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Deborah Kolb: Shadow Negotiation

Deborah Kolb is an academic who has chosen a precise area of study and contributed to our insights. She has examined the intersection of leadership, negotiation, and gender, to better understand how women can negotiate for the conditions that will allow them to lead successfully.

I don’t often editorialise, but at a time when a rise in women in national and global leadership roles attracts much comment, it does seem as though any work that will allow men and women  an equal footing in leadership must be a good thing. Fifty per cent of the talent pool for leadership roles is systemically under-represented. When women hold leadership roles it is still seen by many as worthy of remark. Deborah Kolb’s work may help women to compete more fairly to secure the leadership roles they deserve.

 

Deborah Kolb
Deborah Kolb

Very Short Biography

Deborah Kolb was awarded  a BA in History and Economics at Vasser College in 1965, and went on to start a PhD in Organisational Studies and Labour Relations at the MIT Sloan School of Management. While studying for her doctoral thesis (which she defended successfully in 1981) she took an academic appointment at Simmons College, becoming Deloitte Ellen Gabriel Professor for Women and Leadership in 2006. Since 2010, she has held the chair with Emerita status.

Kolb’s work on negotiation and gender came to prominence with her 2000 book ‘Shadow Negotiation: How Women Can Master the Hidden Agendas That Determine Bargaining Success‘, which she co-wrote with Judith Williams. This was widely praised and one of Harvard Business Review’s top ten business books of 2000. Her 2015 book, ‘Negotiating at Work: Turn Small Wins into Big Gains‘ was also well received and rated as one of the best books on negotiation of that year.

From 1991 to 1994, Kolb also served as Executive Director of Harvard Law School’s Project on Negotiation (Founded by William Ury and Roger Fisher), where she remains on the faculty, with Ury and Amy Cuddy.

Shadow Negotiation

When we negotiate, whether it is a formal contractual negotiation, a career stage, or just for a role in our organisation,  Kolb describes a second negotiation running in parallel: a Shadow Negotiation.

Alongside the formal discussion, each negotiator will also be trying to put their own interests and needs to the fore. They will be promoting their opinions, and trying to win the co-operation of the other person. This shadow negotiation often determines the outcome of the primary bargaining process, yet women often fare poorly here, no matter how well prepared they are for the structured negotiating process.

Kolb suggests that traditionally women have not fared well because they often miss the  moments in a negotiation, where the surface position is actually negotiable. They ‘take no for an answer’ rather than as a new bargaining position. Women’s more natural collaborative approach can also harm their shadow negotiation. In trying  to be responsive to the other side’s position, they can be interpreted as accommodating it, and making concessions, which is seen as weak.

The result is women’s outcomes from negotiations are poorer in terms of cash, perks, prestigious assignments, or roles in decision-making, than those of their male colleagues.

So Kolb would argue that women need to spot these looming acts of self-sabotaging the shadow negotiation, by being aware of how other people’s approaches can trigger them. The research that Kolb and Williams present, in their book, suggests three strategic levers to guide the shadow negotiation. These seem equally valuable to men and women.

  1. Power Moves
  2. Process Moves
  3. Appreciative Moves

If all of this sounds a little like the exercise of political acumen, read on. It is!

Power Moves

These are the strategies that get you to the formal negotiating table.  The moves are:

  • to offer incentives that show the other party the value of negotiating
  • to enlist a coalition of allies who will support you
  • create pressure by showing the risks of the status quo

Process Moves

These strategies ensure that the bargaining process works effectively for the negotiator, by setting the right ground rules. You can do this by getting your idea into the discussion early, before any conflict can cause your counter-party to be deaf to it. Ideally, anchor the negotiation around your point of view before it starts. You could also reframe the negotiation process as being about something the other person deeply values. Finally, you can use behind-the-scenes lobbying to build consensus in parallel with the formal negotiation.

Appreciative Moves

These are trust-building strategies that can unlock deadlock. They move the surface and shadow negotiations away from adversarial, by appreciating the other person’s concerns and values. The authors suggest:

  • Helping others to save face
  • Keeping the dialogue going, through deadlock. Stop trying to get agreement and focus on communicating concerns and aspirations
  • Look for the points of view that may break the deadlock, by setting a new direction for discussions

Can we become better negotiators?

Without a doubt, yes. This is the mission of the Harvard Project on Negotiation. Deborah Kolb, as a significant contributor to that, has a lot to teach us.

Recommended reading:

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Seth Godin: Permission Marketing

The internet has changed the old pre-1990 world of marketing and advertising. It has thrown up new rules, new tools and new gurus. One of the very first to spot that this would happen, and then to study strategy and tactics, was Seth Godin. A serial entrepreneur and opinion former, Seth Godin is far better known among entrepreneurs, small business owners and freelancers than among the marketing managers of larger corporations. but he has worked hard to keep his analysis fresh and relevant, and there is much that any manager can learn from him.

Seth Godin

Short Biography

Seth Godin was born, grew up and continues to live and work in New York State. Born in 1960, he read computer science and philosophy at Tufts University and then did an MBA in marketing at Stanford Graduate School of Business. He then went to work at educational software business, Spinnaker Software, as a brand manager.

He started his first business, in book packaging, after leaving Spinnaker in 1986, but real success came in 1995, when he and business partner Mark Hurst started a marketing company called Yoyodyne. Godin is an avid reader and Yoyodyne was possibly named after a fictional defence contractor in Thomas Pynchon’s novels.

Yoyodyne used the concept of ‘Permission Marketing’. This is a term Godin claims to have coined with his book of the same name, published in 1999. The idea behind this is that we, the targets of marketing, give our permission for the marketer to send us their messages. In the case of Yoyodyne, it gained permission on behalf of its clients, by offering their prospects games and contests. With a blue-chip customer base, Godin sold the business in 1998 to Yahoo!, becoming Yahoo!’s VP for Direct Marketing. He only stayed for two years, which suggests that this was a tie-in period, before setting out on his own again.

Multiple ventures have followed: ChangeThis (an idea dissemination platform – sold in 2005), Squidoo (a web microsite platform sold in 2014), The Domino Project (a book publishing venture that published one book per month in 2011 – four have been reprinted by Portfolio/Penguin in 2015).

In amongst this, Godin has been a prolific author and a successful speaker. He largely promotes his own events based on a massive following for his daily blog posts. This gives him a massive permission marketing base for his books, events, courses and any other venture he is drawn to.

Seven Big Ideas

We can track Godin’s ideas through his books (currently over 20, I think). Let’s take a look at a few that will appeal to a range of managers and professionals.

Permission Marketing (1999) and All Marketers are Liars (2004)

Don’t force your message on your audience – create a demand from your audience to hear your message. And then, when they come to you, don’t tell them about your product, tell them stories.

Purple Cow (2002)

The key is differentiation. Without it you won’t stand out and marketing will fail. You need to abandon product, place, price, and promotion in favour of p for phenomenal or, as Godin puts it: p for Purple Cow.

The Dip (2007)

Doing things really well is hard. You make a lot of progress at the start of your learning journey and then slow down. This is the Dip. If you take on too much, you won’t have the time or attention to escape the dip on anything. True success means quitting on most things so you can succeed on a few.

Tribes: We need you to lead us (2008)

Market by leading. Find like-minded people who believe in what you are doing and lead them. Create products or services that they want, and they will crave what you offer. The ultimate in permission marketing. See an earlier Pocketblog about Godin’s Tribes concept.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? (2010)

Market yourself by becoming essential to your organisation or your tribe. Do this with creativity and by doing the most valuable work that you can. This is a manifesto for personal success, rather than the success of your product.

We are all Weird (2011)

Everyone is different and the internet allows us to make for and market to the long tail – small communities who would have been too small to build a career or product on before the internet allowed us to address the world.

The Icarus Deception (2012)

Playing it safe is not a safe strategy. Success means taking risks and being exceptional. Be creative and do the best work you possibly can.

Seth Godin at TED

Seth Godin has spoken twice at TED, in 2003 and in 2009.

[ted id=28]

[ted id=538]

 

 

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Alan Sugar: Street Smart

While not quite the classic ‘rags to riches’ story, Alan Sugar is a genuine example of the trope of a smart, hard working street trader, who makes it to the big time. And what a big time it is. The Sunday Times Rich List rates him as a Sterling billionaire. It’s easy to feel we know Alan Sugar, through his successful appearances on the UK version of The Apprentice. I suspect that what we see on screen, however, is a character: part Alan Sugar, and part the creation of the shows directors, producers and editors.

Alan Sugar

Short Biography

Alan Michael Sugar was born in 1947 and grew up in Hackney, in East London. His father worked in the East End garment industry, as did my grandmother. After leaving school at 16, Sugar spent a short time in the Civil Service, before investing £50 of his savings in a van and some electrical goods to sell from it.

Sugar was an adept street trader and gradually moved up the value chain to wholesaling and import, founding his first company, Amstrad (AMS Trading), in 1968. But Sugar realised he would only find the big profit in manufacturing. The business he understood best was consumer electronics, so Amstrad’s first manufacturing venture was record turntables. This was the first of many examples of Sugar finding ways to reduce manufacturing costs substantially, so he could out-compete rivals on price.

The 1980s were great years for Sugar and Amstrad, starting in 1980 with its flotation on the London Stock Exchange. The company grew rapidly and launched its first computer in 1984. Although outcompeted by Apple, Commodore and the BBC Micro, it did sell well domestically, as did the following year’s business-oriented word processor. The 1980s ended with the launch of Amstrad’s first satellite TV receiver dish – a line that was to be extremely profitable, with the growth of satellite broadcasting by Sky, BSB, and later, the merged BSkyB. The 1990s were more troubling for Amstrad, which suffered a number of commercial setbacks.

I cannot help wondering if Sugar ‘took his eye off the ball’ in the 1990s, because this was the time too, that he bought and chaired the Premier League football Club Tottenham Hotspur (1991-2001). He later described this period as a waste of his life, and it was certainly a fractious time at the club.

In 2007, Sugar cleared house, selling off Amstrad to business partners BSkyB and his final stake in Tottenham Hotspur.

In 2000, Sugar was knighted “for services to the Home Computer and Electronics Industry” and became Sir Alan Sugar, and then in 2009, was enobled as Baron Sugar of Clapton, to take up a place in Gordon Brown’s Labour Government, sitting in the House of Lords. In 2015, Sugar resigned the Labour Whip, saying that the party’s policies had drifted too far in a direction away from the needs of British business.

Amstrad is also a serious philanthropist, donating substantial funds and time to care and arts organisations. He has written four books too, of which the most important and best selling is his autobiography, What You See Is What You Get. And, of course, he is best known in the UK for his appearance in every series of BBC TV’s The Apprentice.

Business Lessons from Lord Sugar

Much has been written on this – including by me, in a series of blogs drawing lessons from episodes of The Apprentice over a number of years. So let’s keep it simple. Here are five important lessons for managers and business people to bear in mind.

Lesson 1: Character is Destiny

Whether you like or loathe the image he portrays in public, Sugar cleaves firmly to his own principles and business values. If I had to assess ‘the real Alan Sugar’ – and bear in mind, I have no privileged knowledge here – I would speculate that he is someone who has deep respect for people who can demonstrate their capabilities and expertise at the highest level, and has no time for people who have little ability. Anyone who tries to make up for their shortcomings through ingratiation or deception will incur his wrath.

I suspect trusting his closest allies and advisors profoundly has been important in building his success, but his blunt, no nonsense, and occasionally abrasive style has created detractors. His management style has been criticised, as has his attitude to women at work.

Lesson 2: Spot the Next Big Thing… then move quickly

Computers, word processors, TV satellite dishes, email, PDAs, satellite TV receivers… Sugar was in on the ground floor of all of these. At each stage, he used the knowledge and skills gained in earlier ventures to move quickly and seize market share. He also has a strong insight into customer desires and behaviours, which is critical in commercial decision-making. Not all his ventures have been hugely successful, but in business, it is the cumulative success that matters. Indeed, not all his customer predictions have been sound either: he famously predicted the demise of the iPod within a year. Whoops.

Lesson 3: Out-compete ruthlessly

Sugar’s primary competitive strategy is to out-compete on price. Take early stage technology that has started to stabilise, and find a way to manufacture and ship it at vastly reduced costs. The Amstrad computer was reportedly designed on an airline napkin, on a flight from Japan (where he’d seen early computers on sale) and Hong Kong, where he had business contacts that could help with manufacturing.

Lesson 4: Roll with the Punches

Sugar is a great example of business resilience. Not every venture was a success and he has had difficult times in his commercial life. Maybe a stable family life (40+ years of marriage) helped, but I suspect his personal resilience is also down to his character. Expect set backs, take them on the chin, learn from them, and come back fighting.

Lesson 5: Learn how to Negotiate well

I don’t know what Lord Sugar’s negotiating secrets would be – or even if they are anything more than consistent and ruthless application of sound basic principles. But it is certain that he is able to secure every last ounce out of a deal and is scathing of people who ‘leave money on the table’ in a negotiation.

For more on Negotiation, see:

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Guy Kawasaki: Corporate Evangelist

It is a common cry that the internet has changed everything and almost equally common to hear that it has transformed marketing. One person leading the charge to dedefine marketing in the technology age is Guy Kawasaki; formerly, and perhaps most famously, Chief Evangelist for Apple.

