As a speaker, I work to understand and know my audience. What are their commonalities? What are there needs? What don’t they need/want to hear? If I am going to connect with an audience, it is important for me to focus my talk on the audience I’m working to engage with.
In terms of marketing, sales, and/or service, are you creating content and promotions that make sense to you (primarily) or on your customers and potential customers? When selling your product/service, are you focusing on what you have vs what they need? Are you answering the questions they are asking? When providing a service, do you and your teams assume your service is what the customer wants?
Yesterday, I stopped by the deli counter at my local Kroger grocery store. I wanted to pick up some Boar’s Head deli meat. I asked for a pound of Bourbon Smoked Ham (you’ve got to get this!). The lady behind the counter flatly said, “You don’t want that. If you don’t like bourbon, you’ll not like this. I don’t like bourbon. I don’t like this ham.” I replied, “You sold me. I’ll only take a half pound of it.”
“Anything else?” she asked after she reluctantly bagged the ham she just sliced. “I’ll take a pound of the teriyaki chicken breast.” “Oh, you don’t want that. It’s too salty.” I bought it anyway.
I walked away chuckling. While the lady did what I asked and executed her slicing duties with skill, her “sales” skills were horrible. I could have simply walked away and purchased nothing. But I’m a fan of Boar’s Head products, and I was not about to leave without it. I, the customer, had to overcome the “sales” person’s incompetence to get the product I wanted.
My point here is this: listen to your customers. Whether you are communicating with them face-to-face, phone-to-phone, Zoom-to-Zoom, email, etc., listen. And then present your services in a way that makes sense to your customer. Speak their language. Answer their questions (even the unasked ones). Provide feedback to learn more about them. If they reach out or want more, follow up and follow through.
Speak the language of your customers and potential customers. Be clear. If your message about your company, products, services doesn’t resonate with your customers and potential customers, you’ll end up spinning your wheels or simply be ignored. The best marketing, sales, and service efforts keep the end in mind – the needs and desires of your customers. If you do this, your company will be viewed as relevant and you will add value and create loyalty.
Sell the bourbon smoke ham and then cross-sell me the mesquite smoked turkey. Don’t tell me I won’t like it. I already do. Speak my language and make the sale. I’ll come back!
We’ve all seen this in sports. The team that everyone thought would be a “sure thing” and would come out on top is beaten by what seems to be a less talented team. The big tournament comes around and the first seed is shockingly out of the game early on and can’t recover.
The talent appears to be lop-sided towards the assumed winner. Their record shows this. Their fans “just know” that they will win. The coaches have prepared their teams and plays are in place. Yet the team that everyone thought was already beaten before the game begins ends up as victors.
How can this be?
If you follow sports at all, you’ll understand that so much of the game is won or lost by that 5″ space between the ears. Winning teams put in the practice and discipline. They execute their plays with precision.
But, somehow something creeps into their thinking…
“We’re good enough…”
“That other team doesn’t have a chance…”
“We’re the shoe-in…”
And then the other team – that no one sees any hope of winning – comes out hungry. They out hustle the assumed champions. They see small mistakes that are being made and they take full advantage. And then the crowd starts to notice. “How can the score be this close!?” And then the crowd sees their champions falter. They witness the battle that is going on in the players’ minds. The underdogs are pulling away. The underdogs are winning. The underdogs are cutting down the nets as victors.
Here’s our reminder for today: As leaders, don’t assume the victory. Work for it. Keep the fires of passion burning in your team. Remind them of their mission. Cast your vision. Keep your team forging ahead. Execution of the mission is critical. Don’t assume anything. Work towards that win, every day, with every encounter, in every action, with every decision.
When your team wins, make sure they have left their A game on the court. Celebrate with them. Prepare them. Help them fine tune their skills. And then ramp up to do it again and again.
Those that know me know that I enjoy connecting with others whether it is over coffee, a meal, or a chance meeting. I’ve been blessed to have had some quality networking meetings the past few weeks. In reflecting back on the people and these meetings, I’ve learned a few things:
- People are generous with their time. That is so true of my community. I know the other person is sharing valuable time with me, so I invest some time before meeting preparing. I write out questions that I have for this person so I can get to know them better and learn about their journey thus far. I want to honor their time commitment with me by making the most of our time.
- People have struggles just as I do. I have heard stories of jobs not going well and stories of heartache when someone has been fired. Listening and empathizing is a way to connect and encourage others. And they can do this for you, too.
- People are passionate. I love seeing and hearing how the other person has found their niche and are running hard in that direction. I love hearing how they are impacting their world. I love hearing what they have learned along the way.
- People share resources. I have learned that there can be a fair exchange of ideas and further connections that will benefit us both. I have heard about new books to explore, places to visit, and people to meet.
If you have yet to try something like this, give it a try. Who can you reach out to?
