9 posts categorized "November 2011"

November 29, 2011

Reduce your word count and win the deal

Here's a rule of thumb for sales: The less the prospects talks, the less they buy. 

This might run counter to conventional sales-pro wisdom, but in my experience this is true.  In my 2nd book (The Likeability Factor) I quote findings from a 2004 study at Yale that concluded that the highly-likeable sales person (with strong listening skills) outperforms...why?  The prospect gives her better information to craft the perfect proposal.  If you've ever lost a sale when you had the best product at the right price, know you know why: The other side had better insights into the prospect's problem than you did.

When I was Chief Solutions Officer at Yahoo!, many of our pitches were for millions of dollars.  Since these were such big deals, our prospects were fine with us recording and transcribing our meetings, so there would be no misunderstandings later and all of the promises made in-meeting would be kept. 

Along the way, I discovered the importance of reducing our word count.  When I had the recordings transcribed into Word, I had one of my researchers split the conversations into word counts - measuring what we said versus what the prospects said.  A pattern emerged: When the prospect talked more than a third of the meeting, they were significantly more likely to buy, escalate their interest to a senior level or agree to the next meeting to move forward.  When they talked less than twenty percent, they were significantly less likely to buy or, for that matter, take another high level meeting with us.  

Since then, I've conducted this experiment with multiple companies and the results are pretty much in line.  Based on all of this experience, here's what I recommend for you and your team's word count for successful sales meetings (be it selling a product or creating a strategic partnership):  First meeting: Client = 33% or more of word count.  2nd meeting on: Client = 50% or more of word count. Here are a few tips on how to pull this off: 

1.  Prepare thoughtful questions before a meeting.  Prospects don't come to meetings armed with content for conversation, you do.  So, do resarch on their problems, challenges and business priorities, and put together a Q/A list for the meeting.  Think through the process, creating follow up questions based on anticipated answers. For geeks, think of this as a 'conversation wireframe'. 

2. Begin the meeting with the questions and save the Power Point presentation for the end (or as a leave behind or follow up).  This forces the meeting into dialogue and immediately improves your word count ratio. 

3. Test yourself often! Get permission to record and transcribe the meeting, offering to send to them as a follow up.  (This is a good practice if you want to ensure follow up!).  You can use SpeakWrite to inexpensively transcribe any audio files you create (on your smart phone or via a pocket recorder.)  You'll get back a transcript that clearly identifies your content vs theirs.  Copy all of yours to a new document and you'll have your word count.  Do the same for the prospect.  This will allow you to clearly measure how you are doing - and when you measure, you will improve! 

For more: Talk Less, Say More: 3 Habits To Influence Others & Make Things Happen by Connie Dieken 


November 23, 2011

ThanksGiving Prescription: Exercise Your Gratitude Muscle

Think of Thanksgiving as a platform to express, feel and share gratitude. 

It's easy, with all this Black Thursday Night and Black Friday talk, to think of Thanksgiving as a commercially made up holiday.  But it's not.  It's certainly at risk of being hijacked by the money changers, but still, it was created to observe a moment in spirit.  A moment of abundance, community and fulfillment. 

Many of you are up to your ears in last minute work or travel plans.  But don't let that distract from the opportunity at hand: Give thanks.  In Today We Are Rich, I talk about how my grandmother Billye always reminded me that gratitude is a muscle, not a feeling.  "If it was a feeling," she'd say, "you'd feel it all the time!" 

So, the key to staying gracious (gratitude is a compound word: Gracious+Attitude), is to flex your mental ability to sense bounty, attribute it correctly and express your feelings accordingly.  There's no time like Thanksgiving to do that, without raising any suspicions amongst the cynics.  Here's what I recommend for tomorrow, before the Turkey and football: 

1 - Itemize your support system: Spiritual, Family, Friends, Work and Community.  Think of their intentions towards you, how much they love you or are aligned with your goals.  Always start gratitude exercises out focused on the sources of abundance (people, God, etc.) and not the symptoms of abundance (wealth, stuff, luxuries).  

