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Ira Koretsky
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Lisa Petrilli, a friend and colleague recently posted an interesting blog that caught my attention--"No Bull Riding:  Why Macho Men Make Terrible Business Leaders."

Lisa used a study, “Scripting the Macho Man: Hypermasculine Socialization and Enculturation” (1988, The Journal of Sex Research), for much of her post and added personal commentary to put some things into perspective.

From her blog, here are just a few notes. Read Lisa's blog for a thorough and engaging read on the “Macho Man” and leadership.

- Masculine affects such as excitement and anger are considered superior whereas feminine affects are not only considered inferior, but the feminine is associated with words like distress and fear (damsel in distress). Thus, can a “macho” leader really respect a female colleague and see her as his equal?
- The “ideological script of machismo” descends from the ideology of warfare – victor and vanquished, master and slave, head of the house and woman as complement, patriarch and children.   In reading this I started to see how all of this may play out in hierarchical business organizations if enabled.
- And this quote really struck me: “In his dangerous, adversarial world of scarce resources his violent, sexually callous and dangerous physical acts express his ‘manly’ essence” (and yet the Old Spice Guy expressed it with humor, a well-placed towel and some body wash…!)
- The ideology of machismo is a warrior’s ideology.  The macho warrior holds dominion over all he has conquered.
- To maintain that dominion, the macho man must be prepared to risk all by acts of great daring.

On a related note, When It Comes To Dominance, Men Are Like Dogs may be of interest to you.

It was one of those nights. Another late-night at the office. Car pools to after-school and evening activities for the kids. All my family and I wanted was a fast and convenient dinner. So we opted for the local Panera.

When we went to pick up our order, I looked quickly in the bag to see if everything was there. I didn’t bother to open each of the containers and just assumed they were complete. It was only after we had gotten home that I realized a couple of items were missing.

I had a few extra minutes between car pool assignments so decided to stop by the restaurant. The moment I walked in, an employee greeted me and listened to my story. Without hesitation, he apologized and said he would be right back. When he returned, he presented me with a bag and he told me what he had included.

When I told him he had given me too much (instead of one of each item, he had given me two), he looked at me, smiled, and said, “I apologize for your inconvenience. I hope you have a great night.” In that instant, he had succeeded in turning an ordinary take-out meal into an outstanding experience.

What made Panera’s customer service so great? A front-line employee was empowered to resolve my complaint. And without my asking, he found a way to make me feel like he had compensated me for the time I spent trying to correct their error. If your organization is in the business of serving customers, how great is your customer service?  


What do CEO's and Generals have in common? That's a question I always seem to ask myself because I have one foot in both worlds. I served in the military and I am now making my headway in the business world. Instead of leading a small squad of troops, I now lead a small group of young marketing employees. 

I'm finding that leadership stays true no matter who you're leading. You need to have a strong presence, be a mindful tactician, and play the role of teacher and superior. 

Here are some tips from the military that I've transitioned into my management style. 

Generals Grow Armies
In the military, this is called enlisting and boot camp. In the business world, this is known as hiring and training. The first step is to be a discerning interviewer – you want to look for existing skills and long-term potential as well. I'm naturally more inclined to hire someone who has shown a history of being "hungry," i.e., someone in school or someone who has been promoted multiple times.

These are individuals who will only prove more valuable with time. Also, there is no consideration for late interviewees - if that's their best behavior on the first meeting, then I certainly don't want to see what it's like during high pressure times.

During boot camp, strengths and weaknesses become apparent and natural leaders come out. When you're training new employees keep a close ear to the ground and see which ones take initiative. These are potential lieutenants, or trusted aids, which will help you, run your operation.

Training helps employees not only learn new procedures and protocol, it also is about teaching self regulation and self correction. In my marketing team, I actually have employees check each other's work before providing it to me for submission. This way I know it has gone through a few sets of eyes and minor errors are eliminated. It is a leader and manager's job to see the big picture and not get distracted by the small-scale mistakes. Those self-regulated status checks along the way save time in the end.

Generals Plan their Strategies
“Watch, listen, and learn. You can't know it all yourself. Anyone who thinks they do is destined for mediocrity,” Donald Trump.

A great leader is predictive and responsive. First, you need to find information on your opposing force. Be honest with yourself and evaluate your operation in comparison to your competitors. Hire outside contractors or send over your own employees to be "test customers." For example, if you're a retailer, find out how their customer service works, how they lay out their products on the shelves, and what coupons or sales they offer. You want a large set of honest objective information - because it is that information that allows you to evaluate where you lead and where you fall short.

A great leader also needs to be flexible. In my line of work, it's fairly easy to be flexible, as we're competing directly with marketing teams from other companies for the same set of customers. We can see their campaigns on their websites and Facebook pages. From there we can determine how to improve our offers and outreach. What you need to be careful of is the difference between being adaptive and being reactive. A reactive leader waits for the other side to make a move first, while an adaptive leader changes and adjusts their stratagem on the fly.

Generals are First into Battle
“The company is definitely set up in a way where myself and the other founders have a lot of control over it,” Mark Zuckerberg.

