Posts Tagged ‘communications strategies’

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The Ten Commandments of Email

February 22, 2011

Here are some brief guidelines on how to make sure you are using email appropriately (and effectively):

  1. Thou Shalt Not Reply All.
    Resist temptation and it will flee from you. Please enjoy the Bridgestone commercial, until the beverage cart arrives.
  2. Thou Shalt Keep it Clean. No porn, no pictures, no sharp language. Why? Look at this button, it says: “Forward”. Always use a subject line, appropriate greeting and a smart signature ~ no need for fourteen lines about your academic and professional accomplishments, if we work together every day. And, please: NO unprofessional content, language or pictures.
  3. Thou Shalt Not Rant. Freedom of speech is a right, but exercising that right means using it the right way. If you disagree with the recent policy announcement, going off in an email is probably not the best way to convey your displeasure. How will that get any meaningful results? Sure, you may feel better…until your boss comes in to discuss your attitude. Or, worse yet, an even stronger conversation about your employment! Seeking real change is about putting your emotions and passions into action, not into words …and then sending them to Jesus, Moses, and the 12 apostles. See commandment #1.
  4. Thou Shalt not SHOUT AT PEOPLE. Laziness, plain and simple. Surprising, but people still do it. Why?

    Email, after eTrade?

  5. Plan that time-sensitive info will FAIL, via email. Planning is not a good use of email. “Who can make the meeting on Thursday?” is an email topic that will create endless spin and rescheduling – assuming everyone sees the message before Thursday. What works best in email: Information, Instruction (or confirmation) and Documentation. Let people know that the meeting has been scheduled, and send out the meeting request. Verify key players via telephone or face-to-face. Email can’t do it all!
  6. Beware the “BCC” and use it wisely. When used with the “Reply All” button, you can get some surprises that no one wants and you didn’t intend. Caution!
  7. Do not covet the ability to cc: 3 or more people. It’s not always off limits, but it’s a yellow flag if you are cc:ing a multitude. Especially if you are cc:ing your boss’s boss, or otherwise going up the chain. Ranting or other violations, when combined with copying every singer in the choir, can be a real CLM (career-limiting move).
  8. Remember that email is never the first/last/only communication tool. Are you the gal who pontificates via email? Are you the dude who issues edicts, not emails? It’s easy to hide behind the keyboard and assume a different persona. Step out of the Matrix from time to time and don’t let email be your only connection to your team, your co-workers, or others.
  9. Thou shalt not choke your co-workers inbox with enormous attachments. Just put that file on the server, or use Dropbox or some other service. Be smart about large file transfer. ‘Nuff said.
  10. Send commands via email wisely. Because even if (or especially if) you’re the boss, how you ask for something is even more important than what you need.

Before you hit “send”, ask yourself if you are being lazy, or being effective, with email. Set an email policy, or open up a discussion within your department, so that others know where you stand. Email protocol is a bit of an unwritten law – there’s no ‘manual’. But, there are expectations. What are yours?

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Chris Westfall is a professional development coach for top-tier MBA programs, including Texas Christian University, and an award-winning instructor at Southern Methodist University’s Business Leadership Center. He was recently recognized as the grand prize winner of the ‘118’, the elevator pitch competition sponsored by celebrity CMO and author, Jeffrey Hayzlett. He works with companies and individuals on branding, leadership and sales strategies.

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Dealing with “No, I’m Not Interested”

February 7, 2011

Often our perceptions are what keep us from hearing “YES” from the customer.

Instead of selling to people, consider that it is your job to teach them how to buy. (Of course, the way to buy is “profitably for your business”. I think it’s important to advocate for the customer, but not at the expense of the company that signs your paycheck). What information, if known by your customer, would change indifference to action?

“No, not interested” is the stepchild of “I don’t know” and “I don’t care”.

What do you need to teach the customer, to change their perspective? How can you teach a customer what they need to know, so that you can overcome your biggest competition (that would be “Don’t Know” and “Don’t Care”). Fight disinterest with knowledge, and teach your customer how to buy what they need. Teaching customers how to buy is the service that changes the game.

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Your Career Potential

December 3, 2010

For more information on reaching your potential, consider one of the upcoming seminars in Dallas – featuring career management strategies with Chris Westfall.

December 6 – Career Strategies with Chris Westfall, Westfall and Associates LLC

December 17 – Interview techniques with Chris Westfall, Westfall and Associates, LLC

For more information: Contact Chris Westfall at Westfall and Associates, LLC http://westfallonline.com

214.205.4662

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Fixing Alec Baldwin

September 17, 2010

While “Always be closing” makes for some interesting drama, it’s a recipe for disaster in this economy. Real sales strategies don’t come from Hollywood –  so, how about a plan that you can actually use?

Every sales person, every Alec Baldwin fan, maybe everybody who can read and write, knows the slogan, “Always be closing”. That was the message from his character, Blake, in the classic movie, “Glengarry Glen Ross”.  As much as I enjoy Alec Baldwin as a performer, “Always be Closing” is a recipe for disaster in the current economy. I’m seeing a lot of individuals “go for the close” (and fail) when what they really need to know is: how to go for the sale.  While Web 2.0 tools have opened up new ways of communicating and marketing to customers, there’s still a need to get face to face to close a deal.    If that scenario is something you deal with on a daily basis, then read on, MacDuff.

