January 31, 2011
He gave me one, promoting his excellent book on Leadership and Customer Experience, and it contained all the principles in his book, as well as a website address for more information. "People will use them for months, if not years - unlike a business card," he shared.
So, I asked my publisher Tyndale House to produce book markers to promote my next book (Today We Are Rich). They look great, add value and have been distributed at several January events. They produce great results for me, and are useful to all that receive them. Right now, I'm looking for ways to distribute these, and quickly.
I'd love to enlist your help in getting them to:
1 - Retail locations, especially book stores.
2 - Conferences, meetings and events
If you can help, I'd love to send you some right away. Send me a note: tim at timsanders dotcom and I'll get right back to you!
January 27, 2011
This was the biggest takeaway I got from my days as Chief Solutions Officer at Yahoo, working on some of the companies biggest sales opportunities. Normally, most sales calls or networking meetings are all about the presentation - your spiel. You have an agenda, answers to all potential objections and some ideas on next steps.
Usually, the sales executive shows a power point deck, which takes up three quarters of the allotted meeting time. Sometimes the slides are customized to address the prospect's needs, other times they are canned. Even when there's no formal presentation, the conversation is heavily weighted towards the sales person, not the audience. After all, it's in our sales-DNA, sell-sell-sell!
I reversed this approach, in order to gain valuable insight from prospects that could give us a leg-up on competitors that were just trying to 'sell stuff.' We had a goal: only talk 40% of the meeting and use the rest to listen, record and brainstorm. Meeting dynamics changed, as we became more consultative and prospects became more open with us. In the end, we succeeded beyond our wildest dreams, securing several deca-million dollars deals in 2001 and 2002. Here's how you can listen more than you talk:
1 - Don't make a presentation until the end, and treat it like a TED talk (18 minutes, timed). Open the conversation with questions that either help you discover value opportunities or spur your prospect's imagination. For example, during a high level pitch to HP, I asked a senior executive to imagine that they just bought Yahoo!, and her assignment was to integrate our most valuable parts into their company. "If you owned Yahoo," I asked, "what would you do with us?" She outlined a few quick ideas, some branding placements and others pure technology integrations (eg. Business Instant Messenger, Printer refill levels on Yahoo Maps, etc.) In the end, her laundry list of ideas were poured into a pretty big strategic deal. That's the value of having a conversation.
2 - Measure your word count. I asked prospects and partners if it would be OK to record the meeting, and have a transcription service (like On-Sitemedia) turn it into a Word doc. That way, we won't miss any details and both parties have a better understanding of what we are talking about. Most of them were happy to allow this. When I received the Word document back, we were able to calculate word count (our stuff in black, their words in red). Then, it was easy to see exactly how much we were talking vs listening. The more we did this, the lower our word count got (and the higher our sales became.)
3 - Under-answer questions. Don't launch a multi-point ten minute speech when answering a common question or objection. Pick your greatest hit and deliver it in about 60-90 seconds. Then ask a question to get them talking.
4 - Insert pregnant pauses. Our tendency is to rush in when someone's just finishing up a question or comment to provide our answers. That's not how to do it. Great interviewers know that you should always leave an uncomfortable pregnant pause after a guest's answer or question. Why? Your conversational partner will feel uncomfortable with the silence, and fill it with more content. Most of what people say or ask is heavily scripted to keep the 'cards close to the vest'. But, as we learned with Frost-Nixon, when you are filling dead air (pregnant pause), you come off script and the truth spills out. Some of the juiciest sales intelligence I ever gathered happened when I waited out the prospect after he/she gave me a pat answer.
5 - Read a new book on the subject. Of course, that's my prescription to most performance improvements. Read, learn, innovate and experiment. There's a brand new book out, cued up next on my Kindle for consumption: Talk Less Say More: Three Habits To Influence Others And Make Things Happen by Connie Dieken.
January 25, 2011
Depending on your corporate or company culture, it's easy to get 100 or 200 emails a day - all expecting your precious attention. There are less leaders than two years ago, so more people report to you or feel the need to report to you. The CC/CYA gang copies you on everything, the good the bad and the irrelevant. You've made your way on so many internal distribution lists, your blackberry sounds like a Vegas casino, going off all the time 24/7.
So what to do? You can't possible keep doing this, and expect to get any time to think through the problems of the business. You can't ignore it, because it will just pile up and when your Inbox has 500 in it, you'll feel pressure and likely feel depressed. And guilty.
A few years ago, I was getting over 300 emails a day, and it was crushing me. So, after doing some research, to coin a Tim Ferriss term, I built a hack for it. Within 90 days, I cut my incoming emails to less than 100 a day, and my Inbox never had more than about 40 or 50 items in it to be filed/responded to or deleted. How did I do it?