2 - Review how much your supporters have done for you over the last year.  Don't forget to include the smallest gestures, often, they are the ones that make the biggest difference to us.  Think of how far you've come in the last year, and how you couldn't do it by yourself. 

3 - Invest a sitcom's worth of time writing a note or making a phone call to one-loving-soul to share your feelings and express your gratitude.  There's an old saying that's appropriate here: Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a gift, but never giving it."  You'll find that this part of the exercise leads to a real feeling of abundance on your part - far more effective than merely counting your blessings. 

4 - Now, as a leader, help others in your life do this too.  Be public about your exercise and encourage others to join you. Don't let the Thanksgiving Grump have his way, push him to admit that he's not alone in life, and that others are there for him.  This is the season to realize that we have so much to be thankful for, and there are so many forces in the world that want to take that feeling away from us - because scarcity is the ultimate motivator of men to act. 

Express your gratitude in comments, and experience the joy of expressed-thanks.  Thanks to Sue Jenks for the graphic above, which I found this AM on my Top Stories feed on Facebook. 


November 17, 2011

The Four Criteria Entrepreneurs Should Use To Spend Their Time

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For entrepreneurs of all types, your time is by far your most valuable asset. 

Are you investing it wisely?  After all, in this competitive and disruptive environment, you can't be late when the barn door opens.  Every day you waste working on the wrong stuff, gives your competitor a day to gain or you or extend his lead.  So how do we best manage time at a strategic level?  Enter Jason Nazar, CEO of docstoc and a (very good) speaker at this week's Startup Conference in Los Angeles. 

His talk (How To Make The Right Business Decisions) revealed a grid (see above) that will help you manage your time effectively.  Too often we have a mega-TODO list that gobbles up our time, and we feel some sense of accomplishment ticking items off the list. That may be OK for some, but if you are entrepreneur, this approach will bury you! 

Here's his formula: Focus on things that have a big upside (money, market share, etc.), you have a way higher than 50% chance of succeeding in this task, it won't gobble up too much time and most of all - it's strategic to the business you are running.  Think for a second about this formula, and how much of your TODO list doesn't qualify for your attention.  He explained that at docstoc, they don't put resources into a product that will increase traffic by a few percent.  It needs to have a 25-50% potential to get his attention.  At Google, this is called the "hundred million dollar idea" filter. 

Too often, we work on low-upside projects that are easy or sometimes we get buried in low upside projects that are hard to finish - and by wasting the extra effort we miss the golden opportunites.  The other thing he warns, is the high success - not strategic trap: Where you achieve a quick victory, but in the end, it has nothing to do with your business strategy.  Sure, it's a win, but for who? 

Try this next week, and be ruthless!  If you adopt the A quadrant right now - Put no efforts on a project that doesn't move the needle significantly, you'll likely ignore over half of what you toiled on this week.  


November 15, 2011

Focus on Why You Work For Energy And Success

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Last Saturday, I spoke at the Identity Conference about Why We Work.

It's a critical topic for all of us.  What's our motivation for our 9-5 efforts?  If it's just 'making a wage' we are likely to be as listless as the first of the three bricklayers on the scaffold that architect Christopher Wrenn encountered one day during the rebuilding of St. Paul's cathedral.  (See video for more)

If, on the other hand, you 'are building a temple for the almighty', you will be the motivated, spirited and engaged worker - the third one that inspired Wrenn to write his story and share it with other managers and leaders.  

Whatever you do, you need to know the purpose.  According to nazi war camp survivor Viktor Frankl's great book, where there is meaning, there is no suffering.  I can attest to this in my business life.  Even a back of the plane seven hour flight with no sleep was OK when I was evangelizing the good word about Yahoo and the promise of the internet.  I was fine with a cot-like bed in a cold room when I was speaking at a spiritual retreat for CEOs.  

The good news is that, according to Frankl, your meaning will put in an appearance.  The trick is for you to detect it, accept it and let it be your energy source as well as your compass.  In my case, a few years ago, I read a paraphrased scripture in a devotional guide that jumped off the page: "Provoke outbursts of love and good works.  As we gather in public, encourage others to do the same."  Aha! Since then, I've pursued that purpose in all my business development and it's the focal point of my work.  Now I have a clear criteria for saying yes or no to opportunities. 

