Jan 31 2014

Do You Think Like A Magician?

Think like a magician

Magicians are expected to perform the impossible. If you are a business owner, it’s probably no different for you. It just means we are expected to solve some type of problem for our customers. Every business is about problem solving. You constantly come up with solutions for your customers, employees, your vendors, your advertisers.

Let’s take a look at the process a magician uses to develop creative solutions and how you can do the same. It can be broken down into two simple steps.

The Effect

In any magic book that teaches tricks, the first section of the instruction talks about the effect. What does the spectator see? What do they experience? What is the desired outcome? For example, the Vanishing Coin Trick effect might read: “Magician borrows a coin. With his right hand he slowly and deliberately places the coin in the left hand which closes around the coin. He shows his right hand empty, blows on his left hand, slowly opening it to show the coin has vanished. Both hands are shown empty. The audience goes crazy.” 🙂

In this example, there is no question what the audience experiences. The objective is clearly defined. Anyone who saw the trick can easily describe it to someone else. In traditional business, this is not always the case. Business owners do not always spend the time necessary to clearly define their objective. Have you ever watched a TV commercial and wondered what in the world it was supposed to be about? Was it clear what the product does? Were you asked to take some action? If your customer is confused, you lose the sale.

The Method

Once you know the desired effect, the method is defined. A solution must be developed. Magicians usually don’t care how they get there as long as they create the desired effect. They fool you by forcing you to make certain assumptions. In the coin trick, the audience assumes the coin really was placed in the left hand when in fact, it was not. Since the performer understands how the audience thinks, he can create a moment of astonishment (the effect).

In business it is important to understand your customer’s assumptions. What is true today may not be valid next week. Blue widgets may be your best seller today. What if next week they really want a red widget? It’s important to challenge assumptions on an ongoing basis. You do this by asking questions, probing, surveying, watching trends, etc. When you understand the assumptions you can start creating solutions.

Business owners can save a lot of energy and avoid ‘busy-work’ by clearly defining what they offer and create solutions that their customers really want.

Do you think like a magician?

Jan 30 2014

Close Mouth, Open Ears – Someone’s Talking

You: “I would like a cheeseburger, small fries, and a small iced tea… that’s all.” 

Drive-Up Window: “Would you like cheese on your burger?”

You: “Yes, a CHEESE-burger, small fries, and a small iced tea… that’s all.”

Window: “Small, medium, or large?”

You: “One CHEESE-burger, SMALL fries, and a SMALL iced tea… that’s all.”

Window: “So that’s a cheeseburger with cheese, small fries, and small iced tea. Will that be all?”

You: “Never mind, I’m not hungry.”

Is it just me, or did that employee not hear a word I was saying?  Sheesh!  How hard can it be?  Instead of really listening, they were just hearing a voice on the other side of the intercom.  What’s really happening here?  Please tell me you don’t do this to your customers!

Effective communication happens between two people when the listener understands the speaker’s message in the same way the speaker intended it.

Listening is not waiting until someone is finished talking before you say something. If you’re the one doing the talking, people will be more willing to listen to you if you take the time to really hear them.

Here are some tips to make sure you understand what your customers are trying to tell you:

  1. Close mouth, open ears!
  2. There is a difference between just hearing the words and actually listening for the message.
  3. Hearing is a physical ability, listening is a skill.
  4. Do not evaluate or make judgements about the person speaking.
  5. Ask for clarification if you don’t understand.
  6. Do not be preoccupied.
  7. Listen with respect and validation.
  8. Don’t mentally argue.
  9. Adjust to the situation.
  10. Avoid thinking about your own personal beliefs about what is being said.
  11. Listen with a willingness to be persuaded.
  12. Stay present.
  13. Make eye contact.
  14. Repeat or restate for verification.
  15. Notice nonverbal cues, body language.
  16. Avoid interrupting.
  17. Avoid jumping to conclusions.
  18. Know when to respond.
  19. Never assume what the speaker assumes or is thinking.
  20. Let the speaker finish their sentences. Don’t do it for them.
  21. Don’t look for flaws or weak spots you can attack.
  22. Don’t pretend, actually listen.
  23. Show genuine interest.
  24. Look for intent and feelings behind the words.
  25. Use “listening” body language. Face and lean toward speaker.
  26. Do not try to form a response while listening.
  27. Prevent quick responses.
  28. Acknowledge the speaker’s feelings.
  29. Give feedback- smile, nod, frown, raise eyebrows, shrug, etc.
  30. Offer advice only if asked.
  31. Do not jump to conclusions. Hear everything.

Communication is a two-way street.  Effective listening is just one side.  Tomorrow we’ll talk about how to make your message easy to communicate so the listener understands you.

Do you have “cheeseburger” story to share?  I would love to hear it.  Let me know in the comments below!