Here’s a little secret that is the one common characteristic of every successful sales engagement, and every successful sales person. The one most important characteristic of sales success isn’t the killer close, or mental toughness, or a strong forceful personality, or…or whatever.

The best salesperson is ALWAYS the one who is in front of a customer who wants to buy what they are selling. Think about it. Finding a customer that’s buying is the secret ingredient. It’s not some slick closing strategy or verbal kung-fu that forces a sale. If you have the talents of a monkey, and a customer that wants to buy what you’ve got, you are going to close a deal… and be able to pick up objects with your feet. Impressive! Qualifying an opportunity has never been more important. And, opportunities are scarce! So, how do you do when it comes to qualifying opportunities?

Based on my experience, the number one thing you can do to help grow your business -especially if your business is the “business of YOU”: learn how to “always be QUALIFYING”, and the transaction will take care of itself.

Are You Qualified to Drink This?
Questions are a great way to approach an opportunity, because of what is implied behind the curiosity. (And I’m not talking about questions like, “If I can drop the price by 2%, will you buy TODAY?!?”) The questions I’m talking about are the kinds that yield results – a series of “yes” answers that helps you to clearly define the customers needs. Your concern, your caring, your experience, your product knowledge all are conveyed …indirectly. It’s a style shift, and it can be subtle, but the results are huge. The message behind the message is that you are genuinely concerned about the customer’s concerns – and, quite frankly, the mutual fit for your agendas. You go from “telling and selling” to helping your customer to solve a problem. As you help to identify their needs, you tailor your services and solutions for what they want, not just what you can do. The best person to articulate customer needs is always the customer. If there’s no need, there’s no sale.

Of course, there are many more aspects of qualification. What’s the budget? How did you hear about me/my company/my gorilla-like reflexes, etc.? Have you ever seen/used/owned equipment like this before? What is the salary for this position? Etc. etc. All important questions, and all must be asked as part of the needs identification and implementation phase.

You still have to ask for the business. But closing is just the final step in the qualifying process. First, make sure that you’ve got a qualified customer that’s come forward with some real clear needs, and you are almost home. With all due respect to Alec Baldwin, remember to “always be qualifying”… unless, of course, all you want to end up with is a set of steak knives.

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Brainstorming for Results

September 7, 2010

Have you ever had a really good guided tour of the weeds, often called a “brainstorming session”?

As the ideas churn forward, each one less practical than the last, participants are rewarded and encouraged to dream large and often improbable solutions to real-world problems. How can these sessions be managed into an effective process, one that allows for the necessary freedom of thought but also the guidance that delivers real and tangible results?

Brainstorming About Acorns? Consult an Expert

Separating real accomplishment from group therapy requires a facilitator who is willing to set up clear communication on what is expected. (I will assume that “Six Thinking Hats” and other resources are already in play for the group leader). Often what is missing is a clear objective for the session, and necessary details about the business challenge at hand.

In a brainstorming session, CONTEXT trumps CONTENT.

In other words, participants need to know a clear objective and framework for what is about to be discussed. We CAN think of lots of things, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we should. The best ideas will be the ones that fit the context most appropriately. It is a delicate balance to create an environment of trust and openness within a framework of objectives and results. However, that is part of the clear communication that is required before anyone goes deep into the potential abyss of “brainstorming”.

Setting the ground rules is key for an effective session, and all participants (operative word: “ALL”) need to understand that they will be expected to offer ideas. Effective brainstorming takes courage, and that requires en_couragement from the facilitator. Oftentimes, the starting point is a version of “there are no bad ideas”…(ooh, I’ve had a few. There was the football bat, and the unicorn feeder…still convinced that all ideas are good ideas?) The key thing to remember is: Don’t get married to your ideas, but put them out there just the same. A good facilitator creates that environment and gets everyone to play in the sandbox.

Click Image to See on Amazon.com

If every idea is good, then none of them are. That’s why Edward de Bono’s book is so effective, because it breaks brainstorming into steps and facilitates cream rising to the top. For me, the first step is a clear and established context for ideas – only then can those ideas be shaped into results.

Judgments and comparisons must come after the brainstorming session, to separate the wheat from the chaff. The stack ranking of ideas and collation of valuable material must be handled with respect – but handled nonetheless. Brainstorming takes courage, a true willingness to bring your best ideas, and an ego-less attachment to the outcomes.

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The Right Way to Say Goodbye

August 25, 2010

Recently, a business partner who I respect was given an abrupt boot by a manufacturer.  Essentially, the manufacturer “fired” their business, due to lack of performance.  Despite a long history, numbers were down, and a one-sided decision was made to end the relationship. In this economy, there’s a lot more good-byes than good buys, and that conversation is always a difficult one.  Yet, there is a right way and a wrong way to handle this most difficult and final transaction.  Parting ways with a supplier, vendor or employee is never pleasant, but sometimes necessary.  For executive leaders, it’s not a conversation you have via email, text message or registered letter.