When spearheading a campaign, responsibility and consequences fall to me because every previous decision and aspect of my force has been chosen, trained, determined, and implemented by me. To be a leader is to be constantly tested against your choices. Not every choice is the best way or even the right way. 

A great leader is one who can admit a shortcoming and improve upon it quickly. Bill Gates is well known for saying, “behind most great and successful products or businesses are entrepreneurs who were turned down a hundred times.” Risks will need to be taken. It's a great leader who calculates the least amount of risk for the highest payoff.

John is an Operation Freedom War veteran and a manager for Airsplat, the nation's largest retailer of Airsoft Guns including Spring Airsoft Rifles.

My teen-aged son and I donated our time on a recent Saturday, performing basic home repair work with others from a group called the Mini Work Camp. Aside from the noble goal of ending homelessness in our community, what made this experience remarkable for us was the passion the leaders of this group demonstrated in everything they did that day.

As first-time participants, we were welcomed as enthusiastically as returning volunteers. When we arrived at the home we were helping to renovate, we were given a tour of the work site and a description of the various jobs we needed to complete. Regardless of our experience, each of us was encouraged to pick a job that interested us and to try different jobs throughout the day.

Almost immediately, the participants went to work. Everyone – teens and adults – jumped in and did whatever needed to be done. Pat, the leader, set the tone early on with his willingness to share both his knowledge and his tools. He took a genuine interest in each and every volunteer. Phyllis, the program’s coordinator, even baked homemade cookies for everyone to enjoy during lunch.

As the morning progressed, the list of jobs that needed to be done grew shorter. By mid-afternoon, we had completed all of the tasks that had been assigned by the site’s construction manager. As my son and I were driving away, Pat motioned for us to stop. He thanked us, by name, for coming and told us he hoped we would be back soon.

If you are the leader of an association, not-for-profit, charity or foundation, is this the kind of experience you are providing for your volunteers? Building support for your cause often begins with a remarkable volunteer experience.

We have various guides and templates in the office. Guides for writing blogs, articles, and tip guides. We have a brand guide for color, font, format, and logo use. What we don't have is a consolidated list, in one place, of all our mantras--the phrases, statements, aha's, rules, etc.--that "guide" us as we create and deliver content, messages, and great business stories.

Here are our top 50. Think about this list and how it can help prompt new and fresh approaches to your business stories. We would love to hear your mantras...please leave them in the comments.

1.    It’s all about them.
2.    Business stories are the engine of relationships and relationships are the engine of continued success.
3.    Write to the 10th grade level.
4.    Be memorable.
5.    Use humor if you want to.
6.    Content is king.
7.    Relationships matter.
8.    Credibility is more important than expertise in the beginning of relationships.
9.    Know your elevator speech / elevator pitch / mission statement (core business story).
10.    Ensure your core business story is unified throughout all communication materials.
11.    Your brand story is everything.
12.    Success stories are key to differentiation.
13.    (Good) blog and article content matters the most.
14.    Strive for “interest” questions. Avoid “understanding” questions.
15.    Social communities are built on personal and business stories.
16.    Everything you write, speak, and record online is a business story.
17.    Content first. Design second.
18.    Always have a second person read your content before publishing.
19.    Design your website for your target audiences (not your employees).
20.    Everyone builds relationships through networking.
21.    Send hand-written thank you notes, especially job hunters.
22.    Audiences are hungry for original thought-provoking content.
23.    Blogs are for sharing, educating, and inspiring…not selling.
24.    Get yourself known (e.g., LinkedIn questions and answers, post to SlideShare, and Tweet good information).
25.    Generating genuine interest in your product/service is the first step in building a relationship.
26.    Active listening is key to building great relationships.
27.    Write in your authentic voice.
28.    But is the worst word in the English language (and many other languages).
29.    Words really, really matter.
30.    Treat everyone like a CEO.
31.    Stop listening to your Mother. Talk to strangers at networking events.
32.    It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.
33.    Speak in headlines.
34.    Write and speak conversationally.
35.    Treat every client like your best client.
36.    Maintain a detailed Ideal Target Profile for your key target audiences.
37.    Have positive self-talk conversations.
38.    Change is a choice.
39.    Deliver on the expected experience.
40.    Create your own success momentum.
41.    Be a student everyday.
42.    Be a deliberate networker.
43.    Be a deliberate communicator.
44.    Be a people bridge and make referrals.
45.    Be a mentor.
46.    Be a whole body communicator.
47.    Write emails as if they will be read on a smart phone.
48.    Inspire Action: facts do not persuade and inspire, people do.
49.    First Impressions Make Lasting Impressions: offer a warm smile, firm handshake, and good eye contact.
50.    People are at the heart of every great story.

No one likes rejection. It can be humbling, disappointing, and just plain depressing. Knowing when to accept it, though, can mean the difference between a good salesperson and a mediocre one.

If you consider every one of us has at one time or another sold something, rejection can be more pervasive than most of us might realize. It happens when your customer says no, when your boss fails to approve an idea you have, or when you don’t get the job or promotion you had hoped for.

