When Someone Calls Your Baby Ugly

ugly_baby_by_dleish-d53u50lHave you ever been presenting an idea which you think is great and revolutionary only to have everyone in the room mock it?  This phenomenon is known as having your baby called ugly.  You feel terrible and begin to doubt yourself.  Depending on how long you have worked on the idea, you feel like you wasted tons of time and are probably going to get fired.

If you work on the product development end of your company, you are numb to this type of rejection.  It is part of your job description- right up there with drinking too much coffee and eating too much sugar.  But for the rest of us that are sensitive to what people think about you, what can we do to move on?

1.       Separate Fact from Opinion.  Many times, even in a very visceral response, there are some good facts in the criticism.  Take the time to hear the message, not necessarily the words being spoken.  You can learn a lot about the deficiencies of the idea this way.

2.       Ask Probing Questions.  Take the time to ask people questions that remove emotion from the equation.  If someone does not like the color of a package, ask whether a different color may be better.  If you ask why you do not like green, it is likely to illicit an emotional response.

3.       Look at Your Idea with Fresh Eyes.  Now that you have received negative feedback, look and see where the idea can be improved.  If it is a new process, review each step and see where the breakdowns are- and fix them.

4.       Do Not Get Defensive.  Your natural instinct is to fight back.  This is almost always the wrong response.  Impassioned pleas work well in the movies, but not so much at work.  Take in the criticism and defend your position, but not to the point where you are going to crying discussing it.

5.       Scrap the Idea, If Needed.  Sometimes your ideas are not going to work.  Whether it is a toy that the kids don’t like or a form that no one will fill out.  Cut your losses and go back to the drawing board.  If 10% of your ideas stick, you are a prolific innovator.

Now throw all of this advice out if you truly have a groundbreaking idea.  If your company or clients don’t appreciate it, find an audience that will.

Preparing for a Meeting- a Lost Art

bored-employees-in-presentationBy the time you reach your forties, you will have attended literally thousands of meetings.  According to Effectivemeetings.com through a white paper by MCI, the average worker attends 61.8 meetings per month and 50% of the meeting time is considered wasted.  That means you are potentially wasting a work week per month in meetings that are not accomplishing anything important.

One of the reasons in my opinion that so much time is wasted is because there are too many meetings to attend and most meetings are not being well prepared for by either the organizer or the attendee. This lack of preparation leads to disjointed meeting flows, distracting sidebar discussions, and unmet expectations.

Here are some simple ways to prepare for a meeting that is faster and more effective:

  1. Set and publish an agenda (and read it if you’re an attendee).  This helps the organizer organize his/her thoughts on topics to be covered.  It also enables attendees to see what is or isn’t being covered and can come prepared for the meeting with pertinent input.
  2. Set hard time limits for your meetings in offbeat intervals.  Scheduling a twenty-minute meeting gives everyone the expectation that the meeting needs to be crisp.  It also allows the professional meeting going to have a few minutes before their next one.
  3. Invite essential attendees only.  While it is great to be inclusive, having people who are not directly affected by the meeting topics yields for disinterested participants.  Disinterested participants tend to be distracting and cause the meeting to veer off course as they get the topics their interested in interjected into the meeting.
  4. Start on time.  If most of the attendees can make the appointed time, start the meeting.  The late arrivers will catch up and will also make an effort to be punctual the next time.  Also, do not let the late arriver hijack your meeting by apologizing, making excuses, etc.  Guess what?  No one cares.  Be on time.
  5. Send out minutes in action oriented formats.  Do not send a recap of the meeting, instead send what needs to be done coming out of the meeting.  This makes each subsequent meeting more productive and the agenda easier to write.

Make sure you take your meeting organization and attendance seriously.  It will help you be more productive both in and out of your meetings.

Five Old Ways That Still Work

Told-man-business-suithe business world that we live in changes instantaneously.  Hundreds of new ways to reach, engage and measure are added to your landscape every day.  Thousands of business gurus tell you that you need to stop doing things the old way, that old ways don’t work, etc.  I agree with that assessment to a point.  Evolve or die is a truism that has followed my whole career. 

When you boil it down, what these people are talking about is mostly tactical.  However, to me, there are a lot of old strategies that need to be remembered as you are evolving.  Without them, it will be really hard to master the new ways of engagement.

1.       You need to stand for something.  Having conviction is one of the most important attributes a person or brand needs to be successful.  Trying to please everyone will make you please no one.  The adage “One Size Fits None” is more important than ever.

