) but it will never die and we’ll hardly do anything more important.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.



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How Long Will This Take!!??


WHI is an acronym and it’s the toughest we’ll ever face from prospects or customers in sales or marketing.  Ever.

WHI is always there.    WHI is everywhere.

WHI is

  • Who the heck are you?
  • How long will this take?
  • I don’t want to change.

WHI reminds us that we never really start on even ground.    We are deep in the hole from the outset.

Heck, WHI was in you 20 seconds ago at the beginning of reading this post.   Some of you thought “Who the heck are you?” and then “How long will it take me to read this thing?” And finally “Please don’t tell me what to do.”

That’s fine.  I know I’m up against WHI every time I write, every time I train and every time I sell.

It’s not insurmountable.   You can overcome WHI.   In fact you need to if you want to be successful.   The first step is remembering it’s there.


Till next time,

Grow The Business.



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They Can Be The Boss of Me!

shopping carts

Good news:  This post is not about bad boss behavior.  This is about brilliant boss behavior in my estimation.   This is the good stuff and it’s from bosses who were the boss of me very early on in my work life and I’m thankful for that.

So Steal Shamelessly.

 “I found 10 dollars!”   As a 16 year old, one of my early jobs was as a busboy at a restaurant called The Ground Round.    My first night shift included vacuuming up peanut shells and popcorn strewn about the floor after closing.    As I pulled a heavy table away from the booth, (as I had been instructed), I found a crisp $10 bill!   That was a lot of milk money back then.   Never found any more bills in my 18 months – but every night thereafter I pulled out those tables, vacuumed and hunted hard for more.   Years later I learned it was planted by the boss and he did that for many new employees.  Incent the behaviors you want and you’ll get it every time.  Brilliant!

“You have an attitude problem!”   I was 15 and working at Stahhh Mahhket.  (Clarification; – it’s “Star Market” for you non-New Englanders).   This grocery chain had a lot of shopping carts and a big lot.   I  would collect dozens of carts in the sleet, snow and rain, slam them through the auto doors, drift the whole heavy train across the wet floors and crash them into the well because golly, this job sucked.    One night the Store manager came storming out of his office after watching me do this and said,   “You have an attitude problem and you can’t have that here!  Look at your vest – that has my store’s name on it and everyone is watching you whether you think so or not!  I will not have that attitude in my store.   This ends now!  Act professional!”   I did immediately.   There was no conversation prep on his part or any concern for my feelings or point of view.   Good.  Sometimes it’s OK to be the boss.  Brilliant!

“It means a lot less to me than it does to you.”  I was a 17 year old newish driver insisting on driving the truck from the warehouse to the retail store.  With my boss in the passenger seat, I was getting a kick how fast this box truck was compared to my mother’s 75’ Plymouth Valiant.  The state trooper got a kick out of it too and pulled me over.  A $50 ticket.   As we drove away my boss pulled a $50 dollar bill out of his pocket and tried to give it to me – I said “no way” it was my fault.  He said “Buddy, $50 bucks means a lot less to me than it does to you, take it.”  I did and used it to pay the fine.  That always stuck with me what he said.  Not everyone has to do everything equally; If it’s easier for me to write the report, or pay the bill, or make the phone call and it’s really really hard for you; let me do it – it’s not the same burden.  Conversely, the things we struggle with, there’s a darn good chance someone you work with or work for doesn’t bat an eyelash helping you with it no matter whose turn it is. Brilliant!

Till next time,

Grow The Business.



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