And yes, my friend John recently received a registered letter.  It was his first communication in nine months, and yes, it was a “Dear John” letter.  Is it right for a manufacturer and business partner to simply say goodbye, without as much as a conversation?  In a word, no.

Parting ways is the most difficult kind of conversation, because it always ends with one party wishing for a different outcome.  Even if the decision is a mutual one, and clearly a necessary move for both parties, there is still a sense of regret.  Here are three steps to make sure that the process goes through with dignity for those involved:

  1. Have the conversation – So, a letter (even a registered letter) is not satisfactory.  Painful as it may be, you have to show up for this appointment.  Out of respect for the (business partner, vendor, employee) you should look someone in the eye when you say goodbye.  The phone call is the next best thing, but second place is a looooong way from best practices.  It’s important to say, in person, that the relationship matters, even though it has come to a close.  Life is short and the world can be very small at times – you never know when your paths may cross again.  Face to face is the best way for closure.
  2. Explanations don’t help – Arguing a point after a decision has been made is moot.   When you hear ‘goodbye’, it is a wake-up call for change.  But turning your attention to the future is easier said than done, when you receive difficult news.   On the other side of the table, explaining a decision has little effect; after it has been made, it’s best for both parties to move on.  Still, out of respect for the past, a conversation is the least you can provide.  But ultimately, on both sides of the table: Whether you are seeking an explanation, or offering one, does it really matter?  OK, if it’s possible to take emotions out of the equation: does it really matter?  Rationalizations are not germane to the conversation; but respect and dignity for both parties must be maintained.  The decision is, by nature, one-sided and unilateral – delivering it  in person is the best way to dignify the relationship and the individuals involved.
  3. Anger is a natural reaction – “All progress is change, but not all change is progress” my friend Dean Lindsay likes to say.  Terminating a business relationship is a major change, and causes stress, challenge, and anger –  and all of that happens before, during, and after the decision.  Saying goodbye is a form of progress, but it can feel more like a punch in the stomach.  Or a kick in your favorite glands. There’s no way around it; anger will be in the room.  Best you can do is prepare for it, acknowledge it, and move on…in spite of it.
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Are You Ready for Your Close-Up

August 16, 2010

For most companies, and customers, video has become the most authentic method of telling a story. It’s authentic because people tend to trust what they see in a video, the visual cues and clues are more comprehensive than in a written story. After all, you can see expressions, body language and more via video.

Yet for executives with little or no experience in front of the camera, an interview or presentation can be a daunting task. Not everyone is suited to being in a video, but here are some tips that can help when it’s time for “Action!”

In the Studio with Your Online Video

Picture Yourself Here

  1. The camera is your friend. When you look at the camera, what do you see? An evil lens, peering at you like some hyper-critical judge, ready to expose all your flaws and add 10 pounds to your waistline? Don’t let your preconceptions get in the way of what you are saying.  As mom always used to tell us kids:  if you don’t like your preconceptions, time to get some new ones.  The camera can’t hurt you, but you can hurt yourself if you grimace when that little red light comes on.What if you were to think of the camera as an old friend – a friend who accepts you just the way you are?  If you look at the camera the same way you view the dentist’s drill, chances are the people watching will feel uncomfortable, too.  Turn the camera into someone who has known you for a very long time, who accepts you as you are, and laughs at [most] of your jokes.  The magic of working on camera is forgetting all the studio lights, microphones, and behind-the-scenes distractions, and concentrating on telling your story.  If this idea of the “camera as an old friend” sounds phony, contrived or imaginary…you’re right!  But, if you would rather flinch and scowl, go for it! Imagination is for little kids, anyway.
  2. Enjoy telling your story. What you have to say has to be engaging, so make sure you’re engaged.  If you say, “I’m passionate about…” in a monotone, you can bet that your audience will be snoring before they find out about your true “passion”.   Similarly, there’s no need to go all-out Ballmer to make your point.  But be authentic and engaged in the words you are saying.  If you’re into it, the audience will be too!
  3. Photo of Harrison Ford

    This is not you.

    What if I still don’t like what I see – How can I get better? First of all, congratulations for being brave enough to watch yourself before others do. YouTube is littered with videos of executives and would-be DeNiro’s who have created a new level of personal embarrassment, completely unbeknownst to their ego. So, while there’s no magic formula to turn someone into Harrison Ford,there is a way to present your authentic self on camera, and it has to do with being relaxed and comfortable with your own style. For many, knowing the material is key – feeling comfortable with the presentation is the focus. But, often the best speakers are the ones who are comfortable with themselves. There’s only one Harrison Ford, but there’s also only one “you” – and no one is better qualified to tell your story than you are.  The real trick is to make sure that you give yourself every opportunity to create the best possible online image you can.

The most authentic medium on the internet is video – that’s why YouTube and other sites are growing exponentially.  But, growth is not the same as quality.  Make sure your content is easy to find – and easy to watch – if you want to create an effective online brand.