June 19, 2013
Surprise is a good thing when followed by the phrase, "Happy birthday!" Otherwise, it's a negative emotion, and when it happens in a customer-provider relationship, it's a source of dissatisfaction. Regardless of what you sell or who you serve, your customer's expectations need to be met for you to succeed (in their eyes).
In fact, I think it's an ethical issue: Properly guiding customer expectations is an act of business love. When you've gone out of your way to eliminate surprises and give your customer proper guidance for them to distribute, you are being a compassionate person.
Too often, we over sell our service and under play things that can go wrong. Likely, we lack confidence that the customer will take the good/bad/interesting into account and still do business with us. Often times, people try and "manage" our expectations with a creative lie. Example: You make a walk- in reservation at a restaurant, they tell you it's going to take an hour and in fact, they expect it to be more like 30 minutes. This way, you will be pleasantly surprised. Right?
While this might work for dinner, think about how sandbagging can throw off your customer's internal reporting and management efforts. If you purposely under promise delivery to give your service some slack, your customer makes plans accordingly -- and when you deliver quicker than expected, it's not a good thing after all. Also, it's again an ethical issue, where we lie to customers because we can't trust them with all the information.
Instead of managing your customer's expectations, guide them openly and honestly. Here are a few ways to do it, and still land the deals you are chasing:
1. Sell In Scenarios - Instead of under or over selling, offer up three potential scenarios, and the variables that determine whether they will come to pass. Predicted Outcome is your honest assessment of the product's performance or delivery of the benefits. You should spend considerable time recalculating your company or product's performance to be on top of this scenario. Worst Case Outcome is the disaster scenario, where the benefits may not materialize or worse, there will be negative side effects. In many cases, this scenario occurs due to something the customer does or the complexity/high risk nature of the service you provide. Finally, there is the Best Case Outcome. Stay realistic as you paint this picture, clearly stating what you and the customer need to accomplish to make it a reality. If your customer's expectations start to drift to the Best Case Outcome, make sure you are the reality king or queen here, guiding them back to Predicted Outcome. They will thank you later.
2. Ask the Right Questions - In many cases, your customer is surprised because you didn't ask him or her what they needed to know up front, and ongoing. I've worked in the technology and marketing field for over fifteen years, and this answer can vary from customer to customer. Some are obsessed about delivery dates and others worry about cost overruns. Once you define their priorities, you can create a regular reporting system, where they are constantly updated about project progress.
3. Reset Expectations - If you realize that there is going to be a delay in delivering your service, or a lack of performance in the campaign, time is not on your side. The longer you wait to reveal this to the client, the more they will be upset when they finally find out. When I was producing the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show webcast (held in '99), we had set an expectation that the internet event would be a technical success, and also help the company build an email list for digital marketing. Our co-founder Mark Cuban reviewed my project and told me that "the event will crash the 'Net in less than 10 minutes!" He agreed, though, that the email list campaign would likely be successful, given the attention the event would generate.
He then dispatched me to Columbus to reset the customer's expectations. Our marketing group even did a mock up of a Wall Street Journal article reporting the event's meltdown. This way, we graphically demonstrated the Worst Case Outcome as a likely reality to the client. "It's a healthy problem!" they replied, and the event was still held. And it crashed in less than 10 minutes.
When I returned to Victoria's Secret HQ the following week, I was not scolded, but hugged instead. Why? Executives, partners and even board members got the word up that the event was likely too big for the young internet, which was a testimony to the power of the brand. We over delivered on the email list, and the customer agreed to try the fashion show webcast the following year -- at the Cannes film festival.
Do you have a story about the importance of guiding customer expectations? Share it in the comments and who knows, you might make the pages of my next book.Tweet
February 07, 2013
Recently, I gave a talk on Relationship Power at a big conference that required quite a bit of research prior hand and nuance during delivery. I needed to create a one-of-a-kind talk to specifically help two groups come together, develop empathy for each other and collaborate. As an outsider, you can't wing this, or you'll easily step in a cow pie with the crowd.
And because half of my speech relates to their exact situation, it's brand new material for me. It is not in my treasure trove of advice bits, illustrations or signature stories. Which means that in many cases, even bullet point power point slides only serve as prompts and don't work like a teleprompter. (PS - I never use one. Makes me too stiff and disconnected with audiences.)
So, I rehearsed. Not in my head, or by flipping through my power point slides...I gave the talk. All. The. Way. Through. With my iPad serving as my countdown clock, I gave the talk at home in my studio the week prior to the talk. Taped it and listened to it on the plane. It was excruciating, as I started and stopped the opening five times until I had my legs underneath me.
