Seems that my last post (about marketing coaching like we market cars and detergent) stirred the pot. I have been informed that I am wrong. Fear, I am told, is the way to get people to pay attention. Maybe fear gets people to pay attention, but I know for sure that fear is NOT the way to make people make a purchase decision they will be happy with. Fear calls out anger, and who wants to start a relationship with an angry person?
Here’s another tempting offer I got to increase my coaching services: “Do you want a RUTHLESS competitive advantage, or simply become extinct due to your inability to adapt to this already changed environment?”
This brightly decorated structure is a storage shed. It doesn’t look like a storage shed, and it’s not for everybody. But it is noticeable, unique, and probably not found in a lot of shed ads. That’s the point. When you are different, you stand out. Be meticulous in your presentation, be clear, and you’ll stand out all on your own.
I’m a coach. My job is to listen. It’s not to be ruthless. My clients need support and, occasionally, accountability. They don’t need me to be ruthless, they have enough of that at work or in their head, part of the chorus of inner critics keeping them from finding out what the best solution is this time. Also, just as an aside, there are more choices than either being a ruthless competitor or becoming extinct. Many more. For example, you can be encouraging, realistic, and kind. You can also be insightful, enthusiastic, supportive, and helpful.
So, ruthless sales person, your two choices don’t make me smile and recognize my values. And I don’t want to be in your ruthless group, contributing to your bottom line.
Years ago, I saw this same cycle happening. Here’s the cycle: Group of people who participate in non-traditional work but are not good at business decide to follow the American business model. Someone shows up and offers to do the business work for them. The non-traditionalists sign up. After all, they will make money doing their non-traditional thing! Artists once sold their work by putting up a tent and putting out their art work. Promoters stepped up and offered to make the shows “more professional.” For a while it worked.
Then the professionals decided to treat art like manufacturing. More people, more sales, right? What would get people to come in? Face painting for kids, food for adults and kids, dog parades, music. And the result? Art became an entertainment for bored people, who wandered up and down art festival aisles, touching art with grease-stained fingers, allowing their dogs to pee on displays and tent poles, telling artists their work was “too expensive,” and “I could buy the same thing at Wal-Mart for a lot less.” The American business model is all about money–making it and spending it.
Producers started to make money, but artists made less. Once artists had to pay not only for their space, but also for electricity, better locations, ads in programs, parking, it became less profitable to be a show artist. Yes, there are still great shows, and yes, some artists are still making money at shows.
But if you have a non-traditional product or service, there are also new ways to explore to attract fans of that non-traditional work. And, in my experience, it’s not through fear, and not through being ruthless.
—Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and a trainer in business writing.
It’s the marketing method that’s been around for a while. It has come up for air and is still going strong: to sell your service or product, you have to find the client’s pain point, push it, then tell the client you can cure their pain.
After a short stall, the idea has been picked up as a method of connection on Linked In. For the last three months, I’ve received more requests for connection on Linked In than I have in years before. The requests progress down a similar path.
First comes the sugary request, generally using “I know you are busy, but . . . ” and “I want to meet exciting entrepreneurs who are not afraid of putting themselves out there . . .” followed by some sentence including the grammatical tooth-grinder, “Experts such as yourself . . .”
Most of the people who connect immediately drop any interest in my clients, what I’ve already tried, or what my goals are. They just leap into the idea that I am not making enough money, and that is a sign I’m not quite good enough, and money is within my reach if only I send them some first.
I wrote back to one of the pain-point-peddlers and said that my coaching focus is not on C-suite executives. I’d rather help people on the way up who need some writing or communicating help. That’s what I do. In my mind, I’m setting a healthy boundary. In the seller’s mind, I’m presenting an objection, which has to be proven wrong. Sigh. Not interested in those methods.
Here’s what works for my clients:
I become interested in them, in their work, ask questions about their business.
I listen to what they want to achieve.
I check in with them, to make sure I heard their needs correctly.
I ask what they have already tried, what worked and what did not.
I toss out a suggestion, usually connected to something I can do.
If the potential client is interested, I encourage them to ask me questions.
I’m clear about what I can do and what is not my area of expertise.
If I can’t deliver what they want, but I know someone who can, I offer to connect them. I’m willing to help, even if I’m not the right person for the job. And helping is the point. Clients remember who helped and who just sold.
Not every client presentation ends in my getting the contract, but listening always helps a conversation work. Most clients know where they are hurting. I don’t want to press on the pain and turn it to anger or desperation. I’m better off seeing if I have a skill that matches a need. It’s worked for 15 years. I think I’ll keep doing it.
–Quinn McDonald is a corporate trainer who teaches business writing and problem solving.