Guy Kawasaki

Short Biography

Guy Kawasaki was born in 1954, in Honolulu. He says of his school that ‘it is not as well known as its rival, because no presidents of the US went there’. However, it did allow him to study psychology at Stanford University, from where he went on to UCLA, after a week at UC Davis; starting Law School, but finding it wasn’t for him. After gaining his MBA at UCLA, his first job was in the jewellery trade, which taught him how to sell.

Kawasaki’s next job took him into the milieu in which he has remained: the technology industry. It was when his employer was taken over, and he was asked to move to Atlanta, that he made the move instead to Apple, in 1983. There he took the role of ‘Software evangelist’ – his job was to convince developers to create products for a new computer that, at the time, had a tiny user-base, no backwards compatibility, and minimal sales. He stayed in this role for four years.

His next role was leading a software business, creating products for a new computer… He says deprecatingly of himself that he believed his own hype, but for a while, the database software that Acius created was among the best for the Apple system. A spell of journalism followed (in the Mac arena) and then he collaborated to set up another software company. But in 1995, Kawasaki returned to Apple as their ‘Chief Evangelist’ charged with developing and protecting the brand.

Leaving Apple again in 1997, he co-founded a technology venture capital business and gradually built up a wide portfolio of advisory positions with tech businesses. Indeed, he continued to found businesses too – most notably Alltop, and increasingly became a much in-demand speaker and author. He is currently Chief Evangelist at graphics and design software service company, Canva.

Kawasaki’s Ideas

The first thing to say is that Kawasaki’s ideas are not original, and I doubt he would claim it for them. His skill is creating a coherent narrative around ‘marketing by enchantment’ – using the ideas of soft influence to engage an audience and build a loyal customer base for a product or service. He himself likens the content of his book, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions, to Dale Carnegie’s earlier book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. He also describes himself as the author of thirteen books, or of one book, written thirteen times. Be aware of this when shopping, as it does contain a grain of truth!

For me, Enchantment is the book that contains his central thesis. He describes ‘enchantment’ as ‘to charm, delight, enrapture’, and as ‘the process of delighting people with a product, service, organization, or idea.’

So how can you create enchantment?

Kawasaki identifies three primary requirements for enchantment:

1. Greatness

Greatness is about quality – you cannot truly enchant with a sub-standard product. If you want to enchant, you need to start with the passion to create a great product that people will crave, because it goes well beyond good: in Steve Job’s words; ‘crazy good’. Canva, with which he is currently associated, has been described as ‘the easiest to use design program in the world’. Whether or not you believe this is true, the fact that people with knowledge say this is a sign of its greatness (and it is pretty good – and free to use!). It is also an example of another of Kawasaki’s points: that a grand vision is not important, drawing the supposition that Richard Branson almost certainly had no concept of ‘Virgin Group’ when he started Virgin Records – he simply set out to create a great record label. For many years, Canva has been targeted at individuals; only recently has it started to create an enterprise level offering.

2. Likeability

You need to make your product or service likeable, by being humble, generous, decent and doing what you say you’ll do. Answer your phones quickly, and do the right thing for people. Kawasaki is mistrustful of charisma and instead urges real engagement with customers and prospective customers. Show them courtesy and respect, and do nice things for them and they will surely come to like you and your brand.

3. Trust

Long-term, likeability will turn into trust. When you continually delight with both the quality of your product or service and treat people exceptionally well, they will come to trust you. Once you have that, as long as you do not squander it, you have created real and valuable capital for your brand.

I think you can see that none of this is revolutionary.

So why is it important? It is important because it works, yet is not that widely acted upon. The burden of Kawasaki’s advice is honoured more often in the breach than the observance, as the vast majority of corporations continue to invest highly in traditional forms of marketing and advertising, which fail to respectfully engage with their markets. Why? I think because it is easier. I think that you can readily hire an agency for the one, but need exceptional individuals and exceptional commitment to ‘do enchantment’ well.

Presenting to Enchant
A short diversion

I was very much taken, while researching this blog, with Kawasaki’s simple advice for presenters, so here it is…

The 10-20-30 Rule:

  • 10 Slides
  • 20 minutes
  • 30 point font

Use lots of graphics and images

Where you can, demonstrate rather than explain

Kawasaki Speaking

Guy Kawasaki is a much in demand speaker. Here he is at TEDx talking about ‘The Art of Innovation’. This is one of my favourite TED talks with plenty of aha moments.

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Estée Lauder: Modern Marketing

Christmas is coming and many readers will be considering perfume and beauty products as gifts. One of the biggest players in that market is Estée Lauder – the eponymously named cosmetics business founded by a determined and charismatic entrepreneur: Estée Lauder.