Jan 29 2014

Features and Benefits – Are They The Same?

features vs benefits

Customers Buy Benefits

“Pick up that ashtray from the table and sell it to me.” Those were my instructions for the exercise. I was at my first sales training for a summer sales job. We were getting into the real “stuff” of selling that morning. We were learning how to sell cookware. The company was about to unleash 150 or more of us college students to start knocking doors and setting new sales records. It was my chance to show the other students that I knew how to sell. After all, I was a college student… I knew everything!

An ashtray? How hard could this be? I picked it up, admired it for a moment, then started describing it in great detail to the class. I talked about the beautiful color highlights, the smooth glass-like finish, the fine detail of the etching around the bottom. For the next 90 seconds, I described every possible detail. I handled it as though it was a piece of fine art. I was convinced even the non-smokers in the room would want to start smoking just to be able to use such a beautiful ashtray!

And then the moment of truth. Our instructor asked if anyone in the room felt compelled to own the ashtray. Two hands went up. Only two. I thought I was in a room full of zombies. How could they NOT want such a cool ashtray! My sales pitch was flawless. I didn’t say “um” even once.

OK, so maybe I didn’t know everything. As it turns out, no one cared what I was saying. I was listing all the features of the ashtray. – the color, size, weight, etc. None of that mattered because I didn’t tell them why those features would benefit them. While I was rattling off features, they were thinking, “Yeah, so what. What’s in it for me?” They saw no benefit for themselves.

That’s a huge lesson for any salesperson or marketer trying to sell a product or idea.

Customers Buy Benefits, Not Features.

A typical computer salesperson goes on and on about how much memory a machine has, how big the hard drive is, the speed of the processor , and on and on. Most people will stare blankly while they try to figure out what it all means. Those are features. They want to know what it means to them. How will it benefit them? They want to hear the machine will run fast. They want to know it has plenty of room to store their massive music library. They want to know they can run several programs at the same time without the machine blowing up. They Want To Know The Benefits!

The next time you find yourself describing a feature, use this simple “SO THAT” formula:

This product has {feature}, SO THAT you can {benefit}.

Simple, isn’t it? There really is a difference between features and benefits. Your thoughts?

May 01 2011

What Exactly Is Marketing?

Why is marketing important for an entrepreneur’s success? What exactly is marketing, anyway? Business owners tend to over complicate it’s simplicity. Marketing includes everything you do that places your product or service in front of your prospects. It includes sales, advertising, pricing, packaging and delivery. All these activities are coordinated into a strategy that allows you to receive fair compensation for supplying a good product or service.

So what’s the problem? The focus many times starts in the wrong place. S.H. Simmons, a writer and humorist explains with a funny story about relationships. I’ll paraphrase what he said…

  • Marketing – A man praises a woman by showering her with compliments. He says all the right things to the right person.
  • Advertising – A man tells a woman everything about himself and how successful he is.
  • Public Relations – The man’s friend tells the woman all about the man and how smart and successful he is.

The point Simmons makes is that marketing should focus on whatever the customer needs, wants, or requires. To do that successfully, you have to constantly look at what those needs are. They change all the time. What is true today may not be valid tomorrow.

You can have the most brilliant strategy to get your products into the right hands, but it will not earn you a penny unless it is built around your customer needs. Bottom line, marketing does not begin with a great product. It begins with customers. It begins with people who want or need your product and are willing to actually buy it!

I remember spending months and months putting an educational program together for elementary schools kids. It was a program to help kids identify their special talents and the importance of education. It was very proud of what I created. It was going to change the world! I was disappointed when I found out no one wanted it!!

I think that happens to many entrepreneurs. They get so wrapped up in their ideas, they naturally assume everyone else will too. I know I did. The bad news – It just doesn’t work that way.

Marlon Sanders, a modern day marketing wizard, illustrates this perfectly in one of his videos. A struggling marketer who couldn’t seem to come up with a successful product asks Marlon “No one is buying my stuff. Why are you so successful?  What are you selling?” Marlon answers, “I’m selling whatever they’re buying.” Bingo!

The hard lesson a marketer needs to learn is that the most creative ideas, the greatest product features ever imagined, or the most superior service only succeed when you market within the context of what people want. People really don’t buy your “product”, they buy what it’s going to do for them. Before you invest your life savings into a new venture, take the time to find out who your potential customers are. That is being a smart marketer.

Are you marketing, or are you only using advertising and PR?

May 10 2010

That’s Impossibe – Or Is It?

Take a look at this ‘impossible’ object. It is a real dollar bill. How can this be?


No! You’re looking at it. It is real.  Magician Robert E. Neal figured out how to braid a dollar bill with closed ends.

So What?

Magicians are masters at turning a seemingly impossible idea into something real.

What ideas do you have about your business that sit idle because others tell you it can’t be done?