NSA Logo

Crazy as it may sound, yep!

According to the authors of Getting to Yes, a great way to demonstrate that you are indeed keyed in to the point the other party to the conversation is making, to prove your interest and empathy, the authors recommend “interrupting” with a question now and then. The book is mainly about negotiating, but as I’m sure you know if you’re out there in the field, negotiating and selling are all about influence, and successful influence is a function of rapport! The authors suggest this as a brilliant way to go about building rapport. The way I’ve just described it may not sound like very tactful way to make a conversation flow, so you may just have to try this for yourself.

For example…

Imagine you and someone you meet are talking about hometowns. You can really show the other person how closely you’re listening by asking what their hometown is near, or by seeking clarification by asking if it is near a particular town you name. That may at first feel like a subtle interruption, but it actually demonstrates that you’re actively listening and are genuinely concerned about what they’re saying. The more specific and original your question is, the greater the potential rapport.

It would feel like an interruption to the other person, however, if you derailed them by talking about yourself! Anything other than something that makes the other party in the conversation less the star is a bad idea. The more time you invest in what is of interest to them, the greater the relationship dividends you’ll reap.

So get the other person talking, let them talk, and assertively take an interest in what they are saying through the questions you ask. Even if it at first feels like you’re interrupting. You’ll not only learn a lot more about them and gain rapport a lot faster, you’ll probably find yourself a lot more interested in the conversation!

Comments Off on So I should just interrupt?

crystal ball_1.jpg

Really, not very! The key thing is to always be on the lookout for ideas and find ways to make something that currently exists better, or simply find a better way of doing something that’s already being done. I once heard Brian Tracy say that an idea really only has to be about 10% or so “new” to be worth a fortune!

Consider these examples:

  • Ray Kroc didn’t invent a better hamburger or even found McDonald’s, but he took an existing product/business and turned it into a replicable system.
  • Sam Walton didn’t invent retailing, he just made an innovation of “going where they ain’t,” building discount stores in small towns and refining his buying systems to make Wal-Mart the giant it is today.
  • Martha Stewart didn’t really invent anything new, she just made it chic to be into designing and decorating.
  • The FOX show COPS simply had film crews follow real police officers around and capture their activities on film and share them with the rest of us…
  • Jean Nitech, founder of Weight Watchers, took the USDA food table and packaged it more effectively to create a much more marketable system that sold like crazy!

And so on! You probably thought of some similar examples. The key is to not try to hold ourselves to the difficult task of trying to be “creative,” but to instead simply look for connections. An even better idea is to not depend on upper management, the marketing department, or a consulting team to make these connections, but to train everyone in the organization to look for them and to reward even the smallest contributions! Making sure you have ongoing dialogue with your customers is crucial, too. That’s how you foster a culture of innovation.

My colleague and creativity guru John Storm has a lot more to say about the huge payoffs that can come from building this kind of a culture in the organization. I hope to have him as a visitor on my BLOG sometime in the future, but you can meet John for yourself here.

Comments Off on Just How Innovative Do You Need To Be, Anyway?

Gundy, Gundy, Gundy…

By Dr. Burt Smith September 24th, 2007

Let me start by saying that I’m not a huge fan of Mike Gundy. I was in school with him and just never much cared for him or his style of play, and I haven’t exactly been wowed with his coaching. His little blow-up at the press conference was something I know he wishes he could take back, and I think I speak for ‘Pokes everywhere when I say I wish he could too! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoMmbUmKN0E Yikes!

On the other hand, it may have just helped reinforce why I’m proud to be a ‘Poke! You see, what ole Mike was doing was taking up for one of his players. Granted, he should have dialed it down a few notches, but he sincerely had that player’s and his/our program’s best interests in mind when he did it. Frankly, I appreciate his passion and I look for this to be one of the stories that makes its way into Cowboy Lore! Pistol Pete_1.jpg

That’s all branding really is, anyway – story telling. We just hope the marketplace tells the story we intended! The media will focus upon the tirade, and unfortunately, that may be the lasting impression the rest of the world has about our beloved program, but I’m going to use it as a chance to give Gundy a break and be proud that we ‘Pokes look out for our own. That’s the story I’ll tell, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s why O-State is the brand I’ll invest in! Go ‘Pokes!