Writing letters to complain about a lack of service or discuss a product that doesn’t work is never easy. We not only want to vent, we also want to get a different result than our first experience. But we often write at the wrong moment, so we write an angry, hostile screed. The reader either wants distance from the anger or to explain what went wrong, which does nothing for the writer.
Here are some steps that make writing a complaint letter more effective.
1. Are you still angry? Wait. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but when you are feeling angry you can’t think clearly. Feel your anger first. When you are calm again, you are ready to write. Yelling does not inspire contrition.
2. Use facts. Start with the point at which things went wrong. Stick to real events and real results. “The idiot who didn’t show up, even after we waited for 20 minutes,” is not as effective as, “The instructor didn’t show up. Twenty minutes later, we were still waiting.”
3. Explain your emotions, using “I” statements–how you felt, what that emotion led to. “I felt disappointed. I’d waited a year to hear the speaker and was hoping to interview him for our book group.”
4. If you are owed something, be clear and ask for it. This includes apologies. Ask for a refund, a replacement, but do not set a financial value on something that cannot be replaced. If someone insults you, don’t demand $3 million dollars to make yourself feel better. Be realistic. (Often, apologies are harder to get than a financial payment.)
5. If you know how the situation should have been handled, explain it in simple terms. You don’t know the rules and company culture, so offer it as a suggestion, not as a demand. Show how your suggestion could work. Many mistakes are training issues–people in charge without enough training to handle the job.
6. Thank the person ahead of time for taking action or extending an apology. Remain polite. You are more likely to get a positive response.
Case study: Several weeks ago, I signed up for a class at a museum. I’m a member of the museum. When I showed up for the class, there was a last-minute substitution–another class I had no interest in. The volunteer knew nothing about the old class and tried to get me to stay.
I wrote a curt letter to the museum. I got a reply addressed to my husband only (his name is on my membership). The apology was combined with a request that I sign up for another year of membership.
I wrote back, explaining the bad timing of the request, and suggesting that any correspondence be addressed to me, as they had addressed my husband at my email address (which contains my name.) I suggested that pitch letters be separate from apology letters. I explained that currently the museum had no way of reaching class participants if there were a change. Posting changes on the museum website is not useful, as those who have signed up for the class won’t check the website.
To my great surprise, I received a well-written, syntactically correct letter of apology. The writer explained how the mistakes had piled up. She made plain to mention that she wanted me to know about the events, and was not using the mistake creep as an excuse. She apologized in one sentence and then offered a free year of museum membership. The apology would have been enough, but the year of free membership assures her that I won’t leave in anger, and may become a better donor.
A good experience, all the way around. And yes, I let her know how grateful I was.
–Quinn McDonald is a writer and a creativity coach. She teaches business writing.
The aboriginal tribes of Australia call the natural world, “The Speaking World,” by which they mean that paying attention to what you see, hear, and experience while out in nature is important to you. You can take it to heart, you can take it as metaphor, or you can ignore it.
(I teach communication, so I understand that no one listens to everything said. I also know that it is what we hear, and not what was said, that forms our decisions.)
This tree has been struggling for years: from drought, from sun, from neglect. It is in the strip between sidewalk and road, in front of an apartment building. And yet, the tree is neglected despite the people who look out of the windows every day.
The trunk is bleached white. The attachment to the ground is slim and dry. And yet, and yet. . . The tree lives. More than survives. The tree thrives.
Here is the rest of the tree.
For the weary passerby, for the uncertain walker, for the one who paces in the apartment, lonely and tired. The tree is not dead. It thrives in the Speaking World.
—Quinn McDonald is writing a book about The Invisible, Visible World. She teaches creative communication.
I’m researching platforms to run online classes. The platform needs to be easy to use (for participants), able to support pdfs and videos, and capable of in-person and as-you-need-it learning. There needs to be space to store class replies and work, and a webinar ability.
Your behavior and your words define your business and your values.
Last week, at a webinar run by an online teaching company, which I’ll call XYZ, I was impressed with the capacity of the program. It was easy to learn.
There was some pressure to sign up immediately, but it was a free webinar, and getting people to sign up is XYZ’s goal, after all. Also part of the pitch were the two tech-bros who were encouraging the audience to “participate” by typing “yes” to a lot of easy questions–sort of a built-in approval rating. To encourage more participation, they would mention a few names:
“Alfred in Texas just sent in a ‘yes’!”
“Shout out to Bill in Nebraska, who just told us ‘yes, yes, yes,’!”
Then I noticed the webinar’s background stock shots. All were people under 30. Most were male. Almost all were white. Oh, well, stock shots. But I was feeling as if this company was showing who their audience was through those shots.
I sent in a question: “Who is your audience? Based on the photo, it looks like people under 30, mostly male, mostly white.” The question was never addressed, not even via email afterwards. The questions before and after mine were answered.