Estee Lauder

Brief Biography

Estée Lauder was born in 1908 and grew up in the Queens suburb of New York, where her father (like mine) ran a hardware store. Her interest in beauty products started when her Hungarian uncle, Dr Schotz, who was a chemist, came to live with her family and created skin creams in the kitchen, and later in a laboratory in a stable out back. He also made paint stripper, embalming fluid, and lice treatment for chickens. We can only hope that there were no serious mix ups in packaging!

Lauder helped Schotz by selling beauty products and so began her career as a consummate salesperson and marketer, selling skin care and makeup in beauty salons, demonstrating her products on women while they were sitting under hair dryers. This cemented her belief that women must try if they are to buy.

The Estée Lauder name borrows from her given name, Josephine Esther Mentzer, which the family shortened to Esty, and her married name, following her marriage to Joseph Lauder in 1930 or, more strictly, I’d guess, following their remarriage in 1942, following separation and reconciliation. In 1946 she and Joseph Lauder  launched the Company, soon winning a concession at their first department store.

Lauder targeted the most prestigious store, Saks, and a year later was able to finally persuade the buyer after giving a talk at the Waldorf Astoria hotel, and then giving away samples at the end. This created a demand that Saks could not ignore, and marked her second key lesson in marketing.

Lauder’s first fragrance was Youth Dew, a bath oil, created in 1953. It was a rapid success, and Lauder continued to demonstrate her olfactory acumen (as a ‘nose’ is how the industry terms it) by overseeing the creation of five more brands of fragrance before she retired in 1995.

Lauder’s Approach to Marketing

Many of Lauder’s marketing strategies and tactics will strike a modern reader as very… modern. They remain very much what is still recommended; because it still works. So, as a primer on marketing, we can do little better than take inventory of seven of her best approaches.

Give away samples

The try before you buy approach is so successful, it is used on a multi-million dollar scale. Just look at how many millions of versions of U2’s latest record were given away by Apple (500 million actually) at the launch of their new iOS8 and iPhone 6. Was this successful? You bet. Most of U2’s earlier albums re-entered the iTunes charts within a week, generating millions of dollars (undisclosed) of sales for both U2 and Apple.

Direct Mailing

Early on, Lauder used Sak’s mailing list to send samples and gifts to their customers, encouraging them to visit the Estée Lauder concession in store. Direct mailing may have fallen out of fashion to a degree, but many marketers still argue that, in the days of so much direct email, a well thought-out direct mail campaign can be successful. Whether you agree or not, the use of direct email is a powerful and omnipresent force in our lives – the same strategy; just new technology.

Clever Naming

When the US Food and Drug Administration came down hard on the scientific claims of Lauder’s rivals’ products, Lauder took an altogether more savvy route. Her advertising refrained from making scientific claims, but her naming implied the attributes she was unable to claim: Re-Nutriv is meaningless as a word, but caries a vast weight of associations.

Clever Pricing

‘You get what you pay for’ my dad used to say. If lots of her customers believed that, then her premium pricing strategy was clever. Without doubt, two things are true: she did insist on top-quality ingredients, but her pricing included a substantial mark-up, creating exclusivity and emphasising the quality through the most important real-estate in the store: the price label.

Gift with a purchase

That idea may well been hers – she certainly exploited it well, long before BOGOF and three-for-two offers made shopping bags twice as heavy.

Hands on Consultative Selling

Going one step beyond her ‘try-before-you-buy’ strategy, Lauder did pioneer in-store beauty consultations as a way of selling. She believed that in order to make a sale, you must touch the customer, and spent a great deal of her time advising customers and teaching Beauty Advisors.

Brand Clarity

Lauder believed that every woman had a right to feel beautiful and therefore ensure that her advertising portrayed beauty that was both aspirational and approachable. From 1962, Estée Lauder selected one model to be the “face” of the brand. These have included supermodels and actresses. Whether they are really ‘approachable’ is debatable, but at any one time, the face of the brand become a distinctive image for the company.

To learn more about marketing and sales…


This blog is for my mother, Jeanne Clayton, whose favourite perfume was Estée by Estée Lauder.

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Take your Selling Skills for a SPIN

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


“The best sales people have a 4:1 listen-to-talk ratio”

Neil Rackham of the Xerox Corporation discovered this astonishing statistic and, if you want to influence people to get more of what you want, you’ll do well to apply this knowledge.

Rackham is best known for the concept of SPIN Selling and the book of the same name. Here’s a quick run down of how it works.