- A senior manager at your workplace
- An admired community leader
- A business owner in your city
When you land the appointment and have the meeting, end by asking if they could connect you to someone who you can continue this networking time with. I don’t believe I’ve ever had anyone refuse to do this.
Give this a try and see what you’ll learn from networking. Meet someone new. Learn something new.
Earlier this morning, I was listening to John Lee Dumas’s podcast, Entrepreneurs on Fire. Do you know this one?
JLD offers up a new podcast EVERY SINGLE DAY where he interviews entrepreneurs around the world. And he’s been doing this for years!
The episode I listened to this morning featured Jeffrey Madoff. According to the podcast bio on Jeffrey, his “careers span fashion design, film production, teaching, author, and playwright. His book, Creative Careers, was an Amazon bestseller.”
This is a great conversation to listen to if you are in the business of attracting customers, retaining customers, and/or bringing ideas and innovation to market. What follows are some questions I heard on the podcast that I am asking myself as well as asking you as we grow our businesses.
When it comes to ideas that we are working with…
Are our customers (and potential customers) in love with your idea?
- How can you “test” your idea with customers before a grand rollout?
- How is the love you feel for your idea stuck in the vacuum of limited perspective exposure?
How can we innovate and bring ideas to the market that will make an impact? Here are some things that came up in this podcast:
Be sure your ideas are serving the interests of your customer/potential customer. Are you trying to sell your service/product from the perspective of your customer? Are you speaking their language during the promotion of your innovative idea?
Understand the customer’s needs/wants. Here is a point that Jeffrey made: how are we making ourselves necessary to our customers? You may sell them on an initial, gateway idea that gets them in your door. But how are you retaining this customer? How are you adding value beyond this initial offering? How are you making your company necessary so the customer is not tempted to look elsewhere for similar services?
Constantly build relationship bridges to your customer. Following up and following through with your customers will build loyalty. We all know that people buy from people they know and like. Building relationships goes far beyond the sale. This is the place where you truly understand what your customer wants and needs and then delivering on that. This is the place where your ideas can be tweaked to better serve your customers. This is the place where you can build a cadence of partnership, trust, and relevancy.
Take 24 minutes and listen to this podcast. You can find John’s podcast everywhere. You can also find it here: Jeffrey Madoff interview by John Lee Dumas.
How engaged are the employees at your organization? In a Gallup survey for 2020, this is what they discovered:
This article makes great points. From my experience and from talking with other leaders, employee engagement can be improved in multiple ways.
Many surveys point to effective communication within organizations is lacking. Top level leaders make decisions. The expectation is that the next level down leaders will receive this communication and then share it down the line. But that assumption is just that – an assumption. Many times, the message is not shared with all employees. Then a change takes place (that was to have been communicated) and the team at large ends up confused and frustrated.
Employees want to be in the know. Communication helps connect employees to the mission. And when that happens, engagement is more likely to happen.
Employees desire to be competent in their jobs. Training and ongoing refresher training will help engage employees by giving them what they need – tools to do their jobs professionally and effectively. Training should produce results to the company’s bottom line.
Training needs to be relevant. Trainers, especially those outside of your department, need to know the current issues your team faces enabling training to become meaningful. Trainers can and should partner with management to ensure job performance goals are in line with the training provided. Training is not an isolated event. Training must lead to improved results. Trainers train. Managers measure the effectiveness of that training by observing their team executing what they learned. Feedback should be sought out by the trainers and the managers should be providing relevant observations to make sure that the proper results are happening.
Voice of the Employee
Employee engagement can rise when the team is given an opportunity to provide their voice within projects and company-wide initiatives. Ask for this. Expect it. Set the expectations on how their voices will be used. The team can have a voice in a process even though the “vote” will be made by organization higher level leaders.
Is a new vendor being vetted? Involve key stakeholders in the process. Allow them to “kick the tires”, ask questions, reach out to get references, sit in on RFP presentations. Allow them to submit their feedback. Then the C-suite execs can make a more informed decision. And the team will know their voice was heard creating more engagement.
It is not realistic to think your organization will see 100% in employee engagement. But how would your company function if you moved the engagement level from 30% to closer to 50%? That exponential engagement will see new ideas, project involvement, diverse points of view all come to fruition. Is there a downside to that?
I am working near one of my groups this week. About 30 minutes ago, one of our newest team members walked up and asked if he could chat. He wanted to tell me what he was learning from a book I bought for him a month ago. He also asked what activities I had been involved with recently. I shared with him my experiences with our local Chamber of Commerce annual meeting as well as the leadership networking group I co-founded with my brother (www.firstfridaysfw.org). We talked of attending events together to get some networking experience under his belt.
Just a few moments, I was reminded of the power of staying close to your teams. I currently work in another building or at home most of the time. But this brief encounter reminded me how much touch points such as this one charges my batteries. Question: what do you do to connect with your teams?