November 05, 2013

Mastering the Lost Art Of Phone Excellence

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More than ever, telephone mastery is the key to success. In my work, the phone is my number one tool to close deals, network, conduct deep research and build relationships.  It's a magic medium that allows me to connect deeply without the time-space requirements of face to face meetings. 

A phone call is much higher touch than an email exchange. You can hear someone's intentions in their tone of voice, unlike reading one of his or her emails. The interactivity of a phone call allows for adjustments, explanations, retraction and exploration.  While this might make common sense, in reality, it's not a common practice in the digital age. 

Over the last decade, many of us moved our conversations from the phone to the Inbox, thinking we would be much more efficient and less interruptive.  Generation Y doesn't like to make or receive calls, instead preferring a text.  The idea of voice exchange to many feels like 1999. 

As a result, many of us conduct our phone calls on-the-go, usually over our smart phone.  We call people in our car, while we wait on our next flight, when we eat and whenever we can squeeze it in. We likely think that the quality of our work isn't suffering, but in fact, it is.  

Our calls are often garbled, as reception varies when we are on the move.  We are constantly distracted by traffic, people interacting with us, our computers and anything that crosses our periphery during the call.  At best, we are giving 50% of our attention to the call.  If you've been on the other end of one of these mobile calls, you know exactly what I mean.   

While calls on the go might work for simple transactional work, it's no way to make friends and influence people.  Your mobile phone work gives very low ROA (Return On Attention), which will cause you to lose access to them in real-time.  And real-time is the new face-time in business.  

If you are going to schedule a phone call with someone of any length, consider the following appraoch: 

* Schedule calls for no more than 30 minutes.  Send information prior to the call, so the entire conversation is about reaching a decision, understanding a situation or charting a plan of action.  

* Conduct the call on a landline or via a super dependable connection.  If you are Skyping, make sure you have an ethernet connection.  

* Conduct the call in a closed door environment with no distracting noises or window scenery. 

* Create a written outline for your call so you can begin it with your computer screen OFF.  Never do any computer work during the call unless you are looking something up by request or looking at a website for the purpose of the conversation.

* If the call is part of a project or a sale, get permission to record it so you can capture all of its value. Send the audio file out to Rev for inexpensive transcription.  You'd be surprised how much gold you'll find in the transcripts.  For your conversational partner, it's pretty impressive when they receive an edited transcript from the call.  Really values their time (and content) highly! (PS - Rev only charges $1 per recorded minute, no minimum.) 

* Send an email after the call, highlighting what was agreed upon and next steps. 

The keys then to a great call are preparation, focus and followup.  If you adopt this practice, you'll find that your phone is your best weapon to acquire new business, delight customers and gain valuable insights.  You'll leave the thumb warrior smart phone crowd in the dust. 


October 31, 2013

Here's How To Steer Your Career Sideways

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Success is not a destination, it's a direction: Forward.  However, it's surprisingly easy to end up going sideways in life.  Aimlessly moving neither forward nor backward.  Passing time, waiting for a sign or a miracle.  I've experienced this in my life, and I'm sure at some point you likely have too.  

In some cases, a tragedy or adversity sends us spinning like a top.  A death in the family, a lost job, foreclosure, divorce, etc.  But in most cases, we go sideways because of our thought patterns and not reality.  While life is still good to us, we find a way to go negative on the inside, and quickly steer our career into the abyss.  Our thoughts shape our way of seeing the world, and design our emotional response system.  

How does this happen? We change what we put into our mind.  We start to listen to a new program on the way to work.  At first, we enjoy the shocking news or crude humor, but then it eventually seeps into our psyche.  Or we start to hang out with a mean spirited or pessimistic person at work. He eventually convinces us the sky is falling and that most people are 'out to get you'.  

As we are adding these negative inputs, we stop consuming the positive.  Our mind is quite binary in that it's hard to enjoy both diets at the same time.  The former inoculates us from the latter.  If the world is coming to an end and people can't be trusted, how can you be grateful?  

At some point, the negative inputs change our focal point, and our work suffers greatly.  Our new perspective makes us less appealing to others and less resilient when faced with a challenge.  The little failures that follow likely confirm our dour outlook, and we add to the problem by increasing the negative inputs: More bad friends, more bad programming.  