How you handle rejection says more about you as a person than you may realize. Continuing to press your case even after a decision has been made makes you appear self-centered and inflexible. Trying to influence others individually once a group decision has been reached appears underhanded.

On the contrary, accepting rejection graciously and attempting to learn from it shows strength of character. It demonstrates concern for other points of view and it conveys a healthy respect for the accomplishments of others. When done right, it leaves the door open to future opportunities and relationships.

So, the next time you face rejection, think about how you want others to perceive you. And where you want your future to take you. It’s entirely up to you.

Charlie Crystle recently wrote a compelling article on venture finance and running a venture-backed company on CNN-Money titled, "What I Learned in Selling my Company for $100 Million." Crystle offers insights, advice, and lessons learned throughout the article.

He walks you through his ups and downs from $100 million sale of his company to the actual $28 million price tag. "How did my stock dropp by 62% in 6 months? Three things: escalating warrants, management shakedown, and the timing of one of the dips in Cobalt's wild ride in 2000."

Here are a few of his tips:

- Try to take over the world
- Floors are cheaper than hotel rooms
- They'll like you when you win
- You won't always be indispensable
- Sweat the details.

Regardless of which side of the buyer-seller chasm you’re on, here’s a simple way of determining the type of business relationship you’re in. It lies in the answer to this singular question: “How much is your budget?”

When I was a technology sales representative for a Fortune 500 brand, I would spend hours with my clients trying to understand their business objectives. Before I could design a solution that could address those needs, I would ask them about their budget.

When I changed roles and became a customer, I had my own set of business needs and challenges. I relied on a number of suppliers for help in achieving the results I desired. Almost without exception, one of the first questions I heard from them concerned the size of my budget.    

Aside from being a good indicator of how serious buyers were about addressing their challenges, how I and my customers answered this question was ultimately a window into the type of business relationship that existed between buyer and seller.

The buyers who were reluctant to share this information, for fear that the solution might be deliberately priced to consume their entire budget, did not trust their salesperson. To them, the salesperson was just another vendor who was more interested in his or her sales commission than the customer's personal and organizational success.

The buyers who viewed their salesperson as a trusted advisor, however, were open and transparent. They gladly shared this information with the seller. They knew that if the buyer and seller shared ownership in the success of the initiative, including the management of its resulting costs, mutually beneficial results would follow.

Think about the answer you get (or give) the next time this question is asked. What kind of business relationship do you have with your seller (or buyer)?

Does your marketing staff include "lone rangers," or people who prefer to go it alone? If so, it may be time to take a second look at how well they’re working with your advertising agency.

There are many reasons why people might prefer to work in isolation, among them: “pride of authorship” (i.e., the mistaken notion that their work is somehow superior to that of others), inexperience in a team environment, a fundamental distrust of others, undue concern over the cost of services, or perhaps a hidden agenda. Whatever the reason(s), their failure to collaborate can impact your ability to work smartly and efficiently with your organization’s advertising agency.

For starters, get everyone in your organization to view your advertising agency as a trusted advisor. Ensure the communication between your marketing staff and the agency is transparent and two-way. Encourage the free flow of ideas and opinions during the creative phase. Select options for proceeding on the basis of a mutual respect for the experience and expertise each member brings to the table. In short, trust in each other's good judgement. Once a direction is set, make sure both sides climb on board and move forward together.

Share results…and accountability…on a real-time basis. Your success, or failure, is your agency’s, as well. Allow your agency to help interpret your results. Their experience will often allow them to see things your team may have overlooked. The best ideas for improved results are often born out of these kinds of analyses.

If your marketing staff still includes lone rangers, remind them that even the title character in The Lone Ranger eventually found an equal, faithful sidekick in Tonto.

Microsoft recently launched its new lines of smart phones to compete against Apple's iPhone and Google's Android. Microsoft has been effectively using YouTube to showcase its advertisements, functionality, and feedback.

It is employing the concept of "Really" throughtout the ads. It is simultaneously poking fun at current mobile fun usage and pointing out how some people are using their phones shall we say, a bit too much. While the ads are clever and engaging, sometimes they try too hard or seem not to make immediate sense. See if you agree...

Click on the pictures below to see the various commercials.

All my 8th grader really wants for Christmas is an iPhone 4. So, I took him to my cellular provider the other day to see if they could help us.

The first salesperson who greeted us wasn’t able to assist us, because we were asking for something the store didn’t have. She motioned for some help and another salesperson came over. I’ll call him Mark.

Mark introduced himself to me and shook my hand. He failed to acknowledge my son, who was standing next to me.  When I told him we wanted to buy an iPhone, he said they didn’t carry them. He offered to show me other smart phones that “worked like” iPhones and, after checking with my son, I declined. All he really wanted was an iPhone 4.

Mark then proudly acknowledged that at least they had an iPad, which was a “step in the right direction”. Having never used one, I asked him to show me how it worked. My son, a savvy iPod touch owner and Millenial, stood by silently and watched. Within seconds, he quickly surmised Mark had never used one before and had virtually no idea how it worked.  End of demo.

