Monthly Archives: June 2012
Open-ended questions are the icebreakers that lead to more engaging business discussions with customers, vendors, partners and prospects. Every matchmaker in the business will tell you that the first step to developing a relationship with someone is to get them talking. Most of us meet new people as a part of our jobs — prospects, coworkers, customers, vendors or partners. And it is part of our jobs in these moments to connect and interact with these people.
Breaking the ice with someone should accomplish several things:
— Start a conversation on a positive note
— Move the first interaction past data exchange to connection
— Make a memory-link of the person, personality and name
Here are 21 questions you can use to break the ice:
1. What is the best part of your job?
2. What is the best part of working at your company?
3. When did you know that you wanted to work in your field?
4. Who was the most influential person in your career choice?
5. What was your biggest accomplishment in the last year?
6. Who do you look forward to seeing when you come to work?
7. What are you most excited about that you see coming up in the next six months?
8. What was the most impressive thing you saw happen in your industry in the last year?
9. Which company in your industry is the pacesetter and what are they doing?
10. What’s the smartest thing your company’s done in the last year to deal with the economy?
11. What’s the best technique you have been using to better manage your time?
12. Which of your company’s initiatives for next year has you the most excited?
13. If you had only one accomplishment on which to base your annual review, what would it be?
14. What’s the secret sauce for managing people to their highest success?
15. Who is the best leader you know that you personally try to emulate?
16. Where do you think the big innovation in your industry will come from in the next year or two?
17. What was your best decision in the last year?
18. Who are the best thinkers in your field that you follow?
19. What sea change do you see coming in the next year or two in the business?
20. What technology has made the biggest difference in your personal work in the last year?
21. What is the biggest thing you will stop doing next year?
You will notice that the questions are geared to make the other person stop, consider, compare and then make a choice. This is all intentional. You are engaging them at a level deeper than the transactional conversation. That’s the ice you are breaking — the ice that keeps you from truly engaging.
Bonus question No. 1: After the person answers the opening question, ask “Why?”
Bonus question No. 2: How can I help with what you are trying to get done?
Recently, I attended a networking event for my company. The speaker that night spoke about good networking practices. One of the practices she referred to was making sure to follow-up with everyone you meet at these events. She aptly referred to it as “pinging”.
The word “ping” takes its name from a submarine sonar search — you send a short sound burst and listen for an echo or a “ping” coming back. So, in networking terms, when you send out a ping, whether with an email, a phone call or a hand-written note, you’re inviting that person to “come back” and communicate with you thus beginning a relationship with that person…one that will hopefully benefit you both long term.
I always make it a practice to send out hand-written thank you notes to everyone I meet at these events. I like hand-written notes, because they’re a physical manifestation of your company (your brand) to that potential client, strategic partner or referral source. A hand-written note sets the tone for your company. Hand-written notes also differentiate you from most other businesses. Ask yourself when the last time you received a hand-written note from someone you met at a business setting was?
Quite simply, hand-written correspondence is a wonderful way to build your business. When I say build your business, I am not just referring to acquiring new customers. I am also referring to keeping the customers you have!
According to a study conducted by the Technical Assistance Research Project in Washington DC, 68% of customers leave because of “perceived indifference”. In other words, customers don’t think you care about their business. As Sir William Jones said, “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated”. Our customers and clients want and need to be appreciated, remembered and thanked.
Another great advantage in sending a personal note….people tend to keep these cards. Whenever I receive a nice note from someone, I display it one my desk for awhile. Every time I see the card, I am warmly reminded of that person or business.
So, when should you send a hand-written card to someone? Here are a few suggestions:
* Every time you meet someone new and get their contact information (i.e. a networking function, a business meeting, a training session, on the plane, a social party, waiting in line at the grocery store, etc.)
* When a customer makes a major purchase from you or sends a referral your way.
* When you embark upon a joint venture with a new company.
Here are some other suggested but not mandatory times to jot a quick note:
* A birthday greeting to your clients and associates.
* A congratulatory note when you hear about something great that customer or business associate did. For example, one of my customers published a new book, so I sent her a congratulatory note.
* If you see an article that might be of interest to that client or associate, send them the clipping with a quick note.
* An encouraging note to members of your staff or team.
Remember, every card is a “ping”. It is likely that your message will echo back to you in some way soon!
Writing a hand-written note does not have to be a difficult exercise! When networking, make it a practice to take notes about the people you meet on the back of their business cards, so you have something to reference when you go to correspond with them.
Hand-written notes should only be 3-5 sentences in length. In other words, be short and to the point. If it is your first correspondence with this person, remind them where you met and what you do for a living. Thank them for taking the time to speak with you and perhaps suggest another meeting. Make sure to enclose another business card.
Your personal correspondence should be written on high quality stationery. Remember, your stationery represents your brand. If you are a veterinarian for example, a note card with a cute dog might certainly be appropriate. If you’re an image consultant, you might want something more refined and sophisticated. Personalized note cards with your name and/or company already printed on them are great for establishing a consistent brand or image. Make sure to give your correspondence that extra personal touch by hand-addressing the envelope and using a real postage stamp.
Set aside some time every day to write your notes. I prefer to do this practice at the end of the day. It gives me time to reflect upon the day and allows me to give this practice my undivided attention. It also helps me to end my day on a very positive note…energy which transcends to the following day.
For remembering customer’s birthdays, I have created an Excel spreadsheet with my customers’ names, addresses and birthdays. Once a week, I refer to this sheet to remind myself of the birthday notes I need to send out for that week.