Did the talk for the client the night I arrived in town, prior to having dinner. All. The. Way. Through. The next morning, I gave the first 20 minutes of it to my mirror at 6am. That was where most of the custom content was. How did the talk go? Fantastic! Felt at ease during the talk, didn't miss any key points, and used my examples without any bobbles or gaffes that could get someone's back up. Later, I received great feedback from members in the audience, as well as my sponsor.
If you are making a really important presentation, or doing some material for the first time, rehearse your talk. Outloud. All. The. Way. Through. You'll thank me later, when you tell me about how you "killed it."
What should you not rehearse? A crucial conversation. Frequently, we face situations when we are going to have a difficult conversation with someone about an emotionally charged situation. We might be mad at her. It might be a disagreement that needs an airing out. It might be a confrontation, where you are expecting answers from him.
The worst thing you can do is rehearse for this. Why? You are spring loading your negative feelings as you go over it in your mind (and sometimes outloud, especially as your brush your teeth or make eye contact in your car's rear view mirror.) The more you think or rehearse what you are going to say, the more your emotion's get spun up.
Also, when you rehearse, you frequently think about what she or he will say in their defense. At that point, you think of your follow up responses, and conjur up a debate or blowout in the process. Later, when you have your crucial conversation, when she replies to your charge, you'll loudly proclaim, "I knew you were going to say that!!!!"
And then it's on like Donkey Kong.
In this case, you'll do better to wing it. Let it play out without much pre-planning, other than to focus on what's really important in this situation. Are we trying to fix something that's broken, take care of a client or keep our word? Then that's all the conversation should be about. Finally, when we head into the crucial conversation, we need to remember: It's not a performance, it's an encounter.Tweet
June 04, 2012
Too often, when we think we are 'networking', we are actually trolling for assistance in one of our ventures. We are screening people to see if they have use to us, and if we might possess currency we can trade for their assets. It's a quid-pro-quo approach, and to me, is just salesmanship.
Networking occurs when you connect two or more people together that should meet - and then get out of the way! (BTW: If you expect something in return for your networking efforts, you are just a broker that's peddline your network).
So, here's the best way to change from a Prospector or Broker into a real-live Networker of value: Stop asking people "What do you do?" Instead, ask them, "what are you doing these days that I might be able to help you with?" Resist all tempations to uncover potential value to you, and ignore their offers to pay it back.
By focusing on what others are doing, dreaming about, trying to do, struggling through, etc., you shift your perspective from trading to contributing. Dale Carnegie said it best: "You will win more friends and accomplish more in the next two months, developing a sincere interest in two people than you will ever accomplish in the next two years, desperately trying to get two people interested in you."
The best networkers I've ever met, such as Keith Ferrazzi, spend 80% of their conversations probing to find out how he can add value through an introduction. 80%. He's relentless when he asks, "what are you enthused about these days," and as a result, has the unique opportunity to enrich hundreds or thousands of lives per year.
For more, read Masters Of Networking by Ivan Misner.
August 10, 2011
If you are kind, connected and calm - people will relate to you.
They'll be loyal, supportive, helpful and caring back to you. They will buy from you. That's the value of relationships, you bring out the best in others. You create teams instead of silos. You generate value instead of capturing it. So, mastering the fine art of relationship development is important to your business life.
Over my career, I've isolated the two ingredients that Relationship Masters contain: Emo-Talent and Generosity. Check out this video clip for more on this.
PS - Keith Ferrazi has a Relationship Masters Academy with great resources. Check it out!
July 07, 2011
Empathy is a powerful relationship glue. When you attempt to see things from another person's perspective, you validate his feelings, helping him feel like he's not alone in his suffering or joy.
But, especially at work, we #fail to show Empathy when others are afraid or upset. As managers, when the organizational change or new plan is revealed, we roll up our sleeves, prepared to tell all the fraidy cats or naysayers that "they should be afraid or upset."
We tick off all the reasons they should accept and be happy (opposite emotions) about this change or new circumstance. We attempt to extinguish other people's bad feelings like a fire in the wastepaper basket. And then they slink off, feeling even worse for the wear. After all, they didn't need to be convinced, they needed someone to listen.
In his remarkable book, The 8th Habit, Dr. Stephen Covey Sr. explains that in many cases, people who are emotional distraught just want to be heard. When they feel like they've been heard, the negative emotions usually evaporate. But, again, that's not the conventional wisdom when faced with negative emotions in others. Fix it, cancel it, talk the other person out of it - change the subject, anything but absorb it. Men are the worst.
To truly be empathetic, you need to be a powerless listener, making an earnest attempt to understand the pain from the other's point of view.
