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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Refreshingly Heartwarming

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Refreshingly Heartwarming

I sat in on a training class yesterday for a couple of hours yesterday morning.    It was heartwarming.  Odd word to use I know, but stay with me; it’s something you’d like to see all the time I suspect.

The class was essentially about a slew of new products and all that goes with that.    The trainer was pretty smart so she let the group after about 30 minutes; take some time to dive into a catalogue she made with all the new product pictures, sizes, quantities etc.

I was in the back of the room flipping through the pages myself when I heard the first “Ooohh” and then some “Ahhh’s” and then a few “Oh my gosh(es)” .   Soon the whole crew was engaged in chatter and page flipping and laughter and shouting out a bunch of “Oh look(s)!”.

I was kind of surprised and curious because this training was a lot about change and workarounds and for sure some new processes, procedures, conversions and quoting to come etc.    So I asked the group what all the excitement was about.

This is the cool part; the heartwarming part.

“My customers are always asking me for this stuff…!”

“They are going to be so happy we have this now…..”

“I’m not going to have to tell them “no” or try and do some crazy outsourcing”

“Now they can get it one place, it will be so much easier for them….”

And it went on.

“They want these quantities so badly!..”

“They are going to love what we can do with these now on both sides!”

“I had a customer last week – she would have liked this so much better..”

So it was then I realized how different this moment could have been.

It could have been easily a lot of “Thank god, it’s about time I’ve got something else to sell…!”  or the opposite in  “Great, now I have to sell something else that’ll be added to my quota..”   or “This is just more stuff we have to remember…..”

I’ve been around a while, I’ve seen all of that before and I get it.

But this was different.  And it’s a testament to these folks and their leaders and their culture.  And it’s a nod to the product and business leaders who author the changes.  And best, the reaction bodes as promising for growing the business as anything I’ve seen.   The folks in this training class have a great affinity for their customers; that is the heartwarming part.  And when they see new products – their first thought is a refreshing “I’ve got something else to help these people with….”

How awesome is that?

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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Scrabble

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You can call it volunteering if you want but I just call it “an old fashioned whoopin’ that keeps on giving”

It’s true I’ve been known to head to the local Sr. Center and um… volunteer to play scrabble with some of the folks that hang out there.   My objective is twofold:  give of my time and talent to these wonderful folks and of course, to win.

Scrabble is a great game. It’s a great game for anyone.  It keeps the mind sharp.

Let’s all agree to that helping drive interest in the playing of Scrabble is a good thing – especially at a Senior Center.  Let me make an argument that it’s even better when I do it.   Scrabble in my hands for a mere hour a week, is a series of important life lessons for all of us.

  • Losing never gets old.  Chances are overwhelming that you will lose to me.  (Ok, well 2 weeks ago was an exception – but I’ve got my eye on you Betsy).  There’s no age when losing should stop.  Life is funny like that; the only time losing stops pretty much is when you’ve given up trying something or are no longer literally getting in the game.  My trouncing you is therefore, good for you.
  • Chi is good, really good.   Chi is a word that means vital internal energy.  Good chi is exactly what you want in your Senior Center and exactly what you want in Scrabble.  With me as your Scrabble guide, you’ll get vitally energized when you learn that you can spell “chi” for immense points in two other ways with just two letters as in “xi” and “qi”.  What fun!  When I did this for 31 points, Kathy shot me a look and then spewed out  two other choice letters tied together that I can’t mention, but nevertheless, this is a teaching moment!  – Teaching never grows old, even if we do.
  • Without rules there’s Chaos.   Just because we may have a little more life experience doesn’t mean rules get lax.  I have a lot of personal rules about Scrabble I think are endearing and truly in the spirit of the game.  One rule is that you should never put down a word that you cannot use in a sentence.   Nancy disagreed when I asked her about “el” and then slammed down her 4 page print-out of acceptable 2 letter Scrabble words and said “That’s stupid-  it’s a word! But to make you happy, how about you shutting the el up?”  Funny now but she’ll think about it later and realize how much I’ve taught her.

This week at my suggestion, we’ve added a Scrabble trophy for the winner of the weekly matches. The winner keeps it for the week, snapping and posting photos of you and your trophy around town.  A nice incentive to work hard every week and improve your game I say.   My Scrabble mates liked the idea but suggested if I win, to take a photo of myself and the trophy at the end of a long walk on a short pier.

Not very nice but chi is xi baby– bring it on!

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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Amp It Up: Prefacing Questions

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Amp It Up: Prefacing

Asking questions in sales, service or support is important.  There are a million theories, books and articles on what questions to ask. 

I don’t care about any of that today.

I’m going to give you 3 powerful tips however that will amp up the results of your questions and they take all of less than 3 seconds in a tactic I call Prefacing.

Each of these is additive in that if you apply just one tip, you’ll get better results than you do today with your normal questions  but  if you do all three – watch out, you’ll see amazing results immediately.

Preface #1: “I always ask…” Begin with “I always ask..” as a preface to your question of the customer or prospect.  Let’s pretend you are on software sales –   “I always ask business leaders if you see enough data on a daily basis to measure the health of the business…” Or let’s say you sell online marketing “I always ask owners where they think the best social media place to be to drive business.” Whatever your purpose is in asking the question is fine.  But prefacing it with “I always ask” makes you sound like you’ve been there before; that you have experience, that this is not your first rodeo.  In less than a second you’ve built some credibility in the minds of the listener and that psychologically will result in a more thoughtful answer by the recipient. 

Preface #2:  Add an Affiliation:  Remember this is additive – so for example “I always ask the CFO’s of Consumer Financial organizations if they see enough data… Or “ I always ask my HVAC folks where they think….”;  This addition is incredibly powerful – not only are you credible already by adding  “I always ask” but now you’ve imparted in just one more second,  that you know something, have talked to, have hung out with people like them in their world or in their industry.   You’ve talked with CFO’s (and even better talked with CFO’s in financial orgs) or you’ve talked with HVAC owners and understand what is happening.  Immensely powerful – your questions now have an even better chance of getting thoughtful and deep answers which translates into better sales service and meaningful conversations.

Preface #3:  Put a Number on the Questions:  This too is additive so in our examples let’s take it to the 3rd level, “I always ask the CFO’s of Consumer Financial organizations these 3 questions about visibility….”  Or “I always ask my HVAC folks these 2 questions about where they think the best place is…”  The theory is simple and powerful.  Placing a number on the questions helps lower time tension.  People are busy.  When you articulate the number of questions you are going to ask in a particular space then the listener knows when it will be over and in essence will stay focused for those questions and give you great information.   Not articulating a number can lead to that self-talk of “When will this be over?” or other distractions.  Prefacing with the number of questions needn’t be limiting.  You can easily move on to other subjects with for example “I always also ask 2 questions of HVAC folks about how hard it is to get paid quickly….”

Are the types of questions you ask important?  You bet.  Does everybody forget or not even think about the value of Prefacing a question?  Without a doubt.   In my opinion prefacing is as important as any aspect of questioning.

Here’s the beauty of today’s post.  It’s easy.  It’s less than 3 seconds of your time.  If you are in sales, service or support as a pro or perhaps a leader, or you are a business owner, consultant or entrepreneur looking to get better conversations and more business; print this thing, spend a few minutes wrapping your head around and go to it – you’ll be amazed at what you get in return.

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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10 Things You’re Doing Wrong at Work

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You’re Doing It Wrong

Duh.  Sad part is at some points in my life (and some more recent than others) I’m guilty of every one of these.

  1. Coaching to “gaps” first.  Neurological and observation data proves coaching to strengths first and more often than coaching to gaps, results in better performance.
  2. Thanking a customer for calling.  How silly.  Welcome them, Greet them or Wow them and then Thank them (profusely) for the business at the end of the call.
  3. Nobody has ever asked anyone, in the entire history of the world, for more PowerPoints to help them learn something. But we keep on giving.
  4. If what you bring to the sales or service party is the exact same thing that can be found on your website, brochures or catalogs, you’re doing it wrong.
  5. Thinking that in this global, democratized and highly connected world that the real selling is over when they “sign on the line that is dotted”. Au contraire – it is just beginning.
  6. Time snobbery.  Obsessing and devaluing content, books, blogs and videos if their origination date is more than 6 months old. Newer is not always better or different or smarter. Quit it.
  7. 8 days and near 24/ 7 hours spent in a war room to fix a run of bad performance and just 8 minutes on a conference call celebrating landing a large client or exceeding performance for the month.
  8. In your office.  All day.  On the phone.  And you haven’t seen a manufacturing floor, the call center, some customers, suppliers or a lunch with a department in months.
  9. Asking a question of a client or prospect that has no apparent immediate benefit to them to answer.  That’s just not smart.
  10. Reading this post and agreeing (or not) and just leaving it there.  Pick one, two or six that resonate with you and make a plan and execute upon it today.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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1 Minute Helpful Videos Anyone?

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I’m experimenting with a new media but with the same goal of giving you something to help.   I’m a little addicted to it I admit this week while traveling.   So two for you today.

3 Powerful Words and How to Avoid Sales Pain in the Shower.  How can you resist?  

If they help you grow your business even a little bit, that would be (as we say where I’m from), wicked awesome!  Have a great day!

 

 

 

 

 

 Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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Stumped

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Stumped

Nobel Prize winning Psychologist Daniel Kahneman said  “The remarkable thing about your mental life is that you are rarely ever stumped.” 

How interesting.  This little quote has roiled around in my head for a month.  Can’t shake it.

Think about how true it is.   Heck, I’m gonna do this or I’m gonna do that.  Or goshdarnit, I’m going to do nothing!  Bottom line is most of the time,  I know what I’m gonna do.   And most of the time we make judgements and decisions in a flash and rarely are stumped or stuck in a quandary.

I read Kahneman’s quote in the Heath Brothers latest book called “Decisive” ( big thumbs up from me). The book has some compelling methods to help us all make better decisions of course ( if we ever allow ourselves to be stumped) but that’s for a later blog or two.

Lets just chat a bit about the stumped thing.  Stumped is what I think we should be more of.  Here’s why:

  •  When was the last time you talked to a prospect, did some great discovery, built credibility and commonality, talked pain points and said, ” You know, you’ve given me some things to think about and I’m not sure exactly what the best thing to do is, let me get back to you in a couple of days.”  Answer? Never.  You’re in sales, you’re never stumped and you and I both know it. 
  • When was the last time you launched a project to tackle a problem and didn’t  pretty much have the answer already embalzoned in your brain about what you think is the right solution?  Way less than you think.  You’re not stumped.  No Never.  Not you. You can, like nobody else, see the future clearly.
  •  When was the last time you didn’t judge, label or categorize someone you just met because you were so comfortable with “waiting and seeing” what this person was really about?  Not often enough.  You’re never stumped when it comes to giving an opinion on the new person even if you just give that opinion to yourself.

The you here is me ( and yes, likely you too). 

I’ve pitched an idea or a solution well before I knew what I should really do – I should have been stumped.   I’ve launched a project ( just this week as a matter of fact) tackling a problem that I am brazen enough to think I already know the answer to, until my LEAN mentor smacked me upside the head and said “You need to be stumped in the beginning for this thing to work.”  I’ve judged someone in just 20 minutes of conversation and another in probably 30 seconds – and did it not long ago either – both are awful things to do.  Not fair and frankly, stupid.   Stumped is what I needed to be there and always. 

Not being stumped can get us into trouble; that’s the message here.  Conversely,  being stumped can do some great things like impress the hell out of a customer and get them the best help possible.  Being stumped can get your problem solved better because you didn’t presume you knew the damn answer.   And being stumped is certainly the best way to treat people you meet all the time and to get the most and the best out of that relationship.

Stumped ain’t bad.  Stumped is good.  So all you people out there with the answers ( and that means you too McCarthy) quit talking to me, I gotta work these things out like I don’t have any idea. 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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