1 - Sell The Group On Low Information: Tell every one of your email buddies that you are going on a low information, or need-to-read, diet. Explain that by being more succinct and self-reliant, we'll have enough time to solve problems and innovate. Tell direct reports to consider this part of their annual review (Return On Attention).
2 - Use the CLEAR system on repeat offenders. This is where you send a nicely-but-firmly written letter (see post) that instructs people to ask five questions before they send you and email: *C/Is it connected to my job? *L/Give me a list of what you want me to do about it. *E/What do you expect from me in this situation? *A/What are my avenues to delegate? R/What's the return on my attention and time? This really reduced the noise level. For many, they never considered things from my point of view.
3 - Tell people to Stamp Out Reply To All. Put it in your email footer (Please join me in my SORTA campaign to Stamp Out Reply To All!)
4 - Don't respond to every email, just the ones where your response adds value. Silence on your end can certainly close the loop in many situations - and those who are just noise will realize that you are either not reading them, or choosing not to respond.
Visit www.EmailAtoZ.com for more ideas or to find out about my training program for companies.
January 21, 2011
It's the annual Fortune 100 Best Companies To Work For award, and for the second year in a row, it goes to SAS Institute from Cary N.C. I like this award because it relies heavily on internal interviews with employees, crafted in such a way to guarantee a high level of authenticity - and good takeaways for leaders in all industries.
I've known co-founder Dr. Jim Goodnight since 2003, when his company hired me to speak at a customer summit in Las Vegas. Between 2003 and 2005, I spoke at six other events, from sales rallies to a product launch at the company's HQ. Over that stretch of time, I learned a great deal about the company's culture, and specifically Dr. Goodnight's math-based approach to regarding human beings (Read the SAS Institute case study, an excerpt from my book Saving The World At Work).
He's created a culture of leaders and managers that understand the people-customer-company model of reciprocity: Give to people, they give to customers, customers give to company. It's hard to do over time, though, especially if you are public company with Wall Street gamblers demanding budget cuts with each burp in the business cycle. That's why SAS Institute stays private.
But really, if you align HR, Finance and Operations to measure the same metrics, it's a business no brainer. Compete to be the best possible employer, and reward thoughtful innovations of the employee experience like you reward process and product improvements. It requires leaders to lead more, managers to manage better and a lot of trust to be distributed throughout the organization.
When I read the announcement yesterday, I was struck with one quote from an employee: "People stay at SAS in part because they are happy, but to dig a little deeper, I would argue that people don't leave SAS because they feel regarded -- seen, attended to and cared for. I have stayed for that reason, and love what I do for that reason." This explains two things about the company: Record low turnover, especially of high performers. Record high productivity, from sales to operations.
Why don't more leaders understand the secret here: 1- Notice your people as people. 2-Attend to their issues, both personal and professional. 3-Care about them as brothers and sisters, not profit or cost centers. Leaders that commit themselves to this must change hiring, employee experience design, succession plans (no bullies in management) and business process measurement. The payoff is simple: Leverage the norm of reciprocity and create a company that you can profit from, and be proud of later when you look back on your legacy.
Listen to a VERY insightful interview I participated in with Dr. Goodnight in 2008:
January 19, 2011
His message, based on his new book (Zero Regrets) was simple: Create goals you have the total power to achieve. For those accomplishments beyond your control, consider them dreams that are more likely to come true if you meet your goals.
He pointed out that prior to the Vancouver Olympics, he errantly had a goal to become the most decorated US Winter Olympian, which would require winning six medals. He realized, in an aha moment, that anything could happen no matter how hard he trained: Another skater could sacrificially bump him out of races, new super-competitors could show up, he could get suddenly ill, on and so on.
He knew that he needed to watch his weight (he's old for a competitive speed skater) and that he needed more core strength. So, he made his goals around weight/strength. Before the Olympics, he lost 17 pounds, getting down to 141. That required intense dieting with no cheating and a lot of hungry nights. He went from leg pressing around 1500 pounds to a stunning 1980 pounds. Again, this required hours of highly strenuous training, with pain becoming his best friend.
On the first day he was on the ice in Vancouver, his key competitors, the Koreans and Chinese looked at him and said, "Something has happened to that guy!". In the end, Apolo did achieve his dreams, winning enough medals to become the most decorated US winter competitor in Olympic history. In his view, reaching those goals was the equivalent to "loading the funnel" in sales speak.
This was an aha moment for me as well. I've got a new book coming out in April (Today We Are Rich) and up until I heard Apolo, my 'goal' was to get on the New York Times Bestseller list. But that's not within my control either: Who knows what will come out when I do, how many authors will game the system with bulk buys, etc. So, I've changed my goals to something I can control: Unit sales. If I fall short, much like I did in my business life, I'll roll up my sleeves and prospect my way to success.