Before we left, Mark shook my hand and gave me a price book and his business card.  Again, he failed to connect with my son who, it turns out, was the real customer. Had he bothered to ask, he would have discovered my son knew exactly what he wanted and why. I was simply there to write the check; it was his decision to make.

At my son’s request, we drove to another carrier’s store. We were greeted by Joffrey, a salesperson who seemed to take a genuine interest in helping us. Without prompting, he shook my son’s hand and was extra careful to get his name right. He gave us their prices and walked us through the process for moving our five lines over to the new carrier. When we left without buying, he again shook our hands and thanked us each by name.

It’s starting to look like my son may just get an iPhone 4 for Christmas this year. As for the rest of my family, we’ll all be getting a new cellular carrier. 

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Sales Is Not a Spectator Sport

I recently stopped by one of the big chain bookstores where I live to order a book. After waiting in line at the checkout counter for my turn, I was told I had to go to a desk at the back of the store, where I could order the book online…myself. I was also told I would need my credit card, as the store required prepayment in full. Once I placed my order, I would have to wait 5 to 8 business days for my book.

Because I really wanted the book and felt I didn’t have a lot of options, I dutifully went over to the desk with the four PC terminals and began the process of placing my order. It wasn’t long before I realized the processing time on the computers was unusually long. A sales associate came by and offered to help.  She explained the PCs were slow because it was Cyber Monday and everyone was online. She thanked me for my patience, asked me if I could try placing my order again later on and walked away.

I waited for five or so minutes before deciding to take her advice and cancel my order. I was on my way home when it occurred to me that I should try the other big chain bookstore near my home. I walked in, approached the information desk and encountered a very pleasant and helpful sales associate. Within seconds, she had placed my order, told me no payment would be necessary until I picked up the book and to expect my book within 2 to 3 business days.

Two competing bookstores, two completely different customer experiences, and only one resulted in a sale. Why?

In the first instance, sales had become a spectator sport. Customer Service, Information Technology, and even Sales were sitting on the sidelines. They watched as I fumbled through what was obviously a very broken process. In the second instance, sales was very much a team sport. Customer Service, Information Technology and Sales all worked together to help fulfill my need…and win the sale!

When I was in sales, I learned to appreciate the importance of results. I also learned to measure each and every one of my activities by the return on investment, or ROI, I would receive. If the activity helped me close more sales and its cost was reasonable, I would continue it. If it did not, I simply stopped doing it. In the results-oriented world of direct selling, activity is interesting and results matter.

In the marketing world, I often encounter others who seemingly place far greater emphasis on their activities than they do on the results of those activities. While marketing activities like research and analytics, development of promotional materials, and even branding are interesting per se, they should be deliberate and purposeful. The ROI on these activities should be measured in part by the top line results they produce – new customers or members, incremental revenues or donations, higher customer satisfaction rates, improved earnings, and increases in brand awareness or loyalty, etc. These top line results need to be weighed against the cost of achieving them, or their bottom-line impact on your organization.

As you take stock of your current marketing initiatives, identify the specific ROI you are anticipating from each. Do this by asking the following questions:

• What specific top line result(s) are you hoping to achieve with each marketing initiative?
• What is your timeline for results?
• What is the cost of each initiative (in terms of time, energy, and resources)?
• Are there ways to lower or minimize these costs?
• How will you measure success?

Remember, the mere fact an activity is interesting does not mean it will result in a desired benefit to your organization. As Winston Churchill once noted, “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results”.

Here's a great cartoon from C-Section Comics. It has characters representing all types of smart phone users from iPhone, Android, and Blackberry.

“Tell me about your pain and I’ll see if I can help you.”

It’s one of the most overused opening sales lines I’ve ever heard. A colleague of mine asked me to sit in on a vendor’s sales presentation the other day and I thought, why not?  After all, I had a vested interest in the product she was looking to purchase and was thrilled she asked me for my input. Immediately after we had introduced ourselves to the salesperson, he laid his opening line on us. It was, no doubt, well-rehearsed. I responded with silence and a blank look. I thought, “If you’re not my doctor, why are you asking me about my pain?”

As a prospective customer, all I was really looking for was an informal two-way conversation about my business, the objectives I was trying to accomplish, and any ideas the salesperson had on how he could help me to be more successful. While he subsequently went on to provide a fairly interesting product demonstration, I couldn’t stop thinking about his opening line and what a huge turn-off it was to me.

If you’re trying to sell a product or service (and who isn’t these days?), let me offer 4 tips for gaining a better understanding of your customer’s needs:

•  Do your homework. Walk into your sales presentation with a basic understanding of your customer’s business in hand.

•  Engage your customer. Have a conversation. Use thoughtful, open-ended questions to gain a clearer understanding of what your customer is trying to accomplish and the challenges he is facing.

•  Listen. When your customer starts sharing information, talk less and listen more.

•  Summarize. Restate your customer’s business objectives to confirm you understand them.

