September 29, 2010
Last weekend, Jacqueline and I went to Clovis to see my grandmother, Billye Coffman.
She raised me from the age of four, and taught me many of the success principles that account for my life's output. Seriously. That and the seven books she had in our home library. She always told me that she was 'my rock of Gibraltar.' She would be there for me, with advice and without judgement. I could ask for anything, but sometimes the rock says no.
Throughout my life, that rock has steadied me. Since then, I've found more rocks in my life. Their willingness to offer support without judgement is a source of my strength. It allows me to relax for some easy power in life.
Visiting Billye was my reconnection with the rock. I spent time with her, driving her around Clovis to visit places from our time together. The rock has a context: Time and place. Just to see her isn't enough - I need to travel in that time and space with her for a minute to regather the feelings and recollect the inspiration that came from it. It's totally worth it too: I'm more inspired than ever to share her story (Today We Are Rich). I don't feel 'lucky in life' because I know that I've been steered by my rock(s), who all intended for me to be exactly who I am right now. It was a priceless experience. I come home feeling refreshed and compelled to be a rock for others - from family to friends.
A recent article in Scientific American Mind suggests that going back in time (Nostalgia) is a good idea in many cases. It can build your confidence through your supportive context embedded in your history.
Here's your takeaway: Find your rocks and reconnect with them. No matter your situation, you have at least one person in your life who you can/could depend on. You drew strength from him/her and often received on-point life/biz advice. Reach out to that person by the end of October, face-to-face if possible. Express your gratitude and be open to learn something from the exchange. Tour the places the two of you shared. Take pictures and recollect little details from your past. Fresh from the trip, identify at least two people in your life - and tell them you will be their rock.
It may be the best way we can give back.
This is a concept that's included in my next book, Today We Are Rich. Visit the book page and you can pre-order a copy and receive a free eBook excerpt with an entire principle! You can also visit its facebook page too.
September 24, 2010
Bury My Heart At Conference Room B: The Unbeatable Impact Of Truly Committed Managers by Stan Slap: This easy-to-enjoy book makes the case for bringing your emotions to work. Managers that personalize business will drive more engagement and produce better results. The book provides great examples of managers who've innovated their work in the most human of ways.
The Orange Revolution: How One Great Team Can Transform An Entire Organization by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton. From the authors of the Carrot Principle comes a great book about the power of teams. The point is that small groups of people, properly motivated and organized, can change the world at work.
Sun Stand Still: What Happens When You Ask God For The Impossible by Steve Furtick: OK, this is not a business book, so it's a little bit of a diversion from my previous editorial policy. But, it's a great book about the power of audacious faith. Furtick is the fiery senior pastor at Elevation, a very cool church in Charlotte that's redefining the 'church experience.' The book's voice is direct, and will challenge the way you think of yourself and your relationship with God.
September 22, 2010
For the last few months, I must admit, I've been a bad blogger.
I went from four posts a week to twice a week to give myself time to complete my new book (Today We Are Rich). Writing that book was an experiment in total concentration - where I let everything else take back burner. The book deserved my pretty-much undivided attention.
Often, we try and complete projects around each other, and most of the times that process produces an average-medium quality product. This is becoming a problem for our multi-tasking culture, where social media's made us all publishers with daily/hourly deadlines. We are taking on more creative work than we can handle - and putting out the weakest work ever.
With my new book, I wanted to pour all of myself into it, so I gave up many of my extra-curricular activities. Giving keynote speeches or serving my consulting clients continued. But even then, I turned down business, especially towards the end of the process. Blogging, having networking lunches, goofing, watching sports on weekends, etc. all went 'on hold.' I worked on one thing, the book, 8-12 hours at a whack. (Note: I used a Facebook public page and my Twitter account to road-test ideas and crowd source content solutions. But that was directly connected to the writing process.)