S for Situation

Start by asking searching questions of your potential buyer – what are their needs? Use the funnel approach we looked at in the earlier blog, Questions, Questions, Questions, to establish the wider context, and then zoom in.

P for Problem

Listen very carefully to your potential buyer’s response and encourage information flow. People buy to meet a need. What difficulties are they having? What are they not satisfied with? You want to identify what their problem is so you can …

I for Implied need

Demonstrate your understanding of their needs and problems – show them you know what their pain is, so that you can …

N for Need-payoff

Show your potential buyer how you can meet their need, solve their problem and take away their pain.
When you have done this, they will want to buy. If you can quote a price that they can afford, you are ready to close the final sale. In the book, Rackham recounts that orginally, he wanted to use the term ‘value question’, but realised that this would make the acronym read: SPIV!

The Three 80-20 Rules of Selling

They say the world is governed by the 80-20 rule. There does indeed seem to be an 80-20 for nearly everything and sales is no exception. In fact, here are three that you ignore at your peril.

The 80-20 Rule for your First Meeting

This rule refers to how to spend your time, at the first meeting with a potential customer. Use your time with:

  • 80% Information Gathering
  • 20% Information Giving

So at the start of your meeting, establish how much time your prospect has, to ensure you can get the information you need. And since no rule is perfect, make sure you leave 10 minutes or so to close the sale if you can (always try) and agree next steps.

Note that this rule is another way of expressing Rackham’s rule, quoted at the top of this blog.

The 80-20 Rule for Junior Buyers

Junior and middle managers are intensely practical people. They have to be: their job is to get things done. So ensure you address their interests. When you gather information, listen for their concerns in this proportion. And when you give information, address their needs in the same ratio:

  • 80% The “How” of it
  • 20% The “Why” of it

All selling is about finding an itch and offering a scratch. Operational people’s itch is a process one. Not so their senior colleagues.

The 80-20 Rule for Senior Buyers

Senior Managers’ role is to think strategically. Reverse your pattern with them to focus on what they need:

  • 80% The “Why” of it
  • 20% The “How” of it

So how do you gather information? There is an art to it. Think funnel:

Start at the top with a wide open funnel, and ask wide open questions, like

“Tell me about …”

Listen for where their itch seems to be, then start to probe, with narrower questions like:

“Tell me some more about …”

Next, confirm your understanding by asking detailed questions like:

“So, what exactly …”

Finally, play back your diagnosis of the nature of their itch, to ensure you know what sort of scratch they need:

“From what I’ve understood, you …”

Don’t be afraid to ask for a Yes

In sales meetings, one of the hardest moments is when you have a strong rapport with your potential customer, you have offered a great solution, and you are convinced they want to buy from you. So how could you spoil this perfect moment? What if they reject you? Perhaps it’s best not to say anything more and wait for them to buy.

But what if they don’t? You know how it can be with that first kiss – maybe your potential buyer is waiting for you to make the first move. If you do have the rapport you think you have, asking respectfully if they are ready to buy is not only appropriate, it’s often the only way to close a sale. Here are five ways you can do it:

  • “We’ve discussed all the ways our product works for you – are you ready to place an order?”
  • “Is there anything else you need from me, before you discuss what booking you want to make?”
  • “If you are ready to order, shall we talk about delivery arrangements?”
  • “Would you like me to get some paperwork ready now?”
  • “Do you prefer to go for the XAKD model or the DXKA model?”

 

Further Reading 

You may like The Salesperson’s Pocketbook. Two other great pocketbooks:

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Public Relations Primer

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


Not every manager will need to get involved in public relations, or PR, but, from time-to-time, many will. So it is worth knowing and understanding the basics of one of the most important aspects of marketing.

What is PR?

The definition differs from one expert to another and the emphasis is very different on the two sides of the Atlantic. I personally prefer the simplicity of the definition offered by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) on their website:

‘Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.’

The UK’s Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) places its emphasis on reputation, and defines PR as:

‘Public Relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.

‘Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.’

For me, PR is about engaging with your public, so the concept of PR is relevant not just at the corporate level, but also at the level of individuals who want to strengthen their careers. The principal approaches to PR are:

  • Writing
  • Collaborating
  • Engaging the press and professional media
  • Engaging through social media
  • Direct engagement

We will take a short look at each.

Writing

Getting your message out by writing articles, blogs (like this one) and books has a very simple effect: it says ‘we know what we are talking about’. By offering your public practical or insightful content, you are enhancing your reputation and strengthening your relationships with your readers. It has traditionally been largely one-way, but with the advent of social media and bookmarking, the ability for your public to comment on your writing and engage in a dialogue about it has grown mightily. This can only be a good thing for you, if you have something valuable to say, and you say it well. Please comment below!