If you are a sales pro, don't make "president's club" your goal, you have no control over the playing field, competitors, etc. Make your quota or prospecting metrics your goal - and likely, you'll make that trip to Cabo!
Here's the takeaway: Don't confuse goals with dreams. Reaching goals sends a signal to your subconscious that you are successful. It gives you a sense of momentum. When you miss a goal, the opposite affect occurs. Set goals that you can meet, based on your efforts and excellence. Much like Apolo learned, good goals can contribute heavily to making your dreams come true.
January 17, 2011
Reports just out say that Apple shares are set to take a pounding, overseas markets gave up 8%, because of today's announcement that Steve Jobs is taking medical leave. Forbes is quoting an expert predicting up to 15% carnage to APPL's stock price due to a lowered multiple.
This is typical panic-paranoia-myopia behavior, because Apple will run full steam ahead while Jobs recovers. Many business-beat writers point out the bench strength at the company, the existing innovation pipeline and the reduced role that Jobs is playing. Tim Cook is a rock star, running day-to-day ops. (Business Insider: Apple Is Fine Without Steve Jobs, for now...)
This is typical short term biz-think by investors. When a person feels sick, his ability to be creative, patient or think critically will be inhibited. If Jobs takes a minute to increase his energy level (to use a video game device), he may come back with NEXT BIG THING. I think he deserves not just time off, but pressure off as well. His company is, IMHO, the shining star of USA-Industry right now. He's a super hero in my book.
We've got to send the following message to great leaders that battle with their health: We want you to take time off. We believe in your team. Don't kill yourself on the job on our account: most of us are just gamblers on E-Trade, etc. Buyers, wade in if you see a buying opportunity. Just a few days ago, without much assumption of a Jobsian breakthrough, one writer predicted that Apple would surpass Exxon to be the #1 company in the world. One article posed the question: Will Apple Be The First Trillion Dollar Company?
Quick, who's in charge of Exxon? Is there a central figure that's turning all the switches, bringing all the killer apps to work every day? Nope, and Apple should be no different. I mean honestly, if Bill Gates had bugged out to devote 100% of his energy to non-profit-world in '03 ... would Microsoft be any less or more great right now? And here's another POV - Jobs is an incredibly strong personality that could intimidate other (and better) ways of thinking as Apple grows into its valuation. Ever considered what would happen if Apple became more open or more truly social?
This is my point: Don't put the business on the shoulders of one person. It's not fair to him/her and will punish people for their success with a long-term sentence of 20 hour days, 30 meeting weeks and gigabytes of urgent information flowing through their battered minds. In the long run, much like me, who would want the hassle of starting or running a company of any size or significance?
People freak out, sell and evangelize Apple because of the products' user experience and design wow. Not Steve Job's presentation at the Verizon launch. Find an AppleAddict and ask him/her, name five things you love about Apple. Steve won't be one of them.
BUY APPLE ON THE DIP.
January 13, 2011
A few days ago, a friend sent me a link to a touching story about a Southwest Airlines pilot that held a plane (for 12 minutes!) for a murder victim's father. Even though it's anti-SWA to hold planes, given their strict 15 minute gate turnaround time, this pilot knew what to do. He didn't need to ask permission, because the culture of the company is to love people and be compassionate above all.
(NOTE: We'll set aside Kevin Smith's beef with the company's policies regarding his size.)
Henry Chesbrough, a professor at the Haas School of Business, once defined corporate culture as "a set of values, communicated throughout the organization, that creates a system of social control." In other words, leaders tell their people about the company's top-values, creating an intuition throughout the group -- leading to bold culture-compliant moves like the pilot mentioned above.
In the lore of Nordstrom, the retail department store chain, leaders have communicated 'customers-are-always-right' as an attribute of the culture. They value happy customers above all else. That's what drove a store manager to issue a refund for a set of auto tires to an elderly lady -- even though they don't sell tires! It was the result of a strong culture, and it continues to be emulated at companies like Zappos to this day. Read Delivering Happiness for more on how to build this customer-mania based culture.
Back to Southwest Airlines. Herb and Colleen, from day one, have emphasized that people are precious, including employees. They stress caring for each other, the customer and anyone the business touches. The stock ticker at the company is LUV, and the theme dominates hiring, succession, compensation, training, etc. Over time, they've created a culture that cares through consistent messaging and more important, actions. I think that the recent marketing pushes (no change fees and bags fly free) speak directly to the value of the customer as a person - one that shouldn't be nickeled and dimed to death.
If you want to have a company where the front line operates with the same values you do, you must obsess about clearly communicating it from the new-hire orientation all the way to the annual review. Don't punish people that take chances in the field, based on the values you've been professing. You may just end up with a market that wants to do business with you, instead of one that beats you up over price.