Here's the risk: At some point you stop moving sideways, gain traction and then enter the downward spiral.  Going backwards into self-destruction.  That's when it becomes hard to right the ship.  There's not clear threshold either. You won't see the shift into reverse coming. 

Here's your way out: Feed Your Mind Good Stuff.  Be as judicious about what you put into your head as what you put into your mouth.  If you find yourself muttering internally about all the things wrong with your life, this country or the world -- check your sources of information.  Scrutinize them for positive-neutral-negative intentions. Rethink your media patters and consider changing out your work friendships.  

Once you scrub out the negative inputs in your life, replace them with constructive ones.  Spend your first 45 minutes of each morning reading from a book that gives you confidence, inspiration or direction.  Find a new colleague at work to lunch or spend time with, and give her as much positive feedback as she gives you. Quickly, you'll find yourself moving forward again, as your thoughts dictate your actions and reactions.  

If you know someone who has suddenly jerked his career sideways, and you cannot figure out why, now you know. And it's time for YOU to be the positive inputs in his life. 

Posted at 8:45 AM in Abundance , Business Effectiveness  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)  |  TrackBack (0)

October 24, 2013

Music Can Soothe The Stranded Traveler

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Last Saturday I was stranded in the Cartagena Colombia airport for almost six hours.  I was not alone. Early that morning, the radar system at the Panama City airport went down, causing all flights in and out of it to be delayed.  As it's the hub for the entire region, which meant that all travelers in Cartagena would wait in the gate lounge until the situation clears up. 

By 3pm, we were all tense, tired and stressed out about our connections. The silence was deafening. Then, something magic happened.  Members of the University of Richmond symphony whipped out their instruments, tuned them quickly, and launched into an impromptu concert for us.  

Within seconds, the mood at the gate lounge was transformed from misery to ecstasy.  At this moment, I realized that music is one of the most powerful forces in the world. It can soothe our soul and make us forget our problems. When they finished, there were smiles all around. People begin to strike up conversations with each other and by 4pm, we got the good news that the Panama City airport was back up and running. Many of us talked about the power of music and vowed to listen to more of it ... especially when we were stressed out during times of travel.  

I shot a video of their first song. Note how loud the applause was, and how surprised they were at the positive feedback.  VIDEO: THE AIRPORT LOUNGE SYMPHONY. 

Posted at 8:41 AM in Music, Movies and TV Shows , Travel  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)  |  TrackBack (0)

October 15, 2013

The Secret To Mark Cuban's Startup Success

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As I travel around the world to give speeches or to consult, I'm often asked about my experience working for Mark Cuban.  While many are curious about what it was like to work for him, some dig deeper, asking for my opinion about his secret to success. 

My answer is always the same: He understood how to build powerful customer relationships. Beginning with his first startup (MicroSolutions), he adopted a mantra: Make Love, Not War.  I've met several of his former clients, and they've all remarked about how responsive he was to their needs, even when they seemed overly demanding. He'd personally visit their office, getting underneath desks if necessary to check wiring. He'd answer emails in the middle of the night without any grousing. It endeared him to customers who usually had to fight to get their value from solution providers. 

When I went to work for him at AudioNet (later to become broadcast.com), he repeated this mantra often.  He explained that too many companies often go to war with clients that don't easily fit into their value chain. Make money or war was their approach. 

In Cuban's view, the secret to customer success was to find out what they liked, then give it to them consistently.  He believed that a service provider needs to design their company around the customer's needs and wants.  He didn't just talk this game, he lived it daily.

If there was a disagreement about the quality of our service, the customer was right and the invoice was torn up. If a customer felt slighted, he or she was welcome to contact Mark directly to resolve the issue.  The culture of his startups was about being tuned into and responsive to the desires of the customer - and not the investors/owners.  

That's why he retained customers even though he operated on the bleeding edge of technology, where failure was a commonplace occurance.  In this sense, it works just like our personal relationships.  If we make love, not war, we are often forgiven for our imperfections. Or as author Steve Farber once told me, "If you are an electrician, and your client loves you, you can burn down their house they they'll say 'accidents happen'!" 