Which then begs the question, is blogging my job? Could I call myself a 'blogger'? Nope. Not a real blogger like Seth Godin or Chris Brogan. Both of them have a business model for it, a huge congregation to feed daily and a real job doing what they do. For the rest of us, it's really a marginal call. I'll do well to make $1000.00 annually on Amazon affiliate fees and I don't have enough traffic for an ad model. So the point of it is to 'get my name out there' from a business standpoint. That's not a very compelling business case for a few hours a day.
Here's what I'm taking away from my short hiatus from blogging: If it's not driving your business, it's an extra-curricular like having long lunches with 'potential business partners'. Sometimes, you'll get work out of it, otherwise you get retweets, likes and other 'psychic income' (thanks Clay Shirkey).
If you, like me, determine that social media content posting is a nice-to-have component to your bizlife, then follow this rule of time management: Invest only the time you are willing to lose with social media. Consider it one of your give-back services, where you offer advice or inspiration like a mentor does to his/her mentee. With that rule in mind, you'll be able to consider taking a break from blogging, tweeting or Facebook to get 'some seriously important wow work' done (and done very very well).
PS - This rule works really well when you are playing the tables in Vegas or pink sheets on Wall Street too: Invest what you are willing to lose.
September 14, 2010
When some people shoot the breeze, they kill it with wasteful talk. In this attention starved world, listenership is rewarded to people that give great return on attention. Think of it as the new ROI for personal and business relationships.
The key to delivering conversational value is:
1. Thoughtfulness -- What am I going to say that will add value?
2. Brevity -- How can I say it with a minimum of words in a succinct fashion?
3. Pause to listen -- Remember Covey's rule: Seek first to understand...
4. Impact -- Provide a call to action or give the conversation meaning.
When I was working in sales @ Yahoo!, I noticed that our SVP (Anil Singh) was overwhelmed with the noise of the company. Everyone campaign for his attention, then when it was secured, it was usually waste on repetitive dribble. I watched him tune them out over time. When I asked for his attention, I treated it like a golden opportunity and gave him the headline, the relevance tie in and the requested course of action. He responded well, giving me increasing attention over time.
PS -- Good ROA over email is important too. Giving great email value will protect your readership and keep you from becoming deletable. Check out my post on the CLEAR system for ideas in that area.
September 10, 2010
Early in my career, I learned a valuable rule that's changed my life.
"Reduce the time it takes for your prospect to decide on you by 25% and the result will be a 200% increase in sales." This concept speculates that we lose much of our business in the sales funnel, while the customer is trying to make a decision about your product in the face of competition and objections.
During this time, new competitors enter the mix or circumstances change - making your product less desirable or unnecessary. This is why in sales we stress urgency. This is why in marketing we emphasize branding (as a shortcut to quality). In my Yahoo career, I witnessed this in the field. In my speaking career, I see this every day.
For example, if your book is a smash hit and your name is on everyone's tongues (Consider @Tony's success with Delivering Happiness), then the meeting planner can instantly agree on you, because she knows her boss wants you because he's reading your book and giving it to all his friends. This is what JIm Collins experienced in 2002 when his speaking business picked up more than five fold!
So here's the takeaway: Focus efforts every day on reducing the time it takes to say yes to your product.
1. Position your product as solving an urgent problem - This way, the prospect doesn't have to work so hard for you, because you are offering something that eliminates a pain point. Each day she/he thinks about it is a day with more pain.
2. Increase your profile, especially in trusted media outlets - Conquering your trade industry publication OR a mainstream major (Wired, Fast Company, Inc.) gives your product "air cover" so there's a "I've heard of that" instant response from the prospect. In general terms, when someone's heard about your product from three sources, it tips them into buying.
3. Improve your proof of value - Develop very specific case studies, so you can tailor-offer one to a prospect. General quotes (blurbs) are not useful, problem-solution are. If possible, integrate photo or video components to bring it to life. Get permission to use full names and companies to add credibility.
4. Version your offers to reward faster decisions - This is where the 'today' price drives business. Make sure that the reason behind deciding today is real: Production window necessitates, otherwise costs go up, limited inventory or reward for prompt commitment.
