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Verbal Dexterity: Talking the Talk » 2008 »

Archive for March, 2008

There Is No Jerk In “T E A M”

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

I get so sick of these books and experts that continue to preach about teamwork in an intellectual vacuum.

When is the last time that you sang Kumba-ya?
(Do you even know the second verse?)

A real team doesn’t just magically come together.

It’s really more like a vineyard.

You plant some good root-stock
Some of the roots try to strangle each other
Some grow in different directions
Some dig deep to find nourishment
Some wither and fade away
Some grow into healthy vines
Some go it alone and have no protection from the elements
Some produce mold and
Some produce wonderful fruit that eventually becomes
…glorious wine.

OK. Enough sour grapes.

Here are the real secrets to getting your associates to work like a team:

  • In addition to individual performance reviews, give the “team” a grade.
  • Rotate informal “leaders” (yes, the boss will always be the boss….but alternate who runs the meeting, who arranges the logistics, etc).
  • Give your team a name and an identity (”The Rockstars” is so much more appealing than Auditor Management Fulfillment Center Personnel).
  • Take credit and criticism as a team.
  • Meet off-site and in a non-traditional setting to enhance brainstorming and evaporate traditional office roles.
  • Don’t mock anyone’s ideas or questions (yes, we can see it when you roll your eyes or smirk).
  • Make sure that everyone participates as an equal.
  • Ask people to put anonymous questions/comments in a hat and read them out loud to all (we are all thinking the same evil and practical thought, we just don’t want to be the one heard making the comment).
  • Define the roles of each member (e.g. brainstormer, client liason, Executive liason, deck management, note-taker, facilitator, etc).
  • Recognize team member’s outstanding contributions (hold an awards ceremony once a quarter).
  • Privately warn laggards that they could be bumped off the team (or, at least, traded for a Mickey Mantle and an A-Rod).
  • Today’s Tip: A Team needs to be nurtured, trimmed, fed and cared for. Don’t just bring strangers together and hope. Help create the proper “chemistry” and watch the Team flourish.

    Who Put The Swag in Swagger (Trade Show Strategies)

    Monday, March 24th, 2008

    No matter what your vocation, somewhere, sometime, somehow, there will be a dedicated trade show.

    Whether it’s “Vegetarian Paintball Enthisiasts” or “Celibate Star Trek Cat Lovers,” there is probably a trade show scheduled somewhere near a Casino or Spa with speakers, swag (those lovely monogrammed goodies that break during the ride home) and networking opportunities.

    Here are some tips for the trade show wars.

    For Attendees:

  • Grab as much swag as you possibly can. You never know when you will need glow in the dark golfballs with pliars and an air pressure gauge.
  • Figure out where the people that you really want to meet will be and run there.
  • Do not start your day without putting a large pile of your Business cards in your pocket…and try to give them out.
  • Remember, you are always on.
  • The real networking takes place between meetings as well as at Happy Hour. Save your energy for after 5:00 PM.
  • Start conversations with seatmates and get their Business card (hey, you never know).
  • Try to have dinner with someone that you met during the day or with their friends.
  • Pick the lectures that you will attend carefully. Make sure that your real goal will be enriched (e.g. networking, education, certification credits, etc.).
  • Talk to the Exhibitors and the Organizers to get the low-down on who is who and where your time is best spent

  • If you are an Exhibitor:

  • Bring lots of water, snacks and breath mints
  • Paint that smile on your face and don’t take it off until you pack up.
  • Make sure that your swag has your “brand” on it and make it tasteful (avoid the monogrammed plungers).
  • Sign up for the conference early to get the best booth price and a corner location near the middle aisle (best walk-in traffic pattern)
  • As soon as you set up, establish a great relationship with your Booth neighbors. They can be helpful during the day ( for bathroom breaks, errands, watching your goodies, etc).
  • Greet each attendee as if it counts (and pretend that their personal annecdotes are relevant and funny).
  • Keep a good list of high potential clients…and follow-up, follow-up, follow-up.
  • Bring a genuinely coveted item to raffle off to the masses (avoid Grandma’s old couch covers).

  • Today’ Tip: Trade shows can be wonderful opportunities to meet fellow specialists, network, to learn or to drive new business. Be polite, aware, aggressive, strategic and always be ready to put on your Spock ears.

    Mail Pattern Boldness (The Secrets to Good Business E-Mailing)

    Monday, March 17th, 2008

    Why do we treat e-mail any diferently than other types of communication?
    We shouldn’t.

    Truth be told, it’s more dangerous that a letter, faster than a fax and usually permanently irretrievable.

