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.
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?
So a manager you lead approaches you to say they need time off to deal with significant family issues. You can hear the tension in their voice. What do you do?
- Listen to them. Hear their emotion. Accept that emotion.
- Ask appropriate questions. “Are you worried about work?” “What can I do to help you and your family during this time?” Connect with your team member.
- Feel. Feel what they are feeling. If you are not an emotional person, that’s ok. Work hard to empathize with them. They need to know you understand (even in part) what they are going through.
- Think. Think of actionable things YOU can do to make them feel less guilty about work, take the load off of their shoulders and place the work load on you and their team members. It’s not a forever thing, but you can communicate and demonstrate “we are here for you” during this difficult time.
- Act. Set up a time to meet prior to their leave of absence to plan the course of action.
- Follow-up/Follow-through. Keep the communication going for the entire team. Touch base with this team member.
This is a crucial time to communicate how much you value your team member. Difficult times come – that’s life. But with some intention, care and concern, as well as humanity, you help your team member navigate through their current stormy waters.
If you have built trust within your team, this is a critical time to put that to the test. Allow vulnerability. Allow tears. Encourage communication and promise it. Be human.
Kim Harrison writes: “Appreciation is a fundamental human need. Employees respond to appreciation expressed through recognition of their good work because it confirms their work is valued by others. When employees and their work are valued, their satisfaction and productivity rises, and they are motivated to maintain or improve their good work. Gallup studies show employee recognition is the key factor influencing employee engagement, and therefore organizational performance.”
When was the last time you took the time to write a note or email of appreciation to a team member of yours? Or even shared this with them face-to-face (or via Skype/Zoom)?
For some leaders, this is difficult. Hopefully, the old-school thought patterns are fading away (i.e. “You get a paycheck – there’s your appreciation from me!”). Maybe some leaders are afraid that if they give this affirmation to an employee, that employee will no longer work hard to be successful for the company (this was actually said to me years ago). And then, some leaders have never had this modeled in their own lives.
But as leaders, it is critically important that we exercise this appreciation muscle with our team members. Here is what I have found to be impactful.
- Make it specific. Appreciate them and tell them why. What brought this on from you (especially if this is new for you)? Tell them what they did that caused this appreciation.
- Make it personal. Recognize the individual’s work. Don’t dilute it by being vague. If you would like more of what you are seeing in them, fan the specific flame in your appreciation. You will see that they will will be inspired to do more, be more (see above quote).
- Make it timely. Catch someone doing the right thing and let them know soon. It does not take long to write a specific, personal appreciation note/email. They will connect the dot from what they did that is bringing on this appreciation and your encouragement. Weeks or months later will not work. Appreciate now or very soon.
On this early morning (4:51 am) of September 11, I woke up with this on my mind.
Tony Jeary first introduced me to an idea, a concept that changes lives. This idea helps people become better. Goals become focused. Behaviors take on new meaning. This is not only practical – it is doable.
More of. Less of.
Think about a goal you have:
- Monthly sales goal
- Weight loss
Now that you’ve got that one goal in mind, ask yourself, “What can I do more of to move me closer to my goal?” Then ask, “What do I need to do less of that is hindering me from achieving my goal?” Now go do it!
It’s pretty simple, isn’t it? We already know what we need to do more of to hit sales goals (more calls, more follow-ups/follow-throughs). We already know what we need more of to become healthier (drink more water, exercise, eat more veggies). And you can list what you need to do less of to develop yourself into becoming the better version of where you are today (i.e. less TV?). And you have a lot of experience already to know what you need more of and less of to make your relationships thrive.
Let’s broaden this thought out. My country…our world…needs more of something, and it all needs less of something.
What I woke up to was this: more love. This is not new. This is not radical. This is and has been the answer forever. And we all know how to do more love.
- Smile – let your spirit brighten someone else’s day.
- Laugh – it’s healing.
- Care – do something for your elderly neighbor. Buy someone’s meal at a restaurant (without them knowing it was you). Volunteer.
What do you think would happen in our world if everyone did one random act of kindness today? Just one. More love. That’s what would happen.
So, why don’t we? Perhaps we are so wrapped up in ourselves that we become blind to others. Maybe we are so inwardly focused on our own fears, worries, anxieties that we cannot see how others struggle. Perhaps we need less focus on ourselves and more attention on those around us.
Today I challenge myself – and you – to do more of something that moves you towards love in your part of the world.
- Smile more.
- Tell someone you appreciate them. Literally, tell them and be specific.
- Be helpful.
- Compliment more.
- Find the good in someone else.
- Say “thank you” often.
- Email/Call someone you have not been in contact with. Tell them you have been thinking about them.
- Do a random act of kindness.
In my country, today is a somber day. We remember a day filled with hate, destruction, and murder. But we also remember more about our heroes who gave their lives so others lived. We remember a city that rebuilt itself as our nation rebuilt its hope. We remember buildings filled with people who loved others, helped others, and inspired others in the face of unspeakable horror. We remember.
And today, we do more. We love…more. And one by one, person by person, this love changes our nation and our world.
Many of you read articles, blog posts, books or listen to a TED talk and you are inspired. You learn something new. You actually make changes in your professional/personal life as a result. Does it all end there…with you?
My tip for today is take this one step further. Why else would benefit from knowing or getting exposed to this information?
- Your team?
- Your colleagues?
- Another leader in your community?
- Your family?
- Your mentor or mentee?
Of course learning and developing as a leader is critically important. Take it one more step and share what you have learned with someone else. Email them a link to that blog post. Send them a podcast link. Take a photo of a powerful paragraph and email that to them. Share what you’ve learned over coffee or lunch.
Some folks will be receptive to this. Others will not. You’ll learn who is open to this. Focus on adding value. This sharing – it is about them, not about you. You could help someone launch something incredible in their life!