The next section of the webinar was a series of well-produced testimonials. After two testimonials from men came a testimonial from a woman. Her company had used the online class program’s most expensive option and increased her reach, gotten more clients and now was hiring more staff because of her success.
One of the attendees typed in a comment. “She’s hot.” Not successful, not smart, not impressive, terms that had followed the men’s testimonials. Nope. “Hot” was what the woman got.
I typed in, “Really? That’s what you choose to say about her success story?” I expected the tech-bros to say something about the woman’s company. Nope. The next step surprised me. They replied to the guy who typed the remark.
“Yeah, she is!” said one of the tech-bros, chuckling.
“You should see her in person!” said the other one, also chuckling.
And then they returned to the charms of using XYZ. A call to answer “yes” to “Does this look like a deal you could use?”
I sat there for a while, wondering if I were being one of “those women.” You know the behavior I mean–the women who clap back when we are talked over at a meeting, the ones who don’t get up when a man says, “We could use some coffee here.” The woman who defends the unpopular person who has the good idea. That woman–the pariah of the office. I was that woman at the beginning of my career, and learned really fast that single mothers could not afford to be that woman in a small town. There were limited jobs, and a woman could develop a reputation for more than being an easy sex target. Once you were that woman, no company would hire you. You were a trouble maker, you were not a team player, you were not being grateful for your luck.
For the rest of the webinar, I couldn’t participate. I sat there, thinking about what to do. The program was good, but if I put money in their pocket, I’m giving them tacit approval. On the other hand, withdrawing my approval was not going to matter one way or another. It would not call attention to their poor behavior, or make them change their ways.
But this was not about my making XYZ a success or not. I don’t have that power either way. It was about standing up for that woman, even if silently. It was about not going along with the crowd if I could not agree with the crowd. Sure, I could rationalize joining. Easily. But I also felt my heart beating faster, my anger rising at this casual dismissal of a successful women. The best way to handle my anger was to feel it, acknowledge it, and then behave in a way I could accept. I left the webinar. I will not use the platform to run my online classes. I don’t want to participate in any part of XYZ’s company. One of the tech-bros was the head of marketing. He knew what he was doing. He was playing to the crowd. And I’m not his crowd.
—Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches business writing–in person, up to now. She also teaches creative problem solving through games and innovative thinking. As a creativity coach, she helps people get in touch with their creativity and bring it out to the light of day and make good use of it in their life.
You’ve heard of gaslighting–someone telling you that what you see is not what is happening. Gaslighting involves someone deliberately deceiving someone else.
From Express.co.Uk website, link in text to right.
But often, the things you see are based on your experiences and preferences, and open to opinion. What you think may not be what is happening. It may be your perspective on what is happening. Optical illusions are an example.
You may have seen the one on the left recently. It was published in the Express.co.uk website and ripped around the internet. You probably see the torso of a naked woman first. Or, you may see two stick figures, dancing. OK, so their heads are small, but the dancing figures are easy to see.
(Warning to trainers: look closely at your own stick figure drawings before putting them in your slide presentation!)
How you see things, and knowing that other people may not see things the same way is an example of perspective. It can happen verbally, too. But this post is about visual perspective.
When I first saw this video, I assumed I as looking at some living thing, being cut open for a restaurant. Probably because I had just watched a cooking show, possibly because my husband is a chef, and food is important to us. I was disgusted. It was still moving, while the owner sawed away at it. It was creepy. And the noise of whatever legs it had, scrabbling in terror to get away. Ewwww.
Cutting an Elastic Band Ball in Half - YouTube
Unlike this video, there was no clue what this was. Then the voiceover said, “cutting a rubber band ball in half.” (This voice over did not happen in Jordan Wilson’s You Tube video, above.)
The instant my brain flipped the switch from “undersea living creature” to “inanimate rubber band ball,” my brain dropped the revulsion. It was not disgusting, it was weird and interesting and funny. The rubber bands, cut, were retracting and making a scrabbling noise, but now I could recognize the sound as a rubber band sound.
My perspective changed instantly from revolt to delight. What had been creepy torture to an animate object was now a funny video on something inanimate. It did not involve torture, disgusting behavior, or any other judgment I might have made about it. The hinge, for me, was that inanimate objects hold a different space in my head (and heart) than animate objects. I could shift emotions because my reality shifted.
Perspective is an important part in communication. What you are thinking is not necessarily what the other person is thinking. The old saw, “Perception is reality” is a lot clearer if you say, “MY perception is MY reality.” That understanding makes most conversations a lot easier.
—Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing and communication skills. She is also a creativity coach who helps people wake up and use their own creative skills.