Collaborating

If you can collaborate with other, non-competing, organisations, you can extend the reach of your PR activities to encompass their public as well as your own. If you engage them effectively, they can become your public too. So the relationship you need with the ideal potential collaborator is one of overlapping interests, but not conflict. This is not to say that there are not some valuable collaborations to be made between competitors too, but the risks (and rewards) are substantially higher.

Engaging the Press and Professional Media

For some people, PR and issuing press releases amount to pretty much the same thing. Without a doubt, the press is continually hungry for engaging stories that will interest their audiences, so if you do this correctly, this is nothing more than an example of a good collaboration. But what the media can do is get your message out, bundled in a package of objectivity and professionalism that amplifies its effectiveness considerably. But don’t blow it: if you are asked to comment on camera, on the radio, or even in print: prepare well, because if you don’t, and you perform poorly, the media can turn your reputation into an overnight shambles.

Engaging through Social Media

With so many forms of social media around, even the so-called experts are struggling to offer coherent advice as to which to focus on and how to do it well. The two tips that seem to surface again and again from the best of them, and which make greatest sense to me, are:

  1. Focus: choose one or two social media that your audience are most likely to engage with in numbers and in depth, and focus on using them well
  2. Social: the nature of social media is that they enable social connections, so you need to be listening to conversations and engaging with them as you would in a bar, cafe or restaurant. If you just use them for announcements, then you are losing most of their value.

Direct Engagement

From meeting customers in the street, to sending them information by newsletter, direct engagement has the capacity to be the most powerful form of PR of all – and therefore the ability to do your reputation most harm as well as good. The difference between a helpful advice email, with some good offers, and a piece of unwanted junk is subtle. As with writing, above, direct engagement has to have WAM factor: ‘what about me?’ says your public.

Further Reading 

You may like The Marketing Pocketbook. There are also some great resources on the PR profession websites:

 

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The Basics of Marketing

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


Marketing is not about selling. That may sound obvious, but too many people act as if the purpose of marketing is to sell: it is not. The purpose of marketing is to raise awareness of your product or services, so that people will be motivated to investigate further, or they will be aware of what you offer, if they need it in the future.

The challenges for marketing are:

  • Knowing who your potential customers are
  • Knowing what channels of information they most actively engage with
  • Knowing what messages will resonate most strongly with them

Using the answers to these, you can design a marketing campaign that answers the three questions that a prospective customer will have:

Question 1: What are you offering me?

If I am a customer of yours, then your product or service must meet a need or satisfy a desire in me. A strong marketing message sets up that need or desire, to prequalify readers, viewers or listeners and get the attention of those who are suitable targets. It then stimulates their interest by making a promise that the product or service can meet their needs. Finally, it amplifies desire, by showing the customer what they will get (beyond the product or service itself) by buying. This bit is about benefits and you must link them to strong positive emotional states. The favourite of many advertisers is, of course, the promise of love, romance or the three-letter alternative. Now they want it, you need to answer the next question…

Question 2: Is it good value?

They want it, but how much are they prepared to pay for it. Focus on value not cost. Done well, some customers won’t even care about cost (think of the people who queue to buy the latest hi-tech, hi-cost products that simply replace things they already have – desire; not need). But if they do care about cost, you must show how the benefits you are offering outweigh this – and the ratio is a measure of the customer’s perception of value. If you can satisfy them on this too, they don’t only want it, they want to go out and get it. So now answer…

Question 3: How can I get it?

Choose a delivery strategy that is consistent with the image you want to convey for your product or service and then (in most cases) make it easy for the customer to buy. Why ‘in most cases’? Because for certain products or services at the premium end of their market, you can add to the perceived cachet of the product by making it hard for the customer to buy. This increases its sense of exclusivity and therefore of its perceived value.

Getting your message out

Promoting your product means providing prospective customers with plentiful relevant information. It needs to answer their questions about your product or service, but also about you, and why they should buy from you. There are a near infinite number of media that you can use, in combination. Here is a selection.

  • Advertising: newspapers, magazines, radio, television, online, billboards, posters, leaflets
  • Promotional: brochures, pens, apparel, stationery, bags, websites
  • Sponsorship: events, causes, awards, hospitality
  • Direct: mail, email, telemarketing, newsletters
  • Signage and branding: buildings, plant, vehicles, uniforms, products
  • Public Relations: articles, press releases, interviews
  • Events: conferences, exhibitions, hospitality and entertaining, trade fairs
  • Social media: Twitter, blogging, Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube

Further Reading 

You may like The Marketing Pocketbook and a couple of earlier Pocketblogs:

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Listening to your Customer

Steve Jobs famously eschewed focus groups and market research in designing new Apple products.  He did not want to supply what customers wanted.  He wanted customers to want what he created.