What's the right response? When faced with negative emotions in others, learn how to say, "I'm sorry" or "I'm sorry you feel that way" or "I can only imagine how you must feel." Those are good empathy vehicles. Don't confuse empathy with sympathy (eg. "I know how you feel, I had that happen to me in the past too.") While that might create a little community in misery via a reference point, you don't really know how he feels just because you've been in similar circumstances before.
In this video clip (Powerless Listening/The Day Anthony Went Off To College), I talk about the power of empathy, and why we love our kids or our pets so much. They treat feelings as facts - not opinions offered up by others for our repair or judgement.
March 21, 2011
Every morning, my waking thoughts are ones of gratitude.
I think about people from the previous day who were there to help me. I think about a person in the coming day who will be a part of my success. This focus helps me realize something: I am not alone. I have an abundance of support, and I'm not the Lone Ranger. And when I think of them, how much they want to help me, and how it means to my work - my heart gets full of Love. A big steaming cup of wake-up-in-love for your helpers.
I love the people that help me succeed. I appreciate them, and later in life I'll certainly think of them fondly - like a war buddy or a frat brother. Who do you love in your career life? Are you thinking about your support system every morning or do you wake up and check your email and get overwhelmed?
If you haven't done it recently, you should identify the people in your bizlife that make you successful. And then you need to express your gratitude for them and help them back. That's love at work. Here are a few ways to approach this:
1. Begin every morning with ten minutes of gratitude thinking. Search your memory for instances of assistance from the previous day or week. Give advance thanks to someone that you think will help you in your day ahead.
2. Express your gratitude. You can send a short email, make a call or tell that person when you see them next. Don't hold it inside, because without expression, you are not committing yourself. When you express gratitude, you are painting yourself into a positive corner.
3. Tune yourself to notice assistance. If you do this exercise for a few weeks, you'll find that you are thanking the same people over and over again. You'll be motivated to find new subjects for your gratitude, and if you try, you'll spot them hiding in the daily woodwork. The more you focus on all the support you get, the more you'll realize that you are far from alone. You have dozens of people helping you, sometimes a few clicks away from your normal point of view. Trace the help back a few steps and meet some new people that are behind-the-scene, making you more effective.
This idea is just one of many mood and confidence boosting techniques featured in Today We Are Rich: Harnessing The Power Of Total Confidence - Buy your copy today or download a free eBook excerpt from it at TWAR.com.
March 18, 2011
For many leaders, managers and parents, giving criticism is a fine art.
Go too lightly, and you aren't doing your job. Lean too heavy and you can demoralize someone who's really giving his all. Napoleon Bonaparte once said, "the leader's role is to define reality, then give hope." So true. Applies to criticism as well.
Part of your Emotional Talent arsenal is the ability to give feedback to help your people improve or succeed without unduly creating negative emotions. The way to do that is to follow a few rules:
1 - Wait a little while before issuing criticism: Let it simmer, or at least let your first wave of emotions subside. If you can, sleep on it before you act.
2 - NEVER use email to issue criticism. It's very weak at relaying your intentions (coach or dictator?). Have the guts to give it face to face or at least over the phone. This will increase your effectiveness by 500% according to Mehrabian's research on how others decode our messages for intent.
3 - Objectify failure. When a product turns out wrong, it's still a thing. When an event doesn't come off as it should, it's still just a thing. Too often, we personalize it, associating people with the #fail. To that I say, "Criticize the outcome, not the person." One CEO at a software company used to gather this development team around a conference table when a product launch failed, putting a box in the middle for everyone to deposit "project artifacts" such as discs, mock ups, emails, etc. He had each person take an object out of the box and talk about the why-it-happened and how-you-feel about it. It really worked - sucking the funk out of the room and focusing on 2.0.
4 - Last but not least, don't be Waffly when you give criticism. If you are going to say the outcome was below expectations, don't hedge it with a bunch of might's maybe's or other wamby pamby talk. You need to be very clear, or you'll end up in a debate, giving forgiveness way to early or losing any credibility for future feedback. Your folks need to know that you are strong in your beliefs, even if you are thoughtful in your delivery.
For more, read Crucial Conversations a GREAT book on the subject.
February 02, 2011
This is the core idea behind research on The Pygmalion Effect: People sense what you expect of them, and respond accordingly. Sometimes, and it's rare, they do the opposite. Note that I say 'rare' as in less than 10% of the time or so.
If you want to be an effective sales person, you have to possess a positive bias about your suspects, prospects, customer and company. Otherwise, you'll use false urgency or misrepresentation to make the sale - and you'll likely turn on your company on a dime. If you are a leader, and you have a distrusting attitude about people, you'll bully, mislead and manipulate them to go in your direction. The minute your performance slips, though, they too will turn on you.
