Saying Thank You Still Works

Not five minutes ago, I received a personal phone call from the head of a non-profit organization that I recently donated to.  His call was to simply say “thank you” by phone.  He acknowledged my contribution and said that in today’s economic challenges, every dollar counts.  He finished by reiterating his thanks and said goodbye.

That’s it.  Five minutes on a Wednesday morning and I will always be supporting that charity.

Think about it.  How a simple thank you can change how your business succeeds.  Whether you are a non-profit executive or a business owner, simply taking a few minutes to express your thanks with a phone call or card makes a huge impression.  I was most impressed that he called.  In today’s e-mail world, it would have been easy to just send it electronically, which in and of itself would have been nice.  By being “old school” and calling, it made it even more memorable.

How do you express thanks to your clients and customers?  Do you do it often enough?  This was a great reminder for me.  It should be for you, too!


Are You Willing to Push Back?

One of the biggest metamorphosis I’ve experienced since becoming a consultant in 2005 is the art of the “push back.”  As an insurance sales professional for nearly 20 years, I studied many sales approaches and most always preached that the client or prospect are “always right.”  You never wanted to cause any waves, take any chances on creating friction, or take an alternate view because you were scared to death of losing the sale.

For those of you in business, I have two words for you – STOP IT!

All this timidness ever produces is a “yes man” mentality and even worse, a relationship where the client or prospect is more important than you.

The reality is that your client and you are peers.  This doesn’t mean you should ever be rude, snide, arrogant, or bossy.  What it means is that you have a healthy enough relationship where you can push back in confidence, especially when it means your client benefits.

I’ve recently had several excellent debates on Facebook with friends on topics related to politics and current events.  We often don’t agree and respectfully spar with each other.  In the old days, I may have held my tongue in fear that someone “important” might read it, disagree, and never want to do business with me.  Well, my viewpoint is also important.  I may not always be right (as my wife often points out to me), but I’m willing to debate, learn more, and be interesting.  I’ve yet to lose a friend (as far as I know) and often develop a better relationship.

Your client or prospect doesn’t need a “yes man.”  They need someone to hold them accountable, challenge their ideas, help them to grow, create more opportunities, and in the end improve their condition.

Here are five strategies you can employ in your business AND personal life:

  1. Don’t be afraid to offer a differing opinon.  Someone may learn from the process or at the very least be better educated from it.
  2. Don’t be afraid to push back to a client or prospect.  If it’s in their best interest based on your expertise, they will respect it.  Think of it this way, if you are always agreeing with them, why do they need you?
  3. Challenge ideas.  Ask why they feel that a particular strategy will work; offer alternatives; find potential flaws.  Better in the beginning than when in motion.
  4. Become an object of interest.  My mentor, Dr. Alan Weiss always stresses this and I am a big believer in it.  Read newspapers, follow current events, have opinions.  In addition, ask questions and respond.  This is part of becoming intelligent and interesting person to others.
  5. Be provocative.  I’ve been thrilled that many of my blog posts have drawn comments, especially ones that disagree.  We can agree to debate issues while being respectful.  It adds value and educates.

Bottom line – in order to become someone of value to your market, then you need to stay away from being robotic “yes men and women.”  Commit to helping others by pushing back when you need to, creating a buzz, and becoming an object if interest and intrigue.  In the end, you will find that it improves your career and your life.


23 Best Practices for Business Communications

Here are my 23 Best Practices for Business Communications.  They are not in any priority order or all-inclusive.  They are a good start.  If you commit to all 23, you will go a long way into providing more value for your clients, prospects, and business associates.

•    Learn to anticipate potential questions from clients, prospects, and audience
•    Use role playing as a practice aid for sales calls and networking
•    Arrive early for your speeches
•    Always check audio visual in advance
•    Be prepared for technology malfunctions
•    Internalize your value proposition
•    Write out your introduction and give it in advance to your presenter
•    Don’t try to sell in networking events
•    Build relationships first
•    Ask questions and be an active listener
•    If you’re at a meal, don’t talk with your mouth full
•    Make eye contact on hand shakes
•    Hold eye contact in speeches
•    Use personal stories to advance your message
•    Never stop learning – use professional development opportunities
•    Avoid filler words like uhm, ah, and so
•    Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes – learn and move on
•    Watch great speakers
•    Repeat names to help you remember them
•    Learn to improve your vocal variety and pace to match your message
•    Be likeable
•    Provide value in all your conversations, writings, and speeches
•    Use “you-focused” questions and terms