For more, read his book: How To Win At The Sport Of Business

Posted at 7:45 AM in Business Effectiveness  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)  |  TrackBack (0)

October 10, 2013

Here's My Technique For Overcoming Stage Fright

A few years ago, I discovered a technique for overcoming stage fright.  We all likely have to fight through nerves when making presentations, sales pitches or participating in meetings -- especially when the audience is tough or the stakes are high.  

I've learned that our performance is a function of our thinking patterns, and in particular, the state of our subconcious mind.  If we are confident, we can relax for easy power.  If we are afraid, we are either too timid or inappropriately bombastic.  Furthermore, the last thoughts we take to the stage ultimately frame our mood and outlook. 

So what are your last thoughts before it's go-time?  In this keynote excerpt, I share my fear-busting technique with a group of high performing sales people.  While it seems like a simple plan, it requires one's imagination and determination to rise above the situation.  Can you do this? 

Reload A Success Experience For Total Confidence by Tim Sanders

Reload A Success Experience by Tim Sanders from Tim Sanders on Vimeo.


October 08, 2013

How To Survive A 10 Flight Week

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It's that time of year for professional speakers, when we live out of suitcases and travel non-stop on the fall lecture circuit.  A few weeks ago I reached a milestone: Ten flights in a single week. My travels took me to Chicago, Jackson Hole, Phoenix and Colorado Springs.  I spent as much time in planes and airports as I did hotels and conference centers.  

When I got home on Saturday night, I must admit, I was taxed from the multi-segment week.  But I survived.  As a seasoned road warrior, I had a plan for my 10 flight week.  It worked as well as any plan works for a human going through this much stress and strain.  

1.  Plan Well So You Can Mosey -- The secret to a wall-to-wall week of travel is to take it easy. If you are constantly rushing around, the stress adds up quickly, and can take your health with it. I plan, double check the plans, and then rehearse them mentally during the weekend leading up to the trip. I leave padding in each segment of the schedule, which results in a little more gate time than I like, but it beats running through the airport.  Whenever possible, when I arrive early enough to consider an earlier flight to my next destination, I put myself on the standby list.  

2. Sit Towards the Front -- My favorite seat on a plane is the second row (behind the dreaded bulkhead seat) in the section.  On American long haul flights, that's 9A (window).  I don't get bumped when the plane is loading and I'm one of the first people off the plane.  It makes a big difference. 

3. Talk To People Sitting Next To You -- Sitting in silence makes flights longer, and the whole traveling experience more unbearable.  I usually strike up a pleasant conversation either as we taxi out or better yet, when we are descending to our final destination.  In many cases, I've made friends and valuable business contacts.  

4. Don't Forget Your Health -- I never pass a water fountain in an airport. I eat oatmeal or simple eggs every morning before I board my first flight. I wash my hands whereever I can find hot water and soap.  I program days to ensure 7 hours of sleep (I'll post something later on how I sleep well on the road).  If you get run down, sick or dehydrated, the whole travel experience can turn on you quickly.  When I get home from a long travel week, I rehab with a massage and plenty of good food and water.  

What are your travel secrets for an action packed week?  Share them in comments!

Posted at 9:01 AM in Travel  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)  |  TrackBack (0)

September 27, 2013

You Need To Do This At Your Organization From Day One

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Earlier this year, I was sitting around a table of successful entrepreneurs, listening to them talk about lessons learned in startup world.  One founder would soon sell his company for almost two hundred million dollars and the person sitting across from him had just successfully raised one hundred million bucks from Silicon Valley VCs.  These two cats knew their stuff. 

"If you could change anything about how you built your business, what would it be?" the recently funded CEO asked.  

"I would have built culture from day one," replied the soon-to-be-swimming in dollars CEO.  "Just like Tony did at Zappos, start with culture then layer on a strategy.  If you wait until 20 people, it's probably too late.  If you wait until 100 people, you'll need to clean house unless you've been very lucky in recruiting people that are naturally tuned into your values."  Deep.  

Last week, I gave a keynote at Foundercon, an annual leadership event for Tech Stars alumns. (If you haven't read Do More Faster, you should grab it right away.)  Along with sharing my perspective from Love Is the Killer App, I talked to them about the critical importance of prioritizing the building of culture.  My message was that when culture builds itself, the buildings look like silos - not a collaborative web.  