<photo credit www.RightAttitudes.com>
January 11, 2011
Chris Bogdan, pictured above, gave a short acceptance speech after receiving a top-sales person award at his company. He's known as an avid surfer, who spent his vacation time last year in Costa Rica, riding the waves. Not surprisingly, he found a way to relate his job to his passion:
"I don't know if you know this," he started, "but 95% of the time you are out surfing you are either waiting for the wave or getting pounded into the sand by it. But that 5% of the time, when you are riding the wave, everything is worth it. Sales is just like this too. Most of the time, you are either getting pounded or just waiting around for something to happen. But when you make the sale, the thrill makes it all worth it."
Wow. He's spot on. That's the nature of being a sales person: You will be rewarded every so often, and mostly get beat up on or ignored. But you still do it for the thrill, the sale, the meaning that comes at the end of a well executed process. Never forget this. When you get berated, put that in the "almost riding a wave" bucket and not the "this job sucks" category. For surfers, that approach will stop them in their tracks: If they expected to have fun all the time they were out in the water.
For those of you not in sales, thinking that it's a glamorous job that pays to much commissions - consider how glamorous you thought surfing was before you realized what Chris knows.
January 07, 2011
Why? Because no matter how successful you are now, disruption happens. Besides, whatever fuels your current success will likely be commoditized. The New Kid On The Block is coming for your title belt. One friend, Jeremy Ring, told me, "Adding a year to your tenure @ work is not an improvement to your resume. Just ask a 30 year vet at Kodak. Wider resumes lead to longer success runs." He's right too. So now, this is my top priority in January. Change is now my friend, novelty is now interesting and not threatening. Besides, it's nice to think that I'm still growing as a professional and a person. Here's how you can do it too:
1 - Create Three Resumes. Start with 2000, creating a resume that highlights your educational background, work experience, hobbies and interests and achievements. Next, update it through 2006. Finally bring your resume to current date. See how much has changed -- or hasn't? Now you have a good frame of reference.
2 - Declare Your Resume Add For 2011. Start with your interests: What are you curious or passionate about? Is it possibly synergistic with your career or family life? Look at how the world has changed, and what new needs you have in the skills/experience/knowledge area. For me, given the fact that I'm giving more talks in South America (eg. Bogota, etc.), learning Level 1 Spanish is a good candidate for 2011. Good for my mind, makes me better at work. Music, an interest of mine, will be a hobby - meaning: Learning spanish guitar isn't my selection for this year.
3 -Review progress. Don't let March arrive without initializing your project. After Labor Day, make a push to finish your project before Thanksgiving, so you can add it to your resume this time next year.
If you do this, you'll spend more time asking, "What's next" with a sparkle in your voice instead of a whimper. You'll be ready for anything that comes your/our way.
January 04, 2011
I introduced myself as a fellow speaker and we shared a glass of wine. During the course of the conversation, he shared his favorite piece of public speaking advice: "Be brief, be seated."
This quote, originally from Franklin D. Roosevelt, underscores the secret effective meetings of all types: Practice radical brevity. This concept bears true today, more than ever. Time is at a premium. One of the biggest roadblocks to meetings these days it the lack of time to hold them! Still, we schedule one hour keynotes, ninety minute breakouts and four hour dinners! In the brevity economy, this does not add up.
The solution is to shave down the allotted time for meetings and speeches. The annual TED talks, launched by Richard Saul Wurman and Harry Marks in 1990, sported a novel format of an 18 minute keynote. It was enforced with an active moderator and a public countdown timer. The TED talks rank with some of the best of our time. The format works because it forces the speaker to tell a single story and focus on takeaway advice instead of padded premises and never ending stories.
In Brief - The takeaways:
1. When you plan your next meeting, whack all the presentations down to 30 minutes, including the breakouts -- especially the breakouts! This will allow you to compress a three day meeting into a two day meeting (saving some serious cash along the way.)
2. Next time you are asked to speak, offer to do a compressed talk in 30 minutes sans power points (unless you have some compelling images to show.)
3. Take this to your bizlife, shortening internal meetings to 30 minutes (small group) or 45 minutes (large group). Bring a stopwatch to the meeting and have the most senior person in the room serve as timekeeper and enforcer. Develop a reputation as a minute miser and you'll get standing room only crowds.
One of my favorite Mark Twain stories involves the first time he attended a lecture by contemporary philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. Twain attended at the urging of his wife, Olivia Langdon. Fifteen minutes into his sermon, Twain turned to Olivia and remarked, "he's great!" Thirty minutes deeper into Emerson's screed, Twain shrugged his shoulders and muttered, "He's alright, I guess." One hour later, as Emerson mercifully concluded his remarks, Twain took five dollars out of the collection plate!