September 30, 2007

Your mother died? That will be 50 cents.

Filed under: Uncategorized, Customer Service Strategy — Mark Sanborn @ 10:06 am

In one of the most insensitive customer service stories of the year, the daughter of a recently deceased woman in Harrison, NY returned her mother’s library book. The man at the desk said it was overdue and there was a 50 cent charge. The woman explained her mother had just died. The man responded that she still owed 50 cents.

I’m a big fan and supporter of public libraries. The screw-up was with the individual, not the library. Unforuntately this is what happens when any organization hires employees without basic common sense or courtesy, or doesn’t adequately train those employees for the important nuances of service delivery.

This guy in Harrison would have flunked the turtle test (see the September 17 post).

Free Enterprise

Filed under: Observations, Featured, Success — Mark Sanborn @ 10:01 am

I was recently honored by Sales & Marketing Executives International with their 2007 Ambassador of Free Enterprise Award for which I am most grateful. I spoke at the SMEI Pinnacle Awards where I was presented the award and had the pleasure of meeting Raja Tarabishy, the University of Connecticut graduate who won the Free Enterprise Essay contest. I was impressed by his essay and thought you would enjoy it as well.

Here’s the link: Free Enterprise Essay by Raja Tarabishy (PDF).

September 25, 2007

He Would Have Been Good…

Filed under: Success, Speaking and Communication — Mark Sanborn @ 10:58 am

…if he wasn’t so bad.

I recently heard a speaker who had the potential to be great. He was a relatively young guy, knew his stuff and had a quick sense of humor. He had enough stage presence and charisma to easily win the day with his presentation, but he blew it with many little mistakes.

He had been given 30 minutes by the meeting planner. He was well past the 10 minute mark and still telling us what he was going to tell us. Nobody is good enough to spend 1/3 of his or her time doing that.

His PowerPoint slides were pretty good and very numerous. There was no way he could cover them all. So instead of removing them from the presentation, he told us he was going to flip through them quickly for a cursory look. Don’t be lazy. If you don’t have time for a slide, get rid of it. The audience feels like they’re being cheated by a brief glimpse at a slide not explained.

The technology failed, and he spent too much time focusing on that…and waiting for it to get fixed. Be prepared to move forward without your visual support if necessary.

The guy was dressed casually. Too casually. It is always safer to dress a little better than the audience, not to show off but to demonstrate that you take them and the time you’ve been given seriously. If you want to be sharp, look sharp.

We heard the same ideas over and over. Repeating the same ideas too much demonstrated one thing: lack of precise preparation. This is a sign the speaker is winging it. You can be very prepared and still be natural in your presentation. The shorter the time for your presentation, the more important careful preparation becomes.

Finally, the presenter took 10 extra minutes. Maybe he thought he’d make up for the time he wasted telling us what he was going to tell us, his lack of preparation and his technology meltdown, so he took the time. Of course he took it from other people: the next presenter, the audience and the meeting planner. Nobody ever gets criticized for ending on time. Not to do so is disrespectful.

You and I can learn from everybody, both the good and the bad. This fellow would have been great…


Filed under: Speaking and Communication — Mark Sanborn @ 10:47 am

One of the toughest things for a speaker to execute well is “questions and answers.” I rarely do them after a speech because I want to end in a planned and memorable manner. Q&A, if not done well, can be like throwing a wet blanket on an otherwise excellent presentation.

(If a meeting planner asks me to do Q&A, I’ll tell him or her that from my experience the time is better allotted to my presentation, and that I’ll be glad to answer any questions one-on-one or via email.)

If you decide to do Q&A, here are some steps for effectiveness:

1. Have audience members come prepared with questions in advance, or encourage them to write down questions while you’re speaking.

2. Have those questions written on note cards that can be collected. You can pick and choose the best questions.

3. “Plant” some questions in the audience. Ask several audience members if they would be willing to be prepared with a good question to ask at the end of your presentation.

4. If you don’t get any questions–the kiss of death–recover by answering questions you’ve come prepared to answer. Here’s what to say: “I’m frequently asked…” or “Many of you may be wondering about something I said earlier…” Then you can frame the question you answer and provide good value for listeners.

5. Stop while people still have questions, otherwise you’ll lose momentum. I’ve seen moderators and speakers beg the audience for questions, or wait inordinately long for a final question or two.

Grow Cucumbers

Filed under: Difference Makers — Mark Sanborn @ 9:22 am

Luc Paquin nominated his father Claude to receive a Fred Factor award. Here’s why:

“My father has a very big garden and he grows cucumbers…a lot of cucumbers. But he doesn’t like cucumbers. He grows them to give to the neighbor.”

I think we should take a lesson from Luc’s dad and grow more cucumbers for others.

September 24, 2007

Ace Your Next Interview with Preparation

Filed under: Professional Development, Selling, Success — Mark Sanborn @ 3:07 pm

As I’ve been working on my next book, The Encore Effect, I’ve been increasingly convinced of the power of preparation in improving performance in literally every area of life. I’m writing now for and did an article for employers about using preparation to increase job interview effectiveness. I also wrote a corresponding article about how to ace your next job interview when you are the applicant. The same principles apply to professional selling as well, so whether you’re looking for a great job or trying to close your next sale, download the PDF for a heads up and a head start on preparation!