I believe that culture is a conversation about "how we do things here." Most culture is centered on how team members relate to each other as well as the outside world.   The leaders initiate the conversation, then punctuate it with action.  They don't hire people that don't fit the culture and they reward the ones that do in succession planning.  It's all done very publicly, often talked about and frequently marketing at a visual level. (Signs of "Done Is Better Than Perfect" were everywhere at young facebook.) 

Whether you are starting a company, church or a team, if you want to lead, be on top of the conversation.  The value of culture building lies in Henry Chesbrough's definition of the concept: "A set of values, properly expressed and enforced, that creates a system of social control." If the culture is strong, every team member knows exactly what to do, even when the leaders aren't there to tell them.  If the culture is about transparency, information is disclosed when asked for. If it's about putting the customer first, then refunds with no questions asked are given by associates, even before it becomes a codified policy. 

Here's the three keys to building culture, even with a small group: 

1.  Choose a few values that define the purpose of your business.  Make sure they are based on helping people or solving their problems.  Choose values you can get a teenager and a grand parent excited about.  HINT: "Maximizing shareholder returns" is a really lame value statement.  Sounds like a corporate conglomorate, which is fine for investors...but they are gone after they write the check...you need talent, partners and fans. 

2. Adopt rituals to promote your values, and integrate them into the fabric of your group.  Not just signs or placards, you need to plan events or choreograph group behavior around values.  If you value collaboration, have a Friday beer bust and be mindful of messaging.  If you value customer experience, host an annual gathering of them to open your ears and iterate.  Saturn automobile used this ritual to build relationships with customers, and at the same time, to cement their values around creating a wow experience for customers.

3. Use these values to make hiring, budgetary, firing and rewards decision.  If you are working at an established company, but fear that you need to re-build culture -- you'll likely need to let a few people go that don't fit.  Words may resonate, but actions motivate others to buy-in. 

What are your organization's values?  How are you driving them into the conversation?  Would love to hear about it in comments.  

Posted at 7:31 AM in Business Effectiveness , Leadership  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)  |  TrackBack (0)

September 20, 2013

Networking Mastery Tip: Expect Nothing In Return

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Great networkers share one attribute: Generosity.  They put people together that "should meet" for the love of helping others and NOT to generate social debt.  They derive delight from knowing their networking efforts are multiplying value in others.

This is perhaps one of the hardest things to grasp as a networker.  Often, we've been socialized to think that networking is an exchange of value.  Like trading baseball cards.  The problem is that it doesn't usually work out that way.  When you make a valuable introduction, there isn't always a quid-pro-quo available.  So you wait. 

Then later, when your intro has turned into a bona fide opportunity, it's easy to internally expect something out of it, or even worse, ask for a piece of the action.  That's bad for two reasons: First, it sets you up for disappointment.  Often people can't pay you pack, don't pay you back or pay it forward to someone else.  If you've been expecting something, your disappointment will inhibit you next time a networking opportunity presents itself. 

When you ask for something in return, you are no longer a networker. You are a people-broker. It usually makes other feel pressured, offended or put off.  Sometimes we subtly present the match-making bill by asking, "so how did that introduction pan out?" The mere follow up shows that we are tracking it, and can put subtle pressure on your networkee to somehow offer something up in return. 

So connect others, get out of the way, and pretend it never happened.  This will differentiate you to others, and show them you only have their best interests at heart.  It will also ensure that you can continue to do it for the rest of your life, without becoming jaded. 

Finally, suppose that your networkee, out of a sense of gratitude, offers to do something for you in return.  This happens a lot.  You agree to make an important connection, and your beneficiary says, "And I can help you too..."

It's easy to go with it, working out a trade in real-time.  But you are getting distracted from the task at hand when you do that!  Stay focused on making this connection.  Say this instead: "If this works out, all I ask is that you do the same for someone in the future.  I just want to help you, and I want nothing in return." 

It will likely baffle most, and in many cases will be a refreshing source of surprise and delight.  Over time, you'll build up a lot of trust that way, and your network will explode with serendipitous introductions from others think quite warmly of you.  

For more: The Elmer Letterman Story

 


September 13, 2013

What I Took Away From My Keynote Experience In Wisconsin

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This Tuesday, I had the pleasure of being the opening keynote at the Cultivate Fox Cities conference in Neenah, Wisconsin.  What a great community of business professionals! They exhibit a set of mid-western values including a put-people-first mindset, a long view and pride driven tenacity.  