As Steven Covey reminds us in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” If you make the effort to truly understand your customer, you won’t need to ask about their pain. Instead, the only thing you’ll be asking for is the sale.

I’ve been following with great interest Frito-Lay’s experiment with “green” packaging for its Sun Chips brand of multigrain snacks. This past January, after four years of R&D, the company introduced a biodegradable bag made from plant material instead of plastic. The bag was intentionally designed to fully decompose within 14 weeks. What consumers really cared about, however, were the loud crackling sounds the bags made whenever they were opened or handled. In February, sales of Sun Chips began a steady decline. Customers took to Facebook to post their complaints against the bags. In response, the company placed signs in stores that read, “Yes, the bag is loud, that’s what change sounds like.”

After months of declining sales, the company announced in early October it was pulling most of the biodegradable packaging it uses for its Sun Chips snacks.  What took so long, I wondered? The sounds of change were all around them, for months – declining sales, consumer videos on the Internet ridiculing the new bag, tens of thousands of complaints from angry fans on social networking sites like Facebook. Did they not hear these sounds? Why wasn’t anybody listening?

Sadly, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen where an organization was slow to embrace the desires of their customers. After all, Frito-Lay had invested a substantial sum of time and money into the new biodegradable bag. The company, no doubt, believed it was acting responsibly as a steward of the environment by introducing “greener” packaging. Some may even have believed it would help increase the overall sales performance of its Sun Chip snacks, by appealing to a demographic of socially responsible and eco-friendly consumers.

Lost in the noise of loud packaging, customer complaints, and declining sales were the differentiators that made this brand successful in the first place. As a consumer committed to a healthy and sustainable lifestyle, these multi-grain snacks appealed to me because I perceived them as a convenient and healthy alternative to potato chips.  I stopped buying Sun Chips when it was no longer convenient to eat them while watching movies at home, because the other people in the room kept telling me to be quiet.

I’m glad Frito-Lay is finally listening to customers like me. I’ve gone without Sun Chips for too long, now.

Over the weekend I went to a house warming party. The host asked me to bring a dessert.

As I looked into the display area, the cheesecake whispered, "pick me, pick me."  So I purchased the cheesecake and returned to my car.

About five minutes from our destination, I said to my wife. "I just realized something. I selected the cheesecake because I wanted it--not because they wanted it. It truly didn't occur to me to pick something our hosts would enjoy."

Why? Because my assumption was that if I liked the dessert, they must too like the dessert.

Epilogue: everyone enjoyed the cheesecake!

A friend of mine was evaluating applicants for an open position the other day and asked me for my opinion. I went online and did some quick research, relying on the abundance of information his applicants had provided about themselves on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. A handful of them literally walked on water, or so they claimed in their advertising. I began to wonder…did they really do that?

In an age where job applicants can easily create a digital persona that allows them to be anything they want to be, a dose of healthy skepticism and a little due diligence are required to distinguish the authentic from the disingenuous, the wheat from the chaff, and the grass from the weeds. Hiring managers who don’t do their homework are destined for disappointment, once they bring on a new hire and discover he or she is unable to live up to his or her online claims…and their expectations.

Let me offer a few tips for evaluating the truthfulness of online claims:

1. Words and language. Pay close attention to the words used to describe the applicant or his/her work experience. Be sure they are consistent with the applicant’s self-described experience and skills; e.g., evidence of collaboration would be expected from a professional claiming to work well in a team environment.

2. Awards and recognition. Google the award name. If the award is noteworthy, chances are someone may have issued a press release announcing the recipient of the award. Review the applicant’s professional affiliations and memberships. Many industry awards are given by professional associations to their members, or to non-members who would have been invited to join because of their achievement. Be sure you understand exactly who the honor was awarded to and why.

3. Recommendations. Check the dates and positions for which they were written. Ideally, recommendations should be accumulated over the life of a career, as they are earned, and not hastily compiled in a single moment or in response to a singular event (e.g., sudden job loss).

4. Actions. Check to see if the applicant’s actions (e.g., website, Tweets, blog posts and responses to comments, Facebook history, professional affiliations, community service, outside interests, etc.) support his or her claims.

5. Expert status. Know what makes someone an “expert” in a field or discipline. Review his or her LinkedIn profile for evidence that would support self-proclaimed “expert” status (e.g., work experience, recommendations, blog posts, SlideShare presentations, etc.). The frequency and type of actions by an applicant can also be a good indicator of his or her level of expertise in a given subject.

Some applicants really are too good to be true. Do your homework and you’ll avoid disappointment down the road. If not, caveat emptor.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Back to School: Collaboration Is In

I attended two Back-to-School nights this week, one at a high school and the other at a middle school where I live.  It’s going to be an exciting year for the students at these schools. Our educators used Back-to-School Night to kick off the school year with a strong emphasis on a welcome theme: “Solo is out, collaboration is in.”

I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. It's always struck me as somewhat ironic how the focus of my education, from elementary school through undergraduate college, was on solo achievements. It wasn’t until I had attended graduate school that the focus had changed to collaboration.  If success in the business world relied so heavily on collaboration, I wondered, why didn’t our schools teach us to work together at an earlier age?