September 22, 2007

Leaders or Lemmings

Filed under: Influence, Leadership, Speaking and Communication — Mark Sanborn @ 10:13 am

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan (if you’re a regular reader you know I’m an unabashed fan of her writing) wrote about Alan Greenspan’s new book. She quotes a former U.S. senator who complained about high-level officials “bravely-speaking out after the have left office.” She points out that these folks were perfectly free to speak out while they were in office. It is my belief that is what leaders do.

There is little bravery in criticism after-the-fact. Followers or constituents may not agree with the leader, but the leader is responsible to “speak the truth in love” knowing that there are always risks in honesty, but that the greater risk is in timidity.

I’ve never been a fan of “find out where they’re going and jump in front of the line” leadership strategy, because that isn’t leadership. If you believe there is a better destination, then communicate that in a compelling way and invite people to follow you in that direction.

We need leaders, not assertive lemmings.

Giuliani Scores, then Trips

Filed under: Influence, Leadership, Speaking and Communication — Mark Sanborn @ 10:05 am

CNN has been reporting on Rudy’s presentation to the National Rifle Association. The NRA hasn’t been a big fan of Giuliani’s leadership in the past and he’s trying to win them over.

He scored, in my opinion, when he said, in effective, “If you agree with the issues on my agenda, then vote for me. And if you don’t agree then don’t vote for me because I’m really going to do them.” There was no waffling: he clarified his position and invited people to agree or disagree, and he made sure they knew he fully intended to pursue what he had outlines.

He tripped, in a big way, when he supposedly took a phone call from his wife. It has been suggested that comments from other the opposition about his family life may have motivated him to brush up his image in that area. Rudy’s cell phone rang during his presentation, he answered and informed the audience it was his wife.

First, it is bad form (rude) to answer your cell phone in the middle of a personal conversation much less a speech. Secondly, it came across as highly contrived. “Hi Hon. Just speaking to the NRA. Would you like to say hello?” Are you kidding?

When it comes to communicating well, you win some and you lose some. When the stakes are high, you can’t afford to lose very many.

If Rudy were to ask for my advice, I’d say: Keep the clear agenda. Lose the gimmicks.

September 19, 2007

Bad Ads

Filed under: Uncategorized, Observations — Mark Sanborn @ 9:41 am

We’ve all got our pet peeves, and one of mine is stupid advertising, the kind that insults your intelligence and makes you think the ad creator is smirking about how clever he or she is and how dumb you are.

My favorite example right now is the slob and his dog on the sleep number bed. I’ve got nothing against sleep number beds, but my goodness, what a distasteful ad.

This guy, who looks like what you and I hope we don’t even vaguely resemble even in private, is lounging around on a gross looking, unkempt bed with his large slobbery dog talking about the fact that he and his dog both choose different sleep numbers. Talented dog to be making numerical choices. The guy points out that he has two ex-wives (no surprise there) and that if he ever found a woman that would take whatever spaces if leftover when he and Rover are in the sack, she is might become future ex-wife number three.

This ad is supposed to make me want a sleep number bed?
Then there is the clever UPS or FedEx ad (bad sign when you can’t remember who the ad is for) that is based on the premise that “ground” isn’t “slow” like it sounds. To make the point, everybody in the ad has a name that exactly describes them: Harry (hairy guy), Eileen (leaning), etc.

To be sure, it is kind of clever, but the ad demonstrates exactly the opposite of the premise. In this case, everybody IS exactly what their name sounds like. Somehow this is supposed to help me remember that “ground” isn’t as slow as it sounds.

These are relatively unimportant observations in the big scheme of things, and I’d classify these as “things that make you go hmmmm.”

But at least these ads have nothing to do with O.J. Simpson.

September 17, 2007

Clear Thinking

Filed under: Observations, Leadership, Speaking and Communication — Mark Sanborn @ 2:30 pm

I’m a car junkie and voracious reader of automotive related magazines. In the October issues of Motor Trend there is a brief article about Gordon Murray and his passion to reinvent the automobile. Murray has a high-performance background including the McLaren F1 supercar and Grand Prix racing, but these days he’s working on a radical tiny city car.

Lots of designers and manufacturers have hopped on the “little is the next big” bandwagon, but to varying degrees of success. I was impressed by Murray’s thinking. He believes for small cars to be successful they must be 1) less costly to buy and run, 2) cool or hip, 3) proven to be safe and 4) easy to drive in traffic.

Seems simple and obvious, but most have only aimed for two or at most three of those factors in their design efforts.

Murray’s thinking is concise and elegant. Time will prove if he’s right, and if his firm can capitalize on the race to get small.

Leaders in any profession, I have observed, have the ability to see the big picture as well as the attendant components, make the complex simple (but not simplistic) and communicate their thinking clearly and crisply. Gordon Murray seems to be a fine example of this.

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