Stanley Marcus Jr. counseled me to share my knowledge when and wherever I can, especially if I think it can add value.  He told me there was a side-benefit that would help me greatly over my career: Feedback.  He told me, "You'll never get dumber by trying to make someone else smarter." He's right too.  When I speak at events like this, my talking points get feedback and often, my future talks are enriched by them. 

At the Cultivate event, my talk (The Power Of Great Relationships) was based on the idea that we should share our knowledge and our network with people we do business with to "multiply their value."  This is the secret to sustainable success and real business power.  

1. Share Knowledge: I propose always having a mentee, which you select because he or she is going places and you know something that can help them.  Beth, a local award winning mentor, told me afterwards that prior to engaging with her mentees, she gives them an outline of what they'll cover and when.  She often gives it to them in writing, in advance of their first real engagement. "It's a curriculum, and you should expect them to follow it," she explained.  Good point. 

2. Share Your Network: I believe that we should introduce three people every week that should meet. To do that, I advised my audience to reverse the conversation when meeting new people (at events, on the job, etc.).  Instead of seeing if they can help you or if they have status, we instead, screen their life situation to see if we've got network contacts to offer them.

Steve, a new entrepreneur just a few years out of college, approached me after the talk to tell me about how difficult it is to "break in to networking" when it's hard to figure out who new contacts really need to meet. He also said that if you have a small network, you need to look for a friend-of-a-friend contact if you want to add value.  "I think good networkers ask good questions," he told me.  It's not like casual conversation yields a list of "gotta meet" people.  So asking, "What do you do?" may be an unproductive ice breaker.  Instead, he's been taking a page from Never Eat Alone, opening conversations with "What are you you working on that you are excited about?" 

Plussing with him, I suggested we can delve into the networking dig even = deeper with "And who do you need to meet to get there?" Or, "Are their any hurdles?  What will it take to jump over them?"  

Expect more trip reports in the future.  Next week, I'm giving a keynote at TechStars' annual FounderCon conference.  I'll be talking about Putting People First to 350+ startup founders. I'm certain they'll give me a lot of feedback too...


September 10, 2013

Do This If You Want To Protect Your Abundance Mentality

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The abundance mentality comes from your belief that there is enough to share.  It drives your success in both business and life.  Without it, you possess the scarcity mindset, a primal way of seeing the world.  While racked with scarcity-think, you'll hoard what you have, be jealous of those who are doing well and repel opportunities from your life. 

I believe that the abundance mentality is MUCH more driven by our environment than our personality.  All things being equal, kids are natrually generous with each other.  Over time, based on their context and experiences, they either maintain that perspective or trade it in on the scarcity mindset. 

These days, it's pretty easy to create an environment that induces scarcity-think.  You turn on the news, and they bang the drums of gloom, doom and despair.  You hang out with people that declare the sky is falling.  You surf social media sites, often being drawn into bad-news or tragedies of the day. 

In Vegas, there's a prevailing idea: Keep the betters at the table long enough and the house wins. This works the same for you: Keep eating negative information and eventually the forces of Scarcity win the battle for your mind.  And you stop giving, loving and caring.  You adopt unnatractive personality traits like envy and selfishness.  You compete when you should be collaborating. 

How do you avoid this? FEED YOUR MIND GOOD STUFF.  You should be as careful about what you put into your head as you are about what you put into your mouth.  You should avoid all types of media that are designed to grab your attention VS those designed to feed your mind helpful information.  If you'd like my entire system of Good Mind Food, download this free chapter from Today We Are Rich. 

One last idea: Your mind's breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Don't load up on info-carbs like your email Inbox, social media and TV news.  Instead, spend a 1/2 hour or so reading out of a book that expands your mind, makes you better at your job or gives you a glimpse into the future. 

Norman Mailer called his morning reading ritual "combing his brain." That's a great way to think about what it takes to stay positive, confident and generous.  

For more, check out Mojo Rising: Get Out Of Scarcity Thinking on Vimeo. 

Tim Sanders: Mojo Rising Keynote from Tim Sanders on Vimeo.

Posted at 8:40 AM in Abundance , Business Effectiveness  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)  |  TrackBack (0)

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