Welcome to 2010. I learned last night in Ms. Brown’s 8th grade Honors English class there are no “lone rangers” anymore. Everyone is invested in the success of each other.  The way to this success, she said, was to start by observing three simple rules posted on the board:
1. Be an active listener.
2. Use effective communication skills.
3. Show respect and tolerance for others.

Now, imagine your workplace. Think of how easy and effective collaboration would be if every employee observed these three simple rules. There would be no “lone rangers”.  Co-workers would be invested in the success of the entire organization and each other. Ideas would flow freely, productivity would rise, and so on.

Our schools are on the right track and, thanks to their emphasis on collaboration, our  collective future is bright. As Henry Ford once observed, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

Yahoo had an interesting news link I had to click--"What Not to Say When Pulled Over by a Cop."

The article starts:

Citizens who are generally law-abiding are likely to come into contact with the police only under two circumstances: If you're a crime victim or you get pulled over for a traffic violation.

Police officers are not out to make your life miserable, but to make sure you're following the rules of the road and not endangering yourself or those around you.

With a few exceptions, and an egregious traffic violation is top among them, cops aren't mandated to write tickets. Most would rather send you on your way with a friendly warning -- that can save you time and money.

But handle the situation with an aggressive or arrogant attitude and you can expect to squeeze an expensive court date into your busy schedule.

Three big suggestions are made to the reader: 1) Play Nice; 2) Keep It Honest; and 3) Stay Calm.

The entire article encapsulates human behavior and communication under pressure. It almost sounds like it should be an employment test to see how people respond under pressure. Here's an insightful note: "Cops know that people are nervous when they get pulled over, and they expect a certain amount of jumpiness when they approach a car. Rittorno [one of the officer's interviewed] even admitted she's intimidated in the same situation. "I'm the police and I get scared if I get pulled over," she said."

This summer, I took a few days off to enjoy the beach with my family.

We wanted a beach experience that made us feel like we had truly gotten away. As expected, we found what we were looking for. And, we didn’t have to travel far to find it.

What made our summer vacation experience so satisfying? A brilliantly executed market segmentation strategy.

We stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott - a hotel right on the boardwalk. Our room was on the 11th floor and overlooked the ocean. We went to sleep each night and awoke each morning to the sound of gentle ocean waves. We saw the sun rise as we sipped morning coffee on our balcony.

The entire staff understood exactly what we were looking for, from the moment we checked in. They enjoyed going out of their way to make us comfortable. They created a laid back beach atmosphere, where we and the other guests could sip summer drinks by the pool and roam around the hotel in our swim suits.

It might surprise you to know the hotel where we stayed also catered to a business clientele in the offseason, with a Starbuck’s and a business center in the main lobby. There were meeting rooms on the first and second floors, along with wireless Internet access throughout the hotel. No doubt, the staff was equally committed to meeting the needs of its business travelers.

As I prepared to check out on the day of our departure, I marveled at the brilliance of their market segmentation strategy. Their strategy was built on understanding and meeting the unique needs of these two distinct and seasonal customer segments – the vacation traveler in the summer and the business traveler during the remaining three seasons.

The result of this well-executed market segmentation strategy is a thriving year-round business and two very different, yet satisfying, guest experiences.

Forbest just published an article, "Flirting your way to the corner office." The article starts...

Some years ago, a female manager at a large global bank based in New York received a curious e-mail. "Nice shoes," it read. Her 4-inch black suede heels had obviously impressed the sender, a male senior partner. "He had exceptional taste," she recalls with a chuckle. "I thought to myself: I'll file that away."

The partner was a decision-maker in the company and a good person to have on her side. From that day on, whenever she had a presentation and knew he'd be in the room, she paid special attention to her footwear — never flats, always stilettos that added another four inches to her already-striking height of 5'8". "Flirting? I call it efficiency," she says.

The rest of the article presents some differing views and adivce to answer the question, "How, then, does one effectively — and platonically — flirt?"

You'll also find several quick Do's and Don'ts with Forbes' "Secrets Of Professional Flirting."

Additional Resources:
- Getting to Yes: Make Body Language Work for You
- Evidence Little Touches Do Mean So Much
- In all Honesty, Here are Some Ways to Spot a Liar
- What Kind of Flirting is Appropriate?
Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Beyond the Call of Duty

Are you the kind of person who regularly goes beyond the call of duty while at work? If so, you are differentiating yourself among your peers. 

A friend of mine recently started a new job. On her first day, she was asked to perform a task that wasn’t in her job description. Rather than resist and complain, she chose to embrace the assignment as an opportunity to expand her horizons.

In the few months she has spent in her new assignment, she has made many friends. She has gained valuable experiences in several inter-related disciplines, like sales, marketing, human resources, and information technology.

As Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “Every calling is great when greatly pursued.” Her willingness to eagerly pursue opportunities beyond her call of duty is a sure indicator of her future success with her current employer.