Don’t get me wrong, emails, instant messages, phone calls and the like are all wonderful communication tools! However, taking the time to write a hand-written note really sends the message that you care and you have taken the time to think about your relationship or potential relationship with that person. Those 3-5 sentences can make a mighty impact. And, that ping will come back to you in the mighty echo of increased opportunity. Grab your pen and stationery and get writing today!
Personal note from Lory:
Check out SendOutCards.com/128092. You can write ‘handwritten’ notes from your computer, have access to spell check and never go to the post office again to purchase stamps.
Turn Failure into Success: 10 Ways ~ The first step to becoming more successful is changing the way you think about failure. By Art Motell
Failure is painful, right?
Not for successful people. The most successful people in every field don’t consider failure to be a particularly painful experience–because they think about it differently.
Successful people transcend failure because their self-esteem, rather than depending on whether they win or lose, is based upon their own sense of value.
Rather than taking failure seriously, they develop beliefs that allow them to capitalize upon negative feedback and turn it to their advantage.
Rules to Live By
Therefore, if you’re really committed to being successful, you’ll mothball that “failure=pain” nonsense. Instead, instead adopt some (or all) of the following beliefs:
1. Failure renews my humility, sharpens my objectivity, and makes me more resilient.
2. I take the challenge seriously, but I do not take myself too seriously.
3. If the more I fail, the more I succeed, then failure is a part of the process of achieving my objectives.
4. Failure is temporary when I use it as an opportunity to try new ideas.
5. I learn more from failure than success.
6. Negative feedback is information that helps me correct my course so that I stay on target.
7. I am paid for the number of times I fail.
8. My self-esteem is not based on the reactions of others, but by my own sense of virtue.
9. The unkindness of others reminds me that I need to be kind to myself.
10. It takes courage to fail–because nobody ever got ahead without taking risks.
I talk with a lot of people who want to start a business “someday.” And as a result, I often think about the factors that determine which “someday” entrepreneurs will actually become business owners, and which will continue to say “I wish” for years to come.
Surprisingly, the ability to take the plunge has a lot less to do with people’s personalities, and a lot more to do with how accessible and familiar the experience of entrepreneurship is to them. Those who can picture themselves running a business often do. And those who continue to think of entrepreneurship as a big, scary thing that other people (perhaps more gregarious, sales-oriented, or risk-tolerant people) do tend to never move forward.
So, if you, too, dream of someday being your own boss, an important first step is just getting acquainted with the nature of the beast. Here are four things that will help you do just that.
1. Make New Friends
One of the best ways to learn what entrepreneurship is really like is by getting to know some entrepreneurs. Not necessarily the fancy, media darling types, but just normal, low-key people who work for themselves. To start, connect with entrepreneurs who match your own demographic—it helps you to start thinking “hey, if they can do it, so can I!” But be sure to branch out from there, and also to meet people in a wide variety of industries. There are lots of styles of entrepreneurship, so the more diversity you can experience, the better!
Move upMove down
If you don’t know any entrepreneurs, just start asking people to make some introductions. Or, join groups on LinkedIn or Facebook, and start paying attention to the discussions that are happening. Ask someone you find interesting to have coffee and take it from there. Pick their brain about useful resources, groups, or meetings, and see if they can introduce you to even more entrepreneurs.
2. Pick Some New Role Models
In addition to making some new pals, it’s important to identify role models who are a little more established in the business world. You might not be able to take them to coffee, but you can learn a lot by observing them and their companies from afar.
Select three brands or companies that you like and admire. Find as many ways to follow their leaders as possible—be it their blogs, articles, or Facebook profiles. Read their books if they have them. Read their press and interviews that they’ve done. Think about how their personalities and leadership styles have shaped the brands and the companies they run. Stay abreast of their company news, and take note of what they share about their own experience.
3. Fall in Love with Small Business as a Customer
There’s a certain romance to small business. As a customer, there’s always something more special about the experience. Sometimes it’s witnessing changes over the years, other times it’s the connection to the owner, others it’s the attention to detail that’s given to the product or service.
And there’s a lot to learn from that! So, in addition to making friends with entrepreneurs themselves, it’s important to also make relationships with some actual businesses. Think about the small businesses that you currently patronize, or the new start-ups whose products you love. What do you know about their owners or story? What are their goals and where are they going? What do they do that’s memorable, distinct, or unique? What do they do particularly well? Thinking about your own experiences as a customer will give you tons of insight into running your own show.
4. Demystify “Business” Speak
Most would-be entrepreneurs get scared off by the “business” side of things. They overestimate the skills and knowledge that are needed to run a business and assume that there are huge mountains to be climbed and learning curves to overcome before even getting started.
But it’s important to confront the monster under the bed—it’s not as hard as you might think, and you certainly don’t have to have an MBA to do it. Pick a small business magazine like Inc. or Fast Company and invest $15 to get a subscription. Peruse it each month, but feel free to read only what’s interesting to you. You’ll soon see how un-mysterious business can be. From behind-the-scenes business profiles to questions about how to handle particular challenges, you’ll begin to learn a lot about the experience of entrepreneurship.
As you start talking to people, expanding your reading list, and thinking more and more about the what it’s like to be an entrepreneur, you’ll soon see that it’s not as big and scary as you might think. And that “someday” will inch a little bit closer to today.
Adelaide Lancaster is an entrepreneur, consultant, speaker and co-author of The Big Enough Company: Creating a business that works for you (Portfolio/Penguin). She is also the co-founder of In Good Company Workplaces, a first-of-its-kind community, learning center and co-working space for women entrepreneurs in New York City.