Archives for category: Communication

A former boss and mentor of mine recently referred me to an article on self-publishing. It was written by someone who had been published before, using the traditional publishing routes and methods, and now was publishing his own books. The full post is here. It’s a fascinating read, especially so if you are thinking off putting stuff out there.

This post, however, is not so much an advert for self-publishing as it is a comment or two on how technology has changed how we write, and how we consume what’s been written.

Books are changing. They’re not books any more, much of the time at least. Sometimes they’re ebooks, existing on screen but not existing physically. Sometimes they’re printed on demand, one at a time, Sometimes they’re very short, like a pamphlet. Sometimes they’re simply a blog post, like this one.

Publishing something used to be this mammoth, self-contained, one-off project that ending up with something spitting out off the presses. Now we can publish something very short, very quickly, even charge for it too, and get almost instant feedback on what readers thought of it. Web 2.0 baby, what a wonderful thing.

This same technology has also changed the way we read, our reading behaviours. We have an unending wealth of information and diversion at our fingertips. We now skim read, and have a shorter attention span, so unless what we’re reading is a compelling page turner – digitally or physically – shorter is better.

So maybe this is a misleading post title. Maybe books have already changed.

 

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Consider these 4 statements:

  1. As I write this I’m on the top of a mountain
  2. As you read this I’m on the beach
  3. As you read this I don’t know where I’ll be
  4. As you read this you could be anywhere

I once read a book by Stephen King on how to write a book. He put forward the idea that writers are in the business of thought transference. He described a specific situation very clearly and argued that he had achieved thought transference since the reader had a clear picture what he was thinking about and describing. He put it better than I have, which perhaps illustrates our different places in the writing world.

I know where I am when I write a blog post, and if I like I can describe it to you. When the blog post is published, and you read it, I might be somewhere completely different. And then, in the future, when you chance upon the post, I will be somewhere else again. I might even be pushing up the daisies, who knows.

Of course, you’d be entitled to ask ‘why are you telling me this,’ and ‘who cares?’ and you’d be right in both cases. The thought transference has to be worth it for you.

What’s not important is where I am when you read what I’ve written, unless it engages you. What’s almost always important is where you are when you read what I’ve written and whether or not you’re into it. That’s your unique perspective – on everything.

 

It’s often said that the most important part of the sales process is requirements analysis. You’ll hear companies refer to it as needs analysis as well. The terms seem to be interchangeable, yet they mask a crucial difference.

If you don’t know what your prospective customer’s requirements are, it’s hard for you to establish how good the fit is between what you sell and what they want. Do you have what they’re looking for?

Needs analysis, on the other hand, focuses on what they need, which may differ significantly from what they want. Do you tell them what they want to hear and sell them what they want to buy? Or do you dig deeper and present a compelling case for what they might need – and which, of course, you have – which might be unpalatable to them and cost you the deal.

That said, there are plenty of sales methodologies which teach advanced ways of moving a customer’s objectives to a new set of objectives, a place where the selling organisation has a strong advantage over the competition. The ethical question is whether the new problem, and the associated new solution, are genuinely bigger and more urgent than the one the customer started with.

Selling to requirements is an easier path, whereas selling to needs can lead to a better result.

I don’t know what all this Brexit fuss is about…I’m kidding! It’s hard to imagine a topic that’s more pressing and more invasive for people, businesses and countries right now.

So it’s about time I jumped on the bandwagon. It’s not Brexit, or it shouldn’t be at any rate. Britain, or Great Britain to use its full moniker, is comprised of England, Scotland and Wales, in descending order of population.

Unfortunately, however, Britain isn’t scheduled to leave the EU on 29th March 2019. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is leaving. Northern Ireland is heading away too. That’s an extra country and about 1.8m more people. I wonder how the people of Northern Ireland feel about the term. Their opinion may well boil down to their upbringing.

So it’s not Brexit, it’s UKExit, technically. Should we say U-K-Exit, or Ukexit? Not as snappy and rollable-off-the-tongue, but more accurate nonetheless. Perhaps we could shorten it to NUKE – Non-UK Europe?

When you’re getting introductions to people over social media platforms like LinkedIn, it always helps to see a picture of the person. It helps you put a personality to the person.

When it’s the other way round – in other words when you speak to someone over the phone before you actually meet them, and you don’t know what they look like – you have to speculate on what the owner of that voice will look like.

Voices and faces are strange bedfellows in my experience. I often imagine what someone looks like and acts like from their voice, as it helps me make the connection in my head. I almost always get it completely wrong.

When you meet them, the face never seems to fit the voice you’ve listened to. Or, put another way, the face we put to the voice is not the face that belong with that voice.

Try doing it with a radio DJ, whose picture you’re not familiar with, obviously. If you don’t know what they look like, and ten people take a guess, I’m sure the guesses will vary wildly. Is that guess based on our own unique experiences? Probably.

It always reminds me how much can be wrong with the assumptions we make about people.