Panera_bread_logo.jpgThe other day I had a great working lunch and skull session with a colleague at Panera Bread. I visit Panera Bread often for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the food, of course, but that’s not the main reason either. At Panera, you can expect friendly, prompt service, which is worthy of mention, but you also get something you don’t get in a lot of restaurants – they leave you alone! You are welcome to sit and visit as long as you like! You’re welcome to bring your laptop and power it from their outlets! You’re welcome to make use of their wireless internet connection! No extra charge, and no rush!

From a business standpoint, one has to wonder how on earth they can do that in an industry plagued with wafer-thin margins, obsessed with maximization of floor space through the amount of revenue per customer, and the driving goal of getting new diners into the seats as soon as the current diners take their last bites. In most places, it’s either eat and get out, or stay as long as you’re ordering more food or drinks. The name of the game is traffic. As a champion of free enterprise and a small business owner myself, I can’t fully fault that. Certainly, a business has to keep the lights on and revenue is what makes that happen. When an organization can make a profit by going above and beyond, they deserve to be talked about.

Panera Bread is worthy of study because they “get it” when it comes to marketing! They follow the advice of the consultant Tom Peters called “The Guru to Gurus to Gurus,” Peter Drucker, who said in 1955, “The purpose of the organization is to create and satisfy the customer!” They focus first on doing that and the profits follow as a natural result. They let me sit there and enjoy the experience. They realize that even if I don’t order something while I’m sitting there, (though they, and I, know I really will!), I’ll have a good experience with Panera Bread and will return. It’ll be the place I talk about and the first place I recommend when I’m asked where we should have lunch, especially if it’s a working lunch. Their service is their marketing! The customer experience they create is their brand!

There’s a lesson there for all of us, and it’s profound in its simplicity: Take care of the customer! And you take best care of your customer by simply listening to their needs and then making sure we can profitably give them what they want! They hear me say I want a place to nest. They give it a try. They run the numbers, watch and see just exactly how many customers actually DO take them up on the offer to sit quietly and do whatever, they then run revenue per customer on those customers as well, and they’re probably also studying the lifetime value of the customer or the incremental revenue per customer, then they know if this extra-mile they’re going to will actually pay off, both for them and for me! Win-win! And all a simple matter of listening to the customer!

As we discuss in ECHO Marketing™, when it comes to marketing, the customer is the answer! Pay attention to what your customers want, then provide a cost-effective and profitable way to give it to them. Thank you, Dr. Drucker! Your legend lives on!

Comments Off on How Does Panera Bread Do It?

Welcome to the Game!

By Dr. Burt Smith September 19th, 2007

GreatGameofNetworking.jpgThanks to those of you who have not only purchased my first book, The Great Game of Networking, but for taking time to tell me what you liked in the book, what you’d like to see in future editions, and, most importantly, how you’ll profit from the time we spent together in the pages of the book! That is very important to me! More accurately, YOU the CUSTOMER, are very important to me!

I hope you’ll use the book as an ongoing reference manual to help you in your marketing and relationship-building efforts! I also hope you’ll surf into this site now and then to hear any new developments or to perhaps even see your own name in lights as I showcase something you’re doing networking/marketing-wise that deserves mention.

One thing several of you have said you gleamed from the book that you’ve already put to work is how to shop organizations to see if you want to join or not. In the book that I strongly advocate taking a good long test-drive and being rather a tough customer, and since YOU are my customer, I’m happy to hear that is working for you.

I am actually offering a FREE version of my  Great Game of Networking workshop for those who purchase enough copies of my book, so if you’d like to explore this possibility, please let me know! This could be a cost-effective way for YOU to offer your customers/clients an educational program you and they would spend a lot more to benefit from otherwise.