Archives for category: Communication

One of the things my Dad used to say to me when he was coaching me on how to take a good exam was this: read the rubric. He was the only person I know who regularly used the term.

It pays to read the rubric, or the instructions on how to do something, even if you think you know what you’re doing. If the exam tells you to answer any 4 of the following 10 questions, and they’re all worth the same points, then be sure to answer 4 of them and spend about a quarter on each one before moving onto the next. If it says you must answer all questions, answer them all if you can. If one question is more points than others, make sure it gets the right amount of time allocated to it.

Sometimes the rubric or instructions are simply too long to bother reading, like a car manual’s. This is why a lot of good companies also now produce a quick start guide, a much shorter document that gets you up and running and gives you the really key stuff.

Read the rubric. It gets you in the right frame of mind for the task ahead. Unless you’re absolutely sure what you’re doing, a quick double check never hurts.

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Remote working, teleconferences, videoconferences, skype calls: they are the new norm, with many companies now embracing the idea of some of their staff working from home or satellite offices some of the time.

It’s very efficient too, for both parties, cutting down on overheads, time and travel, and reducing the effects of poor weather on schedules. You have to work harder to overcome the communication and confusion issues that can arise when you’re not in the same physical room as someone, but that’s OK.

However, to get the best out of working relationships, the absolute best, nothing beats face-to-face. You’ve got body language, facial expressions and the sheer presence of someone next to you on your side. If you want to sort out a disagreement, or clear a misunderstanding, get people together. When it comes to sales and marketing of products and services that carry a decent value, and a decent trust element, nothing beats seeing the whites of each other’s eyes.

It doesn’t have to be face-to-face all the time, simply once in a while will do it. Last month I caught up with 2 groups of people I’d been meaning to catch up with for a long time. Now we’ve met, we’re more front of mind for each other, the priorities have risen up the stack and we’re moving projects forward.

Like I say, even when or if we become used to hologram drop-ins and clone stand-ins, nothing will beat face-to-face.

I saw the headline of an article the other day, and clicked on it, because it looked of interest. Except I had clicked on for the wrong reason, or at least my analysis was wrong.

The headline was: When is a Sale a Sale? I thought it was a cool article about defining when you have successfully closed a sale; some new insight on sales methodology. What we would call closing a deal in B2B. Is it a sale because the customer commits to the order verbally? Is it the receipt of the PO or the contract? Or is it the payment of the invoice or the handover of the cash?

In fact it was nothing of the sort. The article was a consumer-focused piece about what constitutes a selling event, the other kind of sale. It was about the retail industry trending towards a state of permanent sales and how difficult it is now to differentiate a true sales event and a retail status that is claiming ‘special’ sales status when it really isn’t.

Not to mention how difficult it is for retailers to get out of that sales spiral and protect their margins.

So, two different kinds of sale, and I clicked through under false pretences, but an interesting skim-read nonetheless.

On the 4th of January 2009 I started a food diary. Actually it was kind of an everything diary. Weight, health and fitness activities, the weather, and a quick scribbled account of what I got up to that day. It detailed exactly what I had for breakfast, lunch, dinner and other snacks, how much water I drank, and how much alcohol. When I look back, I would say that, arbitrarily, it’s 90% accurate. Oh, and there was a two week summer holiday where I recorded the information on my phone and accidentally deleted it before it got to my laptop…

Today marks over 10 years of my food diary. If I want to know – I doubt you will – exactly what I ate, drank and filled my day with on any one of the last three-and-a-half thousand days, I can find out in a couple of clicks.

I blogged some time ago about the benefits of keeping a food diary. It keeps you honest, and that helps with health and weight management. For example, I’m about 2 pounds/1 kilo lighter now than I was a decade ago. I’ve probably lost a bit of muscle tone and maybe 2 centimetres of height, but for someone who during that time moved from his fifth decade into his sixth, I think that’s a pretty decent achievement.

The collected data from 2009 to now must be of some value to someone, I would have thought? If you think so, do let me know.

As you may know, I like round numbers and I like doing things for a set amount of time before I call it a day. I’ve mentioned more than once how I may stop at 1,000 blog posts.

Maybe today will be my last food diary entry. Then again, I was going to retire at 30, 40 and 50…

Well, a happy new year to you, if you, like I, follow the western Gregorian thingamabob.

2019 marks the seventh year during which I’ve blogged – not yet my seventh year blogging if you follow the distinction – since I put my first blog post down in September 2013. Since then it’s been a 3-times-a-week, Monday-Wednesday-Friday thing, regular as clockwork.

By the end of this year, I’ll be about a dozen posts short of 1,000 blog posts. Once you get into 4-figure territory, that probably puts you in the top 1% of bloggers in terms of output. I don’t think I’ve ever been the top 1% of anything, yet I’m willing to bet that it will feel exactly the same in early 2020 when I hit that threshold.

If you’ve read at least one of my blog posts in each of those 7 years, then I thank you, and I also admire you in equal measure.

If you’re still reading at this point, I’d like to wish you a most healthy and prosperous 2019. May it bring you almost all, but not absolutely all, that you hoped for. Stay hungry – not literally.

When we’re taught the rudiments of writing a press release, we’re sometimes encouraged to get to the ‘five w’s’ in the first paragraph. Who, What, When, Where, Why?

Why is often the last W to be addressed, and it’s probably the most important W. Why are we doing this? What impact are we hoping to have?

I remember an ad campaign for a national newspaper a few years ago, for a broadsheet rather than a tabloid, which was all about the why. I thought it was a great campaign. The answer to why is this happening or why did this happen is the most informative answer.

Why is a very pertinent question to ask in business as well. Why are we doing this? Why are we in business? This is a concept popularised by Simon Sinek in his book Starting With Why. I hadn’t heard about the author or the concept until a good friend told me about it some time ago. It’s a really simple and profound way of thinking about your business or your organisation and what its purpose for existing is.

I love the concept, but I haven’t read the book yet. It’s sitting digitally on my Kindle, working its way up my list and I’ll get to it over the holidays. What we do is something every company knows. How we do it is something that a smaller proportion of them knows. Only the very special ones understand, throughout the organisation, why they do what they do, why they’re in business in the first place, and that’s where great organisations should start. If you don’t have the time or the inclination to read the book, take exactly 5 minutes to watch this abridged TED talk, it’s well worth it.

Then you can ask yourself the question why are you in business. And if you don’t have a good answer, maybe start a new organisation with a new answer.

 

 

One of the most difficult challenges with sales training or sales effectiveness – and in fact any kind of change – is overcoming engrained behaviours. It’s only through repeated application of the new way, with all the pain and discomfort that comes with it, that the new way eventually becomes the accepted way and a second nature thing.

I was reminded of this recently in my table tennis endeavours. I’ve been playing competitively for decades, and I’ve always concentrated on putting the ball in different corners to move my opponent around. It is deeply and completely subconscious, after a million-plus repetitions.

I’ve been studying a lot of table tennis matches on youtube over the last few months, as I look for new ways to compensate for my gradual decline in fitness and sharpness due to Father Time’s relentless advances. I’ve noticed that a lot of the top players hit a lot of shots into the crossover, which is the awkward spot on the right hip – of the right-handed player – between the forehand and the backhand, effectively jamming them up.

This is not new. One of the first things we were taught as kids was hit to the corners against a short opponent, and into the middle for a tall player. Maybe twenty years ago our local club had a coaching session with a guest coach who again stressed the crossover tactic and quoted the statistic that the then star player in England, Desmond Douglas, would hit up to 40% of shots down the crossover.

I’ve been trying this with renewed effort over the last few weeks and – it’s really, really difficult! The sport is very quick and you don’t have much time to plan and execute. I find myself instinctively following my subconscious, time and time again.

The answer? As with sales, I need to practice more, and compete less, to untrain and retrain myself.

There’s nothing like a familiar sound to bring you back and connect you with something.

The other day I heard a wood pigeon coo-cooing somewhere in the estate where I live. It’s not a very familiar sound to me now, but back when I was a kid doing my homework in the bedroom that looked out onto the back garden of my childhood home, it was a very familiar sound. It instantly reconnected me to my past in an unexpected and not unpleasant way.

Sound and the hearing part of our senses have of course always been very important to a brand. We can all remember signature tunes from our favourite shows, programmes and global brands. A few examples: the 4-note signature of the UK’s Channel 4, the 5-note signature of the McDonalds ‘I’m loving it’ campaign, and the ‘Holidays are coming’ refrain from Coca-Cola for around this time of year.

Sounds are a key thread of how we identify with a brand and of the overall brand experience, along with the sights, touches, tastes and smells of the things we like to use or consume. They evoke an instant feeling and connection.

Tack and tact. This has a lot of people confused I think. Tack can either mean a small nail, or also a nautical term for changing direction. Probably other meaning as well, I haven’t checked.

Tact is an emotional intelligence skill you acquire with other people that manifests itself in diplomacy, language and body language. So two pretty different meanings, then, for two words that look and sound similar.

‘I think we need to take a different tact.’ I heard this the other day – for the countlessth time, from someone who sails regularly and presumably done his share of tacking. You don’t want the word tact here, you want the word tack, unless your change in strategy involves ushering in some unexpected wave of diplomacy into proceedings.

The best way to remember the difference I think is from the Faithless song Insomnia, the lyrics of which go:

‘Fundamental movement, huh, so when it’s black
This insomniac, take an original tack
Keep the beast in my nature under ceaseless attack’

The tack you want is the one that rhymes with black and attack. Unless of course your context is thoughtfulness and consideration to others, in which case some tact is required.

Was that tactfully enough put to put you on the right tack?

Gaze towards the top of this webpage and you’ll see the eyes-through-the-letterbox image of a Paul Dilger looking enviably young for his 50-some years. That’s because the picture is at least 10 years old.

I’m not alone in this. The world, especially the professional world, is full of the slightly false advertising of profile pictures and avatars. Shining faces, full of hope and ambition, that belie the experience they claim to have in their bio.

This makes it somewhat tricky when you have a first meeting with someone who you’ve only met online or on the phone and whose photo you’re going by. I think if you add a decade to the picture it provides a far better calibration for your field of view. Otherwise you might be unprepared for a conversation that might spiral out of control.

‘Oh hi! I was, er, expecting someone a little…’

‘Younger?’

‘No, no, of course not! Just, a little different I guess.’

‘Different how?’

‘I’m not sure. Ah, here’s our server, would you like coffee or tea?’

It’s a tough one. Do we go with a current pic and possibly deflate the initial impression, or do we go young and have some tap-dancing to do when it comes to the meet and greet?