    Here are some suggestions so that you can help you avoid “sender’s remorse” and annoying the addressee:

  • Limit the number of cc:s. Does everyone really need to know that you re-ordered the toilet tissue?
  • You don’t always have to hit “reply all.” Mundane business minutia should never be a spectator sport.
  • Wait 12 hours before you send a mean-spirited “burn the bridge forever” e-mail. You really can’t ever recover from a premature breakdown (which gives new meaning to the phrase “e-mail blast”).
  • Get to the point succinctly (e.g. what are you reporting; what’s the request; what’s the next step)
  • Summarize your included attachment in one sentence, rather than regurgitating each row and column of your 60 page Excel chart
  • Save the cute exploding animations and emoticons for your personal AOL account
  • If you are sending to an extremely large number of unrelated parties, keep them as bccs (so that you maintain the sanctity of everyone’s work e-mail address)
  • Be weary of sending offensive jokes or pictures (these things can go viral instantly and your grandmother might not appreciate receiving portraits of the curent hospitality staff at the Emperors Club)

  • Today’s Tip: Write your business e-mails in a pithy, spare manner and think about about who really needs to be a (cc: or bcc:) recipient. Before sending out an enraged diatribe, take a couple of hours to cool down and assess. You can never delete a bad impression.

    Does Your Business Have A Favorable Verbal ROI?

    Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

    Every Company likes to think that it hires the right people, with the right background and attempts to provide them with the right wages, benefits and training, so that the employee will be motivated and equipped to properly serve the business.

    Unfortunately, the investment made in such individuals is not always reflected in their output or effectiveness.This disconnect is most apparent in an individual’s ability to persuasively articulate the employing organization’s services or products to 3rd parties (e.g. prospective clients, current clients, colleagues, vendors and competitors).

    This vital dynamic can be thought of as a Company’s verbal return on investment or “Verbal ROI.”

    I continue to be amazed at how even the brightest executives, professionals and HR leaders fail to properly recognize that the ability to speak in public, present and persuade are amongst the most crucial skills that any successful employee can have.

    There are basically three (4) types of organizations:

  • “Show Me The Money”- These entities feel comfortable wearing blinders and continue to look solely at raw sales numbers as the measuring stick of competency and success, and do so, in the long run, to their own detriment.
  • “The Diet Starts Tomorrow”- These organizations, with enlightened leaders, recognize the importance of persuasive and articulate employees, but never seem to get around to paying for and providing the right type of training. 
  • “I Bought The Paint Set, Now Why Can’t Anyone Around Here Paint?”- These companies have actually spent the time and money to invest in its workers’ verbal skills, but only focus on the initial purchase and implementation, not the maintenance, monitoring and continual growth and development of its team (kind of like buying the diet book but without actually cutting the calories)
  • “Putting Our Money Where Your Mouth Is”- These businesses recognize that their associates are the face and mouth of their organization…and invest time, training and follow-up in the development of speaking skills.

    Simply stated, Verbal ROI is the actual return an organization gets from the initial and continuing investment in the development of its employees’ verbal skills.

    Think of it as an equation: Verbal ROI = (Human Capital Investment + Individual Education & Experience + Provided Training & Interaction Skills) X (External Productivity) divided by Opportunities For Success.

    Clearly, this isn’t your traditional matrices, but that’s why, in today’s business world, it works so well. Verbally adept employees have better meetings, conduct more effective interviews, and have greater success with sales pitches, conversations and client interactions.

    Today’s Tip: Businesses that truly invest in their associates’ verbal skills (speaking, presenting and persuading) will see a significant and dramatic ROI.

    How To Triple Your Sales In 5 Minutes

    Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

    Sure. You were hoping for quick and easy secrets on how to instantly turn your morbid and lethargic sales around? I wish you well.

    Go ask a unicorn…or perhaps, the tooth fairy.

    In the land of “Sales” there are no easy fixes.

    However, don’t despair.
    Help is on the way.

    Here’s the secret.

    Start by attacking the fundamentals.

  • Know your product or service thoroughly (if you don’t, why am I, as a prospective customer, even talking to you?).
  • Understand and shout your differentiation (what makes you different and better than the dozens of other competitors in the marketplace?).
  • Identify satisfied customers that can sing your praises to future customers (you do have satisfied customers, right?).
  • While fishing for new prospects, don’t neglect your current customers (they are your meat and potatoes and you may not want to become a Vegan).
  • Remain “top of mind” but be respectful (stay in regular contact with targets and prospects, but don’t get arrested for stalking).
  • “No” is not an answer, but an opportunity (just ask any door-to-door salesperson).
  • Get in the door (and develop a client relationship) anyway that you can (e.g. low pricing; guarantees; unusual service; support; bundled services, etc). It is always harder to get in the door than to get kicked out.
  • Don’t stop at what the client says they need. Help them understand what else you can help them with (that they may not have even asked for or thought of).
  • Always be available, accessible and approachable.
  • Today’s Tip: Sales don’t improve because they need to. They improve because the pitch, the execution and the follow-up are thoughtful, honest and energized. Clients (new and old) are magnetically drawn to superior fundamentals.