Are you willing to differentiate yourself by going beyond the call of duty?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Overcoming the Success of the Past

You’re new to a job or organization. You’re overflowing with new ideas for marketing your organization’s product or service. Surprisingly, your biggest challenge may be overcoming the success of the past.

Why do many organizations tend to be satisfied with past success levels? Let me offer three reasons, along with some suggestions for overcoming these objections:

1. Fear of Looking Bad
Often, incumbent employees fear they make look bad if a newer employee’s ideas meet with higher success rates than theirs. To overcome this fear, enlist the support of these employees when developing new ideas. Offer to build upon their successes. Be sure to share the credit with them when your own ideas generate the improved results you want.

2. Fear of Making a Mistake
The consequences of making a mistake vary by organization. For some, this fear is amplified by potentially significant costs, damaged reputations, loss of credibility, reduced levels of future organizational success, etc. To minimize this fear, do your homework. Know where you are going and how you will get there. Define what success will look like before you start. Establish reasonable goals and timelines for tracking your progress against your goal. Be prepared with a backup plan in case your initial plan performs below expectations.

3. Fear of the Unknown
The future is full of uncertainty. Your co-workers might not be so willing to try new ideas if they’ve enjoyed even limited success in the past. “Why risk failure, when we know what we’ve done in the past will work?” is their mantra. Your challenge is to show how your ideas will result in greater levels of success than they’ve enjoyed in the past. Test your ideas before implementing them. Consider a comparison between the campaign you are proposing and successful campaigns of the past.

Ultimately, organizations who believe the continuation of past practices will lead to continued gains in their success rates are likely to be disappointed. As Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity [is] doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

What makes you different? How does your corporation, association, or government agency stand out?

How well you differentiate yourself is often the key to success. The most successful organizations are those who offer a unique quality or attribute that resonates with their target audience. Differentiation, in other words, is in the eye of the beholder.

Suppose, for example, I owned a car wash. I use only the finest soap and wax. I might be tempted to promote my business by saying I use only the highest quality products for cleaning your car.

What does that mean to you? Do you really care about the kind of cleaning products I use? If I asked car owners why they chose one car wash over another, most would tell me it’s because of how nice their car looks when they leave. Or, how fast and easy it is to get through the car wash.

Now, imagine the impact I would have on you by promoting these unique attributes: “The only car wash in town where you can restore your car to showroom clean in the time it takes to order drive-thru at a fast-food restaurant.”

The local bicyclist association had a clear message: “Join thousands of area commuters for a celebration of bicycling as a clean, fun and healthy way to get to work!” I wondered if these words would be enough to compel hundreds of commuters in the Washington, DC area to trade their gas pedals for bike pedals on National Bike to Work Day.

On May 21st, I rode my bike to work.  The participation rate for this year’s event in our area was among the highest on record, with 9,200 riders.

Among my closest friends and acquaintances, I didn’t have a lot of company. The message of helping the environment while engaging in physical activity didn’t really resonate with them. The potential hassles of dealing with rush hour traffic at busy intersections and working up a sweat on the way to work, I suppose, became the ultimate deal-breakers...

What if the message was different? What if I showed them how pleasant my ride to work really was? Images of clear skies, comfortable temperatures, no traffic, and pathways through the idyllic countryside all conjure up appealing reasons for taking your bike to work, right? Sometimes, words aren’t enough and pictures really are worth a thousand words.

Look at the view I had as I cycled along my 10-mile commute. Compare it to the view from your windshield as you drove to and from work that day.

Next year’s “Bike to Work Day” is 11 months away. Are you in?

Article Summary:  Your clients always tell you what’s important to them. Sometimes they tell you specifically with words and body language. Sometimes they tell you by changes in patterns, human behavior, time to respond to emails and telephone calls, and the list goes on. If you want to ensure ongoing success, be an active listener. When used effectively, active listening can lead to fewer surprises, higher close ratios, and bigger deals.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

The Art of Listening:  5 Ways Active Listening Improves Your Sales Success

© 2010. ThinkBusiness Magazine and The Chief Storyteller®, LLC. Used by permission.
Ira J. Koretsky
June 2010

Your clients are speaking to you. Are you listening?

Your clients always tell you what’s important to them. Sometimes they tell you specifically with words and body language. Sometimes they tell you by changes in patterns, human behavior, time to respond to emails and telephone calls, and the list goes on. If you want to ensure ongoing success, be an active listener. When used effectively, active listening can lead to fewer surprises, higher close ratios, and bigger deals.

About eight years ago, I worked for a technology company as the director of product management. David, one of the sales professionals, asked me to accompany him on a call. We just launched a new product and he wanted me on hand to help answer questions. 30 minutes into the presentation, David started sharing the roadmap for our company’s advanced products. His hope was to excite the CEO and her team even further. Elizabeth, the CEO, politely interrupted and said “Thank you, we are not interested in this today. Let’s focus on the basic product.”

Instead of transitioning immediately back to the basic product, David insisted on finishing the advanced products review. I watched Elizabeth cringe ever so slightly. It had an expected ending—no contract.  

Let’s look at several ways active listening improves success.

1. Focus on the Person Who is Speaking
Treat the person speaking as the most important person in the room. Focus on her words, body language, cadence, and tone of voice. Avoid the temptation to interrupt. This is especially true when you feel very strongly about something. Keep an open mind.

With David’s story, imagine you were the sales professional. How would you have reacted to Elizabeth’s request?

To improve your listening skills, attend a networking event just for the purpose of listening. After each interaction, make notes. Do you remember his/her elevator speech? Supporting messages? Likes and dislikes? And so forth. How well do you remember what each person said? Could you repeat it back easily? To make it more challenging, make notes after every second interaction, then every third interaction, until you can master the art of listening such that you can make notes at the end of the evening without any difficulty.

2. Ensure You Understand What is Being Said
Your client may say one thing and really mean another. Whether you are sure or unsure, always ask clarifying questions. For example, “If I were to summarize your two points as A and B, would they be accurate?” or “Could you give me an example or two of what you mean?” Your goal is to vector in on the true issues and problems. Asking open-ended questions is a good way of finding out your client’s true motivations.

3. With Little Effort Comes Big Impact
Use verbal and body language cues to show you are actively listening. These cues take little effort and have a big impact. For verbal cues, use words of encouragement and understanding like “right,” “I understand,” “interesting, tell me more,” and “sure.” For body language cues, make good eye contact. Nod your head to encourage sharing and to demonstrate understanding. Ensure your arms remain uncrossed. Consciously smile. Your overall goal is to encourage while showing positive reinforcement.

Think back to Elizabeth’s story, how do you suppose she would have reacted if David had stopped talking about the new products and quickly returned to discussing the basic products? 

4. Pay Close Attention to How You are Perceived
Start with the belief that perception is reality. If your client perceives you are not actively listening, then you are not—no matter what the reality is. Common reality-changing actions include texting, tweeting, answering the phone, and responding to emails. Devote 100% of your attention to them. Lastly, if you think you are about to interrupt, write down your thought on your notepaper instead. 

The next time you meet a friend or acquaintance for lunch, practice by applying these tips. Try making it through the entire lunch without interrupting your conversation with an external pull (e.g., phone calls, texts, emails, and tweets). 

5. Master the Art of Active Listening
James Nathan Miller made an interesting observation some forty years ago—“Conversation in the U.S. is a competitive exercise in which the first person to draw a breath is declared the listener” (The Art of Intelligent Listening, Readers Digest, September 1965).

Don’t let Miller’s observation describe your conversations. Use these suggestions to improve your prospecting and selling success. Show your clients and prospects you understand their business better than anyone else does. Master the art of active listening.


Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.


Friend and colleague Maddie Grant sent me a link to this really neat "spontaneous" dance at the National Restaurant Association's Hotel-Motel Show® in Chicago's McCormick Place.

It's called a flash mob dance. While the phrase description sounds sort of scary and ominous, it really is fun to watch random people join in the fun. For four minutes, attendees could take a break from the hustle and bustle and let loose.

According to the YouTube write up, it was an original choreographed dance routing by Christina Chen. All people had to do was watch her dance and copy her body movement.

What do you think happened afterward?

- The ~100 dancers along with ~150 watchers talked about those four minutes for the rest of the day and likely the next week. 

- People were happier
- These people were excited about the conference and it inspired others
- Got other people talking and asking questions about the next dance
- Inspired your organizing committee to come up with new and additional ways to add value and extend the experience to your participants

We spend at least a third of our day at work...What are you doing to increase enjoyment at your organization?

I was recently inducted into the Order of the Arrow (OA). The OA is Boy Scouting’s National Honor Society. It was founded on the principles of brotherhood, cheerfulness, and service.

These principles are also the marks of great customer service:
• Brotherhood – seeing things from someone else’s view point and working together to solve their problems
• Cheerfulness – approaching and interacting with others in a polite and enthusiastic way, even when the task at hand may seem unpleasant
• Service – going out of your way to help others while asking for nothing in return

Serving others through a commitment to these principles drives customer loyalty and retention. How well you serve your constituents, members, customers, or co-workers is ultimately measured with a ballot, a decision to join or stay, or with the currency they use to buy your products or services.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Coping Without Twitter

I read an article in Advertising Age the other day.  It talked about the brief service outage Twitter experienced in early April and how Twitter users responded once the service was restored.

Using the hashtag #whentwitterwasdown, Twitter users sent tweets to describe the ways in which they coped with the outage.  Sample tweets included:

o I don't know what to do. One word: bored 
o I was hoping they were busy clearing out the Beliebers. Sadly I was wrong. 
o I cried 
o I almost had a stroke 
o I realized my phone did this other [stuff] they call "Texting" a strange more primitive form of tweeting! 
o I complained about it on facebook 
o Wait...hold on... twitter was down?? [Darn] didn't notice... guess cuz I have a life

Today, more and more businesses are sharing their stories through an increasing variety of social media – Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, to name a few.   Is your business one of them?  If it is, what are your plans in the event of an outage? How will you continue to communicate with your followers, fans, and members? What will they say about you?


Additional Resources

Advertising Age Article

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