My Great Pumpkin Lesson

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I carved a pumpkin for the first time in my life Sunday.  Truly, I never had before.

My young son was feeling sad that he had not yet carved a pumpkin this year with Halloween being right around the corner and all.   He’d carved pumpkins with his mother before, but he wanted to carve one with me.

I was a little nervous about it.  I know that sounds silly.  My son said, “Daddy, it’s easy, you can do it.”

It is something many or perhaps most other people have done.  I never have.  No real reason I guess;  I grew up in the city and maybe that has played a part but I’m also not an artist and it sure looks like it would take one to make a pumpkin look any good.

“I’ll draw the face on the pumpkin for you, Daddy.”  He said.

I worried about the knives but he said, “Don’t worry, I’ll take the little one and you can use the big one.”

I honestly (and please don’t laugh too loud) never thought to think what was in a pumpkin and how making it hollow or carving it out must be something that is hard to do.  “It’s full of squishy seeds and stuff and we need a bowl to put it in…” he said.  He was right; it wasn’t as solid I thought it would be.

We cut and scooped out the pumpkin.  “You do this section Daddy, you are stronger, scrape it all out.”

And then… Oh…what a face he drew!

I carved and sculpted and shaped the face.  “Careful not to push on the holes while you carve the other holes” he said.  Great advice.

I had so much fun.  I loved it.  It looks really cool and very scary.   “You did a great job Daddy.” He said.   I was all smiles.

Something about carving this pumpkin meant more to me than I expected.

I thought what a great teacher my son is.  He eased my fears and took control when he needed to.  He helped me through all the tough parts and even praised me.  But in the end gave me something so much more wonderful that I did not readily see it.

He was, in the carving of this pumpkin, being the teacher to me that I want to be, for him.

Later that day on the long ride back to his mother’s house, he put his hand in mine and said “Thanks for carving my pumpkin with me Daddy.”

No son, thank you.

Till next time,

Grow the Business.

Mark

Post originally published October 2010

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The Luckiest Man In The World

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9 years today.  Still feel damn lucky.

 

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The Luckiest Man In The World

I admit I’m not an expert on marriage and have the track record to prove it.   But my guess is that you’ll be alright if

You marry someone who feels it is more important to be there for others who have less or are in need, than to be there for everyone.

You marry someone who works hard, never misses a day, and defines her performance only by the happiness of her customers.

You marry someone who when she first met your child of 6 years old, knelt down, looked at him eye to eye, said hello and then gave him a big hug.

You marry someone who loves with all her heart, the movies from the 30’s and 40’s because they always have happy endings.

You marry someone who cries tears of joy almost daily just upon hearing that a total stranger had a baby or if she happens to she see two toddlers walking, holding hands.

You marry someone, a single mother who from her teenage years has raised a beautiful person in her daughter with the crazy belief that “I want to raise her not to be like me”.

Susan, your daughter is just like you and it is the greatest gift you have given her.  My son has known you nearly half of his life and I swear, he loves you as much as I do.

Saturday, I get to marry you.

I think we are going to be more than alright.  It’s a trite statement but there is a reason someone came up with it.  Now, I know.

I am the luckiest man in the world.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

Originally published June 2009

Data is Nice but it Don’t Make Ya Cry

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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.

Mark

Perfect Done Perfectly

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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.

Mark

Change (the word) Opens The Door To Sales

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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.

Mark

 

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

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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.

Mark

 

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