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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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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How Long Will This Take!!??

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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.

Mark

 

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They Can Be The Boss of Me!

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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.

Mark

 

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7 Killer Training Tactics You’ve Never Even Thought Of

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Asking more of your corporate learners than ever before?  Are they challenged with having to remember more, perform better and deliver faster than ever?

No problem.

I’ve been training at some level all my working life.  But more importantly, I have been stealing shamelessly from amazing learning professionals for the last 20 years, many of whom I get to work with every day.

Time to Train it forward.

  1. Hide the product and show it to nobody. Product training? Keep it hidden.  Wrap in a blanket, hide it until the 27th slide and never give it a name until you absolutely must.   Instead focus 70% of your product training on what this product does and not what it is.   What problems this product solves or what opportunities it creates is what you obsessively train about!
  2. Quit asking people to participate in training. Instead, call on specific people to participate.  No volunteers unless you’ve already called on at least two people to answer questions or offer insight.  The small tension of not knowing when you might be called on (and potentially embarrassing yourself) is enough to force learners to focus harder (especially in virtual training) and thus retain and retrieve knowledge better.
  3. Training should be harder than you think. Adding a little more stress to training (live, virtual or self-directed) and the more likely it sticks.  Are learners nervous about the training?  Anxious?  Worried about a tough test at the end?     Remember to disregard all the adult learning theory blather from the 80’s you think is the gold standard and latch onto all the recent credible research about the brain and how people truly learn. 
  4. Video Should Be Part of Every Training. I still believe the skill of a training facilitator is the most important factor in any successful facilitated training.    And that’s why video is a win-win.   Every training should have a video element.  When it’s short (less than 3 minutes please) it’s therefor retrievable and repeatable and of course it’s imagery on steroids.  When done well, video can tackle aspects of learning that leave the facilitator able to focus on the application of learning and not obsessed with the X’s and O’s.
  5. Skip the positive feedback in role plays: Make it clear in advance of any role play (live or virtual) that we are all going to focus on what you can do better, not what you did well – we know what you did well, that’s fairly easy to see – so focusing equally on the good or “sandwiching” or “starting with the positive” is drivel and a waste of time.  We’re here to learn and drive performance, make more money or get promoted – let’s get to it!
  6. Every training should have a Game(s) element however small. There are so few humans who don’t take a little joy, a little pride out of winning something – and that adds focus.  Example: The learner or team with the most chips for great answers gets to leave a half hour early and skip the Wrap- Up ( heck they won- they probably don’t need the wrap up) or perhaps the winners take only the 5 question quiz ( again—they paid attention more and probably don’t need the 20 question quiz).  Here’s a fantastic book by Karl Kapp
  7. Flashcards Flashcards Flashcards: One recent neuroscience study proved we did get it right back in the day when the use of flashcards in corporate learning improved retrieval of information at a clip twice as effective as just studying the material.  Flashcard use actually leaves memory traces in the brain more resistant to forgetting.    Here’s a simple flashcard maker site I’ve used.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark