Tag Archive for 'communication'

Face-to-Face: Old School fundamental and New School cool

For 172 years, communication technologies have sought relevance in an increasingly noisy universe.

Now, well into the 21st century, there is actual management pain from an embarrassment of riches of communication innovations. And this discomfort is especially keen when staying connecting with customers: Should you call? Email? Text? How about IM?

And when should you use social media platforms? I’ve had customers who want me to connect with them on Twitter. Others send me notes on LinkedIn.

But in an era where there’s an app for everything, there is one connection method we must never be guilty of minimizing. From Morse to Millennials, in-person connection has retained its relevance as Old School fundamental and New School cool.

Indeed, face-to-face is the original social media.

Today, social media euphoria is being tempered by ROI reality. And as useful as each new communication resource proves to be, they are, after all, merely tools to leverage our physical efforts, not eliminate the basic human need for human interaction. Consider this story:

A sales manager (whose gray hair was not premature) noticed the sales performance of one of his rookies was below budget for the third consecutive month. Of course, he questioned the numbers previously but had allowed his better judgment to be swayed by plausible explanations. Now the newbie’s sales was trending, but in the wrong direction.

Upon more pointed probing, the manager discovered the reason for loss of production: too much electronic and not enough in-person connections. The rookie was relying too heavily on virtual communication at the expense of opportunities to get in front of the customer.

It turns out lack of training, demographic reality and not enough “rubber-meets-the-road” experience left the young pup uncomfortable and unprepared to ask for and conduct meetings, like a proposal presentation. He wasn’t benefiting from how the success rate of growing customer relationships can increase when critical steps are conducted in person. Consequently, this manager immediately developed a training program that established standards for how and when to integrate all customer connection tools, including face-to-face.

If your sales performance isn’t trending the right way, perhaps your salespeople need help getting in front of customers, particularly at critical steps. Like the manager above, you may need to establish specific, measurable and non-negotiable standards for when face-to-face meetings should take place.

From telegraph to Twitter there is one connection option whose relevance has borne witness to every one of the others: in-person contact. Let’s remember John Naisbitt’s prophesy from his 1982 book, Megatrends: “The more high tech we have, the more high touch we will want.”

Write this on a rock … As the original social media, face-to-face will always be relevant.

Patience is not standard entrepreneurial equipment

One of the markers of American culture is the “sticker” on the window of a new car. This document reveals to shoppers a listing of standard equipment and options, plus, of course, the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, or MSRP.

Photo credit to Business2Community

You would expect this list of entrepreneurial standard equipment to include characteristics like courage, creativity, perseverance and adaptability. But one trait typically not found on this list that’s essential when entrepreneurs become employers, is patience.

Perhaps one redeeming attribute of an entrepreneur is we’re more impatient with ourselves than anything or anyone else. The reason for this self-directed pressure is because seeking excellence requires that we demand much of ourselves. Unfortunately, that same quest can also make us too impatient with those on whom we depend most — our employees. And while impatience with ourselves can be productive, it can create adverse results when directed at others.

When you think about it, high expectations of key personnel is understandable: They show up every day, just like us; work hard, just like us; and they’re dedicated, just like us. Certainly such evidence of commitment creates the impression that they are just like us. And for many key employees it’s not just an impression. They are committed or they’d work somewhere else. The problem occurs when we’re impatient with our people because they didn’t read our minds.

The road to business failure is paved with stories of key people who quit because someone mistook commitment for ESP. Entrepreneurs lacking this understanding will have key employees wishing they had traded up when they first checked out the sticker on their employer.

So how do entrepreneurs avoid misplaced impatience?  Communication. If we demand as much of our staff as we do ourselves, they must have the same information we have, including our plan, strategy, vision, etc.

In 1776 General George Washington said, “We must make the best of mankind as they are, since we cannot have them as we wish.”

Effective communication skills eliminate the need to find employees who are mind readers. Plus, it makes employees more productive since they won’t have to spend so much time trying to make the best of us.

Write this on a rock … Entrepreneurial patience isn’t standard equipment, but effective communication should be.

Jim Blasingame is author of the award-winning book, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.

What the Tour de France and small business have in common

With 21 stages ridden over 23 days-some almost 150 miles long-navigating cobblestones, assaulting at least two mountain ranges and dealing with thousands of over-enthusiastic crowds, the Tour de France bicycle race is arguably the most grueling of all sporting competitions.

Here are four reasons why competing in the Tour is like running a small business.

1. Team structure
Tour participants are part of 22 sponsored teams of about 25 members, and each have individual roles to play. Some members are supportive non-riders and some are riders whose primary role is to protect and push their leader. But all work together to meet team performance goals, including getting their leader on the podium at the end of the day or the end of the race. Sounds a lot like a small business, doesn’t it?

Since every day in a small business can be like a mountain stage on the Tour-peaks and valleys-success requires the ability to motivate your team to work together effectively. A smart leader knows that sustaining successful teamwork requires sharing the recognition so the team doesn’t mind if you’re the one on the podium.

2. Communication
Competing in the Tour is like running 21 marathons in 23 days while simultaneously playing a chess match. So each team member has to understand his role in the overall strategy.

Even if you have the best business strategy in the world it must be communicated to your small business team so every member understands their role in the organization’s plan to achieve success.

3. Preparation
All you have to do is watch a Tour de France cyclist in a mountain stage to see successful preparation. These guys have turned their bodies into human spring steel as they become one with their bikes.

The small business equivalent is to learn as much as you can about operating your business, your industry, the competition, and especially, your customers. Since your team also needs to know these things, prepare them by investing in training and practice.

4. Technology
Tour de France teams certainly leverage technology, including high-tech bikes, customized chase vehicles, on-course communication tools, etc.

One of the keys to success for small businesses in the 21st century is leveraging technology.  If you want to stand in the winner’s circle you MUST find ways to use technology to make existing systems more efficient as well as help you take advantage of new opportunities.

Write this on a rock … Small businesses can learn a lot from the Tour de France teams.

Successful negotiators are patient — don’t fall in love

Negotiating is a process of communication between two or more parties to reach an agreement on future behavior-like when you’re purchasing a small business, leasing an office, hiring an employee, selling a product, or trying to get a two-year-old to take one more bite of peas.

Let’s look at the two key words in that definition: process and communication.

Process : Conducting a negotiation is more like running a marathon than a sprint-it takes time and involves multiple steps. By accepting this reality you’ll set yourself up to be more patient and, therefore, more effective.

Remember, your impatience with the process is the other party’s best leverage. Good negotiators practice patience.

Communication: There are many ways to communicate in a negotiation besides speaking: Punctuality, appearance, organization, and attention to detail, for example, are all forms of communication.  You could even communicate in absentia with the quality of the documents you produce.

Never underestimate the heightened awareness of every aspect of a negotiation.  The slightest nuance, gesture, or facial expression can mean something.

Make sure all communications contribute to your negotiating objectives.

There are three critical questions to ask yourself before any negotiation.

1.  What do I want?
Make sure you have this conversation with yourself. If you don’t know what you want, how will you know when to stand firm and when to give something away?

And if the other party senses you’re not focused, they will either disengage or view you as weak prey and take advantage. Either way, you lose.

2.  Why should the other party negotiate with me?
If a genie grants you one wish prior to a negotiation, ask what motivates the other party.  Armed with that perspective you can get the other information you’ll need in due time.

3.  What are my options?
The best way to get what you want in any negotiation is if you don’t have to do the deal.  Having an alternative to what’s on the table strengthens your ability to walk away from a deal that isn’t moving in your favor.  It doesn’t have to be perfect-just an alternative. Sometime during the negotiation, your second choice might start looking pretty good.  And merely knowing you’re in a position to walk away will make you a better negotiator.

Finally, whatever you do, don’t fall in love with any deal unless you want to make the other party’s day. Love is for lovers-this is business.

Write this on a rock… Everything’s negotiable. Are you a capable negotiator?

Video: The original social media is face-to-face

In this week's video I explain why face-to-face communication can help your small business.

The original social media is face-to-face from Jim Blasingame on Vimeo.

The original social media is face-to-face

Ever since Samuel Morse invented the telegraph in 1844, each new communication technology has sought relevance in an increasingly noisy universe.

Today there is actual management pain from an embarrassment of riches of communication options. This discomfort is especially keen when connecting with customers electronically: Should you email or send a text message? How about IM? And when should you use one of the social media options?

But from telegraph to telephones to Twitter, there has been one constant that has retained its relevance and impact: in person connection. As I’ve said before, face-to-face contact is the original social media.

For small businesses, social media adoption has always needed to be tempered by ROI reality. And as useful as each new communication resource proves to be, they are after all, merely tools to leverage our physical efforts, not eliminate the basic human need for interacting in person. Consider this story:

A sales manager (whose gray hair was not premature) noticed the sales volume of one of his rookies was below budget for the third consecutive month. Of course, he had questioned the numbers previously but had allowed his better judgment to be swayed by plausible explanations. Now there was a downward trend.

Upon more pointed probing, the manager discovered the reason for loss of production: too much electronic contact and not enough face-to-face. The rookie was relying too heavily on virtual tools and missing opportunities to meet with customers in person.

It turns out lack of training and rubber-meets-the-road experience left the rookie uncomfortable and unprepared to ask for and conduct face-to-face meetings, like proposal presentations. Consequently, he wasn’t benefiting from how the success rate of growing customer relationships can increase when certain critical steps are conducted in person. This manager immediately developed a training program that established standards for how and when to integrate all customer connection tools, including the face-to-face imperative.

If your sales could use some help trending upward, perhaps your salespeople need training to get in front of prospects and customers, particularly at the critical step of gaining an initial meeting. Like the manager above, you may need to establish specific and measurable standards for when face-to-face meetings should take place.

There is one connection option that has borne witness to all of the others and continues to be as powerful as ever: face-to-face.

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Check out my interviews below with other Braintrust members about face-to-face communication on The Small Business Advocate Show®

Nothing tops face-to-face when communicating with employees - with John Dini

Face-to-face is still the original social media - with Joanne Black

Check out more of Jim’s great content HERE!

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Watch Jim’s videos HERE!




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