Last but not least, in sales-mode, always encourage a faster decision because it improves your odds. For example, my fave close technique: Just showed the customer a great demo, the price works and when you go for the close, he says, "I'd like to think about it, if that's OK with you."
And you respond, "Sure, absolutely! Quick question: Do you consider yourself a quick or slow thinker?"
September 07, 2010
For many fellow authors, social media is a way to sell books, a marketing platform. Same goes for many companies: It's just another sales channel. This is a shallow way to think of this opportunity.
Over the last few months, via a Facebook page, I've been sharing ideas from my next book (Today We Are Rich). In several instances, I asked my followers to pipe in on a topic or share a story. A remarkable number have eagerly participated and added tremendous info-value to my book. I've received stories, links to articles and statistics through my following. For writers, Help A Reporter Out has also offered similar services - although not to friends and colleagues.
Companies can/must do the same thing. Build up a followership by being helpful and interactive. Ask questions that honor the follower. Do something useful with the information. Keep on giving and make sure your questions are few and far between - otherwise, you might become a question-spammer that just wants to create network activity (likes, comments, mentions, etc.)
You'll also find your following happy to recommend local services, product reviews etc., in you day to day operations. In most cases, they'll be better than anything you can find on Craiglist, 800-Dentist or the Yellow Pages (remember them?). For some people, your social media network will replace Google as a way you source services, products and high level information. That's what Mark Z's vision of Facebook is: A Search Killer. Ask your friends, and they'll give you better answers than you'll find on the Wild Wide Web.
One last idea: Make sure you contribute information to the network too. When one of your friends or followers asks for help, jump in with useful insight. It's like Amazon, Yelp or any other collaborative platform - we have to feed the system to be able to get nourishment from it over time.
September 02, 2010
If you want to improve your company's fitness, obsess about keeping promises.
For customers, make delivery dates live or die, not optional. For internal projects, make 100% promise keeping a succession and rewards issue. Why? Keeping promises is one of the biggest drivers of your business and talent retention.
When you keep your promises, especially the hard ones, it increases you internal sense of integrity (which, via confidence, will drive your performance.) This will also increase your personal brand equity. At Yahoo!, one of the first things I learned is that keeping promises is a big differentiator. We live in a world where people can run late for a meeting because they can call you via their cell phone and tell you they are running late (and you always say, "OK," then graze on work until they arrive.) This has bled into projects and product launches. If you are running late, you don't have to face your boss, you can send an email at midnight, telling him you'll be late on delivery. I'm sure that via digital communications technology, we've become a 'running late, but it's OK' culture of workers.
When it comes to the customer, this is even more profound. Since most of our work is heavily negotiated (thus deeply discounted), we don't take deadlines as seriously as we used to. Customers, though, expect you to keep your promises, and when you don't, note it in what Stephen Covey calls "the emotional bank account." This will invade trust levels, really impacting your ability to introduce new products or services for 'trial.'
Here are several ways to increase promise-keeping at your company:
1. Be careful about what you promise - Think like a weather person and guard your reputation for accuracy. Be aware about your resources, and how previous commitments might impact them. Never agree to to a due date you are not 100% sure about.
2. Document all promises and be specific - In meetings, write down EVERY promise you make. At the end, review the promises to make sure you've got an understanding. In the follow up note, review these again and ask for any suggested amendments.
3. Shorten milestones between promise and delivery date - Don't look up with one week to go and realize, 'we are going to be late'! Break down any project into fifths and have a 'how are we doing' meeting at each interval.
4. Pay the price when you have to break a promise - Telling someone early that you'll miss your promise date doesn't make everything all good. The customer/team member has to roll this uphill and pay the price emotionally, so you need to pay for it! Give them a discount (customer facing). Agree to be early on a future project by factor of 2 to 1 (for every day you are late, next time you'll be two days early).
Keep your promises, and you'll create the most powerful brand: The executor. The company that runs on time. The project member you can count on.
This point (Promise Made, Promise Kept) is a principle in my next book, Today We Are Rich (March 2011, Tyndale House). If you'd like to follow the new book as I write it, check out my Facebook Page for the new book.