When I was a kid, one of the most important motivations with parents was not to disappoint. It the wasn’t fear of reprisal if you got into trouble, did something wrong or underperformed. It was something much worse. They would be ‘disappointed’. Letting them down, letting yourself down; it was the crushing weight of potential disappointment that made me toe the line or do my best.

The D-Word was a very powerful motivation and a force for good in my upbringing. I didn’t want people I respected to be disappointed. In me, or for me.

Disappointment is still a motivating force now. I went to see my physio about a month ago for my troublesome calf that I thought I’d fixed with my change in running style, but no. She gave me a series of core-strengthening exercises to do 3 times a week before I saw her again four weeks later. They were very hard work, bordering on the murderous at times. I exaggerate, but not too much. I didn’t want to go to the gym and do them, but I did, mainly because I knew she’d be disappointed if I’d not kept my side of the bargain and put the effort in.

When there’s a level of respect on both sides, the potential disappointment that one party will feel when the other party hasn’t made the effort is a strong incentive for the first party to do the work.

The D-Word is a word not used lightly, and carries much weight.

Perhaps it’s being short of stature that leads to a sensitive radar on my part to terms that are used at the expense of people who are lacking in height.

When I hear the word shorty in hip hop songs, it’s usually used with regard to the male singer’s girlfriend or women in general. Yes, as a woman she’s typically shorter than her typically taller male counterpart, so is that a simple observation of height difference among the genders, or is it a term of control and marginalisation on the part of a certain group of society not known for its sense of equal rights?

I’ve no idea. There are plenty of women who are way taller than many men. I guess you have to ask the woman being called shorty, how she feels. I’ve been called ‘half pint’ or such terms before and while I’m sure in some cases the intent was to bully or intimidate I’m not in the least cowed by it. It is what it is. I’m shorter than the average adult male, whatever average is.

Incidentally, it transpires – clicking on the following link will take you a gif you may not want your grandma or 7-year-old to see – that in Hip Hop the term shorty has more meanings than girlfriend. It can also refer to a girl, boy or other kinds of ingenue. Smaller, more vulnerable people in other words.

Just sayin’.

I love nuts, the salted kind. I’m not a huge fan of the unsalted kind, they taste pretty bland to me. Nuts are a good way of me staving off my hunger pangs with something that, in moderation, is pretty good for me.

With nuts you pay by weight. You pay for all the weight, shells included. In an average bag of pistachio nuts you get around 5 to 10% of nuts which are still closed or not sufficiently opened from the roasting process to be edible. That means you’re only getting 90 to 95% of what you paid for, and less if you count the weight of the shells.

For me it’s the unfulfilled promise of unopened pistachio shells. They go straight into the food bin or the fire, even though I’ve invested in their promise of taste and nutrition, in that order.

OK, so sometimes you get a burnt piece of cereal, but it’s one of maybe a thousand or more in the pack, which I’m prepared to tolerate from a 3- or 4-sigma variance point of view. But with pistachios, it’s different. It’s 5 or 10% of the flipping things. It’s more real, more tangible. It’s like buying broccoli when you never eat the base of the main stalk.

How hard can it be for the highly sophisticated food production or processing plants to exclude the nuts that don’t open sufficiently after the roasting phase and are not worthy of making the final cut?

Is it too hard, or is too lazy, or too greedy on the part of the producers?

I’ve written before about how powerful our sense of smell can be for evoking feelings, memories and so on.

Some things obviously have a recognisable smell to them, like a chocolate factory for example – d’oh! – that immediately connects. I get the ‘recognisable smell’ feeling whenever I walk into a health food store.

What is that smell? Is it the supplements? It smells strong, other worldly and hard to identify, but it’s unmistakeable nonetheless. All health food stores have this smell. It seems impossible to counteract, even if you wanted to diminish or alter it.

For me it’s not a particularly nice smell. It feels artificial, chemical almost. But it is recognisable, identifiable, connecting, which is a good thing if you have such a store.

In my last post my 3 big things with workshops grouped conveniently – if a little artificially – into an ABC aide memoire. No such luck this time?

I’ve mentored staff in my marketing and sales teams, and I’ve also mentored early stage companies, which can often be a one-person company, over the last handful of years in a consulting capacity. Here’s what I’ve found to be best for those being mentored, again helpfully arranged in an A-B-C format.

Ask questions. As a mentor you’re a sounding board for the person being mentored. It’s a chance for them to talk through their rationale and approach with an experienced other party who is detached, impartial and objective. Probing with questions can allow you to drill into the detail and challenge, play devil’s advocate and ultimately help validate what they’re doing.

Build structure and process. The job of a mentor I think is to help the person being mentored see the next few steps towards their desired destination. Structure and process combine to give them some direction long after the mentor session finishes. Structure provides the framework to hang the various elements and process gives them an order for doing things.

Coach. I think our job is to coach, providing suggestions and approaches that we’ve seen work well before, rather than to tell them what to do. That seems to be the best way for them – and their businesses – to improve over time, as they grow in confidence and independence.