The better news is that there are no requirements for your work's purpose to be a certain size or orginal for that matter.  For some, the purpose of work is to take care of your family.  That's as noble as purpose as any.  For others, your work might be to help a small group of students, volunteers, etc. - again, it's a worthy purpose that you can tap into for unlimited energy. 

I've met several people that align with the purpose of their employers: Enviornment (Interface), Cause (TOMs or Timberland), Church Planting (Willow Creek), Helping community (Rural Electrical Coops).  In this case, the work provides the purpose with paycheck and you are a part of the solution.  These cause driven organizations need leaders, talent, followers and well wishers to make their mark.  

So, my challenge to you today, is to ask yourself: Why do I work?  The money you make is merely a means to an end, but it's your challenge to find that worthy Why and let it be your guide and your stronghold.  If you find it and observe it's importance, who knows, you'll never say, "I have to go to work today."  Purpose will transmute the obligation of work into an opportunity to make meaning. 

Like myself, you'll see every workday as a 'GET TO' make a difference day - for family, friends, community, future generations and beyond.  And purpose is, like confidence, Rocket Fuel for your personal performance. 


November 11, 2011

The Teachable Moment From the Penn State Tragedy

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All I can say about this week's Penn State child sex scandal is that it's really saddening. 

So many victims and casualties this week.  A mighty institution and it's revered leader are disgraced in internet time.  The above picture, of a smart mob, capturing raw JoPa, is just surreal.  Everywhere I go this week, people talk about it, with strong opinions in all directions.  To some, it's a devisive issue, to others just plain sad.  My PSU alumni friends are thunder struck.

It's a teachable moment, that's for sure.  With the phone firing of Joe Paterno, all of us are put on alert: Alert the authorties when you are informed of child abuse by a credible source.  Do NOT fall into organizational process mode, putting your career or group ahead of the children.  Your boss is not the authority, in charge of protecting society against predators.  The police are.  No matter how important you may be, if you don't tell the authorities about crimes like this, we'll reclassify you as an accomplice to the crime and ostracize you like a common creep.  Really. 

There will likely be a movie made about all the backroom conversations that took place: JoPa's conversation with Jerry (after 30 years of being his mentor, you KNOW he had one with him), the admin telling JoPa to stand down, and in rare form, he does.  The likely conversations by community affairs, PR handlers and most of all The Admissions Empire - all debating who was more important: PSU or the victims.  That's how group think works, though.  We objectify the victims and personalize our risks if 'we do the right thing by law.' 

I read this quote by Edmund Burke today, and it really speaks to why this is a lesson to be taught to a generation:  "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." 

So, let's point our energy toward the lesson, not the gruesome details.  Let's share unity around an idea: #HerosDoSomething.  We can't turn back the hands of time, but we can leverage tragedy to shape our future into a safer, better place.  


November 09, 2011

Is Social Media The New Dutch Tulip?

I could write a long post about the above chart. 

But that picture is worth a thousand posts.  Instead, I direct you to an analysis of the Dutch Tulip Bubble and Crash.  Full a longer read, download Dutch Tulip Mania: The Social Politics Of A Financial Bubble. After you read it, ask yourself, should Facebook really be 50% of all the time we spend on the Internet? In light of all the other things we could be doing to research, fund raise, advocate, communicate....? Should Groupon really be worth over ten billion dollars in light of what happened to Blockbuster, Etoys.com and Enron?  Is Zynga really going to scale or will we grow tired (exhausted) of social gaming?

I'm not advocated quitting Facebook or Tweeting.  But I am suggesting you put the following throttle on your zeal for the unfiltered: If social media went away tomorrow, will your ability to help others decline?  That's the acid test for what you should invest your time in when it comes to social media. 