There's a thread that runs through all my books and speeches, and it has to do with my point-of-view about human beings. I believe that people are good, fair and loyal. They want the same things you and I want. They almost always give back when given to or pay it forward. When they are selfish, boorish or mean-spirited, they are motivated by suffering or fear. Only in rare cases do human break this design-mold.
But in our minds, the ego magnifies each violation of the 'give-back-be-good' ethic, making us think that people are usually in it for themselves, or at least half the time, takers instead of givers. It seems that way, because no one wants to be taken advantage of. That's the ego talking. If you wrote down a list of every person you've been generous too, and circled the ones who took-the-good and ran - you'll find that in about 80-90% of cases, my theory came true. This exercise is liberating, because it frees you up to be an investor, not a user. It frees you up to be a giver, not a taker.
Here's the takeaways from my POV:
1 - Design your business to assume that people are kind, fair and loyal. For employees, take some risks and be generous with them from Day 1. For customers, trust that when you give them value, they will give you back goodwill, future income and satisfaction. There's a business model out there called "The People Customer Model" - where you take care of employees, who then take care of customers and partners - putting your enterprise into a trust based virtuous cycle of profits.
2 - When people are bad, find the Tiny Tim story or the Fear source. I talk about this in The Likeability Factor: Most negative behavior, especially bullying or pessimism, is driven by a suffering. When employees at Yahoo complained to me about co-workers in this regard, I challenged them to do some research first - finding the Tiny Tim in their life (personal problems, health issues, etc.) that explain the behavior. In a remarkable number of cases, they came back brimming with empathy, because I was right - The bad guys were sleeping on a friend's coach, battling a health scare or suffering from a life of being mistrusted and/or abused. In some cases, the selfish were, in fact, fighting for their economic or political survival. Here's the point, if you judge a person as bad before you do your research, your ego is running the show.
3 - Make yourself vulnerable by extending trust to others, even those you've just met. Over time, this habit will pay dividends, because people will trust you back. If you haven't read my post on Mack Brown ("Develop a Sincere Interest In Others"), it's a good follow up to this post. Do not wait for people to earn your trust and generosity - by that point, your response is merely calculated. This is what Dale Carnegie meant when he wrote, "you'll accomplish more by developing a sincere interest in people, than trying to get people interested in you."
Read an excerpt from Love Is The Killer App from Fast Company for of my perspective.
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.
December 22, 2010
In other words, without a gracious receiver, gift-giving can be awkward, disappointing or worse - escalating. Sometime during the last decade, a new type of giving-mentality has erupted: You can't outgive me, I'm the Big-Giver around here!
Whether personal or professional, we've come to realize that when we give to others, we build our relationships and trigger the law of reciprocity. Or, as I'd say as a Lovecat, "Nice Smart People Succeed." So now it's an arms race of gift giving, where we one-up people's <feeble> attempts to give, give-back or be generous with us. I call this 'Bully Giving' - where the intention of the giver is to own the receiver, if only for a minute. In a holiday season scenario, where gifts are usually exchanged, this creates a bad situation.
Here's my point: We need to be good receivers, so others can experience the "Joy Of Giving". This is not a competition to see who the best giver is, or whether we are Net Givers in an exchange situation. It's about the spirit of giving, gratitude and love. And that requires as many good receivers as it does good gift givers. When you are given to this season, here are three ways you can embrace the art of receiving gifts:
1 - Be Available. When someone gives to you, be in full-receive mode. Pay attention to the card, what he says as he hands it to you, the packaging and most of all - the thoughtfulness behind the gift. Don't change the subject. Don't apologize that your gift is or may be smaller. Don't hold back emotions, in fact, make yourself emotionally available to truly show some happiness!
2 - Be Authentically Grateful. Use receiving a gift as a platform to state your feelings for the giver. Let him/her know you are grateful for the gift, but even more, for the relationship or association. Let the moment of your expressed gratitude linger. As I talk about in my next book (Today We Are Rich), gratitude is a muscle, not a feeling. We need to work it out to increase our spiritual strength. After the holidays (or your B-Day), sit down and write Thank You notes, and be very specific about what the gift means to you, and how you'll put it to use. You don't need to reserve Thank You cards for weddings, graduations, etc.
(Note: When you express your gratitude, you are giving your Giver positive feedback. That will motivate the giver to keep on giving, because it's working. I call this living in the Good Loop and it requires positive feedback.)
3 - Be Humble. In the moment of receiving, be a little in debt to your giver. Don't analyze the gift in terms of whether it's big enough, too big, a surprise or better than other gifts you are getting. It's not a competition or an acid-test of others' feelings for you. It is a gift, and you are the recipient. Don't immediately respond with a superior gift, so as to take the moment away from the other.
Over the next few days, you'll have many chances to put this into play. During your next birthday, you'll really have an opportunity to say Thanks! and help spread the joy of giving.