2.       Your message needs to be clear and concise.  By the time I am finished reading this line, you will have made a decision on whether I am on point.  A key for lasting in your job or a product lasting in the marketplace is to have an easy to understand. 

3.       You need to show up.  If you miss a sales appointment, your client cannot buy.  If you are not in stock, your product cannot be bought.  If either of these happen, you become unreliable and no one wants to do business with people or companies that they cannot rely on.

4.       You need to deliver on your promise.  For you, it is keeping your word.  For your products or services, it is doing what it said it does. 

5.       You need two way relationships.  You need to listen to your key influencers- vendors, coworkers, clients, consumers- and enact ways to satisfy their root needs.  That give and take is a key to successful career advancement and product improvement.

None of this is rocket science.  However, it is good regardless of how senior you are in your career to look at the key fundamentals of business.  People will always do business with people and companies that they like, trust, and listen.  The way to separate you is how you convey those emotions and convince people to give you a shot.

The Art of Selling at a Conference

trade_show_successI just returned from a conference this past weekend that feature the trifecta of interesting content, energized attendees, and professional vendors.  It was a great event and got me thinking about how to sell at a conference.  To me, there are three key ingredients:

  1. Strong Product Demonstration. You need to have a product that is easy to demonstrate and is visually interesting for passersby to watch the demo.  The old Home Shows were masters of getting people to buy $20 mops that could suck up gallons of water.  Infomercials are perfect examples as well.  You need the product after you see it.  If you can perform the demo on the person, it draws even more interest.
  2. Earnest Demonstrators.  The attendee does not want to be pitched.  They want to talk to someone who takes the time to understand their needs and then see a potential solution.  Too many times, the person is so desperate for a sale that they forget to ask the most important questions- “What’s your name?” and “How can I help you?”  People want to be made to feel important.  Gracious demonstrators help that- especially if that person will also be their company contact.
  3. Impeccable Follow Up. The sale is in the follow up.  Many conferences do not lend themselves to immediate sales.  As an exhibiter, you need to capture your leads and send strong and detailed follow up.  Remind the lead who you are, what you do, and why they should care.  Outline the costs and order process to make it simple for them to choose you.  Hyperlinks to an online store work very well for this.  Make sure your follow up is timely- within the first three days that the visitor is returning but not on the first day back in the office.  You do not want to get lost in the inbox.  Stay diligent on the follow up as well.  Add the person to a weekly then monthly contact.  They may not be ready to buy today, what you want to be top of mind when they are.

Too many times, people look at their immediate return at a conference to determine whether it was successful.  Instead take a long view of the situation.  You may be very pleased at what you see.

Rethink Your Marketing Plan

marketing_planThe key to success in business is very complicated.  You need a lot of different factors to work together at the same time like a product or service that customers not only want or need, but are willing to pay for, a back room that allows you to deliver the experience economically and on time, and you need to collect more revenue than your costs.

One of the main components of creating demand is a strong marketing plan.  At this point, I know you are thinking- “No kidding”.  But it is amazing how difficult it is to achieve a strong plan.  When going through your plan, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

1.       What is our content marketing strategy?  According to Michael Brenner, you need to change how you reach, engage and convert new buyers by establishing yourself as the expert, not just as a purveyor of a product or service.  Branding takes a back seat to credibility.

2.       What is your out of home strategy?  How are you reaching customers when they are out and about to get conversions?  Social and digital media are great ways to get intercepts at the time of potential purchase.  Restaurants tweeting specials at 11:30 is a great way to sway a lunch decision. 

3.       Do you love your current clients?  One of the largest segments of business that you ignore is your current users.  This is especially true in healthcare.  One of their core indices is new patients.  However, it is much easier to grow revenue by supplying current patients with more services- whether they are inside of an individual office or health system.  Make sure you engage the people who are already used to working with you.  They will buy more.

4.       Am I ready when my potential clients are ready to buy?  Again I will pick on health care providers.  One of the main purposes of Urgent Care Centers is to help you avoid emergency rooms.  However, almost every urgent care closes at 9 pm.  When are emergency rooms the busiest- you guessed it, from 10 pm to 4 am. 

5.       Am I aligning myself with companies that make sense?  Budweiser sponsoring sporting events or beauty products on daytime TV make perfect sense, logical combinations.  A billboard for orthopedic surgeons on a bridge probably not so much.  That money could sponsor entire youth sports leagues where kids are getting hurt every day or a senior center where people are always talking about their maladies.

Again nothing that I post is rocket science.  But take the time to really think about how to engage your clients and potential clients.  You will find that many of your expenditures are wasted effort because the target is not able or willing to buy your message when you are delivering it.