Unless you haven't reconnected with old friends, high school mates and other such Classmates.com-ish type hookups.  If that's the case, you have a few hours of productive work ahead of you.  And if you check your status/profile every ten minutes to see if someone responded to your last post, I'm aiming this missive squarely at you.   PS: If you bought secondary market shares of Facebook, I've got some land I'd like to sell you. #JustSayin


November 07, 2011

Thoughts On Turning 50

Yesterday I turned 50.  I've been thinking about it for months. 

Not in a good or a bad way, just in a profound way: What does it mean? When I turned 40, the theme was, "it's the new 30, just a number!".  The last big birthday milestone for me was 21, the age of legality and adulthood.  

Our society makes a big deal out of turning 50, punctuated by my receipt of my inagural edition of AARP's magazine with my name emblazoned on the address label.  Others I know have wrung their hands or shrugged their shoulders at turning 50.  Everyone has a different POV about it, largely influenced by circumstances. 

For me, turning 50 was a milestone, but not necessarily the last one.  My thoughts crystalized over the weekend at a hot dog stand in Studio City, where I stopped for a guilty pleasure lunch.  First: I got a polish with sauerkraut instead of a chil-cheese dog (my all time fave).  That symbolized my sort-of-recent focus on eating and living healthy.  I can still have fun, I realized, it just needs to be thoughtful.  

As you get older, you realize you are not invincible and lifestyle decisions have real consequences. I went to the doctor with a cold last week, and she reminded me to have annual blood work, especially to check my blood sugar. "Diabetes will cost you 10 years of your life," she repeated to me.  Wow, 10 years is a long time, I thought.  I contemplated all the live I lived between September 11, 2011 and today.  It was a life's worth of challenges, opportunities and thrilling adventures.  Wouln't trade that for anything.  So, I'm going to live healthy, to live longer.  

Second, I noticed an octo-generian with her grandkids, huffing and puffing to keep up with them. She fawned over them like it was the last time she'd ever see them.  In that observation, my second thought emerged: You are not getting older, just closer to the end of your story. 

Everyone of us lives a story.  It has a beginning, a very long middle and an end...sometimes sudden and short.  We are the producer, director and protagonist of it.  Sometimes the antagonist too.  I've been thinking about my story, my significance, that I'm trying to tell with my words and deeds.  It's a Love Story, that's for sure - my relationship with the world based on my belief that people are good and shouldn't suffer unecessarily.  

As I get closer to the end of my story, I become more attuned to the feedback loop that informs me as to whether I'm giving, using or taking in my day-to-day life.  50 isn't the end, but by all accounts, it's the clear beginning of my life's Second Half (or 2nd Act).  So, wishful intentions are not enough. I need to contribute in a meaningful way I can measure, iterate on and improve on until the day I die. 

And so 50, then, is a milestone that means this to me: Live long and (help others) Prosper. 

November 04, 2011

Leverage EdgeRank To Get More Impressions On Facebook

Many of you have Facebook Pages that you'd like to grow.  The key is impressions and engagement. 

Over the last few months, I've researched the changes to Facebook, with an emphasis on their EdgeRank algorithm, which is always evolving.  Facebook uses this to ensure that we see relevant updates in our Top Feed.  Unfortunately, for many Pages, the changes have likely reduced your impressions and your growth in followers (Likers). 

I've conducted several experiments over the last month with my Page as well as my corporate client's pages.  The result is a dramatic increase in impressions, even more than before all the Facebook changes were implemented.  First of all, the EdgeRank formula is important to understand.  Your posts will be distributed to your followers based on three things: Affinity, Weight and Time Decay. The most recent EdgeRank changes have emphasized Time Decay (how recently have you posted? Are people still interacting with it?) and Affinity tweaks (major bonus for deriving visits to your Page or marketing your posts as "Top Story").  With that in mind, here are six ways to boost your EdgeRank score and drive more impressions: 

1 - Post Directly To Facebook.  EdgeRank frowns on third party postings such as HootSuite, Tweetdeck etc.  

2 - Post Frequently To Ensure Freshness.  This is tricky, because if you post too often, you'll either get Unliked or hidden from your follower's feed.  The traditional thinking is once every two days or so, but with the new tweaks, that could really cost you.  Here's a good article on the science behind how often you should post.  As a rule of thumb, when you see the Likes or engagement trail off on a post (usually 10-12 hours), that's when you need a fresh one. 

3 - Post Heavy Content.  EdgeRank's Weight component of the algorithm will reward the weight of your posts, usually in this order: Uploaded video (not links to YouTube video), Pictures, Links, and Text.  Sure, a text update with a ton of interaction will get impressions, but a picture or video update with engagement will get exponentially more.  Here's a tip that makes this whole post worth reading: When you post a quote by a famous person ALWAYS upload a picture of that person!  I've found that a quote with a picture gets 2 to 3 times more impressions!!!

4 - Post During Prime Time.  Remember, when the engagement trails off, EdgeRank considers that decay and you lose impressions.  Most Facebook traffic occurs during working hours, so that's the best time to launch your updates.  Here's a good article on when to post. 

5 - Convert Statements Into Questions.  Instead of saying, my fave new CD of the year is X, put it this way.  "What's the best CD of 2011?  I think it's The King Is Dead by Decemberists."  This way, you'll likely get more comments (which boosts your weight & affinity score) and maybe Likes (for Decemberists fans).  

6 - Engage With All Engagement.  EdgeRank will count your interaction just like any other interaction (so long as it's in line).  Meaning: When someone shares, thank them on their wall or in comments.  Answer comments, and encourage even more.  The number of comments to an update keeps it fresh (think affinity plus time decay).

Post your tips and techniques in comments, I'll likely thank you on my Facebook Page!


November 01, 2011

Wanna rock your next presentation or speech? Tell a story that people will follow and act on.

A few years ago, I discovered speech coach guru Nick Morgan and his fantastic book

In it, he talks about what it takes to move an audience to action with your talk.  The key, he points out, is to write a speech that follows the plot line of one of the archetypal stories we are all familiar with. This way, your audience is 'with you' from the beginning and your talk respects how they make decisions to change.  

Story telling has been the key to helping people transport themselves from Point A to Point B, especially with change is hard.  When we recognize a story by it's structure, the trust of it rings out and we likely have an emotional response to it as well as strong reference markers in our conciousness.  Here are the six basic stories (I've adapted Nick's list over my speaking career to corporate and association meetings): 

1 - Love Story.  This is great for talks about customer service and member retention.  

2 - Stranger In A Strange Land (or Fish Out Of Water).  Great for change management, buzz trends like social media.  

3 - Revenge.  Good selection for internal speeches about competition or ethics. 

4 - Hero's Journey (Quest).  My personal fave.  It recognizes the audience as heroes, faced with a struggle.  The speaker becomes a helpful guide in this role and exudes respect for the audience. Read Nancy Duarte's Resonate for more on this one.  Here's an outline of a speech I'm giving tomorrow to a room full of health care heroes in Nashville (Planetree Keynote).

5 - Coming Of Age.  Good for leadership, personal develop or company innovation talks.  At Yahoo!, this was a common story our executives told about how the company was created, grew up and matured into a services organization. 

6 - The Burning Platform.  A popular CEO story, about how the company is in dire straights and if they don't make quick changes, may perish.

The problem for many speakers though is twofold:  

1 - They think that their anecdotes are stories.  When you tell a case study or share a personal experience, that's not an archetypal story - it's a single occurance of a situation/resolution.  There's usually no full plot (Setting, Antagonist, Call to Adventure, Call to Action, Resolution, Better world).  Many speeches are a hodgepodge of anecdotes, all hinting at one of the 6 archetypal stories - but not focusing on it and connecting it to the psyche of the audience.  

2 - They can't commit to a single story type, so like Quinten Taratino, they create a hybird of stories. They mix a little Love Story with Stranger In A Strange Land or Burning Platform with Coming Of Age.  The result?  Much like Pulp Fiction, your talk is entertaining and maybe thought provoking - but it doesn't elicit buy-in to your calls to action.  

So, the next time you write a presentation, ask yourself: What story should I tell to move the audience to action and make a difference with this opportunity.  As Nick Morgan wrote in his first book, "the only reason to give a speech is to change the world."