Whether Apple will be able to sustain that level of creativity is a question only time will answer.  But Jobs’ attitude did not mean that Apple was deaf to its customers – quite the opposite.  Having created the kind of loyalty that just about any other corporation can only dream of, everything Apple does has been tailored to retaining that crazy loyalty.

Marketing departments typically spend their time and resources looking for ever better ways to ensure that potential customers hear their message.  Customer service departments focus on fixing customer problems.  Who in your business is dedicated to listening to the customers you have, to build loyalty?  It’s cheaper and easier than acquiring new customers, and it’s cheaper and easier than fixing relationships with disappointed customers.

The big question is ‘How?’

How can you really listen to the voice of your customer? 

Surveys are great – especially low cost, easy-to-implement online surveys using tools like Zoomerang or Survey Monkey.  These have the benefit that they take little effort from your customer (and why should they make a big effort?) and can be supported by an appropriate incentive like a small reward or a competition entry.

The gold standard for good feedback on what you do (and don’t do) is follow-up calls or meetings from someone separate from the team that serves your customer.  To make it work for both you and your customer, you must welcome absolutely frank assessments and ask good questions to secure details that make appropriate actions easy to target accurately.

But what if your customers won’t talk to you?  You can always employ a ‘professional customer’ – mystery shoppers.  They are great for thorough, detailed and accurate assessment of what you do.  Unlike real customers, however, they cannot give you information about what else they want, from your product or service lines.

Customer focus groups or ‘customer panels’ can do that.  They are a lot of work to plan and organise and expensive too – often requiring specialist consultants, room hire, and inducements to participate.  This is a form of market research and the Marketing Pocketbook offers eight more variants on what we have above.

The forgotten question is Why?

In case ‘why would you listen to your customer?’ seems like a pointless question with an obvious answer: ‘of course you must’ – stop for a moment.

Of course you must, but unless you know why you are going to do it, you rune the risk of asking the wrong questions, choosing the wrong format, and mis-using the answers.  It is all too easy to feel like you are doing something useful by sending people out to listen to your customers, but before you do so, make sure you have a purpose and design the process accordingly.

A Paradigm Shift

Michael Porter identified two sources of competitive advantage:

  1. Industry Cost Leadership
  2. Product Differentiation

Arguably, Apple has neither, with high prices for products that are being successfully emulated by their main rivals.  So how are they succeeding?  I believe by a third source of competitive advantage: brand loyalty.

As a prevailing business strategy, this is new force in big business, but one we can all exploit, by building an organisation that excites and values its customers so much that we win the kind of fanatical following that Apple has.

If you can do that – with or without one of Porter’s two other sources of competitive advantage – you have the basis for a long-term business.

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What is your negotiating personality?

Last week, we took a look at negotiation and I want to return briefly to it.  In The Negotiator’s Pocketbook, Patrick Forsyth offers a nice model of how you come across as a negotiator.

Neotiation Personality

Projection

The way you are perceived – how confident, assertive and credible you seem.  In Patrick’s mind, this is ‘good’ assertion – respectful and appropriate, rather than domineering and aggressive.

Empathy

Your ability to assume your counter-party’s perspective and see things from their point of view, understanding what they want and how they perceive the situation and your actions.

Patrick gives a wealth of tips about ‘behavioural ploys’ that negotiators can use, to increase your projection and empathy.  I want to pick out just one:

Flagging

Not: ‘oh boy, this negotiation has been going on for ages, now I’m flagging’. 

Instead: ‘I’d like to flag up the next step’.

Patrick recommends using questions and statements that demonstrate where you are in the negotiation and what you think needs to follow in the process.  Because negotiation is a process, and it needs to keep moving until it reaches a conclusion – of one sort or another.

What made me think, was this statement:

never flag a disagreement’

… which Patrick doesn’t explain.

Never Flag a Disagreement

This statement caught me by surprise.  I didn’t necessarily agree with it.  I had to think why it might be true.  And then I realised: Patrick is right.  So now, I can explain it.

Flag a disagreement and the process stops.  When the process stops, the negotiation ends.  If you disagree, then flag the next step you need to take to move back into agreement.  Nice, Patrick, thank you.

Maybe, that should be Rule 5.

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